The Bowels of Charybdis

Hitura Rael

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#1
Lights flickered uncontrollably with the rise and fall of am electrical hum. The very colony rocked and shook, metal groaning in protest. Outside the stars faded away in a growing swath, consumed by the spreading darkness, pulling everything around it to its crushing embrace, to be consumed by the abyss.

Jake's eyes flickered open with a pained groan. His head felt sticky and cool with a resounding, lingering pain which echoed across his skull, threatening to spilt it in twain.

"Easy Jake, I got ya." Strong hands laid on his back to steady him. The pace in which he rolled over seemed to be more painful than his head with how long it took. He winced and dropped his arm over his face at the sight of the bright, flickering light in the hangar. The pounding in his head intensified three folks at the motion and burned just in the back of his skull.

Two pairs of strong hands took him under the arms and hauled him up to sit up. With wonder, the pain in the back of his head lessened to a throbbing sear. "Geeze that's a bad one, " the gruff voice from before commented with tightness. "Come on, let's get you up to the med bay. "

"They're probably packed. " Jake muttered, slowly uncovering his eyes and adjusting to the bright light once again.

"Your damn aversion to medical attention won't save you now boy. This cut needs attention and my bet is you have a concussion."

Jake grumbled under his breath, but made no move to stand. Standing felt all but impossible right now, weak as his legs felt, as if they were made of half solidified gelatin. "Any idea what happened boss? "

"Not a fucking clue. I think I passed out at some point."

Murmurs of agreement and shame echoed across the hangar. Less boxes than he had remembered being there. "Is everyone okay? " panic welled up as he turned to survey the battered room, searching for his younger brother.

"We got five dead," the boss said heavily, "And plenty of wounded. Aaron and Zach have gone to clear the hall so we can get people to medical attention.

Jake breathed a heavy sigh, feeling much calmer knowing his brother was ok. Figured the lazy little shit was fine. He was petulant far from danger when whatever hit the colony knocked them all out.

He frowned and reached around to the back of his head, flinching slightly at the burning sting spread across his scalp and the dry crust. He let out a sharp hiss of pain and let his hand drop beside him, "°What hit me? "

'From the look of it, wrench. Or the whole box of tools. Who knows. Could have been worse. Could have been the unfortunate sod who got hit by the saw blade. "

Jake winced at the thought. Hopefully that poor unfortunate soul was dead and out of his misery. He glanced around the room again, taking notice for the first time just how disheveled it was. Anything not secured down had fallen and strewn about. Tools, equipment, and parts littered the floor, occasionally resting in puddles or pools of blood.

It would take days to get the shop back in order, but that was the least of their worries right now...
 

Hitura Rael

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#2
"Fer fecks sake lad! Are ya gunna help me er nat?!"

Aaron rolled his eyes behind the old man's back and tossed aside another chunk of scrap from the colony. "Fer fecks sake yer self ya daft coot," he had a terrible habit of picking up and mimicking the languages of people he spent too long around. "Work smart nae hard." He grinned and turned to the red head, wiggling a length of metal piping from the destroyed ceiling.

The old Irish man grumbled more as Aaron crossed the hall and jammed the end of the pipe between the twisted metal chunk and the door it blocked. With a strained grunt, he pulled on the pipe. Metal groaned in protest, lazily inching away from the door frame. He released his breath and eased back on the pipe, ignoring the burning in his arms and legs from the strain.

"Daft yer self if ya keep on," The old man huffed and wedged his own two by four into the small space Aaron had made. "On counta three."

Aaron nodded, "Aye, one...two...three!" The pair threw their weight into the motions and were rewarded with a symphony of screeching metal, agonizingly slow as the metal slipped away from the wall. Again and again, they threw themselves at their task, until their instruments were no longer able to get the leverage for the task.

Aaron puffed breathlessly, "Ya think that erryone kin git through? "

The old man grunted an affirmative and dropped himself to the floor. "Aye. You go on and poke yer head through, see how bad it is. "

Aaron frowned at the old man, then slipped between the scrap and the wall. It was a tight fit for himself, his uniform plucked at by the sharp bends of shorn metal. "Definitely needs more work."

"Yer brother kin do it!" The old man called back.

Aaron rolled his eyes again. "Lazy old fecking coot!" He slipped through the black portal to the echoes of his partner's amused laughter. The lights above had all shattered from the blow that hit the colony. Down the hall, what hadn't broken flickered rapidly, illuminating the bend of the hall beyond.

He swallowed and fished his flash light from his pocket and flicked it on. He dragged the small circle of light around the space before him, covering every inch. His heart skipped a beat as the pool of light landed on a technician, impaled by shattered glass and shorn metal. The blood drained from his face, eyes locked on the corpse of his unfortunate companion. If only he had been on time to work for once...

Aaron jumped at the sound of a voice from behind him. "Oi! Ya ok back there lad? Ain't shitting yer pants are ya? "

He took a moment to swallow and wet his lips. "Aye. Garret's dead. Halls black as yer dirt arse ya oil monkey. "

"Fecking hell! Git back here, we'll go talk to the boss. Cannae let folk trample the poor bastard... and we need muscle. "

"Aye..." Aaron's voice wavered. His eyes returned to the corpse in front of him for too long before he tore his eyes away and made his way back through the abyss.
 

Hitura Rael

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#3
The dead laid in a row, covered by cloths and tarps that could be spared. Six total, gone in the blink of an eye. Aaron worked with a group of the younger technicians, sorting through the parts and supplies within the shop. His face hadn't regained color after finding poor Garret. Jake pat his younger brother's shoulder as he passed by, comforting him wordlessly.

He made his way down the hall, a powerful flashlight in one hand and a bag slung over his shoulder. It was a short distance to where the boss instructed the older hands in constructing a make shift pully. The boss cast his baleful gaze over his broad shoulder at the sound of Jake's footfalls. "You need to go rest."

"I'm fine. It's just a bump. Misha even said so. Head wounds bleed like stuck pigs. " Jake continued over to the massive peice of debris and set the bag of parts down. "Here. Brought more cable and connectors. "

The boss sighed, "Thanks. Now go rest. "

"I told you no. I'm going to go look ahead while you move that thing. What even was it? "

The boss shook his head. "Stubborn as your dad. I have no fucking idea what it was, it's so damn mangled. Probably a chunk of shrapnel from whatever hit us. "

Jake nodded and moved to the gap, squeezing through with some new scratches and tears in his shirt to show for it. "What are you gonna do if there's a fucking hole in the wall you idiot? "

"Scream really loud, 'holy shit don't come down this way there's a hole! '" he grinned and stepped into the darkness. He grinned all the harder at the faint 'smartass' remark from the boss as he moved down the dark hall.

Glass crunched under his feet with each step. He cycled illuminating the floor, walls, and ceiling, vigilant for danger, eats strained for the groans of metal. He paused when his light feel upon the pool of blood where Garret had laid. This was as far as anyone had gone out.

Slowly, the light was traced up the wall that separated the hall from the outside world. The emergency shutters had all fallen into place, shielding anyone in the hall from a breech, but not from the glass shattering from the force of whatever put that massive dent in the steel.

He took a deep breath and continued his slow journey to the flickering lights. He kept his torch lit, even in the light, just in case they failed. A damaged electrical system was nothing to play with.

A splash of color peeked through the window around the bend. With each step, more of the spray of rainbow hues became visible, floating like a spray of star dust hung in a pitch black and starless void.

What he saw when he reached the stretch of hall shook his grip on the flashlight. A huge chunk of land, easily the size of the colony, floated aimless and still in the distance. Green grass and trees were barely visible on it, thanks to the distance,. Light seemed to bathe it and other islands from all sides with no visible source.

He stared, mouth agape, at the vast field of stone and debris surrounding this chain of islands and the pure black abyss beyond.
 

Hitura Rael

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#4
He had to be dreaming. This could not possibly be real. Jake's mind clawed to grab on to something solid, SOMETHING to ground himself; to stop the cold sweat that prickled at his back, the bitter taste in the back of his throat, the feeling of his legs turning to jelly... But there was nothing. Nothing but a smashed colony and the floating debris past the glass panes.

Time slipped away from him as he stared out into the vast void. The shock was broken by movement in the outside. Something lurked out there, something big. It moved too fast for him to catch more than the glimpse of movement, a flash of light off of metal or some other reflective surface. His clenched his fists to steady his hands and approached the window, watching the flotsam for any sign.

Regret was a drop of water in a sea of ice and terror. The monster emerged from behind the island. It was absolutely huge, not big enough to make out any details, but enough to know it was absolutely massive to be seen in any capacity as distant as the island was. And it was not alone. It clashed with something much bigger, light flashing off of their metalic carapace as the two combatants clashed. Charybdis rocked as an errant beam clipped somewhere higher up and out of sight. The lights flickered with the tremors before dying entirely. A bright light engulfed one of the creatures, something like explosions in the distance.

Jake finally snapped out of his shock and terror, rushing forward to close the shutters on the windows by hand. Without power to the sector. If they shattered, the crew would be dead. Either from starvation, dehydration, asphyxiation... He shook his head, he could not think of that right now. He had to get these shut.

"Jake! You okay down there?"

Jake froze, sure he was hearing things. The crew was not supposed to follow him yet. His brother was supposed to stay behind where it was safe damnit! Aaron and several of the younger men emerged from the dark hall, guided by a torch light.

"What the fuck are y'all doin here!?"

"Nice gratitude. You were taking too damn long!" The two other mechanics joined Jake. With a few good hard tugs, the metal sheet slid down into place and locked. A symphony of slamming metal followed after as the lights flickered back to life. Aaron got to his feet and shook his hand out. "At least you didn't get sucked out to fucking space. Wow, you look worse than when you caught the flu."

Jake glared at the younger boy, cheeks burning hot. "Shut up. Git yer asses back down there!"

"No way. Something happened! Your accent's showing!"

"Aaron, you can't see accents..." One of the apprentices whispered not too quietly.

"You know what I meant!"

Jake shook his head. "Ya'll ain't gonna believe me..."
 

Hitura Rael

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#5
Aaron's leg bounced at a rapid pace, lacking rhyme or rhythm. He leaned forward, an elbow resting on his still knee, and a finger perched on his lips. He was not a subtle nail biter, but at least no one would call him out for the nail biting over the annoying leg bouncing. The colony council argued and debated inside the room down the hall, lit by the still flickering lights of the colony's power system. He could not particularly hear them, just the muffled voices and tones of anger, fear, and defiance. Occasionally, someone grew loud enough that those waiting outside could make out the muffled words.

Before the meeting, the diagnostics on the colony had been completed after hours of forcing their way from the damaged sections. Charybdis reported extensive damage to large swaths of the colony, but she was mostly whole, save where the emergency locks had been engaged to prevent the vacuum of space from sucking out the residents. It would take a long time to repair with the hands they had remaining. It had taken three nurses and a sedation to get Jake to stay in a damn sick bed. The other four injured mechanics didn't give any fuss, but Jake... He was stubborn as a bull with no lead ring.

Aaron's leg stilled, his head turned to the door where the raised voices returned with a new fury. He could clearly pick out his boss's voice easier now. He bit his lip to force down a smile as his eyes fell on the young merchant who held the door open enough to eavesdrop. None of the attending apprentices were going to rat him out or tell him to shut it. They were all anxious and curious, after all.

"We CAN NOT LEAVE!" One of the older councilmen's voice echoed off the steel walls of the hall.

"Don't be stupid and stubborn!" The boss bellowed, "She's too badly damaged! We don't have the hands to repair her! Not even mentioning the damn tools and equipment! You think that went undamaged when we were shaken around like a goddamn frog in a box of rocks by an overly eager toddler?! She could collapse around our ears from the structural damage long before we get to the portions that need the repairs most!"

"This is our HOME! Where are we even going to go?!" A scraping sound accompanied the statements from the councilman.

"There's plenty of floating islands out there! We can find a way over to one and set up there while we stabilize Charybdis!" The boss growled out, his own chair scraping. Hopefully this would not come to blows.

Low voices murmured, siding with one or the other, indistinct words mingling together, too quite to distinguish. Aaron shook his head at the ongoing argument. He agreed whole heartedly with the Boss. Staying here would be folly.

"How would we survive out there?! There's no guarentee of food or water! We have wounded! Where would we put them!?"

"We have enough in the colony to sustain us! We make a sick bay out there and bring the wounded who can come, then focus our repairs on the wounded!"

"WHAT ABOUT OXYGEN!? THAT'S SPACE OUT THERE!"

"Bullshit! You saw the damn animals on those far off islands running around without a problem! One of our mechanics even stood in a hall with the damn void of space exposed to him!"

"Oh yes, the same one who said he saw giant fighting metalic animals! The same one with a CONCUSSION?"

Aaron clenched his jaw and fists. A hand gently pressed on his shoulder. He settled back down on his seat, showing no surprise at the sudden space between it and his bottom. He did a lot of things without thinking. It had given him a bit of a reputation.

"The boss will handle it," Misha said in a soothing, quiet voice. She did not remove her hand though.

"Concussions don't rock colonies Darm! Concussions don't make lights flicker after said rocking! And the diagnostic shows that the damage from that tremor was from the OUTSIDE!"

Darm's further arguments were cut off by the door sliding shut. The apprentice rushed back to his seat to try to look as innocent as possible before one of the other councilmen emerged, heading down the hall before disappearing around the corner.
 

Hitura Rael

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#6
Jake laid out on the hospital bed, sheets tossed aside in a tangled heap. He stared at the ceiling for lack of other things to look at. The room smelled heavily of hospital cleaners, burning the nose with each breath. No amount of laying here would get someone used to it with the amount of reapplication. The light was dimmed, thankfully, so as not to disturb the patients with head trauma. Wroth the bright lights. Unfortunately, that did not lessen the noise levels.

There was only so much room in the medical bay and many injured. There were few bed left to spare. The medical crew couldn't be spared to attempt to save everyone, just enough hands to stabilize those who could survive and if that person was lucky dull the pain. The sobs and moans of pain filed the air in the trauma bay, only just audible over the shouts of bustling nurses and surgeons trying their best to tend the steady flood of the wounded and dying pouring in.

He wished it were respect for the desperate attempts of the medical staff that kept him in his bed. He was fine, honestly, he had no need to be there. It was only a bump on the head! He sighed and pulled at the restraints again that kept his hands far away from each other and limited his movement. How cruel, to prevent a man from even turning over onto his side.

He closed his eyes, bored to tears with the same ceiling and no desire to witness the results of this carnage around him. Really, it was only for just a moment with no way of having fallen asleep, he would swear to it.

The presence of another standing by his bed dragged his eyes open with some difficulty. He was not tired, just resting his eyes! He grumbled several unsavory words under his breath. He was fully prepared to chew out the nurse who- did not stand over him.

An older woman raised an eyebrow at him, her features hardened, a displeased purse to her lips. "You are the mechanic with the head wound I take it? The one who saw the.... creatures? "

Jake blinked and grunted at the tight tug around his wrists, the rattle of metal accompanying the sudden halt of his arm. Damn them! He couldn't even run his eyes! He took a deep breath and lowered his arm, a tight tone to his voice, "yes ma'am. How can I help you? "

She glanced him over as if surveying a carcass for butchering. "Tell me what you think you saw. As detailed as you can."

He gave a low grumble with his sigh. How many would come to ask this? Why couldn't they just let him up so he could go to the damn meeting and tell them all at once? "Yes ma'am, " he swallowed back some insults and shifted uncomfortably, "I saw two massive things in the distance, good mile or two off, fighting. I know they were fighting because I could see the... lights. You know, like explosions n stuff if two supers fighting in the distance? " he paused to watch her nod, lacking the blank expression others had had when asked that question.

He locked his lips and continued, "I didn't get a clear look at either. They were tiny looking. One fired a laser though and it glanced the colony. I lost track of them after that cuz I was trying to close the damn shutters."

The council woman nodded again. "And why close them?"

He shrugged, closing his eyes again. "I didn't want to get pulled out into space if the glass shattered. The power was down there too. Mostly unreliable. "

She nodded along, watching his every move. Even with his eyes closed he could feel that cold hawk eyed gaze on him.

"And then?"

He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling, "others came down. We stayed down the line to get it shut, found broken windows without the shutters down. But we were fine..."

The woman nodded again and turned on her heel, "Thank you young man. Rest yourself, recover quickly. We will need you soon. "

He tried to raise his head as much as the restraints let him to watch her retreat from the medical bay. Just what did that mean?
 

Hitura Rael

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#7
"Are you sure you can handle this?" Jake frowned at the MP Gespenst, one of the few in the colony for defense.

"Yeah. It's not hard. Not the first time I've flown one either." Aaron muttered, the intercom switched off so his brother wouldn't hear it. He finished running the cursory boot up sequences and diagnostics, then flipped the comm systems back on. "Yeah. All good Jake."

The elder brother grumbled and shifted his pack from one shoulder to the other, "I should be up there not you."

"Too bad~." Aaron grinned, "Mister concussion. You get to walk with the rest."

Jake sighed and nodded, turning to join the others in the group.

Aaron watched his brother join the milling crowd a safe distance away. The whole maintenance crew lingered there, as well as handfuls from the other guilds and civilians. The Gespenst moved slowly, heading to the launch bay. Carefully, the Gespenst pried open the hatch. He had expected a rush of air, the vacuum of space to try to pull everything outside... something... anything! But, it was just as if he had opened the door in his apartment. Cautiously, the Gespenst looked out into the void.

Aaron stared at the images displayed on screen. Huge chunks of rock, asteroids, and debris free floated in the black abyss. The Gespenst stepped out. Immediately, the mech felt the force of gravity pulling down on it. He yelped as the machine was pulled down. The sensation of falling was dizzying and rather strange within a mech. Almost as if he was not falling at all, despite the rushing darkness around him. At least he thought it was rushing. He squeezed his eyes tight, blocking out the sight. So, this is how it ends, falling endlessly in an abyss...

"Are you done playing around?" Jake's voice called out over the intercoms. Aaron blinked and glanced around the monitors. Darkness was everywhere, yes, but to his left... the colony! And there were the asteroids and planes over there! And... The second Gespenst stood at the mouth of the hatch, arms crossed in that annoying way his brother would stand when irritated. Aaron's face flushed bright red with embarrassment. "You're fine, dumbass."

"I-I wasn't scared!" Aaron shot back, not much of a come back. His cheeks burned.

"Sure. You just sat there floating for five minutes because it's fun." Jake replied with a snap, then his Gespenst stepped off the platform. It dropped a good three or four body lengths before floating back up. With precise movements, Jake moved to the nearest asteroid using the small vernier thrusters and moved it closer. "Try to be useful and get the next one."

Aaron grumbled and mocked Jake's voice in a higher pitch, but did as told. Almost. It was... unfortunately almost a game, trying to get the damn mech to behave itself and stop when it should. He overshot the asteroid twice before finally gracefully landing on it... At the Gespenst's stomach level... like a bird into a window.

It took time, the two working in silence to build a bridge of smaller asteroids to one of the larger, flat expanses of torn planet. The boys floated on either side of the path, shepherding the line of people to the bee hive like structure of stone and tunnels.

"Why the hell are you out here in that?" Aaron finally asked with a snappish tone.

"Because you panicked."

Aaron scoffed and glanced back at the colony. "Should we return these?"

"Fuck no. They had their chance to come."

Aaron sighed and nodded, "Better go get the rest of the supplies then."

Jake's Gespenst nodded and started back to the colony. "And pray they come to their senses. The colony ain't safe. Especially not with the structural damage it sustained. Room full of damn engineers and they don't wanna listen..."
 

Hitura Rael

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#8
Charybdis hung silent in the distance, a bobbing graveyard that held the tattered wreckage of thousands of lives. All light had died in the colony some time ago. Thankfully, those who had stayed behind didn't need the life support systems that would have failed when the power finally died. Of course, they didn't need the lights anymore either. Only the dead remained among the twisted metal.

Jake took a long drag on the cigarette in his mouth before exhaling slowly. He often came up here for his smoke breaks now. It was quiet, and very few of the colonists ventured outside of the cavernous depths of the asteroid they dwelled in. It was a thick, sturdy rock, big enough for the two hundred survivors remaining from the colony. There should have been more, much more.

Still, it was quiet and calm topside, and no one bothered him up here. They had begun to follow him more and more since the day the thing assaulted the Charybdis, as if he were some chosen vessel of god who led them to safety before a calamity struck the non believers. Or something like that. Aaron was the fancy one with the words and imagination. The younger boy had tried to tease him about it to make light of the situation, but his heart wasn't even in it.

But like the old stories, it was a serpent that had destroyed the remainder of their previous lives. A massive twisted metallic snake with neon yellow-green and black skin. Parts of it's body looked to be mechanical. Rainbow colored crystals dotted it's back like spines on a fish. And those "eyes" only a neon slash of color like a visor on a mech... Jake shook his head, banishing the mental image of the beast.

It would do no good to dwell on the beast, how it wrapped it's coils about the colony to constrict it, how the dorsal crystals tore into the metal of the colony like a hot knife through butter, the jaws sinking into the side of the structure and tearing away huge swaths of twisted metal... He shook his head again. Guilt kept forcing his mind back to the scene. He had been unable to do anything and restrained his brother from taking one of the two mechs to go attempt to pull the beast off. They would only had joined the ranks of the dead if they tried. No... it was a necessary sacrifice, one that would have had less deaths if the survivors had followed them in the first place.


He had gone over later, venturing for food and supplies he claimed. In truth, it was to search for survivors. He brought those lucky ones back with him, and their numbers had been greater than they were now. But, in this odd landscape... there were so many problems to contend with. Food, water, medicine... the amounts dwindled day by day. Factions had broken out among the survivors too. Some advocated to eat their own dead just to secure one more day of life...

Jake sighed and ground the embers out on the rock beside him. He could not linger out for long. Not without presenting himself as a target. No... He had work to do, people to placate... and no doubt corpses to dispose of.
 

Hitura Rael

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#9
Survival was not as glamorous as it had once seemed. There was no way to tell the passing of time in this universe forsaken place. It was most definitely, undoubtedly, none other than the ass crack of the universe where things fell through and got lost in the fat folds. Aaron had thought it was maybe the belly button of the universe at first. There wasn't much difference from an ass crack and a belly button as far as he was concerned. Both were dark from folds of skin... Check. Sometimes light got in... Check (though in this place it was a toss up between being the scattering of rainbowish dust and some weird unseen divine light). It sucked... check. But with belly buttons at least occasionally scraps of food got lost in the belly button. Ass cracks, on the other hand... If food was getting there you really didn't want to be there.

Of course, no one wanted to be here as it was. Supplies were running low. Moral was even lower. People were dying from wounds or sickness. He suspected some were being killed off as well, for one reason or another. He didn't care enough to question what the others did. It was a sad reality... He didn't care. They were all just waiting for death here, clinging to the faintest scraps of hope of rescue. Jake was delusional like that. He stayed strong for those around him, even in the face of certain death. And he couldn't leave Jake alone to shoulder all that, even if he would have prefered to go jump off the edge of the asteroid...though that didn't really work when some others had tried it. Everything was just straight out weird here.

And so Aaron slept, not like there was anything else to do in the universe's asscrack. He was no medic, there was nothing to hunt or gather, and nothing to fix. Few people had anything to do here. The best he could do was sit in one of the mechs and doze off away from everyone else. At least then he looked like he was guarding them with the useless machines. It wasn't like it could fend off one of those monsters that skulked about. It was better to hide when they came about anyway.

His dreams though... They had begun to take turns for the weird. He was somewhere topside, on the surface of a planet... which was quite odd as he had never been on one before. Sure, there were pictures and videos... but they don't make up the level of detail he felt. Pictures did not provide a salty tang to the air with bitter tangs of smells he had never smelt before. Videos did not provide the feeling of the gentle breeze over his face and through his hair. Holograms certainly did not provide the feel of stone and grass underfoot, or the squish of sand and coldness of water.

He wandered through this dream, like something out of a fantasy novel or video game, surrounded by the movement of animals, the song of birds, the crashing roar of the sea. His imagination had never been very good before the colony was sucked into the universe's ass crack. This was not something he thought he could ever dream up. But maybe he was just THAT bored or that desperate. It beat the dreams of wandering around on the asteroid again. He frowned, recalling that dream. There had been something.... strange about that one too. Something out of place, what was it.

"Who are you?"

He jumped and spun, searching the sprawling beach around him for the source of the voice, before turning back to the ocean in front of him. No one was there. Yet he had heard... thought he heard... a soft feminine voice.

"Don't be stupid Aaron. It's just a dream." He grumbled to himself and bent down to dig his fingers through the compacted sand, digging out a small smoothed dark green stone with pale green strata. He hefted the stone, then positioned it within his fingers to attempt to skip the stone. He froze when he looked out to the water again, finding something poking its head out in the distance. It looked like a person... A feminine face, submerged in the water below the nose, with black eyes staring straight at him.

He dropped the stone and stared at her, taking in the creamy white-green of her... could that even be called hair? It reminded him more of the webbing between spines on a fish's fin than hair. She startled, dropping back below the surface. He dropped the stone and called out, "Wait! Please wait... I won't hurt you." He frowned, staring at the rippling waters in silence. 'Fool,' he chastised himself 'It's just a dream, this is all in your head. It's not like she's real.'

He frowned after what felt like forever, then stepped back, shoving his hands in his pockets. He took several steps away when the rhythmic breaking of the water was interrupted by another, discordant splash. He turned and stared. It was a woman...he thought at least. Her body was an odd shade of green, counter shaded on her stomach with a pale cream colored white tinted with green and perhaps more tinged yellow. The colors reminded him of pictures of fish anyway. He could see now that her eyes were not entirely black as he had initially thought, rather the sclera were a black hue, her irises a darker shade of gray only visible up close. He could still barely pick it out, being only paces away, but he was sure of it for some strange reason. Her skin appeared smooth, glistening in the sunlight with the water clinging to her frame. Her fingers and toes were webbed, much as one would expect a water dweller. His eyes trailed over her body, the very slight curves on her lithe frame speaking for her agility. She wore nothing but a draping cloth that clung to the curves of her hips. The curve of her hip truly was the only thing that gave the suggestion of her sex. Her species seemed to have no need of - His cheeks reddened and he shook his head, banishing the thought.

She canted her head slightly to the side, her eyes narrowing him as she regarded him. "Who are you? Why do you walk my dreams? Why do I walk your dreams?"

He blinked at her, opening his mouth to speak before something tugged at him. "I'm... Aaron." The tug again, stronger this time, the world around him dimming to gray somehow. Her frown turning to displeasure. "No... I don't want to wake up... not yet... who are you?" He tried to hold on desperately to sleep. But that tug... It grew stronger.

"I am Sedna-" Her voice cut off, fading to silence as his eyes slowly opened.

"AARON! WAKE UP!" Jake yelled in his face with a frown.

Aaron rubbed his bleary eyes with a yawn, "What?"

Jake frowned at him and handed him a plate of rations. "You aint skippin meals. Stop isolating yourself."

Aaron took the plate and blinked at it, sighing softly. "Alright. I'll come down after I eat."
 

Hitura Rael

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#10
Jake flicked away his last cigarette into the empty space of the strange dimension. The burning red butt bobbed idly in the air, as if gravity couldn't figure out what exactly it wanted to do with the discarded trash. He watched the colony in the distance, dark and cold, lifeless now ever since that monstrous snake attacked. He often came up here now to watch the colony. It beat watching the despondent faces of the people that he had led out here to die slowly. At least if they had been in the colony that monster would have already killed them.

Still, there could be survivors in the colony... They had not back since the initial exodus. And if no one was left... There were things there they needed. Things that could help people last longer until rescue came- if it was coming. He glanced down to the crevice that hid the rest of the colonists. Few came out here, for fear of the open empty and the creatures that occasionally sprang up. No one would know if he...

It was a dumb idea, really. It took the smallest whiff of a hint of bad luck to be caught outside with the creatures that roamed about. He'd risk his neck for nothing. It was better to just go back inside and idle with the rest of the listless colonists. Then why did his body not obey? Jake stood and adjusted his boots, glanced back once again at the cavern mouth, and climbed down the ridge he had taken as his smoking perch.

A bridge of debris led him bound by bound back to the decrepit structure of the colony. It wasn't a hard path to traverse, not with the pair of Gespent to constantly fix it when something disturbed the bridge. It was easy enough to find a hole to enter the colony from. A puncture from one of the massive crystalline structures on the back of the serpent, he suspected, given the rainbow hued streaks lingering where the stone would have scraped. Carefully, he pulled himself into the metallic husk.

The air inside was stale from lack of movement and silent as the grave. It reminded him of stories of old crypts and tombs where the dead were buried on earth. Generally, before the inevitable rising of desiccated corpses to stalk intruders of their resting place, usually ending in the unfortunate soul joining the horde. Ma was right, pa never should have told them those stories.

Little by little, he made his way through the wending cold halls of the colony. His boots occasional crunched on glass or bits of broken metal, the only sound in the empty silence. The further in he went, the darker it became. The halls closest to the outside of the colony had the benefit of small puncture wounds and tears in the hull of the colony to cast an eerie dim light from the outside. But the halls leading to where he needed to go were black as pitch, even the emergency generator had gone dead.

He turned back and stuck to the outer halls. It would take much longer to scale the colony from the outer halls, and much more dangerous. With luck, he would find an emergency station that still had working flashlights...
 

Hitura Rael

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#11

Kchack...

clink....

kchack....

clink...

The gentle sound of the lighter echoed through the silent cavern. Too silent, for the amount of people who occupied it.

click

Jake watched the flame of the lighter burn, giving off the faint acrid smell of the fluid burning, sharp and pungent, irritating his nose. He watched the still flame ripple, a warmth to focus on for now... A final comfort from home in this dire time before...

Kchack

The flame died, smothered by it's own smoke and the oxygen being cut off. The stench of lighter fluid hung in the air, slowly replaced with the sickly sweet stench of the dead and dying. Food and water were running low, medical supplies only for those who could survive now... and hope? Hope died when the colony failed to yield any further usable supplies. The mechs were not in the best condition after several skirmishes with the large mechanical lizards either. Another attack from them and...

Jake shoved the lighter back in his pocket. He'd fight on. He'd protect the people here as long as he drew breath. Even if it would be kinder to turn the weapons system on the remaining survivors... But could he do that? A mercy killing, dozens of people who were close as family. Dozens of lives that trusted him, believed him, followed him... But it'd be kinder. They'd all die together... Even his little brother. That'd just leave him, but the self destruct system would take care of that.

He closed his eyes and drew in a slow breath. It would be better for everyone. No help was coming. There was no way out. Why drag it on? Why let them continue to suffer and die? Tonight... When they all slept. He'd do it during his shift on guard while the others all slept. They wouldn't even feel it, wouldn't know it was he who did it. And after they were peacefully embraced by the void it'd be his turn. No chance to regret it, no guilt, no more suffering. He was doing the right thing.

***

Aaron groaned and sat up with a quiet grumble. What had interrupted his sleep? Not his damn bladder, thankfully. Achey muscles? No. Rocks? Nope. No rocks magically sprouting up in just the right place to maximize pain inflicted. He sat up and listened, straining his ears for any distant noises that would have alerted him.

Silence.

Where was that damn infuriating sound of Jake's lighter? He always played with that thing when he was on watch. So much so it had become some kind of lullaby and a damn background noise that he could no longer sleep without apparently. Jake had never stopped it this long before, he was sure of it. If he had, this wouldn't have woke him up. Something was wrong.

Aaron bit down the quiet grumbling he felt bubble up in his chest. Voicing that vitriol would just wake the others up, they all needed their rest. So many of them sacrificed their rations for so long to he and Jake, since they took the brunt of the guard and scavenging duty, they deserved more than him waking them up because Jake probably needed to use the bathroom far too long or something. He stretched his arms and legs as he walked, like some sort of odd bobbing chicken or bird, to work the stiffness out of his joints. He cupped his hand over his mouth to stiffle the yawn that slipped out. He tip toed past various sleeping forms.

They were a sorry lot now, a scant handful of survivors in the months since the colony got sucked in here. Those monsters attacking, injury, and illness had claimed many lives, but not as many as stubbornness to leave the colony had. If they had just listened the food and water supply would have lasted so much longer. There wouldn't have been anything to attract the monsters to the colonies, supplies wouldn't have been lost... Too late to do anything about that now. They just had to keep holding on to hope.

The air outside the cavern was not much better than the air inside. It still held the stale quality, but lacked the distinct sour odor of unwashed bodies and illness. It was not refreshing in the least, just a different kind of oppressive. At least out here he didn't have to be so quiet. He hiked around the asteroid, checking behind the designated 'relief rocks' while holding his nose. Unfortunately when you had that many people... it didn't matter how much waste you hurled into whatever this space was, the smell would linger. Disappointment doubled, not finding Jake here. Well, there was really only one other place he'd be.
 
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Hitura Rael

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#12

The pair of Gespenst were not in the best of condition. Skirmishes with the odd mechanical beasts of this dimension had left both scarred and battered. Dents, dings, and scorching lined the chassis, one more than the other. Aaron's claimed mech had the most damage to it, a reckless and inexperienced fighter with the bot. The reckless part at least translated from his scrappy nature in hand to hand combat. Jake had to admit, the little gremlin had matured faced with this crisis. If Aaron had the slightest idea of what Jake was about to do...

The less damaged Gespenst's eyes flared to life, metal groaning with each movement. Maintenance on the mechs had been difficult at best; now impossible with the colony's hull compromised by a pissed off snake taking it's rainbow hued stone like protrusions to it like a can opener. The Gespenst slipped out from under a camo covering, salvaged from the hangar with the rest of the spare parts that had been used up by now. Jake let out a slow breath. He scanned the barren wasteland they had called home for... how long now? Weeks? Months? The clocks didn't work correctly here, reading a different date every minute or so, jumping around like a flea trapped in a glass jar. It didn't matter anymore. In a few minutes, everything would be over.

The Gespenst kicked off from the rocky surface of the asteroid, a thin plume of dust stirred under the force of the thrusters. The thin pale cloud hung above the rock for several seconds before being dragged back down to the surface. The mech hung over the asteroid, a silent observer as time stood still. Jake closed his eyes and let a slow sigh slip through his lips. He wished he had saved a cigarette for this. He hadn't expected to need to do this of course, nor had he planned it. Not until hope was lost at least. One last thing to calm his nerves, steel his resolve, and enjoy before oblivion. Oh well, he had best get it over with before he lost his nerve. It hurt, knowing how he had failed them all. He had tried his best. But now... well... He would not fail giving them this last mercy.

The Gespenst raised it's rifle, locked onto the heart of the asteroid; where the colonists resided. The beam would be strong enough to sheer through the asteroid and obliterate them all painlessly. They'd never know it, never know it was him. His hand trembled on the controls. The trigger seemed to resist, though he knew it was his own hand causing the hesitation. He had no choice, he reminded himself, it was better this way. They'd be at peace. It'll be over and done, no more pain, no slow withering. He squeezed his eyes tight, the metallic taste of blood tainting his mouth accompanied by the flare of pain in his bottom lip drawn by his teeth. The trigger slid back with a terrible ease...
 

Hitura Rael

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#13
The shot impacted the asteroid with enough force to shatter it. The explosive force of stone shattering echoed, a slow rain of particles and clattering of debris followed suit in this strange place. The Gespenst's hand gripped the barrel tightly, Aaron's own hands shaking with the pressure of his grip on the controls. He had almost been too late. A split second longer and the asteroid that sheltered the denizens of Charybdis would have been blown apart rather than one in the distance behind him.

His blood boiled and ears burned with barely contained rage. He wanted to slug his brother, but now was not the time for that. Not in the mechs. They needed those blasted things still. He could beat his ass later. "What the HELL do you think you're DOING?!" he snarled. The mangled Gespenst yanked hard, ripping the rifle from the other's unprepared grip.

Silence answered him, and the hot head rolled right on, "Are you stupid or something?! You could have killed everyone! And then what?!"

Jake's defeated voice quietly crackled over the com line, "I was just trying to-"

"To what?!" Aaron snapped back, impatience boiling over. Silence again...

Aaron clenched his jaw, glaring hard enough to bore holes in the despondant Gespenst. The cogs of his brain turned slowly in his anger, but it only took a few moments to realize exactly what Jake had tried. The flames of anger burned anew. He slammed his fist on the arm rest, "Damnit Jake! You have NO RIGHT to make that decision! I should-"

A cacophany of hair raising clatter echoed across the vast void of the hellscape. Aaron's tirade died in his throat, anger plunged into the depths of ice cold fear. The metalic grinding roar sent chills up his spine, an unholy amalgamation of dial up noises through a gritty megaphone, sprinkled with nails on a chalk board, all reverberated through a synthesizer and played in surround sound. It was a bold announcement of the denizens of this void. But that sound was more than just one.

The banged up Gespenst shoved the rifle back toward it's twin, turning to count the approaching points of light. Nine glittering motes of rainbow hues approached, drawn by the explosion of the asteroid. Aaron stared wide eyed at the approaching pack, took a deep breath, swallowed, and squared himself in his seat. "We'll finish this discussion later," His voice cracked, though he tried to keep it clear and strong. He couldn't show his fear. He had to protect the colonists or die trying.

"Aaron we can't take that many..." Jake was feeling the effects as well, his voice shaken and quiet.

"Probably not." He huffed, "But I'm not gonna stand and let them kill our family or die without a fight."

"We can grab the colonists and-"

"Then you do that. This is my choice. I will not die a slave to fear!"
 
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Hitura Rael

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#14

The battered Gespenst charged forward, rapidly closing the gap with the charging dots in the distance. Slowly, the gleam of rainbow lights resolved into small figures, growing larger as they closed in. The creatures charged from various directions, each plated in a blue-purple armor. Large crystals embedded in their thighs, glittering in all hues of the rainbow, reflecting the light that betrayed their approach more than their reverberating brays. They charged as if on solid ground rather than open air, two front facing toes and one back facing toe, each majorly comprised of wicked claws. The long sinuous tail swung from side to side behind them, counter balanced by a long sinuous neck with a broad flat head. They reminded Aaron of stories of dragons, if they were ugly and mechanical. None of them had eyes that he could pick out when they engaged the creatures, just a band of neon coloration slashed across their faces.

The damaged Gespenst halted it's advance just beyond the colony, facing a group of three barreling down on him. They had been saving their ammunitions for something like this for a long time. Funny, how he had always had the itch to loose it upon the creatures, yet Jake's steady gentle chides kept him from wasting the shots. Was it irony now, that Jake had been right to save the munition, but so wrong for what he had attempted today? Perhaps not the time to dwell on it.

It was a shame they weren't all charging from the same direction. Three from the north, two from the south, three from the east, and one from the north east. If he was lucky, he could take out the for to the north with the shot. He waited until they were closer for the targeting system to lock on to the group. Too bad it was their last shot. A few more of these and this wouldn't be so dire. The conical pod dropped from the back of the Gespenst, freefalling for a moment before the boosters kicked on, barreling toward the targeted group. The pod broke apart, releasing multiple smaller devices that launched out, spreading through the mass. A cloud of fire and shrapnel blossomed through the cluster, the explosions accompanied by the metallic grating screams of the creatures. One emerged from the flames, scorched and battered, but mostly hale.

Aaron cursed, the Gespenst reaching to pull the plasma cutter from the battered buckler on it's left arm. He raised the shield, turning to catch one of the two from the south on the metal sheet. It's broad head slammed into the shield, fangs raking across the metal. Aaron gritted his teeth from the impact, coupled with the screech of metal on metal, the shield sheering under the force of the reptilian creature's blow. The energy blade plunged into the beasts throat, then drawn to the right to half sever the beast's head. The flesh, crystal, and steel resisted the effort, as it always did, but only served enough a fight to act as a distraction. Aaron sucked in a hasty breath and held it, biting his bottom lip. The shield and arm were useless, but it was a necessary sacrifice. Now... Where was the other one?

The metallic roar echoed behind him. Cold sweat prickled his skin. This was it. All that fighting and he'd die to a back attack from one of those things. A series of shots rang out. Aaron turned to face the creature. His stomach jumped to his throat with relief and that nausea that comes with it. Three gaping holes in the beast left it floating like debris. Aaron exhaled slowly, sparing a momentary glance at Jake. The better looking of the twin machines was swiftly closing the gap between them to join the fray, the riffle at the ready. "Bout fucking time!" Aaron snarled, turning to face the coming cluster.

"Shutup, I'm here ain't I?" Jake growled back, voice cracking, "git the single one, I'll git the other three."

Aaron nodded, his blemished mech charging to close the distance. He had to close the distance and kill the creature before- It was too late. The monstrous dinosaur tucked it's tail in and leapt forward, swinging the massive appendage as it did so. The tail split off from the main body, a trick that had taken the pair of defenders off guard the first time they saw it. Not this time. The tattered Gespenst twisted it's frame, lining it's side up with the incoming mortar. Thrusters ignited, propelling the machine backwards, away from where the beast's appendage would make an impact, if narrowly. The explosion on an asteroid below sent plumes of dust and debris sailing all around, raining a down on the Gespenst with metallic tinks and thunks from various sized stones, no doubt adding to the dents and dings on the battered machine.

The threat safely detonated, the Gespenst corrected itself and charged the beast. The mech stopped short and swung the damaged arm forward, catching the reptilian's jaws as it moved in to latch it's teeth into the machine. The creature was dumb enough to fall for the bait. The metal chassis of the arm groaned and screeched, fang and claw tearing into mechanism and servos to be completely shorn off before the energy blade sunk into the creature's neck. He held on as the creature thrashed it's dying throes and finally fell still.

When the dust and din of combat finally settled, the two brothers emerged worse for wear. Aaron relaxed back into his seat, free floating in the odd gravity of this world. "If I'm gonna die, It'll be on MY terms, not yours," He shot at Jake, voice laden with venom. "We all agree on that."
 

GEAR

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Jun 15, 2018
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#15
A looming presence, filled the air. An oppressive stirring, like a buildup of static electricity in the air that prickled the back of the neck, or a great shadow being cast that blocked out the very sun. Distance was meaningless in this realm, but perhaps without thinking, they had since their arrival only managed to drift closer and closer to the center, the heart of this forsaken vortex. How many others, who had struggled against their fate, had been pulled inexorably towards it, not unlike those caught in a spider's web?

As Aaron and Jake celebrated their brief respite, it would only have been for so long.

The void churned and rumbled terribly. Even the distant DAMON seemed to stiffen, and slink away out of some innate obsequience. Rubble shattered and debris was turned to powder as a great and terrible form made itself known. No - rather, it was as if they were being drawn to it, the space around them sweeping them along as if they were ants caught in a downpour.



The Lord of this desolate space, where hope had been forsaken. The towering throne of teeth, fang, and claw. A silver, muscular body reminiscent of an ogre, jutting spikes extending from its head toward the heavens in a mockery of a crown, under which a face full of sharp, diamond-like teeth gazed down upon his realm.

Their intrusion had not gone unobserved.

Once, a great many years ago, he had reigned over their planet.

Such was the fiefdom, the reward he had been gifted for his "services". In truth, it was more akin to providing a troubled child with toys to break. For hundreds of years, he had sharpened them. Trained them. Taught them that to survive meant to fight, and to fight meant to shed blood. Many names they had given him: Ares. Maahes. Camulus.

Vynatea.

For the God of war, terrible though he may have been, was also the greatest of them all.

And so, he had looked upon them. These pitiful creatures, wrought of flesh and bone, who had struggled so deeply and so desperately to survive against all odds. Not once had he lifted a finger against them, yet neither had he permitted them a moment's rest. As they stood before him, however, it had stirred something in the Titan's terrible breast.

A faint memory, perhaps, of the time when men had beseeched him for his blessing as they marched to war. Of the doomed, heroic charges of heroism. Of a time when he had not been an outcast, doomed to skulk about the outskirts of reality, but something more.

So it was that Vynatea lifted his hand from its perch on the beastial throne, and delivered a snap of the finger that sent echoes - ripples - spreading all across space and time. For the Colonists, it would have been as if they were underwater, the way the air around them shimmered and shattered, as though it were both the keenest glass and the swiftest water at once, cracks running in all directions.

They were being pulled, now. Sinking, falling away, as the vision of the beast slipped from view, the very last thing to leave being those burning eyes that seemed to glare into their very souls - and the grin, one of a stubborn, warrior's pride, on the ogre's face.

Until all was dark, and all was silent.