Wake of Kerberos - Chapter 1

Shit, shit, shit, shit shit shit shitshitshitshit...

The air was beginning to have that distinct metallic taste, and it was hot as balls. Not far away, a man tripped and screamed in pain as the ground gave him wide burns across his hands. A whistling noise began as the air in nearby caves became superheated and forced its way out with lethal force. Alex chanced a quick glance up from the dying landscape, towards the painfully clear skies, before snapping his attention roughly back down to his footing.

The fuck are the Angels? I swear to hell that I'll never trust those cowardly bastards again... Alex leaped over a small but jagged ditch and winched as he heard another man not make the jump. Here we are dying and they're off chasing clouds.

But even as he thought it, the sharp howl of the Angels suddenly filled his ears. Twelve silvery shapes shot over his head at nearly supersonic speeds, the force of their backdraft bringing Alex to a full stop. Mere seconds after passing overhead, eight of the shapes peeled off from the rest, banking up hard, and then nosediving back down. The remaining four flew on in a loose formation, presumably to try and distract Kerberos.

"I really, really hate this part," muttered Alex as he scrambled to the highest piece of ground he could find. The eight figures that had turned back performed a gut-wrenching somersault in the air as they oriented themselves at the men on the ground. Beneath each figure, a long silver arm was suddenly extended, the tip of it dragging across the ground, forcing the Angels to rotate their engines around in order to fly straight.

Alex braced himself as one of the figures shot at him at speeds of over 200 miles per hour. The howl of the engines became deafening, drowning out the screams of the surrounding landscape. The wings of the craft were beginning to vibrate dangerously, buffeted by the columns of superheated air. An Angel hurtled towards Alex with enough force to derail a coal train...

And at the last second it pulled up, the extended arm missing his head by mere feet.

"Gah, no you fool, wait for the sensor to ring!" bellowed Alex in fury at the already distant Angel. "How in the nine hells did I end up with a noob like you!"

In response, the Angel flipped around and soared back at Alex, even faster. The arm dug down into the ground again, too deep for comfort. The pilot within the Angel was clearly overcompensating. Alex broke into a dry sweat as he began to imagine rocks being scooped up with him at 200 miles and hour. He'd be stoned to death in seconds, mangled beyond all recognition. Thoughts of fleeing the Angel suddenly became very, very attractive.

In the split second that Alex debated whether dying of hellfire or flying stone was worse, the Angel was upon him. Muscle memory took over as he felt himself be scooped into the rescue hammock, the familiar rough weave of the fabric vibrating with the arm that held it out beneath the Angel. He tumbled up the arm as the Angel yanked upwards painfully, flinging him into the belly of the Angel. The sheer force of the wind pinned him to the ceiling, and as rocks began to bang the ceiling beside him, his arm flung out automatically to heave himself to the edge. The rescue arm and its hammock shifted position momentarily as the wind died down and he dropped to the floor, and then re-extended as the pilot chose a new target.

Alex limped towards the cockpit, feeling thrice his age. The main hangar of the angel was around two hundred feet long, but it felt like two miles. A quick glance inside confirmed that the pilot was new, far too young to be any good at rescue yet. Alex thanked his lucky stars that the navigator was older and more seasoned, barking out coordinates to the pilot at a dizzying speed. Standing behind the pilot and navigator chairs was the captain, whose arms and legs where encased in the metal sheaths that allowed her to manipulate the various components of the Angel like extensions of her own body. In a way, the Angel was an extension of the captain's body.

The Angel banked again as a second man was rescued. Reminded of their peril, Alex gingerly began to strap himself to the Angel wall, eying the gears below his feet, protected only by a rough grill. Idly, Alex wondered if anyone had been dumb enough to stick a finger between the holes of the grill. If they had, chances were good that they were now a bit short on fingers. The small but powerful 'nasal' engine below his feet got a lot of use in missions like this.

They swooped down twice more, and then turned away, engines howling at an ear-splitting volume. As they picked up speed, the captain brought her left arm in towards her torso, and the rescue arm locked into place, sealing the Angel off from the outside world. The navigator barked out one last set of coords to the pilot, and then leaned back with a sigh. As Alex began unstrapping himself, the navigator rose from his seat and began to talking in a familiar but difficult language to the captain. Alex decided not to waste any energy trying to translate what they were saying, he was having touble just keeping his eyes open.

"Mecht ano dosjatcno mei-ruu? Faireh qi locaht gehn." The navigator made a vague gesture at the pilot, who was still deeply engaged in her task, though the captain's eyes were still locked on the I/O lasers that fed her so much data so quickly.

"Mii dos. Osverda kuulu." the captain replied, and blinked once, slowly. The I/O lasers shut off with a whine, and the captain slumped a bit as the navigator began to unbuckle the control sheaths. "Hello Alex. Been a vhile, yes?"

"I thought that was you, Ani. Yea, it's been a long time." Alex was suddenly painfully aware that he had not been anywhere near a bath in two weeks. "Captain of an Angel and everything, eh?"

"Ve thought you was dead, you sonuva... bah, neva' mind." Ani smiled as she turned around, her feet still locked in the leg sheaths. The arm sheaths clinked as the navigator hung them from their hooks on the ceiling. "Alex, you look like hell."

Alex smiled ruefully. "As do you. How long have you been in the air?"

"Four days. Control told us to come here before ve even touched down. In-flight refuel and all dat shit." Ani scowled and shook her foot as her navigator helped her out of the leg sheaths. "You easterners hav no skill in da air."

"Sorry. We weren't counting on Kerberos narrowing in on a digging party..." Alex glanced through the window, down at the landscape far below. Somewhere close by was the hound, running rampant across the face of the earth, his entire being emitting hellfire. "I guess he's running out of big targets."

"Aye. And ve Angels don't appreciate your poor countings." Ani began to stride down through the main bay towards the engine room, but paused halfway. "Hey Alex?"


"It is good to see that the hound hasn't claimed you yet."

No, not yet in body. Alex thought as Ani disappeared. But really, who hasn't he claimed elsewhere?

Next Chapter

Thanks for reading! I realize that this chapter has next to no explanation in it, and I'm sorry about that, but hey. Gotta start somewhere! Hopefully I'll be able to tell you guys a bit more about the hound, Kerberos, in the next chapter, and go over what exactly are Angels and who are Alex and Ani as well.