Chapter 3 - Rot and Ruin

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Infobox
Canon: Baseline
Series: Plainswalking
Canon: Baseline Series: Plainswalking

Plainswalking
Chapter 3 - Rot and Ruin

Urquhart's head stung something fierce. The stinging was accompanied by the frequent rumble from his stomach, and the occasional jolting pangs of his sprained shoulder. Occasionally, he would allow his rifle to hang from his person loosely as he ran a hand through his short, brown hair, to scratch the recurring itch that accompanied his head pains. His caucasian skin had paled over the course of his journey, the cold weather stiffening his every exposed part of his body. Heavy bags had begun to form under his sharp blue eyes, his exhaustion evident. Urquhart felt as though every part of his body was all complaining at once. He gritted his teeth through all the pain, and continued his steady march as snow lightly peppered the path before him.

As he trudged through the disgusting combination of mud, dead grass and snow, he listened to the disgruntled crunches that came with every step. He felt like he was walking through a fridge of discarded scraps of vegetables and desserts, the cold air piercing his nostrils like a spear with each breath he dared to take. Occasionally, he'd hear an unpleasant, booming resonance on the horizon, accompanied by a softer, but equally threatening, series of clanking thumps.

It was times like this Urquhart had missed music; something to distract him from the miserable environment he had found himself in, but alas; there was nothing he could do other than softly hum to himself. He muttered the lyrics to himself. He was occasionally unable to complete a line, as his breath had begun to waver.

"There's an old black train a-comin'," he sang breathlessly. "Scrapin' along the iron. You don't need no ticket boys, it'll take you when it's time."

As he hummed the rest of the song softly to himself, he surveyed the surrounding area. What had once been buildings were now shreds of brick and stone slab, that littered the ground. Urquhart was amazed at the destruction. The soft, translucent fog surrounding the area cloaked anything that stretched beyond the buildings, giving him an uneasy feeling as the distant sirens echoed in the distance. Where were these noises coming from?

Urquhart stopped, realising he had absolutely no idea where he was going. He weighed his options.

Continue forward, he pondered. Or go back to the robot.

As he considered the two, his thoughts were interrupted by another unpleasant siren, but this time, it was louder. Closer. His head looked over in the direction in which had heard the sound. He saw nothing but the fog, and the few pieces of debris that lay before it, which trailed in gradually, eventually disappearing in the thick cloud of mist. From this direction, Urquhart could hear a heavy, loud series of clunking sounds, progressively rising in volume.

"Fuck." Urquhart muttered. He quickly crossed the littered city street, making his way to the shell of what had once been a building. He walked through the exposed doorway, in search of a place to hide. He found what had once been a counter, now a remnant of whatever the building had once been. He crouched behind it, readying his rifle to face the doorway.

As he struggled with his sprained arm, the clunking grew louder. The ground shimmered with every sound. He readied himself, peering through the iron sights of his Galil, prepared to let loose a flurry of bullets on whatever dared enter.

Despite the chilling cold, beads of sweat began to form on his forehead, but he dared not wipe them off. His eyes widened, fully focused on whatever was to come. His fingers were slowly becoming numb, wrapped around the handle of the rifle. He squeezed all fingers with exception to the one hovering above the trigger, to keep the blood pumping through his veins for as long as it could.

The clunking was at its loudest. Urquhart could hear additional sounds now. A creaking, somewhat muted whirr could be heard, as if someone were continuously winding up cymbal monkey. A pump made itself audible, the sound reminding him of a steam engine train's gradual march as it made it's way to the station. Its heavy, pendulum-like drumming boomed in rhythmic fashion, almost in tandem with Urquhart's own heart.

Suddenly, a gigantic machine slammed down on the ground in front of the doorway. It was shaped like a skeletal foot, with what appeared to be toes stretching from it, each one curling and piercing into the ground, securing it in place. An ankle began from the far behind of foot, stretching beyond the lintel of the door and into the unknown.

Urquhart's hope died the second he saw it. He raised cautiously from his position, looking out at the machine in disbelief. It creaked and groaned as if under the weight of something far heavier than itself, before a crashing sound could be heard. Out of the corner of his eye, Urquhart could barely make out the shape of another foot in the distance as it crushed the building across the road into dust. He gulped, his throat as dry as sandpaper. He wondered if he should stifle his breath, but a small, rational part of his brain thought that surely, through the wind and the pumping and the whirring, that he would not be heard.

He scanned the room around him, and encountered another doorway heading towards the back of the shop. He lifted himself from the counter, and slowly stepped towards it, the withered floorboards creaking with every step. He turned to give one last look at the horrifying mechanical beast outside, only to see the foot raise slowly, and disappear from view, gradually followed by the other.

Urquhart exited the back of the building. When finally making it out of view of the great monster he had been presented with, he slammed his back against the wall, allowing his lungs to go wild as he huffed in and out. He looked into where the sky should have been visible, now a nothingness consumed by great clouds.

Why me? he thought miserably. Why couldn't it be one of those other cunts in the other fucking divisions? Why is it always fucking me who has to put up with this shit?

He took a deep breath in. Questions would only cause anxiety now. He needed to focus on the task at hand; getting out of this place alive.

Urquhart angled his head towards the ground, and was presented with a chiselled staircase, which concluded itself at an old bitumen path. The path trailed through a decayed series of fields, the fencing separating them now in tatters. He surveyed the fields, observing the fossilised cow dungs that littered them, some accompanied by the bones of the cattle that had once resided there.

The fog remained as present as ever, draping a curtain of heavily veiled mist before him, as if waiting to surprise him with yet another monstrosity.

Urquhart tilted his head, a sharp crack escaping from his neck.

"Ow." he muttered.

And without another word, once again, Urquhart limped into the unknown.

They swarmed the Ossa's empty shell, like ants to a moth's dead carcass. Crawling through every exposed orifice, peeling every scrap of metal from its bones with torches of sharp, bright blue flame.

Adrik watched as the collective of mechanical creatures clawed their way through his creation. Their worn Russian Soviet uniforms were smudged with several spots of black, the fires of their torches occasionally making brief contact and bruising the proud attire, not that they cared. They only wore it because Adrik made them. The eyes of their skulls illuminated several select parts of the Ossa, analysing the damage done.

The mechanical chorus was once an unpleasant sound, but Adrik had grown used to it. Even if he hadn't, we would not have cared. His focus remained on the fallen titan, his thoughts racing.

How did he do this? He pondered.

The soft, yet powerful humming of the engine of his Ford-A Izhorskiy armoured car filled the ghastly air with a continuous stream of noise. Adrik would have been inclined to turn the engine off to save on fuel under usual circumstances, but he no longer needed to be conservative. The stone would grant him what he needed, when he needed it. He needed nothing else.

His thoughts were interrupted by a small siren, as one of the Fucus' sirens howled softly in the wind, like an air raid siren. Both Adrik and the other Fucus stopped. They all began to move towards the siren.

The siren echoed through the open mouth of the Ossa. Adrik stepped through the crowd of Fucus that had gathered before the jaws of the beast, and stepped inside.

AdrikwithFucus.jpg

Within, a Fucus turned to face him. It offered him a handkerchief, which Adrik took. He analysed it. It was stiff and crisp in his grasp, softly crunching as the thin layer of ice that had formed around it gave way under the tiniest of effort.

Adrik turned back to the jaws of the Ossa, and marched towards them, returning to the crowd of gathered Fucus. From them, one stepped forward. Unlike the others, this one's face was covered on the right side by intricate, yet messy machine. Adrik handed it the handkerchief. A reticle protruded from the device, as the machine scanned the handkerchief thoroughly, a small light flashing on the device.

Once completed, the light became a bright green. The Fucus handed the handkerchief back to Ivanov, and turned to its followers, returning to the pack. Once in formation again, it turned back to Adrik. They all waited patiently.

Adrik's fingers outstretched, and the devices on his fingers crackled brightly with white electrical currents. He angled his hands towards the ground, and steadily shook his hand, as if it were shivering in the cold.

A bright light shone in the dark, faded grass, connected to the hand by arcs of electricity. The Fucus watched intently. After mere seconds, the light faded, as did the electrical currents running along Adrik's hands. Before him now lay a precise number of PPSH-41 submachine guns. The Fucus marched forward, each one scooping a gun into their arms. Adrik watched up until the final one came forward, the device on its head whirring and buzzing with activity. It picked up the gun, resting it instinctively on its shoulder. It turned its gaze to Adrik, awaiting his order.

"Find him," he said. "And kill him."

Without another word, he turned away, marching towards his armoured car. The Fucus all turned the opposite way, and began their march, their steps out of sync and disorderly.

The two parties departed. One, to await results. The other, to catch a rat.

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