Trouble, Pt4

From the Story Arc: The Essence of Life

Previous Story in the Arc: Trouble, Pt3 by Krasnaya Zvezda (Sunday, March 21, 2010)

Next Story in the Arc: Playback, Pt 2 by Krasnaya Zvezda (Sunday, March 21, 2010)

(posted Sunday, March 21, 2010)

The air hummed with a sense of urgency now; there was an eagerness, an anticipatory edge to the aura coming from the crystal that both Warshades could feel. A sense of desire and an almost palatable hunger could be felt from the Nictus that were now stirring within the crystal and seeking a way out.

{Star, you know what you’ve--} Joanna looked at Red Star, worry clouding her thoughts.

{I know.} Red Star projected back at Joanna, {It’s done and it can’t be stopped, so don’t hold back.} Star continued, sparing a quick glance towards the crystal as she began wrapped herself in energy. Black tendrils writhed across the crystal’s surface, all but obscuring the purple facets as they began to extend beyond the crystal’s surface.

“It’s activating! Get up! Quickly!” the panicked voice, a recognisable voice, came from the group of Council that Star had knocked backward. “Shoot them! Get to the crystal or you’re all dead!” said Jokers Ace.

Joanna turned towards Ace, who was now dressed in the uniform of a Council Archon. He saw her and began to raise his rifle then turned and ran. {Star!} Joanna called out.

“Go, stop him. I’ll handle these.” Star said standing up as energy continued to wreath itself around her. Star, sensing Joanna’s reluctance, continued telepathically {We need to know what he was planning - Comrade Zakat and I will be fine. Go.}

A flicker of grim acceptance and understanding flowed from Joanna and, with a burst of energy, Joanna transformed into her Melmanim form and took off after the fleeing figure of Jokers Ace – hurling a ball of energy into the already partially comatose Council as she passed, leaving them lying stunned on the floor.

Star began to walk towards the other group of Council who had been hit by the desk Joanna hurled. Tendrils from the crystal began to reach towards her as she passed by, drawn towards her before slowly sinking back towards the crystal. “Comrade Zakat, we need that crystal teleporting now.”

“Almost there - this isn’t exactly easy you know. You can’t rush this sort of thing.” Zakat said, still tapping away on his PDA.

“I’m not asking you to rush, just work faster -as soon as it’s ready, teleport it to my location.” Star said, broken glass crunching under foot as she walked through the remains of the glass wall, closing on the Council soldiers and hurling energy at them as they stumbled to their feet and readied their weapons.

There were too many for her to take down on her own, Star knew that. Irrespective of what she’d said to Joanna, the crystal was too unstable for her to draw too heavily on her powers - that amount of energy would just attract the Nictus and they’d come streaming out of the crystal and that would be disastrous for everyone in this part of the city. And so Star limited herself to firing off lower level blasts of energy. These were hitting and knocking the remaining Council down but they weren’t doing enough to incapacitate, nevermind kill them, and no matter how many of them she knocked back, armed as they were with Quantum weapons, it would only take one lucky shot to place her in serious trouble.

Star fell into a pattern of sorts; a bolt of energy directed to the one attempting to extract himself from beneath the table, another to the one lying by the wall, yet another to the one with broken arm and so on. This pattern was repeated every few seconds; push the Council around, keep them off balance, stop them from regaining their feet, play for time until Zakat could teleport the crystal but each time the Council came closer to raising their weapons.

As frustrating as this was for Red Star, being unable to stop the Council more permanently; the really infuriating thing was the sirens song she could feel emanating from the crystal. It was calling to her, enticing her to just breathe in the energy it was giving off and release it in one glorious burst of energy, obliterating these annoyances from her path. The temptation was immense, if only to show these insects before her just what they we dealing with, but the freed Nictus would latch onto Zakat and, hospital teleporter or not, he wouldn’t live long enough to survive the transport to safety. And so she fought on and her frustration grew; the seconds feeling like hours, only able to do just enough to keep the Council off balance, waiting for one of them to not fall, one of them to have just enough time to shoot her.

Tendrils were now extending out from the crystal, heading in every direction, searching for some form of substance for the Nictus to feed off. Spreading out in every which way, they brushed up against her energy field and Star gave a start as she instinctively absorbed the energy, the rush momentarily distracting her. Forcing aside the sensation of well being that flooded through her, Star quickly fired of a bolt of energy at the Council solider who was attempting to raise his weapon at her.

“Zakat...” She called out, still looking at the Council before her, there were now too many struggling to their feet, any moment, all it would take is one... “Comrade, hurry up.”

“Almost there... nearly got it. So where did you— Hey!” Zakat looked up and quickly scooted away from the trendril near his foot. “Ahem, so, how high did you want this to appear of the ground?”

“How high?—Just teleport it! Now!” said Star. There were two Council rising before her now, both raising their guns. She threw a bolt of energy at one, knocking it back and shouted “Now, comrade!” as the other Council solider pointed his weapon at her. Knowing she’d be too late, she nevertheless began to face the solider - if he missed she’d be able to knock him down then worry about the others later but, deep down, she knew he wouldn’t miss, not at this range.

The solider stared right at Star, his eyes focussed on her. Star could feel the crystal’s energy building around her and, still hearing the song of energy floating through the air she gave in and drew upon it, feeling it’s energy pour into her, making her feel whole for the first time in a very long while.

If that solider did miss, it would be the last thing he did, she thought grimly

It was hard to say who was more surprised - the Council soldier, staring down the barrel of his weapon or Red Star, staring at the soldier and waiting for the blast of pain and Quantum energy - when a black cloud appeared between them.

“Nothing to worry about,” Zakat called from behind her, “you need to relax a bit more.” and then the crystal, hovering before Red Star and hidden within the black swirl of Nictus energy, lost the tenuous hold it had on its contents’ and a horde of Nictus poured forth.

Staring as she was into his eyes, Star could see the moment the Nictus hit the solider. His eyes, wide already, tightened in pain and a scream burst out from him as the Nictus swarmed over him and his colleagues. Locked away, the Nictus craved food and now they had it, in the form of the Council soldiers.

It had been reported that Nictus cannot force themselves into an unwilling host - but that was one Nictus. Crystals can hold hundreds, thousands, and these swarmed over the Council soldiers. Star could feel the screams echo within her, stirring memories she’d long thought buried. Memories from another time, another place – even from another race – awoke within her. She could almost see the scene before her – though it could have been repeated many, many times. A supply run against some unknown, unremarkable world except for its resources, the rounding up of the cattle then the resupply began. It was the curse of the Nictus in some ways, begin forced to live of other beings, but didn’t humans do the same? Still it was strange how the screams never featured in her memories, screams like the ones surrounding her. Screams like the ones increasing in intensity as yet more Nictus streamed out from the crystal and into the soldiers around her.

As the Nictus boiled around her, Star reached out and tapped further into the energy of the crystal, expanding her own reserves. For the most part, the Nictus avoided her and focussed on the Council soldiers. The few that were so blinded by hunger as to attempt to feed off her were also weak enough not to pose much of a threat and she was able to subdue and absorb them without much thought. Combining their energy with that of extracted from the crystal, she only had the slightest misgivings as she directed this energy back into the crystal itself.

Maybe it was the way the crystal was created, the way it was designed to withstand the energy from the Nictus within, but the bolt of energy Star unleashed impacted against but did not destroy the crystal outright. Star could see the crystal begin to fracture, and those fractures begin to weaken from within as the remaining Nictus contained within the crystal, reacting to her presence and those of the Council, fought to be free. She could see the fractures spread and widen, the crystal cracking as the Nictus pushed their way through until it could withstand no more pressure and broke apart.

For a split second, a wave of Nictus tore at her, screaming their cries of hunger and desire – then the crystal imploded, pulling the closest ones back inside, tearing them apart and compressing them until that too reached a critical mass and this energy was released in a furious explosion that hit Star, knocking her back into and then through the wall.

Battered, bruised and covered in rubble; Star reached out for the dying Nictus around her, those few that had survived the explosion but were now fading without the support provided by the crystal, and pulled them into her, using their fading lifeforce to recover from her wounds and restore her own energy. Pushing aside the rubble and shaking off the associated debris that covered her, Star stood up and looked around. The Council all lay broken on the floor, pieces of the crystal lay scattered around them - glittering, purple slivers lying amongst grey, dust covered bodies - and there were no signs of life to indicate survivors. The surrounding area looked similarly damaged. The wall closest to the explosion now had an entranceway into an office, desks had been upturned and paper, together with assorted debris, lay scattered about the room.

The laboratory was in an even worse state of affairs. Gone were the walls which had held the large glass windows and the furniture had been shoved further back into the room, with the few workstations that remained standing had been swept clear of their ‘valuable’ equipment. Glass, electrical components and debris littered the area before her but there was no sign of Zakat.

Concerned, Red Star began to enter the room when a rather dusty looking Zakat arose from behind one of the numerous ruined desks at the back of the room. Coughing slightly, he brushed himself down and looked around at the ruined laboratory before turning back to face Red Star.

“See?” Zakat said. “I told you there was nothing to worry about.”