Worlds Adrift Chapter 82

It all began with a gunshot, a distant echo heard through the thick cement walls of the basement that soon grew into a corus of battle. The three extradimensionals and the demi-humans shot their heads up from whatever it was they were doing, alerted, “That’s a gunshot,” Buck remarked.

“Yes,” Valerax replied, “I’m pretty sure we got that.”

“Just saying,” Buck defended, “So, what are we going to do here?”

“We’ll have to wait for Gus,” Zlea answered.

Kain shifted his gaze to the three demi-humans, “Shouldn’t we go take a look ourselves? I know that we have to stay here to stay hidden, but it sounds like a war is going on up there.”

Luna nodded, “Yeah, that seems a bit dangerous to me. Should we just leave?”

“Unwise,” Ythane grumbled, too absorbed in a book to properly pay attention to the rest of them, “If a war is really going on, then it would be better to simply stay here and wait it out.”

They all nodded, sitting back down and doing whatever they were previously. Buck was flipping through the channels of the television when he found the news channel. The news reporter was standing in the middle of a sea of enforcers, transports, and even a tank. The reporter, with a grin plastered on her face, spoke passionately, [This just in! The Purity Union takes action! After months of preparation, the enforcers are ready to take the fight to the slums and cleanse the land of demi-humans! Behind me, the main battalion of enforcers is waiting for the outer stretches of the slums to be taken. The leader of the operation, J’althi vetch Vuring, estimates a clean and quick end to the conflict. The invasion is estimated to end at midnight, with every pocket of resistance snuffed! Stay tuned for more!] The television cut to a commercial break advertising some sort of vitamin that none of them cared about.

Just then, the hatch to the basement was opened and Gus came sliding down the ladder, “Guys! There’s-”

“We know. There’s an invasion,” Valerax cut off with a guilty smile, “The news was talking about it. A horde of enforcers, a lot of transports, and even a tank. What’re we going to do, Gus?”

The man looked around anxiously, and sighed, “We have to stay put. If we go out there, then we’re going to get killed in the crossfire. Let’s just stay here until the fighting cools down and make a break for it then,” he suggested. After a bit of back and forth, they all agreed with his plans. They all went back to doing whatever they felt like, but turned their attention to the television when an update regarding the fighting came on, [This just in! The enforcers have breached the outer sections of the slums! Minimal casualties have been sustained so far while inflicting heavy damage on the enemy. We have reports of an anti-vehicle emplacement harrying the advance, but it has been regarded as a minor nuisance. Tomorrow will be a bright day in Olsvania; Pope Helix the First himself will personally cleanse the slums of any heresy and the public will be invited to watch! More to come in the coming hours, so stay tuned!]

The next hour went by without any announcement while the distant echoes of gunfire became more numerous, more powerful, and closer. Eventually, at nine, another report came over the news, [This just in! The enforcers have been pushed back! Using foul magic, the Tunnel Rats have revived their dead to fight as bloodthirsty monsters! We have footage from an enforcer body-cam to show, however viewer discretion is advised.] The footage rolled and showed the ‘monsters’ the reporter spoke of. The consensus around the room was agreement as they watched the bloodied demi-human dodge gunfire and stab enforcers with knives. It took over twenty enforcers to kill one alone, but when multiple packed together, they had to bring out heavy machine guns and fire-based explosion runes. 

Eventually, the footage ended and left the group to their own devices for over another two hours. Just before midnight, another report came over the television, [This just in, a Type 2 Cobra Main Battle Tank has been destroyed, along with the many transport vehicles that followed! Despite the crew’s constant vigilance, the demi-humans have used some sort of evil magic to disguise themselves from the faithful. The only thing reported from the headquarters was that measures were being taken to deal with the obstacle. Stay tuned for more!]

At that moment, runes flared around the room and froze everyone in place. Gus sighed and stood, “I’m sorry. All of you.”

“What the hell is this, man!? Are you crazy!?” Buck shouted, “What are you trying to do!?”

“Gus… Why?” Valerax asked, sounding betrayed, “I trusted you… WE trusted you… why!?” she shouted. Zlea stood there, silent and solemn.

Gus walked around the room and pulled something from under his shirt. A small gear, pulsing with Ether, hung from his neck. As he spoke, the runes that lined the room began to glow a metallic and purple light,  “As I said, I’m sorry. But no matter how sorry I am, Her will must be fulfilled!” As he shouted, he held up his necklace, “Oh, Great Goddess of the Clock En’gem’ia, I give you these offerings as my tithe. May your wisdom be bestowed on them in their next life. May your guidance show them the way. May your greatness outshine all others in existence. May your mercy be swift and painless. May your glory tick. May you- AGH!” with a cry, he fell, bleeding. Just as he tried to complete his chant, a swarm of ethereal spiders burst forth from the nooks and crannies of the room. They swarmed the man, mauling him until he was no more.

The six people were freed from their stasis and the demi-humans fell to the ground, “What… did you three do…?” Valerax panted out, exhausted.

“We heard him talking to some goddess or something,” Luna remarked, “Big brother didn’t want to kill him without being entirely sure he was doing something shady, so we waited until now. You three okay?” The three demis nodded their heads. Just then, a surge of Ether flooded the basement from above. Without thinking, Ythane forged a Ether shield that blocked the falling rubble that came from the floors above. Thunderous crashes sounded, and they huddled under the shield for protection. 

Before long, the rubble stopped falling and they could look around once more. They were buried under a pile of rubble and they felt Ether coursing through the floor and the walls around them. Kain silently lifted his hand and created a sigil in it. Fire sparked to life and blasted the rubble with a blazing fury around them, leaving them totally uncovered and able to see the room around them. The medium sized store had been completely annihilated, every trace of the cozy wooden walls gone. In its place, a scene of gears and cogs and steam showed before them. Pipes were growing from the ground and the air around them, extending at odd angles and wrapping around each other in some nonsensical pattern. From the outer layer of piping, walls filled themselves in and created the groundwork of a maze-like structure that the group was in the middle of. Hanging from a web of pipes, a single furnace hung, glowing red and pulsing with purple runes. The thing that caught their attention the most, however, was the humanoid machine standing in front of them.

“Why do you fight me?” it asked in a woman’s voice, “Why did you let it get this out of hand?”

The demis were too confused to answer, but Kain was more than ready to have his opinion heard, “Maybe it is because we would prefer not to die. You know, like most other living things,” he said with a sardonic grin.

The metal creature laughed, gears within its body turning and clinking together, “Is that so? Why do you believe I will kill you? The Duvalad knows, you do not die until your soul is destroyed and I never desired the destruction of you. All I want is your souls themselves. So,” it said threateningly, raising a bladed gauntlet and the eyes in its narrow head glowing red, “Surrender, and I will overlook your transgressions against me.” The goddess that spoke through the machine made her offer, but Kain simply shook his head. With a quick flick of the wrist, he sent a lance of fire into the machine’s chest. The fire tried to dig into its chest, but barely made a scratch. The flame sputtered out, leaving a slightly burnt scratch on its chest. 

Without another word it dashed forward at them, its bladed gauntlets crossed in front of its face. Luna wasted no time in transforming her body, becoming a hulking mass of flesh and sinew with a dozen eyes spaced out around her head. Her forearms, transformed into chiten-covered gauntlets, caught the machine’s as it wound up for a punch. It struggled against her but was matched in strength, making it recoil in surprise and annoyance. In spite of its thoughts, a whistle from Kain brought it new trouble.

The hordes of spiders that had been climbing the walls and hiding charged forward. Hundreds of large spiders leaped on to the machine, biting the metal that made its joints and other weak points. In spite of their best efforts the spiders did nothing but buy time, but time that Kain used well.

A massive sigil as tall as him appeared in front of him and pulsed with Ether, lighting the extensive network up. The air drained of moisture and a dozen balls of wind and ice shot out around the machine, making a circle with alternating balls. Luna shoved the machine back and morphed into a spider, shooting a thick web at its feet. Trying to pursue its foe, it tripped and fell, tumbling forward a few feet. Just as it sat up, Kain clenched his hand in the center of the sigil and let loose a pulse of Ether. The air and ice exploded while a bubble was created around the whole thing. A raging ice storm lashed at the bubble, but it just barely held. Kain smirked and activated the next part of the sigil. The same balls of air shot out, but balls of fire replaced the balls of ice in the circle. With another clenching of his fist, the ice storm ceased only to be replaced by a firestorm of greater proportions. Creating a new bubble, they waited for a few minutes before the storm fizzled out of existence. 

Dismissing the bubble shield, Kain and Luna, in her massive war form, strode into the middle of the attack and found what remained of the machine. Its entire shell was cracked, pieces of armor fallen onto the ground and destroyed. The inner workings of the automata were in just as dire straits, everything at least chipped and at worst dissolved. The voice of the goddess still came through as clearly as it did before, despite the machine’s state, “It matters not what you do to this one, Riftborn. I will have the souls I need, no matter if it is yours or anothers. Shall we ever meet again, know that you will not know mercy.” With her final message sent, the machine fully broke down. The husk of the robot sat in front of them and they simply stared at it.

“Do you think she’ll bother us again?” Luna asked, still in her war form. 

Kain shrugged, “Dunno. She might, but I feel like she only tried for our souls out of convenience. Either way, let’s get out of here; our battle might have attracted some unwanted attention. That, and you need new clothes.” With the battle done, they left to meet up with the stunned demis and Ythane. After dressing Luna and urging the absentminded demis forward, they left the crater and headed up to street level. There they found a slightly familiar face.

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