Step by step he descended, a black tarry substance clinging to his boots. There was a dullness to the faint light playing on the walls around him, as though it impinged onto the surface and was quickly absorbed. This did not concern Walters, his enhanced senses clearly saw each step, their trail disappearing into the distance.
His descent seemed timeless, lulling him into a false sense of security with its monotonous repetition. Shaking his head to clear it, he realised he had stopped moving. Peering around, the only thing that seemed to have changed was the absence of steps. Then he saw a pulse of light and re-oriented himself, and drawing his sword paced slowly towards its faint luminescence.
Berbatov stared warily at the entrance then grunted.
“You,” he said pointing at one of his men, “get yourself up top and see what’s going on. Then get back here. Okay?”
The soldier nodded, shouldering his weapon and setting off immediately.
“Oy!” the soldier skidded to a stop, “and bring down some comm.unications equipment. Tell Jimmy we’re feeling lonely.”
Laughing, the soldier continued on his way.
Sargeant ‘Jimmy’ James, at that moment would have much rather been inside the safety, as he thought it, of the Fortress. He cursed and ducked as a laser bolt clipped the top of his shoulder. Things were getting decidedly hairy here.
Instead of calling his troops back out of the Fortress, he had decided to get everyone he could inside. With the gates closed, they would be able to control the situation better. Any artillery would have to blast its way in, and they could pour fire down upon attacking infantry. It just hadn’t worked out that way.
They had not even gotten half-way, when the first enemy troops struck and he had been forced to mount a defence. Luckily their enemy had been more eager than smart and so he had been able to hold them. Leftenant Wilson had led the men inside and his task was to mount covering fire for their retreat. He still, however, had not reached his position and more Taurans were arriving every moment longer he took.
“Shaw!” he shouted at the recently arrived trooper, “Get your men and equipment inside now! And take Williamson with you!”
“Yes, Sargeant, but what are you going to do?” queried the trooper.
“Thought I’d stay for a while for a chat with our friends,” quipped James, “Now move!”
Artix was laughing uncontrollably, he was actually enjoying this. His stomach had flipped when they left the Attack Carrier, but now the adrenalin rush had hit. Wave after wave of craft had left the vessel and were about to enter the atmosphere of the planet.
He squirmed in his seat with excitement, first they had to land but then they would take the Fortress, wiping out Walters and any Taurans who remained. It really was quite simple.
“Die!” screamed James, slamming his combat blade into the Tauran’s neck. He stomped once, grinding the heel of his boot into another of them on the floor in front of him and staggered back. They were almost to the walls of the Fortress and were now down to close-quarter fighting. Covering fire was useless here as the angle of shot was almost non-existent.
With a roar Wilson led a wave of K’ran and troopers out of the gates to beat back the enemy’s attack once more.
“Sir, sir!” screamed Williamson in a high pitched voice, “Look!”
James’ gaze followed the soldiers pointing finger and saw a stupendous light show in the sky.
“We’re saved Sir, reinforcements, Sir!” squealed the private excitedly.
“No, we’re not,” said James quietly, “our only relief is down below.”
Walters had entered what seemed to be a tunnel whose walls, although covered with the black coating, were clearly not natural. There was an underlying circular shape, not hewn by hand, but rather looking as though they had been excavated by some type of machine.
He used his free hand to guide him as he moved cautiously forward, until he came out into a large cavern. The light had gradually increased in intensity and now he could see some sort of structure in the distance. Gripping his sword tightly, he strode purposefully towards it.
More and more details came into focus with each step; the construction was huge, some sort of pyramid rising high into the blackness above. Its top was an indistinct jumble of shapes, yet he could clearly see the layered levels reaching upwards.
It was cleanly sculpted, at least that was the impression he had from the two sides which were apparently free of contamination. The face of the structure in front of him was covered in the black substance, whose pattern tapered upwards to a point hidden in the shadows above.
Pulses of green light occasionally broke the gloom from an indistinct point near, to what he assumed, was the peak of the pyramid, illuminating the area around the structure. It was a beacon, drawing him onwards.
Finally, he reached the first stepped level and could see bloated and broken bodies, buried into the blackened surface. Not only human and Taurans, but stranger, more alien forms. An occasional weapon poked out, its location a mute testament to the final struggle of its owner.
Ever upwards he climbed, knowing that he fought against the urge to run away, an almost physical pressure pushing against him. Somehow, he was sure that if he turned back now he would be lost, consumed by some unknown force, and so he pressed on.
Turbulence boiled around the craft as it entered the planet’s atmosphere. Inside Inspector Artix and his companions held onto to the nearest convenient support. Then they were through, into the clear and freezing air of high altitude.
Time dragged, but eventually came the expected warning.
“Target acquired, ready for landing. Zone is hot, repeat, zone is hot!”
The craft rocked to incoming fire and Artix began to sweat, in counterpoint to his comrades, who grinned savagely. With the slightest of bumps, they were down.
“We have a go! Good hunting!” roared the man at his side, as the doors cranked open.
At last he reached the light source; it was not exactly at the zenith of the pyramid, rather down two levels and slightly to one side. It came from the pommel of a sword. The sword skewered through the remains of a huge body, alien to his eyes. It had been left, pinioning the supposedly long dead creature to the stonework. Then the large head lifted, rotated one hundred and eighty degrees, and its eyes opened.
Enormous yellow orbs stared at him, a dark slash from top to bottom as an iris. A black liquid bled slowly from them and dripped to the floor. With a disgusting sucking sound it opened its mouth, filled with row upon row of dagger-like teeth, streamers of ichor pulled slowly apart as it moved. A long serpentine tongue snaked out of its mouth and it spoke, its sibilant voice causing the beast within Walters to react.
“Wait, my son,” it hissed, “I called you here. You alone can free me.”
“I don’t remember receiving the invitation,” answered Walters, “in fact there were a few of your boys there, who made me feel just a little bit unwelcome.”
“A mistake,” it replied, “nothing more.”
“That’s not quite how it felt, but hey who am I to argue?” said Walters casually, “Now what was it I can do for you?”
“Release me,” the thing pleaded, “and join me in my conquest of this world and beyond.”
“Just a few questions first,” he responded, “before I think about meeting your demands.”
“We don’t have much time,” it answered.
“And why exactly is that?” queried Walters, stalling as he looked around.
“There are those coming who would destroy us, who have no piety in their hearts. Even now they approach,” the creature hissed in what appeared to be fear.
“I’m sure we still have a little time, my men will hold whoever they are for at least a short while,” said Walters placatingly, “Now, where were we? Oh, yes, you were going to tell me a little bit more about yourself, weren’t you?”
“I am S’sthir, and first tread upon this planet ages past. I have walked the corridors of folded space and mastered its intricacies. Held dominion over men and foul beasts. I cannot remember how long I have been here,” it began, “although I remember very well my traitorous betrayer. He who left me as I am, thinking I would die a slow death. But I survived!”
Remaining silent, Walters waited for it to continue.
“It had been rumoured that the Hand of S’star was hidden here, a rather insignificant trinket but of great sentimental worth to my people. We travelled far in search of it, finally arriving on this world. We were close to achieving our objective when the cursed one struck me down, piercing my body with his sword and pinning me to this rock.”
“What about this unimportant trinket?” asked Walters disbelievingly.
“It is here, close,” it murmured guardedly, “I found a way of communing with it through devout prayer, maintaining my life spark. When the Taurans arrived on this planet and placed their worthless altar over the hidden entrance, I awoke. Their barbarous rites fed me, they mistakenly thought that they were in contact with one of their foul gods and I let them continue in this misunderstanding.
“The one they called the Lord, drew on my power to create those you call K’ran and with each day I grew stronger. When you threw down K’shir I aided your change and waited for you to come to me.”
“And with all your wondrous power, you couldn’t…?” here he indicated the sword hilt.
“It is cursed!” screamed the beast, “it is like a burning iron, thrust deep within me! Do you not see my tears!”
“So …,” summarized Walters, “you came here to steal some sort of artefact, had a disagreement with someone, who thought you dangerous enough to treat you so kindly. Then you were able to control the Taurans through the usurpation of their malignant rites. You saw an opportunity in me and now you feel I owe you something? Is that about right?”
“Do not mock me,” S’sthir shrilled, as he squirmed violently. “Obey me, or I will be forced to destroy you!”
“Stick around here,” grinned Walters maliciously, “and I’ll just go and have a little peek at what’s at the top of this little hill.”
Thrashing violently, S’sthir screamed and threatened to no avail. Walters ignored him and continued upwards to the top of the pyramid.
Shuttles slammed to earth, fliers roared overhead strafing their enemies below whilst others landed to spew forth their contents. Engines growled, battle cries rent the air, explosive rounds smashing into the Taurans, and this was just the beginning.
Sargeant James lowered his field glasses, a look midway between awe and shock crossing his face.
“What is it Sargeant?” asked Leftenant Wilson worriedly, “What did you see?”
“Trouble,” mumbled James, glancing back to the Fortress and wondering where Walters was.
“How so? Who is it?” queried the Leftenant persistently.
“Everyone’s worst nightmare,” replied James, the vision of the huge shapes, in light grey armour literally exploding into action as they leapt from their craft.
“Church Elite,” he continued, mentally praying for Walters’ arrival, “Immortals!”
Guest post with D.P. Prior
Hace 2 años