Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 07 - "Away From Home"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Justin's last stand

Category: Fantasy - Rating: R - Genres: Fantasy,Horror,Sci-fi - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2008-12-21 - Updated: 2008-12-21 - 1833 words - Complete

The scene just kept repeating itself in his head, first one, then the other, crumbling to dust at the mere touch of his hand. Somehow those empty eye sockets still expressed the same terror and despair they had once conveyed in life; Justin often saw them staring at him whenever he closed his eyes. Those crumbling corpses just kept replaying in his mind in a repeat-loop that was maddening. They just would not go away. That day he had seen fear in a handful of dust, had held it in his hand.

Let it slip through his fingers.

The day those dead hands crumbled as he plucked their fallen guns, he irrevocably took up the torch for his fallen unknown fellows in some way he couldn’t quite describe. Had started to wonder if he had been cursed ever since. Taking up those guns, meeting those two lost souls, even before his first encounter with NK-525, had somehow been the prelude to horrors yet to come.

Even at Pullman Mine Camp, they dragged you back aboveground at sunset. There were no days or nights here; the days had all run together into one long nightmare that seemed to have no end. His knees and elbows bruised and blistered from endless hours of crawling around in these shafts, listening to the humming of the machines above, below— all around him. Time had indeed become relative in this maze of perpetual light (and underlying darkness), stretching out so that he could no longer tell minutes from hours, hours from days.

And that pair of long-dead Intruders had come to haunt his every waking moment, and much of his fitful downtime. To him, that closet represented all of this place’s dirty secrets. It reminded him of all that creepy old mining equipment on Benton Island.

And not just because of the barrels of blood he knew all too well had greased those wheels. Just like all of those discarded machines, as impressive as they were in all their die-cast glory, this place was hollow. Empty. Abandoned for so long, they no longer served any purpose. Much like the Junkyard Dogs— both here and there— having nothing better to do than terrorize the living, as if for its own sake. Yet clearly built on technology beyond his comprehension.

Tranz-D was built to last.

Judging from the apparent age of the corpses alone, this place had obviously been constructed in time out of mind. And had been deserted by human beings long before he was born. He had no idea what had become of all of the people that he was certain used to live here, but he wasn’t really sure he wanted to know.

The ghosts of this place called out to him.

Buried in the depths of these seemingly bottomless shafts and corridors, he increasingly felt that there was hidden something ominous, something big. Something monolithic and malevolent resided in these walls, possessed of a mechanical mind of its own. Everything here was possessed by digital demons, the machines now owned this place. Justin wasn’t sure how he knew some of this; the ideas just seemed to seep out of the walls and into his mind, almost as if that eternal hum were whispering its dark, lunatic secrets in his ear. Long-lost, forgotten, this place had lingered, biding its time. That it might someday reveal its existence to the outside world once again.

A force so powerful even the mighty hand that created it might not be able to stop it…

Justin shook his head. Damn place and its creepy thoughts… He refocused his attention as he sat on a box in yet another closet, waiting.

It was becoming increasingly difficult, dangerously difficult, to focus. The vent grill had already been removed, an instant escape hatch. Still he sat across from the door, laser staff handy to destroy the controls in case a certain Enforcer Unit should happen by. Every time he tried to do anything, there was that damn NK-525 on his ass.

Only the Enforcer stood in his way to freedom.

And, as if his very meditations on the mechanical monster had somehow summoned it, that tell-tale rattle of tracks came into earshot. Even as that sound drew near, as it inevitably did, he sat, prepared to retreat should that bastard decide to pay this particular closet a visit. Though not without leaving it some kind of clue. This time he was in luck, and NK passed by without even slowing down a bit.

Justin continued to listen to the source of that ominous sound as it passed on. Waited until it had quieted down a bit, so he relaxed slightly. Then tensed up again at the thought of what he was about to do, for he had an idea.

A really nasty idea.

Justin Black had been on the defensive for far too long, as far as he was concerned. He now stepped out of the closet, one of the fallen misadventurers’ guns in each hand. Moving as silently as he could, for he was still not entirely certain of any of the machines’ auditory ranges, and didn’t care to find out the hard way. Time seemed to slow down with every step as he prepared to make his move.

As he peered around the corner, he spotted his adversary a couple lengths down the hall. And seemingly oblivious to the fact that its quarry had somehow managed to sneak up on it. He was behind NK for a change.

Justin got the feeling that this didn’t happen to the Enforcer very often. He smiled for a moment at how he had turned the tables on his tormentor, savoring this moment. This was his first good look at his enemy, and what he beheld was a nightmare sculpture of steel.

For a second, he almost lost his nerve, then—

“Hey! NK-fucking-525!” Justin cried as he stepped all the way around the corner. And from there, he let his guns do the talking. He had no idea how much ammo was left in those ancient power clips, but with both barrels on each one fire-linked, spitting laser beams in a back-and-forth stream from alternating barrels, he vented his rage in raw energy. “You tin-plated son of a bitch! Your mama was a power-shovel!”

A rather useless tactic, he figured, insulting a machine, but he did have a lot of pent-up fury to unleash while he was busy living dangerously.

His shots splashed harmlessly off the Enforcer’s industrial-strength armor. Of course, he hadn’t really expected to do a lot of damage, even from behind, and, as always, he hated being right. It was only after the left-hand power pistol ran out of juice that he regained something resembling common sense, and decided to beat a hasty retreat. And just in time, as NK-525 wheeled around to face his sneak-attack.

“HALT!” NK-525 blared at him as it began its counter-attack. “SURRENDER! RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!”

“Fuck you!” Justin screamed over his shoulder as he ran for his life.

Even as he snapped off several more shots with his remaining gun, he remembered his words when Max first spoke of training. Running? What the hell kind of fun is that? Now he was finding out for himself.

Earlier, when he still had the element of surprise, he had gone about gouging the walls and floors with his laser staff, marking the way back to the closet from four different directions. And being sure to trip a couple hall scanners while he was at it. Now he kicked a small box out of the doorway, suspecting that NK wouldn’t give him enough time to operate the controls this time, shutting the door behind him as several glancing hits ricocheted off it. Being a pulse weapon, and not subject to the ammo limits of his guns, he used his staff to demolish the control panel.

That, and he wanted as few sparks as possible, given what was inside this particular closet. It was when he first discovered it that his vicious plan had begun to form. That accomplished, he scrambled past sealed tanks marked with bright red warning labels as he dove into the vent shaft. He could already hear the Enforcer at his door, spouting its usual threats and commands, blasting away at the door as he scrambled madly, not wanting to be anywhere near this closet when that bastard finally broke through the door.

After many increasingly long seconds, he managed to get around the corner a way when at last it happened.


And NK-525 fired its super-laser one more time.

Which was where all those compressed tanks of hydrogen came in. Years ago, back in the Triangle State, he had seen a shipment of such tanks unloaded off the docks while he was out and about, overheard someone saying that a stray shot from one of their sidearms could blow the shit out of the entire ship. But it wasn’t until Justin stumbled upon such compressed tanks again years later that he would realize its long-bottled-up potential.

The noise was deafening, even louder than the explosive death of Trevor Fitzgerald, almost as loud in Justin’s ears as the end of Pullman Mine, as the Enforcer was blasted violently back across the hall. And Justin crawled for his life, trying to shield his face as best he could against the blast of heat and dust. He was desperate to be alive— even if it was only for a few seconds longer than his tireless hunter.

That motherfucker’s goin’ down if it’s the last thing I do!…

After a few moments, the heatwave of the explosion subsided as it washed over him, and Justin opened his eyes to discover that he was still alive. Of course, there was a distinctly suicidal feel to this plan, he knew that from the beginning, and he was glad that his kamikaze vision of going down with his foe hadn’t come to pass after all. As he inched along, he found he was finally able to banish the ghosts of those two dead men from his head. He had scored a blow of vengeance for them. For himself.

For all the Intruders out there, whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For the first time in days, in ages, he felt he might have a fighting chance of finding his way out of this twisted maze.

Though he resented the fact that he couldn’t go back to see his handiwork. To confirm the kill. Alarms were blaring after that last attack, just like on his first day here. He had no interest in battling the robo-guards so soon after surviving NK-525, despite how much he wanted to finish the job and piss on its broken remains.

Little did he know just how vulnerable the mighty Enforcer Unit was now.
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