Devil's Pact: Less than Perfect
Kyburi was disappointed that she hadn't been able to rattle Agura to the point where she'd be reduced to a quivering wreck – her life would have been so much easier if that had happened. Those sorts were more willing to give up their secrets than the Human female, whom she had a sort of respect for. There were few beings in the Multiverse that could have the mentality of an icicle when they where inches from death at her claws, not counting the other members of the Red Sentient 5, and even fewer of those had the audacity to insult her under such circumstances. Agura was one of those beings.
The point remained – the Red Sentient female had no intention of fighting Agura down here, where the rock jammed her comm. and positioning devices, making it impossible to alert Krytus of her position. Better to do it aboveground, where the RS5 could join her in subduing the driver of the green, inferior vehicle that was so similar to the Venikus.
Green. Sun and stars, why did her self-styled rival have to have green as her color?
Every bad or irritating thing in Kyburi's life had some green in it. The Verginch color she was allergic to, frying up her systems if she tried to consume its life force? Green. The dominant color of the Battlezone Zemerik had subdued her in for cryostasis? Green. The color of her real rival's eyes? A yellow-green that was rather nauseating to look at, but green all the same.
Thankfully, Kyburi had killed Salmacis eons ago, so she didn't have to concern herself with that Red Sentient anymore.
Shaking the thoughts aside, the Red Sentient bounded up into the Venikus, the vehicle that was a part of her. The problem here was that the Tangler was mostly drained of energy, and the Venikus couldn't return energy that it stole. They would have to stay put until the incendium chip that powered the other vehicle could recharge.
As Kyburi released the Tangler and willed her vehicle back inside herself, Agura was pulling out her survival kit from the green car. There was no kindling for a fire down here, so the bedroll the Human had packed would need to do for warmth.
It went against Kyburi's nature, but for a moment she considered offering to share her heat. Red Sentients were made up of antimatter, which was a very hot form of energy – the reason that her people were associated with the element of Fire. For all her threats, the Alpha Hunter had no real intention to kill Agura – yet. She had to at least haul her to the Red Sentient world for interrogation for everything she knew about Earth and Sage, then her fate would lie in how much the RS5 wanted a slave.
Upon second thought, though, Kyburi rejected it. Even if she made the offer, Agura was unlikely to accept – she was half-expecting her counterpart to sleep with one eye open.
Leaving the Human to her own devices, the vice-commander of RS5 checked her energy levels – high enough to last her for a recharge, but she'd need to hunt later on to keep them strong enough to be able to reform the Venikus once they were ready to go.
Setting her internal systems to awaken her six hours from now, Kyburi folded her body into a tight ball around itself – but she didn't dare go into hibernation mode; there could be any manner of things that could happen if she was truly asleep. At least like this, she could quickly react if something happened.
The roar of the crowds was nearly deafening, the voices of thousands of Red Sentients emanating from the stadium seats. They were on their feet, cheering on their favorite warriors, almost drunk on the sight. Some were cheering on the one currently losing, but caught up as they were, they cheered anyway.
In the center of the arena, a pair of vehicle engines roared, a deeper bass than the audience could generate. One was six-legged, spindly; the hybrid of an ATV and a monster truck. The other was smaller, but more agile, armed with drills on the front and a pair of leg springs tucked beneath its rear fender.
The Venikus leapt up into the air and clung to a broken pillar, digging deep as its driver ascended. The opposing vehicle – the Subterfuse – was crumbled and sparking; Kyburi could tell that the battle with her prey was almost over. Perching on top of the shattered support, she watched as the Subterfuse leapt up and then fired its drills, allowing it to plow deep into the earth. She had deliberately prolonged the battle so she could get a measure of her enemy's tactics. While the other female was a gladiator, she was one that was accustomed to winning with the same strategy over and over again. By reviewing records of her victories, the Alpha Hunter had found that she would burrow beneath the ground after using stun blasts, and then rip up underneath them while her enemies were paralyzed and let the drills do the talking.
That had been the first mistake: relying on the same trick. When it became clear to everyone that the Subterfuse, for whatever reasons, was incapable of sending out stun blasts today, Kyburi had gained the upper hand.
The Venikus' thermal imaging centered on the ground, where the Subterfuse was lying in wait inside its' tunnel. Salmacis' vehicle was capable of sensing the tiniest of movements, in or on the ground; Kyburi knew that too. In fact, she knew everything about her opponent and former friend, thanks to good research and an inside source of information.
Slipping into stealth mode, the Venikus' driver prepared her jump. If she timed it right, she could end this with one, decisive blow. Making a final set of adjustments, she finally dove, aiming for a spot just in front of the place her prey hid.
The impact was hard, and with the hair trigger that the Subterfuse had, it was breaching the surface almost instantly. Without taking a second to breathe, Kyburi lunged upward, using the Venikus' back legs to leap up. As she jumped, she deployed her fangs.
The ATV slammed directly into the undercarriage of its enemy, front legs wrapping around its cab in a bear hug. The fangs sank inside; energy began to drain out. Over her comm., Kyburi could hear her enemy crying out in surprise and in disbelief, not wanting to comprehend that this was the death blow.
Angling down so the Subterfuse was between the Venikus and the ground, Kyburi rode out the fall and the resulting explosion as the other car was destroyed. By the time the dust cleared, Salmacis was down, pinned beneath the wheels of the victor's vehicle.
Ignoring the screams of the crowd, Kyburi dropped out of the cab and walked so she could look at Salmacis eye-to-eye. The Alpha Hunter of those days wasn't nearly as voluptuous as she was in present days – her captive and defeated rival was the one with the looks.
"Game over," she growled, yellow-green eyes glaring up at her conqueror.
Kyburi had nothing to say to that – it was truth. Instead, she knelt down so their faces were close, and while the crowd still screamed with bloodlust, the words exchanged were for Salmacis' ears alone.
"I did not wish for this to happen," she hissed. "Were the circumstances and tradition different, I would've have let you live. But … what has happened to cause this is fate."
Her claws rose up for the final blow. "Pity."
Kyburi's nails punctured Salmacis' shell, and the other female let out a shriek as her life swirled out of its body. But she did not rise up and dissolve into nothingness – the Alpha Hunter had the gladiator's life force in her hands, swirling around her body in a blood-red mist.
"Krytus liked you first," she murmured to herself, absorbing part of the antimatter while letting more go. "We may be bonded, shell and soul, but I may need what he admired in you to be perfect."
The cloud swirled despairingly around her once more before it disappeared. Kyburi stood alone beside an empty shell, and as the surprised crowd watched, her figure changed. The Alpha Hunter had taken far more than Salmacis' life: she had taken part of Salmacis' soul, stealing the physical attributes that males had found attractive and incorporating them into her slender frame.
Smiling triumphantly, the Alpha Hunter rose up her arms, and the adoration of the crowd was not far after the action.
It wasn't the alarm that Kyburi had set that roused her – it was the jolts from her dream making her head hit the rocks she had curled up beside. Anxiously, she ran an internal-external scan, checking for any damage. Sentient shells were made of a super-tough crystal, which could take a lot of abuse, but who knew just how long she had been smacking against the stone?
Thankfully, her scans came back clean – what damage had been done was already being repaired. Relieved, Kyburi opened her eyes, silently thanking the Creator that she had not been forced to Respawn. To have the potential key to getting Sage in her grasp, only to lose her because of accidental damage … Krytus wasn't someone who punished his teammates, but even he had his limitations.
As expected, Agura was curled up in her bedroll underneath the Tangler – from the looks of things she had fallen asleep hugging one of the wheels with one arm and clutching the gloves with the other. Scans indicated that her body temperature was lower than usual, but the four-legged ATV was recharged and ready to go.
For the barest nanosecond, the thought occurred to her that if she was going to kill the Human, the time was now.
Her prey was sleeping. Sleeping prey was vulnerable prey. Instinctively her claws came out – the claws that were her most fearsome weapons. They didn't just steal energy from her victims – they ripped their life force out of their bodies and into her, allowing Kyburi to absorb the knowledge and attributes they had. One stab to the Human's neck and the struggle would be all over.
Just as quickly, Kyburi got a grip on herself.
Krytus knew her abilities; he'd seen what she'd done to Salmacis on the day she had died. All the same, he and the others would want Agura to be alive, in case they needed her as leverage later on.
Besides, it was just energy deprivation talking. When the Alpha Hunter's energy levels dropped below thirty percent – as they were now – her systems would automatically mark any living being in the vicinity and start calculating strategies to subdue it as quickly as possible.
Unfolding her limbs with her usual, casual grace, Kyburi made herself turn away, forced herself to ignore Agura Ibadlen. And to her credit, she managed to not look back as she slipped into the tunnels.
Getting out of the cavern helped Kyburi avoid killing the Human for power, but it didn't solve her current problem. Wandering through the tunnels, leaving her unique scent trail for her to double back on, the Red Sentient shoved all thoughts of the outside aside, letting her senses direct her towards potential prey. Her night vision had been swapped out for her thermal imaging functions – if there was anything endothermic down here, she'd see it.
There – a four-legged creature, hiding in a burrow. It wasn't just her thermal vision that told her what lay under the earth, as the Alpha Hunter prepared to strike. Humans didn't understand most of her adaptations, but any Red Sentient could not only recognize them – they could identify their functions.
The spikes on her head, reminiscent to fire, were extremely sensitive receptors, allowing Kyburi to detect traces of pheromones and electricity that her prey emitted. The stiletto heels – which Agura surely scorned – allowed her to feel motion in and on the ground. Her thin face housed powerful audio receptors, able to hear sounds in the ultrasonic range and hold her balance even on unstable ground. The Battle Force 5 just thought that her claws were her weapons, but in truth, her entire body was a finely-honed weapon.
The prey beneath the dirt and stone didn't stand a chance. Kyburi's claws found their mark when she plunged them down the tunnel, piercing the base of its neck where its brain stem was and letting her steal its life force for a recharge. Satisfied as her power levels rose well above fifty percent, the Sentient hauled her prey out of the burrow to take a look at what she had drained. It was some kind of rodent, but not any she had seen before. It was roughly six handspans long from nose to rump, and that wasn't counting the naked tail, which was about twice the creature's length.
Kyburi's hands, when all the fingers were splayed out, measured to about one Human foot. This thing was massive, and what was worse was that her scans indicated that this was a juvenile – not a fully-grown creature.
Just how big did the wildlife get in this Battlezone? Now that she thought about it, the tunnels and caverns down here couldn't all be natural …
Despite her nature, the Red Sentient felt a shudder run through her shell. Hastily dropping the still-warm corpse, she got out of her hunched position, eyes flicking around in paranoia and her sensors on high alert. Thankfully, she soon came to the conclusion that there was no immediate danger nearby, but that didn't stop her from thinking: We have to get out of here.
She might have a reputation as a big-game huntress, but when she went after quarry like a Magmatrox, Kyburi was usually in the company of other Alpha Hunters, or at least capable Red Sentients. This time she had a Human in tow, one she needed to keep alive until she got back to the Red Sentient Planet. While Agura was a Hunter too, the vice-commander of the Red Sentient 5 would rather stay out of the sight of the natural creatures – the less damage they both took, the better.
Moving with caution, Kyburi slipped further down the tunnel.
The passage had a subtle upward slant; Kyburi had been able to tell even before she had gone hunting. Her olfactory sensors could detect faint traces of surface air, air without the dankness of the tunnels, flowing towards her as she walked. This was the right way to go if they were going to get out.
A faint beeping noise sounded in her ears, and it took a moment to realize that it was the timer she had set six hours ago. When she had been roused by her dream and gone off hunting, the Red Sentient had neglected to turn it off.
Idly, Kyburi did so at that very instant, then turned back the way she'd come. After setting a psychic tracking device into the wall, so she'd know where to go, the Alpha Hunter reformed the Venikus and began to return back to the camp. Doubtlessly Agura was awakening now, if she hadn't already, and Kyburi needed to make sure she hadn't contacted her teammates.
Kyburi couldn't – she had tried before she had laid her ambush, and again before driving – but who knew what tricks that blasted Sage had put in the Tangler?
The return trip wasn't as long as the Venikus drove, so it didn't take more than five minutes until Kyburi made it back to the cavern. She was just in time to catch Agura about to go up the tunnel in the Tangler, all her supplies packed away.
"Where were you?" the dark-skinned Human demanded instantly.
"Hunting and scouting," the Red Sentient returned. "What were you doing?"
"About to go looking for you."
Through two windshields, the opposites eyed each other with suspicion, neither really sure if they trusted the other's word. Before the tension could dissipate or escalate, both sets of sensors went haywire as they detected something.
"Large heat source, roughly fifty feet long and twenty tall," reported Agura. "It's heading this way, from the tunnel you came out of."
Kyburi had a sinking feeling that she knew what was coming. It looked like she was going to find out what size the creatures were down here, after all.
Mood Music: "S&M" ~ Rihanna (Kyburi's theme) (to me, anyway)
"Independent Women Part I" ~ Destiny's Child (Agura's theme)
A/N: As you can probably guess, the next chapter will have a fight scene. I'll also flesh out the circumstances behind the dream/flashback that Kyburi had in a future chapter; I'm guessing either the next one or the one after that. (I'm estimating that this story will have five more chapters.)