Chapter 3 – Part 2

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Soke and crew travel down the street, and find an alley to assert repairs to the hover palet of food.

They meet Solly (Smiles), and the transdimentional wurm.

Go to Khan’s building, and make a deal to get rid of the plants in the park.

Go to Mortimer’s family house – feast, Niko sleeps with Mort’s cousin.


Together Mortimer, NERD, Niko, and Soke walked swiftly away from the scene of the battle. After the commotion settled Opi was nowhere to be found. City guards and hospital trucks passed them, going in the direction of the attack. Mortimer’s eyes drifted back and forth as he looked for a suitable alleyway to stow away in some privacy, and effect some repairs to the damaged palet of food.

They squeezed into a suitable alley between two large government buildings. The walls of the alley barely far enough apart to allow the hover palet to enter. Mortimer immediately pried open a panel on the palet, and began tinkering. Soke, meanwhile, climbed on top to take advantage of the lull, and lay on the pile of packaged foods. Niko viligintly stood guard at the mouth of the alley.

Soke heard the click of a latch, and felt the palet hum to life. The suddenly gobber heard a voice speak, and a terse reply from Mortimer. He rolled over, and peered down into the alley. A well dressed man stood a few yards from Mortimer. The man’s suit was immaculate, and with sunglasses on his face was devoid of expression.

[words exchanged]

“‘E’s a fuckin’ Spook!” Soke warned, but was not loud enough, ignored, or just too late.

“And. Don’t. You. Threaten. My. Mother!” With every word, Mortimer took a step closer.

A thwup sounded from the dwarf’s wrist as a mounted rivet gun sprung from his sleeve. Rivet guns are not particularly loud, but at that moment each rivet fired into the Spook’s foot felt like a gunshot to Soke. Every rivet richoched off the Spook’s shoe into the alley. Niko had squeezed through, and swung his halberd at the man who stepped aside with ease.

Chapter 3 – Part 1

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Soke woke on the cot, the blanket had ceased to scratch. He yanwed, stretched, and kicked the other occupant awake.

“Get some caff ready, buddy.”

The other gobber, Opi, climbed out of the cot, and liberally scratched his ass on his way to the kitchen. Opi’s rotund body wobbled momentarily as he reached the cubbard. Mess was no consequence to him as pots, pans, and garbage was exhumed from the recess.

“Nuttin’ ‘ere, boss. Just this,” Opi held a nutri-tab in his open palm.

Soke snatched the tab, and swallowed it without a second thought.

“C’mon,” he slipped off the cot, “we got work to do if we want real food to fill our bellies today.”

~.~

The streets in the __________ district were considerably quieter than normal for the morning. Though talk on the street quickly revealed that the church was going to hand out food.

“Hear that, Opi? Food – food we don’t have to work our asses off for.”

~.~.~

Two decades past, Soke was a child then, one of many who lived on the streets of New Solamnos. This day was one of the bright, early days of the city when there were moments of quiet. Back then the seaside was clear of most of development. The largest building on the shore was the desalination plant, built on a rocky outcropping. Sea water was pumped in from one end, silt and detritus out the other, which created a foam lapped shore.

Children from all walks of life swarmed the shore in large gangs. They played games with vivid imaginations that children at the young ages of four to twelve so often have. Strewn along the beach was the rubble and remains of a long lost civilization. Broken pottery, collapsed buildings, and on the rare occasion sand bleached bones.

One child approached, he was older than most by anyone’s guess from his size. Both his expression and charismatic demeanor demanded attention. The children crowded around him, and the boys words captivated them. He had found a dead body, and would show it to those who were brave enough to follow him. Of course everyone around was initially brave enough, and the mob of children screamed, laughed, and boasted in the wake of the older child.

The first test split a majority – it was a rocky cliff down to the shore. The cliff stretched for miles in both directions, and only ended in one at the desalination plant. There was no going around it – only going down.

Soke was one of the dozen who braved the rocky descent. His dexterity, and small hands allowed him to easily find handholds. Another fatter gobber followed his path down. Once at the bottom they were led along a path that wound on the edge of the water. Shortly thereafter they arrived at a cave. The waterlines on the stone revealed that the cave would be submerged when the tides swept back in. Despite it being day, the light from outside did not penetrate the cave’s gloom. Light sticks were activated, and cast a yellow glow on the salt rimmed walls.

It was further into the cave that they encountered the corpse. The feminine s haped body lay face down in a pool of seawater. Surprisingly the corpse had not begun to bloat, as water soaked bodies were prone to do. On closer inspection, and stranger still were bands of wire diagonally wrapped around the head. Patches of her hair were missing, and the hair that remained was entwined with vines of seaweed.

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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