Thursday, 22 September 2011

Starfall: Epilogue

'CATASTROPHIC FAILURE' warning signs flash across your HUD, bathing the inside of the CommandCore in a hot red glow. You attempt to reroute functionality for one last attack but it’s no use. The Ragnarok sags to the ground, sparks flying from its gears, smoke belching from the gaping hole where the Rail Gun fired through its chest.

Looking up, you see Reylan’s Arma towering over you.

“Good game,” he says over the comm. It doesn’t sound like he’s gloating. Maybe he genuinely enjoyed the challenge you provided.

The words 'SHUTDOWN IMMINENT' flash before you, then disappear as your Arma’s primary CPU ceases to function, plunging the confines of the CommandCore into darkness. You slump against the soft wall, the dull pang of defeat aching through your body. You’ve failed. This is the end.

No…

You jerk around, search for the source of the eerie voice.

...You have not failed…

“Who’s there?” you inquire into the emptiness.

This is not the end…

The voice stabs deep into your mind, a burning presence piercing your thoughts. Immense pain erupts, causing you to scream uncontrollably.

You have only just begun…

Your hands clamp around your skull, trying to stop it from exploding from the pressure building within.

It is time for you to awaken…

Flashes of blinding light burst onto your screwed-up eyes, pain wrenching at your consciousness. You fall into the obsidian black.

Time for you to be reborn…

- x -

The camouflaged cam-bots circle above the two AuGArmas like vultures, scavenging tasty morsels of action and excitement, then regurgitating them onto millions of view-screens across the galaxy. A black cloud of smoke snakes upwards from the defeated machine. The other stands resolute, the proud victor.

“He's done it,” narrates the voice of Max Herald. “Reylan has won the round. Many thought he'd never – wait... wait, there's...”

Something isn't right...

The screen switches to an image nearer the ground – everything is shaking, rocks toppling down into the valley. The silver and blue Arma struggles to keep its balance as the ground vibrates.

A giant crack fissures along the centre of the valley, the brown dusty surface splitting jaggedly in two. The image zooms in on the defeated Arma – it's at the centre of the opening rift.

“Ladies and gentleman, something terrible has happened,” says Herald, managing to keep his cool, but only just. “We're dispatching a pick-up team to rescue the stranded pilot, but... what the-”

A huge dark mass bursts out of the ground, great chunks of sediment crashing against the sides of the valley. The silver and blue AuGArma turns and begins to run, engaging its boosters.

The image cuts down low again. The mass, a dark crystalline substance that seems to be somehow fluid, wraps itself around the broken Arma. Dust and pebbles fly up against the lens, obscuring the view. The substance is fusing with the Arma – the machine appears to be rising up, standing upright once again. The dented and cracked metal of its surface its almost completely covered by the dark mass, long protrusions sprouting from the back of the machine. The Arma, or what was the Arma, rears its head back. The mass covering its face opens like a mouth – it emits a screeching howl, the sound rising unbearably-

The screen goes black.

Families to turn each other, puzzled and afraid.

The image reappears, showing the white deck of the Hyparrion cruiser. Max Herald stands before the viewers, his composure well and truly broken.

“We're experiencing some, uh, technical difficulties,” he splutters sheepishly. “If you could bear with us...”

A warning alert begins to flash across the screens and consoles around the deck, a high-pitched whooping sound echoing around the ship. Herald forgets his role and runs to the nearest console, the cam-bot following.

An object has left the atmosphere of Gantian VII and is head straight for the HFCG cruiser. An ugly red dot blinks on the console screen, moving with extreme speed.

The camera cuts to a view outside the space vessel. The military frigate has manoeuvred into a defensive position, its gun batteries and energy turrets swivelling around to face the unidentified object. The cam-bot slides to the side, trying to catch a glimpse of the action.

A black dot appears in the distance, zooming inexorably towards the ships.

The ProTek frigate opens fire, raining down a hail of projectiles and laser beams upon the unidentified object, swallowing it up within a wave of destructive force.

A flash of light slashes across the centre of the military vessel, splitting its hull in two. Explosions ripple across its surface as the unidentified craft surges through the wreckage – the camera zooms, showing a dark humanoid shape flying through space, pure white energy sending it hurling onwards towards the Hyparrion cruiser.

The HFCG ship engages evasive manoeuvres, but it's too late. The black object slams into the ship. A giant blade of light erupts from its arm, lacerating the hull of the vessel. The humanoid 'thing' explodes into movement, flying off out into space...

- x -

Inside the cruiser, blasts shatter the pristine white walls and floors, tongues of fire spitting out into the corridors. Crew members rush frantically back and forth, screaming orders and information to each other. Max Herald picks himself up off the floor groggily, touching an oozing gash on his forehead. In midst the chaos, he stumbles over to a comm station, pushing the operator roughly aside. He taps in a code.

“Sir, it's Herald.”

He listens.

“Yes, but...”

Irate shouting issues from the comm.

“But, sir – I think we've found it.”

Silence.

“We've finally found it.”

To be continued...

Thank you to all the Tweet RPG players for shaping this adventure!

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