Lost Empire: Part Four

By Brad Marsh

The halls of the Cerberus redoubt were deserted and quiet as Kane strode towards the control room his polished combat boots clicked on the concrete floor as he walked, the sound bouncing off the walls creating a hollow echo. He was armed with a Copperhead Sub-Gun slung over his right shoulder and his SIN Eater, which was holstered on his right wrist. A Munitions bag with Ammo, Grenades, a first aid kit and a week's worth of provisions, was clutched in his left hand. It had only been twelve hours since Grant, Brigid, Domi and himself had returned from North Carolina. Now the four of them where preparing to make a jump to Boston to confront a group of Cyborgs who called themselves the Rulers, and there leader who claimed to be an FBI freezie born long before Skydark.

They had learned several things from their trip to North Carolina, and an unexpected encounter with a pair of Rulers. They had learned that the Rulers had been created before Skydark as the next step in the evolution of the Solider, now two centuries after Skydark the rulers were looking for a place they called the Lost Empire. Kane and his companions weren't to certain they wanted the Rulers to find the Lost Empire. They were suppose to be the perfect killing machines, unstoppable and indestructible. Kane had learned first hand how true that advertisement was, when he shot one with his Sin Eater, and dropped him six stories off a catwalk onto an asphalt parking lot and watched as his adversary came back for more. He wasn't looking forward to tangling with the Rulers but the moment they had learned the FBI freezie wanted them dead the choice had been taken out of his hands. For some reason they did not yet understand they had become a threat to the Rulers and the FBI Freezie's plans. That was one of the reasons He and his three companions were jumping to Boston. They had learned one other rather unsettling fact, on their jump to North Carolina. They had discovered that the FBI freezie was intent on wiping out the Barons one at a time starting with SharpeVille, which was the closest. There were to many unanswered questions and as much as he hated the Barons and all they stood for, Kane was not about to let the Rulers wipe out Sharpeville which for the most part was filled with innocent citizens. His mental rambling’s where put on hold as he reached the redoubts control room and strode inside. Lakesh, Grant, and Brigid were there waiting for him, Domi was no where in sight, but Kane knew from experience that she rarely showed up early for their scheduled jumps. He dropped his bag on a table near the door to the Gateway chamber next to Grants own bag.

"Ah, Mr. Kane, you had a good rest I trust?" Lakesh asked

"Yeah, it was alright."

"It's never long enough." Grant grumbled at Kane's right elbow.

"It couldn't be help." Brigid replied

"That doesn't make it any easier to bare."

"Brigid's right." Kane agreed "We're on a time table, and we have no way of knowing how long we have before the FBI freezie marches on SharpeVille."

"Still don't understand why not let Rulers crush Barons for us." A new voice stated from behind Kane.

He turned to see Domi glide into the control room like a white wrath of death a hand made deer hide backpack slung over her shoulder. A massive .50 Caliber Desert Eagle holstered on his right hip. Kane smiled at the sight of the small diminutive figure of Domi packing the massive hand cannon. "What you grinning at?" She snapped as she drew up in front of Kane.

"Nothing." Kane replied his grin widening. "Nice Hardware. Are you expecting an invasion by hundred foot dinosaurs? "

"You fucking funny man now?" Domi snarled "Maybe I put .50 cal round up your ass. Or Maybe I let live regret comments."

"I was just asking a question. No need to get a hair across your ass." Kane replied, raising his hands as if he were going to ward off an attack.

"Enough." Brigid snapped. "Both of you. We have a mission and this is no time to be fighting among ourselves."

Domi nodded tightly, as she gave Kane glared at Kane one more time her eyes radiating waves of anger. She slowly broke eye contact and moved to Grants side. Her posture communicating her anger. Brigid gave him a reproachful look when he glanced her way.

"Now that we've got that business out of the way, let's get back to the problem at hand." Lakesh announced "The rulers could march on SharpeVille at anytime."

"We jump to the Gateway in the Prudential building near the Public Library. We walk a few blocks to Copley Square and the John Hancock building, where we find out if this building is still standing and if its were the FBI freezie is manufacturing the Rulers. Then we head over to Federal Plaza and take care of the FBI freezie if it becomes necessary."

"Has it crossed anyone's mind that we may not be able to find this mysterious freezie?" Grant inquired "Once we start blowing his Ruler thugs up he may decide to head for the boarder." 

"That's a chance we're going to have to take. As long as we eliminate the Ruler threat to us and to Sharpeville then we've done what we came to do. Nailing their freezie leader is just an added bonus."

"Has there been any other reports of Mag forces being attacked since the botched rescue attempt?"

"Mr. Brye has been monitoring Ville communications and he has not heard anything other than what is considered normal Ville chit chat. The Barons have not talked over the air waves since just before you returned from North Carolina."

"I guess that's a good sign then. I would think, if Sharpeville had been attacked we'd have heard about it 

"If you are able I would rather like you to capture this freezie alive if possible, return here so we can interrogate him. He may have valuable information we could use against the Barons."

"We'll try old man but I won't make any promises."

Lakesh nodded " That's all I can ask."

With that Kane picked up his bag and strode to the Gateway, Grant, Brigid and Domi on his heels. The entered the chamber and Domi pulled the door shut behind them. As they as sat down on the chamber floor they could hear the Chamber cycling up, as a fine white mist began to form. Kane's last thought before the darkness claimed him was to hope they did not experience jump sickness. Of all the jumps that Kane and his companions had taken, only one had resulted in jump sickness. It was there first mission and one of their first jumps, that jump had taken them to Moscow. The chamber had been damaged and the jump had resulted in vivid nightmares and a debilitating bout of jump sickness. He never wanted to experience it again.

Federal Plaza: Boston.

The FBI building stood dark and foreboding among the long abandoned corporate office buildings that lined Somerset Street. A young boy crouched behind a large pile of steel and concrete, intently watching the front of the building. His attention was focused on two figures that stood arguing at the top of the cracked and crumbling marble steps that led to the front door of the FBI building. He had been scavenging among the abandoned office buildings with the area once called Federal Plaza, for food or anything valuable enough to trade. He knew from experience that office buildings were often over looked by other scavengers, and he had found many predark items worth trading among the offices and suites of Federal Plaza. But it had been the sound of raised voices that had led him to the FBI building where he discovered the source of the voices. A group of half a dozen rulers stood guard around the front door to the building, and two of them where fighting. Wanting to know what had caused the disagreement the boy had hid hoping to hear something. He knew that arguments in the Outlands were caused by to two things. Valuable property that could be traded, or food, blasters, and ammo, there was nothing else in the Outlands that mattered. He sat and listened, slowly be realized that he Rulers where not arguing about an object of value but about a person.

“I was there.” One was saying.

“Ringo. I know you where there. But that doesn’t mean a thing to me. We have given our oath to the Generals and the Generals have allied themselves with the Leader. You have yet to say anything that would convince me that the Leader has anything but our best interests at heart.”

“Gabe you weren’t there in North Carolina. Kane is a formable opponent. I’ve seen him and his companions in action. The Leader was right to mark them all for death. But we can’t just wait here for Kane to show up.”

“You sound afraid.” Gabe replied. “Afraid of a human. Your still alive aren’t you?”

“Yes but barely and yes I’m afraid of this human. I’ve been shot and stabbed before but this Kane dropped me six floors to an asphalt parking lot below. It took the techs four hours to repair the damage. If Kane figures out our weakness then we could all be dead in a matter of hours.”

“The Leader has led us to a point where we are on the threshold of finding the Lost Empire and going home again. All that stands in out way are these nine Barons and their army of black clad Mags as they call them. We are close Ringo and I for one what to be there when the Rulers reclaim the Lost Empire and take their rightful place as rulers.”

“But what if Kane shows up here?” Ringo countered.

“Then we kill him just as the Leader had ordered.”

“I still think the Leader is going to get us all killed by letting Kane and his companions roam free and unchallenged.”

“The Barons are the biggest threat right now.”

“That’s where I think the Leader is wrong. We’ve faced these Mags that work for the Barons. They are the protectors of the Villes and we’ve beaten them both times we’ve faced them. They are not the threat Kane is.”

“Your wrong Ringo.” A voice replied from the darkened doorway of the FBI building. “Gabe has the right vision of what is to come. But I understand you concern. Kane has proven to be a worthier opponent and I underestimated his abilities. That is a mistake I will not make again. Even though I understand your concerns, your words could be considered treasonous and I could have you deactivated and used from spare parts. If the Lab over in Copley Square had provided more in the way of support then you would already be deactivated.”

“What of Kane?” Gabe asked

“Kane is here in the city. I was alerted to his arrival through the gateway in Prudential Center roughly ten minuets ago. I will be sending a strike team to intercept them. I had come to tell you to be on guard and when I approached I heard your conversation with Ringo here and waited and listened.” With that the Leader turned and slipped back inside the building without a backward glance.

Copley Square: Thirty Minuets later.

Kane and Brigid strode across the lobby of the John Hancock tower, glass crunching under the heels of their boots. They had found nothing but ruined and shattered equipment with in the Labs of they had come to find. As they reappeared out in the sunlight they spotted Grant and Domi across the square by the remains of a public fountain. They had gone to investigate the interior of Trinity Church. Brigid had told them all that Trinity had been one of the oldest churches in the city of Boston and mass has still been spoken there up until Skydark. The stone church had come through Skydark in one piece more or less. The stones where dull and chipped, the stairs leading into the church were crumbling and in need of replacing. A large stone sign that proclaimed the church’s name was cracked and tilting to one side, but it remained readable.

“You find anything in the church?” Kane asked Grant as they approached.

“We didn’t see anyone. But the place still looks like it’s in use. The floors have been swept in the last day or so. Not to mention there where about a dozen candles burning on makeshift alter near the front. But that was it. “

“Enough about church.” Domi announced “What find in Lab?”

“Nothing but garbage. Busted and broken equipment, but there are signs that someone has been up there recently. There are about half dozen sets of footprints.”

“What now?” Domi demanded

“We head over to Federal Plaza and pay the Rulers a visit. We end this once and for all.”

With that Kane turned and began leading them down Boyloston towards the Common and Somerset Street beyond. They made the trek without incident, the only moment of interest coming about five minuets after the quartet left Copley Square. Kane cautiously moved around several burned out car frames that sat in the middle of the street, when he looked up and stopped dead in his tracks. A giant pile of rubble stood in center of what was once the sidewalk that ran the length and berth of Boyolston Street, but it wasn’t the rubble that caused Kane to stop and stare, it was what sat upon the top of the pile. It was a large bronze statue of some kind of animal. An animal that Kane had only seen in pictures, it was a bear. But he could not figure out why anyone would make a bronze version of one. The bear stood roughly six feet high. Most of its height was located in the two blocks with the F and O carved into them, which the statue sat upon. The bear had a third block tucked under its left arm with the letter A on it. How or why it had been lugged to the top of the rubble pile was beyond him. Personally he would never understand some people’s sense of humor.

They crossed the Common with relative ease, mostly do to the grass and trees being long gone and the rolling hills having been flattened by the big Blast two hundred years earlier. They passed a dried up pond of some kind with a sign near by that proclaimed it the Boston Public Gardens. Roughly thirty feet from the sign laying on its side was a rusting World War Two PT boat with the words Boston Duck Tours printed on the side in white letters. Kane didn’t give them a second look, as he viewed them as relics of a lost age when humanity had made the most fatal of mistakes and extinction was the price they nearly paid for there stupidity. Not that Kane viewed times as having changed all that much, humanity was still tinkering with things it did not understand, and power was the ultimate goal. It was just the means to gaining that power that had changed.

Somerset Street looked much the same as all the other streets the Quartet had seen since entering Bean Town with its rubble piles, rusted wreaks, and heaps of rubbish laying along what remained of the cities curbs. They had traversed a little less than half way down the street when the hairs on Kane’s neck stood on end and he came to sudden stop as his SIN Eater slipped into his palm. He had barely taken a single breath when two Rulers crested a pile of rubble directly in front of him. He heard Grant let loose a string of curses from behind him, and a quick glance over his shoulder showed four more Rulers lined up behind them in the open. The sound of Domi’s Desert Eagle being cocked made him glance to his right, where he found two Rulers waiting. Brigid was gripping a primed Implode Gren in her hand, a rusted out truck frame sitting ten feet to her right. He gave Kane a questioning look, he nodded, knowing now was as good a time as any, to test her theory about the EMP’s and the implode grens.

“Grant! Fire in the Hole!” Kane shouted over his shoulder as he dove behind a large slab of concrete that was stand along the curb near by. Kane had no time to see if Grant had heard his warning as the heat explosion sounded and the heat wave rolled over him lifting him several inches off the ground. When Kane rolled from behind the Concrete slab the dust and smoke surrounding the explosion area was just beginning to clear, the two rulers that had been Brigids targets came strolling out of that cloud. Her theory was wrong, suddenly Kane remembered a fleeting moment of doubt that he’d experienced back in the redoubt. He had been alone in the armory preparing to leave when he had suddenly remembered a his first day as a Mag in the Pits. He had come across a slagger from Seattle who had claimed to know everything there was about comps and how they worked.  With nothing else to do he had listened to the old man weave a story about his Great Grandfather who had ridden with the legendary Trader and his War Wags. His Grandfather had learned all he knew from this man about comps. How to build them and how to destroy them, which included using heat to short out and melt comp components. He claimed that Napalm worked best in accomplishing this feat, do the low flash point and great amount of heat that the blast generated. All of this came back to Kane as he stood in the middle of the Armory strapping on his SIN Eater. In an impulsive act he had scooped half a dozen napalm canisters into his bag before exiting the Armory, just in case.

Now as he stood face in the two rulers who had come threw an implode blast unscratched he hoped that the old mans ramblings were correct. Because his life and the lives of his companions where hanging in the balance. He plucked one of the napalm canisters from his bag and let out a long shrill whistle as Grants SIN Eater opened up somewhere behind Kane. Brigid looked up and nodded as did Domi, then in one deft motion Kane pulled the canisters pin and lobed the Canister to straight at the pair of Rulers directly in front of him. Then he was once again rolling behind the concrete slab, as the canister exploded covering the two rulers with the burning jelly like substance. Kane was turning towards the pair of Ruler moving down Somerset Street, a second canister in his hand, even before the first pair had stopped moving. He hurled the canister through the air, causing the two Rulers to stop their advance down the street, as the canister landed with a metallic clink at their feet and exploded, spraying napalm in all directions. Including into the faces of the two rulers, causing them to clutch at their eyes. Kane watched in morbid fascination as the skin of the Rulers faces began to bubble and then melt, dropping to the street in large wet globs.  Four Down, four to go. Kane was up and sprinting towards Grants position before the smoke had begun to clear. The stuttering reports of his SIN Eater on full auto told Kane his friend was still up and fighting. Kane gripped a third canister in his left hand, his SIN Eater in his right, as he ran. The pin on the canister spun off and pinged off the pavement, as Kane pressed the spoon down to prevent the canister from exploding in his hand. He vaulted the burned out shell of a Volvo station wagon and spotted Grant immediately, his Copperhead blazing away at the four Rulers to no effect.

“Grant!” Kane shouted, as he held the canister up for Grant to see. His friend smiled and nodded. Kane pitched the canister just like a major league baseball player would have before Skydark. The pitch was right on target, slamming into the chest of one of the rulers at the center of the quartet, and exploding. Napalm jelly sprayed out, in all directions, covering the four Rulers, their hand blasters falling to the ground, amid the smoke and flames. Kane ignored the death throes of the four Rulers, as he helped Grant to his feet. They almost didn’t hear the sound of approaching feet, but Kane caught it and grabbed Grant by the arm as they began sprinting back towards Domi and Brigid. If the approaching sounds were Rulers then they had to find a place to hide, having used three canisters, he had three left, after they where gone that was it. But Kane wasn’t about to go down without a fight. Brigid and Domi came into sight crouched down by the rusted pickup frame, where Kane had left them. He barely took noticed of the two of them as a small boy no more than twelve years old stepped out from between two piles of rubble. Kane continued to stare, his SIN Eater pointed rock steady at the boys head, as was Grant’s.

“You coming or what?” The boy demanded “If not then I’m leaving, because I don’t want to be here when the Rulers show up and discover you smoked eight of there comrades. I know somewhere safe.” With that the boy slipped back between the two piles, and disappeared from sight. Leaving Kane to decide their fate. He nodded, to his friends, because they had not other choice. Kane took point with Brigid behind him, and Domi and Grant covering their backs. Wherever the boy was leading them it was bound to be better than where they were now, at least Kane hoped that was the case.

The boy led them down a birghtly lit alley that ran between two abandoned office buildings that flanked Somerset Street. Several rusted out dumpsters dotted the alley along with sporadic mounds of rotting garbage and what smelled like human waste. The boy took them to an open door to leading into one of the office buildings, its dark interior causing Kane to hesitate, before entering. He pulled a compact pen light from inside his black Kevlar trench coat switching it on as he walked, Grant too pulled a light out and switched it on. 

“Where the hell are we going?” Kane asked the boy. His voice echoing off the concrete walls.

“Somewhere safe.” Came the boys muffled reply from somewhere up ahead.

A light tap on his shoulder caused Kane to turn, Domi stood right behind him having moved past Brigid to talk to Kane. “I know I spotted them as we came in. You able to get a count?”

“Twenty or Thirty, kind scuffed hard be sure.” She replied

Kane nodded having figured the same numbers himself. Having Domi verify them only made him feel better about his assessment. The Boy had led them down a long corridor that ran down the middle of the building’s first floor parallel to Somerset Street. At the end of the corridor was a doorway leading to set of stairs that descended down into the building’s lower levels. Kane came to a stop as he surveyed the area, and took stock. The boy turn and faced Kane from just inside the doorway to the stairwell. Kane began walking towards the boy. Kane could feel that something wasn't quite right the moment the stairway came into view. Kane came to with in ten feet of the door, stopped and motioned for the boy to approach. His hand's lunged out and took hold of the boy's shirt, and lifted him bodily off the ground. Grant's Sin Eater covered there back and Kane knew without a doubt that nothing was going to come out of the stairway without getting plugged with a .50 caliber round from Domi.

"I want some answers, before we go any farther on this guided tour." Kane growled " First of all why are you helping us? What's in this for you? "

"I heard the leader talking about a man named Kane. The Ruler sounded afraid of this man. Said that Kane was coming to destroy all he had worked to build. Two Rulers on Guard duty in front of their HQ sounded respectful and frightened of this Kane. When the leader said this Kane was coming I waited around. When the four of you showed up I figured one of you was the Kane he was talking about. "

"Why where you looking for Kane?" Brigid asked from Kane's elbow.

"My people need help. The leader has captured dozens of us and used those he captures to make more Rulers. The people he converts lose their identities and they are brainwashed into thinking they are above everyone and that some how makes them better than the human race.  My brother was one of those captured, and last time I saw him he didn't even recognize me. His own brother!"

"Where do we fit into this?"

"I watched you destroy eight rulers in less than two minuets. My people are scavengers not warriors like you. We've seen the Rulers fight Mag Battalions and win, they seemed unstoppable before you came. The leader has never feared anyone in the months he's been here. The Rulers they respect no one since they arrived here in Bean Town. This Kane he spoke of has been the only exception. He and the Ruler Generals fear this man and his companions."

"And you think were the one's the leader fears?"

"Yes. And I think you are the miracle my people have been praying for." The boy replied "This town was dangerous before the leader came but those that lived here where able to survive and defend themselves against their enemies. Now the groups that live in the city are slowly being killed or captured. Another few weeks at the rate things are going and there will be no one left in the city to oppose the Leader and his Rulers. You are the only one's who have gone up against the Rulers in combat and won. "

"We came here to destroy the Rulers and the Leader. We had not heard anything about these Generals. Who are they?" Kane asked as he lowered the boy back down to the floor.

"I'll let Ferret our leader tell you about them. He knows more about them than anyone else."

Kane nodded. "I'll introduce all of us when we get to this Ferret. That way I won't have to repeat myself ten times. You're a sharp kid I'll give you that. What's your name?"

"Lex." The boy answered

"How old are you Lex?"

"I'm eleven." Lex answered. "I've lived in Boston for all my life. My Mother died just after I was born when she was attacked by a Mutie rat over in Government Center, while she was searching for food. My Father took care of my brother and I until he was killed in a Ruler attack three months ago. Then my brother was captured three weeks ago during another attack. I hate the Leader and his Ruler thugs, but I'm smart enough to know that I have no chance of destroying them by myself. So I when I heard the way the Leader talked about you I knew that finding you was my only chance or avenging my Father and Brother." 

"Ok I understand. I'm Kane. Take us to Ferret and we'll see what we can do."

Lex nodded and led the way down the stairway into the darkness. Kane holstered his SIN Eater as he walked along behind the boy. He whispered out of the corner of his mouth so the others could hear him but not the boy. "Keep your blasters drawn. I holstered mine so we don't appear hostile from the get go and end up dead for our trouble. I don't completely trust the kid, but don't start blasting unless I do first or they take me down first." His three companions whispered affirmatives from behind him. As he turned back towards front the end of the stairway came into sight. He followed the young boy through a low doorway and was greeted with the sound of blasters being cocked.