OPERATION ELANOR TIME REMAINING 01:02:16
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Sparek had been treated. The burn on his arm was pressurised and wrapped. Although the wound had been cauterised by the shot, medifoam had been injected across the burn. Fortunately, the colonel was still able to control his limb’s function with what seemed like no pain, although this was largely in thanks to the painkillers in the medifoam itself.
The combination carapace and liquid armour was not enough to diffuse the entirety of the burning kinetic energy that scored a direct hit into his limb. What made it worse was that the shot had managed to find a weak spot in its make-up. That was either by luck or the significant skill of the sniper.
A corpse too cold to have been killed only moments before was the only indicator of an attacker, but there was no mistaking that he was the one. He was using a laser rifle and this was one of the few things that they’d found so far that had actually made any sense. Laser weaponry was commonly found amongst The Mandate rebels, a weapon with a terrifying effect on its victim’s flesh, cauterising what wounds it creates and making it incredibly difficult to treat in the field. It was a weapon only recently developed but to the Union it wasn’t effective enough to radically alter the model of their forces. The Mandate had no problem with it though, and made it a staple for their official forces. This made this one body more important than all the others that they’d found so far.
Clara gave mention that, if all the people in Penan aren’t Mandate revolutionaries, who on Demeter was this? Now he was dead – they had no chance of carrying him or extracting his body so they did the only thing that they could. They made note of his corpse’s presence and resolved to mention it in reports. When it came to the liberation of Penan-on-sea he would be found and later analysed.
They pressed on to search the other cells when they were done with the body. The Earth Union Espionage Unit wasn’t here.
Deciding that nothing more could be found or discerned here, and leaving the broken cells behind, they had bounded their way into the next rooms. A hole already blown into one of the cell walls had revealed a route. A set of staircases, a fire escape by any standards, led them upwards out of the gloomy concrete surroundings and upwards into wooden panelling and stone tile floors. Sparek ordered the group to follow carefully, he wanted to insert them into the courtroom with a much less risky entry than coming up from the prisoner’s passageway.
His sense of direction would lead them through the building and into the gantries above the court floor.
He shuffled in quietly, checking angles and keeping his ghoststep along the floor. The wooden panelling reigned here. A dark wood furnished the room with an upper class aesthetic that was soiled by the debauched dealings below them.
Beneath them, in the courtroom’s vital organs and purposefully built furniture was a crowd of what was supposed to be Mandate troops. Instead were the strangers that they’d seen so many of in Penan. Each one with unique bone and metal armours, fatigues and various hides of creatures and humans jostled around the room in various acts. A triplet of them argued over the uniformed body of a long dead Union Gendarme. Sparek almost didn’t recognise the uniform in its deep browned black, but guessed it to be one of the local constabulary. Others were hacking at body parts that they’d collected from small piles of them as if they were readying them for some kind of shambles’ market. Legs and arms were split at the joints with heavy rectangular blades. The jaws of heads were broken off and Sparek watched as one of the strange, unknown enemies handled a dismembered jaw with a hunger before biting into the tongue and muscle between the teeth.
From the walls hung chains, clamped and nailed into the wood, varying in length but almost always adorned with a butcher’s hook that twisted into the naked flesh of the corpses of men, women, and children.
In the center of the back of the room the fellowship had a perfect view of the most disgusting of the acts. Where the judge would reside were two figures. One was another stranger. The other was a humanoid that was tall and to the point of being gaunt that it was impossibly lithe – standing three feet higher than the average human – and crooked over, creening in a vulturous prose. Its hands, like its legs, were unnaturally long and skeletal. Its hands twitched as if riddled with Parkinson’s disease and Sparek could see the glint of tools in the vulture’s grasp. What it would stare at, what it would probe its tools at, and what it would twist to cause tortured, muffled screams was crucified before it.
Hands spread out in vile mockery of ancient religions and impaled with long, thick metal nails, the face contorted in the immense pain of one who has resigned to absolute tragic pains. His legs and abdomen were removed, leaving the body to be supported by hooks beneath the shoulders and the metal in the palms of his hands. Pipes, tubing, and wires slithered like hungry snakes from what was left of the living corpse’s chest – flesh draped like an open shirt to reveal a broken ribcage – upon the wall and fell away underneath various ducts and holes. On nearby plaques were pulsating organs that were visibly connected to wires and living physical reminders that what screamed against the wall was alive.
Colonel Sparek recognised the face from briefing. It was Lt. Blake, the EU-2 – The Earth Union Espionage Unit.
Sparek fanned the group out alongside him, spreading them out along the balcony. He registered their scowls at the sight beneath them. His own face had revealed his disgust as if it were thunder. He noticed that Clara’s own eyes were scanning his features with an unreadable face of her own.
He looked to Clara and quickly told his plan to the fireteam through the medium of their hand signals. He handed his rifle to Clara and unsheathed his pistol from his thigh. She was the better shot and for this he wanted every available hand with a gun. Sparek lined up his pistol at his target. He could see in this peripheral vision that the others were doing the very same.
Sparek cupped his right hand with his left. Moments later, he fired.
The slug weapon kicked hard. Punctuating his shot were the ragdoll motions of his targets. One of the three squabbling over a corpse had their head blown out and slammed into a bannister next to him. The other two were dispatched by Harved’s quick firing and Clara, using Sparek’s rifle, punched holes into the chest of the butchering brute once, twice, three times with her practiced eye. Yuri’s long rifle emptied the skull of another and all four of them had quickly taken out the enemy group in one small but lethal wave of fire.
All but the thin man.
Their destruction had brought its attention upon them. As they killed they wheeled the attention of their weapons to it and immediately fired. Someone blew a chunk of flesh away at its chest. As it recoiled from the blast, its reflexes made it run too fast to one side and Sparek’s pistol, along with the others’ weapons, shredded hardwood in chase to the skeletal menace.
Something jutted out from its back – a propulsion system, with its lightning reflexes it had pushed out two tubes from its torso and another pair from its lower extremities. Powered flame spouted from their undersides. The inhuman seemed far too lithe to house such cyberware, even if it was built with these in mind.
It inconceivably threw its thin, skeletal frame into the air, making a dead-eyed vector for the group. Singling Sparek out it target him and closed the gap within a second before gaining the twenty feet altitude at a sharp and direct angle.
It was terrifyingly fast and almost a blur; three metres away it opened its hands to attack. It was obvious now that the tools in its hands were augmentations, built into his limbs. At two metres the colonel could see synthetic mandibles and the tiny, shallow optic lenses in its face, its skin twisted in rage. At one metre Sparek’s rifle was thrown beneath his feet an instant before Clara’s foot was pushing her leap forwards. She drove her force and weight into the magma-plated blade that ran the flying gaunt through and knocking it out of the air. Gravity took its terrible toll and acted. The cyborg’s flying augmentation could not carry them both, and the gaunt and Clara were forced to plummet.
Sparek gave an outburst and leapt to the balcony edge. “Clara!”
With a frightening grimace that none but the monster could see, Clara retreated the blade out of the thing’s chest but was too slow to plunge it into its neck before they both smashed into the floor. Clara’s weight and the force of the floor brought the sword down and shunted its apex through a soft opening between carapaces.
She had the wind knocked from her too, but Clara was far too filled with hatred and loathing for the bastard hostile to notice. She pushed the blade’s crossbar over. With its point still inside the enemy she pushed it down, ignoring the thrashing claws that grazed and cut at her body armour and letting the superheated blade do its work by melting boiling its innards.
Clara twisted her sword around inside it and, eventually, it stopped its struggle in a heap of steaming flesh and organs, and the melted hollow metal of its bones.
It lay dead.
Looking over the edge, Sparek could see Clara twenty foot below them. She was looking up at him as she let the heat from her weapon dissolve the shit on her technoweapon. She was almost reckless sometimes, and being his erstwhile bodyguard threw herself into trouble more often than he dared to count.
Somebody would have heard all that, he thought. He turned to Yuri and Harved. “We need to get down there. Harved, I want you on Blake. Yuri, set up a spot that you can move out from quickly.” He picked up his rifle from beneath him and left his own question on what on Demeter that thing that attacked them was. A cyborg clearly, but for augmentations like that you’d need an obscene amount of credits. It was another addition to the growing list of questions.
Harved talked first. “I don’t think he’ll be able to move,” he said, acknowledging the EU-2. Yuri turned to Sparek too, with a frown on his face.
“Let’s just make him more comfortable if we can’t move him,” he replied. Harved nodded his grim understanding. Comfortable meant something else and he knew it.
At the end of the balcony, opposite to their entrance, was a spiral staircase that quickly took them into the gored area beneath their vantage point. Yuri stayed at the balcony, crouching in the corner for the same vantage point it gave them beforehand. It was a simple matter of the seating area being purpose built to provide an audience to the room – a natural choice for snipers who knew what they were doing, if a bit obvious.
Harved strode to Lieutenant Blake quickly, attempting to discern the exact condition of the suspended living-corpse. Sparek met with Clara who was, although scratched and bruised, was far from walking wounded. She stood with her body angled towards him.
“The things you do,” he said, and let it hang. Her lip curled ever so slightly and she then assumed a more tactical position in coherence with the group, flexing her wrist and kept her eyes on the two other entrances to the room.
Sparek immediately looked to the human corpses and sliced their throats – it only happened once, but it was once too much that enemy had come back to haunt him – before checking in with Harved, who looked to him without anything positive written upon his face. The colonel looked to the destroyed form of Blake who looked down with pain addled eyes. Dried blood crusted around sliced muscle and surgically forced pipes. Sparek noted the barbaric styling of the surgery and Harved pointed out the colour of the skin. It was all unnatural.
It coughed up a spittle of blood, and choked on words that barely resembled “stop” and “pain”. Sparek winced at the following request that was far too filled with pain to ask anything but the one word.
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OPERATION ELANOR TIME REMAINING 00:46:41
– by Kier Sparey
© Copyright Kier Sparey 2014