I landed on Nyx
- this fething, throne-forsaken, dump-of-a-planet - in the early hours of morning. Who’s brilliant idea was it to colonize this oven, anyway? Irrelevant, I suppose. The fact is, there are people here. Lots of people. Lots of money to be made around people. Or swindled from ‘em. There’s also usually some trouble or other on Nyx… Certain folk pay well to learn about other folks’ troubles.
In any case, I paged von Schwaben to let him know I’d arrived (figured I might as well start my stay on this over-sized ice cube the right way
- in a good old-fashioned tavern), and then boarded the next spaceport train to the Nexus Station.
As I made my way through the train cars, I spotted a top hat on the seat next to a lonely snoozing passenger. Without a second thought, I pinched it from atop his briefcase where it lay and practically skipped to next empty car. Yup: so many unsuspecting people. Perhaps not as rich as the folk on Vallis Augustana, but who am I do discriminate? Coin is coin. Funny that the train should be so empty on such an overcrowded planet.
Lounging about in one of the train cars, I pulled the top hat over my eyes to shield them from the glare of the ever-present sun and settled in for the bumpy ride. At least, I like to pretend it’s a bumpy ride. Damn magnetic monorail is smoother-than-smooth. And fast. Beautifully fast. The whirring of the train was mesmerizing.
I was awoken hours later from my half-stupor in the middle of a bustling station by none other than von Schwaben. He had that over-sized can opener, Ramirez, with him. What an odd one, him. He prattled on about some broken relay or other, said we had to go fix it or someone would be upset with us. The Machine God, I think. As if I care about his tin can gods. But Ramirez would have to reprogram the relay, and as a most trusted confidant, I might be one of the few privy to the new codes. Nyx: you never let me down. There’s always something happening.
So the three of us set out to find transport to the relay. As fate would have it, the next train out of the station was to be commandeered by a sorry group of callow louts posing as soldiers. The captain, whose name I later learned was Konrad Stolz, seemed to be having an argument with a butch-of-a-lady in red power armour. Von Schwaben slinked away as we approached. Makes sense; I doubt he’d be pleased if any of the officers recognized him. Especially if their allegiance lay with Mehmed.
But I digress. Point is: we had to board the train. And a group of storm troopers and some girl scouts were in the way. Of course, that left only one course of action. I can’t help but grin as I think back to it. I marched up to the red lady, who seemed to be content to let those children march off to quell some rebellion or other single-handed, and ordered her to turn around and board the train. I must have been awfully convincing, despite being close to hysterical laughter, for she spun around and did as I said. That seemed to be enough to convince Stolz that I was someone important: he accepted my authority and filled me in on the situation as we boarded the train. Who’d have thought: if you sound commanding, people will accept that you’re in charge. In fact, I had to throw around my new-found authority to get my trusty, can-opening side-kick aboard; he was sputtering about busted communications and an angry god. Sometimes I wonder about his sanity.
As it turned out, some rebels had attacked and occupied a nearby rail station. The sorry-looking boys-for-soldiers had been ordered to take it back. Gods bless them.
I learned that the storm trooper squadron was led by Sister Aedessa Jorens (a.k.a. the red lady) of the Inquisition. Stoltz informed me that she and her ilk had been terrorizing civilian outposts for the past few weeks, seemingly at random and unopposed. I figured I’d press my luck and see if I couldn’t extract just a little more information from the red lady. All that I discovered was that her activities had thus far been unsuccessful, but alas, my charm wore off before I could learn much more. I’m not sure if she fully uncovered my truth, but she certainly gave me a tongue lashing that I’ll not soon forget. Mildly embarrassed, I left before my facade completely unraveled.
I rejoined Stolz, buried my face in some fine off-planet whiskey, and watched as von Schwaben finagled his way past the “officers” to join us. He knew better than to blow my cover and instead focused on reminiscing with the good captain; apparently they knew each from Sisigmund’s days in the military. The smell of whiskey must been enough to bring him out of hiding. Good man.
Shortly thereafter we came to an abrupt halt (most of the “troops” fell over like bowling pins; only Ramirez appeared impervious to the massive deceleration of the train). Apparently there was to be a battle ahead. Damned if I go storming into gunfire alone; instinct taking over, I hastened to the second car and “ordered” Aedessa to deploy her troops. Von Schwaben, in true drill sergeant form, began organizing the ladies off the train, planning, I suppose, to assault the station from the ground. Ramirez, the great hulking frying pan, was prying open doors that had locked shut due to the train’s emergency stop.
The troops emptied the cabin, and with barely a thought, I wrestled control of the train from the servitor. I’ll be damned if I leave the cover of this train to join Sisigmund in taking open fire on the battle field. Better idea: I’ll drive the train right past the station.
With a lurch, the train kicked into high gear and we were speeding forth once more. That is, myself and the storm troopers. If anything goes wrong, they’ll provide enough diversion for me to slip away. I glanced back; turns out Ramirez was still aboard.
An explosion brought my attention back to the tracks. Some bastard just launched a rocket at us! So much for driving by without incident. Thinking quickly, I called to Ramirez: “The magnets! Let’s take this baby off road!”
I guess he caught my meaning, as he plugged into the system and began chanting. And then like magic, we were airborne. There was, of course, no immediate sign that we had left the track. No lurch. No groan. Only my instincts as a pilot told me that we were sailing. That, and the fact that within moments we were atop the platform, watching as bodies slammed into the windshield and were either hewed by the force of impact or squished beneath the train.
As we came to a screeching halt, I took in the scene. Some big, fething monstrosity of a man
- was it a man? - stood atop a balcony, brandishing a massive hammer. He directed two las cannons in our direction. That’s my queue: exit stage left. I told the troopers to stay put and stay alive, turned off the lights, and then like smoke, I disappeared. At least, that’s how I like to picture it.
The ensuing altercation was mostly uneventful
- for me anyway. As I hid, Ramirez managed to quickly dispatch of one of the canons by launching his pet servitor (that is, the servitor from which I took control of the train) at a nearby platform with controls for a mining crane. (The servitor, using the crane, lifted and threw a canon and its operators from the balcony). Von Schwaben showed up shortly after, sprinting as though in a race. Right into the incoming las fire. Idiot man. But battle hardened. He immediately dropped to cover and managed to escape the gunfire unscathed. Not so lucky were the new recruits. From my vantage point, I shed a small tear as I watched them drop like flies.
More weapon fire was exchanged. I continued my navigation of the battlefield, never revealing my position, but suffering a few close calls whenever caught in crossfire. I set my sites on the crane control platform; that servitor wasn’t going to last long before being picked off. As I glanced back, I saw von Schwaben locking swords with big foot. Ramirez seemed to be brandishing a massive las canon of his own. That tin can never ceases to surprise me.
I looked back to the crane ledge and made my jump, landing softly. Still hidden, I stifled a groan as the platform came under las fire. To my left, the servitor was fried. But fortunately, I took fire only circumstantially; still hidden, I began operating the crane in the servitor’s stead. The las fire ceased; good ol’ Ramirez seemed to have unleashed his fury on the enemy. I’ll have to thank him later, maybe buy him a drink. Or an oil can.
Our numbers thinned, but the casualties were mostly the new recruits. Von Schwaben seemed to be besting big foot quite handily; Sisigmund had barely a scratch, while big foot appeared to be staggering. Time perhaps for me to reveal myself; manipulating the crane head, I swung the hook towards the battlefield. Sisigmund managed to shift his weight so that big foot sidestepped right into the massive hook as it swung down like a pendulum. It sheared his head clean off. Under different circumstances, the decapitation might have been comical, but the blood that gushed forth from the standing torso, fueled by the giant’s still beating heart, put a damper on the comedy of the scene. Moments later the body fell, finally admitting defeat.
The aftermath of the battle was as most are; lots of mourning for the loss of fellow souls. The remaining survivors were in shock, save for the troopers who seemed largely unfazed. Just another day in the office for them. We gave our condolences and issued a few standing orders, and then at Ramirez’s prodding, we slipped away to search for a vehicle that would take us the rest of the way to the broken relay.
In a garage beneath the station, we found exactly what we were looking for. I don’t know what it’s called, but I do know that it looked expensive. And exclusive. And fast. So, naturally, that’s the vehicle we took.
Out into the brewing storm we drove, testing the limits of the vehicle’s speed. It felt good to be driving. Calming after the adrenaline rush of battle. Even if I didn’t do much battling myself. Despite the incoming storm, the first hour passed uneventfully. Mostly. Sisigmund was more irritable and aggressive than normal; it soon surfaced that the fool had injected some unknown stimulants he found hidden on big foot’s body. Ah well… nothing for it but to put up with him until the drugs wear off.
As we drove, Ramirez intercepted and deciphered an SOS signal. After a short argument
- should we continue on course, or go investigate? - I decided to do some off-roading. We turned and headed in the direction of the signal.
The storm continued to intensify, and we eventually came upon another vehicle. A modified, armoured Hauler-8. Von Schwaben and I went to check it out; it appeared deserted, but looked as though it had recently come upon heavy fire. The armour was rent clean through. Peeking through smashed windows, I discovered a makeshift vox, clearly constructed and used by someone in distress. Von Schwaben pointed out some silhouettes in the darkness that appeared to be human figures impaled on spikes. Without a word spared between us, we rejoined Ramirez in our transport.
The can opener desired a closer look at the vehicle himself. Before we could stop him, he leapt from the car. Neither of us wanted to chase after him, so we waited. When Ramirez return, he was trailing a flailing body in a sleeping bag. Apparently Ramirez found him in the trunk of the Hauler-8. The man was hysterical. He sputtered something about an attack and about massive wolves. Clearly gone mad from the cold. Sisigmund tried to calm him, but he was beyond consoling. I knocked him out.
The three of us decided further investigation into the cause of this destruction was warranted. We shelved the relay mission for now and instead followed some nearby Chimera tracks to a cliff. A horrific scene met us at the bottom of the cliff: the ruins of another Chimera, blood-soaked and surrounded by dozens of dead bodies. The side of the vehicle looked as though it has been sliced like a hot knife through butter and peeled back like paper. The whole scene made me uneasy; unable to continue looking, I turned off our vehicle’s lights and quickly drove back up the cliff. We resolved to continue our investigation, and with some trouble (due to an intensifying storm) managed to track the missing Chimera to a bunker in the middle of nowhere. The Chimera appeared to have pulled into a garage. We could see no lights from the bunker.
After much deliberation, we decided to continue our present course of action. Sisigmund blew a hole into the garage, and we waited for a quarter of an hour for any sign of life. Nothing. I decided to go scout it out.
Ever cautious, I peered into the blackness that emanated from the breach. Unable to see anything, I turned on my flashlight, but covered the light so as to not give away my position. In an attempt to stay hidden and fool anything that might lie in wait for me from within the garage, I threw the flashlight, spinning, into the room and dove the other way. No fire. No movement. Just a soft rattle as the flashlight came to rest. I approached the opening and, tentatively, peered inside. The light had landed to point at the far wall; as I looked, completely mesmerized, I felt some small part of me slip away. From the wall protruded two great crossbeams, and from those beams hung a great, blood-soaked skeleton. The entire garage was plastered with blood and human remains. As I peered, I felt the walls closing in. The walls seemed to creak over the howling of the wind. Was someone laughing? No… couldn’t be.
After an eternity, I broke my gaze and slinked away. I warned the others of what I saw. Von Schwaben asked if I retrieved my flashlight. Did I have a flashlight? Can’t remember. Without another word to them, I returned to our transport and got behind the wheel. I don’t know how long I waited, but eventually the others joined me. Ramirez handed me a flashlight. That might come in handy. Their arrival seemed to break my stupor, and the horrific site faded some from my mind. I turned on the engine, turned the vehicle around, and we drove off into the night. After all, we have a communications relay to fix.