On board the Avondale, there is panic as the passengers realize the thing that has ensnared them is leaving Antimone. More than a few feel that the creature will no doubt consume them once it has reached its destination. One passenger, though, remains calm. He’s seen worse. James McCrane, formerly of the Vanguard’s top special forces units, begins to put a plan of his own into motion. Making his way to an airlock, he grabs a spacesuit. Starting to put it on, he grumbles to himself. “Thought I’d put this shit behind me when I retired, but nooo. Some friggin’ space whale has to put me on the menu. Fuck that noise.” he says, securing a rifle to his back and grabbing the helmet. “Yippe kai yay.” he says as he snaps it in place and heads for the outer airlock door, grabbing a set of tethers and climbing hooks on the way. “If that thing thinks it can have ME for lunch, it’s in for a huge case of indigestion.”
Once he feels safe in the vastness of the interstellar void, Kemetti drops out of FTL, beginning to squeeze the hull of the passenger liner in an attempt to break it into more manageable pieces for easier consumption.
James slaps the open button on the airlock as the ship begins to groan around him. “Damn it…” he mutters, hooking up a tether and climbing out of the airlock and onto the hull. He starts to make his way as fast as possible to one of the tendrils surrounding the ship, and then the purpose of the climbing hooks is revealed as he slams one into the tendril, hooking onto it as he looks towards their source. In that direction he begins to climb.
The Yaralu takes little to no notice of the climber as he rends the Avondale in two, heedless of the silent, vacuous screams of the passengers. He begins to shovel pieces of the vessel into his massive, gaping maw. While James may choose to go that route, he might also find a tremendous crack in Kemetti ‘s shell along the back, an ancient, jagged scar, a testament to some titanic battle, long ago.
James watches as the liner is ripped in half, shaking his head inside his helmet. He then looks back towards Kemetti. “That tears it you son of a bitch. We’re on Eastern Pain Time, and it’s James O’ Clock.” With that, he increases his pace, noting the scar, and heading for it as best he can. “You think we’re insignificant, and below you. Time to find out just how significant we can be.” he says to himself, and the more he speaks, the more he builds to a white hot rage.
Kemetti pauses in his meal for just a moment as he picks up the transmission from the soldier’s suit, but only for a moment. “You are not the first to try and slay me, nor the greatest,” comes the reply in James’ ears. He resumes his feeding, not making any move to impede the humanoid’s progress.
Upon closer inspection, one can see that the scar was once closed off with a gargantuan metal door, which has now been damaged, jammed into a half-open position.
“Famous last words. Heard ’em plenty of times.” James grunts, reaching the door. Unslinging the rifle from his back, he readies it, and flips on a light mounted under the barrel. Shining it within, he looks for any immediate hazards before he attempts entry.
As James looks within, he sees a cavernous landing chamber. This massive chamber is supported by the grey-green bones of the Yaralu that houses it. It seems to be separated into sections, one a landing area for incoming vessels, the other a huge cargo warehouse with mobile units capable of retrieving the catalogued units of cargo in minutes. The cargo area now has little stored in it, and the mobile units do not seem to be active. The entrance from space has had an airlock built into it that seems eons old, and is rent from some ancient impact. The opening is narrow, a scar that runs across the rear, dorsal end of the creature, allowing ships to slip through. The floor is made of a hard, grey material, nerveless and useable for construction. It seems to have been flattened and polished by the long-gone residents of the tremendous creature over the centuries. At the far end from the lock is a wide aperture that opens up into the main habitable areas of the life form. Tangler cannons are spaced out at varying points within the body of the creature so that in the public areas, at least two can be trained on any individual at any time.
James takes note of the tangler cannons, but at this point, he doesn’t care much. He starts his climb down, and upon reaching the floor, starts to make his way across the floor, keeping a close eye on the tangler cannons. Seeing as his comm might give away whatever he plans, he switches it off, but even then, keeps silent as he heads for the doorway into the main area.
A wide, long passage runs beneath the gargantuan spinal column of the Yaralu, with webbing stretching down from the ceiling to hold up the floor. The grey material of the floor that allowed vendors to build stalls and shops along the twisting, winding paths that stretch out from a wider street that runs straight from one end of the cavern to the other. The chamber’s floor dips in the middle, like a valley, allowing the beings traversing the main thoroughfare to see the sellers farther down the back alleys. Mobile units block the entrance to the control center at the fore end of the massive Yaralu, while tunnels wind down from the market to the chambers below. Hanging from the ceiling are huge baskets overflowing with plant life that droops down nearly to the roofs of the shops below. Lights are hung from these swaying tendrils to make up for the light blocked by the hanging gardens. Lotorians may have occasionally made their homes in the vines and branches that extend down from above. While this may once have been a bustling market, it now lies in ruins, apparently unused for centuries.
James drops down to one knee, rifle at the ready, as he takes the light and slowly surveys his surroundings. The heavily guarded area draws his attention, and he studies just what all is defending it, and in his mind, sizing up his chances.
The two mobile units are tall, humanoid figures, but faceless. They resemble Aukami in build, and have no obvious weapons. They stand perfectly still and inanimate at this time, as if awaiting the will of the mind which controls them. Above them, two tangler projectors protrude from the wall, as they do in many locations throughout the creature’s interior. Apparently, the gravity plating is still active, tied into the beast’s power generation systems.
James looks down to the floor, noting that gravity is still active. “Must be getting power from… somewhere…” he says, his eyes widening a bit. “Power…” he mutters, and begins to flash the light around the room, looking for anything that might carry power through the area.. especially to those tangler guns.
The cells that carry power likely run beneath the dead tissue that makes up much of the structure here. There are gravity generators in corners of the chamber, tied into nodes which might appear to be enormous nerve endings. “Find what you seek?” the voice asks in James’ helmet.
“Your head on a spike?” James says, flipping his comm back on. “Nope, not yet.”
“That would be a large spike,” comes the reply. A joke?
James permits himself a smirk, but continues to study the area. Particularly, a spot where he may be able to shoot, and possibly short circuit, the power to this area.
There are glowing globes that float in the air above, giving light to the area, and the gravity generators appear to be tied into the nervous system. Other than that, there seems to be no other power systems here.
James continues to think, and finally, mutters to himself. “Never claimed to be the smart type, but even if I don’t make it out of this thing alive, at least I’ll have done something for the lives it took.” he says, his expression becoming stern. Opening a pocket on his space suit, he pulls out two grenades. Holding one in each hand, he flicks the pins, and tosses one each at the mobile units, hoping with luck to breach the door and take them out at the same time. As the grenades sail towards their targets, he regrips the rifle, and begins to fire at anything that looks important to him.
The floor shudders as the grenades obliterate the two mobile units, and rip into the “door” they had been guarding, leaving enough space for James to enter. Even so, tangler projecters begin to come to life, and several immediately begin to open fire on the irritation, the immune system attacking a foreign body. “That was unwise,” Kemetti’s voice says in James’ ears.
“Unwise perhaps, but accomplished what I hoped to do.” James says, springing to life, and hoping the Teflon in the space suit might provide some protection to get into the chamber beyond. The rage returns, and he runs with all his might.
Some of the tangler material does slide off and James does make it past the door, but there are tangler cannons within as well, so James winds up running into a faceful of webs that restrains him just within the doorway.
Six bony tiers funnel down to the control matrix of Kemetti, found near the massive creature’s brain. A mobile unit sits in the middle of the chamber, capable of controlling the functions of the vessel from the banks of control panels that surround it. Weapons, Engineering, and Navigation: they are all controlled from here. A viewscreen has been installed, as well as an aging holo-projector, to show what is outside the Yaralu to any of her residents who might have access to the control room.
All that can be seen outside besides the stars are a few pieces of wreckage from the Avondale.
James struggles as the webs finally adhere. “Damn it..” he says, trying to break their grip. Seeing the parts of the Avondale outside is enough to give him strength to keep fighting. Into his microphone, though, he speaks a command. “Plan B… voice code McCrane Alpha 5 4 2. Arm.” He then addresses Kemetti. “Must make you feel pretty big, doesn’t it? The lives of those people meant nothing to you. They had families. Loved ones. People who cared for them.” he says with a snarl. “Though I figure it’s like talking to a brick wall with you, isn’t it?”
“Their lives would have ended soon enough without my intervention,” Kemetti replies noncomittally as space opens up before him and he leaps free of it into FTL. “As will yours,” he continues, “Though I have no particular need to take it, unless you create one. Do you intend to continue to do so?” Mobile units begin to appear nearby the doorway in which the soldier is trapped.
“A weak justification for murder.” James says. “I haven’t quite decided. Though you’ll be the first to know if I do.” he replies in a similar non-committal fashion. Though it seems he’s willing to maybe talk some sense into this living ship first. “A whale eating fish in the ocean, that’s nature taking its course. The whale doesn’t know any better and the fish don’t either. But these are /people/. They reason, they think, they are aware of themselves and their surroundings, as are you! You can’t use the excuse that it’s nature because you have a choice.”
“I make no excuses,” Kemetti replies as he eats up the lightyears ahead of him, “And by whom should I seek to be excused?”
The mobile units silently come to a halt. One of them begins to work on the webbing that has trapped James’ rifle, trying to remove the weapon.
“Let me put this to you.” James says, figuring at this point, the rifle won’t do him any good, so he doesn’t attempt to stop its removal. “It’s obvious at some point you had folks on board here. So what made you so damned callous to intelligent life?”
“They died,” comes the reply as the rifle is confiscated.
“Doesn’t offer much of an explanation there, bucko.” James replies.
“No explanation is owed,” Kemetti replies evenly. There is silence for a moment or two. “Your lives are short,” he says, finally.
“Short or not, it doesn’t justify your taking them.” James says. “I’m sure the people of that world would have gladly given you something to eat if you hadn’t come up all high and mighty saying ‘Feed me or die’.”
“From whom would I require justification?” Kemetti asks, “Your civilization will soon be gone, replaced by others who will select values of their choice, as yours has. ”
“Like I said, talking to a brick wall.” James says. “Well, let’s just cut to the chase. You don’t give a damn about us, and after that display, we sure as hell don’t give a damn about you. Chances are, every navy between here and Earth will be looking to hunt you down, something else I doubt you give a damn about. That rifle you just took wasn’t the only thing I had in here.” he says. “In this utility backpack is a self destruct device, which I have armed with a voice command. One word, and it goes off. I’m pretty sure that we’re close to at least one major important part in here. I may not destroy you, but I’d very easily give those hunting navies a better chance of finishing the job.” James says. He then adds evenly, “Therefore, *I* am the one from whom you need justification.”
“Your survival instinct seems faulty,” Kemetti replies. Suddenly, the room is alive with long, bony spikes, protruding from the walls, floors, and ceilings of the room to a length of six feet, a last-ditch counter-measure from the days when beings might have lived within Kemetti’s body. It is possible this is not the first time this has been attempted in 22 million years. “Mine is not,” he says, simply.
“Good show.” James says. “Not bad. Though it won’t dissuade me. Those might stop it…. or they might not. Hell, the radiation alone might give you the indigestion I set out to give.” he says. “As for survival instinct? I’m pretty sure that’s one thing you and I have in common at least. We’ve lived long enough, seen enough, we just don’t give a damn about anything. But if giving my life at least brings justice on some level for the innocents of the Avondale, then I’ve died a good death.”
With that, in an instant, one more spike erupts from the floor on which James stands with enough force to impale him from the bottom up. “Justice is a construct,” Kemtti says. To no one.
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