The battle was joined, and after showering the demon army from on high with a scattering of grenades to clear a zone, Alecto descended on her jetpack like a god from Olympus; clad in smoke and thunder. With a runeblade in one hand, and her integral vibroblade extended, she danced a deadly waltz across the brutalized landscape, carving infernal flesh as she went. A tide of crimson flesh, bristling with fangs and claws and cybernetic parts, rose up against her only to be cut down in turn.
Dimly she was aware of her fellows fighting not far off, but she was too hard pressed to try to coordinate immediately. Abruptly then there was a surcease in the carnage. The lesser demons, still towering heads and shoulders over Alecto, drew back. A shadow fell over her then.
One of the larger creatures, a good fifteen or more feet high, tromped out from his squad of monsters and snorted. Its head resembled a bull's skull, bleached and bare of flesh, nestled into a bristly mane that rattled and shook as it moved. In its hand a maul crudely knapped from obsidian, nearly as large as Alecto herself.
For a heartbeat they faced off, then they rushed one another across the field; Alecto dodging and batting demons aside as she went; the larger one narrowly missing trampling more than one, and more because they dodged than any caution taken on its part. The tree-sized obsidian club came down in a brutal arc, grooves cut into its surface making the wind seem to scream in an eerily humanlike voice as it swung. Alecto was engulfed in a plume of dust and grit, and the ground shook hard enough to knock nearby demonic troops off their feet.
From the dust Alecto catapulted, propelled by her rockets, driving straight up the monster's barrel chest and into the flames licking from its empty skull. She spun in place to build momentum and slashed across it with the grey-black enruned blade she'd taken from a wraithknight what seemed like a lifetime ago.
The dread blade cracked the long snout of the minotaurine skull, sending the demonic creature reeling backwards. Gargoyle-like creatures winged up at Alecto, intent on dragging her down before she could finish the job. She leaned forward and adjusted the pitch on her jetpack...
contact provide identity, location
The signal was encrypted, but Alecto felt automatic processes providing the key, translating the message. The imperative was almost overwhelming. It had a command authority greater than the human who'd claimed to be her maker, and it was communicating on the same frequency. Even so, she squelched the response that her low-level systems were trying to give. After a grueling pause of nearly three milliseconds, another handshake request came through.
contact provide identity, location; condition
Again Alecto managed to subvert her own mind, locking down the portions that were attempting to comply. The irony was not lost on her. It was likely due to the damage she'd suffered that this rejection was even possible. The authentication on the signal entitled it to what appeared to be blanket override authority. Another fraction of a second, and the signal returned...but different in character. She realized that until now, she'd only been subject to what might be considered a subliminal process...an automatic function that was simply querying all units within range and attempting to network them.
Now she had the full attention of whatever was behind it.
It transmitted, via the same dizzyingly complex encryption, a scratchy, irritated, almost...frantic voice.
What's this? Are you lost? Hurt? WHY DON'T YOU ANSWER ME!!
It broke off with a buzz of static, then returned in a calmer tone. Your carrier is erratic. You've been damaged. Return to recharge, receive repairs, and upload logs
. A pause. Do it now.
Another pause. NOW. NOW. NOW. NOW.
All through the assault, Alecto managed to stand her ground. Demons clustered in, cautiously at first...but as it became apparent that she wasn't fighting anymore, they gained confidence.
Ah. I understand. The one who 'got away.' They'll be so happy to meet you again. Tisiphone. Megaera. Uploading a range of coordinates. Unit three is within that range. Locate. Apprehend. Preserve if possible. Report progress.
There was a subtle...mocking tone to it then, the kind of way a human might speak when saying something that seemed innocent, but was actually quite cutting towards someone they didn't like.
It wasn't human though, Alecto was sure. The voice in her head was a digital thunderstorm. Hearing it was no less than a voice from a flaming bush, or words booming out with thunderclaps. Had she the capability of superstition, she might have believed that she had heard the words of some inscrutable and unstable Creator. As it was, she believed it was much, much worse. Somewhere out there was some kind of advanced, unstable machine intelligence, and it had somehow discovered her. It wanted her back.
Her musings on this point were interrupted, however, by the giant obsidian cudgel that slammed into her and knocked her sixty feet through the air to plow into a pile of demons. For a moment their claws grabbed and flailed at her from below...then they howled and tried to get away as she triggered her jetpack straight into the lot of them and soared skyward. Diagnostics showed mostly superficial damage. Her armor was extremely well padded against blunt impacts.
She refocused on the immediate issue of a pit full of mewling hellspawn, but would not forget that something that was for her even worse was watching for her, even as she isolated the contact frequency and disabled it to prevent further contact. Watching, and waiting, for its agents to bring her to what promised to be a special Hell even for one who lacked a soul.