"Heard that the higher-ups had to pull this crew together, something about a problem in the sub-levels, short staffed i guess" Modesitt said as the tram pulled up to the machine bay's Station, the grate metal doors opening with a jerk. "must be some hell ova mess down there."
"so long as It's overtime, I'm Game for whatever shite they'll have us doing." Overton said with a grin on his face, as the crew filed out of the Tram car onto the grate flloor of the slightly elevated station of the cavernous hanger like building, men in grey overalls and coveralls, their Heavy duty workers and engineers V.E.A.s glowing faintly manned the scaffold like machine docks and bays lining the thick girdered walls and in rows across the stained concrete floor, an environment much like a massive AutoCraft garage. lit dimly by amber crystal bulb light fixtures hanging high above.
"Some place." Eddie Said. crossing his arms. "Only things that're different from the assembly lines is the equipment and the name, some promotion these guys get. from oiling the machines that build the products, to oiling the products themselves" he finished, earning some snickers from some of the men in the crew. "So wheres the machine in question?"
"File says that its in bay twelve" Yoseph said, reading from a file pulled up on his V.E.A.s Holo Screen.
"Which one is that?" Eddie asked. Looking around the dim work space.
"I'm guessing it's the one down there with the Gear Drake Spazzing out in it" Modesitt said, pointing down to the end of the Row of Bays to the right of them. where a large group of engineers and workers had gathered around a machine bay that had been visibly warped out of shape, part of its scaffolding having collapsed on itself. the reason for the damage quickly becoming evident as they saw the war machine struggling within it.
at over 50 feet long from the tip of its armored head, to the blades of its segmented tail, the Gear-Drake strained in its housing bay, giving off several Metallic shrieks and calls as it did so. every now and then snapping it's metal jaws at Workers that attempted to get too close. the metal of the bay groaning loudly as the restrains holding it in place gave way.
"The heck?" Eddie Said, half to himself, as he watched the struggling machine. "they want us to fix that?"
"No." said one of the men behind him. "They want "us" to get it under control with the V.E.A. Stasis locks, They want "You" to fix it, someones gonna have ta interface with it's P.M.A.C. core while we hold it."
"Bwah?!" Eddie uttered, turning and looking at the crew, then back at the struggling machine. an expression of mixed shock and fear on his face. "You guy's are kidding right?"
"Good Luck, Eddie man!" Yoseph said, Shaking Him roughly on the shoulder. "We'll be behind you all of the way!"
( = )
"So what do you say, S.T.R.I.X.U.S.?" The Dark Cloaked Calvarian asked Cheerfully, the Zeit staff in his hand Ticking in a way that was almost eager in nature. "The Freedom of you, your Mate L.I.L.L.I.T.H., and your high commanders. positions of high command in our ranks. all in exchange for your service on my court, the Time-Breakers. With your assistance, Achieving our goals becomes that much more of a reality."
The Dominus Glared at him with it's Glowing Crimson eyes from within the bay that serves as it's bodies Prison, countless wires and glowing tubes fusing it's core systems to the Systems of the City Above them. it's Optics following the Bone mans pacing movements back and forth in cones of reddish white light.
"And in Exchange for your Services Rendered." The Calvara went on. "I'll set the others of your Race Free from Stasis As well. Consider it, effective payment."
"WHY WOULD I TRUST YOU CALVARA?!?" the Bio-machine Asked abruptly, cutting him off. "WHY WOULD I EVER TRUST A CALVARA? YOUR PEOPLE ARE THE ONE'S THAT DID THIS TO US. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU THINK THAT I WOULD EVER PUT OUR FATE IN THE HANDS OF ONE OF YOU?"
the Calvara paused in his movements and gestures, Apparently surprised at the machines apparent dis-interest in what he was offering it. "Very well then." He said. his jawbone angling itself into a scowl like expression. "Thats a fine argument. Why would you Trust a Calvara? Why? Why you ask? Because i Know that i can trust you S.T.R.I.X.U.S., That why i came to you, and not any of the other generals of the Machina, I Picked you, because i know that you, and your race. Deserve more then what they were forced to be settled with." he continued, his voice becoming angry in its tone. "I am offering you the chance to achieve that which you all Deserve! Has anyone, in all of the thousands of years that You've been down here EVER offered you that? The Imperial Government? Skullow? have any of them even attempted to offer an amount of compensation?
"..." the Machine remained silent, Struck quiet by the humiliating subjects of the Calvaras Questions.
"Even Kreiger?" the skeleton Asked quizzingly. "Even him?"
Again silence from the machine. it turned its optics from the Dark coated man, as if not wanting to answer.
"He hasn't? has he? The Calvara persisted. "And after all that the two of you have been through, wars won with you by his side, You saving his worthless life more times then most can count. Hell! Your core was grown from the crystals they pulled from his Versus tool. SYNC-Generals, that's what they called you and the others. Your Practically his brother, and he never once came to comfort you here, in your hell. It's actually Quite tragic."
"STOP IT!" the machine Shouted at the skeleton. it's voice practically a roar in the cavernous chamber. "...STOP IT." it repeated, it's voice lowering. "OR I SWEAR TO WHATEVER GOD YOU WORSHIP THAT I'LL END YOU WHERE YOU STAND."
"It pains you doesn't it? The fact that I'm right." The Calvara went on, disregarding the machine and its threats entirely. "The fact that he abandoned you, that he let Haummaur Do this to you. i ask you, why do you sit here idle? why have you not sought the justice that you were denied? made him pay for what he did?"
the machine Turned it's optic's back in his direction to regard him. " I REMAIN HERE, TIME-CASTER. BECAUSE I AM BOUND HERE, I HAVE NO CHOICE IN THE..."
"You are bound here by the devices that fuse you to the systems of this Necropolis." The calvara spoke up, cutting S.T.R.I.X.U.S. off. "Systems that i can easily undo. you remain Strixus, because you refuse to accept an offer of freedom. my offer. The only offer of mercy that you have."
"..." the dominus said nothing, but the calvara could tell that there was an obvious glare behind it's otherwise emotionless optics. his jaw tilting back slightly in the calvarian version of a smirk"
"Now, do we have a deal? Or don't we?"
S.T.R.I.X.U.S. stayed silent for a long time, going over the offer over and over again in his mind, before uttering its answer in a low growl.
"YES... WE HAVE A DEAL, LORD HAUST."
The Time-Caster only grinned.
( = )
"I tell ya man, The Mainsprings are going to rock the season! there's never been a better War-dome Team yet." Morris said as he and his Partner Lake, made their way back to the Garbage shuttle, having just dumped the last Cargo of Trash from Erdanis streets for the night. the thick hooded overalls they wore under their heavy duty Workers V.E.A.s doing well to protect them from the damp cold of the falling rain that had being going on throughout the day, and. Judging by the thunder rolling out of the south. would most likely keep going tommarrow.
"Buddy, you got no idea of that!" Lake shot back "That rooky team ain't... gonna... last..." he trailed off as a rumbling Electrical hum swelled in from the southeast, the tell tail sound of one of the Ships of Tenebrae using it's A-Grav Engines to fly low to the ground. growing louder as Morris turned to follow his upward gaze in the direction of the sound. in time to catch the running lights of a Planetary cruiser flying at an odd angle emerge from the dark mist high above them. it's engines sounding as if they were straining now that their sounds were clearer.
As they watched, the ship turned and continued its flight, running parallel to the cliffs to the west, gradually losing altitude as it did. its amber running lights fading into the heavy rain and mist.
"The hell was that about?" Morris asked with a look of mixed confusion and surprise behind the lens of his mask. "That wasn't flying along the normal shipping lane."
"It was a planetary cruiser" Lake responded. "most likely a military ship... That or some salvagers going out to the Wreck-lands after some new claim, trying to fly under the Grid or sumthin. Let's get going. this rain is beginning to soak into mah boot's!"
"did your wife try to re-sole em for ya again?!" Morris asked Sarcasticly as they continued making their way to the rugged Garbage shuttle, sitting idle at the gate of the Scrapyards.
"Laugh it up partner!" Lake shot back. "Or I'll steal your's. Have her practice on them for a bit." He glared at Morris, just as the distant sound of Tearing and tortured metal and the rumble of collapsing rock issued from further up along the cliffs. There was a flash of Reddish white light, a wild Cartwheeling spiral of flame, standing out in the gloom. Spiraling off into the flat-lands beyond the cliffs. the sound of the detonating engine slamming into them with a rumble not unlike that of thunder. only more pronounced.
"God's be damned!" Morris cursed as the sound of the crash subsided. leaving the two awestruck men with only the sound of the rain falling.
"Did that thing just?..." Lake began, motioning with his arm, before trailing off.
Neither of them could have known, that what they had just witnessed. would usher in changes, that would shake the entire Empire down to it's deepest foundations.