31st May 2006
Kilometers upon themselves to the Nth degree, billions upon billions of miles away from the Jungle World of Syrinx, hundreds of feet below the surface of the planet Flora, Devona's task force of Sisters, accompanied by the Stolwotian Native, Karlu Jesian, dredged through the twisting tunnels of the deep. Little and sometimes no light seeped from sources of hazardous waste dully illuminated the hellish cavern in a nauseating green. The thick stench and sickeningly high temperature of the city wastes washed their senses. Sewer rats the size of attack dogs writhed through the city piping systems. The place was no doubt ravaged with disease, and due so, each member, including Karlu the Native, wore a rebreather unit. The Sisters did not volunteer to do such the unpleasant task of winding down the tunnels of hell, but under influence of their beloved leader, Devona, had done so without question. Karlu accompanied them because he could not stand letting the human females die alone, and to Devona, he was "Married", which in his culture, meant that he was now her most loyal companion, no matter what she did, he would be there, as a Brother, and he would die for her, if and when necessary. Karlu was tall and strong, and was in peak physical condition. He had a red-style fur pattern, bubonic amber eyes behind his handsome face, now partly concealed behind his mask. He was clad in the ceremonial reed-chest armor of his tribe, and the loincloth draped about his waist depicted the imperial eagle. He was armed with a light flamer, as his weapon of choice to expose to the damned the burning light of the Emperor. Devona was a younger aged human, long blonde hair that hung over her shoulders, clad in the black power-armor of the Sisters of Battle, and armed with the twin Annihilator pistols, gifts to her from the armory of the Tigers. Her saber was sheathed in its scabbard across her back.
The distress signal had been received extremely late, and by now, Devona was sure, there was no life left in the Stolwotian outpost, deep beneath the hive-city of Flora. Still, they would search for survivors. Flora. The very name wanted to make Devona want to vomit. If there was one world left in the galaxy the Emperor’s light had faded from, she was sure it was this. Suddenly, from the back, Sister Oteri shouted "Movement!” and the whole team spun around. The gargling death rattles began to fill the cavern as the zombies did, and the Sisters opened fire into the knot of suddenly appearing cadavers. In the flashing light of the exploding rounds, Devona counted thousands of the foul entities. She began to add her fire to theirs, when searing gout of flame burst from behind her and incinerated the closets mass of zombies in a cloud of ash. Devona watched as Karlu spun around and released another stream of liquid fire into a gaggle of mindless, rotting corpses that had tried to cut off their escape. "We are surrounded," he said, with a calm that struck her as most admirable. His voice was staccato, and almost monotonous, as he had been taught English in a later stage of his life while he was asleep. "I can see the out post now," he said. "Order your sisters to follow you to the out post, it will be easier to defend." Devona returned her attention to her sisters, who had consolidated to a tight fighting circle, the zombies so close now the were practically fighting in hand-to-hand combat with them. "Fall Back!" she ordered, and behind Karlu, ran backwards down the tunnel into the dark towards the outpost. The Sisters fired behind them as they ran, and Karlu bashed aside a pair of rotted bodies into a wall, smashing them flat. Then, finally they broke through the cavern into the outpost campus. Devona gasped. The outpost was an enormous pentagon of solid plasteel. Lengths of razor wire topped makeshift barricades, all mingled with bullet-riddled bodies. The ripped-to-shreds remains of the zombies who had been unfortunate enough to shamble into range of the deadly turrets littered the campus. The barricades had all been set up to funnel the enemies into a kill-zone now choked with bodies. The zombies had only managed to get within 15ft at the closest, brass jackets the size of lipstick cans were spread in rings around the turrets. They must have held out for weeks as Flora slowly turned into hell.
Karlu leapt down into the cavern and sprinted into the campus, and over the bastion towards the entrance. The Sisters had stopped firing completely. "They've stopped coming," said Sister Gumvy. The Sisters trotted through the campus until Devona stopped at the bastion. Climbing up was annoying. She wished she had brought her jump pack, which the Sisters usually were equipped with. Karlu was patiently waiting, when Sister Oteri pointed towards the lower piping system. “Sister Devona! Look!” she cried.
Below the plasteel support pillars, just above the waste-pipes, an enormous crater-like hole, its edges burnt and jagged, like an opened blister. The charred remains of Stolwotian defenders lay around it on the ground. Karlu was already knee-deep in the murky water under the hole, looking up into it, sniffing for enemies. “What is it?”, asked Sister Oteri. “Some kind of accident?” suggested Sister Devona. Karlu had hauled himself up into the opening. “This was not an accident,” he said to them, slowly looking around. “There was a hell of a fire-fight in here. There are dead bodies everywhere,” he said, grimly. The sisters had made their way over. And now began hauling themselves up as well. Devona snapped on her torchlight mounted on her shoulder. The clumsy humans needed their light, but Karlu could see in the dark. He was right. Bullet riddled bodies littered the hallway. Deep gashes in the walls and floors told of hand-to-hand butchery, along with the arterial blood-sprays on the walls. “God-Emperor…” she said slowly, moving her light over the carnage before her. She moved to a wall, where the remains of a Stolwotian lay slumped up against. She brushed away the soot above his body, where a blood-smear showed where he had been against the wall and killed. She brushed it away with her hand. She gasped. Behind it were bullet holes sized too familiar… “Annihilator shots? They are focused, well disciplined. To perfect for human hands.” Sister Oteri cursed, slapping the auspex scanner for a good measure. “No reception,” she said. “This place is too solidly built,” Suddenly, Karlu began to become uneasy, the fur on the back of his neck had stood up, and he was scanning the darkness. “What is it?” asked Devona. “Something’s not right….” he said slowly, almost cautiously. “We should keep moving,” he said, almost franticly now. The team moved through the corridors, down body-laden stair cases and up spooky corridors, always on edge, until they finally reached a command center. The place was trashed, as if someone or something had ransacked it looking for something. Cogitator banks lined the walls, large telecommunication screens stretched across the ceiling and walls. “Alright, team! Search it for information.”
Moments later, Karlu was flipping out. It was if he had been injected with some form of hyper-ventilating fluid. The fur on the back of his neck was standing straight up, his claws were out, his breathing had become hot and heavy, and he constantly looked in all directions frantically, keeping his flamer aimed at whatever seemed like it would move. His ears were pinned flat, and his pupils had greatly enlarged. “Karlu! What’s the matter? Calm down! You’re scaring me….” The fox spun around on his heal to face her. “Don’t you sense it?!” he half screamed-half whimpered at her. “We need to go…NOW!” Sister Oteri checked the auspex, finding nothing but static. “No reception,” she informed the team. “WERE IS IT!!!!???” screamed Karlu, whirling around to face the dark hallway
from where they came. Suddenly, an enormous fist burst through the ceiling above them, grasping the fox on the scruff of his neck. The fist was encased in black-orange ceremite armor….
Karlu was hauled so hard off his feet, when he hit the ceiling, it cracked and sent fragments of concrete raining down on the sisters. “Karlu!” screamed Devona. The fox dropped his flamer, and it clattered to the ground. The fist lowered him, preparing to yank him again, and he scrambled for the pistol on his tactical leg holster. But he was too late. The fist yanked him high again, but this time with more momentum, and Karlu crashed up into the ceiling, disappearing into the darkness above. The sisters frantically rushed to the hole where Karlu had been hauled up. The sudden flashing light and bark of the fox’s pistol caused her to jump, and she was horrified at what the sudden flashes depicted:
A monster. Three meters tall, encased in black-orange striped armor, a long tail protruding from its rear. Its helmet had been removed, revealing the scarred, fur-covered face, scalded whiskers. Its lips had been iron-stitched shut, and the flesh over its eye had melted, completely enveloping the socket all together. Its one good eye stared with a piercing hatred, too hateful to be dead. A tiger!
It still had Karlu squirming in its grasp, holding him by the neck, shots ringing off its armor and splatting wetly in its exposed facial fur. Unfortunately, Karlu’s pistol was not strong enough to kill the monster, even with a shot to the face at point blank, and with super-human strength, the Tiger reached out and grabbed the fox’s gun arm, then twisting up and out, tore it completely off. Karlu’s scream was long and loud, and mingled with Devona’s, as she screamed, “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!” The tiger cast aside Karlu, and he flew across the room, smashing into another wall. The force must have shattered every bone in his body…
The Sisters opened fire into the opening, driving the beast back into the shadows. Devona was the first up after it, her torch light already snapped on to pierce the darkness, and she quickly unsheathed her blade. There was not enough time to activate the power field before the tiger was upon her. It swung a mighty fist down at her, but she ducked to the side, narrowly dodging it, and then swung a counter-blow down slashing into its shoulder. The blow was true, and the blade bit deep into its shoulder through its armor. It reeled in pain, then, grasping her in both its paws, lifted her to its waist, and pulled with all its strength. Warning runes flashed on her armor, and she cried out in pain as she began to stretch past her limits. She waited for the inevitable; the Tiger could very well tear her in half!
Suddenly, Sister Oteri came running across the room and leapt up onto the monster’s back, using her arm to get the beast in a head-lock, and then attempted to cut its throat with a combat knife. She made a large incision, which spayed blood all over Devona, but before she could kill it, it rammed its elbow into her midriff. She grunted in pain as the wind was driven from her, and she lost her lock, dropping to the ground, and she curled up into a ball. Mean while, the Tiger let go of Devona with one hand. Striking her advantage, she activated the Power-field on her blade. It hummed to life, and the blue-glow illuminated the hateful Tiger’s face. It was now a mask of shock, as Devona planted one foot on the ground, then using her weight to pivot, slashed down with her sword, which pulled free of the body in a spray of blood. She reeled away, one hand clutching her aching abdominal muscles, the other keeping her sword level in front of her…
The Tiger looked dumbly down at its wound, and then looked at Devona with its angry blood shot eye. Its chapped lips peeled back in a snarl, then, like greased blades, the Tiger fell apart, its great torso split from the shoulder to the hip. The body fell, but the legs remained standing before falling to their knees, then to the ground.
Leaving the gory mess, Devona limped over to where Karlu lay. Sister Gumvy, the squad medic, was already at his side. She had laid him down. She looked at Devona grimly. “He’s dying, Sister,” she said sadly. Devona fell into a sit, then cradled the fox’s head in her lap. His beautiful eyes had already glazed over. His mask had been removed, and though his mouth moved no words came out. Blood had pumped out of his mouth and had caked on his cream-colored throat. She placed her hand on his forehead. The gaping hole in his arm had leaked an enormous pool of gore and blood. Devona wiped a tear from her eye. “I shall avenge you, my Brother…” She said slowly. Karlu let out a whimper as Devona drew her pistol. Laying his head down, again, she brought her pistol to bear, then jumped as the pistol kicked her, and she showed her friend, her Brother, the Emperor’s peace…
After recovering a data-disk from a bank of Cogitators, the team left for the extraction point. Now a new sight was ahead of her… she would hunt until it killed her, but one thing was certain… Lakamar Sinji would pay with blood for the slaughter of the foxes….
To be continued….
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