Approx. 4000 words
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2015 SJ
Chaos: Infinite Darkness
written by SJ
When Lana landed on Fahrenheit to pick up the other three team members of her team, in the lobby of the shuttleport, she was met with a big surprise:
A tall, sinewy, Kroot stood before her in full uniform and announced his presence loud and clear. “I am Shaper To’dondelaro. I offer myself and my squad to be under your command, Officer LaFong.” He snapped a quick salute.
She stood with wide eyes, then looked at Gannon.
He spoke proudly. “These guys are not just some Kroot militia. These guys are regulars.” Gannon addressed the Shaper. “How many guys do you have?”
“I have twelve members in my squad. Three Hounds, and one Krootox Rider.” He stood tall.
Lana still had wide eyes and had to mention, “I can’t fit all these guys in the shuttle--”
“I have a cargo shuttle they can all fit in.” A Terran man in his middle age, apparently the shuttleport manager, spoke up.
She began thinking, concerned about sending a shuttle full of troops unprotected with two Chaos warships in the area.
“If we move quickly, we have two more hours before those warships orbit around to this side.” The shuttleport manager quickly mentioned.
Lana snapped her fingers. “That’s right. Cimarron’s got a 32 hour day. Let’s go.”
At Lieutenant Lawrence’s Planetary Guard HQ, Bull, Gannon, and Ramos unloaded their equipment and prepared to join the Guardsmen. As for To’dondelaro’s Kroot squad, Lana told them to conceal themselves in a small, nearby, park located five kilometers closer to the Infinite Darkness zone, but not to engage in combat, explaining about the Chaos warships above them. They seemed to understand.
After a little over a two day wait, Officer LaFong was contacted by High Commissar Yarrick. He was on his way down onboard a small, fast, corporate, yacht along with his mortar team...bringing the Tau Goggles with him. Eventually, he asked with great enthusiasm, “has that Zone of Darkness gone away?”
She looked at Lieutenant Lawrence, who looked at one of his video screens, then looked back and shook his head; she answered, “I’m afraid it hasn’t.”
“Damn!” Yarrick was disappointed.
But, Lana had a more important question of her own, “have those warships left orbit?”
“Yeah.” Yarrick maintained his disappointment. “For while, I thought my command was going to chalk up two Chaos warships for my score. But, they took off at the last moment. They headed out away from the planet and have set themselves up for an open space battle.” He finally smiled. “My four corsairs have taken their place in orbit.”
“That’s really good news.” Lana looked at Lieutenant Lawrence, who was now relaying the news of the end of the planetary siege to his squad with gusto.
“I’ll be down in about fifteen minutes.” Yarrick looked eager to land. “Maybe it takes time for that Infinite Darkness to go away. I don’t know. When I land, I’ll give you the Goggles and you can put your plan into motion.” He seemed to think of something. “Have you contacted the people in charge of the monorail? If you’re having trouble getting their permission, I can talk to them for you.”
“I already have their permission.” Lana nodded. “But, thanks, anyway.”
“Good.” Yarrick looked like he had a plan of his own. “When I arrive, I’m going to set up my mortar team right away. If that Zone of Darkness is still there, then whatever’s making it has to be in the exact center. My team can calculate where that center is and can land mortar rounds with ten meters of that center point.”
“I thought of that, also.” Lana sighed. “But, we don’t know how many civilians might be in that ten meter area.”
Yarrick understood, then countered. “But, if you can make your way in there and find a landmark my mortar team can recognize on their map, they can narrow the ten meter radius down to less than five.”
“Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.” Lana had thought of the same thing and was going mention it if he hadn’t. The idea had civilian casualties written all over it; but, if destroying the device that was emitting the Darkness was possible, it very well could be worth it since it would make rescue missions possible.
Once Lana’s conversation with Yarrick was over, she contacted the monorail supervisor, a man by the name of Garcia, and explained her plan.
After about fifteen minutes the supervisor had to mention, “you know there’ll be no way to contact you once you’re inside the Zone of Darkness.”
Lana nodded, thought for several seconds, then spoke up. “You can program those cars to start and stop by a timer, right? Is the programming part of the car itself, or is it transmitted wirelessly?”
“Both. And I see where you’re coming from.” Garcia smiled. “You want me to program the car itself. But, you know, I won’t be able to change the program once it goes into the Zone of Darkness.”
“I figured, so.” Lana understood. “But, you’ll know if the car gets destroyed, right?”
“Yes, I believe so.” He nodded. “The same with the tracks. Right now, I'm reading an intact track. I would know if there’s a break in the line. Right now, the station over at Calaxo Park has one car ready. I’m routing one more car there now.”
“How about the station inside Cimarron City?”
“That station should be empty. No cars.” The supervisor knew. “One car left just before the city went dark. I had time to halt the car from Calaxo Park and send it back.” He smiled, happy about making the right decision back then.
She smiled. “As soon as Commissar Yarrick lands and hands me the special Tau Goggles, I’ll be on my way. I’ll call you once I’m there.”
Calaxo Park had many of the rides one would find at a hilly amusement park, plus the park itself. Lana flew the shuttle there in stealth mode then turned it off just before landing. Any employees and visitors to the Park had left long ago and the monorail station was abandoned; but, she brought the other three members of her team just in case. It didn’t take very long for Sergeant Dakota to report nothing there.
From the monorail platform on top the hills, they could see Cimarron City in the distance, about fifteen kilometers away, still surrounded by the Darkness. Lana opened the door to the waiting monorail car then placed one of her standard Scout Marine bio-imitators in one of the seats, having no idea if Chaos would read it as a person or not. She then contacted the monorail supervisor.
Monorail Supervisor Garcia and Yarrick answered on the same channel. Lana gave her instructions: “Have the car take off at normal speed, then stop for five minutes at the Cimarron City station. When it departs, can you double the speed?”
“On that stretch of track there’s a turn. Max speed will be plus fifty percent, only.” Garcia answered simply.
“We don’t want it flying off the track.” That was Yarrick.
The Supervisor chuckled, then address Lana. “High Commissar Yarrick. You have some important friends. He’s assured me we’d be compensated in full for any damage to the track or cars...maybe even given a little upgrade if everything turns out okay.”
“Is the first car ready to go over there?” Yarrick seemed eager.
“Yes, it’s ready. Take off.” Lana okayed.
Lana and her team watched as the monorail car slowly accelerated then traveled toward the Zone of Darkness, watching it with their enhanced Scout optics until it disappeared...
Lana had no idea what kind of senses Chaos would have in the Zone of Darkness. She decided to wear as little encumbering clothing as possible: Boots, fatigue pants, and tank top. She wanted to wear her Tau force shield; but there was the problem of not knowing whether if it would work or not, plus whether the energy it discharged could be detected by Chaos. She decided to leave it behind, much to the disagreement of her team. As for weapons, she armed herself with one silenced 9.1, fixed under her arm like a shoulder holster. Even though sound for her would be severely impaired in the Darkness, it might radiate loud and clear for Chaos.
As monorails go, those in and around Cimarron City were fairly slow. It would take fifteen minutes for the car to reach the center of the city, wait five minutes, then another fifteen minutes to reach Lawrence’s Planetary Guard HQ. Lana and her team sat patiently. When it arrived, Lana was called.
The car hadn’t been fired on.
Lana had no idea whether the arrival of a second car at the Cimarron City monorail station so soon after the first one would arouse suspicion with Chaos, assuming they noticed or cared at all. Also, she could only guess at how much time she needed to spot the illicit object that was causing the Darkness, then return to the car. She asked Supervisor Garcia to set the wait at twice the first car, ten minutes.
She had already tested the special Tau Goggles several times, earlier. It worked on a simple principle of using a built-in scanner specially designed to penetrate the Infinite Darkness, then to represent everything the wearer saw, or rather would see, in a virtual low-resolution graphics, like a video game. With the Goggles on, she noticed Burns next her, and almost chuckled; he looked kind of funny.
“How are they?” He asked looking back at her.
“Not bad.” She took the Goggles off. “The problem is I have no telescopic vision at all.”
“How about using your scope?” Burns mentioned.
“No. Doesn’t work.” She held out the goggles displaying them, explaining. “This is only a simple prototype. The lens on my scope appears like a flat surface. I can’t see though--” She stopped herself, then thought of something. She walked over to the monorail car, put back on the Goggles, stared at one of the windows for a couple seconds, then sighed as she removed the Goggles.
“What’s wrong?” Burns was wondering.
“I can’t see though glass.”
Dakota walked up and heard, confirming. “You can’t see though glass?”
Lana shook her head, then tried to explain. “It must be the software. The Goggles must be using a very simple software program, the only one they had time to write.”
“So, what do you want to do?” Burns asked.
The Special Ops leader held out her hand toward the monorail car. “Have fun, guys.”
“You want us to knock out all the windows?” Burns grinned.
Right after Burns and Ramcke had picked up some heavy metal objects, and started walking over to the car, she thought she should mentioned, “break the windows from the INSIDE out...okay, guys?” She sighed. “I don’t want to be crawling around on a bunch of broken glass.”
Most of the windows came out in one-piece sheets. Any glass that fell inside the car, she and Jennifer swept into the corners of the car. Even small pieces of glass might make noise, or cause her to make a noise if she cut herself.
She looked at the two men after they were done. “Have fun?”
They shrugged like it wasn’t that big of deal.
Ramcke then felt he needed to say. “Just be careful, okay?”
Burns nodded, agreeing.
“Do you think Chaos will notice the broken windows?” Jennifer looked at her and smiled.
Lana looked back, then spoke. “Notice? I don’t know. Hell, they might even approve.”
There was a couple chuckles.
She got in the car and called Supervisor Garcia, who started the car moving. She waved, sitting in one of the car seats. “See you guys later.”
“You better.” Burns frowned.
Halfway to the Zone of Darkness, Lana laid down on the floor of the monorail car. Then, when she was actually inside, when it felt like she had just been struck blind and deaf, that’s when she put on the Goggles. Until now, she hadn’t been able to test them in actual Infinite Darkness.
The virtual world around her didn’t look that much different from when she was in plain daylight. In the upper right hand corner of her view was the indicator, <ID>, just so she was able to know where she was. Around her, the thing Lana noticed the most was the absolute silence. Even the hum of the car itself had gone silent, leaving nothing but a mild vibration.
She continued to wait until the car slowly began coming to a stop.
Earlier, Lana had obtained an old-fashioned watch to tell time while inside the Darkness, to keep track of the ten minutes she was allotted. Before leaving, she had pried the lens off so she could see it. Once the car was fully stopped, she marked the time, then waited for one full minute. She had just arrived in a moving vehicle; that had to draw at least some attention. The last thing she wanted was to rise up in one of the windows with a host of Chaos staring at her.
After her minute was up, she carefully crawled out of the front seat of sliding doors, which opened, seemly, without a sound, where she looked around quickly, not knowing if Chaos forces were actually occupying the platform itself.
She spotted no one. However, if anyone was in the actual lobby of the monorail station, looking out of a window in plain sight--that she couldn’t see, the windows appearing solid and opaque. If Chaos was there, they would be able to see her clearly. It was simply one of those risks she had to take. Once she was out in the open, gladly, nothing happened.
As with many missions, Lana had memorized the area around the platform using a virtual map before she started. She lifted herself up a little and looked around, trying to recognize some of the buildings in the distance, which was hard to do since the virtual graphics of the goggles were low resolution. She crawled around, stared, then crawled again, turned and stared. After several minutes, she knew were she was...but, then sighed: The absolute center she was looking for was directly behind the monorail car itself.
It was obvious she could crawl back into the car and peek through one of the broken windows. But, that would be the most risky thing she could do, and something she would wait to do until the car was seconds from leaving.
Crawling silently, she made her way to station’s lobby, where inside, she might be able to make her way to the roof for a higher view point. Finding the door, she pushed it open, then felt it hit something...something which moved. It was almost to faint to hear, but it sounded like a muffed scream of a young child right next to her.
Looking to the right, a little further away inside the lobby, she spotted three more children, little girls, plus one young, adult, female. The person she had bumped with the door was the fourth little girl, who seemed to still be screaming. Lana crawled quickly and held her hand over her mouth, then spoke directly into her ear, whispering loudly.
“Stop screaming, stop screaming, I’m a Space Marine.” Her next statement she had to say, even though it was not part of her original mission plan. “I’m here to rescue you. PLEASE...stop making sound.”
The little girl seemed to become very weak in Lana’s arms. It was at that point she realized that these people very possibly hadn’t had very much to drink or eat in days. After getting out the small water bottle she had brought with her, she pressed the open bottle to the little girls lips, who began drinking. Shortly afterwards, the little girl broke free and crawled over to where the others were, and with touch tried to tell them about the Space Marine’s presence.
It was now obvious Lana could not carry on with her mission as it was. She looked at her watch and saw she only had six minutes left, time she needed to tell four children and one adult by touch and whisper how to get out of the lobby and into the monorail car.
She crawled quickly, knowing the next person she needed to speak to was the young woman, the leader of what was apparently a kind of girl scout group that had been hiding inside the lobby of the monorail station, probably, ever since Chaos had arrived. The girl scout leader fought back fearfully as Lana grabbed her. After taking a couple blows to the face, Lana was finally able to speak into the woman’s ear...and she settled down.
“I’m a Space Marine.” Lana whispered loudly. “My name is LaFong. What’s your name? You have to speak right into my ear.”
“I’m blind and deaf. I think we all are.” The woman suddenly became rational, then remembered. “My name is Rose. Can you hear me? CAN YOU SEE? Oh, my God!”
Lana switch positions. “Don’t speak so loud. I have a monorail car outside ready to leave in...” she glanced at her watch, “five minutes. Get your girls to hold on and follow you. You hold onto me, okay?”
The woman sounded like she was crying, but she answered, “okay.”
It took almost another three minutes to get all the little girls organized in a chain, then Lana started moving, Rose holding on and following, the girls behind her. Once they were all out on the platform, Lana checked to make sure they were all there. Once she had reached the door to the car, and it was open, she slipped to the side and allowed Rose to make her way inside by feel, followed by the girls.
Meanwhile, Lana had removed her 9.1 and was ready. With all the noise that had to have been made, it was hard to believe no Chaos troops had come up to investigate. However, she thought to soon. As the last child crawled into the car, two Chaos Cultists walked around the far side of the lobby and into view. Lana didn’t wait, already pissed off at the plight Chaos had done to the little girls, she shot the first Cultist twice in the face. As he crumpled backward, the second one fired once with a laspistol, missing way above her. She quickly put three holes in his chest, then slipped inside the car and let the doors close. Before she could look at her watch, she felt the car lunge and start moving.
Lana quickly made her way over to the woman, telling her to tell her girls to lay flat on the floor, leaving out the details of the resent gun battle. She then made her way to one of the windows on the opposite side of the car, looking out, trying to spot what she was looking for; but, the space she needed to see was blocked by parked Chaos Rhinos. Damn!
Making her way to the back of the car, she kept her head high enough to see out, looking back at the station platform. The car was starting to speed up, but there were two more Cultists already taking aim with their laspistols.
Aiming quickly, Lana shot one of the Cultist in the head just as it fired and missed. Laspistol shots flashed by her from the other one as she began firing at the last Cultist, hitting him several times. She couldn’t believe it as the Cultist staggered backward, then hit a lamp pole, then stumbled forward and seemed to dramatically throw himself over the side of the platform’s wooden railing.
It looked like something Colonel Gallardo had joked about. “Don’t just slump over...throw yourself over the side.” She was mad. That fall could very easily arouse more Chaos troops, maybe one of the Rhinos to fire on her. All she could do now was to lay down on the floor and hope for the best as the monorail car continued to accelerate.
Once Lana was reasonably sure they were safe, she crawled over and spoke the Rose, telling her they were on their way to a Planetary Guard HQ. Then the Space Marine took a seat and waited, looking at the people she had just rescued. The young woman and the children all seemed to wait patiently, obviously something they’d gotten used to doing over the last several days. However, once they exited the Darkness, they all became excited, tearful exclamations of, “oh, my God I can see!”
With her Goggles removed, one look at their sallow, starved, faces and Lana almost cried. But, the children all had smiles. Rose got off the floor and took a seat next to Lana, hugging her. “You came all that way just to rescue us...thank you.”
Some of the children joined in.
Just to change the subject, to keep from crying herself, she had to mention, “actually, I didn’t know any of you were even there.” She smiled slightly, and sighed. “I was supposed to try to find out what Chaos was using to make the Darkness. I didn’t--”
“I saw it.” Rose spoke up.
Lana looked back at her, surprised. Before she had time to ask, Rose explained, telling her story:
“We were all at the monorail station waiting when those awful tanks came crashing into town. Everyone started running away...but, I decided it would be better if we stayed inside the lobby. Then we heard shooting.” She grimaced. “Those machine guns were SO LOUD!” She looked at her scout troop. “I got everyone to lay down. And we stayed there until it stopped. Afterwards, I stepped up on one of the lobby seats and looked out the window...so I could see what was happening. There was a group of strangely dressed people all helping to move this thing--some kind of big crystal. I didn’t see what it was attached to, but it must’ve been like a meter tall, and about one third that wide. They set it down next to that statue in the square, then these two guys in long, violet, robes holding these strange staffs started praying to it or something. Another guy in a fancy, blue, robe stepped over. I could only see him from behind, but it seemed like he was some kind of leader. The top of his staff had these long white horns coming out; he had a helmet with even longer white horns.” She frowned, then continued. “Then the crystal started glowing. It was weird. I saw darkness around the glow.” She sighed and looked down. “Then the darkness quickly expanded from the crystal and everything went black. We could talk to each other at first. I got everyone together and calmed down.” She almost cried. “Then we couldn't even hear. I thought something had happened to make us all blind an deaf.”
Lana patted Rose on the shoulder, complementing her, “you did a really good job.”
Rose smiled back weakly. “All we had was a box of cookies and a small bottle of water to last us.”
“But, you’re all alive and well. You did good.”
“You didn’t get to see what you came to see, did you?” Rose looked tired.
Lana spoke with excitement. “You just told me what I came to see. You gave me more information than I could’ve ever gotten on my own.” She smiled. “Thank you. The information you just gave me will be invaluable. Thank you, again.” Looking at Rose and the little girls, she remembered what was even more important. “And, of course, I’m very happy I was there to rescue you guys.”