The penultimate episode in Season 3 of my Insurgency series! A freebuild for the Marauders. Please comment, rate and enjoy!
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30th June 2094
Tank: "You have to keep your aim steady. Arm up." I instructed and gave Tracks' arm a nudge.
Tracks: "That would be easier if you hadn't made me out of scrap..." he muttered dryly, as he took aim again.
Tank: "Hey! I did what I could with what I had!" I replied, stepping back and watching as Tracks took another shot at the target. Recently, I'd been teaching Tracks how to fight. Jarred had taught me and now I was passing on what I had learnt. He'd already become quite proficient in hand-to-hand combat, so we'd now advanced to guns.
Despite his last miss, this time he hit the target dead centre.
Tank: "There you go!" I grinned.
Tracks: "Hmm.. Maybe you didn't do too badly after all." He remarked with an approximation of a smirk.
I laughed and gave him a playful shove.
I enjoyed having Tracks around. He was like Jarred had been before the incident in Dr. Lobotomy's lab had turned him sour.
Speaking of which, I heard a clatter from inside the cave, followed by angry grumblings. I rolled my eyes in annoyance.
Tank: "That'll do for now buddy." I informed. "Gather up the stuff."
As Tracks set about tidying up, I went inside to find Jarred crashing around.
Tank: "What's the matter?"
Jarred: "There's no bloody food anywhere in this dump." He complained, throwing an empty crate aside - one that should have been far too heavy to simply toss like that. I'd noticed a lot of occasions like that recently. Jarred just doing things that he, in theory, shouldn't have been strong enough to do. More and more I'd begun to wonder what the serum he'd been injected with had actually done.
Tank: "Well then let's go to town." I suggested. "Get more supplies."
Jarred: "I can't be bothered. Another time." He grumbled.
Tank: "No. Now." I enforced and he glared at me. For a moment, I was scared, but then his expression died down. "We need food - let's go shopping. Come on. We've not been to town together for a while now. It'll be fun." I insisted with a reassuring smile.
Jarred: "I doubt that." He retorted, but I ignored him.
Tracks entered the cave and deposited his armful of stuff on the table.
Jarred: "But the droid is staying here."
Tank: "That's fine." I said, trying to appease him. At least he hadn't refused to come to town with me.
Tracks: "Excuse me. 'The droid' has a name." He retorted with an accusational tone.
Jarred: "Yeah, 'scrap'." He replied.
Tank: "Okay; Tracks, stay here. Jarred, let's go." I instructed hastily, before the two of them got into a fight.
22nd May 2097: Present Day
With the Viper flying at its limits, I skimmed through the night-time cloud cover that hung over what had once been Knightborn. Before it’s destruction at the hands of the mad General, James Corvin, the founder of the Aurelian movement, Knightborn had been a thriving, densely-populated region of the planet. Well known for its friendly trading zones as well as its famous botanical gardens, its destruction had shaken not only the planet, but the system.
Now it lay in ruins, somewhere down below me. Brought down by ancient bombs and the plans of a madman. Relief efforts were still underway, but the re-building process would take years, probably decades and the mental scars would last even longer. I had my own memories of that fateful day, having been there when it happened and having only survived thanks to Eris’s powers, but right now, I had more pressing matters on my mind.
Darkblade had both Cat and Aurora hostage and was holding them in the old Knightborn West rail shuttle station. So right now, my thoughts were focussed on getting there as fast as I could and rescuing two of the people I cared most about in this galaxy.
Having come straight from, first of all, discovering that Mr. Grey had been my father’s best friend and then confronting and killing Zeth Stripe, the man I’d believed to have murdered my parents, my emotions were barely in check. The night-time flying had done them some good, but I was still a mess inside. Not only had I just killed a man with my bare hands – it had turned out that he was innocent. Okay, yeah, he’d done bad things, but he wasn’t my parent’s killer. That job had been carried out by none other than Jarred Zeal – the man I’d called my best friend during my time in the cave on Iapra. He’d been like a brother to me, so to hear that he’d murdered my parents had been like a knife to my heart. But on top of that, as he was already dead, shot by the GI right in front of me, I could never get justice for my parents or even find out why he’d killed them.
So as I brought the Viper into land on what I hoped was a safe patch of ground close by to the station, I was having a hard time keeping my emotions in check.
I made my way on foot through an open emergency exit, into what remained of the station, carefully skirting around areas of ground that seemed unstable. The entire area was deserted – there was not a soul in sight. Wild animals were rare as it was on Qoter, so the fact there were none in this wasteland was unsurprising. I passed through the dust and rubble-filled atrium, pistols at the ready and constantly keeping an eye out for Darkblade and the girls. I knew he was in here… but I had no idea where.
The station was a big place. Situated right on the border with Illbliss, it had mostly survived the bombings, but as most of the surrounding area had collapsed, it had been abandoned along with the rest of the region. However, I knew that a few trains and shuttles still passed through here, so as I searched, the occasional rumble of a passing vessel came as no surprise.
As I crept down an unmoving escalator, a nearby rumble made the roof above me shake and dust rained down all around me. The main power was out but the backup generators had obviously kicked in, as dim, emergency lights lit the underground labyrinth. I stalked along platform after platform, searching desperately for any sign of Cat, Aurora or Darkblade himself, but initially had no luck.
And then, finally, as I crept onto platform 11B, I found them.
Darkblade was stood on the platform, still as a statue, sword in one hand and a gun in the other. As I looked out along the long, slender platform, a wall ran along the right-hand side, dividing it up from platforms 9 and 10 and two sets of train tracks ran along the left and I saw with horror that Cat was laying unconscious in the middle of one set of tracks and Aurora was on the others. Beyond the parallel sets of tracks, Platform 12B sat covered in building equipment. Nearby a high-speed train rumbled past, shaking loose more dust.
Darkblade: "I've been waiting." He announced, unmoved. I looked from girl to girl, from track to track, wondering how on Earth I was going to save them. "Waiting for this for a very long time."
Tank: "Oh yeah? And what do they have to do with it? With us?" I asked, hoping to appeal to the mysterious figure's humanity.
Now that I knew Zeth Stripe was not in fact Darkblade, as I had believed him to be for some time now, I was completely baffled by who this guy was and why he had it in for me.
Darkblade: "They have to do with you." He replied, still without having moved, as I approached and finally stopped a couple of meters from him. It took all my courage not to turn and run, but I had to save the girls. I had to rescue Cat.
Darkblade: "You care for them." Darkblade continued. "And as I told you before, I am going to take everything and everyone from you. You care for these women." He stated, finally moving and indicating to their unconscious forms laying on the tracks nearby. "And so they are going to die."
Tank: "I won't let you kill them." I defied.
Darkblade: "You can't stop me." He replied bluntly. "You have neither the manpower to get past me, nor do you have the speed to rescue them in time."
In a horrifying moment of truth, I realised I had no way of knowing when the next trains were supposed to come through - I had no idea how long it would be until their lives were ended.
As if reading my thoughts, Darkblade informed,
Darkblade: "The 02:43 to Regentis will pass through platform 12 and the 02:55 to Rosili will pass through platform 11."
I glanced at the platform numbers - Cat was on the platform 11 tracks and Aurora on the tracks for platform 12.
Darkblade: "Oh, and by happy coincidence, the 02:43 is delayed by exactly 12 minutes."
My eyes widened in horror as I realised that the trains would arrive at precisely the same time! I wouldn't be able to save them both!
I frantically checked my watch to see what the current time was - 02:38. I only had 17 minutes to rescue them! Darkblade chuckled at my predicament and I knew for certain he had planned every moment of this.
Tank: "Why? Let them go. I'm here now."
Darkblade: "Are you not listening? I said - it's not enough simply to kill you. When death comes, and believe me, it is coming, it will be a relief after the pain you've endured."
Tank: "I've already ready lost so much..." I pleaded.
Darkblade: "But not everything. Not yet. But you will. Tonight, you will lose the little you have left and then and only then, will I kill you."
I looked between the girls, clueless as to how to rescue them. I had no plan. No tricks up my sleeve. No backup on its way to help. All I could do was try to get past Darkblade and get the girls off the tracks. That was priority number one. Once they were off the lines, then I could deal with Darkblade.
Darkblade: "Tick tock, Tank." He taunted and with determined roar, I launched myself at him. Darkblade clearly hadn't expected a full on assault and as I crashed into him, the force of my tackle made him drop his weapons and drove both of us off the side of the platform.
As Jarred and I trudged through the golden sand towards the nearby town, I chatted away, trying to get him to engage in a decent conversation with me. For the most part he was silent, but the longer we walked for, the more he started to reply. Initially he just responded with grunts and murmurs, but slowly he began to actually talk.
Tank: "... So when I get a chance, I'm going to take his arm servos apart and remodel the whole joint. See if I can get it any more stable." I explained, talking about Tracks' stability issues.
Jarred grunted again. I knew he wasn't fond of Tracks, so I changed the subject again, for the umpteenth time on this short journey.
Tank: "Jarred, what's gotten into you recently?" I probed. "Ever since our trip to the frozen side of the planet you've been acting weird."
Jarred scowled, clearly not wanting to talk about it, but I pushed the topic.
Tank: "You were fine until that doctor injected you..."
Jarred: "It wasn't that." He interjected quietly.
Tank: "What was it then?" I asked, keeping a sensitive tone.
There was a pause and I could see Jarred figuring out what to say.
Jarred: "Just something that was said. While we were there." He finally admitted.
Tank: "Where? Tied up in the lab?"
He nodded in response.
Jarred: "I realised something."
Tank: "About your daughter?" I assumed, remembering what he'd told me at the time about how his daughter had been kidnapped and killed by a drug gang. But to my surprise, Jarred shook his head.
Tank: "About what then?”
Ahead of us, the sand began to give way and I could see the edge of the gorge where the town was situated.
Jarred: "It doesn't matter." He grumbled.
Tank: "It does. To me. Jarred, you've been like a brother to me. You saved me from the crash, looked after me, taught me how to fight and survive. I probably wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for you." I confessed. "So please. Tell me what's wrong."
I had hoped that my little speech would get Jarred to open up and tell me about what was clearly on his mind, but in fact, it seemed to have the opposite effect.
Jarred: "Look. Just drop it, okay?" He growled threateningly. "We're here now anyway."
With a sigh, as we reached the top of the gorge and began the climb down, I resigned myself to the fact that I'd just have to wait and try getting Jarred to open up another time.
Together, with unified grunts of pain, Darkblade and I crashed onto the train and rail shuttle tracks.
I landed on top of my black-clad enemy, but his armour absorbed the impact of hitting the tracks. Very swiftly, he threw me off and I landed a couple of feet away. The fall onto the metal hurt, but not badly enough to stop me from swiftly getting up again.
Darkblade growled as he advanced towards me. He threw several heavy punches, but I managed to duck and dodge most of them, however, the final fist connected with my arm with enough force to send me spinning away. I gripped the platform wall to stop myself from falling and as I did so, it occurred to me that by forcing us both down onto the tracks, I'd inadvertently dumped us into a fight arena.
I turned back to my enemy, but Darkblade was already upon me. He grabbed me by the shoulders and yanked hard, pulling me off my feet. My back crashed right onto one of the rails and I groaned in pain as Darkblade strode towards me again.
I scrabbled across the gravel to try and get back to my feet, but a heavy boot connected with my side and I crashed back onto the lines.
Darkblade: "You're just as weak as ever." He growled as I got back to my feet, wincing slightly as pain radiated from my side. "Who the fuck are you and what do you want with me?" I growled in reply, thoroughly fed up of games and deception.
Darkblade: "Someone who wants you dead - the cause of your final breath." He replied dramatically, without actually answering the question.
I threw a punch in his direction but he deflected it with ease and returned one of his own, knocking me back.
Tank: "...and two red fruits and three green, please." I told the trader and he nodded, babbling something in his own, alien language. He scooped up the requested items and handed them to Jarred who deposited them into our shopping sack. I paid the stall keeper and gave my thanks, then we moved on.
The marketplace was alive with the chatter of an uncountable amount of dialects, all merging into one cacophony of sound. Added the calls of traders, the bartering of patrons and the general sounds of movement and goods being shifted, it was almost deafening. But I enjoyed it. It was busy, sure, but I enjoyed the people. When you spent so much time either on your own or with just one other person, being surrounded by people was, to me, a welcome relief. In a way, it reminded me of growing up in New York.
As we moved on from that particular stall, I smiled to myself as I remembered the first time Jarred and I had discovered this town.
Jarred: "What you smilin' at?" He asked.
Tank: "Just thinking about the first time we found this place."
Jarred: "Rockin' up half dead." He replied, recalling it for himself. "Dehydrated, starving..."
Tank: "Lost. Confused. So pretty much the same as today then! I joked and for the first time in a long time, Jarred laughed. "Not much has changed!"
Jarred chuckled again and I couldn't help but grin at the smile on his face. For a minute, it felt like it used to. Just the two of us. Laughing, joking and making the best we could out of our situation. It was like nothing had changed, and it made me genuinely happy.
I leant against the platform to stop myself falling and as I did, I looked over to where Cat and Aurora lay motionless close by. Time was of the essence, I knew that, but with Darkblade constantly on me, I could do nothing!
Even so, I made a dash for them, but barely a meter away, gloved hands grabbed my arm and with a cry, I was slung back up onto the platform. I groaned as I skidded across the paved floor, my arm burning, having nearly been yanked out of its socket.
As I pushed myself to my feet, Darkblade's booted foot kicked me back to the ground. My head hit the bottom step of the stationary escalator and again, I groaned in pain - my head throbbing and the world around me spinning.
Darkblade: "And here I was hoping for more of a fight." He growled, advancing towards me. "Time's ticking, Tank. You'd better get up! The girls don't have much time!"
Everything around me was shifting. I couldn't focus on anything, everything was swimming. I wanted to stand and fight, but with my head this fuzzy it was almost impossible.
Nevertheless, I forced myself to stand and ready myself for the next attack, hoping that I was facing in vaguely the right direction.
Darkblade: "That's more like it." He approved. Now FIGHT ME!!" He bellowed and I swung. I didn't know if I was close enough to actually hit him, but my vision had improved enough that I could at least see the man somewhere in front me.
Unfortunately, I was miles off and my punch swung through thin air. Darkblade roared in anger, almost as if my lack of fighting ability was genuinely pissing him off. I saw a fist heading my way and made to dodge it, but too late. It collided with my face and I reeled, grasping onto the bannister so that I didn't fall.
Darkblade: "Pathetic!" He spat and another blow hit my shoulder. A third caught me in the stomach and I doubled over in pain, but I wasn't there long because with a crack, that I was sure was my nose breaking, Darkblade's knee crashed into my face and I toppled over backwards.
Jarred and I were inside the little shop where we bought our bottled drinks. The store sold a huge variety of liquids, apparently from around the whole star system. and stocked everything from Tulrisian ale to good old water.
We were laughing and it was the first time in a long while that I'd felt this relaxed around Jarred. It felt so good to be laughing again.
Jarred: "I wonder if he sells motor oil?" He joked.
Tank: "I don't know, but Tracks'll be gutted if he doesn't!" I replied with a grin.
Jarred: "We could always just fill him with Whiskey and see what happens!"
Tank: "Yeah, I'm sure he'd love that!" I laughed as I pulled out a crate of bottled water.
And then came a scream.
I frowned at the unexpected sound, wondering if I'd heard correctly, but then more cries came and I looked out of the shop front window to see people all rushing past in the same direction - all running from something. Or someone.
Jarred: "What the hell's goin' on?" He growled, his good mood vanished in the blink of an eye.
Suddenly, a passer-by dived through the doorway and slammed it shut after him.
Alien: "They here! Soldiers!" The alien shouted in heavily accented English, panicked.
Tank: "The Imperium." I breathed.
Sure enough, on the other side of town, a squad of soldiers were making their way through the market place.
Lieutenant: "Weapons ready, people." Their leader commanded. "They're here somewhere. Zeal and Foster will be recaptured in no time."
I gasped for breath as I hit the escalator, but Darkblade was on me in seconds. Blow after blow struck home. My arms, my shoulders, my chest, stomach, legs...
My body screamed in agony but all I could do was feebly raise my arms in a pathetic attempt to stop him. Darkblade whacked my arms aside and with a cry brought both fists down on my chest.
I coughed blood and tears streamed down my face. But they weren't tears for me. Yes, I was in more pain than I'd ever been in before, but I was crying because I knew that nearby, Cat and Aurora still lay helpless and were running out of time. I had no idea how to save them, apart from attempt to fight back.
Darkblade grabbed my belt and with a powerful tug, wrenched my still-holstered pistols off and threw the assembly aside.
Darkblade: “This is just you and me.” He snarled, throwing down another punch to the face. “Come on!” he urged.
Darkblade: "You learnt nothing, did you!" Darkblade shouted, as another fist connected with my side. "You thought death was an escape. Well you were wrong. And now you're paying for it."
But I had no idea what he was talking about and although he was talking to me, I got the impression that he was saying it simply because he needed to, rather than to actually tell me anything. As the beating continued, I realised that, even though I was in pain, my vision was gradually getting better, to the point where I could actually judge distances again and the world had stopped spinning.
A rail shuttle sped past nearby, shaking the whole building and causing Darkblade to pause just momentarily.
But it was enough.
I brought my knee up into his crotch. Yes, it was armoured, but I still used enough force to knock him backwards slightly. Darkblade had taken so much out of himself by beating me, that he was running low on energy. I got up as quickly as I could, ready to press my attack, but Darkblade had already recovered and was stood ready...
Jarred: "GI?!" Jarred snarled and I could see his brain over-thinking, his eyes darting all over. "This was a trap..." he breathed in realisation. "You brought them here!" He shouted at me and threw the shopping sack aside.
Tank: "What?! No!" I exclaimed in shock. Why would he blame me?!
Jarred: "After everything I told you... I TRUSTED YOU!!! You led me into a trap!"
Tank: "No, Jarred! Why would I do that?!"
Jarred: "You cut a deal with them. You told them where I was so that you can be free!" He assumed wrongly.
Tank: "No! I would never do tha..."
Jarred: "YOU BROUGHT THEM HERE TO KILL ME!!!"
Tank: "Jarred, no! What the hell is wrong with you?!" I shouted back. "You've not been right ever since you got injected! You're not the same! You're antagonistic, grumpy and a down right pain to be around! I did not tell them we're here!"
And with that, without giving me a chance to explain or tell him how stupid his theory was, he attacked.
With guttural roars coming from both our mouths, Darkblade and I charged at one another.
We collided in a fury of flying fists, attacking each other as hard and as fast as we could. Punches were blocked, punches scored hits. Kicks were dodged, kicks knocked the opponent back. I managed to catch Darkblade off guard with an elbow to the side of his helmet and he staggered away a step, giving me time to get another kick in on his leg.
The force brought him to one knee, but he kept fighting and sent several quick jabs into my stomach. I coughed in pain and stepped back for a moment, which gave him time to stand again. I was fighting as hard and as fast as I could, but it still wasn't enough! I glanced over to where Cat lay on the tracks, still unmoving and unaware of the impending danger. I had to save her! And Aurora too! I'd never forgive myself if anything happened to her. To either of them!
Jarred threw a right hook at me, but I dodged backwards, avoiding it. He came at me again but this time I didn't move quick enough and his punch sent me crashing into a wooden crate of bottles. Liquid soaked my back and cascaded onto the floor around me.
The shopkeeper yelled at us in an alien dialect, gesturing wildly, clearly angry that we had damaged his wares and that we were fighting in his store.
Jarred: "They won't take me back to jail, pal!" He growled as I pushed myself back up. I was going to respond, but Jarred threw another punch and I had to jump aside. I grabbed a glass bottle as I did, and threw it across the shop floor at him. He dodged and it smashed on the floor behind him, much to the annoyance of the shopkeeper. Under normal circumstances I wouldn't have even considered smashing up other people's property, but now I was so riled and fed up of Jarred's attitude that I wanted to fight him.
Outside, the squad of Imperium soldiers were advancing through the town, the local inhabitants fleeing from their path like insects from the light.
Soldier: "Both targets are in the store, sir."
Lieutenant: "Ready up. Move into position. Shoot to kill." Their Lieutenant commanded and the squad began setting up position not for from the store, the shopfront clearly in view.
As Darkblade and I squared up to each other again, the tense silence was broken by the echoing honk of an incoming train. A glance at my watch told me it was 02:44. I was running out of time and fast!
I had to something and do it now!
I leapt towards my enemy but at the last second, changed direction and sprinted towards the edge of the platform, charging as fast as I could towards Cat.
And then a boot caught me square in the back and I flew headfirst down onto the tracks, my forehead hitting one of the metal rails.
With my head throbbing and my vision swimming once again, I heard a heavy pair of feet drop onto the gravel behind me. Hands grabbed my shoulders and I was swung with a crash into one of the walls.
Groaning in pain and with my stomach threatening to reproduce my last meal, I cautiously pushed myself to all fours. Cat was just meters away! I reached towards her but then cried out as I was hoisted aloft again and found myself sailing through the air, before landing painfully in a pile of crates crates that were stacked against the far wall of Platform 12.
Lieutenant: "Open fire!" Came the command and milliseconds later, the sound of gunfire echoed throughout the low buildings of the small town, as the entire squad let rip on the liquids store.
Jarred started to come at me again, but as he did so, bullets began flying through the thin, dried mud and sandstone walls.
The window shattered, showering glass everywhere and I dived for cover behind a solid-looking container. Glancing up, I saw Jarred leaping in the opposite direction and hiding down behind a couple of crates of his own.
I flinched as a bullet struck the side of my container, but thankfully it didn't penetrate through.
Jarred: "You brought them here!" He shouted over the din.
Tank: "Open your eyes!" I yelled back furiously. "They're trying to kill me as well! Not just you!"
Just then, crying out in his native language, the shopkeeper made a dash for the door. But, as he slung it open, he was struck by several bullets and collapsed, dead, with a terrible scream.
The crates I'd crashed into contained an assortment of building materials that all spilled out onto the disused platform around me and I moaned in agony, barely able to move, my back having struck a metal barrel.
My eyes were streaming as I dragged myself to my hands and knees, but then a metal chain was flung around my neck and pulled tight from behind and I began choking. Darkblade used the chain to yank me to my feet, my shoes barely touring the floor and my hands frantically grabbing at the chain noose around my neck, trying to loosen it, as I desperately gasped for air.
Darkblade: "You should have stayed down." He growled as he flung one end of the long chain over a metal girder in the ceiling. "Now you get to watch as your failures catch up to you."
He flung the other end of the rope over the girder and heaved down on the two loose ends, hoisting me into the air by my neck.
I could barely breathe, but the more I struggled, the worse it got. Kicking and flailing only increased the pressure on my neck, but even so, I desperately tried to get free.
Darkblade: "2:46, Tank. Time's running out." He updated from below me, as he tied the chains onto a railing, leaving me dangling helplessly, looking out over both girls, still unmoving on the tracks.
In the distance, a train horn sounded, echoing throughout the dark, underground tunnels...
Jarred: "You betrayed me!" He yelled over the gunshots and the sounds of bullets crashing into the wood, stone and glass surrounding us.
Tank: "How?!" I exclaimed incredulously from across the room.
Jarred: "I trusted you!" He shouted and knelt up.
Tank: "Get down!" I urged, but he wasn't listening any more.
Jarred: "You led them here! To kill me!" He continued, no longer seeing reason. No longer in a fit state of mind.
Tank: "Jarred, get down!" I shouted again, flapping my arm urgently at the ground.
Jarred: "They won't take me!" He screamed. "Not before I kill you!"
And with that, Jarred leapt to his feet and, amid the hail of bullets, charged across the shop floor towards me.
I was prepared to defend myself, but I didn't need to. Half way between his hiding place and mine, a bullet tore into Jarred's leg. With a cry, he staggered forwards one more step, before another lead case ripped through his chest.
The force of the bullet brought my friend to the ground, flat on his back. Soundless and unmoving, his eyes wide and unseeing.
With a gasp, I finally managed to hook a couple of fingers through my noose. Just enough to let me gulp down some air, but not enough leverage to free myself. It was barely enough for me not to die from oxygen deprivation!
Below, Darkblade scooped up a metal rod and tossed it between his hands.
Darkblade: "You know..." he began, still examining the bar in his hands. "There was a time..."
He paused and let out a low chuckle.
Darkblade: "No. No, not yet." He muttered, and for the second time I wondered if he was actually talking to himself.
Darkblade: "Not yet." He repeated, looking up at me. And then with a grunt and a powerful swing, Darkblade brought the metal bar into my stomach.
I gasped in pain, already short on breath, as the remainder of my air was knocked out of me. Darkblade swung again and battered my side.
I cried out in agony as the length of metal repeatedly smashed my body. I was swinging around now, dangling by my neck as the force of each blow bashed me around.
Darkblade: "They're going to die, Tank. And you're going to be alive just long enough to get to watch." The masked man taunted and suddenly, as my body took another blow, I went numb.
I stopped feeling the pain, instead focusing on looking out over the tracks where two of the women I cared most about lay helpless and about to die.
Tank: "Jarred!" I called again, but still he lay unresponsive on the ground and still the bullets flew around us.
I army-crawled my way out of cover, keeping as low to the ground as was possible, and made my way over to where my only friend lay motionless.
I checked his pulse, but he had none. Blood was oozing through his clothes from the holes in his leg and chest and his eyes were glazed over.
Jarred was dead.
I wasn't aware of when they started, but as I lay with my head on Jarred's still chest, I realised my face was wet with tears. I was in shock. Jarred was gone - but another part of me knew that if I didn't act now, I would soon be too.
With a sniff and a wipe of my face using my dirty jacket sleeve, I calmed myself. Right, this was it. I had to escape before one of those bullets found its mark in me.
I looked around for a possible exit and spotted another door. I didn't know if it led outside or if it went to a store room, but anywhere was better than my current position.
Keeping to my army crawl, I made my way to the door and carefully pulled it open and looked through. It was a store room, but there was natural light, meaning there must have been a window of some sort.
With a final, regretful glance back at the man who'd been my only friend for the last 6 months, wishing beyond all else that I could have saved him, or at least, taken his body with me for a proper burial, I crawled down the single step into the store and pulled the door closed behind me.
Still keeping low, but venturing up into a crouch, I spotted the window I had deduced must have been present and knew that it was my only way out. I tested the lock, but it was so old and rusty that it was jammed shut.
There was only one thing for it. I grabbed the nearest crate and threw it hard at the glass, causing it to shatter, and fresh air blew in, bringing with it the increased sounds of gunfire.
I carefully climbed up and in just another few seconds, dropped down onto the solid dirt ground outside. Without hesitation, I was off at a sprint, heading through the narrow alleyways between buildings, back in the direction of my cave.
Darkblade, panting from the exertion of beating me, looked down at the bloodied, metal rod in his gloved hands. After a moment's thought, he tossed it aside, bored of his torture weapon.
Darkblade: "You know, the people you care about tend to have a habit of dying." He commented, but I was in too much pain to really listen at this point.
I was focussed on the girls - it was all I could do to stop myself passing out from pain.
Darkblade: "Your parents. Your 'Uncle' Barnaby. Jarred. That kid who hung around with the Archmage and another one of their lot -a girl. Tracks...." he paused. "And now these two."
I took a juddering breath, desperately trying to remain conscious.
Darkblade: "People around you just don't do well, do they. Oh well..." Darkblade continued. "Soon, the world... the galaxy, will be rid of you. You've simply let too many people down. And that's why I'm gonna kill you."
I threw open the cave door and leapt inside. Instantly Tracks turned to me, as I began scooping up our few meagre possessions and dumped them into a rucksack.
Tracks: "What on Iapra is the matter?" He asked, concerned.
Tank: "The GI are here. They're coming for me." I explained hurriedly.
Tracks: "Where's master Jarred?"
Tank: "He's... I began, but faltered. "He's dead." I finished quietly.
Tracks: "Oh... He stated, his head drooping. "Well, they won't take me. I say we fight!"
Tank: "No. Not this time, buddy. I'm sorry."
Tracks: "But my training...!" He resisted, his shoulder cannon emerging from its concealed compartment.
Tank: "I'm sorry, I really am. Please... I can't lose anyone else today." I explained and Tracks let out a sad whir, his shoulder gun retreating back into its shell.
Tank: "I'm going to have to shut you down. I'm sorry. But when this is all over, once I'm out, I'll come find you again, I promise."
Tracks groaned sorrowfully and I gave him a quick hug.
Tracks: "Very well. Then, instead of goodbye, I shall simply say, good luck."
Tank: "Thanks, buddy. You too." I smiled and for a second longer, simply admired my own creation, wondering if or when I'd ever see him again. Then, with a heavy heart, I reached behind his neck and flipped the power switch.
His glowing eyes went dark, and I was alone.
Wiping away tears, I began to hurry. I shifted aside a load of junk and grabbed my datapad. Seating myself at the table, I hit 'Record'.
No, I shouldn’t use my real name, just in case. I tried again.
Tank: "Voice-log 1.1. My name is Robert N... aaarh, no." I muttered, my head in my hands. If the GI ended up with my datapad, I didn’t want them knowing my real identity. "Voice-log 1.2. My name is Bruce Ryan. I've... naah, no it's not. ARGH! Why can't I DO this?!"
The pressure was mounting. I knew the GI would be on their way by now and would likely be close by. I didn’t have long. I had to make sure that the little information I’d discovered so far about my parents deaths stayed secure.
Tank: "Voice-log 1.3. My name is Chain... no. ARGH! NO, NO, NO!" I slammed both of my fists onto the wooden table top and let out a long sigh, attempting to calm myself. Then with a shake of my head, I went for it. I knew I was out of time now.
Tank: "Voice-log 1.4. Oh stuff it... My name is Chain Rockwell. I'll have to be quick, I don't know how long I've got before they find me. The GI have arrived. Jarred is dead and I've shut Tracks down. I fear I'll be next. I am recording this in case that DOES happen. I was on a mission. A mission to discover the truth.... "
It was at this point that my monologue was interrupted by shouts from outside, not too far away.
Tank: "S**t! They're nearly here! That's all I have time to say. If you find this message, then you must be worthy of completing my quest, as I'm going to lock this message on a secure datapad in a hidden location in my base." Even as I said it aloud, it sounded precocious, but I had to make it seem overly dramatic, in case it was broken into. I had to try to and throw any intruders off, but then I realised… "But of course if you're listening to this then you already know that. Bloody idiot, now I've wasted time!"
Voice: “This way!” I heard a voice call from outside, as the shouting or orders grew louder.
Tank: “Oh balls... If you're listening, PLEASE. You MUST take up my mission, the truth needs to be told! All the information you need is in my safe. The password is Lana. Please... I beg you!"
I punched the ‘Stop’ button and ended the recording. Leaping over to the wooden workbench where I’d hidden my little safe, I shoved my datapad inside and locked it.
No sooner had I stood back up, the Imperium arrived. The doorway filled with soldiers, shouting orders and commands at both each other and myself. I stood still with my hands on my head and in seconds, several pairs of hands grabbed ahold of me.
The hands of my captors.
Tank: “Why?” I breathed, hanging limply from my metal noose. “Why do you care?”
Darkblade: “WHY DO I CARE?!?!” he bellowed turning back to me, seeming to snap. “I care, because I am one of your many failures!”
Even in my beaten state, I frowned.
Darkblade: “I am one of the many you have led to their graves. Tell me, Frank Foster, how many people have you let die? How many fools have followed you and fallen?”
I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. My throat was too tight.
Darkblade: “You broke every unspoken law of friendship. You used me to get what you wanted. I thought you were different. I trusted you. Believed in you. I was never a ‘good guy’, but you were – to begin with. You were the light to my darkness.” He continued, once more turning his back on me and looking down at the girls on the tracks. “We were partners. Opposite sides of the same coin.”
My frown deepened as my confusion grew. Who the hell was this guy? Did I know him?
Darkblade: “WE WERE BROTHERS!” he screamed, grabbing a crate and throwing it hard at the knot of chains tied to the railing. The chains came loose and I crashed heavily to the floor, landing in a bloodied, beaten pile.
Darkblade: “We were brothers…” he repeated quietly, standing over me. “And you left me to die.”
Reaching to my neck and fumbling, pulling the chains away, allowing me to breathe, I gazed up at the masked man standing over me, wondering just who he was. I only ever had one friend I called a brother…
And he was dead.
Darkblade: “You left me to die… So now, once you know who I am, allow me to return the favour.”
Darkblade reached up and in one movement, removed his black helmet…
To reveal the snarling face of Jarred Zeal staring down at me.
The marketplace set.
The set for the shop where Jarred died.
An alternative picture for Tank hugging Tracks.
The set for the rail shuttle station.
The escalator set. This was separate to the rest of the set so that I could slide it backwards and forwards to act as the escalator for both platforms.
A cool photo I took when Tank was being hung.
As my series is going to be jumping around though time, I will include a date on each episode and add it to the timeline at the end of each episode so that you can follow it.
amazing story twist. I guessed dark blade was jarred in some earlier episode. I really like the cliffhangers you leave at the end of the episodes but it also ticks me off because crap! I have to wait another week before I can read more
great story as ever
Yeah, this was awesome :P great to finally see it all coming together, and I loved the way the modern day meshed with the past. Knowing what you were going for, I was a little sceptical as to how well it would work in this form, but it turned out great! [IAD]
Yes! Jarred is Darkblade! I bricking knew it! Ahem. Sorry. Got a little excited... Amazing episode man! I loved how you went back and forth between the two fights, the builds were amazing, and this might be an odd thing but this answered the question I was about to ask about wildlife on qoter. :P anyway I can't wait to see what happens next!
Magnificent episode! My main issue with this episode was that last episode had sorta pinned Darkblade to Jarrod, lessening the supreme reveal at the end. I did love how you flip flopped between the past and present to tell the story from both times, and seeing how they both line up into one final cliff hanger
A fantastic penultimate episode indeed! Great reveal at the end, and it's really cool to finally have the flashback catch up with the start of the series! Awesome work, and I'm looking forward to the season finale! So many questions that require answers now!