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The Sinking City

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Ghostwolf67

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Re: The Sinking City

PostTue Jan 05, 2016 1:44 am

Chapter 2: Targets
Somewhere beneath the Sinking City

Cold, damp air woke Birral as it blew across his face. To him the sensation was unusual, almost alien. He tried to open his eyes but they were heavy and slow to respond. A blurry world greeted him when finally he could see. Blinking to try and focus was far more effort than it should have been. Eventually he focussed in on a rusting metal grated floor. A railing was beyond that marking it a some sort of walkway. Past the railing a curtain of white water fell from somewhere unseen above dropping down into a chasm below.

His wits were slow to return but when they did he realised he was face down, helmetless, lying in a pool of wet mud and filth. Revulsion took him but try as hard as he might he could not lift his head. [Please remain still. You have suffered trauma. Your motor functions and pain receptors have been temporarily disabled.] The familiars words came through slowly, like how someone would talk to a small child.

Birral wanted to know more but he could barely remember the mental commands he needed. Finally it came to him. [Status report]. No data dispalyed, no charts or diagrams flashed in his vision; The familiar simply spoke to him slowly via link. [Skull fracture detected, intercranial hypertension detected, veterbrae damage C3 to C5 detected.]

He was slow to process this. When the fact he was dying came to him, panic tried to take hold and his breathing quickened. Years of training quickly intervened and what little mind he had raced for a way out. [I need to administer emergency medical nanites! Release motor function lockdown!] his mind screamed at the AI.

[Remain calm] The AI replied [Emergency medical nanites have been administered. Nanite saturation at 100%]. Dumbfounded but placated Birrals breathing relaxed. He wasnt sure the nanites could fully restore him but he was calmer. Though whether from placebo or not he felt like he was improving.

He had just started contemplating where he was, what had happened or how he had administered those nanites himself, when gloved hands grabbed the metal grill before him. Grunting the soaking wet resistance girl dragged herself up into view and threw a large rifle case down onto the platform beside Birral. She was breathing deep and sounded exhausted as if submerged for ages. Peering through a thick set of diving goggles she looked back down over the side and then let go of the railing. A splash followed. The water level must have been close.

For another few uneventful minutes Birral waited for the nanites to do their work. He could see a little more of the surroundings and could tell he was underground. The water from above was pouring from a huge inlet that jutted out. The walkway he was resting on stretched out across some form of subterranean reservoir. Though his mind was getting clearer try as he might he couldnt recall how he'd gotten here.

The fighter broke the surface once more, this time clutched in her teeth was a sodden red pouch. Her breathing now hoarse and deperate the girl clambered up the railing and fell onto the walkway somehere out of sight. She stayed close as he could still here her struggling to get air. He heard unclipping locks, material rubbing, sharp gasps of pain followed by metallic clangs on the grate floor. He heard a bottle being shaken, his keen senses smelled antiseptic alcohol on the air.

[Remain calm. Internal damage assessment complete, you may feel slight discomfort,] The Janus familiar said ominously. Instantly it felt like a million tiny ants were crawling within Birrals skull. His neck and face throbbed. The world became a blur again and his vision swam. On the edge of unconciousness his mind was only able to wonder what ever had possessed him to voulanteer for this mission. There was a loud snapping and grinding. With nausea the scout realised he'd felt it more than he'd heard it. One final crunch from somwhere at his back and Birral could feel his body return under his control.

Remaining motionless but feeling a lot more like himself the PHR scout queried his familiar. [Brain pressure nominal, cervical tissue integrity nominal, skeletal alignement and suture complete. Please refrain from sudden movement or strenuos activity.] The prognosis sounded good. To test how bad he still truly was Birral turned his pain recpetors back on. The white hot searing agony made sure he turned them off miliseconds later. "...that was stupid." he groaned loudly.

The girls head slowly moved round into his field of view. The look on her face was both horror and awe. "Holy mothers... you're alive." she said.

"That bad?" Birral asked as he slowly tested his fingers and toes still worked. The resistance fighter moved and grabbed something to one side. She held up his helmet so he could see. It was a bent ruin. The normally smooth ceramic surface had been cracked so badly it resembled something like a mosaic. "You're head didnt look much better than this" she said daunted. "Oh thats normal." he said with a wry grin to which she looked shocked, until he added "I've always been that beautiful."

Though she didnt crack a smile Birral saw the corners of her mouth curl slightly. It made him feel a little better. Slowly and with great care he moved onto all fours and then shifted until he sat upright. He took his first good look around. The place they found themselves in was clearly some old waterway from the old world. From where he sat it looked like nothing more than an enormous concrete pit, above which huge pipes and trap doors all fed thousands of gallons of water. Their walkway lined the edge of it, rusted and teetering in places from centuries of neglect. "What happened?" He asked bewildered.

The resistance girl paused from threading a curved needle. "You don't remember anything?" she asked. [Memory loss is a common symptom of cranial trauma] His Janus chirped helpfully. "I remember you. We talked. And then... nothing. Just a blur," He looked at her and realised for the first time she was wearing only a ripped and torn wetsuit, her fatigues and other clothes were draped to dry across the nearby railing. Pouches were strewn open in front of her revealing waterproof covers full of medical supplies. There was a deep gash in her lower leg that leaked a thin line of red. "Do you need my help?"

She gave him a look of disgust "Hey, I may not be able to do..." She motioned her hand at his head. "... That. But I can take care of myself. How do you think I've lived so long." She said threading the needle. Birral estimated her age no more than early twenties. His age nearly doubled hers. Clearly vexxed she began pulling the needle through her skin and stitching herself up.

Leaving her to it the post human tried again to remember. He then realised he was being a moron. Blaming it on the recent brain trauma he linked to his familiar [Play all captured data in reverse from the point of trauma.] The info stream from his Janus walker began and he could see churning water and hear the horrid thundering as they were all dragged through large water pipes. He could see flashes of debris, the terrified face of the girl and himself being thrown about like ragdolls. Time ran backwards and they all moved upstream. All at once the feed lifted from the water and the Janus rose back up in the air in a reverse of a previous fall. He watched mortified as they ascended back into a building being torn apart by plasma shells. Janus telemetry identified the point of origin as being orbital. The floor they had been standing on came back together beneath their feet. Then they were all back in the dank workshop he had been concealed within, where he had met the girl, seconds before the shells had struck. [Stop]

They had fallen into this place, saved from the plasma storm that was consuming the building about them. [Skip forward to point of trauma] he ordered. In the dark surging water he saw the huge chunk of rubble enter the water with them. He heard the sickening crunch as it did a good job of pulping his skull. They fell into here. He then watched transfixed as the girl saved him. Prized his helmet off with a knife, made sure he was still breathing. Once the Janus realised he was critical the red nanite injector deployed from his suit. After some clear deliberation on her face she administered it to him. He felt the cavity in his armour where the medical nanite injector had been. "You injected these nanites... you... you saved my life." there was a long pause while she kept suturing but finally she replied. "Dont forget I also dragged your heavy tin ass out of that ditch."
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Ghostwolf67

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Re: The Sinking City

PostTue Jan 12, 2016 6:35 pm

The Sinking City
Battery

Limping through dark corridors Keth could feel she was in a pretty bad way but knew she was lucky as hell to be alive. The resistance fighter now needed that luck to last a little longer. While she'd stitched her leg and stemmed the bleeding she had no way of knowing how bad it was or if there was something lodged in there. Leg injuries like this could retire Loners permanently. She couldnt recall any sawbones being stationed nearby either. Even if there was one close, she certainly couldn't go there with her new found friend.

However bad she felt, the lone sniper had sobering perspecitve close to hand. What had happened to the Tinman could easily have happened to her instead. She seriosuly doubted she would have shaken that off. When her knife had wrenched that wrecked helmet off, his contorted skull and swollen red face had him looking less than human. She could hardly have believed he would be alive right now, let alone walking behind her, covering the rear. Whatever she'd stuck him with had melted away life threatening injuries. Her rational mind knew it was some far advanced technology but witnessing it work was the closest thing Keth had ever seen to a miracle.

Now in the half light, he looked almost normal. A few pale scars in his hairline were the only tell-tale signs anything had gone wrong at all. The resistance sniper felt more at ease now his face was exposed. It added much needed humanity to what had before been a faceless suit of armour, offering all the answers her heart desired. It dawned on her then how desperately she needed to trust him. She had to know. The others wouldn't understand, not even Ada. What she was doing could be seen as treason. For what this stranger promised there weren't many prices Keth wouldn't pay.

First though they had to escape the tunnels. With her experience in the tunnels without question Keth had taken the lead. Birral as he called himself, walked at her back. He moved with his gun up in slow well practised steps turning periodically to check he was still following her. Ahead of them the light from glow lamp exposed a rusted concave doorway in the tunnel. She paused at it illuminating the surround wall. She holstered her pistol and bit the glove off her hand. She felt the damp mossy surface. It even crumbled slightly at her touch. "Not this way," She whispered to her tall companion.

"Do you know where we are?" Birral asked. Keth looked around the walls and shrugged. "Some part of Battery I've never seen before. Though lots of these tunnels were collapsed in the fall. The bombardment must have opened this section back up, that's why it wasn't already full of water." Keth could see the gushing torrents from above were slowly changing that though. The water level in here had risen a great deal since their arrival. When they'd started in this tunnel it had been dry, now water lapped their ankles. These places were once part of the enormous storm drain and pumping systems that kept the city dry during the wet seasons. Now perversely it was the opposite. The Battery tunnels were one of the only dry places left in the Sinking City.

There was rumbling from somewhere above. Dust and rubble shook loose through the cracked ceiling. They both stopped and listened. After a few moments they breathed again. "Can you get us out?" The PHR soldier asked making eye contact. His piercing silver eyes were a stark reminder of how alien he really was. She nodded nervously "Yeah all these tunnels are cut from the same cloth. There'll be a maintenance stairwell nearby. Come on, this way."
They moved on in the darkness, water encroaching on their knees. As she stole the odd glance at him Keth could no longer contain her curiosity. "My father... always told me my tats were from the south shore but I knew he was lying. He was a terrible liar." She said unable to supress the smile that came to her face when she spoke of him. "He said I'd got them when I was little, in memory of my mother."

Birral nodded "But they're not just tattoos, are they?" He said a knowing look on his face. Keth inhaled sharply. "No. The tats cover them well but its really lots of... Little scars... But I guess you knew that..." She said trying to calm her excitement.

"I also know you were probably a very sickly child?" He said giving the resistance girl butterflies in her stomach. All the older fighters always spoke of how she barely made it as an infant. She turned to him her eyes pleading "Please... I...." A distant roaring sound cut her off. From the look in his eyes Birral knew what the was noise was just like she did. The distinctive sound of a scourge craft flying low.

"Focus, first get us out of here," he whispered and pointed to the next doorway appearing in the dark. She saw the door and her hopes sank. Failing to conceal her disappointment the sniper dropped her shoulders and moved to the doorway. She'd been so close. The old metal pressure door looked in good condition. The walls around it were solid and relatively dry. She could see it had its dead bolts engaged on this side. Reaching into her pack Keth produced a well worn crank handle and with some adjustment locked it into a slot in the door. Resistant at first, slowly she began to turn it and soon after the huge gears in the door began to rotate. While she worked Birral kept vigil, the sights of his cutting edge weapon drifting from one approach to the other. Abruplty the cogs stopped turning.

Keth readied her pistol and pulled the heavy door inwards. Beyond the doorway draped a curtain of hanging vines. Natural light poured through in small slivers. In unison she and the PHR pushed through. When the resistance fighter felt the crunch beneath her feet she didnt need to look down and see what it was. She'd found many places like this before. "Watch your step," she said sadly. Birral clearly had not been expecting it and recoiled slightly, bones crunching further beneath his armoured feet. They had entered the lowest part of the maintenance stairwell and found a graveyard. Dozens of bodies now nothing more than bones lay strewn on the ground encased in growing roots. The day of the fall people had fled down into these tunnels seeking sanctuary. Few had found it. Most had ended up like this. Some ended up worse. Birral studied the back of the large metal door and ran his hand across the finger nail marks carved into it "They didnt have the key to get in." Keth said shaking her head and returning the crank to her satchel.

Looking up the large stairwell Keth could see where the light was pouring in. A buckled wall several flights of stairs up had left an opening large enough for them to crawl through. She was sure she could hear marsh birds. "Come on, lets get out of here." she said taking one last look around and apologising silently for disturbing these poor peoples rest.
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SwordOfJustice

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Re: The Sinking City

PostThu Jan 21, 2016 4:11 pm

This is turning into a fabulous sci fi short story. Always waiting for the next part. :D
We have evolved beyond mere flesh and bone. We are the Post Human Republic.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBC9LIUpKeo
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Ghostwolf67

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Re: The Sinking City

PostWed Jan 27, 2016 10:52 am

SwordOfJustice wrote:This is turning into a fabulous sci fi short story. Always waiting for the next part. :D


Cheers mate. I hope I'm concise enough to keep it to a short story :lol: . Keep thinking of new scenes I want to add and new ways to build the mains. When I started it honestly it was just going to be a one shot... Its quickly becoming a bigger project.

The Sinking City
Ground Zero.

Enormous boring tendrils tore the re-enforced wall apart in huge chunks. Through the carved opening combat grubs stormed in. In their wake, worker grubs dragged snaking cables to their intended targets. The ancient machinery was appraised and then broken open. The cables sank into the components searching and binding to the long cold systems. Taking them over. Enslaving their purpose.

The first of many objectives was in scourge hands and even now massed forces rushed to integrate it. Time was of the essence and there was so much more to do. The war swarm depended on his success and he knew the others were watching his every move. In constant low orbit over him they were anything but quiet. Worry was palpable amongst them. Each had begun to feed him data they thought valuable to his task. Through their patronage he was getting stronger.

Though the worker grubs had been slow to assimilate the new and unfamiliar schematics, the parasitic build was taking shape. Mistakes were constantly being found and corrected. Millions of queries and commands. A constant barrage of data. The strain was immeasurable. 1416 relished every second. As hard as it was, he had adapted.

The fleet above had also bequeathed him forces beyond anything he had previously experienced. Thousands of troops and assault craft had begun to land and bolster his occupation forces. More arrived every second. All were under his command. Damaged though they were by the radiation, these were veterans of many battles and each grub fed a new wealth of experiences. He digested how to best apply their new and exotic weapons, and even developed tactics to try in his particular theatre. His growth and evolution was now exponential.

334's plan was desperate but ingenious. Only on this world could it be achieved. 1416 was the only Crux to lead it. An opportunity he would not waste. He was ready to achieve so much more than mere caretaker. Monitored though he was, secretly he plotted targets of interest against areas of resilient meat activity. He saw they overlapped well. 1416 was pleased. He now had so much to show them.
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Archangelcondor

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Re: The Sinking City

PostMon Feb 22, 2016 6:03 pm

WOW you are GOOD!!
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Ljevid

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Re: The Sinking City

PostTue Feb 23, 2016 12:08 pm

This is an absolutely beautiful story!

Thank you(!)

Are you a professional or just talented?
Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man ON fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life...
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Ghostwolf67

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Re: The Sinking City

PostSun Apr 03, 2016 9:22 pm

Ljevid wrote:This is an absolutely beautiful story!

Thank you(!)

Are you a professional or just talented?


Glad you're enjoying it.


The Sinking City
The HAB marshes.

Bright sunlight streamed through broken windows. Dust swirled thick in the air. Moulding furniture lay upturned at odd angles. Carpets thick with budding plants met ceiling vines strangling light fixtures and twisting window frames. The faded walls echoed bright colours, the pitcures on them long since faded. A single red cup lay upright on a table, untouched. A ghost of better days.

The room was plunged into darkness as the scourge dropship passed over. In the shadows within the room Keth planted her back firmly to the wall. Alert and confused the resistance fighter tightened the grip on her pistol. The noises from beyond the window made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Kneeling in the dark beside her Birral pulled a cable from his armoured forearm. In a slow steady motion he passed it over the lip of the window. His body tensed noticeably.

They had arrived at the surface to resistance chatter going berserk. A constant tirade of warnings and go dark orders streamed on all major channels. From first hand accounts the scourge were swallowing up masses of the surface territories. Beyond the window in the bombed out ruins they'd barely escaped from, the scourge were dropping in force. Birral shook his head before pulling away from the opening. He gave her a grim look. Wordlessly they both fell back from the exposed window and the daylight that could easily give them away.

"Don't make no sense," Keth said between gulps out of her canteen. "The Jellies haven't built anything for decades." Crouched down in a hab stairwell she had begun to nervously mutter to herself. "And its high sun. Brainsuckers dont operate in the heat of the day." She shook her head. Even after a century to learn, the resistance still knew very little about their alien conquerors. With the events of the last 24 hours it would seem what little they did know was being turned on its head.

She'd contacted Ada and had been relieved to learn he was safe and on his way back to Battery. He'd warned her about the danger they were in. The scourge war machine was awake. In response Battery command had ordered everyone underground. Though he hadnt said it battery command meant Cael... Warlord Cael, she reminded herself. His name was poison on her mind. The resistance had suffered under Cael. All of the problems in the time since her father could be traced back to him. Whats worse is he would certainly have Birral killed on sight, and probably her soon after. A deep rumble brought her back to reality. Even deep inside the building ruins she could hear the eerie hum of the alien engines outside. Cael was a problem for later.

Birral stood there, statuesque and silent. The gravity of all this didnt seem to weigh on him. Probably because he wasnt tied to this planets fate she mused. This wasnt his struggle. As she thought more on the subject his calm and composure was starting to get on Keth's nerves. "Is this anything to do with you?" She blurted, angry at nothing more than how well he was keeping it together. Birral blinked and his focus seemed to come back to the here and now. She realised he'd been doing something while standing there. It was easy to forget he was part machine. In truth she didnt quite know where the man stopped and the machine started.

"No, nothing," He said not even looking at her. "Then why are you here Tinman?" she said trying to get to her feet and square up to him. The bravado was short lived as her leg gave a painful spasm and she bit back a scream. She lay there for a few seconds panting as the pain subsided. Birral looked at her with a curious smile. "I'm fine!" she spat at him. He gave her a polite nod to show he understood.

"The scourge, much like the resistance are unaware of my presence here." he said cryptically putting out a hand to help her up. "I think we should keep moving." She rolled her eyes and took his armoured hand. He pulled her up with ease and took her weight until she tenderly put her wounded leg down. It hurt but not excrutiatingly so. "And where would you like to go exactly? There arent many options that are safe right now" she said.

There was a monumental sonic boom and then a loud and constant roaring. The building shook under her feet. Keths ears popped from some sudden pressure change outside. She flexed her jaw and cursed. Then she saw Birral. The look on his face did not fill her full of confidence. "What the hell was that?" she said to him over the noise. The PHR soldier didnt reply.



---



Birral reviewed data while the girl idly muttered to herself. While she'd noticed the obvious things about this scourge incursion, his optics revealed so much more that was worthy of review. Even from this extreme distance he could detect distinctive pigment changes in the armour panels of the new scourge ships that were dropping. They were a different colour to the dank green mottled armour that the occupying scourge sported. That could only mean one thing. Scourge that havent had the time to adapt to the local camouflage. New arrivals.

On a world with so little landmass the particular scourge forces were all identified and catalogued by aerial surveillance. This particular breed were not listed among them. It was most probable they were from off world. A new scourge fleet in orbit could explain the bombardment that had almost ended them the night before. If so it was unexpected. Occulous division hadnt reported any fleet activity out of the ordinary in their last report.

[This unit is damaged beyond repair. It is advised that you initiate data protection redundancies] His familiar interrupted for the hundreth time. Submerged in a hundred metres of water and buried under tonnes of rock the Janus scout walker was pinned in the tunnels below. It was well beyond retrieval and it knew so. Quickly its focus had turned to stopping the knowledge within falling into the wrong hands. On his command it would erase all data and overload its core. Protecting the Republic was paramount. [Belay that order] he replied.

Though it was becoming more insistent he couldnt let his bonded companion self terminate. He still needed its maps and information vital to getting out of the city alive. The head trauma had left his own internal memory unreliable at best. Last thing needed was to become confused and lost in the flooded streets. After he was out of danger he would give the order. [Show me the safest route to exfil point on foot].

The map appeared in his vision but it was fuzzy and disjointed due to the interference between them now. Despite this the route was calculated and relevant data appeared with it. Eight cycles. That wasnt good. With all this extra scourge activity it could even take him double that. He needed an alternative.

"Is this anything to do with you?" Keth said interrupting his calculations. He heard her question but had completely missed the context. He reasoned she probably meant the scourge. "No, nothing," he replied trying to focus back on his route.

"Then why are you here Tinman?" she said trying to stand. Pain flashed across her face and she lay back slowly. The laceration to her thigh was turning. In this environment wounds festered quickly. Birral knew that soon she wouldnt be able keep pace with him. None of his medical supplies would work very well on a natural. He reasoned she would need to return to the resistance to stand a good chance of survival. He placated her and pulled her to her feet taking care not to further injure her leg. He would have to take her as far as he could before leaving. She was special after all. "I think we should keep moving."

"And where would you like to go exactly? There arent many options that are safe right now" she said. He felt the mild rumbling and for a moment thought he was remembering it. He'd felt this before, though not in this theatre, not on this world. It couldnt be real. But even buried deep in the catacombs below the Janus could sense and analyse the vibrations. [Warning sonic profile detected] he saw the waveform lines appear and get matched to a known sample. It was real. It was coming.



---



From shadow of the shattered walkway Keth and Birral stood in silence and watched. In the sky before them Scourge dropships were thick in the air like a plague of insects. At their core descended a ship so large Keth could hardly believe it could fly. A bulbous bloated thing larger than a city block, its ribbed body and multiple angled wings were as tall as skyscrapers. Its sheer mass descending shook the sinking city to its foundations. The resistance fighter felt fear creep into her chest. Not in almost two hundred years since the dark days of the Fall had such a scourge incursion been witnessed.

The mighty ship circled and made planetfall in the clearing the scourge had bombed flat. To Birral this was no co-incidence. He'd seen this behaviour before. The gargantuan flyer was a 'Sunderer' class super heavy dropship. From the Janus' memory banks its schematics flashed in his vision along with a terrible list of destructive cargo it could be carrying. Such dropships were at the leading edge of the scourge conquest. They were deployed at strong points and fortresses. Leveraged to crush cities and outflank armies. It didnt belong here in this minor theatre. Birrals gaze drifted higher to the massive scourge carrier hanging in low orbit that had dropped it here. In its shadow day had become night in the Sinking City. Something was very wrong here.

As Birral surveyed the skies, Keth had noticed a haze had begun to build in the sky around the scourge dropships. Like a column of black smoke it began to disperse in all directions. Keth squinted at the unusual phenomenon. As it grew closer it reminded her of a swarm of flies. "What is..." She had barely begun to ask when Birral forced her back into the corridor. "Run!" He yelled shoving her with his inhuman strength. Keth's leg protested but she tried to move at pace. Both fighters fled back into the ruined structure. Birral pushed her on all too aware of the threat bearing down on them.

She could hear the armoured scout behind her ready his weapon. The sniper chanced a look behind her into the open sky. The fighters stomach knotted. It was a swarm, but not of flies. Behind them came the rising storm of leathery wings and bone chilling cries of a hundred hungry maws.
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Re: The Sinking City

PostTue Jun 21, 2016 10:52 pm

More please!
I am a young prowler with much to learn...
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SwordOfJustice

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Re: The Sinking City

PostWed Jun 22, 2016 6:39 am

This should be published, mate. It's an excellent sci fi story.
We have evolved beyond mere flesh and bone. We are the Post Human Republic.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBC9LIUpKeo
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Re: The Sinking City

PostFri Jul 22, 2016 12:21 pm

The Sinking City
The HAB marshes.


Running through ruined and overgrown corridors, Keth's world had devolved into a mixture of gunfire in the darkness and the constant howling of inhuman beasts. Over every stream of sunlight living shadows flashed. The sound of leathery wings and bladelike claws scraping for purchase on concrete dogged their every step. They were everywhere. Ahead the left wall blistered as it became superheated. White hot sparks cut loose into the corridor and the now molten wall parted like a curtain. From the breach a monster erupted forth. So huge its bulk filled the walkway. Behind rows of teeth its chilling cries bayed for blood.


The muzzle of Keth's handgun flashed in the murk. Her panicked fire met the creature square among its five glowing eyelets and its head rocked with each impact. Thick blood oozed forth from beneath the metal plates and Its grotesque form writhed and thrashed before Birral's carbine screamed over her head and put the creature down, its sheer bulk collapsing in the corridor ahead. Behind them windows in adjacent rooms smashed. More screeching. Without time to pause the pair forced their way over the still twitching corpse of the vampire and continued to run. The resistance fighter led Birral through the sprawling habitat blocks as they retreated. Outside vampires in their hundred flocked.


They'd barely rounded the corner when Keth felt the heat on the back of her neck as white hot plasma cooked the corridor they had just fled. Then instead of beating wings there were heavy lumbering footfalls. Keth chanced a look back to see the lizardlike profile emerge from the smouldering corridor. It bounded after them clumsily on its wing arms in great leaps using its muscular legs to push the chase. Both fighters turned and fired from the hip spraying at the pursuing vampire. With its bulk filling the corridor there was no need for accuracy.


Satisfied with its screams of pain Keth looked forward to see the floor simply fell away. Beyond the building had collapsed leaving a shaft where their escape route should be. Barely seconds to react the fighter slid to the ground and her hands scrabbled for anything to hold. Finding only ruined carpet and loose rubble she let out a yell and rolled over the ledge. She felt a strong hand clamp on her forearm. The forceful stop almost pulled her shoulder from its socket. Dangling there Keth yelled expletives down into the hole that had almost claimed her life. Birral gritted his teeth as he pulled her back up to his level aided by the micro-servos in his armour.


The sniper lay there panting. The fall to her death on the jagged rubble below kept playing out in her head. Then Birral was standing over her. "We have to move!" he urged jamming another clip into his advanced weapon. Before she made it to her feet he was firing again at another lumbering monster. The vampire used its plasma cutter to burn through the corpse of its kin and surged towards them. In a hail of concentrated fire it fell mere feet away, wings thrashing awkwardly as the membranes were torn. No sooner had the corpse stopped twitching when it was suddenly lit up by blinding light as another vampire was preparing to burn through, eager to feast. Both fighters shared a desperate glance.


Keth reached for her rappelling line but before she knew it Birral had ripped the rifle case from her back. "The hell are you...!?" she started but trailed off as he wound up and with impressive force threw the case across the chasm and down onto a floor below. Before she could say another word the sound of cracking armour and the smell of burning meat assailed her senses. Chunks of broken and blistered shrapnel flew past as the plasma cutter disintegrated the vampire corpse to her rear. She felt intense heat on her cheeks and closed her eyes before strong arms fastened round her waist.


Then they were falling.
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