Reckoning /ˈrɛk(ə)nɪŋ/

"Reckoning" is a sci-fi series that can be read by the blind. It tells the story of overview of the story

About Reckoning

Reckoning is a comic book series that is readable by the visually impaired and blind. It features detailed information about the story and characters>

Table of Contents

   Reckoning /ˈrɛk(ə)nɪŋ/

"Reckoning" is a sci-fi series that can be read by the blind. It tells the story of overview of the story

About Reckoning

Reckoning is a comic book series that is readable by the visually impaired and blind. It features detailed information about the story and characters>

Part Three - Coming Home

Estimates say about 8 million children worldwide disappear annually, at Ding Zhuang, Shandong Province in the outskirts of Dezhou City two more were about to be added to the statistics.

The ice-cream truck drove in through the narrow country road leading to the village, with 300 households it was a small place where everyone knew each other quite intimately, it was a quiet rural backwater kind of place.

It was a place where what was about to happen was all but unthinkable.

The bright little melody emanating from the speakers caused children all around the village who were not in school or otherwise occupied to come outside their houses trying to pinpoint where the ice-cream truck might stop.

Lanying Wu and Xiadan Wu came running through the narrow strait that connected two minor roads.

“Hurry brother, or you won't get any ice-cream”

Xiadan was having a hard time catching up, he was overly well bolstered his parents still taking pride in being able to feed their children well. An unfortunate remnant from times past.

The driver of the ice cream truck spotted the children and stopped outside a row of houses painted in colors reminiscent of an 80ies Police Show.

Only a few of the apartments were inhabited as the villagers had been reluctant to buy due to quality concerns, and so the 50 flats or so were mostly left to fade away so to speak.

The Villagers of Ding Zhuang might not be very rich except for the odd one out, but they were not stupid.

But the stranger in the ice cream truck knew something else about this community, he knew these were both kind and trusting folks and that they would likely be oblivious of any foul play till he was long gone.

Xiadan finally caught up to his sister and together they arrived at the truck.

The driver had gotten out and was maneuvering with the rear hatch as they walked up.

“You want some ice cream the driver said with a broad smile”

“Oh goddy, what do you have” the twins clamored.

“For you, something extraordinary, here take a look”, the driver answered all giddy and swung the door open to the dark interior.

The twins nearly stood on top of each other to get a better look.

“But it is empty”, Lanying said with surprise in her voice.

“Not for long”, the driver answered jabbing each of them with a needle.

Lanying of the twins quickly sank onto the ground while the driver managed to grab onto Xiadan.

The driver looked around, another kid had just come around the corner, the teen stopped dead at the sight of what was going on.

The driver quickly tossed both the twins into the back and considered if he should run for it and grab the third child.

After all, he would be paid at least 500 yuan for each kid he brought, 1500 was more than he could earn for a full month of work back in the mountains.

He quickly changed his mind though as a muscular and athletic fellow dressed in a sports outfit came around the corner.

“Kidnapper”, the teen who had stopped by the corner yelled and pointed towards the truck.

Jian Tzu, who had been strolling in his own thoughts once again pondering upon having failed at the 200-meter run thus never winning him a seat at the sports academy dooming him to a life in the village stopped right in his tracks.

Jian was wearing his flashy red sports outfit and his running shoes, not that they did him much good in the village. He looked first at the teen who had yelled, then at the truck noticing how the driver frantically slammed the hatch was steering straight the driver's seat.

The severity of the situation dawned upon Jian, who sprung into a spur towards the truck that was parked a few hundred meters away.

Never before had anyone in Ding Zhuang delivered a sprint like the one he presented and the tale of the race between Jian and the ice cream truck and the abduction of the twins would live for years to come in Ding Zhuang.

But right now Jian was but a few meters from the truck, and a black cloud from the exhaust enveloped him and everything around him.

The truck started carting away with grinding gears and a growl. However it was too late Jian had grabbed onto the hatch handle and was violently pulled along with the truck as it sped towards the main street, he fought to hang on as the car sped away. There was no way Jian would let this devil in the ice cream truck get away.

With a loud click, the hatch came open, and Jian swung outward. His body hung suspended more or less straight out in the air like an arrow. As the truck made a left turn, the force sent Jian whirling through the air before his body hit the road rolling, miraculously Jian managed to get halfway up on his hands and was noticed at the last moment by the driver of a car that came to a screeching halt just centimeters from his head.

It was as if everything stood still, then every shopkeeper on the main street came bustling out through the draperies in the doorways that kept the dust and cold from coming in, while allowing the customers to slip in and out of the stores.

Jian clamored to his feet, the driver of the car pale as snow from fear of possibly having killed someone was just about to yell at the young man when Jian pointed at the truck speeding away.

“Kidnappers”, he managed to stutter while pointing at the ice cream truck that was disappearing in the distance, then Jian slumped over across the shiny black hood of the electric BYD Model XVI, and mobile phones started glowing hot, the chase was on.

“Go go go”, Suzi ordered as a platoon of well-armed soldiers ran onboard a hypersonic craft at a remote airport.

The plane roared into the skies afterburner at full glow, moments later a slight thud from the NEXST-Z3 Mark 2, indicated the aircraft had hit supersonic it steadily kept accelerating heading upwards and finally as reaching altitude engaged the hypersonic scramjets quickly sending it past the horizon.

Inside the plane activity since departure had been frantic, satellite imagery was being uploaded live to the onboard datacenter for analysis and the Advanced Artificial Intelligence Assistant AAIA was recounting satellite imagery of the truck and the path for Suzi.

On the ground, a couple of Chinese Army's Special Taskforce vans were following the ice cream truck holding their distance.

They were aided by information from an intelligence department they knew only as Oracle-1, a source and force their system of trust indicated they needed to heed and follow without hesitation.

There was an indication that another truck would soon be joining the hunt. The task at hand was to follow a kidnapper in the hope that it would lead to a breakthrough into catching a gang that had beleaguered the province for quite some time whilst cleverly and almost in an uncanny way had eluded capture or leaving any clue as to how they were operating and never striking the same place twice.

Now a pattern was becoming clear though. The kidnappers had enrolled what seemed to be a respected icecream manufacturers trucks and quite possibly the manufacturer himself in their evil enterprise, the kidnapping of innocent children for gods only knew what kind of purposes.

The black plane descended from high above. Suddenly it dropped a cube-shaped object that quickly released a drogue parachute bringing some sort of control over the containers rapid descent as it hurtled towards the ground. Moments later as the speed decreased due to the drag a series of further drogue parachutes opened in succession until a full para foil allowed the vehicle to hit the ground gently but running at full speed ahead.

The vehicle skidded somewhat across the asphalt as it touched the ground leaving black marks on the road. It quickly detached the parafoil that blew off to the side as the vehicle sped forward.

Moments later the van came onto the main road joining the trailers from the Special Taskforce.

“Commander Ào Fei, this is Oracle-1 do you copy”, the speaker crackled.

The Commander quickly responded, “Ai”

Suzi quickly barked her orders to the taskforce assigning two of her squad members to each of the Special Taskforce crews as they neared the ice cream factory located on the outskirts of Jinan, more specifically in the Ming Shui area undergoing significant industry changes and development. For some time the area had been going from heavy industries to more environmentally friendly industries as the population in Jinan was expanding rapidly demanding more living space and more green areas for relaxation and recreation. However, population thinning through abduction definitely never made the list.

The factory situated somewhat out of sight from the main roads looked worn down. Clearly, the owner had little interest in keeping up appearances, a very typical trait from an era all but gone as China was rapidly speeding ahead in its ever-ongoing transformation into an economic superpower rivaled only by a select few other nations.

The vans came to a screeching halt and troops in full combat gear lined up behind each van as the unmarked truck speed up to each of them dropping off a couple of black-clad very futuristically equipped soldiers carrying all but the latest in combat accessories ranging from helmet mounted HUD to wrist communication and assistive battlefield computers.

Battle erupted sending one of the Special Task Force trucks up in an explosion, someone had clearly fired a rocket-propelled weapon sending several of the troops to the ground.

The troops inched in on the factory from all sides covering every potential exit. As they advanced they were not about to let anyone escape but had to limit firepower to a minimum as to avoid hitting any potential victims inside the building, and here the forces of Oracle-1 came in handy with their arm mounted See-through-walls radar scanners. The Oracle-1 troopers pinpointed shooters and the Special Task Force members advanced steadily taking only minor injuries as a result.

Finally, they were inside, and as Special Forces Task Members managed to cut the power to the building the room to room fighting turned even more to the advantage of the attackers donning night-vision goggles, making it easy to pick out the remaining gunmen inside.

After several rounds of heavy fighting, they were at the office where the factory owner had barricaded himself with a couple of his trusted lieutenants.

The Oracle-1 team quickly scanned the room, “Mei you hai zi”, an officer barked. Commander Ào Fei kicked in the door, ducked a barrage of shots and tossed in a flashbang.

The thud was deafening, and the light blinding, smoke filled the room leaving the defenders dazed and confused. It was easy pickings for The Special Task Force soldiers to round them up and put them in cuffs.

Soon after the interrogation was progressing Suzi was bitter, so far the raid had produced a room full of scared kids who were going to be sent back to their parents, but Suzi a former abductee herself could see he was holding back.

“Listen to me you despicable little worm, if I find you have done these kids any more harm than abducting them, I will personally make the rest of your life, a hell, so unimaginable that you will cry for death a thousand times over. She noticed how the fat pig quivered from her words and with a menacing voice added: “Trust me you faceless son of a whore, I shall see to that your soul never finds any rest, I shall make sure the undead send you straight to the pits of hell for eternity cycles unend”. “That is how pissed I am right now. If you talk, I might go easy on you and let the authorities put a bullet in your pathetic little head, after you have had your day in court, because there is no way you will ever be allowed to see daylight again except on the day of your execution. The amount of suffering is the only thing you get a chance to make a choice about, and that choice is something you make right here and now!”.

The factory boss talked leaving Suzi shocked, not that she should be with her experience, but the realization of the truth behind the repeated tales of how respectable business leaders, banksters and top politicians worldwide seemingly were involved in large scale abductions of kids was chilling. A fire lit in her with the revelation of a facility in the mountains of Austria, a castle where this despicable piece of dirt had sent not just a few but several thousand children over the years for processing was outrageous. It was only the calming hand of Commander Ào Fei that kept her from becoming Judge Jury and Executioner right there and then.

“Trust me”, Ào Fei said. “This maggot will get exactly what he deserves, but we need to get to the absolute bottom of this before any more harm comes to him”. He said this as he watched the bleeding face of the Factory owner all but unrecognizable after Suzi's persuasion techniques had taken their toll. To Áo Fei it had been clear she had not liked what she had to do, but sometimes reasoning was without any effect, and even the mind probe one could be trained to withstand.

3 Hours later multiple craft carrying 3 full platoons of TDF personnel were inbound towards a castle in the mountains of Austria.

Heavy rain was pounding the hulls, and evaporating from the friction heat. Lightning played along the skies providing a spectacle on the dark, brooding sky.

The guards on the ground huddling from the onslaught of the weather did not notice the silent craft coming in towards them.

“We have a fix, 6 sentry posts, and communications nest”

“Fire”, Suzi said firmly.

Commander Ào Fei could not help himself to quell the swelling pride in his chest. What a fantastic display of technology, and what an honor to be chosen to be his country's representative in a fight on behalf of all humanity, a fight so secret so big that the world would completely somersault if it got wind of what was going on without proper preparation. Billions of lives in the balance, Omega-1, and TDF were indeed akin to the legendary warriors of the past, a picture of a bearded Zhang Fei breezed through his mind with battleaxes cutting down swaths of enemies before him.

Weapons glared from the approaching craft, and lightning bolts sprung forward and vaporized the guard posts in an electrical inferno, to any watchful instrumentation the weapons discharge would register as nothing else than a massive lightning strike.

Inside the radar operators were oblivious to the stealth craft that had taken out the perimeter guards, and firefighters were hustling towards the communications central but other than that nothing suspicious seemed afoot, the electrical system had taken a hit, and CCTV systems were out, but for what looked like a direct lightning strike this was not unusual.

Outside troops were pouring out of the craft, they quickly assembled at 3 different entrances and micro charges were placed on doors and walls that just melted away.

Once inside flash bang and stun grenades filled sleeping quarters, a few guards tried to resist, but they were cut down quickly. Most of the people had been caught off guard and with the electrical systems on the fritz and the fire suppression systems having locked the place down most were just waiting to receive orders.

The TDF spearhead group had been advancing steadily with little resistance going down multiple levels through swiveling stairwells.

They had been advancing through mostly empty hallways without raising an eyebrow moving silently, totally blending in with the help of their Sea Sapphire Camouflage outfits blocking both thermal and any photo sensory projections. Ào Fei imagined the power a country would have if their military had such technology as they entered a substantial pentagonal room.

On the walls heroic displays of valor it seemed dominated the pictures on the walls. There were also carvings looking like some sort of ancient temple carvings going back 1000nds of years, the type you usually only see on pictures or on fragments in a museum. Here in this room it seemed as if time had been preserving these in an undisturbed bubble, there were carvings of trees and strange gargoyle-like beings, mutilated humans and kinglike figures.

In the middle of the room, a golden cauldron seemed to be on display, it was sitting on top of an oval-shaped table, hexagon-shaped shafts led to what could be windows to the outside blocked by some sort of shutters.

Ào Fei looked again at the images on the wall and noticed that in fact what seemed like valor and heroism was only disguised suffering and displays of supreme power over men.

In the middle of the room, there seemed to be a round stone circle bench surrounding something looking like a drain hole in the floor.

They advanced toward the hole, Ào Fei could not help feeling a little creeped out of the ghostly projection of his fellow comrades on his HUD that turned flaring red in warning if one accidentally pointed a weapon in their direction.

There was an evil feeling inside the room, it seemed that behind these walls anything could go on and the outside world would be none the wiser.

Suzi signalled, and they continued onward toward the basement, they passed through another set of rounded and arched stairwell seemingly leading into an abyss. Eventually, they descended to a large doorway impossible to open with one's bare hands. A set of charges melted the, and it came crashing down with a thud revealing the entrance to a cave system, humid, warm and with an eerie glow on walls seemingly produced by some sort of luminescent algae.

Ào Fei slipped and cursed, there was an odd hissing in the distance, then followed a violent discharge of an electro weapon burning 3 troopers as they stood shorting out Ào Fei's active camouflage.

Suzi grabbed him and flung him towards the wall and sent a barrage of shots in the direction of the shooter. There was a thud as one of the seeker projectiles sensed nearby organic material and exploded.

A growl indicated someone had been hit and Suzi sent another barrage of shots in the same direction assisted by the team.

A technician frantically worked on Ào Fei's control unit and managed to get it partially working.

They pushed further into the cave meeting fierce resistance.

“We need backup, repeat need backup”, she barked into her transmitter.

At the same time Suzi took out and sent a small drone whizzing forward, the imagery coming back was shocking.

At least 100 enemy combatants were lying in wait with heavy firepower, it seemed the only thing holding them back was fear of collapsing the exit to the castle.

Ào Fei looked at the HUD video feed “What are these ?…”

“Not exactly human, but they die just the same”, Suzi answered him handing out orders to the remaining squad members.

As they crept slowly forward, 6 drones came whizzing from topside and entered the great hall where the enemy was lying in wait, and all hell broke loose.

They started firing wildly amongst themselves, and as Ào Fei, Suzi and the others joined in and opened fire Ào Fei was amazed to see at least a dozen soldiers moving swiftly fully visible among the enemy who now in wild panic.

The firefight was over swiftly and as suddenly as they appeared the drones whizzed back past Ào Fei and Suzi leaving the hall empty say for a slew of dead or dying beings.

The stench something akin the smell of charred flesh was terrible, and they approached one of the beings. Its mouth was open, and razor-sharp teeth protruded from every surface inside the mouth as if it was a shredder.

Suzi asked the being something in a language unlike any Ào Fei had ever heard, the being growled and Suzi pressed her gun to the heart of the being,

“If you don't tell me I will send your soul into the dark void”

The Temparian was terrified, not only had the humans defeated them here in what was the closest to home turf they'd ever have on this godforsaken rock, the human was even contemplating blasting his Cha'Kra gland robbing him of any redemption in the afterlife.

He talked and talked swiftly. He would deal with the punishment in the afterlife, at least that was preferable to the eternal void.

The Temparian explained about the child-sized transport pods, how the Chutulans preferred children, as their size was perfect for in house slaves and as their minds were easily dubbed into accepting a submissive role. He continued to explain the high value even after outliving their usefulness as house slaves, as the children as they grew, were sent off to Janesian territories to fight for the Janesian Generals in their ever ongoing campaigns. Humans in particular young adults seemingly were excellent soldiers the Janesian had encountered them fighting for the Councillors against the Sarlacans. And once familiarized with aspects of non-human interactions, most fears of the unknown was stripped from their malleable minds. Yes, they made great fighters and good slaves, though bringing them about took some effort, though nothing compared to other species they had domesticated.

Suzi could see the life drain away from the Temparian, but she was not about to grant him the satisfaction of a peaceful death after hearing his story. She flicked a switch and her weapon hummed from building up a charge.

“Yeah life is a bitch, enjoy the void you despicable piece of shit”, Suzi said and fired.

The helplessness in the Temparians eyes was evident as she squeezed the trigger, but she had no mercy for someone like this profiting from child trafficking, forgiveness to such an offense was for others, not for her.

Half an hour later they had a relative overview of the situations, drones passed through the cave systems mapping every inch and helping to mop up any remaining resistance.

Suzi was on her communicator, “Yes Sir, it is true, I estimate about 10.000 children, in pods, life signs strong, I believe a slave shipment ready to go very soon”.

“Yes the Janesian Collective, I understand absolutely full discretion, I know, we have a good ally in the Commander”

It took 3 days to empty out all the transport pods while rooting out remaining pockets of resistance, as the last transport ship left with the remaining TDF troopers, huge explosions underground imploded the caves and sucked the castle in blasting the stones to atoms.

On the news, that evening was a story about an asteroid falling from the skies above Austria hitting an old historic castle, a castle associated with many a gory fantasy tale regarding devil worship and missing children. By freak coincidence, this castle that had been at the epicenter of the asteroid strike that utterly obliterated the fortress, perhaps a divine intervention protecting the Earth from evils, the reporter had jokingly added to the news report.

In other news that same evening from abroad the reporter could inform the public about how at Chinese villages it was seen that Chinese Special Taskforce vans with abducted children had been arriving delivering missing children back to crying parents.

Seemingly this happened after a task force busted up a child trafficking ring operating with tentacles reaching in from all over the world from an epicenter yet to be uncovered. Children from multiple nations had been rescued, the guilty would be found as no stone would be left unturned in the case of these missing children, the spokesperson for the Chinese Army, Special Task Force Commander Ào Fei adamantly delivered to the international press core.

To Be continued in Part Four - The Hole!