CHAPTER 20.3

Approx. 2700 words

All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2015   SJ

Chaos: Infinite Darkness

Checkmate, Darkness

 

written by  SJ

 

 

    The headquarters for the Planetary Guardsmen near Cimarron City was stationed inside the office of an abandoned monorail station. The fifty or so remaining Guardsmen were located out in front, spread out in a long line behind a double-row wall of sandbags. There were three sturdy bunkers behind them made the same way. On a bright, sunny, afternoon, Lana met with Lieutenant Lawrence inside his office.
    “I’m glad to have you here.” He shook her hand briefly. “I have my men out front in a fairly close order formation. And I have a few video monitors spread out around the capital city, mostly on the main roads. I heard from Captain Garcia about you saying we needed to mass our firepower. As you can see, we built a few bunkers. But, none of our guys are in them.”
    Lana began showing the Lieutenant a map on her oPOD. “This area on the outskirts of Cimarron City is basically an industrial area, right?”
    He nodded. “Yes...most of it. Manufacturing, warehouses, stuff like that. I’m glad not a whole lot of people live there.”
    She looked at him and needed to confirm. “Have you taken any fire from the area of darkness? Like bolter fire?”
    “No.” He didn’t hesitate. “When my platoon first got here, I sent men out in simple, two-man, civilian, hover cars. You know, to scout around. Some of them got very close to that darkness.” He shook his head. “They said it was damn scary. They never saw anything like it before.”
    After a pause, Lana questioned, “do you know how it all started? What was the first thing that happened...after the planetary guns were destroyed, of course?”
    He had to delay, thinking. “Well, after my platoon was activated, and we were ready...we waited around a lot, you know, we didn’t have anyplace to go. Then we were sent here.” He sighed, trying to remember. “Once we arrived, the story goes something like this: The area to the northeast of Cimarron City is open ground, just a few scattered buildings. A few of the people that live there came driving into town reporting they saw a weird-looking, dark-colored, shuttle coming down. After that, several hours passed. Then a line of armored vehicles entered the city.” He pointed at Lana, remembering. “They were Rhinos, like the ones you have, with double-barreled bolters on top protected by a gun mantelet. I heard they were very dark in color, like the shuttle. There were about three or four of them, followed by some kind of tank; it had a turret with one barrel, with some guns on the side.”
    “Sounds like a Predator,” Lana guessed, then sighed, not liking what she heard. “They have a Predator tank.”
    Lawrence looked at her strangely, wondering. “How could that shuttle bring down all those armored vehicles?”
    “The shuttle probably only brought down a crew to build a WARP gate.” Lana answered straightforward. “It must’ve been a big one to allow for armored vehicles.” She thought a second. “When I get over there, I’m going to look for it. Anyway...what happened next?”
    Lawrence continued. “From what I was told, the armored vehicles roared down Main Street running over anything that got in their way using these big spikes they had in front. There was another small group of Rhinos behind those with these six-barrel missile launcher things on top. They all seemed to be heading for the center of town.”
    “So, around five Rhinos, a couple with Havoc missile launchers, and a Predator tank?” Lana was counting.
    “Yeah.” He agreed, then paused to remember. “Oh, yeah, the Prime Minister came on the air, telling people not to panic. She was going to talk to them.” He sighed. “But, that’s all we heard. There was no more communication after that. Some people left the city, maybe a hundred or so, but...it was night. I think most of them were waiting for morning before leaving. But...for Cimarron City, morning never came. A zone of darkness surrounded it. Once I arrived a day later, I started sending out scouts...but, then those things came out.” He looked at Lana. “You called them, Screamers. They started attacking my scouts. I had a Rhino in my unit, only it didn’t have gun on top.” He frowned. “When I sent it out...” He gulped, “they blew it up! I lost all those men.” He then look at Lana for validation. “I don’t know what I could’ve done about it. I didn’t know--”
    “It’s okay.” Lana’s voice was comforting. “You didn’t do anything wrong. You had no idea what those things could do.”
    “Afterwards, I ordered all my men to fall back here, where we are now. Dig in and defend.” He sighed again. “I gotta tell you--we were all scared.”
    “You did the right thing.” Lana smiled.
    Sergeant Dakota was nearby. When she overheard, she had to mention, “demons are something to be feared. They are not from our Universe. I think they emit a supernatural kind of fear. I feel it when I’m near them too. I’m just trained to overcome it.”
    Lana then introduced her. “Jennifer’s our Combat Librarian. Her specialty is destroying demons.”
    The Planetary Guard commander smiled weakly. “So, you guys are going over there? I hope you don’t mind if we not join you.”
    “We wouldn’t expect you to.” Lana agreed. “We’re not going over there to fight. I need to get a scouting report of my own. We have some good night vision equipment with us.”
    “When was the last time you encountered any demons?” Dakota asked, wondering.
    “Well, we been here for a little over a day since we retreated to this position.” He seemed sure. “We haven’t seen any since then.”
    “So, they’re probably all gone by now.” Jennifer thought out loud, then decided to explain. “Marcellus thinks that demons can only exist about 24 hours in our Universe.”
    “Chaos has to use them or lose them, then?” Lana summed up.
    Jennifer nodded.
    Lana introduced the other two members of her team, Ramcke and Burns, then asked Lieutenant Lawrence if they could use his HQ as a base, a place to sleep and eat. He responded affirmatively, then said his men were not leaving this spot and they’d all be here if she needed them, and that he had three lascannon support teams.
    ******
    Officer LaFong studied her map of the urban area around Cimarron City for about fifteen minutes, then gave orders to her team. Ramcke was to fly the shuttle and have as his primary weapon, a meltagun, with his sniper rifle left in a ready position inside the shuttle. Lana had her 9.1s, and her VSS sniper rifle, Dakota had a scout bolter and her Staff, Burns was given a standard bolter.
    The shuttle was fully stealthed as Hank flew it over the buildings then dropped to street level and up behind a large warehouse, disengaging the stealth. They could see the area of darkness clearly only 100 meters away.
    Lana didn’t like it as she scanned carefully, then finally realized--unbelievably! “It’s Infinite Darkness.” When she sighed deeply, the others looked at her...
    Then Jennifer had to make sure. “You mean, like what we saw on the Terminus Est? How can it be that big? How are they doing that?”
    Burns had already known what he was to do. As soon as the shuttle had landed, he jumped out and ran over to the warehouse double doors, cutting the lock off with his Space Marine combat knife. Hank then pulled inside the almost completely empty warehouse.
    Lana finally answered Jennifer’s question the best she could. “I don’t know. But this changes everything. We can’t go into the Zone of Darkness, which means we can’t determine exact Chaos forces.” She faced the Librarian directly. “Can you detect anything inside the Zone? Demons? My scanner show nothing at all.”
    Burns found the warehouse’s front sliding doors unlocked, but left them closed. Lana and Jennifer left the shuttle to stare out of one the warehouse's windows, the Librarian reaching out with her special power to see what she could detect inside the nearby Darkness.
    “There’s nothing.” Jennifer responded after a short time. “No demons, or demonic zones...just a generalized aura of the WARP.”
    “So, you think you can detect Chaos forces inside the Darkness...I mean, as long as they’re within several hundred meters, right?” Lana needed to confirm.
    Jennifer nodded tentatively. “Well, within that Darkness I can’t be absolutely sure about anything. But, as long as it’s something with a WARP shield, like demons and those Thousand Sons Chaos Marines, yes, I believe I can.”    
    Lana smiled back. “Well, that’s better than my scanner can do. I’m not even picking up any--”
    “A dog.” Burns spoke out loudly. “There’s a dog out there. Hey, I see a guy...at the edge of the Darkness.” He looked at Lana. “Permission--”
    “Go get him, Sammy.” Lana knew what he was going to ask.
    Burns quickly opened the sliding doors just enough so he could slip out, then left the warehouse and called to the dog. He then ran forward to the man, who was walking blindly around in the dim light at the edge of the Darkness, confused. When Burns reached man, he panicked and started flailing his arms. Burns put his arms around him and held his arms down, carrying him until he was fully out of the Darkness. That’s when he calmed down and Sammy let him go.
    The dog started barking. When it ran up to the man, he picked it up. That’s when he noticed Burns, thinking he was a Planetary Guardsman. Burns quickly led him back to the warehouse.
    “I can SEE,” was the man’s first words as he looked around, then put a leash on his dog and set him down. He looked at Burns, then at the others. “Thanks, thank you. Hey, you guys are...”
    “Space Marines.” Burns informed.
    The dog began barking, loud and shrill.
    When he petted the dog, it stopped, then he asked, “there are Space Marines here already?”
    Then Lana approached him. “I’m Officer LaFong. We’re a small group of Space Marines here to gather intelligence. Can you tell me what happened? How did you get here?”
    When the dog started barking again, he picked it up and it stopped. He began thinking...then, responded. “It seems like such as long time ago. There was an emergency broadcast that some kind of enemy had entered the city. The Prime Minister was supposed to come online and speak. Then everything went dark. I couldn’t see or hear anything...I thought I had gone blind and deaf.” He paused to correct himself. “If I was close enough to my dog, I could hear him bark. He’s got a loud bark.”
    “Yeah...you can say that again.” Burns mentioned the obvious.
    “How did you get out here?” Lana asked.
    He shrugged. “Well, my dog got away, and I went outside to get him. Needless to say, I got lost.” He sighed. “I’ve been wondering around for hours. Then I saw flashes of light. Then...someone grabbed me.” He pointed at Burns. “Then I followed this guy back to were I am now.” He finally smiled. “I want to thank you guys. By the way, my name’s Richard.”
    “You did most of the work getting out here.” Lana mentioned. “Where did you live...the edge of town?”
    “Yeah.” He looked around. “I don’t live too far away from these warehouses.” He sighed again. “I think I was just lucky I didn’t go the wrong way. Can you guys go in and find more people...you know, using your night vision stuff?”
    Lana shook her head. “No. Normal night vision equipment won’t work in there.”
    Richard looked at her, wondering why.
    She pointed. “That’s not just normal darkness. It’s called Infinite Darkness. We’d need special equipment to see in there.” Lana looked at Jennifer. “Didn’t you say the Tau are working on some special equipment?”
    “Marcellus says they have a couple prototypes.” Jennifer answered. “They’re sort of like virtual reality goggles.”
    Lana thought a couple seconds. “Chaos is in there...so they must be able to see inside it--”
    “God, Lana...do you know what that means.” Jennifer became shocked at the ramifications.
    “Yes.” Lana answered. “It means checkmate. Chaos can stay inside that Darkness and do anything they want...and there’s nothing we can do about it.”        
    “CHAOS!” Richard became scared. “Is that what’s happening here?” He breathed heavily, then asked. “Does anyone have some water?”
    Ramcke stepped into the shuttle then handed him a small bottle of water.
    “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do.” Lana had a plan. “We found one person who made their way out of that Darkness on his own. There’s has to be others. Everyone back in the shuttle. We'll make one fly around the area of Darkness looking for survivors.” She looked at Richard and waved. “Come on...you and your little dog, too.”
    ******    
    Hank spotted two people on the shuttle’s scanner five minutes after they started their 25 kilometer trip around the eight kilometer diameter circle of Darkness. They turned out to be two teenagers, a boy and a girl, a date that had become quite harrowing and somewhat extended.
    As the shuttle continued on its trip, Lana needed to find the road that became Main Street, which the two teenagers were able to help with since they knew the area. On the road, as she expected, they found the tread marks of the armored vehicles. Once the tread marks ended, there should've been a WARP gate. But, it was gone, obviously disassembled and removed, probably rebuild inside the Zone of Darkness.
    Further around the city, they found a mother with her three children, all very scared. Lana had to turn off the shuttle’s stealth for a few seconds to prove they weren’t some kind of invisible monster. The kids soon calmed down once they had Richard’s dog to play with.
    They picked up six more people by the end of their trip and soon deposited all of them at Lieutenant Lawrence’s Planetary Guard HQ, where they had just begun diner, lasagna, enough for everyone.
    “Did you spot any of those demons?” Lawrence felt he needed to ask.
    “No.” Jennifer answered. “I didn’t even detect any nearby.”
    When Lawrence spotted Lana going to the shuttle, he had to ask where she was going.
    “I have to contact the General, turn in my report.” She sighed, then pointed in the direction of Cimarron City. “Those people in there...they’re going to be stuck there until the General can get his destroyers here. And that won’t be for, at the least, five days.” She pointed at the civilians she had earlier rescued. “Some of those say they hadn’t eaten in a couple days. In five days, how many of those still trapped will have starved?”
    Hank walked up to Lana just before she got into the shuttle. He asked, “are you going to need any help?”
    The woman that had been rescued with her three children was with Hank. She had a plate with some food covered with foil. She handed it to Lana. “I just wanted say how thankful we are. Here, take some pie with you. It’s really good.”
   Lana had already ordered most of their weapons unloaded. She answered, Hank. “I want you guys to stay here and help defend, just in case. Give them some pointers on how to better use those lascannons. You’re going to need them if you’re attacked by armored vehicles.”
    Ramcke nodded.
    She looked at the woman and thanked her, then prepared the shuttle for take off.



 

 


 



 

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