((55 - Mezame))
June 1st, 802 AT. 10:38 AM.
The chaos was controlled, industrial. No screams, only a mass of engines. Ships were dropping out of the myriad docking bays scattered throughout the Roost, and families scrambled to assemble their belongings. Quite a few had already evacuated, but the majority of the people of the Roost were still on it. Now, they desperately raced to their ships, trying to seek refuge.
The Quinn was as Kasby had left it--fueled up and ready to go. As promised, Ammon had removed the locking clamps, in expectation of the Quinn's imminent departure. There was only one problem. The doors of the docking bay, directly above the ship, were still sealed tight, and Kasby knew there was no way he was going to get a radio line to a docking coordinator now. He stared up at the sealed doors for a moment, and swallowed. "...Giraffe, go get in the gun turret."
"Yay guns!" The overeager woman said, climbing up the ladder to the top deck as fast as she could.
"Goat, Zebra, help me prep for a takeoff," Kasby ordered, climbing the ladder to the Quinn. "We're leaving, NOW." He settled down into the cockpit and pulled down on a lever. He picked up the intercom, busily hitting some switches with his other hand. "Giraffe, target those doors above us and make us an exit." Goat and Zebra flitted out, helping warm up the engines.
Giraffe aimed the HAVOC upwards and clenched down on both triggers. She hadn't trained on the gun as long as Skunk had, but over the previous month they'd all learned the basics of operating it. The doors above them rang, dented, and then ripped open outwards, as the metal flew off in chunks under Giraffe's onslaught of bullets.
"YEAH!" Goat cried enthusiastically, resisting the urge to leap around the cockpit.
With a flare of boosters, the Quinn shot up through the shredded doors, out into the Void. Overhead, the fog was a solid mass of red. The demons were so thick the fog of the Void itself glowed with their sickening red hue. They were in all shapes and sizes, all glowing that same red. None of the actual larvae, though, just their possessed demons...
"Oh, fun," Giraffe said, sarcasm dripping off of every word.
"Less sarcasm, more bullets!" Kasby shouted vehemently into the radio. He launched the Quinn into a spin, keeping the wings tucked in, heading up into the cloud of demons. Around them, half a dozen other ships were leaving the Roost through the top docking bays, riding out to battle in defense of their home.
"That's a lot of targets," Goat said, fumbling for his spear. He found it after a moment, leapt to the back deck.
A trio of winged demons, all vaguely scaly, came flying in towards them, shrieking. The demons were maybe half a meter wide. Giraffe hadn't let up the stream of metal for a moment, and her bullets tore through the first one in a shower of dark blood.
"Deploying Goat-Cannon!" Goat said, and leaped. He shot towards the demons like a dart with legs. He hit the second one full on, and his spear pierced its throat. It hacked up black blood onto his chest, then fell away dying. As fast as he had hit it, he pushed off, using its body as a launching pad to get bak to the ship.
With a cold expression, Kasby slammed on the throttle of the ship and wrenched a lever back. Ahead, the third of the demons swirled down, out of the area of Giraffe's fire. The Quinn leapt forward, engines roaring. The boosters kicked up and blasted the ship forward into the last demon. It smashed full on into the creature, which made a sicking splick as the ship smashed it to a pulp.
Around them, hundreds more demons swirled out of the mist past them. Many landed on the surface of the Roost, and screams started to fill the air. Kasby threw the Quinn into a roll, dodging past the flaming wreckage of a ship that had been run through by a small demon. Below them, it impacted against the Roost with a brutal crash.
Another demon, this one looking like a cloud of dark smoke with horns, came swirling in towards them.
"Where... do I aim?" Wondered Goat.
"Shit!" Giraffe bit her lip, and shot at various parts of the demon, though her fingers were starting to go numb from the constant vibration of the cannon.
The bullets flew through the cloud harmlessly as it flew down towards them. It extended its horns, the spikes shooting through the air.
Kasby angled the Quinn down, the engines roaring as it swept down towards the underside of the Roost. "Giraffe, switch the ammo cartridge!" The spikes cracked through the airspace the Quinn had vacated moments earlier, whipping past Goat and Giraffe.
"Doing so!" Next to the gun were several large canisters of various types of ammunition. She grabbed a cartridge and slotted it in, clicking the feed to the base of the HAVOC.
The cloud shot its horns at them again, this time aiming for Goat. He dodged it and leapt onto one, but it snapped back into the cloud faster than he could hold on.
Giraffe stood up, and went back to firing madly at the demon. The new rounds she had swapped in were not bullets, but rather the magic-draining crystal shards. They shredded through the cloud, dissipating it in a whiff of colored light. The horns crumbled into dust. She smiled. "Well, that works too."
((56 - Salva Nos))
The ship fell down at high speed, almost level now with the Roost. They could see, below it, dozens of ships falling out of the bottom of the base, out into the Void. Kasby pulled back the controls, leveling out the ship as they cruised along the underside of the Roost.
"Hey, look!" Goat pointed down and ahead. A ways below, five demons hung in a circle. All lacked the telltale red glow. As they watched, though, the demons dropped away into the fog at high speed. "They weren't red!" Goat said.
"I noticed," said Kasby. "We don't have time to deal with them anyway. Just make sure all these people get out."
A cracking noise rent the air, followed by another. The Roost was shaken by several large explosions from above it.
Suddenly, something large and red slipped out of one of the docking bays. It fell towards the ship that had just vacated that bay. It was pod-like, with seven twirling appendages. It spread them wide, and wrapped them around the falling ship. A series of runes and diagrams glowed across its tentacles, and the ship exploded in a shower of metal and debris. The creature flipped away from it, swimming through the air towards another falling ship.
"Giraffe, take it out NOW!" yelled Kasby, steering the ship parallel to the beast. "NOW!
"With pleasure!" She spun the HAVOC to face the creature, and opened up with the crystal shards, aiming at the main body.
The creature whirled to face them, and its tentacles traced a series of hexagons in the air. Where the tips of its tentacles trailed, the lines stayed glowing in the air. The crystals smashed into the hexagons and shattered. Its attention now fully on the Quinn, the creature turned around and swam towards them.
"Well, at least we got its attention," remarked Kasby gruffly. He yanked the controls to the side, tilting the ship horizontally, and flared the boosters just as they passed the Octo-Demon. The creature shrieked as the backwash from the engines played over it, leaving a dark burn across its back.
"Grr!" Goat held his spear tight in his hands, and launched himself off the deck at the demon. It snapped out of one of its tentacles, and caught Goat deftly, wrapped around him several times. "Gurgle!" He exclaimed in surprise.
"Noo!" Giraffe yelled, and stopped firing, out of fear of hitting Goat.
"Giraffe, use the grappling hook!" Kasby barked over the radio. "Hit the tentacle near Goat and he should be able to grab it!"
Now close-up, Goat could see the runes were etched into its skin, deep gray scar tissue. The runes near him started to glow, and he could feel the tentacles heating up. He struggled, but couldn't do much with his legs bound. Fortunately, his arms were free, and he began stabbing violently at the tentacle that held him with his spear.
Five of its other tentacles had begun tracing a more complex pattern in the air, but at this new attack, it shrieked even louder than before, and rather dramatically let go of Goat. In fact, the entire tentacle fell away with him, still wrapped around him, ripped off from where he had stabbed it.
"THE GRAPPLING HOOK, GIRAFFE!" Kasby shouted. "NOW!"
Finally finding the right switch, Giraffe clicked the gun over to the grappling hook, mounted below the barrels. She swiveled it down, and fired at the falling tenta-Goat.
The hook went flying a good ways past the tentacle, but Goat managed to push off the tentacle with enough force that he could grab the rope as it went past.
Giraffe clicked another button, and the rope began to retract in, pulling Goat in with it. Zebra ran to the back deck and helped Goat aboard.
The creature's other tentacles finished their runic drawing, coalescing into a crescent moon shape. The shape swirled around the creature, healing the burn marks across its core, and smoothing over the stump of the lost tentacle.
"Well, aren't you full of tricks," Kasby muttered under his breath. "Let's see you do that again. C'mon, heat up!" said Kasby, swerving by the Octopus and trying the same trick.
This time it was ready, and swirled its tentacles into an array of pentagons. The fire harmlessly splashed over the magic shield.
"Okay, that isn't working, what now?" Asked Giraffe.
"Needs more crystal-bullets!" Goat said, nodding vigorously.
The creature roared, and traced out another runic symbol in the air.
"This," said Kasby, flicking a switch on the controls. The first of the Quinn's heat seeking rockets roared out towards the Octopus Demon.
Lances of light streaked out of the new rune, towards the ship--
Three of the lances swirled towards and smashed into the rocket, meeting and exploding in the air. The fourth kept going, and hit Zebra solidly in the head. She went flying back, skidding across the deck, unconscious instantly.
Goat leapt to her, catching her, as Giraffe watched, aghast. She was fine, just unconscious. He quickly ran to the ladder, carrying Zebra, and ducked down into her room, laying her out on her bed.
Kasby picked up the intercom again. "This thing knows who and what we are. Those lances of light weren't random: there were four, one meant for each of us." He paused, unsure of what to say next. "...Be careful."
The world was one of swirling red light.
Zebra stood on a platform, a simple hexagon. The air around her was full of lines, shapes, swirls of colors of all sorts. A pathway of light slowly fell into place in front of her. She went up it, seeing that there was nothing much else to do--and if it was a dream, no point delaying.
The pathway curved, bringing her to a massive diagram of the creature, covered with runes. It floated in the air, highly stylized. The central circular head, with seven lines extending out from it. One of the lines was crossed out, scribbled over.
The creature hissed, and began to swim through the air towards the ship.
Kasby pulled down a lever, and the Quinn rocketed backwards, engines choking as they ate their own backwash. "GOAT, GET UP HERE!" yelled Kasby, not even bothering with the intercom.
He shot back up to the deck, in time to see the creature pulsing towards them, gaining quickly as the Quinn flew backwards. It flew lopsidedly, almost limping on the side that had lost a tentacle to Goat.
Kasby kept his eyes fixed on the creature in front of him as he spoke to the leaper. "Take your spear to Giraffe. Have her light it up, and then plant it on the Octopus thing. Fast."
He barely turned to Goat. "THEN GO!"
Goat leaped to Giraffe, who quite obliging put her hands on the metal tip, concentrating as much heat as she could muster into it. After a few seconds, it glowed white hot.
The creature paused in the air, beginning to trace again.
"Goat, do it now!" Kasby yelled from the cockpit.
Goat nodded, and leaped at the demon, wielding his fiery harpoon of justice.
The demon traced a circle with one tentacle, then flitted through it--and didn't come out the other side.
Goat sailed again through thin air, out towards nothingness. "Whaa!" He exclaimed.
"....DAMN!" swore Kasby, blaring the boosters and zooming towards the falling Goat.
--the creature wrapped around the Quinn from behind, already on top of them, tentacles smacking against the top deck, sending the ship bucking off to one side, horribly out of control. A cracking came from the left as a tentacle crunched one of the wings against the side of the ship.
Zebra walked forward, examining the lines. As she did, she noticed that her fingertips were trailing white lines behind them, glowing in contrast to the red around her. She moved her hands in front of her for a moment, creating patterns.
She stopped, eventually, and reached down to touch one of the lines with the shiny white. The dot she left overwrote the red line. She slowly scribbled out that entire line, then paused.
Kasby managed to get the Quinn under control, and Goat landed deftly on the deck. The ship bucked sideways as the creature twisted, trying to bring its tentacles to bear on the crew.
Giraffe was desperately swinging the HAVOC around, trying to point it down at the tentacles. One of them smacked down in front of her, forcing her to dodge back and away from her gun.
Suddenly, though, the creature shrieked, and that tentacle lost its red glow, falling limp.
Zebra slowly began to trace over the entire drawing with her finger, line by line. Bit by bit, the white light spread outwards from the image she had traced, driving back the red, fighting it away. She stepped back, trying to stay away from the lines, especially where they touched. The red lines now swirled furiously, fighting back against the growing white.
Zebra retraced her lines, trying to help the white. With her help, the last of the red flitted off into the edges of the space, vanishing entirely. She smiled to herself, as the world faded into a calm white.
A second tentacle lost its glow. Then another. Then another, and another, and another. The last of the tentacles ceased to glow, and then finally the pod. It let go without warning, drifting away from them.
Kasby spun the Quinn away from it, speaking into the radio as he did. "...Giraffe, I don't know what just happened, but would you mind blasting that thing to hell?"
"No problem," Giraffe said happily, extending her hands and letting loose with as much fire as she could.
A wave of peace and calm settled through the world. It almost felt like it was smiling around her, and Zebra couldn't help but relax.
Then fire cut through the world in a horrible nightmare apocalypse of pain and agony and torment and--
--she woke up in her own bed. Aboard the Quinn. She... didn't scream. She lay there, calming herself. She could hear the scream, though, echoing in her mind, and from--from above deck, too. A sound of sorrow and shock. She ran upstairs as quickly as possible.
Giraffe was standing, staring at the blackened corpse of the creature, floating out into the Void away from them. "That was beautiful," she said triumphantly.
Kasby paused. "That... did not sound normal. It sounded... sad."
"Maybe we should stop killing the non-red ones so fast?" Goat suggested.
Kasby turned back towards the fleet of falling ships. "But who are we to decipher the thoughts of demons...."
"Non-red?" Zebra asked in confusion, prompting the others to notice her return to the deck. "What happened? What color was it?"
"Lost its glow, didn't it?" Goat said.
Kasby nodded. "It stopped glowing... But even before the devourers showed up, I was killing plenty of demons, years ago. None of them sounded like that."
Zebra took a step towards Kasby, frowning.
He didn't turn to face her. "Have another dream?" He said, a little more coldly than was necessary.
Giraffe stepped up and slapped Kasby hard across the face. He didn't react.
Zebra smiled at her, and looked coldly at Kasby, then dismissed him, speaking to the others more than him. "Not the dream of any human, at least."
Suddenly, a new noise filled the air, much louder than the roar of the refugee engines around them. One they were all too familiar with. It came, echoing out of the docking bays above... the sound of shattering crystal.
And suddenly, the Roost itself was falling towards them. Almost ponderously slowly, it began to twist, tumbling as it fell.
"...the core. The core broke." Kasby's eyes shot open. "GET SOMEWHERE SAFE!" he shouted to everybody around him.
"Make the ship leap!" Goat yelled.
With a blaze of the boosters, Kasby shot the Quinn forward, trying to make it out from underneath the Roost.
"Well, that can't be good," Giraffe said to herself as she held for dear life to one of the consoles, Goat and Zebra next to her.
They streaked towards the edge, the metal rending and twisting and falling towards them, darkening the sky--
--they slipped out from under it by a hair, as the Roost fell past. They could see it, then, falling away into the Void, tearing itself apart as it fell.
Kasby slumped back in his seat and breathed a sigh of relief. "That was too close."
Something enormous came out of the heart of the falling mass of debris below them. It swirled upwards and outwards, and threw its four massive arms out wide, throwing off dozens of smaller demons clinging to it. The creature was gigantic, easily as large as the Roost itself had been, hundreds of meters tall.
It was humanoid, with yellow skin, and nine glowing yellow eyes on its face. It stretched its arms, flexing them experimentally, and looked down at itself. The bottom of the creature faded into obscurity, into the Void. The Void around its bottom took on a yellow hue much like its eyes, and then swirled up to envelop it. There was a sound like the wind screaming through too tight a hole--
--and the yellow mist dissipated, leaving empty Void in its wake. The creature was gone.
There was a long silence, as the last of the remaining red-glowing demons flitted off, vanishing into he Void, their work apparently finished.
"Let's... let's get going," said Kasby quietly.
Giraffe nodded slowly in agreement. Goat and Zebra said nothing.
Below them, the last escaping survivors had vanished, falling away towards Sector One. Without another word, Kasby brought the Quinn around in a wide arc, pointing them down towards Sector One, and triggered the long range engines.