southernisms: (Inaho)
[personal profile] southernisms
THE COSMODROME
OLD RUSSIA, EARTH


As unsettled as he might have otherwise been by the situation he found himself in, Inaho Kaizuka felt strangely removed from both his actions and his surroundings. When he woke in the decaying ruins of what could have only been a spaceport, surrounded by a sea of wreckage amidst broken and rusted automobiles, it was not his emotions which rejected the possibility of having been dead for centuries. It should not have been possible according to the laws of physics, his logical mind insisted. Yet, he would not have simply fallen asleep in a destroyed complex, he was certain. The steppes beyond the compound were equally inhospitable: rocky wastelands of scrub-lined cliffs and freezing waters, which raised the interesting but not immediate question of what he had been doing in such an inhospitable setting.

It was as if he was observing another person entirely through his russet eyes, calmly making his way through the winding and half-collapsed corridors, shooting each alien hostile cleanly through the head with a short burst from the automatic rifle he had scavenged from a half-destroyed crate. Three of them – Fallen, the artificial intelligence had called them – had descended from the rafters in the dock he currently occupied, a temporary shelter from both the harsh winter environment and enemy squads. Muffled alien roars and a barrage of energy filled the air, but the vaguely vespoid aliens were dispatched within a matter of seconds, leaving him wondering if the escaping gas was some form of life-support.

The mechanical device calling itself a ‘ghost’ hovered beside him, and for a moment Inaho expected it to tell him where to go next.

“...Oh. Yes, you definitely know how to use that thing.“

Inaho ignored the comment, studying the exposed pipes and wires jutting out of the crumbling concrete walls as he moved from the dock into an adjacent hallway. If he could find some way to get to the top of the building, he would be in a much better observational position...at least until his Ghost found transport to the 'city' it had alluded to. The writing on the walls was of no help in directing him, composed of indecipherable letters. Cyrillic, the word formed in his head, though he was certain Russian was not a language he understood with any fluency. A combination of specific letters, ‘PфбA’, repeated frequently.

The inside of the compound provided better cover and wind-shielding than the wilderness outside, but studying the enemy's movements would be much more difficult. After comparing his options, Inaho concluded the odds were more favourable by remaining inside the enclosure. “The gas escaping from their armour. Can you identify its composition?“

While he had an entire list of more questions – why the pistol-wielding ones identified as ‘Dregs’ only had two arms while the rifle-wielding ‘Vandals’ had four, for example – the ones not of immediate strategic value would have to wait. As would questions about himself, such as why his memories other than his name were completely absent and why he seemed to instinctively know how to use the Khvostov 7G-02 he temporarily wielded. If he couldn't remember going through the necessary training, he shouldn't be able to remember how to use a weapon in the first place. Muscle memory alone would not have provided him a name to go along with the ancient rifle. There was undeniably much more going on than his Ghost was currently sharing with him.

“That substance is called Ether,“ Ghost explained, ignorant of Inaho's line of thought. “Fallen need it to survive, and it's distributed by their Servitors. Hopefully, we won't encounter one here.“

The neophyte Guardian's expression never changed from behind his helmet, but his puzzlement was clear enough in the question itself, even if the inflection was missing in his voice. “Why not? If their supply is cut off, it could force them to retreat.“

It would also, he didn't explain, force them off without needing to kill them. As much as he could pick out what could have been alien words from their harried communications to each other, clearly none were interested in a non-violent solution, and forcing them into retreat would have been far preferable. Something compelled him to avoid needless conflict, and not simply out of practicality.

The Ghost twitched in what would have likely been nervousness in an organic life-form. “You're not adequately-equipped to take one on yet,“ it explained. “Believe me, we'll be facing them soon enough, but you need better armour and weapons, not to mention a jumpship to reach the City.“

Finding what appeared to be serviceable ammunition, the brown-haired young man quickly reloaded his temporary rifle before glancing through the cracked scope. The damage hadn't been terribly distracting, but it was a convincing enough sign that he needed a more serviceable weapon in the long run. “That will be difficult if we encounter one.“

Tilting downward slightly, the artificial intelligence seemed to examine him with agitation. “In that case, we run. I didn't revive you just for you to die again.“

Two more Dregs emerged from their hiding places in an explosion of startled roars and were dispatched with a few more well-placed shots in the dead-centre of their chests. No gas escaped this time, he noted. “That would be inconvenient,“ Inaho remarked even as his gaze swept the area for more hostiles, his voice never deviating from a deadpan.

The Ghost hovered at his right shoulder, cocking itself in a way that suggested it was peering into his face. “You're very calm about all this.“

The Guardian's expression remained impassive as he overturned a crate and plucked several more ammunition magazines from its spilled contents before backing against the wall adjacent to a door leading out into a large open area between the ruined buildings. Fortunately, he apparently didn’t have to rely on his eyes alone to watch for potential violent surprises; there was apparently a reasonably-accurate radar built into his helmet. “Should I not be?“

The fact was that he had no choice but to keep his wits about him and moving forward if he hoped to get some answers. He couldn't afford to panic...or rather, his first instinct was to shut down. His emotions were already distant, but his mind strained to keep functioning. Worse, Inaho felt as if he had forgotten something important. Multiple somethings, actually, as if there were people he was supposed to be protecting.

“No, no...that's a good thing. I was just expecting my job to be a lot harder.“

A mild curiosity overtook him. “What’s your job?“

Whomever had programmed the artificial intelligence had done expert work at mimicking human mannerisms; Inaho was every bit as confused by the Ghost's as he was a normal human being. That in itself was yet another mystery: how did he know that and why was he incapable of understanding human expression?

“To find and revive you,“ the diminutive machine explained. “I was made by the Traveller with its dying breath to find the Guardian I was meant to find. And I've been searching a very long time.“

Now Inaho was even more bemused. He couldn't begin to unravel how this was even possible within the realms of physics, and he was not content to simply accept such impossibilities on the surface. But then, if such things were truly impossible, then they should not be occurring in the first place, in which case he would expend all his efforts to discover why. There was, of course, the likelihood his mind was simply hallucinating...but then, he was reasonably certain he would have been having much more realistic hallucinations. For the time being, there was little to do other than simply have patience; the answer would present itself soon enough.

Once he was reassured that his path was clear, he swiftly bridged the distance to the closest neighbouring building of the compound, periodically taking cover behind the ubiquitous crates and half-destroyed concrete walls before ducking inside the open bay. If there were more Fallen further inside, it might have been best to circumvent the building, but there might be some valuable salvage otherwise missed. It depended entirely on the potential forces within and what he could use from the environment.

However, the state of ruin limited possibilities considerably. If there were more of the exposed pipes he'd noticed in the previous building and they were active gas lines, they would be invaluable if he could find something flammable. Unfortunately, to judge from the state of the facility, the probability was slim. Less than 20%, he decided at his best rough guess.

Inaho then turned his attention back to the exposed wires spanning the length of the corridor along the ceiling. Much of the insulation seemed to have worn away, and a few of the wires themselves appeared dead. Still, he would only require a few live ones to carry out the plan forming in his head. It would be dangerous and he would have to find some way of handling them, but it was nevertheless a possibility. Now all he needed was a water source.

His attention returned to the pipes. Carefully balancing on a collapsed part of the wall – not especially stable, but it would have to do – he raised his hand and tapped one gently with the knuckle of his index finger. The sound was muted, not the hollowness he would have expected from gas. That meant water most likely; even if it was stagnant and contaminated, it would be more than adequate for his purpose. That there was anything at all was almost miraculous; standard metal would have rusted and broken while plastic polymer would have cracked over the years. Some sort of nanocarbon composite, perhaps? Not that he had time to ponder just how long he had apparently been dead by studying material weathering in lieu of searching for structural weaknesses.

Now, if there was something like acetone or chlorine…though finding something like that in an ancient facility where everything was labelled in Cyrillic lowered the potential considerably. Then again, he considered as he eyed his weapon and revised his plan for a surprise attack, I might not need it.




Notes: Inaho's characterisation will probably need some tweaking. I've worked with kids with autism before, but getting into their heads is much more challenging. And this chapter will need more work but I need to get the story moving in terms of action before I tweak it. Added considerably more to this chapter, as I need to have Inaho doing what Inaho does: pull off crazy plans involving physics. It'll be a two-fer since he'll do something nuts in this chapter and then something really nuts in the next one. I'm done with this segment though, since he'll be putting his plan into action in the next one.

Up next: Asseylum!

February 2017

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