“I have brought you a gift, my Mas-s-ster,” the sibilent voice hissed, tickling at the corners of Marius’ consciousness, “it is the one respons-s-sible for our delay.”
“Excellent!” came the reply, this in a deep bass rumble, with hints of hidden pain and terror. Marius cracked open his eyes and saw the towering form of the Tauran Adept bending over him.
“Unfortunately, we do not have the time to indulge ourselves right now. You will bring him with us,” said Shan, an evil grin splitting his face, “but before we leave, I have something for him, a taster shall we say…”
A huge gauntleted hand moved to cover Marius’ face, the contact cold and clammy. After a moment he felt a liquid touch running towards his now tightly closed eyelids. Whatever it was would not be stopped, and the liquid seeped through, burning his eyeballs and bringing a terrible scream to his throat. The pain was excruciating; infiltrating his body violently, driving like sharp spikes further into his skull. He prayed, his teeth clenched against the pain, and felt a response, a burst of energy. Just enough to bolster his weakening defenses and stop the onward push of the demon-induced infection. It was not beaten, only held at bay, its tendrils now dispersing throughout his weakened body; although his brain, his soul remained intact.
“Look!” laughed Shan, pointing at the changes to Marius’ face and body, “He receives our Lord’s blessing and will follow us willingly. I do feel some resistance, still, but no matter we will deal with that when we have more time. Let’s move!”
Utterly subservient, his remaining force of Immortals and zombies, followed him, Marius dragged along behind, his body twisting and bubbling under the onslaught of the demon-blessed disease. Although outwardly, he was now one of them, inwardly, at the very core of his being he continued his struggle, holding onto the thought of Walters and the rescue, he knew would eventually come.
Split and broken bodies lay all around Viker; their heads separated and crushed, the undead never to rise again. Chest heaving, Viker looked down on the crumbled form below him, clad in a Church uniform. He had been mistaken, this was not the one he had been tasked in saving. It had been no decoy, the Tauran forces could not have known of his objective, no it was a simple mistake and the responsibility was totally his.
His enhanced hearing picked up the arrival of his squad and he turned to face them, recognising the thinly veiled terror in some of their eyes. He ignored it, they would, if they were worthy, also receive their Lord’s blessing in time.
Johns came forward, delicately stepping around the rotting body parts, approaching Viker.
“It is not him!” growled Viker, kicking at the body with one foot, “he is still out there somewhere.”
“We’ll find him, son,” responded the non-com, “of that you can be sure.”
“You did not change?” asked Viker, seeing Johns still in his human form.
“No,” replied Johns, “I needed to stay in control and guide the squad, no matter how much I wanted to join you. There will be time enough for that, later.”
Viker raised his head and sniffed, tasting the air, “We must move!” he barked, “They are close to the city and I smell something of our target. Strange though, it is not quite him, it’s tainted somehow.”
“We will clarify everything once we get there,” and then turning to the rest of the waiting squad, “Let’s get going, we still have a job to do!” he roared.
Although he took the lead, this time Viker did not race ahead, they would need all of their forces intact once they reached the city, of that he was sure.
Arn chuckled as he saw the drop pods deploying from the Spiteful Dawn, you could always count on Berbatov to find a way. His penchant for fun was well known, and his idea of enjoyment was simple and direct. Fighting and killing, in his Lord’s name of course, were two of the foundations of his reason for being.
Surveying the remaining Tauran vessels, he saw little in the way of threat. It appeared that they were content to wait for further instructions, but Arn himself had other plans.
Shan halted his party on the outskirts of the city, studying the darkened and recessed buildings amidst the rubble and destruction. He could feel the pull from the central tower where his prize awaited him, yet he was reticent, in an almost childish way frightened of the dark before him and what it might hide. Cursing at his own foolishness, he strode ahead, the thump, drag of his undead followers echoing off the walls around them.
They stopped once more, abruptly, as an almighty howl reached them. Shan recognised the call of a hunting beast to the rest of its pack, someone or something was close and they needed to hurry. Even so he hesitated, subconsciously waiting for something, and then he had it, as other howls were heard, transmitting their own hunger and anticipation of the kill.
The Tauran leader urged on his followers, he himself picking up the inert Marius’ form and slinging it across his shoulders, before breaking into a shambling run.
Magos was confused, he was hearing voices, something that perhaps had occurred to him before during his own isolation, but never with such clarity, nor a barely concealed feral undertone. Due to his nature, he loved control, and he was definitely now not in control of his body or even his own thoughts. His rapid descent halted and he hovered, trying desperately to understand what was happening.
“Feeling a little uncomfortable, are we?” said the voice, interrupting his febrile thoughts.
“W-who are you?” asked the egotistical being, fear vibrating in his own voice.
“Ah, well we’ll come to that in a moment,” replied the voice dismissively, “however, right now we need to get one thing straight! I’m just a little bit upset with your behaviour, this killing of my people has to stop. If you agree, like a good boy, to behave, I might just let you live, if not…”
“You do not dictate to Magos!” was his roared reply, his limbs once more struggling titanically.
“Oh dear,” came the calm yet disappointed reply, “I somehow knew that would be your response.”
Once more, Magos, felt the possession of his body begin and there was nothing that he could do. His right articulated limb, turned back upon itself, the open muzzle of the Gauss rifle situating itself ominously in front of his control room. Power began to build and he knew what would follow.
At the last moment, the arm twitched and the super accelerated slug slammed into his shoulder mounted missile launchers, exploding them off the construct and tearing tonnes of armour away with its passing. There was no pain as such, only a deep sense of loss, as connections were separated irrevocably.
“Ooops!” came the voice once more, a deep chuckle accompanying the comment, “Let’s try that again shall we?”
The arm moved slightly, positioning itself centrally and Magos tried desperately to assume a semblance of control as the induction field resolutely charged the next shot.
Viker heard the howls too, they had a hooted overtone and belonged to none of his brothers. He itched to break free of his slower comrades, but would not do so. It appeared that there was something else out there, and by the repeated calls more than one of them. Hunger played through the voices, that and the pack nature of their calling restrained him. It was obvious that Johns had noticed it too and Viker sensed the moment when he gave free reign to the beast inside him. This was going to be bad and Viker dropped back, to stand beside the now transforming Johns.
Nothing they could do slowed the plague-driven Tauran forces, their numbers swelling as fallen soldiers were reanimated. James and a fighting core of men had fallen back onto the staging area, where a ring of tanks waited. The roar of their battle cannons was ceaseless, obliterating the undead, the only way they could effectively reduce their opponents’ numbers.
It was then that the dripping and cursed drop pods screamed to the earth, boring into the ground with their terminal velocity enriched speed. The usual disregard for their minions was apparent, as the pods flattened zombies and crushed Immortals equally.
Major James raised his voice in prayer, he knew that this was going to tip the balance of the battle, and not in their favour. Pods began to deploy their contents and he ordered the tanks to advance, his wavering men following.
A familiar roar came from the middle of the Tauran ranks and James slapped the side of his helmet, in an attempt to clear his head of its obvious delusion. Then it came again, “What are you waiting for, Jimmy?” barked the voice loudly in his ear via his private circuit, “You’re going to miss all the fun!”
Marius’ tortured body awoke and with it came the realisation of his own torment. His skin writhed beneath the onslaught of the virulent disease; warts, boils and sores formed, died and reformed. An unending fire traced across his nerve endings as flesh liquified and bubbled. No longer limply held by Shan, he struggled madly to be free yet the Tauran Adept held him tight, enjoying the sounds of pain screeching in his ear.
Deep within him, he was still Marius and struggled to remain so, holding on to his faith in Walters. Each new attack of the rancid virus was repulsed and he maintained his self, yet the cost was terrible. Outwardly he was no longer human, his face ran like wax, eyes dripping down his cheeks. There was no sight left and his misshapen mouth moaned in agony.
One massive shudder wracked his frame and he slipped out of Shan’s grasp, as his very bones became porous, then fluid, before hardening once more in a weird parody of the human form.
The Tauran looked down at him, before grunting dismissal and racing once more towards the tower. There was nothing that Marius could do, but lie there, his body pooling on the floor at one moment, then twisting into a mutilated design in another.
His mind raged in frustration and he felt himself connect with something, it was not Walters, but like him in an undefined way. It drew him on, calling to him and in a half drag, half fall, he slithered his way towards it.
Guest post with D.P. Prior
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