By Sir smoke
Every person who visits Eldritchica seems to come back with a new story to tell. And recent accounts have described strange noises coming from the woods of the eldritch land. Stories have been told about things going bump in the night, with family members going missing without a trace.
After catching wind about these rumors, the UTL stepped in to take care of matters. The town of Gunterbleck has been closed off to all visiting people, the citizens told to keep out of the forest while UTL agents make investigative rounds in the woodlands.
A total of two expeditions have been conducted thus far, but to no avail.
As per standard protocol, one final investigation is to be made before the UTL convoy can leave for Home-Base. Due to the lessened possibility the case has sustenance, a group of just three agents are to conduct the investigation: Agent Connix, donned in snow-special ops gear, and agents Moore and Trax, donned in light snow-scout gear.
The trio ride on silenced atvs through a desolate trail, with agent Moore using a radar scanner to pick up any equipment in the area. None show.
“We’ve been out here for thirty minutes, Connix,” Trax starts over the comms, “And we still haven’t found anything that would interest HQ, apart from a few elk droppings agent Moore here ‘discovered’.”
“Cut the crap, Trax,” Moore snaps back, “I need to focus on the radar. And you need to keep your eyes peeled.”
“For what??? There’s nothing out here but forest for MILES! I told HQ that this mission was pointless. Eldritchian folktale, that’s what it was. ‘Screams in the night, things going bump...’ Oh please! Now I’m stuck here in this freezing cold while I could have been enjoying a nice vacation on one of them fancy tropical beaches! But NOOO! ‘One small little mission,’ they said! ‘In and out,’ they said! This is bull crap. And of course, I’m stuck doing it with you, Moore.”
“Oh yeah? Well that’s just swell, Trax. It’s not like I wanted to be in this position either. Not even Connix is enjoying any of this, are you, Connix?”
Connix does not speak. Snow is falling down on the dirt road, collecting in clumps on the grass. The pines are swaying with a light breeze, as a winter storm comes into Eldritchica from the North.
A wolf cries in the distance.
Connix is taking all of it in. The sights, the sounds. Everything. She knew what her being on this last mission meant from command; They wanted to make sure that there was absolutely nothing to be found from this case. Connix was always the one to contact for a case like this. Her motto was to never leave a single leaf unturned. But this time, it was more than that… This time, it was personal.
Connix had been recruited for work in the UTL Intelligence from her small village in Eldritchica. Having grown up in the small country, she knew the land quite well, and if there was anyone causing trouble in one of her hometowns, she would see to it that the Authorities made them pay. In this moment of silence within her commando helmet, Connix thought back to her time as a child: Attending class in her village's one-room school, hunting with her father in the woods, selling their trophies to the local butcher...
Her family was one of the few left that prized the old ways. Connix was the youngest in all of Eldritchian history to slay a wolf… the one that had killed her younger brother.
The wolf cries again.
Connix snaps back to the present, shaking away the tear that had fought to surmount… She had fought this tear for as long as she could remember… She feared it would never let her go, that one day it would finally beat her, that it would slowly kill her after years and years of denial.
I WON’T... LET IT!
The three abruptly stop at the raucous noise.
After a moment or two of silence, Moore starts first.
“Well, I don’t think that was a wolf.”
“Yeah, no shit, Moor-on.”
“I never asked, Trax.”
“Quiet, both of you.” Connix commands. She parks her atv by a tree and hops down. After looking into the darkness of the woods for a few seconds, she turns back to them. “Shut down your atv’s,” She says, “We’re going on foot.”
Night had settled over Eldritchica, and the darkness concealed the ongoings of the woods like a well-kept secret. Snow blanketed the rich green pines, while sharp icicles dangled from each needle, all of them glistening like beautiful crystals that would shatter when they fall. An owl turned its head to stare at the group, its yellow eyes barely glowed under the faint moonlight. It is on the hunt just as they are.
But none of the agents paused now to pay attention to the marvel of Mother Nature.
Moore and Trax have one common objective now, and that is to follow every move and order of their superior, Connix. Connix moved with purpose, despite not having a definite destination in mind. All the sorrow she once held is now nothing. It would never mean anything more than a story from another life.
Connix moved with the orders of her superiors in mind. The government needs everyone to do their job; Agent, Body Guard, Doctor, Nurse… You name it. Everyone has a role to fill in a nation. Everyone is one piece of the whole, as is the way with every country on the planet.
Connix found her place in the whole a long time ago, as did Moore. Both are incredibly committed to the UTLs beliefs and morals, upholding them to the fullest.
Connix looked over her shoulder at Trax, who still muttered about the cold under his breath.
He’s promising, -They don’t just pull anyone into intelligence- but he’s also brash, and at times, indecisive. And that’s a big problem, because making both smart and quick decisions is often the difference between life and death, or usually, success and failure when working on a deep case. Thankfully though, this case seemed to be running as cold as the Eldritchian winter itself. And now despite the couple cups of coffee they’d had back at base, the team began to feel tired from their taxing trek.
Until the screech that had captured their full attention echoed once more through the woods.
Connix paused at it, her team following suit. She thought for a moment before speaking.
“Whatever is making that sound is coming from this direction. Could be nothing… but it could also be something. At most I’d say it’s some kidnapping psycho… Then again, it could also be some kind of dying animal. And the reason why we’re here,” She added, looking back again at Trax, “Is some silly ‘Eldritchian folktale.’”
Trax bowed his head slightly.
“Sorry. I’m tired. We’re all tired, ok.”
“Apology accepted. Keep moving forward, sol-”
Moore looked up suddenly from his scanner.
“I’ve got a signal being picked up on the radar. It’s scrambled, though. Some kind of message.”
“Then this means we are no longer here for nought,” Connix declared, “There must be some kind of military base out here, probably installed by another government. We have to push forward and-”
“Actually, we don’t, Connix,” Trax said, cutting her off, “I have visual contact with said base right from here.”
Connix looked to where Trax was pointing. They had arrived at the edge of a precipitous cliff, looking down onto a clearing. And in the middle of that clearing was… some kind of fortress. The building itself was made primarily of dark obsidian. But a large courtyard, encircled by a wired fence and two watchtowers sat in front of the base. Inside the courtyard, dozens of people were busy at work, although whatever that work was, was hard to see from their current vantage point.
“Moore, get me a better scope on what we’re looking at here.”
Moore obliged, taking out a pair of night vision/long sighted binoculars. He trained them on the scene below.
“What do you see? Something top secret?” Trax inquired.
Moore looked on. “Military personnel,” He said, “Groups of researchers in white lab coats, all huddled over monitors. A head researcher is standing on an observation deck towards the entrance to the building. Two kitted bodyguards flank his sides. At the floor of the courtyard-”
Moore stopped, took off the binoculars and blinked twice. He put them on again, apparently still confused by what he saw.
“Um… Two civilians are handcuffed at the back to obsidian pillars. One is a stable, juvenile male, and is currently struggling to break free from his binds. The other appears to be a listless woman, probably of middle age. It looks like she’s connected to research equipment and monitors through multiple tubes and wires.” He looked back at Connix and Trax. “She looks kind of ashen and blue right now.”
Connix nods. “Understood, agent. Can you tell me more about the head researcher? What type of uniform is he wearing? That’ll tell us what country this party is from.”
Moore looked back. “Black jacket. White pants and a white weather-proof helmet. Looks like a caucasian adult male. Nothing to note about his facial appearance from here… But it appears as though his hand might be deformed. That or he lost a huge chunk of it in some kind of accident.”
A disappointment to be sure for Connix. Nothing about that description spoke out to her. “What about the military personel?”
“Masked,” Moor stated, “Wearing white snow gear. But they and the bodyguards flanking the Head researcher have variations in their uniform. They also happen to be carrying all kinds of different weapons.”
Nothing. There was nothing useful in that statement except… Different uniforms on the guards??? Why would a country dress its soldiers like they were a ragtag group of rebels. That didn’t really make sense at all... Unless… It wasn’t another country. Could it be some kind of insurgency??? An organization that hires individuals from around the world. Could that explain why no information could be picked up about a hidden base in Eldritchica? Because there was no country with a base there? This was only leading to more and more questions.
“Moore, you stay up here and keep that sniper handy. Trax and I are going in. Stealth required.” Trax nodded in agreement, and Moore shouldered his rifle.
“Locked and loaded, chief.”
“Good. Send word out to HQ when I tell you to. Let’s get a better look.”
Standing on the observation deck, Cleric Greene felt as though he had all the power in the world. That is to say, that Cleric Greene had his high from the manipulation of life. His position as Cleric in SMITE was generally respectable, but it was the power to oversee the Krozox that gave him the pure feeling of happiness and completion which everyone seeks from life. He gripped the guard wall on the deck, craning his neck to get a better look at both subjects before him.
Obtaining the woman had been easy enough, but getting the boy proved slightly more difficult. Luckily both were here, and hopefully their disappearance had gone unnoticed. The Cleric finger-tapped the microphone twice, clearing his throat.
“Commence Experiment Number 2 of the Eldritch Faction Test Facility. Begin injecting the sufficient amount of Krosox into Subject A.”
A researcher injected a needle, and as expected, the body of Subject A began to rapidly shudder and convulse. Her eyes suddenly flung open and rolled into the far back of her head. She began straining harder and harder on her restraints. The boy looked downright terrified.
"Good," Cleric Greene thought, as he threaded his hands together and brought both index fingers under his lip. Be very terrified. Especially if it means the mutation process is working better than last time...
“Subject is ready to be released, sir.” A researcher announced.
“Thank you, researcher.” Greene replied. He spoke back once more into the microphone, “Release both test subjects.”
A single alarm ping was heard as the straps that had once bound both Subjects A and B to their pillars was released. A fell to the ground, twitching.
“All personnel report back to the building at once,” Greene said, “Leave the courtyard immediately for the rest of the experiment's duration.”
As the researchers hastily fled the scene, B attempted to sprint with them for the entrance. He was immediately denied this opportunity however, as the guards forced him back into the courtyard. Sobbing, Subject B reluctantly turned around to witness what was happening to Subject A… Or what had happened to Subject A. They were no longer twitching on the ground, but making their way towards Subject B with a slow, clumsy gait. Their face was… Different… Subject B let out a scream of terror and made a sudden dash to the right. In response to this, Subject A began to travel with unholy vigor and speed towards the direction of B, so fast in fact, that their arms and torso practically dragged behind their legs. B made another radical turn, this time running towards Subject A’s obsidian pillar. He climbed the scientific equipment, and jumped onto the obsidian pillar, far out of A’s reach. In response to this, A… Did… Nothing.
The only thing the zombie was able to do was uselessly slam itself against the pillar. And the Cleric was not impressed. He sighed, resting his head in his hand, his elbow on the obsidian wall.
“Mark the time.” He muttered to the researchers behind him.
“Put that as the time the test ended.” He ordered, and then speaking into the mic, “Subject B is completely unharmed, though a little shook. The infected Subject has yet to show any signs of slag mutation. Ending Test number 2 now.” He switched off the mic, bowed his head, and tightened his grip on the wall’s top. Suddenly he whirled around and marched into the building with an air of disgust, a researcher following.
“Sir, wait! Sir!”
“Leave me alone, Woods,” Greene barked.
“But sir, I’m certain if we reduce the amount of fluid added, we can get a much better effect. Perhaps the Infected Subject would have much better control. Who knows? We may even be able to program the Infected to use weapons.”
Greene promptly halted his march and turned on Subject. “That is absolutely… one hundred percent... the worst idea I have ever heard suggested. Even from you, Wood, it’s being a little desperate. What we need is to make a deadly Mother-Mutation that can be contained until the day of reckoning comes. I’ve already sent a request to our Prophet for that permission. It should be pending right about now.”
“But sir,” Woods began, “It can’t wait. It has to happen now.”
“And why is that, researcher?” The Cleric said with a raised brow.
“Because…” Woods looked around, “Because the day of reckoning happens today.”
“Wha- I- … Who told you this??? When did they send this announcement??? Why was I not made aware of the schedule change???”
“Because your orders just came in now, Cleric.” An oily tone spoke. And Greene suddenly tensed at the voice.
"Dear God," he thought…
The Cleric turned to face the voice, focusing all of his energy on maintaining a steady movement. Standing there with an arsenal of weapons holstered, hoisted, and packed, his jetpack thrusters and shoulder cannon humming, was the infamous mercenary, Oskar Riordan. He’d been with the organization longer than anyone could remember, and he was unnervingly devoted to the cause. But more specifically, he was devoted to the destruction and death he brought through his work and weapons.
His jetpack was an exceptional piece of technology. SMITE had rewarded it to him for being one of the first Zealots to ever join, and for being one of the most committed Zealots they had available. Although the jetpack meant he could deal some pretty nasty damage and get away with it, Oskar was never one to back down from conventional fighting on the ground, and certainly not one to back down from hand-to-hand combat, although they said be usually preferred to remove the bulky helmet to get up close and personal with his opponents.
But… What was he doing here?
“The Bug visiting Eldritchica,“ Cleric Greene began, “Now... huh... THIS is highly unprecedented. What would an Enforcer such as yourself be doing here? We… don’t really see much action on this side of the world.”
Oskar didn’t move, instead saying, “It’s actually ‘Keeper of Faith’ now.”
‘Shame. Enforcer really did suit you,’ Thought Greene.
“I’m the one who sent you that message; On my way here. You see, my wise Prophet made the decision just yesterday. He’s expecting the entire northern coast to be infected by the end of today. So better start packing your things, Cleric… I wouldn’t want to be left behind if I were you.”
“Excellent, Keeper,” Woods responded, “The meeting hall is just down the corridor. We’re prepping a team at the moment. If you would like to partake in the debriefing, we could-”
“Woah, woah, woah,” Greene interrupted, taking Woods’ pointing hand and pushing it down, “How does the Prophet expect we’ll be ready by the end of today? We haven’t even established a delivery plan for the Krozox, nevermind its effectiveness on such a rural population. We’ve barely been here for less than a few days thanks to their Bureaucracy! And I- OOUUGH!!!”
Greene had fallen over after Oskar landed a punch square to his face. Blood dripped down from his nose, as he clumsily attempted to assert what had happened. Oskar retracted his harm, breathing heavily. He looked at his own fist, twisting it on its hinges as he did, not out of soreness, but out of amusement for the action he’d produced. He finally spoke without looking up, saying, “The Prophet shall not be poorly spoken of. You’ll get much worse if I find so much more as an inkling that you’re a traitor.” He turned to leave.
“Oh, and one more thing, Greene; UTL special forces are making their way to this base as we speak.” He looked back at Woods. “You’ve been compromised.”
And to that, Woods frowned. “Impossible… we’ve taken every precaution, every security measure, to ensure the secrecy of this base would remain untouched.”
“Well clearly you didn’t try hard enough, Researcher. And now, I must take matters into my own hands as a result of your committee’s inherent lack of competence.”
And with that, he left.
Greene had finished getting up from the ground and brushing himself off. In an instance he became furious, spinning to face his own guards.
“What am I even paying you two for?! He’s just one guy!”
The guards looked at each other and back at the Cleric. “It’s not just his reputation, sir. He’s representing the Prophet himself. We literally have no right. You do know that, sir.”
Greene was still fuming as Woods grabbed his shoulder to steady him.
“Jesus Christ, Greene,” Woods began, “he was still restrained by all that gear. You really wanna find out what a full on blow feels like when he’s coming at you, Berserker Mode? Look, sir, let’s just get to the preparations. We don’t have all day… Literally. We have to leave for Eden before sunset, or we’ll be exiled for our own failure to meet expectations.”
Greene knew that. He knew it just as well as he knew how much his nose was aching. He looked at Woods, and took a tissue out of his front pocket.
“Prepare 3 dozen doses of Krozox to be distributed,” He said while blinking slowly, “We are not going to be left behind when all hell breaks loose.”
All hell had broken loose.
Connix and Trax had witnessed the events of the experiment, watching on in horror as the civilian woman was transformed into a monster. They both expected the boy to have been killed, but he’d managed to stay balanced on the pillar, swatting away at the zombie’s groping hands every time they attempted to scale the sides of the pillar.
It had seemed like he would make it out alive… Until the zombie changed once more.
Suddenly the abdomen of the zombified civilian burst open in a bloody mess. The ribs of the zombie opened and closed rapidly, like a chewing mouth, while a greenish-gray material began spewing out the front, forming six large spider-like legs that held the cadaver below the center. The boy screamed, and Trax and Connix had to muffle their own, as the insect-like creature suddenly mounted itself up the obsidian pillar, and the corpse pulled the boy into its grasp, chewing into it with both its mouth and its ever-moving rib cage. The boy’s screams soon died off, as he too became a twisted corpse, just like the woman.
An alarm suddenly sounded in the courtyard, with a female voice blaring over the speakers, saying, “Mutation occurring. Neutralize the threat. Mutation occurring. Neutralize the threat.” Shouts and orders were heard coming from the observation deck, as armed personnel burst through the fortress’s entrance, taking aim at the abominations. They quickly gunned down the zombie child, but spider mutation was agile, and very resistant to conventional weapons.
“Shoot the body!” A guard barked.
The insect, suddenly focused on his voice, came barreling towards him in a sort of trance-like state. It clawed at him like a crab picking at a sea worm, and hoisted him up to the body of the woman.
His screams died off, just as the boy’s did.
“Oh my God… Connix… What? …What the hell is this nightmare?
In her classic manner, Connix didn’t say anything. Instead, she slung her silver sniper into position and targeted the guards standing in the watchtower nearest them. She pulled the trigger.
“I don’t know, Trax, but as long as they have their hands full with this nightmare, we’ve got an opening for infiltration. Get inside the watchtower with me…”
Connix then took aim at the other guard who only now noticed that his friend had spontaneously collapsed amidst the pandemonium. She pulled the trigger.
“... It’s time to play spy.”
They made a beeline for the door to the watchtower. When she opened it, Connix saw that a guard was standing there, facing away from them. With the silence and grace of a butterfly, Connix took out her commando knife, snuck up behind, and took him down in less than a second. Trax stepped into the room behind her.
“I think that’s all of the- uhp!”
Another guard had barely walked into the room when she was gunned down by Trax’s silenced hand-gun. He gestured at the kills before them.
“Think we should dress up for the occasion?”
“No. I’m sure with enough luck we’ll just pass for another hired gun; All the guards in this facility are wearing mismatched uniforms. They’ll probably just ignore the UTL snow gear.”
Trax shrugged. “Ok. Let’s just hope no one asks any personal questions to us. Maybe we’ll be in and out… But why are we doing this? What’s the point of risking our lives on some petty killspree? If this is another country we’re messing with, we could end up starting another war. You know the consequences, right?”
“Agent Trax, I am almost positive that this won’t end up like Megiblock. I’ve looked at it from every perspective. We’re safe. And if there are civilians being held hostage in that building, it’s our job to get them out.”
“Who said it was our job? Now, it WAS our job to call HQ. But you insist we take this hands on. Are you really that confident we can handle whatever twisted scheme this place is hiding?”
Connix found a comms device on the suit of the guard. It could prove to be useful for staying one step ahead of security. She pocketed it, along with her personal comms device.
“Yes, Trax. I’m more than confident.”
He bowed his head in submission. Connix stood adjacent to the door and gave Trax the hand signals.
‘One... Two... Three… Go.’
With that, Trax gently opened the door to the courtyard, and was unsurprised to find that the monster hadn’t been slain. In fact, the situation had gotten much worse on the other side of the courtyard. Regardless however, it would provide the perfect coverup for their entry, and it would help them blend in with the frantic crowd.
“Any security to get into the building?”
“Then walk in like we own the place, and make sure to stick together. Make a general mental jot of what you see inside the building. And once we’re in, we’ll also have to find some kind of storage room to further our plot, as well as to contact Moore.”
They made their way to the building, straight for the double doors. They carefully stole glances at the researchers and other personnel in order to get a better understanding of the atmosphere. That way, they would better know how to act. Fortunately for them, everyone was demonstrating a unified fear and haste. The guards were making their way for the exit, and the researchers were making their way into the depths of the building, presumably to keep as far away from the danger as possible.
But one researcher who was directing the crowd caught sight of them.
“You two! Get to the courtyard immediately! We’re about to have a breach, and we need all guards available!”
“What do we do?” Trax whispered under his breath.
“Walk faster,” Connix replied, “With luck, he’ll think we can’t hear him… or something.” He didn’t.
“Hey! I’m talking to you! This is a serious emergency! Stop!”
As she began a slow jog, Connix began to lightly examine their surroundings. The interior of the building looked almost space-age like, with hexagonal shaped door hatches at spaced intervals and hallway walls. They walked through two doorways, and then turned a sharp corner.
“Connix.” Trax mumbled with even more urgency.
Connix took out her comlink, and quickly pressed the talk button. She kept up the pace, though.
“Moore? Can you hear me? Things are starting to look like they might get a little ugly down here. We’re doing our best to stay out of trouble, but it looks like that’s not going to work out. We need you to call backup, pronto.”
No response but static.
“Moore, do you copy? Moore?!”
Trax abruptly stopped, and looked back. “Why isn’t he answering? We haven’t been compromised, right?”
She didn’t know. She didn’t know what they would do, what would happen to them, or what they could do in the face of this dark evil. She didn’t even know why they’d decided to come here anymore.
That’s when the lights went out.
The monitor light had suddenly gone out in the control room.
The worker standing at the monitor tapped it to make sure it wasn’t simply out-of-order. And it wasn’t.
“Researcher Woods, does this look like a problem to you? The stabilization checker just turned off without warning.”
Woods was standing a few feet in front of the officer, looking out through a glass panel to a large pit. In it was a large mutation, big enough to be imposing, but small enough to have considerable mobility. It sat on an excavated floor of dirt, surrounded by scientific machinery and equipment. The creature was Woods’s prized project. It was one that he had worked tediously on since way back when he first arrived at the fortress.
The Cleric could have his sick, twisted play-time in the courtyard, but this job had meaning to Woods. He vowed to dedicate his time to engineering the perfect mutant through any means necessary. And while the Cleric was in it more for the power and profit in the end, Woods had actually believed in the cause deep down, and on some level he actually bought into all the SMITE propaganda. He harbored a great distaste for the globe’s current Governments and ESPECIALLY for the rumored insurgency group.
“What are we picking up?”
“Large amounts of activity in the slag material and brain-core, sir. The subject appears to be… thinking.”
Woods turned to the under-researcher. “What? Let me see that.”
He got to the monitoring station, motioning for his researcher to step aside. He wasn’t particularly concerned about the creature's survival; It was quite resilient to most harm, he’d made sure of that. But even so, a change in thoughts and motives was something to watch. And yes, there it was, the evidence of a change. It was extremely subtle, probably nothing to worry about.
“Just override the light command. I’m leaving for the delivery briefing with the Cleric, so while I’m gone, make sure you remember to… to…”
The little line on the monitor was suddenly bouncing all around, ricocheting off the computer’s borders like a mad flea. At first it appeared to be completely random, with no visible coherent pattern. But then the line started to break apart and formed jumbled shapes on the screen. No… not shapes… WORDS.
Right there on the monitor was a single word, clear as day for all to read. K I L L
For once in his time working for SMITE, Woods was in complete shock, a state of primal fear. This thing… this horrible thing that HE created, that HE gave life to… was speaking. It had become considerably self aware.
The monitor went black.
Woods rushed to the window.
The machines that had once connected the Krozox-brain to their monitors were completely demolished, sparking and burning away uselessly.
And the creature was gone.
“Researcher,” Woods said, turning to look at his assistant, “Inform the Cleric immediately. And know that there is a chance our subject has created a temporary hive-mind connection with our computer’s server. We cannot let it ravage the system, especially now that it appears to have somehow gained sentience. Tell the Cleric that-”
“AAAAAH!” The assistant and all of the other researchers suddenly began to flee the room, some pointing with shaking fingers at the window behind Woods.
And because it was behind him, the only thing he could see was a dark shadow slowly crawling to block out the light. The room gained an orange hue. He began to sweat, and turned to finally face it; The glowing eye that stared into Woods’s soul. The monster shattered the window, sending glass flying everywhere.
Woods had only one thought, one single realization that ran through his mind: He was being killed, killed by a creation of his own engineering. He had succeeded in his goal in raising a mutation variant that would adapt and think better than any SMITE had seen. It was nigh perfect…
The monster's mind was severed at this point. While one part of its brain controlled the physical slag that killed Woods and all of his researchers, the other mind was worming its way through the electrical system of the base, shutting down power to everything… including the restraints that held all the other mutations and zombies in their cells.
That’s when the lights went out, and part of the mind that was in the mainframe terminated itself with a single command. Its job had been completed. Now it was the physical mind’s turn to cause chaos.
From deep within the slag, a fragment of a human soul, once thought to have been lost, now called out amidst the screams that echoed throughout the halls.
“K I L L… “