First Chaos – Fourth Chapter – Aaron

Posted: July 29, 2013 by Aaron Matthew Kaiser in Chaos #1

Previous: Chapter 3 by Christina || Next: Chapter 5 by Kella

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Captain Altair stood by the entry to his shuttle, reviewing information on his data pad. By the ship’s clock it was still the middle of the night, but late morning on this part of the planet. While his marines were busy putting out fires, he wanted to get a jump start on the day’s tasks.

Tris was nearby, collecting whatever berries and nuts she could find. It was a rarity that she was able to go planetside and always wanted to bring back whatever produce she could.

The shuttle had landed a safe distance from the Council ship’s impact zone and the marines wanted to clear the area before he approached. Luckily, the fires were not spreading quickly and they did not anticipate it would take long to extinguish the flames.

Since they were effectively off the grid, there was no official work for Altair and his crew to do, but he still liked to keep an eye on all intercepted communications and review all department reports. His keen oversight had allowed them to profit from a side job more than once.

“Do you see this?” Tris said excitedly to Altair, breaking his focus from the translucent screen. He looked up to see her holding some mangled foliage. “Warek root. Most Eltari mash it, but I enjoy it as part of a stew. Have your marines kill me a wild boar and I will make you a feast tonight.”

Altair’s mouth half-cocked into a smile. “I don’t see how I can turn down your offer.”

“You never can,” she quipped as she gently stroked his face with her hand. “I think you’d give me your ship if I asked you the right way.”

Altair blushed and pulled her hand away, unsure if any of the marines had seen their interaction. “Tris, we have discussed what behavior belongs in my quarters and what does not.”

Before either could continue, Altair caught the movement of an approaching marine in the corner of his eye. He turned to face Corporal Jenng, leader of the company. Jenng was an experienced marine, not much younger than Altair himself.

“Captain,” Jenng said as he removed his helmet. Light ash smudged his face as his salt and pepper hair reflected the amber sunlight that poured into the small clearing. “Most of the fires have been extinguished and we’re ready to approach the crash site.”

“Thank you, Corporal. After you.”

Altair followed Jenng back toward the edge of the tree-line, followed by Tris. Within moments, they were joined by the rest of the marines. There were five marines in all, led by Jenng. The landing team had to be small to accommodate the extra storage of bringing the crashed scout ship back into orbit. That left only eight jump seats for the trip. Those seats accommodated Captain Altair, Tris, Jenng and his men, and C.O.R.M.

C.O.R.M. stood for “Cybernetic-Organic Research Marine” and everyone simply called him Corm. He was a humanoid robot with an organic brain, capable of performing a wide variety of mission types. Equipped with advanced sensors and weapons, he could serve an important role on almost every tactical or scientific mission. Altair had two of them onboard.

“The crash site is only two kliks into the forest,” Jenng reported. “It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to get there.”

“Then let’s hurry up,” responded Altair. “Have your men keep their eyes open and weapons ready.”

“You heard him. Move out. Corm, take the rear.” Jenng made the first steps into the trees as Corm stood at ready and watched the marines pass in front of him. A salute and a hushed beep were the only acknowledgements that Corm made to the order.

As Tris passed by, they caught each other’s gaze. She had always been unsettled by this ‘creature’ that was not a man, yet more than a piece of equipment. The crew treated him almost as one of them, yet did not socialize outside of missions. She could not imagine having such sentience without having a soul, yet that was best how she understood him to be.

Part of Tris’ disconnection with Corm likely also had to do with his face—or lack thereof. Had his creators made him look more human, she surmised, perhaps he would be more accepted. Instead, he had arms and legs—even a head—yet no face. Where one eye would normally be, there was a blue light. The other socket housed some form of sensors or camera, she guessed. And there was no moving mouth, just a disjointed voice for the few times he actually did speak.

“Are you alright?”

“What?” Tris turned to Altair, whose question snapped her out of her bewilderment. “Yes, of course. I’m sorry.”

They had walked farther than Tris had realized. Yet, she suddenly knew where she was. Despite the years of growth and the burn marks from the fires, she knew these trees. She was near home.

“We’re here, Captain.” said Jenng just as the company stopped. Before them lay the burned out wreckage of what remained of the Council scout ship.

“Spread out, gather what you can and confirm the pilot’s fatality.” Altair’s orders were quickly followed as Jenng nodded to his men and they quickly spread out. Corm walked past Tris and toward the main hull. His sensors quickly scanned the remains before he picked the bulk up over his head.

“Dear-heart, I was hoping we could—” Tris began, tugging on his elbow to ask a favor. Before she continued, one of the marines approached Jenng in the near distance.

“Sir, we can’t find the pilot,” came the marine’s report. “There is a small pool of blood half a klik out, but no sign of the body.”

Jenng turned to Altair, who lowered his data pad as he absorbed the information. After watching the scout ship nearly disintegrate in the atmosphere, he did not anticipate actually finding anything except body fragments.

“How the hell did he survive that?” Altair blurted. “Corm, scan the vicinity. Find him.”

Corm immediately lowered the wreckage down to where it lay before. He slowly pivoted around as his sensors adjusted for the new command.

“An operational Cyrex unit has been located twelve kliks Northeast from our present location,” Corm reported. His voice was mostly natural with only a hint of its mechanical synthesis. “It is surrounded by multiple Eltari life signatures, most likely a small town.”

Tris covered her mouth and gasped lightly. Both shock and a sense of horror overcame her. Altair quickly approached the cybernetic officer.

“Corm, I am authorizing containment protocol, level 3. Authorization Altair-seven-seven-one-alpha. Confirm.”

“Authorization confirmed,” replied Corm. “Commencing containment protocol.”

Immediately, Corm turned in the direction of the small town and took a couple of steps away from Altair. Panels along his back opened up to reveal atmospheric thrusters and, within moments, he was sailing across the sky toward his destination.

“Altair,” Tris began. Her voice was nearly trembling as she approached. “What is containment protocol, level 3?”

Altair turned from his gaze into the sky and faced Tris. “I’m sorry, my love.”

“Orders, sir?” Jenng asked, taking a step closer.

“What is containment protocol, level 3?” Tris repeated.

“Let’s gather what we can of this mess,” Altair responded to Jenng, ignoring Tris’ question. “I’ll monitor Corm’s progress—”

“WHAT IS CONTAINMENT PROTOCOL, LEVEL 3?!?” Everyone stopped in their tracks at Tris’ outburst. Altair had only seen her this angry once before and it cost him a broken arm. Still, he could not bring himself to answer or even look at her.

Jenng finally spoke up; the only man brave enough to tell her the truth. “Eradication of the anyone who has come in contact with the target.”

“Listen, Tris—” Altair began, attempting to dissuade her outrage.

“What have you done, Altair? I have never seen this side of you before.”

“I know how you feel. Eltari are going to die, but—”

“Not just any Eltari,” Tris exclaimed. “My Eltari. My town. My family. Do you not recognize these woods? Do you not remember that this is where we met all those years ago before you took me into the stars?”

“I’m sorry, but there is no other way.”

“Call him back.”

“I can’t.”

“Call back your machine-man. I will find your pilot and resolve this without bloodshed.”

“I am sorry, Tris. I can’t.” Altair remained calm, hoping that she would pick up on this and relax her anger as well. “This is how it needs to be.”

Tris stepped even closer to him, their noses nearly touching. Her skin seemed to darken as her amber eyes sparked into a golden glow. Her face distorted with rage and hatred for the man that she loved. Suddenly, she erupted into a scream like that of a banshee. All of Jenng’s men covered their ears and buckled to their knees in pain. Altair stood there, taking the full brunt of the sound. His ears began to ring and he closed his eyes as Tris turned around and ran into the forest faster than he had ever seen her move before.

* * *

“Why are you just standing around like a herd of guffaloo?” Ike nearly screamed as he swung his legs off the cot and onto the floor. He grimaced in pain as the hind muscles flexed across the arrow’s wound. “I told you to go. Now.”

“And what of you?” Kyri asked before her mother continued the thought.

“You will not get far in your wounded condition.”

“I’m not getting far at all,” he said, moving closer to them. “I’m as good as dead. That doesn’t mean that I have to take you down to hell with me. I’ll make my stand. Here. And you can get away.”

“I should never have brought him to you,” resolved Kyri to her mother. “I should have left him to die in the forest.”

Kyri’s mother grasped her by the shoulders and stared her in the eyes. “You brought him here because that is who you are. Adventurous, caring, and very foolish. What has come to pass is meant to be. And if not…” she paused a moment to glare at Ike. “We can kill him later.”

“You are still not leaving,” Ike pleaded. “Am I speaking an alien language? Maybe my Cyrex isn’t working. Tap tap, nope, it’s fine. You can understand me. Help me find me red bag, then get out of town before it’s too late.”

Both Kyri and her mother stood still, perplexed by Ike’s sudden sarcastic tirade.

“Or just stay here with me and die.” he continued. “Either way works for me.”

Before anyone could react further, a commotion was heard outside the room. The door burst open and Sabra ran in, making a circle around Kyri before jumping on the cot and lying down. Moments later, both Anod and Geneth appeared in the doorway.

“There you are!” exclaimed Geneth. “Did you find your dragon?”

Anod continued, “When you didn’t return to camp last night, we decided to—”

The room suddenly grew silent as Anod’s eyes fixated on the stranger with the pinkish skin across the room. Picking up on her master’s emotions, Sabra stood up and began to make what sounded like growling sounds toward Ike.

Instantly, Anod and Geneth stepped into the room and readied their weapons. Geneth held his spear out while Anod brandished a hunting knife in each hand with the blades pointed back at his elbows.

“What is this demon?” Anod asked. Kyri rolled her eyes, forgetting that she had gone through the same misperception herself.

“Why do all of your people think I’m a demon?” Ike uttered to Kyri as he backed against the far wall.

“Put your weapons down,” their mother said, stepping in their way. She paused as she tried to determine the best way to alleviate her boys’ fear. Perhaps Ike’s original story, the lie, would be the best. “This creature is… a messenger.”

Anod, not backing down or lowering his knives, kept his eyes trained on Ike. All he needed were three seconds and the pink demon would be disemboweled. “What message does he bring?”

“To leave. Now. Or die a horrible death.” Ike responded, hoping that these new visitors would heed his warning. “And help me find my red bag. I really need that.”

Suddenly, Geneth’s spear begin to quiver in air. “What… the dresh… is that?!”

Geneth’s eyes were fixated on the window overlooking the street leading into town. The rest of the group turned their gaze as well just in time to see an object fly quickly through the sky and land in the dirt. A cloud of dust erupted around it and swirled, slowly settling to reveal Corm in his landing position.

“Not good, this is not good!” Ike exclaimed, tapping his Cyrex as Kyri’s family surrounded him at the window. “New plan. I can mask my life signature, but only for a few moments. I’ll distract ugly over there and you leave out the back. I assume you have a back way out of this little town?”

“Yes,” Kyri acknowledged. “We have a way to escape.”

“Good, but I still need my red bag.”

Kyri’s mother walked across the room toward a small cabinet near the cot. Opening the door, she pulled out the red bag and threw it to Ike. “Take your bag. May Rell watch over you always.”

Ike nodded at the sentiment. He watched as the mother turned and walked out of the door. Geneth and Anod followed, the latter not taking his eyes off of Ike. Once Sabra jumped down from the cot and left, only Kyri was left with him.

“Go,” he said, looking into her eyes. “Get your family as far away from here as possible.”

“Farewell, Isaac Gibson.”

“Ike.”

“Farewell, Ike. May you have the strength of Rell in your battle.”

Ike waited until Kyri was finally out of the room, then unzipped the bottom section of his red bag.

* * *

Outside, several Eltari gathered around the dust cloud to investigate. Some adults held their children back from getting too close, but no one spoke. Finally, Corm stood erect and began scanning for his target.

“Unable to locate life signature. Beginning containment procedure, level 3.” Corm stated to himself. The unusual voice caused the onlooking Eltari to stir.

Corm raised his right arm into the air. The robotic hand folded back, revealing the soft blue glow of a plasma cannon. The light enchanted the natives as it glowed brighter. They did not know to take this as a warning to run, but it was now too late.

A single plasma blast discharged out of Corm’s arm, cutting through half a dozen Eltari and obliterating the side of a home. Dark grey body parts flew about the air, landing all across the road. The remaining souls erupted into chaos, screaming and crying as they ran into various directions.

Corm aimed his cannon at another building and repeated the process. Much of the same carnage followed as Eltari fell dead and fires began to burn across rooftops.

Amidst the screams and the chaos, Kyri picked up on one in particular and paused from her family’s exodus out of town. The sound beckoned her attention and forced her to look.

In the middle of the road, Kyri saw an Eltari toddler sitting by her deceased mother. The wailing cries had also caught the attention of Corm, who trained his weapon directly at her. As the glow built up, Kyri rushed over to the child and scooped her up into her chest and knelt down, waiting for the demon fire to consume both of them.

“It’s okay,” Kyri whispered with only seconds left to live. “I will walk with you into Rell’s paradise.”

Both girls clenched their eyes as the high pitched tone of the cannon indicated that it was just about to fire. It was moments that seemed as if an eternity before she finally heard the shot fire, followed by another one. Suddenly, the building not far beside them exploded and sent shrapnel all around them.

Kyri opened her eyes. She wondered how had the demon missed them at such a close range and glanced around, finally settling her eyes on the entryway to her house. There stood Ike, a small blaster in his hand.

Looking back, Kyri could see Corm’s arm pointed to the side. Apparently, Ike’s well-placed shot made at the right time had saved her life. She also noted the sparks emitting from the creature’s arm.

“Plasma cannon offline,” Corm stated to no one in particular. “Target identified visually. Enabling close combat mode.”

Ike slowly walked into the middle of the street, keeping his blaster trained on Corm’s head. His Cyrex spoke into his head. Item: Unable to sustain life signature cloaking. Disengaging.

His ability to hide had ended, but that didn’t matter any longer. There were only two ways this was going to end: either he would get another lucky shot to take down this bastard, or he would die then and there.

Corm’s stance changed from the rigid machine into something resembling a boxer. Ike knew about the capabilities of these cyborgs, but he’d never seen one up close. Only the larger ships were equipped with them and then it was only one or two. He’d certainly never gotten to see one fight hand-to-hand and he was likely about to die for that pleasure.

A moment later, Corm’s forearm plating opened up and two steel blades slid out, one on each arm. They measured several inches in length and shone brilliantly in the light as they locked into place.

Hurriedly, Kyri carried the orphaned child away from the showdown and handed the girl to her mother.

Corm twitched, calculating his series of moves. It was now or never for Ike and he pulled the blaster’s trigger.

Nothing. A brief flare up, but no pulsating beam of energy. Another pull and still no activity. A quick glance at the battery indicator showed a spent fuel cell. One shot was apparently all that Ike was going to get.

With nothing standing in his way, Corm leapt off his stance and ran toward Ike. The mechanical beast swung his sword-arms around like a character from one of Ike’s old animation shows.

The only move Ike could make was to duck. Narrowly missing decapitation, Ike fell backward onto the dirt road. His red bag sent flew out of reach and he could feel his wounds opening again from the abrupt movement.

Towering over Ike, Corm held both his arms high, ready to strike a devastating final blow. As his arms swung down, they were caught in mid-air and prevented from reaching their destination. Ike looked up to see Anod standing on one side, using his knives to stop the blade. On the other was Geneth, his spear barely holding together under the weight of the steel. Both Eltari men pushed back and sent Corm staggering.

“Are you okay, messenger?” Geneth asked, not taking his eye off the adversary.

“I thought you people were going to leave while you still could?” Ike responded, looking around for the red bag.

“You saved our sister’s life,” responded Anod. “We are repaying the debt.”

Ike could see the momentary confusion in Corm’s programming. Despite combining the strength and agility of a machine with the processing power of a human brain, these units were prone to delays when the parameters of a situation changed—especially the older models.

This could be his only moment to change the tides, so Ike tried to stand, but the pain in his rear caused him to fall back down again. Locating his red bag, Ike could do little more than resort to crawling toward it.

Corm began to move again. This time swifter and more agile than before. He trained a blade on each of his opponents. His arms sliced through the air and each man countered, keeping the machine busy. Anod’s accuracy was amazing as his stone knives were able to counteract each movement with a direct block. Geneth mainly focused on deflection and avoiding the strikes. Neither man knew if the demon could grow weary, but they could certainly keep it busy for a moment.

After several blows, Geneth’s spear gave way and splintered into two. Corm’s left arm sliced down his chest and then across his neck. Geneth dropped to his knees and the distraction caused Anod to lose his concentration for only a moment.

That moment was all that Corm needed to disarm Anod. A simple swipe across and his blade sliced cleanly through Anod’s left wrist. The severed hand dropped to the ground and Anod crouched down in pain.

Anger swelled up inside Kyri at the shedding of her brothers’ blood. She let out a high-pitched scream and rushed Corm as he retracted his blades to survey the scene. Her tackle attempt didn’t even cause Corm to flinch. All he had to do was lift his arm and she was sent flying back to the side of the road.

Corm looked around and spotted Ike only a few meters away, almost to the red bag. He walked over to the wounded human and reached down, turned Ike over, and grabbed by the neck. Corm’s metallic fingers wrapped around Ike’s throat as he lifted him off the dirt. Staring Ike in the face, Corm once again unsheathed the blade on his left arm and held it up to face level, ready to snuff out his existence.

Kyri pulled out her bow and focused on Corm’s head. Despite her horrible aim, she knew that this arrow had to hit its target. Pulling the line taught, she closed her eyes and breathed deeply. The world around her began to slow down, much as Geneth had tried to teach her to do for years. As she opened her eyes, her hands knew an unfamiliar steadiness.

“For my brother,” she said to herself before releasing the string.

The rogue arrow flew through the air with the speed and grace of an eagle. It embedded itself into Corm’s neck, causing him to drop Ike back into the dirt as his systems began to overload.

Ike looked over to see Kyri and then back up at Corm. Glancing to the red bag, he could see that it was now within reach. Grabbing the handle, he pulled it close to him and vehemently rummaged through the bag for a spare battery.

Regaining control, Corm reached up to his neck and pulled the arrow out. He looked down to focus his attention back to Ike just in time to see the new battery slide into place. A low hum sounded as the blaster powered up. Corm raised his arm to make his kill as Ike raised the blaster to Corm’s head.

Kyri’s heart leapt with brief happiness as the demon’s head exploded into pieces. The cyborg’s entire body went stiff for a moment before collapsing into a crumpled heap. Making eye contact with Ike, her brain determined that he was alive, but her thoughts were elsewhere. She turned her attention back to her brothers.

Geneth’s head was in their mother’s lap as she stroked his silver hair. His eyes were wide open, looking into the sky as he gasped for his final breaths. Anod, holding the stump on his left arm, ignored the massive pain as he lay by his dying brother. Kyri came close and touched her forehead to his. Her stomach was turned in knots, twisted beyond recognition.

“Farewell, my brother.” Despite only wanting to cry, she was able to utter the last words Geneth would ever hear. “May you visit me in my dreams.”

As Geneth stopped breathing, their mother pulled her two remaining children closer to her and they wept together.

Afar off, Ike watched the somber moment. This was no time for victory. They had defeated the cyborg, but other privateers would be coming soon. Above all else, Kyri had just lost a family member.

“Misa?” Tris’ voice cut through the crying and startled everyone. In all the commotion, no one had noticed her arrive. “I am too late. I swear to Rell that I did not want this pain to befall our family.”

Kyri’s mother slowly stood and stared at the stranger. After a moment, she turned back to her children without saying a word.

“Misa,” called out Tris, desperation in her voice. Her voice stopped the mother in her tracks. “Do you not recognize me? I know it has been ages, but—”

“My sister is long since dead,” snapped Kyri’s mother, whipping her head around again to the newcomer. “And if she were not, she would need to explain where she has been for ten years and why she claims to be responsible for the death of my son.”

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Previous: Chapter 3 by Christina || Next: Chapter 5 by Kella
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Comments
  1. Kella says:

    Shit, sir.

    I stand by my original statement during previews. That was intense.

    …Challenge accepted.

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