Thursday, May 26, 2011

Radical: Rest

This is Radical part IX.  For more check the table of contents here.

We fled through the jungle for hours, Kane ranging ahead to clear a path while Kora pulled me along on my injured leg. I don't think any of us actually knew where we were going except away from that clearing. We had no idea what had happened to the rest of the group, or even if they'd survived. All we could do was pray that Vecht had gotten them out of there and was on his way to the shuttle, otherwise we were stuck in this Emperor forsaken jungle for the rest of what were about to be our very short lives.

During the battle I hadn't had time to pull that Necrontyr claw out of my leg, but at some point it had come loose, and now my boot was filling with blood. Somehow, I didn't think about bleeding to death, but rather about getting some kind of fungal infection from having wet feet. I'm sure that meant that I was already in pretty bad shape. Eventually Kora shouted ahead at Kane, calling for a stop so that she could see about doing something for my leg. Reluctantly, the Inquisitor came back to us and pointed out a sheltered hollow under a fallen tree that we could take shelter in. As we settled in, Kane kept a close eye on the jungle around us. “I don't hear anything.”

“It's impossible to hear anything with all of this rain,” Kora said, and she was right. The constant downpour had turned into an all out storm now, and the heavy drops hitting the canopy above us produced a deafening din that drowned out the ambient noises of the jungle. I propped my back up against the roots of the fallen tree and began unfastening my boot and greave. Kora helped me, and gasped as at least a liter of blood sloshed out of my boot onto the ground. “By the Emperor Regina, how are you still walking?” I just shrugged and laid my head back, glad for the rest.

Kane turned back, and took cover under the tree with us. “I guess we can stay here for a while. If they were chasing us we'd probably know about it by now.”

Kora had pulled her medical supplies out of one of the pouches on her belt and was trying to stitch my leg closed. By now the whole thing was numb, so I didn't really notice. “Kane,” she said, “What were those things?”

“Necrontyr,” he said. “A xeno race that makes the Imperium of Man look like backwater primitives hurling spears at each other.” When he caught Kora's sharp look from the mild blasphemy he put his hands up, “Sorry, what I mean is that they're incredibly technologically advanced.”

Kora bit the end of the thread she was using to stitch my injury and then started wrapping a bandage around my calf. “Where did they come from?”

“As far as anyone can tell, they've always been here. There are records of the Necrontyr scattered across the galaxy in xeno archeological sites. They're referred to as the Great Death or the Undying Ones usually. The Eldar call them The Ancient Enemy. Keeping them in hibernation is one of their most important goals.” He looked up into the jungle again, “The records of the Inquisition have a sort of piecemeal history of them. It seems that at some point the Necrontyr made some sort of sacrificial ritual to their gods and the entire race bound their own souls into metal bodies that would never age and could recover from any injury. Then they engaged in some galaxy spanning massacre that eradicated almost all life everywhere. Something finally defeated them though, and they went into hibernation underground on their stronghold worlds.”

“Then this...” Kora looked around at all of the jungle, and Kane nodded.

“Yeah. This must have been one of those worlds, and the colonists woke them up.”

“Fantastic,” She said, finishing up my bandages and slumping back against the tree. “So we're stuck on an enemy occupied world, waiting for evac that's probably never going to come.”

“That about sums it up,” Kane said with a sigh. “All we can do is make the best of it though.” He pulled a ration pack out of one of the pockets in his ragged old coat and offered it over to Kora. She took it with a gracious nod. “But you know that's not all we need to do.”

“Is it not?” She'd opened the pack and given me a slab of something that was, theoretically, dried grox meat, but I didn't really believe it. We just tended to refer to the food in ration packs by color, and this was definitely a slice of sundried yellow. I couldn't help but notice that Kora had kept the pleasing green to herself. Maybe she'd share the hard candy.

“No, we've still got to find those ruins,” he said. “That's the mission, and I'm not the type to abandon a mission just because we hit a little snag.”

“You call losing our Palatine and getting cut off from the rest of the unit in the middle of an ambush while behind enemy lines a snag?”

“If I remember correctly,” Kane said, grinning. “You're the woman who stumbled onto a bloodthirster in the middle of a mission, and instead of calling a retreat, broke your power sword across its knee.”

Kora blushed and looked away. “I'm also the one who got kicked across a room for the effort and woke up in a field hospital three days later with an artificial spine.”

Whatever Kane's response was, it was drowned out by a sudden roar that even the rain couldn't mask. He lunged forward, pressing Kora back into the hollow and raising his finger to his lips. Kora pulled me in close and the three of us huddled under the cover of the tree as the roar got louder. Then the entire tree shook and a skimmer shot over out hiding space and took off into the trees. At least, I had thought it was a skimmer at first glance. Five more of them followed after the first, and I could see they weren't skimmers, but Necrontyr. Their bodies had been fused to heavy anti-grav platforms, and their right arms all replaced with gigantic blasters that glowed with that same unclean green energy that seemed to be the source of the Necrontyr power.

None of them saw us, too intent on their own goals to be looking for us, and I exhaled a breath I hadn't noticed I'd been holding. Kane kept us quiet for another minute, then poked his head out and looked around. “Okay, we're clear. I think we should get moving again.”

Kora nodded and I was already putting my boot back on. I'd barely gotten to my feet when Kora called out and pointed over Kane's shoulder. With a blur of speed I could barely believe was human Kane had Kora's bolt pistol pointed out into the jungle, and his power sword was crackling with energy. But there was nothing there. “What? What is it?”

“I saw something,” Kora said, raising her stormbolter to her shoulder. “Out there, in the trees. It was something silver, like metal. I only saw it for a moment.”

I remembered the vision that had brought Vecht to the clearing and raised my own bolter warily. Kane scanned the trees, “Are you sure?”

“Positive. It was there for a moment, then gone. Like a ghost.”

“Are you absolutely sure?” Kane asked. “Don't you need glasses?”

“Only for reading!” Kora snapped. “I know what I saw.”

When it came, it was sheer luck that saved us. I took a step forward, but in my haste I hadn't fastened my boot properly, and I tripped, slamming into Kora's back and bringing us down into the mud. At that same moment it came out of the falled tree. It didn't explode or break through, it simply slipped through the tree as if it wasn't there, and its clawed hands snatched at the air where Kora's head had been a moment before. “Kane!” Kora screamed, and the Inquisitor spun, firing the bolt pistol in a rapid series of cracks.

The Necrontyr was all torso. It had a long, skeletal face and heavy, hunched shoulders that narrowed down to its waist, where, instead of legs, the thing had a long, sharp, serpentine tail that whipped around behind it. It was floating a meter above the ground, unsupported. The bolts slipped right through the creature as if it didn't exist, as effective as shooting at the air itself, and it spun on Kane, extending its taloned hands.

I got to my feet first and lunged forward, driving the sarissa on the end of my bolter into the thing's back, but accomplished nothing except stumbling completely through the intangible creature. I turned just in time to parry one of its claws with the sarissa and deflected it onto the shoulder of my armor. It still scored a deep gash in the ceramite and sent me tumbling back down to the ground.

From the ground Kora sprayed it with a blast from her stormbolter, but again, nothing. The bolts passed completely through and tore down a tree a few dozen meters away. The creature's tail whipped towards me and I rolled, barely dodging as its sharp tip slammed into the ground next to me. On impulse I rammed my sarissa into the tail and pinned it to the ground. The Necrontyr tried to yank free, but a bolt from Kane's pistol glanced its shoulder and spun it around. The serpentine tail was ripped free of my weapon, and twisted back, split at the end.

“It's solid when it attacks,” Kora shouted, coming to her feet and training her stormbolter on it. The thing looked cautious now, and backed away slowly, its broken tail raised up behind it, poised like a serpent about to strike. Now it knew we had it, and it seemed like it was trying to come up with a new plan. I really wish it hadn't.

Very slowly, it sank down into the ground, and Kane let out a vulgar curse. “Everybody off the ground,” He shouted, and sprinted straight for a tree. None of us had time to respond as Kane didn't even make it a meter before that serpentine tail came out of the ground and wrapped around his ankle, tripping him up. He hit the ground face first, and Kora fired at the ground around his feet, churning up the mud as the explosive bolts detonated. The thing appeared again, poised to pierce Kane through with its claws, but he swung his power sword wildly and the thing recoiled, struck in the face.

I charged forward and leaped onto its back. Remembering Kane's defeat of the daemon years earlier, I pulled a frag grenade from my belt and jammed it into the space between its shoulders and neck. As the thing's tail came back for me I threw myself off of its back and landed on top of Kane, covering my head with my gauntleted hands. The grenade blew, and my armor was showered with shrapnel. It hurt quite a lot, and the blast left my ears ringing, but the armor held. I rolled over off of Kane and looked around. Pieces of the Necrontyr were scattered everywhere.

“That was a little excessive, Regina. You probably could have just shot it,” Kora said, coming forward to give me a hand up. Kane got up on his own and walked towards a large chunk of the xeno which was embedded in the ground a few meters away. “That was impressive sword work, Kane. I've never seen anyone be that effective while lying face down in the mud.”
“What do you mean?” He said, wiping said mud from his face with the back of his sleeve. “I didn't hit it.” He picked up the chunk of Necrontyr, which appeared to be half of its head, and he pulled out something gleaming and white. He froze, and we came towards him, confused.

“We need to get out of here, Kane. This thing's friends probably heard that blast and will be here any second,” Kora said, leaning forward to see what Kane was holding.

He held it up so we could both see. “Don't make any sudden movements,” he said. The thing in his hand was a sharp, white shape with several sharp points. It had been buried directly in the center of the Necrontyr's forehead. “Put your weapons down very slowly.”

“What are you talking about?” Kora asked, and I turned around. My breath froze in my chest. A fern a few meters away stood up, no longer a fern but instead a tall, graceful figure wearing a cloak covered in false plants. It held a long, elegant rifle which was pointed directly at me. A moment later a half dozen more things which I had assumed to be simply another part of the jungle became menacing shapes with rifles trained at us.

“Greetings,” Kane said nervously, empty hands raised into the air. “I see we've come to fight the same enemy, noble Eldar.”

So ends the ninth passage of the Personal Record of Palatine Regina Winterfield concerning the fate of Inquisitor Isimbard Kane.

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