Hymn of Steel and Might

Chapter X: The Abomination

When the Amfitrack stopped, Risona knew chaos would follow. The squad of Marines climbed out a hatch at the top of the vehicle, and then gestured for Risona to go next. The soulshell readied his automatic rifle, and climbed upwards. He saw the Vox flotilla on the horizon was preparing for actual combat maneuvers. The Talus was waiting far back near a cove, while its escorts were preparing for battle. Eire's Scathach carrier and the Mechanopolitian League submersible had arrived, while Risona assumed reinforcements would be on route. "Hurry up! We don't have much time!" a Marine officer yelled from behind.

Risona turned to see the Marine officer, apparently also a soulshell. "Doctor Risona, we've got to secure the research outpost before the Vox can make a landing."

"Those aren't Vox attacking us," Risona replied. "They're something much worse. The best tactic for you and your troops is to hole up in a decent defensive position and wait for evac. Only Cullen, Lisa, and myself will approach the outpost. Are we clear?"

"We'll make those decisions," the officer growled. "If you and your bodyguards want to lead the charge, fine by me."

"Good," Risona yelled down the hatch. "Cullen and Lisa, you come and follow me, alright?"

A confident "Affirmative!" and a gruff "Sure!" came from the belly of the machine.

Soon afterwards, Risona was standing next to Cullen and Lisa. Both had on parkas with a winter camouflage design, and held their weapons ready. Lisa had her shotgun ready, and Cullen had his revolver drawn.

"The research base should be over that ridge," the officer pointed north. "There should be path cleared, so just stick to the trail."

Risona nodded, and gestured to his comrades to advance. "You all are familiar with squad tactics, correct?"

Lisa and Cullen nodded. "We trained in those a while ago," Cullen replied.

"Good, fall in behind me. Whatever moves, you shoot. The Abomination Machine enjoys psychological tactics, so stay on your toes."

Risona advanced up the pathway leading to the top of the ridge. Risona's internal minutiae tended to work less efficiently in the cold, but thankfully, the weather was not as bad as it could be. While the humans might need protection from the artic temperatures, one advantage to being a soulshell was a greater range of survivable conditions.

Risona had heard of some horror stories relating to it. For instance, one soulshell lost in artic waters was frozen on the ocean floor for a century before he was found during one of the unsuccessful expeditions to find the Leviathan. While he was still alive, his mind was shattered from centuries of solitude on the sea floor, had to be placed in a heavily guarded insane asylum up to the present.

With the grim historical tale on his mind, Risona took a quick glance at the naval battle unfolding just off the shoreline. The Abominable flotilla simply remained impervious to the ordinance that the Triumvirate battle-group was firing at it. He focused in on the deck of the former Vox throne-ship, and recalibrated his eyes. Beppo and the Artificer were there, sneering whenever another wing of gyros launched missiles or torpedoes, or the massive guns from the ironclad fired.

Damaging the Abomination was not possible through conventional means, and as the group ascended the slope, Risona began to increasingly doubt most unconventional means as well. Just as they were about to reach the summit, the ground exploded. Risona, Cullen, and Lisa took cover. Down the path, the Marines got into firing position, raising their rifles and machineguns at the thing that had emerged from the snow.

Looking ahead of him, Risona saw a human body mummified in ice for untold ages. It took a moment before he realized the identity of the body: his old one. Inside the ice, the preserved flesh sneered at Risona. "Hello, Abomination," Risona locked eyes with the dead body of Daedalus. "Look who's talking," the Abomination replied.

With that line, Risona unleashed his fury. He raised the rifle, and opened fire. Cullen, Lisa, and the Marine team down the hill fired at the frost-covered mockery of life. When the gunshots finally stopped, the Abomination remained.

"My turn," it stared unnervingly at the trio, and then out to see. "I'll give you the ship you came here for."

With that, the ground started shaking. A distant glacier opened up, and the unmistakable shape of the Leviathan emerged from the ice. The ship's hull bristled with turrets and cannons, and turned them towards the Triumvirate fleet. The vessel struck, and the massive report of the cannon volley deafened the trio. When Risona looked again, all the Triumvirate warships were smoking and taking on water. Without any escorts, the transport vessel was now open.

The Abominable fleet's throneship turned towards the Talus, and opened fire. The resonance of a throneship's primary weapon was something Risona had heard from a distance several times, but this time, it sounded much more sinister. While he was not looking at the bridge, the soulshell had no idea that Beppo and the Artificer were sneering that shit-eating grin they always had on.

The Leviathan fired again, and the second time, at the pathway. The Marine squad took cover, but the barrage of shells shattered the ice below them, and sent their bodies tumbling into the frigid artic waters. Risona mentally prepared to turn and help them, but he found himself paralyzed mentally. He, Lisa, and Cullen were fixed staring at the frozen corpse.

"It's been fun playing along, but I'm afraid it's time for this world to end," the Abomination taunted. It reached a leathery hand outside of the frozen tomb, and pulled the gear Cullen held into it. "As you have proven so useful, you will die first. Of course, this is only the beginning of your torture."

With that, a beam of light hit Risona in the chest. A second blast hit Cullen, and then Lisa. Risona felt his internal minutiae dying off, and his mechanisms jamming. As his body shut down, his soul finally left his body. Within a few seconds, Cullen and Lisa were also dead. And so began the end of the world.