Chapter 6

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The dark metallic hall expanded far into the earth, only a small white light moving through them, the sound of armor clanking and a mix of footsteps both light and heavy reverberating throughout the hall. Cleo, Curi, and Caelos moved slowly behind Durrus, while Horrus trailed ahead at the very edge of the light. He turned to the rest of the group, still walking deeper into the earth.

“Come on, just pick up the pace, there’s nothing to worry about up here yet.”

Durrus muttered something under his breath. Cleo shifted her focus over to Caelos.

“Hey Caelos, question. The last compound we were at had at the least some dim lighting. What happened to them here? Do some compounds have them and others don’t?”

“Well, if memory serves me correctly, I think most of our power came from the central compound. If the connection was ever cut, we would be stuck with emergency power, enough just for lights and doors to work. Maybe vermin damaged the emergency generators?”

Cleo raised an eyebrow at her.

“Uh… power? What kind of power do you mean?”

“Oh that’s right… Perhaps I can explain fully sometime later. But we have machines that generate something called electricity, a type of energy that can turn on the lights, open the doors, and work our machines, weapons, and transportation.”

“Huh… Where are these emergency generators then? Can we see them?”

“I do not think so. I am unsure where they are already, somewhere down below likely in maintenance tunnels. It would be too dangerous if you encountered any vermin down there.”

“Shoot. Maybe we can have some luck at excavating the first compound…”

“Hurry up, there’s a new room up here!” Horrus yelped back to the rest of them.

The group upped their pace, entering a room far more spacious than any they had seen beforel. The stafflight bounced off of its surroundings: a collection of various misshapen metal boxes and thin, black-topped table-like platforms. The mix of these two strange platforms created an artificial maze of machinery as far as they could tell. Every strange metal box was a device of the sort, each one featuring one of many random features including several small metal switches off the side below a cracked screen, pipes extending out of the top of them, a row of clock-like measuring devices behind glass embedded inside of them, or thin ajar panels, hiding even more switches and meters. Curi hurried over and hopped onto one of the belts, looking inside device after device, noticing several grates inside one, several studded wheels in another, and a collection of bores in another. The room lay silent, all except for a few noises of note: a periodic clicking reverberating off of the metal floor, with an occasional hiss echoing through the room.

“I think I know where this is.”

Everyone turned to Caelos.

“It’s our automated production facility.”

Durrus sighed. “How about some terms we can actually understand?”

“Oh, right, my apologies. Simply, if we needed any new tools, weapons, construction materials, and so on, we’d insert the minerals and ores required into one part, it’d move along these things,” she pointed at the table like platform “from machine to machine. Then, all of the parts would be assembled into what we need without any Ya’chosh input.”

The rest of the group still stared at her, their minds trying to process what she had said.

“You put in materials and it will make tools and other necessities.”

A resounding “Ahh…” came from the group.

“Unfortunately, I do not think this facility will ever work again. Not without the central compound’s generators.”

“That’s a damn shame.” Durrus said as he glanced around. “Ah well, let’s keep moving then!”

“Hold on,” Cleo interjected, “could we possibly restore those generator things you mentioned?”

“If you are able to restore power, I do not believe everything will move properly. It has been ages since it last worked, and most of the internal machinery likely is jammed or rusted up.”

“Internal machinery?”

“Other parts inside of them make them work. I do not really know how to explain further than that.”

“Huh… Maybe later we can get one of these things outside-”

Horrus stamped his feet. “Can we get moving now? Come oooon!”

Cleo whipped her head towards him. “Keep your mouth shut unless you want to attract crawlers!”

Durrus stepped between the two. “Both of you, would you please keep quiet? We got more to worry about here than personal scuffles. Now then. let’s still stick close together, and deal with any crawlers as silently as possible, got it? If we encounter any, I’ll ram and try and pin the thing, and either of you two will finish the thing off quickly and quietly, simple as that.”

The trio of women reformed behind Durrus, Horrus still leading at the edge of the light. The group continued, weaving around machine after machine, coming across newer, more bizarre looking machinery. They passed by metal arm-like tubes extending out of the ground, bent over the platform with either claw-like ends or sharp, pin-tipped ends, larger deformed box and cylindrical devices with several pipes running out of them. A few times, they did encounter a lone crawler. At the sight, Durrus would charge forward, ramming the creature with his shield and pinning it down on it’s back, making motions with his hands ordering Cleo to come forth to finish it off. Unfortunately, at every encounter, Horrus would knock him off of the bug, sending Durrus crashing into the ground, finishing it himself with a few violent axe blows. Despite being proud of his work, he only got a “Damn it Horrus!” from Durrus or a punch on the shoulder from Cleo. The crawler was still killed, and only rarely did a second one immediately investigate the crashing. As they continued deeper into the mechanical labyrinth, a crawler suddenly leapt down from the top of the machines, hissing straight at Horrus. He let out a guttural yell, and charged straight at it with axes in hand.

“Kid, do you think I was joking when I said to keep quiet?”

The bug leapt straight at Horrus, who swiftly dodged to the side. It tumbled straight towards the rest of the group, crashing straight on top of Durrus. He quickly grabbed onto its snapping maw trying to stop it from taking a chomp out of him until Cleo came to his aid, cutting off a few of its legs. It reeled back a bit in pain, enough room for Durrus to draw his gladius and thrust it into its chest, killing it. By the time he threw the corpse off of him, two more crawlers climbed over the machines, surrounding Horrus as his mouth crawled into a sneer. Curi worryingly drew her rapier and charged towards one of bugs, thrusting it into its leg and quickly retracting. It let out a screech before changing its focus to Curi. Staring directly into the beast’s eyes, she slowly backed up, breathing faster and faster. As the crawler prepared to lunge, Cleo tackled her out of the way, rolling over each other before colliding with one of the machines. Durrus charged forward cutting off one of the creature’s legs. It hissed as it reared back, followed by a deft kick from him, knocking it onto its back. Cleo quickly leapt to her feet and plunged her kilij into its stomach. Horrus had already finished off the other crawler, removing his axe from its stomach with a grin plastered on his face.

“What the hell is your problem kid?”

His joy slowly melted away.

“I told you to deal with these things quietly, and stick to the plan!”

His face took on an arrogant look.

“I still dealt with them fine, right? What good are a few bugs in my path anyways?”

Durrus slung his scutum over his back and sheathed his gladius.

“Well look, either you’re gonna cooperate or you’re gonna head back up to the surface and wait at the camp.”

“Hey, I’m helping YOU guys, you aren’t helping me!”

Durrus swiped his axes straight from his hands, shoving them in his belt.

“Hey, the hell was that for!”

He tried to reach for them, only to be easily shoved back.

“When you’re ready to cooperate, maybe then I’ll consider returning these to you. I’m sure you have some sense of self-preservation, so please stay with the rest of the group.”

He grumbled, trudging behind Durrus, positioning himself right behind Curi. She happily bounced over to him.

“Didya see what I did? I managed to hurt a crawler!”

“Yeah yeah… Can I borrow your rapier?”

“Sorry, but if I did I’d have no weapon, and Durrus said I should hold onto it.”

“Ugh…”

Horrus now lagged at the edge of the light, bringing the group’s already cautious pace to a crawl. They continued around more machines and platforms, Cleo and Curi investigating each one thoroughly while waiting for Horrus to catch up. He watched with a frustrated frown as the group encountered another crawler, who was rammed by Durrus, followed by a finishing blow from Cleo, followed by a “Perfect, let’s keep moving” from Durrus. Horrus took his time, carefully glancing for anything of note on or under the platforms or on the machines. Further ahead, Curi climbed into yet another machine.

“Hey I think I found something!”

Everyone, Horrus included, sped over. She grunted a bit inside, slowly dragging something across the platform. Horrus pushed the others out of the way and climbed onto the belt, placing his hands on the object to help yank it out. The object itself was large and boxy, one end around the size of a standard round shield, slimming out the further down to a spout-like shape. The larger end had a type of grip on it, along with a translucent red gem-looking object embedded on the side of the grip. There were two other grips on the side, along with thick, sturdy looking metal crank on only one of them. Horrus lifted it off the platform, visibly struggling with its weight. Curi scuttled out of the machine.

“Caelos, Caelos! What is this?”

“That I believe to be one of our old mining tools? Yes, I think it is. I’m surprised one still managed to survive down here…”

“Well, how do I work this thing? I can use it as some kinda weapon, right?”

“It can blast right through solid rock at close range, so I wouldn’t doubt it-”

Durrus glared at Caelos, shaking his head.

“Oh God… Kid, just hand the thing over.”

“First, it’s my turn to finally get something out of this place. Cleo already got a fancy rifle, so I get this… tool thing. Plus, your hands are already full with that shield of yours. Caelos, how does this work?”

“Caelos, please-”
“If you crank that handle on the side, one full turn, it’ll begin charging. After a while, that red light will light up. You press it, and it’ll activate.”

He shifted his grip, one hand on the rear grip and another hand on the crank, stabilizing his wobbly hold on the tool. He gave the crank a full turn, and the tool began vibrating, letting out a low hum. After around thirty seconds, the red gem-looking object lit up. A devious smile crawled across his face.

“Kid, don’t do anything that’s gonna screw the rest of us over, all right?”

“Nothing wrong with testing this out though, right? Come on, let’s keep moving!”

Durrus sighed, Cleo watching with a serious look of concern as she eyed the mining tool. The group continued further into the room, Horrus this time trying to take the front once more. The weight of the tool however caused him to pause several times to re-adjust his grip. During one of these moments, Cleo stopped right next to him.

“Welcome back to the group Horrus! Glad to see that tool is working out for all of us at least.”

“Would you shut up already?”

 

It wasn’t long until another crawler clambered over one of the machines and landed in front of the party with an imposing thud, hissing menacingly. Horrus shoved the others out of the way as he ran up close

“Stay back, I think I got this!”

The crawler charged forward as well, straight towards the end of the mining tool. He pressed the switch down, and the low hum grew to a loud whirring. With a sudden flash of light blue light in front of him, a crackling noise exploded from the front of the tool, causing the entire group to flinch. As the group regained their sight, there was nothing left of the crawler at all other than a viscous stain where it once was, and a few limbs scattered around the area. A sudden screech echoed from another part of the room, and more screeches resounded through, following by even more. As the screaming settled, a new sound overtook the room: A stampede of clicking. Durrus looked at Horrus with eyes that could kill. Horrus didn’t notice, giving the tool another crank, laughing to himself.

“Holy crap, this thing is amazing! Not as fun as axes, but it’ll have to do! Say, you think it can hurt those bigger beetles that hide under the sand?”

“As impressive as it is kid, you just attracted every damn crawler to our position. What say you about that?”

“They shouldn’t be a problem-”

Two crawlers landed a decent distance away from him, screeching. He turned to them, smiling. His smile didn’t last long however, as his attempts to fire it off yielded no results. They charged forward, one of them leaping at him. He swung the tool, bashing the crawler away from him, but the second lunged and bit at him, tearing off part of his gambeson, but thankfully not cutting the skin. Another loud crack came from behind him, and the creature suddenly fell limp, the armor still in its mouth. Horrus looked back noticing Cleo had her musket drawn.

“Stop staring and let’s get moving!”

He lugged on over at full speed, lagging behind the rest of the group as they ran mindlessly into the maze of machinery, the sound of several crawlers moving a row of machines near them all to where they once were. They finally found a break in the maze, a long stretch of unimpeded wall. They kept walking aside it until they reached a shut door in the wall. Durrus mashing the button yielded no results.

“Caelos says that with no power, the doors won’t open, remember?” Cleo investigated around the door.

“Well how do we get it open then?”

“No power, however, means they aren’t locked either. You should be able to pry it open from the bottom.” Caelos calmly stated.

Cleo and Durrus tried to find some kind of grip on the bottom of the door. Finding none, she drew her kilij and shoved it under the crack in the door, using it to lever it open a small bit. He grabbed under the small gap she made and lifted the door up, much easier and lighter than what he expected a heavy looking metal sheet to be. The rest of the group proceeded through, Durrus last, letting the door drop down with a dull thud. They continued down at a considerably slower pace down the newfound hallway, Curi lagging behind, breathing very heavily.

“Hey Horrus, you owe me one again!” Cleo gave him a friendly punch in the shoulder.

“Oh, so me saving you from that sand creature was pretty important?”

“I didn’t… Yeah that’s right! You owe me two then!”

“You already said I owe you one! Plus, it shouldn’t take too long before I need to save you again.”
“Hey, just because I let my guard down once doesn’t mean I’m going to do it again!”

Horrus giggled to himself and turned his head away from her. Durrus turned to the two.

“You know, I think we need a new rule for us all. Look, if we’re going to play around with these ancient tools, let’s do the in a place where we won’t get swarmed, got it? No way in hell I’d tell you to throw away that mining tool, but seriously kid, careful with it. All right?”

“Yeah, I get why.” He looked down at his torn gambeson briefly before looking up.  “However, I’m going to test it out on a horde of bugs to see how wide this thing hits!”

Curi finally caught up. “That sounds awesome!”

“Kid, please…”

As the party continued further into the hall, Curi’s and Caelos’s eyes seemed to sparkle with enthusiasm as they walked into an all too familiar tube-like room: Another tram station. Here, time seemed to be a bit more kind to the condition of the room. Most of it was intact, the platform and trench were mostly clear of rubble. Curi hurried over and jumped into the trench, looking down the tunnel, for her and Caelos’s mood only to melt away at the sight of another landslide cutting off the rest of it. She walked back near the platform, Cleo lending a hand to pull her back up.

“Again, no luck. What’s up with these stupid tunnels anyways? Can’t at least ONE of them just be clear?”

Cleo kneeled down to her. “Hey, I’m just as frustrated as you, but this place isn’t totally devoid of worth. Come on, there’s probably another subroom here. You wanna go check it out?”
Curi’s face lit up a bit.

“That sounds good at least.”

The three hurried on over to the subroom, as Horrus and Durrus leaned against the wall together.

“This all over again huh… You know kid, why is it so hard for you to just, you know, cooperate? You seem well experienced in fighting, too much to the point that it surprises me that you didn’t enlist at all. WIth prowess like that, you’d be able to rise in the ranks in no time, and I speak from experience.”

He scoffed. “First, the military just sucks. There’s no fun in fighting other people, and people who choose to fight others are stupid as well. Second, I’m already helping you. I’ve killed way more of these crawlers than the rest of you anyways, you should be happy I’m sticking around.”

Durrus sighed. “I’m only happy if you can get your ‘hunting’ done without endangering the rest of the group, you know. There’s no glory in hunting, finding treasure, or anything else if you end up dead.”

“That’s why I won’t die, it’s been easy enough anyways.”

“And what if the rest of us die leaving you alone? How do you think you’ll get back home?”

“I’ll find some way, I’m good at navigating. Plus, dying to nature would be better than dying in a war, don’t you think?”

“Dying to a bunch of animals or dying doing your job? I’d pick the latter. At least then people know what happened to you and can give an ounce of respect.”

“Who cares about people’s respect anyways?”

“We all do, and we should. Respect is fairly important. You know what happened when people lost their respect for me?”

“What, did you ignore them like the jerks they were?”

“I was kicked out of the Mariette military, dishonorably discharged for disobeying orders. I chose doing what I wanted to do over respect and what happened? Everyone in my country hated me, I couldn’t find a job and nearly starved to death. Mercenary work was more fitting for me, pay was much better and they respected me for what I did, a lot more than Mariette did.”

Horrus gave a smug grin. “See, that’s why the military is stupid. Because of them, you nearly starved!”

“It was also the reason why I managed to survive and be here making sure all of us are still alive.”

“You should have hunted then, that would have made you money instead.”

“Like I said, everyone hated me, and they sure as hell weren’t going to buy anything from me either.”

“Well you must be doing something wrong. I don’t care about ‘respect’, yet my father and I manage to sell a good part of our hunting hauls!”

“They probably like your father more than they like you then.”

“What makes you say that? My father loves me a lot, so why shouldn’t anyone else?”

Durrus shook his head. “Probably because you’re rash, selfish… you want me to keep going on?”

“Hah, even if that were true, it’s not like they know enough about me personally.”

Durrus sighed.

 

With a light chink, Cleo shoved her kilij beneath the door of the subroom, easily propping it up a few inches, before reaching into the crack and lifting the door over her head. Curi ran in, followed by her, dropping the door down. The subroom didn’t seem to look much different from the room she had previously explored, minus glass scattered about. She walked over to the metal cabinet and opened it up, grabbing the spare rectangular bullet cartridges, eying the second spare rifle.

“Cleo, can I have this one? I need something a bit stronger than just this rapier, right?”

She closed the door to the cabinet.

“I don’t think you’re old or strong enough to handle this just yet.”

“Come on, I want something new now too!”

“The thing about these rifles is” she held up her flintlock “when you fire them, they have some kickback.” She suddenly flinched her arms back, acting as if she was firing the weapon. “Not only are these weapons really heavy, they have some really strong kickback to boot. I don’t exactly want you dislocating a shoulder or something.”

“Oh… So then I can use them someday?”

“As long as you train and are capable enough!”

“Aw yeah!”

Cleo walked back to the door, suddenly pausing and turning around.

“I just realized… You have parents back at home, right? Nobles? They must be worried sick about you…”

“Who cares about them, all they wanted me to do was take over their stupid house when they finally passed. If those classes taught me anything, it’s that all that governing stuff is boring. I’m glad Caelos told me all about Chidetah. It’s so much more interesting!”

“I never thought of it this way, but you’re the heir to your family? Nobody else in line?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“It seems like Rexius has one positive quality over Naha’Ja. Female nobles are unheard of. Well, I should say female nobles with actual power.”

“Well that’s good, being a ruling noble is boooooring. Learning all about these guns and cool weapons is ten times better than anything I learned at home. Well, the food at home was better than here to be honest…”

Cleo chuckled, before ruffling Cleo’s hair a bit.

“Glad you’re mostly happy with your choice then. Not all of us get the chance to do what we want to do in life.”

She pried open the door once more and the duo hurried back over to Durrus and Horrus.

“Nothing of interest, just more ammo and a spare rifle. I don’t think we exactly have enough free hands for that.”

“All right then, that’s unfortunate.” Durrus pushed himself off of the wall, heading towards the exit. “Formation everyone. Horrus, don’t you even think about firing that thing again, else I’ll let one of those bugs take a good chomp out of you before helping you out. There’s still a lot more to explore.”

 

The group silently returned to the edges of the facility, slowly lowering the door behind them, then continuing through the maze of machinery. They did their best to hug near the wall to find more doors to allow them to continue. They still did encounter a crawler every now and then, this time finished up by Durrus’s expected effort including him and Cleo. Not willing to risk another confrontation he couldn’t handle, Horrus sat in the back watching grumpily with Curi, who instead watched with excitement. They all came to a halt at another break in the machinery leading to another end of the room, or rather, lack of an end. As much as Curi’s staff could shine on, it revealed that the edges of the metal wall had been pushed outward, as if something had shoved straight through the seemingly impenetrable metal. Not too deeper in was the remains of that force, two massive crab-like claws the size of houses, unmoving thankfully. Durrus made a motion with his hand for the group to continue, the light slowly moving from the facility to the cave, revealing more and more of this force. The cavern grew larger and larger, seemingly dwarfing that of the facility, and within it was the source to the massive claws: A bug of unfathomable size. The claws were like human hands compared to the size of the rest of the thing, as a massive carapaced figure extended higher and higher into the cavern. All the group could see of it was the very front, which stretched from near wall to wall, the thing’s carapace making the most impressive of forts seem like a sand castle. Closer to the front of the figure were several, shorter, finger-like appendages around a quarter of the length of the claws extending from what the group could only guess to be the mouth of the beast. The light bounced off of multiple, dark, boulder-sized eyes embedded inside of the carapace. Another set of unknown appendages seemed to have been retracted into the sides of the beast.

“Dear lord on high, thank every goddamn force possible that this thing is dead.” Durrus said, eyes practically bulging out of his head.

“It’s a titan beetle! Oh my gosh this is so incredible! I didn’t think they were this big! Oooh, we gotta find the weapons you used against them too, imagine how big those must be!” Curi gushed over and over.

“I’m sorry, but… I recognize these things, even if somewhat. I know I’ve seen these somewhere!”

The group all stared at Cleo.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a thousand years old either, but our ancient history books are rather close. I remember reading up about this once back in school, from ancient legend. The Almu’ard, or “Earth Eaters”. The symbol of a massive, overly-carapaced beetle was a common symbol that all of the old ununified towns shared. If I remember correctly, the Almu’ard were the vanguard of the end times, the beings that would clear the way for the Devil to take over.”

“So you’re saying your older towns lived in the wastes before? Close enough to see THESE things?” A few more revelations and Durrus looked like his heart would explode.

“No, well… Only a few. There are two or three known towns right on the edge of the wastes, at the very edge of the fertile zone of the Naha’Ja Delta. They’re merely archaeological sites now, thought to have been abandoned because of how… well inhospitable they were.”

Curi piped up.

“I bet the titan swallowed those villages whole!”

“Perhaps so… Hold that thought actually, bring the light closer.”

Cleo whipped out her journal, flipping to a new page and writing furiously.

“So, survivors told about these things, paranoia spread, and they faded into legend?”

“Exactly, well, exactly what I’m willing to bet. I’m no historian, but I’m sure my findings will be very interesting to actual ones”

She put her notebook away.

“I’ve never actually seen one of these up close.”

Everyone looked to Caelos.

“They were uncommon, but still always in the way of mining operations. Our brightest minds had developed weapons only to repel them, however. I don’t recall us ever killing one of these creatures. They always retreated when wounded.”

“So not even the weird ghosts could kill them, that’s really comforting. Thank god none of them will stray near civilized land… I pray they don’t ever consider it either.”

“Well, those weapons should still be somewhat usable, right? If they ever do get the idea, Naha’Ja can keep them out of the east!”

“Hah, yeah right. I’m willing to bet they’d turn those weapons east instead! As profitable as it would be for me and my buddies, I’d rather not go against stuff of that caliber.”

“You’re from where exactly?”

“Was from Mariette, now I live wherever I can.”

“Maybe keeping it pointed at those greedy greasebags there is a better idea, you know?”

He laughed.

“Greasebags indeed, I’ll agree with you there.”

“What is that supposed to mean, huh?”

“Hold on, I think I notice something of interest.”

Caelos floated higher into the air until it looked like she was tugged back by an invisible leash. She glanced around the sides of the beetle from her point, and returned down.

“This titan is lying on the tracks, this is our way to the compound!”

“I’m sorry, unless you can turn giant and move the thing, I don’t think we’re going to have much luck.”

“That hopefully won’t be an issue, as-”

The screeching of a crawler cut off Caelos. It lifted its head into the air, and began screeching loudly, resounding through the cavern, in an all too familiar way.

“Everyone, run, get back to that station right now!”

The group broke into a full on sprint, as a loud rumbling emanated from behind them. Durrus briefly looked over his shoulder to notice dozens of crawlers were pouring out of unseen holes in the titan, very quickly forming an organized horde. A few crawlers leapt out at the party from the facility, blocking their path. Caelos quickly summoned an asteroid, slamming it into the side of both of them, effortlessly pushing them out of the way, before yelling “Keep moving, I can keep you all covered!” They hurried through the maze, Caelos practically swatting away every crawler which tried to leap on them from over the machines, be it from behind or in front. Only a few adrenaline-filled moments later, Cleo was quick to force up the door, motioning for everyone to hurry in. Cleo followed the group, dropping the door, before the head of one of the bugs stopped it from closing entirely. It flailed about crazily, causing the door to bounce up and down a bit. Cleo tried to stab the thing but it’s head proved too thick to be pierced. Horrus pushed her out of the way, with the tool in hand, and unleashed it on the bug. With another crack and a flash, the door closed all the way, albeit somewhat dented, with no remains of the head to be seen. There was more hissing and crashing outside, the horde outside constantly bashing at the door over and over. The group took a few large steps back, Durrus readying his gladius and shield, Cleo standing far back with her rifle, Horrus cranking the tool again, and Curi, sitting far back with a mix of fear and excitement on her face, being cradled by a stern looking Caelos. Everyone but Caelos was huffing, a thin veil of sweat slowly dripping down their faces. The banging against the door came to a sudden and abrupt end, causing the group to nearly collapse from relief.

“Hold on, we’re not out of the woods just yet. Listen.”

Durrus walked to the door and put his ear next to it for a few moments.

“I don’t hear a horde of bugs leaving at all. They’re waiting for us.”

“What did we do to piss them off? I don’t get it.”

Caelos gestured for Curi to stand up, before floating to the rest of the group.

“As I was going to say, those vermin typically nest inside of titans. They were likely trying to defend their nest.”

“You mean that thing is big enough to support a goddamn hive on it too?”

“The hives only consists of a few hundred vermin. We’ve never really had a dead one to observe up close.”

Cleo pulled out her notebook.

“How did you get that number?”

“I think… soldiers counted them when they had to prepare the anti-titan weapons. They’re very hostile against anyone who comes near the nest, even if the titan is up and moving.”

She began noting the information down. Durrus walked over.

“There’s a whole lot of useful information you’re not telling us Caelos.”

“To be honest, most of these memories are only coming back. It has been centuries since I have been here, and a millennia since I have been with my people.”

“Sometime, you’re going to have to spill everything you know for the good of all of us, all right? Now, you said through the nest we could reach the compound. Did you forget that it’s a nest of killer bugs?”

“I thought perhaps you could all think of some way through…”

“Well that’s helpful.”

Cleo looked up from her notebook, putting it away.

“Actually, I think we might have a good opportunity. Hold on, just to be sure” She walked over to the door, lifting it up a bit and letting it drop. Suddenly, more and more banging and impacts happened upon the door, them slowly stopping over time.

“We have them at a chokepoint. These vermin rifles have quite a bit of power to them, enough to be one-shot one-kill. We can grab the rifle in the subroom and have you and I both open fire as they pour through the choke, with Caelos assisting, and have Horrus deal with any that get too close.”

“So does that thing have a couple hundred of bullets in it or what?”

“I-No… But what other option do we have?”

“Perhaps… Cleo, you picked up red striped magazines, correct?”

“Red striped what-nows?”

“The ammo.”

“I remembered, we had ways for dealing with hordes as well. The red striped magazines contain explosive rounds. It should burn through them all with ease.”
“Wait, how many shots?”

“Ten a magazine.”

“I got two of them, that’s twenty explosive shots plus Caelos plus… I think thirty-eight regular shots as well. Does that sound good enough for you Durrus?”

His face brightened up a bit.

“Let’s hope these explosive rounds back a good enough punch then. Now comes the tough part.”

He walked over to Horrus.

“We’re gonna need you to blast open the door with that tool of yours and run like hell back to the rest of us. Just drop it, run back, and grab your axes. You’ll get to deal with any that survive the onslaught, but by god, wait until the firing stops, unless you want to be cooked with them as well. You understand?”

He gulped.

“Fine, just this once. All right?”

“Not just this once, hopefully more times in the future. Let’s get set up everyone!”

 

Several moments passed, Horrus was at the door, constantly knocking at it, provoking the crawlers outside. Cleo and Durrus were at the far end of the room, each with rifles with red striped magazines loaded in the bottom. She was moving around his arms and hands, making sure he had a proper grip on the gun, and showing how to properly aim with the thing. Curi stood behind them, breathing deeply, as Caelos spoke some encouraging words to her.

“Horrus, you set!”

“Let’s just get this over with!”

Durrus and Cleo kneeled side by side with the rifles up, steadily aimed right at the door. Caelos held up her hand, readying an asteroid. Placing his tool against the door, Horrus pushed the red switch and began his sprint to the rest of the group. The familiar crack and flash ensued, sending the door flying out of the frame, followed by several crawlers trying to squeeze into the room at once, crawling and struggling over and around each other. A few got through easily and were in close pursuit of Horrus. He finally got to the group, and Caelos launched an asteroid at the few outliers, easily knocking them out of the way. Then, Durrus and Cleo opened fire. With more claps like thunder, the bullets quickly flew down the hall, striking the furthest most crawlers, igniting into a show of fire, debris, and crawler body parts. They kept firing, bullet after bullet after bullet, turning the other end of the room into what they could only imagine what the inside of a furnace looked like. Timed seemed to slow down as they continued firing, watching the fire and chaos unfold slowly in front of them, red and orange strongly reflecting off of the walls. Their guns stopped firing, giving off only a small click with every pull of the trigger. They quickly ejected both of their magazines, beginning to reload.

“No need to do that, I think you killed them all.”

They stopped and looked up, noticing how the end of the room was charred black, a mess of ash and a few limping crawlers. Horrus swiped up his axes, screaming, leaping at the few bugs that remained, offing them with little resistance. Durrus stood up, wiping sweat off of his brow.

“Now THAT was impressive. It’s been a decade since I’ve felt a thrill like that you know!”

“First time I felt a thrill like that…”

“Oh yeah, you’re new to this military stuff, aren’t you?”

“Only in experience.”

Curi leapt up running over, hugging both Durrus and Cleo.

“You guys are so amazing, where would I be without you two!”

“Probably at home in a much safer environment…”

“Hey come on, it’s her choice to be out here.”

 

 


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