Carpathia III: Episode 101: The Last Tempation of Jaze

Yseri, Desert Trail

When Kaoru didn't follow right away, Jaze hoped against all reason that he would not be bothered again. Forward, he trudged, with heavy steps and tears in his eyes. In the end, he wasn't surprised when he finally heard running footsteps behind him. He was equally unsurprised when Kaoru jumped in front of him, blocking his way.

Kaoru: You are not going anywhere!

Jaze clenched his fists, frustrated with Kaoru's persistence. Having no desire to fight Kaoru in order to escape, he was leaving Jaze with little alternative. Still, Jaze continued to try to talk his way through.

Jaze: You have no idea what you're getting into!

Kaoru: Of course I don't, because you won't tell me!

Jaze: Just let me go!

In a purely symbolic gesture, Kaoru spread his arms wide, indicating that he still refused to allow Jaze to leave. The next words that Kaoru spoke were jarring, as he suddenly stopped shouting and spoke cooly and calmly.

Kaoru: Not until you tell me where you're going and why.

Before Jaze had a chance to reply, the others from the group arrived and took positions in a wide circle, surrounding him. Quilyon and Zet took positions on either side of Kaoru, in front of Jaze, while the others were to his sides and back. Reuli, Wolfram, and the androids were not present. Jaze's head darted around at each of them. None looked as though they were angling for a fight, but each bore an expression of concern. Adell tossed his backpack behind him.

Adell: We're here for you, Jaze. Just tell us what's going on.

Though literally surrounded by friends, Jaze never felt so alone. It was too late for him, he thought; he was too far gone. The blood spilled because of him could not be undone and it increasingly appeared that this would be where his journey would end. Jaze slowly turned around and gazed longingly at each of them.

At that moment, when he believed he could not fall any further, Wishmaster joined him as well, inside his head.

Wishmaster: Jaze...

Right away, Jaze closed his eyes and clasped his hands to his ears, trying in vain to shut out Wishmaster's voice.

Jaze: No!

Jaze shook his head violently from side to side in a fruitless attempt to shake Wishmaster from his mind.

Wishmaster: You'll have to fight if you are to fulfill your obligations.

Jaze bowed his head as he sqeezed his hands tighter to his ears.

Jaze: I won't!

Feeling as though he were on a thin line between nightmare and reality, Jaze was still vaguely aware of what was going on outside his head and he heard Kaoru calling to him.

Kaoru: Jaze!

Jaze's eyes sprang open, though he found it difficult to focus. Blurred faces and dancing shadows overwhelmed his vision. He could feel changes happening to his body as he thrust his hands out, bearing long, sharp claws.

Jaze: Stay back!

The blurry figures surrounding him quickly sprang backward as Jaze pressed his knees together, struggling to remain standing. Wishmaster, however, wasted no time reasserting his influence.

Wishmaster: You fight or I kill them all. Your choice!

Jaze clasped his hands to his ears again, desperately to push Wishmaster away from him.

Kaoru: Jaze!

Once again, Jaze showed his claws and the blurry figures backed off. At the same time, his legs gave up their strength and he fell to his knees. There was, he thought, only one thing left that he could do. Concentrating hard on reality, he slowly and shakily reached for the gun tucked in his waistband. Vaguely, he could still hear the others calling to him.

Kaoru: Jaze, what are you doing?

Jaze could still hear the voices of the others, though they were indistinct mumbles to him. He finally managed to wrap his hands around the grip of the gun and pull it out. Tears streamed down his face both for himself for his friends who would have to watch.

Wishmaster: Trying to use Rhoskel's way out, are you? I'm afraid not. If you end your life, I will consider your obligations unfulfilled and kill all your friends anyway!

Jaze let out a cry of despair, having his only way out stolen from him. As the gun was no longer an option, he tossed it away, and again closed his eyes and clasped his hands to his ears.

Jaze: Just stop talking and leave me alone!

Wishmaster: You want to see what happens if you do not comply?

Jaze: No... don't show me...

Wishmaster: Have a look around.

Jaze didn't need to open his eyes, for Wishmaster put all the images into his head. First, he could see blood begin to swirl around his body. Looking up, the source was clear. Surrounding him were the corpses of everyone he knew and loved and others shambling around him like zombies. Kaoru impaled on a pike. Toma, bound and hung upside-down above him, all grotesque disasters of their former selves.

Jaze tried to shut the images out of his mind, but they peristed. All he could do was dart his eyes around himself quickly, so as not to linger on any one horrible scene for more than a second.

Wishmaster: You know what you have to do.

The images quickly faded from Jaze's mind and his breathing slowed, as though he were just given a strong dose of pain killers.

Jaze: I'll... I'll do it.

Wishmaster smiled evilly.

Wishmaster: And what will you do?

Jaze: Just shut up! You know what it is!

Wishmaster's grin faded into a smirk and then, slowly, shadow began to fall over the rest of him.

Wishmaster: Very well. Do not disappoint me.

Wishmaster was gone and Jaze could once again hear his friends calling out to him.

Kaoru: Jaze!

Adell: Jaze!

Artemis: Jaze!

Ryuu: Jaze!

His heart heavy, Jaze slowly rose to his feet as incredible strength welled up within him.

Everyone around him stepped back from the visage that appeared before them.

Jaze: Let... me... go!

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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