Her breath is heavy as she runs through the overgrowth. Shrapnel sprints towards the screams of a child who was kidnapped by a long dead vampire’s thrall. Besides the sounds of crushed brush, the forest makes no noise. The birds, deer, and all the other forest creatures have long since abandoned this soiled ground. Shrapnel’s breath grew heavier and heavier as a fog soon filled the air. She runs faster as the screams stop. A blood trail revealed itself to her and following it to its conclusion, was the thrall standing over the limp body of the child.

  “Listen, I-I-I didn’t mean to hurt her. Fuck. Listen, I’m sorry.”, said the thrall.

  Shrapnel has just one response and it is 15 bullets from her hand gun tearing through its undead body. She stares at the now lifeless body for just a brief moment before approaching the kid. A gash had been cut through their thigh by the thrall’s sharp digits. They seem to have lost a lot of blood, but their chest is steadily rising and falling. Relief fills her being.

  “Get a paramedic on the scene. The kid got hurt, but she’ll make it through.”Shrapnel waits for a response. Something about the air makes it hard for the radio to get in and out, but a few seconds later there is a response.

  “Good work, Shrap. We lost our lead but at least the kid’s safe.” Ricochet, Shrapnel’s man behind the mic, responds.

  A rustle is heard from the bushes, another thrall was there the whole time hiding. She locks eyes with Shrapnel. They stare into each other's souls, but before she can raise her pistol to finish off the threat. It runs full-sprint into the woods. Shrapnel is not in any shape for another chase but she runs for her anyway.

 “I got good news for you, we have another thrall to question. Make sure O.K. Paramedics get to her.”, Screamed Shrapnel. She runs as fast as her tired body can handle. Luckily, this thrall is substantially slower. It seems to have broken its leg. The monster trips and tumbles into the undergrowth.

 “Please stop. We didn’t want to hurt the girl, Jackass.” said the thrall. She turns to look up at Shrapnel. “We needed her to help heal my leg.” Shrapnel stared down at the sorry creature.

 “And why might you need this child for. Do you know how people react to a child being abducted? Not good!” said Shrapnel.

 “Do you think people would have handed over some pure blood so we could heal ourselves? I got hurt trying to do it the right way, with animals and shit but as you can tell the only place we can freely go is this awful wood.”, said the thrall. In that moment, Shrapnel realizes something that she did not want to admit. These thralls were just as much victims of Vamp as she was. “I didn’t ask to be like this. I don’t even know what I WAS before I was this thing. Vamp took that all away from me. Fuck, just shoot me!” The thrall broke into tears.

 Shrapnel stares at the pitiful creature for a moment, “I think I can pull some strings for you. You’ll have a roof and some ethically sourced blood, and all you’ll have to do is help bring in some Monsters like Vamp.” said Shrapnel.

 The creature looks up at her “I think that would work for me. Thank you for giving me a chance.” said the thrall.

 A cleanup crew comes in soon after. They get the girl to a hospital where they are expected to make a full recovery with just a scar on the thigh. The living thrall is taken in by the O.K. (Omen Kartographers). They are an organization that usually collects relics and deals with supernatural situations. They’ve recently gotten more involved in preventive measures than just responding. It’s a good change of pace. The body that was riddled with bullets is taken in by them as well. The Paranormal Biology Division is going to have a field day with it.

 As for Shrapnel, She returns to her apartment for some rest after such an eventful day.

 When Shrapnel arrives at her small apartment, there is not much in the way of food. It has been a week or so since she’s had a chance to be home. She has been too busy hunting those thralls. O.K. has been nice enough to cover the rent since they signed a contract to work together. They originally wanted Shrapnel to move but they were understanding when she expressed that she didn’t like the change. That is where she felt the safest.

  She was an amputee. Many years ago, a horrible monster named Vamp had razed a block of Capstone city. That was where she lived with her husband. Vamp had brutalized him and let his hellhounds drink off his dripping blood. He had left her bloody and bruised. Taking both her eye and her arm. Vamp left her for dead. She assumes it's because he thought it would be funny. Eventually, she met up with a genius named Ricochet. He made her a new arm designed for combat and over the years they grew close. Recently, they had tracked down Vamp and removed him from this world. She was not as angry as she once was. Shrapnel would have never let that thrall live before and hopes that it doesn’t come to bite her in the ass.

 The robot arm is placed on a little rack Rico had made. It was always funny how out of place it looked in the apartment. An expensive piece of equipment stored in one of the cheapest rooms you could get in Capstone. Ricochet had made a model for day to day use, but they always never felt like her. So, she was happy enough to use her one hand to take care of normal activities. She grabs a 25 cent pack of ramen underneath her chin and grabs a semi clean bowl from the sink and positions it underneath the faucet. After filling it to a reasonable level, she pulls open the package with her teeth and carefully pours the noodles into the water. Once they’re in the tap water, she balances the bowl into the microwave. Two minutes to wait for the cheap food.

 It has been a couple months since the Vamp stuff in Capstone City. Many lives were lost but there has been a steady healing. He had wiped out whole city blocks when he returned. Now the dilapidated buildings were a constant reminder of the pain and suffering he caused. After the death of Vamp, Shrapnel and Ricochet were contacted by the O.K. They were interested in them doing contract work to take out other threats that might arise. It was an offer too good to turn down. All expenses paid on food and board and a salary on top of it. And once all the paperwork was taken care of they were now owners and operators of a branch of the O.K. Capstone Division.

 The microwave beeps and she comes back to reality. The bowl sits there for a second as Shrapnel does not want to get burned. She rips open the flavoring and pours it on the cooked ramen. it had not dawned on her to look at it till now, but it was indeed shrimp flavored. She grabs a fork from the seemingly endless silverware in the sink and takes it over to her couch, which is also her bed. She grabs the remote and turns on the tv and watches the evening news. It’s all too much, they’re talking about all the reconstruction and whoever they have newly identified from those condemned blocks. She turns off the tv. There is silence in the room now, but before it can get to her the landline rings.

 “Hello?”,said Shrapnel. She was clearly recovering from a spiral of emotions.

 “Hey Shrap, it’s Rico. No bad news, but I thought it’d be nice if we got to go hang out tonight. We haven’t had a chance to just relax and enjoy ourselves.”,said Ricochet.

 “Yeah.. That sounds nice. I’d love to meet up. What do you have in mind?”, Shrapnel said with a slight bit of excitement.

 “Oh, just a nice restaurant that opened recently. ‘Seafood Andy’ is the name I believe, the O.K. team has had nothing but nice things to say about it. Are you up for it?”

 “Hell yeah, I’ll be there”, Shrapnel takes the ramen and dumps it in the trash. She throws on some nice-adjacent clothes. Some jeans, a band t-shirt and a nice denim jacket. Tonight is going to be a good night.

 A blue glow is cast over a young woman’s face in the darkness of her room. Her name is Valerie. In front of her is a forum run by her closest friends. Lost Ones is the name of the site. A group of people who feel as if they have been abandoned by the world. Soon there will be a big change. They’ve been planning this for ages. The young woman sends one final post.

  “Capstone City, Birdhymm Park. The big day is almost here.”

  Her computer soon ends up submerged in the bathtub. She prepares to go work one for one more shift.

  It’s a warm summer evening at the beach facing restaurant. On top of the freshly painted building is a sign with a poorly drawn old man riding a shrimp. This is supposedly Andy of Seafood Andy fame. Shrapnel makes her way inside and finds the host. He’s wearing a sailor suit and looks embarrassed to be alive.

  “I had a reservation with Rico.” Shrapnel said, but she could not see him anywhere inside the building. “That bastard is always late.”

  “This way ma’am. I’ll take you to a table and you can sulk there away from our other customers.” Said the host. He notices her missing arm and tries to not make it obvious, but is unsuccessful.

  “Yeah yeah.” She was seated at the far end of the restaurant away from the other guests. She was left a menu and looked at it so long she memorized it. Rico was more late than usual. She was about to fall asleep out of boredom till out of nowhere the Host walked Rico over.

  “Where the fuck were you?” Shrapnel said with some venom.

  “Sorry! I was doing shit” Rico returned in tone.

  “Please tone down the language. This is a family-friendly restaurant.” Shrapnel and Rico quickly apologized and waved away the host.

  “Now that we’re past that, how are you holding up?” Rico moves forward even though Shrapnel wants to complain some more.

  “I’m doing as good as you probably think. Tonight brought up a lot of baggage I’m still dealing with. I’ll probably keep dealing with it forever.”

  “I’ve been here for ya, Shrap. I know the story. You’re the strongest person I know.”

  “It’s just so much… Tell me what you’ve been up to. I don’t want to think about this anymore right now” Rico nods his head.

  “Just talking with the O.K. They’ve taken a big interest in our little operation and I’ve been sending them our mission data and they have some people there that are stupid good with tech. My partner is tired of hearing about my tech so it has been nice to talk to them about it.“

  “How is your boyfriend?” Shrapnel asks, brimming with curiosity. All Shrapnel knows is Rico has a Boyfriend and that Rico doesn’t normally like to bring him up.

  “Oh it’s all good.” Rico responds very quickly and sits silently. Shrapnel realizes there are some things still off limits between them and moves on.

  “Let’s order now, Rico” Shrapnel says with a softer tone than normal.

  Yeah. Let’s do it.”

  It was a long shift at Wristz. Valerie is tired and bored beyond belief working the alt fashion store on night shift but waiting for her outside are some local Lost Ones members. They seem excited to share some news.

  “What’s up?” Valerie is anxious to see any news about the event.

  “We’re having a bigger turnout than expected! Members from all over the union are showing up and they’ve already packed out a motel! ”

  “Fuck yeah… We’re really doing this.” Valerie said with a big smile.

 The next day, Shrapnel and Rico sit in the office and discuss what jobs need to be done. The O.K. had some extra work to do in the area so they decided to make a good bit of cash on these jobs. Something about a magic mirror being stolen, some freakish monster on the outskirts and some big event happening in Capstone.

  “Who gives a fuck about some mirror and we can kill that monster later, but what is going with that event?” Shrapnel said with slight intrigue as she lay sprawled over the couch.

  “Some internet forum talked very esoterically about some event happening in Birdhymm park. Probably some stupid teenager shit.” Rico responded without looking up from his desk.

  “Well, it seems way more interesting then whatever those other 2 were” Shrapnel sat for a second then continued. “What do we know about them?”

  “A group of young adults called the ‘Lost Ones’. Some collection of weirdos and dark poetry. The eye-liner and ‘I hate my mom’ crowd. Lots of talk about underground magic but nothing too wacky. Like a fire-spell to light your cigarette level magic. Some user named ‘Crunkgirl’ seems to be the leader of this little event. Traced the ip from the post and it seems to be some girl named Valerie. So, that’d be my first lead.”

  “Anything embarrassing about her?” Shrapnel said looking for some levity.

  “Like, half this forum has a crush on her and she posted some shitty music she called smeg-punk. Sounds exactly how you’d imagine.”

  Shrapnel snickers and gets up from her seat. Puts on her prosthetic arm she had hanging up in the office.

  “Oh well. Easy paycheck. I'll scope it out and see what I can come up with.”

 The IP traced back to a small apartment on the northside of capstone. It was a nice quaint brick building. Shrapnel walked inside and met with a very bored receptionist.

  “I’m with the government and looking for Valerie’s Apartment. Are you willing to point me in the right direction?” Shrapnel flashed her O.K. badge to the unfazed employee.

  “Sure. Room 201.” They then waved Shrapnel away and continued to be bored. Up the stairs she went idly listening to all the noise coming from all the apartments as she approached room 201. It seems she didn’t need to ask the receptionist, because it became very clear Valerie lived in this apartment. Heavy music played muffled out to the hallway. She knocked on the door and awaited a response.

 “How can I help you, cow?”, the rude woman asked as she swung the door open.

  “Excuse me, what the fuck did you just call me?”

  “I called you fat, are you stupid too?”

  Shrapnel wants to tear her head off but instead takes a deep breath and refocuses her thoughts.

  “I’m here to talk to you actually. I’m here to discuss with you your involvement with Lost Ones. We know you are a part of the group, so don’t pretend you aren’t”

  She squints her eyes at Shrapnel. Her mind is racing and it's obvious she wasn’t prepared for this.

 “Go away, fed. I’m not talking to you.” Shrapnel tensed up more and is visibly shaking now. Valerie smiles.

 “I’m just fucking with you.” Valerie laughs. “We’re just a group of friends who met on the internet. I’m actually a part of a music group and I’m going to be performing at Birdhymm. If you’re interested you can come by tonight.” This caught Shrapnel off guard for a moment. What was this woman’s deal?

 “One second.” Shrapnel rounds the corner and gets Rico on the comms. “What do you make of this?”

 “Eh, it wouldn’t hurt to go tonight. Just to make sure everything is on the up and up. They might be going this under the radar because they wanna smoke weed or something. I don’t know.” Rico said half-heartedly.

 “Yeah you’re right.” Shrapnel switched off comms and returned to Valerie who was now just daydreaming into the ceiling. “I’ll be there. What’s the dress code?”

 “Show up naked for all I care, just be there by sunset.” She shut the door on Shrapnel

 It’s Sunset and it’s time for the show. Shrapnel is there in a black t-shirt with another band's logo on it with black jeans. She has a chain around her waist and put on some black fur-paint eye-liner for the event as well. She hasn’t used makeup in so many years. It felt nice to dress up for an occasion for once.

 The crowd smells of weed and cigarettes and maybe a little bit like barf. It’s actually a little nostalgic. They’re all laughing and stumbling and having a good time. It’s about a crowd of about 50 people. Not a big turn out, but the band is called Smegacrust so what do you expect? She might want to consider rebranding.

 The stage lights dim and from the side of the stage Valerie and some dorky looking dudes walk into view.


 The crowd erupts into mania. They are so pumped and the emotions are out of this world. It’s intoxicating. Shrapnel can’t help but to join in. Valerie locks eyes with Shrapnel.


 Shrapnel snaps out of it. She looks around and notices that the crowd has gone stone faced. In their hands are knives with peculiar symbols on them.

 “THIS SONG IS CALLED ‘I HATE THIS WORLD AND I HOPE IT BURNS 10,000 TIMES OVER’!!” A simple 3 chord progression is played in a rough manner and Valerie starts to sing. The audience lifts their knives and stabs towards their stomachs.

 Shrapnel breaks out of the shock of the situation and runs towards her van.

 The bodies don’t stay still long. A portal from the sky opens and the bodies start to be pulled to one point. The bodies are crushed and mixed together. A perfect sphere of flesh exists now and out of the bottom drops the audience's clothes. They slap the ground, wet.

 Shrapnel makes it to the van and calls for Ricochet and the O.K. on an emergency line


  The sphere starts to take form. From the top a vague smooth head morphs and from the front a mask forms with 2 eyeholes. The body about the same time gains form. It’s a smooth shape with no special detail. There is not enough skin to cover the entirety of the being, so its arms are just muscle and it has run out of bones for its hands.So, it dangles as skinless tentacles that latch with just the tension of muscle. It stands 5 meters tall and shrapnel has no way to take this thing out.

  A gurgling sound comes from the being. It seems to be trying to form words. It pauses for a second and lets its vocal cords form. A loud booming voice came from the creature.

  “Thank you, Valerie. It’s nice to join you in the physical world. I owe you my gratitude for getting all these willing participants to join. Forming this body was trivial”

 “Don't be shy, Voidy, break your new body in and cause some mayhem.”

 “Oh my apologies, Valerie. I was worried I would seem too eager if I went ahead and started right now. Thank you.” The hulking beast started his path of destruction as it flipped some cars on its way out of the parking lot. Valerie flipped off Shrapnel on the way out.

 “WHERE ARE YOU GUYS RESPOND”, Shrapnel called in desperation again.

 “We just got your message just now, Shrap. We’re calling in the big guns.” O.K. then speaks on the shared frequency.

 “Ma’am we are at service. Bad news is that it is a very powerful creature, but the good news is we have the tech to send it back to where it came from. Inside its body is going to be a voidcore. It’s sort of like an anti soul. We are going to be pulling up soon with explosives filled with soul energy. We will be canceling out the core. Once that’s gone. The flesh body should collapse and it should cease to exist.”

  “How will she see it, souls aren’t exactly visible?”Rico asked before I could get the sentence out of my mouth.

 “Voidcores are physical and visible unlike souls. You will be able to see it. We just have one problem. It is inside the Voidwalker. You’ll have to get to it somehow. We will leave that to you.” There is a short pause. “We are arriving now.” A large convoy of cars sped into the parking lot. They don’t wait a moment to start setting up tents and pulling out equipment. A O.K. member and a thrall rush to Shrapnel holding a briefcase.

 “She really wanted to be the one to bring you the bomb” said the O.K. member.

 “Thank you again, Ms. Shrapnel. Go give them hell.” the goon said with a big smile.

 “Nope. Not ready for this, but thanks for the stuff.” Shrapnel says in a hurry. She runs her ass off to catch up the lumbering being.

 The voidwalker stomps through the streets on the outskirts of Capstone. It is not very fast. It is still getting used to his body. Shrapnel is now not much further behind it. She was able to catch up in just a 5 minute sprint to him. The casualties are still contained to the 50 fans. We can prevent something really bad from happening. Just a couple meters and I’ll be onto it.

 “Before I forget, do y'all have Valerie or do I need to do that part of the job too?”

 “She jumped off a while back and we intercepted. She’s in custody now.. Focus on Voidwalker.”

 Shrapnel is just a few feet away now and she leaps to the leg and digs her metal claws into it. It stops in its tracks and looks towards shrapnel. Before it can lift its leg to stomp, Shrapnel starts her climb.

 “What do you think you are doing? You know that hurts right?”

 “Shut up, dickhead”Shrapnel continues to climb. Finally reaching the mid back. “This is going to hurt a lot worse.” Shrapnel starts scooping flesh out of its back using her claws.

 “ARAGHHHHHH”It screamed out in pain. It goes into shock and falls onto its back. Luckily, shrapnel has already carved enough of a hole to not get squished. More flesh is scooped as it rocks back and forth in pain.

 “PLEASE STOP, IT HURTS TOO MUCH. WHY DOES A MORTAL BODY HURT LIKE THIS.” Soon before Shrapnel is the voidcore. She takes it with her metal arm and slams the spike into it. It starts to beep.

 “5. SECONDS. TILL. DETONATION.”, with one more turn in pain, shrapnel slides out from underneath. She gets 2 strides in before she leaps for some cover. The core explodes along with its entire midsection. Viscera is everywhere, but as far as she can tell, no casualties.

 Valerie was taken into custody. Formally charged and sentenced for 52 counts of manslaughter and destruction of private property. She will be held in Ocean View Prison for 30 life sentences, no chance for parole.

  The O.K. retrieved all 50 or so knives and cleaned up the scene. There was no way to hide the fact the event took place so, they simply released a truthful report, but they did not dispose of the void infused flesh. They would be investigating that for any possible uses. They’re unlikely to come up with anything useful.

 "Well, good job Shrapnel. No casualties, minimal property damage, and you made the business look good.”, Rico said with a mouth full of food. His boyfriend had whipped us up some food to eat while we were out in the field. Some bell peppers and beef. The food was delicious, especially after a night like this. You would think she’d be turned off of meat but really at this point she doesn’t mind. They had let her use their shower to wash off all the blood and guts.

  “Oh fuck. I never introduced you to him, this is Recurve. My partner.”Recurve’s mouth was left agape as Ricochet said it.

  “You worked with this wonderful woman for years and you NEVER said my name”

  “What can I say, I’m a business minded individual. Enterprising.”

  “Rico, you take that work life balance stuff way too seriously. Half the time I don’t even know what he’s up to! But, I love the guy. Even if he’s a dickhead, I have heard all about you Ms. Shrapnel.” Rico blushes and puts his head down to his plate. They talk into the night. Despite how tired Shrapnel is. For a moment, she feels alright.