Operation Exile. That's what the Travelers called it, when they made the decision to kill us all. The bomb would destroy everything that we were, and ever would be, burning our souls to dust so that nothing could ever bring them back. So that nothing could ever feed upon them. It turns out that the necromancer had the right idea after all.
This is Thane, and we're in a lot of trouble.
We were locked in at HQ, and we thought that things were finally quieting down. We had a few ops in the pipe that I was honestly looking forward to, just to see sunlight again, or at least the sky. I don't even know what fresh air tastes like anymore.
Didn't quite get the chance.
Prometheus had been preparing for something big, but we had no idea what, and anyone we tried to capture killed themselves before we could take them into custody. Then, it all stopped, like the calm before the storm. We pulled the base off lockdown. Jefferies and Tanner were both on duty, while Barry and I were slamming back drinks at the cantina outside the mess hall. It had been tense, not knowing what could be coming our way, and we figured it was time to celebrate. After neither of us could no longer walk in a straight line, we shambled past the barracks wing, harassed Sprite over at R&D, and found our way to the airfield doors so we could finally take a walk outside. The two checkpoint guards posted next to them swiped our IDs, and let us through, the heavy, steel barrier sliding open in front of us. Barry shuffled ahead of me, and I could see the beginnings of the night sky over the walls of the complex. Apart from the base itself, there was no light pollution out there, so you could see every star in the sky, streaks of cosmic radiance burning over the vast rows of helicopters and maintenance hangars, while the dark silhouettes of watchtowers lurked upon the horizon, each outfitted with a laser defense system designed to shoot down incoming missiles and aircraft.
I was about to follow Barry outside, ready to take it all in, when a blinding flash of light swallowed my vision, and a thundering boom shocked through the air, deafening my ears and knocking me onto my back with a concussive shockwave. Barry scrambled over to me as I crawled to my feet, looking up to see that one of the towers had been reduced to a smoldering ruin. My ears ringing, I stepped forward, and looked up to see a bizarre aircraft descending from the sky above the airfield, like a sweeping hook with wings of vicious, metallic thorns, glowing, crimson sigils burning upon its every surface. The alarm began to sound, and the remaining defense towers locked onto the ship, their lasers flashing against it, only to burn upon a sudden forcefield of hexagonal lines, streaks of sparking fire raining down from every point of impact, but failing to penetrate the flickering barrier. The dark aircraft turned through the sky like liquid upon the air, and the weapon systems beneath its wings flared with minute beams of seething antimatter that collided with the unseen towers, a cascade of explosions cracking through the distance a moment later. Upon the horizon, the lights of several incoming helicopters slowly approached, cutting through the night as the lone alien craft swiftly dispatched any remaining defenses.
"Come on," said Barry, running back into the hall as the two checkpoint guards rushed out into the darkness with their rifles at the ready. "Let's get to the armory."
Gunshots rattled behind us while I followed Barry into the depths of the complex, and emerged within the luminous central chamber, contingents of soldiers rushing over the walkways of glass and grated silver that flanked the walls of the second level, while others emerged from the barracks doors, dressed in fatigues with their M16s slung over their shoulders. Panicked chatter crackled from every radio, while orders were barked through the air in the chaos, everyone in a hurry to quickly mobilize. Passing through the blinding fluorescent lights that burned overhead and reflected upon every gleaming surface, we joined the surge of off-duty personnel that were running toward the armory, and stopped when we saw Jefferies and Tanner tailing behind another BREACH squad in their power armor, railguns in hand.
"You two, get suited up," said Jefferies. "We're setting up cover just ahead. We're using the airfield hall as a choke while the other teams deploy from the underground shafts and box them in."
"Who's attacking us?" I asked.
"Prometheus," said Jefferies. "They're backed by the legionnaires. Now go!"
We continued down the corridor until we reached the armory, the sprawling chamber separated off from towering shelves of equipment and weaponry by silver grating, while the armorers struggled to accommodate everyone that was rushing toward the queue windows. Barry and I were hurried in through a separate entrance alongside several other BREACH squad members, moving past the rows of workbenches and scattered parts before we arrived at the holding area for special operations gear. Two armorers quickly took our powered exoskeletons down from the racks, and anchored them to the floor before moving to assist the others. The back of my armor yawning open before me, I stepped up into it, and it locked into place around my limbs, humming to life as it sealed me inside, and the heads up display flickered in around me. When it was fully powered on, I took an electrical cannon from the racks and armed it, Barry quickly joining me after he loaded his railgun.
"Let's kick some ass," he said. I nodded, and we ran back down the rows, other squad members rushing by us to get suited up. We passed through the grated door, and hurried through the crowds of the main armory, leaving it for the corridor that led back to the central chamber. Something beeped from overhead, and we looked up to see Sprite decloaking above us, following in our wake as gunshots rattled through the hall ahead. Entering the central chamber, we saw it was now sectioned off with metal blockades, soldiers and BREACH squads taking cover behind them while they kept their weapons trained on the hall to the airfield. Several Prometheus soldiers had been gunned down in front of it, clad in dark, lightweight armor, black balaclavas, and M4 carbines as their blood dripped from the silver walls.
Jefferies motioned us over to where he and Tanner were positioned in front of the open hall, and we took cover next to him. Sprite beeped again, and Jefferies patted him.
"Good boy," he said. "I was wondering if they would release you." Our radio systems crackled to life within our suits.
"Overwatch to all personnel," said command. "Four hostile aircraft have landed on the strip, and two have taken the helipads on the roof. We have Prometheus fireteams establishing a perimeter around the base, localized at the airfield entrance, and supported by legionnaires. Backup is inbound, but be advised that an unknown stealth aircraft has bypassed radar detection, and has disabled anti-air capabilities. All personnel maintain defensive positions. Out."
"Switch to thermal," said Jefferies. "They're around the corner."
I kept my eyes on the corner at the end of the hall, and switched my visor to thermal, the red outlines of several Prometheus soldiers crouched just ahead. To say the least, I was way too drunk for this.
"Can our railguns penetrate the walls?" asked Tanner.
"Not here," I said, keeping my electrical cannon braced against my shoulder. Command crackled in through the radio once more.
"Delta, Theta, and Gamma squads are in position beneath the airfield and are ready to engage," they said. "All personnel at blockade choke points remain on standby, and prepare to support. Out."
One of the Prometheus soldiers tossed a smoke grenade out into the hall. It popped, and started to fill the corridor with a dense wall of smoke, but they seemed to be unaware that we could still see them. The soldiers angled out from behind the corner with their rifles raised, and the BREACH operators around me immediately opened fire, railguns cracking through the air, and messily splattering the oncoming force across the walls. One of the soldiers dove back into cover at the last second, and fled out of sight, his comrades reduced to a mess of pulverized meat and organs behind him.
A resonating boom shuddered throughout the complex, and the lights burnt out around us, the HUD of my visor crackling and distorting before it corrected itself. I switched to night vision, cutting through the darkness that now enveloped the blockade as the soldiers around me began to mount lights on the rails of their M16s, their beams panning through the shadows in confusion.
"We got hit with an EMP," said Barry, keeping his eyes trained on the hall. Another boom shocked through the structure above, dust falling down from the ceiling like something had just collided with the base. Gunfire echoed through the distance from somewhere in the communications wing.
"Overwatch to all personnel," said command. "Delta, Theta, and Gamma squads are down. Maintain defensive positions, and do not leave the base. If your blockade has been compromised, fall back to the R&D safe room. Protect the bomb at all costs. Out."
Another boom echoed in the distance, followed by another just above us, the structure shaking beneath my feet as loose debris clattered down from the ceiling. I briefly switched back to thermal, and saw a second fireteam of Prometheus soldiers gathering behind the wall at the end of the hall.
"Pull back," said Jefferies, urgently tapping me on the shoulder. "Hurry." Barry, Tanner, Sprite, and myself followed Jefferies through the blockade while another BREACH squad took our place, leading us to the connecting hall of the R&D wing just as a thundering explosion echoed through the complex, and the ceiling of the central chamber gave way behind us. I quickly covered my head and got low to the ground as a beam of antimatter shot down from above, and with a blinding flash, I saw half the room disintegrate in a split second before the shockwave knocked me to the floor. Disoriented, I scrambled across the metallic tiles, rivers of blood smearing beneath me as gunfire rattled through the crackle of flames.
"Come on!" yelled Tanner, grabbing me by the hand and helping me up. I looked back to see a glowing pit in the middle of the room, dismembered body parts strewn about the remnants of the barricade, while injured men and women screamed in pain and struggled to fight back against the Prometheus soldiers that poured in through the airfield hall. Jefferies opened fire on them to cover our escape, his powerful shots decapitating them in explosions of blood and bone before they quickly turned their attention to him. Their bullets harmlessly clinked and ricocheted against his armor, and Sprite raked his lasers through the advancing force, messily bisecting several of them, but they kept on coming. Then, three dark figures plummeted down from the glowing hole in the ceiling, and landed in the center of the room with a heavy thud. Legionnaires. The eight-foot-tall titans of rippling muscle stood to their full height, clad in the blackened armor of demonic knights as cloaks of human flesh hung from their imposing frames. Their skin was scarred with vicious runes, and in the claws of their wicked gauntlets, they each wielded greatswords and battle axes that would have taken several men to even lift, expertly crafted to inflict the highest amount of pain that they physically could.
I took aim with my electrical cannon, yet before I could fire, a legionnaire raised his hand to me, and a searing heat began to melt the weapon in my grip. I dropped it, the bubbling metal of its design glowing red hot upon the ground. The legionnaire laughed, baring his razor-sharp teeth as the others opened fire with their railguns, but failed to even scratch the terrifying figures, every shot uselessly sparking against their flesh and armor alike. While the other two began to slaughter the remaining soldiers in the room, the legionnaire before me held his unbroken gaze, raising his sword in the air as he slowly approached.
"Your fates have been written," he bellowed, the others pulling me back. "Your resistance is hollow." A soldier tried to run past him into the hall, but he swiftly snatched him up with a single hand, and crushed his skull within his fist. "Your reality belongs to us, and your flesh ... belongs to me."
I turned, and quickly retreated with the rest of my squad, running down the corridor as the laughter of the legionnaire bellowed through the air, and another echoing boom nearly shook me off my feet. Turning into the sprawling lobby of the R&D wing, we saw a fireteam of Prometheus soldiers pinning down the meager remnants of a blockade, their shots rattling and sparking across the metallic desks and shattered windows of the adjoining office block while our allies struggled to return fire. Jefferies, Tanner, and Barry immediately gunned them down in a hail of depleted uranium, their blood splattering upon the silver walls lit only by the lights of rifles, and the flashes of gunfire. Another three Prometheus soldiers came in through the secondary hall they were attacking from, one of them shooting a fleeing researcher in the back, while the other two took aim at us. I felt the shots of 5.56 ricochet harmlessly against my armor, but the second soldier fired an AR-10, the .308 round piercing through Barry's plating in a spatter of blood. Jefferies and Tanner quickly returned fire, joined by several men taking cover beyond the blockade, blasting the Prometheus soldiers to pieces.
"You okay?" Jefferies asked. Barry nodded, clutching his stomach in pain.
"Bullet's still in me," he said with a pained grin. "Might need a new kidney." Thundering footstomps echoed from the hall that the soldiers had come from, and a legionnaire emerged from the blackness, the men at the blockade opening fire on him to no effect.
"Come on," said Jefferies, leading us past the reception desk and into the office block, shattered glass crunching beneath my boots while the men around us continued to fire through the darkness. One tossed a fragmentation grenade at the lumbering titan, but it only harmlessly exploded at his feet, the shrapnel doing absolutely nothing. Another BREACH squad of five emerged from the shadows at the end of the block, hurrying past us, and all wielding electrical cannons.
"Sierra, this is Epsilon," radioed the other sergeant. "Help us set the perimeter."
We stopped and turned as they took cover at the blockade, and we found our positions just behind them, all of us quickly taking aim at the legionnaire. The wicked creature only grinned, and slit his palm with a runic dagger, revealing a twisting, ornate sigil that had been carved into his skin.
"Aeshthax, Defiler of Gods," he hissed. "Step forth from my blood."
The other BREACH squad opened fire, electrical shockwaves slamming into the legionnaire, and utterly disintegrating him, vaporized flesh and bits of armor splattering and ricocheting against the walls. Nothing more seemed to threaten us, but gunshots still echoed in the distance. Four allied soldiers rushed in from another hall in the lobby ahead, looking terrified and covered in blood.
"Over here," yelled a man from the blockade at our side, motioning them over. "Get to the labs. We've got this." The soldiers hurried past us, and disappeared into the darkness at our back, another shuddering boom echoing throughout the complex, and shaking a cloud of dust from the ceiling.
"Guys ..." said Barry, a hint of fear in his voice. I turned to see him pointing at the remains of the legionnaire, whose blood began to boil and crawl upon the ground, winding together into a bubbling pool as more of the crimson liquid was drawn off the walls and pulled into the whole, as though possessed of its own intelligence.
"What the fuck ..." muttered one of the other BREACH operators, taking aim at the churning pool. Then, my heart seized in my chest, a sense of overwhelming dread immediately flooding through me in a haze of raw adrenaline. A long, clawed hand emerged from the blood, like I was staring into a portal to another world. Several more slender arms slid forth into our reality, splaying out across the tiles like the limbs of a spider, and in their wake, something pulled itself up from the pool and unfurled at least sixteen feet above us. It looked down at us as though we were dust, and I could barely breathe, like all the oxygen had been sucked from the air.
I'm not sure how to exactly describe what I saw in that moment. It seemed to shift through a thousand different identities, its face like a collapsing star of teeth and nothingness that made me want to slit my own throat. Its bizarre, hermaphroditic body was bound by an armor of constricting thorns that cut into its flesh with every unnerving, wrongly angled movement, six mutilated breasts hanging down from its slender, otherworldly form that embodied a nightmarish parody of inhuman excess. The other BREACH squad began to open fire, electrical shockwaves ripping against the horrific aberration, but to absolutely no effect. Its face of withering flesh opened into a maw of spiraling fangs that wept down into infinity, and from that maw, it loosed a scream that brought me to my knees, the structure trembling as though caught in an earthquake while the blasphemous sound scraped through the very depths of my soul. The others around me clutched their ears in vain, screaming and writhing upon the ground while several soldiers started to fall into seizure, but nothing could prevent the wailing shriek that stripped and raped my mind with its resonance. Then, it ceased, and I could only shudder upon the tiles, confused and disoriented.
"FALL TO YOUR KNEES AND BEG," the nightmare bellowed from all around us. "FOR THE EYES OF SUFFERING HAVE GRACED YOUR FLESH." I scrambled back across the floor alongside the others as the towering creature snatched up one of the BREACH operators, and opened its maw of limitless void, rasping with a perverse hunger. The operator immediately fell limp, as though all the life had been instantaneously drained from his body, and a ghostly light wept from his armor, sucked into the pit of spiraling teeth as the looming terror drank his soul. It discarded the empty shell of a body, and turned its focus to the rest of the squad members, who fired upon it with their electrical cannons. It only swept its claws through their ranks, cleaving three of the squad members in a splatter of blood and organs. The horror picked up the remaining operator, and sank its countless claws into his skin while he screamed within its grip. "OPEN, MORTAL, AND BARE YOUR FLESH. I CAN TASTE THE FEAR UPON YOUR SOUL." With a sickening slickness, its claws warped around the man's shrieking body, and slowly turned him inside out, blood, intestines, and dislodged bones spilling out from the unrecognizable mass of flesh. Two legionnaires entered the lobby from one hall, while a large contingent of Prometheus soldiers entered from another, immediately stopping when they saw the aberration turn toward them, and ignore us completely. It didn't care if they professed to be its allies. It just wanted to inflict as much pain as it possibly could, and when it smelled their souls upon the blood-drenched air, it couldn't deny its hunger.
We fled through the ruined office block as the screams of the Prometheus soldiers cut through the distance, uselessly firing upon the looming nightmare as it ate their souls and flayed them alive. We quickly moved past an abandoned checkpoint, and emerged within the laboratory section of the R&D wing, countless testing and storage chambers flanking us, and walled off by bulletproof glass that was smeared with blood. Running past the gurneys and stacks of overturned crates, muzzle flashes burned through the darkness beyond, a legionnaire marching unimpeded through the distant chambers as she pursued a guard and several researchers. The guard stood his ground, firing his M16 at the advancing figure, but the bullets only bounced off her tempered flesh, rune-scarred and clad in a lurid, revealing lingerie of blackened plate and tapered razors. The legionnaire plunged her gauntlet into the guard's chest, and ripped out his beating heart, taking a bite with a rasp of hunger as she focused her gaze on the fleeing researchers.
Knowing that we could do nothing to stop her, we followed Jefferies through the rows of chambers to the high security zone, where a barricade of debris had been piled around the checkpoint, BREACH operators and allied soldiers aiming their weapons from behind their cover.
"We're Sierra," said Jefferies, raising his hands. "Let us through."
The blockade lowered their weapons, eyes peeled to the darkness as we quickly passed them, and entered the main foyer that connected a network of sealed, but transparent project rooms, like a spiraling panopticon of glass. More barricades and heavy weapon armatures were bolted to the ground alongside a large gathering of personnel at the ready, as though every survivor had fled to that room. Beyond them all, a massive silver airlock stood embedded in the wall, identifying the chamber that must have held the bomb. I never actually saw it in person before, thanks to my lack of clearance, but I could somehow feel it upon the air, even through the walls, like I was suddenly sucking on a live battery.
Another cascade of shuddering booms reverberated from somewhere in the distance, dust and debris billowing down from above. Then, I heard the shriek of that eldritch nightmare once more, quieter as it echoed from the laboratories we had just come from, but it was still enough to fill me with dread, every inch of my skin prickling with unease.
"The fuck is that?" asked one of the guards alongside us.
"I'm still asking that myself," muttered Jefferies. "It's coming this way."
"And how exactly are we planning on stopping that thing?" I asked.
"We can't, and we aren't," said Jefferies, a grim tone in his voice. "Only thing we can do is buy time until the air force nukes the base, and hope that it doesn't trigger the bomb. That or the Travelers cut out the middleman. We're fucked either way."
"Well, where are the Travelers?" asked Barry. "It's their bomb. You'd think they'd want to defend the thing."
"Maybe, but in the meantime, I don't think our lives mean shit in their eyes," said Jefferies. "Fuck it. We've got a job to do. These things want a fight, we're gonna' give 'em one."
A legionnaire emerged from the laboratory hall - the same one that had been chasing the researchers - and as soon as her eyes locked upon our own, she snarled with hunger, and charged toward us. The other BREACH operators with electrical cannons immediately opened fire on her with a barrage of shockwaves, blasting her to pieces in a rush of vaporizing gore. The aberration screeched once more from somewhere beyond, the sound of shattering glass echoing through the distance until only silence remained. I could hear my heartbeat hammering in my ears, hyperventilating in fear with my eyes peeled on the shadows ahead. The slender horror erupted from the darkness, and I stumbled back, my heart seizing in my chest as everyone around me scrambled to open fire, but it was already upon us, sweeping its long, spider-like claws through the front of the barricade, and shearing several defenders in two, blood and debris scattering across the floor. Drenched in the gore of the men who had just been disemboweled before me, I grabbed one of their discarded electrical cannons, and aimed it at the shrieking nightmare, pulling the trigger in a blind attempt to stamp it out of existence. The weapon kicked back against my shoulder, and the electrical shockwave slammed into the creature, but just like the countless railgun shots that rammed against it, it did absolutely nothing to slow its advance. The horror completely ignored the assault, picking up any nearby defenders in its claws, and messily biting them in half before ripping the souls from their bodies. The voice of overwatch crackled in through the radio.
"All personnel fall back to the safe room," yelled command over the chaos. "Do not let it touch the bomb." Jefferies grabbed Barry and I from behind.
"Come on," he said, pulling me back. "You can't hurt it."
I turned away, following him and the rest of my squad over to the airlock as the others struggled to hold the nightmare back. While the airlock slowly slid open with a shuddering groan, I looked back at the ravening abomination. It ceased its slaughter, countless crimson, dilated eyes splitting open across its flesh, before every single one of them immediately focused upon me. Every muscle in my body froze, and as the horror raised a single, drooping limb, and pointed directly at me, the world around me dissolved away, as though it were a painting splashed with thinner. What took its place is difficult to describe, but I remember the feeling more than anything; the feeling of my soul tearing itself apart - of my mind fracturing into a thousand pieces.
I stood within a forest of bleeding flesh, skies of warring crimson, violet, and rotting bile colliding through the mirage of reality. The air was viscous, pushing through my lungs and cradling my body like a slurry of liquid meat, and all around me, cellular willows burned and wavered through reality, trailing across my vision in a sickening miasma of tangled skin and nameless viscera. Before me, the aberration stood, pointing at me through the shifting world as its mind forced itself upon my own, yet my eyes were not on that towering horror - they were on the nightmare that lurked beyond it. Looming forever above the monstrous wood, a willow of pure void stretched across my sight and occupied my soul, every branch winding down into pits of gnashing, infinite teeth that threatened to devour what precious little remained of my sanity. Back and forth, it recoiled and pulsed like a contracting muscle set into the world, throwing off shockwaves that rippled through the multiverse like a psychic wind of unbridled carnage. Backlit by a star of a hue with no name, the caustic glow of the eldritch god fell upon me, and my skin burned, every nerve in my body bursting into flame as the taste of blood filled my mouth, but try as I might, there was no true description for the thing that I saw. There was only the sensation of being corroded from the inside out, eaten away by its acidic gaze while every aspect of my identity burned to dust in the primal wind. I felt like a collapsing star, imploding into myself as I struggled to behold the paralyzing sight - and then, it was gone.
I was standing back at HQ once more, the servant of the god-like willow lowering its outstretched claw. I collapsed to the ground as the fighting continued around me, but I could barely hear it above the ringing in my ears, the image of the willow scorched into my sight like a stinging afterimage. Every muscle in my body twitched and convulsed, and I felt like I was having a waking seizure, my squadmates yelling for me over the radio, but I couldn't make out their words. I felt like my identity had been blasted to nothing, and the only thing that remained in its place was a terrifying hunger that permeated every aspect of my being. I wanted to rip into my own flesh, and swallow it whole; I wanted to kill, and destroy; I wanted everyone around me to scream and suffer while I broke their bones and ran my hands through their bleeding organs and sank my teeth into their skin and tasted their meat. I wanted to feel it slide down my throat, blood dripping down my chin while I reveled in the perverse glory of my own surrender.
Then, I felt arms pulling me back. I wanted to tear at them, and flense the fat from their bones, but I was still paralyzed by the sight that I had witnessed, and could do nothing more than twitch as I was dragged back to safety. I saw the heavy doors of the airlock pass over me, and as soon as they did, they began to close, slamming shut in my wake. I was in the safe room. Somebody propped me up against the wall and removed my helmet, but I couldn't even tell who they were. Everyone looked the same to me in the blur. Just meat, ready to be bled and devoured. Soon, my senses began to return, and I could see the others looking down at me.
"Come on, man, come back to us," said Barry, the worry clear in his voice. He took off his helmet, staring into my eyes with desperation. "Please. Thane - just look at me. You can fight this."
My gaze met his own, and all I wanted to do was peel the skin from his face and disfigure him until I could no longer recognize his features, baring my teeth while I twitched upon the ground, but then, a sliver of rationality started to break through - a sliver of who I was.
The bloodlust slowly faded to nausea, and all I felt next was disgust. I retched, regaining some fraction of control, and began to cry, a flood of raw emotion suddenly rushing through my mind.
"I'm ... I'm sorry," I stuttered, barely able to speak through the seizing of my muscles.
"Sorry for what?" asked Barry. "I'm just happy you're back, man. I was worried."
"What did that thing do to you?" asked Jefferies. I shook my head, swallowing a mouthful of blood.
"I don't know," I said, still twitching and shivering in place. "Guess ... guess I'll have to write about it." I cracked a half-hearted smile.
Looking up, I could see the bomb in the middle of the chamber, like a sphere of swimming metal that twisted and refracted with every shift of my sight. How BREACH was even interfacing with it, I had no idea. There were about thirty of us, most covered in blood and wounded in some way, and most of their eyes were on the banks of monitors that occupied the walls alongside the massive, sealed door. This doubled as some sort of command-and-control center that could be fallen back on, but what our actual command was doing, or where they were in the complex, I had no idea, because they certainly weren't in the room with us. On the monitors, we could see almost everywhere inside and outside the base. The exterior was a ruin of flaming rubble, dead bodies strewn across the airfield while the alien craft drifted through the sky, downed helicopters and jets smoking in the desert beyond. A small contingent of Prometheus soldiers still occupied the blood-soaked expanse, but most were inside, killing any survivors they could find alongside the legionnaires. The slender, androgynous aberration that had forced the vision of the willow upon me still stood in the room outside, but it made no attempt to breach the door, remaining eerily motionless like a spider ready to strike, and at its side, two legionnaires feasted upon the remains of our fallen allies. Directly in front of the safe room door, a man in Prometheus armor stood unmasked, vicious runes slashed into his face as he stared into the camera, motioning that he wanted to speak.
"They can't get in here," said Jefferies. "They would've done it already if they could."
"What does he want?" asked one of the guards. Jefferies radioed in.
"Command, this is Sierra," he said. "We're in the safe room. We've got a hostile outside the doors requesting a dialog. How do we proceed? Over."
No response.
Jefferies repeated his request, waiting a while longer, but nobody from command picked up. Hesitating, he looked at the controls beneath the monitor bank, and hit a button on the keypad. Suddenly, we could hear the room beyond over the speakers.
"Are we ready to be civil, then?" asked the man from Prometheus, the twisted nightmare in the background eyeing him with hunger as though only barely tolerating his existence. Jefferies held down the speak button.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"Simple," said the man. "We demand that you relinquish the weapon of the traitor legion, in the name of Prince Dominarius, Speaker of the Red Willow. Do this, and you will be spared - until the day of ascension is at hand." Jefferies looked back at us.
"We have no fucking idea what you're talking about," he said, his voice weary.
"Yes, you do. You found it beneath the sands of Africa."
"And you're going to do what? Detonate it?" asked Jefferies. "If you do that, we all die."
"Detonate it? On the contrary, we want to disarm it," said the man. "Your commanders, on the other hand ... I wonder where their loyalties truly lie. I understand that you've been searching for the traitor legion, but ironically, you've been working for them this entire time. The men who stand at your side and call you soldier are the ones who have been keeping that weapon safe - safe enough to detonate, should the traitors deem your universe ... unnecessary." Jefferies looked back at us, sighing.
"If I get executed for what that cunt just told me ..."
"I think we're a little past that point," said Tanner. "We all suspected it." Jefferies turned back to the monitor, and held down the speak button.
"Well, tough shit," he said. "Because you're not getting in." He muted the feed, and stepped back from the controls. "Only one thing left to do," he muttered.
"We wait," said Barry.
A warning flashed on one of the other screens, displaying a feed of information. Everyone walked over to it, and Jefferies read it out loud.
"Impact event," he said in confusion. "Upper atmosphere, inbound. Eight-hundred thousand meters per second." He looked back at us, but we had no idea what it meant. Then, something else caught my attention on the monitors surveying the airfield. I pointed, and Jefferies turned back to them. A dark figure slammed down upon the concrete, cracking it beneath him in a cloud of debris before standing to his full height. He was clad in a powered exoskeleton of black, angular metal that flowed and conformed to his towering frame, standing at least ten feet above the ground as he surveyed the surrounding area. He was a Traveler.
The craft of the legionnaires drifted down from the sky, and he turned to face it, undaunted. The vessel opened fire with two beams of searing antimatter, cracking against the Traveler in a burst of sparking flame, and burning the area around him to dust, but when the assault ceased, he was completely unharmed. Smoke wisped away from his armor, and he raised his hand to the aircraft, the air around him warping with a gravitational lensing before ripping toward the vessel faster than I could perceive, blasting straight through its shields, and utterly disintegrating its frame in a wisp of powdered metal, blowing away upon the wind.
Every Prometheus soldier on the airfield opened fire, their rifles rattling over the speakers, but their bullets only sparked uselessly against the Traveler's armor. Within the blink of an eye, the Traveler teleported to each soldier, ramming his fists through their bodies so quick that it looked like the entire group simultaneously exploded, until there was nobody left but him. Soaked in blood, he slowly advanced toward the complex, entering the main hall, and making his way to the central chamber, where two legionnaires and several Prometheus soldiers attempted to engage him. He merely raised his hand to them, never breaking his stride, and everybody in the room just vaporized, splattering against the walls in a burst of gore and liquid meat.
The Traveler made his way to the R&D wing, knowing exactly where he was going. Moving past the office block that was littered with sundered bodies, he entered the laboratory section, where several legionnaires and a handful of Prometheus soldiers waited for him. They opened fire, the legionnaires conjuring spears of frost and bolts of lightning in their wicked gauntlets, but their attacks were barely even acknowledged by the approaching figure, who only raised his hand, and projected a beam of flickering void across the entire room, effortlessly slicing through every wall, and messily bisecting every living thing that it hit.
Drenched in gore, the Traveler passed the high security checkpoint, and entered the section just outside the door. The two legionnaires charged at him, and he punched clear through the first one's skull in an explosion of blood and brains, before picking the second one up, and effortlessly ripping him in half, scattering his remains across the ground. The twisted aberration loomed above him, and shrieked with a voice that unnerved my senses, even through the thick walls of the safe room, but the Traveler did not react. The nightmare brought its claws down on him, and he snatched them out of the air, ripping its limbs clean off before advancing forward. His fist glowed with a burning energy, and he plunged it straight into the creature's chest. Its body imploded with a sickening crunch, cracking inward under a massive influx of gravitational energy, before exploding outward, its bloody remains splattering across the walls. The Traveler approached the safe room, and before the Prometheus man could say another word, the Traveler smacked him across the face, his skull exploding in a spatter of blood and bone. The monitors flickered as the Traveler instantly overrode every security system we had, and the heavy doors began to slowly open.
Nobody even raised their weapons, too unsure of what would happen, or what his intentions actually were, and even if we had fought, we were nothing compared to him. We were entirely at his mercy.
Barry helped me up, and I leaned on him for support as the Traveler finally entered the chamber. Towering over us, his armor swam like the night - a perfect embodiment of technological might. He said nothing, for a time, and we couldn't see anything beyond the helmet of his armor. Then, somebody else stepped in from behind him. I had never actually met them before - I just knew what they looked like, and who they were. Or at least, I thought I knew who they were. I'm forbidden from describing them, or giving their identity, but they and their compatriots were the commanders and founders of BREACH.
"You can relax," said command, standing next to the looming Traveler. "You won't be harmed, and he isn't here to detonate the bomb." Their eyes met my own. "Tobias Thane," they said. "You've been telling quite the story." I didn't respond, unsure of what to say.
"Command?" asked Jefferies. "What's going on here?" Command smirked.
"You are free to speculate, but I am not here to be your exposition," they said. "I am here to brief you. Rest assured that on my level, our organization has been aligned with the Travelers from the very beginning."
I'm not allowed to repeat the conversation that followed until after our next operation, assuming that I even survive it. The Travelers found out where the darklings and their ascendants have been hiding, and soon, we're launching a full-scale assault against them. I only hope that I'll be ready in time. I still don't have full control over my muscles from when that thing paralyzed me. The Traveler called it a blood temptress, and it was apparently summoned directly from the parasitic universe. Our worlds are being drawn back together, and in a way, you can feel it, like a lingering dread that you can taste upon the air. Honestly, I'm scared, and I can't shake the feeling that something horrible is about to happen. Every time I fight these things, I feel like I'm dying a little bit more inside. I just want it to stop.
Whatever - I don't mean to bug you with that shit. It's my job, and I'll get it done. I'll write an update if I survive the operation, and no matter what happens, thank you for following me this far.
Wish me luck,
Thane
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