The Attack on the Canyon Temple

Gather round children and let me tell you the story of....

The Attack on the Canyon Temple

Postby Grottnikk » Fri Aug 01, 2008 4:21 pm

Hello folks. This is my first post here on the forums. I wrote this story after being inspired by the art and background of Armageddon Empires. It's not really an "after action report", but more of a strait-up piece of fiction. It's divided into 5 "mini-chapters", it's a bit long, and I don't know how to make the paragraphs indent in html, so grab a drink and enjoy :)



The Canyon Temple

The room was bare and silent. If not for the rotting wooden door feebly hinged to the frame at its entrance, the room could have easily been mistaken for a cave. Dark stone made up the walls and floor, with a small hewn altar of limestone in the center. On the altar sat a large green metal box with silver handles running along its sides and across its top. A series of knobs and dials decorated the front of the box and a flat square panel off to their right, with fluctuating green bars dancing up and down. Protruding from the bottom of the front panel, just below lights, was a long cord. It coiled around itself several times before coming to an end and socketing itself into a pair of large half-spheres, connected by a thin arch of metal.
A withered, leathery hand missing its last two fingers stretched itself out to take the cord and its attached spheres. Raising them upward as an offering, the thin and hunched figure placed the spheres over his head, adjusting them to come to a rest over his ears.
Malus sat in meditation before the altar, unmoving. His black, hooded robes wrapped around him like a caul. His face was cast downward, half hiding the scars of a time long past. His eyes were covered by a thin cloth tied with a crimson cord around his head. His breathing was shallow and infrequent. Having cleared his mind of all thought, Malus began to slowly whisper a prayer:
"Gods of the Rift, grant me your wisdom, that I may see what is to come. Gods of the Rift, grant me your wisdom, that I may see what is to come. Gods of the Rift, grant me your wisdom, that I may see what is to come."
Over and over again, he chanted the words. They filled his mind, that nothing else would enter. Beneath the hood of his robes, a crackling noise filled his ears. Eyes half opened, Malus raised his left hand, and reached for one of the round knobs of the artifact on the altar before him.
"Guide my hand, that I might understand thee!"
Turning the dial left, the noise faded. Quickly, Malus adjusted the dial again to the right. A loud screeching sound made him cringe. Turning the knob again, he focused on the loud noise and lowered his hand to another dial further down the artifact. Turning it to the left, the screeching faded in a wave of static and a voice came through, barely recogniseable:
"Roger HQ, this is recon-1, we have a visual on the temple. Not much activity right now. Fly on the wall reports the temple is clear. The schedule for attack is green, over."
"Copy, recon 1, keep visual and notify of changes, over."
"Wilco, HQ. Over, out"
Overwhelmed with fear, Malus bolted up from the floor and threw open the door of his meditation chamber. In the next room, a pair of guards stood side by side at the door; Tall men with dark green robes and head-dresses that doubled as masks. Under their robes were armoured vests of animal hide, and a machine-pistol hung in a holster on each side of their hips. At Malus' entry, they spun round and attended to him.
"What is wrong, Prophet Malus?" said one, taking the old man's arm.
"Gather the congregation, brother Balek. The gods of the Rift have spoken to me, and the people must hear!"

Firebase Alpha

The Commander's room was spartan. A bed, dresser, washbasin, and a full length mirror were the only furniture. Krulak Vandergrift stood in his underclothes before the mirror. Staring back at him was the wrinkled face of a grissled 40 year veteran of the Imperial Marine Corp. Shorter than most marines, Vandergrift stood only five foot nine out of his armour, and weighed a mere one hundred and fifty pounds. What he lacked in size he more than made up for in tenacity, however, as the many scars covering his body proved. Krulak glanced over to the right of the mirror at the jumpsuit hanging by its hook. Blue, with a black border, and much too tight for his tastes, the only thing Vandergrift liked about the suit was the Imperial crest on the left breast. With a sigh and a sneer, he took the jumpsuit down, unzipped it and slid it on. Looking once again in the mirror, he shook his head. "I look like a bloody fool", he thought.
Reaching over to his dresser, Krulak opened a small box resting on top. Inside were several long brown cylinders. A band on the end of each read "Monte Cristo". Taking a small double-guillotine cutter from beside the box, Krulak cut the tip off one of them and put the other end in his mouth. Opening the top drawer of his dresser, he pushed aside his socks and underwear, and retrieved his standard issue survival kit. Popping it open, Krulak reached for the fire-starter and raised it up to light the cut end of the cylinder in his mouth. After he puffed a few times, a thick smoke began to billow forth. Krulak inhaled a long deep breath and sighed.
"I don't know who you were, Monty, old boy, but you made some damn fine cigars!", he thought. Vandergrift and his marines earned a case of the cigars on one of their expeditionary missions to the far south, in a large city overrun with packs of howler dogs. The dogs had forced the remaining inhabitants of the city underground into barricaded sewer-dwellings. After Krulak and his marines had cleared out the dogs and gathered up the people, the gracious survivors offered the marines the cigars as a gift of thanks. This was no small token, as the cigars had become a currency in the underground city, and were worth a small fortune by their standards.
"Well", Vandergrift thought, as he put the cigars and survival kit back in the dresser, "let's get this show on the road". Reaching over to the hook on the door, he slipped on his Commander's jacket over the jumpsuit, adding, he thought, a sparse bit of dignity to the whole damned thing. As he stepped outside, the two marines guarding his room snapped him a crisp salute which he returned without breaking stride. Krulak walked quickly down the long featureless corridor of the barracks. The less people saw him in the jumpsuit, the better. Turning down a hallway on his right, he was greeted by a set of double doors, with another duo of marines and their accompanying salutes. A sign in large red letters above the doors read "Launch Area, Restricted Access".
Vandergrift stepped up to the small alcove on the right side of the door. There were two screens in the alcove, one at eye level, and another lower down and horizontal. Krulak aligned his face with the top screen and placed his palm on the lower. A buzzing noise vibrated through the alcove as the scanners gathered their information. "Access granted", a female voice, pleasant yet detetched, informed Krulak. The doors hissed open and Krulak stepped through.
Inside was a cavernous space several hundred meters long and over 20 meters high. People were buzzing about in every direction: Marines being bolted into their armour by eager assitants; logistics officers with clipboards and serious looks, and sweaty scientist egg-heads with white lab coats, glasses, and far too many pens in their pockets. One absent-minded mechanic, arms filled with jet-pack parts, bumped past Krulak on his way to a repair station. Turning to the Commander with a frown, the mechanic's attitude quickly changed when he saw whom he had bumped. Eyes widening, he attempted a salute as best he could, dropping various parts to the floor in the process. Vandergrift merely smiled and chuckled, returned the salute, and hustled towards the back of the launch area. He only hoped he could make it to the armour fitters without running into -
"Good morning, Commander!" The chipper voice was unmistakable. "You're looking well today. Nice outfit, by the way..."
Taking a deep breath, the commander sighed, "Hello, Cornelia. And how are you today?"
Cornelia West was the logistics specialist for the entire Empire of Man. A serious looking woman with a boney figure and short cropped platinum hair, one wouldn't guess that she had much of a sense of humour.
"Oh, I'm just fine, even better now that I got to see you before you suited up." A sly smile crept across her lips as she bit the end of her pen.
"I'm sure", the commander deadpanned, "Is there anything I can do for you, other than provide amusement, that is?"
"Oh now, Krulak, don't be such a spoil-sport. Besides, I do have a small present for you." Cornelia reached into her coat pocket and produced a small disk, handing it to Vandergrift. "The targeting patterns, based on Kusanagi's latest reconnisance. You should be able to completely avoid any civilian casualties."
Krulak's eyes widened. "Good, good!", he said, taking the disk. "We need these people. Every last one of them. Thank you, Cornelia."
West bowed her head slightly and smiled. "Have a good day, Commander", she sang, as she turned to leave.
"You too... Corni", Krulak quipped.
West's smile dissapeared as she spun 'round, but the Commander had wisely slipped past the crowd towards the armour fitting area.

Fall Out

Krulak stood, arms outstretched as the techs fixed harnesses around his hips and shoulders. Hefting heavy plates of armour from wheeled dollies, the attendants began clamping them into place around the commander's legs, chest, and arms. One tech lifted the faceplate to attach to the commader's suit, but Krulak motioned him off. He preferred to command without it: he couldn't smoke his cigars in that thing.
With the last bolts driven into place and his suit's electronics initialized, Krulak got the thumbs up from his attendants. Striding confidently off the fitting platform, he made his way to his waiting men. Outside the fitting area, the techies and other non-combat staff had vacated the area. Only the commander and the fighting men of the Empire of Man 1st Marine Battalion remained. The men quickly acknowledged their leader with a crisp salute. Smiling, Vandergrift returned the honour, "At ease, men." In unison, the marines placed their hands behind their backs and widened their stance, though they were anything but "at ease".
The Commander strode up and down the aisles of men, smiling confidently and nodding his approval. Satisfied with their display, he assumed his place in front of them, took a long puff from his cigar and began to speak.
"Today, we strike out against ignorance. Today, we go forth not to destroy, but to enlighten; to free these crude and savage people from the yoke of magical thinking and servitude to ancient and useless ideals. This so-called "Prophet of the Rift" has led his people down a path of death and self destruction, from which only we can deliver them. We fight today that these people may know true freedom! Freedom not only from the oppression of non-existant gods, but also from the alien, the mutant, and the machine! We fight to free them that they may join us in serving our glorious Emperor in his fight to free all the Earth from the enemies of Mankind! For freedom!"
A cheer went up from the ranks of the soldiers, as they raised their right fists into the air over and over again, chanting, "Freedom! Freedom!" Vandergrift's lips curled into a smile around his cigar. They were ready.
"Atten-tion!", Krulak cried, and immediately the chanting stopped. The Marines stood stiff, awaiting his command.
"Fall out!", he barked, and the ranks of the assembled Marines turned in unison and began jogging towards the launch doors at the far end of the hangar. As the doors opened, the marines activated their jet packs and took flight from the launch deck. As Vandergrift lifted off, he checked his wrist computer's map. ETA: 5 minutes.

The Sermon

Jarek shuffled along with the other members of the congregation towards the Canyon Temple Cathedral. Tall and thin, Jarek stood out among the common people for his height and his dark skin, an oddity in this part of the wasteland. A half hour ago, the Sacred Soldiers came to his village on the north side of the canyon and ordered everyone to come to the cathedral at once, for the gods had spoken to the prophet.
Jarek was a simple man. He had worked all his life to support and care for his family, tilling the fields outside the village. He didn't know what to think about these "gods of the rift" that the prophet spoke of in his sermons, but he knew enough to keep his mouth shut about it. Jarek looked behind him and smiled at his wife, Leena. She was dark of skin, like Jarek, and beautiful. She carried their second child in a sling close to her chest. She smiled back at Jarek.
Turning back to the path leading up the hill, Jarek saw the Cathedral come into view over the crest. It was a beautiful sight. How the cathedral survived the wars was anyone's guess. The prophet called it a miracle. From the foyer of the cathedral to the garden in the center, to the rectory on the right, archways dominated the architecture of the temple. All the doorways and passages were arches, as were the stained glass windows. Arches were even carved into the face of the temple to form intricate patterns in the otherwise smooth limestone and marbled surfaces. Even the peaked roof was inlaid with the same pattern of arcing waves. To the right was a large white tower with three oval blades attached near the peak. They spun around gently when the wind blew. The prohet called it "the breath of the gods", and said it powered the different artifacts in the Cathedral.
Jarek and Leena took each other's hand as they neared the church, so as to not lose each other in the throngs of people now numbering in the hundreds. Two sacred soldiers stood at either side of the entrance to the foyer. Jarek met eyes with one, but quickly turned away. The solders scared him. They were untouchable, and often used their status to intimidate the common people. It was best not to draw their attention.
Jarek and Leena stood in a pew at the back of the church. The interior of the cathedral was lit by the mid-day sun pouring through the stained glass windows at the back. Jarek was enthralled by the windows. The vivid colours on the left depicted scenes of peace and tranquility. Jarek's favourite was of a smiling bearded man in flowing red and blue robes with children at his side and a dove fluttering down to perch on his hand. Down the right side of the church, however, the scenes were more grim, with that same man who looked so happy earlier now being tortured and executed. Jarek turned away. Through the throngs of people shifting in the pews, Jarek could see the altar at the front of the long hall. Dark marble covered in white linen spun carefully by the women of the southern village. A large white candle stood on either side of the altar, and next to them two more soldiers.
The people's voices were hushed, and Jarek looked toward the altar. The prophet emerged from the archway to the right, flanked by six more soldiers. The prophet walked slowly, hobbling on his crooked wooden cane. When he reached the altar, he nodded to his guards, and motioned towards the congregation. The soldiers walked down the center isle of the church and began pointing to people and motioning for them to step forward. Each person was, in turn, led back down the isle toward the altar.
Jarek's skin began to rise and a fearful chill gripped him. From behind, a loud creaking noise startled him. Turning, he saw the soldiers who were outside had now come in and shut the large wooden doors to the church. The doors came together with a bang, and the soldiers hefted a large wooden bar into place across it. The soldier who Jarek had met eyes with outside caught his gaze again, and the man smiled a coy grin. The soldier walked forward and stared at Jarek. Jarek wanted to look away, but he couldn't. The soldier let a snide smile slip across his face as he looked across to Leena and motioned for her to come with him. Jarek turned pale. He didn't know why they were taking people, but he was frightened. Leena looked at him, fear in her eyes. She hoisted the sling from her shoulder and handed Jarek their baby. She looked longingly back at Jarek as the soldier grasped her arm and forced her down the isle. Jarek tried to follow after her, but another soldier abruptly pushed him aside back into his pew.
From the altar, a deep, raspy voice filled the cathedral.
"People of the Canyon Rift, hear your prophet! The gods of the Rift have spoken to me this day. They have revealed to me a great cataclysm. They have been watching us from the Great Rift and have seen our inactivity. They have seen the tepidity of our faith and judged us unworthy! They have seen fit to wipe us from the face of this earth to blot out the stain of our transgressions! They will send their heavenly warriors to smite us! But there is a way that we may avoid this holy retribution. There is a way for us to escape the wrath of the gods. We must appease them with a sacrifice of great proportions! And so it is today that we sacrifice not of our flock or of our field, but of ourselves!"
As the prophet spoke, Kusanagi pushed her way past the rest of the shuffling congregation. She wore peasant's clothes to conceal her stealth suit and pistol, and a hood to cover her face. Slithering around her right eye was a snake tattoo, the product of her mis-spent youth in the raider gangs before the Empire found her. As she approached the front rows of the anxious crowd, Kusanagi slid through them carefully but quickly. Reaching under her covering, she eyed the button of her emergency beacon, flashing red. "Come on, come on!", she hissed, "how long does it take?"
Malus motioned to the guards and they grabbed the first person in line and dragged her towards the altar. Kicking and screaming, she fought against her captors to no avail. The guards draped her over the fresh linen of the altar, her dark skin a stark contrast. Jarek gasped. "Leena!", he cried, as he pushed through to the side of the pew. The guard who had shoved Jarek back before leveled his pistol to Jarek's forhead, stopping him in his tracks.
Malus reached beneath his robes and unsheathed a long dagger. As Leena screamed and struggled against the guards, Malus offered up his prayer: "Gods of the Rift, hear me! We offer you all we are, all you have given us, our very lives! Spare us from your retribution. Spare us!" Malus raised the knife slowly above his head.
Kusanagi cursed to herself and quietly drew her pistol. "Looks like I have to do this myself, then", she thought, but as she raised her pistol another sight caught her eye. Shadows fell through the stained glass windows on the west side of the temple and lept across the floor. They expanded quickly to consume the entire church in darkness. Shapes appeared in the windows, and grew with the shadows. A loud crash echoed through the temple as the Imperial Marines of Krulak Vandergrift's 1st Battalion smashed through the windows and into the church, thier jetpacks spouting gouts of flame as they landed amidst the crowd.
Malus's face grew pale. "We are too late! Their retribution is at hand!", he screamed, dropping the knife. Grasping for his attendants, he found an arm and hissed, "Get me out of here, now!"
Chaos engulfed the temple. The congregation began to run in all directions searching frantically for an exit that did not exist. The marines engaged their friend/foe targeting systems: anyone with the green headgear and machine pistols of the Sacred Soldiers was highlighted in red on their HUD with a distance-to-target tag. One by one, the marines began picking off the fanatic guards. Some tried to use the innocents for cover, but even that was useless against the well trained eye of the Marines who took careful, steady aim and brought down the sacred soldiers with slugs to the skull.
Malus and his guards hurried towards a panel on the east side of the temple. Brother Balek pressed a hidden switch and a small door swung open. Leading Malus inside, the two sacred soldiers closed the door behind them and left the congregation to their fate. Kusanagi smiled.
Clutching his child close to his chest, Jarek pushed against the crowds, trying to reach the front of the temple. He could see Leena crouched and cowering under the altar. Behind him, Jarek heard the loud crack of splintering of wood as the throng of people broke the wooden bar of the door and pushed through. The crowd pushed harder against Jarek now, desperate to reach the outside, and knocked him to the ground. Finding an unoccupied pew, Jarek crawled in and made his way across to the far isle. Looking up again, he saw a soldier sent flying backwards into a wooden chair in front of the pews, nearly cut in half by a Marine's bullets as the chair fractured under the impact. Ducking his head lower, Jarek scrambled to the front of the temple.
"Get away from me!", he heard one of the soldiers snarl. The gunshots had faded, and the screaming horde of villagers was finally outside. "Come one step closer and I'll blow her head off!" A woman screamed and Jarek recognised her as Leena. Peering over the font row of pews, he saw the soldier hunkered down behind Leena with his machine pistol to her head. The marines had no target.
"This is only going to end one way, boy", came a raspy voice from across the centre isle. Jarek looked up again and saw one of the "heavenly warriors" without a helmet, chewing on a stick of fire in his mouth. "They aren't gods...", he realised.
"You either let the woman go, or you die."
"Back off, old man!"
"Old? Well now I'm insulted, boy." Vandergrift took one last puff of his cigar and flicked the butt towards the altar.
Jarek's eyes fell upon the broken chair, it's back and legs splintered and scattered. He unslung his child from the pack and placed him in the pew. Pushing himself from the floor, Jarek rushed forward and grabbed one of the legs. A marine raised his gun towards Jarek, but Vandergrift waved him off. Jarek raised the club high, screaming, and brought it down across the head of the surprised fanatic. The sacred soldier fell to the floor with a startled yelp as Jarek hit him again and again, only stopping when the club finally broke. Silence gripped the cathedral. Jarek stood stunned by his own brutality. He had never hurt so much as a fly. His grip loosened on the chair leg, and it clattered to the ground as he slumped to his knees and began to weep uncontrollably. Leena rushed to his side and held him.
Vandergrift approached Jarek calmly. Putting his hand on Jarek's shoulder, he said in a hushed tone, "It's over, son."
Behind them, a small child's voice let out a tiny cry.

Retribution

The passageway was dark, lit only by dim bulbs hanging from the ceiling. The soldiers took Malus's arms and led him through the long, sloped hallway. Brother Balek pushed the exit panel open, and held it ajar. The second soldier went through ahead of them and took Malus's hands to guide him up the stairs. Helping the prophet up the few steps to freedom, Balek put his arm around Malus's shoulder, leading him toward the waiting dune buggy. A ramshackle contraption held together with too much soldering and not enough bolts, the buggy looked ready to fall apart at the slightest bump. The secret panel creaked shut behind them, then creaked again.
Malus tried to hurry, but his long robes tripped him. He heard two quick sounds, like the rushing of wind, followed by a wet crunch, and a dull thud.
"Balek? Brother Balek?! Help me up, what are you waiting for? We must-"
"You really are a crazy son of a bitch, you know that?" Kusanagi asked.
Malus froze.
Kusanagi laughed. "I don't think Balek is in any position to help you... 'prophet'", she said, spitting the title out as an epithet.
Malus's skin grew cold. Fear gripped him as he realized the truth. "You... You are the angel of our retribution!", he gasped. Falling to his knees, Malus pleaded, "Please take pity on us! We had prepared our sacrifice for you! We seek forgiveness for our lack of faith, and wish to make amends!"
"We're not here to judge these people, we're here to free them from your stupidity."
"But...!" Malus's plea was cut short as Kusanagi's blade sank between his ribs. Blood filled his lungs, his last cry of pain and sorrow a pitiful gurgle. His final thought was of Kusanagi's voice bidding him farewell, "Good riddance... false prophet."

Epilogue

The marines of the 1st Batallion had gathered the scattered and terrified people together in front of the Canyon Temple. Krulak Vandergrift stood on the steps leading up to the cathedral, speaking to the villagers. Overlooking the temple, the hilltop on the far edge of the canyon writhed. A translucent shape skulked back down the crest of the hill, the sky behind it bending to appear in front. M'sisilk tasted the air around itself for the odour of humans. Nothing. Assured of its safety, M'sisilk dropped it's refractive camoflauge to reveal it's true form: a long green body topped by a bulbous, tentacled head with waves of flesh rippling along it's skull. M'sisilk focused it's mind on the Queen. A psychic message went out across the wastes: "The humans have taken the canyon. We will require the Biomecha."
Grottnikk
 
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Re: The Attack on the Canyon Temple

Postby Indricotherium » Sat Aug 02, 2008 11:13 pm

My first impulse was to simply write 'this story is freaking awesome'. But that doesn't cover it fully.

In my opinion as a voracious reader, this story is written tightly, is paced well, and illuminates the world of AE beautifully.

I'm so happy you wrote it and am even happier that I got to read it.

Thank you so much!

Indri
Indricotherium
 
Posts: 252
Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2008 7:24 pm

Re: The Attack on the Canyon Temple

Postby Grottnikk » Sun Aug 03, 2008 11:59 pm

Wow, thank you very much for your feedback :D

When I write another I'll be sure to post it. The AE world is full of inspiration.
Grottnikk
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2008 4:07 pm

Re: The Attack on the Canyon Temple

Postby RagmanLSN » Mon Aug 04, 2008 12:28 am

Nice story man....... only read the first mini chapter but I'll get around to finishing it soon ;)
RagmanLSN
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2008 12:10 am


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