Gunmetal Black 3 Chapter 7 - Pyromance
On a green,
isolated planet, he watched the two stars fall from his vantage point in the
ruined temple. His green eyes narrowing behind them.
he thought. As the centuries had ground on they had
grown fewer and fewer. Either his jailers were unable to find suitable
candidates, or the rest of the universe had truly forgot him and his order.
Jaevin found it
hard to determine which of the two was worse. What he had done, he had done to
ensure the growth and survival of the universe, to make sure there was a
future, despite the other races' willingness to happily destroy themselves and
take the galaxy with them.
understood, he thought. How
pitifully limited of them. And now they seek to erase me from this world.
He held his staff in his hands, pondering his options.
he thought. At the very least the company's
welcome. For while, in any event. A welcome diversion from eternal exile.
He raised the staff
above his head. Complicated circuitry within tapped into powers long since
denied him. Below him, the earth shook and turned. Finally, machinery shuddered
to life, forming itself into a roughly humanoid shape. Then another and
he thought. The pickings were slim since I had
them almost destroy each other a few years ago. But a few machine golems should
be all I need to dispose of them.
The golems shambled
forward and Jaevin pointed them towards the two fallen stars. The ones that
actually had heads and eyes followed his directives a bit easier, the rest
slowly got the idea. Jaevin leaned on his staff as he watched them march
through the lush greenery.
he thought. Centuries spent alone, imprisoned for
daring to take an active role in the affairs of the people we served. And now,
every few years they send someone down to kill me for it.
Was it so long
ago I was revered among them? Where did the time go?
Where did my
Kienan ran through
the streets of Axanar. Late afternoon was turning into a steadily darkening
twilight. As the fires had spread he had gotten somewhat turned around in his
search for Toriares. He found himself at the end of a blind street, surrounded
by walls of fire in what he guessed was some sort of open-air market.
Above him, a shadow
moved, silhouetted in flame. The scaffolding above him clacked as whatever it
was shifted with his movements. Gradually, he flipped down with near
preternatural acrobatic skill, and stepped into view, walking out of the fire.
In a superficial
way it resembled most of the Sekhmet he had seen before -- the same basic shape
of the armored suits they all wore, the same silver mask framed by two black
horns. But he seemed more aggressive somehow. Maybe it was the red color of his
armor, or the way he seemed to be radiating a kind of heat-haze.
In the back of
Kienan's mind however, it echoed another creature he had seen in the dark a
long time ago.
human," the Sekhmet said. He raised his arm and pointed a glowing-orange
claw at him. "Do you know how many people I've butchered in the last five
minutes alone? Have you come to be burned alongside them?"
Kienan raised his
pistols. "I dont much care about them," he said. "But youre in
my way, Sekhmet. My advice to you, then, is to move. Now."
"I am no mere
Sekhmet, meat," he sneered. "I am Toran."
you," Kienan said. He pivoted off his foot and leapt to the side, spraying
Toran with gunfire. Toran raised his shield over his face, stepping forward a
couple of steps. Kienan's bullets ricocheted off his armor like rain, leaving
not even a mark on his armor.
Toran stepped back
and gestured forward with his shield arm as if he were throwing a pinch. His
heat-whip snaked out of the housing on his shield, hissing as it rocketed
through the air. Kienan rolled out of the way, cartwheeled, and leapt high into
the air, grabbing one of the scaffold's bars and flipping up as the blade at
the end of the whip struck one of the columns, cracking it nearly clean
Toran retracted his
heat-whip and threw it again, this time, snagging one of the poles and swinging
up to the scaffolds himself, just below Kienan. Kienan aimed and fired at him
as he got to his feet. Toran glared at him as the bullets sparked off him.
Kienan got the
message, holstered his pistols and leapt down, thrusting his legs out to kick
Toran with full-force. Toran grabbed his legs at the last minute and Kienan
gasped as burning pain shot through him. Toran's claws, heated to thousands of
the degrees melted through his body armor, burning his flesh and causing him to
fall to the ground below.
Kienan fell on his
knees, gasping with the pain of his burns. His hands jostled two jugs of water
and one splashed on his hand. He tried to clear his mind, but the pain was
incredible, like a noise that sliced through every coherent thought.
Toran landed behind
"On your feet,
human," he said, throwing his heat-whip above Kienan's head. "I give
you credit for actually trying to fight me, unlike the worthless meat in this
village. Get on your feet and die with some small honor."
Kienan looked up at
the jugs of water, remembering something he'd been taught some time ago.
Something about how
water could protect you from fire.
He rose to his
knees, sticking his hands into the jugs.
Toran said, throwing another taunting strike of his heat-whip at him. He walked
forward. "I was right about you. You are a worthy foe."
nothing. He was busy soaking his hands in the water and counting to fifty.
"Now you die,
human!" Toran cried, raising his heat-whip above his head.
Kienan looked over
his shoulder, flicked his hair from his eyes, saw his chance and turned and
attacked, raining punch after punch on Toran, his hands hissing as the water
evaporated against Toran's burning armor.
shocked that anyone would dare to strike him. This was against what he'd been
taught. No human was supposed to be this willing to fight.
He snaked his
heat-whip around Kienan's neck, attempting to strangle him. Kienan held the
flail in his hands, keeping it mere inches from burning clean through his neck.
None of his skills would help him now, only his determination to win.
Kienan threw Toran
against one of the poles holding up the scaffold, slipping out of Toran's
improvised garrote. He threw a hard kick into the softer, flexible part of
Toran's armor and sent him into the dirt.
Toran threw his
heat-whip at Kienan but only succeeded in nearly shattering the pole behind
him. Kienan stood on a scaffold above him, gesturing for Toran to join him.
on," Kienan said. "You said something about killing me, didn't you?
Come on and try!"
pleasure!" Toran spat, throwing his heat-whip in Kienan's direction.
Kienan saw his chance and seized the burning weapon in his hands. The last of
the water was gone and the whip was burning through his glove, but Kienan
ignored the growing pain spreading through his hand, drew his knife and slashed
through the whip.
wont do you any good," Kienan said. "You want me dead you'll have to
do it yourself, insect."
Toran was livid. He
leapt to where Kienan was perched, hoping to topple him from his perch and
crush him, but Kienan was too fast and leapt to another scaffold and repeated
it as Toran tried to catch him. Finally they stood at the very top of the
Kienan spared a
glance at the view. From here he could see the whole town, and it was burning.
Toran had done his job well. He couldnt see any sign of anyone, certainly no
sign of Toriares.
I have to find
him, he thought. He looked down at
Toran. And so, I cant waste time playing with you anymore, firebug.
He dove off the top
of the scaffold, gracefully spreading his arms wide and sailing over Toran.
Toran has just enough time to recognize the now-cooled links of his heat-whip
snaking around his neck before they were pulled taut around his throat and
Kienan used his momentum to throw Toran over his shoulders.
Toran flew through
the air, much less gracefully and snapped scaffold after scaffold as a child
might shatter a toothpick bridge, finally landing on his head in the dirt. He
rolled to his feet, his armor now beginning to glow brighter now.
Kienan said, sheathing his knife and gesturing to Toran. "I'm still
"Not ... for
... long," Toran sneered, clawing his way straight up the support poles.
He finally stood with Kienan on the top of the scaffolding, getting his balance
for his final strike. Kienan kept his eyes on Toran.
Slowly, he smiled.
One last play,
He brought the
heat-whip from behind his back, flicking his wrist and sending the bladed tip
into Toran's faceplate. The shock caused Toran to lose his balance and crash
through another section of scaffolding. Under their combined weight the
structure was starting to groan.
"You ... will
... die," Toran repeated, his voice generator obviously damaged.
Kienan drew his
pistols and aimed downward.
"I cant die
yet," he said. "I havent been to Earth."
Two shots struck
the supports Toran had damaged. The entire structure began to crack and creak
and Kienan stared Toran in the eye, emerald eyes blazing with fury.
"Go to hell,
Kienan kicked out
against the supports with his foot, and the scaffold groaned and collapsed.
Kienan flipped backward, grabbing a loose pole, rebounding off a falling
support pole and spiraling towards Toran, who was busy falling backwards,
flailing out desperately as he fell back to earth.
Kienan slammed the
pole against Toran's throat, crushing the last of the bio- mechanoid's
machinery as they hit the ground. Kienan rolled away as, to his shock, Toran
rose to his feet. His head lolled to one side, lacking any supports his neck.
He reached for Kienan out of instinct, more than anything else.
Kienan bashed him
over and over again with the pole. He didnt expect to do any more damage than
he already had, he was more interested in turning the machine around.
body spun around. Kienan drew his knife again and slashed through the armor
plates on Toran's back, reaching in and tearing loose the tube with the actual
Kienan threw it
against the broken stump of the poll. The clear casing shattered and a
foot-long green grub soaked in brown fluid undulated in the dirt. It made some
quiet squealing noises, its lungs burning as it tried to breathe air alien to
Kienan watched it
for as long as he could stand it and ended its squealing, it's flailing and its
life by stomping it with his boot. It left a bright green smear in the dirt
while behind Kienan the armor it had occupied slumped on to one knee, looking
Kienan closed his
eyes and sighed, reaching into one of the pockets on his belt for his regen
gel. The adrenaline from the fight had ebbed quicker than expected, and the
pain had made itself known with a vengeance. Between this and the fight with
Sinclaire he was at his limit.
And there were
how many Sekhmet still around? Kienan mused,
rubbing the gel into his burns and biting back the sting as the chemical began
to work. Worse yet, bullets dont do much good against them. I sure as hell
cant expect them to hold still while I stab them to death, can I?
I need heavier
Kienan adjusted one
of the buttons on his vent, activating a transmitter and a homing beacon. Five
minutes, ten at the outside, he thought.
He wrapped a length
of bandages over the worst of his burns and started walking back the way he
came, trying to retrace his steps, determined to find his friend before the
fire consumed the town and everyone in it.
"So tell me
again why we couldnt have Conscience target this guy from orbit?" Mirage
said. She was on point, walking through the well-worn path on the verdant
world. Like a black tower, the fortress where they knew Jaevin awaited them
loomed in the distance, the ever-present end-point.
suppression fields the Haxan have over the planet, Conscience can't get through
to target Jaevin," Vain said. "At the moment all we could do is
bombard the planet from orbit and hope we get him. And we cant risk destroying
this Soulcaster they want so bad."
get Conscience to focus her attack," Mirage said. "Destroy the temple
he's holed up in."
"Do you want
to dig through piles of rubble only to find out we missed?" Vain said.
"Even if we relied on Conscience's ability to hit him, we'd still have to
pinpoint the target for her. And we'd be down here all the same, sister."
"I know," she said. "Remind me again why we have to do
it for Kienan," Vain said, smiling.
Mirage smiled. "I knew, but it felt good to hear again."
Vain leveled her
fusion cannon ahead of her as they stepped into a courtyard. Before them, the
ancient temple of the Ghram stood like an old tombstone. Her eyes searched the
skies and Mirage did the same.
"I dont like
this," Mirage said. "Too wide open. Perfect place for an
Vain looked down at
her feet. Her boot was resting on an oddly shaped skull. Not far away were the
remains of its owner. She frowned.
not the first people to fall for their sales pitch
, she thought.
Mirage said, ducking to the side. Vain sidestepped
just in time to miss a shambling machine falling on her from one of the statues
that ringed the courtyard. It slammed to the ground; it's body shifting, almost
reconstructing itself so it could stand upright.
Vain watched as it
rose to its feet again and blew it to smithereens with the fusion cannon.
huh?" Mirage sneered.
There was a low
rumble, and suddenly, Machine Golem after Machine Golem began pouring from the
ground, the statues, anywhere and everywhere. Vain fired at them over and over
again, but for every one she obliterated with the fusion cannon, two more rose
up to take it's place.
Mirage sprayed the
Golems that came after her with steady fire from her submachine guns, shredding
their antique circuitry with every salvo.
Vain said as one of the Golems bit the barrel of her fusion cannon. She shook
him off, severing its head, watching in shock because it seemed to be absorbing
into the weapon.
Vain slipped free
of the fusion cannon's shoulder strap, set the clip to "overload" and
flung it into the throng of Golems. She drew her backup guns and shielded her
eyes as the cannon exploded, annihilating a third of the Golems.
them touch you, Mirage," Vain said, blasting one of the Golems with her
grenade launcher. "Theyre some sort of mechanical plague."
"Remind you of
anyone we know?" Mirage said, kicking one aside and cutting it to pieces
with her machine guns. "Vain, we're fighting a defensive war here. We need
to get past them and settle things with their master."
ideas?" Vain asked, firing more grenades into the wave of Golems. So
long as we keep up the attack at this level we're winning, Vain thought. But
sooner or later we'll run out of heavy artillery and they'll regenerate.
"Now that you
mention it, yes," Mirage said, shrugging off a pouch. She withdrew a
disc-shaped device and gestured to Vain. "Take hold of the other end and
Vain grabbed the
end of the device, and ran away from Mirage, firing the last of her grenades
into the swarm of Golems. Like a chain of paper dolls, the disc shaped device
unfolded into many more disc shapes. Once it was extended Vain and Mirage
dropped it and backpedaled, ducking and covering as the strings on either end
began to retract and the Golems not regenerating themselves walked towards it.
There was a
terrific explosion and the first wave of Golems, and five feet of earth and
stone in any direction, vaporized in an instant. A cloud of dust enveloped
everything, including Vain and Mirage, who were still ducking and covering,
reloading their weapons for whatever could have survived the attack.
The dust settled.
The shambling sounds of the Machine Golems were gone. The only sound was a
steady rhythmic sound. Vain stood up, raising her remaining weapon in the
direction of the sound.
The man standing on
the steps looked much like his fellow Haxan, save for the fact he was a feline.
He smiled, quietly applauding. His green eyes regarded them coldly, his face
contorted in a sly smirk.
He said in an oddly cultured purr. "Most people dont make it past the
Golems, you know. They usually end up stripped clean and their machines
consumed by them. That you made it through them is remarkable. I'm impressed. I
"How nice for
you," Mirage said. "We're here for the Soulcaster, Jaevin -- give it
to us and we'll spare your life."
Jaevin looked at
her as through Mirage had lost her mind. "You're sure of yourself,
machine," he said. "But the Soulcaster is mine. For as long as I
live. And my life is not for any machine to give or take."
enough to fix," Vain said, raising her gun and firing. Jaevin moved
impossibly fast and with his staff swatted the bullet out of the air and back
at her. Vain barely had time to dodge it.
He can move
faster than we can, Vain thought.
glaring at Vain through his spectacles. "You didnt honestly think I'd
make it that easy for you, do you? I've never seen your sort before, but
I think you machines need a lesson in who your master is."
Jaevin raised the
Soulcaster. The bits and pieces of the Machine Golems began flying towards a
spot before him and merging into a sphere.
"This is a
Legion Spell," Jaevin said. "I've spent the last century perfecting
it, in case I ever encountered someone strong enough to best my Machine
"He loves to
talk, doesnt he?" Mirage said.
"I think it
comes from being alone a lot," Vain said, gesturing to her sister.
They broke and ran
in opposite directions, spraying fire at Jaevin. Jaevin blocked the shots with
his free hand, but it had an effect on the integrity of his Legion Spell. Bits
and pieces distended from the sphere and fell to the ground.
Finally he was
struck in the arm by a stray shot. The Legion forming before him began to fall
apart. He concentrated and redoubled his will, forcing the Legion together.
The Legion began to
expand and become more solid. Vain and Mirage exchanged uneasy looks. Most of
their heavy artillery was already spent destroying the Machine Golems.
The Legion turned
towards them, its outer skin beginning to undulate. Two crystalline eyes began
to form. As they moved into the light of day, energy began to crackle within
them. Vain flicked Mirage a look and nodded to her.
Twin columns of
energy shot from the "eyes" of the Legion, fusing the ground to glass
as Vain and Mirage leapt away. Mirage disappeared into thin air, activating her
optic prism generator and fading from view.
Legion itself would be a waste of time, style='font-family:
Arial'>Vain thought. It's only an obstacle, Jaevin's the key.
Toriares dodged the
blast at the last second, flattening himself against the wall and feeling it
tremble. Uragenax's aim suffered dramatically with the loss of his primary
optic sensors. Toriares had managed to stay ahead of him, but just barely.
Worse yet, the fire
was closing in.
Dont have too
many tricks left, Toriares thought. Power's
almost gone in the cane, shotgun's spent, and that leaves only a few jammers
and the explosives I keep as a last resort.
Toriares took one
out and hefted it in his hand. Not enough to do much damage against that
armor, Toriares thought. Not unless I get up close and if I try that
even with his lousy vision all he has to do is hold me and blow me up with him.
flailing about, looking for Toriares. The bio-mechanoid's hand passed just an
inch from Toriares' face. Toriares held still and waited for him to turn
around. He flicked his sweat-matted white hair out of his eyes and his hand
closed around the explosive in his hand.
Toriares broke the
fuse on the explosive and dropped it against the wall, breaking into a run
while counting to five under his breath. Uragenax had just enough time to catch
Toriares running away before the explosive went off, doing little damage to
him, but bringing the wall down behind him. Uragenax roared in anger as the wall
tumbled down, burying him under a ton of brick and mortar.
A shadow passed
over him. Toriares raised his cane.
The flying one,
he thought. My ticket out.
overhead, his wings humming as he surveyed the damage and added to it whenever
possible. Toriares' magnet beam locked into the thruster on the back of
Volaran's leg and he was snatched up in the wake of the Sekhmet's flight.
Toriares held on
for dear life as he muscles screamed in protest at the sudden acceleration. He
suddenly found himself far above the town, dragged behind Volaran like the tail
of a kite.
His magnet beam was
taking the last of the power from his cane, but Toriares used what he could to
draw him closer to Volaran. The closer he got the more Volaran began to notice
the drag pulling him to the left.
behind him and fired his arm cannons at Toriares. Toriares would have been
fatally struck, were it not for the oddly convenient occurrence of his cane
running out of power and dropping him out of the line of fire.
This only left
Toriares with one problem -- what to do about falling to his death.
Before he knew what
was happening someone snatched him out of the air, a red and blue blur in the
together, landing on the thatched roof of one of the towns buildings as yet
untouched by the fire.
Kienan," Toriares said, rolling to his feet.
of it," Kienan said, dusting himself off. Like Toriares he was dirty,
bleeding and sweating. "I was bound to save your ass at least once. But
this is the last time you pick where we go on vacation."
"And to think,
you always believed I knew the right play," Toriares said. "I take it
you settled things with Sinclaire?"
"You could say
that," Kienan said neutrally. "I've called in some help. I've had my
fill of these super-bugs. Now we just have to buy some time until it gets
thought of that," Toriares said. "Now if you've any ideas about what
to do about that particular super-bug while we wait, let me know."
Volaran was turned
to attack, guns blazing. Toriares dodged to the side, but Kienan leapt at
Volaran, grabbing him around the neck and burring his knife in the Sekhmet's
Volaran tried to
shake him and they flew off out of sight, leaving Toriares behind, stunned.
That boy ... is
crazy, he thought.
"This is not
going well," Khitan said. Though Sekhmet rarely showed anger or fear, to
Reficul his voice had traces of both. The homing beacons for Zularax and Toran
had both gone dead, and Urgaenax's kept fading in and out.
time you'd be better served sending me actual soldiers and not your expendable
aberrations," Reficul said.
tactical programming you gave their battle armors, Reficul, they should be more
than a match for any human," Khitan said. "How can these two men
superior warrior is more than programming, Khitan," Reficul said.
"Those men are superior combatants due to training and instinct. Fighting
is something you Sekhmet do. Killing is what they are. Against that, a handful
of aberrant Sekhmet in weapon-equipped battlesuits are overmatched."
Khitan sneered. "Instinct is an individualist fallacy."
"It is a law
of nature Khitan," Reficul said. "You ignore it at your peril."
should prepare the sixth armor," Khitan said. "With my leadership, I
could rally our remaining forces and crush the resistance."
armor is optimized for space combat, Khitan," Reficul said, bored. He
turned to a nearby console, studying scanner reports from local space.
"You'd be more of a hindrance than a help to them."
weaponry on the sixth armor -- "
" -- is, as I
said, optimized for use in space," Reficul said. "In a planetary
atmosphere. Your weapons would operate at best at 40% efficiency."
Khitan turned back
to the displays. "Do as instructed."
command me, Khitan."
Reficul pondered it
for a moment, keeping one eye on the scanner. A red blip showed up then faded
out again. A coded signal was relayed from the sensor buoy to his terminal.
Reficul smiled and
turned to Khitan. "Upon further consideration, I've decided to do as you
ask. I'll make the necessary preparations to transfer you now."
gingerly out of the remains of the bar, using one of his swords as a cane. He
still felt torn up but grateful at least for being able to breathe without
coughing up blood. Dazed he wondered how he'd failed to notice the fires and
the growing darkness.
He surveyed the
damage. The fires had consumed most everything in this area, almost as if
things had passed him by. Burnt wood, smoke and crumbling buildings replaced
the town he had just today found so idyllic.
His blue-green eyes
narrowed on the burned remains of a sidewalk store. He'd passed by it this
morning. And old man cheerfully sold paper pinwheels to children. He seemed to
delight in making the children who patronized his stand happy. Even Sinclaire
had felt a little of it.
That was then, this
The cart was
half-tilted, some of its wares still stood in holes carefully drilled. A
half-burnt pinwheel tried to turn in the hot winds of the burning town but it
seemed to have given up.
over to it, noticing a hand protruding from the wreckage, a child's.
He threw the sword
aside, his own injuries forgotten. Maybe theyre still alive but trapped, he
thought frantically, throwing rubble aside. Maybe ...
Ariana lay among
the pile of rubble, her face misshapen and crushed by the falling rubble. Her
eyes, framed by her blood-soaked and dust-covered face, stared stupidly into
She must have
tried to come back for me, he
thought, cradling her in his arms. Trying to stop Kienan from killing me.
stupid ... kid," Sinclaire whispered, wishing more than anything that
Ariana had his ability to heal rather than he. He closed his eyes and sighed,
tears spilling from his eyes.
Ariana's body for a long time, ignoring the fires, the explosions, and the
silent shadow moving on its own behind him.
One of the
Marionettes greatest gifts beyond their strength and speed was the ability of
all three to have instant contact with one another. If they were human it could
have been called telepathy, but it was more than that. With sufficient
concentration, Vain could almost see through Mirage's eyes as she moved
invisibly past the Legion and in range of Jaevin.
Waiting for the
The Legion grew
another eye and fired all three in a sustained volley of fire. Vain ducked and
weaved through them, all the whole concentrating. She rolled awkwardly onto her
back, playing possum as the Legion's eyes locked on her.
invisible, tossed a small capsule into Jaevin's face, which burst into a ball
of brilliant light. Jaevin raised his eyes to shield himself and cried out.
again and ran back to Vain, snatching her out of the way of the rapidly
disintegrating Legion. The ball of what had once been Machine Golems crashed to
the ground, turning black as ashes.
cursed ... machines," Jaevin said. "This was an amusing diversion,
but I've had just about enough of your tricks."
Mirage said, firing at Jaevin. "We were about to say the same about
Jaevin responded, creating a shield and stopping the bullets.
Vain reached behind
her, drawing her two combat knives. "Doesn't have to be this way,
Jaevin," she said. "Give us the Soulcaster."
"Why dont you
take it from me in a fair contest?" Jaevin sneered. "Two on
we've been doing, isnt it?" Mirage asked. You and your Machine Golems
and the Legion."
sense," Jaevin said. "But my Machine Golems and the Legion are merely
tools. Tricks. My second is much more, and will equalize things in my
than one of you here?" Vain asked. "They never told us ... "
exactly," Jaevin said. "Some might consider him my pet. But he's
certainly your equal."
"You said the
same thing about the Legion," Vain said. "I think it's plain we can
take whatever you dish out.
He snapped his
The earth rumbled
as something gigantic began to make its way down the temple steps. As it came
into view it looked like a nightmare in daylight. It had the torso of a man,
two wolves heads and the body of a spider. And it was roughly three times the
size of the Legion.
Jaevin smiled and
leapt high into the air. He stood on the broad back of the beast, balancing on
his cane and looking arrogantly superior.
then," he said, brushing his black mane from his face. Vain rolled her
eyes at Jaevin's theatrics as she pondered just how overmatched they were.
the challenge, and we accept," he said, glaring through his spectacles at
the marionettes from his lofty perch.