lunes, 17 de mayo de 2010

Chapter Fourteen

Church Attack
Lower Approaches

Wolfe screamed as the sharpened stake rammed into his side, the brute force behind it punching through his greatcoat. He felt his skin tear and the momentum of the blow flung him backwards against the men behind. Struggling, he tried to rise, but there was no purchase to be gained from the blood-smeared bodies around him.

The laughing beast pressed its weight down, effectively pinning him into position and he scrabbled franticly for his pistol. General Wolfe could not remember dropping the weapon, just as he had no recollection of how the battle had turned. One minute they had been advancing, the next they had been overrun by a mob of hooting, leering monstrosities.

Staring upwards into the twisted face, he recognised his own death mirrored in the monster’s eyes. There was absolutely nothing he could do.

Spittle dropped onto his forehead from the creature’s mouth transfixing him with its fall. The patter of the liquid onto his skin mesmerised him, so much so that he almost missed the final blow. He was, however, not to be given the blissful release of unconsciousness.

Intentionally the thing released its weight from the end of the wood and grasping the stake in both hands pulled. Again Wolfe cried out and in this moment of tremendous pain, he watched the point move downwards towards his eye. Its splintered and blood-smeared surface etched with a supernatural clarity in his mind.


Field Headquarters
Church Command

Hamner sat curled into a corner, he had at last lost all reason. Communication transmissions played endlessly over and over in his mind. The cries for help, the screams, muted gunfire as a constant backdrop.

Enemy forces had broken through the Church Guard’s lines in a number of places. Wolfe had regrouped time and again, but still they pressed ever onwards.

A frantic knocking broke into his semi trance-like state, it was nothing, soon it would go away.

“General, General!” There was no answer.

“General, Captain Arnesson says the Tauran Forces are nearly upon us. We must evacuate this area, immediately. General!”

Silence was the only reply.

The communications operator turned away, determination in his visage.

“Have it your way,” he muttered as he tossed the copy of the message onto the floor.

Lower Levels
The Fortress

They were close now, Walters could smell the difference in the air and he raised his hand ordering a halt. He took two steps forward and then dropped to all fours as the first abomination attacked. Rolling to his feet, he drew his sword and cut sideways, the blade biting into the thing before him and neatly severing one of its limbs. It remained upright, and turned to face him.

The creature was roughly human shaped, but seemed to have been sloppily put together. Random body parts protruded at impossible angles, held together by some sort of dark gel. A face stared out from the centre of its chest, frozen in mid scream. There had been originally four arms, one now a stump from which dripped a slow, black ichor. Two arms sprouted from its back and the remaining appendage waved maddeningly from its left side.

It shambled forward again, and Walters leapt to the attack, his sword cleaving through unresisting blackness and splitting the horrendous face in half.

More arrived, stumbling from open doorways, until they were surrounded. The K’ran began to back away, but Berbatov barged past them, scything his halberd through the closest and most hideous monster, his men following eagerly.

One of the K’ran edged too close and a vomit of black bile poured over it. Rapidly smoke began to rise from the K’ran’s fur, then flesh boiled and the beast screamed. Before their very eyes its body shrunk and collapsed to leave nothing more than a wet and ragged bundle of fur and bones.

Laser rifle fire did nothing, the blasts passing through the abnormally viscous entities, here and there striking human remains, but with no visible effect. By now, Berbatov and his men had resorted to their bladed weapons and their apparent tactic was to hew, cut, hack and slash their opponents into the smallest pieces possible.
Looking past his last attacker, Walters saw an almost endless stream of the creatures, manufactured with only one thought in mind. He drew deeply on his well of power, more so than ever before, his eyes became an incandescent green, matched only by that of his now flaming sword. Berbatov looked up; his eyes too had taken on the feral caste of the K’ran as had those of all his fellows. In awe, they watched as Walters body visibly swelled, corded muscles filling and expanding.

Around his head crackled a nimbus of electrical discharge, which flashed across to ground itself through the soldiers’ weapons. It did not burn, nor kill. Each man was filled with an indescribable energy, a raw unstoppable power and they rose as one to their feet.

Walters first strike shattered the thing in front of him into microscopic pieces, all semblance of life destroyed at the touch of his blade. Berbatov spun in position and dropped to one knee, his hands rapidly sliding down the shaft of the halberd. When it was at its full extension, it whistled through the air, shearing clean through his enemy. He used its momentum to pull him back to his feet and grinned encouragingly at his men.

Silently, grimly they butchered their way down the corridor, Walters at their lead.
The K’ran followed behind them, slashing claws adding to the charnel house atmosphere. Still they came, mindless automatons, their mute defiance refusing passage. Walters, however would not be denied, and little by little they gained ground, ever closer to that which awaited them below.


Geostationary Orbit
Church Fleet

Inspector Artix sat stoically in his unbearably uncomfortable seat, flak jacket cinched tightly, pistol across his knee. Bodies pressed closely around him, as the craft was readied for departure.

He had ignored Captain Arnesson’s frantic pleas for permission to evacuate personnel from the Guard’s headquarters on the planet below. Hamner and Wolfe had served their purpose. Artix had demanded a distraction and he had been duly rewarded. Now it was his turn, his time. They would drop directly onto the Fortress and eliminate any opposition there.

Being a great believer in overwhelming force, he had made sure that nothing would be left to chance. Engines roared and he felt the craft move, heard the intonation of prayers to Him, and weapons being checked one last time.

His body was pressed into the seat as the craft lifted off and then, he too, began to pray.


Outside Approaches
The Fortress

Sargeant James scanned the area before him and could see nothing. They had received no word from the Major and he was starting to become nervous. His orders were clear, yet they had all felt the surge of energy, the undeniable call to arms and he did not know what to do. Finally, he decided to wait, just a little while longer.


Field Headquarters
Church Command

There was only silence now. Hamner had heard the shouts, the sound of running feet and rapid fire orders, the roar of engines and then nothing. This had been some time ago and he was frightened.

The General called out at first weakly and then at the top of his lungs, but there was no reply. Finding courage from somewhere he left his room and timidly scurried down the corridor. Communications was empty, as was the Dining area. The Control Room was bare of human presence, chairs lay toppled on the floor, papers strewn everywhere where they had been discarded. He was alone.

Moving cautiously he reached the main exit to the vehicle assembly area and found the doors locked. From outside he heard a faint scratching and muffled voices. Excitedly he flung the doors open, gasping in his eagerness to end his solitude.

“I’m here.” he shouted, in his haste forgetting all protocol.

There was a grunt, a hissing and then a blood splattered axe blade was buried deep into his skull. The Tauran looked at him, blinked and then continued his search.

Lower Levels
The Fortress

“Not…..much….further…to…go!” grunted Berbatov as he swung his weapon back and forth, clearing the path before him.

The creatures had become less and less human and more and more amoeba-like the deeper they reached into the Fortress. It seemed as though whatever was manufacturing them, was running out of body parts.

There was no reply from Walters, his concentration appeared fixed on only one goal, and he methodically destroyed all that stood in his way.

“Okay,” muttered the Sargeant, “but we’ll talk about this later:”

Walters stopped and looked at him, the light fading slightly from his eyes.

“Having fun, yet?” he growled.

“Oh, frak yes!” grinned Berbatov, reassured that the Major was still there.


Outer Approaches
The Fortress

James had taken his decision and had begun to move his men into the Fortress in a disciplined manner. It was, he decided, no good waiting any longer where he was.
They had received no contact either from Tauran or Church forces and he would much rather be fighting by the Major’s side, than stuck here living through an interminable wait. There were still half of his men outside when he heard the unmistakable sound of engines and began to rue his decision.

“What the hell is going on?” he shouted to no-one in particular.

“Churchmen, Sir,” responded his communication -operator. “I’m getting chatter on the open circuit.”

“Who?” he snapped, worriedly.

“What’s left of the Guards forces, Sir. And they’re coming in hot.” replied the man.

“Hot? What’s that supposed to mean?” asked James.

“It seems they’ve got all the fires of hell on their tail, sir.” answered the soldier looking up at him. “And they’re asking for our help...”


Trooper Iain Shaw had acted immediately upon the lack of response from General Hamner’s quarters. He had been the one who had been in touch with Leftenant Wilson and passed on the co-ordinates of Walters’ position. Like a number of his comrades, he was what remained of the Lutheran 5th amongst the headquarters staff. Over time, he had ferreted out quite a few people who were disgruntled with the treatment of their fellow soldiers and he had finally acted.

They had overpowered the guards around three of the reserve vehicles, shooting and killing whoever had stood in their way. Then they taken the long way round, breaking through the Taurans’ flank and had made a direct line for the Fortress.
It had not taken long for their enemies to react and now they were here, running for their lives.

Shaw heard the crackle of the incoming message and bent down to listen.

Lord’s Temple
The Fortress

Finally they stood before the door to the altar room, breathing heavily. No more of the deformed creatures sallied forth, even so they waited.

Turning, Walters spoke, “This is something that I need to do alone. Wait here.”

“Major,” argued Berbatov, “do you really think you can take them all on, alone.”

“Don’t you?” replied Walters quietly.


Outer Approaches
The Fortress

The three vehicles roared through the opening lines of warriors and shuddered to a stop in a cloud of dust. Shaw climbed down and saw a Sargeant approach, and stood to attention.

“Trooper Shaw, reporting for duty, Sargeant.” he shouted.

“Well,” said James, “you seem to have brought some friends with you.”

Following the Sargeant’s gaze, he saw exactly what he had meant, the surrounding hills were alive with movement.

“Sorry, Sargeant,” he replied.

“Not to worry, son,” responded James, “not to worry.”


Lord’s Temple
The Fortress

Walters stood in front of the dark, uninviting space. A mist still swirled around the entrance, clinging to the extremities as though reluctant to allow him passage. The faint green light pulsed strangely through the haze, adding an almost ethereal touch.

A low melody played softly from below, no longer inviting, its tones now harsh and discordant. He looked back once to where Berbatov and the others waited and then entered.

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