Chapter 16: Phaon

 

Leon edged nervously past the door. Watching him, Raymont decided that Leon was one cool customer. Leon ducked into the room, squatting under the torn door, now laying askew and useless as a barrier to their entry. There were no screams or sounds of firing so Raymont decided it was safe to follow. Walking into the room, Raymont looked around, surprised how little damage there seemed to be in the room.
As if reading his mind, Leon commented, "Blast doors." Leon nodded to the heavy reinforced crysteel shutters that dominated one side. Parallel lines of a force grid generator ran alongside the shutters on both floor and roof. Even more impressive were the Mark XXX pulse cannons, three of them, pointed toward the doors as if ready for use. Dead corpses mouldered inside their stations within and around the heavy guns.
"Looks like they were ready for a fight," Raymont said, rubbing his stomach, trying to shake the queasy feeling he had. Radiation sickness was starting to set in. Raymont looked at his chronometer, noting that only about ninety hours remained before the ship's scheduled destruction.
"Any chance we could blast our way to the surface with one of these things?" Leon asked.
Raymont shook his head. He had thought of that also but his scanners had revealed mostly solid rock. Scanning the air, he noted trace elements of airborne chemicals. He wasn't sure what they were, but the scanner was suggesting they were coolant residuals, indicating the possibility of a leak somewhere. That could have been what killed the gun crews, since the room looked fairly intact otherwise.
"Any ideas?" Raymont asked Leon. Leon merely shook his head.

Solo wandered aimlessly about the wreckage of the ship, using a glowlamp he had found in Antheus room to give him light to guide himself by. Though he had expected to meet his death in the appearance of a combot hours before, those same hours slipped by with nothing more than sweat, exhaustion and the dead mouldering faces of the ship's crewmen to greet him on his trek. Periodically he climbed, deciding for no other reason than to at least approach the direction of the surface, which eluded him somehow. It was some few hours before he finally admitted to himself that he was hopelessly lost. A dull ache continued to haunt him, almost convincing him that his right arm was still there. All it took was a reach for that once comforting flesh, the grip of empty air, and the returning realization that he was maimed. Even if they were to escape, he would need a fortune to buy a prosthetic arm that would be any good to a pilot, to a good pilot. Noting a light ahead, Solo ventured forward, Antheus rifle gripped awkwardly in his left hand. Perhaps he had found the combots after all.

Just as they were about to leave the room, Leon stopped Raymont and motioned for quiet. Back in the corridor where they had come from, they could see the flickering gleam of a probing light. But the combots wouldn't need visual light, operating mostly in the infrared and ultraviolet ranges. This beam was erratic and small, and accompanying it where the muffled shuffles and steps of a pair of hesitant feet. Quickly, they extinguished their own lights.

Solo crept forward, but to his consternation,.the other light source was extinguished. Still, bravely or stupidly, he wasn't sure, he continued to advance until, ducking under the torn bulk of a collapsed crysteel doorway, he found himself in what appeared to be a gun bay. Large Mark XXX pulse cannons were revealed in his small beam, their dead crews mouldering, forever at their posts. Beyond the guns, closed crysteel shutters barred him from the outside of the ship while parallel lines of a forcegrid ran alongside the shutters. No evidence of life existed otherwise, but then, thinking about something, Solo shined his light onto the floor. There was revealed several footprints winding their way around the gun bay as revealed in the disturbed dust. Solo couldn't see them in the meagre light of his lamp, but suddenly he realized that he was probably not alone.

A staggering figure crawled into the gun bay, ducking as they had done, under the collapsed crysteel door. As they hid themselves, this figure, revealed by its own light as to be wearing priestly robes, shined its small lamp about, examining first the guns, then the floor. They couldn't make much out of the priestly figure, save that he seemed to be missing his right arm and awkwardly carried a gauss rifle tucked under his left arm, while his left hand scanned about with the light. Watching him, both Leon and Raymont saw that the floor captured much of the man's attention. Then they both realized what he must be seeing - their footprints in the dust.

Joe and Tessa watched helplessly as Bug finished wiring several of the cryoberths in series, taping their power supplies to activate the console. They knew he was successful when weird lights began to play across its surface. Though they appeared alien to both Tessa and Joe, the marine seemed to make something of the psychedelic display and by placing her gauntleted hand upon the console, seemed to be able to manipulate the light into pulsing patterns that were accompanied by tonal sounds.
A flickering holographic image of a gaunt face appeared above the console while the built in amplifier boomed in a foreign voice.
"XXXXX. XXXX XXXX!"
The marine, casting a wary glance back at the trio of Bug, Joe and Tessa, replied in what sounded like the same language, if one could call it that. It seemed to consist mostly of weird grunts and clicks that seemed hardly likely to be intelligible language, but which nevertheless seemed to carry information.
After this brief conversation, the holograph flickered out and died. There was an appreciable hum through the conduit that Bug had installed, as if a large amount of current were passing through. Joe even thought he could feel heat radiating from them as well. Just as two of the cryoberth power supplies shorted and burned out, dooming their occupants, the console connected to the cable went dim as well, and their followed an incredible silence and stillness as all present watched to see what would happen next.
Several layers of crysteel blast panels pulled back and a immense figure, obviously a person encapsulated in battledress, the powered armour suit of the knight, rose to greet them. Lights on the suit told them it was powered and even as they speculated about what would happen next, a voice, loud and terrible, accosted them, hurting their ears with its volume.
"WELCOME TO THE DIVINITY! I DON'T KNOW WHO YOU ARE OR WHAT YOU ARE, BUT GIVEN THE SERGEANT'S REPORT, I CAN CERTAINLY SPECULATE THAT YOU ARE HERE AT THE BEHEST OF THE JADIST MILITARY! DON'T BOTHER LYING! MY INTERNAL CHRONOMETER TELLS ME HOW LONG I'VE BEEN DORMANT AND I CAN SEE FOR MYSELF THE STATE OF THE SHIP! IF YOU WANT TO LIVE PAST THE NEXT FEW MINUTES, YOU WILL ANSWER ALL QUESTIONS PUT TO YOU QUICKLY AND WITHOUT HESITATION OR SUBTERFUGE! I AM MARGRAVE RABASTUS BUT YOU WILL ADDRESS ME AS MY LORD!"
However, before the armoured noble could begin his interrogation, there was a bright flash. Sergeant Garsya didn't even have time to scream as the bolt of gaseous plasma ripped through her plasteel exoskeleton. The rapid expansion of the superheated plasma had its usual effect as her body exploded into a thousand shreds of glowing flesh, armor and sundries. As the combot veered into view, its guns centered on the Margrave while the lesser figures of Bug, Tessa and Joe ducked for cover.

Though Thorn's nerves were getting the best of her, she was able to keep from calling the others, at least at first. And then, as hour stacked upon hour, with no contact with anyone, Thorn finally went to her comset. Turning it on to Tessa's channel, she was surprised to find that it was open and transmitting. But rather than a voice, all she could hear were explosions and what sounded like Tessa screaming. She immediately started to ask what was happening but then stopped, unsure of what to do next.

As Raymont and Leon observed the figure, it seemed to take interest in the cannon nearest to him. As they watched, he retreated and awkwardly raising his rifle, tried to steady it on of the cannon's chairs, near to where Leon was hiding.
In a voice that sounded remarkably like Solo, Leon and Raymont heard him growl, "Come out or I'll blow ya in half!"

Solo, getting up the last bit of his energy growls, "Come out or I'll blow ya in half!"

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