For those of you who are in the know and fans of our Facebook page ( http://www.facebook.com/darkageminis ), you have already seen the Dark Age: Devastation fiction we posted as a thank you for your help rebuilding the Facebook fanbase.
To celebrate the rapidly approaching March to Immortality Qualifier taking place at Adepticon tonight, we have decided to go ahead and share it with the rest of the community.
So, thanks to all the fans and loyal players out there! Also, hop over to the Facebook and get the word out...there is more to come!
Dark Age: Devastation fiction by Bryan Steele
The sandy gravel ground into the dust under Rebekah’s boots, the Ravage leader’s heavy feet leaving impressions wherever she stalked. Even though the preliminary reports from the Banes said the old Red Mesa storehouses were devoid of threats, Rebekah still was careful to not take chances. Her squad sisters were out of her current line of sight, she still had bruises from last week’s run in with the Dragyri, and…by ...all the Saints’ names…she could just feel something was out of place here.
Red Mesa. The storehouse complex of one of the old megacorps had been deserted for decades, as far as the Prevailers’ records showed, but outskirt travelers and scavengers have come in and out a lot recently. Although it had been picked over quite a bit over the years, there was still a lot of pre-Abandonment technology tucked away behind sealed doors, buried under the rubble or hidden in the labyrinthine chambers of the complex. Saint Luke had some new concerns about looters, so out went the scouting Banes and in came the odd stories about peculiar tracks in the sand and gaping extraction holes in the ground. Luke’s curiosity was enough to warrant Rebekah’s volunteering of her squad. The heretics and the sacrilegists could be moving in to set up a forward base, and she desperately wanted the opportunity to stamp out the invaders to impress her Saint. Calling three of her Ravages to her cause, she snapped on her grenade bandolier, hefted her maces, and put Red Mesa in her sights.
Under first scrutiny, Rebekah could not see anything out of place from the scout reports. Reinforced doors hung from their hinges under the weight of ten or more years’ worth of dust. The power grid is cold and dead. Half-scavenged industrial machines are sprawled out like metal carrion having been picked over by buzzards. Dozens of bullet holes pockmark the external walls from numerous engagements between competing salvage teams, their various claim-staking graffiti splotches most surfaces. A few of the old mechanoid laborers, the old Pathfinder series, sat in heaps, eerily silent and still in the gloomy open chambers. Everything looked the same as the last time she came through here – but she could just tell something was not right.
“Sister Rebekah!” one of her Ravages shouted from across the complex – disappointingly ruining any kind of stealth she was trying for. Heavy jogging footfalls echoed through the stillness as she ran up to Rebekah. The youngest Ravage in the squad, Marguerite, turned the corner at a brisk pace with worry wrinkling her brow. She had her maces tucked into her belt and carried a sizeable chunk of something in her arms, tucking it into her elbow. “I found something in the fueling depot. I think it might be a grafting component.”
Marguerite handed the oblong chunk of metallic scrap to her squad leader. It was half an arm’s length from its hinged end tapering down to the partially serrated spike-like opposite point. Made of tarnished but still very strong metallic plate, the object looked similar to the leg segment of some gigantic metal insect. Thin copper tubes poked out of the sheared off end, one of which leaked a viscous brown fluid that – upon Rebekah’s closer inspection – smelled like stomach bile or rotting meat. Whatever this thing was, she knew it was recently shorn off.
The question was, by who…and from what?
“Where did you find it?” Rebekah asked, wrapping it up with a long section of her outer robe as she spoke.
“It was jutting out of the east security door, like it was used like a pry bar or something…unsuccessfully, I might add. Those doors were still shut tight.”
“Whatever it was,” Rebekah rubbed the brown fluid between her gloved fingers, seeing the long sticky strings forming between them, “it is injured and has not gone far.”
“How can you know that, sister?”
“Because the lubricants coming out of that thing are already coagulating,” Rebekah sneered in disgust, “which means…it was recently amputated. A fresh wound.” Rebekah’s mind raced at the possibilities; Could it be the Heretic returned, finally?
“Maybe it left a blood trail?” Marguerite gasped, already turning toward the east wing.
“Good idea, we could –,” Rebekah was cut off suddenly by the familiar bang-whumpf of a grenade, verified by the rushing plume of debris and smoke flooding in from the corridor. Used to the explosions caused by their own payload, the Ravages’ ears rang for a brief moment before returning to normal.
“H-help…me…” a throaty, gurgling voice choked out to them from beyond their line of sight, causing the two Ravages to draw their maces and sprint to its source. Waiving the thick, acrid smoke out of the air before her, Rebekah gasped at the sight. Uriah, one of her longtime friends and battlefield allies, was lying – more like strewn – around the east chamber. His body was torn in two at the lower abdomen, his groin and upper thighs shredded to a ruin of ribboned flesh that looked sawed through, and both legs sent sprawling. Splashes of blood and bone-based shrapnel adorned the area all around poor Uriah, who somehow still clung to life. “No…th-th-the machine…”
“I heard the explosion! What happ –,” the fourth member of this expedition, Paull, came running around the opposite side of the corridor and froze instantly. He stood slack-jawed at the horrible sight, “By all that is Holy! A grenade failure did this?” He nervously fingered one of the det-rings in his bandolier absent mindedly.
“No,” Marguerite shook her head, pointing to the scorched ring a few feet away, “something else.”
“Shh!,” Rebekah looked around the room slowly, “something is very wrong here.” She peered at the room, trying to figure out what is clawing at her instincts, but everything looked right – covered in blood and shrapnel, but still right. The door was still sealed, the walls dotted with crew tags, the old Pathfinder stood statuesque in the corner…
That’s it!, she thought, the horrible reality of what was happening washed over her with an icy chill.
“The robot!” Rebekah shouted to her remaining squad, stamping down her rising panic with her duty, “It’s active!”
As if the mechanoid could hear and understand that its cover was blown, malicious red lights burned to life in its “eyes” and its head in the center of the crablike tower of a body swiveled toward the sound. Twin buzz saws roared to life on its segmented forelimbs, and the smell of burning meat filled the room as its internal engines rumbled to life.
“Autodetect. Organic protein sampling protocols initiated,” the robot’s grating, electronic and disembodied voice was barely audible over the sound of its weapons as it took one step forward, positioning itself between the two women and the lone male Ravage. It was a menace of metal, machinery and mystery, and one the Forsaken were not truly equipped to deal with.
Rebekah grabbed at one of her explosive canisters on her belt, and her hand dragged across the metal lump Marguerite had salvaged earlier hanging off her hip. Another bolt of realization lit up her brain as she took note that the Pathfinder robot stepping toward Paull still had all four of its legs!
“Ravages!” she ordered, taking her hand off the explosive and grabbing up a smoke charge instead, “We need to get out of here! It is not alone!” In an underhand motion she had used a hundred times before, the dull gray canister tumbled away from her to bounce noisily off the floor, leaving the fuse-ting spinning around her thumb knuckle. “Marguerite…get the door!”
The next few seconds were a blur. The huge robot jutted forward with one of its cutting blades just as Paull ducked into a roll beneath it. A shower of sparks from where the weapon left a groove in the wall joist were instantly dimmed as the grenade erupted in a plume of thick, blue smoke. Marguerite rolled two of her own grenades up against the emergency access door and Rebekah turned to the sound she feared was eminent…
…the crash of another Pathfinder coming into the chamber from further inside Red Mesa. Sure enough, just as she expected, it walked with a limp due to it missing the lower half of its back leg – which Rebekah now carried on her hip.
The door buckled with the force of the double explosions, causing stark daylight to battle against the rush of smoke and debris filling the void. Taking advantage of the chaos, Marguerite was outside first, followed shortly by Paull. Rebekah was not far behind, but she lingered long enough to see the red glimmer of even more “eyes” in the depths of the complex. Luke must be made aware of this, she thought as she backed out of the doorway.
“Go! We must get back to camp…now!” she turned on her heels to break into a run, but instantly her sight went white with searing agony as lightning-like pain stole her leg out from under her. She couldn’t tell which way was up, and the salty clay of the ground rushed up to meet her chin with a teeth-jarring impact.
“Rebekah!” Paull cried out, his gloved hands fumbling to pull her upright, but nothing he could do would make up for what she immediately realized – her right leg was opened through the bone and utterly useless. He never got a second word out however, as his chest unzipped from the next flashing strike of the robot’s saw. Paull toppled backwards, landing on his back while screaming and trying to hold his flesh together in futility.
Rebekah expected the darkness of death to wash over her, but instead it was just the mechanoids’ shadows as they ignored her and walked toward Paull – already preparing their saws for a battlefield vivisection.
“Marguerite!” Rebekah called out, shunting aside the pain and dragging herself to her knees. Coming to terms with her role in this tale, she tossed the shorn leg-piece several feet to one side of the engagement – away from the murderous robots. “Get this to Luke,” she ordered as she hurled a grenade toward one of the two Pathfinders tearing Paull to shreds a dozen paces away, “he will know what to do!”
The explosions did the trick, buckling the armor plate of one robot and causing the three-legged one to stumble forward. Paull was put out of his misery by the blast. A merciful end for you, brother, Rebekah told herself as the two hulking mechanoids turned in place to focus their cold aggression toward her, smoke rising from several puckered dents in their chassis.
“Low, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” she said her prayer loudly, pleased and emboldened by the sight of Marguerite grabbing the salvaged leg and running quickly away without even looking back. “We fear no evil…” she swallowed hard as the Pathfinders’ silhouettes blotted out the setting sun over her, grabbing two more grenades from her bandolier and thumbed off the pins.
* * * * * *
Marguerite did not so much as slow down at the sound of the explosions behind her; all she did was hold on to the cloth-wrapped metal prize in her arms that much tighter.
"Get this to Luke…he will know what to do," she whispered over and over to herself as she ran...