This page is blighted with mold and the imprint of a memory…
The words seep experience into your open mind…
THROUGH THE EYES OF KATABASIS…
Weeks bleed away.
"Where is your Ghost?" Bahto grunts as he throws a crushed Scorn into a tangle of festering dark tendrils. These fungal growths had grown across the Glykon during the timeless expanse since their plunge, and only continued to spread.
"I don't know," I sputter as I pull a ragged blade from my gut. "Off fraternizing somewhere."
"I'm here. What do you need?" Gilly says, appearing.
"Fewer holes," I groan.
Bahto looks to the three Scorn that had ambushed us, now returned to the grave. "The rest will feel their deaths. How much farther?"
"Assuming the ship hasn't shifted again, not far once this one gets up." Gilly gestures to me. "Is Qinziq certain severing the crown will send us back?"
"It'll work. We better not have dug up this command key for nothing," I reply, holding up a Imperial security key.
"You said it was to stop the Scorn!" Bahto roars.
"Stopping them doesn't matter if we don't get out."
"I pledged my life to Calus, and you want me to forsake him!" He towers over me.
"I know a thing or two about abandonment. He used you to get what he wanted, just like he used me. He's gone, Bahto, and we're close to follow. Where does that leave your bloodline?"
I stand as a wave wracks the Glykon. It isn't something you see, more like a lightbulb bursting. A long blink before the pins and shivers wash over. Numb. I can hear it moving through the ship like cold metal tension.
The three Scorn snap and contort in grotesque reanimation.
"You're welcome to stay, skull-cracker."
We make it to the ship's bridge, howls tracking us down every hall. I seal the door with the command key and meet Qinziq beneath the command console at the entrance to the viewing chamber. She stands, encircled by 15 loyalist soldiers.
"This is everyone?" I ask.
Qinziq nods. I insert the command key into the viewing chamber door. After a moment, pistons disengage, and the door opens. Qinziq focuses for a moment. "Empty…" her voice rings from her.
We enter the viewing chamber. The soldiers take up positions around the room. Bahto strides past the Darkness-infested crown and drops to his knees at the open viewing window.
He stares into the endless. "How do we choose who deserves our loyalty?"
I walk to his side. "Everyone's got their own way. No one's right. You don't owe anyone anything, Bahto."
Qinziq signals that she is ready. As I approach the crown, I watch her eye trace the scorched handprints of each Councilor that last communed here.
Shrieks echo down the steps leading to the bridge. Metallic scraping heralds the flame.
"I will do this so that others may live," Qinziq's voice flows. "I did not intend suffering but should have expected Calus's deceit. Ambition to steal away his secrets damned us all."
"Get us out and we're square."
She plants her next words into my mind: 'I will, because you do not belong here.' She places her palms on the crown.
Velocity surges backward into infinity, tearing away the surrounding reality. We stand in nothing, 17 defenders back to back around Qinziq and the crown. The shrieks grow louder, and through the whines of bending steel, the trembling flesh of Scorn pour into the nothing with us.
Slug Rifles unleash a salvo in all directions from behind a handful of Phalanx shields, tearing line after line of Scorn down with explosive force. Incendiors step forward to cremate the remains between volleys. I add my gun to line, dropping Raiders before they can align shots on our ring and slinging Voidwall grenades to stem the flood. Qinziq screams, straining to sever the link as the Glykon thrashes against Dark waves. Black fire scalds her hands as Nothing twists around us. We fight until the floor is lined with dead Scorn and empty magazines.
The shrieking recedes. Scraping metal echoes through the viewing chambers as a wave of Darkness tremors through the Glykon. Every unburnt Scorn seizes and begins to reconstitute. Soldiers panic and fire into heaps of writhing bodies, hoping to stop the process.
In the chaos, lightning rips through the air, cutting through three Legionaries and rupturing an Incendior tank. The blast kills seven; the circle tightens. We return fire in the direction of the lightning and are met with two fetid Abominations. They burst into the chamber and rear back with crackling fists. I charge one, slipping into the Void to draw blades from it its sheath. Bahto snatches a Phalanx shield resting at his feet and challenges the other. Its bolts break on the shield. Our remaining guns harry them with slug-fire until we close the gap. I cut through hands and head, then pivot to see Bahto driving his shield into the other's face.
Qinziq cries out. I spin on my heel to see her engulfed in black flame and the cosmos racing around us. She spreads her pain to us to hold on a few moments longer, to no avail.
I look back to Bahto. Deeper past him, in the nothing, to the hulking silhouette dragging a flaming censer and I know: this is where we die.
FRENETIC SCRAWL INKED IN THE MARGIN READS: Cut out a hideaway under the knife. Stowed some lab tech nearby.
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