Title: The Wayfarer: Alone in the Black
Description: Dancer type people, please read.
Morrigan Atwood - June 21, 2006 10:38 PM (GMT)
(ooc: I haven't done anything this long in forever; sorry in advance if it sucks.)
Climbing out, with a simple shotgun in tow (thanks a lot, Ephram, she thought), Morrigan did her best to tread lightly, to even keep her breath from coming out too fast to keep from being quiet. One could generally hear someone farting from the other end of the ship from the cabins, much less anybody moving about, so she doubted there was still fighting going on. Her hair stood up wild all around her (most of it to one side), the sad effect of spending hours leaning up against a wall; her eyes were wide and alert as it occurred to her that if there were Reavers on this ship still, they might have been doing the same thing she was doing. She didn't know a lot about them, though, just what Ephram always told her, so who knew if they had any knowledge for stealth or not? Best to be careful, right?
Of course, she had less suspicion they were hiding, too, and more hope that someone else who'd stayed behind might be doing it instead. She'd never heard the Wayfarer fly this quiet before, even when everyone was asleep. In her first weeks aboard the ship, she hated the noise -- could even hear someone the next cabin over snoring and constantly -- and she always wondered what she wouldn't give to have a little normal quiet for once. After a month or two, she got used to it, even if she did complain regularly. And now -- well, she wasn't sure she could accept the idea that she was completely alone. Ability to do so aside, she knew she didn't want to.
A lump of pain rose in her throat. She stood, now free of the panel, in the center of the Captain's Bunk and all of the Captain's things littered about in his hurry to get the best of his weapons out and on his person. They were all of Ephram's things. She was in Ephram's room, and it was quiet.
Being alone wouldn't do, because alone meant Ephram was dead.
She reached up and whiped some of the rising moisture from her eyes, sniffling into her sleeve to muffle the noise.
An odd tick in the distance stopped her short, though, and Morrigan looked up, still and alarmed again. She heard it a few more times, a shuffle as well, off toward the hangar but not close to here. Her fingers tightened on the handle of her weapon, and she bit her lip. No voices that she could hear, but something was definitely still there.
She wanted to hope, but with how her luck had been recently, she didn't want to bet on it.
The door to the cabin was ajar, and while that begged some quickening from the pit of her stomach, she pushed it back; she doubted Ephram thought to shut and lock it on the way out; there wasn't any time for it, after all. It was likely if they didn't think anybody was in here to kill, they'd leave it alone. How might they have guessed in any case? Could they smell blood, maybe? The thought only occurred to her when an odd pain in the back of her head caught her attention, and she reached back to rub a definite lump there. Sure 'preciate that, Captain, she thought sourly to herself. Not bleeding, though; she supposed she was lu--
That same sound again, still around the same area. She strode to the door and nudged it the rest of the way open with her foot, stepping out into the walkway and aiming her weapon in both directions to check for potential threats first.
None that she could see, but then again, this wasn't where she'd heard the noise.
Now was where she supposed she needed to decide where she was going. The bridge was maybe ten paces from her, and she could try to call for help. Probably should, lock herself in so whatever else was here couldn't get her.
But it could have been somebody she knew, suffering and half dead, just trying to move themselves.
Morrigan shook her head. Couldn't risk it; if it wasn't Ephram and not a Reaver, it was someone that needed her help. She was still in workin' order, after all.
Her cabin was even closer than the bridge, and she ducked inside to take up a few more trustworthy weapons. She didn't trust herself with this damn shotgun; preferred her own weapons -- good firearm or two and maybe a blade. It didn't take her long to secure all she needed, as she had one or two things on her before 'Ram conked her. It was hard making her way back out again. She wanted to cry, but she knew she shouldn't; if she was making too much noise she wouldn't be able to hear anything coming. Besides, she had no idea what kinda damage the Reavers had done, and if it was even safe to stay put too long. Sure, none of the alarms were going off, which would have been the first indication that life support was failing or the engine was about to fail. But that didn't mean that could not have been malfunctioning too.
So no; there was no time for crying. No time for mourning, or for being too scared to move around. She could do all that after she'd called for help and taken care of whatever that moving something was.
She couldn't hear it anymore, but she had some idea where it was coming from, and that was the way she headed. As she made her way along the passage, up stairs and around more corners, she continually slowed and stopped. Sometimes she thought she heard what she was looking for, but it almost always seemed to stop whenever she did.
Some of the lights in the halls weren't working. Most of them were, but she hated passing those parts that were dark, mainly because for a span she couldn't see anything inside them. Sure, she could see the light beyond them, and could therefore see there was nothing there waiting to get her -- at least not directly in front. Even if she weren't investigating some spooky noise near the hangar, she would have been on edge. Just wasn't right not hearing nobody moving about or talking or snoring or even fucking. Even having the intercom blaring with the computer telling her she was about to die would have been better than this.
Attention Passenger: You're alone, with just me and the Thing in the dark. The Thing that wants to see what your insides look like and molest every oriface it happens to make while looking, plus the ones you got. You're going to be awake for all of it; you're going to be screaming even when you're choking on your own blood. You're going to cry and beg, and it'll laugh, and I'm not going to help you.
And of course it would play back in Chinese before repeating again.
"Stop it, Morrigan," she hissed to herself as she stopped again. The sound of her own voice, even if it was just her breath carrying it, startled her, and the quiet that followed immediately after was probably the worst. It was a pregnant silence, the kind that did have things waiting in it, and listening just like she was. For the longest time she wouldn't move. She wouldn't move because it felt like it wasn't her turn to.
After finally psyching herself out of place, she eventually came to the Hangar. Most of the lights were out. Maybe one or two steadily glowing, but most of them flickered weakly, and just briefly enough that it was impossible to make out anything down on the main floor. Morrigan winced. She'd never just smelled blood before, but the stink of it was probably the strongest feature in the room right now. It'd come rushing out to meet her when the doors slid open, like sunlight into a newly unsealed cave. If she could break herself into pieces she would have scattered.
She moved to the railing to look down into the black, still listening. She could neither see nor hear movement anymore, telling her that whatever it was she'd heard had either died or passed out before she got here. With a flick of her thumb, she turned the safety off of the pistol she was holding, and she opened her mouth to call something out into the dark, but her voice wouldn't catch up with her. She stopped, swallowed, shut her eyes to collect herself again. "Hel--"
Like when she'd been coming this way, the sound of movement again, but it stopped as soon as she turned quiet to listen. It was in this room, whatever it was, but it echoed funny. She couldn't place where it came from. Looking down into nothing again, she took a step back away from the rail again, though she stumbled when her heel collided with something hard, and she tripped backward with a startled cry, though one of her hands flew up to cover it even as she hit the metal gridded floor with a resounding clang that made her entire body shudder out of sheer embarrassment for making so much noise. Her legs lay over a mass of something -- cold but certainly softer and less biting than the grating. She curled her feet back toward her and pushed off of whatever it was so she could lever herself to her feet. Her stomach lurched when it gave and moved forward with the push. Finally, she opened her eyes, realizing then why she smelled what she did.
Viktor'd been a pretty big guy, scary too sometimes, with his temper. Stood nearly seven feet tall, all muscle, best shot she'd ever seen, though the man hardly ever needed a gun to do damage. Good to have at least one of his type around, Ephram had always said, even if the man stuck out like a sore thumb and tended to have a reputation when they landed on seedier moons. Morrigan never knew his last name, mainly because she couldn't pronounce it.
Morrigan stood staring, her free hand still clamped over her mouth, though rather than being there to prevent a cry of surprise, it did its best to muffle the whimpers that rolled up her throat as the sheer reality of her situation came up to slap her probably harder than it could have since she woke up.
What lay on the floor before her (and how she failed to notice before, she had no idea), was still a lot leftover considering how big Viktor was, but not much of the man she'd known before. God, it IS Viktor, she thought frantically, frozen in place and unable to look away from the horrible transformation he'd undergone. What remained of his clothes lay in tatters all over, cut and torn away, by what she could see, to get at what the Reavers always came for. The places where he actually had skin was where she supposed there wasn't enough meat for them to bother with. Most of his face was still there, turned to the side and dead, rested in the bloody mess that'd been a fairly long shock of blonde hair for a man his age and disposition. On the side of his head turned up, he'd been scalped in one or two places, leaving matted red chunks where heavy locks should have been. The side of his mouth looked like it'd been roughly cut, like for some perverted humor they'd been trying to give him an ear to ear smile, though closer examination showed otherwise. Laying next to him, not fallen through the grate because of the blanket his hair made, were a few of his teeth, either knocked or pulled out in the struggle, some only pieces of teeth, and in the side of his face was the gaping hole from where she supposed one of the Reavers had been trying to get at his tongue. His hands were mostly intact, save a few fingers on one, where all that remained at the tips were gnarled bits of the nail and bone, where the flesh had been all but chewed off.
He was still bleeding, too. In the dim light, she could tell some of these injuries weren't terribly old. He'd put up a fight. Her stomach turned; had he been alive just minutes ago? How long was he laying here suffering?
And why? Why did they kill like this?
Ephram told her things about Reavers in her first years, when she hadn't known a thing about them, because he wanted her to know they were real. He didn't know why they were the way they were, but there were always rumours. He told her all the ones he knew. He didn't want her to be needlessly afraid, but he wanted her to know. At first, she'd thought he was just making things up to frighten her. She thought it until he told her what they did to his family, and then she believed him. After that she never doubted another word he said about them. How they come in one ships, sometimes attacking other ships, or settlements, and taking everyone they could away to their vessels and torturing them for hours, sometimes days. Feeding off them.
Morrigan paused in thought at that, sickened horror replaced by alarm. "They take you to their own ship," she whispered to herself. She looked down at Viktor, eyes wide. "And some of these are ne--"
It came quick and without warning, not even the usual sound whenever she moved or made noise. From behind her, something hard dragged across her stomach, seperated into prongs that might have resembled fingers had the long nails not been jagged and broken. They cut through cloth, and she felt the sharp, hot sting of something hard cutting thinly into flesh before she managed a cry and swiped back at whatever had come at her. Her elbow connected hard with a face, she heard and felt the sickening knock of bone striking bone, and she felt a giving, indicating she'd stricken whoever it was in the mouth. What she should have expected was for the jaw to part, and for the teeth she'd hit before to sink into the flesh of her arm. Not deep, though enough to pain and alarm (thank the stars about for multiple layers), and with another scream, she pulled away and rounded just in time to back away from a sweeping slash of the wicked and rusted blade her enemy had in its other hand. She hit the failing that all but stopped her from toppling to the hangar floor below.
In the flickering light she could make out its face, the mess of wiring and hair and skin that it was. Blood dripped from its mouth from where she'd stricken it, and its cheeks were peeled open to reveal the bone and tendons underneath. It'd cut off its own eyelids at one point as well. She hadn't the time to revel at how repulsive or horrific that was, however, and she aimed and fired half-blindly.
The Reaver staggered back; unfortunately she wasn't a good shot when she had so little time, and rather than blow its head off, she'd just taken one of its hands off instead. Good enough; it'd dropped the blade and was briefly stunned. Thankfully, that did give her the half second she needed to get a good kill shot in, and she took full advantage.
...Unfortunately, she for whatever reason had forgotten to completely reload the gun when she first fetched it.
Oh, good show, Morrigan, she thought, and she dove out of the way to avoid the Reaver's lunge, sending him over the rail, though she didn't look back to see if he'd caught himself. Shouting a good string of obscenities all the way, she bolted back the way she came, though she could hear it was catching up behind her. She fumbled at the other gun she'd brought along, just in case she did have to stop and duke it out again, and she hoped to whatever higher power there was that it was the only one.
The bridge. If she could just get to the bridge, she could lock herself in.
Attention Passenger: You won't be able to run fast enough. It's going to catch you and you're going to--
You shut the rutting Hell up, imaginary intercom!
Morrigan nearly tripped into the bridge and had to pull herself back to close and secure the door. The locking mechanism moved into place just as the Reaver collided with the metal surface. It didn't budge, thankfully, and breathless, she staggered back toward the control panel. It was at about that time that she wished she'd paid more attention when Jeger had tried to tell her more about how the ship flew. She couldn't make the Wayfarer move, in any case, and just her luck. At least she remembered where and mostly how Ephram would communicate with moons and other ships.
"M-maybe I can call the shuttles back," she muttered, still trembling as her fingers flew over a number of dials, trying to get a response. Seeing this part was still functional -- at least -- she tried to encode a message, hoping against anything that she was doing it right. She had to stop and start over once or twice, as the Reaver's constant bashing against the door would startle her out of concentration. She looked back to check, and saw the door was still behaving. Good door. It'd buy her a little time at least.
If her luck was going to change, it'd start with someone getting the signal. Anybody.
Morrigan Atwood - July 8, 2006 06:12 PM (GMT)
(Wow, I feel stupid following up such a long post with this piece of crap ><)
After a few hours, Morrigan found she'd done well to shake off all the tears she needed to. The door to the bridge held, though the Reaver outside hadn't given up trying to break it down. She wasn't sure whether she should admire it or be horrified that in such a long time, it hadn't gotten tired yet. The tiny window in the top of the door was spattered with its blood from beating against the door with what was left of its injured hand, but short of the bumps against the surface, she could not hear it making any further noise.
That helped considerably, she supposed.
It wasn't fair that it could still be redoubling its efforts while she was beyond exhausted -- from worry, from grief, fear, panic...
She'd tried the intercom after the first hour, knowing that if there were more Reavers on the ship, they would have been at the door too. She'd needed to know she was truly alone, that someone hadn't just hidden themselves away. Another hour passed, and no response, and that in itself carried her into the tears she'd been holding back since this whole ordeal began.
Hearing the console suddenly speak, she started out of a daze -- not sleep; the reaver was making too much noise for her to manage more than a catnap. She climbed to her feet, wincing at the sting in her middle from where she'd been scratched.
She'd partially given up hope of hearing any response, and before she even took in more than a few words, she found and snatched up the reciever. When words tumbled out at first, they were fast, half-hysterical, and a jumble of two languages, all thank-yous and praises to something unseen, but as relief washed over her, there was a calm to follow:
"This is Captain Morrigan Atwood." She felt herself convulse at saying it, like her entire system rejected the very notion. "Reavers hit the ship --" she paused, mouth dry and realizing she had no idea what time it was, "-- about eight hours ago, I think; our shuttles were launched with most of the crew and passengers, but a few of us stayed behind to fight. I'm the only one left, and there's still one little bastard in here with me. He's locked out of the bridge right now, but he'll find a way in eventually. I can't get in contact with the shuttles, and I can't get to any ammo. Please --"
Synthia Lyndon Heller - July 15, 2006 03:59 AM (GMT)
From the edge of the door frame, just inside the Wayfarer, Synthia swept the cavernous cargo bay for any sign of movement. The lights flickered and buzzed dimly, leaving large areas of the bay shrouded deeply in shadows. A ragged, inhuman scream of rage came from deeper into the ship. If Captain Morrigan had been right about there being one reaver left on board, he wasn't in the bay. There was no guarantee she was right, but at least the lighting gave her a better shot at seeing enemies entering the cargo bay from the upper decks than it would give them to notice her crouched down in the shadows by the hatch. Signalling back that the area immediately ahead was clear, she moved further in, giving Jax and Gwen room to enter after her. The stairs were up ahead, and reaching them would move them into a better illuminated part of the bay. Better for them, but also for the reavers. At least she had never heard of reavers being able to see in the dark any better than anyone else. The way such tales tended to pick up embellishments, surely it would have been claimed if it had seemed to be true. Then again, perhaps no one had ever survived finding out to tell of it.
"Don't let them gorram reavers be able to see in the ruttin' dark!" she thought. "It's not like they need any more advantage, us havin' to stalk 'em in these dark, open spaces. Best try to get past the cargo bay as quick as possible. At least in the upper passageways, they can only come from so many directions."
Cpt. Gwyneth Paul - July 17, 2006 09:54 PM (GMT)
As soon as Syn popped the interior hatch, Gwen released the service catch on the outer door, opened it wide, and locked it into place.
Getting the green light from her mistress-at-arms, Captain Paul swept into The Wayfarer’s Cargo Bay, making sure her shotgun’s potential field of fire remained separate from Syn’s. Individually the shotguns could handle a large area, but together they gave her crew a stalwart buffer against harm.
...Syn certainly knew her hardware.
Gwen triggered her helmet's comm.,
”Marcus, have the Reverend tell Atwood that we are aboard, still suited, and proceedin’ up the stairs toward the Bridge, and any additional intel she may have would be greatly appreciated. Also, tell Jack The Dancer’s inner ‘lock door is the only thing between him and everythin' on this boat.”
Searching every shadow for movement, Gwen talked over her shoulder to Syn and Jax,
”Let’s shake our money makers and get the rut out of here ASAP.”
Silently the trio headed up the stairs and into the heart of the wounded Wayfarer...a blond metal-armed knight leading them.
"Jax" Malone - July 18, 2006 10:48 PM (GMT)
Jax stayed in back, letting Syn and the Captain take the lead. As they entered the cargo bay, he looked behind them first, then above them. Those were the most likely places to be taken by surprise. That was the last thing Jax wanted happening, Reavers or no. Getting taken by surprise just didn't look good to the rest of the 'verse.
As they moved from the cargo bay, Jax kept watch, glancing behind them when he could. The Captain's suggestion of getting out of ther soon sounded good. Damn good. Before they could, though, they'd have to make their way to the bridge. Hopefully, a Reaver would get killed between now and then.
Why just the one, though?
When that thought cam up, Jax silently cursed himself for knowing what little he did about Reavers. He had no reason not to believe the stories he heard weren't true. Exaggerated possibly, but basically true. When it came down to it, one Reaver left alone on a ship just didn't add up.
And you worryin over it ain't doin' nothing but makin' you more jumpy. Don't need that now. Just watch for anything that moves 'sides the two in front of you.
Continuing to silently instruct himself, Jax kept moving. It was dark in some places. Darker than he would've liked. Darkness tended to make people jumpy when they were in these type situations. They were searching for one Reaver and Morrigan. In this search they were moving through a drifting Drommond.
Generally speaking, Drommond was one of the biggest transport ships floatin' short of, maybe, Alliance. At least it felt like it to Jax. Since he'd never sailed in a Drommond and couldn't recall ever crossing paths with one, he couldn't say for sure. Continuing to push thoughts of failure and being nabbed by a gorram Reaver aside as best he could, Jax kept moving, paying attention to the shadows they passed. It was always harder to spot movement in shadows...
Synthia Lyndon Heller - July 22, 2006 03:46 PM (GMT)
The ship was silent all around them. One seldom noticed the sounds of a ship sailing throught he black until they were gone. A dead ship had an eerie silence to it, like a tomb. Practically, it was one. Bereft of power and flight, people on a dead ship might as well have been buried alive. Back on Earth That Was, people had gone through a period where accidental burial alive had preoccupied them, when coffins were sometimes fitted with mechanisms to allow the occupant to pull a cord and trigger a signal bell above, in case one should wake up accidentally interred. Anyone who had ever been on a dead ship could understand where that fear came from. Certainly, there were worse deaths than slipping away when the air ran out on a crippled ship. The reavers were graphic proof of that. Still, there was something terrifying in the prospect of dying alone in absolute isolation, even if it was painless. Some said Hell was eternal torment, torture forever. Some said it was merely the utter absence of God, absolute disconnection from the source of all life. Being trapped alone on a dead ship with reavers at the door forced one to choose one hell over the other. The only possibility of salvation was the distress beacon, like a lonely bell, ringing in a graveyard.
No matter how insane the risk, it was a call that had to be answered. During the war, Indep and Alliance ships would rescue each other's survivors from crippled ships, even if they had been trying to blow the ship to bits minutes earlier. Even enemies deserved better than being abandoned in the black.
Morrigan's call had been heard. The Wayfarer still had plenty of air. One reaver shouldn't be able to get into a sealed up bridge. Now, it was just a matter of getting to her without being ambushed in the dark, or having the reaver's ships come back and attack the Dancer.
Synthia ascended the Wayfarer's ladderwells cautiously. Reavers were vicious and cunning enough to set traps for rescuers, especially if they had been forced to abandon a prize ship in order to bring back the reavers to repair and fly it, or the ships to tow it back to the fleet. Sure enough, the flickering lighting revealed the glint of a wire across the railings of the second deck's stairs. Syn signalled Gwen and Jax to stop, and pulled out a small, red lensed light to trace the wire to its source. It looped around the railing, and extended down beneath the tread of the next step, where the trap waited. A double barrelled shotgun, completely stripped of its wooden stock, had been welded to a C-clamp, which was clamped under the stair tread, aimed to catch someone between the ankles and knees somewhere, depending on their height and gait. The barrels were sawed off so short that the ends of the shells were nearly flush with the gaping holes at the ends of the chambers. It wasn't intended to kill, but to cripple, and to alert the reaver up above that fresh meat had arrived. Fortunately, the crude trap didn't look hard to disarm, but something told her to examine it closer. The wire didn't end where it was attached to the shotgun's triggers, but instead, snaked under the next tread down, where it was connected to a pack of batteries and a small block of explosive, wrapped in barbed wire and nails, and then looped around to where it was secured on the other side of the stairs, completing the circuit. If you cut the wire to the shotgun, it would set off the bomb, which would also be triggered if someone had their legs shot out from under them and fell across the wire. The bomb was also too small a quantity of explosive to kill reliably, but the shrapnel would maim and cripple.
Clearly, the reavers had anticipated rescuers, and wanted them disabled, but alive. No big surprise, but disturbing nevertheless.
Syn slipped back down the stairs to the others.
"We got a shotgun wired up under the stairs, with a lil' ol' nail bomb as a backup. Bomb's gonna have to be disarmed 'afore we can get past it. Least we know the reaver up there ain't likely to come runnin' until he hears it go off."
Cpt. Gwyneth Paul - July 23, 2006 01:34 PM (GMT)
”Then lets make that tah mah duh hwoon dahn think he’s got hisself a fly in the web,” she turned and addressed Syn, ”I figure if we fire off one of our shotguns, it’ll set that Reaver’s feet a runnin’ from the Bridge towards us…which brings me to the shotgun surprise. If that steamin’ pile of gos se thinks the trap is sprung, he won’t be lookin’ to circumvent it…he’ll be comin’ straight away. This Reaver’s been beatin’ on a door for a span, so he’ll be hungry and thinkin’ of a live kill…forget all about his little trap till he springs it. Even if he don’t set off the shotgun, he’ll be in the open and out of the shadows.”
Finishing in a rush, Gwen looked at both Syn and Jax for approval…her hands trembling slightly.
Synthia Lyndon Heller - July 23, 2006 05:31 PM (GMT)
"Well . . . gorram! That's a great plan! Only thing I might add is tossin' one a' these mini grenades down the stairs right after the shot. If he hears both parts a' the trap go off, he ain't gonna be careful like at all. We'll have to back up around the bend a' the stairwell to keep out a' the shrapnel from that bomb. We put one shotgun up front, waitin' on the one up above, and one coverin' the rear, in case there's any others that'll come runnin' from below. If the one up above is the only one aboard, things ought to be smooth on up to the bridge once we knock him down."
Syn pointed back down the stairwell. "Next landin' down ought to be safe. Best check the suits afterward anyway. A stray bit ricochettin' 'round two corners might not hurt you much, but if you need a patch, best to find out while we've got air. I'll take point, and we'll just wait and see if anythin' makes it 'round the corner to shoot at."
Cpt. Gwyneth Paul - July 23, 2006 06:31 PM (GMT)
Gwen couldn’t help but smile like a schoolgirl, receiving a compliment from her favorite instructor,
”Agreed. I’ll fire my boomstick, and you pitch the pineapple. Then I’ll hightail it to the back and give any of them ruttin’ monsters dumb enough to try a rear attack a face full of shot. When he comes a runnin’, cut him to pieces Syn. Mr. Jax, you’ll be guardin’ both our backs. Something goes south, we’ll be lookin’ to you to bring the appropriate amount of hurt.”
Making their way around the bend in the stairwell, the trio took their respective positions. The captain nodded to Syn and mouthed, ‘On three…one…', the blond warrior activated the grenade, '…two…three’.
Gwen fired her shot and spun back around the corner, as Heller simultaneously heaved the primed charge. The explosive erupted a second after the shotgun blast, throwing a cloud of debris in both directions.
Gwen made her way to the rear of the line and waited.
Synthia Lyndon Heller - July 25, 2006 01:56 AM (GMT)
As the blast reverberated through the Wayfarer's corridors, it was answered from above by a ragged scream of primal rage. The reaver had been screaming and exerting himself for quite a while, and his voice was stressed and damaged, like the hoarse, corroded scrape of a punctured speaker cone.
Even for a battle hardened veteran, it was truly unsettling to contemplate the extremes that would drive a human being to make such a sound. It was said that there was no alien life in the 'Verse, but that was only technically correct. The aliens that populated the old stories from Earth-That-Was had always been human at heart, exotic variants of the familiar, metaphors for various human foibles and social traits. The reavers were genetic humans, but they held no kinship with humanity. They were the familiar made horrifyingly strange, worse than alien. Like the old stories of flesh-eating zombies and demonic possession, they taunted us with their human shells, filled with incomprehensible otherness. Staring out from behind human eyes, they mocked us. Their very existance gave voice to the unspeakable; We Were Once Like You.
Syn waited, her shotgun shouldered and aimed at the bend in the passageway that led to the booby-trapped stairwell. The reaver's boots pounded the metal stairs above them, taking them in great, reckless bounds. Ragged snarling surged into a growl of rage, and there was a heavy impact from the stairs around the bend . . . and then the double blast of the shotgun went off, followed by the larger blast of the explosive charge. A mangled tread from the stairs carommed off the ceiling and clattered back to the floor, bouncing around the bend and spinning past Syn's feet to come to rest against the wall. The heavy thud of a body striking the wall was accompanied by a horrid shriek that echoed along with the reverberations of the blast.
Then there was silence.
Syn kept waiting, aware of the others behind her, the air heavy with anticipation. Around the corner, pieces of metal debris clattered as they fell and hit the stairs. Hazy smoke drifted in the air.
Then a low, coughing grunt. A slow, clumsy shuffle.
A shadow fell across the wall, moving in the flickering light.
With an unearthly shriek of hatred, the shadow surged forward as the reaver charged, slamming off the wall and hurling himself onward into the line of fire.
The reaver, in his eagerness to reach his prey, had tried to leap the length of the stairwell instead of taking the steps normally. Still airborne when his foot had caught the wire, the shotgun blasts had mostly missed him, only catching his extended legs with a few of the rapidly spreading pellets. The wire had tripped him up, and as he pitched forward, he had taken the brunt of the bomb across his back and right side. Blood dripped from his ragged clothes, a filthy flight suit patched and adorned with unspeakable trophies from his victims, studded with nail-like spikes and bits of makeshift metal armor. Metal plates wired around his torso had blunted some of the blast, but bits of barbed shrapnel protruded from his bloody flesh. He stumbled forward on bloody, unsteady legs, a long shard of stair tread impaling one of his heavy boots. His right arm hung crookedly, fingers and knuckles smashed, raw bone protruding from just above the elbow. In his left hand, he brandished a steel bar, bristling with clusters of welded nails and screws, topped with a spear-like serrated blade, it's grip wrapped in leather thong and human scalps. Blood poured from the remnants of his scarred and mangled lips, frothing with his ragged breath. A single eye glared wildly from behind long, matted bangs, the other socket black and empty in a patch of burnt, infected flesh. He was a walking corpse, leaking blood like a sieve, one lung punctured and collapsed, nails driven into his heart, but still walking, still willing himself to hurt and kill until his final breath.
Syn opened fire with her shotgun, blasting a three round burst into the reaver's chest. Contrary to what one might expect from a fully automatic twelve gauge, the AA12 had almost no muzzle lift, and even long bursts could be placed with accuracy. The reaver stumbled back, dropping his crude weapon, and then hurled himself forward with a thin, ragged scream, his one good hand reaching out like a claw. Syn raised the muzzle and tapped a single shot to the head, obliterating half of the reaver's distorted face. His body lurched on, like a broken puppet, and then stopped, impaled on Syn's bayonet. The reaver's weight drove her back as his dying hand clutched spastically for her throat, and then she fired once more, clearing her stuck bayonet in the time honored fashion and blowing the reaver back against the wall, where he collapsed to the floor, leaving a wide, bloody smear.
"Rung tse fwo tzoo bao yo wuo muhn . . . they take a powerful lot a' killin'!" she said. "Any more comin'?"
Rung tse fwo tzoo bao yo wuo muhn = Merciful Buddha protect us
Cpt. Gwyneth Paul - July 25, 2006 05:43 PM (GMT)
As the sounds of battle flooded her ears, Gwen kept her focus locked on the rear stairwell…her eyes searching for the slightest movement. Syn could more than handle her side of the line, especially with Jax there to support her.
Gwen’s job was the rear…and it was to the rear that she faced.
Time slowed for the captain, and her mind turned to an earlier time…a time of happiness.
Resplendent in his Alliance Sub-Commander’s uniform, the large man grinned down at the two little girls clutching the legs of his stiffly pressed dress pants.
“You look handsome, Daddy. Don’t you think he looks handsome, Gwen?” said the dark haired girl.
“The most handsomest man I ever seen…’cept for Tully Stevens,” laughed Gwen
“TULLY STEVENS EEEWWWW!! He’s the weirdest boy in school!!”
“Oh yeah, Erin? Well, he told me if’n he had to kiss a girl, he reckoned it’d be me,” countered Gwen
A laugh reminiscent of a small avalanche erupted from the man’s throat, and he reached down and easily scooped up both girls in a massive bear hug. As he kissed both of their cheeks, each child squealed in turn, when his thick dark beard tickled their faces
“Do you know how long I’ll love you Little Ones?”
Both girls giggled in unison, “How long Daddy?”
“Until the end of it all, Little Ones…until the end of it all.”
Returning the girls to the ground, the man easily knelt down in front of his children, and his tone turned serious,
“Do you know why we are here today?”
“You’re gettin' a medal,” Gwen answered quickly, casting a triumphant smile toward her sister.
“Yes, but do you know why?”
“Because you’re the bravest Purplebelly that ever lived!” This time it was Erin that wore the victorious look.
The large man cupped the dark haired girl’s face in one of his massive hands and smiled,
“No child. I’m here to get a medal because my very best friend shielded me from danger.”
Putting his other hand on Gwen’s shoulder, the father continued,
“Always remember my Little Ones, protection is the greatest gift a soldier can give to another.”
A savage silence came over the room, as even the small girls comprehended the importance of his statement.
Breaking the calm, Gwen asked, “Where is your friend Daddy?”
“He’s right over there…in that pretty box.”
Syn's voice brought her back to the present,
"Any more comin'?"
Gwen keyed her comm open,
”Stand down Marcus. Any fire you heard was from us. We are proceedin’ to the Bridge and should be headin’ home in a few beats. Get The Dancer ready for a full burn…I want to give this whole ruttin’ place to History.”
The trio moved quickly up the flight of stairs. Careful to negotiate the debris, both organic and inorganic, caused by the Reaver’s trap. Once they cleared the stairs it was a short distance to the Bridge’s dented and blood soaked door.
Gwen couldn’t help but grimace at the bits of flesh, presumably from the Reaver’s knuckles, decorating the entirety of the hatch. The portal matched the rest of the ship…a stage fully dressed for a nightmare.
Lightly tapping on the door with the tip of her bayonet, Gwen said,
”Captain Atwood…it’s Captain Paul. Time to fly away.”
Marcus Deckard - July 27, 2006 12:35 AM (GMT)
"Captain, proximity sensors detect three vessles inbound on an intercept. Radiation readings are incredibly high, suggests a Reaver profile. It would be prudent to finish what you are doing and Get. Out. Of. There. Over."
Morrigan Atwood - July 27, 2006 03:23 PM (GMT)
There was a blast somewhere from within the ship, and Morrigan could feel the barest tremors in the floor and console from it -- likely from the cargo bay. And then the beating stopped. She sat, stunned and silent, partially unbelieving of the sudden end to what had been a constant sound for several hours. Part of her knew it was the people that'd come; if she was right, the Reaver at her door was the only one. The others would have come to help it at some point otherwise. But did it go off to investigate, or was it waiting for her to come and see if it was already gone?
Atwood slid out of the chair she'd been perched in for some time now, too afraid to move or even look at the door, like her eye contact was all it would need in order to give.
Nothing. There were sounds in the distance, mostly choked out by the sealed entrance, but a definite struggle was taking place.
Briefly, her attention was drawn away from what was going on in places she couldn't see, namely by a sudden blinking on the console. Several blinks, actually. She moaned, wishing she could read the stupid thing, but that was something else, yet, that she hadn't learned before everyone else abandoned ship or copped it.
Red things moving toward the green thing. That's probably not good, she thought, using some logic to at least pretend to make some use of the computer.
A tapping made her turn like a shot; it probably wouldn't have shocked her if it'd been a bang like all the others when the Reaver was still there. But when she stared through the smear of blood in the window, she saw a whole and largely unblemished face, and a muffled voice followed with it. ”Captain Atwood…it’s Captain Paul. Time to fly away.”
Oh, she could not agree more. Limbs feeling heavy and tingling, like they'd been asleep for a long time, she carried herself to the door and released the lock, allowing the door to slide back. "I'm ready," she breathed, looking more exasperated than anything else.
Cpt. Gwyneth Paul - July 30, 2006 04:33 PM (GMT)
”Good. Before we go I’d like to try and vent The Wayfarer’s atm…”
"Captain, proximity sensors detect three vessles inbound on an intercept. Radiation readings are incredibly high, suggests a Reaver profile. It would be prudent to finish what you are doing and Get. Out. Of. There. Over."
A hint of terror snuck into Gwen's eyes,
”Wuh de tyen, ah. Marcus, initiate pre-burn prep and chart a course for the trades. If we can’t outrun them, hopefully we’ll be faster than some poor hwoon dahn flying the straight and narrow. Also, if you make contact with any Allied patrols, prepare a post-burn course correct to get us to them. I need my old girl ready to dance in three minutes, Mr. Deckard.”
Gwen spun back to Morrigan, her slightly Slavic accentuation of the Outer Rim dialect, coming out in a rush,
”Captain, latch on to Mr. Malone here like it’s your wedding night…and take this…,”
She handed the woman her sidearm.
”Jax, keep her safe, and if anythin’ eventful happens, Syn and I will handle it. Get her back to The Dancer and Jack.”
”Aye, aye skipper, but I must admit, I’m mighty sad my time alone with three beautiful women is comin’ to an end.”
Jax offered Morrigan a roguish smile and his arm,
Gwen turned to Syn, and nearly shouted,
”Take us home.”
<<wuh de tyen, ah - merciful God in Heaven, trades - 'highways' in the Black used by legit travelers, straight and narrow - slang term for the trade routes>>
Morrigan Atwood - July 30, 2006 07:22 PM (GMT)
She heard the message -- though there was more clarity in the Captain's reply than in what she could make out coming through. They're coming back, she thought, shifting on her feet. The mix between fight or flight and antsyness from sitting still for too long was certainly taking its toll.
Morrigan certainly didn't have to be told twice to hold on to anyone's arm, not if it meant getting away. When the aforementioned 'Malone' offered his, she grasped it, at first a little tighter than she should. Remembering, she lightened her hold and nodded to him. She took the weapon offered her and examined it briefly to check for how much ammo there was in it.
Provided she didn't panic like last time, she could definitely put to use what she had.
Synthia Lyndon Heller - July 31, 2006 11:20 PM (GMT)
Gwen turned to Syn, and nearly shouted,
”Take us home.”
Synthia took point, leading the group back along the route they had already cleared of traps. Just past where they had eliminated the reaver on the stairs, she signalled the group to stop.
"That there was closed when we came up this way." she said, indicating a panel in the wall of the stairwell that hung ajar. "My guess is, when they left dead boy back there bangin' on the bridge door, they sent another one or two in through the crawlways to try and get into the bridge the sneaky way. Apparently, they couldn't find one. They prob'ly came to check out the noise, and didn't find a way down here until after we'd already passed on by. Either they're back in the walls like rats somewhere, or they're ahead of us."
Just then, a shadow flitted across the stairwell below them. Metal scraped on metal. A harsh, low growl floated up from the flickering shadows, more beast than human.
Syn pulled a mini-grenade from her harness and held it up for the others to see before pulling its pin and tossing it around the bend in the stairwell. The spoon of the grenade pinged off the metal walls as the little steel sphere bounced off a couple of stair treads, falling between them and exploding with an echoing roar and a shower of debris, accompanied by inhuman shrieks. Syn whipped aroung the corner, spraying a burst of buckshot ahead of her. Spiked balls, like some kind of deadly mutant fruit, shot past her to embed themselves into the wall behind her as she advanced, firing. More inhuman screams split the air. An axe-like weapon flew up from below, clattering to the floor and falling back down the stairs. The firing stopped. A rasping shriek of pure rage sounded, and was abruptly cut off. Then there was a loud clattering racket, like a bin full of metal scrap being shoved down a staircase.
A moment later, Syn came back around the corner. The right glove of her atmo suit dripped with blood, and she flicked a splash of it across the wall, wiping it relatively clean to check for holes and tears as she activated her arm's systems to back off the grip strength of her hand to its usual safe level. Then she removed the empty drum from her shotgun and replaced it with a fresh one, hanging the empty on her harness in its place.
"They tried to barricade the stairs with metal debris." she said. "Kicked most of it away, but watch your step. Sorry, Jax. Three beautiful women or not, I'm sure you've had better first dates. Don't slip on the blood."
A short distance later, they arrived at the hatch that led back to the Dancer.
GrimJack - August 1, 2006 11:39 AM (GMT)
The crew has returned to The Dancer.
Th action continues HERE