Author: Kaga Yoshimitsu PM
Just a series of random scenes I came up during one of my impromptu writing jam sessions, involving the same set of characters.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Words: 3,719 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 12-03-12 - id: 3079691
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"This is all your fault!"
Jed thumped the side of his fist against the hull of the Arthnou, anger stamped firmly on his green eyed, and blonde-haired features. The other passengers looked up at the noise as he rounded on the tall, muscular dark-skinned man who was returning his glare with a placid, collected look. "You're the reason we're all in this mess Kingsley! You and your stupid-"
"Calm down, Stormdragon. No one is at fault here." Vex Silverfox said quietly, but with the undeniable steel of authority in her voice. Seated at her side was Rick, who quietly and efficiently alternated between nudging his glasses back up his thin nose and wrapping a swathe of bandages around her bare right arm.
Jed Stormdragon leveled his fury at her. "Are you freakin' kiddin' me? Whose bright idea was it to take this mark, huh? Who was the genius who decided to go for stealing from the planet's most super-secret facility? Whose plan was it that almost got US killed, and worse, ended up with the entire Sanctum on our sweet shiney hiney?!"
Vex growled. "I said-"
"No. He's right." Kingsley rumbled. "We should have turned down the job. It would have saved us all this much trouble."
"Damn right, it would." Jed sneered at him. "But it's a bit too late to be crying over spilt milk now, isn't it?"
Ranglor spoke up then in his reedy, bookish tone of a voice. "Might I inquire as to our course of action concerning this…thing?"
The "thing" lay in the ship's holding compartment below the metal beneath their feet, but the image of it was seemingly burned into the backs of the eyeballs of all seven of the crew onboard. It was shaped roughly like the chrysalis of a moth, and was eight feet long and nearly half as wide across. The blue and white metallic surface of it had been engraved with complex sigils and wards, and had no visible means of an opening mechanism, even though Ranglor had deduced that something was inside it. No one had the slightest idea what the alchemic symbols on it meant either, not even Kingsley.
And yet, the Sanctum had gone all out to stop them from taking it. Still were, in fact.
"We'll drop it off with Mr. Tall and Ugly's contact, like we promised." Vex answered. Jed snorted, but she chose to ignore him. "But first, we'll have to figure out a way to shake off the Sanctum knights and pulsework soldiers. Fast."
"They'll have eyes looking for us everywhere by now," chimed in Dahlia Roen from the back of the craft, drawing all eyes on her. She was blue-eyed, with short dark hair and a lanky frame. A strip of white healtape was tacked over her left cheek, where she had acquired a nasty cut during the rougher parts of their escape from Orcina's Tower. "You know that right, boss?"
Vex looked away from her for a moment. "Yes."
"We'll be lucky if it's just knights." Jed said darkly.
Ranglor nodded. "I concur with Master Stormdragon. If what we have is what I suspect it to be, then it is highly probable that we may encounter Jugulators before the day is done."
"And you think that it might be…?"
"A top-secret weapon." He declared solemnly.
Silence fell between them all, with the hum and quiet whine of machinery in the background replacing the conversation. It was broken a moment or two later by Jed's swearing. "Ain't this the most fun we've had in a while?" He added, glaring once more at Kingsley.
"It does make sense now." Kingsley said, mostly to himself.
Vex rubbed at her temples with her free hand for a bit. Then she turned to the final member of the group, who sat opposite Dahlia at the ship's aft. "I apologize for dragging you into this, Shinoda."
Kirin Shinoda, only just in his twentieth winter, only stared at his hands and said nothing. He was short – just around the same height as Vex – and had long sap stiff locks of blue-black hair turned white at the tips, framed around an oval face with deep grey eyes. He wore a dark vest over similarly colored pants and steel-grey boots, and strapped over his back was a fine, slender sword. The blade's hilt was stained with bluish ichor, and so were his bum gloved hands.
"Shinoda?" Vex called, a note of worry creeping into her almost musical voice.
"Oh, leave the kid be, will you?" Jed erupted. "Let him sort out his own mess. We're in bigger soup now-"
Arthnou suddenly took a plunging dive, as something large and heavy thumped against the outer hull of the craft.
"What the krillin was that?!" Jed swore as he clutched on to a handhold set in the ship's flesh. Kingsley did the same as Dahlia, Ranglor and Kirin were already strapped in their seats.
Vex and Rick got up and walked-slid down towards the pilot seats; Vex trailing a broad strip from her right arm, and her long silver hair falling all around her purple-eyed visage. "Castor!" Rick spoke up for the first time since they had gotten on Arthnou.
"Yes, Rick?" A cool male voice replied from the bank of controls at the fore of the craft.
Vex reached her seat first, and promptly buckled herself down as Rick reached the pilot chair. "What's going on?" She half-screamed as more of the thumps echoed through the hull.
"We're being pursued by several aerodrones, and I am taking evasive maneuvers."
"What the frakk?" Jed yelled. "You don't run from aerodrones, you alchemic piece of junk!"
Rick, now seated, reached for the flight stick before him. "Castor, deploy countermeasures and deactivate autoflight mode."
"Done." Castor replied, as the view screen in front of the pilots came alive with visual sensor feed and HUDs. Arthnou began to level out of the sudden dive.
Another thump, this one harder than the previous ones, shook the ship. "Are they shooting us out of the sky?!" Dahlia asked.
"Yes." Ranglor and Kingsley replied at the same time.
"Structural integrity compromised-" Castor began.
"SHUT UP AND LET ME SHOOT, DAMMIT!" Vex snapped back at Jed, fingers working at the gun controls like mad.
Ranglor clicked his beak twice; a sure sign amongst the avian-humanoid hirudo of growing irritation.
More thumps came.
"How many of those things are after us?" Kingsley shouted at their leader.
"Five!" Vex yelled.
Four sets of eyes turned to face the pointy-eared kami who had spoken first. Kirin looked up from his hands and met all the surprised stares with a cold dangerous look. "Five Meklav class action aerodrones," he said calmly. "And I know how to stop them."
With a final tinkling of moving lumina crystal, the corpse of Solomon Arctus Shinoda was sealed away from the ravages of time.
Once the crystal had stopped expanding, Kingsley moved to place a foreign-looking coin over the forehead of the dead man. "Here lies Master Shinoda of the Orion," he said solemnly as he stepped back. "A shellbreaker…and a good man."
Standing a few feet away on Solomon's right, Jed murmured under his breath; "Too good for his own frakking good."
Rick Ahlstern heard those words, but chose not to say anything about it. Instead, he tapped his glasses back into place on the ridge of his nose.
Padre Jothan took Kingsley's place, pushing the dark skinned shellbreaker to fall into place amongst the line of individuals that stood at the crystal coffin's head. Kirin saw him pat Vex on the shoulder as he went past her. "Let us pray," Jothan began. "For the departed soul of our former captain…"
The cleric went on and on for a good ten minutes, and somehow Kirin found himself tuning out the words after only a minute. As he stared down at the face of his late father, which was starting to become less visible as the lumina slowly grew from a glassy clarity to milky-white opaqueness, he began to wonder if perhaps old Jeremiah had been right about his father all along. A good many people had shown up at his funeral, three quarters of whom Kirin had never known to be friends of his father, and most of whom were not the sort of people to hang around a shellbreaker and his crew. Like Marshal Adam Johnson of the neighbouring town of Sithu, or Lady Melody Nakai of the Versanten Seers or even Padre Jothan (a man of the church, by the One! He thought). Yet they were all gathered here, around father's corpse under a darkened sky that threatened rain. Not one of them was looking glad at his passing.
All those years you were away shellbreaking, Kirin projected mentally at the dead man. What were you up to, Solomon?
Thunder and lightning broke the silence of the heavens. An instant later, fat blobs of water fell from the skies.
Padre Jothan broke off his impromptu sermon as everyone rushed to get out of the rain. The hirudo that Kingsley had introduced as Ranglor Razortalon and the veline Astrid Lietniss were the first to leave, sprinting towards the safe shelter of their flitter parked downhill as if a pack of garzahounds were on their tails. The rest of the gathering followed their example; heading towards their vehicles that were parked nearby with slightly less speed. Only ten people stayed behind; Kirin himself, six of his father's old crew members, Padre Jothan, Lady Nakai and Captain Ezekiel Worschen. Lady Nakai produced an umbrella from somewhere, and opened it over her head while Kirin brought up the hood of his jacket. Worschen turned up the collar of his greatcoat, with an upward, annoyed glance at the sky.
The rain soaked the rest of them in minutes.
Jothan bowed to the empty air, then nodded at Kirin. "May his soul rest in peace!" he shouted over the dull roar of the downpour. He turned away without another word, and began heading back into town.
"May his soul rest in peace," Captain Worschen repeated, but his words were lost in the storm.
Lightning ripped the sky in half, but no booming thunder followed it. The rain lessened in intensity.
Lady Nakai made a gesture over Solomon's crystal coffin, which now resembled a large white chrysalis. Then she left the line at the coffin's head, making sure her exit path took her as close as possible to Kirin standing on the coffin's right with the rest of the crew. "We'll be seeing each other soon, Kirin." She said as she stopped before him. Kirin nodded, finding himself without a suitable answer to the statement. The seer's lovely green-grey eyes glowed faintly as she walked away from him; a sure sign that she had just used the Focus. Her statement then, had been a prophecy of things to come.
Worschen made a noise at the back of his throat. "If we stay out here any longer, we'll catch a cold…or worse." He rumbled.
"Right on," Jed said.
Vex looked up, her purple eyes snapping back into focus as her mind returned from wherever it had been. "Yes. Yes, you're right."
"Are you ok?" Dahlia asked.
Vex nodded. She glanced at the coffin on the pile of scrap metal that had once been the Orion as she said, "I believe we're going to need a new ship."
"There's only one place you're going to get that." Worschen said.
Kingsley frowned. "The Goreans?"
"The Goreans." Vex confirmed.
"We need to talk," were the first words out of Vex's mouth after a relatively silent supper.
Kirin shrugged at this, but said nothing. Overhead, the three moons were all up in the sky; large white-faced Cassiopeia and her smaller blue twin Andromeda were halfway across the ocean of stars while nearer the horizon, little red Gorgythion was sullenly following his half-sisters. At the base of the cliff, the Hansui river reflected the light of the moons in uneven fractal patterns. On the rivers banks, a pair of bearlike kanetsus were curled up in a ball, head tucked away under one arm as they slept.
Vex climbed up Kirin's boulder with deft ease, settling herself by his side with her long legs tucked away under her. Kirin shifted a little to the edge of his perch, leaning his back against the broad trunk of the tree that the boulder was propped against. His right leg dangled over the edge of the cliff and thirty feet above the river far below.
"That's quite a view you've got here," Vex said admiringly.
They sat together in silence for a few minutes, listening to the thrum of teldrean insects, the distant cry of a hunting nighthawk and the soft whispering of the forest trees as a gentle breeze passed over. Kirin stole a sidelong glance at his captain, noticing for the first time that night that she had short red hair and chemical green eyes, as well as a grim scar over her left cheek.
"You're still in disguise." Kirin said softly.
Vex started, one hand going up to feel her face. "You're right." She closed her eyes for a brief moment, and when she reopened them, they were their usual startling purple. Her hair grew longer, a silver stain spreading from the roots and drowning out the red as the hair reached waist length. The angular, scarred face was replaced by her original, softer features. "Better now?" She smiled.
Kirin grunted, then turned to look out over the expanse of forest that stretched out to fill the horizon.
Vex looked in that direction also. "I wanted to ask you-" she began.
"About my abilities?"
"Yes, that. That time in Gorea when we fought the Luminoth Sentinel…those aerodrones…Kaliban's men today…" She glanced sidelong at him, saw only a moody young man's face and sighed inwardly. "It was you using that…power?"
Kirin nodded, saying nothing to the question.
"It's not that I think you're a freak of nature, Kirin. But-," Vex sighed, aloud this time. "I have to keep everyone alive. It's my responsibility as captain and a fellow shellbreaker. When you pull off stunts like that, I have to know the danger it poses to the rest of the crew."
The young man kept his silence, and Vex reached over to lay a hand over his free left one. "Please," she pleaded.
Kirin kept his silence for only ten seconds. "Will you tell the others?"
"Eventually, I'll have to." She said sadly.
Shinoda's son nodded, as if he had been expecting that. "Very well," he said then paused.
Vex waited with her hand still over Kirin's.
"It's like seeing a mirage," the young man began slowly. "Some part of your mind knows it's not real, but you find it hard to disbelieve your eyes. I can't really explain how or why it works that way…but it does."
Vex nodded encouragingly at him. "Go on."
"I don't have a name for it. But when it happens, everything becomes crystal clear and very slow…like watching molasses or ekto flowers growing. And I see this hazy double image of the…attacker…and the image shows me where and how the attacks are going to come. The image is clearer when the threat is something alchemic."
"And all of a sudden I know what I have to do, how hard I have to strike, where I have cut, when to jump and why I'm being attacked…amongst other things." Kirin shook his head, as if trying to clear his head of memories of having to use his abilities. "It's almost as if I become another person."
Vex said nothing to this.
"It started when I was still a kid. My stepmother used to beat me a lot anytime I made a mistake, or was too tired to do any more work. One day I broke one of her precious antiques by accident, and right before she could punish me for it, that was when this ability came to me."
Jet Black Pope
The door hissed open at the key-in sequence of the guard.
Sage Alissa Paddrang strode confidently into the laboratory, leaving her guards behind with a dismissive wave. The minute she walked into the large room, she noticed how cold it was, despite the fact that there was a boiling hot sun just outside the walls of the lab. The second thing she noticed was Sage Corvus' assistant, Myra, working with two other acolytes behind a sweeping bank of controls, pressing buttons, manipulating all manner of levers and dials. The third thing was Corvus himself; standing off to one side of the controls in his silver outfit with his trademark red cape draped over his left arm. In his right hand was a small blue book, marked with forbidden sigils; it was the heretic Prosthan's work, La histoire oubliette. The Forgotten Lore.
"I believe you missed a very important meeting." She said as she approached him.
Corvus smiled faintly at her. "Bonjour, madame Paddrang. How nice of you to personally come to remind me."
She stopped two feet short of him, turning on her heels to face the working acolytes. "I find your lack of respect for time disturbing."
"The Great Temple of Hanjin was not built in a day." He glanced sidelong at her. "And by the way, did you know that time is more like a spider's web than an arrow?"
Alissa snorted. "Did Prosthan tell you that?"
"Amongst other things, oui." Corvus raised the book in her face and shook it slightly. "He was a very intelligent man…for a heretic."
"Careful there," Alissa growled. "If Raga were here, he'd have your heart on his sword in a second."
"His zealotry astounds everyone, dear Paddrang." He lowered the book, then turned to Myra with a query; "Is everything ready, ma chѐre?"
Myra looked up from the console she was studying. "Yes sir! Pre-release checks are in progress."
"Am I about to find out why you missed a major meeting with the Archsage?" Alissa wondered aloud, as she crossed her arms under her breasts.
"You might if you decide to stick around for the next five minutes." Corvus pointed at one of the other acolytes. "You there, start reducing the artificial atmosphere settings to normal. And, pour l'amour de Dieu, please remember to detach all the cables before the tank is opened this time?"
A loud pinging noise filled the room, causing Alissa to look around in brief alarm. It was then that she noticed the one important thing she had failed to notice in her initial sweep of the lab. Some yards away from the control bank, right in the center of the room was a thick glass cylinder, about the thickness of four grown men, attached to both ceiling and floor by strong metal supports. As she watched, the bundle of cables and tubing connected to the cylinder came away individually with small pops of noise, releasing jets of smoky-white gas in the seconds before the overhead ventilation fans kicked in.
The pinging sound came again, and Alissa realized that it was coming from the control bank, which had switched from their usual blue display color to a vitreous green. "Sir?" Myra said, as she tucked back a strand of her silky dark hair behind one ear.
"Release him." Corvus sounded almost bored.
Alissa watched the glass tank expectantly; unable to discern what manner of creation lurked in the gas-filled chamber. The tank split open vertically silently. More of the white gas escaped, only to be sucked up by the fans set into the ceiling, which had gone from a quiet thrum to an operational dull roar. Some…thing took one lumbering step out from its erstwhile cradle, but the thick gas obscured its shape, and Alissa could only make out an outline of it. And that scared her a little.
The creature took another step.
"Madame Paddrang, allow me to present to you another of Prosthan's finest ideas." Corvus took a few steps towards his creation, then stopped and swiveled around to face her with a half-smile on his thin lips. "Although, in truth, he was only reporting an account of a mythical creature from the long-dead civilization of Yserbia. He said that in a time long past, Yserbian sorcerors created warriors like these to protect themselves during times of war."
The gas finally cleared, and what the sage saw made her shiver with horror. The acolytes and Myra, whom probably knew what it was, took several fearful steps backwards from the controls. The thing was almost twelve feet tall and had the width of two grown men. Its skin – if it could be called that – was as black as the night and looked like it was made of solid obsidian. In shape it just vaguely resembled a man, if men had the legs like a dog's hind limbs, four arms that looked like that of a gorilla's and a head that was akin to a tiger. The thing didn't have any eyes; only a blank strip of silver metal that seemed to glow from within.
"I give you, the demise of whichever shellbreaker crew that stole Project Alkonost." Sage Corvus said, with something that could have been called have been paternal pride. The thing stopped at his side, glaring (at least in Alissa's mind, that was) at the people in the laboratory in turn. "I give you…the Marahute." Corvus reached up to pat the creature on the flank, grinning broadly just like a proud father…or an insane genius. "Not bad for a heretic's work, oui?"