Short Story: The Forgotten and the Mad, Part 1

Written by: Eevi

Click. Click.

Two shots, two targets down.

The Otakke sniper’s hands felt the alchemical runes and carvings along the barrel of his weapon, checking for damage or flaws developing from use. He grunted in acknowledgement before firing once more.

The kid had done well—he’d even managed to keep that infernal buzzing to a minimum this time; nothing was so distracting to Miraluke Teek as that incessant, inconsistent rhythm had been. Concentrating on the battlefield was difficult enough without his sight being constantly interrupted by his own weapon humming when he fired—but not every time, you see; if it had been every time, he might have been able to accept it as part of the process.

But, no; this silence was much better. How else would he have heard the window slide open on the floor below, or the creeping pitter-patter of the bug’s spiked legs as it crawled up the stairs towards him? As the battle raged out in the city-scape before him, one lone bug would have been his end had he been distracted, unable to listen.

Without turning, he fired once, twice, the weapon’s barely audible clicks loosing bolts of alchemical energy through the sentry fire set behind him. The bug screamed as the flaming charges struck him slightly off-target, its piercing wail causing Miraluke to flinch, breaking his awareness of the flames. Too late, a moment too late, he regained his focus and silenced the dying creature as its broodmates answered from all around.

Quickly scanning around the other sentry fires—as well as the general, flaming carnage left in the wake of his companions—he plotted his escape route, committing it to memory. Dropping smoke to cover himself—and to bring attention to his problem—the little man clutched his weapon tightly and leaped out the open window onto the catwalk just as three more of the scuttling bastards entered the bottom floor.

Eight steps, then turn, two steps, then eight steps, then turn… He could pause briefly to check his location, but that would take time—he didn’t always pick-up the correct angle from the fires on the first try; finding himself amongst the burning rubble would just take too much time that he didn’t dare risk. Better to trust his memory and to just move. Five rotations, stomping away on the metal staircase, making far too much noise for anyone’s comfortability; just five rotations before he would be safely away.

“Agent, get a move-on!” he shouted while throwing himself off of the second to last floor. Agent Wildman, he thought, an acceptable replacement for Benny—though he preferred his old wingman’s absurd sword to Wildman’s shotgun—she would catch him; that was the plan. As gravity took hold, Miraluke had a brief second to scan the fires, learning two things immediately: there were bugs everywhere, and his squadmate was nowhere in sight.

All things considered, this was the death the ol’Teek had expected for himself—alone, forgotten at the fringes of some battle no one would remember. As soon as the dropships had left orbit, leaving him, his squadmates, and all those poor civilians hiding in bunkers behind, he had assumed this would be how he went—flying through the air, trigger clicking away at the endless throng of mutant bugs.

Oh well; death was a quiet thing—unlike the dying part; he could do without that step—and, frankly, the quiet sounded nice after all this screaming. Maybe he’d finally be able to take his goggles off, stare at the sky in silent peace, wondering what it looked like.

Alternatively, fuck that noise.

Unable to prepare himself properly, Miraluke hit the ground hard on his shoulder, rolling over once. Thankfully, he kept a grip on his weapon—that would have been all she wrote. Switching weapon modes and backing himself against a wall as he heard the scuttling approach, he fired at every sound, every scratch, scuttle, scrape, or screech, all the while standing silently; a statuesque vision of stoic slaughter.

Soon, his position was overrun and Miraluke Teek, Lieutenant of the Cinderfane Paths, smiled at his oncoming demise, motionless, surrounded by the dead and dying as he had ever been. His goggles flipped up, milky-eyes staring into the smoky night sky for the first time in months, he could barely make out the edges of the pincered legs baring down upon him as dark flames suddenly spurt out from the ground around him. In one last gesture of defiance learned from his squad’s American friend, he flipped off the nearest bug as the flaming void wrenched him sideways in space to the safety of a dark room.

“You’re late, kid.”

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