Croatoan, Earth : Church of Echoes : Part 138

Croatoan, Earth : Church of Echoes : Part 138

Outside the pylons, the three soldiers charged with disposing of William's body were hard at work executing their duties. One of them, a tall gangly soldier with dark blue hair, untied the rope fastened to his leafcutter and used it to drag him over to a crater left behind by one of the giant peas the cannons had fired off into the jungle. One of the others, a dark-skinned man with a flat top and a gap in his teeth wide enough to kick a field goal, un-tethered a jug of accelerant from the rear of his gravity cycle and trudged after his comrade in arms. The third man remained seated on his gravity cycle with his rifle and used it to keep watch over the hillside, searching with its scope for enemy movement.

"It's uncanny how human they look," the gap-toothed man observed, unstoppering his jug. He half walked and half slid down into the crater with the gas to douse the body. Upending it, he did his part and completely soaked William's corpse with petrol. "Do you think they're like us inside? It's weird, bro-he. He look just like us."

"He's an Off-worlder," the blue-haired soldier replied, digging in his pockets for something to light the body. "They may be human and they may look like us, but they ain't us. We're not this weak." The others laughed at this.

"If you're really that curious, you should cut him open and see if all of his organs are like ours, Talman," the man with the rifle suggested, sweeping his scope down the hillside toward the front gate. As his scope slid past one of the trucks parked outside the gate, the rifleman paused. There was something wrong with the truck. There was a big black hole burned into the side it, only the hole was bigger than the truck was tall. He swept the scope back and forth several times, but the hole remained. Lowering his rifle, he inspected the truck with his naked eye. It was intact, no scorched hole anywhere near it. Thinking that it was a dirty lens, the soldier cleaned his scope. Part of him knew that it wasn't the scope. The hole stayed fixed even though is rifle kept moving. That meant it wasn't a piece of dirt or ash on the glass. Whatever he saw was truly out there. The problem was, he didn't know what it was he'd seen. Peering at the truck through the scope once more, he overjoyed to find that the scorched hole was no longer present. If it had been light, he might have thought it a lens flare. But it wasn't light, and it wasn't a lens flare. "That's really weird," he muttered aloud.

"What's weird?" the soldier with the flat top queried.

"I'm not really sure," he replied, turning to face his comrade. "I was surveilling the front gate when this big black hole–" A soft whining twang suddenly interrupted him followed by the fiery disappearance of his friend's face. Realizing his mistake, the rifleman turned back just in time to see that scorched hole he'd spied through his scope hanging in the air before him–right next to the halo Jo was about to kill him with. That soft whining twang that was the noise that accompanied the firing of a halo filled the air once more. And as it died away, the corpse of a second soldier hit the ground. The last soldier, the one who'd dragged William's body out into the countryside, stared at his dead friends in horror, clueless as to where the sniper was who'd taken them down came from. He died with Jo's sword exiting the rear of his skull a few moments later, still ignorant of Jo's presence.

She hated to kill them. They were only doing their job. Had she been uninjured, she might have tried to take them unawares, but in her present condition, this was the only way she could see to rescue William from the flames. Weak and out of breath, she hauled William's corpse over to the gravity cycles, and draping him across the back of it, she lashed him in place. When done, she climbed into the pilot seat and set off up the hill at full speed, uncaring as to whether or not someone spotted her. She stopped just shy of the tree line and turned the gaze down on the compound below. Smoke rose from several of the towers and the sniper's perch and hundreds of men and women milled around within its walls. She sat there and watched as those members of her squad who could still stand were escorted out to one of the ships Imperatrix Shiva had called in to bomb the place. Those who couldn't walk, Luke and Grendel, were carried out after. Surveying the destruction to the hillside, she couldn't help but feel a tremor of fear cascade down her spine.

The sheer magnitude of the destruction was unheard of. To think that Rikjonix would do all of this just to stop a squad of knights as small as hers. That's when she realized just how badly the enemy actually feared them. That gave her heart. An enemy that fears you doesn't really know you. As the ship with her friends lifted off, Jo began to wonder about her other comrades, those she'd left behind, Aizel, Baako, and the knights they freed of their symbiotes. Were Baako and Aizel still alive? She didn't know. With the jungle absent and the terrain all chewed up, it was impossible to tell where the clearing was that they hid their leafcutters in. Knowing Aizel, they were long gone. He would have recognized their peril the instant the Rikjonix cannons opened up on the hillside. He was a knight after all.

She would know soon. The spot where she'd left those they'd freed wasn't far. So long as Shiva's men hadn't found them, they should still be where she left them. Time would tell.

Lovisa, for all of ferocity, had been unable to escape her captors. The enemy had flooded the halls of the administration building so fast and in such vast numbers that fighting them had proven impossible. Her and Tane had only managed to kill about eight of them before their position became completely overrun.

"Where are you taking us?" Lovisa demanded of the soldiers guarding her as they led her and Tane from the back of the ship. The flight to where ever they were at had been short, brief enough that Grendel was still unconscious. The soldiers ignored her. "Answer me."

"Reaver's Hall," an ominous voice announced. The look on Lovisa's and Tane's face made the newcomer smirk. "Commander Negan Templeflower at your service, thirty-ninth Commander of the Royal Pacifier Garrison, Toqui, and Axe Bearer to the Chief. What are your names?"

"Lovisa, Blood Knight of the Heidish Order."

"Tane, Silver Wraith of the Heidish Order," Tane supplied. "That's Grendel." He gestured to the man named. "Also a Silver Wraith. The other is named Luke, a former Reaper."

"Many blessings on you," Negan responded. "There were others, were there not?"

"Jo and William," Lovisa supplied. "Where are they?"

"Dead I imagine. The one called William was killed during his apprehension. His body was being burned last I heard. Jo, the bald woman with the scalp lock, she's still at large, but don't worry. My people will find her. She can't escape the compound. So, what brings you to our sweet little sweltering world?" Lovisa and Tane shared a look but said nothing.

"What's Reaver Hall?" Lovisa asked.

"That beginning of a nightmare you will never wake from," Negan promised.

"So a prison?"

"Call it a prison if you want. A prison is a place we lock you up in, to punish you for your crimes. Reaver Hall is where we get answers. We're going to hurt you and heal you and hurt you and heal you over and over again, stopping only when our scientist determine you can't go on. Then we're going to let you sleep for a few hours and start the whole process over again. The technology that the Jujen has supplied us allows us to commit all kinds of atrocities without the risk of irreparable damage. You wanted to know what this place is? It's your home from this day forward. Breath in the fresh air as they walk you in and drink in the blue of our skies and the green of our forest. This will be the last time either of you will ever see them again," Negan promised.

"If you think that this place can hold us, prepare to be disappointed," Lovisa declared.

"I think we've done a swell job of keeping the forward scouts you've sent from escaping so far. They've been here–I don't know. What? Three months?" Negan nodded as if confirming her guess. Lovisa and Tane shared a look of confusion.

"Forward scouts?" Tane queried. "We didn't send any scouts." It was now Negan's turn to frown. It was the look of someone who'd just found out they'd been duped.

"You didn't send out scouts to feel us out or collect intel?" Negan asked pointedly. Lovisa laughed.

"You look like you've sucked some sour fruit," Lovisa jeered.

"Bring them," Negan ordered, suddenly angry.

"To interrogation?" one of the soldier's asked.

"Just bring them," she ordered, storming off toward the grey door set in the ancient stone wall of the prison. Tane and Lovisa shared several questioning looks, but neither of them had answers to the other other's questions. With no other choice but to follow, the pair fell in behind their jailers and marched to what might very well be their end. Through the door they went and past security. Twelve corridors later and two staircases down, they finally arrived at their destination. It was another grey door set in a stone wall. "You sent no scouts?" Lovisa and Tane said nothing. "Then who the hell are they?" She threw open the door and stepped aside so they'd have an unobstructed view of those within. Peering into the gloom, the pair of knights strained their eyes to make out the faces of those within. One of the guards threw a switch down at the end of the hall and a light inside the room suddenly went on.

To say that Tane and Lovisa were shocked was an understatement. Of the four people chained to the wall within, one of them they knew exceedingly well.

"You?" Lovisa growled, starting forward in anger with Tane shadowing her. "You're here? In this place?" It took a moment for the short fat spy's eyes to adjust to the light, but when they did, he couldn't help but grin from ear to ear.

"Oh. Ohhhhh! Lovely Lovisa," Wheatley sang. "Welcome to my humble hell. Are you here to free us?" He turned to regard the other knight and smirked. "Is that Tane or Oro with you? I can never tell the two of you apart."

"Who cares who he is," Jotham growled. "Just get us the fuck out of here."

"Yeah," Kydil blurted. "These people are sadistic fucks."

"Please," Issy and Neith pleaded. "Get us out of here." Negan laughed.

"Strip off their armor and chain them to the walls," she ordered, shoving the nearest soldier into the cell with Lovisa and Tane. That proved to be a mistake. Tane jerked an elbow backwards into the soldiers face, dropping him to the ground, while Lovisa stomped down hard on his crotch after he'd landed. Several of the guards fired warning shots into the floor at their feet to end their poorly thought out rebellion. The guard on the floor simply wailed in pain till he passed out. "Feel better now that you got that out of your system?" she asked. "Good. That will be the last time you're ever in a position to do that. That I promise you." Lovisa wandered if that would end up being true. She had been in some dire spots before, but this one seemed a bit more dire than those others. She knew exactly which technologies the Jujen had handed over to the Rikjonix. One of them was a Med Bed and the other was a reprinter. With those, the Rikjonix would make her torment last a lifetime.

"If you're out there, Master, please find us quick," she prayed, her voice barely a whisper. One of the soldiers grimaced, clearly sympathetic to her plight.

"Save your prayers," he whispered back. "And keep a happy thought in your head. It's the only way you'll preserve your sanity." He shot a sidelong glance Negan's way and frowned. Lovisa wondered as they stripped away her armor and chained her hands if maybe she'd found an ally in the guard who'd warned her. The soldiers filed out when they were done, once more leaving them with Negan. Negan smirked as the closed the door and locked, but she didn't leave right away. Instead, she stepped up to the bars and peered in and locked eyes with her captives. For a long while, she said nothing. She just seemed content to stare.

"What?" Lovisa asked bluntly.

"Nothing," Negan replied. "Nothing at all. I just wanted to remind you to keep a happy thought in your head while you're here. It'll preserve your sanity." Lovisa frowned when she heard those words. Negan saw the look of despair on the knight's face and laughed merrily as she walked away. While only a mean-spirited prank on the Commander's part, Lovisa recognized it for what it was–proof that with just a few words, they could rob her of her hope.

Part 10
Part 20
Part 30
Part 40
Part 50
Part 60
Part 70
Part 80
Part 90
Part 100
Part 110
Part 120
Part 130

Part 135
Part 136
Part 137
Part 138
Part 139

Other Books in the Series

Croatoan, Earth: The Saga Begins – Book One

Croatoan, Earth: Tattooed Horizon – Book Two

Croatoan, Earth: Warlocks – Book Three

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