As the door closed behind them, the metallic robot sitting at the control panel clicked and pressed a few other buttons and switches, causing the NightCrawler to be moved in the hangar by a magneto-levitator towards a station off to the side, behind one of the stealth bombers and by a reactor-charging unit that had been hidden from view before. The huge hangar doors closed as well, locking themselves in place with as much pomp and circumstance as before.
~~ * ~~ * ~~
Aayrion, who had now been traveling down the main corridor, heard the commotion behind him, causing him to wheel about with his shotgun poised.
“The hangar door must have closed. Aaaaarrrgghh! It’s okay, Aayrion, it’s okay. We’ll find a way out of here.”
Plans for their escape now developing in his mind, he pressed on through the corridor. He searched down many other hallways, eventually coming to what looked to be a sealed compartment for small arms weapons.
“Kali, I think I’ve found something.”
Keeping the shotgun up, he reached out at the wheel with one of his hands, and began turning it, but it only turned a few inches before coming up against the lock. Slinging his weapon, he got both hands gripping the wheel, and turned it further, feeling the locking mechanism shift with the other moving parts.
Reaching the end of the lock’s range of motion, he caught sight of a lever on the side, and he gripped it, pulling it and releasing the final lock, the door propping itself open slightly upon doing so.
He pulled it the rest of the way, revealing a chamber of combat gear, from armor to weapons.
“Jackpot. I found some weapons I haven’t seen before.”
“That’s good. Do you know what they are?”
“Don’t know yet.”
His eye instantly turned to the longer rifle-looking guns stored in a neat and orderly row on a rack off to the side. He pulled one of them out to examine it, and found it to be magazine-fed, just like his rifles, but upon finding the release for the magazine, he found that the ammunition was nothing more than sharp metal shards arranged in several columns in the magazine itself, which was as long as a conventional powder-burning cartridge. Each of the metal shards were diamond-shaped with rounded flanks, sharp points, and flat tails. They were largely a solid, absorbant black, with spreckles of silvery metal showing in many places.
Finding the ejection lever towards the top of the rifle on the left side, he pulled it back to confirm that there wasn’t any ammunition ready to be shot off, and seeing that it was clear, he inspected the chamber area, finding that it was lined with a heavy-duty magnet, and along with the rifling down the barrel, there were two high-powered magnets spiraling just outside of the barrel.
“I might have to pick up more than just a couple of these.”
“I’m sure we’d appreciate that. The more rifles we have, the more arms we can hand out to people that share our goals.”
He turned to the rack and began piling up the rifles in the carrying pouch on his back, glad that he still had the one big enough to fit a rocket launcher equipped. He ended up being able to fit four in it, and slipped many of the standard capacity magazines, which he calculated, based on the size of the bullets, could easily hold nearly ninety rounds, into the bandolier that was wrapped around his chest.
He kept one of them out with a fully loaded magazine, found what he thought was the safety switch near the trigger, and flipped it, a piercing noise like something charging up really quickly thrumming from the weapon for a split second.
“Ah, so it’s capacitor powered. It’s a rail gun.”
“That sounds pretty high tech. You should test it and see what it does.”
“In due time, Kali. In due time. You finding anything?”
Keeping his new infatuation in his right hand, he searched around and found a shotgun-type rail gun, as well as what he would have called a hand-held rail gun, much like his guns.
“I’m not finding much.”
“You want to come to where I’m at and load up on some other kinds of weapons? There’s a good amount of goodies in here.”
“Sure. You’re probably happier than a dragon with a hoard of gold right now, aren’t you?”
“You. Betcha. I’ll wait until you come here, then I’ll continue searching.”
~~ * ~~ * ~~
They were being watched by the robot floating near the controls, which was curious to their actions and their motives. Upon realizing that they were taking weapons from the armory, the metal sentinel sent a signal to several other pods, opening them in much the same manner as the first.
Finally, upon five other robotic scouts exiting their respective pods, the one up in the control panel sternly barked orders, its simulated voice full-bodied, deep, and distorted with a slight phaser:
“Life-forms have been detected on the Ark. We must find them and apprehend them for harvesting.”
“Moving out,” the other tank forms replied, with some differences in their voice timbres.
~~ * ~~ * ~~
Kali had made her way to where Aayrion was, nearly burning the routes in the maze of alleys in her mind as she crept around the dark, lightless interior of the ark. She had loaded herself up with a couple of the different kinds of armaments that Aayrion had found, and utilized some of the gear found alongside them to carry more of them: Each rifle and shotgun were fitted with slings, enabling her to carry four shotguns and a bandolier of their ammunition. She also fitted herself with a vest that had carrying holsters for a couple hand railguns and extra magazines.
She felt weighed down by the heavy amount of weaponry she now carried, but she was still able to move freely. She wielded two of the handguns in her hands to carry as much as possible.
“Should we take these weapons back to the truck so we can have them stored before we venture further?” Kali asked.
“That doesn’t sound like a bad idea. I’d like to try raiding the galley here, if there is one. I’m not in dire need of food, but more to restock for the future wouldn’t hurt.”
They then backtracked their steps through the doors they had opened in the halls, coming up to the door leading to the hangar. It opened before them, meeting them with a scene far different than they had left before.
Aayrion’s heart skipped a beat. Twice.
The NightCrawler wasn’t where they left it before, and much to Aayrion’s relief, he saw the rear end of the trailer he had fashioned out of metal for the truck, helping him to let out a sigh of relief.
“Things are getting kinda wacky, aren’t they?” He remarked, a nervous shake creeping into his voice.
They then strode around the rear towards the side facing the entrance door, opening the hatch and setting most of the weapons inside, meaning to organize them upon their final return.
As they closed the hatch and went back inside, Aayrion cast a wary glance in the NightCrawler’s direction, keeping note of its position in case it moved again when they next saw it.
He pointed two of his fingers to his eyes and pointed at the truck before entering the corridors again, mouthing the words “I’m watching you”.
“I guess if we don’t find anything else, we can always load up on more of those weapons and gear,” Kali reasoned.
“True. Let’s see what we can find.”
Splitting off again, they reached far deeper inside the ark this time, even reaching as far as what they would call the crew’s quarters.
“Want a bunk in the truck for you?” Aayrion asked.
“No, that’s fine. I like sleeping on the roof.”
“I never knew you slept on the roof! Now I’m going to worry about you every night!”
“You’ve no need to. Besides, no one really knows I’m there anyway. Heck, you didn’t even know!”
“I never noticed. Hang on.”
He stopped himself in front of a sliding door that was rather eloquently optioned with a security pad and heavier duty locks than normal, instantly drawing his attention.
“This looks important. I like taking a look at important things.”
He lifted his hand towards the keypad, and attempted for what may have been several minutes to guess the code that opened them, each time becoming slightly more and more disgruntled, until he stepped back, breathed deeply, hands held outward, and stepped forward with a sweeping motion of his hands, the force of his mental power ripping the doors apart and sending them flying open.
Unsurprisingly, the racket it created echoed through that section of the ark like a sound shouted in a tunnel made of metal.
“What was that?”
“I just exercised my psychopotency on a door that looked rather important.”
“I hope no one’s hiding out in here that heard that. Now if anyone were here, they would know.”
As he stepped into the room, he beheld with wonder the sight that lay before him: A panel of windows stretched from many yards on either side, lined with panels and relay points.
But it wasn’t the windows or the panels that took his breath.
Outside, mounted in the hull, standing what may have been several hundreds of feet wide, was a turret of highly destructive proportions, which rivaled the size of the turret that they had found next to the huge tank they looted armour and glass from not even a day earlier. Flanking either side were smaller turrets that had two long barrels protruding from their housing, a curiously designed channel lining the inside of the barrels.
“This thing isn’t just an ark. It’s a battlestation.”
“What did you find that convinced you of that?”
“I’ve just stumbled on a…I don’t even know what you’d call it, but there’s a group of turrets on one of the sides. The main gun is huge.”
There was a pause.
“Like, bigger than that tank we saw earlier huge.”
“My only question is, where are the crew? Why didn’t they staff this thing before all Hell broke loose?”
“Maybe they just ran out of time. Wait a minute…Did the door you busted down have bigger locks and a keypad?”
“I just found another one. Maybe I can use my shotgun to tear the locks apart--”
The sound of metal sweeping back and clanking and Kali falling down stopped Aayrion in his tracks.
“I’m right here, and I’m still fine. It looks like I found the reason why this ark wasn’t crewed.”
“And what was that?”
“Nearly the entire command center for this side is gone. All that’s left is a gaping hole where some windows should be, and a huge hole where--that was where the main turret was?! That’s HUGE.”
“This ark must have been attacked, and they must have been undergoing repairs when the cataclysm took place.”
“Indeed. I didn’t notice them before, but there is severe damage on the hallway I’d never seen before. The doors must not…”
The last bit of information trailed off from Aayrion’s consciousness, because he felt something behind him.
And it didn’t feel friendly.
Readjusting the grip on his pistols, he wheeled around to face a robotic pile of cylinders hovering before him, his pistols pointed directly at the dome.
It was armed as well, with a longer railgun coming out of the middle module’s right housing, and a prodding arm fitted on its left.
“Drop your weapons, and this conflict can be resolved peacefully,” the metal form stated, its voice distorted in a tenor’s tone.
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?” Aayrion returned, his pistols still drawn and pointed.
“We are those named the Successors, succeeding those who came before us and carrying their torch into the future.”
“Excuse me? ‘We’? There’s more of you?”
“Yes. We are an army.”
Aayrion’s spine tingled.
“Kali, be wary, you might have something coming after--
Her screams came through the headset, followed by a distortion of the signal.
“NO! AAYRION! I’M--Unh”
She’d been stunned.
“What did you do to her?” He inquired furiously, every word spat out of his mouth like he had ingested some distasteful food.
“We have merely collected her for experimentation.”
His eyes widened in anger.
“You. Did. What?”
His pistols lined up the shots. The Successor’s prodding arm began to charge with lightning-like electricity.
“And soon, we shall collect you--
Two, no, four gunblasts later, the self-proclaimed Successor had its scope module destroyed, and the insides of its dome were scrambled and battered. It suddenly dropped out of the air with a grandiose crash, its systems powering down from the loss of power.
Just the way he liked it.
“Not if I had anything to say about it,” Aayrion added. He approached the downed Successor, noting there was a slight film of dust that accumulated on it before being deployed.
He swept his hand across the front of the main hull, and uncovered an unsightly insignia:
A general “V” shaped logo was there with bars that went straight down for a few inches, and then followed the V’s angled sides, splitting off into other bars that went off in forty-five degree angles at the center, and inverted out at the top. The “V”’s shape was the tank’s body colour--A dull bluish grey-- and above it was a staggered triangle, like an ancient pyramid.
“Verloran,” he muttered under his breath.
The Successor sparked back to life without warning, Aayrion jumping back nearly the entire width of the command center to keep out of range.
“sUBject 1s -0-Til3” it stammered, all sort of activity flashing across what was left of the triangular display at the top of the dome.
Aayrion jumped off to the side and rolled, narrowly missing a blast from its rail gun, which ripped a big hole the size of a dining room table in the armor plating on the outer hull.
Before it could get another shot off, he whipped his shotgun out, loaded a slug in the action, and pulled the trigger with the bead directly on the dome.
If this didn’t do it, he didn’t know what would.
The slug just arced off of a blue force field around it, ricocheting into the ceiling instead.
“Magnetic shielding. Of course!”
The Successor’s center module turned independent of either other module to follow the sound of his voice, and opened fire again, Aayrion ducking out of the way again.
A large hole was now blasted into the corridor, bigger than the door that was originally the entrance.
“You didn’t like the handguns or the shotgun, let’s see if you like this!”
He pulled out the assault rifle he had looted out of the armoury, pulling back the charging lever, aiming down the sights, and letting loose.
The gun vibrated hard in his hands, each bullet combusting from the chamber and exploding into a spectacular fireball out of the barrel.
The Successor took repeated hits, albeit the projectiles did deviate from their main trajectory, but only slightly.
Aayrion let off the trigger. The Successor, now riddled with holes, stumbled before him, trying to keep itself airborne, but only lost its magnetic thruster off the left rear, causing it to fall over and lose power again.
Aayrion loaded another slug into the shotgun, and shot straight through the dome’s remaining armour, blasting it off entirely.
“I hope that’s the end of you.”
He walked off, assault rifle now in hand, down the corridor, which led to who knows where.
He wasn’t about to leave Kali to be experimented upon.
“Unit number 4487 has been downed! Repeat: Unit number 4487 has been downed! Seek and destroy his last target!” The Successor behind the control panel roared.
“Converging,” one of the Successors responded, a red dot within a schematic of the ark blinking on its internal display.
The next Successor was less than a few corners away, and its thrusters lit brightly beneath it to speed it to its next target.
Aayrion ran fleetingly down each corridor, trying madly to find out where they might have taken Kali.
But, if she were on a gun platform similar to the one Aayrion was present at, and considering the sheer size of the Ark, that means she was several hundreds of feet away, and she may have been hauled off to some obscure place far away.
He heard the electric pulsating of some magnetic thrusters coming up around a corner, and knew he’d have a harder choice to make.
The Successor whirled around the corner, stopping maybe ten feet in front of Aayrion.
“Your efforts to escape us will be futile…” the advanced metal tank-form told him, the scanner mounted on its left side brimming with light as several beams scanned Aayrion’s body.
“Oh, this isn’t gonna be good.”
The white triangular display on the Successor’s dome changed to blood-red, its weapon readying itself to fire.
“TARGET HAS BEEN POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED AS DRACORIAN! YOU MUST BE EXTERMINATED!”
He leapt backwards and landed on his back, the fiery blue bolt shooting past his face and down the hallway, exploding with substantially greater force on the ceiling.
“YOU MUST BE EXTERMINATED!”
Another bolt flew by.
“YOU MUST BE--Correction: prior order has been retracted. Target must be subdued!”
Aayrion got out from where he had hidden himself beside one of the corridor’s ribs, and tried running as fast as his feet could carry him, leaning forward and keeping himself up with as much speed as he could muster.
An electronic pulse shot out from the gun, freezing Aayrion’s joints. He felt his shins hit the floor, and then the rest of his body followed suit.
The electrical charge overwhelmed his consciousness, and he lost it, his vision closing to black as another Successor emerged from another corner, its prodding arm expanding into four arms that began to envelope him.