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

shopsmart

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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 »

Horsemen

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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...