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Kail
Caldera
Sat Apr 24, 2010 8:29pm
70.249.243.98

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The momentary flash of light that erupted from behind Gorgon's mask was like that of an atom bomb, flaring so brightly that for a split second the skeletons of the humans standing before him were visible through their bodies as in an x-ray. Cross did not see this, however, for as soon as Dan Crasher shouted "Cover your eyes!" the reploid’s pianist reflexes kick in and he threw both of his hands over his face. The metal, plastic and synthetic tissues in his artificial limbs blocked the mysterious light completely.

When Cross decided it was safe to put his arms down and look he was somewhat nonplussed by the scene before him. The mercs had scattered. Some of them ran hysterically like stricken animals while others strolled merrily and others still lumbered along like zombies, but all of them in the direction of the ominous volcano roiling in the center of the island.

He found Maq sauntering as casually as if through a park. Grabbing the captain by her bare arms, he shook her sternly and shouted “Maq! What are you doing? Wake up!”

There was no reaction. Cross noticed a white fog over her lavender eyes, but there seemed to be a greater fog over her mind altogether. It didn’t even seem like she could hear him. The thought of magic powerful enough to affect even the processes of artificial brains made Cross shudder.

After an entirely self-serving attempt to restore Crasher’s senses by giving the poor unresponsive blonde a quick chest massage, Cross followed her and the other seemingly hypnotized mercs through the jungle. They trudged for what seemed like an hour before coming near enough to the volcano to hear a rumble of geothermal activity and smell the stink of sulfur. The volcano itself was a black mass in the night silhouetted at the top by the eerie red glow of lava.

A path up the mountain’s flank was illuminated by torches and the mercs followed it up one by one like the mice of Hamelin. Cross wanted to break the spell and end this, but knew nothing of sorcery except what he’d seen in some old movie called Kull the Conqueror. Because physically carrying each of his fellow mercs back to the beach wasn’t possible, he climbed the path as well and tried to blend in as best he could while watching for a chance to save the day.

The journey ended at a stone altar built upon the very lip of the volcano’s crater. Magma swirled and bubbled below. The heat that billowed up was intense enough to make any man forget his fear of hell. Behind the altar stood a gnarled old wizard in ragged black robes. His appearance was like that of a mummified corpse come back to life, and he was attended by a dozen diminutive green-skinned humanoids that scurried about impishly.

“Whoa.” Cross muttered upon seeing the goblins. “I didn’t see those things in Kull the Conqueror.”

Once the hallucinating mercs were assembled before of the altar, Gorgon appeared from the shadows and bowed to the wizard. From where he watched from among the other Freelancers, Cross tried to think of a plan. Looking down at himself he was reminded that he was unarmed and clad in nothing more than swim trunks. This was one jam that killer abs and amazing sexual prowess wasn’t going to get him out of, he thought to himself.

It wasn’t until the wizard began to chant that Cross saw an opening. As they began some ritual, both Gorgon and the aged sorcerer turned their backs to the mercs and focused their attention on the volcano’s caldera where the lava now tossed violently. All around the green-skinned things jabbered unintelligibly and hopped from foot to foot.

Cross, not willing to pass up the golden opportunity, attacked his unaware enemies with the only weapon available to him. He grabbed one of the small imps, lifted the snarling creature over his head and hurled it headlong at the wizard. The unconventional projectile hit its mark hard and both goblin and human toppled over the rim of the volcano. They fell end over end for what seemed like a long time and vanishing in a tiny plume of fire just before touching the surface of the magma.

Gorgon spun around and the demon face of his mask somehow looked angrier despite being inanimate. Whatever spell he’d held over the Freelance Reploids was broken instantly and they began to rub their eyes and stupidly ask “Where are we?”

“No time to explain!” Cross shouted. “I just killed the guy who owned this island. Now we’re getting out of here!”

Gorgon’s voice was as distant and emotionless as ever as it rumbled “Wrong and wrong again, you witless worm. You are only about to behold the master of this island, and none of you will ever leave it alive.”

Only then did Cross notice something emerging from the thrashing lava below. Out of the magma arose a colossal winged man-beast whose black body shined like volcanic glass. Fifty feet he must have stretched from the point of his horns to the barb of his tail, with great talons on each hand that could have torn through reinforced duracrete like moist clay.

“Gaze upon your doom.” Gorgon commanded as the confused mercs shrunk in terror. That would be the last thing he’d ever say, for at that moment a customized MavHunter Firestorm missile streak down from the sky and vaporized Gorgon, the stone altar and two of the nearest goblins. Bewildered Freelancers and goblins alike looked up to see a heavily damaged but somehow airborne Albatross transport swoop through the volcano’s black smoke and fire off another two missiles at the obsidian beast rising from the lava.

Jim Sikorsky’s voice boomed over the aircraft’s external speakers “Hope I’m not too late for the party, guys!”

“Kill them!” the black creature’s voice rumbled like the crashing of a tidal wave. Instantly the goblins pulled out tiny laser pistols and started firing wildly. The little imps were terrible shots, but a crowd is a difficult thing to miss and Axel was one of the first to get hit. The unusually powerful laser cut through his shoulder at the joint and completely severed the Russian’s left arm. Then Zeo took a shot to the chest that knocked him down with what must have been critical damage and Drej was hit with a headshot that killed him instantly.

Only Cross had the presence of mind to snatch the laser pistol from one of the goblins and turn it on them. He picked off the pitiful creatures as firing in a shooting gallery, and shouted the order to “Get aboard the Albatross!” The other Freelancers obeyed, accepting Cross as the de facto leader now that the higher ranking mercs were either damaged or dead.

When the black magma monster finally clawed its way out of the volcanic pit and loomed dangerously over an unarmed Aurora, Cross set his stolen laser pistol to self destruct and lobbed it at the huge creature. The mercenary’s timing was perfect. The weapon exploded like a bomb just as it reached the hideous giant’s face, causing it to slide back down into the lake of fire.

Aurora rushed to Cross and embraced him. Grateful for saving her, and for the first time in her life flush with the sensation of sexual attraction, she kissed him long and passionately. Cross’ hands clung to the beautiful girl’s bikini clad body and his tongue explored the inside of her mouth. She knew she would be safe in his arms. Forever.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

“What’s he doing now?” Shade asked.

Lina shrugged. “Looks like he’s making out with somebody.”

They sat in a dungeon cell with Cocker, who had not yet regained consciousness. In the adjacent cell they could see Cross groping at the air and sticking his tongue out as if French kissing an invisible person. They could see other mercs as well, each pantomiming different activities, but Cross was proving to be the most entertaining to watch.

Shade, Lina and Cocker had arrived in the dungeon after being knocked out and dragged there, but all the others had come of their own power (if not of their own free will). Some wandered in casually, other ran as if their life depended on it, and one even skipped like a child.

“No talking.” ordered their jailer. Shade and Lina quickly halted the discourse as Ouija appeared outside the bars of their cell. The warrior witch had cleaned herself up since returning from the jungle with her prisoners, but she wore no more clothing than before aside from some tribal body paint and a few feathers in her hair. Shade was a little embarrassed that such a skinny human girl had easily taken down three Freelance Reploids, and more than a little frustrated that he still didn’t even know why.

As if in response to his curiosity, Ouija muttered “You’ll see Lord Malegaunt once the rest of your friends arrive.”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Jim Sikorsky, that is the real Jim Sikorsky, sat in the cockpit of the still crippled Albatross and switched on the vehicle’s powerful transmitter.

“Sikorsky calling Freelance Reploids” the pilot said into his headset. Ten minutes ago he’d watched a smoke monster drag Captain Cossack off into the jungle. Axel had been the last of the mercs left on the beach, besides Jim himself, and now the human was all by himself. If he were lost on the far side of the moon he could not have felt more alone. He continued, “Come in, Freelance Reploids. This is Jim Sikorsky. Is anybody out there? …Anybody?”

From the jungle he could hear the distinctive sound of the smoke monster returning to the beach. He’d watched all the others get drug off and now it was his turn.

“Mother of God.” he whispered.

----------------------------------------------------
NRP - I originally really disliked the idea of Gorgon making all the mercs hallucinate. But then it started growing on me something fierce.

BTW, This is only the first of several posts I'm writing to move the mission forward into "Part II", which I have to confess is really what this mission is all about. The island and everything up to this point is mere framing device for what's about to happen.

  • The path finding AI sucks.Lock, Sun Mar 28 1:40pm
    When the bright light overcame Lock he barely had time to react, and thus was sent flying down on the ground. ---------- Opening his eyes after a short while, he stood up to see the forest entirely... more
    • Caldera — Kail, Sat Apr 24 8:29pm
      • The Last MogulKail, Sun May 2 11:26pm
        -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- On the bow of an old sailing ship stood a childlike version of Shinsei. She could feel the spray of the ocean, taste the salt on the wind and hear the call of gulls. Her eyes... more
        • Ciao, babe.Kail, Sun May 2 11:55pm
          -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Malegaunt was all smiles when he returned from his long distance call and asked the Freelance Reploids if any of them wanted a drink. “I’ll take a Garns 42.” Cross burst. “I’m... more
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