Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chapter Five

They'd probably been painted originally. As his eyes adjusted to the ever dimming light in the...whatever it was, he'd begun to notice markings, patterns of grey in the hall. Perhaps in proper light they'd be a couple different colors, but with the long fluorescent strips that ran along the ceiling fading away all colors became shades of grey.

And the sounds made it even worse. The steel creaked and groaned for no apparent reason. It was like the weight of the thing shifted with merely a breeze. But more disturbing by far was the low moaning that came from across the halls. Near and far the sounds of the injured inhabitants could be heard. Here and there a distant crash rang out, presumably as the least injured tried to dig out the rest.

The man in the room haunted him. He'd looked so scared. And he looked like any guy you'd see on the street, no armor, no scales or fur, just an ordinary guy. What would an ordinary guy be doing in a..thing, he really needed a better name for it, like this?

Another fork in the halls. How had Collin made this look so easy? Was there some unspoken objective she'd been moving towards? Maybe there was something in the lighting or the slope of the place that guided her. Whatever it was, he wasn't seeing it. There was, however, a sign on the wall directly in front of him. He couldn't read it, the markings were disjointed and had no apparent pattern.
"Drop another beacon here, we'll head right so make note of it."
"Aye sir"

Hamaf looked right, it was brighter than the way left. Light meant safety, not from the inhabitants, who would doubtless be ahead, but from the unknown. And as dangerous as these people were, better to face them in the light than to face whatever horrors and pitfalls might lurk in the shadows.

A soldier pulled out one of the small metal boxes that they used to mark their path. It had a small transmitter, broadcasting a looping message about two hundred meters out. It couldn't be a long message, but the important part was that the signal could be used to path additional forces in after them. Of almost equal importance was that they could be used to relay messages back to call for those forces if they were needed.
Provided the beacons weren't tampered with. And if that were to happen the loss of a relayed signal from the beacons he and Jor wore would make Collin back in the forward post aware of the problem at once.

They pressed on into the..complex? Fortress maybe, he'd heard of the ones in the north that had been dug deep into the rock. Except that this wasn't rock, it was steel, or something like steel. More like a fortress sized truck or boat than anything else. Perhaps, what was the word for a large boat? Ship, right; perhaps this place should be considered a ship.
"Men, I think this place is a ship."
"You mean like a boat?"
"Yes, but much, much bigger."
"I thought it was more of a fortress, it reminds me of the Stone garrisons; only bigger and on top of a city instead of under it."
"I thought that too, but wouldn't a fortress have better doors?"
"I guess, yea probably."
"So it's like a really, really big ship."
"Kind of makes sense, as much as any of this does."
"Then it's settled, we shall continue to explore this ship for the next five minutes and then return to Collin and the others."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chapter Four

Jor grabbed the broken door and bent it straight. Hamaf recognized his intent at once.
"Alright, I'll follow you in, just keep him busy."
"For Collin sir?"
"For the Empire."
"For the Empire."

He slid it through the door way at an angle and reoriented it just in time as the weapon's crack was heard again. He charged towards the source, Hamaf close behind. As they approached the target he drew his sword, nine generations of his clan's history gleamed in the dim fluorescent light. He heard his foe's small cry of panic, signaling that they had drawn to close for comfort. He sidestepped the improvised shield and thrust for his target.

A short cry rang out; it was the cry the young soldier had made when he had come to try and stop this fallen creature. Whatever was at the end of his blade had died, and with little struggle. No attempt to rise, no begging, not even a furious stab at dying vengance.
Jor set the barrier aside and the light from behind revealed their enemy. A short, pale man; his legs were crushed under a fallen girder and he wore a one piece cloth jumpsuit. Sweat and blood stained the debris around him, and much of it showed evidence of having been moved.
"This runt killed a soldier of the empire and wounded another?"
"By means of some devilry, yes. We should be careful in case there are more."

They waved to the rest of the men. All three platoons filed into the room, Doc putting some final touches onto Callin's bandages as she followed them.
"Alright, get a good look because this is what we'll be up against. Fundamentally Nieldic, but smaller and more pale; not certain what happened to the weapon, but they've got them, and you've all seen what they can do."
The men nodded in consensus. With dramatic precision Callin whimpered as the Doc applied pressure to the wound.
"Right. Collin, you and the Doc will stay here with your platoon and keep the room secure in case we need a fallback point. Jor, you and half your men will follow me. The rest will head back out to Sharai and the rest of the company. Send for reinforcements, lead them here when they arrive."
Hamaf turned to Collin as the men dashed back to the surface.
"We'll try to stop in every other hour, if we fail to report for more than a day consider us dead. Remain in this position until reinforcements arrive."
He began following Jor towards the next hallway and stopped halfway.
"I don't know what these people are capable of, so just in case my oldest son's name isn't Kain."
"Aye sir, Spirit of the Light guide you."
"I didn't know you were religious Collin."
"You also didn't know I have a sister named Matinsa."
He smiled. "May you know its mercy, and by its power be kept from further harm Sergent."
And with the Light in his heart he ventured further into the darkness.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chapter Three

It sounded somewhat like an engine backfiring, but Collin's collapse before the open door made it clear that something else entirely had happened.
"Get her away from there. Doc, do what you can; I want my Sergent back."
Two men pulled her back. The small explosion was heard again, he could tell it was coming from the room through the open door.

"Someone get in there and shut that thing down."
"Aye sir"
A trooper dashed to the door and turned sharply into the room beyond. Thrice more was the explosion heard, this time in rapid succession. The trooper grunted in pain before collapsing, armor clanging against the cold steel floor.
There was no mistaking it this time, someone was attacking them from within the chamber.
"Doc, what happened to her?"
"Cap'n looks like some sort of dart. High velocity, no poison or nothin. She'll live, just a bit of a scarin' on her shoulder's all. Give her another hour or so to rest and she'll be up and runnin'."
"What kind of dart?"
"Like half a pill, only a bit sharper on the one end."
"Could it be launched by an explosion?"
"What an absurd theory, launching things with combustion. What would have given you the idea?"
"The explosion that preceded her collapse. Jor, you worked on a farm, right?"
"Aye sir, I think I know what you're thinking and the theory seems sound."
"What kind of velocity does it take to penetrate imperial armor?"
"I know what kind of force it would take, but velocity; that I'd have no idea."
"Does anyone here know physics?"
A chorus of nervous nays rose from the corridor. The men were scared enough of the mysterious dart without having to compound their woes with the thought of complex mathematics.

"If a piston weren't connected properly, how much force would it exert against the first thing it hit?"
"It'd wound a man or dent steel. Provided the engine was working properly of course."
"What if the piston were a pill, with the same force behind it?"
"I'd guess at something like this sir."
"I'm a medic, not a mechanic. How am I supposed to make anything more than a guess at what a pill being shot out of an engine would do to a man?"
"Just guess then."
"Probably this," he waved at Collin.
"Then it's settled, something is launching pills at us using an engine. Now we just have to reach it, beat it into submission, and force it to show us how it did it."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chapter Two

The light was more steady, but weaker. Collin took the lead, carefully working her way through the debris. The men were unnerved, darkness like this could be found only in booby-trapped temples and the forgotten lowest levels of a dungeon. Hamaf steeled his nerves, his men would look to him for security. Even if they couldn't make out his expression, there would be no mistaking his confident stance.

What was this thing that had fallen from the sky? Why had it come here, to this city? Had it done it on purpose, or was this all just some horrible coincidence?

"Look sir, chairs."
"Aye sir, they look comfortable too."
"Why would that matter?"
"Chairs don't exists where there's no one to sit in them."
He blinked at the trooper's logic. It was goofy, but true. Chairs were not a naturally occurring phenomenon, but neither were fluorescent lights and electrical cables. All the signs made a natural origin impossible, but the presence of chairs made it likely that its creators were still within.
"Knives. And watch for movement."
They were getting jittery. The suspense was growing. Every trooper's mind was growing saturated with thoughts of horrors lurking just beyond their perception. Even he was not exempt. Every cable became a tentacle, every flashing light a winking eye, and torn steel seemed the mark of hideous claws. As his heart beat faster he reached to his side and felt the familiar wound steel thread on his sword-hilt. His hand slid over the worn ruby pommel and he thought of his son, who already boasted to his friends of his great valor. Fear did not depart, but he found a new resolve. It no longer mattered what dangers were before them, he would survive them and return to his son.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Beyond; chapter one

Hamaf climbed the wreckage carefully. No one knew what this terror was that had fallen from the sky. All that was known was that it had killed millions by coming.
"What is it?"
"I...I don't know."
"Electrical wires, bent steel, satellite maybe?"
"I didn't know something this big could fly, aren't most satellites like the size of a truck?"
"About, maybe it's magic."
The troopers stiffened slightly at Sharai's end-all explanation. None could wield the power, but they'd seen it used in tournaments by the nobles and the guardsmen. To face such a danger would spell death for them all.

"Captain, I found an opening!"
"Men, secure access. Jened, go inform command that we've found a way in."
The eager recruit sluggishly walked off.
"Put a move on soldier, He doesn't like to be kept waiting."
Jened rushed down with an impassioned haste.

An hour passed, and another. The second sun rose and found Hamaf and his troopers still watching over the gently glowing rift. No relief was in sight, but supplies were not running low and morale was still within acceptable levels. Boredom, however, was reaching critical levels.
"Sharai, stay here with your platoon and wait for reinforcements. If we're not back in three suns send for urgent assistance."
"Your call sir."
"Aren't you supposed to tell me not to go?"
"I'm just glad you aren't ordering me to lead the recon."
"Aren't we noble. May your children be as loyal and self-sacrificing as you are."
"With all due respect sir, go soak your head."
The captain smiled at his second in command. The young lady was coping well with the loss of her entire family. It'd been years, and she'd never gotten along with them, but he'd known few more staunch and able soldiers in all his years.

He beckoned to sergeants Jor and Collin. Their three squads descended into the sky-sent cavern. The darkness was broken only by the flicker of broken cables and a dim glow from the few surviving lights running along the shattered corridors. It was haunting, but Collin took the lead and proceeded up hill towards a twisted door.
"Should be powered, gear mechanisms in the floor and ceiling. Her fingers, tanned and worn by years in the slums, swept over a broken panel beside it.
"basic interface, twelve buttons, ten digits and lock/unlock commands. But the system seems disconnected, If it's locked it'll stay that way."
His captain's intent was clear. The burly farmer's son relaxed visibly, taking a fighter's stance before the ruined portal. Two thrusts to each corner were followed by a dramatic blow to the door's center. The metal door folded around his blow and collapsed inward under the force. After helping the Sergent to extract his foot from the wreckage the small force entered the room beyond.