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      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
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      Dominion Logs

      Dominion Logs

      Apian Commander:

      1. Maro Vengene (GestaltAlteration) <AC>
      Apian Soldiers:
      1. Broet Mantane (Kiza) <AS>
      2. Mike Staple (no-name) <AS>
      3. Tanya Dervin (Daniel Danciu) <AS>
      4. Alkar Triosky (Abra) <AS>

      Psycor Agents:

      1. Rail (Grod) <PA>
      2. Alucard Sepet Dalv III (Car&#244;usoul) <PA>
      3. Hugh Galahad (Siиdяed) <PA>
      4. Moses (De-lousedInTheComatorium) <PA>

    2. #2
      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
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      Maro Vengene <AC> [Floor Three]

      Parking a fist in his palm, a weary man lowered his shoulders and let out a sigh. Sitting at his brilliant emerald-cased desk and looking out the slanted window he took in the spectacle before him. Like wet, dark paints had flown between diamonds of all shapes, reflecting a dazzling spectrum of lights. In an instant the flesh became a dark specter, floating out in the infinite space. Moans shot through the lonely cosmos like electricity through copper wires, indiscernible except for their inhuman nature. Shifting from the plethora of interstellar strobe lights, the ghost scanned the gray and whitewashed plating of the Shattershield. As far as interplanetary battalions went it was middle-sized, the majority of its bulk packed full of nuclear weapons armed to launch in a single, massive attack. Focusing just a little more closely he noticed it.

      Maro Vengene, hailed by Aquavy as the god ruling the darkness, snapped from his trance due to an interrupting voice. It belonged to a girl barely fifteen, her red curls befitting a young Apian lady in those times. She tapped her boots together and bowed deeply in her white uniform that looked too tight even on her thin, frail body. Past her, around the box-like hatch stood two soldiers, with their visors, wearing like uniforms. The rest of the circular room was but glassy walls and carpeted floors, Maro’s desk the only thing of real worth even if it had nothing on it.

      “Enough bowing, Samantha,” said Maro off-handedly, staring dully at his arching nails. “How many times do I have to tell you? Only those witless swine that call me god have to bow, yes. But you, you understand me. Right?’

      “Yes, sir.”

      Maro removed the long strands of silver from his golden eyes and let a smirk pass his thin lips. He jumped up showing his all-black uniform and the belt of azure military medals.

      “Good. Then how would you like to join me for wine later? To celebrate all you’ve done for me in the past to help me get to this level.”

      “But,” the girl blushed, “all I did—“

      “—first, alert the forces that we’re under attack.”

      “Huh, no way.”

      “Don’t give that face, darling.” Maro Vengene moved both arms behind his back, standing tall. “The alarm should be coming on any moment now. How I hate that infernal thing. Hey, you guards,” he indicated the men by the door “go disconnect it.”

      Both uniformed men withdrew leaving the girl and dark god alone.

      “I don’t want a huge commotion, understand? This is a delicate place, one wrong move and I’ll find I have to float in space for the rest of eternity—oh how annoying! Pick a small number, our best, tell them to slaughter these guys. They used one of our own vessels, so it could be Apian defectors, or…”


      “Or,” Maro said as pleasantly as he could, “our target has learned that we’re coming. It seems they’ve jumped to some rather hasty conclusions…”

      Samantha took a step back and, from sheer impulse, bowed again. Realizing her error she sprung back up and trembled a little. She left Maro Vengene alone. Thinking then that he might move into the command station, the control center, direction navigation and weapon control, Maro decided against it and instead dropped back down onto his chair. He leaned forward over the slick surface of his working table. Digging his fingers through coarse hair and gnashing both sets of teeth together, Maro couldn’t keep in a yell.

      The world was lonely. May the Chigun family rest in peace. So were the dictator’s thoughts when he let forth a surging, immaterial wave shooting through the walls of the station.

      Broet Mantane <AS> [Floor One – Own Room]

      The hiss of air spreading through the vent was most calming. Without lights, covered with two layers of sheets, the young man, Broet Mantane embraced a second pillow while pressing his ear deep into the first. There were footsteps from the hall just outside, voices in commanding tones. Nothing unusual. It wasn't like they were going to do anything on this mission. He still racked his brain at night wondering just why they had to sign over a year of their lives to go on this voyage. Were they expecting any resistance at all? It didn't matter, the trip was like a cruise far away from his parents, and it wasn't like he didn't have a few people he could talk to on board. Still there were days he considered his skills wasted. He could shoot a target rather well and had a thorough understanding of explosive technology. But no one in the Apian military praised or even noticed his performance during training.

      Wiping these unsavory thoughts far from mind, Broet shut his eyes tight hoping to drift off into his usual dreamless sleep. The outside noise continued. In fact, it kept going without cease like a speeding train, voices pulsing through the walls and into his ears. Fighting with the covers until breaking free, the man cursed and stumbled away from his bed. Thumbing the wall beside the sliding door he pressed onto a heated pad until bluish overhead lights shot on. His room was uniform to everyone else's of his rank. In the back right waited a massive computer terminal integrated into the corner. Unlike the slick models back on Ap there were no casings to hide the wiring and internal drives, the monitor wide and large like any other that used hologram technology. Above his average single-bed were pale shelves carrying detective novels and gun magazines. Above even that winked a safe, though he had no belongings inside.

      Reaching into his closet by a compartment that led to the washroom, Broet sourly took out his white Apian coat, boots and gloves. Changing quickly from his nightgown the young man checked to see his short brown hair wasn't sticking up. Finding it satisfactory he wasted no more time in sliding his door open, setting out to find the source of the annoying chatter.

      A thin gray hall spread out in both directions far enough to make it difficult to see either end. Men and women dressed like Broet shoved passed the man as they usually did without affording a word or glance. People entered and left their respective rooms, some alone and some with company. Still, out of everyone the soldier could make out, none of them spoke very loudly at all. Then what had brought him out here when he could be fast asleep? Just like a floodgate opening to let the torrent free, a sudden wave of voices crashed over him. Useless statements: hotdogs, surf boards, bicycles and brown ribbons. Broet didn't see anyone's mouths moving, so where? Racing away from his room without bothering to close it up, he plugged his ears and hummed an old tune from his youth. No effect. Descending a set of metal stairs and turning a sharp right, he moved away from the other people. Slowly the voices receded.

      Broet settled on a bolted bench at the start of a hallway thinner than the one before. The hard, slightly damp floor gave off the clean disinfectant smell of hospitals. Taking this moment he wiped the sweat from his brow and shivered even though it was not cold. Tapping boots brought him to his senses—looking up to meet the uninterested gaze of young Samantha. Though nine years his junior the girl held complete superiority over him. Broet knew that well and, considering the time since the mission began, never recalled having a single conversation with her. She hesitated for a hardly perceptible pinch of time. Her feet began swinging as quick as they had stopped. During that short interval Broet heard something come from her. There was no mistaking it.

      “Broet,” she had said, “too average, nothing noteworthy about him at all. I’ll get someone else to go down and rid the intruders.”

      Broet jumped up and blocked her path faster than a speeding comet. Started, Samantha retreated a little.

      “I’ll have you know I ranked second on the DECON, most prestigious demolition and firearm exam of sector eight. You should really check your files closer, lady.”

      “Do I know you?” She said abruptly, unable to hide a pinch of fear. “Sorry, but please let me through.”

      Broet didn’t move.

      “Look, I know you outrank me and everything, but you should really learn some manners. Hey, why don’t I pass you by and say ‘Samantha, too average, nothing noteworthy’. I’m a soldier and came to do a soldier’s work, so if there are intruders below us than I’ll get rid of them.”

      Broet expected an angry retort, but didn’t much care. He never liked those who got off too easily, much less spoiled children. Sure, some might call him spoiled or pampered, but that life was no more. His military career proved he was a man who didn’t depend on gifts or inheritance. But what of this teenager, so closely connected with their benefactor? Her tender skin, water eyes and those quivering lips… She was nothing but a weak, scarred little brat.

      Samantha dropped the folder she was holding.

      “How,” she cried, “how did you get a hold of that information?”

      Slipping both hands into his coat pockets Broet couldn’t help but laugh. A few Apian peers gathered from behind and watched them.

      “Oh, you S-ranks have a very charming sense of humor. Yes, admit it, you slipped up and said something out loud that was confidential. Enough of these acts.”

      Giving Broet a condescending state, Samantha slowly retrieved her dropped documents. Then she said curtly, “Come with me, now.”

      Broet obeyed. They passed the full length of the narrow passage, another right turn and up more concrete steps. They were then in a wide, garage-like tunnel. Red beacons flashed on and off on the “asphalt” ceiling. Broet stopped when Samantha did, looking ahead and knowing it led to the entrance of the city. The young man then tapped the girl on the shoulder.

      “Okay, enough. I am all ears. No one’s around now.”

      “It’s like he read my mind,” hummed Samantha. This time Broet knew she didn’t say it. “Otherwise he heard about it from someone else, but then, who? Let’s see if he responds to any of this. Well, he’s looking at me sure funny…”

      Broet turned his gaze down to his own trembling hands. “I can read minds,” he blurted out, “I can, what the hell?”

      “What?” Samantha said, shocked.

      “Not just yours, anyone I get near! I can’t turn it off. It drove me crazy when I was lying in bed. Please, you have to make it stop. What if I’m like this the rest of my life?”

      Samantha shoved her gloved palm over Broet’s chapped lips, taking in all around and confirming they were still alone. She whispered, “You haven’t been around Maro Vengene lately, have you?”

      Shaking his head, Broet swallowed deep.

      Samantha returned to her normal posture and lazily pointed for the city. “You have the job, go and prepare for combat there. Others will join you soon.”

      “Wait,” Broet’s voice echoed as Samantha began walking back to the residential sector. She only shook her head and picked up the pace before slipping into the narrow hall. Silence fell for the first time in a while. Trekking towards the dark-blue exit, Broet grew increasingly more tired after each step. Before making it all the way he hunched by the icy wall on the left side. Dropping on his ass he couldn’t help it any longer. He dozed off into a deep sleep.

      Mike Staple <AS> [Floor One – Shop]

      “’Ey, Mike, are you planning on hanging out here all day?”

      Mike Staple peeked over his magazine “Nuclear” for only a moment. Leaning his back against the steel blue wall the young person stretched his legs across the counter surface. Otis, the brown-bearded, plump store manager curled both fists but managed to keep his aggravation under control. Unlike his young guest Otis didn’t wear the staple white-coat, but instead a work belt like you’d expect on a blacksmith and a dark collared shirt. He left his young companion for a moment to cross over to the other side of the counter and speak with an older man in a manacle, who requested a tonic of rush for later use. Mike listened in, scanning his eyes on the portraits of Otis in his younger days, even then working on the Shattershield, along the walls above the windows and door. He tossed his magazine aside and crossed both arms tightly.

      Out the wide, short window could be seen a vast compartment lit like the full moon over a cloudless night. People strolled past either close or far, from one shop to the next. What else was there to do during this piss poor ‘cruise’? He could be at the home front fending off the rebels—Red Stallion—or at least be honing his skills in a proper training facility. But no, he drew the short lot. Their benefactor insisted a small force come along for what he called “a most important venture.” No one knew what the venture was, just that he didn’t really plan to use anything other than the space station itself. But it didn’t take a prodigy, which Mike happened to be, to figure out what was going on. A hundred tons of nukes and a ticket to Psycor equals one hell of a way to end a conquest.

      Mike stood. Being the youngest soldier on board had its drawbacks. No one respected him much, but then again there were those who easily indulged a youth genius at combat and strategy. Such people like Otis kept him supplied with all the magazines and books in stock. Even those things got dull after the hundredth day.

      “You going?” asked Otis, handing the man with the monocle a glass tube, after Mike moved for the exit. “Where to?”

      “To walk around, same thing I do everyday.”

      The outside naturally had the same temperature. Mike pulled back his drooping brown hair but decided to let it fall again to hide his jetting ears and mole shaped like a fowl’s foot. Light reflected in his wide eyes. Those eyes followed an invisible line to the ten story high ceiling. White and blue overheads attached to rafters returned his look. Those weren’t the only lights that decorated the city; the fountain was illuminated purple-velvet making its foaming waters a beautiful sight to behold. He sat on the boarder of the sprout feeling the specs of water connect to the back of his neck like a thousand taps. The whole place looked like an older Apian city before towers became the dominating architecture. On the right a fat square building with a pointed roof acted as the medical chamber. The doctor Li, a master in his field, could patch anyone up for only a hundred munata. Then ahead and a bit to the left were two more buildings where a person could buy clothes, liquor and other goods. Not much use in combat, unlike with Otis. Mike continued to observe the all-too familiar sights, catching the veranda on the left wall. The wide balcony rarely had visitors, but the occasional S-rank crowd would gather and view the populace from above while enjoying their drinks.

      Most Apian ship had these luxuries even if military personnel manned them strictly, for trips through space could last years, or decades depending on the campaign. To rectify this they load each ship with as many luxuries as possible. Sometimes with civilians or slaves if only for the purpose of pacifying soldier’s social, or sexual needs.

      Yawning and considering his return to his room, Mike shuffled through his pocket as he customarily did to make sure he hadn’t lost his wallet of munata. What waited his fingers was the silky feel of an official Apian document. Then he remembered he had picked up the note at the foot of his door before leaving, and had taken it up absent-mindedly thinking it another cafeteria bill. Now that he stopped to think about it, though, the paper was far too nice to belong to those cranky lunch ladies.

      It read:

      A-Rank Mike Staple,

      Intruders coming. Basement floor one. Tear up this message and do what you have to do. Use all your salary munata for equipment.

      No sooner had he read it than he tore it into a thousand ribbons. The first hint of action in a long time, and Mike couldn’t be happier. A group of intruders were about to get their asses handed to them. He gave an unmistakably cocky smile, his usual.

      Tanya Dervin <AS> [Floor Two – Cafeteria]

      Ghost town would be a good way to describe the cafeteria. Table linked with table as long as half the length of a football field. Plus only a handful of people could be found in there. The room was constructed with eight walls mimicking white marble, four of the eight only a tenth in length. Thus it appeared more like a rectangle than an octagon. The back wall had an opening for a descending, grated stairway that eventually led to the elevator. The front hosted an open window for food services facing a maze of shining rails. There wasn’t much point, a line of people rarely existed. The right hall led to Dell’s shop of specialized goods then an immediate turn to the gymnasium. Beyond the gym was a high-security door with an S-rank clearance required. Very few people could say they passed through there.

      Alone, guilelessly noting the empty tables around, sat Tanya Dervin, dialing in a few numbers into her headpiece. The apparatus was nearly invisible inside her right ear but just large enough to allow an ease of use. The phone, intercom, radio, GPS tracker, Internet and hard drive allowed a nonstop use from the woman, who appeared on the outside to be doing nothing. In reality the young person listened intently to The Daily Doom while viewing the Internet through a contact lens acting as a portable monitor. The device may have been around for decades, but the piece of technology reminded her of the old times as a specialized technician. There was still the occasional moment, such as a week before when a shop terminal had been broken into and she was called to help repair it.

      She stood, leaving her empty plate there for the workers, and stepped over the picnic seating. Her appearance wasn’t far from most Apian woman: tall and slender with skin white like powder. She wore out a dazzling red dress for the sole reason of abandoning what she thought was her mediocre, ugly white soldier coat. Of course the choice of clothing helped mask her inadequate feelings of her own appearance. Her nose was straight enough, her eyes charming and her hair set in a popular ponytail style. Still, when she looked in the mirror and then at another woman also in their twenties, she wasn’t very impressed with herself at all.

      After going down the stairs she entering the cramped lobby area with haunting fluorescent lights, cold gray walls and an elevator. Pressing the call button she waited, alone, considering in her mind how few people had actually come on the Shattershield compared to her past missions. Back then cafeterias such as this one were packed to the brim. The plain double doors slid open allowing her into the steel box. Pressing one, the doors snapped shut again like a shark’s jaw. She was left feeling the subtle change while the marvel went down.

      Then the earpiece spoke a message addressed to her: “Specialist Tanya Dervin,” came the girl’s voice, “confirm use password.”

      Tanya said it.

      “New mission, intruders on B1, prepare and eliminate threat at earliest convenience. Out.”

      Emerging from the elevator and passing a corner Tanya found herself on the top of wide, azure steps leading down into the heart of the city. She admired the spectacular fountain waters and the mixture of colors cast down on the simple square buildings. Her thoughts turned serious when considering the message. Now she’d have to spend her money to get a better weapon, and go fetch her armor-plated coat, too. Ah, whatever. A mission was something different, and besides, how hard could space pirates be compared to their mighty empire?

      Alkar Triosky <AS> [Floor One – Own room]

      Stepping from the washroom the feet of a tiny man pressed on the icy tiles. Anyone who should have looked then might have laughed at the mess of hair—like a black cat decided to take a nap on his skull. Not that Alkar Triosky would have let anyone laugh. No, the first person to laugh would have their stomach flayed, intestines strung up like playground swings and skulls mounted on a ten-foot pole.

      A smile flashed across Alkar’s face.

      Tossing on his coat, pants, boots, gloves and necktie (a commodity he found in the halls), the man hopped on top of his sheetless bed taking one of his many daggers from the shelf. He swiped it at the computer terminal, a trash heap he never used (after all, Gandan V didn’t have such damned contraptions) then towards an invisible opponent diagonal to the sliding entryway. Then his ears twitched. Someone’s coming, he thought. Yes, I hear footsteps coming this way for sure!

      Sure enough the bell resounded letting Alkar know he had a visitor. Saying the magic word of “destruction,” the door opened up letting in his guest. She was young, fifteen at best, wearing her scarlet hair in curls. Stepping down cautiously she searched around Alkar’s room almost feverously until coming to the man himself. The small man wouldn’t have been much taller than her, if he didn’t have a bed to prop him up, but he nevertheless knelt down to stare at her face as close as he possibly could. Size wasn’t the only thing to announce he couldn’t be a trueborn Apian, but his deeply tanned skin. Even the dark brown of his eyes contrasted the often-bright colors of the Apian race.

      Perhaps it was the fear of a foreigner, or the barbarian’s waving dagger, that sent the young lady screaming and pouncing back like a hare. Delighted at her fear Alkar commanded his door shut tight and hopped down from mattress to tiles. Approaching quicker the savage took a fistful of the girl’s hair and yanked. He slipped the sharp end of the blade beneath her chin, laughing.

      “Oh dear, oh me, I recognize you,” said Alkar in a thick accent, “always walking by the side of our benefactor. What is this?” Alkar removed the dagger long enough to rip the folder she was holding from her hands. “A mission, for me?”

      “No,” she screamed, “I got the wrong room, not you!”

      “That’s true I took over Jimmy’s room after I disposed of his body, see?” Alkar licked his lips. “Oops, now that you know I have to kill you, too.”

      “Please, no!”

      Slipping the dagger into a hidden sheath inside his coat the brown-man instead waved his sharp, pointed nails before the victim’s watery eyes. “Last night I found out something cool. Maybe my race wasn’t a complete waste of space, watch closely.” Snapping two fingers together a pillar of fire shot up from his thumb. It was only then that the hostage noticed the ceiling was riddled with charred, sooty holes all over the silvery surface. Alkar then formed a smoking ball of fire moved it for the young woman’s lips.

      “Open wide, my dear.”

      The redhead kicked Alkar right in the testicles, flooring the poor miscreant as sure as being smashed by a thousand tons of feathers. Making matters worse he landed on his own fiery orb burning a hole right through his necktie. He got up before being scorched too seriously.

      “Leave me alone,” shouted the woman, who had since moved to the door and was tapping frantically on the keypad. “Wait until Maro Vengene hears about this.”

      “”Oh, yeah, that sick fuck is really gonna’ help you when I dissect you into a thousand pieces. You’re—“

      Before Alkar could finish his hostage had gotten the door open and fled away. Cursing aloud and limping, he eventually crashed his ass onto his bed and flipped open the folder. It took him some time to read, for he could hardly read his native language much less this one, but managed to piece together enough information. Some guys who weren’t supposed to be there were in the basement region of the station and anyone had a free license to kill them.

      “I’ll show that bitch,” growled Alkar, “I’ll make her regret not coming to me first when I make chandeliers out of the intruders’ bones!”

      Rail <PA> [Stealth Ship]

      From the leathery seat everything remained silent. Darkness nullified all but fear, the smell of crude oil and supercharged electricity coursing the chamber. Magnificent space, it came to view first in a small vertical slit, then took up the entire front of their vision. If the space before them equaled the body, then the gray, diamond-shaped construct would be the tumor. The Apian Shattershield, a monstrosity in its capabilities. If they had not been able to acquire, repair and learn the use of one of Ap’s own ships than they would have been space dust a thousand times over.

      Truly they were the last hope for their people.

      “Rail, prepare to dock, shattershield rear hatch forced open. No suspicion as far as we know.”

      “Good, Moses,” said the man called Rail, sitting on the main seat. His voice was unusually deep, tattoos of dragons across his forearm and his hair in dreadlocks. A wry smile appeared between his cheeks, perhaps because he was imagining what they were about to do to those sick bastards.

      A slender, delicate-armed man gripped the back of Rail’s cathedra and breathed out steam from his mouth. It was cold, very, for it was necessary to give up almost all functionality of the vessel to remain as stealthy as possible. Alucard didn’t seem to mind much, licking his lips and leaning forward, reminding Rail just how pale he was. Often he commented to his comrade in worry for his heath, and even brought up his unusual sharp fangs with jests that he must be some kind of vampire. Alucard only gave strong willed laugh in response and refused to speak much on the matter.

      “Soon it will be life or death,” said Alucard, “I am unsure if I should be exhilarated, proud, or terrified.”

      A loud pop behind sent everyone’s head turning. Though they couldn’t see him, there stood their fourth ally Hugh Galahad who had just dropped a container with their weapons and armor. Without a doubt their tan, brown haired and blue-eyed friend had the most skill with brute force. Either with tearing a target full of holes using a gun, or the occasional sword quarrel, Huge was a hard match to beat, even if he was middle aged. For this reason he had been entrusted with picking and protecting their equipment up until that moment.

      “Get dressed and ready,” said Hugh, “we won’t have time to stick around here once that hatch opens up.”

      Rail got up confidant that the ship was calibrated to move without his manual assistance. He produced a flashlight form his pocket and shined it on the crate. Huge dragged a crowbar over and popped off the top. Inside there was a whole array of options: hard bulletproof fiberglass, lightweight titanium alloy, Psycor military helmets, bandanas, sub-machine guns, pistols, daggers, katanas, broadswords, chain mail gauntlets, and four pairs of combat boots made of fine tactile leather.

      Ripping his rag-like shirt from his barreled chest Rail immediately took the alloy body armor and slipped it over his head. The plate had been constructed in parts that covered the thighs, shins, arms and neck with elastic materials at each joint for ease of movement. After strapping the protection full he slipped on the boots, the chain gloves and finished off with the helmet. To finish he took a sub-machine gun and hid a dagger in his footwear.

      The others were not by any means idle during this, for by the time Rail finished the others were equally ready to begin mankind’s (for Apians were not men, but monsters) greatest mission. Rain pounded both fists together and yelled, “This is it, let’s go and not leave even a single one of those mother fuckers alive.”

      Moses <PA> [Basement One - Docking bay]

      Moses stepped over the main hatch taking in whiffs like that of an old submarine. Shattered glass covered the tan-brown floor and light danced over them, pouring through a creaking yet steadily spinning fan. Pipes covered most of the flat walls though there was the occasional gas gauge, vent or nozzle. Looking back into the interior of the Apian stealth ship, still too dark inside to make anything out, his friends emerged one by one. They discussed a moment; sure that the alarm had triggered and if they didn't act immediately they would be overwhelmed by a devastating cyclone.

      There were two directions possible at first: straight ahead and a small leftward walkway. Both had been sealed with airtight doors, but Rail was already tinkering with these to gain access. Making it look like child's play he swung the first, and then the second open, grinning while doing so.

      Moses removed his helmet and whipped out a cancer stick from his all-black Psycian body armor, trying to restrain any coughs. He'd taken enough medicine to be robotripping. He had grown quite used to the feeling. Lighting up and nodding to his allies he said, "I'm going left, it's better if we're splintered around, don't want them killing us all grouped up."

      "Obviously," said Rail. "We're going. Godspeed-- contact us on your helmet radio if you need anything."

      Once alone Moses took a hard hit from his cigarette. The dim light made his skin seem paler. This is it man, he thought to himself. My chance to go out in a blaze of glory. Goddamn, it beats dying on a hospital bed in the middle of a bunch of crying dimwits.

      Stomping on the cigarette stub and throwing up just a little in his mouth, Moses returned the helmet over his brown mat of hair. He manned the .45 pistol tight with both gloved hands and treaded past the narrow, atmospheric doorway into the hall. Swirling fans blew forth dust and other irritants above. One pipe spewed water and steam that Moses had to crawl below. The hall ended opening up to a much larger walkway. Peaking out Moses saw the left led to a dead end where a light buzzed and flickered on and off. The right ran off into the darkness. Moses knew it was his only choice.

      Croaking metal, scurrying little feet and the snarl of a quadruped. These sounds greeted the Psycian agent as he drew farther from both light and warmth-- like descending from paradise to the frozen abyss. He could have used his flashlight, but considering the situation he wasn't prepared to take the chance.

      He regretted not doing it. A red aura flared illuminating the dropping turret gun, it's case boulder-like and its barrel shaft appearing dark red. The mini-gun rotated and blast off a dozen rounds. Moses dropped flat to the ground covering his cranium and shouting some indiscernible phrases. A split moment later Moses witnessed the weapon rotate all the way around, opposite of him, directly before the screech of some type of rodent. Crawling forward the frantic soldier popped off a few shots at the cannon's backside with no effect. "Shit," he sprinted into a right-standing position. The turret swung back around and shot again. By that time, however, Moses had found the left turn and escaped the hall of death.

      Panting and resting against a radiator of sorts he pressed a button behind his ear and said, "watch for turrets." He was sure they heard him.

      He continued on into the darkness, the cries of strange creatures all around...

      Hugh Galahad <PA> [Basement One]

      Holding a revolver and a sub-machine gun in each hand the middle-aged gun nut split up from the others. He went straight ahead until coming to a dead end. A puddle of dried blood greeted him, the corpse of some hideous two-headed rat smiling with teeth of maggots. Hugh shrugged the shoulders of his breastplate and considered turning back towards their ship. He noticed, however, a shadowed area of the tan piped wall. A quick investigation found it was actually a hole leading off somewhere, and that a person could, in fact, fit through it.

      Clipping both guns to specialized holsters Hugh pulled through, the top of his helmet scraping time and time again on the surface. The other side was considerably brighter. Overhead and even slits in the wall let off warming glow, buzzing and welcoming like you'd expect in a vacation abode. He had two choices, to continue the way he faced, down a corridor, or head left where the light remained consistently bright. Telling himself he wasn’t afraid of an encounter, even an open one, Hugh chose the left direction.

      Another two-headed rat fell through a vent in front of the weapon specialist. The beast darted forward and cut into Hugh’s combat boots with sharp yellow claws. It was just about to sink its jagged teeth into its leathery meal, but Hugh pistol whipped it right on its spine. Checking all his zones and finding no human threat, Hugh made to finish the job with ten crushing stomps. Not enough. The abomination sprung onto its hind legs and launched for Hugh—slicing one of the armor joints and drawing blood. Unable to hide his anger, Hugh trained his gun sights on the animal.

      Brains splattered, two of them. Hugh knew the danger of generating such noise and immediately continued on his way. He stopped at a four-way intersection and took a moment to check each for danger. All three receded into darkness. To the right he heard a stomp, like from a beast, much bigger than the last creature. Leftward it was deafeningly silent, and ahead drips of water pounded. He would have to choose, but which way would produce the best results? They intended to find some weak spot in the station, anything that would stop its approach to Psycor.

      Hugh was genuinely surprised that they had yet to encounter another human. While the drab floor looked no better than a sewer system it begged to reason that the Shattershield would be bustling with people, most carrying guns. He decided it best not to argue with providence and kept in mind that the moment they were discovered it would be all over.

      Now, thought he, which way?

      Alucard Sepet Dalv III <PA> [Basement One]

      Alucard's thick brown-white shirt and pants seemed quite the short end of the stick compared to his comrades, yet the young man couldn't help but feel lighter on his feet with this getup. Strapped tight around his shoulder the sheath of the katana dangled by his hip. He also had a pouch by his other hip containing a fiberglass whip with little hook-like needles that can shred an opponent like scissors to paper. Also, even if his bloodline frowned on such trinkets of man, he kept a pistol in its holster at the side of his chest. He wore the same helmet of the others, his snowy hair flowing out from behind.

      He split from Rail a little bit back, starting his venture on a lousy foot. The ceiling rose up into a small dome and then back down making the wall that blocked his path. A buzz itched his ears originating from a bundle of wires dropping down then rolling up again, vanishing through a square hole. The dead-end only appeared that way at first, but Alucard’s eyes adjusted ever so slightly to make out the outline of a circular hatch. Grasping the zero-shaped wheel using both hands he twisted and turned. It popped open.

      Shielding his eyes Alucard stepped into a warm, carpeted chamber with a hearth and fireplace. One might go so far as to say the carpet; houseplants (a common flower found on Phycus) and abstract art paintings were meant to mimic their home planet. One thing that gave it away had to be the slanted box inserted into the corner wall, like a coke machine mixed with a personal computer. Alucard squinted and chuckled to himself in his failed attempts to read the writing above the myriad of buttons, done in symbols.

      Alucard picked up a wallet lying by the feet of the machine. Ten yellow bars that appeared to be made of plastic were stuffed inside. Money of an unknown value to the man. To pocket the treasure took no thought. Alucard reclined a moment on the purple couch as the clock on the wall ticked away. His thoughts were lost on his cruel father, deciding then that if by some miracle he lived through all of this, he would track him down. No mercy for such ruthless, miserable man who could do so much evil even from one room in a castle.

      Exiting back into the dim, grainy hall Alucard withdrew his whip for any eventuality.

      Last edited by GestaltAlteration; 01-27-2009 at 07:29 PM.

    3. #3
      無駄だ~! GestaltAlteration's Avatar
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      Maro Vengene <AC> [Floor Three]

      The slick metallic surface reflected a million little lights. It had a subtle beauty to it, not much unlike a sunrise over emerald waters. Slipping off the lid and ignoring the busy chattering, the contents were removed and the sharp transparent crystal held up. Slices of Maro's stabbing eyes, taut lip, firm chin and fine woolen suit winked down from the fractured mirror.

      There was a time in the heart of his sickness when the cunning pylon never left his thoughts. Standing then at the foot of a ten-story castle before a field of nettles, birches and ciders he would hold the rock up as he did at present. The memory left a smile on his face, recalling long before the steel layer cast a condemning shadow over mother nature herself, not mentioning the S-4 project, the overhead nodes, the geo-ring... Humanity invoked his hatred of creation, the path he had to take to dominate the reigns of feeble minds unable to unite by themselves.

      The wars came to mind, when fires and explosions colored the horizon. The moment he stole the lifeblood of Yamoto Chigun through possession-- when he took the body that still serves him-- all hell released on the barren orb. Bodies lined the city streets on raised spears, heads mounted on towers for all to witness. He had won his game, but was it worth it? Could his enemy have been right, is humankind better left to destroy itself?

      Lowering the crystal he then noticed the red-faced teen tugging on his sleeve. They were in the bridge behind a row of complex terminals cased in fiberglass skins. Over them were five chairs levitating over an endless drop. The only thing stopping the cold hand of Hades from pulling into a dark oblivion was a thin wall of glass. Men in uniform so similar in both appearance and size they may as well have been clones manned each spot both important and not. The dark god never bothered with their names, knowing their competency was enough to keep them on the crew.

      "What's the matter, Samantha?" said Maro distractedly.

      "Very strange, sir, so strange!"

      "Get on with it."

      "Well, well, we have a psychopath on board, he killed a crew member, I know he did. Why didn't he get eliminated in the screening process? Oh, and don't call me crazy, but someone read my mind, just like you do sometimes..."

      Extending the cunning pylon out, Maro stared with sagging shoulders until the young woman hesitantly took it.


      "Excuse me?"

      "The intruder with that name interests me. I would like you to stake his heart with that until it turns orange, then return it to me." The man paused a moment, observing every angle of her face, then thought better of his request. "No, I should not ask someone so inexperienced to take on such a task."

      "Aren't you the least bit concerned about the people I just told you about?"

      "No. I'll take that back now. You look positively tired, get some rest and have a little faith in my methods."

      "Your methods are absurd," she said until becoming completely silent. The knowledge of overstepping the line etched on the angles of her cheeks.

      "Yes, I could send every hound I have on the men in the basement, but most of the soldiers on board are fools. They'd bottleneck in the corridors, shoot eachother, fall to Mr. Mordock's ridiculous experiments. They joined for a free paycheck, not to fight. Then should I lose those men, where would I be, having given up my whole force in a single foolhardy move? I have faith in the few you chose to take on the task, and should they fail we still have a plan to fall back on. Yes, my greatest regret now is not building the Shattershield to withstand internal assaults..."

      "I'm sorry, I didn't mean--"

      "Go to sleep and leave everything to me."

      * * *

      The onyx cape whipped from quick, determined steps. Maro wore his cloak and the rectangular glasses he insisted upon whenever he graced the public. A group of women passing stared with such awe they forgot the courtesy of moving from his way. Pushing through he came upon the colored fountain further brightened by the above industrial lights. His eyes went from the shop, to the medical center, then stopped on a young man sitting on the marble rim of the water sprout.

      Bored with sleepiness the child met Maro's line of sight and, as if plugged into a wall, jolted to a stand and gave a loud "hurrah".

      "Quiet," Maro said listlessly, "I have called one of your companions here, when she arrives I will give you direct orders."

      Tanya Dervin <AS> [Floor One - Shop]

      Crackling with a burst of static, the symphony of sound fit for a dystopia, Tanya glanced away from the bearded Otis. She thanked him again for the fine silver scattergun and pressed the shaft of the weapon by the lining of her white Apian coat. The open door revealed the immediate flat plain of the city, her line of sight seeing only the sides of buildings until hitting a gray wall. She didn't leave, not until the message coming to her became clear.

      "Tanya," came the voice finally. It was a male's voice, deep yet with an air of humor. "You were the one given a mission recently, yes?"


      "I can see you're close. Come to the fountain to have a word with us regarding that."

      Unable to hold a laugh she slipped out the door and saw the mentioned fountain immediately by the stairwell leading up to the cafeteria. The vast, stuffy chamber outlined the two figures standing straight as rods. Tanya let the barrel of the shotgun drop and proceeded casually as if going to greet old friends instead of the twin strangers that they were.

      The moment Maro Vengene turned to face her Tanya felt her skin go pale and the strength drain from her legs. He walked out to meet her.

      "Ah, welcome."

      Tanya bowed impulsively and muttered a few words that sounded like a mixture between a greeting and a proclamation of greatness. It didn't matter if she felt nothing for their commanding officer.

      "To think you would call for me," said she, "when you command all civilized regions of our universe. This is an honor."

      "Indeed," said Maro with a hint of agitation. The brown haired youth stood directly behind him, unsure of anything to contribute. No one would pay much attention to his words anyway, thought Tanya.

      "Catch." He threw a long, pointed crystal through the air. Tanya swiped it and gazed curiously.

      "It's beautiful."

      "Yes. The two of you are to head downstairs at once, hunt down Alucard and plunge that into his heart before killing him. Should you succeed your reward shall be great. I could do this task myself, but you understand that I have not felt so well lately."

      "O-- of course. Anything."

      Without further conjecture Maro bowed formally and took his leave. Tanya inched beside her associate, who introduced himself Mike, and watched the commander leave. She stiffened, applying pressure to the stone in her gloved palm. A hint of mystery surrounded the otherwise inanimate element, rousing in her a spirit of excitement. Before she acted out of duty, now she wanted to see the criminals die by her own hand.

      She drew closer to Mike in order to make a plan, calling up a schematic of the basement floor that immediately displayed before her right eye.

      Alkar Triosky <AS> [Floor One - Storage Room]

      A colony of little black dots sped round and back from the buzzing globe of light. Burning with an orange light the walls betrayed a sense of wear as if maintenance had not touched inside for a decade. Titanium crates cast disproportionate shadows and the cool, stuffy air suggested some vengeful spirit might haunt the space.

      Skipping down the grated stairwell two steps at a time came the smirking Alkar Triosky. He kept a straight posture and whistled until his boots met the bare concrete floor. That sharp curved dagger never once left his rounded hand, even during his visit to the shop where he all but slit the owner's throat. He would have, Alkar thought, if it wasn't for such prompt service. Resulting from the venture he had on heavily built armor that fit over his flat chest perfectly. His arms were still exposed, muscular as always, but he didn't much care. It wasn't as if anyone would prove a match for his skills.

      Near the back of the room, before the remains of an old computer monitor, was a trapdoor that mimicked wood in appearance. He knew, of course, they wouldn't have used a material as impractical as that and confirmed his suspicions upon touching it. The hatch swung up without any resistance revealing a steel ladder dropping down into a black nothingness. Most people then might have secured everything and proceeded with due caution. Alkar was not most people. Jumping in he let out a vibrating shout of joy until crashing down on the floor below.

      The new arena had better lighting reflecting off steel blue plates. Scraping the knife from the black rubber ground Alkar immediately noticed two doors on opposite sides. Then, just as immediate, his bloodshot eyes locked in on a figure standing before the left threshold. Green ooze dribbled out of the slit that was its mouth, empty occipital cavities crawling with maggots. The flesh at its stomach had been eaten away only leaving a few meaty threads and a spinal cord, the rib cage dripping globs and chunks of organs. Zombie came to mind. What else was something so hideous to be called?

      Alkar cast a grin. Pest control… his specialty.

      The Apian soldier moved first, darting for the animated corpse like a screaming locomotive. The point of the dagger split open its misshapen skull. It seemed to have little effect. Alkar shouted as a stream of acid plastered over his bare face and arms. He skid back and fell down on his ass trying to wipe the substance off. During this the zombie didn't stop for a moment. It came closer, then still closer.

      The pain subsided. Alkar got up and pointed a finger at his adversary. "Enough," he shouted as an orb of fire whizzed from the tip of his finger to the decaying chest. It winced and lowered its skeletal hands long enough to Alkar to get a grip on his dagger still lodged in its head. Shouting and bellowing from the bottom of his lungs the soldier stabbed the humanoid a dozen times in rapid succession like the cutting of raw meat. The last slice proved to be enough. The zombie fell, unmoving.

      Blood trickled down his lips and excited his taste. It didn't come from the battle, no he had bit into himself in his rabid excitement. His face and arms may have already begun scarring from the incident, but that didn't mean damn all to him. It was all about the thrill, and he prayed to his god of war that he might be faced with much more exhilarating challenges in the future.

      Not to forget the importance of the mission he stole, Alkar moved on through one of the doorways. A turn left followed immediately by another two turns brought the man before a seemingly endless corridor lined with pipes and gauges. The light became much dimmer. Along the way he met with a snarling two-headed rat that charged and bit at his shins to no effect. Wasting another five minutes he brawled with the creature, coming out with five deep scratches but its carcass in hand.

      Coming to the end of the hall Alkar pressed his weary back vertical to the wall and took in the environs with the keenness of any natural predator. He heard a voice. He saw the shadow of a man through the thick haze of darkness.

      Perhaps he should move on from simple monster slayings, he thought, to the more pleasurable act of murder.

      Broet Mantane <AS> [Floor One]

      Broet fastened the crimson circlet tighter causing a crease in the cloth over his fingers. The expertly crafted submachine gun dangled by his hip as the young soldier fastened the strap of his dark blue helmet. He had woken thirty minutes early to the stare of many bystanders. The first thing he noticed was that there were no voices flying trough his brain. His mind reading was no more. Perplexed, he didn't give much thought to anything else. He bought his new equipment mechanically like he was buying groceries and headed in the direction of the basement elevator.

      The garage-like hall was far more populated that it had been earlier. A row of men in civilian-wear passed chattering about some movie Broet would never bother to see. Their voices echoed and reached him even when he got to the other end. Taking a left he returned to the narrow hall with the bench where he had seen Samantha. The amazement returned that he was only going on this newest mission because he had overheard a thought not meant for him. The chance could not be missed, he could prove to everyone he deserved A-rank, or higher, through his merits. The intruders were as good as dead.

      The double doors of the elevator reflected Broet's hazy image on their golden surface. Then, like he had been ripped in two by scissors, the gate opened up to welcome him. An obnoxious clicking filled the box after he was shut in. It descended down into the belly of the beast with the speed of a rocket-car. Before the soldier could register what had happened he was walking into a different area altogether.

      Dropping down two ladder rungs Broet's boots clashed over steel. On this floor the elevator was cased in a circular, silver column firing off rays of light onto bare walls. In the corner by the only opening stood a machine akin to a massive telescope, only instead of gazing up into space the lens pointed at nothing in particular on the gray ceiling. It had a round base supposedly to rotate even though it didn't appear to have enough room to do so. Broet jumped back before touching it. He had heard a sound, and it was not the drips from the leaking pipes.

      His first instinct was to shout, "hello" but he sealed his lips in time. Creeping through the tiny opening and grasping his weapon tight, the Apian peeked around the corner. Visibility rapidly waned down, but yet he started at the sight of the shadow. There could be no mistake: the breathing and the subtle movements. He walked right into where one of the rebels waited! There he stood utterly unsuspecting!

      Backtracking as quietly as he could muster, Broet felt a rush of emotions. I should shoot now, he thought, while he's looking away. Then it was revealed that his considerations were for naught, and the voice of the stranger hit his eardrums when he moved by the telescope. He thought he had been stealthy enough, but apparently not.

      "Who's there?"

      A choice had to be made. Could he run back upstairs in time, or should he enter combat right then and there and risk everything?

      Hugh Galahad <PA> [Basement One]

      Glittering like miniature fireworks, sparks vanished from the severed wires the moment they came. Static seemed to barrel through the ceiling vents. Removing disheveled brown strands from his face did Hugh no good, for the hall he chose to creep down offered little in the way of light. Maybe he sought glory in his decision, imagining lucid thoughts of returning with the head of the creature that made such unsettling sounds.

      Hugh skirted by a corroding gas pipe of sorts, keeping his firearm ready with one hand and sorting out that which lie ahead with the other. Once he had gone far enough a subtle, dim glow captured something strange and almost abominable. The red-brown plate that marked a dead end outlined the silhouette of a broad shouldered humanoid. If the foul stench was not enough to alarm the man than the hideous clicks of its insect wings were.

      Soaring like a zipping arrow went Hugh, the collision between spiked skull and armor resonating. Regaining his footing he felt steam breathing on the back of his neck from a ruptured pipe. The bug-monster approached leaving a heavy thud after each step. Its four arms reached out as if beaconing for Hugh's very soul. Hugh never considered himself a coward. Countless opponents and countless bullets littered his past and none were able to intimidate him. But they were all human. Never before had this… construct of flesh, organs and an exoskeleton stepped in to fight. It now dawned five paces away and didn't give sign of letting up.

      He fired off two precise revolver bullets at the same moment that it slugged him in the face. Crashing down the he found himself on the ground again. The monster gave such a loud, vehement scream that Hugh lost himself in it. It had to have died, thought Hugh, there wasn't any possibility that it survived two holes in the head. No longer did the thought live when four bulbous fists rained down all over his body. Pain after stinging pain was a testament to the gunman's endurance.

      One opening was enough. Springing up and darting away with the speed of a hare Hugh swapped his revolver for a much heavier, ironclad weapon. Five shots from the submachine gun lit up the drab halls. The screams from before came again only this time it followed a sigh. The six-limbed repulsion collapsed from the loss of its brown-green blood.

      Panting like a mutt, Hugh rested on a beam finding that he had returned to the four-way intersection. Everything had happened in a matter of minutes. Yet it felt like an entire day passed in that wedge of time no larger than an iota. Whatever the case the danger was no more, short of the threat of inviting the enemy from the deafening roars of his gunshots. Was it worth it? He couldn't be sure, but he decided not to think on it any longer.

      There were only two plausible paths now: north and west. He took a moment to contemplate. Then he saw the brief flash of a figure straight ahead and the slightest sound.

      "Who's there?" He asked instinctively.

      Moses <PA> [Basement One]

      Orange ash fluttered to the ground. Breathing out the smoky mixture of tobacco and water, Moses touched the collar of his armor and cited a silent prayer. Never a religious man, he nevertheless felt a strange spiritual tug in the cause that held Psycor, his own homeland, his own people, in the balance. Sure it had its fair share of corruption and ugliness, but anything without such was pure fantasy. It didn't make it any less worth dying for.

      Casting the thoughts from mind Moses continued on to the other side of the cramped chamber. The room would have been completely nondescript if not for one prominent feature. The light of a computer screen gave an eerie azure glow casting shadows. The monitor, two teal bars with a hologram image in between, rose from a flat tan box. Moses noted the keyboard layout that had at least double the buttons of the Psycian's, each character in Apian text. He didn't let it phase him a moment, having been trained specifically to hack their enemy's machinery.

      It took only ten minutes to bypass the password requirement and access a full map of Shattershield. Stomping the butt of his smoke, Moses slipped out his cigarette box and thought for a moment of lighting another one up. Instead, showing some restraint, he began to engrave on the paper with the logo "Nico-T" using only his fingernail. Another ten minutes and he had with him a crude, rough sketch of the basement level. He estimated where he stood and where their ship was docked from the slight indentions.

      Slipping on the glove he removed for the task, Moses decided he would come back should they need the map in the future. Right before continuing on a voice crackled through his helmet. It was Alucard.

      "Moses, come in…"

      "I read you."

      "Found a curious computer-like thing… Would appreciate it should you check and see if it could be beneficial to our mission."

      Moses listened as his ally gave him the best directions he could. Using the map on the screen he got a rough idea of where to go, laying out a path. Instead of heading back-- the shortest route-- he would instead go around the long way in order to avoid the gun turret. Then again, he thought, that means I could run into some other unknown danger along the way. Is it worth it? He decided to try. Committing the path he would take to memory, Moses lit another tobacco stick and returned everything to his pockets.

      He began by racing through the dark tunnel until reaching a wall, then turning a sharp right. A single blinking light cast an aura in the hall-short compared to the last. It remained the same in appearance: pipes, gauges and hard ground. Somewhere in the distance Moses heard a whirling like an airplane engine, but he paid it no mind.

      Turning right when he met a wall, Moses jumped as he heard distant gunshots. He got down low and crept forward at a much slower pace. Something passed just within his sights. A shapeless outline of some creature, the foul stench and hissing telling Moses all he needed to know. He shot off a couple rounds from his .45 and then came closer to see the result of his handiwork. The deformed rodent lay dead with chunky holes through its gut.

      Not losing any time Moses dashed by three deviating halls that he knew led away from his destination. Picturing the rat he had just encountered the man slowed just slightly and perked his ears for any other unwanted presences. In answer more gunshots reverberated straight ahead. Something ran closer, a human figure!

      "Rail," Moses breathed, "I nearly shot you."

      The muscular agent panted and leaned forward. He placed a shaking palm on Moses' shoulder and then started laughing.

      "Shit, turret down that hall just like you warned us."

      "So from this part, too… I thought as much."

      "You shouldn't go that way, you have a good chance of becoming a new floor decoration."

      "Shh, don't talk so loud. Look, let's chitchat later, we don't have any time to lose. Try not to get too far away from the rest of us, okay?" Moses followed by coughing three times. In response he took another hit from the cigarette.

      "Yeah, who do you think the leader is here? God speed to you, man."

      Rail continued on his way. Moses came to the edge of the intersection. It was only a couple of feet, a good leap or jump. He had to run past the opening with the turret or drop dead just like his comrade warned.

      Holding his breath, the agent went.

      Alucard Sepet Dalv III <PA> [Basement One]

      Both hair and flesh mixed like hazed white before the circular opening. Alucard had left his helmet inside, for the moment, letting the long silver strands drop around each shoulder. Headgear of such kind may have been a necessity on a dangerous mission, yet his bloodline had never assumed such craven attire. Besides, he should hear if anyone tried to contact him.

      Mesmerized by the infinite sparkles of the whip fate had entrusted to him, the thin man cracked it. He struck his imaginary opponent again, then a third time with nimble movements. The distant rattle of gunfire ceased his carefree practice as his thoughts began to wonder to the safety of the others. Not yet, thought he, I have a mystery to solve before running off to aid.

      Retiring back into the carpeted arena he smirked at the curling wallpaper and the plaster chipping from the ceiling. The smell remained pleasant bringing the shadow of a smile to his frail lips. He sat down on the plushy couch and crossed a leg over a knee, pondering. What had been his true motivation for coming on this venture? Did he truly care that deeply about a rock riddled with tumultuous war, poverty and savagery? Perhaps the reason was something much deeper. Related to his history in some way unknown to him.

      Moses appeared at the threshold, smoking under the glass of his helmet making his sweat seem on fire. Seeing how relaxed Alucard was he chuckled and uttered under his breath how he wish he could share his confidence.

      Alucard tossed the wallet holding the ten plastic sticks his way.

      "You can see the vending machine clearly in the corner, I trust. Do your analysis so I may be off with a clear mind."

      The black-clad agent had already moved by the construct's side and tinkered with a few of the buttons on top. In an instant the hacker found out what Alucard had been left wondering for some time.

      "It's a mechanized shop. The slot here looks like it takes these yellow rods just like it would a coin. The opening here is huge, suggesting you can get some pretty big stuff."

      "So, it must be connected to an arsenal of useful trinkets…" Alucard breathed.

      "That'd be my guess. Oh, yes!"

      The exclamation brought Alucard to his feet.

      "Bombs," continued Moses. "This thing has bombs."

      Before Alucard could gather what his brother-in-arms was doing, the tan box purred and then spat out a small brown object. It appeared as a paper bag wrapped tightly around a precious present of sorts. Moses pocketed it and took out a red piece of plastic from a slot in the machine, glancing up to Alucard eagerly.

      "I had to do it," said Moses between coughs. "It took a lot of the money but I have an urge to cause these bastards some serious damage."

      "If it amuses you, then I am pleased," Alucard said. He had returned the helmet and had already headed for the exit. Then he heard what was unmistakably the voice of Hugh, muffled but loud enough to be distinguished. This triggered the memories of the gunshots and his eagerness to help. Could even now his friends be tangled in a struggle between life and death?

      "Moses," said Alucard. "Let's go."


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