If you've not read these parts first (or if you've forgotten what happened), do so:
- HWKN: Prologue 00- Broken Hopes: https://community.pl...0-broken-hopes/
- HWKN: Laila Journal Entry #128: https://community.pl...rnal-entry-128/
- HWKN: Chapter 01- Snowfall Part 1: https://community.pl...-1/#entry501644
- HWKN: Chapter 01- Snowfall Part 2: https://community.pl...pter-01-part-2/
- HWKN: Laila Journal Entry #129: https://community.pl...29/#entry532160
- HWKN: Chapter 02- Memories Part 1: https://community.pl...-1/#entry542066
- HWKN: Chapter 02- Memories Part 2: https://community.pl...-2/#entry551255
HWKN Ch 03: Shatter Part 1
Point in HWKN timeline: Approximately 20 minutes before the end of Memories
A pale man with a gaunt face filled the screen of the U.I. Pad. “So… Judais, have you infiltrated the pious freaks in Mundus Innova_ Have you received their trust_”
“Sir, their leader has given me a critical mission. I will continue to go up in their ranks and gain their trust.” Judais carefully replied. He forced himself to keep calm. He would never show fear, not in front of this man. Showing fear was like throwing raw meat in front of wolves. “The man in charge seems to keep to himself. All orders are given through random heavily encrypted channels from the U.I. Pads that ping from multiple locations. He seems to be using a voice changer as well. He’ll be a hard man to find.”
The pale man’s cold glare slightly softened. “Very good, you are quite dependable. Much better than your… former superiors. Remember to call me Devian, Judais. I’d hate to be so formal to you. Be calm and relaxed here, we are friends. We have a goal in mind, it’s absolutely necessary that we get to it. I wouldn’t want a good man, such as yourself, to lose your nerves.”
Judais gulped a little, surprised by the kind words. What’s he up to_ “Thank you, Devian.” He pushed up his glasses as he continued to pretend to fix a broken Brawler in the cavernous hangar of Bunker 167. Various patrons and mercenaries worked around him, unknowing that a spy was among them. “Rather surprising their leader wanted me in a backwater base like this. I will continue to follow your orders and keep you updated on their plans.”
Devian gave a wolfish smile in return. “Of course you will. Oh, before I close the connection, I prepared something special. It’s coming your way as we speak. This is the perfect test bed for the new prototypes. I’m sure you know this, but we took the liberty of procuring some things from the so-called ‘Second Outbreak’ that Mundus Innova created at Kobalt. These new models are more responsive and smarter than the previous versions, thanks to a few donors. Take care and watch yourself if you can.” The feed clicked as the connection cut off.
“Aw hell… He doesn’t mean that does he_” Judais muttered. The klaxon abruptly broadcasted through the entire base, confirming his worries as he dropped his wielder on his feet. “Fuzzy bunny, just when I got comfortable in this base. He had to test those damn aberrations from hell here of all places.” He rubbed his throbbing feet as everyone in the hangar hurried to get their axes running for the looming battle.
Pilots and engineers scrambled all around him while he jumped off the Brawler. He ran toward the large cargo ship, Honest Knave, to hide as the hellfire that would eventually rain down upon them knocked on their doors.
Explosions echoed in the hangar. The base’s main access shaft blew open. Laila bit her tongue and anxiously waited as the rest of the pilots in her squad joined her in boosting upward toward the surface.
“Hurry guys!” She yelled. Despite the situation, she felt happy she could finally go out in real combat and not be the rear guard. Still, things didn’t feel right to her. Why do I feel nervous_ Isn’t this what I wanted_
“Laila, slow down! This is your first time to the actual rodeo! We got the armor to take the punishment. You hit ‘em hard while we soften them up. Classic tacs ya know_ Always works when these fuzzy bunny losers get too confident. Right boys_” A veteran pilot named Aalok drawled over the COMM. Laila slowed down her ascent to let Aalok’s Vanguard lead the flight to the top. “Remember men! There’s a picnic up there, and you’re all invited. Take care not to piss Chief Medens off by making too much of a mess.” They all laughed as if it was the first time they heard the joke. Laila smiled a little under her helmet.
“Yessir! Hey Manez, you still owe me that trip to the Starlit Shine! You promised me a month ago!” A man in the back called. The shaft they were flying through shook as another explosion wracked the base overhead.
“I’m not bringing you there. You’re too young. Besides, I loaned you fifty scrip for a fuzzy bunny date with some lass! You broke up with her a week ago, Zach. I want my money back when this is over.” Manez mumbled through the COMM.
Zach’s voice crackled over the COMM with a jolly laugh, “Right, and you can’t even get a gal. The only lady you ever got a kiss from was your mother.”
“Damn man, aren’t you laying in on him too hard_” said Rey, a pilot whom Laila wasn’t familiar with. “Even for me, that’s harsh.” All the squad members laughed as the other squads flew past them, narrowly missing a large piece of rubble that nearly fell on them in their ascent.
“Hey, idiots! Cut the chitchat! You’re never all this chatty, shut up.” Bellowed Aalok. “Concentrate, I wouldn’t want any of you to get crushed by some random rubble. I won’t pull your sorry butts from that mess if it happens. Show the newer pilots, like Laila, how to act when heading to a damn firefight.”
“Sorry Laila, Zach is just being stupid. He isn’t the brightest tool in the bunch, probably took him years to come up with that excuse of a comeback.” Manez quipped. “In fact, it took a manual to teach him how to sit on his can and how to breathe. The guy’s as dumb as it gets.”
Everyone roared with laughter as they finally reached the surface, even ‘Stone Face’ Aalok chuckled. “Ignore the troll guys…” Zach grumbled.
“Its fine guys, really it is.” Laila said over the COMM. The old pocket watch brushed against her chest and reminded her of her dad. Her father’s roughhewn voice echoed through her mind. “Never join the war, Laila. It’s scary, painful, and something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It puts the hardest men to tears, breaks families apart. Will you do that for your old man, honey_” “Sorry dad, I want to show you that I can do it.” She muttered. “I want to show you I can fight.” In her mind’s eye, her dad grimaced and faded into the desolate snowy landscape. Laila tightened her helmet. Being in the shadow of the great Daniil Antonov made people too easy on me.
“Hard contact due north! It’s axes, sir!” A man called. TOW rockets and rounds suddenly hammered them, leaving behind trailing columns of smoke. “What the hell_ This exit is hidden, how do they know we’re here_”
Laila spun Flying With Style around and saw many black and gray axes rushing from the hills in the distance. At least she thought those were normal axes. All of them had odd glowing lines across their chassis and moved too fast to be regular. Small and equally odd-looking drones swarmed around them. More came by the hundreds. Thousands continued to pour out from the hills and covered most of them in a sea of black. The horde rushed and boosted toward Bunker 167, firing all the way with pinpoint accuracy.
“Damn, they keep on coming!” Zach yelled. “There’s no end! How are we gonna fight all of that_ Where’d they come from_”
“Shut your trap and fire Zach!” Aalock growled. “The other squads are dealing with it too, we aren’t the only ones.” They quickly dodged to cover and began firing at the mass of black axes. “Laila! What are you doing_ Get to it! We need to buy time for Honest Knave to launch!”
“S-sorry sir!” One thousand rounds and about twenty TOWs… That’s not enough is it_ Laila mused, quickly glancing at the inventory of her weapons. What would you do Dad_ Her chest tightened while she primed her axe’s weapon systems to fire.
“I told you already, Kaori dear,” Mamishi said as she stared across her expensive desk at Kaori. “I don’t know why you keep on blaming me for what happened here nine years ago.” The soft white calf leather chairs and white stainless steel furnishings gave a serene atmosphere to the spacious office at IPDF’s headquarters. Fennon’s faint blue moonlight contrasted with the soft red and yellow lights from moving lanterns in the festival below the fifty floor building. The whole scene would normally be relaxing to Kaori. Except it wasn’t.
“Don’t give me that, we both know better.” Kaori told her tartly. “Even if you weren’t the cause, your control over this damn organization isn’t strong. You’re still at fault because of your incompetence. That’s why I left, mother.” Why the hell did she call me to come here personally_ Why did I even agree to come_ She lit a cigarette and took a puff.
Mamishi gave a low chuckle, “Ha, that’s a good one! As if leaders are without fault. Look, dear, IPDF is a large organization. You think I can hover over everyone’s shoulder to see if they are doing every little right_ I’ll get to the point, so I won’t waste your time.” She paused and made a serious face. “The reason why I called you here is because I want you to replace me.”
Kaori gave her a long stony stare. “So…” She started, barely reigning in her temper. “You don’t contact me for nine fuzzy bunny years after I quit, suddenly call me over when we had more pressing matters at hand, and then you ask me to lead this corrupt organization for you_ Great job, totally made me feel better about coming here.”
Mamishi gave a sad smile, something Kaori didn’t expect. “I’m sorry, Kaori. I know I was a bad mother, I’m sorry I didn’t try harder. It’s out of my hands. I admit that I don’t have enough influence in my own organization. Also, will you stop smoking those horrid things_ At this rate, you’ll die before I do.”
Kaori finally snapped and quickly stood up. “Don’t you ever give me that caring look! You’ve never done that before—you forced me to join IPDF. I’m not going to clean your mess, you snake. Why don’t you eat your own rotting apple and throw yourself in hell_ I’m out of here, this was a waste of my time. I can’t believe it took you this long to admit your faults.” Kaori briskly left, throwing the cigarette on the ground. She didn’t even turn back.
Thousands of people in various costumes from Earth lined up for the procession as the crowd of patrons surrounding them in the main square, the only open spot in the city of Eugen, continued to grow. The constant din rose as everyone clamored to see the parade. Axes decorated with red and gold paint had patrons riding on top of them waving to the crowds. All cultures were represented in the city at the festival. From the CRT Recruit piñatas children were hitting, to the American Indian style dances being performed. Sparklers and fireworks lit as Chinese lanterns tied up with balloons floated up toward the night sky while the patrons who let them go watched. The wet markets filled the air with exotic smells as food arrived to the various booths crowded with eager patrons who had the scrip to buy. Jin was awed by it all. He’d never seen anything like it.
“Jin, what are you doing_” Shae asked him. She looked at him, slightly amused. “You’ve never seen this before_ Did you live under a rock or something_ Come on, let’s grab a bite, I know a good joint nearby.” They headed off to an open air café close to the festival and ordered a snack.
“Are you sure we can do this_ We need to head back to the van.” The waiter placed the plate of snacks and quickly left to service other customers.
“Come on silly, we might as well enjoy this while we can. Pretty sure Kaori would be fine with it.” Shae shoved something in his hands.
“Really_” He looked at her with some doubts. During the trip to Eugen, he asked her about Kaori. She saw her as a battle worn heroine. A real Valkyrie with an iron hard will, amazing tactics, and cool under pressure. Right. Like slamming my head to the desk is definitely being ‘cool under pressure’. He saw what she gave to him; a stick with grilled meat. Jin sniffed it and wrinkled his nose, marginally dismayed by the scent. “I’m sure Kaori would get mad if we ate something from a place that didn’t follow standard health regulations…”
“What’s with you and protocol_ Relax, remember_ Don’t be such a stickler for the details.” She said with hands on hips. “Just try it, it’s pretty good. It’s just an acquired smell. Always ate these when I was a kid during the festival. Still, there’s a reason why we all left this place.”
“What do you mean_” He looked at the crowd again, suddenly realizing the disparity in the overpopulated city.
All the CRT piñatas looked hastily taped together, obviously showing they were used multiple times. More people who came out of the restaurants looked even hungrier than those who went in, drunken men shamelessly beat their wives and children in public amidst the parade. IPDF patrol axes and ground police pointed their weapons inward toward the crowd of people in the square, restlessly moving, as if looking for an excuse to fight.
Underlying the exotic smells that wafted the air, was the distinct scent of decay and human waste. Media outlets only filmed and interviewed the rich patrons. All of it was supervised by high ranking Prosk officials who sat upon an open courtyard on one of the floors of the IPDF headquarters. Prosk Royal Guard axes silently stood watch around the building as grim monoliths that contrasted with the bright colors in the festival. He connected the dots.
The whole thing is a propaganda stunt. They trick people to come and force them to work here… The only people who enjoy this are the ones with connections. That’s horrible… His former mentor’s sardonic laugh echoed through his mind, “You’re capable of worse, sonny. Too bad those talents were wasted on you…”
Damn it Commodore, why do you always keep on coming back to my mind_
“Hey there Jin. You haven’t changed a bit.” A young man with silvery white hair and dull gray eyes said as he sat next to Jin. “I’m Aleister, remember_”
“Jin, who’s this guy_ You’re friend_” Shae asked as she looked at Aleister.
Aleister smiled tightly at both of them. “I’m sure he doesn’t remember, though yes, we were friends. Very good friends,” His expression darkened as he shoved the barrel of a gun at Jin’s face, “Which is why I’m doing this myself. Isn’t that right, you bloody murderous swine_”
Ayumu waited outside the back entrance of the tall IPDF HQ building and briefly glanced toward the festival that was happening on the other side. Fuzzy bunny, what am I doing again_ He scrolled through his UI Pad to see if he listed anything down.
“You’re here to meet up with Sergeant Major Kurosawa and Chief Medens, Corporal Makoto.” Tais chirped in his wireless earphone with her usual placid tone.
Ayumu sighed as he swatted away a fly. “Tais, are you reading my mind again_”
“’Reading minds’ is not accurate, Corporal. I’m an artificial intelligence installed on your axe which has extra equipment that reads your biosigns and brainwaves through the neural port at the base of your neck. You’ve also asked if I could read minds about 322 times already.” Tais told him in a matter-of-fact manner.
“Remind me never to play poker with you. That date I want to take you on is always a welcome option, though.” He felt comfortable with Tais. She was the only ‘person’ he could trust. A memory of what she once told him floated in his mind, “My function is to help you regain your memories and aid you in any way I can.” To Ayumu, Tais was his link to others. Not being able to completely feel emotions made things certainly caused problems to him. “You can feel emotions,” she had once told him, “You just don’t recognize them, or they just feel vague. It’s part of my functions to help you regain your humanity.” He’d always found it ironic that it was an AI who acted like his psychiatrist.
“Detecting jokes is always difficult, Corporal. I’m 88.62% certain you are, due to past recordings. Duly noted.” He swore he heard a hint of amusement in her synthesized voice.
“Damn it, damn it all!” A familiar woman’s voice called behind him. He heard the sound of a garbage can being kicked. He turned and saw… Who was it again_
“Sergeant Major Kaori Kurosawa, Corporal.” Tais reminded him through the earphone as Kaori furiously took a cigarette out and lit it. “If she’s frustrated, try to calm her down. According to social etiquette, that is the right response. Remember not to tell her about the missing children you’re looking for, it’ll make her angrier and decrease her ability as a leader.”
Memories flooded back to him. ‘Not accurate’ be damned, she can read my mind.
“Ayumu, where’s Chief Medens_” Kaori growled, “He was supposed to be here waiting with you.”
Ayumu scrolled through his UI pad for a reminder and looked up. “He’s getting extra cleaning supplies. He doesn’t trust Shae and Jin to get the right ones.” He stared at the cigarette. “Hey, you know Malik doesn’t like it when you smoke.”
“What he doesn’t know, won’t kill him.” She grunted. Kaori glanced at him with slight annoyance. “Since when did you start caring about me for him_”
Ayumu shrugged. “He’s me mate… Wouldn’t want him to get depressed over you.”
“Good, Corporal! You are starting to show more emotional response without my help, even more positive: You are remembering things. Recorded progress shows you have improved 30.57%. Added note: I don’t read minds, I ‘guess’ very accurately.” Tais told him, sounding as positive and happy as an AI could.
Mamishi sunk low in her chair and wiped her tears. Why am I such a failure to Kaori_ She continued to stare at the spot where Kaori threw her cigarette. Why do I deserve this_ We need to survive on this dirtball of a planet. I did what I had to do.
A man wearing a gas mask and long coat walked into the room. “Hello Chief Kurosawa.” His voice distorted by a voice changer, and yet she knew him.
She barked a laugh. A harsh, sad laugh that made her cry more. “I followed all your damn orders to the letter. You said you would bring prosperity to IPDF, yet doing what you told me to made it worse. What an honor to see His Grace walk among us lowly peasants.”
“Amusing,” the man said flatly, “Your methods are too harsh and cruel. You brought all of this on yourself. Mundus Innova has no need for impulsively selfish psychopaths with too much power. It was a mistake to bribe you to take those children for us all those years ago. If I’d known that you’d massacre all those people all those years back, I’d have—”
“Do what_ I don’t care! I lost everything already.” She yelled, her hands shaking from rage. This hypocrite! “My methods are too harsh_ How about you_ Experimenting on children with God-knows- what! Don’t go all high and mighty on me! I regret every fracking night knowing what I did to those childr—no, those young men and women.”
“All for the greater good, my dear. My purpose is clear, it is pure. It will help humanity grow and become stronger. Don’t even try calling up any guards. All of them know what I’m doing is right.” He calmly held the silenced TAC pistol straight at her. “Even if I burn in Hell, I will do it gladly if it’s to help humanity survive. Be honored that it’s me who came to pass retribution on you.”
Mamishi grinned madly. Kaori… If only you’d see what I did was for the best… The once peaceful white office suddenly felt like it burned her eyes, too bright for the demons of her past. “I know who you are. To think I followed orders from you of all peo-”
The trigger clicked and she uttered no more.
Shatter Part 1 end.
Shatter Part 2 is next.
Thanks for reading!
Edited by Hijinks_The_Turtle, September 01 2014 - 02:58 PM.