01.11 – Payback

The Pa’Ran on watch called out and soon all six of the soldiers and one of the overseers had run over to see what was going on.

Able to understand them through the Pa’Ran, Cian had it say simply “Attacked. Two big rinjorn. Ugh, hit head. Others dead.” The overseer asked why they hadn’t used their communicator. Cian emphasized the head injury and acted confused. The overseer seemed a little skeptical, but the others simply tended to their fallen and helped both of them into the ship. Inside, they were led to a room with six sleeping soldiers and dozens of empty bunks. The overseers were all resting in individual rooms off to the side. One of them came in and grumpily agreed to help heal the paralyzed one. The two overseers channeled the same silvery thread of energy that Cian had used into the wound, and after a few minutes the wound had closed.

Both of them stopped after that, insisting they would both be fine the next day and that they needed to conserve power for the ship. The grumpy one went back to bed, while the other woke two of the sleeping soldiers and went back outside. From the stealthed tent, Cian could see that four soldiers were moving to stand guard while the two woken soldiers plus two others and the overseer were heading out to follow the trail toward the scene of the battle.

Cian whispered to Vanna and relayed what had been going on.

“Stupid. We should have realized they had some kind of long range communication. We got lucky. What now? If they see the bodies with laser wounds this farce is over.” Vanna asked.

“Well, at the speed they’re going it will be a good fifteen minutes before they get there. Then at least five to come back at a dead run. That gives us fifteen minutes before the rest know something is up, and twenty minutes before they get reinforcements. I say we hit them from the inside like we planned. Go looking for the most important targets first – if they catch us wandering we can just go back to the barracks room.” Cian said.

Vanna agreed, so Cian had the Pa’Ran get up and slip his spear’s head into the opening in their armor where they stored rations. Moving as quietly as possible, Cian’s puppet searched the rest of the ship. Avoiding any rooms with noises to check later, he found and killed five of the overseers they had seen outside the ship. A quick chop with the powered spear head beheaded the sleeping Pa’Ran, armor and all, with barely a noise. One of the rooms had multiple voices coming from it, another had a voice seemingly talking to itself, and another had the same grumbling one who had healed the paralyzed one – still grumbling to itself about being woken up. Heading into the room with the single voice seemingly talking to itself, he found a Pa’Ran babbling and rolling in its bed. After thinking it saw him, he realized it was sleeping with its eyes open and talking. Another head found its way to the floor.

It had been at least ten minutes, so Cian hurried up and went into the grumbling one’s room. It was still awake and spotted him as soon as the door opened, so he simply whined about his head hurting and asked for healing. The Pa’Ran overseer berated him and told him to get out of his room while walking past to open the door. Cian took his chance and had his puppet quickly sink the blade into the side of its neck and yank it across the back. The Pa’Ran dropped – it seemed the back of their armor was thinner than the front, and despite only making it half way through the armor he had completely severed the creatures’ neck. Pausing a moment to close up the door, Cian’s Pa’Ran headed back towards the barracks to finish off the five there.

Vanna tapped Cian on the shoulder, bringing his focus back to his own perception. “It’s been thirteen minutes. How’s it goin’?” asked Vanna.

Cian relayed what had happened as he guided the Pa’Ran back to the barracks.

Vanna smiled widely at the news, “We just might make it. Get those soldiers and see who is in the other room.”

Cian started with the closest one, then moved on to the next – quickly killing the five soldiers in the bunks one by one, severing their necks through the back of the armor. His gruesome work done, he headed toward the final room.

When Cian’s Pa’Ran entered the final room, his heart thudded in his chest. It was a large room set up as a macabre galley. Bodies of animals and people alike were on hooks in an adjacent room, with rows and rows of racks of drying meat in the main room. Two Pa’Ran were in the room, one with a large, wicked looking chitin carving knife preparing strips of some kind of meat; the other sitting at a bloody table with its helmet wide open, eating the meat raw. The one at the table was larger than the rest of the Pa’Ran and had some kind of gleaming, metallic device on its head. It yelled at him as he looked around, “Get back to your place, worm, or I will hollow out what’s left of your mind.”

Cian’s Pa’Ran eased into the room, mumbling apologies and pretending to want a taste of the meat.

The ‘chef’ stepped back beside Cian’s Pa’Ran and the larger one stood up, irate.

Suddenly, the voice of the overseer from earlier came over the comm channel that Cian’s puppet was apparently tuned into, “Missing group killed by laser fire. I repeat, killed by laser fire. Question survivors immediately.”

Knowing the jig was up, Cian quickly drew the knife and buried it in the neck of the Pa’Ran with the carving knife. As he withdrew it and turned to face the big one, a large hand grabbed his neck and squeezed.

Compound eyes bored into his, and suddenly Cian knew… this thing was a Boundless, and it saw him. Not the Pa’Ran, or even the physical body he was in, but the intangible person that was him. In a rage, it pushed into the soldier’s mind, and for a moment Cian felt it worming its way through the connection to his human body.

Cian quickly put up his walls and pushed back with all he had, ending the connection. The residual emotions and sheer hatred from the alien mind left Cian gagging and vomiting. He pulled up his combat log and glanced over it as he recovered for a moment.

Defeated 6 Pa’Ran Overseers. ¼ experience from helpless targets. Gain 3000 experience.

Defeated 1 Pa’Ran Overseer. Gain 2000 experience.

Defeated 5 Pa’Ran Soldiers. ¼ experience from helpless targets. Gain 625 experience.

Defeated Pa’Ran Butcher. Gain 1000 experience.

Level up! + 1 Will.

Pa’Ran Boundless ripped control of Pa’Ran Soldier from you. Lose 25 Willpower.

Mental attack from Pa’Ran Boundless through link. Blocked 84. Lose 28 + 4 Willpower.

Mental attack from Pa’Ran Boundless through link. Blocked 84. Lose 28 + 4 Willpower.

Mental attack on Pa’Ran Boundless through link. Hit for 21 Willpower. Cost 4 Willpower.

Pa’Ran Boundless attempts mind control through link. Link broken for 100 Willpower.

Psionics skill increased by 0.5% to 21.7%.

Psi Defense skill increased by 5.6% to 21.1%.

“What happened?! Are you okay?” whispered Vanna loudly, concern evident on her face.

Cian retched for a few more seconds before answering, “I … th… there is a strong one in there. It… it saw me for what I was. Took back control of the soldier. I killed all the rest, I think there are only those two and the four outside left.”

“Oh hell. If it did that to you, we might be in trouble.” replied Vanna, handing Cian a canteen.

Cian checked his Willpower – thanks to his high Will, he had regenerated some of what he used to control the Pa’Ran back. But that short battle had left him with a mere 42, even with the bonus 10 from leveling Will. Another mental battle with that thing would leave him as a vegetable.

Cian drank the rest of the water, still shaking from the encounter. “I can do this.” he said to himself. He steeled his nerves and detached the tent’s stealth field generator, stepping out into the dark night and announcing “I have an idea. Follow me and try to cover our tracks.”

Vanna looked shaken, but did as she was asked.

They walked silently along the same path the Pa’Ran had left on for two or three tense minutes before Cian dropped down and buried the stealth generator right in the middle of the trail.

“What are you doing?” asked Vanna.

“Setting our ambush. Get your spear ready.” replied Cian.

“How do you know they will come along this same path?” asked Vanna.

“Look at the tracks. They followed it exactly out, I’m betting they follow it exactly back too. And at a run. We sit tight and brace our spears right inside the field. Let them impale themselves on them and clean up the rest. Aim for the back of the neck, the armor is weak there.” replied Cian coldly.

Vanna only nodded, looking hesitant but doing as instructed.

They were both shivering from the cold, but they didn’t have to wait long. Half a minute later, five Pa’Ran crested the nearest dune, the overseer in the lead with the four soldiers behind.

Cian whispered a plan, “Let the overseer slip between us if you can, aim to hit the next two right where their neck meets their upper body. Activate the spear right as they hit. Then pull your pistol and swing around for the overseer, try to hit him in the same spot on the back. I’ll take care of the two soldiers.” He sounded much more confident than he felt, preparing to use his Mind over Body skill to augment his abilities.

Vanna just nodded and braced herself.

Seconds later, their luck held – the overseer in the lead ran right between them and over the stealth generator without stopping. The next two ran headlong into braced spears, skewering themselves right through the neck and severing their spines.

Vanna let go of her spear and pulled her gun in one smooth motion, whipping around and shooting the overseer in the back before it even stopped to turn around.

Cian ripped the spear free and plunged it right through the chest of the next Pa’Ran soldier.

The last soldier, hardened by experience, immediately went on the attack.

Cian grabbed a dropped spear and faced the soldier down, trading blows but coming out alive.

The overseer managed to hit Vanna with a fear inducing attack, and Vanna, panicking, simply kept shooting the overseer until it stopped twitching.

It was only after they had stopped focusing on combat that Cian was notified of the full tally of the fight.

Surpass Limits activated. +21 Agility, +21 Strength, +21 Endurance. Cost 40 Willpower.

Attacked Pa’Ran Soldier with braced spear. Critical hit x5! 945 damage.

Pa’Ran Soldier killed.

New skill learned! Polearm fighting.

Attacked Pa’Ran Soldier with spear. Critical hit x3! 567 damage.

Pa’Ran Soldier killed.

Spear attack from Pa’Ran Soldier. Dodged!

Attacked Pa’Ran Soldier with spear. Missed!

Spear attack from Pa’Ran Soldier. Hit! Take 167 damage.

Attacked Pa’Ran Soldier with spear. Hit! 189 damage.

Spear attack from Pa’Ran Soldier. Dodged!

Attacked Pa’Ran Soldier with spear. Missed!

Spear attack from Pa’Ran Soldier. Glancing Hit! Take 83 damage.

Attacked Pa’Ran Soldier with spear. Hit! 189 damage.

Pa’Ran Soldier killed.

Tracking skill increased by 3% to 5.2%.

Mind over Body skill increased by 0.2% to 27%.

Combat Reflexes skill increased by 7.1% to 8.1%.

Polearm fighting skill increased by 3% to 3%.

Defeated Pa’Ran Overseer. Gain 2000 experience.

Defeated 4 Pa’Ran Soldiers. Gain 2000 experience.

Surpass Limits faded. Attributes returned to normal. Lose 52 health, stamina.

Name: Cian Kemp
Class: Boundless
Strength: 25
Endurance: 25
Presence: 42
Health: 157/250
Willpower: 5/530
Agility: 25
Wit: 42
Will: 53
Stamina: 3/250
Level: 7
Total Experience: 32125/36000
Ongoing Effects: Moderate Bleeding.

Combat Reflexes: 8.1%
Mental Projection (C): 27.4%
Mind over Body (C): 27%
Psi Defense (C): 21.1%
Psionics (C): 21.7%
Basic Energy Equipment: 6.1%
Knife Fighting: 1%
Marksmanship: 3.2%
Small Arms: 5.6%
Polearm Fighting: 3%
Tracking 5.2%

Vanna looked over at the bloodied and panting Cian, grinning sheepishly “Uh, sorry I froze up there. That bug did something to me. Your plan worked, though! You okay?”

As Cian applied two bandages to stop the bleeding in his leg and shoulder, he replied “Yeah. You did great. Can’t believe that worked. We just killed a whole Pa’Ran dropship. Well, almost.”

Vanna let out a nervous laugh, replying “Yeah, we did didn’t we? What now? It’s late, we’re exhausted, your leg and shoulder there don’t seem to be healing, and it’s gettin’ cold.”

Cian’s head was throbbing from the mental fatigue and he was absolutely exhausted. “Yeah, I’m tapped out,” he said, “Maybe we can sneak back and retrieve our tent?”

Vanna looked him over, replying “I’ll sneak back and retrieve our tent. You look like hell. Dig up the stealth generator and plant it behind the dune over there and wait for me.” She pointed at a nearby peak of sand.

Cian just said ‘Yep’ and started digging.

Twenty minutes later, Cian was laying on the warm sand, shivering from the cold wind. He was starting to get worried when he heard something.

Peeking over the dune, he saw five Pa’Ran – the big one and four soldiers – looking at the dead. Cian quietly inched back to his stealth field, hoping his attempt at covering tracks and twenty minutes of wind would prevent them from finding him.

He heard them chittering angrily, but without the psychic link to one of them he couldn’t understand them. Again his luck held, and they left back toward their ship. Trusting and hoping that Vanna hadn’t already been killed and knew what she was doing, Cian waited.

Fifteen minutes later Cian heard a quiet shuffling and looked up to see a dark figure easing over the dune. It was Vanna! Cian waved his hand out of the stealth field, getting her attention.

She had brought back their blankets. “They were poking around the tent when I got back. I had to wait until they gathered up and headed down the trail. I only saw five, not sure where the soldier you had controlled is. I just slipped in, grabbed the blankets, and came back. Figured they would notice a missing tent.” Vanna explained.

“Good job Vanna! I was getting worried. At least we won’t freeze now. Think it’s safe to sleep without the tent?” Cian replied.

Vanna looked exhausted, saying “It will have to be. The stealth field still works.”

The two of them huddled together, wrapping up tightly with both blankets. Without the tent to deflect the wind, the night was bitterly cold.

Cian woke early the next morning with Vanna tightly wrapped around his chest. Extricating himself and wrapping her back in the blankets, he went off over the dune to relieve himself.

He had regained 300 Willpower, so it must have been nearly six hours. His wounds ached, they hadn’t gotten any better in the night, and it took three uses of his Mend ability to heal them. When he got back Vanna had woken up, and he looked away as she emptied her bladder less than a dozen feet from their spot – still wrapped in their blankets.

Noticing his look when she returned, she quickly said “What? It’s cold!” Vanna passed him a blanket as the two of them wrapped up to eat some travel ration breakfast. Their bellies no longer growling, they lay down and went back to sleep.

When he next woke, the sun was high in the sky and Vanna was sitting off to the side cleaning sand out of her pistol. The blankets were folded up nearby. Cian’s Willpower was almost fully restored, so it must have been nearly six more hours.

Noticing he was awake, Vanna said with a smirk “Afternoon, sunshine. Sleep well?”

“I did, actually.” Cian replied.

Vanna finished putting the pistol back together and said “Figured you needed it. Our canteens collected a few more sips of water through the night, but we gotta get to that oasis today. Up for finishing off the bugs?”

Cian nodded. He drank his water and stuffed the blankets and stealth field generator in his backpack, then they both headed back toward the Pa’Ran ship.

When they got near they quietly skirted up the edge of the dune and peeked over. Immediately, one of the Pa’Ran soldiers shrieked. They had been spotted! The four soldiers were on high alert and had spotted them immediately, with the large Pa’Ran boundless stopping repairs on the ship and heading toward them. The five of them were quickly forming up and heading their way, weapons raised.

Cian and Vanna quickly backed down from the top of the dune and ran towards the next one.

“Well hell, you got any more miraculous plans in that head of yours? Five to one aint good odds without something in our favor.” said Vanna.

Cian thought quickly, pointing at a high spot off to the side and replying “Take this stealth generator over there. Bury it, power it, and lay down quiet. Have your pistol out but keep your spear next to you ready. I’ll keep running and stop over that way to rest. If they come straight for me they’ll go down in the low spot. When they’re between us, aim and fire at their backs from inside the field. Same as before, the armor is weak just below the back of the neck. Try to hit the big one first if you can.”

Vanna barely had her field activated when the Pa’Ran cleared the dune.

Cian had crested the next dune and stopped to regain his stamina, acting like he was talking to Vanna behind him.

The Pa’Ran took the bait, rushing across the field toward him. They didn’t quite take the lowest circuit, but it was close enough.

As they reached the bottom of the dip, Vanna started firing. Her first shot took the big one in the back and it dropped. The other nine shots took down two of the soldiers.

Cian rushed the other two, and they didn’t seem to notice where the shots were coming from.

Seeing his charge, they kept heading toward him.

Boosting his attributes with Surpass Limits, Cian managed to parry the first soldier’s spear and slice off one of its arms.

It adjusted its grip on the spear and fought on.

Vanna’s pistol had cycled and another ten shots came as supporting fire.

Cian took a glancing hit from the Pa’Ran’s spear in his arm, but managed to finish off the three armed Pa’Ran quickly. No more supporting fire came from Vanna, but Cian was too busy facing off with the soldier to notice.

Tense seconds later, he emerged victorious with two additional glancing wounds in his side and leg. Looking back toward Vanna, Cian’s stomach dropped.

The large Pa’Ran was holding her by the neck and channeling a line of silver into her head. She was choking, flailing around and clawing fruitlessly at its hand on her throat.

Cian grabbed a second spear and ran as fast as he could across the field. As soon as he was in range, Cian activated and threw one of the spears, not stopping his charge.

His aim was true, but a split second before it impacted, the Pa’Ran simply waved one of its hands. The spear diverted course, splashing uselessly into the sand.

Closing rapidly, Cian unleashed a neural spike on the Pa’Ran boundless.

It seemed annoyed at his interruption, and pulled out the same serrated, chitin carving knife he had seen in the ship. Seconds before he reached them, the Pa’Ran swiped the knife deeply across Vanna’s chest and tossed her lifelessly to the side.

Shouting in rage and anguish, Cian reached the large Pa’Ran – his spear readied and vengeance on his mind. His spear struck at the creature’s head, but an energy barrier sprung into place and deflected the blow. Another swift strike had the barrier flickering, but the Pa’Ran’s cold eyes didn’t seem worried.

It flicked the knife at him, and it flew inerrantly into his chest like a homing missile.

Choking up blood, Cian swung again – shattering the force shield and scratching at its armor. It made a motion, and Cian’s spear flew from his hand into the sand.

Another motion and Cian was pressed into the sand, feeling like a hundred pound weight was crushing him.

Cian strained, enhancing his attributes again and breaking free from the hold. Drawing his knife, he lunged at the Pa’Ran and stabbed it in the chest.

It reeled away in shock, exposing its side.

Cian pressed his advantage, striking the creature twice more and severing one of its arms.

Shrieking, the Pa’Ran flung Cian back with another mental shove and again disarmed him, his knife flying and burying itself into the sand. It reached, and the knife in Cian’s chest came out with a wet slurp and raced back to its hand.

Cian choked, using mend to keep himself from bleeding out. He grabbed at the nearby spear, but as his hand touched it, it skidded several feet away. Attempting to rise to his feet, Cian felt another force pushing him down.

The Pa’Ran closed on him, sending its knife flying toward his chest again.

Panicked and acting on instinct, Cian focused his Willpower on deflecting the blade. It narrowly missed him, flying past and burying in the sand.

The Pa’Ran looked shocked, and Cian leapt onto it, knocking it to the ground.

Cian pummeled it in the head with his fists repeatedly and unleashed neural spikes into its mind.

Regaining its composure, it grabbed his two arms and put its third, strongest hand around Cian’s neck and squeezed.

Cian neural spiked it again as it locked eyes with him.

It hit him with a dizzying mental attack of its own, and Cian felt it worming its way into his mind.

With his enhanced strength, he broke free of its arms and grabbed its head with both hands – jerking and twisting with all his might.

With a crack, the mental attack stopped and its hand released his throat. Cian felt at the jagged tear in his throat where it had grabbed him, using mend again to fix his crushed windpipe and gasping for breath. Cian’s thoughts felt sluggish, as if his head was full of mud.

Silver fog floated out of the Pa’Ran boundless, gathering above it.

Cian rolled and grabbed the nearby spear, flicking its power on and swiping it back and forth through the cloud of silver.

It seemed to try to dodge, but he was faster. After a few seconds their light dimmed and the cloud of silver dust faded, blowing away with the wind.

Dropping the spear, Cian rushed over to Vanna’s bloodied form. She had a ragged tear across her chest and neck, and her lips were blue.

Aghast, Cian reached for her and found she wasn’t breathing. In a panic and not knowing if it would work, he channeled his Will into her and tried to heal her. He felt a strong resistance, but pushed past it as hard as he could – dumping everything he had into Vanna.

His vision swam and everything went black.

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