Blue Ash Crisis (2018/2019), Fiction, Novels

Blue Ash Crisis: Chapter 25




The previous chapter may be worth reading first if you have not already done so. To access the previous chapter, click the button below.


Chapter 25

Run

By pressing the microswitch, Solenne released the electronic cuffs. As a mechanical hiss filled the air, Apricot was released from the pole onto the plated floor. After tossing the cuffs aside, Solenne moved over to Hunter. “It’s all right, baby,” Solenne said. “We’ll get you down.”

As Apricot glanced at Shiori wriggling his arms, he flashed her coy eyes. “Care to help me down?” he asked jokingly. Apricot reached behind Shiori and grabbed her steel cuffs. After examining the metal device, she noticed the switch on his wrist. With the assistance of the switch, she released Shiori from the cuffs. Having gotten off that pole, he deflected his gaze to Solenne. “Boy, am I glad to see you again.”

In the meantime, Solenne had helped Hunter free himself of his restraints. “How did you know where to look?” Apricot asked Solenne.

Although Solenne’s eyes were full of tears, her expression was flat as she weaved together her words. Apricot noticed that her hands were shaking. “I did not feel right. The way they treated you. I followed the car to a really sketchy run-down building.” Hunter glanced over at Shiori and nodded. Apricot watched as the pair walked toward the entrance together. Then I followed the truck to the subway station, where they blindfolded your group and brought you underground. Even as I kept my distance from the guards, I sensed that something was wrong. Then that guy over there…” Solenne pointed to Urias’s dead body on the ground with his mask lying close by. “He made people explode by looking at them.” The blonde shivered. “I have never seen anything like that. I kept following him down after. He was mumbling about black gods and all this weird talk.” Solenne shook her head in disbelief. “I don’t know, Apricot, what is going on?”

She embraced Solenne with both of her arms. “You did a good thing. We can’t talk about it right now Solenne. There are still things we have to do. So, can you help us get back to the surface? We need to get to the shrine to end all this.”

When she reached the entrance, Shiori stepped back. He looked at the machine and said, “You two can continue without me.” It made that horrible droning noise regardless. “Someone still has to stop the machine. Might as well be me. I can’t do anything about the seal or the reaper anyway.”

As Apricot nodded confidently, Shiori nodded back as well. As Hunter started down the dark corridor, he called back to the, “We have to hurry. That machine is active and who knows what the surface looks like now.”

“What do you mean?” Apricot asked curiously.

“He means the ability for phantoms to cross over effortlessly.” Shiori turned his attention to the gate. Since the machine has been running for so long, the city has probably been teeming with manifestations. There are probably enough of them to cause real damage to the city.”

“Phantoms?” Solenne asked as her voice shook. “What are those?”

Apricot said, “Monsters.”

“A little further up there.” Solenne said, as the group ran up the ramp. The group had entered a tunnel in a subway system. “They hid it pretty well.” She said, leading the pair in the right direction. Upon approaching the tunnel’s edge, the lights began to flicker and flash as though the power was about to cut out. Despite her nervousness, Apricot glanced back at Hunter. He narrowed his eyes in the direction of the corridor. Apricot then noticed Solenne froze on the threshold motionless like a statue as she glanced at the metro platform.

Apricot paused in front of Solenne, stunned to see a sight that sent shivers down her spine. An enormous snake-like monster stood on all fours. Overlapping scales decorated its body. Its brassy eyes adorned the sides of its head, opened wide and displaying their vibrant colors. With jerky movements, the thing cocked its head back and forth on the platform, snapping its tail that reached to the other side. As Solenne tried to grab Hunter’s hand, Hunter released it. Then he whispered, “You should stay back.”

As the creature let out a bone-rattling howl, everyone in the group was trembling. Solenne screamed as she backed slowly away from the pair. Apricot saw her trip and she nearly fell over. “Is that what I was like?” Apricot thought to herself. While the purple flame glowed around her fingers, she focused all her attention on the monster. After seeing Apricot’s sudden fire, Solenne panicked, falling backwards. In the process of running alongside the wall, Hunter jumped onto the platform and dived to the bench. When Hunter approached the creature, it turned its head toward him. “Raaa!” He yelled, watching as the creature responded with a loud roar of its own. The razor jaws had been expanded into a bundle of long tongues, engulfing Hunter. He jumped out of the bench when the phantom’s tongues collided with the seat and snapped it in half. Apricot’s heart pounded.

Hunter shouted to her, “Apricot! I just got to touch it.”

Apricot stared straight at Hunter before running beside the rail. “Hey!” she shouted. The creature’s head turned toward Apricot, snapping the massive tail along the concrete wall that it sliced into. Another scream was emitted as the being slammed its claws down in front of Apricot and blocked her path. Apricot, uttering a shrill shriek as she turned back, did not expect the swiftness of the attack. The creature’s mighty jaws snapped shut behind her during its close shot, generating hot air from its open maw. She caught the smell of its breath as it crept closer to her nostrils.

“BANG! BANG! BANG!” Solenne’s gun roared. She was standing on the other side of the metro, her hand extended, pointing her pistol at him. Her huffing was accompanied by a little bit of grimacing as she watched it stare at her. When it viewed her, its pupils shrank to a dot. Taking an unexpected dive into a wall, Apricot squeaked past the immense scales threatening to crush her. It was then that the beast came rushing toward Solenne.

While the tail whipped toward Hunter, Hunter was socked in the chest, and he collapsed to the ground. After the creature rose its head over Solenne, its tail swept back around. She crumpled up against the wall, her legs becoming weak. Despite her efforts, the snarling beast’s teeth dripped open above her, promising death. The beast’s mouth opened in a snap. In response, Solenne bounded forward as the creature’s jaw crashed into the wall. Behind her, three orange eyes stared back at her, with blacks filling the pupil completely. Solenne kicked her legs against the giant eyes to gain distance from the creature.

“Not today!” Hunter shouted as he stabbed both of his hands into the creature’s side. Hunter’s arms were ablaze as the creature looked up at him. Suddenly, the creature leapt into the air, sending orbs of blue light dissipating about the room. While she huddled up, Solenne kicked her legs in the open air. She screamed as she leapt to her feet. Involuntary shivers shook her body as her hands wriggled wildly. “You asked what a phantom was. That was one.” Hunter chuckled.

When Solenne turned her head she saw Apricot climbing up onto the platform. After walking over to Solenne, Apricot put her arm around her back. “It’s okay. The two of us will get you out of here.” Apricot turned to Hunter with a smirk on her face. “That is a nifty trick you got there. How did you do that without silver?”

As Hunter lifted the sleeves of his coat, he displayed tattoos on his arms. “These are all sigils required for exhortation,” he said. A phantom’s energy can be broken, and they can lose their physical form briefly for a period of time. Before that thing can reassemble, we should move.”

After ascending the subway metro stairs, the group witnessed a red glowing sky for miles in all directions. Lights throughout the city flashed furiously as if a widespread epidemic had swept through. There was a flurry of gunshots all around and screams of people and beasts alike. Blue Ash had turned into a battleground. Smoke and iron dominated the atmosphere. Sirens shrieked for death.

“What is happening!” Solenne asked, looking at the deluge of debris that has piled up in the city.

Taking a deep breath, Apricot released it slowly. “Solenne what part of town are we in?”

Her brows furrowed as she contemplated. “I am not sure, maybe the southside.”

“We need to get to the outer eastern side of town,” Hunter told her. “We have work to finish.”

“What do you mean!??? Solenne pleaded, her voice tainted with fear.

“Solenne, they won’t die from your bullets. To kill them, you must use silver.” Apricot advised. Then, she took her shoe off by removing the sole. “Here.” She made her way back up holding a flat silver knife in her hand. “Go protect yourself with this and inform the others. Anything silver will work. Merely touching them with silver will seriously harm them.”

Her fingers grasped the knife in her hand. “What about you? How will you protect yourself?”

As Apricot smirked, he turned back to Solenne. “I got my own ways of dealing with them.”

“Well, I am coming with you.” replied Solenne.

Hunter and Apricot gazed at each other. “All right, let’s go!” The group headed down the street in an easterly direction. During the battle, Apricot kept seeing specks of glitter in the sky as airships dropped soldiers to fight in overrun places. There were many monsters rummaging through buildings as they ran. Some parts of the city, such as the highways, are bounded by soldiers’ blockades. “I am still wanted. By now, Hunter is probably too.” Apricot remembered that knowledge weighed heavily on her heart.

Solenne couldn’t come, Apricot thought. Both Hunter and her knew it. However, she was definitely not going to let the pair of them go their separate ways. In fact, Solenne had always been loyal even to a fault. Looking at one of the large blockade ahead, Apricot halts. “Solenne, I need your help.”

The skies were covered with strange flying monsters drifting above as if they had an aura of supernatural power. Many of their appendages dangled from their sides, giving their bodies a long, sharp appearance. At the back, a large tail flailed in the air. Compared to their heads, they looked like large cicadas with a hundred eyes each. Fighter jets launched rockets from the wings of their aircraft, lighting up the skies. Screaming loudly, they collided in huge explosions of fire, leaving clouds of smoke in their wake.

The flying creatures waved their arms knocking planes out of the sky and falling in a death spiral, leaving a heavy trail of black burning smoke following their descent. From the mouth of one flying creature came a burst of light which scorched the earth below. A barrage of laser light from the ground struck one of the flying creatures, resulting in bloodshed. As it fell from the sky, its corpse smashed through the towers below, wrecking the buildings.

Numerous mechanical Valkners emerged from the ash and fought the terrors. Meanwhile, blue orbs manifest as creatures as they rise out of the ground. Forms wildly diverse and awful to behold, creatures twisted from nightmares, beasts, and monstrous figures.

People inside a storefront with furniture stacked up against the doors and windows huddle together to watch as the monsters pass by. As two men skulked behind a dumpster in an alley, they slowed together in case two insect-like centipede creatures spotted them. While passing inches from each other, their many segments scratched against the pavement.

A group of armored SDP soldiers was firing their rifles at a monster that stood about twice the height of a normal person. Its head resembled a bulbous thing without a face. Two long tentacles with claw-like hooks at their ends dangled from its side-like arms. Its limbs were thick and slow as the horror lumbered toward the officers; civilians ran by as the soldiers held the line. A quick burst of fire proved ineffective as the slow-moving creature approaching remained unphased by their bullets. The soldiers back away as the monster advanced, still firing at it hoping that a shot will stop it.

The two insect-like creatures appeared from the alley. As they approached, they dived onto the nearest soldier. Screaming, he let out a scream after its jaws ripped through his armor and into his chest. However, the other two soldiers continued firing on the unknowing nightmare. After hearing the blood squeal, one of the soldiers turned his head. Seeing the Centipede-like creatures devouring the officer’s body, he froze in his tracks. “Holy shit!” he screamed in a panic. While his breathing became more rapid, his air hose hissed in response.

His partner, who was facing the wrong way, also stopped firing looking over to the other soldier. “What the hell are you doing!” He yelled, unloading his clip at it. “Raaaa!” he cried. Regardless of how many bullets penetrate its body, the creature does not seem phased in the least. “Damn it!”, he shrieked, as the big hulking monster slashed him with his tentacles. A claw pierced his face mask, piercing through the solid visor. Taking the man’s head and some of his spinal column from his body, the claw lifted up away from the monster.

In front of the last soldier, the monster opened a hole in its chest, sitting on its head. Looking down at the soldier’s armor that was still upright without a head, he was fascinated. The other soldier’s half-eaten body was visible as he turned his back against the side of the building. Pointing his gun at the insects, he began shooting them. In the glare of the bullet sparked off of their bodies, their carapace gleamed. ”Come on, kill me!” he exclaimed, leaping to his feet. “Want some? Eat this!” The man roared, pulling an iron rod out of his chest. In the cafe, the explosion shattered the glass, forcing everyone to scream. Eventually, the soldiers and monsters outside disappeared, along with the dust. It’s all left is a smoldering pile of charred ash.

A ring of troops was built around the entire unaffected city to contain the advancing troops. The first layer of the barricade consisted of Valkner mechanical soldiers. Their size towers over the next line of ground troops huddled together.

“Solenne, we stick to our plan,” Apricot grunted her agreement before walking towards the row of soldiers.

Her gaze fell on Hunter whose face was filled with unease. “We can’t do this,” Hunter said.

Nodding her head, she looked back at Solenne, who was about half a block away. “I know, I just told her that so she would not come with us.”

One soldier stopped Solenne when she approached the barricade. “Officer Solenne! What in the world are you doing out here?” The soldier yelled in disbelief.

“I’m sorry, but I cannot explain right now. I must let them through.” Solenne turned to Apricot, but she has vanished.

The man let out a small chuckle. “Everyone is allowed through. Solenne, are you ok?” Her face sunk as she furrowed her brow. “Come on, it’s better on the other side. We will hold the line, you get yourself somewhere safe.”

In sight of a translucent figure crawling out of the wall, Solenne turned to face the barricade’s rear. She points screaming “Look out!” The enormous Valkner couldn’t react before the beast turned into a giant, wolf-like beast with ram-like horns. Using its razor-like jaws, it ripped open the cockpit of the Valkner. On the other side was a giant tangle of thorny tendrils, with scythe-like arms and a large bird-like head. The tendrils ripped through the machine, cutting it open in half. Electrical components on the machine began ablaze. More creatures emerged from the walls and the other three Valkners turned to fire. Several rounds of large ammunition made holes in the creatures, forcing them to retreat.

Those on foot crossed the barriers to the other side. A panic gripped Solenne because of the chaos surrounding her. While talking to her, one of the soldiers grabbed her arm and dragged her away from the mayhem. “This is a nightmare…” Solenne muttered quietly to herself. 

In response, the soldiers opened fire, their bullets striking the strange monsters as some rounds struck and caused minor injuries to the creatures while others did little or nothing. “Damn you!” raged the Valkner leader. He blew the beast to pieces, roaring, “We hold the line!”.

To her surprise, Solenne saw the scythe slashing toward her. But she was able to sidestep it as it managed to narrowly miss her chest. The creature’s mandibles were headed straight for her as she watched. Using the knife Apricot gave her, she stabbed its large bulb of an eye directly. As it let out a gasp, the creature spun around sparking. The guns of the officers rattled off several shots into the monster, blowing holes into it until it fell to the ground. Its body illuminated a brilliant blue light leaking into the earth below.

“Are you okay?” an officer asked Solenne. Almost without thinking, Solenne nodded. When her eyes turned to the Valkners, she saw them fighting off a group of creatures that had just attacked. After drawing her weapon, she removed her old clip and replaced it with a new one. After joining in with the other ground officers, she opened fire. One Valkner was knocked to the ground by an entity that caught hold of him. Once Valkner had fallen to the ground, the entity bit into his cockpit and tore him apart. They watched as it twisted its head from front to back, chewing into their flesh. “Fall back! Move back! Back, back, back.” yelled the group’s leader.

Upon receiving orders to run, Solenne turned away from the monsters ripping the officer next to her to shreds. Mist poured from his body as the blood splattered. She felt her heart pumping hard in this situation but she had been trained for these kinds of situations. Those training sessions prepared her for situations such as this. She, she, she never knew there were moments like this. Compared to this, Solenne thought to herself, nightmares, horrors, and wars were all mere mercy. As she ran with the others, she left the gunfire behind her and the screaming behind her. “Is this the end of the world? Apricot, why did you leave me?” She thought to herself.

The puddles of sweat ran down Apricot’s brow as she ran along the torn streets. Apricot traveled as fast as she could. Because of the lack of rails, she had to walk to the shrine. She lamented this sorely. At every major intersection in the city, barricades stood in the way and the creatures were attacking most of them.

“We are going to have to run through a barricade,” Hunter told Apricot, much to apprehension. 

It didn’t help that Apricot shrugged her shoulders. “No, we keep running until we find a clear area to cross.” Not willing to recognize the truth.

As Apricot tried to escape, Hunter grabbed her arm. “It will not happen. We need to run through, it’s the only way to get to the shrine.”

It was necessary to find an alternative. Risking capture was not an option. Yet she also had to admit that the longer it took, the less likely it was they could reverse the disastrous situation. Over the chaotic ambiance, Apricot cleared her throat. “What if they stop us?”

“They will be more worried about the monsters tearing them apart. That is what I am going to speculate.” Hunter said. “Look you can keep running but I am going to cross here, now. We have wasted too much time trying to find an opening.” Apricot looked over to see the group firing in the direction of the southern street. He pointed east. Perhaps there was hope. “They won’t be looking if we cross from behind.”

“I don’t know Hunter.” she replied, already considering it.

Slipping from Apricot’s grasp, Hunter ran for the barracade. A sharp pain began to develop in her ankles as she picked up her pace after him. As they approached the line, the sound of their gunfire cut into Apricot’s ears. Each bullet release pounded a sound so loud that it echoed all over the building. Although both of her hands were raised to her ears, she noticed the booms seeping through. As she raced throughout the squad, she attempted not to get noticed.

“Die you Bastards!” yelled a man while holding the trigger. This reverberated through her. Apricate glanced over to the line of bodies these creatures had killed. Still, they fought even though some of them were damaged and bloodied. It was clear that large patches of Volkner’s armor had been scraped off. It was as Hunter had predicted that they paid little attention to them. While they focused only on the phantoms, the two were able to proceed smoothly.


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