Stranger World

Unrelated stories that take place in a setting besides Star Wars...

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Aranador
Posts: 773
Joined: Mon Mar 31, 2003 7:18 pm
Location: Australia

Stranger World

Post by Aranador » Thu Aug 10, 2006 5:22 pm

With a heavy, but distant thump, something shifted, and allowed light into a chamber that had long been shrouded in darkness. The scene now illuminated was of a square room, the centre of which was dedicated to some sort of ritual magic circle. A spider web of intricate lines and runes, with small piles of exotic powders and materials arrayed throughout at strategic intersections. The centre of the diagram was bare stone, a space where what ever sorcery was supposed to occur would be directed.

In the corners of the room, out of the way of the magical circle, were a few items of furniture, and in some cases, draped over the furniture were items of clothing, laid out as if their owner was expecting to return after a bath and dress. There was a passage that led away from the middle of one of the four walls. There were no windows, save the one round portal high up in the ceiling which had just become uncovered.

Outside of this room, the Sun must have been following its course through the sky, and in so doing, reached a point of alignment with the window portal in the roof, as the murky light that had previously been allowed into the room began to rapidly brighten and come into focus. As it did so, it became apparent that the one window was not just a plane of glass, rather, it was a lens, designed to split the light into its spectrum, and focus specific colours to specific points. As the colours shifted and contracted into searing points of radiance, they were focused onto respective piles of flittering powders around the circle.

At the moment of conjunction, the focused segments of spectrum ignited the powders, and rapidly, the burning material spread along lines and around runes across the circle. Within a heartbeat, the magical diagram blazed with actinic fire, brilliant white with other swirls of vibrant colour in specific patterns, like some amazing land bound fireworks display. After scant moments of pyrotechnics, the powders burned out, and left behind clouds of acrid smoke that obscured the room. Even so, a residual glow, a golden radiance remained, buried within the smoke, emanating from somewhere where the empty centre of the circle was.

Gradually, the smoke settled, and too, gradually the golden glow faded. Finally, something else could be seen through the fading smoke. It was a human male, naked and curled into a foetal ball, lying in the centre of the strange circle. The last vestiges of the golden light still outlined his form. After a short while, the man shifted, and groaned, as consciousness was achieved. He arose, as if waking from a strange dream, only to find one still stranger. Blinking his eyes and shaking his head, the man rose to his feet, shivering slightly from the cold stone on which he had recently been resting.

“Hello?” He asked of the emptiness, but there was no reply.

The man put his hand to his head, and massaged at his temples – the burning powders from before had consumed a good portion of the oxygen from the room, not that the man yet realised this. He stepped across the ashen remains of the magical diagram, unaware of what purpose it may have served. Finally, he spied the clothing items that had been arranged around the room.

He looked around questioningly, then shrugged. Cotton boxers and undershirt, thick fur lined hide breeches and jacket, woollen socks and leather boots, and a fur lined hooded cloak. Winter clothing for sure, if a bit old fashioned. Each item, even the boots, seemed perfectly sized for him, a thought that only occurred to him as he was pulling on the second boot. There was also a scabbard here, as might be used for a sword. The man looked around the room, but found no evidence of a weapon to go with the scabbard.

“Not like I know how to use a sword anyway.” He remarked out lout, mostly just to break the silence. None the less, he was curious about why there should be a sword scabbard here with the other clothes.

And that was it for this room, so it seemed. The man took a final look around, for the first time noticing the strange pattern of ash arranged in the circular pattern in the middle of the room. His steps had disturbed part of it now. Studying it one moment more, he then turned away and moved down the passage.

A short distance along, and the passage ended in a serious looking steel door, tightly shut. All around the door at regular intervals were hatch doggings, individual handled levers designed to tightly shut a door – evenly spaced to ensure the door was sealed all around. It was the type of door you would use if you wanted to make a water tight seal in case the compartment beyond was flooded. He knew this, but for the life of him, the man couldn’t remember why he knew this, where he had seen such a door before.

But – if the door was water tight, and shut down tight – did that mean that the compartment beyond was in fact flooded? Well – there was one way to find out. Starting with the lowest hatch dog on the hinged side of the door, the man began to undo the latches. Each dog was jammed shut tightly, however he was able to persuade each to move in turn. With each one newly un secured, the failure of flooding water leaking through emboldened the man, and it was with a little relief that he pulled the door open. He wasn’t trapped in a cell under the ocean or something.

However, there may in fact be a different problem, he quickly realised, as his eyes began to water and a coughing fit hit him. The air outside the room had a foul stench to it, and seemed full of cloying dust. The man quickly engineered a crude dust mask from a strip torn from his cotton undershirt, which seemed to ease breathing slightly.

Beyond the door, the passage continued again for a short distance, before abruptly ending in a stone wall. The man looked at the wall in disbelief. It didn’t make sense – why have a watertight door to protect you from bricks. But then – where was all this dust coming from? Something wasn’t adding up here. Perhaps this corridor contained some sort of hidden exit.

The man made to push against the wall, and for a brief moment, his hand rested against its cold surface, when suddenly, with a strange glow outlining his hand, he was pushing his hand into the wall, the extremity disappearing into the stone! Reflexively he jerked back his hand. After a brief moment of consideration, he reached the conclusion that the ‘wall’ was some sort of trickery, and boldly moved to step through.

It was like pushing through jelly, a soft pressure from the ‘wall’ resisted him as he moved through. The illusion may have been a meter thick or so, but it proved a simple exercise to proceed through it.

Once past the fake wall, the man found himself standing on a stone stairwell that spiralled up and down the inside of what appeared to be a tower shaft. Banging and hammering could be heard from below, along with snatches of what could have been language, although he did not recognise the words. Flickering light also emanated from that direction. The steps were caked with greenish yellow dust, and a troop of booted footprints were clearly visible in it – both having descended and ascended the stairs. His own footsteps could be seen as having walked out from the wall – which again appeared to be a solid part of the stone tower. The man took a moment to carefully scuff out evidence that he had exited here, while at the same time leaving a pattern that would be sufficiently distinctive to him in case he needed to return here.

With that done – he descended the steps, the movement kicking up small clouds of the sickly dust. His crude dust mask prevented his lungs from being filled with the muck, but he could tell he’d need to get out into the fresh air before too long. Hopefully the people down below would help him.

After spiralling down a ways, he came upon what had to be the base of the tower. There, busy around something at the centre of the tower floor, 4 figures stood. The figures wore tough looking faded brown clothing – three of them were clad head to foot while a fourth, the biggest of the group, had left the majority of his torso exposed, showing off tribal style tattooing. All 4 of them had their heads fully covered in masks and cowls – obviously designed to protect them from the effects of the dust. The man began to worry that perhaps the dust was toxic. The four of them were apparently arguing about something. The smallest of them held some sort of small device in their hands, and would occasionally gesture to the object in the center of the chamber, then to the device they held, then lecture the other three.

The man caught a better glimpse of the object in the centre of the tower after one of the 4 below moved aside. It appeared to be a stone statue of a giant hand that was gripping a glittery looking sword. Evidently, the four below were trying to remove the sword, but it appeared as if they were having trouble. A broken drill and chisel as well as a collection of discarded hammers attested to this fact. Their failure clearly annoyed the group.

They were definitely talking to each other – but the language was totally unfamiliar. Despite this, the man felt he had to try and communicate with the group, to get help.

Before he could however, a part of his sub conscious flashed an urgent warning to his mind, and he reflexively rolled out of the path of a black clawed limb that raked through the air where he just was. The man looked with shock at the beast that suddenly accosted him. It was a black chitinous insectile thing – 4 legs anchored it to the wall, while 2 more limbs ended in nasty hooked claws. It lunged at him again, and the man narrowly avoided being struck, at the cost of his balance. He tumbled awkwardly down the stairs and landed in a heap.

The four other people here looked in surprise over at the man’s unexpected entry, then at the black creature that was scuttling down towards the man. As a group, the moved away from both, one of them pulling a small aerosol can from a utility pack and then spraying the contents over the group. The big tattooed one said something then laughed, also drawing a chuckle from one of the others, although the smallest of the group then appeared to scold the large one.

The man shook his head groggily as he stood after his fall. Luckilly nothing seemed broken. He looked imploringly towards the other group, and reached out a hand, but they pointedly stared back without acknowledgement.

The hairs on the back of his neck raised, and he spun and ducked as the creature again attacked him. He guessed pretty quickly that the other group wouldn’t be helping. Well – he could try and force them – he dashed over to where they were standing, however, the big one quickly pushed him away again, towards the beast. The creature appeared to have no interest in the others at all, its attention was firmly on the lone man. Clearly – if he was going to survive this, he would have to do it alone.

The man dived over to the stone hand, and snatched up one of the long pry bars the others had been using as a tool. Solid steel and a meter and a half long, with one end tapering into a chisel point – the sheer weight of the item would make it an effective weapon.

He got to his feet, finding a part of the room where he had some space. He gave the bar an experimental twirl though the air – a familiar memory to him somehow – yes – as a child he would watch a TV show where the hero fought with a staff. A strange fragment of memory – one which he couldn’t connect to anything else.

Not that now was the time to try. The bug creature came at him again, but this time the man stood his ground, and used the weighty bar to batter aside the snapping claws of the beast, then thrust at it with the chisel head. The pry bar crunched into the monster’s armoured exoskeleton, and a squirt of ichor announced that the blow had scored at least some effect. Even so – the beast didn’t seem affected by the attack, only enraged.

The exertion of fighting the creature rapidly elevated the man’s breathing rate, and in so doing, accelerated the negative influence of the airborne dust – compounded by the fighting stirring up the dust from the floor. None the less, the man fought on – seeking some way to either defeat the creature, or to flee from it.

Apparently the other four hadn’t expected the stranger to be able to put up any resistance, and were now engaged in an argument over what to do. It was clear that the majority were quite content to remain, masked by their pheromone spray, and simply avoid any contact with the creature. One of them though had apparently decided to help fight as well.

The man wheezed for breath – sucking in the tainted air that none the less contained the oxygen his muscles needed. The creature too – seemed to pause, as if re-assessing the situation. The man suddenly realised that someone else had appeared beside him. He glanced quickly, and saw that it was one of the four strangers. They were looking back at him, although their face was entirely concealed behind the slightly fearsome air filter mask that they wore, only a lifeless black plastic visage as a face. For some reason the image reminded the man of another fragment of memory – some evil lord who’s face was again nothing but a black mask.

There would be time to examine memories later. The other figure raised their right hand, then clenched it into a fist, the action apparently triggering some sort of weapon, like a powered striking gauntlet or taser weapon, twin prongs sliding forward and energising with electrical arcs.

The creature attacked, still focusing its attention entirely on the man it had attacked before. Its single mindedness allowed the other person to flank it, and attack it. They apparently had a greater understanding of the vulnerabilities of the creature, as the beast reacted in obvious pain to the powered attacks that person delivered. The man took advantage of the creature’s distress, and thrust his makeshift spear deep into the abdomen of the monster.

Double teamed, the creature suffered wound after wound, and eventually it succumbed to the assault. With twitching spasms, the beast died.

The man, breathing heavily and leaning on the bry bar for support, turned to thank the one who had helped him.

“Thank you so much. I don’t know what that thing was, or where I am. Please – help me.” He asked.

The one who had helped him was joined by the other three, staring at him from behind their impassive masks. They began to argue with themselves again, ignoring his words. “Please – help me.” He repeated, holding out his hand in a begging type gesture.

Finally, the one who had helped him stepped forward, hand reaching out to his. He smiled thankfully, but the smile was soon lost – as the figure instead of taking his arm in support, instead slammed their taser gauntlet into his midrift. The electrical blast drove the air from his lungs, and sent him staggering backwards, reeling and shaken. He looked at the others in confusion, they in turn were looking back with some measure of surprise as well. The one who had first helped, and now struck him, made an adjustment to their weapon, then stepped forward again. The man attempted to raise the pry bar to defend himself – but the affects of the poisoned air and the previous stun blast had already weakened him too much, and he couldn’t stop the next punch from striking him solidly across the side of the head.

Unconsciousness claimed him.

Aranador
Posts: 773
Joined: Mon Mar 31, 2003 7:18 pm
Location: Australia

Post by Aranador » Mon Aug 21, 2006 6:04 pm

The sounds of voices arguing penetrated the fogginess in his head. Cracking an eyelid open, he could see the four strangers apparently still attempting to pry that sword from the stone hand. Frustration and anger was obvious in all four of them, even though the language was foreign. Glancing around, he realised that the remains of that savage beast was nowhere to be seen.

A fit of coughing and wheezing wracked the mans body, and he realised that his arms were tied roughly behind him. Struggling to avoid toppling over, he didn’t immediately notice that one of the group had moved over to investigate his condition. That one called back some sort of question to the others, however, they appeared to express minimal interest. The one interested stranger was the one with the shock gauntlet, the smallest of the four. Judging from the posture and the attitudes, this one was probably a she.

The man realised the dust was getting to him – his lungs felt as if they were on fire, and his head was spinning. Coughing brought a bitter taste to his mouth, and he was forced to expectorate a vile green phlegm. The probably-female stranger called out something to her three companions, but they apparently ignored or rebuked her comment. With an annoyed posture, the smaller stranger stormed over to they group’s stash of equipment, and rummaged through it, eventually withdrawing a spare air filter mask. She returned to the bound man, and slipped the mask over his face.

The man made no struggle, after all, he realised the value of air free of the toxic dust. With the mask in place, he worked filtered air into his lungs, and immediately began to feel a little better. Interestingly enough, looking through the thick eye lenses in the mask put a whole new layer of detail into the scene before him. Patterns of light, like ghost images, seemed to shimmer adjacent to objects in the room. The dust in the air was more like a luminous fog now, and the strange sword that these people seemed so intent on retrieving had multiple, brilliant after images, each in a different colour of the rainbow. By contrast, the four other people had virtually no sign of this aura. The man looked at his own feet, but the aura was there. He wondered if perhaps that strange beast before hunted based on this ‘aura sight’, and that the strangers deliberately masked it via that aerosol or their clothing.

The female stranger was apparently fetching something else from her baggage, and then returned, holding what appeared to be some sort of circlet or choker in her hands. She squatted in front of the man, first gesturing with the open collar to her own neck, then towards the man’s throat. Perhaps it was some sort of high tech translator? Was that possible? The man looked dubiously at the possibly-female stranger, but the black face mask they wore betrayed nothing. The stranger reached forward and closed the ring around his neck. They then stood back up and called out to the others, gesturing back at the bound man. No luck on the translation, their words were still unintelligible.

Apparently though, the other three strangers were quite amused. The fourth stranger did not take their levity well though, and while the language was unknown, the scolding was clear. With voice raised, the higher pitch added evidence that this stranger was in fact female, while the other three all seemed male. The female waved her powered knuckle weapon and made a punching motion towards the largest of the other three, the one with the tattoos. That one shrugged, and apparently acquiesced to the girl’s version of the argument. The bound man in the corner decided that there was some sort of relationship between the two – he was clearly the leader of the band, but she was definitely used to getting her way out of him.

The four of them once again turned their attention to the sword in the stone hand – but their activities were almost immediately interrupted by a tremor that shook the whole room. They looked at each other, then the big one barked out orders. Hurriedly the group began to pack – looks like they had decided they needed to leave.

With filtered air to breath, the man had regained his strength and balance, and carefully struggled to rise to his feet. His body felt tired and tense, but the urgency with which the others were preparing to move out spurred him on. If this wasn’t some thing they could ignore with their monster repellent in a can, then he didn’t want to be left behind.

He was, however, a little concerned that the others may not allow him to follow, and initially this seemed the case, as one of them roughly pushed him away, but the girl scolded that one fiercely. She then promptly turned to him and dumped a bulky sack over his shoulders, the strap over one shoulder and across his chest. With his arms still tied behind him, it was far from comfortable, but when she tightened the carry strap, he found that the arrangement wasn’t too awkward – the sack wasn’t too heavy. The girl made a remark that probably translated something along the lines of “See, he is useful” which got sullen agreement from the others.

And then, they were off. The bigger tattooed man led the group up the spiralling stairwell. The bound man brought up the rear. As he passed that point on the stairwell where the illusionary door was, he was gratified to note that his reference mark appeared intact, while there was no evidence of his earlier egress. The steps of the others had left their mark of passage in the thick dust, further obscuring the fact that a hidden entry was just there. The man briefly considered ‘vanishing’ through the fake wall, but the girl was keeping an eye on her. A thought hit the man, and he glanced back quickly, but the prismatic lenses in the mask saw no difference between real wall and the hidden doorway. Made sense or else this group would have already found the secret area.

After rising quite a way up the stairs, the group came out onto a landing. The floor here covered a much wider area than the cross section of the circular shaft they had ascended. The ceiling, or what was left of it, was a great vaulted dome, smashed in various places. Sand had drifted in through the frames of windows in various places, while a bitter wind howled through the area. The yellowish green dust swirled and danced in the air, along with icy sleet, which coated parts of the room in a frosty glaze of sand, ice and toxic dust.

The group moved over to a rubble strewn corner of the room, where apparently one of the windows had been recently cleared of the obstructing rubble. The tattooed man scrambled quickly up the scree and through the portal, while the others made to follow suit. The bound man wondered how he was supposed to attempt the climb with his hands tied, but before he could try and voice his predicament, there was a shout, and the tattooed man leapt back through the window, shouting commands at the others.

Immediately, they all began ditching their packs, the girl grabbing the sack off of the bound man. Rummaging through the items stowed within, each brought out a wicked looking large calibre firearm, sort of like a home built short barrelled shot gun. The leader broke open a box that must have contained the ammunition for the weapons, and each of the group members rushed over to grab a handful. Their weapons appeared to be breach loaders, holding a single shell at a time.

Obviously what ever was out there wouldn’t be fooled by a can of monster repellent. The man wondered what he was supposed to do, with his arms still tied. Keeping out of the way was probably wise, as the other four all took positions covering the window.

A tense moment passed, followed by another. The hairs on the back of his neck suddenly rose, as a dreadful shiver raced up and down his spine. Instinct took over, and the man leapt forward into an awkward dive roll.

A sharp taloned and white furry claw slashed through the air where he was, but even as he dodged that first blow, the creature, a shaggy white beast with two stocky legs and no less than four lanky arms, followed his movements, thrashing the air with its clawed paws. With his arms tied, the man was unable to regain his balance enough to continue evading the creature, and it connected with a swipe. The tough clothing he was wearing prevented the creature from immediately ripping through his flesh, but the blow was strong enough to knock him sliding across the icy slick floor. He skidded away from the beast.

The staccato report of four firearms cascaded through the broken building. The projectiles streaked through the frosty dust laden air, leaving swirling trails in their wake. Two shots missed the beast, passing by and striking stone with a small explosion of shattering rock. Two rounds struck the creature, but while they definitely caused injuries, the wounds were nothing more than bothersome to the beast, small patches of red appearing on the monster’s dirty white fur.

The four people struggled to reload – one fumbled their reload and dropped the ammunition cartridge, but the leader was clearly more skilled at this, and had his weapon ready to fire again, an action that he repeated as soon as possible. The shot struck the beast, causing it to recoil slightly, but again the attack did little to slow the monster down.

The next to fire injured the beast in one of its arms, and it rounded on the hapless man in anger, scooping up a rock and flinging it in a single action. The rock slammed into the man, catching him across the shoulder, knocking him down. The girl fired next, causing the monster a fresh injury in its backside. The beast responded by leaping towards her, and battering her with a double fisted haymaker which knocked the small individual flying.

More shots from the leader and the others again distracted the beast, and the bound man moved over to where the girl was even now getting back to her feet. “Untie me” the man half shouted, turning to present his bound arms to her. But instead she reloaded her weapon, and fired it once more at the beast. The man turned to look at how the battle was progressing. One of the other men was clearly injured, a broken arm most likely. The tattooed leader was under attack, however was successfully evading the attacks of the beast for the moment. The girl fired again, then uttered what must have been a curse of some sort. The bound man turned to look at her again – she had apparently run out of ammo. She discarded the gun, and readied her shock fist.

“Wait,” the bound man said loudly. “Untie me – I can help!” He didn’t know if she could understand him, but she did stare back at him through that expressionless mask as he tried to twist around and present both his bound arms and keep an eye on her. She appeared to reach a decision, and quickly drew a small knife, slashing through the rope that had held the man, then handing him the weapon. Without further thought, she then ran at the beast, her shock gauntlet ready to strike.

The man tested the feel of the knife in his hands. He didn’t know how to fight with this. Did he? No – he had no feeling of any memory about combat. Still – the sharp bit went into the enemy, and there really wasn’t any time for more thought on that matter. Already the girl had reached the beast and struck at it, her blow seemingly doing little more than the gunshots had before. The beast reacted by backhanding the girl, who none the less rolled with the blow effectively.

The man hesitated just a moment longer, then charged at the fiend, attempting to slash through it with the knife.

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