[Starshield] SM: Archaen Reception
- "Sake," said the Golem.
Madison Cross looked up from her work.
"The human term... sake. I've never quite grasped what it means," continued the merchant.
Madison frowned, a vexed expression that revealed the fatigued and exhaustion she felt from the last few hours.
"Thinker.... kind of busy here," she said in tight clipped tones.
Looking away from the Golem she returned to her task - modifying Erin's Necro~phaser. In the distance, muffled
explosions rang throughout the bowels of the Archaen Sub-levels. The Golem merchant stood from his seat, a lopsided
stack of cargo pallets, with a searching look twisting his face.
"I'm sorry, it's just... when people say... 'for your sake', or... 'for goodness sake', I'm never sure what
they mean? Do you?"
Madison looked up from her own pallet bench. Her stare was enough to give the merchant pause.
"Right, you're working. Sorry - sorry."
Blowing a strand of hair from her soot smeared face she continued. Thinker nervously chewed his bottom lip as he
studied his empty hands.
"Life long habit. I.. ah.. tend to think out loud when I'm idle."
"Hence your name," replied Dr. Q'winn, the Embassy's Chief Science Officer. Breaking another chem-pak she gently
applied the compress to Erin Webstrider's fevered head.
"I believe 'sake' means... well being," announced Yanni Runewood. " It can also mean...."
"Quiet!" hissed Bianca Cobweb rising from Erin's jury-rigged stretcher. "How can you talk such non-sense when
Mistress Erin is holding on for dear life?"
"Relax, Bianca. Thinker's just scared, like the rest of us." Armed with a Torpedo blaster the petite blonde stood guard
by the pharmacy door. Next to the armory and brig it was the most secure chamber in the sublevels. The Bianca looked at Yanni with enough heat to melt steel.
"Coward!" said the Dark Elf crossing her arms with a smug expression. "Though I'd expect nothing more from
an Elven cow like yourself."
Yanni lowered the blaster as something hard and cold slid across her eyes.
"That's it. You're loosing your teeth."
The Asgardian marched towards the Dr'owe.
"Stop it! Both of you!" With a hobbled limp Madison wedged herself between the two.
The tension in the Fair and Dark Elf's shoulders lessened, but it was Yanni who stepped back first. Chambering a round she turned away without a sound, and walked back to the door. Bianca muttered dark, guttural words as she lowered once more to Erin's side. Exhaling a long controlled breath, Madison lowered herself from the balls of her feet, turned and looked at her friend.
Yanni was Madison's best friend and partner in running the Archaen Interstellar Museum of Art. Judging from
the Asgardian's slim build and easy going ways one could easily underestimate her. Maddy knew better. Yanni had served for several decades in the Asgardian Navy, achieving the rank of Lt. Commander. Not only was she an expert marksman, but a master in several forms of unarmed combat. Once, at a dance club on DW6, she saw her break the
arm of an Omnet Centurion who wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. Limping back to her work bench she caught Thinker's eye.
"What's the status on your communicator?"
The Golem touched the charred remnants of his compu-weave tunic and closed his eyes.
"The self-repair diagnostic has about five standard minutes left... after that it should be ready."
Madison nodded. That was good news. Thinker opened his eyes.
"But..." continued the merchant, "It's using up lots of power. There'll
barely be enough to send a proper message."
"A quick call is all we...."
Suddenly, a booming echo shook the room. Q'winn and Bianca stood as one. Thinker slinked back towards the nearest corner, seeds of sweet sprouting from his brow.
"What... in Hell.. was that?" whispered Bianca. Her eyes darted from Q'winn to Madison demanding an answer.
"They're back," said Madison, quickly reassembling the Necro~Phaser.
"What do you mean they're back? They're dead! WE KILLED THEM!" yelled the Dark Elf, her voice trembling on
a hysterical note. In response something solid and heavy crashed against the doors.
"If you wanna check, I'll let 'em in," said Yanni, tossing cargo pallets down for cover.
"Funny..." began the Dr'owe placing two balled fist on her hips.
"Bianca, help me with Erin," said Q'winn, lifting Erin's stretcher at one end. Bianca's eyes burned into Yanni's
back before she gingerly grabbed the stretcher. Q'winn noted the bloodstained bandages wrapped around the Dr'owe's
rlbs. Despite the pain killers she gave her Q'winn knew she was in pain. Slowly, the two moved Erin to the far end of
BOOM! ... BOOM!
The doors, solid Cirrillian Steel, buckled.
"What the hell's out there?" asked Madison pausing as she assisted Yanni.
BOOM! ... BOOM! ... CRACK!
"We'll know soon enough," answered her friend.
Bianca and Q'winn carried Erin behind a high shelf of medical supplies. Putting her down they caught each other's eyes. Fear and desperation dwelled in both.
"Bianca... watch over her. We'll do everything we can to hold them off," whispered the doctor.
CRACK! BOOM! CRACK!
Bianca nodded, then reached out for Q'winn's hand.
"Give me something. For us..." said the Dr'owe, glancing down at Erin's fevered body. "I won't let them take us...
not like the others! Not like this!"
Q'winn felt the desperate grip of Bianca's hand. Quickly looking over her shoulder she withdrew a dermo-injector fitted with a dark colored vial.
"There's enough in here for all of us. I pray we won't need it," said the doctor.
"As do I. Thank you," said Bianca receiving the device. Both women smiled weakly.
"I will pray for the Spider Queen to... to look over us."
Q'winn squeezed the Dr'owe's hand and rushed back to the others.
CRACK! CRACK! BOOOOOOM!
"Thinker! Grab an O2 tank, stand with me!" yelled the doctor above the pounding. The Golem was rooted with fear as his eyes stared fixated on the buckling steel doors.
He flinched as if physically slapped. Slowly, his unfocused eyes slid towards Q'winn in dilated horror.
"The O2 tank.... hurry!" Her hands quickly gestured.
As if in a dream the merchant watched as Q'winn threw the strap of a small oxygen tank over her shoulder. Connected to the feed valve was a slender tube ending in a pressure nozzle. Next she picked up several flares.
Blinking the Golem shook his head, and slowly moved to pick up a second, likely configured tank. Q'winn flipped him
two flares as he opened the pressure valve.
The steel doors bent inward as fist size dents were punched in. Completing the barriers Madison and Yanni backed up
until they stood shoulder to shoulder.
"How many shells left?" asked the Archaen brunette. Yanni glanced at her weapon.
"Eight? And your modifications?"
"Did the best I could. It'll either work, or kill us both."
"I can think of worse ways of going down," answered the Elf.
A renting spilt tore itself across the door. A second blow ripped it wider. Thinker and Q'winn tensed. Madison and
Yanni fell into expert shooting stances. On the other side of the door a buzzing sound grew. Madison shifted her weight to her one good leg. She licked her lips. Ten minutes ago things had been far better... safer.
Ten minutes ago...
A shoeless foot kicked the filter-grate, knocking it to the catwalk below. Madison jumped down from the tight duct, landing in a low crouch, blaster out sweeping in a slow surveying arc. The dim gloom of the waste processing chamber was cut by the crimson light of her targeting beam. She clinched her teeth. The smell was pungent, but far from overwhelming. Twenty meters below three one hundred meter wide pools of churning liquid broke waste and sewage down to safe, reusable forms.
"Okay... it's clear," announced the Archaen speaking over her bare shoulder. Backing up to the duct
she cautiously placed the blaster on the steel floor and looked up in time to see a pair of legs pass
through. The legs hung loose, nearly lifeless before Madison caught them, mid thigh, and took the full
weight of the unconscious Dr'owe.
"I've got her."
Gently she lowered Erin to the floor.
"Queen's blood. You make more noise than a wounded bumble-hog!"
Protocol Officer Bianca Cobweb nimbly jumped down from the opening.
"Yeah, like no one would notice that perfume of yours. What is that anyway?
Essence of dog?" added Yanni Runewood silently landing behind the Dark Elf.
Bianca regarded the blonde Asgardian, then shifted her eyes to Erin's Necro~phaser held tightly in
the Elf's hand. It was a stern reminder that she and Erin were nothing more than prisoners. As long s
Mistress Erin was still injured Bianca knew she could never make her escape. She had to be patient, to
wait for the opportunity to overpower, even kill the Archaen and the hated Elf. If she succeeded -
succeed in rescuing Erin Webstrider, daughter of Ambassador Webstrider, the reward could be that
which she desired most - a title of Nobility. Bianca's blood red eyes strayed to Erin's belt. Her
Black~steel sword and crossbow were missing, lost in her first encounter with the Pike Wasp when that brutish man, Roman Vann had saved her. All that remained was a strange device on her belt, and her Necro~ phaser. The latter the Elf had taken, but the former... . Bianca wondered.
Rumor's had been circulating around Blackwidow station about an impossible device - something that
would give the user the full power of the Spider Queen herself! Bianca dismissed the idea, but perhaps
the device somehow enhanced a users clerical spells. Pursing her lips she plotted deeper. The Archaen
woman had warned her not to use spells, adding that the Wights of their Embassy would react
unfavorable if she did. Still if she could take Erin's device the few spells she knew would...
"Yanni..." whispered Madison, pressing closer to her friend. "The screws to the grate... they were
undone. Someone's been this way... just ahead of us."
The Elf studied the duct, inclining her grease smudged chin. Maddy picked up her blaster.
"Looks like you were right. we've been guided through
the chutes, but by who?"
Both women felt the first wave of fatigue and cramps building through their bodies as they pondered the question. Since their unexpected meeting and departure of Roman Vann, the quartet of women had easily by-passed every knot of buzzing wasp they could hear. At first it seemed that luck was with them. A hatch found opened, a fallen filter grate granting entry to another level, a malfunctioning security field. On and on it went until the string of coincidences became too unusual.
Someone was scouting the way for them, leading them here. What remained now was whether it was
friend... or foe.
Erin groaned, calling out Vann's name. Yanni watched as Madison tensed, or was that jealously she saw on her friend's face?
"Mistress?" cried Bianca kneeling by the Priestesses side. The Dr'owe's eyes fluttered in confusion.
"Vann!... Where? Where am I? "
"In the bowels of the Archaen sewers," answered Bianca. *Vann? Why had she called out the
Archaen's name?* wondered the Dark Elf.
"We're taking you to sickbay," said Madison, "Hang in there, Honor-Erin."
The Dr'owe looked at her swollen right arm as if it were a part of someone else's body.
"The wasp?" Her voice was thin and weak.
"Don't speak of such things, Mistress." Bianca's hands pumped Erin's. "Save your strength."
To everyone's surprise Erin pushed her away, "I'm not a child, Bianca..." and slowly struggled to
her feet. "I can..."
Madison caught her before she hit the floor.
"You're in no condition to walk. Bianca's right, Erin. Save your strength."
The stubborn Dark Elf nodded as she lowered herself to one knee. Bianca regarded Erin with a
suspicious leer. Inside revulsion swept through her.
*Can it be that Mistress Erin has... feelings for that Archaen Ape?* Quickly a dark plan formed in the Dark Elf's mind.
"Take us out of this stench pit... Now!" demanded Bianca, lowering to Erin's side.
Ignoring the insulting tone of the Dr'owe's voice Madison looked down either end of the catwalk. Both ways ended in narrow, slide panel doors. Closing her eyes she tried to connect with her innate sense of direction. One way would take them towards sickbay. The other... back to the wasp.
Opening her eyes Madison turned in time to see the door at the left end silently open. Silhouetted
within its frame stood a tall humanoid form.
"You!" exclaimed Bianca with undisguised panic. Her heart hammered, her mouth became dry as it
opened in a perfect 'O'.
"It's a trap!"
With surprising strength Bianca threw Erin's good arm over her right shoulder and half dragged her
down the opposite end of the catwalk.
"Bianca wait!... It's just..." Yanni pivoted her views from the Dr'owes to the being standing in the open door. Cautiously the Golem stepped on the catwalk.
"Really, Ms. Cobweb, there's no need to..."
The Merchant's words fell on deaf ears as Bianca reached the other end. Pausing long enough to tag
the open stud, she turn to face the others.
"He's behind all this. He's the one who..."
"Bianca!" Too late.
The creature (the only sane word Madison could fine) tackled them from behind, crushing both Erin
and Bianca to the hard steel floor. Something cracked with a loud audible sound (later she learned it was three of Bianca's ribs) as an unbearable scream was ripped from the Dr'owe's lips. Behind her Madison heard Thinker's heavy footsteps turn and flee as she and Yanni aimed their weapons in one smooth motion. Yanni squeezed her trigger. Nothing happened.
"Mad... my phaser's jammed! Shoot!"
But the Archaen hesitated.
Everything was right and wrong about the scene before them. The creature - her mind screamed it
couldn't be human - not anymore, wore the armor and weapons of an Imperial Marine, one that looked
like it had been thrown through an industrial smelter. It's armored limbs looked like melted rubber
while its back and chest were covered with half a dozen puncture wounds, each plugged with a near
translucent resin. The resin had also encased the Marine's holstered Torpedo blaster, and the lower
scabbard of his Razor-Epee. Spasticly the creature's arms flopped over Bianca, jumping with twitching
fits and starts, yet slowly they inched their way towards her throat. Madison had a perfect shot, yet
she couldn't pull the trigger. Behind the Marine-thing, through the open door, more 'things' were
coming. Marines, maintenance workers, embassy staff. a dozen people covered with thick clumps of wasp, yet somehow moving towards the door in unsteady, lopping walks. Madison knew each and everyone of them.
Distantly Bianca heard someone call Madison's name as she felt ten cold fingers lace around her neck
-and squeeze. Her eyes snapped open. The head of the thing choking her was inches away. Pressed
against its face plate a hundred wasp squirmed. Bianca tried to scream as the plate began to crack.
"Get off her!" screamed Erin slamming her knee into the Marine's ribs. The thing grunted, then
turned its wasp face towards her. In a blurring motion its arm flinched, striking the Dr'owe in a
devastating backhand. Colors exploded behind Erin's eyes as her body crashed into the catwalk rails.
The taste of copper flooded her mouth. Wiping blood from her lips she spotted Madison and Yanni
rooted with shock - battleshock. She turned and saw why. Two wasp infested Marines were
meters from the door.
"Queen's blood..." she gasped.
Ignoring the pain she crawled back to the thing killing Bianca. The Dr'owe Protocol Officer's eyes
bulge as her gnarled fingers clawed at the Marine's arm and chest. Her legs kicked with waning
strength as prescious air was choked from her lungs. That's when the Marine felt a tugging as its side,
and caught the flash of steel in Erin's hand - a Razor-Epee. Twisting for maximum leverage she swung,
and beheaded the Marine in a single stroke.
"Ishtar..." whispered Madison. The Marine's head topple off it's shoulders and fell behind its head.
With a sickening sound it bounced and rolled down the catwalk, stopping dead at the legs of another
Marine. Kicking off the headless body, Erin threw herself over Bianca, and cried, "FIRE!"
Maddy jerked as if awoken from a dream.
"FOR QUEEN'S SAKE... SHOOT!!"
Madison looked at the blaster as if seeing it for the first time. In the span of a heart beat she knew what she had to do. With a silent prayer she aimed... and fired. The torpedo shell flashed over Erin and Bianca's heads, and into the chest of the on coming Marine - punching through its chest plate. The thing's body stumbled back then looked down at the smoking hole in its chest. It was the last thing it would ever do.
The shell detonated, liquefying the Marine's body above the waist, knocking over the others behind
it. Instantly hundred's of wasp buzzed through the air in agitated confusion.
"Move!" urged Yanni as she and Madison came the Dr'owes sides. Not waiting for an answer the Dark
Elves were yanked to their feet, and rushed down the opposite end of the catwalk. Twenty feet from
the door Madison chanced a look.
She knew they wouldn't make it.
Four wasp descended on them like living bullets. Erin screamed as she was stung in the neck, and back. Madison felt something land in her hair. Quickly she knocked it away before a searing pain lanced
through her hip. Her right leg went numb and she fell, pulling Erin and the others with her. Fighting back the pain she looked up to what she knew would be her death. The horde of wasp descended on them like a tidal wave. As useless as it was she raised her weapon. She would die, but not without a...
A flaming jet arched over head, incinerating the horde in a dirty orange fireball. Scores of wasp shot out like giant burning fist, falling through the grates and into the waste pools below. A small cluster, untouched by the flames, dove for the group before a second flaming gout burned them
Her vision fogging, Madison glanced up and spotted Still Thinker standing over her. A modified O2
tank was slung over his shoulder. One hand held a feed hose, the other a burning flare. Next to him
stood a woman - one she dimly recognized, dressed in a stained lab coat. Her vision tunneled. Two hands
slipped under her arms. "I have you," said a voice near her ear. Distantly someone one was shouting.
"... out of here. I'll hold them off."
The world was black now. Only the buzzing remained. The buzzing, constant.... growing.
The buzzing grew louder.
Madison looked down at her leg, amazed at how fast the swelling had dropped. She had Q'winn's anti-venom to thank
for that. Having been stung three times, only Erin still remained the worse. Q'winn surmised that she - and perhaps the
Dr'owe in general, possessed a natural allergy to the wasp stings. Whichever, things had been touch and go for the
Madison looked behind her, doing her best to give reassuring looks to both Thinker and Q'winn. It seems the Golem
merchant hadn't fled the scene at the catwalk. He went for reinforcements - Dr. Qwinn. While the four of them were
crawling through the utility chutes, the good doctor was also having her own adventure. After regaining consciousness
Q'winn told them all about the specimen Vann had sent her.
"First thing I did was to create an anti-venom, especially when I realized
that the wasp was only a worker."
She explained. There was more than one variety of the Pikes. Workers, warriors, herders, a King and a Queen. Q'winn
suspected that if Vann found one variety, there'd be more - each one possibly genetically engineered to give more than just a numbing sting.
"Sometime after Vann left my lab the Embassy went on
tactical alert. That's when I heard them - the buzzing.
In the vents, through the walls - everywhere."
Madison remembered the moment she heard them too...
"I couldn't contact Vann so I called Jaq, and told him the
situation. He ordered me to evacuate my lab with as many
people as I could find."
...And the pained look in Q'winn's eyes. Abandoning her station wasn't something she could do easily.
"I created as much anti-venom as I could, grabbed a med-kit, modified a couple of
O2 canisters and headed for the nearest emergency chute. That's when I ran into
Thinker... and the four of you."
Madison whirled back to the door. Something twisted under its metal skin, a rising bulge that grew.
"Brace yourselves," cried the Archaen.
Suddenly, a sharpened form punched through. It was glossy, as if coated in a hardened, translucent resin. For a brief
second Madison thought she caught the smudged impression of a Human arm under the coating, then the thing ripped
itself back out of of the hole. An opening, easily the size of a human fist, allowed hard light to shine through.
"Get ready!" shouted Yanni.
The edges of the hole vibrated as a black teaming mass choked it. Madison raised the Necro~phaser and prayed her
modifications would work. Ten wasp quick climbed through, spreading outward along the door's dented sided with
military precision. They formed a circle around the hole, antennas twitching in chaotic blurs. As one they completely
stopped. Madison knew they had sensed them. Like black blood more wasp poured through the hole, spreading out in
sheets, fanning out like a reaching hand. The battle had begun.
Just dropping a quick note to let everyone know I am back from vacation as of a few hours ago. I will need some time to get caught up with everything so I hope everyone will bear with me a while longer.
Anatol… Great seeing your name on the list again. I was just mentioning to Frank recently how much I missed having you around to write with. We gotta look into finishing up that underground exploration bit if possible.
I will be responding to all the various messages as soon as I am able…there is a lot to go through but I am up to the task.
As for Lady A and her empire… She has moved into a less active role and for the time being and possibly permanently I am/will be controlling/writing for the Andorians. (Tho I believe Andoria might have a few posts in progress as sideline stuff…) I will be deciding just exactly how to accommodate that change in command and intend to work through appropriate channels as necessary once I have decided exactly how that is going to play out.
Most likely this will occur as a shift of the Andorian Empire into a protectorate of Dra’Keshi which will remain true to the Andorian way of living but militarily guarded and “added” to the Dra’Keshi “holdings” within the ELF Sector. (yeah, yeah I can hear the grumbling already… *wide toothy dragon grin*
Anyhow more to come in both Public and person-to-person basis as I get caught back up.