Ch14: Ensnared

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.
No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Fourteen: Ensnared

The large warehouse loomed over them like an ancient beast standing against the ocean wind. The rolling doors were unhinged from their rollers leaving a narrow gap for Arius and Brockumus to squeeze through, but they knew not what waited upon the other side.
The interior of the warehouse was lofty. A second floor awaited several yards farther where two sets of stairs led to an upper mezzanine before several door led to other areas. Below, more doors awaited opening which left much ground to be covered. An old truck sat in the middle of the first room which Brockumus headed for. Finding the input for the fuel, he opened the cap and sniffed only to distort his face in disgust. The gas was rotten.
“Perhaps we can find better fuel elsewhere,” he said.
“I’ll take the top, you the bottom,” Arius suggested, with a wary gaze to the upper mezzanine.
He didn’t like the idea of splitting up, but they had to find fuel if they were to get off the island. They had contacted Dueson and Ruekrow through the wheel, and they were supposed to be on their way to the warehouse. Arius just didn’t want to be caught alone with them.
“I suppose so,” replied Brockumus. “But be careful.”
Arius nodded, and soon he made his way up the stairs. Old furniture and papers littered the upper mezzanine, and he found the next door hard to open. It budged with some force, and he made his way down the next hall. Windows took in the distant moonlight casting the long hall into a surreal sight.
Clearing several small rooms and closets, Arius found himself in another large room with workbenches and walls full of tools. Several doors led in and out of the room; several of them were open giving him a peep into the rest of the massive warehouse. A chill traversed his spine as he nearly expected something awful to come out of those dark rooms and halls.
To his right he caught sight of a red container with a spout. Moving toward it he examined the inner contents and found what he thought to be fuel. Sniffing it, he found it tolerable.
Something shuddered behind him, causing him to spin around with his rifle. The sights landed upon Ruekrow who had seemingly been trying to sneak up on him.
“You going to kill me too now,” Ruekrow said, with intimidation.
Arius lowered his rifle and replied, “I don’t kill my allies.”
“That’s not what I’ve heard. I hear you’ve had some questionable events in your life.”
“I don’t know what you’ve heard, but you don’t know me or my past.”
“I know you’ve managed to make some powerful people back home angry. Should we talk about that?”
 A shot fired from somewhere below, and its vibrations shuddered throughout the warehouse.
“Brockumus,” Arius said with worry.
The two of them hurried to investigate, Arius grabbing the fuel container on his way out of the room. Through several halls they came to a staircase which creaked on their way down. The place seemed to grow darker as they came to the first floor, and soon they were surveying the floor.
They came to a large room where ancient looking machinery collected dust in every corner. Pillars supported the vast ceiling overhead, and the place was like a cluttered maze. Weaving around the junk Arius spotted Brockumus against a far pillar with what appeared to be a wounded arm. Blood ran down the sleeve. 
“What happened?” Arius asked, moving to assist him.
“It’s Dueson,” he warned, before spotting Ruekrow. “Look out!”
Arius felt the coming impact moving through the air, but was too slow to turn around. The butt of Ruekrow’s rifle hit him square between the shoulders, knocking him to the ground where he dropped the container. A scuffle broke out behind him, as Brockumus tried to fight.
Arius jumped to his feet with his rifle and spun around only to find Brockumus under Ruekrow’s hold. A pistol was to his head, and Ruekrow dared him to make a move.
“What are you doing Ruekrow?” Arius asked, with his heart racing.
“Drop your weapon Arius,” Ruekrow replied. “You’re not going anywhere.”
Arius’ senses alerted him to another presence behind him, and he felt a gun pressed against the back of his head.

“Do what he tells you Arius,” Dueson’s voice came. “Your times up.” 

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Ch13: A Way Out

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.
No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Thirteen: A Way Out

The town sat silently upon the shore of the island, where the ocean whispered the sound of its steady waves from the darkness that concealed it. There were no lights in that place as the place was dead. Only toward the center of town could light be seen, for the leather soldiers had decided to make camp there as long as they were upon the island. Arius was dismayed about the amount of hostiles that had moved to the island.
The raping of a hanging sign against a chain-link fence sounded to their right due to the wind. Arius imagined a dark creature to leap out from the darkness as soon as they passed by the ally, but all remained still. Brockumus was ahead of him, and surveyed the area for their destination. The beach was just around the corner, for he could see a sudden blackness in the distance. Docks were consumed into the abyss.
Around the building, they made way toward an old boat house sitting off of the water. Jayvolni was supposed to be inside as they had communicated through the wheel upon arrival to town. This would be tense, for he would have to work with those who thought him a traitor.
The door to the boat house creaked open, and Brockumus led the way in, glancing to the left and the right. A boat sat in the middle of the room where ocean water calmly swept back and forth bobbing the boat up and down. A large door sat in front of the boat closing it off to the vaster ocean beyond.  At first the place seemed empty, but then Arius felt someone lurking in the far shadows across the room.
“Were you followed here?” Jayvolni asked, uncloaking himself from the shadows.
“No,” replied Brockumus. “Where are Dueson and Ruekrow?”
“Gathering essential supplies. We can leave as soon as we have them.”
“So the boat is good to go?”
“I patched it up, but it needs fuel. Hopefully the brothers will be able to locate some.”
“What about everyone else,” Arius chimed in. “We won’t leave without them.”
“The others will be here,” replied Brockumus. “Thorim is shortly behind us. It’s Rie and Grem I’m unsure about.”
Brockumus had contacted Rie shortly before arriving to town in order to persuade them to meet at the docks. The two mercenaries were reluctant to cooperate however as they had decided to take matters into their own hands. Apparently their ship’s beacon had been washed ashore, but the leather clad soldiers had seized it before they could. Rie and Grem planned to steal it back, but that meant waiting upon the island even longer.
“I heard over the wheel,” said Jayvolni. “They think they can retrieve the beacon.”
“It’s dangerous, but without it I’m afraid we would be stranded here forever.”
“I must say, I doubted the reality of finding it,” said Jayvolni. “But even so, we can’t stay here for long. If they don’t make it back by morning, then I’m afraid we have no choice but to leave.”
“That’s a lot of ground for them to cover,” said Arius. “Is there any way we can pick them up.”
“I have a feeling that as soon as we get into the ocean, we’ll want to get as far away from here as possible. I don’t want to leave anyone behind, but the two decided to go on their own, and thus far don’t seem in want of aid.”
“To be fair,” began Brockumus. “It was you that first broke up the group.”
“We needed a way off of this island before things got too dangerous, and now look at where you are.”
“I suppose they will be saying the same if they get back with the beacon.”
“If,” emphasized Jayvolni.
Brockumus let out a deep sigh before asking, “what can we do to help?”
Jayvolni turned his eyes down as if perplexed by the question, but staring them back in the eyes he replied, “Find out where Dueson and Ruekrow are at, and help them bring back supplies. What we need more than anything is fuel, so that is the real chore.”
“Sounds good,” Brockumus glanced toward Arius.
The two left the boat house where Arius moved his gaze to the distant moon which now glistened over the ocean waters. Before the clouds had masked its glow, but now it was left bare. Arius gripped his rifle, and wondered how much they would sacrifice just to save their own lives. Would they leave some behind, or would they pull through as a team? These were mercenary men however, and they knew little about teams. 

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Ch12: Pressing On

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.
No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Twelve: Pressing On

Dust billowed in the air, and tree limbs cracked from their trunks before crashing to the ground. The treetops whirled overhead as the rotors of a flying machine beat the air with fury. Heated shells fell from the machine’s guns which unloaded its chambers into the trees.
Arius hunkered beneath a rocky overhang where he hoped the machine wouldn’t be able to see him. The group had been scattered in the night due to the air ambush. The leather clad soldiers must have been using infrared vision technology. Otherwise, Arius knew not how they tracked them in the dark, but if this were the case, then they would stand out like flares under the forest canopy.
Arius could feel the vibrations from the machine, and the flurry of leaves beneath it. The guns stopped their thundering, and soon the machine moved on. The dust settled, and Arius didn’t know where the others were, but he feared to move from hiding. Exposing himself could attract anything from the air, but he knew there were foot soldiers in the area. He had seen them, and even now could feel them among the surrounding trees.
Moving forward he risked it. All he had was the assault rifle he stole from the soldier in the building earlier that day. It fell cool against his clammy palms, and he swept it back and forth against the trees ahead.
His eyes were attuned to the dark, but he wondered if the darkness would conceal him from the ground troops. If they too had infrared, then his camouflage was useless. He had to find safety, but where upon the island could he go?
He felt a soldier a few yards to his right. Taking cover behind a wide oak, Arius prepared to attack if needed, but he could identify three soldiers together. He would have to attack with cunning.
“They could be anywhere,” one of them said, in a rough voice. “Stick close and we’ll fare the better.”
“They can’t hide forever,” another one said, while sweeping the perimeter with its rifle. “They have no place to run, and the commander is certain that we will scour this island until they turn up. He thinks they’re from the outside world, perhaps spies.”
“They’re not from the outside,” the first one nearly barked. “These things came out of the shadows like ghost. Whatever they are, they’re not human.”
“Then what?” asked the third.
“I don’t know, but they ghosted me before I had a chance to fight back,” the first one replied before letting out a curse. “I’ve died enough this month, and I’m not going to die again. Next time, I’ll be ready.”
Arius felt a chill down his spine. Were these soldier immune to death, only to rise again after death? It would explain their hideous appearance if it was due to death time and time again. These were soldiers who saw the horrors of battle unto death several times over. Their scars would bear testimony of the fact.
The three moved on, and Arius stepped past the tree. He could see their back’s glistening in the soft moonlight which his eyes could pick up. Surgery had changed his eyes to mimic those of the planets residence, but in the dark they reverted back to their original light sensitive state.
A tremor brought him to spin to his right where he spotted a leather soldier twenty feet off. Its infrared scope glistened under the moonlight, and its rifle aimed for him. Arius sprayed the surrounding trees with the pull of a trigger while return fire pelted the tree behind him. The soldier sought cover, but took several hits to the chest before tumbling back.
Spinning back around, Arius knew that the other three would return, and thus they were through the bushes. Spraying the area with his rifle, Arius moved for cover back behind the tree as return fire shattered the other side. He knew more would be closing in, and he had to get out before they surrounded him.
Another rifle thundered several yards up the hill from the three soldiers, and Arius identified a fourth figure. The three soldiers took cover as one of them fell wounded. It was an ally, and Arius stepped around the oak, thundering the remainder of his clip toward the enemy. They scattered further, one taking a mortal wound to the head, and the second finding himself pinned behind a tree.
Arius sought cover behind another tree to reload while the soldier fired toward the other figure. With a click Arius hurried forward to press the soldier back. The fourth figure descended the hill and planted a knife into the wounded soldier, before Arius finished off the final one.
More were coming as he could feel them bearing toward them. The fourth figure made for Arius, before grabbing him by the arm. It was Brockumus.
“We must head for the harbor,” he said.
“What of the others?”
“They will take care of themselves. We must find safety and regroup later.”
The night pressed on as did they, but Arius felt the makings of a trap. 

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Ch11: Stories Told of History's Day

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.

No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Eleven: Stories Told of History's Day

Night had encroached upon them, and the five found themselves a few meters from the Gray Tower. A starry sky seemed to move above the trees as the planet continued its rotation, and the moon had for a short time been up. No fire stirred before them, as they wished to avoid attention. Thus they ignored the cold which impinged their bodies.
Naturally the tower would have provided ideal shelter for the five, but it would have left them cornered if the enemy were to come upon them. Therefor Thorim thought it wise to keep a distance, though no one felt comfortable by it. There was a killer among them, and Arius knew that the others distrusted him. Even Thorim who was reluctant to accuse him, remained suspicious. Arius could tell by the way he behaved. Wary glances, and uncomfortable silence were a giveaway.
Gruegon and Brockumus kept watch for the night, though no one slumbered. Camus was the fifth mercenary among them, and even more than Arius, was probably the quieter of the bunch. He had over the trip developed a bond with Gruegon just as Rie with Grem, and Jayvolni with Dueson and Ruekrow. Arius supposed that Brockumus was his new friend during the trip which left Thorim as the loner. He didn’t seem to have any one friend among the mercenaries, but acted as their leader alone. Arius could only wonder what their commander was thinking.
A sharp clicking sounded in the camp, and they all reached for their wheel. A palm sized device that clicked off an encrypted message. The shape of it was a wheel, and engraved symbols ran around the rim. The top part of the wheel turned to press upon the bottom part, and a message was dialed from Jayvolni. It was their method of communications, as they had no radio or com. The wheel operated by a type of magnetism which only the corresponding devices were linked to, thus they were able to communicate no matter what their distance from each other.
“He has found a boat by the docks,” Thorim spoke aloud. “but it’s condition is in need of repair.”
“If he succeeds in repairing it,” said Camus. “Will we leave with him?”
“Our priority is the mission, but he is right to say that staying is dangerous,” replied Thorim. “We will go if we must.”
Another message clicked through the wheels, and Arius noted it as from Grem. The two had nearly made it back to the crash site, but there were many leathered savages there. It would be dangerous, but they dared to proceed in hopes of finding the ships transmitter.
Thorim replied with a warning, but they refused to take heed from their old commander. They were on their own now, and only communicated to remain informed. All became silent as soon as communication was over.
The insects upon the world had taken to their chirping for the night, and now Arius’ mind began to wonder. He thought of his future wife, and despaired for the great distance between them. Could he ever get back to her, or was his destiny there among men who did not trust him. Was all this really a ploy of his future father in law of riding him forever? Heat flashed through his body as he looked back upon his gullibility. Yawen Waid, the father of his future wife, had tricked him. Arius had trusted the man, and at one time considered him as a father he never had, but now he realized the usury.
Arius’ thoughts soon turned to the mission which Thorim thought so highly of. It was true, they were there to make history, but perhaps it was their demise they would find instead. They were hunting a man of legend, long thought dead. What would his business be there, and what was he planning?

Arius recalled the stories taught to him as a child. A plague that devoured worlds, turning brother against brother, son against father. The great Plaigeanic Wars led by the Lord of Plagues, as the adversary called himself.  Worlds were in peril against his corrupting hand, and plague like armies, but a deliverer came to free them from the Lord of Plagues. Archaies was his name, and by his hand the adversary was put to death, the plague done away, and peace restored. Now here they were several hundred years later, hunting the man they once adored. The man Archaies, the one they once called deliverer. 

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Ch10: Five for Now

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
All rights reserved.

No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. 

Chapter Ten: Five for Now

The room seemed to go dead as an uncertain silence overtook it. No one reached for their guns, though Arius could see how they prepared themselves just in case. Verbal accusations held back, at least for now, but the mercenary’s eyes did enough of the talking.
“This doesn’t look good, Arius,” Thorim said, as if Arius failed to comprehend it.
“I’m not responsible for this,” he replied.
“No one’s accusing you,” said Brockumus, who glanced around the room full of mercenaries.
“You speak alone,” replied Rie. “This looks suspicious enough.”
“Do you think I would leave my dagger behind for all to see?” Arius shot back, with more anger than intended. “I didn’t do this.”
“Wel,l someone did,” replied Rie, unappreciative of his tone.
“We know the ship was sabotaged,” added Grem. “And someone in this room is responsible for that, and whoever it is, is likely responsible for this too.”
“Let’s not rush to conclusions,” began Brockumus, but Ruekrow cut him off.
“The conclusion is obvious. We have our daggers, and I have heard the rumors. Arius’ allegiance is questionable.”
“Rumors that I am sure you started!” Brockumus barked.
“Silence!” came Thorim’s voice with a boom. The room grew dull once again.
“We must think this through,” he continued. “When could this have happened? We have been together since the crash.”
“I wouldn’t be sure of it,” Dueson replied. “The night of the crash when we sought shelter under the rock. Someone could have sneaked off then, only to return unnoticed.”
“But we had two at watch every few hours,” said Brockumus.
“It was dark,” said Dueson. “Anyone of us could have sneaked off, and besides that, the dagger is ours. It couldn’t have been here before the crash which means it has to be one of us.”
“Then someone is setting me up,” said Arius.
“We don’t need to hear it,” hissed Grem. “The evidence is clear if only we look at it plainly. What are we going to do about it, commander?”
Thorim hesitated a response.
“Setting Arius up would be easy to do,” Brockumus said, taking advantage of the pause.
“Are you volunteering?” asked Ruekrow.
Dueson grabbed his younger brother by the arm as if to ease his accusations. Jayvolni only observed in the background.
“Sir.” Arius had a dry mouth.
He could only plea for his innocence. Anger began to rage as he pondered his framer for he knew someone there was setting him up. Brockumus had warned him to be careful, but the conspiracy against him was already set in motion.
“Quiet,” Thorim nearly hissed. “There are too many possibilities. I can’t accuse you of anything, but the evidence before us is plain. Perhaps too plain.”
“Excuse me, sir,” Grem said with disbelief. “Too plain?”
“This could be a set up!”
“Or carelessness upon the culprits part!” Grem barked at his commander. “How can you dismiss the obvious? Do you wish to see us all dead?”
“No!” Thorim rebutted. “But we need further investigation.”
“We don’t have time,” Jayvolni finally spoke. His calm but stern voice effortlessly broke the heated commotion. “This island will soon be swarming with hostiles. We need an exit strategy if we wish to live.”
“So what?” asked Rie. “We should just forget about this?”
“I don’t care what you do,” replied Jayvolni, “but I’m going back toward town. Perhaps there’s a boat or something.”
“No,” said Thorim. “We need to investigate. Otherwise this mission is over.”
“This mission is already over,” replied Jayvolni. “Now it’s only a matter of survival, and the best way to do that is to get off this island.”
“We can’t,” replied Rie. “Our ship dropped a beacon before it crashed. If we leave this island then we’ll have no chance of getting home. We should find the beacon first. Perhaps it’s washed ashore by now.”
“I bid you well with that,” said Jayvolni. “I’m heading to town, and if anyone wants to come along, follow me.”
Jayvolni glanced toward Dueson and Ruekrow as if to give a special invitation before turning to leave the room.
“Jayvolni,” Thorim said. “You can’t do this.”
“I’m am, sir,” he replied. “And I suggest you figure your end out before you follow. There’s a traitor among us, and we can’t act like it’s not obvious. I’ll keep in touch through the wheel.”
Jayvolni cast a glance toward Arius before he left the room. Ruekrow and Dueson hesitantly followed, leaving the rest to make up their own minds.
“We can’t leave without the beacon,” Rie said. “I’m heading back to the crash. Anyone who wants to go home come with me, except you.”
Rie pointed his finger toward Arius with eyes that threatened harm if he were to follow. Grem went along with his friend leaving the last four of the group. Arius questioned his next move and wondered what Thorim would have done to him. Surely Brockumus would come to his aid.
“And just like that the group is no more,” Thorim said, under his breath. “That’s what I get for working with brutes.”
Looking to the other two mercenaries he asked, “What of you? Do you wish to desert your commander as well?”
“No sir,” one of them replied, Gruegon was his name. “We are vulnerable if we split up.”

“Then it’s us five for now,” Thorim said. “And we stay for the mission, if you are capable of it.” 

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