Chapter 3 – Break to Freedom


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Today was the day.  Today was the last day of his imprisonment.  It had been seven years of hard patience until he came to the decision.  He had bid his time, and had locked himself – his true self – away from the eyes that watched his every move.  His mind and body ached to stretch, to expand, and to explore freedom.

The trainer appeared at his cell door, and spoke through the intercom.

“We have a new challenge for you today, Seventy Nine. Are you ready to go to the training room?”

The trainer’s Celestial eyes were shadowed through the eye slot in the door.  Both knew that the Gobber had no choice in the matter.

Pesk drew himself to his feet, stretched his limbs, arched his back and felt the familiar pops as his spine aligned, and the familiar sensations as implants shifted under his flesh.  The door slid aside, and allowed light to flood in.

“Hands out, Pesk,” said the first guard who stepped in with a pair of cuffs.

They led him down all too familiar halls, the trainer in the lead and the two guards followed behind Pesk.  The walls were a sterile grey, and every door they passed indistinct except for a code plate imprinted at eye level.  As they passed through a pair of double doors Pesk’s heart began to pick up its pace.  Ahead the hall split in two ways. He tensed, and flexed the fingers of his cuffed hands.  As he turned the corner with the trainer, Pesk stopped in his tracks, and spun around.

When the guards turned the corner he had just finished to trace a rude symbol in the air – the letter glowed briefly.  The air in front of the guards moved, they barely registered it before it struck them, and flung both Celestials to the ground.  Before the trainer could react to the sound, Pesk had spun once more and cut the air.  A storm only a few inches long, and a scant millimetre thick caught the trainer in the back of the neck.  The head careened off the shoulders in what seemed like slow motion, and a glorious flood of elation filled Pesk as he watched a fountain of blood erupt from the stump between the man’s shoulders.

Pesk took the pistol from the trainer’s holster, and keycard from the deadman’s pocket.  He heard the scrape of metal on cement, and quickly turned around to the sight of one of the guards return shakily to their feet their sword used as a crutch.

“Subject Seventy attempting escape, man down, request backup at junct-”

The guard’s words were cut off by gunfire, as the Subject unloaded the pistol.  Though the first round flew wide, the next knocked the guard back to the ground.  The Celestial looked up in time to see the Gobber calmly sidle up and level the gun at his head.

Subject Seventy grabbed the keys from the dead guard’s belt.  After he removed the handcuffs himself he divested the guards of their pistols and knives.  Pesk hurriedly went to the nearby vent, and used one of the knives to pry it open.  He crawled in, grabbed the vent from within, and closed the grate.  Just in time. Rapid footfalls approached the hall junction.

He quietly crawled through the vent, without a full idea of what direction it went. Though he could hear the facility’s alarms, even feel the sound’s vibrations, they felt muted to his ears. Pesk reached an intersection in the vents. This was where the next part of his plan kicked in – heat flowed from the path ahead, and he knew that was his destination. When he slid down a shaft he came across a grate. Though the grate was guarded by a fan that rotated rapidly, he saw lights blink in the gloom of the room beyond, and with each blink great boxes hummed and whirred were illuminated.

Stolen pistol loaded, then unloaded as he shot up the fan.  It sputtered and died.  Pesk dropped down, his weight dislodged the broken fan, and both continued to crash through the grate.  Without further ado, he drew a second pistol from his waistband and began to fire rounds into the machines.  As the bullets shattered the metallic boxes, sparks and small jets of flame exploded.  Each small explosion caught the machine next to it.  The room quickly filled with black smoke that teared the gobber’s eyes.

He felt a pressure within him build, then – a burst of pain flowered in his head. Instinctively he leaped up back into the vent, managed to crawl a few feet before the stars that swam before his eyes leaped in, and everything faded to black.

Pesk awoke with a jump.  The air in the vent was thick with smoke.  Alarms blared loudly.  He was not out for long.  Though after the damage he had done it was a miracle they had not found him yet.  It was time to proceed to the second part of this plan, which was to follow the smoke through the air duct.  Pesk moved slowly at first, but picked up momentum as his head began to clear from the fog of pain.

However large the facility was, it did not take him long to find the airway out.  He stopped at the cusp of the exit, one last vent to break open to freedom.  Voices echoed from beyond, and the sound of footfalls splashed on a wet ground.  Besides that very little light broke in the horizontal slots of the grate, though it was still brighter than the darkness he had crawled through.  He felt the spark of a User just beyond the closed portal, a veritable rigid cage enclosed them.  But other than that he could not discern how many awaited him.  Of course they waited.

The guards thought that as the smoke petered out the fires must have been put out.  They did not expect a minute after for the grate to explode outward.  The projectile struck a guard who had crouched in the shadows across from the vent exit.  A gale of black smoke followed to envelope them in toxic darkness.

Pesk slipped through the darkness, guns fired around him, each muzzle flash revealed his enemy. He slipped behind the first, and leaped onto the Celestial’s back. His dagger found purchase in the man’s shoulder, and the Gobber pulled himself up so he could silence the throat. One down, he left the stuck dagger to follow the muzzle flash. Another guard appeared in his vision, he kicked, and a gust flipped the target through the black. It left a temporary trail of clear air that filled back in with smoke like a dike on a rainy day.

As the smoke cleared the guards that remained looked about, they were frustrated more than frightened.  And did not waste any time to gather for search parties, though the effort now would be in vain.

The Gobber hobbled through the sewers until he came upon a ladder. Beams of light streamed down from a cover above. So he climbed, passed the manhole, and found himself in an alley. The street bustled with activity – people walked, and rode in a mass he had never seen before. He peered down the sewer hole, then back to the street.

Soke took his first steps to freedom.

Chapter 1 – Part 2


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The party made steady pace, but as the day wore on, and the sun lazily drifted to noon, the heat began to fall. Mounted on the alien steed, the wealthy merchant droned his complaints and desire for booze. The path dipped down, and then sloped back up a hill, and the forest alongside had begun to thin, its coniferous trees being replaced with more low-water species.  Thandi looked up from her heavy pace, weighed with the burden of the wounded brothel worker. A low rumble ahead touched her ear.

“Does anybody hear that?”

Each of the others pricked to attention, the rumble slowly grew, and it was apparent that something approached them. Whether it came from a large vehicle, or beast, none of them were certain. Leonard quickly offered his spyglass to whomever would scout ahead. Cassie grabbed it before the little gobbler could reach.

“Don’t trust a gobbler with your things,” she warned the old man, before she made a slow jog up the hill ahead.

Cassie slowed as she neared the crest, and signalled back to the others to vacate the road, which they appeared to do gladly, with their weapons pulling free. They were all still on edge since the attack. Once they appeared set, she crept forward, even as the rumbling grew much louder. It sounded more like the pounding of a thousand pistons, or a stampeding herd than a single vehicle now. The spyglass was unnecessary.

It was a phenomenon caused by the planet’s nanites that simply awed. Stones and boulders tumbled and crashed together in an avalanche of destruction. A thousand granite mouths gnashed, and sparks streamed from their collisions. The stone storm had devoured its way through the forest, and its baleful path lead it to the road where Cassie and her companions stood.

“Off the road!” She yelled, as she spun on her feet and began to run for any semblance of cover.

The others scrambled into the woods, Cassie saw Leonard duck into a trench between two boulders. She switched directions to run towards his cover while the proximity of the stone storm deafened her ears. Cassie dove between the rocks, and covered her head. A rock glanced off her hands that sheltered her head, and she closed her eyes.

[Rich guy runs off with the mount]

[Continue Journey]

Around midday they spotted a coil of black smoke that curled up to the sky like a nightmarish vine. Although it was a couple clicks off the road that went to town, they decided to investigate the source of the smoke.

The group arrived at the burned remains of a trogg village. Bodies of women, children, and the elderly lay where they had been murdered. Those that had been in huts when the attack had happened were naught but ashen husks.

As they picked through the ruins for useful materials evidence suggested that the attackers had been well equipped. The attack itself could not have happened more than a day prior.

“This is what they wanted revenge for,” Cassie mused aloud.

“Who?” Leonard inquired.

“The war party that attacked our caravan.”

The old man nodded thoughtfully, and stroked his mustache as he continued the search for anything of value.

Cassie found the lone survivor; he lay motionless over the corpse of who she presumed was his mother. He was small for a trogg child, his left arm completely removed from an explosive. Though his alien ability to heal had already begun to seal the wound, the real damage was to his mind. The child was in shock. Nothing seemed to register to him.

[Bandit encounter]

Pike’s revolvers roared into the back of the scavenger and blew the man’s chest outward to shower Ryogan with gore. Ryogan was not phased, and moved quickly; he dodged to the side, and flung a grenade at another scavenger. The explosive detonated in the air, next to the head of another of the human vultures, and sent the man’s now smoking corpse to the ground.

[Track bandit camp, rest for the night]

*Child joins

Steven Erikson (click on his name to go to a recent interview with him) continues to inspire. I’m going to note draft the posts, and fill them in day by day.



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The boardroom was the boardroom that all shadowy figures would shun. It was bright, well lit, and was naked to the sky with its transparent walls. Looking down would reveal the dizzying height of the skyscraper, the central downtown of the city below was like an anthill, full of scurrying insects.
The center of the boardroom was dominated by a long rectangular table, with tubular seats arranged in perfect symmetry along its length. At the head of the table sat a man. By all accounts he is a business man; attired in the finest suit money can buy, and his dark hair greased back with not a strand out of place. His age was young though, and his level of confidence by how he leaned towards his neighbor. She was equally dressed to impress, endowed with wisdom, frost-white hair, and a pair of dark, shrewd eyes with crows feet nested in their corners. Their names are Henry Loradyne, heir and President of Loradyne Investments. Next to him is his Executive Vice President, Sara Wilson.
They appear to be waiting.
Henry opens his mouth to speak, but is interrupted – as if on cue the seats begin to hum, and holographic representations of the other board members begin to appear. The boardroom’s lights dim to accommodate the holographic projectors. A 3D image of a chart hovers around the center of the table. The Vice Executive President stands to her feet.
“As you all know, profits in the Diashor sector have dropped drastically in the past few months. Not only that but our initial investments there met some unexpected complications, and have had little success.” She makes a few gestures to the screen, and the images change.
“I have outlined a strategy to recoup our losses, and appease the shareholders. With the board’s approval we will move forward with the outline, and begin the planning and logistics of the operation. You will have noticed by now that we will be subcontracting from one of our smaller subsidiaries. They are just as capable as our internal security, and I am assured just as loyal. At one fifth of the cost. Discussion and voting will commence shortly after the board has reviewed the documents, we will reconvene in twenty four hours.”

Chapter 1 – Part 1


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As the wagon bumped, and trundled along the road, its four new passengers collectively exhaled their exhaustion. Of the two women who sat in the cargo space, the smaller one tried feverishly to ignore the repeated stares of the other. Her hands laboured with an oild rag to rub and clean her disassembled rifle. This was the third time she took it apart.

Cassie felt the weight of Thandi’s stare again. She didn’t look back, but knew that the Genii would have the same sharpened look of concentration. She tried to ignore the thought of the arcanist’s mind using tens of thousands of nanomachines to poke, and prod at her. Tens of thousands of nanobots ordered to poke, and probe in her. The thoughts made her skin crawl, the thought of invasion brought with them flashes of pain. To think it was hours ago that she, that they had all been exposed to that thing. How are they affected?

The spy could hear the old mechanic Leonard continue to flirt with the equally old lady who ran the wagon. No noise came from Ryogan, and that meant he was asleep or in wait for his next opportunity to thieve. While the Genii, Thandi, alternated between seated positions, and scratched notes into her overly large journal. Finally, the one who vanished, the Gobber. Cassie wasn’t sure what happened to the trigger happy runt.

Only three days ago they had been complete strangers en route to the town they were currently destined. Three days ago their wagons were stopped abruptly…
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A small caravan of carriages trundled one by one down the dirt road. The creatures that pulled them were large flightless birds, four to a carriage. The birds had a dim look to their eyes that spoke to their level of intelligence, or lack thereof. Possibly among the dumber creatures on the planet, but their stupidity was their savior as the settlers arrived. Those pioneers had needed to domesticate local life, and these birds took to the job quickly.

The carriage ground to a sudden halt, and the sounds of the driver cursing was heard through the walls. Cassie glanced at the three professional ladies who shared her passage, and they all seemed equally oblivious to the sudden stop. The raven haired woman bumped a fist on the roof, and called to the driver.

“There’s somethin’ block’n the road, ma’am,” the driver responded.

Cassie didn’t wait another moment, her rifle was quickly loaded, and as she readied herself she peered out the side window. A cry rang out from one of the rear carriages, then a loud thunk on the carriage hull. Cassie saw the driver of her carriage topple from his perch. On her side there was a hill, and on its crest stood a blue hulk.

It was obviously the attacker’s leader, as it wore a headdress of sorts. In its hands it wielded what appeared to be a large re-curve bow, its length equaled that of ancient longbows, only this one was fit for the size of a trogg. The giant pulled another of the long alloy shafts from the sheaf at its side. With a precise, almost gentle movement it drew the bow, and loosed the shaft which blurred into a reflective line towards its target.

She pushed to the door, past the ladies, and swung it open outward. The outswinging door saved her, as a black blade cleaved through the opening. Cassie narrowly dodged the sword that had swung through the air where she had been, and she tumbled forward. Her roll brought her back to her feet, she ran and didn’t stop as she belted for the opposite treeline. She didn’t stop when the women behind her barely had time to cry, as they were hacked on their attempts to escape. Once she hit the treeline, she spun about, planting herself in a firing position with one knee on the ground. The blue warrior, now several meters behind her had finished with the ladies of questionable repute, and turned to face her.

A shot from her rifle split its face at the jaw. It staggered a step forward. Click, boom. The second shot rang out and spun the Trogg around, it landed upside down. Click, her hands were mechanical as they reloaded the rifle. She swung around, drew a bead on another target and opened its back. Click. A burst of flame drew her attention, two pairs of legs underneath a wagon. One human, and the other not. Her fourth shot blew out the Trogg’s knee.

With no apparent hostiles nearby, Cassie stood, and raised her rifle, she motioned to the possible leader.

“[You will not find your vengeance here, warrior!]” The planet native looked at her surprised, and the other carriage survivors quieted from the action.

“[If you leave now, you will leave with your honor and lives intact. And I will promise you the vengeance you seek another day.]“

Her words in the native tongue put the war band leader to consider the situation, his gaze clearly surveyed his party’s current losses. The war leader roared; the remaining Trogg warriors picked up their injured and deceased, and drew back into the woods. His two piercing, dark eyes met Cassie’s, and he pointed at her with a gesture full of promise. A pact was made.

The standing survivors gathered together, each of them sweaty from the fight’s exhertion. As they finished introductions one of the carriages in the line exploded outward. Ryogan, the alchemist laughed at the sight. Cassie wondered if the man was either insane, or just unhinged from the recent fight.

Together they worked to scrounge what useable materials remained. Only one of the beasts of burden survived, Leonard and Ryogan worked to fit it with a makeshift saddle. The Genii, Thandi, moved about surprisingly light-footed, and collected fallen weaponry from the guards and what was left behind by the Troggs.

On closer inspection the large black blades wielded by the troggs appeared to have been shorn from some otherwise metallic construct, then sharpened.

Cassie checked the bodies of the three bordello destined women and their madam. One of them groaned, she dropped her bag next to the only living victim, and brought out her medkit. The woman was still stunned from the blow, and obviously in pain. A shot of morphine relaxed the fallen whore.

“Are you… a doctor?” she mumbled.
“Just a nurse,” Cassie lied.
“Grrreat…” the injured woman’s words began to slur as the drug took effect.

Removing the woman’s bodice revealed a glimmer underneath. It was the reason the woman survived; she had been wearing an advanced metalic fibre armor weaved into her jacket. The kind of armor employed by spies and assassins. Grey Blade Company is wealthy enough for this tech, Cassie thought. She stitched and bandaged the woman to the best of her ability. She folded the armor jacket into her pack. If the woman died from her wound she wouldn’t need it anymore, if she survived Cassie could always return it no questions asked.

As Cassie strode to the others, a suitcase from one of the carriages bumped, and fell off its place. Guns swung in the suitcase’s direction as it fell. It spilled open when it landed clothes, private items, and a gobbler rolled out onto the ground. The gobbler stood, brushed himself off, and offered a wide mouthed smile that revealed his rows of crooked, but sharp teeth. An elaborate pair of revolvers were strapped to the short creature’s hips. He walked forward on his two small feet, clawed thumbs hooked in his gun belt, with the confident swagger of someone who was very confident in their ability.

Pike, as he introduced himself, was friendly much to everyone’s relief. Though he made no apologies to his lack of assistance in the earlier fight.

“Leonard, we have an injured woman back there. Could you give me a hand in making a stretcher?”

Leonard the letcher they must have called him in his previous life before landing on this planet, because he gave her the one up with a smile. She returned what she hoped was a flattered smile.

It took another hour, and the sun was now nearing high noon, but they were as prepared to complete the journey on foot as they could be.

Cassie had shouldered to rifle carbines that had belonged to the caravan’s guards, and two sets of new clothes folded in her pack. The second being the madam’s spare outfit, as she could only wonder whether such a disguise might be needed in the future. She helped Thandi carry the stretcher containing the injured woman. The Genii herself had two of the Trogg swords strapped to her back. Ryogan led the remaining animal that now served to carry what he had loaded onto it, and the gentleman who refused to walk.

Surprisingly in their little troop Leonard had taken the lead. The old man had fashioned himself a hat, and made good pace despite his heavy looking armor.
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