Short Story: The Forgotten and the Mad, Part 3

Written by: Eevi

The Goop-Cat Supreme takes offense to the term “Alchemical Monstrosity.”

               Four days since the Hegemony had ordered its dropships to flee the planet, four days since these people—colonists, scientists, families—had been abandoned by their caretakers so far from home. His squad had done their best to corral the survivors of the initial containment breach, but they had been separated quickly be the sheer scale of the tragedy. Now, having long-since forgotten his mission, Nergüi focused his attentions on bringing them back together.

There. That should appease the Board.

The young man ended his log, going to great pains to then ‘lose’ his only pen in the general debris—such a pity he wouldn’t be able to take any further, more precise, notes. They’d reprimand him, of course. As Captain, it’s his job to debrief the Board representatives—to present evidence and analyses of the mission. Unfortunately, without any physical evidence, they’d have to take his word in the moment at face value, wouldn’t they?

It wasn’t going to work, he knew; but it would delay them long enough to make further action undesirable. After all, they had also taken their sweet time sending a replacement ship to rescue his crew—and the colonists; them too.

Agent Wildman groaned on the gurney—what was left of her. Nergüi had saved her life, though he wondered aloud if it had been worth it. A glance out the blackened window was enough to dictate that he wouldn’t be able to carry her and defend himself. Her ACS was destroyed, legs crushed by mutant jaws. The crazy combat junkie had tried to defend a bunker entrance alone on open ground.

Speaking of crazy, Nergüi watched with some personal satisfaction as his lieutenant soared through the air to Wildman’s previously assigned post across the road—his comms must be broken. Working quickly, he drew the necessary runes on the floor, raw azothite flowing down over his hand as he concentrated. Then, pulling through the burning void with all his might, making far too much noise while doing so, he wrenched his comrade through the flames below and up to the relative safety of the blackout room.

“You’re late, kid.”

“No, you’re late. You stopped answering my messages,” Nergüi responded, already moving to cut Agent Wildman free from the gurney.

   “Bugs separated me from my gear. Journey’s End, what happened to her?”

“They’re not bugs—and she tried to face the horde alone. Help me get her on my back.”

“Fine, ‘Alchemical Monstrosities.’ It doesn’t have the same ring as just spitting ‘bugs.’” Miraluke shouldered his gun and did as his captain instructed. “What’s your plan to get off this rock? I have a certain Representative back at the Hub that needs a good—”

“Save it. There’s a gangplank on the roof. It should take us across to the granary. Ren should already be on the way there.”

“What’s at the granary? I’m pretty sure these—things—are carnivorous; we’re not going to get them to stop chasing us to graze about.”

“Hold on to her legs and try to keep up, little man.”

“Fuck you, kid.”

The pair moved slowly, burned by Agent Wildman’s inert body and Miraluke’s inherent blindness. The occasional jet of flame from their ACSs helped the older, and smaller, man navigate the steps up to the gangway, but he still relied heavily on Nergüi’s verbal or physical cues. They could hear the bugs clawing their way into the blackout room below—they were attracted to high energy alchemical reactions, after all. Tension, blood, and sweat from the burning heat of the colony made for an awful escape.

“What did you discover about the bugs?”

“Now?”

“Why not? I’ve got no place to be, Captain.”

Nergüi rolled his eyes. “Dr. Townsend was close to fully replicating his alchemical drone—for pollinating and collecting salvageable grain. The Hegemony alchemists stepped in to ‘help’ him. An accident happened. And then—” he gestured out a window.

“And then the Hegemony bugged out, leaving us to deal with the bugs.”

Nergüi huffed his agreement. Normally, walking was hard enough on its own—his ACS supplemented his damaged body at the cost of anything remotely like ‘armor.’ This, though, this was a strain; carrying another person, even with a blind Otakke’s help, drained his stamina quickly. Better to conserved his energy for the trek across the gangplank than to speak, he thought.

Miraluke, however, thought otherwise. “So, Captain. The granary?”

“There’s an intact transport—a grain transport. Big tank on the back, thick metal walls. Should be good enough to move some survivors.”

“Move them where?”

“I was able to contact a ship.”

The aging lieutenant paused mid-stride. That was news—and surprising on multiple levels. Unfortunately for his curiosity, the bugs broke through into the stairwell below them just then.

Nergüi blasted open the door at the top of the stairwell, balls of alchemical fire appearing in the air around him and streaking forward, setting the entryway ablaze. The flames allowed Miraluke a chance to ‘see’ their surroundings for himself, as well as, you know, being too hot for the bugs to follow through safely. Most of the colony was already suffering some level of burning destruction anyway—the young captain saw little point in being subtle now; if the Board had wanted subtle, they would have given the mission to another squad.

The gangplank, though it barely qualified as one, was mercifully clear. The ground, the rooftops, and the scaled pillars of the granary, however, swarmed with the alchemical bugs. At a glance, the granary itself seemed to be intact—and, somehow, not on fire.

“Ren hasn’t made it through, then.”

“Sorry, kid?”

“Nevermind.” He hoped his Specialist had received the message, he didn’t really have a way to confirm unless she arrived—or didn’t. These new Hegemony communication devices were useful of course, even though the zinc-azothite reaction only sent messages one way—though, Nergüi wondered about that. What were the odds that someone, say, a Hegemony alchemist, could intercept an energy transfer on its way, copying down the message?
               A useful gift to the Board, indeed.

With nothing else for it, they sprinted across the gangplank as best they could, managing to attract the attention of every bug in sight, it seemed. Unceremoniously dumping the Agent’s unconscious body on the floor, Nergüi slammed the door shut behind him as they entered the top-level of the granary, the bugs close behind.


Excited to read the bound-to-be-fiery conclusion of Nergüi-and-friends’ buggy adventure? You’ll have to wait! They’ll make it through, one way or another, and you get to help decide how in a future Storyline Event for the Beta Season of the STARFALL: Age of Mercenaries™ organized play.

Check back tomorrow for more preliminary details!

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