GLIMMER OF HOPE
“Get out of my light, you lumbering moron.”
Val hooked the receiver up to the microphone system of the C’tan phase communication relay, shoving Siil aside. Siil shifted nervously, scanning the windows of the chamber. The Old Ones would sweep as they usually did, from one side of the crescent-shaped ship to the other. They were nestled right in the middle, and he had no idea how thorough the Old Ones were being. He hoped they were being very, very thorough. Though it was a large ship, they’d used a lot of time already. He looked at his weapon. What he wouldn’t give to have access to their own technology rather than this primitive arc caster. One of the new Electron Magnet weapons maybe, developed behind the backs of the Old Ones. The magnetic beam could pull matter apart at the molecular level. It was specifically designed to overcome the psychic resistances of the Old Ones by creating a projectile which simply could not be blocked or translocated to the Warp.
Val tied a few last controls in place over the casting equipment, and was finished. She keyed in Siil’s command frequency, tested the resonator, and stood, dusting her hands. “They’ve grafted. I sure hope it listens,” she said, staring at the equipment. It was a haphazard rig but there was no reason it shouldn’t work.
“They’re coming this way!”
An elderly Necrontyr, with yellow, mottled skin, bloodshot, irisless eyes, and black veins running beneath his sallow flesh, ran into the room. He was an Afflicted, one of the few remaining Necrontyr who was still alive that had seen the surface of Necrontu, their home world, which was bathed in the light of a highly radioactive star. The skin of the planet was as marred as that of the Necrontyr’s, and they had spent their entire existence devoted to science to somehow overcome their plight, eventually moving away to neighboring systems. Those born on planets away from the star of Necrontu still bore their ancestors’ radiation poisoning, which had forever mutated their genes; They still retained their short lifespans and weak immune systems, but instead of cancerous, radiated skin, instead their flesh was devoid of any pigment whatsoever, rendering them highly photosensitive. This led to an eventual complete nocturnal shift of the Necrontyr civilization as the Pure, those born away from the radiated world of Necrontu, became more numerous, and could not withstand the light of day without lesions and burns on their skin.
But more important than being Afflicted, this man was Voralet-Golen, the Engineer of this ship, tasked with overseeing all scientific operations aboard. He had set up the Communication Relay and facilitated communication, and now was warning the others.
He stopped, looked at the two, and asked, “What is all this?”
Val nodded her head in salute to her superior. “This is a relay. We’re going to guide the C’tan to the block of Living Metal inside the belly of the Old Ones ship, and hope we’re right about how to press its energy imprint into the latticework of the substance.”
Golen nodded his head. “Yes, I see, very well thought out. Brilliant. But the old ones are headed this way. They know about the relay, and they’re here to investigate it. I told them it was just an energy reader, but they want to see for themselves. Being the stupid lizards they are they’ll be unable to tell otherwise. I’m coming with you, other scientists are escorting them here. We need to leave before they find you.”
Val shook her head. “With all due respect, you’re-“
He glared at her. “I may be an Afflicted but I refuse to miss this moment. I was there, during the entire war. I can still run, and I can still fight. And I know more about the strange extra-dimensional technology of the Old Ones than you, twice over. I’m coming with you. Consider that an order.”
She couldn’t stop him without facing an Order of Exile, so she grit her teeth and nodded in compliance.
Siil was getting impatient. “We don’t have much time. We need to circle back around their patrols and get to the docking bay before they leave again. If we get on there and they pull away, they might just do their warp travel and we’ll be completely out of range. So lets go.”
“You will not be going anywhere.”
Siil shouted a very loud expletive in his head, and turned around to see an entire squad of Old Ones, weapons raised. He wasn’t sure how much they’d heard; He hoped nothing about the C’tan. He wasn’t going to let that stop him, however. He whipped his weapon forward and squeezed the firing mechanism. A flash of light and a loud crack of thunder, and an arc of electricity erupted form the tip of the weapon. One of the guards screamed in agony as it seared his flesh, and fell backwards, his cloth armor on fire. Siil didn’t remember arc casters being quite this strong. He squeezed again, but the enemy was quicker, and from the captain’s weapon a bolt erupted and a tingle shot through Siil’s body. His suit overloaded and locked.
The captain strode forward. “We learned long ago to increase the amperage on our weapons. Your armor suits can only take so much current before turning off. We still can’t even figure out how they work, but we know how to get them to stop working.
Siil gazed into the black pupils of the frog-like creature, unflinching and unphased. The armor hissed abruptly, gouts of steam and pneumatic gases erupting from nozzles in the rear.
Val explained stoically. “We learned long ago how to compensate by adding a current dampener coupled with a shock gel release on all pneumatic systems.”
The Old One frowned, not understanding the technical terms.
The corner of Val’s mouth twitched upwards in a twisted grin. “Basically, the armor ups its own amperage and pneumatic pressure during the shock to decrease the jump in capacitor strain, which is what really causes the overload, then vents the pent up pressure. In short-“
Siil’s fist shot forward, the powered armor’s metal fist liquefying the bone beneath it.
“… The new system can’t be overloaded.”
Siil grabbed the dead commander’s weapon before it hit the floor, and using the commander as a shield, sprayed current into the rest of the squad. In just a few seconds, five seared, smoking corpses littered the doorway.
Golen kicked the bodies and shook his head. “They’ll know they died, they can feel it when one of their own is killed. They’re all psychically linked. Fascinating really, if it weren’t so imprecise and unscientific.”
One of the servos in the shoulder of Siil’s armor whined loudly as he moved his arm, and suddenly popped. Siil screamed in pain, and tore the pauldron from the suit. Beneath it, the servo had split in half from the sudden heat of the shock, and the edge of the servo had sliced his shoulder open.
Val peered at the wound. “We’ll have to mark that down for the next issue of this combat suit. ‘Reinforce servos’.”
Siil glowered at her. The busted servo meant that the arm could no longer move at the shoulder; Since the armor was not modular, the entire suit would have to go. “No really, I’m fine. Get me out of this thing.”
“Maybe if you weren’t so careless this wouldn’t happen.” She pressed the emergency release button, and the pieces disconnected from one another.
Siil grabbed the pieces with his hands, pulling each one off, until he was left with nothing but his black neural interface suit. He felt more than a little exposed and vulnerable, used to several inches of mechanical parts and ablative plating separating him from danger, rather than a millimeter of skin-gripping synthetic weave.
Val was intrigued; Beneath the bulky armor, Siil was actually a very slender, lithe individual; She’d never seen a Warrior out of their battlesuit, knowing it was more like a second skin for them than a piece of equipment. She thought they would be more muscular than an average Necrontyr; Apparently, the genetic mutations really did leave the Necrontyr physique with a growth point that could not be passed. Realizing she was staring, she suddenly averted her gaze.
“Where is the armory on this ship?” he asked, infuriated. Fortunately, "Pure" (Those born away from Necrontu, who did not bear irradiated skin) could not go red in the face, so his apparent frustration and embarrassment was concealed.
Golen, unconcerned about Siil’s state of dress, replied, “Not far from here, upper wing. Right outside the tomb vaults. I’d say five minutes to get there. It’s only a short detour from the main path to the docks as well.”
Siil immediately went for the door. It slid open before him, and Val followed behind, making a pointed effort not to look at him. Instead, she focused on her Holopad, intent on trying to find a way into the Old Ones communication network. She cursed their psychic abilities, and realized it was impossible, so instead she began browsing through the security feed. None of the patrols seemed to be in any hurry; Maybe the psychic loss of one of their squads hadn’t registered yet. She kept watching the feeds, going through several minutes of footage before the fight, and suddenly walked into something very solid. Thinking she’d hit a wall, and realizing the hallways were in a grid formation and devoid of corners, she stumbled backwards and looked up from the pad. She became acutely aware of the fact that she’d run into Siil while he was waiting for the armory door to open.
Siil looked backwards at her, his sense of vulnerability amplifying his irritation. “Watch where you’re going next time!”
She suddenly felt very warm, and narrowed her eyes at him. “I’m watching our enemy to make sure none of them are coming for us. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a worry if you weren’t so foolhardy.”
Siil sneered at her, and continued inside the armory once the bioscan was complete. He looked around and sighed.
The place had not been refurbished at all; There were no weapons or ammo, and only a few tools. Two Battlesuits hung in their stasis pods, one in a state of disassembly. The other was riddled with scorch marks and had several charred components. “Typical,” he muttered, realizing this was a waste of time. He opened a few locked cabinets just to make sure, and there was nothing. A crease in the back of one of the lockers caught his eye, however. He looked closer at it, and pulled away the false back.
Val’s eyes lit up with awe; She’d seen holos of them, but she’d never been this close to one of the new weapons. The glistening black length of the weapon was nearly as tall as a Necrontyr, but more than half of it was a transparent polycrystal cylinder with a metal rod as support, tipped with a bayonet- All made of Living Metal. Siil hefted the Electron Magnetism Rifle and looked down its length; despite its size, it was comparatively light. He had lost his armor, but at least he had one of these. It focused a beam of magnetic energy onto a target, which caused the energized air to blue shift into the green area of the spectrum. When the beam struck a solid object, the intense force caused the electrons to leap from the affected atoms, causing them to lose their bonds, and disassembling the matter at the atomic level. The magnetized atoms were then carried back to the gun in an instant by the field, and split to refill the weapon’s charge, creating a fully self-sustaining weapon. The energy could not be translocated to the warp or stopped by a psychic shield; It was simply a force of magnetism, an irresistible phenomenon, and it was lethal.
“Theres a note here,” Siil said. “In case of emergency is what it says. I think this qualifies.”
Golen frowned. “If my calculations are right, they’ll be coming through these corridors soon. We’d best get a move on. I’d suggest we take lifts there. We’re less likely to be spotted and it’ll go much faster.”
Lift trains were risky; If they were spotted there would be no escape, but the trains ran the outer edge of the ship- Straight to the docking bays. They were primarily used for cargo transit, but it was worth a shot.
Golen scurried from the room, and Siil and Val followed. The lift trains were all locked down for the duration of the search; Getting one moving would attract attention, but hopefully the Navigator could pass it off as a reflex.
Val keyed in the override code on her holopad, and the door to the lift train bay slid open with a hiss. The dim light in the room provided enough light to see by, but the tunnels would hopefully be dark enough to stay hidden in. She continued pressing in commands on the pad, and one of the trains lit up and lifted a few feet from the tracks on a ghostly green luminescent energy field, the majority of the train being obscured further down the tunnel.
“Heres to hoping your idiot plan works,” Val spat. She climbed up onto the hovering platform and grabbed hold of one of the rails, still examining a feed. The green light of the pad lit her face, casting harsh shadows across her sharp features as the images scrolled by. Siil leapt up onto the platform, and took up residence near the rail as well. Golen managed to pull himself aboard with minor difficulty, and glared at the two healthier specimens he shared the train with, resentful of their youth and their physical state.
Val pressed a command, and the train began its journey around the perimeter of the ship, building speed until the unlit tunnels of the lift course blurred around them and the air whipped about them.
Long moments of silence passed; Siil shifted uneasily, made keenly aware of his vulnerability with each passing moment of silence, despite his near invisibility in the low light. The only source of illumination was the glowing green of his weapon’s accelerator tube, which cast a ghostly glow on his frail Necrontyr frame. His polished black hair blew sideways in the whipping wind in the tunnel. Val avoided looking at him; She had too much to watch, and she couldn’t risk starting to stare again. She was absolutely mortified by the fact that she had actually found him worth more than a passing glance in the first place. Golen simply sat, invisible, on the other side of the train, watching the two with amusement, until a deep alarm sounded from further in the tunnel. Val looked about, confused. She’d never heard that noise before. Suddenly, the train car shook, and the car behind them began drifting away from them.
A cumulative sense of dread rose over the three as they realized what was happening. The Old Ones knew they were aboard the train, and were trying to detach the cars to stop them, presumably because they didn’t know how to stop the train itself. If their car stopped in the middle of these tunnels, they’d likely starve before they ever found a way out. Below them was nothing but an energy rail, which would kill them if they even got near it; The walls were sheer and smooth. These trains were meant to carry crates, not Necrontyr.
The alarm blared again.
“We have to go now!” Siil yelled over the alarm and the air whipping around their heads. Val was still trying to override the sequence.
“The sequence is locked! I can’t undo it!” she yelled, shaking her head. The train began to shake again.
Siil sprinted forward and leapt to the next car. Val was still trying to key in commands as the car began to slowly decelerate; Golen grabbed the pad and hurled it off the train. Val looked at him with shock and anger, then realized what was about to happen. Golen ran as fast as he could, and leapt the small gap; Val began running after him, her hard-bottomed boots clacking against the trembling train floor. She hurled herself into the air at the rapidly distancing train car, landing belly-down on the metal surface. She scrabbled to her feet.
“Pay attention!” Siil said, pulling her up by the arm. The three ran, and cleared the gap as that one detached too. The alarm stopped; The walls whirred past them, and they were still moving; The hum of the lift engine rumbled beneath them. But why had they stopped detaching cars?
The answer became all too clear as a second train pulled up next to them. Firing from the crates, several Old Ones discharged their arc casters across the gap; The surface of the train scored and charred, erupting in fountains of sparks with each connection. The three dove behind crates as the electrical shocks impacted around them, and their enemy activated light orbs which illuminated the tunnel around them.
“Well, lets see how this thing works.” Siil said, hefting the magnetic rifle. He peered from around cover; Without his armor, he found he was actually unsure of his abilities. He forced the uncertainty from his mind, and focused only on the thought of destroying his enemy. Anger welled up inside of him, and with a fearsome cry, he stood, looked over the crate, and fired.
A sharp whine pierced the air, and green flash filled the tunnel. A green beam of energy erupted from the weapon, slammed into a crate on the opposing train, and the crate blew apart as it dematerialized. The beam penetrated it, and the Old One caught in the blast screamed in terror as its flesh was flayed from its bones, until its lungs dissipated as well.
The remaining old ones immediately hid, yelling in horror at the sight. The alarm bellowed again, but this time, an entire cluster of cars released; There was no way they’d make it far enough to leap the gap.
Searching for a way to avoid an untimely demise, Val turned her attention to the other train. “We have to switch trains!” she yelled.
Siil looked at the gap; He knew he could clear it, and he figured Val might be able to; But Golen was a different story.
“I’ll throw you two!” he yelled. “Don’t argue, we don’t have enough time. Agree, or I’ll knock you both out cold and throw you anyway!”
Val didn’t want him throwing her, but options looked slim at this point, especially since the opposite train began going by faster now. The three ran to the edge.
Siil gripped Golen, and hurled him across; His feeble, addled fraim was fairly lightweight, and he rolled to a stop on the other train. The Old Ones, seeing this, began opening fire from the car ahead, and Golen scrambled for cover. Siil tossed his weapon to Golen, who caught it with a fair amount of panic.
Val swallowed, and stepped to the edge. Siil gripped her firmly about the waist, and she felt a lump form in her throat. Before it could reach critical mass, she suddenly felt herself hoisted into the air, and then crashed down onto the other train.
Siil eyed the gap; He’d have to jump now if he wanted to make it. He took a step backward, and hurled himself forward. He stretched out his hands, but he simply didn’t have enough inertia. His hands brushed the edge, and he looked down at the energy rails below him. He welcomed death at this point.
He felt his arms stop, and he swung forward into the side of the train car, slamming into it. He wheezed as the breath was knocked out of him, and he looked down; His feet were only a few feet from the energy rail, and he could see the focusing arrays whip by beneath him. He looked up; Val and Golen each had one of his wrists, and they hoisted him aboard amidst a storm of crackling caster fire. The three scrambled behind another crate. Siil’s breathing began to slow, and he watched as the other train decelerated behind them.
Val glared. “Good thing you weren’t wearing that damned suit. You’re have been way to heavy to hoist aboard.”
Siil looked at her. “If I had had my suit on, I would have not only cleared the jump, but I could have carried you both while doing it too.”
Siil grabbed up his weapon and fired it into the train ahead; The blast disintegrated another Old One, who evaporated screaming into a green cloud, which faded to gray and blew past them in wisps as the air rushed about them. He checked the weapon, and finished, “Now, I believe we have a train engine to get to.”
The Old Ones ahead all began to fall back to the front of the train, firing blindly behind them as they fled. Siil laughed, and screamed, “Run, you cowards!”
Val stood up and grabbed him by the shoulder. “You idiot, run! They’re going to detach the cars again!”
Siil stopped laughing as he figured she was probably right. The three sprinted up the line of cars, and sure enough, the alarm blew once again. The cars began to detach, until finally the front car was in sight. All of the old ones were holed up there, watching their approach with dread. The thick hull of the pyramid-shaped front car could probably protect them from normal munitions, but not this new threat.
Siil leveled his weapon, and squeezed the trigger; His aim was thrown up into the ceiling, and a rain of metal fragments came down on them. Looking around to see what had happened, Siil realized Val had hit his gun.
“If you fire that into the engine, you’ll blow the particle reactor, and the entire lift will go critical! If we’re lucky we’ll crash before the car goes thermonuclear!”
Siil eyed the bayonet on his gun; The flash had driven the Old Ones down in fear, so he charged forward, and leapt into the car.
Golen shook his head. “Look what you’ve done. It’s almost beautiful.”
Within moments, the Old Ones holed up inside the engine were attempting to get out, leaping between the engine and the remaining car, and even out the windows. Siil was plainly visible inside, whirling in circles, in almost a dance-like fashion, as he cleaved the amphibian aliens with the bladed end of the long weapon. Val and Golen leapt forward into the engine as the remaining Old Ones built their courage from the car behind them. Val pressed the maintenance release, and the final car slid away formt hem into the abyss. Several tried to run forward, but only had time to replace their look of fear at being left in the tunnel with a look of even greater terror as a narrow, grinning face leered at them from inside the engine car, leveled a green particle weapon at them, and fired.
Last edited by Iron Angel; 09-02-09 at 05:49 AM.