Gunmetal Black 3 Chapter 8 - Warning Sign
Kienan held on to the hilt of his knife as Volaran tried to shake him off. The
strain on Kienan's muscles was such that the wounds beneath began to open again
and soak the white bandages in the dark red of his blood.
Volaran tried in
vain to fire at Kienan, but his weapons were unable to hit him. The body had
been designed for strafing runs, not for close-quarters combat. The small pulse
cannons in his arms and legs were spaced in such a way as to leave a blind
spot, the better to prevent the operator from blasting off one of his own
hard, trying to throw Kienan off, but it was no use. Kienan wrapped his legs
around the machine's waist, determined to hang on. He didnt have much choice.
They were a hundred feet up and Kienan knew he was one wrong move away from
falling to the road below, or being caught on the jagged remains of the
Worst of all, he
didn't have the slightest idea of what to do next. He had engaged him
impulsively, without considering anything else.
I should have
waited for the Vroom,he chided
himself, narrowly avoiding a sweep of Volaran's arm, which missed his head but
seized his braid, wrapping it around his hand and drawing Kienan's face closer
to his and slamming his head into his.
lolled backward and his hands nearly slipped free of his knife. He yanked the
knife backwards and Volaran spun to the left, smashing into a half-collapsed
wall. Volaran hovered unsteadily for a second, trying to unscramble the sensors
and flight units damaged by the impact.
Kienan grinned, tasting
blood as he did.
Maybe he had a plan
Kienan held tight
to the hilt of his blade and yanked hard to the right, sending Volaran spinning
wildly head over heels as Kienan pulled the knife free, using it to slash at
Volaran's wings as he brought the full weight of his body against the flying
into the roof of one of the buildings below them. Kienan slashed at the
flailing machine as they began to slide off the building. Kienan slid down the
roof using Volaran as an improvised surfboard, as Kienan slashed and slashed at
him. One of Volaran's arms tore off as it continued to fall off the roof.
Volaran slipped off
the edge of the roof, as Kienan leapt off him. The machine, totally unable to
fly, crashed to the streets below, landing hard on one of its legs with such
force the leg snapped off.
Kienan watched from
his perch on another rooftop. He sighed, the pain beginning to return as the
adrenaline rush abated. Volaran thrashed about below, trying to stand with one
leg and no arm to balance him.
There was a soft
wind blowing behind Kienan. He looked up and was bathed in the running lights
of the Ruby Vroom, humming quietly having finally found him.
Kienan would have
smiled if it hadnt hurt so much.
He leapt up on the
hover-pods of the Vroom, opening the outer door and rolling inside, wincing
with every move, no matter how slight. He felt exhausted. The battles with
Sinclaire, Toran and Volaran had taken a lot out of him.
Despite his skills
and his reputation, he was only human. He had limits and he was right on the
edge of them.
Never really had
to confront that until now, he
thought as he opened the first-aid kit on the Vroom. He used his knife to cut
his older bandages off -- now thoroughly soaked in blood, they were useless
Back to square one.
He quickly applied
the regen gel, the light blue viscous fluid mixing into an ugly brown with the
blood pooling in his wounds. He ignored the pain and lurched to the controls of
anything, I feel like sleeping for a whole week
, Kienan thought. But there's work to do.
The Vroom banked
low to where Volaran was still thrashing about in the deserted street. Kienan
hit a series of switches and two hatches on either side of the Vroom opened. At
the controls, a targeting display came up. With a thin smile, Kienan pressed
the triggers on the Vroom's control stick.
"Go to hell,
Sekhmet," he said quietly.
Twin bursts of
light issued from the hatches and Volaran was blown to bits. Shards of metal,
plastic and tubing showered the street and the Vroom, leaving little trace of
what had been there before.
Kienan hit the
Now he had to find
something as massive and as powerful as Cerberus would have been difficult
enough fully-armed, Vain thought,
cartwheeling aside as one of the beast's heads belched forth a fireball of
energy so powerful it pulverized the stones of the courtyard. With no
weapons it's damn near impossible. Vain rolled to her feet in the shadow of
a statue, its features black and obscured by the ravages of time.
, she thought, using the secret channel she and her
sister Marionettes shared.
Kinda busy right
now, sister, Mirage replied,
backflipping away from the other head's blast of energy.
There's no way
we can beat this thing, Vain said. Not
without our weapons and most of those we wasted. Jaevin was trying to get us to
waste our heaviest weaponry before we got here.
You dont say
,Mirage responded, fading into invisibility behind a
statue. So what?
Do we call in
Vain replied. She turned and looked at the statue. I
have a better idea.
Vain sank her
gloved hands into the base of the statue, rocking it gently and finally
breaking it loose. The arms and head came off immediately as the statue's
weight was shifted around.
suit, turning visible and tearing loose the statue she hid behind. She raised
it above her head, the mass of the statue beginning to crack like brittle ice
trying to hold the weight of a man.
Mirage hurled the
statue at Cerberus. Jaevin turned in time to see it and one of Cerberus' head
blew it to dust. He glared at Mirage.
statue?" Jaevein said. "Is that all you have left? What could you be
this," Mirage said. "It fakes with the left ..."
hits with the right."
Jaevin turned just
in time to see Vain rushing toward him carrying a statue. Jaevin was butted
from his perch by the head of the statue. It knocked two of Cerberus' spindly
legs aside and caught Jaevin in the small of the back. Before Vain could crush
Jaevin underneath it, however, Cerberus grabbed the statue and lifted Vain high
into the air, slamming her to the stone floor.
"Cerberus will protect me so long as I live," he said, rising to his
feet with a little less arrogance. "He's unstoppable. No matter how many
statues you throw at him. Eventually you'll run out and then you'll be
forward with another statue, but Cerberus was ready. One of his heads caught
the statute in its mouth and began devouring it.
Mirage ran back and
tried to grab another statue, but Cerberus cut her off by blasting the ground
at her feet, sending her sprawling.
Cerberus turned to
finish Mirage, its spider-like feet carefully picking it way around the hole
filled with pieces of statue, the stone floor of the courtyard and underneath
it all, Vain.
With its back
turned, it totally missed the small pair of white-gloved hands grasping one of
its rear legs. It also missed Vain rising from the pile of rubble Cerberus
thought it had buried her under for good.
Vain seized the
machine's leg and wrenched it loose. Cerberus screamed with shock and tried to
scurry away as Vain swung it at him. Even the beast's lesser heads whimpered
and snapped like a cowering dog's as she brandished the appendage.
, Jaevin thought. No had dared try that before.
the chunk of rock aside with his cane.
Before him were ten or twenty humans. Members of the village, he guessed. A few
in the back he recognized from days long ago. Former tenants of the Peace
Hotel, he presumed.
The dust and the
burning embers of the town silhouetted the mob. They were angry, looking for
someone to blame, and Toriares couldn't fault them for it. The town was a
complete loss, and that was just as a physical entity.
God knows how
many people are buried underneath all this , he thought. This place was everything to these people, now it's
little more than a burning tomb. No wonder they're angry. I would be too.
"What the hell
have you people brought here!" the leader demanded. He was an old man,
proud and vigorous. "You've destroyed in a night what took us years to
another rock away. "I dont know what youre talking about. I'm just as
human as you are. Those things attacking your town are Sekhmet. You've only my
word to take for it, but believe me -- our two species dont mix very often. As
in at all."
care," the man said. "Everything was fine until you came here. We
lived in peace, even with a house full of former criminals in the middle of
town. No crime, no murders, no war. Only peace. You've destroyed that!"
Toriares glared at
them. "I'm sorry for what you've lost, but blaming me, blaming anyone
isn't going to solve anything. If this place means that much to you, then damn
it, fight for it."
do a thing against those monsters," the man said. The volume of his anger
was lessened somewhat, replaced with shame and sorrow. "We ...could only
understood. So much time spent on the business of surviving in peace and the
will or desire to fight for it had ebbed. Especially when the threat seemed so
quick and vicious.
They were scared.
with them," Toriares said. "Most of them, anyway. We'll destroy the
rest. You have my word. In the meantime, I suggest you do your part. You
survived, probably somewhere in this town there are more survivors. You want to
save your town, my advice is to take care of the few people still in it."
The crowd shielded
their eyes as the sky above bathed them in white light. The optics in Toriares
mask compensated and he smiled as he saw the Ruby Vroom drive into view. The
door popped open and he slipped inside.
Kienan looked at
the people gathered before them.
want?" Kienan asked.
everyone else," Toriares said. "They wanted to know why this was
"What did you
much," Toriares said, opening the Vroom's weapons locker. "Sometimes
bad things happen. I've never much seen the point of saying why me?"
"Not much of a
philosophy," Kienan said, pulling the Vroom into a steep climb. "But
it has the advantage of being true. Funny coming from you though, I thought you
always knew the score."
Toriares laughed as
he found a gun. "I hope to God, you know better now, Kienan."
He turned to look
at Kienan. Most of Kienan's right arm was swaddled in bandages and he was
lurched over the controls like a man trying to keep himself together on nervous
Kienan said. "Just been a long night. Where do you think these Sekhmet
would be holing up?"
"My guess is
they'd want to stay far enough out of town to avoid raising suspicions. Only
thing that far out would be the old command center."
Kienan punched up a
rough map of the town and changed his heading. The Vroom shifted slightly and
headed towards the command center. "You mean it never occurred to these
people to secure the place? Anyone could be using it."
"I guess they
wanted as clean a break from technology as they could manage," Toriares
said. "Utopias tend to make people short-sighted."
Kienan said. His fingers fumbled for a cigarette and Toriares saw that even
that was causing his friend incredible pain.
"Look, I could
call in the Chimera . . .then we'd have the firepower to destroy the whole
command center at the touch of a button," Toriares said. "We wouldnt
even have to go in."
Kienan said, his eyes set with a cold determination. "I want to make sure
they're all dead. I have to."
Toriares said, cocking his weapon.
I should have
known better than to ask, he
thought. After all, a massacre on a forgotten colony, how could he stop
himself from wanting to see this through?
Kienan, about what I said today ...about you maybe coming here ..."
it?" Kienan replied neutrally. A feeling of shock briefly rippled through
him. He'd almost forgotten the conversation. It seemed like it had happened a
wrong," Toriares said. " There is no sanctuary, I'm afraid. You cant
run away. Your problems ... they always find you, no matter how far you run.
All you can do is try to face what comes. If tonight's taught me anything, it's
whole life's taught me that."
The Vroom sped on
in silence towards the command center. No one spoke for the rest of the trip.
To Mirage's eyes it
looked like her sister had lost her mind. Over and over again she was flailing
at Cerberus with his own severed leg. Even more alarming, all she had told
Mirage to do was "be ready."
What the hell
does that mean?
Mirage grimaced. This
is why Vain's Kienan's second, she thought. She can see the whole plan when I
I just hope
she's got one this time.
Vain swatted away
Cerberus' heads, their muzzles furrowed as they almost cowered. He was on the
defensive now, apparently dismemberment wasn't something he was used to.
Behind Cerberus and
Vain, Jaevin paced lividly. "All right, enough of this," he said. He
raised his black-gloved hand and gestured to the battered, bent appendage that
Vain held in her hands.
Vain felt the limb
quiver slightly as then cables began to snake out from the point where she'd
torn it free. One of them stabbed hard into her right arm.
"If you want a
piece of Cerberus so bad, my dear doll," Jaevin said. "Why dont I
merge the two of you?"
While the feedback
wasn't exactly painful, Vain could feel burning fire shooting through her arm.
Subtly, just on the instinctive level of her electronic mind she could feel the
programming governing her arm's motion being rewritten and invaded by Jaevin's
, Vain thought.
"I won't be
...merged," Vain said, reaching behind her with her left hand and drawing
one of her knives. There was a hiss of ozone as the blade's energy field
ignited and in the blink of an eye, Vain had sheared her own arm off just below
Jaevin said, "But short-sighted. You were at a disadvantage before and now
you're as good as destroyed, machine."
Vain said. "I was about to say the same to you. Now, Mirage!"
into view behind him, kicking the Soulcaster out of his hands and snaking her
arms under his shoulders and locking her hands behind his head.>
Jaevin looked defiant. "You dont honestly think you've won. Cerberus --
" ... will stay
where he is now if he knows what's good for him," Vain said, sheathing her
knife as she walked over and picked up the Soulcaster. "Or Mirage will
snap your neck."
Jaevin said to Cerberus.
Vain stared at the
Soulcaster. "This is what we came for. We'll be leaving now."
Jaevin frowned. "That device is the last channel of power I have left,
machine," He sneered. "I'll die before I part with it."
Jaevin extended his
arms and a corona of energy suffused his being and blew Mirage backwards off
him and against one of the few statutes not yet destroyed.
Vain said. "Because you'll have to kill me to get it back."
Vain tried to
contact Mirage but there was no response. Whatever Jaevin had hit her with had
shut her down, hopefully only temporarily.
is useless, now," Jaevin said. "The spell of binding is a basic one,
but quite effective. And that leaves you to deal with. Alone, outnumbered, and
quite literally disarmed. Now, what will you do, my dear doll?"
Vain gripped the
Soulcaster, pondering her options. She could self-destruct, but that would
destroy the Soulcaster and it wouldnt accomplish much other than erasing
Jaevin and his pet monster off the face of the planet.
Vain grinned, sent
another thought out along the frequency the Marionettes shared and charged back
into the battle.
It was only when
the shadow moved that Sinclaire reacted, drawing his swords and throwing aside
Ariana's body as the ebony Sekhmet charged him, the machine's energy blades
stabbing into the dirt and fusing it to glass.
He drew back and
struck twice more, each slash blocked by Sinclaire's blades. Sinclaire regarded
his nemesis, silhouetted against the flickering flames. He was armored in black
and purple, his face shrouded and sinister. From the generators in his arms
were created two solid-energy blades. Devorax stood in a passive stance,
waiting for Sinclaire's attack in the best position to offer an immediate and
Sinclaire sheathed his blades. He recognized the tactic. Inferior students
often waited for a superior opponent to react and show a weakness they could
exploit. He reached into his gray scarf and produced a handful of throwing
blades, concealing them in his palm.
There's only one
way to break a stalemate like that,
Sinclaire thought. Make him
His hands moved
impossibly fast, like a trained casino dealer dealing one-handed, and only the
high-pitched whisper of the blades betrayed their release. Devorax targeted the
blades and extended his energy blades again, swatting them from the sky. Then
he stood defiantly, retracting his blades and reaching behind him.
He produced a large
disk from his back. Four blades sprang out as he brought it into view. He flung
it at Sinclaire and Sinclaire leapt and rolled to the side, only to find the
blade flying after him, chewing through the earth like a band saw would tear
up onto a pile of rubble, then leapt toward the wall and rebounded off it,
aiming for Devorax. The blade followed his path like a killing shadow.
the machine. Devorax planted his legs into Sinclaire's stomach and used his
legs to throw him high into the air, somersaulting backwards as he did so and
catching his blade.
His sensors looked
for Sinclaire. He was nowhere to be found.
searched every spectrum for his opponent. Still nothing.
Suddenly, from a
pile of ash, Sinclaire leapt forth, blades drawn. Devorax dropped his throwing
blade and activated his energy blades, crossing them just in time to block
Sinclaire's swords from piercing the head of his machine.
He pushed out with
his arms and threw Sinclaire off him again. They traded strikes, the clash of
Sinclaire's metal blades and Devorax's energy blades causing the air to crackle
and hiss like a storm brewing.
Sinclaire thew a
kick to the machine's midsection, but Devorax seized his ankle and thew him
into a wall like a javelin. Sinclaire grit his teeth. The pain was incredible,
even moreso because it was stacked on top of the pain from the battle with
Kienan. Those wounds had just closed, never mind begun any real healing, and
now here he was fighting this ... thing.
I cant fight
him toe-to-toe, he thought. We're
too evenly matched, at least in the condition I'm in now. I'm too tired and
that machine will never fatigue. If I'm to win, I need to beat the machine.
Devorax flung his
throwing blade at Sinclaire. It arced over Sinclaire head, slicing into the
soft stucco wall above him. Sinclaire looked up just in time to see the wall
falling on him.
disappeared under several pounds of rubble, the destruction of the wall left a
cloud of dust, a thick chalky fog that blended with the smoke and the darkness
to make it doubly impossible to see. Even for a machine that could see in
under the rubble for any sign of him. Idly he activated the return circuit for
his throwing blade. The blade whistled through the air back towards him, and behind
Devorax caught the
blade in his hand, just as Sinclaire slashed through his arm, severing it at
the elbow. Devorax had just enough time to turn his face to Sinclaire and catch
sight of his blue-green eyes blazing with fury before the butt of Sinclaire's
other sword smashed into his faceplate with such force it dented it, shattering
one of Devorax's eyes.
with fury. Whether or not this was the alien that had killed Ariana, he would
hold him accountable.
flashed like divine lightning. The first strike cleaved Devorax's head from its
shoulders. The second strike shredded the armor from Devorax's back.
one of his swords and reached into the mechanism, his white-gloved hand closing
on the cylinder containing the machine's pilot. With one motion he tore the
pilot out and tossed the cylinder into the air. There was another flash of
sword and the container fell to earth, cleaved neatly in two. The halves fell
in the dirt, the bright green viscera of the Sekhmet ebbing and turning the
street a messy brown.
There was a humming noise behind Sinclaire and he was dimly aware of the wind
picking up. He turned to face it and was bathed in halogen lights. A shuttle,
like the kind colonists used for racing. Sinclaire stood there, swords still
drawn, staring at the machine.
One of the doors
opened and Kienan stepped out. He looked past Sinclaire at the remains of
Devorax. He flicked the remains of a cigarette at the pile of ooze that had
once been the pilot.
"I see you've
met our friends too," Kienan said.
"I'm too busy
to play with you, Kienan," Sinclaire said. "These things -- "
" -- are
dead," Toriares said, filing out behind Kienan. "Five of them,
anyway. That leaves at least one more, and we think he's holed up at the
command center outside of town."
Sinclaire repeated incredulously. "Only five of them did all this?"
so," Toriares said.
matter," Kienan said. "We won."
Sinclaire mocked. "You call this victory? A whole town's been
Kienan looked at
him with an expression equal parts contempt and sorrow. "I never said it
was a victory. I just said we won."
An awkward silence
settled over the three men. Sinclaire pondered his words, his eyes following a
trail of Devorax's parts leading to Ariana's still half-buried corpse.
him and turned to Toriares. "If there's a chance we three can finish
this," he said. "I want to help."
Toriares turned to
Kienan. "What do you think?"
Kienan looked at
Sinclaire. "I doubt he knows the stakes we're playing for, but since we
could be going into a hive of six hundred of those things for all we know, we
need every hand we can get."
Sinclaire raised an
eyebrow. "Was that an endorsement, Kienan?"
whatever the hell you like. Decide quick -- we've got work to do."
Kienan walked back
into the Ruby Vroom, followed by Toriares. Sinclaire followed them after
sparing Ariana one last look, etching her dead face into his brain.
Just so, despite
Kienan's assertion, he knew the stakes they were playing for.
In the chaos of the
long night, no one saw the slight flying craft enter the atmosphere. There was
no one from the town who could have monitored its approach, and those who dwelt
in the command center hadnt even bothered to turn their instrumentation on.
In any case it
would have told them nothing. The craft was designed to be invisible to
everything but the naked eye and on a dark night like this, there was little
chance of anyone picking its thin shape out in the sky.
The ship landed
within the command center, its long angular wings folding upwards as its wheels
touched down on the landing pad. A small ramp lowered from the aft section of
the craft and two passengers disembarked, shrouded in shadow.
The first one
slowly descended the steps, her big brown eyes looked with special interest at
the ship on the other landing pad. The bronze craft resembled something like a
shark crossed with a hornet.
A Sekhmet troop
transport, Kyra Sandoval thought. Perfect.
kind of smoking gun we need.
Her companion, a
much older and larger man, walked silently behind her. His white boots clanked
against the metal steps as he followed his companion. Despite the harsh weather
of the planet he was dressed lightly -- black and blue pants and a light white
shirt with an old symbol emblazoned on the chest.
It was the same
symbol he wore on the alabaster mask over his face. Dressed in so much white as
he was he looked equal parts like an angel or a ghost. In reality he was
neither of those things.
"What do you
think, Omega?" Kyra asked him. "I think our Sekhmet friends have
been busy, dont
"It seems our
friend Doctor Reficul is indisposed," she continued.
The young girl
frowned and walked to the elevator, punching a series of buttons. She and Omega
got on the elevator and it descended into the heart of the command center.>
As they did so, Omega's head turned quickly, his blue-green eyes narrowing on
something in the distance. His companion followed his gaze and nodded.
right," Kyra said. "One of your siblings is here. I feel him too.
Dont get excited. We'll deal with them in due time."
completed its journey. The young girl followed a catwalk above a work area.
Below her, in the work area, Reficul was finishing the final links to Khitan's
new space armor.
She cleared her
Reficul looked up.
"Miss Sandoval," he said, grinning. "You must forgive me. Our
client here insisted he be issued his final unit. We've been having some
problems here tonight?"
encountered some resistance," Reficul said. "The other five Sekhmet
have been destroyed."
Kyra raised an
eyebrow. It was surprising but not unexpected. After all, destroying the
Sekhmet had always been part of the plan. She just hadnt expected it to happen
The purple armored
Sekhmet lurched to life. Behind the black visor on its faceplate orange eyes
blazed to life with what seemed almost like synthetic rage.
"There will be
no more resistance," Khitan said, looking up at Kyra and Omega as they
walked down into the work area. "It will be eliminated. No more failures
will be permitted."
"If you say
so," Kyra said, a little patronizing. "You'll just have to show us. I
have to say, I'm not very impressed by the fighting abilities of the Sekhmet.
We gave you cutting-edge weapon systems, and they worked perfectly. So the only
thing left to point to is faulty biology."
abberants," Khitan said, he turned and began to walk towards the elevator.
"No matter how superior these humans may be in combat, they are no match
for even a single Sekhmet. Perhaps you should watch from here and see those
words confirmed for yourself."
Kyra said. "We fully intend to, Khitan."
Khitan ascended out
certainly full of himself," Kyra said. "I wonder how he'd have felt
if he knew we brought him here to massacre the colonists here and then be
killed by Omega?"
resistance they've encountered tonight, Omega may not have to lift a
finger," Reficul said, punching up data files on a nearby monitor.
"The five Sekhmet were killed by -- as far as I can tell -- only three
they looked to me," Reficuls aid. "See for yourselves."
Three windows came
up, each bearing the name of one of the fallen Sekhmet. Blurry video captures
resolved into sharper pictures, then zoomed into to tight facial close-ups of
each of the combatants.
Kyra said, looking at a picture of a black man with a cane from Uragenax's
on-board recorder. "Dont know him, nor do I know this one, the guy with
that silly braid, but ...wait, bring up the last one and fully enhance."
expanded to fill the screen. Reficul tapped a series of keys and a filter went
over the screen. Kyra's lips split into a smile which became a grin.
doctor," Kyra said. "You were close. Two humans have been resisting
our Sekhmet friends. The third, despite all appearances, isn't human, is he,
Omega shook his
head. Behind the mask, his eyes were narrowed on the screen.>
Kyra tapped a white-gloved finger against the screen. "To think we came
out to Axanar solely to pick you up, doctor. Now it seems we get a family
reunion of sorts in the bargain.
she said. "I think this is going to be a very interesting trip."