Doctor Who: Panic Moon Ch. 14byKurokami©
Author's Note: This is a sequel series to Amy, Captured. To get the full experience, please read through that one first.
Hello, everyone! Sorry for the rather long delay, but I became a father since the last installment, and that tends to curb one's ability to write continuously. Not that I've given up, and you can expect to see more from this series, hopefully at a faster pace, in future. Many thanks to Allyourbase for editing help, to Isabel for her creative input, and to my slave Logicaldreamer for being awesome and an inspiration. Votes, comments and feedback are super appreciated, so please let me know what you think, okay?
Silence, thin and crystalline, descended over the crowd. In some cases, Tsugi's and Kanaria's specifically, it was astonished silence, and in others to wit, the group of mercenaries, it was the highly uncomfortable silence of one for whom the situation has very quickly turned, though in an uncertain way. The silence of one trying desperately to reevaluate the present based on suddenly introduced new information.
For Ren, it was merely the confident silence of one who knew how the next few seconds were going to play out, and was very, very happy about that.
But this was a silence designed to be broken, and in this case, it was broken by the soldiers, almost as one, remembering that they did, in fact, have weapons. And that each of them was pointed squarely at Ren.
'Do not move!' One of them, presumably the leader, shouted. 'Or we will open fire!'
Ren tilted her head slightly, 'Why haven't you? As if it'd make a difference. Let me show you just how outclassed you are, ladies.'
The fact that she hadn't stopped grinning the entire time was highly unsettling, and as she took a step forward, the entire mercenary group took a step back. Seemingly satisfied that she had made her point, Ren flexed her arms, an expression of concentration on her face. And then it happened.
To say it started out innocently would be wrong, because taken individually each element of what happened next would comfortably fit into a horror movie. It would be correct, however, to say that it was certainly less than visually dramatic; thin orange tendrils, squirming and alive, began to sprout from the black membrane of Ren's skinsuit, a living, alien patchwork. They kept growing, as the fascinated audience watched in rapt, vaguely horrified silence, and spread, building across her body in waves, like an eldritch tide. And eventually, the little individual tendrils began to make a simple muscular framework, which in turn made something more complex, on and on, bit by bit...
By the time the musculature had been covered up with thin, yet undeniably strong, layers of armor, Ren was having trouble suppressing her laughter. If she had wanted to, she could have grown her hardsuit in the space of a moment, let it ripple across her skin and be done with it, but today she had opted for the longer, more dramatic reveal. The kind she had been asked to show so many different officials and higher ups to convince them to give the research divisions more money. The kind that really put the scare in her enemies.
She twisted her head with a mechanical whirr, feeling the heavy metal shift as though it were her own flesh, and looked over her shoulder at Tsugi and Kanaria, 'You two okay?'
'It was you,' Tsugi said, accusingly. 'All along, that monster with the metal skin... That was you?!'
'I got more famous on Uo than I care to mention,' Ren shrugged. 'Now stay behind me and don't get shot.'
'No argument from me!' Tsugi exclaimed, voice threaded with equal parts shock and relief. 'You boys don't know what you've gotten yourself into!'
'I hope you're paying attention, fellahs,' Ren growled, the featureless, convex orange faceplate of her helmet finally sliding down, obscuring her face. The filters in the hardsuit's audio systems cast her voice with a metallic, unnatural edge, like an echo across steel. It had taken Ren and Shichi a long time to "learn," this power armor, and they had wanted to make the most of it, 'Because class is in session. Today's lesson? How to survive a fight with Ren Syfte.'
'Disengage from your suit, or we will kill you!' The lead soldier spoke up again, definitely shaking a little more now. The situation had only gotten worse.
'Well, that leads onto the first rule pretty nicely,' Ren chuckled, the sound cold and artificial through the helmet's speakers. 'Rule one: Open fire!'
She shouted, as though it were a command. The mercenaries, however it had affected them, had certainly taken it as such, spraying automatic fire with practiced aim right at the armor-clad Half. She actually laughed, the soaring, joyous sound rendered utterly alien by her armor, even as it protected her from the swarm of bullets. They clanked and ricocheted, sparks flying as they impacted the living metal shell and, presented with an impenetrable barrier, scattered. Behind the conflagration, Kanaria huddled close to Tsugi, even though Ren had, in a stunning display of foresight, positioned herself in such a way as to avoid putting them in any danger from the storm of gunfire.
The whole act had only lasted a few seconds; these were professional soldiers, they had been trained to fire in short bursts to avoid recoil tampering with their accuracy. Despite that, this particular group, compelled by fear, or shock, or simply by the conviction that they could end this early before any harm came to them, had given Ren a few more moments than they would normally have, for good measure. Each of them displayed varying levels of visible shock at the complete lack of effect this had.
'Rule two,' Ren continued without missing a beat. 'If you're going to stop firing, make sure it's because you're out of bullets, because I will-' And here she rocketed forward, towards the nearest two soldiers. She took hold of their rifles, one in each hand, and before they could react had them aimed, one at the other. '-Take your guns, and use them against you,' Tendrils drew out from the plates of her gauntlets, insinuating themselves into the framework of the weapons, causing them to fire endlessly, filling their unfortunate wielders with their own ammunition. They went down, hard and bloody, followed by the stream of gunfire until two muted clicks indicated the ammo had run out.
Ren hefted the two rifles, one onto each shoulder, as the rest of the soldiers seemed to rally some confidence at the tiny clicks the weapons now made. Tsugi could practically feel Ren's grin, obscene and confident, through her helmet, 'Rule three: Don't assume that because my guns are out of ammo, they aren't dangerous.'
With this, she hefted one rifle high, hurling it with all her might at a man at the far end of the throng. He was hit, square in the chest, with the muzzle of the gun, going down with the sickening crack of bones yielding under the impact. The other rifle Ren swung wide, slamming the butt into the face of a soldier that had been unlucky enough to be in arm's reach, before that one flew too, slamming into another luckless uniformed man with the same bone-breaking force.
Now totally unarmed, Ren was apparently harmless enough for the rest of the mercenaries to regain their senses and open fire again, half rattling away at her while the others reloaded. The metal-shod Half shrugged off the assault like it was nothing.
'Rule four: Never assume I'm unarmed,' Laughter threaded through her voice like a backing track. It was clear that, despite her unabashed rage, Ren was truly enjoying this, a prospect that filled Tsugi with a kind of unnamable dread. After all, he knew who she had been; a government agent during a time where the government in question was on a war footing against its own populace, and brutal police action could erupt on the streets with very little provocation. Anti-government circles had dubbed her Emperor Sagara's attack dog, for how often she had been seen behind Uo's political leader, functioning as a bodyguard, of a sort.
Now, all the appellations that she had been given had been proven entirely appropriate, as she raised her arms, panels around her wrists opening up to reveal a cacophony of gunfire all their own, miniature ordinance blasting forth to level the playing field. Of course, her opponents didn't have the benefits of the kind of armor Ren herself had, and their paltry Kevlar and ceramic armor shattered and buckled under her retaliation. For a brief moment, Ren was silhouetted, clad in steel and sparks like some knight in battle, as she methodically shot down the majority of the soldiers, leaving only four in her wake. Eventually her own weapons seemed to run low on ammo, stalling with little, slightly wet clicks of their own. She held up her wrists, the plates clicking back into place and sealing the hardsuit.
'Rule five:' She said with finality, stepping forward to grab the leader- she had pointedly left him alive just for this- by the collar and lifting him effortlessly so his numbly terrified face was inches from her faceplate. Her metal edged voice rang in his ears like the echo of a blow to the head, 'You can't win a Ren fight. So run away.' She turned to regard the three enemies she had allowed to live with cold, unfeeling malice, 'Run for your lives.'
According to plan, they obliged, speeding away down the corridor and away from the futile fight in front of them. Ren nodded in satisfaction; these guys were trained, for sure, but in the end they were penny-ante toy soldiers. Their paychecks weren't worth staying and fighting something like her. Never worth fighting a monster, no matter the prize.
Ren's face was revealed as her helmet slid back, casting fresh air against her skin. Her free hand wandered her captive, deftly disarming him as she looked back without a care to the huddled Tsugi and Kanaria, 'You guys go on ahead, I think the corridor to the armory will be clear for now. They won't stick around with me here, they'll try and get some big boomstick to take me down. Don't worry, I'm prepared, but you guys should get armed yourself, and try to meet up with Sander and... well, anyone friendly. Why isn't Jericho helping us?'
'Marduk had a secondary set of programs designed to cripple Jerry,' Kanaria said tremulously. 'I think Marduk himself was only a distraction to pave the way for this.'
'So whoever is behind this wanted to be here in person...' Ren mused, before turning her gaze to her little sister. Tsugi was fine, he already knew the kind of person she was, but... She didn't want Kana seeing any more of this than she already had. That girl was innocent, and the last thing Ren wanted was to destroy her mental impression of her big sister, 'Now go. I'll be a little while with this guy.'
'But Ren-' Kanaria began.
'Kana, let's go,' Tsugi grabbed her hand, speaking in a low voice. 'Trust your sister, we'd better get out of here. Keep moving.'
'Y-yes... Okay,' She frowned, an undeniably adorable expression even in times of turmoil. Hesitantly, giving the soldier clasped firmly in Ren's gauntleted hands a wide berth, she laid a hand on her big sister's shoulder pad and leaned up on the tips of her toes, kissing her on the cheek, 'Thank you, Ren.'
Ren blinked, startled, her cheeks flushing red. Inside her head, Shichi's voice rang out, tittering in nervous amusement; at times, the odd little alien really did seem like a child. Ren found herself smiling helplessly, 'God damn, Kana-chan... How can you be so cute? Now go on, get out of here. I'll see you on the other side.'
She waited until her sister and friend were well out of the room before she turned her attention back to the soldier, who was struggling fruitlessly in her grip. Her expression took an intense, nasty edge, 'Now then. There are some things I'd very much like to know about all this bullshit, and I think you're the one I talk to if I want to find out.'
'Now then,' Dulcimer sent, the Dullahan's mental projection loud enough to completely fill the soldier's head. He pressed against the nearest wall as the headless alien advanced. Dulsie had been living among the more... normal species for so many years, she was entirely aware of the way the rest of the universe tended to view the Dullahan; shadowy, eternal beings, locked away on their homeworld and only leaving it when they needed something. Of course, the truth was far more mundane- there just weren't that many Dullahan left anymore- but no matter the species people would appreciate the more entertaining version of the world. It couldn't be helped.
But living alongside such fanciful organisms had taught her one thing: how to work what evolution had given her. The telepathy was a nice start; it tended to unsettle people when she started talking inside their head, especially when they learned she could "shout," which tended to push all other thoughts out of the mind. Not having a head, a recognizable face, was also a great advantage in the field of creeping other people out; it was amazing how much day to day interaction between these species depended on facial expressions and vocal speech. Take that away... it was like they lost a good chunk of the conversation. Dulsie herself? She had had to learn to understand facial expressions, in her early days travelling off of her homeworld.
What all of this meant was that Setton Dulcimer Heskelyn was very, very good at unnerving people. Case in point, the soldier in front of her, who looked to be about three seconds away from needing a change of trousers. It was important to note, or at least Dulcimer kept the thought close to her heart while she forced her way forward, that the Dullahan had not killed the squad this man had been with. No, they were just... sleeping, for a while. But to a panicked eye, it must have looked like they had just winked out, like lights in the dark. Which, really, suited Dulsie just fine.
But from what she had gleaned from these soldier's heads, they didn't quite deserve to be killed. Many of them were just here for the money, though some of the older ones were here for Sander. Evidently they were, all of them, Vesperians, and some of the older ones remembered the rule of Governor Hackett, and were still bitter about it. Revenge... There was something in humans that built the concept up into something so noble. The only reason she could tolerate it in Sander was that he was under no illusions of doing something good. He knew he was the villain in this, and set down the path anyway, through his own conscious choice.
A Dullahan could respect that.
But the man who had brought them here... Nobody knew what his goal was. Only that he was here for Sander, and that there was something entirely unwholesome about him; there was a common belief among the men that even being near him for any period of time would tarnish them somehow, like his presence was unhealthy. And she had heard his name mentioned in hushed whispers, from Sander and Mara. They knew...
It was only a strangled cry, but...
Even so, Sander cast his gaze nervously, obsessively, to his left and right, searching for any sign that they had been heard. It didn't seem that they had been, but Mara was still on point, glancing out into the hallway every few seconds to check for new patrols.
The mercenary that they had caught had struggled for a while, then stopped abruptly. A pistol under the chin tended to have that effect. Under normal circumstances Sander would not have even thought of trying to catch his enemies off guard like this; there were too many variables, any one of which could easily spin out of their favor and lead to their capture. Which, given the reception they had been given earlier, would lead quite seamlessly to their deaths. And that was to say nothing of those girls...
'Alright, now...' Sander growled, low in his throat, pressing the barrel of his gun firmly into the soldier's chin. He counted himself lucky he had gotten to a weapon's locker unimpeded; he didn't like killing, but everything felt so much safer when his enemies weren't the only ones with loaded weapons. 'I need information, and you're... You're... Oh...'
'Sander, what is it?' Mara hissed, looking over at her boyfriend's increasingly horrified expression, before pointing her own pistol at their hostage, face twisting angrily, 'What has he done?'
'I know you...' Sander's voice shook as he spoke. 'You were my fucking police chief!'
'Sander?' Mara hissed again, slightly more urgently.
'You're Vesperian,' Sander trembled. 'How many of you?'
'The entire group,' The soldier growled, hands balled into fists as his rifle lay useless where Sander had kicked it, several feet away. They had chosen one of the more disused storage rooms to set their trap- one filled with old, unassigned circuit boards and technological detritus- and it had been a good choice. Aside from this one luckless man, there had been very little traffic down this particular corridor; perhaps the mercenaries had decided to keep to the larger rooms and explore out from there. It wasn't as if they had a map of the place, or anything.
'This whole group?' Mara could tell, Sander was getting angrier with every word. 'Everyone here is out for revenge?'
The pistol dug dangerously deep into the man's chin as he spoke, 'We thought you were dead, Governor. Did you know the entire planet has a day off on the day you were deposed? We celebrate. But then it turns out you're still alive, and that just didn't sit right. Our boss, he knew who to go to if he wanted a posse put together to put you back in that grave. I for one jumped at the chance.'
He seemed altogether too defiant for someone whose life was held in the hands of a very angry, armed and dangerous Sander Hackett. Especially a Sander Hackett whose hands were shaking, and was clearly in emotional distress. His entire face twisted, as red rage descended like a fog.
When he next spoke, the words were deliberate, and snarled like he was only just able to hold himself in check, 'I left. You people nearly killed me, and I just left you. I left your world, let you think I was dead. I could have come back. I could have turned the entire might of the Hackett Corporation on you, I could have had an investigation conducted, to find out what really happened to the Vespers. I could have had you all killed. I could have cracked the entire planet open and melted it down and sold every atom of it, of your homes, of your families for scrap. I would be entirely within my rights to do that, even now. The fact that I have not is an act of mercy, and you repay me by hunting me, and the people I love, down, just to settle an old score? We're both old enough to know what really happened down there that day. The only difference is that I'm under no illusions that I do good work. You've sided with a monster, and you've let him loose in my house. I'm going to have to deal with that, now. So, what I'm going to do is this, since you and your kind have raised the stakes: I'm going to hunt every one of you who've come into my home down, and I'm going to kick you out of my home. Then, I'm going to kill your boss. After that, depending on how I feel, I might do that melting thing I mentioned earlier... Oh, look: you've made me angry. I really don't know what I'll do, now. But I want you to run, soldier. I want you to run for your fucking life, just so I can have the pleasure of hunting you down, and settling this score permanently. NOW RUN!'