Vannik Dies

Life, Death

40/2 14:00

Something in the Higher Div Bans bores into Vannik's mind, overwhelms him, and pushes him to kill himself.

Tskhan Sik’kmuth looked around trying to gain his bearings with the shift in the environment while keeping up his defense. "Looks like it worked; is this it?"

  "Dmitri, we'll hold out as long as we can if need be, but not at the risk of anyone's life. This most definitely isn't it." Immuena took position closer to the main group, drew her pistol, and reexamined the room once more. "What are we holding out for? Do you think we can take every monster in this place? Shouldn't we make a run for the train?"

  Vannik responded at that very moment by dropping to his knees and puking. The feast from this morning splayed out over the floor.

  "This generator wasn't shut off simply because people thought that'd be safer. It was targeted by the energy hungry beasts. All our work would be for naught if we let them have their way. However, how many of you feel we should run?" Immuena paused to look at Vannik. "Someone make sure Vannik is okay." she scanned the room.

  "We just need enough power to open the gate, right?" Dmitri asked, moving back to face the hallway. "Staying here is sui-By the All-Seer, someone shut him the fuck up or I will!" The man whipped into his people's infamous fervor as he jabbed his finger at Vannik, who had grabbed his head and began to scream, crumpled on the floor.

  Dmitri whipped back around to face the door as inhuman screams responded out in the hallway. A flood of grotesque figures—facsimiles of humanity—had just slid around the corner on taloned, shaky feet, and were running towards them at full bore.

  Tskhan resisted going to comfort his ally "Vannik you must be strong, friend. Immuena can you do anything to help him?"

  "On it!" Immuena bolted to Vannik and immediately started a telepathic connection, in hoping to either find the cause of his screams or calm him. "Like I said, Dmitri, we can collectively make the call. But right now, I need a second. Someone cover us."

  Even guarded by a strong mind and a bit of mental girding, Immuena could feel the psychotic maelstrom of grim emotions battering poor Vannik's mind.

  For a bare moment she caught sight of a man cornered by beasts. They caved his head in with fists like rocks.

  Vannik bellowed, clutching his head so hard his flesh was bleeding around his nails. He heaved, but nothing came up. He crumpled to the floor.

  Shakily, he raised his pistol to his head. Tears coursed down his face.

  Immuena did all that she could do in that split second: she threw herself upon the screaming Venuan.

  Her small frame splayed over his, pale skin over dark. She looked into his mind and his eyes alike, falling into each in kind. In his eyes she saw absolute terror--all dilated pupils and popping veins, but in his mind she saw so much more.

  Venua's Dayside. Basic Training. Vannik learning how to handle a rifle, a pistol, a mortar.

  Concrete hallways, flickering lights. Ethereal shapes rushing down the hall like water, their very touch causing our skin to flake and bones to shatter.

  Venua's Nightside. Deployment. The front lines. The insectile Sylo shucking soldiers of armor and meat alike, casually.

  The bulkhead closing behind us. They're outside. Outside. The vents! The vents!

  The Moon of Nemil. Freelance with Ijin. Wrestling on the side of a creek as the planet glitters above. Rolling to the bottom of a hill tangled in each other. Roughhousing and giggling turn to giggles and moans.

  Turn off the power! They're attracted to it. Send the distress beacon! Karim will send aid, we must hold out!

  Ijin's breasts glistening with sweat. Her smile wide. Yawning, wider and wider, lips breaking open into mandibles. Dark worms crawling out from inside. Ijin's eyes locked onto Immuena's face, focusing for a brief moment. Ijin's face morphing further, skin bleaching pale, features growing delicate. Her jaw split down her torso and she fissured open into a screaming black maw.

  The vents, they can come through the vents!

  One death, and then another. Vannik and Immuena witnessed the first together, the agony of organs desiccating, freeze dried under darkening skin. The pain of a life long gone, of a frightful poltergeist lurking over them.

  "Беда́ никогда́ не прихо́дит одна́," Vannik murmured, saying the words with perfect clarity. He'd never spoken Russian in his life.

  The gunshot rang out. Immuena saw it in slow motion in detail that would haunt her dreams for years to come. His bone and skin rippled, peeling apart around the impact point, the temple. The energy charge flared somewhere behind his left eye, which jellied and spewed out in a spout of white heat before the other followed suit. There was a moment of doubtless suspension, perhaps more imagined than seen, and his whole face caved outwards, bursting in a shower of bone shards and brains over Immuena's shocked expression.

  Everyone turned to look at the source of the sound, their stunned silence lending to the already deafening emptiness left in the wake of his screaming.

  Another sound jerked them all back to reality.

  Ijin's agonized scream.

  Tears rolled down Immuena's face, getting caught on bits of Vannik as they fell. The Faecha could do little more than roll off his corpse and wail in agony. Slapping her head, then clawing, only wanting it to crack open and leak out the images burned into her mind.

  Something broke in Allarah. She knew that pain too well. She became numb as she looked away from Vannik. She met Synna's eyes only a moment, as if to say, Look at what I've caused, She walked into the room.

  "Gruist, Dmitri! Get that damned door closed now! Seal it if you can." She went right to Immuena, taking off her coat. She propped Immuena as best she could and wiped the blood off of her face with her coat. When she finished she held her tight to keep her nails from her face. "Get a hold of yourself. I need you to pull together just long enough to get out of here. I'm so sorry." Tears began to brim in her eyes.

  Immuena gave no effort to be consoled, thrashing, shoving with what meek strength she had in her. Though her wails became loud sobs, "I'm sorry... I'm so sorry... ahh.. Vannik... I'm sorry... Sorry, sorry, sorry... by the gods... I'm sorry..." she repeatedly muttered as if she were a broken record. Gruist and Dmitri closed in on the door, strong arming it closed. Ijin fell to her knees, hands grasping at the air around Vannik's crater of a head.

  "Knock her out," Dmitri yelled back. "Before she off and kills herself as well."

  Allarah leaned away, pulled back her hand, and slapped Immuena hard across her face. "Immuena!" She commanded to be heard this time. "Calm yourself! This isn't the place or time. Don't make me listen to Dmitri!"

  Slowly, Immuena raised her eyes to meet Allarah's, mouth half open. After a brief pause, she crumpled the blanket like coat in her hand, gritted her teeth, and choked out a, "May I?" Her sharp breathes and occasional sobs were still uncontrollable.

  "Of course." Allarah nodded and moved away from Immuena. "Ijin..."she didn't know what she could possibly say to her in that moment.

  Tskhan stood in shock; he wasn't prepared for anything like this to happen. He couldn't do anything for Vannik and passed on responsibility to Immuena who is now suffering. Tskhan wanted to run to Immuena but with all that happened it would be best not to overwhelm her in the fragile state she was in. He fell to his knees remaining in the direction he was facing. A enemy with meaty bits to slash or set a flame wit immolation he could deal with but not this.

  Wiping her face of tears and loudly blowing her nose, Immuena remembered her surroundings. That is, until she saw Ijin. Half crawling, Immuena pulled herself closer to Ijin. She held Ijin and whispered, "I'm so sorry I failed you- failed him. He loved you dearly..." sobbing a bit, she took a deep breath and continued, "Really, you were all his final thoughts..."

  Then Immuena just held Ijin, as much as she'd allow.

  Ijin pushed Immuena off, practically knocking her to the floor again. "Don't touch me," she hissed, face knotting into seething hatred. She grabbed Vannik's pistol, wiped her tears from her eyes, and stood.

  "Let's get the fuck out of here."

  "Ijin. I don't think he should be left here.... Not here. But the choice is yours." Allarah didn't move towards Ijin, nor could she look at Vannik. She saw a different person lying in his place. Immuena sluggishly got up, "Let's go. No need to protect the turbines if they're not attacked."

  She kept her distance from Ijin, but couldn't help glancing at her every so often.

  Ijin wrestled with her internal narrative. Training against the Sylo had taught her not to bother with a body once it was down, that doing so was just inviting yourself to die as well.

  She wiped her tears away. "Just a corpse, now. God has him."

  Allarah paused over him and saw the glint of metal around his neck. She slowly unhooked the necklace gazing at the tags. Taking her coat she cut the sleeve off and placed the rest of it over his still frame. "I'm sorry Vannik. You deserved more." Whispering more to herself. She turned to Ijin and placed the tags in her hand, her own shaking in the process. Allarah then walked to Synna and tied the sleeve over her shoulder to staunch the flow of blood. "Alright, we need to move. We'll find the Trundler on the other end of Vien. Let's go."

  Gruist patted Tskhan on the back. <Brother,> he said in Saza. <Vannik is within The Wheel now. There is no more pain for him. Come Brother.>

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