Tuesday, April 28, 2009

taking a stand

"No, Koen. I refuse to go along with this plan. A convoy robbery is one thing, but now that there's full civil..."

An artillery shell went off outside the Consulate so I couldn't hear the rest of the sentence, even if it he was piping it straight into my head from his soul chip.

"But what if..."

"Koen, this is a war. There is nothing more dangerous. If whomever wants my matrix wants to wade through a battle to get it, that makes the mission easier for me as he draws fire."

We've been to New Erebus. I've been to Fusang. We both knew the risks.

"You're making sense. As usual."

Ama looked back at us from the balcony as she reloaded her rifle.

"I swore to protect the Emperor and the Baron. I must act."

I sighed. I looked at the Staff and the refugees who barricaded themselves in the corner with his furniture. Screaming kids. Pregnant women. Ash's aspic-looking pet with the giant mouth was shivering like a leaf.

"Alright. Where do I plug you in?"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Directives and Dictates

Vortex had calmed down from the incident with the insubordinate. He landed quietly from the top of the twisted throne and padded softly to the replacement captain, circling him as he interrogated.

"What do you mean Jeremiah escaped? This is the Underworld. People do not escape."

"My Prince," the new captain replied in a calm, measured tone, "he had help from the spirits of his ancestors. Together they built an escape craft from wreckage gleaned from the remains of the city."

Vortex growled. "An aethership? Surely one of our surviving fleet would have caught and destroyed an improvised piece of Spark junk!"

"Not an aethership, Sir. A boat."

"A boat? The Styx is on the border of the kingdom! Th Masons were confined to the lowest level!"

"Sir, they took the River Lethe. That emptied into the Styx."

The red neko blinked incredulously. "And how did they manage to ditch the troops on the shores?"

The captain looked straight ahead, at full attention Vortex paced around him. "They built water cannons, Sir..."

The neko chuckled. "...drawn from the Lethe itself. Infinite ammunition and turns your targets into drooling idiots. Brilliant, I'll hand it to them."

"We did manage to inflict damage on the boat, Sir. Most of the crew were discorporated or knocked overboard to drown. The pilot, however, was shielded."

"Jeremiah, of course."

"Yes, Sir. The only survivor we saw on the vessel."

"And what happened when he reached the Styx? Did the Boatmen deal with him?"

The Captain shifted uncomfortably as he pressed his gauntlets together ina sign of submission. "The Boatmen did not interfere with him Sir. But they blocked our skiffs from pursuing him past the delta."

The Prince hissed as his claws drew deep scratches over the captain's armor. "Bloodwing was a Boatman once, in a lost future I believe. They must have a familial clause. That means...he's reincarnated by now!"

Vortex pointed to the troops watching over the crater. "Send some agents to the Surface World and find him! Start with the Steamlands!"

The demon cat wrapped his crimson claws around the Captain's throat. "And for LETTING HIM ESCAPE, my dear captain, I will..."

Just then the enormous carcass of the Hydra trembled. Expanses of ebony scales stories high shimmered from the reflection of the burning sky. The troops at the edge of the crater took a collective half-step back and whispered to each other nervously. The neko stared worriedly of his shoulder.

"Oh, by the burning Styx..." He pressed his face against the captain's visor.

"You have a chance to redeem yourself. We have a change of priorities. I need the Void magic to obliterate that monster once and for all before it regenerates! And I left that in the life Darien Mason ripped from me!"

He released the captain from his grip, who collapsed to the ground gasping for air. Vortex spread his crimson wings and soared upwards.

At a sufficient altitiude he rotated as he hovered to stare down at the Hyrdra again. He noted cauterized gashes of the mountain-sized serpent were smaller than they were the day before. "It's regenerating again. Our military's a fragment of what it was. And I've run out of favors." He scratched his chin. "If I call Mother for help again I will have to cede land to Horus. And we become a territory of Heliopolis..." He looked over the shoulder at the battalion, formed from the surviving regiments of the Imperial Guard from the Wormwood disaster and the Hydra's escape. "...I'll have a full scale revolt."

He spun back to address the troops.

"All of you! Go to the surface and find my missing life! The survival of Erebus is at stake! BRING KOEN BACK ALIVE!!!"

Thursday, April 9, 2009

An Heir to the Throne

Crimson paws traced along the hypnotic curves of shredded metal. Its pur black sheen dimly reflected the burning sky above him.

"This was the Throne of Hades, you say?"

Vortex lowered his wings to stare behind him at the soldier, clad in the armor of the Imperial Guard, damaged yet still recognizable.

"Aye, my Prince. This was the largest object left in the epicenter of the crater."

Such was the condition of the throne that sitting upon it would prove impossible, if not fatal. Instead, he leaped in a flutter of wings to the top of it, and perched upon it with his claws balancing upon the fragments least likely to draw ichor.

The captain's eyes widened in horror. His brow furrowed as he instinctively reached for his sword. However, he had forgotten that his arm had already been ripped away by the Hydra below the elbow. He slowly raised his stoic gaze at Vortex, who arched his back and hissed.

"Fool!" bellowed the captain. "Dare you to think that...?"

Vortex pounced upon the soldier faster in a blur. Armor and flesh tore like paper under the demigod's claws. The captain was dead in an instant.

Vortex roared as he stared up at the edge of the crater. The neko spat a fragment of bone aside and pinted an ichor-stained digit at the regiment lined at the precipice.

"I am the closest thing you have to a rightful ruler and you know it! Does that..." He pointed at the wall of ebony scales behind him. "...count for nothing?"

His ear perked to an orchestra of metal tapping against metal rock as one soldier after another fell to one knee and bowed his head in supplication.

"Now...search what is left of Erebus for the soul who brought about all this chaos in the first place! He must face punishment! FIND JEREMIAH MASON AND BRING HIM TO ME!!"