Gunmetal Black 2 Chapter 9 - Out Of Touch, Out Of Time
explosion from the ship affected everyone.
It lit up the skies from the surface of the planet
and blasted through the center of the Ragnarok,
consuming the ship in a ball of fire that looked for all the world like the
hand of an angry god had seized it.
Vain and Mirage watched as the
Ragnarok broke in two, each of them increasing power to their
shields to avoid the debris the force of the initial explosion hurled at them.
They had been pursuing the remains of the fighter group that engaged them and
had forced them to retreat, and were preparing to move in on the
Ragnarok when it happened.
"What the hell just happened?" Mirage
asked Vain, watching as a piece of the Ragnarok
bounced off of her deflector shield. "Do you think Kienan did that?"
"I dont think the Rigellians brought anything
that powerful," Vain said, banking to avoid a chunk of the
Ragnarok's engine cluster. "I hope
Kienan's all right. We need to get down there and help him, Mirage. Let's
finish off the rest of those fighters."
"Wait," Mirage said, her eyes flitting to
her long-range sensors. "Vain, we've got problems. The fighters are
rendezvousing with the other two ships. One took some damage from our trap, but
that still leaves us with a heavily-armed cruiser."
"Damn," Vain said. "And most of our
weapons are too depleted to hold our own."
"What do we do, then?" Mirage asked.
"Hide and wait for Kienan or go down to the planet?"
Vain checked her communications system. The beacon
from the Reiven was still active, its soft red light pulsing softly.
He wouldnt abandon his ship, she
thought. And even if he left it, he'll
need us to get him out with those two ships on the way. If there's even a hope
that he's still alive . .
Vain thought about it for a fraction of a second.
"Let's go," Vain said. "Our place is
explosion from the ship affected everyone.
Algrim tumbled forward, falling onto Kienan as the
hover transport they stood upon. The explosion, coupled with the rioting
natives below had caused the pilot of the transport to panic and bank the
Kienan tried to shoot Algrim in the clench, pressing
the muzzle of his pistol against the warlord's stomach and firing. The bullet
punched through the armor of his uniform and punched neatly through his
abdomen, missing his spine by a matter of inches. Bright blue blood flowed over
Kienan's hands, his gun, and his clothing. Kienan kicked Algrim away as the
ship righted itself. He tried to bring his other pistol to bear on Algrim, but
the warlord slashed at his hand with his saber, catching the weapon and
flinging it off the transport. Kienan returned fire with the other pistol as he
reached for his knife. The bullets from his gun spanged harmlessly off of
Algrim's armor, the rest he blocked with his saber.
Algrim slashed at Kienan, driving his saber down on
his with so much force it sparked against the wing of the transport as Kienan
rolled clear. Kienan kicked Algrim's arm as he rolled clear, trying to get him
to drop his saber. Algrim grabbed Kienan ankle and tried to use his leverage to
throw him off of the transport.
Kienan jammed his knife into the wing of the plane, anchoring
himself against being thrown. He thrashed about for a bit, as Algrim held his
ankle, trying to get the leverage he needed to bring his saber to bear and cut
off his leg. A sense of urgency flooded Kienan momentarily as Algrim pulled his
body taut. Kienan looked into Algrim's red eyes as he raised his saber.
Kienan whipped his pistol into Algrim's face and
shot him. Algrim dropped him just as Kienan fired, an act of panic that saved
his life as the bullet grazed his temple, spraying blood into his eye and
causing him to drop his saber for a second. Kienan rolled towards it, ignoring
the throbbing pain in his ankle. He tried to cover it with his body, but Algrim
dove for it and snatched it, quickly slashing Kienan across the back. Kienan
grit his teeth as he felt the blade cut him through his armor. He rolled onto
his back and fired again, his shots dislodging Algrim's insignia. The red eagle
medallion that every Rigellian wore and Algrim had always worn in honor flew
off of his uniform, taken by the winds. Kienan tried to fire again, but he had
run out of bullets.
His eyes narrowed on Algrim. He had two more clips,
but to load one, he'd have to put down his knife and leave himself defenseless.
He reached behind him, knife in hand and, still holding the blade, rifled in
the pouches of his belt for his clip.
Algrim steadied himself on his saber. He looked down
where his insignia had been. He started to laugh as more of his blood ran into
his eye. Kienan's fingers found the clip and slid it from his pouch as the he
put his trigger finger on the release for the empty clip.
"Of course," he said. "
OF COURSE! Take
everything from me! Take my honor, take my home, take my
life!" Algrim turned to Kienan. "You understand this, Earther? Everything
has been taken from me now." He laughed again, even more ragged than
before. Kienan's hand brought the clip over to his pistol.
"I will never again see my home," Algrim
ranted. "My honor will never be restored, and my dream of a better life for
my people, for all the peoples of the galaxy . . .they are fools dreams. Ironic
that I couldnt see it until I saw my own blood in my eye."
Kienan put the butt of his pistol against his leg
and quietly pressed the eject button. The clip slid free and clattered against
the wing. The sound snapped Algrim out of his madness long enough to thrust his
blade at Kienan, who blocked it with his knife, but dropped the full clip off
of the transport as he did so. Algrim leaned into his sword thrust, pushing Kienan
down to the wing of the plane.
"No, Earther," he said, stepping on
Kienan's forearm and forcing him to drop the pistol. "Not this time. I
have lost everything else, but I will fight for my life."
Algrim leaned close enough for Kienan to see the
madness in his eyes. Kienan headbutted Algrim, smashing the bridge of his nose
with the blow. Algrim stumbled backward, dropping his saber next to where
Kienan had dropped his pistol. The transport shuddered, buffeted by an
explosive throwing by the rioters below. An updraft buffeted the transport,
causing Algrim's cloak to blow up over his head.
Kienan seized the moment and leapt on Algrim,
snatching the edge of Algrim's cloak tight around the warlord's head and
jamming his knife into Algrim's chest, pushing the blade underneath his
ribcage. Algrim struggled against him, and Kienan could feel the warlord's
muscles separate and warm blood begin to flow onto Kienan's gloved hand. Algrim
began to spasm, but ceased resisting as Kienan's blade punctured his lung and
began to drown him in his own blood.
Kienan wrapped Algrim's cloak against the warlord's
head and threw him to the deck. He kept his boot against Algrim's neck as he
reached for his pistol slamming the last clip into his pistol.
"See you on the other side, Warlord," he
said. He fired five shots into the back of Algrim's head, soaking the cloak
with the pulpy remains of the Warlord's head. Algrim slumped against the deck,
dead. Kienan gathered up his saber and quietly regarded the dead Warlord as he
tied the saber to his belt.
He looked down. The troopers were mowing down the
last of the natives, it looked like. While Kienan didnt really care who won,
his mind was even now planning his escape.
fighting each other than looking for me,
he thought, hefting the warlord's body onto his
shoulders. He threw Algrim's body off of the transport to the ground below.
Then he set himself the task of getting control of
the transport. The maintenance hatch was easy enough to find, and he was able
to slip in and take the two pilots and the gunner by surprise. He yanked the
pilot's body out of the command seat and piloted the transport away from the
fighting toward where his fighter was moored right next to the
explosion from the ship affected everyone.
Warmaster Voelker scanned the sensor reports from
his seat aboard the Malios, worried
by what he saw. A revolt on the surface, the
Ragnarok destroyed by some phenomena from the discovery. Worse
still, the Fenris had been hit by
some trap left behind by the infiltrators, who had now forced the remaining
fighters into retreat.
I really dont see how things could be
"Communications," he said. "Any word
from the surface?"
"Getting a signal now sir," the
communications officer said.
"Put it on screen," Voelker ordered.
Straeger's bloodied face filled the screen.
"Heinrich?" Voelker asked, his shock at
seeing his friend injured breaking through his learned formality. "What is
the situation on the surface?"
"Catastrophic," Straeger said, coughing.
The image pixilated and distorted. "There's been an attempt to sabotage
the discovery and the native's are, dare I say it . . .revolting."
"But surely the troops have beaten them into
retreat by now," Voelker said.
"It's all part of a larger plan," Straeger
replied. "Warlord Algrim's gone missing, our fighter squadrons were beaten
back by a squad of three fighters and the Ragnarok's
destroyed! We are clearly under attack by a small, very well-trained group."
"We're en route to you now, we'll be in orbit
in two minutes, thirty seconds," Voelker said. "I'll send five squads
of troopers from the Fenris and my
ship and we'll enter orbit and keep the planet under full scan to cut off their
Straeger's image distorted again. There was a squawk
of static. "What makes you think they're not already gone?"
"We've been monitoring the activity in the
local system," Voelker said. "No contact with any hostile
"In that case, we should have them pinned
down," Straeger said. "There's no way they can escape, but we'll
still need reinforcements to re-secure the base. Have you sent the
"I have," Voelker said. "Can you
secure the landing area for my squads?"
"I'm sending a team now. It's on the opposite
end of where the natives are attacking, so it should be safe if we keep them
contained. In the meantime, I'm pulling twenty men from guarding our key areas
and putting them around the discovery."
"Those men are the bare minimum--"
"The discovery is more important!"
Straeger demanded. "Clearly it's what they're after. When your troops
land, they can see to securing our key areas. Base out."
The communication channel snapped closed and Voelker
stared at the empty screen for a few moments. Had this been an element of
Straeger's plan all along, He wondered. Despite his orders, he had wanted
Algrim's removal to be somewhat orderly and less painful for all parties. He
had come to admire the man in the scant few days they had spent together. He
was a man of vision, and a man who had never given up on his people even after
they turned their back on him.
Voelker sighed. "Time to the planet?"
"One minute," the navigation's officer
"Launch our troop transports as soon as we
achieve orbit, and order the Fenris
to do the same and enter orbit on the far side of the planet. Keep our sensors
at full scan. Those intruders arent going to leave this planet alive."
explosion from the ship affected everyone.
Silhouette brushed the dust off of her suit,
coughing and feeling terrible. It wasn't from the soreness of the blast and the
subsequent cave-in; no, that was easily shaken off.
What troubled her more was the ship, and what it had
shown her. Sinclaire, she thought,
shaking the dust out of her hair. Good
God, Sinclaire and I . . .I should have known something was wrong. I feel sick
just thinking about it.
She fumbled around where she had fallen for the
detonator. It was wedged under a chunk of rock, but she was able to pry it loose
without damaging it. Before she had considered destroying the ship an abstract
thing, a mission to be accomplished but nothing more than that.
Now, with all the ugly secrets it had pulled up in
her mind and all the new questions it brought to her, she was ready to
obliterate it. She checked the remote detonator for any signs of damage and was
about to detonate the explosives when a voice from behind stopped her.
"That's enough of that, I think," a voice
behind her called. From the accent and the emphasis, obviously this wasn't his
native language. "Drop the detonator, and turn around."
Silhouette raised her hands and dropped the
detonator to the ground. She turned around to see twenty Rigellian troopers
massed around one Rigellian officer, clad in black and smiling in a way that
made her want to punch him.
"My name is Agent Straeger," he said.
"In the name of the Rigellian Empire, I judge you guilty of sabotage and
sentence you to death."
"No trial?" Silhouette said, hands still
raised. Her last two fingers on her right hand kept touching her palm and her
left did the same a little slower.
"What for?" Straeger said. "I have
twenty witnesses, all of whom would say the detonator was in your hand. In all
honesty, every case should be this tidy. But enough of that, your execution
awaits. Troopers, ready, aim. . ."
Silhouette clenched her fists and shut her eyes
tight. The outer skin of her suit dumped its stored light-bending data as the
generator burned out. While this meant she wouldn't be able to shroud, it did
fill the room with a white light so brilliant it not only blinded Straeger, but
also overloaded the optical sensors in the trooper's helmets.
Silhouette didnt have any time to be gentle, so she
kicked the rifle out of one of the trooper's hands and let it fall into her
arms. She cocked it and fired, dumping a whole clip of plasma energy into the
troopers. Some of them who were still alive pulled back to the door, which
worked fine with Silhouette. She blasted one of the support struts above the
door, causing part of a scaffolding to swing down and block the door.
The rifle was empty, so she tossed it away. As she
did, Straeger leapt from the shadows and grasped her around the throat.
Silhouette brought her foot into his shin and threw him over her shoulder.
Straeger rolled to the ready and pointed his gauntlet at her. A black disc
seemingly made out of shadows flew from the black lens and tagged her in the
arm. Silhouette immediately felt her left arm go numb as it struck her. She
panicked, trying to move her arm frantically, but it was no good.
Straeger leapt onto her, knocking her to the ground.
Silhouette drove her knees into his groin, then struck him across the jaw with
the heel of her hand. She rolled to her feet, kicking him in the ribs as she
did. With one arm gone, she wasn't going to be able to win unless she pressed
the advantage. And without her camouflage, she couldnt escape.
She drove her elbow into his spine, but Straeger
retaliated by punching her in the stomach. Silhouette lurched forward, trying
to get air back into her body. Straeger sent her to the floor with an axe kick
across her back. Silhouette tasted her own blood as she lay on the dirty
ground. Her hand went to her side as Straeger readied another kick to shatter
As he was beginning another kick, Silhouette drew
her knife and stabbed Straeger in the calf. He screamed and slapped her away,
pulling the blade free and tossing the blade aside. He stood, wobbly but still
dangerous, as Silhouette drew herself to her feet.
My arm, his
thought. We're even, at least.
She leapt at him, catching him in the chest with a
leaping kick, and throwing another spinning kick to send him flying against the
rubble. His head banged against the scaffolding that was holding the troops
back. He stumbled backwards, his head reeling and his ears ringing, just as
Silhouette snaked her working arm around his neck.
Straeger thrashed around, trying to dislodge her,
but Silhouette was holding on maniacally, ready to kill him if she had to.
Straeger began leaning forward, his oxygen running out. Desperately he willed
his lens to create a curved blade and with his last bit of strength, he shoved
the blade into Silhouette.
The pain and the cold shock of the knife made her
let go. She could feel her blood leaking out of her. She was lucky enough in
that he hadn't hit her lung, but the pain was incredible, and more than that,
what the blade felt like. Cold. Dark. Diseased. A lot like what she had felt
about the ship.
"You nearly killed me," Straeger said, the
blade dissipating. "I must confess I'm surprised. You Earthers have more
killer instinct than I thought you capable of possessing. I'm amazed."
"I'm not . . .from Earth," Silhouette said.
"I may not . . .even be human."
"Is that right?" Straeger said, smiling.
"In any case, I suppose it doesn't matter. I'm going to kill you with my
bare hands. I wont even use the lens."
Silhouette thought about her gun --
in the chaos of the fight she'd never gotten
a chance to use it. She had a clear shot at him, she could put a bullet between
his eyes . . .
If he'd stop splitting into two people and blurring,
she thought. She felt exhausted and the pain she felt was making it hard to
even keep herself standing. But I have to
win. I have to get out of here.
I have to.
Silhouette calmed her mind and slowly dipped into a
part of her soul she had kept under lock and key for many years. The part that
loved Kienan, the part that had unconsciously tried to be him, the part that
fought like him, and thought like him. Even when he was on the point of death.
Then she charged Straeger again.
sat in the cockpit of the Reiven,
looking at the blinking red beacon as he smoked a cigarette. The saber was in
the ship's cargo hold, his wounds were bandaged and treated, and all that
remained was to wait for Vain and Mirage to rendezvous with him so they could
plan their escape.
So why arent
I readying the ship to leave?
He looked out the cockpit window at the
Umbra, now covered with a coating of
sand. She should have gotten out by now,
he thought. Unless the explosion I saw
wasn't what she was sent here for. Or unless her plan backfired and she was
caught in her own explosion. I taught her better than that. But accidents
happen . . .
He looked at the beacon again, trying to shut out
the back and forth in his mind. Three short beeps, three long ones, three
short. SOS. On a receiver coded to a signal they had used ever since they had
worked together. He stared at it.
There was a loud noise as the Angelfish fighters
landed next to the Reiven. Vain and
Mirage disembarked immediately and walked over to Kienan, who opened the
"It's done," he said as they approached. "Mission
"Then we should go," Mirage said. "I
picked up two ships -- the cruiser and
the destroyer -- on approach. They
should be here by now."
"We can't go yet," Kienan said, stubbing
out his cigarette and sighing. "I have to find her."
"The woman?" Vain asked.
"Yes," Kienan said, sliding out of the
Reiven's cockpit. He opened one of the
Reiven's cargo units and reloaded and
replaced his two pistols, strapped on a bandolier of explosives and loaded and
primed a rifle. "I have to bring her back."
"She means more than the mission?" Mirage
Kienan nodded. Yes,
in ways I dont understand.
Vain and Mirage looked at him as he closed the cargo
unit. "I wont ask you to come with me, ladies," he said. "But
I'll need you to be ready to help us escape."
"No," Vain said.
Kienan raised an eyebrow. He sighed. "Fine.
Tell Conscience to bring the ship in to pick us up and come in shooting. Wait
for us there."
"That's not what I meant, Kienan," Vain
said. "You dont have to ask us to go with you, because we would follow
Mirage walked off to get her weapons from her ship's
cargo hold as Vain did the same from hers. Kienan smiled a little, unable to
believe what he was hearing. True, he had always known that the Marionettes had
a devotion to him beyond the comprehension of most people, but he had always
assumed it was out of obligation for saving them from destruction.
But to hear
Vain, well that, almost sounded . . .like affection,
"Youd go with me to save a woman you were
ready to kill two days ago?" Kienan asked.
Vain slung the shoulder strap of her heavy chaingun
over her shoulder, priming it as Mirage came up behind her, her submachine guns
at the ready.
"It's not for us to judge, Kienan," Mirage
said. "Besides, we're not going to save her. We're going to watch your
Kienan nodded. "That's one way of looking at
Kienan readied his weapons. "All right
ladies," he said. "We go in, we find her, we get out and get off of
this planet. Kill anyone who gets in your way."