Deadzone: The Fall Of Omega VII
Mantic Games haben eine Kurzgeschichte zum neuen Deadzone-Starterset veröffentlicht.
„Within the halls of the Clades of the Five Daggers, three shadowy figures sat in near darkness. Occasionally their aging Asterian faces were lit briefly by assistants handing them data screens, before being shooed away.
One of the figures was about to dismiss their attentive assistant when something caught their eye and they motioned for the datapad to be passed back in order to take a second glance. An eyebrow was raised in the darkness; the equivalent of a scream of shock in any other, less civilised, race.
“We may have an issue,” rasped a voice.
There was a pause. The Asterians have lived for aeons. There was no need to rush.
“Proceed,” came the eventual answer.
“There is another outbreak and it is within our zone. Omega VII.”
The information was greeted with a sigh. Like that of a parent learning about a child’s tantrum.
“Another Mazon accident?”
“We should just wipe them from this zone,” came a third voice; an unmistakable edge in their tone.
“Our spies report that their data is proving most valuable though. They may not be closer to a cure, but they have most certainly perfected the cause.”
“No, this is something else,” replied the original voice. “There is no Mazon facility – hidden or otherwise – on Omega VII. This is a true outbreak. Containment Protocols were declared moments ago.”
Assistants arrived with data pads for the two others in the room. There was another long pause while the future of Omega VII was silently considered and deliberated.
“It would be foolish to allow a planet so close to so many shipping lanes to have its fate decided by others. Plus you can see there is a troubling anomaly.”
In the gloom there were rustles of soft fabric as the others nodded in agreement.
“But we lack the immediate resources. The Clade has its own objectives, elsewhere.”
“This is why we have allies.” For the first time there was a hint of amusement in the response, which was greeted by smiles in the darkness.
Assistants shuffled off to make the necessary arrangements and a nervous stillness crept across the room. Eventually it was broken, with an almost apologetic question.
“Should we inform the Tesseract?”
“They already know.”
Und gestern ging es mit einem neuen Kapitel weiter:
Ota Sora let loose with another discharge from the ion cannon. Each blast temporarily lit the street before evaporating back into near-darkness. Those brief moments of light revealed a nightmare best left in the gloom. Hideous creatures – once the store owners or customers that filled this bustling commercial district – screamed and howled while they charged on all fours toward Ota and a small deployment of marionettes.
The ion cannon obliterated their snarling faces and sent them flying. But for each downed foe, another quickly took their place. Ota gritted his teeth before muttering a silent prayer to the gods of old Matsudo. To his left, he saw a marionette have its head ripped off by a former chef covered in gore. Before he could turn his weapon, the flames from a nearby phlogistor bathed the monster in searing heat. It fell to the floor twitching and writhing, while the marionette calmly bent over and picked up its head
The droid turned to Ota while replacing its head and gave him a thumbs up. Grimacing, Ota reminded himself, once again, that he needed to check the AI programming of the marionettes. If only he had the time.
Since being recruited by the Five Daggers, Ota felt like he had gone from mission to mission, without a break. The Clade had promised him a way to earn the honour he so desired. A chance to earn back the respect of his former house on Neo Matsudo. An opportunity to return home. But so far that promise was always out of his grasp. Each request from the Dagger promised to be the last, but there was always some complication. Some reason why the stain of his dishonour couldn’t be washed away just yet.
When he had been recruited, the small band of marionettes he had been assigned to were fresh off the production line with perfect khaki paint. They were installed with the latest AI, rather than requiring an Asterian to ‘pilot’ them through a temporal link. But slowly with every battle the AI had started to fragment as it adapted to cope with the stresses and rigours of claustrophobic, urban skirmishes. Ota had almost come to appreciate the developing character of the marionettes but worried these irregularities could ultimately become problematic. A few had even given themselves a name.
As if to prove his point, a marionette sniper in the upper window of a DreadMax bar punched the air in excitement after downing a charging Plague victim. The sniper had taken to calling itself Pinpoint and had painted its face to resemble the targeting icon of a holo-sight.
“Eye on the target,” shouted Ota up to Pinpoint.
“Eye on the target,” parroted Alpha, a marionette prime.
Alpha was the de facto leader of the marionettes. Tactics and battlefield information were relayed through the prime to all the other marionettes in the squad. This ensured they could adapt quickly, depending upon the situation. However, as Ota had fought alongside the marionettes, they had started to turn to him for, what seemed like, approval. In moments of calm, they also seemed almost interested in the jobs that Ota had completed since being banished from Neo Matsudo. Another quirk that Ota was convinced needed to be ironed out. Although, strangely, after being alone for so long, he had enjoyed the unexpected admiration. Even if it did appear to irritate Alpha. Perhaps because it did appear to irritate Alpha.
Ota realised the street had finally fallen silent, apart from the hum of the cooling fan in his ion cannon. It was working overtime to reduce the heat inside the lethal weapon. He couldn’t remember how long he had been trapped on this infernal street, but the cramp in his trigger finger implied it must have been some time. He took a moment to look around him. The shop doorways, pavements and roads were littered with lifeless plague victims. Even in death, their faces were locked into hideous, snarling expressions.
“Sit rep,” shouted Ota.
After a few moments, a support drone hovered into view and paused in front of Ota.
“I can provide a full battlefield analysis,” chipped in Alpha. Ota noticed that with each mission, the Prime’s voice took on an increasingly irritated tone. Likewise, the number one that Alpha had scrawled on its chest appeared to get brighter with each battle, as if the droid were attempting to prove a point by persistently repainting it.
“I’d rather hear it for myself,” growled Ota.
“The immediate sector is clear,” chirped the drone. “We are two sectors from the target.”
“Two sectors?” replied Ota with a start. “When we arrived in this fragging city we were only one sector from the target. Check again.”
The drone paused for a moment.
“Recalibrating,” it toned.
Ota huffed a sigh of relief. He didn’t like the idea of fighting through any more of this chaos than he had to. Despite fighting the Plague in numerous Deadzones, he hadn’t seen resistance like this, even when he fought that aberration on Shyl-X. But this was different. The attacks didn’t seem mindless and they had come in waves from different directions. Almost as if they were herding Ota and the marionettes. He attempted to shrug the thought off.
Just mindless beasts, remember, he told himself.
“Two sectors is incorrect,” offered the drone, eventually. Ota relaxed a little. “Target is now three sectors away.”
“It’s moving?” Ota turned on the Prime. “What aren’t you telling me Alpha?”
“As per the mission, Sora. We are to locate the target and await further instructions.”
“You didn’t say anything about a moving target. Thought it was another Mazon facility.”
“My briefing to you was clear: locate the target and await further instructions.”
Ota eyed Alpha. It was almost like the marionette was enjoying this.
“Put me through to the Clade,” snarled Ota. “Making a fool of me would be a mistake.”
Ota realised he was pointing his ion cannon directly at Alpha. He cursed his temper – the whole reason he was in this mess in the first place – and carefully lowered the weapon. He noticed Alpha kept its noh rifle firmly pointed toward him.
“N-n-n-no n-need for an argument g-g-guys,” came a stuttering voice to Ota’s right.
He turned to see Hammer walking jerkily toward him, its glowing eye flickering with each step. Out of all the marionettes, Hammer appeared to Ota to be closest to a full malfunction. One of Hammer’s grenades from its launcher had prematurely exploded on a previous mission and sent the marionette flying into the wall of a nearby hab block. Ota was amazed it could still function.
“T-t-tell him the m-m-mission Alpha. We’re all allies h-h-here.”
Hammer appeared to be trying to nod enthusiastically, but only managed a jerky wobble of its head, accompanied by grinding noises.
Alpha paused for a moment and Ota assumed the marionette was calculating the best approach. Eventually, the Alpha lowered the noh rifle and raised its arm to allow a blue hologram to appear. The hologram lit the dark street with an eerie light and showed a human’s head, spinning slowly.
“This is Chad Ryder, a general in Trontek’s elite dark ops unit,” started Alpha. “General Ryder has been sighted in more containment protocols in the past decade than any other human since the outbreaks were first reported.”
Ota took a closer look at the hologram of Ryder. Even on the hazy, blue image, there was a hint of malice in Ryder’s sneer.
“Rumours spread among the humans that Ryder was immune to the Plague. Soldiers fought to be one of Ryder’s Rogues, hoping his apparent immunity would pass to them. A human with Plague immunity would be an interesting development, which is why the Tesseract has been following his development. Closely.”
Suddenly the hologram changed to a hideous face twisted by the Plague. Despite the deformity, the sneer was still there. It was Ryder.
“This is Ryder now,” continued Alpha. “We intercepted comms between General Ryder and Trontek ahead of him arriving on Omega VII. His mission here was to sabotage the mining facility of one of Trontek’s rivals but something went wrong. Our data shows him entering the mine and re-emerging as this, along with the rest of his squad. Containment protocols were declared after the facility staff were overwhelmed.”
“The source must be in the mine, then,” offered Ota. “Let’s head there.”
“N-n-not this t–t-time,” stuttered Hammer.
“Hammer is correct,” replied Alpha. “We believe that Ryder is the source of the outbreak.”
Ota stared in disbelief at Alpha. Their data had to be mistaken. Since Ota had first learned about the Plague, the pattern was depressingly consistent. A mysterious, almost monolithic object would be discovered on a planet, which quickly led to the virus spreading across the immediate area and potentially overwhelming the entire planet. Containment protocols were always declared to stop the disease from spreading off world.
“How?” asked Ota.
“We have analysed the data and believe the infection has remained dormant in Ryder’s bloodstream, potentially for years. It was waiting for an opportune moment to unleash the pathogen.”
“You’re saying the virus can think now?” snorted Ota. “Give me a break.”
A marionette armed with a phlogistor, that had recently taken to calling itself Exo, approached the group.
“Forgive my intrusion, but the karrakis ice beetle buries itself in the snow for up to 10 cycles, while freezing storms rage across the planet,” explained Exo. “Somehow it can sense when the storms will end though. It starts digging its way out before the temperature increases and the harsh conditions subside. Could something similar not be the case with this contagion? It could sense when the time was right.”
The other marionettes nodded in unison. Apart from Hammer, who jerkily moved its head. Ota knew they were going through this explanation purely for his benefit. The neural link between the marionettes meant they were able to share this information instantly and silently. In fact, they must have known it since the moment they were given the mission by the Clade.
“Why the secrecy?” snarled Ota. An uncomfortable sense of anger was bubbling away inside him.
Control it, Ota scalded himself.
“There was concern that if news of Ryder-” Alpha was interrupted by an ominous howl from the darkness.
All eyes, including the glowing lenses of the marionettes, turned toward the end of the street. Before Ota could speak the drone once again hovered toward him.
“Target located,” chirped the drone, almost cheerfully.
In the distance, Ota saw a pair of red eyes emerging from the gloom and heading their way. They bobbed along, just above the road, but remained firmly fixed on Ota and the marionettes. A low growl echoed between the ruined storefronts. Ota clicked his gun off standby and was reassured to hear the hum of its particle engines warming up.
Ota was about to press the trigger when the neon light of a sushi bar briefly sparked into life and lit the street. Before the neon tubes exploded with a pop and a hiss, the dancing green and orange lights revealed a hideously deformed dog loping toward them. What remained of its decaying skin exposed bare muscle and bone. Startled by the sudden brightness, it dashed into a nearby alley.
“Weapons ready,” hissed Ota.
“You heard him,” followed Alpha.
The street fell back into an eerie stillness that was eventually broken by a hacking, wet laugh. Ota tried to locate the origin but it seemed to be coming from all around them.
“See anything Pinpoint?” Ota asked the sniper, who was still safely tucked away in the ruined window of the DreadMax bar.
“Negative,” replied the marionette.
“Is this all they have sent?” wheezed a voice that quickly broke into a fit of coughing. Or laughing. Ota wasn’t sure.
“Tell me you see something Pinpoint.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Ota saw Pinpoint sweeping his sniper rifle from side to side.
“A lizard and its robots,” coughed the voice.
The voice sounded like a human, but each word had to be spat out, like the speaker was remembering how to talk.
“Show yourself!” shouted Ota, pointlessly. He had to do something, if only to calm his nerves. A low mist had started creeping into the street, coiling around his feet and adding to the claustrophobic darkness.
“Target acquired,” whispered Pinpoint, followed by the crack of its sniper rifle.
An agonised scream rang through the mist. Ota was about to congratulate Pinpoint when the scream morphed into the hacking laugh they had heard before.
Overwhelmed by anger – and a growing sense of dread – Ota let loose with his weapon. He fired desperately in the direction of the cackling; waiting for another scream to indicate he had hit the target. Each pulse lit the murk for a moment and Ota recoiled slightly at the sight of the bodies from their previous skirmish. Hard to think that just a few cycles before, this had been a bustling hub with people going about their daily business. Now it resembled an abattoir.
Ota jumped when Hammer almost tenderly placed a metallic arm on his shoulder.
“It’s n-n-no g-g-g-good,” stammered the marionette.
Ota could feel the sweat dripping inside his armour and his breath had started to come in ragged gasps.
Get a grip, he sneered to himself, you’re acting like a ralarat.
For once he envied the marionettes and their lack of emotion. They were standing there motionless. Only the whispering whir of their optic lenses indicated they were scanning the area for enemies.
“What’s the plan, Alpha?” whispered Ota.
“Same as before. Locate the target and await further instructions,” replied the prime.
“Now seems like a very good time to get those instructions,” snapped Ota.
“We are struggling to reach the Clade,” replied the marionettes in unison.
“We are unable to take your call at the moment,” wheezed the voice in the darkness, “please leave your message after the scream.”
Ota realised he was starting to panic.
Mindless beasts, remember, he told himself. Although this time he said it with less conviction.
He knew that some victims of the Plague had some semblance of brutal thought. A shadow of their former self that flitted across their decaying mind, but this was different. This was no mindless beast. Whatever was out there felt like it was toying with them.
As if on queue, Ota spotted a shadow in the mist. It climbed the still smoking wreck of a mule.
“Send up a flare,” hissed Ota and a nearby marionette was quick to oblige.
As the flare shot toward the atmosphere, the street and the bodies around them took on a sickening red hue, as if bathed in blood. Now, clearly lit by the red glow, Ota could see it was Ryder – or rather, what used to be Ryder – perched on the mule. His uniform was ripped and spattered with blood and his arm had swollen to twice its size, but the sneering face was unmistakable.
Then, with an almost casual air, Ryder raised his grotesque arm and let out a series of loud, animalistic barks. To Ota’s horror, Ryder’s intelligible command was met by multiple so-called ‘ghouls’ and ‘zombies’ rising from among the dead that cluttered the road. They must have been creeping and crawling toward Ota and the marionettes while Ryder was distracting them. Some were armed with crude hand weapons but others still had their Trontek-issue rifles. Ota noticed with alarm that one was clumsily fiddling with a grenade launcher. The hound they had seen earlier bounded from out an alleyway and joined Ryder on the wrecked vehicle.
“Awaiting further instructions,” stated Alpha.
“Light them up!” roared Ota and unleashed the ion cannon once more.
Quelle: Mantic Games
Deadzone ist mittlerweile eines meiner lieblings Systeme geworden und definitiv mein liebster sci-fi skirmisher.
Freie mich auf die Sachen die noch kommen werden.