Gunmetal Black 3
Chapter 6 - Instruments Of Destruction
Lewis Smith

© Copyright 2000, Lewis Smith.

Kienan was about to go in for the kill when Toriares waved the tip of his cane in front of him. The tip of the cane was glowing. Kienan's eyes narrowed and he knew that one swipe would take his head clean off.

"Get off him, Kienan," Toriares said, steadily. "Killing him in front of a child? Come on, I taught you better than this. Be a professional."

Kienan eased off Sinclaire, never taking his eyes off him. Sinclaire looked up at Toriares, the sour expression on his face seeming to regard Toriares as bitterly as he did Kienan.

Toriares looked angrily at Sinclaire. "Been a long time, Sabre," he said. "The word was, you were dead."

"Sabre ... is dead," Sinclaire said, rubbing his throat as he got to his feet. "My name's Sinclaire, now."

"Your name is dead," Kienan muttered. "I'm more than happy to make sure your body catches up to it."

"Who are you people?" Ariana demanded. "I haven’t seen you in town before, and you can’t have Sinclaire! You just can't!"

Sinclaire put his hand on Ariana's shoulder. "I'll be OK Ariana. Run home now."

"But -- "

"Please, Ok? For me." Toriares may have saved her life just now, he thought. Is he Kienan's master? Sure would explain why Kienan fights like such a damned demon. But while I can trust him to keep it between us I can’t trust Kienan to.

If there's going to be a fight -- and we all know there is -- she can't be around.

Ariana looked over her shoulder at him.

Sinclaire smiled gently. "I'll be back. Whatever happens, I promise I'll see you again."


"Absolutely," Sinclaire said. "Now go home to your father. Tell him I might be a little late, but I will be there."

Ariana looked nervously at Kienan and Toriares, then back at Sinclaire, who very calmly nodded. She walked away, never taking her eyes off Sinclaire. Gradually she started to pick up speed and ran down the dirty streets. Sinclaire turned back to Kienan and Toriares as something in the distance began to rumble.

"I should have known I couldn’t outrun my bad luck," Sinclaire sneered. "Kienan I always expected to meet again. He's here to fulfill an old promise. But you, Toriares ... Silhouette never told me you were a man who held a grudge."

"Toriares, do you know this bastard?" Kienan asked, his hand behind him, closed around the hilt of his knife.

Toriares smiled bitterly and ran his hands under his hair, flipping it off his neck. There was a long horizontal scar at the base of his skull.

"We've met," he said. "And no, Sinclaire, I'm not here to settle a grudge. I didn’t even know you were here, or alive for that matter."

"Well," Kienan said. His green eyes blazing with anger. Toriares and Sinclaire could both feel the barely restrained tension radiating from him. "I for one am very glad to see you again, Sinclaire. When I saw you before, I only knew about you stealing my girl. Now that I know you hurt my best friend, I have twice the reason to butcher you."

"You're welcome to try it," Sinclaire said, his hands going to his swords. The rumble in the distance got louder and closer. "But you aren’t man enough to get the job done. Come on if you think you can. I'm sick of your constant boasting."

Toriares frowned. He looked over his shoulder, trying to determine the source of that strange rumbling. Not an earthquake and there's not a cloud in the sky, he thought. Then what?

"Your girl," Sinclaire sneered. "Listen to yourself, Kienan. You sound like a punk kid. Maybe I should forget the swords and just slap you around?"

"Your hands or your swords aren’t enough to touch me," Kienan said. The rest of the world had dropped away as far as he was concerned. The simmering anger he had felt for Sinclaire had burned the rest of existence way, and there was just Sinclaire and himself. "No Silhouette to save you from me, now."

Sinclaire smiled bitterly. No Silhouette for either of us, he thought.

A shadow passed over the three of them. Suddenly, the wall surrounding the Peace Hotel erupted in a shower of dust and rubble. Kienan, Toriares and Sinclaire all shielded their face and watched as the dust settled.

Four figures, slightly larger and more massive than an average human walked through the cloud of dust. As the dust cleared Toriares got a clearer picture of what they were. He grit his teeth.

Kienan took advantage of this moment to leap at Sinclaire, drawing his knife and diving towards him. Sinclaire rolled back and used his legs to throw him into a pile of rubble. He flipped back to his feet and, keeping one sword pointed in Kienan's direction, followed Toriares eyes ahead.

"Are those -- ?"

"They looked a little different from the standard, but I'm almost certain they’re Sekhmet," Toriares said, as one of them blasted a storefront to smithereens.

"They’re pretty far from home," Sinclaire said. "What are they doing here?"

Another building exploded. Toriares looked over his shoulder at Sinclaire. "Well, what do you think? Kienan, we've got to do something -- "

Kienan leapt into Sinclaire's back, driving his shoulder into his spine. Sinclaire fell forward and dropped his swords. Kienan looked up, raising his knife. "You take care of them. Sinclaire and I have business to settle -- UGH!"

Sinclaire cut him off with an elbow to the jaw, drew his swords and tried to cut him down, Kienan blocked one blade with his knife, ducked inside the other blade and grabbed Sinclaire's scarf, slamming his forehead into the bridge of his nose.

Toriares looked at him then back over his shoulder at the Sekhmet.

"Sure," he said, sighing and raising his cane. "Do it all myself. Kienan, I wish I'd taught you the value of priorities."

"He's a prisoner?" Mirage asked. "Well, that explains why the three of you are still here. When your people left the map at the Armillary, they must have known someone would have to stay behind to watch him."

"That is correct," Ravenna said. "Jaevin was once the best of us, but he committed a crime so far beyond our ability to understand that we had no form of punishment to fit it. So it was decided by our people that he be exiled and imprisoned on a desolate planet."

"And yet, you left him with a powerful artifact," Vain said. "What's to stop him from teleporting himself off the planet?"

"We have several binding spells that keep him isolated on the planet," Kayt said. "They prevent him from using his skills anywhere save on the planet, even with the Soulcaster. Unfortunately, it prevents us from journeying to the planet ourselves, lest he be able to use our abilities to amplify his own and free himself."

"So if we want it, we have to get it ourselves," Mirage said. She smirked. "Seems you painted yourself in a corner by not executing him when you had the chance."

"We couldn't," Illiel replied. She looked at the deck. "The enormity of his crime was such that to contemplate his execution made us fear we were no better than he."

Vain shook her head. "I thought you were explorers, scientists, looking for enlightenment," she said. "I don’t get what he could have done that was so terrible."

"We do not speak of it to outsiders," Kayt said.

"Well you'd better start," Mirage said. "If we have to go get this Soulcaster, I for one want to know precisely what I'm up against."

"Our order is predicated on the existence of lines of energy that define our universe," Ravenna said. "Through our study of them, we have been able to travel alongside them, harness them, use them to expand the bounds of our knowledge. But always we are conscious that these lines are a boundary, beyond which we may not break or cross. To break one of the lines of force would cause reality to unravel."

"And Jaevin didn’t see it that way?" Vain asked.

"Jaevin sees the lines of force around us as a boundary that can be exceeded by loosening the lines around us," Ravenna said. "Much as how someone with sufficient flexibility can slip out of an entangling rope. He believed that altering the shape of those lines would free the potential of all existence. To prove his theory, he unleashed a force on the universe so violent it drove us from this galaxy in shame."

"Hmph," Mirage said. "Shame's more powerful than I thought."

Illiel looked at Mirage. "Are you familiar with a race called the Ghram?"

"Vaguely," Mirage said. "They used to rule the galaxy. The major races now -- the Khephren, the Sekhmet, the Rigellians, all used to be their subjects. But no one's seen them in centuries. Something happened to drive them off and no one's seen them since. They’re more legendary than anything now."

"At the time our people departed the known galaxy, the Ghram ruled the entire galaxy. We functioned autonomously from them -- we were advisors to them from time to time, counselors, but never subjects.

"But time passed and their hold on their subjects began to slip. Jaevin saw his chance and presented the leaders of the Ghram with a weapon that he assured them would intimidate the increasingly fractious subjects and keep them in line.

"In reality, the Apocalypse Weapon was a means to Jaevin's ends, no more, no less. He knew the Ghram's wars against their subjects would intensify and elected to use their animosity to achieve his ends while keeping his hands clean. He had theorized by eliminating the home worlds of the Ghram and another race, one line of energy might be substantially altered. His plan was to begin the freeing of the universe."

Vain silently absorbed all this. "Let me guess, it didn’t work?"

"It worked in one sense," Kayt said. "The lines of energy were indeed changed, but not for the better. Part of the reason our people began their journey was to discover how much damage had been done, as well, as to prevent anyone from perpetuating the mistake."

"I hate to burst your bubble, ladies, but we're nowhere near powerful enough to stop someone who can extinguish whole civilizations," Mirage said. "We're good, but we're nowhere near able to handle anyone on that scale."

"He is much less powerful than he was," Ravenna said.

"Define "less powerful," please," Vain said. "What, does that mean he can only take out a small moon now?"

"His only source of power is from the few artifacts he stole before we sealed him on the planet," Illiel said. "His access to the lines of force I and my sisters use is denied him. He can be defeated, if you have the will to vanquish him."

Vain pondered all of this and stared at Mirage. Mirage shrugged and cocked an eyebrow at her. "Would you ladies excuse us, please? We have some details to discuss."

The patrons of the Zona Rosa saloon were already alarmed by the sounds of battle outside. Some of them even put their drinks down and were about to make their way outside to see what the commotion was all about.

However, the commotion wouldn’t wait, and announced its arrival with the scream of shattering glass.

Sinclaire flew through one of the large plate-glass windows of the saloon and landed flat on his back on a table, which immediately collapsed underneath his weight. Kienan leapt through the broken glass after Sinclaire, knife drawn and ready.

He swiped at Sinclaire once, twice. Sinclaire, bloodied, torn up and bleeding, parried his thrusts and tried a few of his own. If the patrons had needed any further reason to leave, Kienan gave it to them by racing to the bar and hurling full bottles of whiskey at Sinclaire.

In truth, Kienan's target wasn't Sinclaire, so much as it was the wall behind him. The bottles exploded against the wall, sending shards of glass at Sinclaire -- catching in his hair and clothes and lacerating him even more.

"The best you can think to do is throw bottles at me?" Sinclaire sneered defiantly, spinning blood in Kienan's direction.

Kienan drew his pistol and fired a shot into Sinclaire's stomach. The force of the shot threw Sinclaire against the wall and he slid down into more glass.

"Since you asked," he replied. "No. But I want this to last, Sinclaire. Besides, you heal so fast I figure the best way to keep the advantage is to overtax you."

"It'll ... take a better man than you ... to do that," Sinclaire said. "Even ... Silhouette thought so."

Kienan nodded, advancing on him. He kicked Sinclaire in the head. "You sure about that?"

Sinclaire rose to his feet, swords drawn, blood soaking his clothes. He grinned "Believe me, I'm sure. She may never have gotten you out of her system ... but … she never doubted I was the better man."

"BASTARD!" Kienan said, grabbing a chair and smashing it against Sinclaire's head. The first strike caused it to buckle, but Kienan's follow-up strike shattered it completely over Sinclaire's head.

Sinclaire didn’t go down. Blood ran into his face and he had a look in his eyes that Kienan recognized as disturbingly similar to his own.

"Pick up your swords," Kienan said, measuring him for another punch. "I'm ready to kill you now."

"No," Sinclaire said, punching Kienan as hard as he could in the stomach. Kienan lurched forward, coughing up a font of blood. Sinclaire threw a flurry of punches at him, sending Kienan to his knees. "I don't need my swords against you, Kienan."

Kienan grabbed Sinclaire's belt and jammed his knee into Sinclaire's groin. "You sure about that?"

Sinclaire laughed. "You stupid ... punk kid," he said. "Don’t you understand anything? No matter who wins, we both lost what we wanted. This... fight... is meaningless!"

He threw a kick at Kienan, who grabbed his leg and planted a hard kick into Sinclaire's stomach. Sinclaire went down, but Kienan held on. He used his leverage to get Sinclaire's leg into position to shatter it.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Kienan demanded angrily. "What, have I beaten you stupid already?"

Sinclaire laughed.

"Stop ... laughing at me Sinclaire," Kienan said. "I'll break your leg. Even if you heal fast you'll never walk again, I'll make sure."

"I'm not laughing at you, idiot," Sinclaire said, a trickle of blood running out of the corner of his mouth. "Just ... laughing because you've been after me for ... three years now, determined to settle a score long after it got settled without you. You're so ... stupid."

"Don’t blame me for your walking out on Silhouette," Kienan sneered. "That was your stupid mistake."

Sinclaire planted his free foot underneath him and kicked loose of Kienan's grasp. His leg felt twisted and steady, but he got to his feet.

"My stupid mistake?" Sinclaire said, reaching for his swords. "You simpleton ... I was always going to lose with Silhouette. She was ... never mine to begin with, and I so all I could do was lose her, to your memory or another man! You don’t know how sick I was of having to live in your shadow!"

Sinclaire surged forward, his blades flashing and slicing through tables and chairs as he advanced on Kienan. Kienan raised his knife to defend himself, his eyes tracking every single time his blades struck and how many times they just barely missed.

The attack's meant to fool me into blocking the wrong strike while he cuts me multiple times, Kienan thought. Just have to wait for the point of weakness to show itself ...

He quickly moved to block two strikes and rammed his knife into Sinclaire's abdomen, pulling upward until the blade of his knife met Sinclaire's sternum. Sinclaire looked into Kienan's eyes.

"Finish it," he said, through gritted teeth. "Kill me. I've been ... fighting your memory and ... losing for years, now."

Kienan's finger lingered on the hidden trigger of his knife. One press of the button would electrify every corpuscle in Sinclaire's body. Fast healing or no. the trauma would kill him instantly. Likewise, one flick of the wrist would puncture his heart.

Which would be a more satisfying kill?

"What's wrong?" Sinclaire muttered, pushing his body forward onto the knife. "Neither of us will ever have Silhouette ... ever again. Kill me and claim your prize ... absolutely nothing. I don’t mind dying ... if it means you lose."

Kienan glared at him. He put his hand over Sinclaire's face and shoved him off his knife.

"Why ... "

"Because you want me to," Kienan said.

"What difference does it make to you ... whether I want it or not?" Sinclaire said. He leaned against the bar oozing blood. "I ... came here for ... a new life. Seeing you here means that's impossible. So ... if I can’t have a peaceful life ... maybe in death I can find what I'm looking for."

Kienan glared at Sinclaire.

"N-not the same ... when I don’t care if you're going to kill me or not, is it?"

"Shut up," Kienan said. His attention was drawn by something outside. Sinclaire saw what looked like a glimmer of recognition cross his face, as though he'd suddenly remembered he'd left his stove on.

He charged out of the window, leaving Sinclaire alone and bleeding.

He gasped suddenly and leaned against the bar. He could feel the healing taking hold. The bones Kienan had broken were knitting back together. The lacerations were closing. He would live.

Sinclaire tilted his head back, pondering just why he wasn't worth killing.

"What do you think?"

Mirage drummed her fingertips on the control panel. She sighed.

"I don’t know," she replied finally. "They're hiding something for sure, and they really want this Jaevin eliminated. The question I have is "what do they get out of it?" What happens when we release them from their responsibility?"

Vain eased back in Kienan's chair, legs crossed, looking almost human in her contemplation. "You think we should ask more from them?"

"I'm saying we need to find a way to ensure that we have our eyes on them when we're down there terminating Jaevin," Mirage said. "Given what they've told us about their abilities, two bio-mechanoids ought to be easy for him to manipulate, controls or no controls. Just the nature of their abilities makes us susceptible."

"Maybe," Vain said. "But if that's the case, and they're at full power, why didn’t they make us do what they wanted? Why the negotiation."

"Not sure," Mirage said. She turned to Conscience.

"What do you think?"

"Haxan ... are enigmatic," Conscience said. "Mistrustful of outsiders but ... not double-crossing us."

"What makes you say that?" Vain asked.

"Monitored ... vital signs," Conscience said. "No variation."

"They could be masking them," Mirage said. "No telling what they haven’t told us about the extend of their abilities."

"I know," Vain said. "But we have to trust them. This is what Kienan ordered us to do -- find the Haxan and get them to resurrect the woman by any means. And we promised never to fail him in anything he asked. Even if it means we're doublecrossed, or even destroyed. We are sworn to him unto death."

Vain rose to her feet and walked to the door of the bridge. "Let's go," was all she said.

Toriares observed the Sekhmet advance through the town from a rooftop, watching them take their time about destroying buildings and killing any human being they came across.

He reached into his jacket and pulled out his golden mask. It was a relic from his days as an assassin, a special piece of technology that was designed specifically for him. He attached it to his face, the soft flexible metal affixing to his skin. He opened his eyes and suddenly his field of vision was enhanced with light blue sensory details, the blurry, dust-clouded Sekhmet suddenly snapped into full relief.

No question, he thought. The armor details are a little changed but they're Sekhmet. Never seen any type like this before though. And no two alike. Very unusual.

There was a high whining noise in the sky above. He looked upwards in time to see a blue-armored flying Sekhmet, his transparent pink wings glittering in the midday sun, swoop past him at incredible speed, the cannons embedded in his legs strafing the roof. Toriares considered his options for a split-second and leapt off the roof as the cannon fire tracked him.

So much for patiently observing and waiting for my shot, style='font-family: Arial'> Toriares thought, using the magnet beam in his cane to cushion his descent. He hit the ground and extended it to it maximum length, landing in the center of a trio of the Sekhmet style='mso-spacerun:yes'> -- style='mso-spacerun:yes'> Uragenax, Zularax, and Toran.

The one that immediately concerned Toriares was the massive Uragenax, who was leveling a heavy energy blaster at his face. He ducked underneath the lumbering giant in time to see Zularax him launch parts of himself towards him. The parts affixed themselves to nearby walls and even the green-armored Sekhmet. They unrolled into what Toriares looked to Toriares like mechanical worms and began gnawing into whatever they were crawling upon as they advanced.

"That's the grossest thing I think I've ever seen," Toriares muttered, sliding underneath Uragenax as he began frantically trying to pull the worms off his body. Toriares reached behind him and pulled out the small shotgun he carried and fired a few rounds at the copper-armored Sekhmet.

Zularax crouched down, his body seeming to contract as hard metal plates extended from his back, encasing him in a metal ball. Toriares fired a few more rounds but, whether due to poor aim from having to dodge Uragenax or because his shotgun wasn't strong enough, he couldn't punch through its armor.

Another reason, of course, was because he was trying to dodge the wild attacks of Toran, who had watched with bemusement as Toriares had eluded Uragenax. Of the three, the most dangerous was Toran, fast, strong, and aggressive in a way Toriares had never encountered in a Sekhmet before.

"ZULARAX!" Uragenax said, tearing one of the mechanical grubs off his arm and squishing it in his free hand. "Keep your weapons to yourself!"

Toriares watched the grub roll to the remains of a tapestry stand and attempt to devour the cloth. Toriares turned his back just in time to dodge Toran's heat-flail as it lashed over his head. His hand grazed against Uragenax's warm metal skin, trying to stick too close to the slow giant and limit Toran's options to attack him while he reloaded his shotgun.

"Fools!" Toran grunted to his fellow Sekhmet. His orange eyes glowed with rage as he swung his heat-flail upwards, catching a nearby canopy and swinging off. "If the two of you can’t handle one human, you don’t deserve my aid. I'll finish destroying this village myself!"

Destroy Axanar? Toriares thought, rolling next to the grub futilely trying to eat the tapestry. It had failed miserably, succeeding only in tangling its mandibles in the loose threads.

What the hell for? There's nothing of value here for them. And why the hell am I able to understand them? Sekhmet soldiers don’t use translators -- they don’t need them and don’t care if you understand them.

And they sure as hell don't refer to themselves as "I." There's more here than meets the eye.

Uragenax blasted the tapestry stand apart with a blast from his cannon. Toriares shielded his body as best his could against the splintering wood and shrapnel from the rocks beyond and nearly tripped over Zularax, still an iron ball.

Never mind the internal monologue, Toriares chided himself. You’re the man with the plan. Put it all together.

He thought back to when he'd brushed up against Uragenax's skin.

Metal. Not the usual composite material they use. Actual metal.

Toriares tapped his cane against Zularax's iron shell and gestured to Uragenax.

"Hi!" Toriares exclaimed. He pointed his cane at Uragenax. "Since I can understand you, I'm pretty certain you understand me. I surrender. Go on and kill me, I promise I won't move."

Uragenax raised his blaster at Toriares and fire. Toriares leapt backwards at the last minute, the magnet beam in his cane locked on his arm and blowing apart Zularax's iron armor.

"Sorry," Toriares said, jumping back toward the tapestry stand as Zularax rose to his feet and Uragenax fired again. "I guess I lied."

He reached under the rubble for the tapestry he had seen the grub stuck on.

"Uragenax," Zularax said. "You dare to fire on me?" His mandibles opened wide and vomited a stream of bright green liquid into Uragenax's faceplate, eating into the metal with a vile hissing noise.

Toriares smiled, covering the grub up like it was a fresh piece of fruit in a grocery bag. With tip of his cane he scraped two more off a nearby wall they were hastily digesting.

That's it, he thought, knotting the tapestry. Play rough with each other just a few more seconds ...

Uragenax, his sensory systems blinded by the liquid thrashed about and fired wildly until Zularax snatched the rifle from his hands and turned to face Toriares.

But Toriares was gone.

"HUMAN!" Zularax said. "Show yourself and die!"

Toriares used the tip of his cane to tap Zularax on his shoulder. Zularax turned his head quickly, just in time to be smashed across the faceplate by the tapestry full of his metal grubs.

Zularax stumbled backward, his mandibles dented shut, his sensors momentarily damaged. Had he been aware of his place in space at the moment, he would have noticed he was stumbling backward closer to Uragenax, who was thrashing his arms in the direction of Zularax's voice.

Toriares bashed Zularax again and again with his improvised mace, breaking one of his mandibles off and sending his venom leaking down his face and onto his chest. As it did it began to eat away at his own armor. Zularax began thrashing around in a blind panic, his head skewed at a thirty-degree angle.

Zularax stumbled backward and tried to fire Uragenax's gun at Toriares but found that it wouldn’t fire -- apparently it had been coded to fire only for the Sekhmet it was designed for. Toriares watched Zularax stumble around as if drunk and right into the patch of Uragenax's mighty hand.

Toriares threw the sack of grubs at Zularax, bumping him into range. Uragex sliced Zularax’s head off his shoulders with a wave of his hand, causing the machine to cease functioning and launch the Sekhmet pilot free.

Or it would have, had the ejection system not been damaged along with Zularax's armor plating. As it was, the spinal cockpit of the machine sprang outward like a cassette ejecting, but didn’t clear the damaged machine.

Toriares smiled and was planning to flee when he began considering two inescapable facts. One was Uragenax, having found his weapon, moving toward him, crushing Zularax and the remains of his machine body under his feet, apparently having regained enough of his sight to continue his attack.

The other thing was that a fire was beginning to burn through the streets of the town, making the late afternoon even hotter and choking the air with smoke and most important of all, cutting off any route of escape except for one:

Through Uragenax, who was even now charging his weapon for a blast that would reduce Toriares to an ashen shadow on the dirty street.