Nino Isle - Paying Dues
Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:42pm

NRP- I had to rush to finish this, so I'm sorry in advance for spelling errors or other bad writing habits.


A honkey-tonk tune rattled out of the big wooden piano in the corner of the bar and grill, a style Kaze was uncommonly known to enjoy. He'd struggled to even decide what to classify the place as in his head; a bar to one side of the one-room establishment served ruddy patrons super strength lager while in the other corner a dapper waiter served a couple steamed lobster on a table covered in white cloth, candles, and crystal wine glasses. It seemed to serve every possible taste of dining at once. Which was just as well, it being the only eatery on the whole island.

Leaning back in his chair, Kaze felt the weight of 300 rounds of ammunition and two grenades sag in his many pockets. He hated the oppressive feeling and sat back up to displace the load.

At least reubens still tasted mostly the same in the future. Not all was lost, even in a world of water. The waiter came around, and he reached for his wallet to pay.

"So you had something to tell me... Ruins you said. Something big." The merc's ears pricked as he picked out two men talking at the bar. The second one seemed distraught.

"Y-yeah, man... Something... ten years ago."

"Somethin' you wanna get off your chest?" The second man rubbed his hands together nervously, checking around to see if anyone was listening in. Kaze's eyes remained fixed on his napkin.

"I... I got into an SS once." He swallowed a lump in his throat before continuing. "Me, Johnny, and Samantha... We found one over in Saul Kada. The ID system had been blasted open by pirates, so we just walked right in."

The waiter cleared his throat, and Kaze looked up at the man. His hand retreated from the wallet. "I'll have a coffee." He went right back to listening once the clattering of the clearing dishes faded.

"... so we get down there and... and. It's real dark, you know? And this.. huge... it was like a Sharukurusu, but way, way bigger. Twice as big, and pink like plasma." Eyes filled with memories and horror, he stared into space.

Sharukurusu were considered a worst case scenario for Diggers, Kaze remembered from a one-day introductory seminar for Diggers-to-be. They stood a mild 5' 8" tall, but were fast, powerful, and wickedly armed with tripods of blades on each hand. Even worse was a syringe-like spear they dragged under themselves, which was applied by ferocious leaping attacks that could overturn vehicles. The common variety were dark green, but some reports claimed the existence of blue ones that could engage visual camouflauge at will. They had all laughed in the seminar about how they'd all better look out for those, the implication being that they'd never meet one. No one had said anything about a gigantic version.

"Johnny fired a whole magazine, I don't think but one or two rounds even penetrated. He was still reloading when the second one... just.. right through him." The other perk of dealing with Sarukurusu was their tendency to travel in pairs. "S-Samantha and I ran... She slowed down and I passed her.. then the sound of their feet slowed down for a moment and I heard her screaming. I ran faster." His head sank low in shame. "I just kept going and going. I made it out and tripped over the door out. So I lie there in the sand and wait for em to get me. A minute goes by and I roll over.. and... and it's there. Right there, standing over me in the doorway. Red all over an' I just keep thinking, it's Johnny and Sam- " His next several sentences devolved into gibberish, but Kaze knew he was one step past death in his story. Reavers never left the ruins, with one or two notable exceptions.

The coffee came and sat untouched for several minutes as Kaze reconsidered his plans. The C rank ruins were only good for the barest of profits and were probably residences to the old civilization. Higher were the B and A ruins, which could make a man rich, but only with luck. The S sites were likely military in their previous lives, from the way he'd heard them described. But he didn't need military. He needed where the big things happened; he needed clandestine R&D laboratories, illegal experimentation departments, and the deepest of deep cover operations. There was the only chance he'd find something that could bring him home. Time-distortion technology had existed for eons. He hoped it was perfected sometime between then and now, but he would only find out by raiding the juiciest and most well-protected sites he could find. Sharukurusu or not, SS was the only option.

He left the coffee untouched on the table.


"-and you agree that the Digger's Guild is not responsible for loss of life, limb, or well being. Should the situation escalate, we will evaluate our ability to extract you, but you acknowledge that we are not obligated to assist you if the level of threat exceeds our ability to manage."

Kaze nodded impatiently through the disclaimers and warnings that seemed to encase the final licensing test. At last the legal sermon ended, and the elevator took him below. He noted an uncomfortable silence in the waiting room as they watched the doors close. The ride was long enough to be uncomfortable; it just seemed to go down forever, and Kaze's ears popped at least twice as the pressure changed. Mist drifted in front of his face, and he realized it was his own breath. An elevator ride down this far from an island surely meant he was far below sea level, and the abyss was a cold and dark place. He had just started to wish to be outside of the elevator when the doors opened. A surge of air pulled him towards the door as pressure inside and out equalized.

Sterile was the first word to come to Kaze's mind. Condensation beaded on the walls, condensing into flecks of ice in some places. The floor was all but invisible under a blanket of fog, and the air smelled of pure nothing. Taking a deep breath of icy air, Kaze unslung his rifle and pulled the bolt. The sound echoed a whole three times down the hall. Fragile crystals crackled under his boots as he went, crunch-crunching as he slinked around a blind corner. Double doors slid open to reveal a massive circular chamber with a vaulted ceiling and what looked like Greek-Roman pillars circling the room at half its diameter. In its center was a pool of water lightly iced over, but not so much as those eerie red eyes decorated the walls. A quick examination of the room showed that there was no other entrances or exits, and after making a lap and a half Kaze turned back towards the entrance.

A crinckling sound echoed through the chamber and Kaze dropped to one knee, covering the open space in front of him with the nose of his weapon. He debated if the faint sound had actually been there, so subtle it had been. Ignoring the sound of his heartbeat in the silence, he inched back towards the center, swiveling his rifle at every shadow and cloud of mist. Back at the center of the room, the icy cover of the pool had been broken and chunks of it bobbed and swayed in a tide-like current. A splattering of wetness extended from the pool several feel off to the side, dwindling into a few awkward drizzles. The hair on the back of Kaze's neck stood on end even as he spun around to cover a cloud of mist that suddenly accelerated. Squeezing the trigger, 20 rounds reached out and sparked off invisible armor, and a miniature blue hulk flickered into existence as its optical camoflage failed. He'd never seen so much as a picture of Sharukurusu, but this awkward automaton fit the description. Particularly in the strange way its legs and arms met at the same joint at its shoulder, letting the majority of its torso dangle and sway as it walked.

Silent but ferocious, the warrior reaverbot charged him with all six blades whirling. Another burst of automatic fire skittered through its innards before it belched smoke from its skull-like face and toppled mid-stride into the mist. Circuits sparked and burst into flame, eventually clearing a small area of the swirling mist. Kaze had just switched out his magazine when a single, obnoxious alarm echoed through the chamber, followed by an even-spoken tone that sounded remarkably more like the English he'd known back home.

"Scout 00a-01 has been forcefully deactivated. Deploying intrusion countermeasures."

The far end of the chamber wall simply disappeared, revealing a blob of photo phorecent jelly the size of a minivan. It pulsed with somber light, like stained glass on an overcast afternoon. Within its mass was a sphere of orange metal with an exaggerated frowning face. It drew its body up and began to slink towards Kaze like a ponderous worm. He fired into its mass, splattering its goo across the floor in chunks. It appeared no worse for the wear. A low gurgling rumbled through the floor as it pressed itself low, pancaking itself out across the icy surface. Kaze dropped his old magazine as a spike of serrated pain sheared up through his feet and into his shins. It was extending into his knees when he realized how much colder the air had gotten. His boots were frozen to the ground, and latticeworks of ice had started to build up his legs. He had very few backup plans when immobilized, but his classic worked well here. A concussive blast in the shape of his body expanded around himself as he focused his magic into a destructive wave. The ice was stripped away, and he leapt as far as his stinging muscles would let him.

He landed on his ass, but safely out of reach of the strange anti-thermal attack. Another magazine was fed into the rifle's receiver and emptied again from a sitting position, spilling more of the luminous gunk across the ice. The thing seemed to take exception to this, because it spat a shot of itself directly at Kaze. He slid back onto his back, letting the basketball-sized projectile impact with a harsh -crack- on the wall behind him. Scrambling to his feet, he rolled behind one of the pillars as three identical shots tried to paste him. He wished desperately for the armor-piercing qualities of his coilgun, wagering it would have pierced straight through its amorphous armor. Still, the heavy Reaverbot was slow, and his speed was an advantage he planned to leverage. It tracked him to the edge of the room, firing blobs with lethal force whenever it had a clear shot. Breaking through a cloud of mist, it found nothing where it had expected to find Kaze. Metal scratching came through on its audio sensors, and it turned around in time to see a grenade roll up against its body.

Kaze didn't know what they packed their explosives with here in the future, but he fully intended to bring back sample to analyze when he got home. The small hand-held munition detonated with a shockwave that pushed all the mist into heavy clouds that ringed the ceiling, and the gel into a crater-shaped abcess around the now shrapnel-scarred face of the Reaverbot's core. It bellowed, picking Kaze out of the clouds above, diving directly for it. Two dozen tentacles erupted from the frilled edge of its warped shape, each reaching skyward for its assailant. Focusing his powers into jets of force, he rocketed downwards and twisted through the outstretched limbs. They turned back for him and gave chase as he passed them, producing a driving piston of force dogging his heels as he flew. Mere meters from impact, he cocked his fist back, trailing flaring blue energy. A nerve-rattling crunch vibrated up his arm as he drove his fist into the core's eye socket. It reared up only a foot before Kaze summoned his sword, sparking blue blade emerging through the top of its hull and gutting the insides with destructive force.

He yanked his hand free, creating a jagged gash that nearly bisected the core as his sword disintegrated material. Both normal and magical fire spilled from its blasted socket, cracks forming along its surface and eventually flaking the metal like burning newspaper. Kaze grinned with satisfaction through the pain of three broken knuckles as his foe literally went to pieces in front of him. And then the sledgehammer behind him caught up. Largely mitigated by no longer being intentionally driven, but a hundred pounds of falling molasses is still a hundred pounds of falling molasses. Kaze caught the blow high in the back, and it sent him clear over the dessicated remains of the still-dissolving sentry. He rolled hard, coughing as he tried to catch his breath. He got to his feet slowly, feeling the blow as well as his ravaged hand and the strain of quickcharging his magic. Tucking his wounded hand under the opposite armpit, he collected his rifle and began his trek back to the elevator.

There was a significantly smaller congratulatory reception waiting outside for him than the kid in blue had received, but he could have really cared less at the moment. The shock was starting to recede, and sparks of pain were poking through. The ache had already inflamed into an uncomfortable burn by the time he received his card, and he didn't stay for much social interaction before he went to find where people got patched up around here.

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