Date: November 25, 3008
Location: Somewhere on the Ocean of Ossyria
The twisting metal handrail ended abruptly with a smear of dark red. A cold draft permeated through the cracks at the hatch door at the bottom, freezing the cold feet that treated over the harsh metal. Their black combat boots echoed off of the close walls as they descended into the bowels of the ship. Maldran gripped his Spas-12XPL tightly in his hands, feeling a false sense of security at his shotgun’s long deadly barrel.
A monotonous hum crescendoed as the group gathered around the metal door. Mikhail jiggled the doorknob futilely, for it was locked and bolted from the other side. Stepping back, he nodded to Naz who unsheathed a katana. With a swift upwards stroke, his blade penetrated into the millimeter thick crack in the door, slicing the bolts cleanly in two. As the door fell outward, Mikhail and Michael caught it and laid it down without a noise.
Sighing at the lack of noise, Maldran stepped through the threshold into the pitch black room. Their flashlights swept up and down the area, revealing the ship’s boiler room. Massive old-fashioned coal furnaces lined the steel interior. Maldran strolled along the metal gangplank that surrounded the boilers, feeling the metal creak and groan under his weight. He was sure the only thing holding these plates together was the rust gathering below.
“This place is decrepit…” Nova whispered in the dark. Behind Maldran, she bent over to wipe the dust off of a pitch black furnace. Walking forwards, Maldran continued along the gangway, lighting the way in front with his mounted flashlight. A drafty breeze rushed along the walkway, making his wet clothes cling tighter to his body. It was cold.
“Where do you suppose he is?” Lily asked in the dark as she strode past Maldran on the tiny gangway, almost knocking him head first into a boiler. He noticed she moved around without a flashlight, or any other form of artificial light. Those Shadow Templars sometimes scared the hell out of him…
“Let’s move our way back,” Mikhail said in a hushed voice as he urged Maldran forwards on the one-way direction towards the bow of the ship. Cursing his luck as the monkey in the middle, Maldran had no choice but to oblige.
The group gathered around another hatch door with a small musty window in the middle. Mikhail shined his light through, but the beam just seemed to reflect off of the pane as if it were a mirror. Black grime and soot covered the door as he turned the knob. A layer of thick ash disintegrated to the floor as the company walked through into a long narrow hallway.
Both sides of the corridor were lined with large random machines, their once colorful lights now dull and lifeless. The third draft blew by, making Maldran feel as if the ship were breathing, taking the deep breath before the plunge. It was the engine room, except it had been void of life for many decades or maybe even centuries. Maldran shuddered at the thought of how long the vessel could have been stranded out here in the ocean.
The only sounds were made by the squad’s boots pounding over the metal walkway. As they pushed forwards, Maldran heard the door behind them creak shut and click. He could only hope the door didn’t lock itself. Ahead of him, the walkway seemed infinitely long in the blackness as all depth perception was lost.
Suddenly, something rustled the metal above him. It sounded as if something or someone was moving around a level up. But as quickly as it started, it ceased, leaving no evidence of its arrival except for the squad’s attentiveness. They had froze on spot, not daring to move. Maldran gulped unpleasantly and advanced down the ship with hesitation.
As they came to the end of the engine room, Mikhail opened yet another door. As the metal hatch creaked open, the squad’s lights revealed a set of stairs leading upwards towards topside. They began ascending back up towards the storm. Drips of water reached Maldran’s ears as his boots reverberated off of the walls of the staircase.
The company emerged in a cramped room with machines lining all of the walls. There was a cluster of smaller mechanical objects in the middle, equally as lifeless. Two doors, one facing away from the stairs and another to the right, urged them to proceed wantonly into the unknown. A rush of cold air circled their feet like cobras waiting to strike.
Slowly filling into the room, the company surrounded the middle machines, their flashlights scanning the area for clues. As Maldran swept up and down the walls, he noticed an extremely old and dusty map of Victoria Island mounted on the wall. Blowing some dust off, he followed the routes from Perion to Ellinia and from Henesys to Kerning City, completing the circle. Looking at the date, his mouth gaped at the over 1000 year old parchment hanging on the wall. This place has been here way too long…
Maldran’s flashlight turned from one side of the northern door to the other. But then, he froze as a sharp pang of fear reached his skull. His eyes dilated as adrenaline surged through his body. Slowly making his way back, he focused his light on the doorway. The temperature of the air instantly seemed to freeze as Maldran stood rooted to the spot, unable to move. His light was being refracted around something invisible. It moved.
“HOLY SH**!” Maldran screamed and squeezed the trigger, sending an empty shell ejecting out of the chamber as the barrel of his Spas-12XPL spat out twenty pellets. The next instant, all twenty had shot straight through the doorway and imbedded themselves into the wall on the opposite side of the next room. His heart pounding furiously, Maldran lowered his shotgun in surprise. His flashlight’s beam was now unobstructed, as if nothing had been there at all. Was he seeing things?
“DAMMIT MALDRAN!” Lily suddenly screamed as the tension started to subside, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU! WHATEVER IS HERE PROBABLY HAS DETECTED US NOW!”
“But… but something was there, I know it, it was…” Maldran stuttered, trying to defend himself.
“What?” Mikhail snapped loudly as he stomped towards Maldran, “What did you see?”
“I…I saw…” But the fact was, Maldran didn’t know what he saw. Maybe it was just the mustiness of the ship that played tricks with his eyes. He hoped whatever was in the ship did not hear his shotgun’s loud remark.
Suddenly, a sharp metallic ring reverberated off of the small room’s walls, as if someone had just unsheathed a katana at breakneck speeds. As Lily and Naz both looked at each other, Maldran knew everything was wrong.
Somehow, it had gotten in the room without detection. A sharp cry of pain rang out as Felix was suddenly lifted off of his feet by an invisible being. Two knife-like claws protruded out of his shoulder, its invisibility now rendered discernible by Felix’s warm blood streaming out of his arm. With a feral roar, the invisible being hurled Felix into the ancient map of Victoria Island. His back smashed into the wall, making the map disintegrate upon impact.
Maldran tried to aim, but the room was too full of comrades for him to successfully hit his target. The bloody claws seemed to hover menacingly in mid-air. Then, it froze, as if the owner had turned to stone. Taking the chance, he swiveled around on spot and shined his flashlight upon the invisible figure, seeing the light refract around it. Squeezing the trigger again, he plugged the thing with a round from his shotgun. The large exclamation rang through the cramped room as the bullets hit.
But they hit the floor, each pellet making its own unique clang as it dropped to the metal underneath.
“Sh** run!” Mikhail ordered fiercely.
As soon as Maldran’s legs carried him out of the room, a terrible roar reached his ears. A shower of sparks told him the creature was in pursuit; its footsteps echoed noisily behind him as he ran.
The company made a mad dash in random directions in the twists and turns of the ship’s numerous hallways. Soon, in all of the chaos and confusion, Maldran could not tell if it was still following them or not. All he knew was that he was not going to look back under any circumstances. As he turned another corner identical to the many before, Maldran looked back.
“Wait! Wait!” Maldran hollered down the hall. As they skidded to a halt, Maldran found himself staring into nothingness at the dark corridor they had just come from. Silence overtook his heart as it pounded like no other. Where the hell did it go?
Suddenly, a piercing screech tore through Maldran’s eardrums. Whipping around, his eyes widened in horror as he saw the pair of bloody blades faintly in the distant darkness, coming from the opposite way that they had arrived. They bolted back, retracing their steps to another corridor intersection. This time, Maldran in the lead, they sprinted to a door which led into a spacious room full of desks and cubicles. Naz and Lily, the last two to dive into the room, shoved all of their weight into the heavy metal door. Just as the lock latched tight, the thing slammed into the other side, causing a considerable dent into the steel.
Nova kicked over a large desk in the middle of the room and took refuge behind it. She loaded her S-36X2 Seraph, ready to end this thing’s life once and for all. It crashed into the door again, creating another large dent.
“F*** this sh**…” Felix muttered as Michael and Maldran supported him while Mikhail patched his shoulder up with his heal, “Let it come. I have a bullet with that bast***s name on it!” Another crash shook the hatch.
Five mounted flashlights all took aim at the entrance to the now barricaded room. Naz and Lily stood quietly behind Maldran, their S-2000X pistols hanging lazily in their killer hands. The entire room seemed to tremble with fear as the thing crashed into the door once more, leaving claw-like imprints indented into the metal. Maldran could see the hinges of the door begin to loosen out of the wall.
But then, silence once more. Maldran could not seem to breathe in the suspense as he waited for the next crash, but it never came. He peered over the overturned desk to see if he could see anything.
Perhaps it was premature instinct, but nonetheless, Maldran’s dive to the side saved his life, as the door suddenly blasted open, smashing into the overturned desk, cleaving it cleanly in two exactly where Maldran’s body used to be. The dark room was suddenly lit up with flashes of light as weapons of all sorts roared to life.
A thunderous roar penetrated the dark air, setting it on fire with two blood red claws gleaming in Felix’s blood. Maldran’s Spas-12XLP jolted back into his shoulder as he let go of another round. But the creature moved with inhuman agility, seemingly dodging every single round the group tried to hit it with.
“Get back, get back!” Michael roared over the gunfire as he fell back into the interior of the room. He kicked over another office desk and took cover behind it. Maldran dived behind the cover just as he felt something hot graze his cheek. Not caring what it was, he peeked over the top of the steel desk and shot off another round.
As Mikhail fell back to his position, Maldran suddenly noticed Lily and Naz were still by the broken door, dueling the invisible creature with both of their katanas. They moved with amazing speed, literally jumping off of the walls and ceilings. They slashed out with their blades, trying to aim at something invisible above the claws. But the monster just raised its own blades to parry the Shadow Templars’ blows, resulting in a shower of sparks.
As steel clanged upon steel, Maldran reloaded his shotgun, one shell at a time. Beside him, Michael and Felix were unloading entire clips into the fight, not caring if their bullets hit friend or foe.
Without warning, everything screeched to a slamming halt. As Maldran propped his shotgun on the overturned desk again, his flashlight revealed an end to the sick dance. Lily was in front, kneeling down with a katana held out behind her as if sticking something. Naz was behind her, holding one of his own katanas out in front in a frozen jabbing motion.
A crackle of electricity filled the air. As the current raised up from nothingness, it revealed a humanoid creature standing in between the two Shadow Templars. A cold chill ran down Maldran’s spine as he looked into its dull black eyes with no pupils. Black ooze dripped off of the two swords impaled inside of its body. The blood fizzed as it landed on the ground. As if in slow motion, it crumpled over.
They emerged from behind the remainder of the cover that had not been destroyed. Maldran peered down at the body with his gun in front of him; he was not going to be caught off guard. His flashlight swept from the smashed door next to the wreckage of the first overturned table to the body.
The thing was dressed in a dirty and heavy armor suit with unique gadgets that seemed to scream the very definition of “assassin”. It wore a helmet with a crest-shaped cover on top. As Maldran looked on, a sudden putrid smell filled the musty air. Springing back in surprise, Maldran watched in horror as the body suddenly secreted a greenish liquid from every opening in the body. The ooze bubbled and sizzled, then seemed to disintegrate the thing’s flesh. It reminded him of decay in fast motion. Then, as the liquid ceased fizzling, an empty shell of a combat suit laid before the company.
Maldran looked from the suit of armor to Lily and Naz, but they had equally as astonished looks as he himself bore.
“What the hell…”