“Okay Ellie, let’s take stock of the situation. You have, by your own completely willing actions, successfully inserted yourself into a Dagonite fortress; and an active Dagonite fortress with trained soldiers and Deep One warriors at that. The fortress is currently on fire in places and has repeatedly been bombed, no doubt the opportunistic attacks you suspected the NEG might make once the air defences went down, which was one of the many reasons that you decided to wait for morning before making your approach. However, you decided to play the part of the air cav and come running to the rescue of your viral abomination great-great-uncle, which caused you to clinically die for a minute or two before your heart was chemically restarted by the vampiric abomination that also follows you around. Shortly after that the previously mentioned abominations were drawn into a fight with a third abomination the size of a small train, which you are now running from as quickly as you can because fuck getting anywhere near that thing. Just its entrance nearly cost you your left eye, which you currently can’t open because of the blood pouring down the cut in your forehead from all the stone shrapnel. Also, you think you’re hearing things. Also, you’re talking to yourself, and you’re really kind of rambling,” Ellie muttered quietly to herself as she limped through the dark corridors of the base.
A small portion of her mind that was self reflective on this sort of thing was telling her that the narration was probably an acute response to stress, the biggest one being less than an arm span from a fucking shoggoth at one point. She thought being around Alex and Seras had inured her to such nightmares, but she could not shake the image of that great black wall of tar ploughing its way through the stone and concrete wall like it was made of paper. If anything being around those two had made it worse as seeing Alex scooped up into the churning protoplasm as it grew jaws just for crushing him let her know just how fragile she truly was against it. She could distantly hear the battle Seras had thrown her away from, but every once in a while she would hear a clear, trilling cry ringing through the damage twisted halls and nearly have a heart attack. Just the thought of seeing that thing again sent shivers up and down her spine.
Carried along by terrors both imagined and real along the path of least resistance, Ellie found herself in darker and darker halls of the base, deep into the bedrock of the island. She could feel not only the weight of the fortifications pressing down on her, but of the history of this place. The Dagonites were only the most recent tenants, the lonely island just off the coast of Scotland having been in use for well over a millennia. Ellie had already seen where the character of the walls around her had shifted to the steel and concrete of the mid-20th Century. Seras had explained that the island had been upgraded shortly after the Second World War to serve as a repository, having previously been a medieval castle used as a prison. As for what it had been used for before that, Seras could only say that there was a reason the island had been handed over to the Hellsings.
Ellie abruptly found herself standing at the threshold of a staircase cut from the stone of the island unknown centuries before. Portable LED lamps had replaced the flickering torches that had once been ensconced in the holders, but the illumination was insufficient, almost as if the ominous structure was actively absorbing the light. From somewhere deep within, she could smell something dank and musty and unwholesome, and she was sure that she could hear distant scratching noises.
Knowing a bad idea when she saw one, Ellie was just about to turn around and find another path when she heard an abnormally clear piping of “Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!” Before her conscious mind had a chance to catch up, she found her feet carrying her down the stairs in a blind panic. Whatever was down here was preferable to what was above. Still, she soon slowed her pace and made an effort to still the noise of her passage and breathing. There was certainly something alive down these stairs.
She gulped as she realized almost instinctively that there was something living down these stairs.
The cloying scent of some great mouldering thing assaulted her nose, but there was also a sickly, salty smell like rotting fish. While far too exhausted to care at the time, the smell immediately brings back the encounter with the Deep Ones, and Ellie nearly collapses then and there. She barely had time to process the event before the shoggoth arrived, but now that she is alone in a dark staircase, descending towards a place for storing things deemed too dangerous by a group that held the leash of vampires, Ellie found that she could barely move. It was all too much.
It was ironically her own fear that gave her the strength to overcome. She could hear her breathing becoming increasingly laboured and ragged as the cold hand of terror wrapped its crushing fingers about her heart and lungs, and the possibility of betrayal of her position forced her to rein in her panicked breaths. The act of forcing the air to come in and out of her lungs quietly calmed her enough that she pushed aside the jagged sliver of horror that was growing in her mind. She was too scared to give in to her fear.
Ellie pressed onward, the gun Alex had cobbled together for her at the ready, silently hoping that the beating it had gone through in the water would not cause it to explode if she had to fire it. Her AR glasses and PCPU had taken quite the kicking, but she had bought her models based on durability and longevity, not raw computational power or fancy gadgets, so both devices were still mostly working. This meant that when it came time to emerge from the stairwell, the barrel of her gun went first so that she could look around the corner without exposing herself.
She nearly screamed, but bit down on her tongue before a sound emerged.
Sitting beneath the island was an enormous cave, formed unknown eons ago. There was a great, central plateau surrounded by a seemingly bottomless, black abyss, with a natural stone bridge connecting to the wall where the stairwell ended. Sitting… nay, brooding, at the centre of the plateau was a large cube the size of a large house, inscribed with arcane patterns that had a shifting, fractal quality to them. Standing at attention in a circle around the front door of the cube were a half dozen Deep One warriors, all protecting what had to be a Deep One sorcerer. The Deep One had to be a sorcerer as the creature was cloaked in white robes bedecked with various strange fetishes and with an oddly twisted bident staff made of some strange purple-gold metal that seemed to glow with the light of unseen and unknowable stars.
Still holding her tongue with her teeth, Ellie sank down in despair as an almost palpable feeling of dread and violation washed over her. They had been too late. The mystic wards designed to keep people from even noticing the Index existed had failed in some way and they had called in a sorcerer to examine things. A Deep One sorcerer. Not only did the fish men possess a greater depth and breadth of mystical knowledge, but they lived long lives so those that travelled arcane paths could do so for dozens of human lifetimes. In fact, judging by the size of the brute and the fact that Deep Ones never stopped growing, the sorcerer was quite possibly older than the structure they were in.
Ellie felt her mind shutting down as she folded her body in on itself. She was fucked. There was no doubt about it. There was far too much arrayed against her. If she was lucky they would just kill her. If she was unlucky, they would drag her off and… her mind shied away from what had already almost happened. She considered turning her gun on herself right then and there. It would be so much simpler if…
…better to live five minutes as a tiger than a lifetime as a worm…
The antique phrase echoed once more through Ellie’s mind, and some part of her that was harder than she ever thought possible clamped down on her fear. She asked herself a simple question: why should she save the Deep Ones the bullet? If she was going to die, should it not be to their bullets or blades or claws? If she was going to die, she was going to drag at least one of them screaming into the long night with her.
Of course, they were Deep One warriors – and likely elites at that if they were guarding a sorcerer. Peeking the camera on the end of her gun around the corner once more, Ellie took a long look at them before she noticed a rather pertinent fact: the warriors were turned inward, toward the sorcerer, rather than outward. They weren’t protecting him from ambush; they were keeping an eye on him in case anything went wrong with the spells he was working. Ellie supposed it made a certain amount of sense, since even if the base was in tatters the only being that could command a shoggoth was a sorcerer of immense power, so they probably felt that any outside threat had already been neutralized.
Ellie considered that the Deep Ones were more scared of what the sorcerer was doing than what Alex was doing and decided that she would shoot him last. She knew enough about general arcane theory to know that spells that abruptly went out of control were an incredibly bad thing. The sorcerer likely couldn’t move from his position anyway, so despite being by far the most dangerous threat, he would have to go last.
Turning away from the archway once again, Ellie took a deep breath. This was objectively the most insane thing she had done in a week that defied rational comprehension. She was a dilettante planning on fighting a half dozen elite fish monsters, alone. She was quite literally committing suicide by doing this. Given that, she supposed that if she was going to commit suicide she might as well be thorough.
Opening up the emergency medical kit strapped to her thigh, Ellie pulled out the second of three auto-injectors. Seras had already used one to restart her heart and undo the effects of shock and hypoxia. Just using one of the military grade stims was considered a risky, emergency procedure. Aside from just being dangerous in general, the injectors were heavily regulated due to what Ellie was about to do. Twisting around the manual dose meters, Ellie set the injector to ‘Male – 200 kg – >5min since collapse’, which was the maximum possible setting and could theoretically cause her heart to explode.
The resuscitation drugs could also be abused to make ‘berserker sticks’, as the street name had come to call them. The nannites in the mix meant that Ellie probably only had a 50/50 chance of total cardiac arrest, an aneurysm, or an exploded aorta. Internal haemorrhaging and blindness requiring arcanotherapy to correct were probably inevitable though. Considering what she was doing, she liked those odds.
Holding the auto-injector before her, hovering just above the point just beneath her sternum pointed at an upward angle, Ellie considered what she was about to do one last time before she pressed it against her chest. The computer controls within detected a triggering event and fired the oversized needle through the layers of material that composed her hazard suit and then through skin, fat, and muscle, to stop just short of penetrating her heart. The contents of the injector flooded into her system, and what was supposed to try to revive a near dead male soldier over three times her mass hit her like a runaway train.
Ellie suddenly felt like she was on fire, from within and without, and like she was going to explode. A few seconds after the excessive chemical cocktail hit her heart it spread to her brain and then time slowed to a deliciously agonizing crawl. Ellie knew that every part of her hurt, but she was so enraged by the stimulants that she failed to give a fuck. She could practically feel the blood vessels in her eyeballs bursting from her skyrocketing blood pressure, but it was a good pain.
Moving with lazy slowness from her perspective, Ellie swung her gun out so that she was still protected by the rock but that her AR sight was resting perfectly on the head of the Deep One warrior closest to the bridge leading to her position. She gently squeezed the trigger twice, and the recoil compensator worked just as Alex had said it would so that the weapon did not go flying out of her hands with the awkward hold. The Deep One she had targeted responded in a considerably more violently energetic way, his head exploding into a red mist that splattered all over his nearest fellows.
The Deep Ones responded quickly, their assault rifles already at the ready in case anything happened to the sorcerer. Unfortunately for them, they were moving in syrup compared to Ellie and she did not need to move much to switch to the next target in their tightly spaced group. Another head exploded. And then another. And then the Deep Ones were moving just ahead of where Ellie could track them. And then they opened fire.
If Ellie had proper training she probably could have kept her cool, considering the fact that she was almost entirely concealed behind the rock wall, but instead she instinctively flinched, not just pulling her gun back but also accidentally jerking the trigger, causing a round to go off. Ellie did not see what exactly happened in the spastic motion of her gun camera going wild, but for some strange reason her left leg exploded in pain and she involuntarily dropped to one knee as she lost her balance.
The pain was fleeting though in the face of drug fuelled aggression and Ellie had soon forced herself shakily back to her feet, just in time to turn and see a matte black spheroid tumbling slowly through the doorway. In a rather strange impulse, Ellie wished that she had access to grenades too as that would have made a much better opening statement that just shooting. The thought was quickly shoved aside by survival instinct, as she had only one path to avoid getting blown to bloody chunks.
Ellie burst from the archway and into the storm of bullets trying to keep her pinned. The Deep Ones had her in a vicious crossfire, but by pure chance had anticipated someone slightly taller and less crouched down to emerge. Ellie could work with pure luck. In the heartbeat between them dropping their aim ever so slightly, Ellie had focused in on the closest Deep One, having stepped out onto the stone bridge to get the proper range to throw the grenade accurately.
With a tiny flick of her thumb Ellie switched the shot designator from semi-auto to full auto and then depressed the trigger. The Deep One was big, tough, and wearing tactical armour. So Ellie shot him a dozen times in a spot no bigger than the circle made by her fist. The Deep One was resilient, but not that resilient and soon it was jerking spastically with the bullets punching into its torso.
Still running forward as fast as the pharmaceuticals could carry her damaged legs and still miraculously keeping ahead of the bullets of the other two Deep Ones, Ellie went low and kicked out the legs of the toppling fish, letting the mass of its body land on her. To their credit, the warriors checked their fire before hitting their comrade and then almost immediately resumed firing once they realized that he was dead. Ellie could feel the bullets punching into the corpse, but the armour worked just as well in death as it had in life.
Not needing to see her enemy with her head to shoot them, Ellie swung her arm out from behind her impromptu shield and sighted on the Deep One to her right, pulling the trigger until the gun clicked empty. Half her shots missed, going wild into the darkness, while most of the other half struck the Deep One in the torso, doing minimal damage. By pure dumb luck one of the rounds caught the warrior in the mouth, where its armour did not cover, and caused the head to explode like an overripe melon struck by a hammer.
Ellie distantly noted that she was feeling rather faint, and that propping the dead Deep One up so that it did not completely cover her and pin her to the ground was getting rather hard to do. Gritting her teeth, she pushed and toppled it back over, exposing herself to the final Deep One warrior. In her sped up state she could see that the box magazine was in the process of dropping out into his hand, to be spun around to load the other magazine strapped to the first. They were both out of ammunition for their guns, and it was a race to reload.
Ellie dropped her rifle, bypassing the race by pulling out her still fully loaded pistol. The enormous 15mm rounds normally required two hands to shoot without having the recoil send the butt of the gun into her face, but Ellie was so wired that she did not care and just fired one handed. The muzzle rise was ridiculous on the barely controlled weapon, but she managed to hit the Deep One centre of mass, shocking it enough that it stumbled back, its reloading interrupted. Ellie grabbed the grip with both hands and fired again, this time more steadily. She hammered round after round into the Deep One. In her excitement, at least three missed. She did not care. She just emptied the magazine into the thing.
Vision blacking out around the edges and going red in the centre, Ellie turned to the last Deep One left alive, the sorcerer. The thing was still standing where it had last been, but this time a shimmering layer of light rippled across its surface in strange quasi-patterns. Ellie barely even registered that. She had an enemy in front of her. She did not even pause to reload. She had an enemy in front of her. She rushed the target, and struck at the area on a human would have a kidney with the butt of her pistol.
Ellie’s world exploded in pain as her right side protested the abuse applied to her kidney. Whipping about seeking her attacker, Ellie found nothing alive but her and the sorcerer. A tiny part of her rapidly dwindling rational mind told her that the sorcerer had to have some sort of spell up that reflected damage back at the attacker, which was probably why her left leg was bleeding.
As she twitched and trembled with barely suppressed energy as she tried to think, the Deep One sorcerer decided that it had enough of Ellie’s bullshit and casually reached out with its staff to whack her left ankle, tripping her. As she tumbled through the air, she felt herself go strangely weightless, and for a moment she thought that Seras had arrived. Instead, she just hung in the air in defiance of gravity so that the sorcerer could get in a proper follow through.
As she sailed through the air, Ellie wondered why she had not been stabbed or knocked into the chasm along the perimeter of the cave and decided that the angle was wrong for either with the way that the sorcerer was standing, and presumably it could not change its facing for ritual reasons. Also, she supposed that the sorcerer would want to be able to see her die so it was best to throw her in front to finish off if necessary.
However, when she reached the surface of the cube, instead of striking the stone surface with bone shattering force, she instead passed through what felt like a layer of what felt like honey before she hit a stone floor hard and started to roll. Dizzy and with pain starting to leak through the chemicals in her blood and brain, Ellie roughly staggered to her feet and found herself on the inside of the cube, looking out through a newly appeared door at the sorcerer, which looked rather confused for a fish man.
Glancing around as the world stopped spinning Ellie found that the dark interior glittered weakly with gold and orange, intricate mosaics covering every surface reflecting unseen sources of light. In the centre of the structure there was a great pillar covered in shelves that were in turn filled with leather bound books and scrolls, while around the perimeter there were dozens of glass cases filled with strange artefacts. The whole place seemed weighted down with eldritch lore and power, like the mere presence of this many artefacts was thinning out reality.
Then Ellie noticed that the Deep One was coming right at her, the twisted points of its bifurcated spear glinting ominously as they drew closer. Ellie knew that she could do nothing despite her accelerated perspective. The beast was bigger, stronger and had far more experience than her, while she was unarmed, exhausted, and no longer thinking clearly. All that she could do was to wait for death to come.
And yet… and yet…
She had come this far by not giving up, not just in the past minute or day or week but since her parents had died. Beneath the terror and drugs, some part of her screamed that despair and death were not the same thing. She had been walking with death for so long, but it could not catch her because she refused to despair, she refused to do death’s job for it. Even if it was futile, she still had to look for some way to defeat the enemy.
The tiniest glint in the corner of her eye caught her attention and she shifted her gaze from the now frightfully close spear points to one case in particular. Sitting in a long glass box was a spear, about as tall as an adult man. Despite the lack of time before the Deep One struck making the distance as great as that between the stars, Ellie still reached out her hand in longing as she tried to make the run anyway. Even if she had no idea how to use it, she longed to die with a weapon in hand anyway.
The spear folded up on itself, squeezing through paths in higher dimensions and then unfolded in her outstretched hand. The spearhead was excessively heavy and immediately the spear began to tip and rotate in her grasp. The Deep One surprised as she was, faltered for just a second, and then was enough time for the spear to get into position, almost magnetically attracted to the sorcerer’s own spear.
The two weapons collided and there was a sound that was hard to describe. It was like a bolt of lightning striking a massive bell, but heard underwater. Whirling vortices of colour swirled off the point where the polearms collided and were quickly drawn into the mosaics lining the walls, causing them to light up like candles surrounded by honey.
Ellie and the Deep One sorcerer stared at each other in mutual shock. Ellie recovered first, drawing the spear back, the weapon now light as a feather in her hands. The experienced sorcerer swept his own weapon back into a mid-range guard just in time to catch Ellie’s own aggressive strike. Again the collision produced a strange resonance of energies and caused the mosaics to light up even brighter than before, shedding warm light on the various items in storage, which seemed to stare on in silent audience.
Again and again the two struck at each other. Ellie was clumsy and inept, but the weapon in her hand seemed magnetically attracted to the sorcerer’s whenever it got past her weak guard, while the sorcerer was simply too damn good to let Ellie strike it. Finally she saw her chance when it spun its bident out two far after a flourished strike and she lunged forward, intent on plunging her spear directly through the Deep One’s heart.
Belatedly, once it was too late to halt the strike, Ellie remembered the reflective warding surrounding the sorcerer. Despite the fact that the fish-frog mouth was always grinning, she was fairly certain that the Deep One had remembered this well in advance of her. She guessed that opening had been a bit obvious in hindsight.
As such, when her spear punched out the back of the Deep One’s chest, she was not certain which of the two of them was more surprised. The sorcerer looked down at the wooden shaft that was impaling it through the heart, lungs and spine and had an expression of utterly gobsmacked confusion on its grotesque face. As its knees gave out, the control from the brain severed, it also started to watch in horror as the lights of the ward surrounding it began to collapse inward, unravelling the structure of the creature. It tried to scream, but no longer had the capacity as it disappeared through millions of cracks in reality, the walls now glowing with the light of thousands of torches.
Ellie smiled faintly for a moment before she keeled over.
I love learning. Teach me. I will listen.
You know, if Christian dogma included a ten-foot tall Jesus walking around in battle armor and smashing retarded cultists with a gaint mace, I might just convert - Noble Ire on Jesus smashing Scientologists