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       Ketairne, p.1

           Kell Inkston
 
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Ketairne
Ketairne

  Kell Inkston

 

 

  Copyright Kell Inkston

  Damn, now that was a hot day.

  I’m not a fan of heat and I’m not a fan of shooting critters, but I needed the cash, and I really needed some time away from the wife- she’s was picking a few more fights than the usual; I think she just doesn’t like my line of work. I remember our second date; she wasn’t happy. “Animal control” I said was my profession, but she guessed by my scars that I wasn’t just throwing pets in cages.

  Anyway, it was hot as the sun that day, and the story really just started out with me meeting up with the O.E.L. boys by Katerne’s space gate. These O.E.L. guys are a weird bunch; they never show their face, and apparently their tech’s good enough to make artificial humans that know pretty much anything. So I stepped up to these two guys, one about my size, and the other one was really tall.

  “Hey; you the O.E.L. expedition?” I asked. The two of them turned to me, and the shorter one spoke up.

  “Yeah, that’s us,” the shorter one said with a nod, “it’s a pleasure to meet you, I’m Metland six two one five nine. I’m the leader of the expedition. I hope we can get along,” he said.

  Thing about the O.E.L. is all of them are only given a few names to be called- this boy is the sixty two thousand one hundred and fifty ninth person named Metland. Apparently they only have nine approved names for their kids. I don’t know why, but there you have it.

  “Yeah, nice to meet ya’. My name’s Varv,” I said. Then the taller one spoke to me.

  “It is a pleasure, Varv. I am the Omniverse Expeditionary Librarium’s automated combatant emulator recon type, of the four thousand eight hundred and eighty second number. I hope we get along well,” the taller one said. This one was one of their robots; they’re a smart bunch. I heard one beat the inter-dimensional chess champion in less than twenty moves; ten times in a row until he gave up.

  “Great, so are we going or what?” I asked.

  “As soon as the other mercenary comes; a subspacer, actually,” Metland said. I laughed and shook my head. People from subspace, that area between actual dimensions, are a crazy-ass bunch; I could only imagine the person’s name.

  “Yeah? What’s his name?”

  “Her name is Keteva Inilen, but her mercenary title is Ultra-shooter Magnum Invincible,” Metland said. I laughed again. It’s such a stupid name, but I guess it’s their style; they’re pretty big on sounding tough.

  “Cool, alright,” I said back, then we waited awhile.

  After maybe twenty minutes the space gate flashed up and out she came. She was even spookier than the O.E.L. boy and his neato action figure. She was head to toe in armor, and even then she was cloaked up like a criminal. I’ve heard all sorts of stories of insane subspacer barbarians killing ten, twenty people at a time in their rampages; I just hoped I’d be back to tell the tale. She stepped on down from the gate; it was pretty obvious by the large bow around her back that she was an archer.

  “Ey, you boys the expedition for the Valekrog?” she said. Her voice was pretty, but I was too spooked to notice at the time.

  “That’s us,” I said.

  “That is correct. I presume you are Ketev--” Metland was saying before he was cut off by the girl.

  “Ultra-shooter Magnum Invincible? Yeah, thanks,” she said. I had to admit, I hadn’t met many subspacers, but they’re a ballsy bunch- especially if they’d pick fights with the O.E.L. over names.

  “Oh, yeah. Whatever you’d like,” Metland said before he got to the brief. “The four of us will be hunting down an as-of-now uncaptured target on behalf of the O.E.L.’s science committee: the Valekrog. We will head east; one of our scanners picked up a heat signature that would match it. We’re going to bring it back alive if we can but, as the creature is highly dangerous, we may have no choice but to kill it. Shall we begin the description?” Metlend asked. I nodded, and the girl said “yeah.”

  “Very good,” the tall robot started, “The Valekrog appears to have a magical capacity that the O.E.L. has not yet encountered in its traversal of the dimensions. The Valekrog can copy and emulate the abilities and talents of those it encounters, evolving with every opponent it defeats. This one we’ve found seems to already know how to use weapons of our grade, along with stealth-techniques, both gained from singular operatives that we had sent in advance. Its skeletal structure is very flexible, and can fit through most crevices to hide or wait. Furthermore, it seems to know the common language. We underestimated the beast, and as a result the O.E.L. has called upon one of its finest operatives, this Metland here to my left, its latest of A.C.E. models, myself, and two of the best-qualified mercenaries for hire, which would be the two of you, to tackle the operation. The four of us will have to be vigilant. Be advised to be aware of the indigenous wildlife of the area, not just the Valekrog. The O.E.L. has not completed the study of the flora and fauna of this dimension, but  from the footage we recovered from the failed operative’s laydecks, it appears there are threats both animal and vegetable, both on-ground and aquatic, aside from our target. As my partner Metland had mentioned, we will be heading East, in which I will track the beast’s heat-signature, leaving Metland to fire a tracking round into it; from there we will tire it out from barrages, and then weaken it enough to administer the tranquilizer. Its body is covered with a shell of thick armored plates, so we will have to administer the tranquilizer orally,” the robot said.

  And so then I was all like “wait, so you want us to shove a bunch of juice in some giant bastard’s mouth, while it’s still alive?” I sure as hell didn’t like the thought of it, but then the robot confirmed it, and so then we were off.

  Looking back on it, I should have known I was walking into what would have been my death; as I said, I like having money to eat, and I love buying gifts for Yane.

  So our space gate was on this barren plateau, see, but all around us was this dense-ass jungle; like the thickest forest you could hardly even imagine. Up at the outpost it was all windy, but the only thing I could hear when we went down the ladder was just bugs and birds and all sorts of wild stuff; you know, lots of sounds you’d only dream about.

  I’d have to admit, these O.E.L. guys have a pretty shitty job running around all the places no one wants to be, but they’re pretty cool about it all things considered; I bet that Metland guy did this sort of thing every day.

  Right, so we finally got to the bottom of the ladder, and I kid you not, I was knee deep in this weird jungle water. I almost thought it was trying pull me deeper down in the first few seconds. Metland explained it was “an algae that encroaches across heat sources,” so I guess it wasn’t really dangerous, just annoying. But it only got worse after that. Everyone was whisper quiet as we went through the jungle, we even spotted a few of those aquatic predators the robot mentioned. We didn’t even shoot them, we just passed by because they were far away enough.

  Okay, so now here’s where it gets real; thanks for letting me build it up a bit; sort of necessary for the story to be good and all.

  Alright, so we kept wading through this water and playing it safe, but then we got to this other plateau; it was much shorter though, we could see the top of it. What looked like a person was standing up at the top. I didn’t see it for long- it just spotted us and ran off opposite us. Metland jumped up right then and pointed.

  “That’s it! Go!” he said.

  So we chased the beast for about two-so minutes, we had to shoot through a few groups of animals, because they were giving us trouble, and then we stopped and Metland gave the order to split up. I thought the order was stupid, and the subspacer seemed to feel the same, but we were the ones getting paid by them; we had to do what they said. Metland figured since he
and his robot had all that tracking gadgetry with them, they might as well each go with one of us mercs. So the machine went with me, and Metland went with the subspacer.

  I don’t know how the sun worked in that dimension, but it went from high noon to sunset mighty fast. The robot and I trailed the beast the best we could with its tech; I couldn’t even see any tracks considering the trail was in the water. We got up out of the swamp and to another plateau, and then the robot saw the beast and pointed it out. It looked to me like it was trying to sneak up on the other two, so I pulled up my trusty rifle with the robot, who had its own, and we took aim.

  The monster was really a scary guy, I tell you. It was standing erect, though it looked like it’d just be a stupid-ass beast. It was colored like rocks, and had what looked like a bunch of tooth-necklaces. I guessed they’d be from all the people its killed. It was looking downrange really carefully, and started to aim a gun it had on it; turns out it was just looking through its scope to watch the other two, but I didn’t know it then.

  Just before I
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