Wednesday, October 10, 2007


The pain flared through him, as much from the tearing of his skin and the shattering of his ribs as the sudden, massive assault on his mind. The attack was total, brutal and devastating. It hit him with frigid cold, telepathic agony and the subtle but explosive effects of subharmonic dissonance.

In short, everything Bloodravyn was vulnerable to, all at once. The blast caught him in the chest, sending him through the metal door of his new home, a dozen feet of steel siding wall beside it and into a concrete support pylon.

It had been perfectly aimed, taking him the moment he stepped outside. He had gotten up to see if any innocents had been caught in the gang violence outside and become a victim instead...

He was almost blacking out by the time he hit the pole. Ravyn blinked in shock, gasping for air to fill his smashed lungs. Nothing was coming. The wind had been knocked out of him so violently, it might never be able to return again. For what felt like the second time in one night, he was helpless, unable to move and losing his fight to stay conscious.

With a painful groan echoing along his spine, Bloodravyn left a red trail down the pylon as he slid to the shrapnel-littered ground. He could still see, though his vision was blurring and he could still hear, though the harmonics had his ears ringing. Through the haze, he could see very little.

Just a bright light... moving very fast.... right at his face...

Instinctively, unsure of how he did it or how he knew to even try, Ravyn called out to the earth below him for protection. A jagged wall of solid rock rose out of the ground, intercepting the blast before it could finish what the first attack had left undone. The thunderous sound of tortured stone boomed through the abandoned alley, heralding both the quenching of the deadly attack and the sacrifice of Ravyn's sudden cover.

He was just aware enough to turn his face away from the spray of broken rubble, letting the shards of stone hit him on his scarred side. He was already missing his left eye; there wasn't much else the shrapnel could do to him.

The glow of the blast marked the attacker as coming from above. Likely a flying assailant, the conscious part of Ravyn's mind conjectured. He was hurt, likely critically, and yet some part of him was still playing tactician. He was sure that if Lethane has been in his mind at that moment, the bastard would have given him no end of grief for that.

Lethane! For a moment, Ravyn had a glimmer of hope that the elven brawler would be nearby and could come, annoyingly, to his rescue again. Then Bloodravyn realized that since he'd thrown Lethane out so he could get some sleep, that wasn't likely.

That meant no rescue. And with no clue how to raise another wall of stone, however ablative such a defense seemed to be, that meant the next assault would probably finish him off. Ravyn was already losing feeling in his limbs. Spinal damage, perhaps?

Not that it mattered. As he heard three sets of small jet turbines draw near and saw the shadowy outlines of an armored trio touching down, Ravyn closed his eyes. It had been a good run. He'd gotten careless and let his guard down. In the Rogue Isles, that meant death. The math behind survival of the fittest wasn't that hard to do.

He just hated being on this side of the minus sign.

Though he was trying to just make peace with his end, Ravyn could not help but wince at the sound of three blaster cannons powering up for their final shots. A few seconds now. Ticks of the last clock. Strangely, he found himself wishing he could have said goodbye to Kalinda.

Would she care that he was gone?

Would she remember him?

Did all of this play into the future she saw or would this rupture the tapestry of fate she'd been trying to weave?

And most importantly... why was he still alive to ask this many questions?

Still barely breathing, Ravyn ventured open his good eye to see why his executioners were delaying his demise. What he saw was a spectacle in violence second to none.

Lethane was crouching on top of one of the powered armored soldiers, blood dripping from his bared teeth, shimmers of black light playing over the tattoos inscribed all over his bare back and chest. Both hands were locked around the underside of his perch's helmet, his eyes glowing and glowering at another trooper. With a snarl of rage, the blue elf flexed the thick muscles in his arms and tore both helm and head off the man beneath him, hurling both at the unfortunate in his sights.

The soldier fell back, impacted hard enough by the grisly missile that he staggered for a moment. That was all Lethane needed; in that brief opening he was up off his decapitated victim and onto the stumbler's shoulders like a circus acrobat.

Even as the third mercenary raised his massive cannon to shoot Leth, the bare-chested villain was on the move once more. He first pirouetted, legs locked around the neck of the soldier he was standing above. There was a sickening wet noise and Lethane jumped free. His helmet turned completely around to face backwards, the second gunner dropped like a forgotten doll.

The sole remaining trooper started fighting blindly into Lethane's leaping arc. A spiraling bolt of conjoined energies streamed forth, a cerulean beam that tore open the side of a nearby building effortlessly. Unfortunately, the man could not apparently move the gun fast enough to keep up with the bloody wraith already descending over him. Leth came down onto the soldier, landing with both feet on the over-sized barrel of his own weapon. A flash of fangs and the wrenching of the merc's head sideways to bare his throat ended the game in a geyser of scarlet.

Lethane rode the dying man all the way to the ground, kneeling on the still-twitching corpse with a grin to rival the Cheshire Cat itself. He looked from his prey's shredded throat to Ravyn, smile widening to let the blood of his kill rain down his lips, neck and chest.

"I love it when they just stand there and take it in the ass." His voice was low and feral, a true shadow of the beast that seemed to live a half-heartbeat behind everything Lethane did. "Idiots didn't even look around before jumping in." The elf's smile became something wicked and vile. "People who don't pay attention deserve what they get, Ravyn."

Two sounds immediately followed those words, cutting Lethane's lesson in applied paranoia drastically short. The first was a thunderclap powerful enough to shatter windows all the way down the block. Intense and deafening, the sound was only a side effect, the roar accompanying a kinetic blast of massive intensity slamming into Leth's back and smashing him bodily throught the plated steel of the nearest warehouse wall.

The second sound was Leth's pained, furious voice howling as he was flung out of sight. "Hell no!!!"

Then Ravyn's blurred vision came into sharp focus. The street cracked under the sudden weight of a massive steel figure, a shape all too familiar to him. It was the same armor they'd fought before.

Fortress One.

His old friend was here at last. Somehow, Ravyn could feel that this time, there was flesh within the metal. This was no robot, no android covered in powered systems. This was no decoy. Bulwark was here. In front of him. Weapons raised and locked.

His friend was here to kill him.

Though it hurt to breathe, Ravyn forced himself to take in enough air to rasp out a single word before his old mentor could finish him off.


The armor stopped moving, arm cannons cycling but not firing. The whine of building energy was almost painful to hear but even above that din, Ravyn could hear his former friend and teacher's voice.

"There's no choice." Then, slightly softer, "You cannot be allowed to live."

Ravyn could only nod. The dream had reminded him, brought back moments he'd tried to forget. He knew what he was, what they had done, and he understood why they would do anything to kill him now. In a way, he could not blame Bulwark. Were the situation reversed, he would do the same... Wait. That was not true. That wasn't true at all. The situation could not be reversed because he would never have done what they did. He would have died for them. He had tried to do exactly that and they...

His vision blurred again.


His skin started to burn.

They had done....

Sharp pain started to shoot through his body, a convulsion running not only up his spine but through every limb.

They... the people he loved most... in all the world....


Ravyn's world dissolved in a red wash of pure fury. His body surged and before Fortress could react, his broken, kneeling quarry was no longer so broken. Ravyn was no longer kneeling.

And by the time he rose to his taloned feet, he was no longer Ravyn either...

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