Aryn stood blankly as the others’ mouths all dropped open. Admittedly, he was rather enjoying his teammates struggling for words with this new load of information.
“You… were in that suit… the entire time…” Marric said, his face aghast.
“No kidding.” Silent replied, hands on her hips.
“If you’ve been inside the entire time, then…” Lyll said, contemplatively, then froze, his eyes widening. “Shower.”
The others all froze, realizing that they had been walking around naked in front of a woman for nearly four years.
“Well, they weren’t exactly impressive.” She said in an offhand manner, causing those guilty to go bright red and Aryn to snigger quietly. He was quickly silenced by four death glares, and simply stood there with his lips curled slightly.
“Anyhow, my real name is Veiss Ovada, and you can call me that from now on.” She announced, having bent down to check on the suit, Arcadio, Lyll, Marric and Rhys all still frozen in place. “Well, it’s really buggered, so it’ll probably have to be dragged out of here.
Veiss stood up, turned around, and was met with an outstretched hand. She looked up into the smiling face of Aryn.
“We haven’t properly welcomed this new you. Welcome aboard Veiss.” She took his hand and shook it, returning the smile. Standing upright it was apparent how short she was; if Aryn was just short for his age, she definitely was. She was rust coloured, with fair brown hair and a pair of captivating lilac eyes.
Veiss bent to pick up the LMG she would have wielded wearing the suit, when Aryn cut in.
“Are you sure you can lift that, it might be a bit heavy for you…” His words trailed off as she lifted the heavy object into her arms, in addition to an entire ammo belt with only a slight indication she was struggling.
“I think I’ll be fine. Better than these lot anyway.” She answered, gesturing to the other Hellfire members, all still frozen in place, simply watching the both of them. “Come on then.”
Veiss beckoned with her hand, and, with Aryn by her side, they headed into the facility. As they walked, Aryn heard some movement, and could have sworn he caught Lyll mutter ‘now I feel violated’.
After some minutes the pair reached the end of the hallway, met with the still sealed doors and some odd looks from the Brimstone crew, yet a small smile from the Overseer.
They stood around for a minute, until the rest of Hellfire finally appeared, a bit less flustered, still shooting uncomfortable looks at Veiss. Alessia stepped forward, tapping away on her PID while muttering to herself.
“Come on… just this little bit more and… done!” She said, throwing her free arm wide, looking up expectantly.
“Well that was anticlimac-“ Marric began, interrupted by a multitude of heavy clunking noises, a low rumble and many warning sirens.
The doors began to slide open, and they continued through the entrance into a well-lit excavation site. The rock tracks led down from the plateau they stood on, down into a large pit. More bodies could be seen strewn around the place, many suffering horrible dismemberment, and similar deformities.
“I guess whatever escaped got in here. The miners were probably locked in here in an emergency shutdown.” Arcadio noted grimly.
The Overseer led the way down the slope, passing old equipment, discarded jackets, hard-hats and more corpses. They reached the base of the cavern, a large hole visible in the centre with guard railing surrounding it. They stopped beside a small digger, and out of her cloak the Overseer pulled a rucksack, removing the contents onto the frosted floor. Inside were a headset, a long length of wire, a small black box and a metal device about the size of a laptop, cylindrical and oddly familiar to Aryn.
“I’ve seen that design before…” He said, causing the others to look down at the contents themselves.
“That would be those blueprints we took from Dhaqraa, correct?” Veiss asked, looking pointedly at the Overseer.
“Just the internals, but modified. I had already designed a superior case which fitted my purpose better.” She replied, linking one end of the cable to the box, and the other to the headset. Taking the headset, she spoke into it, and her voice echoed out of her own PID.
Aryn looked around at the dig site, pondering over just what they would need a mine for in such a remote location as this. There was a tap on his shoulder, and he turned to see Lyll jerking his thumb towards the Overseer, who stood expectantly with the device. He slowly walked over, and the objects placed in his hands.
“I discovered layout plans of this mine before I arrived here, and unfortunately it is not a simple walk to the target site. We will be using normal helmet communication, so you can be contacted by everyone here, however when that cuts out place this device onto the ground and use the headset.” She indicated the small black box. “I have this calibrated so I will be able to hear you while underground, and hopefully the range is long enough to get past any interference. Once you reach the bottom, throw the other device into the energy pool. I am not sure what will happen, so I recommend extracting as quickly as possible. Are we clear?”
He nodded, but before he could turn away, Arcadio, who looked at the Overseer suspiciously, held him back.
“Why him? We have more experience, why not send us.”
“He is the only one that can withstand that level of energy. His biology is somehow adapted to it; you did just see what happened outside? I have been studying this substance long before any of you were born, and I have never seen a case like that of Mr Therius. He is the only one who can do this.” She countered, holding his stare until Aryn felt the hand on his shoulder relax.
“Fine, but you’re responsible if he dies down there.”
“Actually, it is his choice as to whether he will go through with this or not.” She replied. Everyone turned to face Aryn. He swallowed nervously. Once more he was holding his life on a decision he didn’t have time to think through thoroughly.
“I’ll do it.” He announced, his voice shaking slightly. The Overseer nodded, and the rest hung their heads slightly, acknowledging he accepted the consequences.
He swung around and headed for the ten metre wide hole in the base of the central pit, which had a sizable elevator built into the side. Using a panel at the top he began to descend, and, looking over the edge, caught his teammates all staring after him solemnly.
The rocky walls seemed to close in around him as he was lowered into the dark. He flicked his visor to night vision and waited until the lift had stopped. Putting a hand to his ear, he looked around at the underground storage area.
“Ok, so where do I go from here?” He asked tentatively. There was a pause before the response came back.
“Ok, there are probably mining vehicles down there, correct? If so, go forward, pass the gate at the end and turn right after about thirty metres.”
He sighed and walked forward, passing discarded drills and tunnel bores, excavators and jeeps, noticing how all the equipment that would have been inside crates had been scattered haphazardly, as if trying to stop something from pursuing them. Ominous blood trails began to appear on the floor as he approached the mouth of the tunnel, and he instinctively drew his SMG from its position slung around on his back.
“You alright Aryn?” Lyll’s voice came anxiously over the radio.
After receiving a few more directions, Aryn had crept through the variously sized passageways, delving deeper into the mine. For many minutes at a time Aryn had remained silent, but the last pause had been the longest yet. Unbeknownst to those above, Aryn couldn’t have responded if he had wanted to, due mostly to the shock that greeted him around one corner.
A large room led on from what Aryn assumed was one of the main tunnels, and the sight before him was foreshadowed by the long trails of dark, dried liquid. As he entered the room, there were bodies strewn everywhere, those of miners, and those of the deformed creatures that had obviously chased them down here. Corpses were torn in half, decapitated or disembowelled, and the area reeked of rotting flesh, despite the time between the incident and Hellfire’s arrival. It appeared to have been their final stand.
“This sure ain’t pretty.” He responded finally, his voice muffled by the use of his arm to try and block the stench.
“What’s wrong?” Veiss spoke, nervousness apparent in her voice.
“Looks like the miners that were down here got chased and massacred. Worst part is it smells fresh because of the heat.”
“Well I would recommend you continue onwards, according to the map you are nearing the site. The target location is just through a passageway to your left. Watch yourself.” The Overseer said, and as Aryn walked forwards he noticed a strange discolouring on the wall. Disabling his NV a blue glow was visible in the semi-dark.
Holstering his weapon once more he hurried into the side passageway, and, not checking where he was going, fell down a long shaft, hitting the rock sides heavily as he went. He groaned as he pulled himself to his feet, brushing dust off of his clothes. He was at the end of another passageway, this time the rock was lined with veins of azure, the end of the hallway opening up to a brighter blue light. Behind him, a metal ladder had been planted into the wall, reaching a good five metres up.
There was a low static in coming through his helmet speakers, with occasional louder buzzes. Aryn pulled the box off of his belt, placed it onto the ground, removed his helmet and clipped it to his waist; finally placing the headset on and uncoiling the wire.
“Test, test. I’ve placed the box down; interference is heavy here. I think I’ve reached the site…”
“We heard something loud happen and then your mic cut out, so it is good you are ok. If you are at the site, go to the edge and await further instructions.”
Checking himself over for any undetected damage, Aryn continued forward, reaching the end of the hallway quickly. He whistled as it opened up into a large cavern, variously sized pools of clear blue liquid lying all around the floor, smoking whisps of a lighter blue. Large crystal formations had grown all around the area, over the walls, ceiling and floor. The cavern seemed to lead on into smaller areas, and through partition he could see mining equipment by the edge of a pool.
“Ok, I’m here, what do I do?”
“Take the device I gave you, arm it by twisting then pulling the end with the divide line. If it starts beeping, that means it is armed. Then just throw it into the liquid. Then I would recommend you run.”
Aryn swallowed, picking the device off of his belt, turned and pulled the top. It began beeping, a red light at the top beginning to flash slowly. He took a deep breath, and tossed it into the blue, where the red light sunk slowly before disappearing into the depths as he watched. There was a sudden low rumble, followed by the remembrance of the warning.
A more forceful rumble shook the cavern, some of the medium-sized crystals cracking and shattering. The veined rocks began to split and widen, the stone falling from the ceiling, either splashing into the pools or smashing on the ground. It was at this point Aryn decided running would be a very good idea.
He turned and sprinted from the room as the liquid rose upwards like a tide, quickly covering the floor, and he definitely didn’t want to find out what it would be like to touch it. He climbed the ladder quickly, and, looking down, noticed the blue glow at the bottom glowing brighter and brighter as it came into view.
‘This is new, being chased by a super-radiation emanating liquid after throwing a bomb into it. If I make it out of this, I’ll never top it!’ He thought as he rushed through the main corridors, reaching the cargo elevator after a few minutes. As he looked down into the mine, he could again make out the faint glow of blue.
At the top the others looked extremely concerned, and at his nod all began to run back up the slope, more extreme shaking as the blue glow began to appear at the mouth of the shaft entrance.
Arcadio led as they hurtled through the mine door, Aryn brining up the rear. Before he could pass, another large quake dislodged concrete from the blasted section above, falling in his path. Stunned, Aryn simply stood as another, impossibly more violent tremor sent the entire of the ceiling down, completely blocking his exit. He climbed up onto the rock, finding a small hole, through which he could see Veiss trying to claw her way through the rock.
“We can’t get through there! It’d take too long!” Marric shouted from the other side.
“I am not leaving him! Aryn I’m getting you out of there!” Veiss yelled back, trying to pull more concrete out of the way, to no avail.
He stuck his arm through the hole, and felt Veiss grasp onto it and try pulling in a desperate attempt to rescue him.
“Just go, all of you go. I’ll find a way out. You’ll die if you try. I’ll come back.” Aryn called out, but felt the hand tighten on his.
“I am not leav- Lyll let me go! You will not drag me awa- NO!” Veiss screeched as Aryn felt his arm be tugged and finally release.
Looking through the hole he saw Veiss being bodily dragged away from the wall by Lyll and Gades, kicking and screaming. She saw Aryn watching and reached out an arm, to which he shook his head, signalling for them to leave.
Aryn turned away and sat on the concrete, watching the liquid slowly rise. He put his hand to his mic, and sent a message
“I shall return to you one day. I’ve done my part.”
He could hear Veiss’ yelling getting more distant as the others dragged her through the corridor. Aryn pulled out his sidearm, looked at it judgingly, placed it beside himself, and lay back against the rock, trying to relax as much as possible.
On the other side Alessia and Marric dragged Veiss’ suit behind them as they headed for the truck. They all bundled into the vehicle, Arcadio jumping into the drivers seat, grim faced as he started the engine. Veiss was still yelling as the rig started moving, watching behind them as the hill caved in, whisps of blue licking the sky.
(Nah, Epilogue will come soon.)
That is the end of Hellfire Origins! Over a year's worth of work has gone into this at this point, and I would like to thank all those who have read the story and provided feedback, as well as contribute ideas. I will start a bit of Exile, but due to my exams this year I won't be fully able to commit time to writing as much as I would want. Anyhow, hopefully I will have Backwaters up some time after the Epilogue, so you can get a hint as to what is coming next. Until next time!
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