The stench now was anything but clean. It was acrid, gagging, necrotic. A caliginous haze surrounded the figure as he strode down the dim oblong cavern of a corridor. It was filthy; black specks littered the walls, and a foul greenish-black sludge clung to the rough floor. In the distance an echoing howl could he heard for a moment it was stifled. The clear syringe in his strange hands almost glowed in its decrepit new environment.
A slab slid away in front of the figure. He strode through the gap, his boots clicking on the new, bare rock floor. Something writhed before him; fanged, mottled, diseased, growling. It thrashed at its bonds. A wry smile crept across the figure's mouth as he moved forward with the syringe and stabbed!
A cry of pain echoed from within the house, followed by a stream of rather little-used Akonian cuss words. Rolling her eyes, Harren pushed open the front door of her home. It was a mess, as usual. The corridor central to the house was constricted by several boxes and bits of furniture, each piled with rather a few too many items and bits of paper that had been 'just placed there for the moment' for them to actually hold. As a result, the floor had accepted to take up some of the burden too. Not her fault. Well... actually it 'sort of' was. A bit. In any case, everything appeared completely fine. Mezzinus was in the back, in his bunker.
Negotiating the tricky scenario of traversing a floor covered in boxes and random paraphernalia, she eventually made it to the open door of the bunker, and peered inside.
A spill of red light was centred around her brother's bare foot, which he was clutching while sitting on his habitual bench-seat in its lone patch of clear uncovered stone floor in the room. The room if anything was even more chaotic than the rest of the house scorch marks were on both the floor and ceiling, bits and scraps of machinery Harren didn't even begin to understand the workings of hung from every wall and stood on every free space not occupied by crucibles, bottles, alembics and beakers. Open boxes and kits stacked up in the corners of the room, one wall of which was covered in hammers, saws, cutters, torches. An old crusty forge stood in a small alcove at the far end, a pair of tongs resting at its entrance, drips of solidified metal around its mouth like food around the mouth of a greedy child. The air smelled chemical and hot. The stream of muttered gasps and vituperation stopped as soon as Mezzinus' embarrassed gaze met his sister's. Her expression was an amused one.
She blinked at him, raising a brow. "Nothing. I came to see what you were doing."
"What I'm doing is trying to fix these damned shield emitters you know the ones Tezra accidentally activated upside down? They're fried. Absolutely and totally-"
"And one hit your toe?"
"Err, no. You see, the central core relapsed. It's because the field has to interact with another source of chronodermic radiation close by y'know, that's why there's more than one. Of course... hopefully you know that. Anyway, since the ground was sandy and everything the field ended up dragging it all into the mechanism. I'm literally grinding solid glass out of the spin compartment, and as for the resonators, well..."
Mezzinus was a good head taller than Harren, and seemed in appearance Harren's exact polar opposite. While still possessing similar facial features a round nose, larger than average eyes and a squarish jaw line he was, at the waist, at least half as wide as his sister and at the shoulders slightly broader. This wasn't surprising; Mezzinus only ever ate when he remembered to, and his metabolism, Harren knew, was at least twice that of the high Tokia standard. His colouration was different too his hair a frizzy and tangled ensemble of fire-red fibres and his skin almost the same shade a bright contrast to the space-black strands of his sister's hair, or her more typical shade of pale blue skin. What's more, his skin was constantly hot and feverish. He hated to stay still.
Everyone else always noticed this first. His skin was not a normal colour for an azurite. Everyone always thought him ill and avoided him, or mistook him for a Pyramagnian one of the fire Akonian people. While very at ease with fire, perhaps even a personification of it, Mezzinus was every bit an azurite. It was The Process that had made him this way. The locals remembered him as he had been, shorter with hair as dark and skin as pale as his sister's, before the two of them had been changed. Harren looked down at herself for a second; she... had changed as well, she hated to admit.
Ancient myth told of elemental warriors those who could harness the power of one of the Six Arcs: Earth, Fire, Water, Ice, Stone or Air. Ancients would become them when exposed to protodermis. Akonians, however, were incapable of doing so. Scientific forays into biological and protodermic structure had shown, however, that able akonians 'could', with effort, become similar to the old warriors. The Process was devised to bring such an akonian as close to one of them in ability as possible, for use as guardians, as the originals had been. Mezzinus' skill at generating and withstanding fire was well known; Harren's power of mist control slightly less-so.
"...so when you see her, tell her I'm going to make her eat one of these glass shards before she even touches these again. Skylord's Eye...."
"So... What did hit your toe?" It was especially important to be patient with Mez. Once talking about anything technical, it was difficult to make him stop. Harren had gotten good at tuning him out.
"Oh. Err, I stubbed my toe getting back from the kitchen. Why?"
"Why are you even barefoot? If you're hoiking glass out of things-"
"Err...." He looked down at his feet. "I don't... know..."
Harren gave him a playful punch in the shoulder. "Maybe you should come and do something else for a bit."
"I'unno." She shrugged. "Pub?"
"Let us consider for a moment the immensity and scale of the Drakus system. We can calculate the trajectory and patterns of both planets, and all seventeen of our moons for almost three million years into the future. We know the movement paths of each moon, and, thanks to the chronodermic gravity lifts on the face of each moon, can stop collisions between the remaining moons years in advance of their predicted occurrence.
"This, however, is bad news for the planet itself. It is a well-known problem that the gravity of all of the moons combined can exert an upwards pull on the atmosphere of the planet, causing the great storms of Tempesta Magna a name which itself means "Great Storm." The moons, however, also exert a pull on the crust of the pla-"
A sleepy, careless hand flicked the display, making the non-emitting screen decolourise and fade back into its mute grey sheen. It was well past dawn on this part of the planet; not that Kore could tell apart from the clock beneath the passive screen. Another sleepless night, then.
He got up from his bed, stretched, purposefully ignoring the splashes of dim red light coming from him, illuminating, dimly, the room, or the pain. He knew the problem. Why did someone have to keep feeling pain once they already knew what was hurting them? They'd offered him retirement, oh yes. He'd refused. If he was going to die, he was going to die bravely doing his job. No tokia ever went down passively.
He grabbed his gun from the floor a massive affair, multi-barrelled and heavy with wire-feeds connected to a large pack. From it he took a silver under suit and zipped himself in before allowing the gun to attach to what remained of his left arm. White and silver armour followed, and a large helmet, specially made with high pressure-resistant crystals over the deep eyes. Its gaze was calm and benevolent. What a contrast to me, then, he thought. The pack covered his back, and he left, boots clanging on the metal floor.
The labyrinthine tunnels span on before him, his footsteps echoing, until eventually he came to a sealed door. Running a hand across it, it hissed, and opened into a small space in the inside. Kore stepped in impatiently, letting it close behind him before the next door opened to the shatteringly cold north pole of Tempesta Magna. It was storming it always was. There was no sound but the vast roar of magnitudes of air particles being thrown into each other. To stand out here without a suit was suicide. His boots scattered the deep, thin particles of snow as he penetrated the cyclonic gale.
No tokia ever went down passively.