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post #12 of (permalink) Old 12-10-10, 03:11 AM Thread Starter
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“I have no need of speech.”

Daul looked into the man's eyes and tore into his mind. It was in shambles. The man's world was nothing but pain, betrayal and death. In his agony his conscious mind and his sense of self and had retreated to a dark corner in which to hide, but not far enough. The space of everyone's mind looked different, this man's space was dark and ragged. It was a tortured place. In the middle of a dark void Daul found a huddled man, ragged and bloody. He was babbling incoherently.

“They shouldn't be, nope, can't be. Nope. Not one bit. Smit sees right through them!” He looked up at Daul's astral form, “They aren't right. Shouldn't be.”

“No,” agreed Daul, “They should not. Smit? That's your name isn't it?”

Smit's eyes focused on Daul

“He came, said we had to obey him. But we aren't fools, not going to be taking in by some heretic scum. We showed him, least we through we did.”

“You brought the void shields down on his ship? Soren Faust's ship?”

“That's his name is it? Yes, yes we did. I did. Worked in the dome. My place you see? That's where I worked.”

“I see.”

“It didn't work though, we sent off a request for help before he took over the colony but too late, far too late. You know what he does to people? What he wants here”

“I suspect I do.”

The man cried, “No. No you don't. You think you do. You need to understand. He found it! Knew exactly where to look for it. Where we were supposed to dig for it.”

“For what, exactly?”

“The angel. The thing of beauty trapped in stone. The most glorious thing I have ever set eyes on till the day I go to the Golden Throne in the afterlife. He found it and took it. The Kosh was stolen from where it hid, took him. Wanted his secrets he did. Hid in the dark days from the starfeeders.”

The man's eyes shook and the world of his mind grew darker. He was dying and by staying in the man's mind Daul risked dying along with him, “Smit I need you to focus. Where is Faust?”

“Where do all kings sit? On a throne on high.”

“Smit, I need you to be more clear? Smit?” Smit's eyes closed feebly and his mind fell to shadow. As Daul pulled away from it he felt the icy clawing of death nipping at his skin. He took a deep breath and shook his head to clear his mind.

“Sir? Are you ok sir?” Danzig was looking at him worriedly.

“Fine Danzig, I'm just fine,” the cold fingers still grabbed at his flesh but they were becoming less biting on his skin and he no longer heard the distant voices. He would be fine soon.

“You just stopped moving for and then started to twitch. Gazan wanted to check your vitals but the Skitrarii wouldn't let him.”

“Your concern is noted but unnecessary. Cairn, I need you to upload the schematics for the city into my HUD. We're going to have to split up.”

Cairn agrily warbled out a negative.

“It's not up for debate, someone has to sabotage the plasma reactors and you're the only one I trust to do it without blowing us all to hell. The Lionhearts are more than capable of destroying it but would be hard pressed to do so without causing a chain reaction of some sort by accident. Take Danzig and half the Lionhearts and head to the reactors, that's not a suggestion that's an order.”

“Where you will be taking Sergei and his squad if I might ask sir?” Danzig looked as confused as Cairn as Daul approached one of the many wide domed transport tubes at the center of the room.

“I'm going after Faust.”

Kerrigan was furious. The machine in front of her was a beautiful and elaborate device. It was the sort of machine that few Magos would have the opportunity to work on in their lifetimes and for the life of her she could not figure out what was wrong with it. The power-couplings were in place and properly blessed. The correct incense had been placed at the base of the command consul after the runes of activation had been pressed. Even the proper rituals of cognitive assistance had been done and yet the ancient machine spirit refused to work because she had not answered its riddle.

She could not tell if it was simply the senility of this particular machine or an added security measure but every time she tried to activate the machine it spat back a series of numbers and demanded she input the next in the series.


}---Input Code---- {

She had tired the command overrides available to her but this was a truly ancient piece of archeotech, in order to appease the spirit inside she would have to answer it's riddle but for the life of her she could not think what to type.

Worse still it was a series six cipher, if she were to type in the wrong answer the machine spirit would shut down and they would have to start the hours long process of activation over from the beginning. Assuming they could start it at all the time for the use of the great machine would long since have passed. But that would be failure. Kerrigan was not about to fail.

“Mistress,” one of her attendants approached her, “We are consulting your personal archives but we are unsure where to start.”

“Don't bother,” Kerrigan's eyes were fixed on the numbers, “I've memorized the lot of them. This is not part of it. It's a puzzle, a riddle.”

“A security measure.”

“I suspect that the machine has grown bored in its long period of disuse. This is its way of appeasing its ego after having abandoned it for so long. It wants an apology.”

“Of course mistress. Do you want us to perform the rites of reuse?”

“Yes, I feel that would be best. The prayer's of cogitation too. It's only a matter of a half hour before Sánclair starts to fire on the city in earnest and must be prepared to use the machine the second the shields fall.”

If it weren't, the consequences would be dire.

Danzig could not stop himself from feeling apprehensive about separating from the Inquisitor. The specifics of the exit strategy had not been made clear in the mission briefing and he suspected that were there to be an emergency extraction it would be those closes to Daul to be rescued. He wasn't even entirely convinced Cairn was human. For all Danzig knew the Skitarii's machine enhanced brains could simply be copied at will and their physical body was simply a shell. Still it seemed unlikely that the Captain would let them die so easily.

Presumably the Skitarii had some form of internal map in his mind that he could consult but the Lionhearts themselves were effectively blind. The colonists had gone through the corridors of the facility and burned the maps off the walls in order to blind Faust, effectively blinding the Lionhearts as well.

“Damned unnerving if you ask me sir,” Fadir said as they passed yet another abandoned building, “I was expecting a real dust up after that first fight but this place is just... empty.”

“It's a service area Fadir,” Danzig shrugged, “I doubt there would be many people other than the tech servitor or odd tech priest at the best of times.”

“Still creepy sir. It's like one of the dead levels of the ship, I keep expecting to get captured by a Bendy at any moment,” Sala'ha eyed the Skitarii with mild amusement, “At least Clockwork seems to be at home.”

Indeed Cairn did seem to be at peace in the mechanical underbelly of the domed city, the sound of pistons churning and the warm fog of steam was making the Skitarii almost chipper, or at least as close to chipper as he ever seemed to get. How the Inquisitor read the Skitarii's emotionless body and stale, mechanical expression was a mystery to Danzig. The Skitarii seemed to have a grasp of humor, though most of his jokes seemed to be private ones only understood by the Inquisitor. He supposed that being a psychic factored into it somehow.

It was unnerving to follow the silent giant. The Lionhearts had to mutely follow Cairn through the winding corridors of the Belzafest domed city and simply trust that he was heading in the right direction. The silent man's mechanical manner and emotionless demeanor was unnerving at best. It wasn't that Danzig disliked the man, but how was he supposed to interact with something so inhuman? Especially in the dull green light of his night-vision optics he looked strange and alien.

“Are we far from the generators?”

Cairn said nothing but warily eyed the narrow corridor in the distance. He nodded but his manner became more cautious and he started to follow what little cover there was more closely.

“Are their any enemies between us and it?”

Cairn took out his auspex and fiddled with it as they marched. Eventually he put it down and shrugged noncommittally as he upholstered his pistols as he nodded at the balcony above the entrance to the main reactor.

“Is that a yes or a no?”

Cairn grabbed Danzig by the collar, yanking him into cover moments before a searing jet of flame shot over his head. The Lionhearts started firing wildly at dark shapes in the distance and rushing for cover. Danzig winced as he hit the treaded ferrocrete on the ground. As Danzig lifted himself off the ground, head still swirling with punch-drunk confusion, he took the time in between violent outbursts of swearing to give Cairn a withering look.

The Skitarii either didn't notice or was too busy firing at the sinewy beasts charging them to care. A set of distinctly canine half-breeds with long, gaunt maws, and talon tipped feet charged the Lionhearts as the ducked to avoid the fire of an small-bore auto-cannon leapt off the second story balcony and rushed towards the Lionhearts. Cairn managed to kill the first with a well-placed shot to the eye but only managed to graze the flank of the second as it vaulted over a chemical vat and started to tear into the exposed flesh of Boalan's neck. An enraged Pilar tried to pry the creature off Boalan but only managed to get a deep slash along his shoulder for his trouble.

“Die you xenos freak,” Boalan managed to gurgle out as he drove his bayonet into the creature’s stomach. The creature ignored its hanging entrails and simply bit off Boalan's head. It rounded on Pilar only to have its head implode under a concentrated blast of lasfire from Pillar’s sidearm.

“Ten hostiles left on the balcony sir,” Farast chuckled as he sighted his lasgun at one of the moving shadows in the distance. He breathed out and fired, the gun bucking briefly with a crack of ionized air. The shape in the distance at which he'd been aiming ceased to move, “Make that nine. Good enough sport for you Fadir?”

Fadir looked up from reloading his own weapon behind cover and flinched when an enemy grenade shot burst against the loading crane he was crouched behind. Shrapnel flew out from the space between the wheels, wedging painfully between his ribs. He spat up a bloody bit of phlegm, “A bit too active for my liking sir.”

Gazan rushed up to Fadir to examine the wound, just barely managing to avoid getting shot himself as he jumped a behind the crane. Danzig lobbed a grenade at the distant enemies as the sound of another dog-beast approached. The creature whimpered and died, some genetic compulsion forcing it to try and snap at the flying ball with its jaws.

Danzig tapped his vox link, “Gazan, how bad is he?”

Gazan had a bedside manner second to none on the battlefield. The man was just as much of an adrenaline addict as the rest of the regiment but his calm and clinical manner didn't change even as bullets narrowly whipped by his head. With nimble fingers and wise eyes he examined the wound at Fadir's side. Gazan smiled at Fadir as he pulled a set of silver forceps out of his bag, “He'll live. This is going to hurt like hell to get out and a doubt he'll be too happy with me for a while,” he smiled a comically exaggerated look of sadness at Fadir, “but as soon as I pull the shrapnel out and dress the wound he'll be fit for combat. He'll be, get down you damned fool!”

Semal never had a chance to do so. As soon as he stood up and started to spin a grenade around in a sling, presumably to lob it up to the balcony beyond, he had been cut down by steady stream of auto-cannon fire. He fell to the ground, his sling falling limply at his side. Wahal barely had time to scream before the two of them burst in a fine cloud of pink mist and shrapnel.

“Throne cursed gun. Skitarri Thross no chance you have any bright ideas to get us out of this mess?”

Cairn looked into the distance and pointed to a spot above the balcony upon which the half-breeds stood. Danzig popped up and cautiously looked down the sight on his rifle and smiled as he tapped his vox bead, “Sala'ha do you read me?”

“Yes sir.”

“Shoot the conduit above that damned fixed gun,” Danzig flinched as another stream of auto-cannon fire raked along the pipes he was ducked behind. The echoing ricochet of auto-cannon rounds was thunderous.

“Not the gun itself?”

“Just do it.”

“Yes sir.”

Danzig shuddered as another salvo of auto-cannon fire raked his position, denting the pipes he was using for cover. He muttered out a brief prayer to the Emperor as the bright streaking light of a hotshot long-las streaked down ten meters of corridor. The conduit exploded in a brilliant shower of sparks and light. Several live wires dropped from the burst conduit, sparking and surging with barely controlled energy. More than enough energy to ignite the ammunition supplies for the auto-cannon. n. The eviscerated charred bodies of the half-breeds flew off the balcony in a syrupy mess of flesh and ichors.

Danzig smiled and turned to Cairn, “You do have a special talent for destruction my friend.”

Cairn simply looked to the destroyed conduit with shame.

The main plaza of the Belzafest colony was out of a nightmare. The colonists, what few of them were left, had been cordoned off into slave paddocks made from electroshock cable lashed together around human bones. It served as both a physical cage and a tool of emotional torture. Faust loved such devices. They found several lone half-breed soldiers at the paddocks satisfying their urge for food or their own lust. They were far too concentrated on their own hedonistic debauchery to notice the Lionhearts till it was too late.

Faust's megalomania demanded that he be situated in the most central building of the Facility, of that Daul was sure. He would have it in the center of everything so that he wouldn't have to go to far to reach the slave pens from which he extracted the raw materials necessary for creating and feeding his half-breed army. Not for the first time he worried about his own humanity as he was forced to march past the cheering and pleading slave enclosures on the basement floor of the control complex for Belzafest. These people have no reason to be cheering for me, thought Daul, they'll die in less than a day and their blood will be on my hands, Throne forgive me.

Whatever guilt Daul felt as they passed the ragged and emaciated Belzafest natives in their cages it was nothing compared to the guild of Sergei and the Lionhearts. Every time a mother held our her child begging Sergi for a blessing or to take her child to safety it look a little bit away from the boisterous Lionheart. Daul was eternally thankful that it was in a common Damascan dialect that that Sergi chose to voice his ethical concerns rather than low Gothic. He didn't want to rob these people of their last moments of hope for salvation.

“Sir, can't we at least let them out of their cells?”

Daul shook his head, “We enough problems without worrying about civilians getting in the way or bumbling about trying to help. This group hasn't eaten more than corpse-meal portage in months. Best to leave them where they are.”

“Can't we save any of them?”

“I will not risk allowing anyone infected with the half-breed genes to leave this planet. We have enough natural horrors to be getting on with without manufacturing new ones,” Daul said patiently, “They will all be dead in twenty four hours. We cannot waste more time here.”

“Wouldn't it be possible,” Sergei's teeth ground together with every word, “ To countermand that order?”

“All things are possible under the Emperor's will but not under mine. I will not countermand that order. We are here to do an unhappy task. Let it be.”

Sergei moved in front of Daul's massive armored form and looked straight into the emotionless skull mask's eyes unblinkingly. His voice was one of barely controlled rage and sorrow, “Sir, please help these people. Let me help these people.”

Daul sighed and looked into the hopeful and hungry faces in the slave paddocks. He was their hero; many of them had already started the primarch's blessing. To leave these people would be the act of a monster. “Sergei,” Daul sighed.

The face of Sergi lit up and his smile brightened, but for naught, “Sergei we cannot help these people. It is monstrous to leave them but it is my duty to be a monster if the Empire calls for it. If you need to satisfy your conscience then seek revenge on me later but we cannot be slowed by this now.”

Sergei's face hardened and his smile disappeared entirely. Daul had never been quite so pleased to see a well-armed group of paramilitary heretic xenobreeds. Sergei scowled, “This isn't over Inquisitor.”

“Later Sergei,” Daul focused his frustrations and tossed bolts of psychic lighting into the center of the group. The half-breeds screamed with shock and pain. The Lionhearts opened up with a bright salvo of lasfire, cutting down ten half breeds in as many seconds. However one of the half-breeds, a massive brute bull of a creature simply laughed off the lasfire as it crackled and sizzled against a corona of psychic energies in front of him.

“Spawn of Horus!” Screamed Yonal as he switched to auto fire and started to fire at the creature’s head with a continuous stream of high-powered lasfire. The brute simply laughed and charged with a massively oversized chain blade. Yonal screamed as the blade went for his head faster than he could dodge, but the whirring blades of the sword streaked as they scythed against the closed fist of Daul's gauntleted fist.

The creature yowled in frustration and punched towards Daul's face with its free hand. Daul caught it at the wrist, severing it at the wrist. The creature screamed and howled, wrenching its chain blade free and impotently stabbing at Daul with its venom-tipped barbs.

The creature stabbed and twisted it's bade, wildly flailing it's stump in an effort to blind Daul's optics with it's thick ichorous blood. Daul because quickly alarmed when the stump where the arm sued to be quickly reformed and re-molded into a chitinous tentacle that exuded pale warp fire.

“I've had enough of this. Dercius empower deliver 7-2-2.”

At the sound of the secret command words spoken by his master the previously motionless Dorn leapt into action. He was a twirling mess of hatred and death, his long barbed electroshock whips ripped and tore at the great brute's flesh and burned down to his bone. The brute tried to slice at Dorn with its chain-blade but it kept being parried and dodged by the wildly flailing and erratic servitor warrior.

Eventually the creature took a wild sweep that overbalanced it and Dorn was able to get behind it and hamstring it with wild sweeps from its whips before beating it into a bloody pulp of nothing. As the creature sat on the ground in a bloody mess of it's own blood and viscera Daul yelled, “Scorn is it's own reward.” Dorn promptly regressed to his previous state of inaction even as he rounded on a nearby Lionheart.

Daul walked up to the brute and crushed his head into a pulp before heading towards the massive doors of the central command building, “Hamman, burn it.”

“Don't have to tell me twice sir.”

Selcan Porst was a man built like a stump. He was squat, wide, thick, and covered in knotted bulges of muscle that seemed unnatural on his more subdued frame. While he had no love of cruelty he had no particular qualms with it either, making him an ideal second in command for the mercurial and capricious Faust. As the inquisitor approached the door to the wide spire of the command center he took a long drag of the cigar between his lips and looked to his employer, “I don't think the door will hold him.”

His employer did not respond to him the first time so he repeated himself loudly, “The door won't hold them sir. They're getting in.”

“I heard you the first time Porst.” The tall man behind him waved a pale, nearly translucent hand dismissively not looking up with his work. The silver scalpel in the pale man's hands was still dripping with pale red blood and small flecks flew up and stained Porst's shirt, “He's gotten here faster than expected but not much faster.”

Porst shrugged and tried to ignore the screams of the creature on the table beneath Faust's knife, “Do we proceed with the plan?”

“Of course you will,” the pale man's voice sounded shrill, “Delay him or kill him, but give me the time to launch.”

“Shall I dispose of the specimen?” Porst eyed the cowed and bleeding creature.

“No, if this fails I want someone to understand why.”

“Will he understand?”

“Not now, but perhaps eventually. Prepare Porst, prepare. I must spend more time with our guest before I leave,” Faust looked back at the pathetic and broken creature beneath him, “Pathetic Vorlon slime. You let the universe fall to hell for your arrogance. Now it is up to me to fix your mistakes.”

A/N: Hey! Please review this story; any input at all would be useful. I'm writing this as an exercise to get used to writing novel length fiction but it only really works as an exercise if people tell me what they do and don't like about my stories. `

Thank you for reading :D
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