Lost Empire: Part Two.

By Brad Marsh

The mist slowly evaporated as the jump chamber cycled down, depositing Kane and his three companions inside the gateway in North Carolina. Kane and Grant came awake at roughly the same time. Each of them automatically checking that there Sin Eaters and Copperheads had made the jump with them. They both harbored an unspoken fear that one day they would complete a jump and their weapons and gear would not be there with them. It was a small nagging fear that lingered with them each time they climbed into a jump chamber. Kane took stock of his body, noting that for once he felt relatively good after a jump.

He got his feet with little trouble, his head only spinning for a brief few seconds, to which he placed his hand against the armaglass wall. He tensed his wrist tendons, and his Sin Eater slid into his waiting hand. Grant slowly heaved his broad shouldered form up from the chamber floor, his Sin Eater sliding into his hand, as he moved to stand by Kane. They both tried to detect any movement beyond the gateway out in the control room, but they could see nothing. Grants motion detector showed nothing moving in the immediate area either. But that didn’t mean that there wasn’t anyone laying in wait to ambush them, or that the complex they had jump to was empty. The motion detector Grant wore on his wrist had a limited range. Anything outside that range was invisible. Brigid and Domi slowly got to their feet, leaving their own blasters holstered. With Kane and Grant walking point and drag, there would be ample warning if there was shooting.

Kane cautiously eased opened the gateway door, slipping out into the room beyond when the door was open just a few inches. When no blaster fire erupted Grant led Domi, and Brigid after Kane. They stepped directly into the gateway control room, where Kane stood looking at a plain wooden door, with a brass doorknob, that led out of the room. It struck them as strange because almost all of the redoubts they had arrived in had a door made of sec steel with a lever that controlled the opening and closing of the door. The other thing that didn’t quite fit the standard they had come to expect was this door was equipped with a simple push button lock set in the doorknob. Where most redoubts had comp controlled locks that required a three-digit code to engage or disengage. Despite those abnormalities Kane approached the door, and pulled it open on squeaky un-oiled hinges, his Sin Eater leading the way out into the dimly lit area beyond.

Kane could tell they were in square room that had a short and narrow hallway that led off it to an intersection were another hall bisected it. Scanning the floor Kane spotted a few tatters of clothing and the remains of several ceiling tiles. Looking upward he spotted a large gapping hole in the ceiling where the tiles had hung once upon a time. Grant glided up next him, silently pointing to something Kane had notice as well, fresh footprints in the layer of dust that covered the floor. Leading from the gateway to through the control room and towards the stairs. That simple fact put Kane on edge, because it meant that someone had beaten them to North Carolina and whoever had gotten there first could still be in the area. That complicated things, and those complications were going to slow them down, but there was nothing that could be done about it.

Without a word he led them towards the intersection, they had made it a little more than half way to the intersection when the strip lighting along the ceiling flared into life. Kane cursed as he swung around in a circle his Sin Eater tasting the air like a hunting snake, seeking a target. All he found was Brigid standing by a bank of light switches a strained smile of her face. Shaking his head, Kane turned back towards the intersection, choosing not to say anything about the sudden flood of light. Kane could have counted the number of times he had been caught unaware on both hands and he'd have had fingers left over. When he turned back to the intersection and the figure dressed in a business suit stepped out from around the blind corner, Kane was caught totally unaware. His Sin Eater was instantly up and centered on the figure. But he held his fire fighting his instinct to blast the figure straight to hell, the conversation he had listened to between Baron Cobalt and Baron Sharpe still fresh in his mind. Was the person at the end of the hall human or some resurrected genetic nightmare from the pass.

“ Who are you? “ Kane demanded

“ We are the Rulers. “

“ The Rulers of what? “

“ We should have ruled the New Empire that was to be. But now it has become the Lost Empire. We are the rightful rulers of Empire. “ The figure replied

“ What is this Empire you speak of? “

“ Home. “ The figure replied simply “ It has always been so. “

“ This home, where is it? “

“ We do not know that is why it is called the Lost Empire. Built and hidden with dead hands, it sits patiently waiting for our return. We seek to return to our rightful place.” 

“ Why are you here? “

“ Because you and those like you threaten our chances of finding the Empire our makers built for us. The Leader can deliver us to our home. He is the only one left with the power and knowledge to do so. He has deemed you a threat so you must die so others can be brought into the fold, and give us all strength to go forward. “

“ We are no threat to you. We have come seeking to speak with your leader the FBI man. We have many questions for him. “ Brigid told the strange figure in the business suit. “ We have met him before and he has told us of his hate for the Barons and their tyranny. We are just as much there enemies as he is. We have a saying, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. “

“ That may be the case but our leader the FBI man as you call him is the one that sent me here to kill you. I do not think he wishes to speak with you. “  With that a dull black Smith and Wesson handgun appeared from beneath the figures suit jacket. The figure fired three spaced shots that sent Kane and his companions scattering for cover, as then he was out of sight back behind the corner. Kane found himself on the floor, up against the base of the hallway wall. Grant was on the opposite on the floor in the center of the hall with Domi at his side, a few yards behind Kane. Brigid who had been standing next to Kane when the shooting started, was lying prone on the floor on the other side of the hall even with Kane. All of them had drawn their Blasters.

The figure that had fired on them had disappeared back around the corner, after the initial round of firing. From the sound of the shots Kane suspected the Figure was firing .40 caliber rounds, which were almost non-existent in the outlands and rare even in the villes, they had a small supply of them in the armory in Cerberus. Those facts meant that FBI freezie had a ready supply of ammo. It wasn’t lost on Kane that the figure had pulled a pristine factory new Smith and Wesson either. If this mysterious FBI agent from the past had those kinds of weapons at his disposal then god only knew what else he had to throw at them. When several minuets went by and the figure didn’t appear again from around the corner, Kane slowly got to his feet, motioning for Grant to stand and cover him. Domi and Brigid stayed prone on the floor their blasters pointed down the narrow hallway towards the intersection.

Kane approached the intersection slowly, his body turned sideways to present a smaller target, as he stepped foot over foot. His Sin Eater led the way, rock steady in his hands. He rolled on his left shoulder out across the intersection, coming to his feet in a flash, back against the opposite wall. No blaster fire erupted as he came to his feet, he instinctively swung around scanning the corridors, his Sin Eater seeking a target. But the halls that ran right and left where empty, the mysterious ruler had vanished. Kane snarled in rage, as he singled the all clear to his companions. Grant strode up first his Copperhead braced on his hip, a grim scowl on his face.

“ An empty hallway means the bastards still running around somewhere in here. “ Grant stated

“ What really worries me is that he could have friends with him. He didn’t seem too afraid of us or of our firepower. Which makes me think our blasters may have the same effect on him and those like him, as the Mags blasters did in Boston. “

“ Now there’s a cheery thought. “ Grant rumbled “ We should get going if where going to get to this hospital Brigid mentioned and get back before dark. “

Kane nodded as he motioned Domi and Brigid forward. They fell into a loose skirmish line, with Kane walking point, Brigid ten paces behind him, and Domi another ten paces behind and Grant walking drag. As they moved down the corridor towards a second set of stairs, they passed a large room that was labeled Cryo lab. The door long missing, along with whatever lab equipment there may have been. It hardly got a second look from the heavily armed quintet. As they reached the stairway they realized that a thin plaster wall had once hidden the area with the gateway from those that used the stairway. It had been blown in by a large explosion sometime in the last hundred years, leaving a ragged black edged hole leading into the stairwell. Kane held up his left hand, cause his companions to stop their forward motion.

Letting his Sin Eater hang down next to his leg, Kane slipped through the ragged hole in the plaster. It was dark, inside the stairwell, the lights having been knocked out sometime since Skydark. The only light come from the overhead strip lights in the hallway he had just exited. Pausing for a few seconds, Kane blinked his eyes several times, trying to get his eyes to adjust to the gloom just that little bit faster. It was during that pause that his attacker chose to make his move.

Kane’s Sin Eater was ripped from his hand; the servos and wiring snapping with an audible twang and screeching of twisted and tortured metal. Kane instinctively kicked out with his steel tipped combat boot, feeling his foot connect with the pit of his attackers stomach. But instead of the soft cushion of flesh, his foot came to a painful stop as it hit a rubbery surface that was as unforgiving as Armaglass. The shock ran up Kane’s leg straight to his head, rattling his teeth and causing him to snarl in rage. His attack reacted with lightening speed, delivering a crushing round house punch to Kane’s back, driving the air from his lungs. Kane absently realized that the only thing that had saved him from a snapped spine was his long black Mag issue Kevlar coat. His knees began to buckle, as rough hands grasped his coat, and then was he tossed out of the stairwell, back into the light. His Sin Eater followed but his attacker did not. Grant rushed through the hole, with Domi on his heels, as Brigid knelt down next to Kane. They re-appeared seconds later, empty handed, Domi holding several severed wires from Kane’s Sin Eater.  Kane groaned as Brigid helped him sit up. She looked up at Grant who only shrugged.

“ What the hell happened in there? “ Grant demanded

“ Someone didn’t like my cologne. “ Kane replied through gritted teeth. “ How did my Sin Eater hold up? I felt it rip off my wrist. “

Grant bent and retrieved the stubby auto blaster. He quickly checked the action and the firing mechanism. With a slight nod to himself he handed it back to Kane. “ It looks like it’s in good shape. It should fire when you pull the trigger. Most of the damage was to the casing and the servos that hold it holstered to you wrist. “ Grant told him as he handed the loaded blaster back to Kane.

“ Thanks. “  Kane replied as he got to his feet, slipping the returned blaster into the waistband of his denim jeans. He swung his copperhead up into his waiting hands as he moved towards the hole and the stairwell once more. “ Any sign of whoever jumped me? “

“ No. Whoever jumped you was long gone by the time Domi and I rushed through the hole. “

Kane nodded as he pulled his penlight from an inside pocket of his coat and flicked it on. He pointed the thin beam of light into the darkened opening, and scanned the immediate area. Finding no one lurking in the shadows, Kane slipped through the hole his Copperhead leading the way, with Grant at his shoulder. Playing the penlight’s beam around the landing they had emerged onto, Kane discovered the stairway lead upward into the darkness as well as down into what he assumed would be a parking garage or basement area. Kane moved upward into the darkness, his boots ringing on the corroded metal steps, the sound echoing off tiled walls of the stairwell.

The reached the doorway after going ascending two flights of stairs. The steel door had been removed from its hinges and used to re-enforce a spot just inside the doorway where the floor had rotted through. Kane gave it little move than a quick sweep of his penlight to ensure his attacker was not laying in wait for them, before continuing upward. The next doorway opened onto a long tunnel that had once been made of glass, but was now little more than a steel catwalk and a network of metal framing that once held sheets of glass in place. As soon as they had stepped onto the landing they all caught sight of the watery sunlight that filtered into the alcove that housed the landing. Kane cautiously stepped out on the catwalk, feeling it shutter slightly with the addition of his weight, but it held as he strode across towards another doorway and landing. He was half way across when he felt Grant step onto the catwalk and begin following him, ready to back him up if the need arose. When he reached the other side, he flicked on his penlight once more and scanned the alcove he had just entered. There was nothing in the alcove beyond a closed metal door labeled parking access.

“ Anything? “ Grant rumbled from behind him.

“ Just but a closed fire door labeled parking access. Whatever that means? “ They both turned as Domi came sprinting across the catwalk, with Brigid no where in sight. “ Where’s Brigid? “ Kane demanded

“ We heard footsteps and voices above us. She told me go get both of you, while she went to investigate. “ Domi replied, her head snapping around as two sharp blaster reports rolled over them. Without a word Domi was sprinting across the catwalk with Kane and Grant at her heels, her .45 caliber Combat master appearing magically in her hand from what appeared to be thin air. She was the first to reach the alcove again, and she melted into the darkness without waiting for Kane and Grant to arrive. Grant came to a stop just inside the alcove. “ You go. “ He panted “ One of us has to stay here and cover our retreat. “

Kane nodded, snapping off a one-fingered salute that he and Grant had developed during there Mag days to signify a mission with odds of one percent or less, that they would survive. Then he was gone Sin Eater in one hand and his Copperhead in the other, melting in the shadows, the penlight forgotten in the adrenaline rush that came with impending battle. But so far the only blaster fire there had been had been the first two shots from Brigid’s blaster. Then silence, no return fire and no other shots from Brigid. Then Domi came gliding out of the darkness with Brigids unconscious form draped over her shoulder, in a fireman’s carry. There was no visible blood that Kane could, Domi pushed past him, hissing “ Two of them, one is guy from outside the gateway. I knifed him but my blade was turned, bastards aren’t human. “ 

Then she was gone, moving back down the stairs, leaving Kane in the stairway his weapons pointed into shadows above him. Then Kane caught movement above, and sent a stream of auto-fire into the darkness where the movement had come from. He was rewarded only with sparks as bullets whined off into the darkness. The figure pulled back out of sight, as Kane tried to line up his copperhead for another shot. But his target was gone. With a curse Kane turned and trotted back down the stairs, taking two steps at a time.

When he reached the alcove again, Grant was pacing like agitated cougar, his Copperhead tight in his grip. Brigid had awakened, and sitting with her back against the wall. Kane let out a long low whistle before materializing out of the darkness, having no desire to be shot at by Grant.

He nodded to Grant, letting him know that the enemy was still lurking somewhere above them. Then he turned to Domi, “ What the hell happened up there just know? “

“ That Ruler guy from earlier had Brigid by the throat, choking her as I came into hallway on the next floor up. I ran at him, tried to knife him, but his skin was like rubber, my knife wouldn’t penetrate it just sort of slide along the surface. “

Kane nodded “ I had the same feeling of rubber skin when I kicked him in the stomach. You’re right about them not being human, or at least not completely human. But the question is how do we kill something that has impenetrable skin.“

“ Its impenetrable to bullets and knives. They may still have a weakness.“

“ Could nuke them. But that’s like killing flee with bowling ball. Solution worse than problem.”

“ We’ll find away, we always do. “ Kane replied as he turned to Brigid “ You ok to travel? “

“ Yes. The sooner we get away from here the better I’ll feel. I have a feeling we’re going to get another visit from our pals again before this little field trip is over. “

“ Shit. I hope not. “ Grant replied “ Just once I’d like one of these field trips to go smoothly, in and out without a shot fired. “

“ Keep dreaming. “ Kane muttered as he led the way across the cat walk once more, Brigid at his elbow, with Grant and Domi bringing up the rear. Several minuets later they emerged onto a cracked, weed covered parking lot that had once serviced the hospital’s staff. From there they made their way two blocks south along Medical row to the Human Neurological and Mechanical Prosthetic’s Modification Research Facility. The once bright red brick that comprised the front face of the building had faded over time to a chalky white that crumbled at the slightest touch. The glass door that had marked the entrance to the building had long ago been remove, leaving the front of the building looking like a gap toothed smile. Kane drew his Sin Eater, slinging his Copperhead back onto his shoulder as they entered.

The front lobby was strewn with dried leaves and other assorted pieces of trash. The receptionist’s desk was in pieces, most of which having been left behind because it would not burn and rusted metal was no good to anyone. A single door behind the piled debris led deeper into the two-story building. Kane silently led his companions through that doorway, and into the lab beyond.

The lab was almost identical to every other lab Kane had ever visited. With its whited washed walls and stainless steel tables and cabinets. The only difference being the size of this particular lab, it was about twice the size of any Kane had ever seen, and it had a single stainless steel chair bolted to the floor next to the stainless steel operating table. A single comp terminal sat dark and silent on a stainless steel counter top, to the left of the chair. Brigid moved towards it as Kane began looking for a light switch. He found a bank of four switches on the wall to his right. He flipped the first switch, but nothing happened. He flipped the second switch in line and bright light flooded the room from the strip lighting on the ceiling, chasing away the shadows. When he flicked the third and fourth switches at the same time the Comp Brigid was fiddling with came to instant life. Grant and Domi stood guard as Kane moved further into the Lab. He began opening cabinets at random, finding them all empty and dust filled. As far as Kane could tell the Lab had been stripped clean when it’s occupants had fled sometime after Skydark. Brigid’s voice ringing out cut off Kane’s train of thought.

“I’ve got it, and it doesn’t look good. “

“ Yeah? “ Kane prompted

“ Well according to these files we’re dealing with a sub division of Excaliber called the Aurora Project, not Genesis. But Aurora did split from Genesis. Aurora deals with the transplanting of human Nerva system’s into a superior mechanical body. The skin is made of a compound not unlike Kevlar. Which would explain why knives and bullets don’t penetrate it. From what I can gather the bodies as Man made. Once a donor, as they call those whose spinal cord and brain they use, is found there head is dipped in a substance that forms a membrane bonds with the skin on there head and there head is now bullet and knife proof. It doesn’t say how to stop them or where they were made. “

You mean this isn’t where they put them together? “

“ No this Lab was used for maintenance and repairs. All the assembly took place somewhere else. But the location isn’t listed in these files.”

“ That must be what the ruler guy called the Lost Empire. The place this FBI freezie is looking for. “

“ If that’s true, ” Grant replied “ then where did the two in Boston come from? “

“ They must have been dormant in the FBI building. Which means this Freezie who ever he is wants to build an army of these rulers. “ Kane replied “ But for what purpose. We know he wants to over throw the Barons, but what happens after that. “

“ I have feeling whatever is waiting in the wings is not going to be good news. “ Brigid replied

“ Then we should get back to Cerberus and prep for a jump to Boston. “ Kane replied as he headed for the door, his Copperhead braced on his hip once more. Grant, Domi, and Brigid followed. They reached the hospital where the Gateway was hidden without incident.

When they reached the catwalk that lead to alcove where the hole in the wall waited for them, Kane stopped. He drew his Sin Eater as did Grant, and then they both began walking side by side across the catwalk towards the alcove were they last saw the rulers. They made it three quarters of the way across the catwalk before the ruler from the hall outside the Gateway decided to show himself. Kane and Grant came to a stop their blasters centered on the ruler even though they were fairly certain that their firepower could not harm the ruler much less kill him. But old habits died hard.

“We are the future. You can never hope to defeat us.“

“ We are not looking to defeat you, only to understand you motives. We are not a threat to you as long as you and you leader do not threat us or our existence.“

“ I have orders. You are to die at all costs.“

“ This thing sounds like a fucking robot. “ Grant grumbled

“ That’s because he technically is a fucking robot. “ Kane growled. He addressed the Ruler once more “ There has been enough death. As we have told you before we only wish to talk to the FBI freezie. “

“ You only wish to talk because you fear us. Your guns are useless against the rulers. You only wish to talk because you can not kill us and you yourself do not wish to perish. “

“ We have learned much since about you from a database in a hospital not far from here. “

“ You know nothing. “ The Ruler snapped, doubt riding high in his voice.

“ We know enough that if you kill us then others will come and they will not be as friendly as the four of us have been. “

“ You have not been friendly at all. The white haired female attacked us, as did the female with the red hair. You Kane shot at myself in hall and again in the stairwell. You are a hostile subject by you own actions. “

“ We will speak with your leader, it is up to you whether you are dead or alive when this happens. It is your choice. "

“ You can’t kill me. “

“ Are you willing to stake your own existence on that belief? “

A single moment of hesitation. Kane smiled as the Ruler stood in the middle of the catwalk contemplating Kane’s question. He had found a chink in the Ruler’s armor. The human-side of the Ruler’s make-up still harbored the human fear of death. Kane’s mind raced as he struggled to think of a way to exploit that weakness and use it against the Ruler.  Before he had a chance to press his advantage, Brigid’s voice rang out from behind him.

“ If we die then others will come looking for us. They will not bring guys; they will bring EMP grenades that I guarantee these grenades will kill you. “ She told the ruler.

“ EMP grenades. I have never heard of such a thing. “

“ These grenades admit a small contained Electro Magnetic Pulse that will fry any and all computer components with in the grenades blast radius. Since you are made mostly of comp components you will be killed. “

“ How can that be? “

“ Once your comp components shut down then the flow of fluid to your nerva system and your brain will be cut off. After little more than three minuets your brain will cease to function, followed by your nerva system. Once your human components die then they can’t be transplanted or restored. In short you cease to be. “

“ You do not have these EMP grenades with you now. Otherwise you would have used them by now. You will be dead, even if your friends come looking for you. It is a fair trade for my own life. I will have completed my mission. “

Kane had been struggling to control his tempter since the moment the Ruler had appeared on the catwalk blocking their progress home. As the conversation he was having slowly turned in on its self and began rehashing things that had already been said. Kane began slowly fanning the flames of rage inside of him. He had been about draw his Sin Eater and shot his way through the robot freak. Then Brigid had begun talking to the freak and things had seemed to be going somewhere for the first thirty seconds. Then it had begun to go around to previous lines of conversation. That was when Kane decided he’d had enough, and he suddenly found himself in motion.

He was rushing towards the stationary form that was the Ruler, his head down shoulders hunched like a NFL linebacker rushing in to sack the Quarter back. The one exception was the execution of impact and the resulting events. Instead of tackling the Ruler around the waist, Kane drove his shoulder into the pit of the Rulers stomach staggering the rulers form back several steps towards the edge of the catwalk and the fifty foot fall to the cracked asphalt below. As soon as Kane felt his should connect with the Rulers Stomach he snapped his shoulder up connecting with the underside of the Rulers jaw. Teeth splintered and blood erupted from the Rulers mouth as he teetered on the edge of the catwalk before tumbling over the side with a long low shriek of anger and pain. As soon as the Rulers form slipped from view Kane snapped around his Sin Eater sliding into his waiting palm, as the sights fell on the remaining Ruler.

“ Die or get the fuck out of the way! “ Kane roared to the unmoving figure of the Ruler. Before Kane could act the remaining Ruler turned and disappeared back inside the crumbling form of the hospital. A quick glance over the edge of the catwalk showed Kane that he had not killed the other Ruler, whose body was no where in sight below. With a muttered curse Kane turned and began leading them into the depths of the hospital once more.

When they had reached the Gateway once more and stood with in the control room once more Kane turned to Brigid. “ How much of that EMP speech was true and how much was bullshit? “

“ It was all a theory. Most of it was fact. Up until the part about the Brain and the transplanting. That was all a theory of mine. If it proves to correct it will give us away of beat these Rulers and getting to the FBI freezie. I need to do some research and talk to Lakesh when we get home. “

“ Lets hope your right, because a fifty foot drop didn’t take out one of these guys, and a squad of Mags couldn’t take out two. Where screwed if these guys have friends with them in Boston when we get there. “

Brigid didn’t reply, there was no need to, each of them knew Kane was right, and they all knew what was a stake. Kane followed her into the jump chamber, where Grant and Domi where already waiting, Kane pulling the door closed behind him with a soft metallic click. They were for the moment headed home.

Several seconds after their departure two figures strode through the wood lined doorway. One battered and covered with blood. The other in pristine condition as if he was about to go out on the town for the evening. The battered one entered a jump code into the gateway’s comps and the duo entered the chamber. They two were headed home. They both silently hoped that they would get another chance at Kane and his companions. Each knowing it was only a matter of time.

To Be Continued

November 2000.

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