Chrono Continuum Chapter 74
Another One Bites the Dust
The red patrol 'bot paused a moment, its angular head swiveling about on its hose-like neck, making an entire full rotation, before it stopped.
Without another moment's pause, the robot continued on its route, its eight metallic legs clanking loudly on the hard metal floor as it ambled through the hall, making its rounds.
As soon as it was out of range, Ayla let out an explosive breath, and burst into a coughing fit. As a result, she fell from the ceiling, where the tangled wires and pipes had helped conceal her and Robo thus far. Only once had they been caught, and the patrol 'bot had thankfully been caught off guard, unable to sound any kind of alarm before Robo had managed to shut it down.
Robo landed behind the coughing cave woman, his metal legs easily absorbing the impact of the landing, despite his own immense weight. "Are you all right, Ayla? I still don't think you're recovered from your shock."
Ayla shook her head, a few blonde hairs falling to the floor in the process. "No. Ayla fine. You worry about self. Too loud. Need to be quiet."
Robo quickly complied, and quickly glanced around the area for any other means to escape detection. "Well, we could act as if we had been captured by the robots, couldn't we?"
Ayla raised an eyebrow. "Think they take prisoners?"
"Good point," Robo agreed. "So, what should we do? If we continue through the wiring up above, I'm bound to find an area too thin to support myself, or you might run into a frayed wire. The last thing you need right now is another electric shock."
Ayla nodded. "Right. We should-"
"Ssshhh," Robo suddenly warned her, placing a hand over her mouth. "Did you hear that?"
Ayla cocked her head to the side, trying to hear what Robo had. In a moment, she did. "Sound like bee, but rawboot..."
Robo agreed. "Yes, a sort of mechanical buzzing. But where is it coming from?"
Ayla looked about the hall for a moment, slowly, as if trying to find something well hidden. Suddenly, she turned and pointed up to a grate, one of many. "There," she whispered.
Robo looked up at where she was pointing. "Alright. Give me a boost," he told her, to which she complied. Once in the air, Robo held up his hand. One of his fingers split apart, revealing a multi-purpose tool.
"Robo, hurry," Ayla grunted, sweat giving her face a wet sheen. "You heavier than used to be."
Robo complied, quickly applying the tool to one of the screws, and unscrewing it. After repeating the process, he allowed the tool to recede into his finger, and gently pulled the grate from its setting in the wall.
"What in there," Ayla called up at him.
"A camera," Robo told her, as he stared directly into the lense.
Suddenly, the camera zoomed in on Robo's face, surprising him enough to make him lose his balance. He and Ayla collapsed in a heap on the hard floor, as a loud voice reverbrated around them, coming from previously undiscovered speakers.
"Peekaboo, I see you two," a feminine voice exclaimed.
"I recognize that voice," Robo announced. "Caerina. I might have known we'd find you in a floating fortress. How long have you known we were here?"
The woman's voice laughed over the speakers. "We've known since the moment you actually walked in the doors. I just wanted to watch your antics as you struggled to keep out of sight of the patrol 'bots. You did pretty well; you were almost halfway here."
"And where would that be, Caerina?"
"The Lightning Room, center of the Generator. And I must say that I'm surprised you got as far as you did."
"But, of course, now that we've found out your little game, we don't stand a chance of escaping the Robots, do we?"
"Frankly, no. However, you should know that the 'bots don't patrol this room. Willing to try your luck?"
Almost before she finished her sentence, Ayla and Robo had already turned the corner, and were moving full speed down the next hall, Ayla running inhumanly fast, and Robo flying along a foot off the ground.
The voice laughed once more through the omni-present speakers. "I'll say this: You've got guts. But I doubt you'll make it."
After the announcement finished, lights lowered from the ceiling and started to flash red, as all other lights in the hall went out, giving a red strobe-light effect. And Robo knew why. Since the security 'bots were red, the chances of their being see before Robo and Ayla were was next to none. It was the kind of time where any normal person would give up, run and hide.
Ayla smiled, and sped up her pace, while Robo's rockets powered up, firing him down the hall like a bullet. They weren't giving up now.
Dalton cried out in pain as he was struck by a lightning bolt, square in the chest. However, he stood his ground, and, raising his palms toward Victorian, fired off a volley of fireballs, exploding on and around the reptilian wizard.
However, the victory was short lived, as Terala's foot connected with his chin, sending him sprawling on his back. As he looked up at her, standing over him, she smiled. "You didn't really think you could destroy the Ice Generator without us knowing, did you? As soon as you freed the queen, we knew your plan, and we were prepared."
Before she could get out another smug remark, Dalton swept his leg around, behind her knees, knocking her over as he used the momentum to stand. "Obviously not prepared enough. How's it going over there, Marle," he called out.
Marle, standing at a console in the Ice Room while Dalton held off the two Helbound, called back, "Pretty good. Hold them off for a little long- Agh," she finished in a surprised scream as an arrow zipped from her right, directly beneath her chin, and off to the left.
Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Drissom at the door, crossbow in hand, the usual smug expression on his face. "Don't think so, sweet cheeks. Don't you know you shouldn't have trusted Dalton? Now you're both going to die," he told her, and fired another crossbow bolt at her.
Her old survival instincts kicking in, Marle dove to the side as the bolt stabbed into the control panel, probably damaging vital systems. Ignoring that for a moment, Marle pulled out her Valkerye, and stood, holding it level with one hand. "Fight fire with fire," she quoted, and fired.
With amazing speed, the bolt rocketed towards the Hellbound, a wave of sound following closely behind it as it made a loud whistling noise. Dalton rolled forward, under the projectile, coming to a standing position as the sound wave connected with the area behind him. He didn't flinch as the wall exploded, doubling the size of the former doorway.
He shook his head. "I like 'em feisty. But I've already had two firefights with your friend, lady, and I'm not impressed. I really hope you're more of a challenge."
With that, they both dove to opposite sides, firing as they rolled, their magical crossbows automatically reloading in the heat of battle. Explosions followed both of their rolling paths, as they both shot and missed, only by a few feet.
Both coming to a stop on their feet, they charged eachother, firing the entire time. Neither of them was good enough to hit the other as each of them dodged again and again.
Finally, Drissom planted both feet on the ground, and leaped into the air, landing behind Marle as he aimed his crossbow. Instantly, Marle ducked under the projectile, and kicked behind her with her right leg, her heel connecting with Drissom's chin.
The Hellbound was pushed back, and that was all the pause Marle needed. Turning, she brought around the handle of her crossbow, slamming it across Drissom's face, followed by an elbow to the gut. Finally, after an instant of concentration, the crossbow began to glow with icy blue energy. Bringing her glowing weapon up, she aimed it at the stunned Drissom's chest and fired.
The concussion of sound and magic threw Drissom back twenty feet before he hit the ground, and even then he continued rolling, until he hit the wall, hard. The Hellbound's eyes blinked once or twice, and then he was unconscious.
Meanwhile, Dalton cried out yet again, this time as Terala punched him in the face, her fist aflame. As soon as he hit the ground, he yelled in pain as Victorian kicked him in the ribs.
Dalton tried to defend himself, but found himself helpless as both Terala and Victorian knelt down and started punching him in the chest, stomach, and face. His consciousness waned, and then faded.
"Yes," Marle exclaimed as she watched the monitor in front of her. "I did it! How did Lucca ever make this so easy?"
Looking around, she saw Victorian and Terala kicking the crap out of Dalton. "Hold on," she called, "I'm coming!"
The patrol 'bot made a strange screeching sound as Ayla kicked its head off, without even slowing down long enough for the other 'bots to catch up. As she and Robo moved down the hallway, he was making use of his lasers, holding back the 'bots behind them, while Ayla dispatched any that they came upon.
Robo glanced forward, away from the 'bots he was holding at bay. "Look," he announced, "there it is! The Lightning Room!"
Terala cried out in pain as Marle tackled her. They wrestled for a moment, before Terala finally pinned her. Sitting back, the Hellbound woman began to punch Marle in the face with each hand.
Abruptly, Terala froze as she felt something against her belly. Looking down, she saw Marle's crossbow, armed and loaded.
Before Terala could roll off, Marle fired, the force of the blast throwing Terala up in the air. Quickly, Marle rolled to the side, allowing Terala to land on the hard floor, without Marle to break her fall.
With the reflexes of a cat, Marle rolled forward as Victorian's tail came swooping down to crush her. Instead, he missed, and slowly rising Terala caught the brunt of the attack, getting the breath knocked out of her.
Victorian hissed in anger. "You can't keep that up forever, woman."
As Marle rolled to her feet, she smiled. "Neither can you. If Lucca's directions were correct, and I did what I was supposed to, the Generator is about to get a lot more ice that it wants to."
They both turned at the sharp slicing sound as an icicle erupted from inside the machine in the center of the room, severing wires and pipes. All around the room, icicles burst upwards from the floor like stalagmites.
Victorian looked horrified. "What have you done, woman? Undo it, now, or we're all doomed."
Marle smiled. "Sorry, I just followed directions. I have no idea what I did, let alone how to do it in reverse. But I do know we have less than five minutes."
Victorian ran to the controls. "I've got to stop this. I'm not dying again! Terala, help me out, here!"
Marle tried to defend herself, but not quickly enough, as Terala grabbed her, forcing her arms behind her back. "You're not going anywhere, 'queen'," she assured Marle.
Marle flinched as Terala cried out in surprise, right in her ear, but was relieved when Terala's arms released her own. Marle turned to see Dalton holding her by the neck as she clawed at his arm.
"Come on, Dalton," Marle told him. "Leave her here. They can't stop this place from going down."
Dalton shook his head. "No, they can't. But they could stop you from getting out. And I'm not going to risk that."
"But, if you stay here, you won't escape either, Dalton. You'll die!"
Dalton smiled sadly. "I'm already dead, Marle. I'm the walking dead. My time passed long ago. Besides, I know what waits on the other side, almost for fact, and I'm going to be far better off than these cretins," he assured her.
Marle stared at him for a moment, then turned, and ran for the door leading out to the hallway.
"You're a fool," Terala told him as she continued trying to pry his arm from her throat. "We could have saved you, let you live forever."
"Live forever, as one of you? Sounds like a fate worse than death."
Terala growled in anger. "Fine. Have it your way," she yelled, and burst into flames.
Dalton screamed as he caught aflame, the fire spreading along his body. Twisting and spinning wildly, he finally tripped, impaling himself on an icicle. He sighed, seemingly in relief, and breathed no more.
Ayla dove through the door, the laser passing just over her as the door closed behind her. Robo helped her up. They looked around the room, if you could call it that. Actually, there was no roof. It was open to the clouded skies all around. High up above, the electricity shield was visible protecting anyone and anything in the room.
The two were actually standing on a bridge leading from the door to a central platform, on which sat a giant golden machine, with a metal rod sticking out at the top, reaching past the lightning shield. Lightning struck the rod almost constantly, as if it was designed to draw electricity.
Looking down, Ayla could see that a fall here would be deadly, the ground obscured by the clouds, but still visible, far down below. The bridge was the only thing standing between them and a long fall.
Ayla stiffened as she heard a sound. "Like bird," she remarked. She wasn't far off.
Flying up from their hiding places underneath the bridge, a man with black wings and a woman wearing hi-tech mechanical armor made themselves visible.
The woman, the one Ayla assumed to be Caerina, spoke, "Welcome, 'heroes'. Frankly, I'm surprised. You made it. In my book, that makes you worthy opponents."
The winged man nodded in agreement. "Indeed. It is too bad we have to kill you, but orders are orders, right, Caerina?"
Caerina snorted. "Speak for yourself, Wethreem. Im' going to enjoy the challenge. Just like I'm sure Ledune will. Right, Ledune?"
Ayla and Robo turned in surprise as they heard someone behind them clear their throat. There, at the door, as if he'd been there all along, was the man probably called Ledune. He was wearing light clothes and had ridiculous green hair. But just looking at him bothered Ayla's senses. There was something wrong about him.
The man spoke in a deep gravelly voice, "I certainly shall."
Robo placed a hand on Ayla's shoulder. "Good luck," he told her, and then he blasted off up into the air, to fight the two airborn menaces, leaving Ayla with Ledune.
Panicked, and wishing she hadn't left Dalton behind, Marle turned the corner, coming to a halt right in front of the elevator. Hesitating only a moment, she pressed the button, and waited, as she heard the elevator swiftly moving down the shaft.
"Come on, Victorian," Terala yelled over the ever-increasing rumbling. "We've got to go, now! You can't stop it!"
Victorian glanced over his shoulder at the woman, her clothes blackened and sooty. "I can't. Parsa will kill us if we let this place go down!"
"We'll die if we don't leave anyway! At least we can hope to avoid Parsa."
Victorian considered a moment. "All right, let's go."
"Screw Drissom. I'm going, whether Drissom's with us or not," Victorian told her, and, with a moment of concentration, rose up off the floor. In another moment he was flying down the hall towards the elevator.
As he flew along, he glanced back behind him, he saw Terala flying after him, flames following in her wake. However, Victorian could tell that she was losing power. She wouldn't have much left by the time they got to the elevator. In fact, she was already slowing down.
By the time Victorian had gotten to the elevator, Terala was far behind him, not even in the same area. He hesitated for a moment, but only a moment, before pushing the button. He sighed as he heard the sound of the elevator moving back down the shaft.
Marle froze in her tracks. The elevator was going back down. That meant that someone down in the Generator had pressed the recall button. Someone was still alive down there, but was it friend or foe? Dalton could still be alive.
I don't know how much time this island's got left, she considered. Wait, or go? Wait, or go?
Victorian smiled in satisfaction as the elevator doors slid open, revealing the small room that would carry him to safety. He stepped inside, but turned as he heard a shout.
He was surprised to see Terala turn the corner, running now, not flying, flames no longer trailing her. However, she was being trailed by a hall full of ice, the icicles bursting from the floor and walls just a few feet behind her back.
She had sweat on her face, despite the cold, and looked as if she was going to collapse before she got to him.
"Wait up," she screamed, her hair flying wildly around her head. "I'm going to make it!"
Victorian considered for a moment. He pushed the button, and couldn't help but smile at the horrified expression on Terala's face as the doors slid shut, and the elevator began to ascend.
Terala, unable to stop running, ran full force into the closed doors, the impact dizzying here. However, she shook it off, and stood, frantically pressing the recall button. No response.
She turned to the ice, coming closer by the moment, stabbing forth out of the hard metal of the corridor, as if a giant creature with millions of teeth was trying to bite through the island.
As the cold ice approached, stabbing ever closer to her body, Terala took her last breath and screamed, "YOU BASTAAAAAAAAGGGHHHHH..."
Victorian couldn't help but sigh in relief as the elevator ascended the last few feet to the surface, and finally came to a halt. He was free. Drissom and Terala were dead, but one had been a worthless idiot, and the other had always thought herself too good for him, right up until all she had left was him. And then he left her to die. He smiled again, imagining that she must look something like a pincushion.
The smile still on his face, (he didn't really have lips) he pushed the button, and closed his eyes as he breathed in the cool air of the surface.
But his smile withered as he opened his eyes, ending up staring into the dark blue eyes of the Queen, her crossbow aimed right at his face. "What..."
Without a word, Marle pulled the trigger, and didn't flinch as the bolt flew into Victorian's right eye, the sonic force surrounding it blowing away half of the lizard-man's skull. The dead body fell to its knees, and then to the left, leaning against the inner wall of the elevator. The doors closed silently.
Marle pressed the button on the side of the elevator, and listened as the elevator descended down the shaft.
"Good," she whispered, her blue eyes colder than the cave around her, "Rest with others of your kind. I just hope you don't end up rotting anywhere near Dalton. I wouldn't wish that on him."
With that, she put her crossbow away, turned, and walked out the cave, to find Epoch.
"Thou hast lost thy friend before thine very eyes; there art no words
to comfort thee."
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