Monday, November 18, 2013
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Monday, November 11, 2013
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Thursday, July 12, 2012
She found him in the starboard observation lounge. He was half seated-half sprawled on the couch staring out the window. In one hand he held a half full glass, resting it on the back of the couch. The other rested across the small table that held a half-full bottle, a small but noticeable puddle, and a worn sealed photoframe. A quick look to either side confirmed he was the only one in the room.
She paused, not wanting to intrude, but he waved her with the hand on the table without as much as a glance in her direction. She took a step in and the door closed behind her, cutting her and the ball of blue swirling energy beside her off from the corridor.
She gazed out the window to see what he was staring at but only saw the expected blue-grey glow of the Citadel’s massive arms rotating in the background and the usual traffic of ships, shuttles, and tugs racing every which way like worker bees inside a hive. Glancing to his reflection, she realized that he wasn’t really looking out the window so much as staring off into nothingness.
The expression in that reflection—of a man haunted by Goddess only knows what demons—caused her normally chipper mood to fall into one of worry as she nervously brushed her hand over her crest. She bit her lip and just stood there for a moment, the deep silence of the room interrupted only by the soft hiss of the ventilation system, the buzz of lights and the singularity floating beside her, and the sound of her own breathing.
At last his eyes seemed to focus as the eyes in his reflection flickered to her.
“Is there something you needed, lieutenant?”
She blinked, confused. “I’m an ensign, Sir.”
“Not anymore, you’re not,” he said gruffly. “After your performance on the last couple of missions and the work you’ve done with the recruits, I’m bumping you to Lieutenant. I already put the orders through.”
She straightened to attention and despite herself a smile broke through. “Thank you, Sir!”
“You’re welcome. Now was there something you needed?”
“Just letting you know that Ritta and Nomi are settling into their quarters, Sir.”
“And the Drell?”
She shrugged. “I believe she has already left the ship for Omega, Sir, but I don’t know for sure.”
“Very well, lieutenant. Dismissed.”
She turned around and reached for the door controls when he spoke up again. “Lieutenant, did I ever tell you I was married once?”
Curiosity and surprise made the wide-eyed officer turn around. She had never pictured the cigar-smoking, whisky-drinking, womanizing man to have ever been married. A thousand questions came to mind but she only replied with “No, sir.”
He finally turned to face her, picking up the framed photo and tossing it to her. “It’s true. Even had a couple of kids. Imagine that.”
She caught the frame upside down with one blue-lavender hand. She turned it over and studied it. A photo of a young human woman with fiery red hair and freckles hugging two boys--one with red hair, the other with brown—all smiling for the camera rested within the well-worn frame.
“You said had? The reapers?” She ventured.
“No. Sanctuary,” came the sad, bitter response.
She gasped despite herself, her free hand going to her mouth in shock. Her mind raced with a million questions but none would come out.
He gave her a long sad look and then the words came tumbling out.
He had been with Cerberus for about five years, joining up after his tour as an alliance marine. During his time as a marine, he saw how little regard for humans the rest of the galaxy had for humanity and he saw Cerberus as a way to ensure a better galaxy for his sons. His experience as a marine, and his quick grasp of most things mechanical made him an obvious candidate for an atlas pilot and the role fit him like a glove.
He rose quickly in the enlisted ranks very quickly, and while some of the jobs he did left him with a slightly sour aftertaste, the pay and benefits were excellent.
Over the last few weeks though, a feeling of unease was starting to consume him. The missions were becoming more extreme and more troubling to his conscience; attacking civilians, sending out maydays and ambushing medical supply ships, raiding labs and stealing reaper tech. In addition, most of the non-mechanized troops had been getting new implants and that left them acting very different. Even people that had been close friends of his before the new implants seemed very different and something about them that he couldn’t quite put his finger on was giving him a case of the creeps.
His unit had so far managed to avoid the new implants but the commander of the squadron that included the ship he served on had made it clear their time was running out.
“You need to get these upgrades soon, or I’m going to have to ground you and take you before The Illusive Man, son. The order that all troops receive these upgrades came down directly from him,” the squadron commander had made a point to tell him face to face. “You know he doesn’t tolerate disloyalty.”
He had still been trying to figure out what to do when the Reapers invaded a few days later. Everything was thrown into chaos, and he thought he had slipped out of the Squadron commander’s radar.
It was only a few days after that when his unit was assigned to attack a Solarian base. He was just beginning to climb into his cockpit when his OT chimed with back-to-back urgent messages. The first one was from Cerberus intelligence telling him that intelligence had good reason to believe that the colony his wife and sons were on was a high risk target and that they were going to attempt to relocate them to somewhere called Sanctuary. The second message was from his wife, telling him she had a visit from some men from Cerberus warning her of an impending attack and that she and the boys were now on a ship to Sanctuary and that she would give him a message when she arrived. Each of his boys briefly wished him love and told him they missed him, and she gave him her love and then disconnected.
That was the last he ever heard from them.
The mission was a disaster. Though they eventually took the base, their casualty count was unreal and their targets managed to escape. It was a week before he made it back to the ship and over half his men were dead. Even then, the squadron had to land at a nearby Cerberus base for repairs. Worse he had not managed to reach his wife.
It was by chance he caught an episode of Battlespace detailing what was found on Horizon during a period of downtime during the repairs.
He went to confront the squadron commander. “You knew about this, didn’t you?”
The squadron commander smirked. “Of course I knew. You didn’t think that The Illusive man was going to let your treason go unchecked forever did you? Be grateful I don’t just shoot your fucking ass. Now get out of my office.”
He walked back to his ship in a cloud of pain and rage. Once inside he headed straight for the holding bay for his unit. On the way he met up with some of his men and a couple of other friends. He told them what happened and continued on his way. All of them followed him, some activating their omni-tools to send frantic messages. When he reached the hanger, he drew his sidearm and shot both door guards in the head before walking in. Within five minutes the Atlas bay was secured and he and the handful of men with him strolled out of the bay onto the planet in their mechs while inside the ship a fierce battle broke out as others of his unit and various friends, acquaintances, and, in some cases, enemies who had family likewise transferred to Sanctuary staged a coup on their unsuspecting shipmates.
None of the landed ships had their shields up, and none of the Cerberus personnel ever dreamed that they would be attacked by their own. That laxness allowed the pilot and his followers to march right up inside the open hanger bay of the squadron’s flagship before anyone realized anything was wrong. By then it was too late.
The pilot flipped his mech’s arm up. Behind him five more mechs did the same. Alarms rang throughout the ship as targeting systems painted the ship from the inside. One after the next, six missiles plowed into the ship carving deeper and deeper, until the entire ship was burning stern to bow. The pilot guided his mech through the hole shooting at anything that moved, using the claw to pull his Atlas up deck by broken deck until he reached the command center.
The squadron commander hid behind the wreckage of the central map with a pair of troopers and fired off rounds at the atlas. The pilot gunned them down with the cannon and then picked the commander up with the claw bringing him close to the canopy so he and the commander could see eye to eye as the claw slowly crushed him to death.
The crews of other ships and the base itself figured out what was going on by that point. Some of the ships surrendered immediately when they realized how vulnerable they were but two more were destroyed and most were damaged before the fighting stopped. The base held out longer, but fell within a day when the pilot ordered sent the combined forces of the surviving ships troopers, centurions, and Atlas mechs at their defenses.
What he found when his men poured through the datafiles of the ruined flagship and the captured base confirmed his worst fears about not only about the danger presented by anyone with the new implants (or anyone indoctrinated by any means for that matter) but also about the fate of his family.
“Now you know why I do what I do,” the man said.
The young Asari listened quietly as he finished his tale. She tried to keep composure but the raw emotion that poured forth from her commanding officer was hard to ignore and tears threatened at the corners of her eyes.
Part of her wanted to hug him. Another part of her wanted to tell him it would all be alright someday. Another part of her wanted to cry. Instead she settled for softly saying, “I wish there was something I could do to ease your pain.”
The man gave a grim smile. “There is. Help me find and kill the bastard.”
The lieutenant smiled. It was a savage predatory smile, totally unlike her normal self. “Absolutely.”
“One more thing, before you go. Please keep this conversation between us.”
“Of course, Sir.”
The pilot nodded to her. “Thank you, lieutenant that is all.”
The young Asari turned and left the lounge hurrying toward her quarters. She had a lot to think about.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Alyssa raced down the corridor at a full run cradling her rifle to her chest. Somewhere she had lost her helmet and her long scarlet locks were trailing behind her. Her black jumpsuit had several scorch marks from numerous hits and a near constant blue flickering around her was an all too potent reminder that her shield was on the verge of failing.
“Echo? Bravo? Anyone?” She whispered frantically into the microphone of the headset that she fortunately hadn’t lost with her helmet. Only static answered her.
She came to a bulkhead and paused a minute leaning against it for cover as her green eyes looked around frantically. “Damn it,” she muttered as she released the trigger long enough to tap the earpiece and change frequencies. “Nova, status report!”
For a moment there was only silence but then the static filled reply came through and Alyssa let out a sigh of relief. “Sorry for the delay Lieutenant,” the female virtual intelligence replied. “I am having great difficulty piercing through the interference. Ships crew fatalities are nearly ninety-eight percent. Lieutenant Leland is seeing to the survivors, however I estimate despite her efforts that another four to six will die within the hour. However, the ship is now secure.”
“And the other assault teams?”
“Unknown, I have lost communications with all other teams. However, based upon the last received transmissions I estimate a ninety-nine point nine nine seven percent chance that all members of the other assault team members are dead.”
“Great. Just great,” Alyssa muttered. She checked her clips. Nine left. She shook her head and sighed. “Any idea what might count as a power source on this thing?” she asked.
“I am detecting what might be some form of reactor approximately nine hundred and sixty three meters from your location. I have sent the coordinates to your omnitool.”
Alyssa rebalanced the rifle and pressed a spot on the holographic interface of her omnitool. Instantly, a soft flashing light blinked to life just on the edge of her vision as her implants projected an image onto her HUD. “Thanks, Nova.”
“You are welcome lieutenant. May I inquire as to your intentions?”
Alyssa gripped her rifle and let out a feral grin as her eyes softly glowed for a moment. “I intend to find a way to blow this fucking thing the fuck up,” she growled.
“I should point out that I estimate you have a less than one percent chance of succeeding, Lieutenant,” Nova stated. “Perhaps a wiser course of action would be to wait for alliance reinforcements.”
“So they can turn them into husks too?” Alyssa shook her head disbelievingly. “No. Besides, they won’t get here in time. This ship knows we are here. It’s planning something.”
“That is illogical, Lieutenant. Ships do not think. Nor do they make plans.”
“This one does,” Alyssa replied with certainty.
Up ahead something moved in the corridor. A mass of black interlaced with glowing cyan sparkles stepped out of the shadows. Oversized cyan eyes locked on Alyssa’s green ones and froze. Alyssa tapped her earpiece. “Got company. I gotta go.”
Alyssa swung her rifle into position just as the roughly humanoid form came running at her with a very inhuman speed. She squeezed the trigger and a spray of bullets ripped a line from the torso to the head halting the forward momentum of the figure and sending it backward in a sparking convulsing arc.
“Take that you fucking soulless piece of shit!” She muttered, stomping her boot down on the husk’s head causing it to literally explode.
A buzzing sound further up the hallway caught her attention as three more husks came into view followed by something that looked like some sort of oversized mutant spider with laser cannons mounted on either side of the bulb-like body.
“What the fuck?”
She dove to the side as the spidery thing opened up with the cannons. Her hair got in her way as she tried to snap off a couple of shots at the husks and she completely missed. She rebounded off the wall just as the spider-like creature fired at her again.
The smell of burning ozone filled her nostrils and she winced as the beams passed by so close that they clipped her shields, overloading them instantly. The wall around her grew warm and she didn’t need to look over her shoulder to know that the lasers had bored holes right through the thick walls.
Dropping to one knee she fired off several short bursts taking the heads off two of the husks. Then the third one was upon her…
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Lylianna looked out over the balcony, the whispering wind ruffling her black feathery wings and white gown, hinting of the magic of the night. Far below her, below the cliffs the house overlooked, the ocean beat against the rocks and sand in a never-ending crescendo of gently crashing waves just barely audible at this height. Moonlight spilled across the night reflecting off the tides, the marble floor and pillars, the gold of her shackles and collar, even off her very eyes; bathing her in a soft eerie light.
She closed her eyes and gave her flings a flutter, letting this moment sink in as the bittersweet memories of wandering the astral planes and interacting with the gods and goddesses passed through her mind. With only the slightest tinge of regret she shoved those thoughts from her mind with a soft sigh. It was too late for that; far too late. The feel of the cold metal collar and shackles on her skin served as a reminder that her home was now the mortal realms of the prime plane.
“Not that I would go back even if I had a choice,” she thought to herself with slightly sad smile. Her heart would not let her.
With one last sigh she furled up her wings just as strong arms wrapped around her waist. She felt the chain which ran from her collar down through the cuffs on her wrists and ankles to a post inside the room behind her pull tight as a length of it was brushed aside by a foot. She felt cold lips brush up against her neck and inhaled sharply as she felt the twin tortures of pleasure and pain as fangs almost but didn’t quite penetrate the skin of her neck in a teasing manner before disappearing only to return nibbling her ear lobe.
“Second thoughts, my pet?” the whisper in her ear sent a shiver of fear and anticipation down her back. “We don’t have to do this if you don’t wish.”
But there was no choice. In her heart, she knew that, even as she turned to face him, dark eyes looking up into his pleadingly. “No master. No second thoughts. Only memories best remembered and forgotten, my love.”
His answering smile was at once warm and terrifying. She watched his eyes focusing on hers, felt the shiver of attraction knowing that it did not matter that she was immune to his thrall; she was still drawn to him by a force at once more biding and more fickle. She smiled and nodded, lowering her eyes submissively. “Yes, master.”
She let him guide her back into the room, bare except for two stone biers and three small tables with candelabras. Upon one of the biers lay a cloth of black and crimson velvet lined with rose petals of the same colors. A matching pillow lay atop at one end.
She did not resist at all as he untied the laces at her neck, shoulders, and both sides of the skirt allowing the dress to fall away from her in two pieces without having to remove the chains that held her bound. She smiled softly as he gently lifted her on to the bier and laid her out upon it. She watched in anticipation as he climbed up beside her. She moaned and threw her arms around him as he cradled her back and head in his arms tilting her head so she faced the far wall, opposed of the balcony.
Four points of ecstasy and pain sank deep into her neck, throbbing bringing her to subspace and beyond as he master began feeding off of her as he had countless times before. But tonight was no ordinary feeding. This time she knew, as a smile reached her lips, it would not be complete until he drank all of her blood. Seconds ticked past, followed by minutes as each throb, each swallow drained more blood from her angelic form.
Slowly at first, then more quickly, her awareness of the world began to dim. So it was with a second of confusion she regarded the mist that began creeping into the room from under the door. Too late, as she felt the last of her blood drain away, did she realize the mist was coalescing into a solid form, that of a man. She tried to squeeze her master’s arms, to make a noise to warn him, but she had no strength left; her life fleeting away.
So her master was unaware of the figure behind him unlocking the door as he drew his dagger across his wrist. He was likewise unaware of the other forms that began to materialize near the first. Even as he placed his wrist across her lips, even as instinct kicked in and she bit down unable to control the sudden overwhelming urge to feed upon his blood, she struggled in vain to force her arm to squeeze, her eyes widening just ever so slightly in alarm.
Too late, he heard the lock click and the door swing open. He never had time to turn around before the first vampire raised a crossbow and fired a wooden bolt into his back. The aim was perfect, striking him through the heart.
It didn’t kill him. He was far too strong for that, but it did weaken him, slow him down just enough that he could not escape the next attack.
Unable to look away, to scream, or even move, Lylianna watched in horror as the elderly paladin from the hunters guild—the one whose son was rumored to have been kidnapped by the members of the vampire clan just nights before—cast his spell calling forth a pillar of fire and divine energy that incinerated her master in her very arms. Though her body refused her command, every fiber of her soul cried out in agony and pain as her master, her lover, turned into a billion specks of ash and dust that exploded in a million different directions.
Even as her head fell back onto the pillow she saw one of the vampires shove a young boy forward into the paladin’s arms. The boy stumbled and fell into his father only to explode in a similar manner as his forehead came in contact with the holy symbol that hung from the paladin’s neck; his turning to recent for him to have built up any resistance to the holy magic stored in the amulet.
The last thing she saw as darkness claimed her were the streams of healing magic spewed forth in anger by the paladin that engulfed the vampires even as they tried to raise daggers and crossbows.
She did not see the paladin prevail against the vampires that had so underestimated him, did not see him cut them down with the raw fury born out of his hatred of their betrayal and the murder of his son. Nor did she see him stagger toward the bier she lay on, his steps a bit unsteady as he bled from a dozen life-threatening wounds. She neither saw nor heard his sad sigh as he drew his own dagger across his wrist allowing the blood to fall between her lips before beginning the words and motions to a powerful spell, one few paladins—and even few clerics—could master.
It had been midnight when the vampires had charged into her master’s room. It was nearly two hours later she awoke. Her screams could be heard for miles and lasted until dawns rays seared her throat and silenced her ability to scream. Through it all the dying paladin held her. After she quieted he dragged her into the shadows where the sun could not touch her, and where her body slowly began to heal.
With the last of his strength, he brushed the tears from her eyes. Falling across her, he whispered “We were both robbed of the ones we loved this night, fallen one of the heavens, and it is up to you to end the evil and pain those that stole them from us bring to the world.”
As dusk, she shoved his cold body off of him. She picked up his sword and used it to break the chain. Detouring only long enough to scoop up her dress, she left the room. A short time later she left the house, dressed in breeches, a thick belt with the sword tucked loosely inside, boots, a loose blouse, and a heavy cloak. In the bag upon her back were the dress, a few keepsakes, and whatever provisions for a journey she could scavenge from the house. Dark cold crimson eyes gave the manor a final once-over, burning the image into her mind, before she turned and walked away, never once looking back.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Vician followed Seraphine down the ladder and waited while she cracked the door to the warehouse open and peeked outside. She motioned him forward and he stepped on outside. Seraphine pushed the warehouse door shut and Vician locked it behind them. Less than half an hour had passed since Vician’s breathless arrival and warning.
Their journey out of the city was uneventful. Seraphine slipped her arm through Vician’s and leaned her head on his shoulder. She sensed his initial surprise and then a bit of contentment as they found a matched rhythm and walked away together, never once looking back. The closest that the pair came to excitement were a few of the derogatory comments made as the pair made their way down the various avenues that Vician led them through one of the eastern gates to the city. Seraphine was a little worried that they might be stopped at the city gate, but the guard simply gave Vician a knowing wink and they hurried on through.
Several farms intermingled with small clumps of woods lay to the east of the city. The road that they traveled wove through several of these farms and small clumps of woods.
Seraphine was having the time of her life. She was seeing, hearing, and smelling things she had only heard about in stories and hadn’t in her wildest dreams imagined she would ever be able to actually experience. Things like Vician pausing near a fence and handing her some sweetgrass to feed a goat, her giggling when felt its cold nose on her hand, or watching butterflies and bees dancing among the flowers.
To someone who had lived nearly her whole life indoors the walk was full of marvels for Seraphine. Her curiosity made Vician smile as the young succubus took in her surroundings with wide-eyed wonder; each new sight alternately prompting squeals of glee, terror, or multitudes of questions that he did his best to answer.
It was at least an hour’s journey the outer gate of the city to the woods that occupied a large portion of land to the east, but to the mage and his demoness familiar it seemed like minutes. The mage would never have admitted it, but he was enjoying Seraphine’s exuberance and when they reached the woods, he was a little sad.
He needed have worried. The farms fascinated the demoness, but it was the woods she fell in love with. As they entered the woods, she fell silent as a sense of awe fell upon her, her eyes widening even further as she let her hand slip from his so she could turn a full circle and take everything in. “Everything is so… so alive!” she exclaimed at last before bursting into a series of questions that left Vician holding up his hands and calling for patience as he tried to answer what he could.
A short way into the woods, Vician led the succubus off the road onto a hidden trail. They followed this to a clearing where a man and a woman stood waiting with four saddled horses.
Two of the horses were a little bigger than the others. They were jet black with white markings on the forehead and near the hooves. In addition to their saddles, these two carried heavily packed saddle bags.
The man and woman pushed back their hoods, and Seraphine could see they were older than Vician by several years if not decades. Both greeted him fondly as “Master Vician.”
“The guard surrounded the house and were conducting a search,” the woman explained. “But we were able to get most of what you asked for. We also took the liberty of procuring some travel supplies you didn’t think of, and invested a portion of your money and gems with a few different money lenders as a precaution.”
Vician, walked over and checked the packs carefully. “You did well Felicia, both of you.” he nodded and turned to the man. “I’ll keep in touch. Let me know if you or Felicia need anything.”
The man held up a gem exactly like the one that Seraphine saw Vician use in the warehouse. “I’ll be here. Good luck, Master Vician.”
The woman kissed Vician’s forehead. “Take care, Master Vician. I hope you can return soon.” Seraphine was a little chagrined to realize she felt a little jealous. She shifted uncomfortably.
Vician took the reins of the two black horses and led them over towards where Seraphine stood. “Have you ever ridden before?”
Serpahine shook her head. “No.”
Vician nodded. “Well, it isn’t that difficult though the first few times may seem hard. We need to lead the horses back to the road and then I’ll teach you to ride.” He handed her the reins to one of them and set back out along the path.