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“Sir we are coming up on the incident zone.” The Arachnos gunship’s co-pilot said over his shoulder.
The passenger looked up from the set of files he had been reading and glanced out of the viewpoint to his right. The gunship was lazily circling a large crater.
He watched small antlike forms of Arachnos personnel, swarming over the rubble strewn basin.
“Very good Lieutenant, land us as soon as you get authorisation.” The passenger responded in a clipped commanding tone.
“Roger that sir.” Jenkins responded reverential to the figure. The armour the occupant of the cavernous craft was wearing had the gold mark of a senior Arbiter displayed.
Reaching over he activated the COM Link on his control board.
“This is gunship 107, requesting landing permission at sector 10 – 45?” He waited silently for the confirmation signal, the speaker on the communication console crackled into life a few seconds later.
“We have you on our screens gunship 107. Permission granted you may land when ready.” The hardened voice of the Arachnos air controller for the sector came hissing through the control board’s speaker.
Sensors on the Friend or Foe board flashed red, indicating the gunship was now being targeted by all of the local missile batteries. Jenkins gulped, gripping more tightly onto his control board. He knew security had been tightened around this area after last night’s incident, but even he hadn’t expected this.
The sound from the engines changed to a low rumbling pitch. The pilot had switched the gunship into hover mode in preparedness to land.
After what felt like an eternity for Jenkins, who was watching the Friend or Foe board intently, the wheels finally touched down upon the platform. The craft lurched slightly as it settled onto its landing gear a shiver running through the fuselage.
An Arachnos trooper could be seen through the plexi-glass viewpoint. He gave the pilot a thumb’s up signal saying the landing was good, quickly followed by a throat cutting signal, showing that it was safe to turn off the engines.
Jenkins undid the straps that held him in the gunship’s co-pilot seat and motioned to the pilot he was going into the back.
Standing up he moved into the rear compartment, the rear of the craft, which was normally reserved for a fast reaction squad of Arachnos troops. The Arbiter had already un-strapped himself and was waiting patiently by the exterior hatch door. Seeing this Jenkins moved hurriedly to the door and pressed the release button. The rear hatch swung down on metal pistons towards the landing platform, a soft thud was heard as the two met.
Arbiter Daos deep in thought, oblivious to Jenkins salute, walked down the ramp and headed into the incident zone.
“Tread Careful Isaac.” Daos thought to himself “In more ways than one.” As he stepped past a twisted support column, proceeding to the location he had seen the large dark figure upon the gunship’s landing.
The Arachnos personnel seeing his approach, suddenly found what they were working on highly engrossing. All avoided his gaze “They fear, they have a right too. After this debacle so do I.” He thought “But I will not run from it.”
A solitary large figure stood next to the melted remains of the installations vault, something clutched in its gauntleted hand. Eight metallic legs splayed from the menacing figures back, curling inwards, curiously inspecting the treasure clasped in the powerful fist.
The blood red eyes looked at the detail copy of its enemy’s face. Sunlight glinted off the golden visage, shining a gold light onto the dark black armour.
“How did this happen Daos?”
Daos wasn’t surprised that the figure knew it was him. “My Lord it seems the Prussian had planned this for long time.” He hesitantly responded.
Lord Recluse master of the isles turned, the dark red eyes behind the sinister helm regarded his head Arbiter.
“Our scientists discovered this attached to the communications relay for this sector” He pulled a small flat object out of a pouch on his belt, showing it to his master.
“It is of his design. The purpose we believe was to override the Com array placing it into a diagnostic loop. Fortunately it seems the Prussian, hadn’t known about the new security procedures that had been implemented. The master alarm button was able to get its signal through.”
Daos continued on quickly, he didn’t want his master to dwell on the reason why new procedures had been implemented. The intelligence branch of Arachnos was still no closer to finding the thieves who had struck the ore processing plant two months earlier. A large quantity of proto-metal had disappeared, so had most of the security staff after Lord Recluse had found out about the theft.
“I despatched Bane Spider troops into the bowels of the city. They located one of the subterranean transports his forces are known to use. More than likely the escape vehicle for the second force, the one your Executioners had surprised.” the large metallic spider legs on his masters back become agitated.
“The Bane Spiders in the lower city also found a second set of tracks, left by the first vehicle we assume. I have ordered them to investigate no further for the moment.” The senior Arbiter waited silently whilst his master processed this information.
“Continue” the dark voice said, anger clearly evident in the tone.
Daos cleared his throat, a sudden image of his family flashed through his head. “We do not at present know how he came by the information of this facility.”
“I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF HIS ARROGANCE! FOR TOO LONG HE HAS INTERFERED IN MY AFFAIRS!” Voice edged with unbridled fury Lord Recluse squeezed his gauntleted hand closed. The golden steel face was crushed like paper. The metal spider arms writhed with fury, striking the vault hard enough too punch holes through the hardened steel.
Daos stepped back shocked. He had never seen his master lose control of his emotions before. “This is how it ends for me then.” He numbly thought to himself.
Lord Recluse slowly drew a large breath, his anger subsiding. He turned around, once again regarding Daos with an emotionless look.
“What were the reactions of my Lieutenants to this attack, when you briefed them?” He calmly asked.
“What?” The question pulled Daos out of his shocked state, he hadn’t expected this question at all.
“Captain Mako seemed non-pulsed about the whole incident. He seemed more excited about the coming fight with the prince’s forces.” He slowly responded, trying to gather his thoughts back in order.
“Same could be said for Black Scorpion. The chance to have the Prussians technology Incorporated into his battle suit is his only thoughts at this moment.” Daos said continuing his observations.
“Sccircco knows better than to ask, after the magical ritual he attempted a few months ago. I’m sure he doesn’t want to gain your ire again my lord.” He paused for a moment, coming to the last member of this dark circle.
“Ghost Widow could be a problem my lord. She has been making subtle enquires of her own, like the rest she doesn’t know what this facility stored, but I get the feeling she was unhappy you had kept the knowledge of this from her.” He waited for a response.
“Thank you for bringing it to my attention.” Recluse moved to in front of Daos, the large powerful form towering over the arbiter.
Daos slowly pulled out one of the files in his hand, sincere regret in his voice. “My lord here is my resignation from my position.” He held the file out to his master.
“Also I have taken the liberty of selecting individuals from the Arbiters who would be worthy successors for my position.” He slowly kneeled in front of his master.
“I am prepared to take responsibility for this failure” His head slowly sank downwards, his thoughts on the punishment that was about to befall him.
He knelt there for what had felt like an eternity, reflecting on his life, waiting for the invertible crushing blow to land.
A strong hand was placed gently on to his shoulder.
“Rise Daos” His master’s voice bid him.
“You have been my faithful servant for many years old friend. If you had begged for mercy here or tried to escape, I would have killed you without a second thought.” Recluse slowly stated.
“You have always put my goals and Arachnos first, before that of your own family and for that you have gained my respect. Someone has to be made an example of for this debacle, but it will not be you this day. I need your counsel for the coming war.” The hand removed itself from the shoulder pauldron.
“I do not understand what the ‘so called prince of automatons’ has planned for the items he has stolen from this vault. But it is paramount we recover them, before he learns of their worth.” Recluse turned around, his eyes looking at the vault.
Daos was stunned. He had come expecting his death at his master hands but had been spared. “I will get Arachnos intelligence to start looking for the Prince’s hidden bases where the Items could have been taken.” He said thankfully.
“Have Ghost Widow watched.” The emotionless voice of his lord directed to Daos over his shoulder.
“I will put our best agents on it my lord.” Daos turned, re-tracing his steps to the landing platform, for the return trip to his offices.
* * * * * * *
“Were about to lose the satellite feed.” The technician swivelled in his chair to face his superior. The monitors were currently displaying Lord Recluse hefting the security commander for sector 10 - 45 by his throat. The commander’s body twitched as it dangled from Recluse’s fists grip.
“Understood lieutenant, burn the intelligence gained onto disk. I will inform the commander personally of these events.” The dark blue masked figure dressed in body armour responded. Twin black pistols could be seen in holsters at his belt. Placing the dark blue cowboy hat that had been resting on his lap onto his head he stepped forward.
Accepting the data disk the technician held out to him, he moved towards the command centres exit door.
He made his way through the abandoned secret base, stepping around crates of equipment that had been hastily discarded.
Nearing the elevator which would take him to the commander’s quarters, he came upon a group of his troops.
They were wrestling crates out of a Nemesis subterranean transport, the drill bores on the head of the craft idling. One of the soldiers seeing him come into the hangar shouted “ATTEN HUT!”
All work ceased, the troops all stood at attention saluting him. They stood waiting for his return salute, before they would continue their duties.
Snapping of a crisp salute he ordered them to carry on. He Motioned too a figure dressed in similar uniform to him, who was directing two large Zeus Titans. The Titans stopped stacking the large crates onto the pallets and settled into a passive state.
The other gunslinger walked over, saluted then stood at ease in front of his commanding officer.
“I take it operation ‘Decoy’ went off without a hitch?” He said to his second in command.
“Yes sir.” the reply came. “The Intel we supplied to that hero’s contact about the whereabouts of the Nemesis base helped out.” The gunslinger paused, hooking his thumbs behind the tactical belt he was wearing.
“The base was under attack from a group of heroes when we arrived. During the confusion caused we were able to slip in unchallenged.” The gunslinger Motioned with his gloved hand to the crates “The Items the Commander requested were easily obtained.” The gunslinger once again settled into an at ease pose.
“Good, I will inform the commander of this news.” He smiled behind his mask. “Carry on.”
“Sir, Yes Sir!” The gunslinger saluted, moving back towards the silent Titans.
The XO continued across the transport bay to the elevator. The sounds of the Titans once again back at work, under the guidance of his second in command, drifted behind him.
The doors sensors detecting his approach opened allowing entrance. Depressing the button on the elevator console he felt the elevator drop several levels, coming to a smooth stop.
The doors opened up into a small cavern passageway, sconces were affixed to wall 5 meters apart. Sounds echoed off the walls that could only be described as steel crashing off steel.
He moved slowly down the passageway, keeping his hands visibly away from his holsters.
Nothing could be seen in the stone corridor, but he knew the minute he had arrived, he was being watched. If he was to so much as attempt to draw his weapons now, he would be dead before they crested the lip of his holsters.
Reaching the alcove leading out onto a solid bedrock landing, he looked over the edge to the cavern’s floor. Hundreds of black and grey garbed figures could be seen training. The walls were illuminated with eerie green light, cast by green crystals dotted on the caverns floor. Strange archaic sigils decorated most of the architecture in the cavern, giving it a sinister look.
It had once belonged to a coven of the Circle of Thorn’s. Though the Circle was renowned for fighting fiercely for their temples, they had fallen easily to the new occupants.
His eyes glanced to the cavern floors right hand wall. Decaying bodies of long dead robed mages hung on X shape crosses, a message to all why the Shadow Legion was to be feared. Their bodies were being used by some of the black and grey garbed figures, human size targets for the deadly ranged weapons used by the Legion.
He mused silently remembering another cave, another time, where his life had taken a most unexpected turn of direction.
He banished those thoughts. “This is no time to reminisce, the commander is waiting.” He berated himself, moving off from the spectacle in the main chamber.
Making his way further along the stone landing, he came to his destination.
A large stone door with arcane symbols rested recessed into the wall. “Hmm that’s odd.” He thought puzzled, a golden light seemed to emanate around the unsealed edges of the door.
Female voices chanting, could be heard emanating from inside.
He waited for a response, knowing that his presence had been sensed by the occupants of the room.
The chanting stopped after a few minutes, the golden glow fading a few seconds later.
He heard the powerful voice of his commander say “Enter,” the giant granite doors ground open allowing access.
An almost pitch black chamber beckoned from beyond the doors, a circle of light cast by candles stood at the rooms centre.
A stone pool filled with water stood at its centre, he ordered his thoughts and stepped across the threshold into the commander’s sanctum…………..
To be continued In Shadow Alliances Part 2………..