Hell, City of Dis. Nominally controlled territories. Peter the Great's Castle. Guillaume's apartments.
She woke up because she felt something wrong was going on in the vast energy field that the daemonic seed used for their manipulations with the minds of the less fortunate. Something definitely not natural - large perturbations somewhere far away.
The last week she thought she knew everything of the humans, but at the same time their behaviour truly amazed her. Some held completely different views on life and death, yet were together. Others held views such as, for example, torture being intolerable or as they said, "illegal". This was the first time she came into contact with a civilization so advanced. During her roamings in Hell, she never thought she would find the humans so different from those of old, those who tortured her and her family in many unspeakable ways, so brutally and painfully that she considered them no better than her daemonic tormentors.
Was she really of a higher race? She found out that humans not only had weapons which could free Nichyipar. They had weapons which could render Dis a barren wasteland not to be inhabited for years, kill everything alive in the blast zone and destroy any fortress.
During this week, she slowly siphoned knowledge - something she was so hungry for, always, probably some result Nichypar's breeding policy - knowledge of modern humanity. She saw it in the minds of the Tsar Peter, in the mind of Guillaume and in the mind of that new commander who arrived to the outpost in pursuit of her rescuer, but remained for a while to wait for another convoy from the Soviet Republic of Dis.
So often she stood in the shadows behind Guillaume, posing as a harmed survivor of daemonic experiments (she found this explanation for her eye absence sufficient for the humans, and it also freed her from spending energy on maintaining a costly illusion), while the nobleman was staying on the watchtower, accompanied by Kovpak, or sometimes by other castle inhabitants. What heated discussions did they have! So many words she didn't even understand: mechanization, metallurgy, urbanization... But during these long debates, she saw the worlds that humans envisioned during the talk. Peter the Great's world was the oldest. Guillaume's world was apparently a little later - but even it didn't have all the fantastic technology which Kovpak's world braved itself with, it didn't have that horrible thing called... what, "atomic bomb"? Yet still all those human epochs were extremely superior to the order of the demons here in Dis, which remained unchanged for centuries, and resembled the human order of five centuries ago that she knew.
Who was she to consider that this new civilization, born out of struggle of humans, would not simply crush her no matter what she tried - a futile rebellion or the like? They had these large steel machines flying in the air which could drop another flying machine many thousand verst away... A machine which had no humans in it, only the "payload" - a deadly explosive that would kill everything upon reaching its target. Humans had the means to kill such dead "hunter machines", but Hell's civilization? No, no, not ever...
Only now Likho understood how lucky she was that the humans didn't simply send a missile towards Peter the Great's castle upon learning that the mutineers are here. Only now she truly understood that the humans are now the superior race, even if their frail bodies did not evolve. She was a child of something the humans called "artificial evolution", "artificial selection". The humans applied the same "selection" to their technology, and so they did not need better bodies to be superior. She shaked her head.
He best chance would be cooperating with them, not alienating them. Her mind powers were slowly working in the castle - she spent hours on slowly inserting empathic thoughts about her to the inhabitants of this outpost. Here, she was protected, but it was far from sufficient. She needed to find the human government - the higher officials - and ask them for protection, while at the same time using her powers to pressure them to agree. In this new society of Earth, a being like her could achieve much.
- My lady, - Guillaume slowly rose from the large stone bed, barely covered by some hastily made clothes... probably made out of dried-out daemonic fur and skin, but such things did not really concern humans at all. - Something is bothering your soul?
Ah, one more thing, she thought. She chose Guillaume as her partner. The bond between them grew ever stronger, despite her promising herself after that demon killed her husband, that she shall never be with a man again. She thought of the times she repeated this simple promise to herself. It was so painfully hard to be close with a human yet again.
- Something is happening, not here, my lord. Fear not, - she gave him a slow, very icy kiss, but due to her mind-warping influence, Guillaume probably thought it was a pure display of love.
Hell, Northern Ocean shores. RFS "Admiral Lazarev"
The RFS "Admiral Lazarev", as a nuclear ship, was perfect for the task of guarding nuclear oceanographic vessels - converted nuclear icebreakers, which the humans transferred here. Main tasks for such a unit were long-term mapping missions. They were considered armed heavily enough to deal with anything Hell might offer, but the recent warning to change course came completely unexpected to both captains of the "Admiral Lazarev" and "50 years of the Great Victory" - the largest icebreaker in the world, converted to Hellography, as people jokingly named the task.
What could possibly threaten their unit? The transmission mentioned some sort of monstrous being a hundred kilometers long which started moving - or rather, growing - in their direction, but maybe that was a mistake? Maybe they mistook a coral reef for a beast?
- Captain, what do you think we should do? - the voice of the executive officer rang through the bridge.
- I suppose you are positively sure this is the lifeform we have been warned about? - the captain grabbed the microphone. - Kasatka-one, acknowledge.
The Ka-60 crew acknowledged that visually, they saw lots of truly colossal tentacles that looked as if they were assembled from cartoonishly large organic cells.
- In that case, it means this thing moves faster than the comrades in the Stavka expected, - the captain murmured. - And it also means it's true that such giant lifeforms exist. Please, Fyodor, our warheads' yield is several hundred kilotons, right? We might do a service to the naval traffic here and clear this zone out for everyone.
- Correct, sir.
- In that case, launch. Kasatka-one, guidance ready? - the captain asked, but he knew the reply would be positive even before he put the microphone down. You couldn't miss such a large target even on inertial. - Prepare protective goggles, everyone, and "50 years Victory" as well, - the captain put his own pair on. The other ship confirmed readiness of the crew.
The large seven-ton missile left the vertical launch tube of the "Admiral Lazarev" with an unmistakable roar. Smoky trail rose from the ship, and Now all the helicopter had to do was to record the situation.
In several dozen seconds they were observing a fireball and then the characteristic cloud rising from the sea.
- Kasatka-one acknowledges, target hit, - the bridge was silent, paying attention to the reports of the helicopter which circled around the blast zone on a safe distance, - Wait... it's still alive. It's... still growing, comrade captain! You should take a look!
- You are taping it, Kasatka-one?
- Sure we are, comrade captain. We are in no immediate danger, but that thing is really growing fast. The blast took out a large part of it breaking the body, but the two portions seem to be relatively unfazed and continue their growth. It might close off the approaches to the northern shores. We are returning, and make sure these tapes get to the Theta Headquarters withing the next day...
Hell, Theta Zone Headquarters.
- Comrades, please, look at this, - Boldyrev sighed heavily. - This enormous being, which was noticed by reconnaissance planes several months ago, started rapidly growing and moving towards the Northern Shores. It is our discretion zone. This prompted us to issue a warning to all oceanographic groups operating there. However, the captain of "Admiral Lazarev" was close enough during the time of the warning, and decided out of his own initiative, to launch a nuclear warhead and wound the organism.
Boldyrev took another set of photos.
- These are from our Tu-22 recon planes, taken days ago. Remember the tapes which were transferred from the "Lazarev"? Well, here's the outcome. A week passed, and now this organism, or should I say - many organisms? - are far larger than they were initially. Our scientists presumed that the being was limited by the amount of oxygen it consumed, creating a dead zone around itself, which contained its growth, but radiation-induced mutation created anaerobic cells that are capable of fast reproduction in Hell's environment, basically removing the natural restraint to its growth. Another hypothesis is that the being's natural tolerance of radiation is far higher than one would think, it might have come from a profoundly irradiated dimension, and can actually feed on radiation, kinda like some fungi from Chernobyl. We do not know fully, but it's clear that beyond the immediate blast zone and the zone where the pressure was crushing its cells, the radiation and light basically prompted more growth. More than that, it is now encroaching on the shores. We don't know for sure, but it might have a main body hidden somewhere very deep under the sea. The size of that is hard to guess, but it might be extremely large.
- And the problem? - asked Baluevsky, the VVS chief.
- The being seems to be moving ashore, like I said. The rapid growth of new cells allows it to move with a speed of several kilometers per hour - new cells are growing every minute, and the rate of growth is accelerating - probably due to the blast energy consumed by the organism. We had to evacuate the shore outposts, and it seems that this thing is heading deep into Hell. Water for the tentacles is supplied through its intestines which are also pretty simple, much like a large hydra. We also noticed that it simply crushes all wildlife it meets, but some wildlife gathers around it, as if it were unnaturally drawn to it... and starts following it. See these dots on the photo? It's the animals, various Hell fauna, gathered in front of the Leviathan.
- That's what the daemons call it. Apparently, slaying it was a problem even for Yahweh.
- So the animals are falling under its mind tricks, sort of like humans fall under daemonic mind control? - interjected Premier Putin, who so far has been silent.
- Not really, - Boldyrev shrugged. - Our scientists, and the D.I.M.O.(N) think this is a primitive colonial organism with a very simple nervous system. It is hardly sentient. And the demons also note that they did not encounter mind-altering fauna. It is more possible that some demon, or other being, controls it.
- For what purpose? - interjected Putin again. - I think comrade Baluevsky has something to say, am I right?
- We sent our recon planes there, and the bad news is we lost one of them. It fell right after passing over the beasts, - the VVS commander was displeased with that, but he had no choice but to speak. - The current theory... the theory is a psychic strike. And someone didn't just strike them... the pilots cried like they were tortured until the plane hit the ground.
- The planes offer very good shielding, but the radios were on, and the escorts overheard the strange talk of the pilots. Maybe there are more powerful telepaths here than we previously thought. This is very unwelcome. My proposal would be an immediate nuclear bombardment, were it not shown that the results might be unpredictable and quite bad for us, - Boldyrev finished for his colleague.
- So what are the gentlemans' thoughts?
- We received a strange message from Dis, - said one of the men present, Korabelnikov - chief of the GRU. - The message not that eloquent, but it comes from Premier Voroshilov. He says that they have come in contact with an unusually powerful nephilim... which wants to negotiate with the headquarters.
Valencia. XV century.
They were truly inventive, these humans! The same inquisitor never came into their cells again. Inquisitors also never had the keys to their chamber. The torturers could only operate the mechanisms of torture. They all were covered in iron-covered leather costumes - oh, they were not stupid at all. They knew how much threat the demon seed posed. Michael was amazed that they managed to capture these two at all.
Michael-Lan smiled as he looked upon the doors of the Holy Inquisition. Perhaps the Inquisition was the humans' last chance to redeem humanity in Yahweh's eyes. Maybe not. But he was more interested in the women who were captured.
So he broke into the prison - as easily as any angel could, slaying all humans inside - and saw the two bodies, tortured almost to senselessness, in isolated rooms. But which should be chosen?
- Who... are you? - one of them spoke directly into the mind of the angel.
- Messenger of the Allmighty, - the angel smiled. - We are interested in your talents, demon-seed, but rejoice not. Your task shall be mundane, and shall you resist, we will swiftly find and kill you. The Leviathan in the Northern Seas of Hell takes a horde to pacify him, lest he be growing. Yet you, freaks, have the power to do it alone. I had came down to hell and spoke to your former master in his prison... We found your abilities useful. Verily, you are the only survivors of your kin. And I need only one of you.
- Damn you, - hissed one of the women. - Damn you...
- I can't bear it, mother, - suddenly cried the other. - Take me!
- Very well, - the angel smiled. - As for you, demon-seed... I am leaving you to the humans. Maybe you will find salvation in your torment, - he laughed.
And then he left, taking Mara away. Maybe he thought that the inquisitors will find Likho before she leaves, but he truly underestimated her domination abilities. In a few minutes, people from the street whom she called with all her remaining strength of will, broke her shackles...
In a few days, Likho managed to find an entrance to Hell. It took much blood to do it, but she returned back into the place she hated, because Earth and humans were the same as Hell. If not worse. She never thought humans would earnestly start torturing people for Yahweh's glory as if they were daemons doing it for the glory of Mekratig, but such was the fate of human society.
Truly they were a lower race, evil, cruel beasts. Cattle. That is probably the only thing that the daemons were right about.
Soviet Republic of Dis. Voroshilov's cabinet. Several weeks before the Theta Command Council on the Leviathan problem.
Marshall Kliment Voroshilov spoke with someone from the Theta Zone - probably a messenger. "Liaison", someone in the same position Oleg Chelobanov used to be in.
The doors were not properly closed, and so Oleg overheard part of the conversation while waiting for audience.
- ...comrade, we are doing everything we can. The factories are assembled in record tempoes. Daemon labour from blocks 001 to 066 is helping a lot, but we need more engineers, - said Voroshilov. - Output of pig iron is rising. As for steel, I do not believe the facilities are advanced enough...
- I hope you understand the problems of sending engineers here, - the liaison said. - The Theta Command is quite alarmed by the recent developments in the zone. Daemons are learning fast. Worse yet, there are rumors that some foe from the North is rapidly accumulating human knowledge. Some sort of beast, hundreds of kilometers long. Theta administration are quite worried.
- Hell, as if I wouldn't know, - Voroshilov pointed out the tower window. The Armories of Dis were filled with large moving armor columns, cars and horse carts, all moving to the North through his territory, - Theta is redeploying a large portion of it's forces, formerly used to explore deeper Dis territories, towards the coasts of the continent. That's what I heard from the soldiers.
- There's more, but these are rumors, - the liaison said with an uncertain tone. - Consider this more of a friendly sharing than official speech.
- I understand, - the Marshall spoke. Oleg could not see his face, but it seemed that Voroshilov is genuinely concerned. He did understand the modern technology and it's limits quite well; if he was concerned, then so should be every other man in this Hell pit. -Some of it I knew, from my sources... daemons say that many scattered daemon groups in the plains are gathering around this beast. Whatever this is, it's hostile quite apparently.
- Yes, and there's much confirmation. That beast is rapidly going through the plains, but it seems it downed a few recon planes by psychic attacks. Heard that on the VVS radio waves when servicing the Armories' airstrip. But worse yet, the pilots say, some strange things started occurring afterwards. It seems that beast is practicing artillery strikes.
- Artillery strikes?
- Yes. It's cells are like clay, which it uses to build large barrels, then hardens them. Then it uses water or, possibly, vapour pressure to shoot out rock projectiles which it absorbs with its body and makes them somehow into strangely ballistic shapes. Looking just like our bullets or gun shells, each weighs up to several tons. Do you understand what this means? If this beast nears Dis, the casualties will be extreme. Its size allows it to plow out hundreds of such stone projectiles. They were primitive at first, but observers see that it's learning. This is why the forces are re-deployed. The rumors also speak that a nuclear bombardment was tried and was ineffective... The Stavka is going to assemble a meeting in several weeks, once the shipment of weapons of mass destruction for deployment in Hell will be complete. Stocks of chemical shells for artillery batteries around Theta Zone are already arriving. This is why the movements are so huge. A lot of stuff to carry around. We ask of your men to call a hightened alert state. If this thing reaches the settlements, everyone will have to fight.
- This is bad, - Voroshilov murmured. - And the effect of chemicals?
- The being is so large that dissolving its body even with the most deadly chemicals would take a lot of time. As for biological weapons, it's biology is not known and so their use remains dubious. Scientists are breaking their brains on that.
Oleg didn't like the news either. He tried to move closer to the door, but it was shut right before his nose. In several minutes it opened again, and the liaison left Voroshilov's cabinet.
- Next, please, enter.
- Captain Oleg Chelobanov reporting!
- Ah, Oleg, - the Marshall walked towards his stone table and took a small medal, probably made out of bronze. - You are hereby awarded the Order of the Red Star, for the brave actions in riot suppression in Prison Block 078. The riot instigators have been dealt a harsh lesson, and we received a good chunk of information from one of them in Block 000. Important information.
Oleg shivered a bit. He didn't mind the daemons being tortured alright, but working in Block 000 was surely a dirty job.
- I serve the Soviet Republic of Dis! - he answered with a clear formula.
- Very good, - the Marshall nodded. - Now go, comrade. I expect to hear more of your feats.
Hell. Vinicity of Peter the Great's castle.
In several hours, Oleg was already quite far away from Voroshilov's tower. His T-64 was assigned to a special convoy that brought new weapons to remote outposts around the Soviet Republic of Dis - the policy that has been enacted by the Theta administration, apparently because of the looming threat of the megafauna reaching the borders of Dis. Though to be fair he hardly imagined how one could do much to stop a being as large as several hundred kilometers in size, if the liaison did not lie...
The massive Ural trucks went behind his tank as the roaring column slowly reached a lone castle on the border. He heard that this castle harbored some really nasty daemon hunters, people who spent entire ages being tortured by demons. Some also spread rumors of Tsar Peter the Great commanding it, but many dismissed that as ridiculous gossip. After all, the Earth humans were roaming through Dis trying to capture historical personalities for their own goals. But the rumors might have been true as well - the forces of Earth are spread very thin. Even hunting known criminals, like for example the SS-men which were rarely caught by SRD raids into Deep Dis, would be hard. Hunting other people - might be impossible outright.
The castle seemed to be relatively untouched by the war. It was not beautiful as some of these Hell castles were, in late-Medieval style and various decor. No, this was a brutal, early-Medieval style castle, pretty functional. It seems humans took over it without using heavy weaponry. But maybe they used the threat of heavy weapons? Oleg smiled. Not a few times he knew that SRD troops went into patrols with just one real machine gun, while all other men carried wooden props of machine guns. Daemons were stupid enough to confuse the two - after all, they had no understanding of "human magic", and simple shape association made them fear.
Foul stench was everywhere along the road, and daemon corpses were here and there crucified on huge trees. Nice, nice... Oleg's tank was approaching the gates.
- Who is approaching? - he heard a cry from one of the watchtowers, magnified by a simple steel reproductor.
- Captain Oleg Chelobanov, armed forces of the Soviet Republic of Dis! Supplies for this outpost! - he shouted back.
- Open the gates!
Hell. Peter the Great's castle.
- So you are Emperor Peter? - Oleg shook his head while sitting in the assembly hall. The smoke would've made this place hard to breathe in, were it not Hell - people here cared for extreme pain, not for mild discomfort. And since the need to eat was gone, smoking during conversations, especially pipe smoking as pipe and some local plants were available for smoking industry without needing rare stuff like Earth-brought cigarettes - became a quite common habit, especially for leaders.
- Yes, I am. I want to thank you once again for the arms, - the Emperor made a gesture that represented respect. Lefort, who stood at his side, filled in the papers and then gave them to the Emperor so that he would sign the receipt.
- You are welcome, so as long as this zone is well-policed, no daemons enter into the Soviet Republic of Dis from this direction and through these roads, and you stay loyal to the Theta Zone administration, - Oleg spoke the routine formula to reinforce the spontaneously created social contract between the various factions in Dis - the older era humans were the lowest part of this hierarchy.
- Very well. I shall order my people to unpack the crates, - Tsar Peter nodded, giving the papers to Oleg. - Now, my guests wish to speak to you. I will leave you.
The Emperor and Lefort walked out of the room. Oleg had no doubts that Tsar Peter was quite happy. Soon the mock machine guns in the watchtowers will be replaced with quite real guns. Accelerated arms shipments to create a militia shall heavy masses of troops be necessary indicated bad things, but Oleg doubted Peter knew anything of the Leviathan rumors. They were spreading in the Theta Zone, but so far only through the higher officer ranks.
The castle's bleak stone interiors were quite impacting Oleg's already grim mood. The man in front of him was Sidyr Kovpak, a legendary war hero. Heh, would be amazing to sit across the table with the hero you read about in books, Oleg thought, but after a few such encounters in Hell you stop being amazed any longer and take it as something self-evident...
- Captain Chelobanov, - Kovpak said slowly. - I would like to discuss the prospects of my squad entering the armed forces of the Soviet Republic of Dis.
- Defecting from Theta? - Oleg looked at him. - So did I. But what are your reasons?
- You see, comrade, my squad consists of loyal people. Communists, many of them - and if not, they still share the dream of a place where all are comrades and man never exploits man. But this is only part of the picture. Theta sent us to clear out some mutineers...
Oleg became alert immediately. If this was a priority task for Theta, and Kovpak failed it and was seeking some sort of asylum...
- No, no, comrade, clearly you can see we need no help. We have supplies and weapons. Our squad alone killed over a hundred daemons, and great ones as well, - Kovpak continued. - We could simply get lost in this wilderness, hiding in this castle or some similar place nigh forever. But we thought our professionalism would be of use to the Soviet Republic and comrade First Marshall. It is also quite evident that Theta is solving it's own petty tasks with our help - these undead mutineers' only crime has been killing his opressors the daemons, and the people who protected them. They happened to be Earth-borne. That is all. But for us, death is final. We don't want to die doing Theta's dirty job to placate their allies, and kill our compatriots for such a ridiculous goal. That's what I wanted to say, - Kovpak saw that Oleg's thoughts were somewhere far away as he seemed to lose track of the conversation. - Comrade, are you listening to me?
- Yes, yes, I am. Just a strain of bad news lately, - Oleg gave him a confused look. - Actually, I'm not sure if I should share with you...
Likho was shaken by the images which Oleg's mind was unwillingly repeating inside. Very recent memories, so she had easy access. It was just a talk he caught somewhere, but she immediately understood what happened. And she knew what the humans would do next. Overwhelming, brutal force to kill the Leviathan. And such force would also kill Mara. her daughter, the last of her kind that she searched for through centuries, wandering the plains of Hell, to no result. And now, if she would not do something, Mara would be killed. Not to mention that humans will have to use truly dreadful weapons here in Hell - she knew already what "nuclear fallout" and "acid rains" meant, and the memories of Oleg distinctly repeated the words "nuclear" and "chemical"...
Likho slowly came out of the shadows near the door to the courtyard and spoke to Oleg.
- Yes, you should, comrade Oleg Chelobanov. I want you to listen to me very carefully now...
MisereorA short story of humanity's first contact
Last edited by Stas Bush on 2009-07-14 02:48am, edited 1 time in total.