Author Topic: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo  (Read 4178 times)

BlakesBestBoi

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The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« on: 24 September 2023, 19:32:32 »
The Wrath of Blake
Chapter 1

November 6th
3070
66-12-4B

  Adept David Ross of the Com Guard Sixth Army, swept his gaze across the horizon. This world had no name, it's only designation was 66-12-4B, but if David had to name it, he would call it Ugly. 66-12-4B was a barren rock, the atmosphere was just barely thick enough to support human life, but it lacked the oxygen required to sustain an entire rich and diverse ecosystem. While some particularity stubborn forms of life clung to the brown, barren surface of the world, the planet was, for all intents and purposes, dead. Its meagre oceans were lifeless, and only a handful of microscopic insectoid creatures dwelt on the scorching, dusty plains that seemed to stretch out infinitely before him. 66-12-4B didn't even have any resources of note. It was merely a dead lump of rock orbiting a dying sun in an unnamed system. Worthless. Undeserving of attention.

  Which is why it had been the perfect hiding place for all manner of SLDF secrets. During the dying days of the Star League, Aleksandr Kerensky had ordered that large amounts of SLDF equipment be hidden across the Inner Sphere, these caches were to act as hidden supply depots that soldiers could use to rearm during long campaigns without the enemy becoming aware of where they kept their supplies. Most of these had been picked clean in the centuries since the Star League's fall but ComStar had always maintained a record of the remaining caches and had, during the darkest of times, made use of them to strengthen the Com Guards. And these were dark days indeed, the darkest ComStar, and perhaps the entirety of mankind, had ever faced in fact.

  The Jihad raged, the galaxy burned and countless billions died in the trenches of the Word of Blake's mad ambition. Entire worlds had been destroyed, populations slaughtered and civilisations wiped from the face of the universe. Terra was lost to them, ComStar was dying. The Com Guard needed an advantage. And so, David and his Level II had been dispatched to this arid rock to "recover" anything of value the SLDF had left behind. David snorted to himself, "recover" basically meant "loot." But it's not like they had a choice, the Word of Blake had bled the Com Guard heavily and they didn't have time to wait for new machines to be produced, they needed weapons. And they needed them now. His wasn't the only force, however, that had been assigned this task. Numerous ComStar expeditions had been launched to scavenge across human space, some of them returned empty handed, others never returned at all but a few managed to find something of worth every now and then.

  David looked behind him, swinging the torso of his Black Knight around to regard the group of soldiers working a few meters away. They stood in the shadow of his towering 'Mech, speaking among themselves while preparing a number of explosives from crates they had shipped down from orbit. The Adept looked past them, to the vast mountain that loomed over them, rising from the dry earth like a spear thrust skyward. If the records were correct, and he deeply hoped they were, within that mountain lay the cache they had been sent to find. They had located a large, ancient metal gate that was built into the side of the mountain, the worn Cameron Star embossed on the surface of the gate at least confirmed that this was indeed a Star League facility, now all they had to do was pray that the weapons they sought lay within.

  Well, not pray, ComStar didn't do that anymore. But he could at least hope.

  "Report." He said into the comms, "How long until that door's open?"

  "An hour, perhaps more." The voice of an Acolyte echoed around his cockpit as the man looked up at his 'Mech.

  "That's not fast enough." Another voice cut in, Jennifer, the Acolyte who piloted the BlackJack standing on guard to David's left, "I don't like this, we're too exposed out here. If something happens-"

  "We've detected nothing on this planet besides us, Jen." Marcus, the pilot of unit's Commando, crackled over the radio, "And besides, I'd rather not rush them, explosives and haste rarely work well together."

  David could just about see Marcus' Commando in the distance, it was a mere speck against the brown, flat plain that carried on as far as the eye could see. The 'Mech roamed back and forth, keeping a watch on the edge of the Level II's perimeter with its enhanced sensors, "Marcus is right." David said, "We hold, and give them all the time they need. I want this done right."

  There was a pause, then Jen muttered, "Aye, Adept."

  David turned his 'Mech to the right, regarding the hulking form of the King Crab that stood like a silent sentinel. Vars hadn't said a word since they landed hours ago, but then again Vars didn't ever really speak these days. The Adept didn't know all the details, but Vars had been captured in the days prior to the Jihad by the Blakists and had suffered all manner of tortures at their hands in the hopes of gaining knowledge of the Com Guard's current operations from him. He'd been subjected to rape, waterboarding, starvation and worse, but he had never broken. When the Jihad began, the Com Guard had destroyed the facility he was being held in and freed him, along with a number of other prisoners. He hadn't spoken to anyone since then.

  Vars was broken, David knew this. Everyone knew it, honestly. But with the galaxy burning, ComStar needed every competent MechWarrior it could find, and Vars had always been one of the best. So he still served, even though he should have been recovering, both physically and mentally, from his ordeal. David pitied him, deeply in fact, but the man had proven himself a MechWarrior worthy of the upmost respect in a dozen separate battles, so he was at least glad to have Vars at his side.

  The hour passed slowly, David and his men had nothing to do but watch the horizon, listen to the ticking of their 'Mech's reactors and try not to fall asleep from the sheer soul crushing boredom of the operation.

    Then Marcus' voice barked over the comms with such little warning that it had David leaping up in his cockpit, causing him to crack his head against the roof of his cramped Black Knight, "We've got an unidentified contact on approach!"

  "Shit..." David cursed, "Marcus get back here, now! Vars, Jen, look alive!" He snapped, rousing his reactor to full power and charging his weapons as he checked his sensors. Nothing, but when it came this sort of thing Marcus' 'Mech had better gear than his Black Knight so he trusted the man's word.

  In the distance, he could see the unit's Commando racing back towards their position with as much speed as Marcus could muster. Then David saw it, a small shape moving across the sky, heading straight for their position. The shape grew in size and definition the closer it got, he didn't recognise it. Sleek and dart like, with a black and red hull trimmed in gold, it resembled a dagger hurled through the heavens by some wrathful god. It closed the distance quickly, overtaking Marcus with ease. As it passed over him, the sides of the ship opened, sliding aside to reveal a quartet of BattleMechs awaiting within the belly of the vessel.

  To his left, the Adept saw Jen train her cannons on the ship, "That's a damn DropShip!"

  "Hold your fire!" David snapped, "You'll never hit them at this range, save your ammo."

  The 'Mechs stepped out of the DropShip as it began to bank away, dropping out of the ship and plummeting towards the ground as the DropShip broke off and raced back the way it had came. The enemy machines fell like meteors, before their jump jets fired, slowing their descent greatly. Even with their speed reduced, the 4 'Mechs still impacted the earth with great force, throwing dirt and mud into the air as they cratered the surface of 66-12-4B. They had come down directly atop Marcus' potions, landing in a circle around him, penning the man in. He was trapped. The Commando's arms came up, but before his SRM launchers could fire, the closest 'Mech raised its arm with impossible speed. The barrel of its PPC glowed, then a blinding blast of light erupted from the tip. It struck the Commando, incinerating the cockpit and Marcus along with it. He didn't even have time to scream.

  "Marcus!" Jen screamed, pain cracking her voice.

  The comms crackled, static screaming across all channels for a moment until a male voice, deep and wise resolved itself. It said with a tone of wisdom, "ComStar infidels." The 'Mech that had just murdered Marcus turned to look towards David and his men, "You have violated Blake's word countless times, defying his divine will and embracing the heretical teachings of Anastasius Focht, the fool." There was no anger in that voice, just...disappointment. David couldn't help but feel that it was the voice of priest, "And now, you come here, to this most sacred site." The 'Mech's arms spread, as if to encompass the entire mountain that loomed above the Com Guard, "Your very presence defiles this holy place, but you seek to do more than merely defile it. You seek to destroy it, to pilfer its holy artefacts and use them to fuel your profane ambition."

  "What the hell are you talking about?!" David snarled, "Sacred site? This is a weapons cache, you maniac!" 

  "Do you really know so little of our glorious past?" The voice sighed, almost sounding saddened by his ignorance, "When our divine master, Jerome Blake, founded our blessed Order, he roamed this galaxy for an age. He travelled far, visiting all manner of worlds, planting his secrets upon them. He came here and, in his infinite wisdom, stored items of great worth and importance here."

  "And..." David frowned, deeply surprised to hear that Blake himself had come to this dead world, and even more surprised that ComStar didn't seem to know, "What exactly did he hide here?"

  "None know, and none shall ever know." The 'Mech pointed at David across the dry, brown plains between them, "No one will disturb the artefacts that lie below our feet. You will depart. Now. And never return."

  "Like hell!" David growled, "You just murdered one of my men, you think I'll just leave?!"

  The voice was silent for a moment, "So be it. It would seem that diplomacy has failed. Know this, heretic, you will go no further this day. You will not sully this heavenly place." As one, the 'Mechs started to move, firing their jump jets as they sprinted towards David's position, closing the distance with frightening speed, "I am Apollo, of the Manei Domini, Adept of the 52nd Shadow Division and I will see your taint scoured from this world. Face the wrath of Blake, apostate. I shall pray for your souls."

Chapter 2

November 6th
3070
66-12-4B

  David opened fire the moment the Blakist 'Mechs came within the maximum range of his weapons, Vars and Jen joining in a heartbeat later. They moved like no machine the Adept had ever seen before. They charged straight into the guns of their enemy, but just before the attacks hit home, the Manei Domini fired their jump jets, launching themselves out of the line of fire, other times they merely leapt over the shot or swerved aside with a grace that should've been impossible for a BattleMech. Despite coming at the ComStar soldiers over flat, open ground, they took only a handful of hits and those attacks that did land resulted in only the most superficial form of damage. They returned fire, PPC's blazing, eye-wateringly bright lasers slicing through the air, these struck home and unlike the war machines of the 52nd Shadow Division, David's 'Mech took quite a bit of damage.

  "Spread out, don't give them easy targets!" The Adept snapped, tossing his Black Knight into a run, strafing left while laying down as much fire as he could.

  Vars sprinted in the opposite direction, firing every step of the way. His King Crab was quite a bit slower than David's Black Knight but as they parted, it forced the Manei Domini to split their forces. Two came after David, one went after Vars and the main 'Mech, piloted by Apollo, made straight for Jen as she backed away towards the mountain. As they got close enough to properly make out, David began to recognise the machines. He'd never seen them in person, but reports of the Word of Blake's newest Celestial series of BattleMechs had been disseminated among the Com Guard in order to ensure ComStar's guardians knew what to expect when facing their former brothers.

  Based on the armament of his foes, David managed to work out a rough idea of what exactly he was facing. The two 'Mechs pursuing him were the light 'Mechs known as Pretas. Vars was currently engaged with a Malak and Apollo seemed to be operating an Archangel, at least David assumed those were the classifications, he regretted not reading those reports more thoroughly. There was no time to change that now, however.

  The ground behind David's Black Knight exploded as he ran, torso rotated to face the nearest oncoming Preta so he could engage it even while doing his best to avoid their attacks. PPC shots whizzed past him as he moved, he opened fire with his arm mounted PPC and the two Large Lasers in either side torso. The PPC stuck the Preta in the left arm, one of the lasers missed but the other burned a glowing slash through its torso. The Blakist fired its jump jets, darting sideways while opening fire with both its PPCs. Warnings screamed across the displays and screens around David in his cockpit, that had been a bad hit.

  Cursing, he yanked on the controls, forcing his 'Mech out of the way of a follow up attack, stumbling away from the Preta's attack with ungainly steps that threw off his aim. All of his shots went wide, but they had come close enough to worry the enemy pilot who executed another jink to the side with his jump jets. That gave David time to line up a shot with his lasers, he dared not use his PPC yet due to the worrying amount of heat building up in his 'Mech's reactor. The lasers struck home along the Preta's left leg, the Blakist tanked the hits, remaining still and weathering the hits in order to line up his next shot.

  "Oh shit..." David whispered, noticing his mistake.

  He'd already seen that his Large Lasers did only superficial damage to the Celestials, by attacking with those he'd given the enemy time to lock onto him and did little more than chip the paint of his foe. He was already moving, even though he knew it would do little good, and was fully braced for the inevitable storm of fire. But before the Celestial could fire, a withering hail of autocannon shells slammed into it. The Preta stumbled to the side, turning to face this new threat. Vars advanced, his King Crab unleashing volley after volley of destruction from its Deathgiver Autocannons. David saw the smoking, broken remains of the Malak that had went after Vars laying in a shattered heap and laughed. That proved it.

  These bastards could die.

  Even the mighty Celestial series BattleMechs couldn't stand up to the concentrated fire of a King Crab, and the Preta's armour began to give. The Manei Domini attempted to dodge the attacks, firing his jump jets and launching himself into the air, but David had the measure of his foe now. As the 'Mech took off, he fired his PPC and caught the Celestial dead centre. The hit knocked it off balance, and as the Blakist attempted to right his 'Mech, Vars trained his autocannons upon the 'Mech and unleashed hell. The Preta shuddered as it was struck, then something important was hit. A handful of jump jets detonated, robbing the war machine of the weight it required to stay in the air. The Preta tumbled downward, striking the dry earth with enough force to crack it.

  David and Vars didn't give it the chance to recover, they advanced on the Preta, PPCs, autocannons and lasers firing until their reactor's ran dangerously hot and the Blakist 'Mech was reduced to little more than glowing slag. With a cheer of victory, David swung around to face Vars, not even caring about how unbearably hot it was inside his cockpit. A feral grin split his face, eyes alight with joy.

  "Hell yeah! That's for taking Terra from us you-" Then, realisation and horror arrived together and David immediately spun his 'Mech on the spot, searching, "There were two Pretas, where's the other one?!"

  The Blakist struck without warning, his attack as devastating as it was shocking. The other Preta had remained out of the fight, hovering on his jump jets high in the air above as he observed the battle below. He had watched his kinsmen die, and now he took his chance to strike. Like a bolt of vengeful lighting, the Celestial 'Mech shot from heavens, the war machine's retractable blade extended and poised for a killing blow. The Preta crashed into Vars' King Crab, sending the mighty machine stumbling forward. The Blakist 'Mech, feet perched atop the huge armoured body of the King Crab, swerved from side to side in order to maintain its balance. David raised his PPC, but he was too slow. The retractable blade rose, catching the weak light of the planet's dying sun, before it speared down with unstoppable force. The blade pierced the King Crab's armour with contemptible ease, ripping through the tough shell without slowing. The blade erupted from the underside of Vars' 'Mech, punching straight through the cockpit as it travelled through the war machine's body. Oil and blood splattered the earth.

  Screaming out his anger and sorrow at the loss of another soldier under his command, David opened fire with everything he had. The Preta took off, launching itself off the King Crab's destroyed form and dodging his shots with such ease the pilot seemed to be mocking him. Warnings sounded all around him, but he didn't care. He kept firing, even as the heat within the cockpit began to burn his flesh. Then, with a deep and ominous tone, the Black Knight came to a halt, shutting down to avoid a reactor meltdown.

  "No! Move you piece of shit!" David yelled, hammering at the controls.

  "You are beaten." Apollo's voice purred over the comms, so wise and smooth, so hateable, "Surrender."
 
  The Manei Domini Adept's Archangel came into view then. It was dragging the cockpit section of Jen's BlackJack. David's heart stopped as he watched the 'Mech lift the cockpit high, making sure the Com Guard got a good view as Apollo closed his BattleMech's mechanical fist over it. The cockpit held for a moment, then shattered in the Archangel's grip. Gore exploded between the machine's fingers. With causal disregard, Apollo tossed the crumbled cockpit away and advanced on David's Black Knight.

  "I'll kill you!" David screamed into the radio.

  Apollo didn't answer, he merely aimed his Heavy PPC at the Black Knight's chest, and fired.

*********

  Apollo knelt before the mountain, his mighty Archangel standing silent guard over him. The Preta, the only surviving member of his unit, stood over the broken form of the Black Knight, waiting for the Adept's orders. Apollo spoke quietly, delivering a muted prayer to Blake, his head bowed. He prayed for the souls of his fallen warriors, asking Blake to care for the men and women who had sold their lives for him, he asked Blake to forgive the souls of the fallen Com Guard, for they were lied to and manipulated by Focht and thus their heresy was not their fault. A normal human would've struggled to breathe in such a thin atmosphere, but the Manei Domini were not average humans, and his cybernetically enhanced body easily dealt with any problems 66-12-4B's environment might cause. His prayer finally concluded, and he lifted his gaze to stare at the worn, battered door that led into the vault hidden in the mountain.

  His gaze focused upon the Cameron Star, and he found himself wondering just what exactly lay within. What hidden wonders had the divine Blake placed within, what artefacts could he recover if he simply dared to open this door? But then his heart focused and hardened, his fists clenched as anger swelled up inside him. Anger directed at himself, for he was thinking like the heretic, Anastasius Focht, who thought that he knew Blake's will better than the holy one himself. Blake had hidden things on this planet, something he wanted to keep secret. Apollo knew that he wouldn't have done so without good reason. There was something hidden on 66-12-4B. Blake had wanted it kept secret. And so hidden it would remain.

  "We will honour your will onto death, my lord." Apollo whispered, "We shall obey your word, no matter the cost." He stood, looking at the destroyed ComStar 'Mechs laying around the mountain, "We will preserve your secrets. We will obey your word." He looked back at the door, "The entire human race shall obey your word, great one. Or else they will burn. This I swear."

Chapter 3

November 10th
3070
Gibson

  David awoke with a start, a scream tearing its way free from his mouth as he attempted to stand. He had to find Apollo, he had to kill that smug bastard, he needed to avenge his men, he couldn't let them die for nothing! His body refused to move, and he tried again. Still, he remained where he was. Snarling, David finally summoned to will to force his anger down and swept his gaze around, trying to figure out where he was. He was no longer in his 'Mech, but then where was he?

  This wasn't 66-12-4B.

  He looked around. He was in a dark room, but that was all he could say with confidence. A single, blindingly bright light shone above him, creating a cone of illumination that lit the area around him but hid the rest of the room in pitch black darkness. He was naked and laying on some form of table, restrained by straps across his torso, arms and legs. Tubes, pipes and wires snaked out from the darkness beyond the cone of light, they were stuck into his flesh, pumping unknowable things into his veins.

  "Ah, you wake. Excellent." A voice said from the dark, it was deep, sinister, filled with threat.

  He heard footsteps, metal ringing against the stone floor, then a figure came into view. He was dressed in a long, flowing robe the colour of freshly spilled blood, the robe trailed along the floor as he moved. The hood was raised, and the man's face was lost in the impossibly deep shadows within. David tried to rise, fighting the restraints holding him down but he didn't have the strength to break free. Instead he merely snarled at the man. Somehow, he simply knew on an instinctual level that this stranger was a threat of some sort.

  "Who are you?" He demanded.

  The robed figure laughed, a laugh that made David's heart pound with fear, "Oh, now that is a hard thing to answer indeed. I have more names than I care to count, if I am honest with you. Some call me the Prince of Scars, the Chosen of the Master, the Breaker of Wills and so on, but you may know me as Precentor Apollyon, ruler of the Manei Domini, favoured of the Master."

  "A Blakist!" David snapped, "Let me go!"

  Precentor Apollyon ignored him. He reached out, running a metal hand over David's bare, rock hard muscles. He hummed, nodding to himself. "You may be strong enough to survive the procedure, we will have to wait and see."

  David didn't know what the Precentor was talking about, but the fear gripping his heart turned to pure dread. He didn't want to be a part of any Word of Blake procedure, "Whatever you're going to do to me, it won't work."

  Apollyon nodded, "It might not, we're still working out the science, but we're getting better at it." He placed a hand on David's shoulder, "But you need not worry. Adept Apollo sees potential in you, he believes you have what it takes."

  "Have what it takes...to do what?" David's anger was gone, replaced only with terror. He knew his fate now. He was to be an experiment for the Blakists. That was truly a fate worse than death.

  "You and your men murdered two of my Manei Domini." Apollyon explained, speaking slowly and carefully, like David was a drooling moron, "the 52nd Shadow Division needs to replace those losses somehow. Apollo recommended you be used to do just that. He admires your bravery, and claims you are a MechWarrior of no small skill."

  David's eyes widened, "You're insane! I'll never serve the Manei Domini, I'll never worship your ridiculous god!"

  Apollyon laughed again, "Well, that's the point of the procedure, isn't it?" He reached behind him into the dark, David heard tools rattling on a metal tray and then Apollyon's hand returned into the light, now clutching a scalpel in his robotic fist, "To get rid of all that stupid resistance to Blake's wisdom, to show you the true glory of the Word of Blake." He stroked David's hair, "Trust me, brother, when I'm done with you, you will know nothing but love for our master."

  He raised the scalpel and got to work.

  The screaming lasted for hours.
« Last Edit: 03 October 2023, 07:37:21 by BlakesBestBoi »

AlphaMirage

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Re: The Wrath of Blake
« Reply #1 on: 24 September 2023, 19:37:59 »
Welcome, an ambitious first post. Could you add some white space however?

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Wrath of Blake
« Reply #2 on: 24 September 2023, 19:43:37 »
Added the requested white space :)
And yeah, I've had this one laying around for a while now, just never really had a place to post it!

Cannonshop

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Re: The Wrath of Blake
« Reply #3 on: 24 September 2023, 19:58:19 »
nicely begun.
"If you have to ask permission, then it's no longer a Right, it has been turned into a Privilege-something that can be and will be taken from you when convenient."

DOC_Agren

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #4 on: 24 September 2023, 21:40:56 »
interesting 
"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #5 on: 25 September 2023, 11:08:00 »
The Hand of the Master Strikes
Chapter 1

December 22nd
3070
Gibson

  "Good morning, David." Precentor Apollyon's voice echoed out of the darkness.

  "Screw you..." David managed to say, the effort of speaking causing him so much pain his eyes watered.

  The master of the Manei Domini stepped into the cone of light surrounding the surgery table the Com Guard was bound to. His face lay hidden in the darkness of his hood, but David could see the light of Apollyon's glowing robotic eye, shinning a baleful green, "I apologise for neglecting you the past few days." He said, "Recent events demanded my full attention. You understand, I'm sure."

  David swallowed, tasting blood as he did so, before growling, "You're wasting your time."

  "So you have said." The Precentor nodded, "But I believe we're making progress. And I admit, I am beginning to develop something of a fascination with you, David. Few have proven so...resistant to conversion in the past."     

  He swept his gaze over the Com Guard, or what was left of him at least. David's spirit may have remained unbroken, but the same could not be said about his body. The man's form was now little more than a pile of mutilated flesh, chunks of meat and organs torn apart and held together by whirring machines and ticking contraptions. Wires and tubes snaked down from the ceiling and across the floor into David's abused flesh, pumping his broken body full of all manner of chemicals and toxins. Apollyon nodded once more, the process was painful, and rather bloody, but it was necessary. To build, one must destroy what came before.
 
  He had to break David, mind and body, before he could rebuild him into a faithful servant of Blake. Conversion was never easy, or quick, and Apollyon was willing to wait as long as he had to in order to bring this man into the light. One's faith could never be discovered quickly.

  David tried to speak, but he was in too much pain to even think of an insult to hurl at the cybernetic bastard looming over him. Apollyon placed a hand on the remains of David's chest and whispered, "But don't worry, I'm not going to give up. You'll see the wisdom of Blake eventually, I promise."

*********

  Apollo, Ascended of the Manei Domini, Adept of the 52nd Shadow Division, knelt alone in silent prayer within the hangar. He was the master of his body in ways no mere Frail could ever be, his blessed cybernetics granted him the ability to slow the beat of his heart to a near stop, he simply disabled his senses, becoming deaf and blind to the world to ensure nothing and no one distracted from his orison. He had no eyes, but he had cut the mental connection between his receptors and his brain to replace the act of shutting them to ensure the appropriate respect was shown.

  Apollo had not moved in two hours and six minutes. He was silent, as still as a statue. His metallic form, once little more than weak sinew and bone, was draped in a flowing robe as red as freshly spilt blood, the edges were trimmed in gold but beyond that, it bore no ornamentation, for the Hands of the Master needed no decoration. His flesh was gone, replaced with a layer of intricate, interlocking metal plates that slid and parted as fluidly as water as he moved, here and there between the joints of his armoured skin one could glimpse wires, cables and the triple-strength myomer 'muscles' that had replaced the frail, breakable flesh of his form. His hands, clasped tightly together before his bowed head, were sharpened and tipped with vibroblade claws that made it seem he had wicked, scythed talons in place of fingers. His smooth, polished metal skull was bereft of all detail except for a single recessed visor that split his skull where his eyes had once been, it reached from temple to temple, dull now, but when he reactivated his mental link to his visual cybernetics it would glow with rich green light.

  The hangar was empty, the lights dim. There was no sound beyond the background hum of generators and the drip of water from an improperly sealed pipe high above. Towering over Apollo, seeming to dwarf the entire colossal space it which it stood, was Bellator Fidei, his Archangel Invictus BattleMech. The Archangel was huge, looming vast over him at an imposing height of over 20 meters, it was all hard edges and smooth armour plates. Its form was painted red and black, with golden trim along the edges, upon the chest was embossed the broadsword logo of the Word of Blake in white metal. Bellator Fidei had recently been repaired, having suffered damage on the distant, sacred world of 66-12-4B. The fresh coat of paint covering the left leg and lower torso of the 'Mech was the only sign of said repairs, the technicians had outdone themselves this time. That was not surprising, Precentor Apollyon accepted only the very best.
 
  It was a monument to the skill and craftsmanship of the Word of Blake, a symbol of their power and strength. To Apollo, the machine was a sign of their right to rule this galaxy. No other had built such wonderful BattleMechs, for the Celestial series, to which his Archangel belonged, were as graceful as they were powerful, and they were as tough as they were glorious to behold. They were some of the greatest war machines ever created, and they had been given to the strongest, most faithful defenders of mankind to ever live. The Manei Domini had already proven the worth of this new line of 'Mechs in numerous operations across the Inner Sphere and beyond, and requests for their deployment to the Word of Blake Militia were becoming more and more common. None had been accepted. They were holy weapons, and only the most proven of the faithful could be permitted to wield them in the name of man.

  Finally, his prayers complete and spirit pure, Apollo re-engaged his cybernetics. His senses returned to him all at once, sight, sound, touch, it all flooded his brain in less time than it took to form a thought but he was used to this by now and it took him but a few heartbeats to right himself. He stood, his enhanced form whispering and hissing. A normal human, a Frail, would have cramped up, their muscles would have protested such a swift movement after hours of statuesque stillness, but he had no flesh and thus felt no discomfort. He became aware of the figure stood before him, and without conscious thought he found himself tensing, enhanced muscles taut and prepared for combat until he recognised the individual and relaxed.

  "Specter Precentor Sigma." Apollo bowed his head, his voice emerging from somewhere within his metal form. His voice was smooth, deep and wise, the voice of a priest, not a warrior, "I hope I did not keep you waiting."

 "You were seeing to the health of your soul. Do not apologise, Adept. And please, call me Berith." Specter Precentor Sigma Berith smiled, holding up a placating hand.

  Berith appeared to be surprisingly average, he was not particularly tall, his build was impressive but not of much note and his smooth, tanned skin was unmarred by any form of scar or injury. Even his face was strangely kind and soft. His only obvious cybernetic enhancements were his eyes, which were a blue/green colour and glowed in the dim light of the hangar. Apollo knew better than to underestimate him, however. Berith had been taken under Apollyon's wing and now served as his most trusted aide and confidant. He had proven himself countless times since appearing in the ranks of the 52nd Shadow Division, and Apollo was honoured to be in his presence.

  Berith raised his gaze to stare up at Bellator Fidei for a moment in silence, a small smile on his face, "I am pleased to see such a wondrous machine returned to its full glory once more. But I wonder, is the pilot similarly healed?"

  Apollo looked over his shoulder at his 'Mech, "I am well, my lord."

  "Just Berith." The Precentor's smile faded as he lowered his glowing eyes to stare at Apollo, "You lost two of your unit on 66-12-4B. That can not have been easy. I am merely concerned for your well-being, my friend, I mean no insult."

  "I understood your intent, none was taken." Apollo shook his head, "And I thank you for your concern, but I am well. We fight a holy war for the good of mankind, we bleed and suffer in the name of Blake and the Master. Death was expected. I was prepared to lose those at my side, and my own life is necessary."

  "Very well. A willingness to die in the name of faith is commendable, but do not be swift in discarding your life." Berith warned, before taking a breath and placing his hands on his hips, humming, "But I digress. I did not come here to discuss your recent losses. Instead I wish to speak of your mission." He regarded Apollo for a moment, "I hope you understand the great honour of the task given to you. Our master sees potential in you, are you nervous?"

  Apollo's head snapped round, his visor seeming to flash as he spoke, "We have but one master, and Apollyon is not him."

  Berith flashed a warm smile, revealing perfectly straight, white teeth, "You know what I meant, my friend. And you did not answer my question."

  The Adept relaxed slightly, "I am not nervous. I am..." Apollo paused, considering, "eager, I suppose. I am eager to prove myself to both the Master and Apollyon."

  "You have proven yourself many times before, my friend, you need not do so again." Berith waved a dismissive hand, "But I, too, am eager. Eager to read your after action report, that is. For this is not the sort of mission someone like you would usually receive. Usually this sort of task would fall to myself and the rest of Opacus Venatori, but we are needed...elsewhere." He trailed off for a moment, expression darkening, then shook himself and smiled again, "Apollyon seems to believe you have what it takes to see this mission done, however. He has his gaze upon you, Apollo, do not disappoint him. His word carries much weight, especially with the Master."

  "I do not plan to fail." The Adept replied.

  "I would hope not!" Berith laughed, a booming, infectious laugh, "But I have taken enough of your time, I shall leave you to complete your preparations. Blake be with you, Adept."

  "Toyama shield you, Precentor." Apollo bowed his head. He watched Berith turn and stride away. The doors at the far end of the hangar slid open silently, then slammed closed as he departed. Left alone once more, Adept Apollo turned to look up at Bellator Fidei once more, "And may He guard me as well in the days ahead..."
« Last Edit: 11 November 2023, 19:30:37 by BlakesBestBoi »

Lazarus Sinn

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #6 on: 25 September 2023, 13:09:56 »
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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #7 on: 25 September 2023, 16:56:02 »
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Nicely written, interesting story hooks, looking forward to more enlightenment, brother!
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BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #8 on: 25 September 2023, 19:41:48 »
Chapter 2

December 29th
3070
Achilles DropShip, Chariot of the Wrathful

  Apollo sat alone within his DropShip, Chariot of the Wrathful. It had been a gift, given to him by the Precentor Manei Domini personally following his Ascension into the highest echelons of the Hands of the Master. The Achilles-class certainly lacked in some areas, but its sheer speed and manoeuvrability gave it an advantage over other classes and that speed, and thus its ability to get in and out of a combat zone swiftly, suited the missions of the Manei Domini perfectly. The Achilles-class was also heavily armed, so much so that it had served almost like a WarShip during the days of the Succession Wars. Fast and strong. It was a perfect representation of the warriors it carried. Just like the Manei Domini themselves, the Chariot of the Wrathful could get where it needed to go, destroy its target and be gone before anyone had time to react.

  The DropShip was large enough to hold his entire Level II, but today Apollo was alone. Or at least, as good as alone. The passengers aboard that served as his companions for this journey were somewhat lacking in conversational ability. They sat in the crew compartment even now, all blank stares and slack jaws. Pale hands clasping weapons, mangled bodies clad in crude armour. Apollyon had called them soldiers, but they were little more than walking corpses really.
 
  Yes, he was alone. The only man who was actually alive within the bowels of the DropShip. While the Adept was carrying out his assignment, the survivors of his unit were being deployed to other battlefields across the Inner Sphere. He envied them, if he was honest with himself, for they were being given the honour of doing battle with the hated Clans. They were crossing blades with the foe the Manei Domini were originally created to face, and he wanted nothing more than to be at their side in those battles. It would have been glorious.

  But he had a mission to carry out, and he would see it done, no matter the cost. He sat within the cockpit of Bellator Fidei, considering the battle to come. He was a servant of the Master, a holy warrior of Blake and thus, he knew no fear, for he had discarded such a Frail notion long ago. Yet Apollo still knew unease, and the coming operation made him very uneasy.

  ‘Why did the Precentor choose me?’ The thought resurfaced yet again, no matter how many times he forced it from his mind, ‘Of all the Domini, why me? There are stronger warriors, smarter commanders, faster combatants within the 52nd, so why me?’

  Once more, Apollo found himself accessing his memories. As a cybernetic servant of the Word of Blake, he was blessed with the addition of various memory cores that could be used to store, and relive, memories in perfect detail. Reaching deep into his mind, Apollo found the recollection he sought.

*********

  “I have a mission for you, Adept.” The voice came from the dark.

  Adept Apollo knelt alone in the Chapel of Toyama. It was night on Gibson, and the light had long faded. The chapel was dimly lit by only a few torches that burned low around the edges of the hall. Before the kneeling Manei Domini was a great stained glass window that rose from the floor to the ceiling, depicting the saint Toyama looking out over a HPG station undergoing construction.

  Apollo had heard the Precentor, but he did not answer. He remained where he was, continuing his prayer, if this annoyed Apollyon, he showed no sign of it. He waited for the Adept to finish, gazing up at the window, lost in his own, private contemplations. Finally, with the whisper of cybernetics, Apollo rose.

  “I live to serve, my lord.” Apollo said at last, not turning to face Apollyon.

  Instead, he lit a pair of candles before him, each as red as blood. He showed great care as he lit them, his movements slow and respectful. He extinguished the match, then finally turned to regard his commander and lord. Apollyon’s face was, as always, lost in the depths of his robes but he saw the man’s glowing green eye flick down to the candles before returning to him.

  “For the dead?” Apollyon asked.

  The Adept nodded grimly, “I was merely offering a prayer to the Holy One on their behalf.”

  “He knows them.” Apollyon assured him, “As he knows all who fall in his service.”

  Apollo glanced back at the candles, wondering if Apollyon ever came here to pray for those who had fallen under his command. He was the master of the Manei Domini, he sent the faithful to their deaths daily. Apollo guessed he would never have the time to do anything else if he prayed for each one that died.
 
  He looked once more to the Precentor, “What do you need, lord?”

  “Though it cost the 52nd two of its servants, your recent actions 66-12-4B have proven that you are…subtle enough to handle such operations.” Apollyon looked once more to the stained glass window, “ComStar, and more importantly the Word of Blake, have many secrets similar to those hidden on 66-12-4B.” He paused, either considering his next words or waiting to see if Apollo would interrupt.

  “I’m not sure I understand?” Apollo said after a moment of silence.

  “We are the guardians of wisdom and knowledge, Adept. It is a sad truth that we must maintain such secrecy.” Apollyon explained, “No matter the cost, our darkest secrets must remain hidden. At least, for now. There may come a time when the galaxy is ready to learn them, but it is not now. And so, that is the reason for the mission I am about to give you. To keep our most hidden knowledge safe.” He reached into his robes, then withdrew a small metal box that unfolded like a flower to reveal a tiny projector.

  Apollo watched a holographic representation of a woman form in the air above the Precentor’s palm, she was not particularity old, of average weight and plainly attractive. Apollo saw nothing that made her special or noteworthy. She was so forgettable and mundanely normal that you would forget her the moment you took your eyes off her. Apollo knew exactly what she was.

  “A ROM agent?” He guessed.

  “Correct.” Apollyon nodded, “Kara. No surname, and that first name is undoubtedly fake as well.” He gestured with his free hand to the holographic image, “She is a ROM agent, one who broke off from ComStar following Focht’s heretical reforms and joined the ranks of the Word of Blake Militia. We thought she was simply serving as a soldier these days. But three weeks ago, we discovered certain communications between her, and that fool of a Precentor Martial, Cameron St. Jamais. It would seem the Precentor Martial has arranged to have her unit consistently deployed to support Shadow Division forces across the Inner Sphere with the intent of having this...Kara report back to him on our operations."

  “She is spying on us?" Apollo asked, disbelief in his voice, "More importantly, the Precentor Martial is spying on us? Why?”

  “St. Jamais has always been a paranoid imbecile.” There was a hint of annoyance in Apollyon’s voice as he spoke, “He considers we Manei Domini to be a danger to him, viewing our favour with the Master as a threat to his position, no doubt.”

  Apollo noted, but did not comment on, the Precentor's tone when he spoke of St. Jamais, "So what became of her?"

  "Usually I would send Berith to dispose of this cancer in our ranks," Apollyon said, "But the Specter Precentor Sigma is currently needed elsewhere.”

  Apollo glanced at the hologram, then back at the impenetrable shadow that coated the face of his commander, “Then you wish me to kill her?”

  “Not quite, Adept, not quite.” Apollyon said, “You see, Kara is currently unaware of the fact that we know of her communications. And so I wish to use her, to send a message to St. Jamais. Through her, you will show the Precentor Martial just how...useful the Manei Domini can be to the Word of Blake.”


*********

  “Sir.” The voice of the DropShip’s pilot intruded upon the memory and Apollo found himself once more sitting in the cockpit of his ‘Mech, roused from his retrospection, “We’re entering orbit. Deployment in ten.”

  His voice was a hollow monotone, a robotic drone. Not surprising, he wasn’t even much of a man, not anymore. The Chariot of the Wrathful’s pilot had been rebuilt for his duty, and he performed it marvellously, but such perfection of skill had meant discarding most of what made him human in the first place. A worthy sacrifice.

  “Confirmed.” The Adept replied, already waking Bellator Fidei from its mechanical slumber. The reactor thrummed to life and he felt the systems of his Archangel come alive as he declared, “Prepare the troops for deployment. Wake the Reclamations.”
« Last Edit: 26 September 2023, 07:33:39 by BlakesBestBoi »

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #9 on: 26 September 2023, 12:21:35 »
Chapter 3

December 29th
3070
Ryde


  Point Commander Jonah Mehta had seen many miserable planets in his years of service to Clan Wolf-in-Exile's Beta Galaxy, but the planet Ryde was, by far, the worst he’d ever had the misfortune of visiting. Located within the Lyran Alliance, Ryde was a polluted, hellish world. It suffered from an elongated orbit which meant the world was still undergoing tectonic upheaval even countless millennia after it was originally formed. A planet of long, harsh winters, it was almost constantly blanketed with snow and ice that only melted when the ever-present tectonic activity caused the numerous volcanoes and geysers to erupt across the surface.
 
  As if that was not bad enough, the water was deadly. Each of Ryde’s seas was tinted a sickly yellow by the sulphur that ceaselessly erupted from countless geysers in their depths and the waters were steaming hot. The seas of Ryde literally boiled constantly. The only reason anyone lived here was because of the vast amounts of resources scattered across the planet. Such easy access to minerals led to the population developing a very profitable, and very deadly, chemical industry that further poisoned the world. Jonah glanced skywards, seeing the dark, roiling clouds through the shattered roof above him. The sun was never visible on Ryde, the toxin laced, poisoned skies raged with storms constantly, blocking out the light of the dying star Ryde orbited. Only the smallest amount of illumination pierced the contaminated clouds, bathing the already hellish, frozen world in a weak yellow light that turned the planet the same colours as its oceans.

  Why the Blakists wanted this miserable orb, Jonah didn’t know, but their reasons mattered little. The Khan had dispatched Wolf-in-Exile forces across the territory owned by the Lyrans. He had given his warriors one simple order, “Hold back the madness.” and so that is exactly what the exiled Clanners had done. They bled in the trenches and warred in the void against the Word of Blake to protect the Inner Sphere and to honour the final directive of the last true ilKhan, Ulric Kerensky.

  The Point Commander had been hiding within the ruins of a bombed out factory in the city of Heaven's Gate for hours now. The entire district was destroyed, with toppled houses and collapsed factories stretching out as far as the eye could see. Around him, the world was burning. Not so long ago, Heaven's Gate had been a sprawling, bustling city that was home to millions of souls. The largest city on the planet, it had served as both the world's capital and centre of production for centuries, but now it was little more than a smouldering ruin.

  It had been a very impressive sight once, in its own way. A breathtaking place of factories, shipyards, warehouses and manufacturing plants that stretched from horizon to horizon. The city never slept, and the rumble of industry could be heard all hours of the day, no matter where you were. Heaven's Gate was a sprawling, groaning symbol of the Lyran Alliance’s industrial might. It had been invaded numerous times, first by the Successor States, then the Clans during their invasion of the Inner Sphere, then later by the Lyran’s once more when they had set out to reclaim all that had been taken from them by the Clans. The world of Ryde was no stranger to war and death, but despite this it had always endured.

  Then the Jihad came, and the Word of Blake had descended upon Ryde with fire and hate. Their WarShips had hung in orbit, unleashing devastating attacks against every settlement and military installation on the surface. When that was over, the Blakists then deployed all manner of horrible biological weapons to further weaken the defenders of the planet. Now, Heaven’s Gate was little more than a burnt out ruin. Entire parts of the city were still smouldering, even though the fires had first started weeks ago, piles of debris blocked most streets, the once magnificent buildings had been toppled and now lay shattered and broken, home to nothing more than scavenging beasts. So many had died that the clean up teams of whichever side won this war would be removing corpses for many weeks after the invasion.

  It was not merely the buildings and their occupants who had suffered, however. Even the plant life had not escaped the Word of Blake's holy wrath. Their biological weapons and plagues had swept through the city, killing everything they came into contact with, man, woman, plant, animal, innocent and guilty, it mattered not. All died. The once glorious gardens and parks of the noble districts were now little more than fetid swamps, the decaying plants and wildlife that had called them home reduced to nought but foul smelling, biological sludge.

  The stink of death clung to everything in the city, ash drifted on the air and the empty, carrion covered streets echoed with the wails of the dying and the roar of combat. This world was dead. It would never rise again, somehow Jonah knew this to be true. And yet, they still fought. After the orbital bombardments, after the biological attacks and the plagues, the Word of Blake had landed numerous DropShips across the planet, unleashing an endless tide of zealots and madmen upon those who had survived the Apocalypse that came before. Lyran and Wolf-in-Exile soldiers clashed with Blake's faithful everywhere, fighting for dominance of the shattered buildings and corpse-filled streets. It was a pointless battle, but it was a battle neither side was willing to back out of. This bitter, costly and worthless conflict almost seemed like a metaphor for the entire Jihad, a pointless, violent, horrible fight to the death fought for no real benefit that resulted in nothing but ruination and death. For two months Ryde had resisted the Word of Blake, and the siege showed no sign of ending soon.

  Jonah looked down to his left, watching a trio of Battle Armour clad troopers in the colours of the Lyran Guards jog past his Hydra ProtoMech, their heads moving back and forth as they checked the ruins for any signs of life, weapons tracking the shadows around them. They stamped through the melted remains of a family brought down by a Blakist bioweapon, smearing their legs with liquefied flesh and bone. They reached their assigned position, and dropped into cover by the windows, weapons braced and at the ready.

  “All units ready.” Their commander radioed Jonah.

  “The prey closes.” Another voice whispered over the comms, “A trio of Blakists.”

  “Acknowledged.” Jonah tensed, waiting for the right moment to move. From his position within the destroyed factory, the Point Commander saw a trio of ‘Mechs in the white of the Word of Blake Militia round the corner at the far end of the street. A Legacy, Red Shift and a Gurkha.

  He allowed them to close, then yelled, “Pounce!”

  All hell broke loose as the Wolves and Lyrans revealed themselves. Jonah put his shoulder down as he sprinted forward, his Hydra easily crashing through the wall ahead of him. He raced out into the street, his Streak SRM-3 launcher already swinging round to target the closest enemy ‘Mech. The Blakists were reacting to his movement, swinging round to target him and the other two Hydra’s following him out onto the street. They fired, lasers and missiles lanced past Jonah’s ProtoMech as he ran, using his mobility to throw off their aim.

  The ProtoMechs closed the distance swiftly and then, as one, let fly with their own weapons. Torso mounted Micro Pulse Lasers and SRMs hammered the Red Shift, and within moments the light ‘Mech was down, armour ruined and inner frame shattered. It did not rise. Jonah gritted his teeth as a laser grazed his leg. The direct connection between his mind and his Hydra that gave him so much control over his machine allowed him to feel any "pain" inflicted on the ProtoMech via neurological feedback. It was unpleasant, to say the least.

  Shoving aside the discomfort, Jonah swerved to the side, once more smashing through the wall of a toppled storage warehouse to his left. The other two members of his Point followed, and the Word of Blake ‘Mechs turned to open fire on the collapsed building in the hopes of catching their attackers.

  The moment they turned, the Battle Armour clad infantry from the factory revealed themselves, opening fire with lasers that struck the back armour of the ‘Mechs. Another group appeared on the top level of the parking lot at the other end of the street, Elementals this time, and they rained missiles down upon the Blakists. The Toyama focused its fire on the Elementals while the Gurkha went after the Lyrans. It was then that the final piece of the trap was sprung.

  A pair of Minotaur ProtoMechs, the last two members of Jonah’s Point, stomped out of hiding from between two warehouses and planted their fists on the broken ground. Arms braced, legs tensed, they let loose with the pair of ER Medium Lasers mounted on their backs. The Toyama, its armour slagged and inner systems dangerously exposed, backed down the street the way it had originally come, firing as it retreated. The Gurkha made to follow, but it had suffered damage to its right leg and was too slow.

  “Let the Toyama go, take down the Gurkha!” Jonah barked, having circled around the warehouse he had retreated through, he and the other Hydras had rejoined the fight and were adding their fire to battle once more.

  The Gurkha stumbled under the assault as everyone focused their fury upon it. Just as it went down, the ‘Mech unleashed its ER PPC and Jonah heard the pilot of the Hydra to his left scream for just a moment as she and her ProtoMech were incinerated. The Blakist ‘Mech went down, its sword clattering to the ground as the machine crashed onto the street and lay smoking and sparking. The Toyama was gone. A deathly silence fell over the street. Jonah sighed, sweat coating his face as he took a moment to calm himself after the battle. The cockpit of the Gurkha opened, and a bloodied MechWarrior clambered out. He looked around, then held up his hands in surrender.

  One of the Lyrans in Battle Armour raised his arm and shot the man through the heart with a laser.

  No one made any move to stop him, and no one bothered to reprimand the trooper.

  "Alert, all units in the Western Industrial District, we have confirmed reports of a Blakist DropShip approaching your position. Prepare for contact." The radio crackled in Jonah's ear.

  "That's us!" The Point Commander shouted, "Look sharp everyone!" He looked up, his Hydra's sensors zooming in and highlighting the approaching Achilles-class DropShip as it broke through the clouds and raced towards the Western Industrial District, "I wonder what fresh hell they have for us now..."
« Last Edit: 21 October 2023, 17:20:00 by BlakesBestBoi »

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #10 on: 28 September 2023, 10:39:56 »
Chapter 4

December 29th
3070
Gibson

  “I’ve been doing some research into you, David Ross.” Apollyon said.

  He stalked the corners of the room, the sound of metal on stone echoing strangely around the chamber as he slowly circled the broken remains of David on the operating table. The man’s remaining, bloodshot eye was flicking back and forth, attempting to track the Precentor as his voice drifted in from the darkness surrounding him. 

  “Adept of the Com Guard, the Sixth Army, born into the ranks of ComStar in 3046 to a pair of Com Guard. I suppose, then, it isn’t surprising that you joined the ranks of ComStar’s military. It runs in your blood, you could say.” The Precentor's robotic hands were clasped before him, his tone calm and low as he dissected the man’s past as easily as he dissected his flesh, “Your parents never believed in Blake, and they were watched very closely by ROM due to their faithlessness. Your mother died during the early days of the Clan Invasion and your father fell on Tukayyid. Leaving you alone in the world, a mere boy.”

  A wet gurgle emerged from David’s throat as he tried to speak, the man tasted blood and bile, before he swallowed and tried again, “Should I be impressed?”

  Apollyon ignored him, “When the Clans were laid low at Tukayyid by the might of ComStar, Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht returned to Terra, and it was there that he murdered the wise Primus Myndo Waterly, may she rest peacefully. Given your parents…” He thought for a moment, trying to find the right word, “godless ways, it is not surprising that you so readily accepted his heretical changes to the order. You were just a child, after all, so you knew no better.”

  Suddenly, he was there, right next to David, looming like a vengeful spirit over the man, “So, in a way, I suppose it isn’t your fault.” He said, stroking the remains of the mutilated Adept's face. “You were raised in an organisation wholly dedicated to heresy and deceit. All your life you have been lied to, denied the glory of Blake’s wisdom. Even your very parents went out of their way to keep the truth from you.”

  He shook his head, “So with this in mind, I understand, and deeply pity, your lack of faith. Given your upbringing, you are not to be blamed for it. But what I don’t understand, is why you resist us? Your combat record is filled with incidents involving you leaping to the defence of the innocent. Numerous times you were praised and rewarded for going above and beyond the call of duty in times of crisis. Everything I see in your records indicates that you are clearly a man who is willing to put himself in danger to protect those who cannot protect themselves.” Apollyon made a sound that might have been a small laugh, the noise made David recoil even more from the Precentor, “I confess to some confusion over this, David. The Word of Blake only wants to protect mankind. We strive for nothing more than to keep humanity safe, both from external threats and from itself. Why would a man like you, a good, kind man who wants only to safeguard the innocent, not aid us?”

  “Is…that a serious question?” David groaned.

  “Of course.” Apollyon said, “We, above all else, seek only to protect our species via the spreading of Blake’s truth. The Word of Blake wants nothing more than to lead mankind into a new, glorious age of unity. Am I not proof of this? Look at me, David, and my Manei Domini. Behold our power, our wisdom, our splendour.” He spread his arms, “We are not motivated by petty ambition, or greed, or hate. Instead, we are driven by the desire, the need, to ensure the survival of mankind. The Hands of the Master are united under a single, glorious goal, and that goal is bringing peace to all.” He placed a hand on his chest, where his heart had once been, “We are the future. We are a representation of what humanity can become, if it is shepherded aright and unshackled from its spiteful weaknesses. Look upon me, my friend, and see the future. A man devoted to the Word of Blake, to the True God himself, a man who wants for nothing but peace.”

  What was left of David’s face twisted into an angry snarl, “All I see, is a hypocrite.”

  “Indeed?” The Precentor hummed, “Please, my friend, elaborate.”

  “How can you say you’re trying to protect mankind…” David gritted his teeth, pushing through the agony that welled up inside him as he spoke, “when you’re out there, slaughtering millions of people daily?” He glared up into the hooded darkness that was Apollyon’s face, “Are the Clans out there turning worlds to glass with orbital bombardments? Are the Great Houses unleashing biological weapons that melt the skin of every man, woman and child on a planet? Do you see the Periphery nations cutting down unarmed civilians with legions of cybernetic freaks? You’re no uniter, and you don’t give a shit about the future of humanity. You’re just a murderer, a killer who has slaughtered billions while somehow convincing himself that he is righteous.”

  Apollyon gazed down at David, his blazing green eye seeming to bore into the man’s very soul, “It saddens me to hear you speak like that, David.” He shook his head, “I had hoped a man born into the ranks of ComStar would understand the necessity of our actions. You are right, we do destroy worlds, and decimate populations, but we never do so with an easy heart. The Word of Blake will do whatever it takes to unite the Inner Sphere, and beyond, under the will of the Holy One. If the rest of mankind will not accept Blake’s wisdom, then they stand in the path of unification and I am afraid they must burn.”

  “So you’re just going to kill everyone…” The Com Guard growled, “Until only you are left? You’ll just kill the whole galaxy so it’s only you and your delusional friends?”

  “That is a…crude way to put it, but you are not wrong.” Apollyon nodded, “The Second Star League was our last chance at a coalition that would bring everyone together and bind them under a single flag. It failed. And now we are left but with one option.” The Precentor’s voice turned hard, he spoke with no hint of pity or emotion, “This galaxy will burn. The Jihad will scour every single planet clean of life if it must. And when it is over, when the winds howl over broken plains and shattered cities, the Master shall look upon a galaxy filled with nothing but faith, populated with a single, unified people united under Blake. And then, and only then, will there be peace.”

  “You’re crazy.” David shook his head, “You’re absolutely insane.”

  “No, Adept.” Apollyon whispered, “I am right.”

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #11 on: 28 September 2023, 19:18:29 »
Tagged.

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #12 on: 29 September 2023, 01:55:19 »
Entertaining writing. I look forward to reading more.

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #13 on: 29 September 2023, 20:08:40 »
Chapter 5

December 29th
3070
Ryde


  Apollo’s heart sank as he looked out across the poisoned world. He beheld the broken city, he took in the polluted sky and listened to the roar of battle echoing from every direction. The Adept shook his head, this was why the men and women of the Inner Sphere needed someone like Jerome Blake to guide them. Without a firm hand to lead them along the path of peace, they would destroy everything. Ryde was a perfect example of what humanity could do if left to its own devices. If left to drift alone aimlessly, mankind would bring about its own destruction as surely as it had brought about the death of this planet. 
 
  Bellator Fidei stood atop the shattered remains of a house, granting Apollo a good view of the surrounding devastation. Behind him, Chariot of the Wrathful sat within the vile swamp that had, once, been the Karver Park, a place Apollo assumed was named after some sort of hero. The DropShip was hissing and groaning as the metal rapidly cooled after its re-entry, and the liquefied plant life it rested in steamed and bubbled from the heat given off by the vessel. Apollo had touched down in this location for a simple reason.
 
  He was here to end this siege and the only way he could see himself doing that on his own, was by removing the heretics in command of the Lyran defence. The leader of the Exiled Wolves, a woman named Mira, was supposedly operating in the Western Industrial District. Apollo had come for her head. He did not plan on killing the Wolves, mighty though he was, even a Manei Domini could not hope to slaughter every single Clanner on Ryde alone. He had other plans.

  Bellator Fidei was still and silent as Apollo tuned into the Word of Blake frequencies. He opened every channel at once, allowing a flood of noise to wash over him within the cockpit of his Archangel. His cybernetically enhanced mind easily sorted through the cacophony, picking out important transmissions and reports. He listened for several minutes, building a mental image of the battle raging across Heaven's Gate before he shut off the radio and activated all of his ‘Mech’s systems.

  He had an idea of the current situation, and more importantly he knew where his target likely was. The Wolves were leading a counter-attack in the northern part of the District, the fighting was bloody and the Word of Blake forces in the area were being pushed back. If Apollo knew the children of the Clans, and he did indeed know them very well, Star Captain Mira would be there, where the fighting was at its thickest. He was just about to set off when the shooting started.
 
 Apollo turned, watching a group of the smaller Clan machines known as ProtoMechs rush into the park, they opened fire the instant they saw him but the shots went wide. With scornful indifference, the Adept turned away. He fired his jump jets, taking off and heading deeper into the city. He was not here to deal with such an insignificant threat, there was greater prey to hunt. The Reclaimed could deal with them. With a thought, he signalled the DropShip's pilot, ordering him to fully awaken them.

*********

  Point Commander Jonah Mehta had tracked the descent of the enemy DropShip, and was already moving to intercept the newly arrived Blakist forces when the vessel came in for a landing. His Hydra loped through rubble covered streets, vaulting piles of debris and splashing through the dissolved remains of Heaven's Gate’s citizens. The remainder of his Point followed closely, while the Battle Armour units under his command took to the rooftops, leaping between broken buildings and doing their best to keep up with the nimble ProtoMechs.

  “They’re heading for Karver Park.” Jonah said, broadcasting to every warrior under his command, “That’s a wide open area, keep moving and focus your fire on the smaller ‘Mechs first. Without their faster kin, the heavier machines are easy prey.”

  He rounded the corner ahead and skidded to a halt, his SRM launcher raised. He paused, frowning. Jonah had expected to find a Lance, if not more, of Blakist ‘Mechs here. The fanatics had their own way of deploying BattleMechs, a system of Levels from what he understood, and the DropShip was big enough to land a whole Level II with ease. Instead, he saw that the Achilles-class DropShip had landed, but the bay doors remained sealed and the weapons were silent. He quickly swept his sensors over the surroundings, and spotted a single ‘Mech stood atop a toppled house with its back to the park. Without a word, the Clanner opened fire. SRMs were never made to be used at long range, the shots went wide, missing the enemy machine by quite a wide margin, careening off into the night or striking the rubble around the 'Mech and detonating. The Blakist didn’t even acknowledge the Clanner’s presence, he merely engaged his jump jets and took off.
 
  “Freebirth!” Jonah swore, “Get after him! Send the Battle Armour to capture the DropShip, we can’t let that bastard escape.”

  “What makes you think he is such a threat?” One of his Point asked.
 
  “I didn’t recognise the sort of machine that Blakist was operating,” Jonah growled, “but it was painted in the colours of the 52nd Shadow Division. I’ve heard reports about a new series of BattleMechs being made specifically for their cybernetic elite. If that actually was a Manei Domini, I don’t even want to think about the sort of damage he could do if he reached the frontlines.”

  He was just about to move when the grinding of machinery filled the park. He spun to face the DropShip, just in time to see the vessel begin to groan open. The Clanners trained their weapons on the Achilles, watching, waiting. The Battle Armour had finally caught up to them, and the troopers took up positions atop the buildings surrounding the park. The DropShip’s boarding ramps slammed down with a dull boom, splashing into the green/brown sludge the park had become. The interior of the vessel was completely black, but Jonah swore he saw faint lights shining from within. Something twinkled, like metal catching the weak light. No one moved, the warriors of Clan Wolf-in-Exile waited with weapons clenched and breath held.
 
  Then they emerged.

  Although the Point Commander had heard reports of the Word of Blake’s newest monsters, they had thus far only been deployed against the Free Worlds League meaning Clan Wolf-in-Exile had never crossed paths with them. The scattered reports he’d read did nothing to prepare Jonah for what he saw come out of that DropShip, however. Since the Jihad began, Word of Blake had made increasing use of forces acquired from outside their Order, usually this meant they worked alongside pirates or mercenaries. More recently, however, reports trickling in from across the Inner Sphere suggested that the mysterious leader of the Manei Domini, known only as the ‘Prince of Scars’ to those outside the ranks of the Master’s chosen, had been working on a new form of soldier. The leaders of the Clan had assumed this meant he was working on a method of augmenting the standard soldier of the Militia, thus increasing the overall effectiveness of the Word of Blake’s military.

  They were horribly wrong. The Prince of Scars had not been working to modify the Word of Blake’s existing forces. Instead, he had been searching for a way to grow the ranks of the faithful while also creating a new and horrible weapon for use against the godless fools who resisted Blake’s will. It had taken years of struggle and sacrifice, but by the time the Jihad began, he had successfully created monsters that seemed to have crawled right out of nightmares.

  They were called the Reclaimed.

  Each one of them had been a non-believer, an infidel taken against their will by the servants of Blake. Some were prisoners of war, others were civilians stolen from the worlds that formed the Word of Blake’s Protectorate, a few were even descended from the Clans. It mattered not where they came from, once they were chosen, each had been sent back to Gibson, where the Lord of the Manei Domini and his servants had rebuilt them into something born from the darkest dreams of a madman.

  As the Reclaimed came stumbling out of the darkness within the DropShip, Jonah found himself frozen in place by the sheer horror he was gazing upon. Each and every one of them resembled poor imitations of the blessed Manei Domini but where the Hands of the Master were marvellous fusions of flesh and machine, the Reclaimed were vile, stitched together things that were as hideous as they were terrifying to behold.

  They came towards the Clanners, staggering, stumbling and shuffling as they sloshed through the remains of the park. The flesh of the Reclaimed was as pale and cold as that of a corpse, and they groaned, howled and whined as they moved, some even seemed to be sobbing. It was like the dead had risen. Each had been mutilated by the servants of Blake in different ways, some had no arms beneath the elbows, instead their limbs ended in long, razor-sharp vibroblades while others had all sorts of canons and laser weapons grafted onto their bodies. None of them had their eyes anymore, in their place were blazing red optic sensors that seemed to burn with hate, their mouths had been replaced with speakers that blared out their lamentations at deafening volumes. Machinery jutted out of them at all angles, metal erupting through broken, weeping flesh in seemingly random places and they were clothed in simply white robes beneath basic ballistic armour, all of which were filthy and stained with dried gore. Their heads lolled from side to side as they moved, arms swaying limply back and forth as if they were not in control of their own bodies. Somehow, Jonah knew they weren’t. Something was controlling them, the mechanical defilement of their bodies gave the Word of Blake mastery of their flesh.

  “By the Great Father…” Jonah whispered, eyes wide as he took a small step back.

  “Open fire!”
 
  Jonah didn’t know who had screamed the words, but they snapped him out of his fearful inaction and he immediately unleashed his Hydra’s fire upon the nightmarish horde. Missiles and lasers sliced into the ranks of the Reclaimed, some fell but most came hobbling on. Lasers bored through their bodies and missiles blasted off limbs but they simply kept coming. Even those who fell rose a moment later, ungainly struggling back to their feet before resuming their march towards the Clanners.

  The Reclaimed with ranged weapons grafted to their bodies came to a halt amid the horde and returned fire. Lasers, PPC shots and bolts of plasma split the air. Jonah and his Point scattered, but the Battle Armour infantry atop the buildings weren’t quick enough and many were felled by the cyborgs surprisingly accurate fire. The rest of the Reclaimed suddenly broke into a run. They moved without grace or a hint of dignity. They scrambled over the ground like mad beasts towards the ProtoMechs, running so fast and with such little care that they tipped forward, almost tripping over themselves in their haste to close with the Clanners. They wailed even louder as they ran, the sound set Jonah’s teeth on edge.
 
  The Point Commander lowered his SRM launcher as they approached, they were too close now to risk firing, and opened up with his torso mounted Micro Pulse Laser. The beam shot out, incinerating the head of a charging Reclaimed but the rest came on undaunted. The closest, a woman who had two huge vibroblades in place of her lower arms and a face that had been carved away to reveal the metal skull beneath, leapt at him, propelling herself towards Jonah with great speed thanks to her crude, but effective, robotic legs. The blades came down, but the ProtoMech struck first, backhanding the cyborg horror with enough force to shatter her metal skull and send the corpse tumbling away.

  He backed away from the Reclaimed, but they were all around him now, pressing in, grabbing at him, drowning him in a tide of insanity. He lashed out, crushing bones with kicks and shattering spines with his fists, his pulse laser firing constantly, but the horde never thinned. He snarled, feeling pain erupt in his back as one of the mutilated monsters managed to tear into the armour plating on the back of his Hydra with their wicked talons. Another clung to his right arm, hacking at it with some sort of rotary blade. He raised his arm right high, then slammed it down onto the ground with enough force to turn the insides of the Reclaimed clinging to him into paste. A cyborg with drills for hands darted in, ramming them into Jonah's chest armour before the Point Commander literally tore his head off. Pain threatened to overwhelm him, but just as he was about to be overcome by the horde, the entire world exploded.

  Jonah was hurled off his feet, warnings screamed around him, informing him that his ProtoMech’s armour had been heavily damaged and that his internal systems weren’t looking too good either. He crashed to earth, spraying liquefied organic matter high into the air as he came down. Shoving himself up, the Point Commander saw the last Hydra under his command advancing forward. The man was firing his SRMs at point blank range, each blast shredded the oncoming horde but the pilot was also damaging his ProtoMech by firing the missiles so closely. At this point, however, he didn't have much choice. 

  “Get up and help us kill these beasts!” The Hydra snarled, hauling him up onto his feet, “If they get past us, they will swarm into the city!”

  Jonah nodded, snapping out a punch that broke the ribs of a Reclaimed. The cyborg stumbled backwards, agonised screaming roaring from the speaker within its face, before it lurched back towards him. He blasted a hole in its chest with his laser, then levelled his SRM launcher at the nearest group of Reclaimed and unloaded a volley into their midst while slamming his foot down onto the head of a wounded, legless cyborg that was crawling towards him.

  “Clan Wolf!” He heard someone scream over the radio.

  He glanced right, seeing one of the Minotaur ProtoMechs go down beneath a tide of Reclaimed. They hacked and chopped and tore at her, but the woman fought on until the end. Blood spurted, Jonah heard a cry of defiance over the comms and then the ProtoMech's ruined form began to glow. His sensors dimmed to near blackness to avoid damage to his eyesight as the dying woman detonated her Minotaur's reactor, atomising herself and the Reclaimed swarming over her, leaving nothing behind but a smoking crater. As he flung the broken form of another cyborg aside, Jonah saw Reclaimed rushing towards the buildings surrounding the park, they were heading for the Battle Armour troopers who were still engaged in a vicious firefight with the cyborgs equipped with ranged weapons. There was nothing he could do to help them right now. They were on their own.

  “Fight on!” The Point Commander roared, “For the Great Father!”
 
  “For the Great Father!” His warriors echoed, "For Khan Kell!"
« Last Edit: 30 September 2023, 18:43:19 by BlakesBestBoi »

Horsemen

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #14 on: 30 September 2023, 18:08:48 »
I am really enjoying this. I do have a question does Jonah use contractions intentionally as that is not something done usually by the Clans.

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #15 on: 30 September 2023, 18:42:31 »
*Spoiler*

Actually something I plan on including later is him getting a warning about his use of contractions from a higher up :)
In short, he's been spending so much time around the Spheroids that they're starting to rub off on him, and this isn't the only habit he's picked up. I like the idea of Clan Wolf-in-Exile becoming a little less Clan and a bit more Inner Sphere over time, if that makes sense.
« Last Edit: 30 September 2023, 18:53:40 by BlakesBestBoi »

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #16 on: 02 October 2023, 11:44:59 »
Chapter 6

December 29th
3070
Ryde

  "Manei Domini sighting confirmed! All units be advised, we have a Celestial 'Mech in the combat zone!" The voice of the comms was laced with static and distortion, but the terror present in the words was impossible to miss.

  'We shall die on this world.' The thought came uninvited, and not for the first time. It was true though, she would never leave this planet, she knew it to be so. Her warriors would fight and die beneath the poisoned skies of Ryde and the Lyrans would care not one bit for their sacrifice. She trusted her Khan, but there was no denying that he had sent his warriors to their deaths.
 
  Mira, warrior of Clan Wolf-in-Exile, Star Captain of Beta Galaxy and so-called Bane of Falcons after her actions in the Refusal War, closed her eyes and breathed in deeply through her nose, trying to calm her mind. Death was inevitable, a true warrior did not fear it. Mira was afraid, she felt no shame in admitting that. She feared for the men and women under her command, she feared for the future of the Inner Sphere and, perhaps just a little, she feared for her own life. If a Manei Domini was present in this battle, he would be coming for her. Mira was afraid of facing one of the cybernetic elite of the Word of Blake, for few who did so lived to tell the tale, but she was old enough to know that fear was the strongest weapon one could give your enemy.
 
  The Star Captain forced herself to breathe slowly, shoved down her doubts and opened her eyes once more. Around her, the dead stretched out in every direction. Destroyed Lyran and Exiled Wolf 'Mechs lay everywhere alongside broken machines belonging to the Word of Blake, the burning remains of vehicles blazed amid the sea of corpses that littered the ground. Lyran and Wolf, civilian and fanatic. Everywhere Mira looked, she beheld death on a scale that was almost impossible to imagine. She stood on what had, once, been a road that connected to a long bridge which served to link two parts of the city over a boiling, polluted yellow river but the bridge was gone, and the buildings all around her had been levelled by the fighting. A field of bloodstained debris and ruination was all that was left of this part of the district.
 
  "This must end..." She whispered to herself, slowly shaking her head, "This madness must not go on."

  A pair of Elementals moved among the dead and the dying at her feet. They put lasers in the heads of any Blakist that was still alive and did their best to aid any Lyran or Wolf who yet lived, most were beyond saving however, and the grim warriors helped speed those fallen soldiers onto their rest. Their Battle Armour was battered and filthy, the warriors inside were exhausted but they were, in a way, the lucky members of their Point for they were still alive. The same could not be said for the rest of Mira's command.

  While the Star Captain had been placed in command of all Wolf-in-Exile forces on Ryde, her personal unit had once consisted of five 'Mechs and a full point of Elementals. Now, there was only two of the Battle Armoured warriors left, and a single 'Mech remained under her command. It was a Nova, piloted by her oldest friend and sibmate, Lucas, which was missing most of the armour on its legs and had suffered a bad hit to the left arm, locking the limb up. Her own BattleMech, a Mad Dog that she had piloted through the fires of Tukayyid and the bitter battles of the Refusal War, was in just as bad shape. Most of the machine's armour was gone, and her ammo stores were dangerously low. There was no point in ordering her warriors back to base, however. With the Word of Blake maintaining control of the system's jump points, no supplies had been able to reach Ryde in weeks so there was literally nothing the engineers could do to repair either of the 'Mechs.
 
  "We should move on." Lucas said, his tone low and weary, neither of them had slept in days, "If we push hard enough, we may be able to drive the zealots out of this sector."

  "I am starting to think this counterattack was a bad idea..." Mira sighed, glancing to the destroyed Kit Fox that had once been piloted by MechWarrior Franz. The cockpit was destroyed, burned out by a PPC. There wasn't even a corpse left behind.

  "Maybe it was." Lucas admitted, "But we are committed now. Come, the Lyran Guard are pushing ahead and we should support them."

  A tired smile broke Mira's face, it almost sounded like Lucas was giving her orders now, "Aff, move ou-" She was cut off by a loud warning chime that rang around her cockpit. She looked at her sensors, cursing under her breath, "Contact! Moving fast on our position!" 

  Her foe arrived with all the grace, subtlety and destruction of a meteor. Despite being over 20 meters tall, the 'Mech darted over the rooftops, a blazing trail of fire following it as its jump jets sent it sailing through the air with breathtaking speed. It moved with impossible grace, easily darting sideways mid-descent to avoid the fire unleashed upon it by the Exiled Wolves. Lasers and missiles soared past the 'Mech as it came down, plummeting to earth with enough force to shake Mira's Mad Dog. The massive machine landed atop the Elementals, crushing one into paste beneath its feet and sending the last member of the Point sprawling on his ass before it.

  The man scrambled back and raised his arm, unleashing a laser into the chest of the 'Mech towering over him. Mira heard his defiant, insult filled screams over the radio as the 'Mech reached down and seized him in its massive fist. The machine stood, straightening up to its full, imposing height as it glared at Mira. It was all hard edges and strange angles. The right arm ended in a huge, glowing Heavy PPC that thrummed with power, the left arm ended in a massive clawed hand which held the soldier, on the underside of the left arm was a strange box of metal which contained the 'Mech's retractable blade. Numerous smaller lasers and PPCs covered the its torso and shoulders. Mira didn't even need to check her systems to know what this machine was. It was an Archangel, a Celestial series BattleMech. And that meant that inside that towering beast of metal was a Manei Domini.

  'I shall die this die.' The thought surfaced as Mira watched the Arhangel raise its fist, then slowly close it. She heard the Elemental's defiant roar turn to a scream of pain, though not fear, then there was only static over the radio. Blood and gore erupted from between the Archangel's fingers before it tossed aside the splattered remains of the soldier.
 
  A voice, smoother and wiser than Mira had expected, sounded from the audio systems of the enemy 'Mech, "When I came to this dying world, I was saddened that my kin had been granted the glory of battling the Clans while I was sent to deal with the heretics of Steiner. But behold, the Exiled Dogs stand before me. I shall have my glory and earn some shred of redemption this day. Give praise to Blake, for he is generous and kind." The 'Mech's huge hand rose, pointing a finger directly at her, "I am Apollo, Ascended of the Manei Domini, Adept of the 52nd Shadow Division, and I have come for you, Star Captain Mira."

  The silence that filled the square following the Manei Domini's arrival was broken as the two Clan BattleMechs opened fire and all hell broke loose. The 'Mechs remained still, focusing all of their attention on Apollo, painfully bright lasers and missiles split the air as they unleashed their fury upon the fanatic. Apollo returned fire with his own weapons, at the same time he fired his jump jets and rocketed back into the air. The Clan 'Mechs tracked him, filling the toxin laced air with their rage but not a single hit struck home upon Bellator Fidei. The Archangel jinked from side to side, ascending and descending rapidly as it dodged their attacks, almost seeming to flit between the lines of fire as Apollo unleashed the full power of his machine. Lucas' Nova stumbled as Bellator Fidei's plasma rifle, Heavy PPC and torso mounted lasers opened up, hammering the 'Mech so hard that its legs shook beneath the weight of fire, threatening to topple over from the sheer force of the attack directed towards it.

  Apollo, interfaced with Bellator Fidei at a level that was impossible for any normal human due to the sacred VDNI implanted in his brain, was capable of commanding his 'Mech with unmatched precision, he didn't merely control his machine, he was his machine. When he raised his arm, the Archangel brought up its PPC, when he walked, the machine moved with a grace equal to that of a dancer. This perfect level of control allowed him to easily outperform even the best MechWarriors currently roaming the galaxy. Using nought but his mind to command Bellator Fidei, Apollo spun, darted, ducked, weaved and twirled between attacks like a professional boxer, lashing out with his lasers with pinpoint accuracy. Within moments, the Nova was retreating, armour slagged, internals sparking and flaming.
 
  The Adept moved in for the kill. Threading his way through the fire unleashed by both 'Mechs, Apollo raced towards the Nova like a vengeful comet, his jump jets blazing brightly, leaving a flaming trail in the air behind him as he closed the space. The enemy 'Mech began to rapidly back away as best it could, limping badly on damaged legs as it attempted to keep some distance between the two of them. At the same time, the Nova's many lasers struck out, but Apollo didn't attempt to evade. He allowed the attacks to strike him, trusting his Archangel's armour to protect him.

  A moment before connecting with the enemy machine, Apollo swung up Bellator Fidei's left leg. The Archangel's foot connected with the chest of the Clan BattleMech, smashing into it with unstoppable force. The 'Mech toppled over, crashing to the ground and skidding backwards with a deafening metallic clatter as Bellator Fidei's momentum was transferred to it. Apollo rode the hostile 'Mech as it was sent scraping across the shattered road, spraying sparks high into the air. The Nova didn't move, the MechWarrior within doubtless shaken following the impact. Before he could recover, Apollo ended him. The Manei Domini deployed his retractable blade, raised it high and thrust downwards, breaching the cockpit and killing the pilot in one smooth motion.

  He heard a cry, a mix of rage and sorrow, behind him and leapt high into the air once more. Mira's shots went wide and before she could angle her 'Mech to fire upwards, Apollo darted towards her. His blade lashed out as he passed and the Mad Dog's left arm spun away, smashing into the ruins across the street. Apollo pivoted on the spot, rounding on Mira and raising his PPC. The shot blasted a massive, smoking holy in side torso of the Clan 'Mech, the machine stumbled, almost losing its balance. Apollo didn't let up, he unleashed his laser at point-blank range, damaging the Clan 'Mech even further.

  Then, the last thing Mira expected happened. The Adept stopped firing, withdrew the blade into Bellator Fidei's arm and said, "You are beaten, Outcast Dog." He declared, Mira tried to turn but her 'Mech was so damaged that the Archangel could literally step around her weapons to stay out of her lines of fire, "Your warriors are dying. Even now, the faithful in the Word of Blake Militia cut them down and your ProtoMechs face death at the hands of the Reclaimed. There is no victory to be found here. So leave. I, Apollo of the Manei Domini, officially offer you hegira."

  That offer stunned Mira into inaction, leaving her blinking and fumbling for a response, that this cyborg creature knew their terms stunned her. Finally she managed, "What?"

  "Do not mistake mercy for love." Apollo warned, "I would enjoy nothing more than ending you, here and now Star Captain, but I was not sent to kill you. I was sent to end this war." He gestured with Bellator Fidei's huge hand to the ruins around them, "This planet has fallen, the only reason we do not yet control it is because your dogs remain. Without you, the Lyran forces will fall quickly. Thus, removing you from the conflict is the quickest way for me to achieve my goal."

  "So you want me to run? To let you win?" Mira snapped, "After all you've done? After you killed Lucas?"

  "Refuse, and I will kill you." The Manei Domini said, tone calm and nonthreatening, but filled with promise, "You know that I can. I will kill you, then I will kill your warriors and this war will end with a victory for the Word of Blake. I offer you a chance to withdraw, to spare your warriors and to maintain your honour by accepting hegira after suffering defeat at the hands of a greater warrior."

  "So we leave, and spare you the effort of killing us?" The Star Captain growled, "Is that it?"
 
  She saw Bellator Fidei's PPC glow as Apollo charged it, "Make your choice, Star Captain Mira."

*********

  Jonah cried out in pain, gritting his teeth as he experienced the sudden, horrible feeling of having his right eye gouged out. He had not, in fact, lost his eye, instead one of the Reclaimed had clambered onto his back and was now clinging to his head while ramming a saw into his Hydra's right optic sensor. He tore the cyborg off and cast it aside, slamming it into the nearby wall so hard all the bones in its body shattered. He stumbled back, punching, kicking, grappling and even headbutting anything that came near. His SRM launcher was clutched in his left hand, it was out of ammo but it made a good club at least.

  "This is Star Captain Mira to all Wolf-in-Exile forces." He could barely hear Mira's voice over the radio, it was nearly completely drowned out by the horrible wailing of the Reclaimed, "Withdraw. Repeat, all Wolf-in-Exile forces are to withdraw. We are departing Ryde."

  "No!" Jonah screamed into the comms as he bludgeoned the skull of another robotic horror, "Star Captain you can't order a retreat, we-"
 
  "I have been offered, and have accepted, hegira. We have no choice." Mira said, her tone one of defeat, "Honour demands we leave this world, and we have no choice, Point Commander. We will die if we remain here."

  Jonah was too busy fighting off a pair of Reclaimed that came at him from behind to answer for a moment, "If we leave, everyone on this planet will die. You know what the Word of Blake is like!"

  "I gave you an order!" Mira snapped, "Withdraw."

  "Damn you, Mira!" Jonah shouted, before cutting the channel and barking, "Withdraw!"

  He received no answer. The ProtoMech pilot cast about, but saw nothing except for a seething tide of cybernetic monsters. He was alone, his men were dead. And Mira was retreating. They had died for nothing. Letting out a roar of frustration, Jonah turned and put his shoulder down, bodily barging his way through the horde until he had broken through. As he emerged from the ocean of cyborgs, he shook himself like a giant, metal dog, dislodging Reclaimed who had grabbed onto him and sending them sailing through the air. Jonah looked back one last time at Karver Park, to where his warriors had died. His mind burning with rage, he turned and sprinted away from the Park.

  Mira had a lot to answer for.

*********

December 29th
3070
Gibson

  Acolyte Haze clutched the report tightly to her chest as she made her way through the halls of Precentor Apollyon's personal chambers. Located deep beneath the surface of Gibson, it was here were all of the Prince of Scars' works were made. Factories, labs, prison cells and more could be found down here, all under the rule of Apollyon. This place was the dark heart of the Manei Domini, it was here they were created and in these dark depths their wondrous machines were produced. The lights were dim, and everywhere she went Haze swore she could hear both screaming and praying, the sounds almost seeming to fight one another for dominance.

  The Acolyte reached a walkway that stretched across a mighty hall, beneath she could see the Reclaimed being constructed. Cells lined the walls, cages filled to overflowing with terrified people, white robed servants of Apollyon were visible everywhere, working on the operating tables in the centre of the hall or taking various samples from the prisoners in the cages. Half-robot/half-human things came and went, bringing replacement body parts from storage or disposing of any organic bits left over after the surgery. What seemed to be pieces of industrial machinery hung from the ceiling. These massive machines whirred and hummed as they worked, drills, saws and other, less obvious tools hacking and carving into the bodies of the heretics bound to the tables. Far below, a Manei Domini in the red robes of the 52nd Shadow Division was overseeing the work. Suddenly, his head snapped up to look right at her. Haze quickly looked away and sped up her pace.

  She hurried on after that, wishing to be as far from here as she could be as quickly as possible. She passed other rooms and chambers but she kept her head down and did her best to ignore the sounds of the Master's Chosen at work. Finally, she came to her destination. Before her stood a vast metal door, it was plain except for the broadsword symbol of the Word of Blake, which was embossed upon the black metal. She took a moment to catch her breath, fix her robes and steady herself before entering the passcode into the small keypad by the door.

  With a dull rumble, the door retreated into the floor, revealing itself to be a many feet thick bulkhead. Beyond, the room was so dark Haze could barely see anything within, "What could possibly justify interrupting me, Acolyte?" A voice asked from the darkness, a voice that immediately made her heart beat faster and her mind scream at her to flee.

  Within, Precentor Manei Domini Apollyon sat enthroned in the darkness. Before him floated a holographic map of the Inner Sphere, displayed in a weak, ethereal light. All manner of information was displayed along with it, troop movements, population numbers, available data on potential targets and much more. The hologram rotated slowly, updating in real time as new data reached Gibson. The Prince of Scars was lost in the shadows, Haze could only barely make out the faintest outline of the man, although she could clearly see that hate filled green eye glaring at her. Swallowing, she stepped inside and knelt, nearly prostrating before him as she held up the report, like it was an offering to an angry god.

  "We intercepted a transmission between Adept Kara and the Precentor Marital, I..." She cleared her throat, voice shaking. She was sweating, she realised, and it took a real effort not to tremble with fear, "I thought it best if you were to read it yourself, my lord."

  "Indeed? Bring it here." Apollyon ordered. Haze stood, eyes focused on the floor as she stepped around the holographic projection and approached the throne. A metal hand emerged from the dark, catching the hologram's weak light, and she placed the report in it, "Leave."

  Haze bowed deeply, turned and almost sprinted out of the chamber. Apollyon watched her go, then looked at the datapad the Acolyte had given him. Displayed on the screen was the report.

  Precentor Marital

  Forgive my lack of updates recently, the situation on Ryde has been most difficult and has demanded all of my attention lately. I send this report to you now in the hopes that it reaches you swiftly, for you must know what has occurred here. Eight hours ago, a single member of the 52nd Shadow Division arrived on Ryde. With him, came some new form of cybernetic trooper that I have never before witnessed. I have enclosed pictures and video footage of these new soldiers with this report, I was completely unaware of their existence until now and I believe this footage will be of use to you.

  But that is not the purpose of this report. As I stated, a Manei Domini from the 52nd Shadow Division arrived on this world. He made no attempts to speak with us, and never coordinated his efforts with any troops under my command nor those commanded by other Adepts. Upon landing, he immediately deployed to the frontlines and hunted down the commander of the Clan forces stationed on Ryde. I do not know what occurred between them, but after their encounter, every Wolf-in-Exile soldier on Ryde withdrew. Every single one of them departed the planet, leaving the Lyran forces to stand along against us.

  Following their departure, the unidentified Manei Domini moved to engage the Steiner forces left on the planet. His presence proved decisive in the following battles and thanks to his aid, we were able to locate and kill General Braker, thus decapitating the Lyran command structure and finally breaking the back of their resistance. Following this, the Manei Domini withdrew to his DropShip and left the planet, however the cybernetic soldiers he brought with him remained and are proving to be highly successful, if unnerving, hunters. They are currently tracking down any Lyran soldiers who are continuing to resist our ownership of the planet.

  I shall be plain with you, Precentor Marital. I do not trust Apollyon, I do not trust his cyborg servants and I believe he will, at some distant point in the future, become a threat to you and the Word of Blake as a whole, and yet I must advise that we leave him be. For two months, Ryde held. The men and women of this world refused to yield and for two months we fought, bled and died. After so many weeks of bitter, unending fighting it seemed that the war for this world would never end, I feared the Ryde would become a meat grinder that would continue to swallow up troops forever. From what I understand, the situation was getting so bad that Precentor Naval Gregory Zwick was beginning to consider using the Erinyes to deny Ryde to the Lyrans and end this bloody war.

  But all of that ended within eight hours thanks to the arrival of just a single Manei Domini. Alone and without aid from any Militia unit, that one man drove off the Clanners and laid low the commander of the Lyran forces. He all but handed us Ryde on a silver platter. So my recommendation is as follows, Precentor Marital. I strongly suggest we end all attempts to convince the Master to remove the Manei Domini from frontline duty. I may not trust them, but they are simply too useful to discard. We need weapons like them if we are to win this war. I have suggested their removal from duty before, out of fear of that their loyalty lies more with Apollyon than the Master, but having seen one end a war as brutal as that being fought for Ryde so easily, I now believe that we simply can't afford to ignore their strength.
 
  Finally, I would recommend that we end, or at the very least limit, our efforts to spy on the Precentor Manei Domini. If I may speak freely, he commands the Manei Domini. I do not like him, I do not trust him. But Apollyon is not the sort of man anyone wants as their enemy.

 -K


  Alone in the silence, blanketed in the darkness, enthroned at the heart of his own little kingdom dedicated to the worship of Blake and the wonders of science, Apollyon smiled.
« Last Edit: 28 October 2023, 13:09:14 by BlakesBestBoi »

Dragon Cat

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #17 on: 02 October 2023, 14:07:50 »
Tagged got a chapter in and I'm hooked nicely done
My three main Alternate Timeline with Thanks fan-fiction threads are in the links below. I'm always open to suggestions or additions to be incorporated so if you feel you wish to add something feel free. There's non-canon units, equipment, people, events, erm... Solar Systems spread throughout so please enjoy

https://bg.battletech.com/forums/index.php/topic,20515.0.html - Part 1

https://bg.battletech.com/forums/index.php/topic,52013.0.html - Part 2

https://bg.battletech.com/forums/index.php/topic,79196.0.html - Part 3

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #18 on: 05 October 2023, 11:24:12 »
The Wolf Strikes Back
Chapter 1

January 12th
3071
Kimagure-class Pursuit Cruiser, Bloodhound

  Star Commodore Melissa Rhyde stood upon the Bloodhound’s command deck, her expression grim and mood dark. Before her, countless reports flickered across the holographic display that hung in the centre of the bridge, none of them said anything good. The lower decks and corridors of the Kimagure-class Pursuit Cruiser echoed ceaselessly with the roar of weapons-fire, the cries of the injured and the muffled bang of distant explosions. Alarm klaxons and proximity alerts wailed, adding to the deafening cacophony filling the bridge. Flashing emergency lights bathed the vessel’s various decks in a dark crimson. This lighting, combined with the blood and gore staining the metal floors and walls, seemed to turn the entire interior of the ship red.

  “Fires on multiple decks.” The crewman her left reported.

  “Bulkheads on C-deck are being breached. Arming internal defenses.” Another shouted. The ship shuddered, shaken by some form of large internal detonation,  “Enemy forces have breached weapon’s bay six, Heavy Naval PPCs six through nine offline.”

  "Estimated crew loss now at 63%!" A different voice, tinged with fear, shouted.

  Melissa ran a dark hand over her shaved head, "Damn it all...Point Commander!" She snapped into her personal comm unit, "Report! And make it good news!"
 
  She was greeted with the sound of gunfire and explosions, "I am afraid I am unable to do that, Commodore." Point Commander Gree grunted, "We are barely holding this junction, if the Blakists take it, they will have a straight shot for the bridge. I would say we have a few minutes at most before me and my men kick it, I suggest you use that time to evacuate."
 
  "Like hell I will." She growled, "I am a warrior of Clan Wolf-in-Exile, I will not run in the face of this foe, or any other. We fight on, Point Commander!"

   Melissa heard a grin in Gree's voice as he spoke, "Glad to hear it, me and my men will be sure to make these lunatics pay for every step they take!"

  The Star Commodore swept her gaze over the new reports flooding in from across the ship. Beyond, the void around the Bloodhound was aflame. Burning hulks blazed, lasers and torpedoes split the blackness and explosions blossomed all around the embattled ship. The Hound's escorts consisted of three ships. These were a pair of Vengeance-class Fighter Carriers, which were gone, reduced to little more than shattered hulks drifting through the cold blackness of space, and a single Pentagon-class Assault DropShip, the Redeemed, a ship that had ironically been captured from the Word of Blake a mere month prior.
 
  The Redeemed was trailing broken hull sections and savaged armour as it powered through the void, leaking atmosphere as it went. The ship was dead, the crew had to know that, but the Redeemed fought on, exchanging fire with the two Blakist WarShips closing in upon it. The larger WarShip, idetinefied by Melissa's scanners as the McKenna-class WarShip Blake’s Sword weathered a salvo of fire from the Redeemed with ease, suffering only superficial damage to its hull, before twisting around to reveal the 24 heavy naval PPCs running the length of its port side. The following broadside reduced the Redeemed to dust upon the solar winds.

  The second WarShip, the Essex-class Destroyer Divine Forgiveness, sailed past the ruined DropShip, unleashing salvo after salvo of fire from its naval autocannon's into the Bloodhound. The Blakists were choosing their targets with care, Melissa noted, they were only targeting the Hound's weapons, she assumed this meant they wanted the ship as intact as possible.

  "How did this happen..." She muttered to herself, shaking her head slowly.

  The Word of Blake had been expecting them somehow. Star Commodore Melissa Rhyde had been so proud of her assignment to this taskforce, she was to be the commander of an operation planned by the Khan himself. Operation FANG had been planned for months, a rapid assault upon a secret Blakist shipyard that had been discovered in an unnamed system on the edge of the Lyran Alliance's Periphery border. The attack was to be quick, brutal and merciless. Operation FANG would tear out the teeth of the Word of Blake Navy and leave the fanatics without the support of their fleets in this region of the Lyran Alliance. It had all seemed so easy.

  But the moment the taskforce jumped into the system, it found itself overwhelmed by a sudden, powerful assault from both sides as the two Blakist WarShips revealed themselves and pounced upon the Bloodhound. Alongside those two behemoths of metal had come numerous fighter and bomber squadrons and DropShips that had made straight for the Hound and boarded her in the first few minutes of the battle. They couldn't even get a message back to Arc-Royal, the ship's HPG was somehow being blocked.

  "Position overrun!" Gree shouted over the comms, "Pulling back to the bridge-"
 
  There was a scream, then the line fell silent. Melissa sighed, reached down and drew her laser pistol. She checked the ammo, took a deep breath and turned to face the door to the bridge, "We are the Wolves of Kerensky." She said, voice calm and collected, "In our veins flows the blood of the Great Father himself." Around her, the officers had drawn their own sidearms and were taking position around the bridge, using the various monitors and workstations as cover, "Make these bastards pay for spilling it."

  "Aff!" The others shouted, "For the Great Father! For Khan Kell!"

  The bridge was silent for a time, the air tense. Melissa waited, knowing they would be here soon. She heard it then, a dull thump on the far side of the door. The Star Commodore knew that sound all too well, it was a breaching charge. With a deafening boom the charge detonated and the door was blasted apart, raining red-hot shrapnel across the bridge. Someone screamed and Melissa saw a man to her right go down clutching his face. A giant stepped into the door. As one, the crew opened fire, a wave of lasers raced towards the giant but it did not flinch. Instead, it put its head down and charged straight into the storm of fire, heavy footfalls ringing against the metal decking as it pounded towards the Clanners.

  "Feel the Wrath of Blake!" The giant roared.

*********

  Apollo, Ascended of the Manei Domini, Adept of the 52nd Shadow Division, crashed into the nearest Clanner, a woman with a shaved head and bronze skin, and sliced her in two at the waist. Gore splattered out, splashing across his armoured form and painting the decking red. He lashed out, impaling the next target he saw through the chest with his claws. He lifted the screaming man into the air, then hurled him aside as if he weighed nothing. Apollo marvelled at the power he possessed in that moment, for this was the first time he had been granted the honour of going into battle clad in the newly crafted Djinn Battle Armour, developed by the wise and blessed Precentor Vapula on distant, sacred Terra.

  The suits were as powerful as they were intimidating. Hulking, red and black metal colossi trimmed in gold, the Djinn's helmet was pointed and sharp, shaped in the vague form of the ancient demons of old religions and faiths. The suit itself was all sharp corners and bladed edges, with jagged spikes protruding from the elbows and knees, the shoulders jutted out, as sharp and dangerous as knives. From the back of the Djinn rose a pair of bladed wings, they were used partially to aid in flight but were mostly there for intimidation. All of this combined to make the Djinn resemble a vengeful spirit of the Underworld. Bathed as he was in blood and red emergency lighting, with talons dripping gore, Apollo looked like a demon of Hell made real.

  Often, these suits were often used in anti-'Mech operations, but this deployment called for anti-infantry capabilities leading to Apollo swapping out the standard weapons. The foresight of gifted Vapula made doing so easy. Both his arms ended in huge vibroblade talons that were strong enough to shred the armour of even an Atlas and housed on the underside of his right forearm was a large flamer with an extended fuel supply. A single servant of Apollyon in such a suit was so deadly that they could easily wipe out a conventional platoon alone with little effort.
   
  The bridge crew of the Bloodhound stood no chance at all.

  Apollo snipped the head from another Clanner, then turned and bathed the far side of the bridge in flame. Men screamed, flailing and thrashing as they burned. A laser struk Apollo's helmet and he snapped round, leaping across the bridge and ramming his claws into the chest of the woman who shot him. He literally tore her in two. Turning, the Manei Domini scanned the room for any survivors. He found one. The man was slumped against the far wall, his laser pistol discarded and hands raised.

  "I surrender!" He shouted, tears in his eyes and entire body shaking, "The ship is yours! I surrender!" His face was white, his voice laced with utter terror. He yelped as Apollo approached him, "I'm not even a warrior! I'm a technician! I am no threat to you! Please!"

  "You are of the Clans." The Adept declared as he loomed over the whimpering man, "Your very existence is a threat to the unity of this galaxy." He raised his flamer and unleashed a stream of fire. Without looking back, Apollo turned from the burning, howling man and said into his suit's radio, "This is Adept Apollo, the bridge is secure. The ship is ours. Hunt down every last Clanner aboard. We need no prisoners."

  "Precentor Theta Winsfield to Adept Apollo." The voice of the Divine Forgiveness' captain crackled over the comms.

  "Go ahead." Apollo said.

  He heard the annoyance in Winsfield's voice, "Though I'm loathed to lose one of your skill, we received a message from Gibson, you are to return immediately."

  That surprised Apollo, he had just departed Gibson three days ago, "Did the message say why?"

  "Negative." The Precentor Theta sighed, "But the order comes from Precentor Manei Domini Apollyon himself. I'm sending the Chariot to pick you up. It's been good working with you, blessed one."

  "Likewise, my lord." Apollo was already making for the door as he spoke. He didn't know why Apollyon wished his return to Gibson, but he knew one thing, the Prince of Scars wouldn't order him back without good reason. Something had happened. And it was probably something bad.
« Last Edit: 28 October 2023, 15:31:02 by BlakesBestBoi »

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #19 on: 07 October 2023, 12:38:20 »
Chapter 2

Date Unknown
Year Unknown
Location Unknown


  The sand seemed to go on forever. The desert stretched out, an unending sea of death that carried on to the horizon and far beyond. Nothing stirred beneath the sands, nothing could, for this world was dead, if indeed it had ever truly lived. What disaster had robbed the planet of life was unknown to the scholars of mankind, some horrible interstellar event had occurred here in the past, most likely, had rendered everything on this planet extinct. But it was not truly dead, not today. For the first time in what might have been billions of years, living, breathing creatures tread the surface of the lifeless world. There were dozens of them, gathered together upon the dunes. Above the visitors, towered mighty giants of metal and rage that glared down at those congregating at their feet like foul tempered gods. There was a Timber Wolf, a Kodiak, two Huntsman and many more besides. The armoured titans were unmoving, their weapons at ease, the sands seemed to almost blow around them, as if the planet had no wish to draw the attention of the destructive behemoths standing upon it. 

  The strangers danced in the sand. Their naked bodies were painted in bright, garish colours, with strange symbols that seemed to move and flow over them daubed on their flesh. They spun and leapt, tumbled and twirled, singing, screaming, laughing and howling, lost in the embrace of some maddening ritual. Before the dancing men and women, a mighty bonfire blazed, built from wood taken from a dozen different worlds. Around the fire and the dancers, men stripped to the waist, their chests painted with the same mystical markings as their cavorting kin, played large, powerful drums, lending the whirling, cackling mummers a rhythm to follow.

  Amid this riot of activity, among the noise and movement, Orion Drummond knelt in the sand of the dead world, his body still as a statue, his breathing slow and measured. His bare skin was painted and decorated in vivid colours and ancient, unwholesome glyph symbols that were uncomfortable to look upon. Orion gazed into the bonfire, sat so closely to the flames that his flesh tingled and sweat glistened on his skin. He did not blink, he had not blinked for some time now, he dared not, for doing so risked missing a crucial detail of the strange vision unfolding before him.

  He saw it within the inferno, a glimpse of the future, a premonition of what was to come. He beheld a humanoid with skin of metal stood upon a pile of Nova Cat corpses. The bodies of the proud, black-furred predators were broken and torn apart. The metal stranger held a gore covered broadsword with fingers carved into wicked claws, the blade was pointed to the sky in victory, the metallic figure’s green eyes blazed with fury. No, Orion realised, they did not have green eyes. The humanoid’s skull was smooth metal, the only feature upon it a glowing green visor that reached from temple to temple. Orion watched the iron apparition’s head snap to the right as more Nova Cats approached. The feline hunters leapt, roaring and snarling. The broadsword flashed, carving the creatures apart with contemptuous ease. The sleek predators clawed and bit at the wrathful attacker, but no attack could not pierce their silver hide. Within moments, the Nova Cats lay dead, bodies carved apart and bones shattered.

  The fire roared hot and bright, sweat dripped from Orion’s brow and his skin itched with irritation and a slight pain as he leaned closer, entranced by the vision unfolding before him. The flames leapt, sparking and churning, forming into a shape. At first it was vague, impossible to place, at once distinct and yet, indistinct as well. Then, the form solidified, becoming a wolf made of flame and heat, but it was no normal wolf. It was huge, smaller than the metal figure but still far larger than any hound or wolf should be. Its body was normal, but the creature had multiple heads, each one snarled or barked, jaws drooling.

  “Apollo!” Orion heard the wolf growl, “I am Jonah Mehta, face me. For all those you have slaughtered, I swear upon my honour that you die this day!” The words were formed from the crackle of the bonfire, the cries of the dancing crowd and the beat of the drums, the noise blending into identifiable dialogue.

  The ghostly, metal spectre looked at the many-headed wolf and raised its broadsword. The two flaming beings glared at one another, then charged. They crashed together, the ring of steel and the howl of a hunting wolf mixing together. Then, as quickly as the vision had come, it was over. The intensity of the bonfire dimmed, and the hold the vision had held on Orion was released.

  With a heavy sigh, the man sat back, his eyes still fixed upon the blazing wood before him. He took a few moments to steady himself, swallowed, wiped a hand over his sweat drenched face and finally stood. His powerful form was enhanced by the light of the fire, defined, scar covered muscles picked out in perfect detail, his pointed, stubble covered jaw and sharp features lit by a warm, red glow. Orion’s crystal blue eyes seemed to shine in the light. He ran a hand through his long black hair, shoving it back from his face as he turned to regard the man standing behind him.

  “What did you see?” Minoru Kurita, Oathmaster of Clan Nova Cat, asked. His low, wise voice somehow audible over the burning fire, drums and exhalations of the other Nova Cats still frolicking around them.

  Minoru was clad in his robes, and held an ornate staff carved from wood with a large gold symbol atop, a metallic disk carved in the shape of the Clan’s totem animal. He was small, so small that Orion loomed over him, and had a weak, bookish appearance, but Drummond knew the man possessed an incredible inner strength. He was wise in the mystical arts and had proven his strength many times in the past during his unstoppable, meteoric rise through the ranks of Clan.

  “Death.” Orion muttered in a deep growl, taking a towel offered by the Oathmaster and wiping the sweat off himself. Minoru handed him a set of robes and the man quickly dressed himself before striding straight towards his ‘Mech, “I beheld a great metal figure, with a green visor of some sort in place of eyes, slaughtering Nova Cats with ease, the beasts fought hard but they could not slay the giant, they could not even wound it. When they lay dead and broken, another foe rose to challenge the iron killer.”

  “Tell me of this new foe.” The Oathmaster walked with him.

  “A wolf.” He said, “Larger than the Nova Cats, but smaller than the figure. It had many heads, like some sort of hydra. It spoke two names. Apollo, the name of the killer I presume, and Jonah Mehta. Its name.”

  “Did they fight?” Minoru raised an eyebrow.

  Orion nodded, “Yes, Oathmaster. But I did not see who won, the fight began just as the vision ended.” 

  They reached Orion’s BattleMech and the two men paused to stare up at it, each considering the hidden meaning behind what the warrior had just witnessed. Above the two men, staring down at them with stern, judgemental lenses, was Orion’s No-Dachi, it was named Shitsuren. It was a very uncommon machine for a Clanner to operate, and indeed many within the Clan seemed to view his use of the 'Mech as somewhat disgusting. He was Bloodnamed, and trueborn no less, they claimed he should be in an OmniMech. Perhaps it would have been proper for him to pilot a true, Clan-made machine, but he had his reasons, reasons he had shared with precious few individuals.

  Orion experienced a painful flash of memory. He beheld a woman, Mika, as beautiful as a goddess, he saw her naked, pale skin, their lips locked together, he knew pleasure, love, true happiness. Then he saw an explosion, a BattleMech's leg torn off, heard her cry out in pain as the machine crashed to the ground, watched her die in his arms, he felt pain and loss. He closed his eyes. The memory passed. Just as she had. The No-Dachi was her last gift to him, along with her demand to use it to kill the bastard that had managed to lay her low. Orion had found the man, a vile Word of Blake zealot, and took his revenge long ago, but the pain of her death remained. He had kept the machine, his last true memory of her. By doing battle in Shitsuren, he brought Mika honour, even after her death. He opened his eyes and noticed the Oathmaster was staring at him. Minoru did not need to ask to know what he was thinking of, for he had helped guide the warrior through his tragic loss. He allowed the man a moment, then looked back to the BattleMech.

  “You will seek out this…Jonah Mehta?” He asked.

  “Yes, Oathmaster.” Orion bowed his head, “I feel he is of importance. The vision showed the metal figure cutting down Nova Cats. Whoever it is, they will come for us, and many warriors will die. Some part of me feels that the wolf, Jonah, will be vital in stopping him.”

  Minoru nodded sagely, “I agree…” He hummed, considering, “Within the Exiled Wolves, Mehta is a Bloodname for aerospace pilots. But these days, many pilots are being used to operate ProtoMechs.”

  That made Orion frown, “I fail to see what ProtoMechs have to do with the vision?”

  Minoru scowled, “A stretch, perhaps, but you beheld a many headed wolf, like a hydra, correct? It is a Bloodname used by pilots who can take control of ProtoMechs, and there is a type of ProtoMech referred to as the Hydra. I may be grasping at straws, or there may indeed be a connection.”

  The other man didn’t seem convinced, “You might be correct, or you may not. Regardless, I shall seek out Jonah.”

  “Begin at Arc-Royal.” Minoru advised, “Khan Kell's Wolves are unlikely to simply tell you where Jonah is, so be prepared to fight for the information. The Exiled Wolves have proved to be allies in the past, but I would not trust them completely, Orion.”

  “I understand.” He nodded, “Will I have aid on this mission?”

  “With the Jihad raging, I am saddened to lose even a single warrior like yourself.” The Oathmaster grumbled, rubbing his jaw, “But I might be able to convince the Khan to second some forces to your command…ProtoMechs, perhaps? If Jonah is indeed a Hydra pilot, he may be more receptive to warriors of his own kind?”

  “I will take any help I can get.” Orion strode towards Shitsuren, “I will begin preparations for departure.”

  “Be safe, warrior.” Minoru said, then turned from the man and made his way back to the bonfire to oversee the next vision.

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #20 on: 10 October 2023, 19:09:56 »
Chapter 3

January 14th
3071
Achilles DropShip, Chariot of the Wrathful

  "It seems the abused dog has decided to finally bite." Apollo muttered, "Curious. I would have expected the Falcons to hit us first, what stays their hand?"
 
  The Adept studied the holographic map floating before him. Drifting in orbit of Gibson, the DropShip had not even had the chance to land before Apollo had received his orders. The transport was being refuelled and rearmed by attendant repair vessels as he spoke, and a JumpShip was being recharged for his use at the nearest pirate point. There was an air of haste to everything. Standing on the small, cramped bridge of the Chariot of the Wrathful, he listened to the words of his commander with great interest. Something about Apollyon was different, as he was restraining himself somehow. Recent events had angered him, Apollo assumed, and the Prince of Scars was fighting a battle to remain calm and composed.
 
  "Who can say?" Apollyon sneered, voice tight and tone dripping frustration, "Perhaps these so called Reaving Wars we have heard rumours of back in their Homeworlds demand their full attention, or perhaps they fear us. It matters not, the Wolves are our concern right now. The Faithful will deal with the Falcons in time. As we will every other heretic."

  Apollo nodded, "Agreed, sir. I must ask, however, how exactly did this happen?"

  The green form of Apollyon flickered, the hologram stuttering for a moment before righting itself. The lord of the Manei Domini swept a hand over to the map before them, "The incompetence of Cameron St. Jamais, what else?"

  The floating map was displaying an image of the Word of Blake Protectorate. The majority of the worlds under the protection and guidance of Blake's servants were highlighted in white, indicating that they remained secure and safe. But three separate worlds, each bordering the Lyran Alliance, were flashing a deep, ominous red. Somehow, despite the beating they had taken in recent months on worlds such as Ryde, the Exiled Wolves had managed to strike back. A combined Wolf/Lyran force had assaulted four different planets within a week of one another, and only one of the targeted worlds had repelled the attackers. The three pulsing red orbs drifting before Apollo showed that Lyons, Mizar and Gacrux had all suffered horrendous damage.

  Detailed reports were displayed next to each crimson sphere. They combined to tell a grim tale. Infrastructure damaged, industry destroyed, troop casualties spiralling into the thousands. All of this, and more, scrolled past Apollo's visor, his cybernetically enhanced mind easily processing the data in mere heartbeats. The mental image he painted was not a pleasant one. The Precentor Martial had certainly failed in his duties. Apollo hoped he was chastised, failure had to be punished, otherwise one never learnt from their mistakes.

  "St. Jamais has been transferring units from the Lyran border for weeks now, using them to bulk up defences across the Federated Suns' territory." Apollyon growled, "That useless imbecile practically opened the door for the Wolves. Would that I had the power to end his moronic existence." The man paused, Apollo saw his metallic fists clench for a moment, then open. When he spoke, Apollyon had manged to master his anger somewhat, "But you are doubtless wondering how this concerns you." 

  "I admit to some curiosity." Apollo nodded.

  The Prince of Scars waved a hand, and the hologram blinked out of existence to be replaced with a projection of the planet known simply as K-62. An arid, inhospitable world, K-62 reminded Apollo a great deal of 66-12-4B. His bloody, costly visit to that distant world felt like it had occurred in another life, despite being rather recent.

  The Adept wondered briefly what had become of David Ross.

 "K-62 was once a small, unimportant colony founded during the Age of War." Apollyon explained, "It was developing well and the people there enjoyed a simple life filled with farming and mediocrity but it was rendered lifeless during the death throes of the Star League. Its population dead and name forgotten, the planet faded from the wider galactic memory."

  Apollyon pointed to the world, "But it was not completely forgotten. The SLDF cowards who fled with the vile heretic Kerensky," He spat the name, "carried with them detailed records of the Inner Sphere. Their maps must have mentioned it. Due to Blake's wisdom and foresight, ComStar, and later our own great Order, also kept a record of K-62's existence." The glowing green eye shining out from the darkness of his hood, which was somehow still filled with hate and bitterness even in holographic form, fixed upon Apollo, "After the dogs struck at our Protectorate, they disappeared. St. Jamais, in his stupidity, rages and screams that they were allowed to escape, for he lacks the vision to realise they are hiding directly under his nose."

  "You mean to say the attackers are hiding on K-62?" Apollo guessed.

  The Precentor Manei Domini nodded, "Correct. The Master, guided by visions of Blake as he is, suspected as much, and our scouts confirmed it. K-62 is dead, but its corpse still has much to offer any grave-robbers who tread its surface. A recharging station is still present at the jump point and the surface, while inhospitable, is still quite capable of supporting life. Scans indicate that the Lyrans and Wolves had established a small base upon the world. It's a simple, but effective plan." He admitted, "They jump into the Protectorate, hit a planet, then jump out. Since K-62 is present on no present-day maps, they are able to return to the lifeless world, rest, recharge their drives and plan the next assault without anyone knowing where they have went."

  "A hidden world, used to strike at a foe who knows not where you come from. It sounds similar to the Five." Apollo muttered.

  "The overall concept is similar." Apollyon waved a dismissive hand, "But we get distracted. The Master, in his wisdom, somehow suspected they were using K-62 for this purpose. It has been confirmed that they are, and so we shall make the corpse of the planet into their tomb. The Erinyes sails for K-62."

  Apollo froze for a moment, staring at the Precentor, processing his words, "I see." He said eventually, "Then the Precentor Naval intends to destroy the planet? If the Master believes it necessary then I shall not dispute his order. But I still do not see my role is this."

  "K-62 shall die." Apollyon declared, "Already an armada of Word of Blake WarShips closes in on the Wolves hidden base. They shall blockade the planet and destroy any ship that attempts to escape. The Lyrans and Exiled Wolves shall be trapped upon the surface, unable to escape the wrath of the Erinyes. We shall have our revenge for their desecration of our worlds, but not all who took part in the assault upon the Protectorate will face retribution on K-62."

  He raised his hand, and a small hologram appeared above his projected palm, "This is the Silent Howl." He said, "It is a DropShip that led the attack on Lyons. The Clan forces aboard managed to down one of the Hands of the Master." His voice dropped low, filled with regret and sorrow, "Reports claim she fought as if Blake himself stood by her side, but it was not enough. Semyaza is dead. She fell in battle with the Clanner leading the assault."

  Apollo bowed his head, offering a quick, silent prayer to Blake on behalf of the fallen Manei Domini, "The stars burn darker for her passing, as they do with the death of every true servant of Blake."

  "Well said, Adept." Apollyon nodded grimly, "But if that is where it ended, it would merely be tragic. It gets worse, however. After her death, the Outcast Dogs dragged her corpse from her machine and took it with them back to K-62. I can only assume they mean to study her, to learn more of our cybernetics, or to be more accurate, to learn how to kill us. This cannot be allowed, Apollo, the secrets of our blessed implants must be guarded and hidden from all infidels."

  "I agree." Apollo nodded slowly, "But her body, and anything the Wolves learnt from it, will be destroyed with the rest of the planet, correct?"

  "No." Apollyon shook his head, "The Silent Howl departed K-62 three days ago. They are likely bringing her body, and whatever research they have thus far conducted, back to Arc-Royal. That is why you were recalled so urgently. While Precentor Naval Zwick oversees the removal of their base, you will track down the Silent Howl and destroy it, along with everyone aboard, before it reaches its destination. Am I clear?"

  Apollo was silent as he considered his orders before he calmly stated, "I understand. But, if I may ask, why me? Would  the Specter Precentor Sigma not be a better fit for such a task?"

  "Berith is infinitely more suited to this mission, yes." The Prince of Scars grunted, "But he and the Opacus Venatori are..." He hesitated, "Busy, and cannot be recalled." The was a brief pause, then the Precentor Manei Domini admitted, "I respect your skills, Apollo, and I applaud your faith. As a matter of fact, I believe you to be among the best of my servants, both among the 52nd and beyond, but you were not my first choice for this mission. Alas, it was not my decision to make."

  Apollo had no face anymore, but somehow Apollyon could see him scowling in confusion, "Then who did assign me to this task?"

  "The only man who can overrule my authority." Apollyon declared, "You were chosen for this mission by the Master himself, Apollo." 
« Last Edit: 10 October 2023, 19:22:10 by BlakesBestBoi »

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #21 on: 21 October 2023, 17:19:29 »
Chapter 4

January 14th
3071
Arc-Royal

  Point Commander Jonah Mehta hated sleeping. Not because his dreams were unpleasant, in fact he dreamt very little and those few imagination filled slumbers he did have were often quite enjoyable. No, it was for the simple fact that Clan Wolf-in-Exile demanded that all ProtoMech pilots sleep outside their machines. Protocol also insisted they eat outside their machines, exercise outside them and so on. They were actually allowed to do precious little besides fight inside their metal mounts.

  And that meant suffering the...drawbacks of ProtoMech operation.

  The moment he awoke in the small, cramped barracks assigned to his unit on Arc-Royal, he immediately knew it was going to be a bad day. His entire body itched, from head to toe it felt as if swarms of something were crawling just beneath his pale skin. The lights were dimmed so low they provided only the faintest illumination to find one's way around with, but they still hurt his brown eyes as if he was gazing into the sun itself at point-blank range.

  Raising a trembling hand, Jonah wiped sweat from his face, pushed his black hair from his eyes and forced himself to sit up, fighting down a wave of nausea as he did so. He sat on the edge of his bed for a moment, gazing at the floor and attempting to summon the will to stand. Around him, a dozen other men and women were sleeping. It was still early in the morning, he glanced at the clock and saw he'd slept for a mere two hours. He groaned. Finally gathering the courage to stand, he got to his feet and was immediately forced to grab the wall by his bed to stop himself crashing to the floor. His head spun. He swore under his breath. His bladder, the cause of his awakening, screamed for attention and refused to be ignored. Feeling his way across the wall, leaning on it heavily and trying not to imagine how helpless he must look, Jonah shimmied across the room towards the shared bathroom.

  It took far longer than it should have.

  When he reached the bathroom, he was greeted by the unmistakable sound of a person vomiting. Shoving the door open, he saw Ilsa gripping the sides of the toilet and emptying her stomach into the bowl. She looked at him with exhausted eyes, her dark skin coated in sweat, hair clinging to her face. He forced a weak smile.

  "Why do they insist on dragging us outside?" She groaned, followed by another torrent of sick.

  "I think they hate us..." He was leaning against the door as he spoke, "But, they actually claim it's for our health."

  Ilsa snorted and slumped against the wall next to her, gazing up at him, "Why are you up?"

  "Nature." He said.

  "Afraid the toilet is occupied." She laughed wearily.

  He hummed, "I can see that."

  The ProtoMech was a wondrous invention in many ways. They were smaller than a 'Mech, cheaper than a 'Mech but still strong enough to be a threat to a 'Mech. ProtoMechs provided the Clans with an affordable alternative to BattleMechs, ensuring less materials were used in their construction which was unimaginably important in the resource-scarce Homeworlds, while also opening up new methods of warfare that allowed for new tactics and strategies never before seen in human history.

  But they had several drawbacks, which had led to them remaining something of an experiment, at least for now. The biggest setback, by far, was the connection shared between pilot and machine. While this mental bond allowed the pilot to operate the ProtoMech as if it were his own body, thus granting them a level of control never seen before, it also led to them developing unhealthy attachments with their machines. The sympathetic bond between man and metal could, occasionally, lead to a kind of "god complex" developing, creating a pilot who felt as though they are utterly unstoppable. While this ego did sometimes create problems in battle, it was not the main issue. The great flaw with the ProtoMech was the addictive quality of the mental connection.

  Many scientists and technicians had attempted to identify the source of the problem, but none had thus far succeeded. It started slow. One day, a ProtoMech pilot would leave their machine only to realise that walking with their actual feet felt wrong. Eventually, this issue would grow until doing anything with their physical, flesh-and-blood form became unbearable. Over time the sensation of touch, experienced through the skin rather than the cold metal of their ProtoMech, became utterly repulsive to them and they rapidly became unable to cope with the world around them. These pilots sometimes grew so reluctant to leave their machine that they would never step outside the control core of their ProtoMech, and it was said that some even started to believe the ProtoMech was their own body

  While Jonah wasn't at that point yet, he had reached the point where he detested being outside his ProtoMech. Every moment spent beyond the comforting confines of his machine was torture, the nausea and disorientation was the least of his issues. The world was too loud outside his Hydra. Even as he and Ilsa were slumped in miserable silence, the noise was deafening. The slumbering warriors around them breathed so loudly, their snoring was a maddening cacophony, the discordant ticking of the clock set his teeth on edge, the cold floor made his skin crawl and the smell of the world around him caused his lip to curl in disgust. 

  And yet, despite all of this, he still believed the ProtoMech to be the future of battle. Perhaps a little egotistically, Jonah truly believed that once the kinks were worked out and the science perfected, the BattleMech would rapidly fade into obscurity, replaced by the ProtoMech, just like BattleMechs had replaced tanks centuries ago. All it would take was a little more work.

  Shoving himself away from the doorframe, he waved a hand and left Ilsa to her sickness, "Just let me know you're done."

  "Jonah?" Ilsa grunted, "When you are done."

  "What?" He looked at her.
 
  "You use too many contractions. It makes you sound like a Sphere-dweller." She scowled.
 
  "I know, I know." He rolled his eyes and stumbled back towards his bed.

  She wasn't the first to correct him, and she wouldn't be the last. But Jonah simply could not help it. He spent so much time around the Lyrans these days that he was beginning to pick up their habits and speech patterns. And he wasn't the only one, a lot of the Exiled Wolves were showing signs of being influenced by their new allies. Whether or not this was a good thing was still the topic of much debate among the ranks.

  Falling back onto his bunk, Jonah looked at the sleeping warriors in the barracks. They were all, like him, of Beta Galaxy and he knew their faces, had even spoken to a few of them in the past, but they were basically strangers to him. After the disaster that was the War for Ryde, the remaining forces under Star Captain Mira had limped back to Arc-Royal aboard their last few functioning DropShips. The moment they landed, Mira had been dragged off to explain herself to the Khan. Jonah hadn't seen her since. Part of him hoped she was dead, but the majority of him hoped she still lived. He had a grudge to settle with the Star Captain. She had let his Point, and all the other warriors on Ryde, die for nothing.

  He knew he didn't stand a chance against her, but that did not matter. The first chance he got, he was going to challenge her to a Trial of Grievance. The dead demanded it.

  He wondered if any of the warriors in this barracks would fall under his command. After Ryde, the Clan was still trying to salvage whatever units it could from the survivors, and he expected to be placed in control of a new Point in the near future. He hoped Ilsa was part of that unit, he'd seen her during training and would be very happy to have such a skilled pilot in his Point.

  They were all like him, in appearance. Each stood over 1.7 meters tall but they were each thin and frail looking, with some weighing as little as 50 kilograms. Like Jonah, all of the warriors in the barracks had noticeably large craniums, and their eyes were bigger, granting them superior reaction times and perceptive abilities. It was obvious at a glance that every soul in the room was born of the Aerospace Phenotype of the Exiled Wolves. This was necessary, most of the Clans had not developed a ProtoMech Phenotype yet. There were rumours that Clan Blood Spirit and Clan Cloud Cobra had done so, but since the Wars of Reaving there had been no contact with the Homeworlds and thus Jonah had no way of knowing if such rumours were true.

  Jonah himself had been an aerospace pilot at first. It was during his career as a warrior of the heavens that he had earned the honour, glory and fame required to claim the Mehta Bloodname. The day he earned his name, was the greatest day of his life. But those times were in the past, and the sky no longer called to him like it once did. The moment he first melded his mind with his Hydra was the moment he knew his calling in life. Jonah was born to be a ProtoMech pilot, he knew it in his heart. When the Khan offered him a chance to be one of warriors chosen to operate one of the Exiled Wolves' first ProtoMechs, he had gladly accepted.

  He winced, flinching away from the wall as the comms unit installed by his bed beeped. The tone was low, just loud enough to wake him from rest while allowing the rest of the room's occupants to slumber peacefully, but like everything beyond his Hydra, it seemed too loud and pain shot through his head as he slammed a hand onto the activation stud.

  "What?" He whispered into the unit.

  "Jonah Mehta?" The voice on the other line asked.

  "Yes, what do you want?" He sighed.

  "Sorry to interrupt, but I am Star Captain Hannibal, you probably have not met me before." The voice said, "Alpha Galaxy, you see. There is something I need to ask."

  "Then ask." The Point Commander said, voice tense with annoyance.

  It was all so loud and bright outside his Hydra.

  "Have you ever met a man named Orion Drummond, of Clan Nova Cat?" Hannibal asked.

  "Nova Cat, what?" Jonah repeated, "No, I've never interacted with a single warrior from the Cats. Why?"

  "Well it would seem that he knows you, Jonah." Hannibal sighed, "Because his DropShip is waiting in orbit as we speak, and he has just challenged you to a Trial."

  "I...see." He said slowly, confused questions swirling through his mind, "I'll be there in a moment, Star Captain."
 
  "Point Commander?" Hannibal said before the line was cut, "Be careful when you speak to this...Orion. The Cats have proven themselves allies in recent years, but they have ever been a perfidious lot. Do not trust them."

  "Understood, sir. I'm on my way." Jonah said, cutting the line and reaching for his uniform, "I'll gladly fight this stranger's Trial..." He muttered to the night air, "as long as it gives me a chance to get back in my Hydra."

shopsmart

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #22 on: 23 October 2023, 19:22:09 »
So far this is third best fan fic i have read.  Hope it goes on to be finished as the other two have not.   With one that will never be finished.  Blessings of Blake be with you.

mikecj

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #23 on: 23 October 2023, 20:20:31 »
TAG'd.  Thank you for sharing this story!
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
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Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

Horsemen

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #24 on: 23 October 2023, 22:56:36 »
Definitely keeping it interesting.

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #25 on: 28 October 2023, 13:43:13 »
Wow, thanks for all the feedback  azn
I am really surprised that there's people that actually enjoy my writing, I didn't think anyone would read it never mind enjoy it so that's a nice surprise! And there's no need to worry, Shopsmart, I've got this all planned out and ready to go

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #26 on: 28 October 2023, 13:43:21 »
Chapter 5

January 14th
3071
Achilles DropShip, Chariot of the Wrathful

  Apollo stood, arms crossed and mind elsewhere, upon the tiny, claustrophobic bridge of the Chariot of the Wrathful, gazing out the window before him into the endless void as he considered everything he had just learnt. The attack by the Exiled Wolves didn't bother him much, such an attack had been expected, though not quite so soon, but he simply could not comprehend the fact that the Master had chosen him to carry out this task. The simple truth was that Apollo had not expected the Master to know he even existed, and he certainly never once considered the possibility of being assigned a mission by him directly. Apollyon's revelation had shocked Apollo to his core. He was honoured, for Apollo had been chosen directly for this mission, but he was also afraid, worried that he would fail the Master and not live up to his expectations and thus fail both the Master and Blake himself. But below the trepidation and surprise was something else, a feeling Apollo was very familiar with.

  Shame.

  "You must feel blessed." The comment snapped Apollo out his quiet musings.

  The Manei Domini turned his head to gaze at the DropShip's pilot, "Say again?"

  "The Master chose you directly. You must feel as if you were blessed by Blake himself." The pilot said.

  He, if he could truly be called a man any longer, was a strange sight. The pilot's name was Theta Two. It was unlikely that this was his real name, but it was the only name he had ever given Apollo since the Manei Domini had taken command of Chariot of the Wrathful. In all his years of glorious service to the Word of Blake, Apollo had rarely encountered an individual so radically altered via cybernetics. He matched the Hands of the Master in his levels of augmentation, but in a different way. Were Apollo and his kin were refined, advanced machines dedicated to war, wondrous works of science and art rendered in the form of a human, Theta Two was more crude, less beautiful. He was designed and rebuilt for one purpose.

  Piloting the ship.

  Every single part of Theta Two was wholly dedicated to operating the vessel. He was fused to a slab of metal that resembled a crude chair welded to the decking, ensuring he could never leave his post. Tubes, cables, wires and connections reached out of the machines around him, like the feelers of some hungry beast, and plugged directly into him. Apollo moved his eyes over the man's form. Thick cables snaked out of his empty eye sockets, wires stabbed through his pale flesh, interfacing directly with his nerves, strange metal tubes that pulsed with light stretched down his throat and his arms, metal rather than skin and blood, hung by his sides, fingers twitching slightly, with every minute movement, Apollo heard the engines of the ship fire or the retro thrusters ignite for a second. He was wired directly into the control station before him, his body merged into the very flesh of the DropShip. His skin was taut and distended, stretched tight over the mass of machinery inside his form that seemed to take the place of his organs. Ticking and humming could be heard from somewhere deep inside the man.

  According to rumours, Precentor Apollyon himself had rebuilt Theta Two, and Apollo could see some similarities between the man and the Reclaimed. The Precentor had crafted the man with an eye towards function over form. The pilot had given up his freedom, his existence, in order to better serve the holy Blake. He was no longer a man, he was merely a part of the ship, his purpose in life was to control the Chariot’s myriad internal systems.

  Theta Two's voice emerged from the speakers built into the bridge of the Chariot, it was a hollow monotone, a robotic drone devoid of emotion or life, “I don't presume to know your thoughts, lord, but I would be most pleased if I were noticed by the Master.”

  "I suppose I am." Apollo nodded slightly, "But..."

  "You are wondering why he sent you on this mission?" Theta Two guessed.

  The Adept was silent for a time, before he nodded once more, "Yes. I lost two of my own men only a few months ago. Two Hands of the Master, gone. I am unsure why he has chosen to ignore this."

  "Permission to speak freely, lord?" The pilot droned.

  "Given." Apollo said.

  "I would assume the Master does not care about those deaths." Theta Two said, "We both know that death in service to Blake is both expected and respected. The loss of any Manei Domini is tragic, but every servant of the Holy One must be ready to die in his name. None hold these deaths against you, lord."

  "And I don't hold them against myself." Apollo shook his head, "I mourn them, I pray for them, but I do not regret my actions that led to their death. I merely wonder why he would not chose a servant who has had a more successful history."

  "The defence of 66-12-4B's relics," The half-machine pilot said, "The ending of the War for Ryde and the capture of Bloodhound. You were responsible for all of these critical events. You protected the spirit of the Faithful, delivered a planet into the hands of Blake's chosen and robbed the enemy of a WarShip while strengthening the Navy of Word, all in the space of three months. I can think of few who have been as successful as you have, my lord."

  "I merely did my duty." Apollo muttered, "As any true servant would."

  "You may view it like that, lord, but that is not how everyone else sees it. The Prince of Scars said it himself, he believes you to be among the best of his servants, among the 52nd and beyond." Theta Two paused for a moment, "This may be a little presumptive, but I can only assume the Master wishes to test you with this mission, perhaps he wishes to see if your recent successes were due to luck more than skill."

  Apollo looked at the stars once more, "I do not deserve his favour."

  That seemed to confuse Theta Two, for the man did not answer for a time, "May I ask why?"

  "I am an Adept of the Word of Blake." Apollo's voice was low, quiet and filled with regret, "I serve the Holy One with all my strength, and I will die to bring about Blake's vision, but I do not deserve the attention and praise of those as great as the Master. No one as drenched in sin has that right."

  "Sin, sir?" The pilot repeated, "I do not understand."

  "No, I imagine you do not." Apollo said, the mechanical intimation of a sigh emerging from his metal form, "Just know, that no matter what I do, Theta Two, no matter how hard I try, I will never wash away the sin of my past." He turned, making for the door, "But we have spoken long enough. There are dogs to hunt, get us underway."

  "Aye, lord." The DropShip rumbled as more power was sent to the engines and Apollo felt the deck rumble beneath his feet as they sped through the blackness of space, "But before you go, if I may be so bold as to ask, sir, what is this sin that so taints you?"

  Apollo stopped in the door, glancing over his shoulder at the cybernetic form of the man, "There is a reason I so loathe the Clans, Pilot. There is a reason I know they are a threat to all unity and peace. And that is because I know them, as a son knows his father. It is how I knew the terms to offer the Clans to end the War for Ryde, it is the reason I can predict how they will act and know how they fight. And that is because I have walked among them, I have fought alongside them, lived as them, perhaps, once, I even loved them. And it is that bitter experience that has shown me the danger they pose to this galaxy."

  "You..." The monotone voice emerging from the speakers still somehow sounded shocked, "You are of the Clans?"

  "I was." Apollo whispered, shame gripping his artificial heart, "I was not always Adept Apollo. Once, I had a different name. In the dark days of my past, they called me Star Commander Cormac Furey, Delta Galaxy, Bloodnamed warrior of Clan Smoke Jaguar."

  "My lord, I did not kn-" Theta Two started, but Apollo cut him off.

  "Enough, Pilot." The Adept walked on, leaving the bridge, "You have a DropShip to find. Be about your duty. My spirit is burdened and my mood grim, I must pray. Do not disturb me until you locate the Silent Howl." 

  "Aye, sir..." Theta Two said, "Blake be with you, my lord."
« Last Edit: 29 October 2023, 09:08:09 by BlakesBestBoi »

worktroll

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #27 on: 28 October 2023, 14:42:29 »
That was not expected ...
* No, FASA wasn't big on errata - ColBosch
* The Housebook series is from the 80's and is the foundation of Btech, the 80's heart wrapped in heavy metal that beats to this day - Sigma
* To sum it up: FASAnomics: By Cthulhu, for Cthulhu - Moonsword
* Because Battletech is a conspiracy by Habsburg & Bourbon pretenders - MadCapellan
* The Hellbringer is cool, either way. It's not cool because it's bad, it's cool because it's bad with balls - Nightsky
* It was a glorious time for people who felt that we didn't have enough Marauder variants - HABeas2, re "Empires Aflame"

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #28 on: 29 October 2023, 10:45:07 »
Chapter 6

Date Unknown
Year Unknown
Gibson

  David didn't know if he was blind or if the lights were just off. He didn't remember them being turned off, but nor did he remember Apollyon taking his remaining eye. That, admittedly, was not surprising. Memory was proving to be an inconsistent thing for David these days. Sometimes, when he thought back on it, his life was a straight road, a chain of connected emotions and events that formed a coherent structure which housed his past. Other times, his memories were woven together in ways that made no sense, with events occurring in ways that did not happen, could not, in fact, happen.

  It was often a struggle just to remember his full name.

  Those horrible noises didn't help either. Apollyon, or perhaps just one of his servants depending on how David recalled events at that moment, had left him alone some time ago. In his place, the Lord of the Manei Domini had left the sounds of faith. It was deafening. Thousands of different voices layered over one another, coming from every direction at once. Some screamed out their devotion to Blake, others whispered fanatical prayers to Conrad Toyama, some merely droned on in dead, monotonous voices, reading aloud from various works penned by Jerome Blake. 

  It never ended. No matter how long it went on, they never stopped, their zealous love of Blake refused to cease. David tried with all his might to tune them out, to ignore the choir of zealots around him but he could not. Were they in the room with him, or was this clamour emerging from some sort of speaker system? He did not know. He couldn't see anyone in the room with him. Was that because the lights were off, or had Apollyon ripped out his eye? He seemed to remember both happening. But that was impossible. How could he have seen the lights turn off if Apollyon had removed his sight? Had it occurred the other way around?

  It was so loud. He couldn't think. He couldn't even move. The pitiful scraps of meat left upon the operating table refused to answer the commands sent from his brain. He couldn't move the ragged lumps of flesh, bone and muscle that lay scattered across the blood drenched surface which had been his home for so long, but he could feel the agony radiating off them. The humming, whirring, clicking machines that kept him alive added their own metal voice to the racket assaulting his ears.

  'How long have I been here?' The question rose unbidden within his tormented mind, 'A week? A month? Has it been years?' Time was impossible to track within this pain filled prison, 'How long have I called this hellish place home? How long has my only companion been that cybernetic bastard?'

  Then, without warning, the noise ceased. The room fell silent. It was so sudden, so unexpected, that the silence struck David with all the force of a physical blow to the gut. He was left stunned, his damaged mind unable to process the stillness of everything after an unbearably long time spent drowning in faith. It seemed so...empty without the noise of the choir.

  Why did he think of it as a choir? He did not know.
 
  "Hello, David." The voice said. The voice David knew would follow the quiet, like it always did, "How are you feeling today?"

  "Apollyon." David snarled, voice reduced to a whispered rasp as it emerged from his ruined throat.

  "Correct. It is good to see you again, I know we have not spoken in some time. Or have we spoken recently?" The Prince of Scars hummed, "Did we converse an hour ago, or a week ago? Perhaps I have not visited you in days, or maybe it has only been a few minutes."

  "When I get out of here..." David swore, "I'm going to kill you."

  Apollyon sounded amused, "Given your current state, that would be a most impressive feat."

  It took David some time to respond. The pain was so bad, and his mind so splintered that it was a real effort to muster up even the simplest of sentences, "Unless you're here to kill me, you can piss off."

  "Oh I don't want to kill you, brother." He hated how Apollyon said that word, "I wish to open your eyes to the truth, remember? To show you the wisdom of Blake, and the Master." He was silent for a time, then David heard the sound of metal on metal, he assumed Apollyon was adjusting one of the contraptions that sustained his broken body, "You continue to impress me. Such resilience is rare, even among the Clans. And believe me, I have broken many of them. I confess, attempting to break you is proving most...enlightening. You are, in your own, simply way, highlighting the flaws in my methods."

  "You won't break me." David whispered.

  "I will." Apollyon said dismissively, "I can already hear it in your voice. When you speak, the strain, the pressure building inside you is plain to all. I look upon you, brother, and I see a man about to crack." David felt a metal hand, as cold as the grave, stroke the shredded remains of his face, "Soon, your mind shall shatter. And when it does, I will be there to gather up the pieces. To put you back together properly. To lead you into the light. But, sadly, I am rather busy today so we must end this meeting before it has even really begun." There was more clanking and hissing, then Apollyon said, "Perfect. All working properly. Be well, brother, I shall return shortly."
  
  The hand withdrew, and the ring of iron feet on the stone floor reached his ears. Apollyon was leaving. Part of him was glad to see the monster leave, but a smaller part of him wanted him to stay. The conversations with Apollyon were perhaps the only thing holding him together, for they were a break from the maddening torment that he endured when alone. For better or worse, Apollyon was his lifeline, keeping him sane and whole. Then, without warning, the choir returned. The screams, whispers, exaltations and cries of faith and zeal flooded his ears once more.

  He was screaming, he realised, but he was unable hear his own words. Was he begging Apollyon to kill him, or was he pleading with him to make the voices stop? Perhaps he was simply crying out his rage and pain. Maybe he was calling for help. He could not tell. He screamed and screamed until his lungs burnt, and when he was done, when he could yell no longer, he lay alone in the pain filled dark. The voices drowned out everything, his anger, his hatred, his defiance, it was all smothered beneath the weight of the Faithful's proclamations.

  It took David a long time to realise he was crying. Hours, perhaps, it could have been days. It took David even longer to realise he was listening to the words of the choir. And only then did he realise that his lips were moving, and that he wasn't just listening to the Faithful, he was joining them in their sermon. He realised, then, that he felt better. The prayers gave him something to focus on, something to distract from the suffering and misery that were his existence.

  And so, blind, broken and afraid, Adept David Ross of the Com Guard continued to pray.

Horsemen

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #29 on: 02 November 2023, 03:11:09 »

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #30 on: 05 November 2023, 21:37:56 »
That was a twist and surprise even m night shyamalan would crap his pants over.  Keep it up.

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #31 on: 06 November 2023, 12:47:51 »
Chapter 7

January 14th
3071
Achilles DropShip, Chariot of the Wrathful

  Locating a single DropShip and whatever JumpShip vessel was accompanying it amid the great blackness of space should have been next to impossible. There was simply too many places for it to hide, and the ship was so small within the void that it, by all rights, should have avoided notice. But Theta Two did not struggle much. His enhanced body, horrific to behold though it was, granted him a great deal of processing power, among many other advantages. Opening his mind to the machine he was joined with, Theta Two sank into the streams of code flowing around him and truly became one with the Chariot.

  In his mind's eye, the cybernetic horror beheld the galaxy as a 3D map that drifted before him. He reached out with his systems, forming a data-connection with the machines on Gibson and accessed the information stored within the great vaults hidden below the surface. A normal mind would have shattered under the tide of data that followed, drowned by the sheer weight of the details pouring into their brain, but Theta Two was no longer a normal man. His consciousness swam through the sea of information, snatching up useful reports and documents, accessing files and digesting their contents in a moment.

  Using all of this, he was able to form an image of how the Exiled Wolves usually operated, and how they had conducted their recent operations. He absorbed, categorised and understood everything he could find on them, then when he had nothing more to learn, he returned his attention to the map of the galaxy. Tracing numerous lines across the interstellar gulf, Theta Two retrod the paths taken by the Exiled Wolves in recent months. He followed them as they travelled, judging them, studying them, and, slowly, he came to know them.

  Then he understood.

  There was a pattern to how the Outcast Dogs operated. When moving from one location to the other, they would often travel the well known paths of the galaxy just like everyone else, but when it came to conducting military operations, they took the road less travelled. Clan Wolf-in-Exile's military functioned similarly to the Word of Blake, it seemed. Both groups remained undetected for long periods of time by travelling through uncharted systems or the soul-crushing nothingness of deep space. The Silent Howl possessed the corpse of a Manei Domini, and they wished to return this sacred carcass to their leaders, they likely knew they were being followed.

  Which meant they would try to hide, and Theta Two knew exactly what route they would take to return home safely and unnoticed. He examined K-62, the hidden base established by the Wolves and Lyrans, and swept his mental gaze across the surrounding systems. And then he found it. A string of uninhabited star systems that spiralled out from K-62, home to no one, observed by no one. They led, in a roundabout way, to Arc-Royal. That was the path they would walk to return to their foul den. Giving thanks to Blake for guiding him to an answer, Theta Two engaged the Chariot's engines and powered towards the waiting JumpShip.

  It had taken him less than three seconds to deduce the location of the Exiled Wolf DropShip.

*********

  The Super-Jump Drive was, undeniably, a wondrous invention. It allowed the Word of Blake to traverse the galaxy with unmatched ease, going where they wanted, when they wanted. It granted them the power to carry Blake's truth to the whole of mankind, bringing faith and wisdom wherever it was needed at a moment's notice. But there was a slight side-effect that always bothered Apollo. When the Super Jump engaged, the memory cores installed within his brain that allowed for the accessing and reliving of memories in perfect clarity fired, shunting him out of the present and hurling him into the past.

  And that's exactly what happened when they jumped. After docking with the JumpShip awaiting them at a pirate point, Theta Two had locked in the coordinates and shot them across the universe. In less time than time it took to form a thought, Apollo went from kneeling in prayer within the cargo bay of the Chariot, to being somewhere else entirely.

*********

  The night was lit by the fires of burning world. Terra was aflame. High above the glorious jewel of Mankind's birthplace, a land of wonder that billions of innocent souls called home, two vast fleets hurled their rage at one another across the cold blackness of space. Blazing hulks rained down, coming apart as they broke into the atmosphere to spread devastation across the sacred world. These falling chunks of debris burnt hot enough to set the world aflame, burning away forests and scouring the countryside of life. The ruination was horrific, and the battle had barely begun.

  They called it Operation ODYSSEUS. The Word of Blake had come to Terra to reclaim the world from the heretical claws of ComStar, and they would not yield until the world was safely under their protection. They would retake the planet for the glory of Blake and for the good of all, or they would see it turned to ash. Unfortunately for the Word of Blake, ComStar had no plans of surrendering Terra to anyone. They had stood guard over this place for centuries, and they would sacrifice anything to keep it. It was not surprising that both sides so desired the holy planet. Though it was a hallowed place, dripping with spiritual and symbolic worth, its position also made it the perfect staging area for those seeking to launch any sort of attack on the Inner Sphere.

  And so, the Divine World burned. Men who had once been brothers clashed across the surface of Terra, or blasted one another to dust upon the solar winds in orbit. It was a bad war, fought by two sides who both truly believed that they, and they alone, had the right to control this planet. Weapons of mass destruction, bioweapons, artificial plagues and worse were being brought to bare, this was a conflict that would scar Terra forever.

  Cormac Furey, Acolyte of 1st Division, True Devotion, watched the planet burn. He stood atop his 'Mech, his expression neutral, placid, hard to read. It showed no emotion, and gave no hint of the pain he felt within his soul. Around him, men screamed and bled and died amid the ruins of glory. He watched a team of medics work to save a wounded Acolyte who had lost both his legs, before turning his gaze to the downed Toyama that lay in a broken heap to his left. A team of engineers were desperately working to unseal the cockpit to get at the injured pilot within, Cormac could hear the woman trapped inside screaming out her suffering while begging for a medic over the radio.

  Broken BattleMechs, shattered tanks, crashed aircraft and corpses lay everywhere, forming a carpet of death so thick, that in some places the ground below could not be seen. Buildings burned around them, set alight during the battle or by some sort of aerial bombardment. It occurred to Cormac that he did not even know the name of this city. He had been so busy fighting, he had never had time to learn. Wounded soldiers limped about, trying their best to aid the medics, the more healthy of them rounded up any surviving ComStar forces and took them into custody for questioning and possible conversion. A few civilians were present, ambling about aimlessly in numb horror. An old woman wailed, sinking to her knees over the corpse of a ComStar soldier, cradling his body as she wept.

  The Acolyte's Buccaneer stood silent sentinel over all of this, a grim guardian that remained ready to fight at a moment's notice. It was badly damaged, missing the right arm below the elbow, its armour slagged and melted by numerous energy based attacks. Servos sparked and smoked in the legs. The white of the Word of Blake Militia was stained black and brown with the filth of war, and in some places, red with blood. He wore his cooling suit, but he had removed his neurohelmet, it hung in his grip by his side as he watched the scene unfolding before him. His skin was pale, almost unnaturally so, his hair brown and short, his pointed, stubble covered jaw and strong features lent him a handsome appearance, although his nose had clearly been broken a few too many times and the four ugly scars that ran from his forehead across his nose and right eye down to his jaw did their best to ruin his looks. His eyes, such a light blue as to almost be grey, were filled with pain.

  "How did this ever happen?" He whispered.

  Cormac did not mean to ask the question aloud, but it fell from his lips without permission. His heart felt like it was locked in an iron grip, his throat was tight with sorrow and he could feel himself doing his best to hold back tears of utter misery. This was Terra, the Sacred World, the Holy World, home of Blake's Order itself. It was the one place, in all of existence, that should never have felt the march of an army, or had blood spilt upon its surface. But now it was a war-torn battlefield, blanketed with the dead and dying, its grandeur crushed under the iron feet of BattleMechs.

  "ComStar caused this, Acolyte. Blame them." A voice responded over the radio installed in his suit's neck, Adept Rendal, his commander, "We may have brought this battle to Terra, but ComStar's heresy forced our hand. If they had not abandoned Blake, then this would not have been necessary."

  "I know, Adept..." Cormac muttered, deep voice low and quiet, "You know my past. Jaguars are no strangers to war, to the ruination of cities and the death of planets. But this?" He shook his head, "This is unlike anything I could have ever imagined."

  "I can only guess how difficult this must be to you, as a Clanner." Rendal said, her voice was kind but the term still cut Cormac to the core, a reminder of his sin filled legacy, "A child of the Clans, and a servant of Blake. Terra must hold more importance to you than it does to anyone else here."

  "It does." He sighed, "I thought being here would be glorious, wonderful, even, but also humbling at the same time. But all I feel, is sorrow."

  "I understand." The Adept said, she sounded truly apologetic, "But we go where Blake needs us. No matter how much it hurts."

  Cormac nodded to himself, "Aff." His fist clenched by his side, anger swelling within him at the use of such a Clan phrase, "I mean, yes. We go where he demands."

  He was no longer of the Smoke Jaguars. His capture and enlightenment had changed that many years ago. Yet he still slipped up and used their terms and phrases now and then, at times he even caught himself thinking less of those around him, for they were not trueborn like he was. It shamed him, and he made a note to seek penance later for his past yet again. The pain was a lesson. A lesson, it seemed, he had yet to learn.

  "This is Precentor Mulvanery to all forces in the region." A new voice, stern and commanding, said over the radio, "Form up on my position. We've nailed down the last of the ComStar forces in the area. It's time we end this."

  "You heard the woman." Rendal's Grand Crusader rounded the corner at the far end of the street and turned to face Cormac, "Let's go. And take heart, Acolyte, for this war is almost over. When it is done, and Terra once again belongs to Blake, perhaps you can find some peace by aiding in the rebuilding efforts."

  A small, unClan-like smile spread across Cormac's face at the thought, "I think I would like that, Adept." He said, pulling his helmet on as he made his way back to his 'Mech's cockpit entrance hatch.

*********

  "Jump complete." Theta Two declared over the speakers, "I'm detecting a JumpShip on the edge of the system, a DropShip is docked with it. Analysing...DropShip confirmed as the Silent Howl."

  Apollo knelt in silence, gathering himself. He was aboard Chariot of the Wrathful again. His skin metal, his veins wires, his mind focused and spirit pure. No, never pure. The taint was still there. As it always would be. He thought back to Terra, to Adept Rendal and the final battle he had fought as part of Operation ODYSSEUS. He had never been given the chance to aid in the rebuilding of the Holy World. Cormac had died during that battle, his flesh burnt and body crippled. Apollo had been born from that fight, rebuilt into a true servant of Blake. A Manei Domini.

  He clenched his fists as he remembered the agony of his cockpit being breached, the stink of his own cooking flesh, the sound of his panicked, pain filled screams in his own ears. Forcing such thoughts aside, Adept Apollo surged to his feet and barked, with more anger and force than Theta Two had ever heard in his tone, "Begin the attack! This ends now!"
« Last Edit: 06 November 2023, 18:13:43 by BlakesBestBoi »

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #32 on: 11 November 2023, 20:44:12 »
Chapter 8

January 14th
3071
Arc-Royal

  Jonah emerged into the cold air. He shivered, pulling his jacket tight around him as he made his way through the compound. It was late, and the moon hung high above, shinning brightly, bathing the chill night in a weak, bluish light. The base was quiet, but far from deserted. He wasn't surprised. Given recent events, security was always high. Guards roamed constantly, scrutinising every soul they encountered, as he looked up he saw a flight of fighters speed by overhead, crossing the huge orb of the moon so that they stood out as stark silhouettes. He stepped aside, nodding in greeting to a pair of warriors as they passed. Both of them were sealed within full Battle Armour and had their weapons at the ready. Despite being the home of his Clan, Jonah could not deny that there was a great deal of tension in the air.

  After the disaster that was the War for Ryde, the loss of the Bloodhound and the recent assault upon Arc-Royal itself, everyone was on edge. The Word of Blake had launched an attack on Arc-Royal in the early morning of December 28th and though the attempted nuclear attack against the planet had failed, stopped by Wolf-in-Exile forces in space, it had been quite the wake up call for everyone. Especially the Khan. It was clear to them all that they could no longer retreat to this world to heal and repair, they were fully committed to this conflict now. There was no where left to hide.

  Jonah cared little about this. A true warrior did not hide.

  The Point Commander picked up his pace, jogging across the compound towards the landing area on the far side. The base was large, meant to house huge amounts of troops and their equipment while they were awaiting deployment into orbit, but he made good time. He slowed as he reached the main hangar, where the various machines used by the local Clan forces were stored. He felt a yearning, an urge, to enter and gaze upon his ProtoMech. Perhaps simply seeing it, or maybe touching it, would help relieve some of the discomfort he was feeling.

  He swallowed, turned away and carried on. He felt a flare of anger, and not a little shame, at feeling such desires. It was unbecoming of a warrior to be so distracted. He was a Point Commander, a soldier of the Clan that carried the blood of the Great Father himself, he would not give into temptation. He was no freebirth child, afraid of the outside world. He was trueborn, and that meant he was above fear and was able to endure great discomfort, even pain, with ease. Or so he told himself. He gritted his teeth as a truck sped by, the noise deafening, its headlights blinding. His skin itched with the cold, his head hurt. His throat was as dry as a desert and for a moment, even breathing seemed difficult. He vision swam, forcing him to his brace himself against the nearest wall as he shut his eyes and took deep, calming breaths.

  He looked back at the hangar. Things would be so much easier if he just got to spend a little time within his Hydra. He wouldn't take long, only a few minutes. Whatever the Star Captain wanted could wait that long.

  "Jonah Mehta?" A voice called. The Point Commander turned to see a large, muscled woman approaching, a rifle held at ease across her chest.

  "Yes?" He asked, voice weak and quiet. He cleared his throat, trying his best to speak with a confidence he didn't really feel at that moment, "Yes. I am Jonah."

  "I have been looking for you. Star Captain Hannibal sent me to escort you to the landing area." She stopped a few feet from him, "Are you well, sir?"

  "I don't need an escort." He blinked sweat from his eyes, ignoring the question, "I can find my own way."

  "Not my orders, sir. You are coming with me." She spoke calmly, obviously not meaning to make it sound like such a threat but in her gruff tone, it was quite intimidating, "And trust me, sir, given the situation, you will want some support if things go wrong."

  "Why?" Jonah asked, frowning, "What's happened?"

  Without a word, she turned and strode away, gesturing for him to follow. He took one final look at the building containing his ProtoMech, forced down a surge of vomit fighting to be free of his throat, and then hurried to follow her. They reached the far side of the base soon after, and the moment the landing area came into view, Jonah knew something was wrong. There were numerous guards everywhere, most in Battle Armour, and they all stood at attention. Tense, ready to move if a threat presented itself.

  The landing area was little more than a large strip of land that had been cleared and flattened, it was large enough for several DropShips to land at once and was close enough to the base to facilitate the rapid loading of troops. He slowed as he beheld a rare sight indeed. There was only one ship present, a large, flat vessel that was wider than it was long. The ship was painted in all manner of clashing colours and graffitied with strange symbols and shapes that were so bright they seemed almost impossible to miss, despite the gloom, as if they glowed with some inner light.

  He had only seen a handful of this ship before, but as a ProtoMech pilot, Jonah would recognise them anywhere. The ship was an Arcadia-class DropShip, designed by Clan Blood Spirit prior to the start of the Reaving Wars. Due to the near complete loss of contact with the Homeworlds as a result of that conflict, they were all but unheard of in the Inner Sphere. Each DropShip was able to carry a full Point of over a dozen ProtoMechs with ease, transporting them and their pilots to and from a battle with unmatched speed.

  He saw several figures gathered around the vessel, and as he approached he was able to pierce the darkness enough to make out some faint details. Standing by the loading ramp was a BattleMech, a massive, slender machine that was clearly built with love and care. It carried a titanic blade in one hand, a katana longer than a ProtoMech was tall, and even with the poor lighting, he was able to recognise the 'Mech as a Combine-built No-Dachi. The sword was the major giveaway, but the overall design and aesthetics of the machine pointed to its origin.

  Around the 'Mech, clustered like children at their father's feet, was a group of ProtoMechs, he could see five but it was possible, and likely, that more were waiting within the DropShip. Jonah didn't recognise the model of ProtoMech for a moment, before he placed the design. He had not seen this model in a long time. Tall, with metal wings sweeping out from behind and an elongated, dragon-like head atop a powerful humanoid body. These were Delphynes. Fire Mandrill designed the Delphyne, if his knowledge was correct. Jonah had always been eager to take one out for a test battle, if only to see how it compared to his Hydra.

  He approached slowly, keeping his eyes on the machines at all times, until he came to stand before the DropShip. The light of the interior hurt his eyes, and he turned from the loading ramp to greet Hannibal, who stood with his hands clasped behind his back at the feet of the No-Dachi, "Mind telling me what this is all about, sir?"

  "I was hoping, Point Commander, that you could tell me, actually." Hannibal said. He was short for a Clanner, with a wide neck and bald, pointed head. Jonah thought the man looked like a bullet, "They requested permission to land but refuse to speak to anyone other than you."

  Jonah raised an eyebrow, then looked straight up, locking eyes with the metal giant looming over him. The No-Dachi was still as a statue, and the ProtoMechs around them did not speak or act, "Why did you let them land if they're not gonna talk?" He asked, "How do we know they're not a threat?"

  "They claim to have something of great import to discuss with you, and you alone, involving the Word of Blake." Hannibal muttered, "Given this business with the Jihad everyone is so concerned about, I thought it best to not ignore that."

  Jonah glanced at the Star Captain before looking once more at the machine, "Well..." He spread his arms, "Here I am. What do you want with me, Nova Cat?"

  "You are Jonah Mehta?" The voice emerging from the BattleMech was a deep growl that was filled with power and command.

  Pain pulsed behind Jonah's eyes at the volume.

  It was all so loud out here.

  "I think you already know the answer to that." He said, "But, fine, I'll play along." He squared his shoulders, chest thrust out and chin held high, "Yes, I am Jonah Mehta. Bloodnamed of Clan Wolf, the true Clan Wolf, I might add. Point Commander and ProtoMech pilot. Now who are you, and why do you want to speak to me?"

  The 'Mech moved so suddenly and with such speed that Jonah, and every other Exiled Wolf warrior in the vicinity, found themselves tensing, preparing to move, to fight. But the BattleMech did not attack, instead it raised its massive sword, spun it around so the tip pointed towards the earth, then plunged the blade deep into the mud at its feet. With the whirr of gears and the hum of artificial muscles, the No-Dachi went down onto one knee and bowed its head before him.

  "I am Orion Drummond." The iron behemoth rumbled, "Bloodnamed warrior of Clan Nova Cat, Seeker of the Fated. I am honoured to meet you, Jonah Mehta. You and I have much to discuss."

  "I heard you wanted to challenge me to a Trial?" Jonah said.
 
  "I do." Orion agreed, "So tell me, Jonah Mehta, do you accept?"

  "What's this fight over?" He frowned.

  The 'Mech raised its head to look straight at him, "We fight for the future, Jonah."
« Last Edit: 12 November 2023, 11:58:13 by BlakesBestBoi »

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #33 on: 13 November 2023, 00:02:52 »
I appreciate the nod to the growing side effects of the EI implant.

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #34 on: 19 November 2023, 20:16:53 »
Hey guys! Sorry for the delay on this one, it's a bit longer and life has been busy recently, but I got the next part finished. Hope you enjoy :)

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #35 on: 19 November 2023, 20:17:10 »
Chapter 9

January 14th
3071
Invader-class JumpShip, Pack Mother

  The Pack Mother shuddered violently, her ancient hull groaning under the stress of the enemy DropShip's relentless attack. Alarms were wailing across the decks, warning klaxons screamed and sirens blared, filling the cramped interior of the JumpShip with an awful, teeth grinding din. Automated warnings sounded across the decks every few minutes as the enemy vessel systematically disabled every one of the JumpShip's systems. The attacker had started with the engines, then they had taken out the bridge and now they were gradually stripping away every weapon the Pack Mother had to defend herself with. Considering the fact that a Invader's armament amounted to a mere two anti-meteor long range lasers, it didn't take long for the attacking DropShip to do so.

  The dim, blood red emergency lighting flooding the corridors of the Pack Mother turned Mitran's steel and bronze coloured Elemental Battle Armour crimson as he pounded down the halls of the dying vessel. Behind the Point Commander, the rest of his unit sprinted after him, their heavy footfalls lost in the deafening screams of the ship's sirens. They passed a few of engineers as they went, and a few corpses, but the majority of the crew had retreated deeper into the JumpShip in order to avoid the inevitable battle that was about to erupt throughout the vessel.

  It was standard practice, after all. No one, not even the most aggressive Clans, would go out of their way to destroy a JumpShip. Now that the Pack Mother was defenceless and unable to run, it was only a matter of time until their attacker boarded the ship in an effort to capture it. The DropShip was already moving towards one of the ship's free docking collars on the port side of the hull. Mitran was a child of Clan Wolf-in-Exile and as such, he lived for battle but even he was not looking forward to the fight to come. Boarding actions were bloody work.

  "Any idea who is attacking us?" He snapped into the comms.

  "No ID on the hostile vessel yet." The one of his warriors grunted, "And we still do not know how the hell that ship got so close. Word from the bridge was that there is no emergence signature, or at least none we can detect. Of course, with the bridge gone we likely won't be finding out anything else about our attacker until we see 'em."

  Mitran growled with frustration as listened to the man speak. He spoke like a Sphere-dweller, it was unbecoming of a trueborn. He shoved his way through a crowd of crewmen coming the opposite way down the corridor, they were floating down the hall, weightless due to the lack of gravity unlike the Battle Armour clad warriors, who were 'running' through the ship thanks to the maglocks in their feet, "It will be the Word of Blake."

  "I agree. I can not say why, but it certainly seems like them." The woman to his right nodded as she thudded down the hall, "But who it is matters less than how they found us. No one should even know where we are, which raises the question of just how these freebirths even found us."

  The Point Commander skidded to a halt as he rounded the corner at the end of the hall and came face to face with another Point of Elementals. No greetings were exchanged, no orders given, the two units merely formed into one and sprinted onwards until they reached the airlock that led to Docking Collar Two. The warriors spread out, the corridor was empty, providing no cover to shelter behind. That would likely work in their favour. With no where to hide, the enemy would be forced to run directly into their guns and flamers.

  The Elementals crouched, bracing themselves and training every weapon on the airlock, "I care little how they found us." Mitran said, "All I care about it, is making sure they do not seize this ship. We all know the value of the cargo aboard, I expect all of you to give your lives to ensure it reaches Arc-Royal. Understood?"

  "Aff!" His warriors responded.

  No one spoke. The emergency lighting flashed and sirens screamed, the ship rocked as something important detonated somewhere within the hull. The minutes ticked by slowly. Then, there came a muffled metallic clang on the far side of the airlock as the enemy DropShip docked. More time passed, but still no one emerged from the docking collar. The warriors began to glance at one another, uncertain about how to proceed. 

  Without warning, a horrible shriek tore across the comms, causing Mitran to curse loudly and clutch at his head. The noise inside his helmet threatened to deafen him, but suddenly, as quickly as it had begun, it stopped. A voice replaced it. It was deep, wise and filled with experience, "Children of the Great Father, I am Apollo, Ascended of the Manei Domini, Adept of the 52nd Shadow Division. This JumpShip transports a ship, the Silent Howl. Within that vessel is held the remains of one of my kin. You killed her." There was anger in that voice, just below the surface, "Slaughtered her, like the animals you are. But that was not enough. Now you drag her corpse back to your den to rip apart and dissect as if she, a servant of the Master himself, were nothing more than a beast. This will not come to pass. You will go no further."

  The comms fell silent. On the far side of the airlock, Mitran heard something clamp onto the bulkhead and a heartbeat later, the corridor was filled with light and sound and heat. The detonation roared down the hallway, smoke billowed out and new alarms blared to life as fires roared into being. Then, through the smoke and flame, the Reclaimed charged towards the warriors.

  They came upon them like a screeching tide, scrabbling and leaping across the deck to reach the Clanners. Some ran across the metal floor with maglocked feet, others dragged themselves through the gravity-free hall with vibroclaws and talons, some rocketed through the air upon crude thrusters and rockets. There were so many that they filled the corridor from floor to ceiling, forming a living wall of mutilated flesh and cybernetics that sobbed and wailed as it moved.

  "Open fire!" Mitran screamed, but his men were already doing so.

  Lasers, fire and bullets tore into the avalanche of horror bearing down upon them. Reclaimed fell in droves, their defiled bodies ripped apart by the weight of fire unleashed upon them. Bodies were crushed underfoot as they fell, turned to bloody paste upon the deck as the cyborg monsters rushed on, uncaring of the losses they suffered. Within moments, they had reached the warriors and it was then that the killing really started. They leapt upon the Elementals, stabbing and tearing at them with metal limbs. New screams filled the hallway as the horrors literally tore open the armour of the Clanners and reached inside to rip apart the men and women within. Blood erupted from shattered armour, floating through the zero-g air like crimson crystals. The warriors fought with great strength, crushing skulls, shattering bones and ripping limbs from bodies, but it was a fight they had no chance of winning.

  Snarling with anger, Mitran fired his 12mm Machine Gun into the face of a Reclaimed clawing at his leg and barked, "Pull back! Pull bac-"

  His words turned into a wet gurgle as something punched into his chest. He looked down, confused as pain bloomed inside him. A long, thin blade was lodged below his ribs. His eyes moved down the blade, following it up to where the weapon connected to the elbow of a cyborg monster before him. He swept his gaze over the wretched thing, noting how severely its flesh had been polluted. The Reclaimed was a woman, and perhaps at some distant point in her past she had been beautiful. Now, she was just a half-machine abomination. Machinery protruded from every angle, erupting through her pale, abused skin, bulging out from her white robes. Her arms ended in gore covered vibroblades, and her feet had been replaced with sharpened iron claws like those of some strange bird. Her head was bald, and her eyes glowed with red light. Mitran noticed she was crying, tears running from the sockets within which the optic sensors now sat. The speaker that had replaced her mouth was howling out the poor woman's pain.

  Even as she killed him, the Point Commander couldn't help but feel sorry for her. He grunted as the vibroblade was torn from his body, he felt his limbs grow heavy, he could feel his body failing him as he stumbled backwards, crashing into the wall behind. He tried to raise his weapon as a trio of Reclaimed closed in upon him, but he was too slow. In the end, his death was mercifully brief. A mutilated horror lunged forward, stabbing out with its right arm which ended in a massive, whirring saw. The spinning disk tore into his helmet, blood exploded outwards and the Elemental slumped to the deck.

*********

  Apollo, clad in his Djinn Battle Armour, stepped into gore covered hallway. The fires still burned, bathing the towering, demonic form of his armour in a hellish light. The Manei Domini looked left, then right, taking note of the dead Elementals and Reclaimed. He felt nothing for the passing of either. The Clans deserved to die, they had to die, and the Reclaimed existed to find death in combat. It was how they got their name, in fact.

  Each was a heretic or an infidel, taken by the Faithful and transformed into a weapon that would serve Blake. By dying in his service, each of these godless fools had earned redemption in the eyes of the Holy One. To Apollo, they were extremely lucky, for precious few had the chance to earn such forgiveness. He stepped over the bodies, the Reclaimed parted before him as he strode through their midst. They were still crying out their pain and misery, but the Adept ignored those pitiable noises.

  "Clanners still live aboard this ship." He said as he walked, "Hunt them down. All of them."

  His cybernetic servants scattered, spreading out through the interior of the JumpShip. It wasn't long before Apollo heard gunfire and other sounds of battle echo down distant hallways. He marched on, never diverting from his course. His mission was to ensure the body of the Manei Domini, Semyaza, was not returned to Arc-Royal, but he had a secondary objective that Apollyon had given him.

  The Adept encountered no real resistance on his journey through the ship. He occasionally passed a group of engineers or crewmen, which he was swift to torch with his flamer or carve apart with his claws, but he faced no challenge until he rounded the corner leading to Docking Collar One. On the other side of that airlock, the Silent Howl was docked. His objective lay within.

  The moment he swung around the corner, lasers smashed into his armour. He grunted in slight pain as one of the bolts pierced his Battle Armour just below the left armpit, but the pain vanished the instant he disconnected his consciousness from the part of his mechanically enhanced brain that handled such sensations. Freed from the discomfort of injury, the Manei Domini broke into a run towards the Clanners at the far end of the hall. It was a trio of Elementals that barred his path. They stood before the accessway to the Silent Howl, lasers levelled at him as he came on. Blinding beams of light sliced into him as he charged, but Apollo barrelled onwards regardless. He put down his shoulder as he charged, crashing bodily into the nearest Elemental and slamming them into the bulkhead. The warrior slumped, dazed after the impact, and Apollo seized his opportunity. He pulled back his right hand and stabbed downwards, ramming his Battle Claw through the warrior's armoured exterior and into his flesh. The Manei Domini twisted, clenched his fist, then pulled, ripping a large chunk of meat out as he tore his hand free.

  The other two Elementals poured fire onto him, warnings appeared across his vision, his armour was taking bad damage. The cyborg spun, ducking low and lashing out with both claws. He caught the second Elemental in the stomach, sparks and crimson flew freely as he carved through Battle Armour and intestines with equal ease. Suddenly he was sent sprawling onto the deck as the final attacker smashed into him. They went down hard, crashing onto the metal floor with the ring of metal on metal. They tore at one another, Battle Claws ripping chunks of armour off with each blow. Losing his footing, Apollo began to drift freely as he brawled with the Clanner. All sense of dignity and grace disappeared as they hacked and kicked, each desperate to end the fight as quickly as possible. Apollo drove a harsh kick into the Elemental's side, sending him floating across the deck with a gasp of pain. The Manei Domini didn't allow him to recover.

  Reactivating his maglocks, Apollo clamped himself to the deck and threw a punch as hard as he could. Artificial muscles and synthetic sinews flexed and bulged as he rammed his fist directly into the warrior's chest. He opened his hand and flexed his fingers, shredding the man's insides. The warrior spasmed, then fell still and floated away. Apollo stood there for a moment, he couldn't breathe, not really, not like most humans, so he didn't catch his breath. But he took a moment to gather himself and run a quick diagnostic on his cybernetics. His armour had been breached, and a few of his systems were damaged but they could be repaired on Gibson. Nothing was damaged enough to impact his mission, so he carried on.

*********

  Theta Two drifted upon currents of data, allowing his mind to be carried throughout the systems and archives of the Pack Mother. It had been amusingly easy to hack the vessel's systems after docking, and since he had nothing to do until Apollo contacted with him new orders, he entertained himself the best he could. His coasting mind passed over a file relating to the methods used to repair Clan naval weaponry. He opened it, gave it a glance over and mentally tossed it aside. He already knew all of that.

  He moved onto the next file, a cargo manifest that also contained nothing of particular interest. On and on he went, delving through the information stored upon the JumpShip as easily as one would look over the books of a library. Finally, he came across something of interest. An ancient document, a log from the ship's captain, buried beneath centuries of data, that was simply titled 'Operation ASYLUM' which was something he had never heard of. It related to a mission undertaken by the Pack Mother in the days of the Star League. Back when the JumpShip had served the SLDF, it had carried out this task in secret, during the darkness of the Amaris Civil War.

  Before he could read much of the log, Apollo contacted him, "I'm finished here. Prepare to depart."

  Theta Two tucked the ship's log deep into the memory banks of the Chariot as he responded, "Powering up the engines now, lord. We can depart when you wish."

*********

  "Rest easy, Semyaza. You have been avenged." Apollo whispered, "Even now, my servants slaughter the heretics who hide within this vessel. K-62 burns, along with those who laid you low. Be with Blake, sister."

  He stood within the Silent Howl, looking down at the corpse of his fellow Domini. The Outcast Dogs had been thorough in their investigation. Her body lay within a glass tube, which was little more than a chilled freezer used to preserve the body, and around the storage bay other frozen containers were filled with the cybernetics that had once been housed within her flesh. The pieces of her 'Mech, salvaged after her death on Lyons, were stored on the deck above, also awaiting examination.

  Apollo had opened the container housing Semyaza's corpse in order to fulfil his objective. While it had disturbed him to defile the body of a Hand of the Master, he had carved open her skull and removed a tiny device from her brain. It was so small the Clanners had missed it during her dissection, but it was arguably the most important implant inside any Manei Domini. He held up the lump of metal to the light, examining it. Held gently between two of his claws, Semyaza's memory core dripped with brain-matter and blood. Within this device was stored her memories and thoughts, all of her experiences sealed within. While it was impossible to bring back the dead, such a machine would allow the Word of Blake access to all the information stored within her mind. This was what he had been sent to recover. This single, minuscule lump of wires and metal represented a titanic threat to the Faithful. If the heretics of the Inner Sphere somehow acquired such a trove of knowledge, it would bring about the end of the Word of Blake.

  Apollyon had not been willing to risk it. Even though Apollo was about to turn the Silent Howl, and the attached JumpShip, to dust, the Prince of Scars had ordered he recover the memory core first, for if by some impossible miracle it survived, it could spell disaster for them all.

  The Adept turned from the body and walked away. He passed through the corpse strewn interior of the ship and as he walked, the Reclaimed gathered around him. They crawled, limped and loped after their master, their sobbing, miserable screams bathing him in a sea of sorrow. Once he had reached the Chariot, he made his way to the bridge and stood by Theta Two's shoulder. He watched the Pack Mother shrink as they detached and sped away from the JumpShip.

  "Open fire." He ordered.

  "With respect, sir, are you sure?" The pilot asked, monotone voice echoing from the speakers around Apollo, "Those are two perfectly usable ships, their crews are dead. Recovering them would greatly benefit the Word of Blake. JumpShips are not cheap, sire."

  "They have served the Clans for centuries. They are corrupted by their heresy." Apollo shook his head.

  "Like you?" Theta Two spoke before he even really realised what he had said. He fell silent, what remained of his organic flesh tensed as he awaited some sort of harsh rebuke from the Manei Domini.

  Apollo looked down at the machine-man grafted into the ship before him. His armour was slagged, punctured and torn apart, it sparked and smoked, red dripped from its talons and the stink of death clung to the metal plates. For a moment, he looked more like some sort of vengeful, hate filled spirit than a man. Theta Two felt the tattered chunks of meat that served as the last vestiges of his flesh shudder in fear as the Adept glared down at him. Then, mercifully, Apollo looked once more to the JumpShip.

  "Perhaps...you are correct." He whispered, "I came here intent upon destroying this ship, but that would be foolish. Myself and the Reclaimed are both living proof that the heretical can still be of use, if given a chance to redeem itself." He was silent for a time, then turned from the cockpit and walked away, "Mark the location of the Pack Mother. I will have a salvage team dispatched to recover both vessels when we return to Gibson. Take us home, pilot. I will be in prayer if you require me."
« Last Edit: 20 November 2023, 10:04:38 by BlakesBestBoi »

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #36 on: 21 November 2023, 02:40:44 »
The last two paragraphs are rather intriguing. Well done.

DOC_Agren

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #37 on: 26 November 2023, 20:04:43 »
So The Pack Mother once pulled a covert mission back in the old Star League Days

I find it interesting that an Ex-Smoke Jag is now an MD.

and what is Jonah purpose in this grand adventure



"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #38 on: 30 November 2023, 16:06:22 »
Epilogue

January 14th
3071
Arc-Royal

  Orion Drummond watched the combatants take their place. The sun was shining high by the time the Exiled Wolf was ready to face the challenge set before him. They were far from the civilised parts of Arc-Royal, stood within a large flat plain of grass that stretched out in all directions. Trials were rarely fought on this world, and when they were, the action always happened in the deep wilds to avoid damaging any Spheroids. Besides his own No-Dachi, there were four other 'Mechs present. Shitsuren stood, its blade planted in the earth beside it, and spaced equally at a great distance around it were three Wolf BattleMechs. Not quite a Circle of Equals, more of a square, but it would serve well enough.

  Between the machines stood a pair ProtoMechs. There was quite a bit of distance between them, and the amount of space within the Circle of Equals was great indeed. Such things were necessary, for ProtoMechs required a lot of space to move and act effectively, they relied upon speed to survive and thus removing their agility by shrinking the size of the combat area would have crippled the effectiveness of both warriors.

  On the far side of the battle space stood Jonah's Hydra. It had been repaired since Ryde, but was not yet fully repainted. Its bare metal form caught the light, reflecting it and making the whole machine shine. Near Orion's feet stood one of the Delphynes he had brought with him. The machine was tall, with draconic features and clawed hands and feet. While it was a good bit more slender and elegant than Jonah's ProtoMech, the Delphyne was still quite the intimidating sight and it was a foolish warrior indeed that underestimated it.

  The Nova Cat warrior within was known as Jakal, and she had fought within her ProtoMech for the Clan for half a decade. Entirely within, that was. For over five blood filled years, Jakal had existed inside her machine, never emerging unless it was utterly required. Orion had spoken to her of this as they came to this world, and she claimed that the outside world was too loud, too bright and had nothing but suffering for her now. Within her Delphyne, she told him, everything simply felt right. It was her body now. She was the ProtoMech. This had not disturbed Orion the way it would most people. He knew how life worked. Every being walked the path they were meant to walk, fate and destiny led you where you were needed. Some people were destined to do great things, others were fated to commit unspeakable acts. If Jakal was meant to spend her days entombed beneath the metal shell of a Delphyne, then so be it.

  The Bloodnamed ProtoMech pilot did not understand the point of this battle, not truly, but he had accepted. Orion assumed he was merely desperate for a fight. The terms were simple. If he won, the Nova Cats would leave Arc-Royal and never bother him again, if he lost, they would reveal the reason for their arrival. Orion should have simply told him of his premonition, but that was not the way this worked. They would fight, and victory would be decided by fate. Whoever was meant to win would win. If Jonah was to discover his future today and set out with them to seek it, he would. If he was supposed to emerge the victor and remain ignorant of his destiny, then that was what would happen.   

  "Everyone walks their assigned path." Orion whispered to himself as he gazed out of Shitsuren's cockpit, "All roads lead where they must."

  But where would Jonah's lead? That was the question. His vision in the fire had shown Drummond the importance of Jonah. For one reason or another, this Manei Domini, Apollo, would come for the Nova Cats, and upon ground soaked with Clan blood and littered with corpses, this Exiled Wolf was destined to face him in combat. But did he win? The vision had not shown the outcome of their battle, so Orion did not know. All he could do was trust in the future. Whatever happened, happened, and no one could change what was to come.

  Orion watched the two ProtoMechs glare at one another for a time before he activated his speaker system, "Begin."

  Then he sat back, crossed his arms and watched the battle unfold.

*********

January 16th
3071
Gibson

  Enthroned within his personal kingdom beneath Gibson, the Prince of Scars gazed at the hologram before him. As always, the room was bathed in shadow, lit only by the pale white light emanating from the projected images drifting before him. His throne, dark as night and crafted from iron, was no mere affectation or concession to vanity, it served an important function. Snaking up from the arms and back of the throne, cables stabbed into sockets that protruded from his skin. Interfacing perfectly with his cybernetics, this connection allowed Apollyon to access nearly every computer system on Gibson. His mechanically enhanced brain absorbed in the ceaseless flow of information easily, allowing him to sort through everything swiftly. It was exhausting, and it hurt to do, but pain was the smallest price he paid in order to serve Blake.

  Such an interface was required to allow him to carry out his duties. The sheer amount of operations he commanded made it impossible for Apollyon to oversee each of them personally, at least, in the flesh. Wired into this control station, the Lord of the Manei Domini was able to observe and supervise each of the myriad duties carried out by those under his control. All at once, he oversaw the production of new Reclaimed, directed the repair of a trio of Celestial BattleMechs, coordinated and planned a coming battle with a unit of Manei Domini, digested hundreds of intercepted communications and much, much more. Different parts of his mind handled every task, sometimes he used holograms to be in various places at once, other times he sent his commands in text or spoke through various speaker systems installed throughout Gibson. While he preferred to be there in person when something demanded his attention, that was simply not feasible a lot of the time and as the Jihad dragged on, he was needed in more and more places at once.

  There were concerns that such a machine could damage the mind if used for long enough, but Apollyon was willing to lose his mind if it aided the Faithful. He would even die to further their aims without a hint of regret.

  He frowned within the blackness of his hood. Before him floated a projection of David Ross. Rendered in white light, the abuses the man had endured were obvious to all and Apollyon had to admit the man had endured much, more than most had, in fact. He often checked in on David when he could, eager to see his progress. This time, what he saw deeply interested him, for David was speaking. He raised the volume of the projection, and there it was, on the very edge of hearing, almost entirely lost beneath the glorious clamour of faithful voices the Prince of Scars had left him in.

  David was praying. What remained of the Com Guard's lips moved ceaselessly, a stream of hushed devotions issuing forth without pause. He was crying, the tears visible even on the hologram, and as Apollyon listened, he heard that the prisoner was not beseeching any fake god or deity. He was praying to Blake. And Conrad Toyama. And even Demona Aziz. Apollyon smiled, not out of cruelty or malice, but out of joy. Finally, another had seen the truth. He regretted, in his own way, having to hurt David, but such agony had been worth it. One often discovered their true faith during times of suffering, after all. It was time to move on to the next step. With a thought, Apollyon activated the communications system installed within his throne.

  "Adept Apollo, I require your presence." He said.

  "On my way, sir." Apollo responded immediately.
 
  It took time for Apollo to reach the throne room, as most of the Manei Domini knew it. Apollyon, who merely referred to it as his war room, was not a massive fan of the term but it had stuck. In fact, to his slight annoyance, Berith had even taken to calling it that. Apollyon had told him to stop, but the Specter Precentor Sigma still did it. As much as the Lord of the Manei Domini valued Berith, and he did, the man was among his most cherished and trusted servants, he could be irritating at times. Eventually, the many feet thick bulkhead rumbled open and Apollo strode into the war room. His red and black robes faded into the shadows filling the chamber, but his metal body and the gold threading worked through the garment caught the glow of the projection. The green recessed visor that split his skull where his eyes should have been shone with light as he fixed his gaze upon Apollyon. As always, he did not kneel. The Adept had only ever knelt before one master.

  "What do you need of me, Precentor." Apollo asked.

  "David Ross." Apollyon sat back upon his throne, gesturing to the hologram before steepling his fingers in front of his darkness covered face. From within the hood, Apollo could see the blazing green cybernetic eye fix on him as the Precentor spoke, "You remember him?"

  "The Com Guard. I know him." Apollo nodded, "I brought him here after 66-12-4B."

  "Why?" Apollyon's tone was calm, but even when he was in a good mood his voice filled people with dread.

  Apollo, used to that voice after so many years, was unbothered by it but there had been a time when it had terrified him, "I..." He hesitated, "I do not know. His unit killed two Manei Domini and he served the heretical ComStar, but when I defeated him, I thought it a waste to kill him. As I told you when I returned him to this world, I admire his bravery, and based on his performance during the battle, he is a MechWarrior of no small skill."

  "I get the feeling it was your Clanner origins showing through." The Precentor hummed, "Finding a foe you see some value in and taking them as warrior-slave. What is such a servant called, a bondsmen?"

  The two cyborgs stared at one another for a long time, the air thick with tension. Apollo broke the silence first, "Why did you summon me?"

  "I believe David is ready for advancement into the ranks of the Manei Domini." Apollyon stood, the cables connecting him to the throne disconnecting and withdrawing into the darkness around him as he strode towards Apollo, "I have decided to place him under your command. I am aware of your desire to be reunited with the rest of your Level II, but each of your brothers and sisters is needed elsewhere on their own, vital missions. If you ask me, it is a waste of your talents as a leader to leave you in command of mere Reclaimed. You need real troops under you." He made his way towards the door, motioning for the Adept to follow.

  "I confess to some surprise. Until now, all those under me have been among the Ascended. Are you truly going to raise David up to such a lofty position already?" Apollo looked at him as they walked.

  "Don't be absurd. He will have to earn such an honour, but I have my reasons for giving him to you. You are skilled leader, and an even better warrior. You will command him, but I want you to do more than that. Tutor him, Adept. Teach him to be a true servant of Blake. David is the son of heretics and a servant of iconoclasts. He has much to atone for, and he shall require a great deal of guidance on how to make amends for his past." Apollyon turned to regard him, gaze filled with judgement, "And I can think of few better to lead him into redemption than you, Cormac. Of all my servants, you are among the most...suited for this task."

  The Adept bowed his head, humbled and shamed at the same time. He would never escape his past, that was obvious, but perhaps he could help another find redemption. It would be an honour to lift another up into the light of Blake, "I understand, Precentor."

  "Good." The bulkhead groaned open before Apollyon, "Come with me. It's time you met your new brother."

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #39 on: 30 November 2023, 16:09:58 »
Quick update everyone, I am very sick,  :sad: I think I got the flu or something from visiting family, but anyway. The point is, with me being sick and the holidays coming up, these posts will slow down a little. But I am not stopping! Just need some more time to write in between throwing up, dying in bed and getting ready for christmas XD
Next bit of this story is coming along nicely! Not going to spoil anything, but I think it's going to be pretty interesting. Hopefully I feel better soon and after December is done, I should be back to working on this properly.
I hope you enjoyed this epilogue and that you're just generally enjoying the story :)
« Last Edit: 01 December 2023, 21:01:46 by BlakesBestBoi »

shadowdancer

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #40 on: 30 November 2023, 16:25:05 »
I hope that you have a quick recovery. Feel better soon.
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Horsemen

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #41 on: 03 December 2023, 20:56:52 »
Get well. Focus on that. We'll be here.

DOC_Agren

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #42 on: 23 December 2023, 05:38:10 »
Hope there will be more when you are better and less crazy busy
"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #43 on: 23 December 2023, 13:54:50 »
Come back when you are better.

As an aside, I just read all of this story in one sitting.  Very well done with clever shifts in it.

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #44 on: 11 January 2024, 12:17:32 »
And I am back! Feeling much better now :) I've got some more free time so updates should come more often. I hope you're all enjoying this story, and I hope you enjoy what comes next!

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #45 on: 11 January 2024, 12:17:40 »
David Comes Home
Chapter 1

February 27th
3071
Gibson

  Redemptor Amissus landed atop the slumped 'Mech, landing with enough force to shake the earth around it. The Malak Invictus pointed its right arm at the 'head' of the machine below it, and deployed its retractable blade. The blade shot out with blinding speed, punching into the cockpit of the enemy 'Mech and shattering it. The Malak's jump jets fired, launching the Celestial BattleMech into the air. Missiles streaked by beneath its feet, missing and detonating in the distance. Turning mid-flight, Redemptor Amissus' Light PPC and ER Medium Laser lashed out, followed moments later by a hail of SRMs from its chest mounted launcher. Another machine went up in the flames, crashing to the ground as a smouldering wreck.

  "He's too slow." Apollyon scowled within the darkness of his hood.

  "Indeed." Adept Apollo nodded, "But he is learning. For his second time in a Celestial, he is doing well enough."

  "I've seen others do far better." The Prince of Scars looked at the Manei Domini.

  "And I've seen some do far worse, my lord." The Adept didn't take his eyes off the battle below him.

  They were on a hill, a large mound of bare earth that rose from the surface of Gibson. It overlooked a vast, flat plain that was entirely devoid of life. This section of the world had been stripped of plant and wildlife by the weapon tests of the Word of Blake long ago, leaving it a muddy, dead stretch of wasteland littered with destroyed vehicles, ruined 'Mechs and shattered fortifications built for the purpose of training Manei Domini. It was the preferred training ground of the Master's Chosen, for it was far from prying eyes and inquisitive minds. Apollo had lost track of the amount of simulated battles he had fought in this place. The area, officially, had no name but the cyborg warriors of Blake knew it as the Broken Crucible, for it was here, upon this destroyed, ruined patch of death, that they were judged. Before being officially welcomed into the ranks of the Hands of the Master, every Manei Domini endured numerous combat trials against all manner of opponents, ruthless battles that saw them either die, or emerge victorious. Apollo had known great men and women who met their end during those tests. It was necessary, however. Blake demanded the best from his servants.
 
  The wind blew strongly from the east, and the robes of the two Manei Domini snapped out behind them, in the weak sun that pierced the grey clouds, their mechanical enhancements glittered and shone. As they observed the test, Apollyon took notes upon a datapad he was carrying, muttering to himself while he did so. Apollo noted that even here, outside in the light of the day, his robes still obscured his features. It was as if the darkness within the Prince of Scars' hood conspired to keep him hidden from all. It has unsettling in a strange way, even to someone like Apollo that had served under the man for so long.

  Explosions bloomed across Redemptor Amissus as the 'Mech endured a barrage of lasers from the west. The Malak's torso rotated to face this new threat, then with a blast of fire from the jump jets, the machine took off in the direction of its enemy. Diving and swerving as it sailed through the air, Redemptor Amissus did an impressive job of avoiding most of the fire coming its way. The lasers tracked the 'Mech through the air, tracing its path, but none of the shots actually managed to hit home. Some came dangerously close, however.

  "The Revenant is proving a disappointment, again." Apollo noted, his vision, and indeed Apollyon's own sight, was far superior to that of any Frail so he was able to observe the battle without any form of visual enhancer.

  "And yet Precentor Martial St. Jamais approves of them." The Lord of the Manei Domini grunted, "What a surprise."

  The Revenant was one of the more ambitious experiments being carried out by the Word of Blake. It was designed to be a light 'Mech that required no pilot. A completely autonomous drone BattleMech that was meant to be both cheap to manufacture and effective upon the field of battle. So far, it had not performed well. While it was indeed an extremely cheap machine to make, it was in no way effective in combat. The Revenant was prone to highly erratic behaviour when engaged in battle, and it consistently made poor tactical decisions. They had also been seen performing strangely at times, stumbling about without purpose or simply standing there and firing its weapons into the air. The Revenant was clumsy at the best of times, and it rarely acted with any regard to tactics or survival.

  It was, all in all, a failure but for some unknown reason the Master had insisted that research into this branch of BattleMech design continue, and so the Manei Domini had been sent a large number of early prototypes. They were supposed to use them in combat and report back to St. Jamais on how well the performed. The Hands of the Master did not do that, and instead kept them on Gibson for training. They were clumsy and slow and stupid, yes, but they still used live ammunition and thus allowed the cyborgs stationed on Gibson to keep their edge in combat when not off fighting.

  Ten Revenants had been deployed today, and so far five had been destroyed, and a further two crippled. Redemptor Amissus had suffered a fair amount of damage, but not enough to impact its combat performance. The battle was already over, all the remained was for the last three Revenants to be destroyed or crippled. Within a few minutes, it was over and ten new mechanical corpses were added to the Broken Crucible. The battle finished, Redemptor Amissus stomped across the broken earth and crested the hill. It came to stop before the two men, and with the groan and whirr of machinery, the metal titan knelt. There came a hiss from the cockpit as it slid open. Steam and heat rushed out, for Celestial 'Mechs ran dangerously hot. Dangerous for Frails, at least. Manei Domini suffered no ill effects from such heat. After disconnecting from the machine and removing the interface cables and wires from his metal skin, the pilot of the Malak stood and clambered out of the cockpit. He leapt from the lip of the cockpit and landed on the arm of his machine, then jumped from that to the knee and finally to the ground where he immediately fell into a kneeling position.

  "Did I impress you, Adept?" The pilot asked, voice an exhausted whisper. The sacred VDNI implant was extremely draining to those not used to its effects.

  Apollyon noted that he addressed Apollo first, rather than the himself, but that was hardly surprising. Apollo was his teacher, his commanding officer, brother and guide all in one. If there was anyone this man was trying to impress, it was the Adept. The Prince of Scars kept silent, watching the exchange with great interest, his baleful green eye fixed upon the kneeling figure.

  "You did far better than your first test in Redemptor Amissus, Acolyte." Apollo said.

  "I am getting used to the interface now, I think." The pilot muttered awkwardly, "I was...difficult at first."

  "No one finds it easy at the start, David. Stand." The Adept waved a hand.

  David Ross, newest addition to the the Manei Domini, Acolyte of the 52nd Shadow Division, stood and saluted the two servants of faith before him, "I will do better next time, I promise."

  "Be sure you do." Apollyon turned and walked away, "Blake demands the best from his most faithful. Now come, we have much to discuss. I will send a team to retrieve and repair your steed."

  The two Manei Domini fell in behind Apollyon and marched down the hill to the waiting Hover APC that floated above the ravaged earth. Two Tau Zombies of the 52nd stood on guard by the vehicle, glaring at anything that moved nearby. Their heavily armoured forms dwarfed even Apollo as he passed them, and the Manei Domini noted that their eyes tracked him every step of the way. They were two of the Prince's Men, the personal guards of the Prince of Scars, and they trusted no one. Apollyon climbed inside the APC, followed by the Apollo and David before the Tau Zombies squeezed their great bulk inside.

  Taking a seat in the troop compartment, Apollyon looked straight at David who sat across from him, "I have a mission for Apollo. As you are his charge, you shall accompany him on it." He declared.

  "So soon?!" David sat up in his seat, looking between the two, "It has been a mere month since I was granted my blessed cybernetics, and my training-"

  "You will learn more in real battle than you ever could here on Gibson." Apollyon said, "Trust in Blake, David. He will keep you safe if you deserve his protection."

  Apollo could see that David was not convinced, but the Acolyte seemed to know better than to object to an order given to him by the leader of the Chosen. The Adept was impressed by David so far, and he knew that the Acolyte was being sent on this mission with him specifically because Apollyon was also impressed by his performance. This coming operation would be a test, and just like the battles fought in the Broken Crucible, David would either succeed or he would die. The past month had been hard on the ex-Com Guard. He had awoken to the true wisdom of Blake, and, in the midst of pain and madness, he had accepted the truth of things. ComStar had lied to him, lied to everyone, and their foolish pride was damning mankind. It was not easy for him, but Apollyon and Apollo had been there to aid him in his awakening every step of the way. After this painful acceptance of the truth, he was subjected to the rebuilding of his flesh.

  The Prince of Scars had put a great deal of effort into reconstructing and improving David. Like Apollo, the man's flesh was entirely gone. Layer after layer of interlocking silver plates now formed his flesh, and these sections of armour-skin flowed and parted as if they were liquid as he moved. As they did so, one could sometimes glimpse the wires, cables and artificial 'muscles' that had replaced his tendons and sinews. He had seven vibroblade tipped fingers on each hand, and they were all far more dexterous than any digit on a mere human. His face was a work of art, so much so that Apollo had stopped to admire it when he first saw it.

  A pair of glowing red optics gazed out of his iron skull in place of eyes, and a large speaker was installed in the lower half of his face in order to replace his mouth and allow speech. In some ways, his face resembled that of the Reclaimed, but that was not what had awed Apollo so much. What had surprised and amazed the Adept was the fact that every single millimetre of metal upon his skull was inscribed with holy texts. The text was microscopic, forcing even Apollo to look closely to read it. The words flowed around his head, spiralling around his skull and down his neck to his body. Upon closer inspection, Apollo had realised that David's entire form, from his head to his toes, was coated in scripture. The works of Blake himself, Toyama, Demona Aziz and a hundred other martyrs and saints had been lovingly engraved upon his new flesh. Apollyon had truly outdone himself, and Apollo wondered why the Prince of Scars had put so much work into him. If he was willing to commit this much effort to David's rebuilding, he must have expected great things from him. The Acolyte had been enhanced to the same level as the Ascended, and yet he was not counted among their number.

  Apollo looked at Apollyon, once again attempting to work out why the Master of the Chosen had worked so hard on David, when the Acolyte spoke, "May I ask what this mission is?"

  Apollyon looked at David for a time, "Let me ask you a question in answer to your own." He sat back, steepling his fingers in front of his face, "Are you ready to make ComStar pay for lying to you all your life?"

shopsmart

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #46 on: 12 January 2024, 09:51:19 »
I look forward to hearing of apollos remake and conversion.  Hoping voluntary.

shopsmart

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #47 on: 12 January 2024, 09:52:24 »
I look forward to hearing of apollos remake and conversion.  Hoping voluntary.

Edit. Double post time out.  Delete this one

BlakesBestBoi

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #48 on: 01 February 2024, 11:30:18 »
Chapter 2

February 27th
3071
Gibson

  The Chapel of Toyama was empty as David prayed. For the last week or so he had been granted full access to the Word of Blake's facilities on Gibson, including use of the chapel without supervision. He was free to come and go as he pleased, and had permission to explore the world as he wished, just like all Manei Domini did, there were no locked doors for the Chosen of the Master on Apollyon's world. Despite this, David rarely roamed the planet, and often restricted himself to the areas most firmly under Word of Blake control. He wasn't afraid of the local inhabitants, it was more that he simply did not know what to do with himself. This new life he had awoken in was strange to him, without goal or guidance, and so he merely waited. Every Manei Domini served Blake in some way, risking their lives in his name daily. But not David. He was a Hand of the Master, and yet he was left on Gibson, despite his augmentations and enhancements having been completed almost a full month prior. It felt almost like a waste of his skills, a waste of all the time, effort and resources put into him.

  Or at least, it had felt like that. Now Apollyon had assigned him a mission. For the first time in all his life, he was to carry out the will of Blake. Everything had changed, and David did not know how to feel about it. He had wandered for a time, before finally ending up at the doors to the Chapel of Toyama. He had not meant to come here, but his steps had merely guided him to the sacred, holy place. It was quiet when he entered, which suited him nicely. David had embraced Blake and the Master as his saviours, but he was still uncomfortable when in the presence of his fellow worshippers. After all he had done, all the Faithful blood spilled in service to heretics, he felt as if everyone was judging him. Perhaps they were. He couldn't blame them.

  He knelt in silence, his red and black robes falling loosely around his metal form. The chapel's candles burned low, bathing the hallowed space in a sombre gloom. He had been kneeling for some time, and yet he had barely prayed. His mind was unable to form the litanies, and he found he could not remember the texts of Blake, or even the Writ of Aziz. He suddenly heard feet behind him, and raised his head slightly, looking up at the vast stained glass window that loomed from the floor to the ceiling. It depicted the wondrous saint named Toyama as he looked out over a HPG station undergoing construction.

  "Did I disturb you?" A voice asked, the voice of a hero David had heard much of, but only met once.

  "No, brother." He whispered, voice low and respectful so as to not shatter the silence of such a holy place.

  There was a smile in the voice as it spoke next, "You may rise. No brother must kneel before his kin."

  Slowly, David stood, joints whirring and clicking as he did so. He threw back his hood, iron skull catching the dim light of the candles, then turned to face Berith who stood with a warm, inviting smile behind him. He bowed his head deeply in respect, and the Precentor returned the gesture. He swept his glowing gaze over David, studying and admiring him for a time before either of them spoke once more.

  "I am pleased to see you are more...complete, this time." Berith chuckled, "Last time we met, you were barely more than a few lumps of meat. I'm not sure if you remember."

  "You were there during my first surgery." David nodded, "It was an honour to have you there, Specter Precentor Sigma. I am happy to see you again."

  "Well, I'm pleased you find my company agreeable." Berith looked at the depiction of the saint behind his fellow Manei Domini for a time, "And please, call me Berith. I am told you come here often? That is good."

  David gave an awkward laugh, which sounded odd as it emerged from the speaker he had in place of his mouth, "It feels like I have a lot of prayer to catch up on, I suppose." He shrugged slightly, "But...I don't think it helps."

  "Oh?" Berith cocked an eyebrow.

  "I can't ever seem to find the words." David admitted, "I come here, I kneel and reflect on the wisdom of the True God, but in the end I just sit there, staring at the floor, never knowing what to say or do."

  "Apollo felt the same when he was first welcomed into our ranks." Berith said, placing a hand on his own chest, "I felt that way, in fact. We all struggle when we take our first steps down the path to enlightenment."

  "Does that path ever get easier to walk?" David muttered, looking at Toyama's visage over his shoulder.

  Berith's smile vanished, "No." He told him, "It is never easy. Not a day passes in which I, and all our kin, do not fail. We fall from the path, and in some small, seemingly insignificant way, we fail Blake. But, no matter our sins, he is always there to take our hand and lead us once more onto the road to salvation. You must realise something, David. There is no easy way to serve Blake. We are the Manei Domini. Our life is suffering, our existence is pain and loss. And that is exactly why we must exist. We suffer so that the rest of the Inner Sphere does not."

  The silence stretched for a time, until Berith let out a deep breath and smiled once more, "But, going back to your original issue. The prayer does not matter."

  "What?!" David looked at him in surprise, "Prayer, worship in general, is one of the most important things a true follower of Blake can do."

  "It is." Berith nodded, "But so long as the prayer is sincere, Blake hears it. The structure, the words and phrases, matter little. The intent, the belief, David, the intentions are what matter. There are hymns and litanies and scripture, yes, but those are merely the trappings of faith. Worship, at the end of the day, is still worship."

  "I...see." The new Manei Domini whispered slowly, "I think. Thank you, Prec...Berith."

  The made the Precentor grin wider, "Of course. We are all here to help you David. Faith is a hard thing to discover, and a harder thing to understand."

  David walked across the chapel and took a seat on the nearest pew, looking at Berith, "What is it you wish to speak of? I get the feeling you did not come here to attend to your own spirit."

  "I did not." Berith admitted, crossing the floor silently and sitting without creasing or bunching his robes in the slightest, "I wanted to speak with you. This mission, you are accompanying Apollo on it?"

  "I am." David sighed, "And I am eager to serve. Yet, I find myself uncertain about the days to come." Berith watched him silently as the man waved a hand in annoyance, "I've been waiting an entire month to be given a task, a chance to prove myself. And I finally have it. I should be happy, ecstatic even, and yet..." He trailed off.

  "Why should you be happy?" Berith asked after he did not continue, "You are going to Sutama. That is your home, is it not?" David nodded grimly, "And you are going there to wage war against ComStar. Frankly, brother, I would be both amazed and confused if you were to feel any joy at the prospect of doing either of those things. We in the Manei Domini leave our pasts behind, we abandon our old lives and forget all that came before when we join the ranks of the Chosen. It is a long and difficult process, I myself struggled for a great deal of time to discard all I was and all I had ever loved. You have barely started to move on from your old life, David, and now are you being sent to a world that will make you confront your past like never before."

  He placed a hand on David's shoulder, "I want you to know that I am truly sorry." He said softly, "The coming days will be difficult for you. You are not just moving on from your old life, brother, you are being made to kill it. And that, is a terrible thing."

  David looked at him, then his artificial eyes dropped to stare at his metal hands, "It is not random chance that I was given this mission, was it?"

  Berith sighed, "No. It was not. Truth be told, Apollyon wanted to keep you on Gibson for much longer. He wishes to observe you for a number of reasons. It has been a month since your rebuilding was complete, but that is still quite a short period of time. Many Manei Domini do not re-enter the field for many months after their alterations. You should still be under medical supervision, honestly. He also wishes to keep an eye on you, to ensure your faith is real and that all of this is not some absurdly elaborate act by ComStar's ROM."

  "Then way was I chosen?" The other Blakist asked.

  "Well...that was not our choice." Berith sat back, hands resting in his lap, "In short, the Master also wishes to ensure your faith is real. He has decided to test you, David. And that test is taking the form of the mission you are about to depart on. He wishes to see if you can remain true to your new faith. Can you face your past, kill it even, and still be loyal to Blake?"

  "Yes." David looked at him, voice firm and filled with conviction, "I can."

  Berith smiled once again, "Then prove it, David."

  He stood, bowed to the other man, then turned and strode towards the doors, before he departed David called after him, "Berith. If I may ask, is what the Adept said true? I spoke with him recently and he claimed..." He hesitated, "Was he really of the Clans?"

  The Precentor looked over his shoulder, "It is true, yes. Once, he was a Bloodnamed son of Clan Smoke Jaguar."

  "Was he tested, like this, I mean. Did he have to face his past?" David seemed reluctant to ask.

  "He was." Berith shook his head sadly, "And compared to what he faced in those early days, your test is nothing." He turned back to face David fully, "I will give you some advice David. Accept what he tells you, listen to what he preaches and take his lessons to heart. But do not delve into his history. Let Cormac Furey rest in peace. There is nothing there but darkness and pain."

  Then he was gone, the doors shutting silently behind him. David remained where he sat for a time, contemplating and considering what he had just been told. He thought on everything Berith had said, then he stood and once more knelt in the silent chapel. When he started to pray, he finally knew what words to speak.
« Last Edit: 02 February 2024, 11:31:35 by BlakesBestBoi »

worktroll

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #49 on: 02 February 2024, 01:10:20 »
Great chapter!
* No, FASA wasn't big on errata - ColBosch
* The Housebook series is from the 80's and is the foundation of Btech, the 80's heart wrapped in heavy metal that beats to this day - Sigma
* To sum it up: FASAnomics: By Cthulhu, for Cthulhu - Moonsword
* Because Battletech is a conspiracy by Habsburg & Bourbon pretenders - MadCapellan
* The Hellbringer is cool, either way. It's not cool because it's bad, it's cool because it's bad with balls - Nightsky
* It was a glorious time for people who felt that we didn't have enough Marauder variants - HABeas2, re "Empires Aflame"

shopsmart

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Re: The Holy Work of Adept Apollo
« Reply #50 on: 16 February 2024, 09:51:50 »
Keep the work up.  I check in every few days.  Still looking forward how apollo became manei domini but looks to be not.voluntary at this moment...