Gunmetal Black 2
Chapter 10 - Love Without Anger
Lewis Smith

© Copyright 2000, Lewis Smith.

Skanda crouched behind the wreckage of a fallen hover transport, and watched the sight before him. He had managed to get most his people to safety, not because of their ability to run from the Rigellians, but because the Rigellians had a new problem.

Three of them, actually. They walked slowly through the war zone, blasting anything and anyone in their way. The one in the lead was a being the likes of which Skanda had never seen before, but one he recognized all the same.

His thoughts drifted back to growing up on the rocks of this planet, in the deep caves that housed his people from the sandstorms. He remembered being taught about the gods of the desert, and the devils as well.

And when the shadows and the smoke passed over the face of the man in the lead, Skanda could recognize him for the devil he was.

Who else could wade in to the Rigellians without fear of being killed? Skanda wondered, ducking intermittently behind the hover transport when a ricochet or a stray shot got too close. No. This is one of the shaitan, the devils of the desert. He comes in the storm, and leaves in the storm.
And the devil has saved the souls of my people. I must speak to my priest about this.

Skanda raised a hand to the group of his people clustered behind her and gestured for them to make their way back into the desert. Devil or angel, savior or damnation, they had their freedom. Skanda quickly made his way to the crumbling, burning perimeter of the fortress, not much liking the taste of his salvation.

Kienan sprayed another trio of Rigellian soldiers with a blast from his automatic rifle. He hated to use energy weapons, but the Drazga was good at clearing a path for him, and that was what he needed at the moment. 500 plasma rounds a second would give him a clear path to his objective.

Behind him, Vain was doing even more damage, spraying round after round of chaingun fire at troopers, transports, gun emplacements, anything. Mirage had taken the opportunity to shroud and scout ahead for Silhouette. Although Kienan suspected he knew where she was already. The source of the explosion I saw, he thought. She's got to be there. She always did go right she'd get in the most trouble.

Kienan heard two shots strike a tree behind him and looked over his shoulder. In front of him, two troopers were setting up a tripod for a heavy plasma gun. Behind him, a wounded trooper was crawling on his stomach, oozing blood and haphazardly firing in his direction.

Kienan unclipped a small metal cylinder from his belt, pressed a recessed button on it and tossed it toward the wounded trooper, bracing himself as he fired his rifle at the gunners. The trooper bust into flame when the canister hit and the troopers dove for cover as plasma rounds ripped into trees. Vain followed up by blasting the plasma gun's power cell, which exploded in a ball of fire, incinerating the troopers and setting the trees of the Ghost Forest aflame. The dry bark nurtured by the ship below, but still weathered in the dry desert was perfect kindling, and before long, a wall of flame was burning the Ghost Forest to the ground.

Kienan walked through the heat impassively, spraying anyone who crossed his path with a hail of bullets and dodging falling burning branches and embers. For the most part, most of the people he crossed were troopers, caught by surprise by the sudden forest fire and running haphazardly through the burning wood, most burning themselves because the fire set off the explosives they carried.

The heat from the desert and the fire was incredible, but Kienan didn't feel it. Only his body's perspiration reacted to the conflagration around him. He was focused on one thing, and one thing only. Silhouette.

"This is Mirage," a voice whispered into Kienan's ear. "I've found her. She's in some kind of underground lab. I can barely see her, and she's roughly 500 feet down."

Kienan stepped through the path into a clearing. The main complex loomed before them, eerily lit by the setting sun and the fire. He pointed to Vain, and they turned in unison, and begin blasting the stumps the trees, causing a flaming barricade to fall over the path. It wouldn’t last -- most of the trees were burnt out already, but it would last long enough.

Kienan followed Mirage's voice until they were at the lip of a smoking black crater, probably a mile across all told. Yes, Kienan thought, recognizing the area around it. The explosion site. At sight of he and Vain, Mirage de-shrouded.

"Did you see her?" Kienan asked.

"Barely," Mirage said. "There's someone down there with her. They're fighting."

"But she's alive?" Kienan asked, unspooling a length of small but strong cable from a pouch on his belt. He tied the cable to a spike and drove the spike into the soft earth with his foot. He tugged on it a few times to make sure it was secure.

"I think so, but they're both torn up," Mirage said.

"Command your Angelfish fighters to come in and pick us up," Kienan said, clipping the spool to his belt and slinging the rifle onto his back. "You'll have to prove cover for me while I'm down here and cover for us while we ride on your wings."

"There shouldn't be any resistance," Vain said. She caught site of another squad of troopers making their way towards the fire and cut them down with a quick burst from the chaingun. "Well, not much. We'll drop flame tracks on our way out and light up the rest of the compound. That should give us enough time to get to our landing site."

"I hope she's in shape to fly," Mirage said. "We're going to have two capital ships and who knows how many fighters waiting for us once we get out into orbit. I don't know if we can evade them if we have to grapple her ship back to the Silhouette."

"Understood," Kienan said. "Don’t worry, I'll take care of it." He drew his Midare-Giri and held the cord in his hands as he got into position to rappel down the crater. "Keep us covered."

"Always," Vain said, blasting another squad, making them run even faster in the opposite direction. "Go."

Kienan did as he was bid. He jumped down, knife in hand, going down into the crater like a spider spinning a web.

"It looks to me like you're . . .getting tired," Straeger said. He leered at Silhouette, blue blood and dirt smeared over his face. His right arm was holding his ribs, which felt very brittle after Silhouette had kicked them about twenty times. Worse still, the pain in his leg was cutting a burning swath up his body, made even worse every second he was standing.

But he had to win, he reminded himself.

Silhouette struck a ready pose. The feeling was starting to come back in her arm a bit, but she was still conscious of the pain of Straeger's blade in her stomach. She moved closer to him, but she was just as unsteady as he was on her legs, and stumbled forward, allowing Straeger to kick her in her stomach again.

Silhouette felt the breath forced from her and the shock of pain explode through her but steeled herself and grabbed Straeger's leg as he pulled it back. It was slick from bleeding -- it was the leg she had stabbed him in, but she got hold of the heel and spun her body around, twisting his leg and forcing him to the ground.

Straeger cried out in pain as Silhouette continued to twist his leg. He kicked her in the face, trying to get her off, feeling the muscle tear grow as she continued to twist his ankle. Straeger groaned with pain as he tried to kick her again but found his leg wasn't responding. Maybe it was fatigue, maybe it was the pain of what she was doing to his other leg, but he couldn't move. He thrashed at her with his arms, but she was too quick. She rolled away, over and over again. Straeger looked into her eyes, now mad with an almost insane rage and determination. She looked like she wouldn't stop until he was dead.

Or she was. Straeger felt an idea form in his mind. He cleared his mind, forced the pain from his mind and concentrated, summoning the power of the lens. A long straight blade, he thought. Just enough to shove into her brain and kill her before she kills me.

The blade formed out of the darkest shadows, and Straeger brought into position, his eyes meeting her as he reared back with his hand. Silhouette stared at him, no fear in her eyes, even the face of death. She pulled back, snapping his ankle with a scream that curdled his blood.

Before Straeger could push the blade through a sound, worse than the scream split the silence. The sound of metal against rock. Above the two of them, someone descended like an avenging angel. He was human, Straeger could tell, but that was the least of his concerns. The gun in the human's other hand was of more concern.

Kienan fired four times, striking the rocks Straeger was braced against three times and putting the fourth shot into Straeger's good leg. He cried out and curled into a ball. The blade from the lens dissipated and he slumped backwards.

Kienan landed catlike, next to Silhouette. Silhouette let go of Straeger's leg, then drew herself to her feet. She suddenly felt very disconnected from everything, like she was waking up from a dream and she wasn't yet sure what was real.

"Sil," Kienan said, picking her up off the floor. He turned her face to look at him. "Sil. It's me. I've come to get you out of here. Snap out of it. We've got to go."

"Kienan?" She said, sounding like she was a million miles away. She patted herself down, surprised because she wasn't in pain anymore "I . . .I . . .what's wrong with me?"

Kienan checked her over. There was blood, but the wounds were closing or had closed totally. Even the bruises on her face were slowly receding. "There's no time for that," he said. "Pay attention. I need you to hang on, Sil. I'm getting you out of here."

"No, Kienan. I can't I, I have to--"

"There's no more time, Sil," Kienan said, pulling her close. "Let it go."

"NO!" Silhouette sad, shoving him away. "I've got to destroy it! I've got to."

Straeger sat up, bracing the arm holding the lens and pointing the weapon at both of them. "No," he said. "All the two of you have to do . . .is hold still . . .and . . .die."

Kienan frowned, pulled out his pistol and shot Straeger through the hand. The hand with the lens. The glass holding the lens and the specimen shattered and Straeger felt the same rush he has felt in the lab, only a thousand times worse. He screamed as he felt the alien organism invade his body, ripping through him in a handful of second. Shadows engulfed his mind and screamed within himself. Then he fell backwards, unconscious.

Kienan holstered his pistol. "You can’t destroy it, Sil," he said. His voice was losing the gentle veneer he had used to bring her around. "We have to go now."

"Go with you?" Silhouette said, suddenly trembling.

"YES," Kienan said, suddenly impatient. "They'll come for him, and for you. I can get us out of here, but you've to trust me."

He opened his arms. Silhouette walked toward him, trembling. "Trust you," she whispered, holding tight to him as Kienan activated the spool and they begin to rise. She buried her head against his chest as he held her tightly, muttering quietly so close only Kienan could hear.

"Do you know what you did to me?"

"Do you know my secrets are as deep as yours?"

"Do you know where all of this is going?"

"Do you know how all this is going to end?"

"Do you know who I am?"

The transports were landing as the Angelfish were making their way out of the compound. Kienan held Silhouette close, balanced on the wing of Vain's Angelfish, shielding Silhouette from the windshear and the recoil from the Angel fish's laser cannons as they strafed the troop transports and dropped the flame tracks. The air seemed to be sucked out of Kienan's lungs as the flame tracks ignited the runway, blowing up the two transports that had made it past the wall of laser fire the Angelfish had thrown up.

Under cover of the flame they made their way to the landing site. Kienan slid off the wing, cradling Silhouette close as he activated the cockpit hatch for the Umbra. "Silhouette," he said, staring into her blue-green eyes as she began to blink, her mind seeming to get itself together.

"Kienan," she said. They said nothing for a moment, and more than anything Kienan wanted to kiss her, because the Silhouette he remembered had, for a second showed herself to him. But there was no time.

Never is, he thought bitterly.

"Can you fly your ship out of here?" Kienan said. The winds started to howl from the east. Sandstorm, Kienan thought. If we can dust-off now it'll cover our escape from the ground. And that'll just leave the ships above us. "I'll cover you until we get to the Silhouette, then we'll dock and get out of here. Can you?"

Silhouette nodded, her thoughts finally snapping into sharp focus. It felt easier to think now that she was away from the ship. And the pain's gone as well, she thought. My adrenaline must have kicked in. She clambered into the cockpit and readied the Umbra for launch as Kienan strapped himself into the Reiven. The two ships lifted off as the sandstorm brushed any trace of their landing from the sands below.

Kienan saw the Angelfish in front of him, he and the Marionettes were in a triangular formation around the Umbra which was in the center. He forced his mind not to dwell on what he had seen or heard when he went to get her, but found it hard.

They broke out of orbit in a matter of seconds. Kienan's scanners immediately sounded an alarm. The Silhouette was almost in range, but the two ships were between them and worse yet, they had seen the fighters come out of orbit. They hard already launched fighters.

"Looks like we'll have to fight our way out, ladies," Kienan sad, readying his weapons and launching a volley of blaster fire and missiles at the swarm of fighters in front of him. He kept one eye on the scanner readout for the capital ships, since he knew the fighters were just a distraction until the ships could bring their main guns and missile launchers to bear on them.

"Get close to the capital ships," Kienan said. "Make sure they can’t bring their fire against you. The four fighters banked and turned towards the bigger ship, as the damaged small destroyer tries to come about and fire on them.

Kienan unloaded every weapon he had onto the hull of the cruiser, not seeking to damage it, only keep it guessing long enough to slip out while it was dealing with a petty emergency. He banked past the battery of anti-fighter cannons so swiftly the guns destroyed one of their own fighters.

An alert sounded and Kienan opened his eyes wide. Missile lock, Kienan thought. They've got me. It must have been the damage I took from the fight on the way in. It's left a trace they can lock onto. He held his breath and accelerated between two sensor masts on the cruiser, trying to shake the lock. Not good. The tone changed. Missile armed, and launching.

Just then, a brilliant white beam of light erupted behind the destroyer, slicing the already damaged ship in two. It exploded, flinging debris every which way.

"Thank you, Conscience," he said. "Your timing is impeccable. Vain, Mirage, Sil -- status?"

"I'm OK," Silhouette said. "My manoeuvring jets are blown, but I can make it to dock."

"I'm fine," Mirage said. "My laser generators are fried. Again."

"I'm 100%" Vain said. "Out of missiles though."

"Good. Conscience," Kienan said. "Move into position under the cruiser. The rest of you, run lick hell and get aboard. I'll follow you in. We've only got about twenty seconds before their sensors kick back in and they move into position and destroy the Silhouette."

"But Kienan--" Vain began.

"Go! Now! I'll be along!"

"What the hell was that?" Warmaster Voelker shouted to his crewmen. "Did they have a base ship?"

"The Fenris was destroyed by a high-yield energy weapons," one of his crewmen said, frantically tapping buttons on her console to bring her sensors back online. "The radiation from the blast and the explosion have saturated our sensor receptors with radiation. We're as good as blind for another few seconds."

"I want sensors now," Voelker said. "Not in a few seconds, crewman -- now."

"Attempting to clear," she said. "There -- I've got proximity sensors cleared."

"Where are they?" Voelker said.

"Beneath us," the crewman sad. "Our sensor masts took some debris from the explosion of the Fenris, but they've rendezvoused with another ship. All but one have docked with the larger vessel."

"Do I have any gun batteries online in that sector?" Voelker said.

"You have fire control, but zero on targeting," his weapons officer said. "I can put out general fire, but I can't guarantee you'll hit anything."

"Do it," Voelker said. "Bridge to Engineering: Prepare the ship for a 90-degree turn on our Z-axis, but keep up steady in this position. And charge our main gun, and standby for target acquisition."

The Malios began to lurch very slowly, inertial systems slowly compensated for the ships sudden downward turn. The ship began to rumble as energy was channelled from the Malios' reactor to the main gun.

"I have sensors again, Warmaster," the crewman said.

"Put our target onscreen," Voelker said. "Engineering, time to fire?"

"Sir, I'm reading only one target," the weapons officer said. "None of our gunnery officers on the lower decks reported a kill, so I must assume it has docked with the main ship."

"Do we have targeting again?" Voelker said, his entire body tense, all his will focused on the small ship the Malios was turning towards.

"Yes," the weapons officer said. "Main gun will be ready to fire in 15 seconds, target lock in 10 seconds."

"Then we'll destroy them all in one shot," Voelker said. "All stations: standby to fire."

Kienan rushed to the bridge, his chest heaving. They had it made it difficult, but he had done what he set out to do -- keep the gun turrets busy while the Marionettes and Silhouette docked. Now they only had to get out of here before the cruiser blew them to stardust.

"Situation?" He said, still panting as he strapped himself into his command chair.

"Bad," Vain said. "There's twenty ships coming on long-range sensors. We'll have to plot out a new course while in Space Drive to escape them."

"That is bad," Kienan said. "And while we're picking a direction, the cruiser can take us out. Do we have Space Drive available?"

"Power's available at your command," Mirage said.

"Route it through the launch catapult," Kienan said. "Get a travel pod ready. When I launch it, take the crew safeties off of Space Drive and get us out of here."

"What are you--" Silhouette began.

"Shut up, Sil or we're all dead," Kienan said, bringing up the course plotter for the travel pod. "Ready?"

"Ready," Vain said.

"DO IT!"

The Silhouette turned as fast as it was able, toward the Malios, which was now moving into final firing position. The Silhouette launched one of its travel pods at the Malios. It launched it at full Space Drive into the firing chamber of the cruiser.

"It's away," Mirage said

"Go now, then," Kienan said, reaching across for Silhouette's hands. Holding them gently in his. "NOW!"

As the Malios bulged with internal explosions caused by the travel pod's lancing, the Silhouette blasted away in the opposite direction at full Space Drive. Kienan held on for as long as he could, then felt his hands slip free from Silhouette's as both blacked out. Without the crew safeties only the Marionettes could pilot the ship through the spatial shear without blacking out, and even they wouldn't be operating at full efficiency.

Kienan felt darkness engulf his mind as he finally blacked out. If he ever woke up again, he knew they would be safe.