|A Necromundan Enterprise
Author: Extartius PM
The door exploded inward in a shower of splinters and spent plasma. Following the door, Escabar Corgan sauntered in like a threat. Zane’s survival instincts had fled, now, leaving pure terror in its place!Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Chapters: 6 - Words: 21,292 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 3 - Updated: 11-15-06 - Published: 05-19-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2946546
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
One day to go...
Tower Head was a virtual fortress. The original settlement had been girded on all sides by a heavy pallisade with only two gates breaking the circle. It had burst at the seams as the settlement grew, but the wall still defensible. Butting up against the walls, inside and out, the town fathers had made sure that no building rose higher than the upper gantry level. The wall was patrolled day and night by the Punishers, who claimed virtual ownership of the town.
The two gates were no longer the only ways in or out. There were many entrances that had been cut into the pallisade. But all were guarded just as the walls were patrolled. There was a lot of traffic through the main gates in the morning and again in the evening before lock-down. Once that time passed, no one passed unchallenged.
Corgan got there too late to enter the township itself, arriving during the middle of the night cycle, but that suited him just fine. He found himself a hiding place on the roof of a sturdy shack. Maxi stalked off to hunt as he huddled down next to a decrepit water still, breaking out a packet of auto-burn bricks to keep him warm, shielding the small amount of light they made with his body so that the guards on the wall wouldn't have anything to be suspicious of.
It was a good spot, just right for what he planned.
'Take ten of the house guard,' he slurred, drunk as ever. 'I want this Corgan's head!'
'It shall be yours, Magnificat.'
Shrike Malfandri turned and stalked from the private chambers of the most powerful Guildsman in the Publius District, pulling his neuro-gauntlets onto silver-veined hands.
His housecarles were waiting for him without.
'I want ten of the best,' he growled. 'We hunt!'
The episode with Guildsman Rake had played well and truly into Hubris' hands. He was now perfectly justified in dealing with the matter personally as Senior Arbiter. It was no longer a local matter. And where had this fiend fled to? Why, no other place than Tower Head, exactly the place in which an undisclosed number of Imperial Guard deserters were known to be sheltering. By tomorrow evening he would be the hero of the day, having brought down a whole host of dangerous and nefarious criminals and restoring a turbulent and lawless region to the fair-handed jurisdiction of the noble Trade Guilds.
It was almost too perfect.
Brydon arrived at last to give his report. The Watch Commander had assigned him as liason to the office of Senior Arbiter as soon as Hubris had announced his intention to prosecute the matter personally.
'The task force has been mobilised. A hundred men. Twelve armoured cars. We're ready to move as soon as you give the word.'
'We leave now. I want to be drawn up and parked outside Tower Head before the dawn cycle.'
The false-light bathed the dome in gradually increasing increments. False sunlight cast by the archaic technologies, up in the fathomless heights of the ancient honeycomb bubble in which Tower Head languished, ignorant of the impossible scale of the city squatting above it like some primordial beast of metallic sloth.
Corgan crawled to the edge of the rooftop, looking down onto the hardpan where the Arbites had debouched from their armoured cars. There must be more than a hundred of the bastards down there. He picked out the commanding officers. He didn't even need to see Hubris among his subordinates to know that the man was there. He'd dropped this little opportunity in the man's lap and he knew Hubris wouldn't fail to capitalise on a move that could slingshot his career to stellar heights.
'They must have emptied three precincts for this little foray,' he murmured to himself. 'They might just have enough men to make it stick.'
'This is Senior Arbiter Hubris. The Provost-Marshal has declared a state of martial law in the settlement of Tower Head. You will open the gates and prepare for a full and thorough search of the settlement.'
A bulky silhouette rose to stand on the bridge between the gatehouse towers that had given the settlement its name.
'Sho ting, babalon, we got nottin to hide in 'ere. Roll dem wheel on over de tresh'old and we show you some real nice 'ospitalitay!'
As the man spoke through his own vox-horn, Corgan set him in his telescopic sights. It was Big Boy, the shortest of the off-worlders by more than a head, one of Jamma's right hand men and a heavy weapons expert without peer. He felt no trace of regret as he pulled the trigger.
The high powered las-round destroyed Big Boy's shoulder as he moved at the very last instant. Corgan cursed, but the shot had done the trick. The Punishers opened fire on the Arbites, unleashing all the fury of the most powerful gang in the Low Domes. The torrent of ballistics spattered from the black armoured hulls of the armoured cars but had little effect at such extreme range. The Arbites reacted with almost military precision, forming solid columns behind the armoured phalanx, bringing their battering-ram vehicles to the front as they charged the gate.
The heavy fusillade started to find armoured officers and a few scattered bodies fell by the wayside as the black-armoured wedge hit home. The gate to Tower Head was smashed aside and the Arbites were inside.
Corgan smirked. In the confusion he would easily be able to find a way to slip in unnoticed. He checked his chronometer, wondering when Old Sott's boys would join the party.
'Forward,' he hissed. 'The Arbites are already here. They must not get to the prize before we do. I will have the head of Escabar Corgan and no other.'
The Housecarles of Sott moved into the settlement via the rooftops. High overhead Yeld hunters soared on geo-thermals created by the mass of human and technological life below them. In the van of the force Jakara and Malcadon fighters leapt from strut to catwalk to rooftop, swinging from overhead cabling trunks and occasionally taking to the streets themselves.
The hunter castes of the Sott Household favoured the lighter exo-variants. There were no bulky Orrus pattern hunters in their ranks. They struck swiftly and silently from the shadows or the skies, whirling hurricanes of death.
They scoured the settlement, killing without recourse any that got in their way. Malfandri was spattered with gore long before the day cycle turned to dusk. But of satisfaction he did not partake, that day.
The Arbites forged out a field headquarters that they were forced to defend by the hour. The Punishers melted into the jumble of run-down structures within and without the pallisade, fighting the kind of guerilla war that they had been born to wage. Even the Sott Housecarles could not face up to the furious war-waging that Jamma and his Catachans undertook. The Spyrers were outclassed as they had never been outclassed before and losr several of their number in the first couple of days. But since the Punishers were not their primary concern Malfandri learned to avoid them, seeking, ever seeking for that rat-bastard son of a whore Escabar Corgan.
Malfandri was about to fling his net wider, believing that they had been set onto a wild goose chase, when he stumbled upon Corgan almost by accident on that sixth day.
Most of it went into trust with Flower and her girls, but he put a hefty chunk aside and made Flower promise that she'd pass it on to Luci and Petra if they ever came back. He made Flower promise to look after Jimny and see that his education left nothing to be desired. The kid was the closest thing to kin Corgan had ever had, like his own little brother or something. It was mildly upsetting to have to lock Maxi in a closet while he left. Jimny would look after the mutt.
Flower cried real tears when he finally said goodbye. It was just as Corgan had always thought, the call-girl had fallen for him big time. He was only sorry that the feeling wasn't mutual. Flower was as hard-to-knock as any bounty hunter he'd ever encountered.
He arrived back in Tower Head just in time to meet Malfandri face to face.
The Spyrer lurched out of the shadows, clawing at Corgan with those lethal wrist-blades. Only his hair-sprung reactions saved him from smiling red, ear to ear. He had his navy revolver out and fired as the hunter moved across him. The armour slowed the rounds but at such short range even the advanced technologies of the Spyre couldn't stop the bullets from going through.
Malfandri stepped back into a fighting crouch, removing his mask and spitting blood. Stims made his eyes roll back as they flooded his system with adrenaline.
'So you're one of Old Sott's boy's, eh?'
Malfandri struck, faster than a snake. Corgan pumped three more bullets at him but impossibly they all missed. Then Malfandri was on him, bearing him back against the wall.
Corgan rammed his forehead into the bastard's nose, hearing the crunch of smashed sinuses. Still that iron grip threatened to cut of the blood supply to his arms as Malfandri brought his inhuman strength to bear.
With his hands rapidly going numb Corgan barely managed to switch tumblers and angle the pistol to rest against the Spyrer's lower abdomen. The trigger felt leaden in his faltering grip but finally it cycled. The slug burst through Malfandri, ripping through his innards to blow out the other side.
Malfandri let go, staggering back, trying to hold his entrails in. Corgan pulled his plasma pistol and fried the bastard. The Spyrer refused to die quietly, he flailed out into the street, a blue-blazing pyre of human flesh while Corgan dissolved into the ramshackle structures of Tower Head.
He was impressed. The square was scattered with burnt out vehicles. It seemed that Jamma's first objective had been to make sure the Arbites had to damn-well walk wherever they went. The motor pool was a graveyard of smoking wrecks, scattered like a giant's discarded playthings across the breadth of the square.
The Cat's Head Tavern across the square was where Hubris had set up his headquarters. Arbites swarmed at the broken windows and in the enclosed courtyard. Outside, Corgan could seer the furtive forms of Jamma's men. They'd tired of running, it seemed. The tables had turned on Hubris.
As he watched, a white flag fluttered from one of the upper windows and cries of "parlay" could be heard even at this distance. The end game was at hand. Hubris was calling for a truce. A great cry of victory went up from the surrounding buildings and las-fire stitched the air as the Punishers celebrated their triumph.
Hubris was playing for time. Corgan knew that because he'd been monitoring the vox-traffic for the last half an hour. Reinforcements from precincts nineteen through twenty one were en route. They would be here within the hour. Corgan didn't have long to finish this game.
Turning, he picked his way back towards the rusted ironwork that would give him access to the upper reaches of the settlement's ancient industrial architecture.
With less than fifty men remaining under his command, this was turning into a disaster of epic proportions. He had to get out of here. He had to draw this gambit out for as long as he could while the reinforcements drew in to ensnare the wily Punishers even as they celebrated their false victory.
'Show them in,' he ordered. The trooper removed himself from the room to fetch the delegation. Hubris almost choked as he recognised the infamous Jamma himself. The gall of the man, the utter steely balls...'
'You ready to call it quits, babalon?' he drawled around the acrid stub of a cigar, lodged in the corner of his mouth.
'I'm ready to submit terms of my surrender,' Hubris replied. 'We came here looking for a man who isn't here. We were played false. This is all just an atrocious misunderstanding.'
'Tell dat to me boys, babalon. Big Boy, here,' he gestured at the heavily bandaged soldier at his side. The Catachan was missing an arm, the other having been amputated after a misplaced las-shot destroyed his shoulder when it should have popped his head like a ripe melon. 'He most upset 'bout what your boys did to him... most upset.'
'I will make reparations. The finest chirurgeons will be put at your disposal. I'll pay for the most advanced bionics a man can buy.'
'Very generous, Mr Babalon, but I think no. We no be gwan up-hive, no sooner'n you be staying down here wi' us, now.'
'Here are my terms,' Jamma pulled a pistol. Hubris' bodyguards were disabused of their ability to protect him as Jamma's compatiots, one of them a cripple, took them down as quickly and efficiently as any Spyre Hunter.
Jamma smiled, just before the ceiling collapsed on his head and Corgan came tumbling through in a shower of debris and a haze of dust.
He rolled to his feet, plugging Big Boy with a Velossi round to the temple. The other Catachan went for him and missed as Corgan sidled out of reach, pumping him full of small-arms fire from his Korsch 90 machine pistol. The man he recognised as Burnt, heavily scarred by some prometheum mishap in a past life, shuddered and died in a bloody heap.
Hubris faced Corgan across the rubble and corpse-strewn floor and pissed his pants with terror. Corgan was white with plaster and spattered with blood and gore. He moved like a daemon, loomed like an entity of the immaterium, utterly out of place in the corporeal world.
'What kind of a greeting is that?' Corgan sneered in disgust.
Hubris just whimpered.
Corgan looked down at Jamma, collapsed under a chunk of the roof. Reaching down he dragged the big man out and propped him up against the wall. He was starting to come around as Corgan relieved him of his weapons and stepped back.
'I'll be with you in a second, Arbiter. I've got some unfinished business with this creep first,' he said.
'You little bastard,' Jamma spat.
'That's all you've got?' he sneered. 'You're more of a lame duck than I thought, old man.'
'Go to hell!'
'I thought I'd give you the chance to appreciate the amount of shit you're in before I cap you,' Corgan continued. 'I knew the Guild was gunning for me, but I also know that it was you providing the muscle. So I gave the Arbites cause to get involved. Hubris here stands to gain a lot of kudos from bringing you and your boys in, and in exchange for my services, I'm gonna cut a deal with him to make sure I don't get the death sentence I deserve.'
Hubris nodded maniacally. He knew Corgan had him cold and one glance in those eyes convinced him that it was in his interests to play the man fair.
'None of that helps you, however,' Corgan mused, slipping the navy revolver from its sling and smiling. 'Your death sentence comes down from a higher court.'
'My boys will get you, babalon, sooner or later…'
Jamma's last words were punctuated by the bark of Corgan's large-calibre shooter. His brains decorated the wall behind him.
Corgan turned back to Hubris.
'So, let's cut that deal I mentioned!'
'Escabar Corgan, you will stand before the court to receive sentence.
'The charges against you are manifold.
'You are accused of seventeen counts of discharging firearms in a public thoroughfare; possession of unlicensed firearms; possession and distribution of banned substances; nine counts of fracas in a public place; twenty three counts of grievous and actual bodily harm; resisting arrest; withholding evidence in a public enquiry and uttering falsehood under oath.
'To the aforementioned you are hereby found guilty on all counts and sentenced to indefinite internment on the penal colony of Orrax.
'The charges laid against you relating to eight counts of murder are hereby stricken from the records due to a lack of binding evidence.
'Take him down!'