The Elder Invasion: Location X

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  1. Speed of Light
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  1. Douche
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Dust caught in silver beams and the darkness between them...

...the feeling of stone blocks all around, layered and shifting...

Nothing else.

He felt something crushing his head from all sides. And the rest of his body was freezing, the kind of cold where you no longer shiver but simply... cease to be. He tried to breathe, but his chest wouldn't lift. He pictured his lungs, deflated and sagging, soon to turn as grey as that dust.


But then the world started moving as the beams of light twitched, like the legs of an insect on its back.


The pressure around his head loosened and a block of darkness was peeled away. The cold of stone was replaced by the cold of hostile air.


The ISAF gunner opened his eyes, blue against grimy skin and shrinking as the flashlight glared. Something warm came against his chest... a hand, and the next thing he knew he was being pulled between the stone. His bones screamed in agony as he was wrenched upright, and as the flashlight moved away he blinked at the face of his rescuer.

Sergeant Spears looked just as battered as he was. The man's uniform was torn, leaving his chest exposed and showing the tattoo of a giant wheel with a crimson eye in the centre. Some of it was smeared with blood from cuts around his ribs, but otherwise Spears seemed as fit as ever.

"Are you hurt?" The drill-sergeant's voice carried its usual soft but forceful tone. And Marvin's own voice came out in a hoarse groan.

"Head... somethin'.. somethin's crushin' my...uuugh!"

Spears's lip curled in a smile and he clonked Marvin on the helmet with his flashlight. "That thing saved your life, soldier." He started to pull the gunner to his feet.

Marvin looked around as dust and rubble cascaded from his body. "Where the hell are we, Sarge?" He swayed, putting his hand against the wall of the cramped, pitch-black space in which they found themselves.

"Some kind of cavern." Spears pressed a pistol into Marvin's hand and moved past him. "We're not in Scrap Iron City anymore."

"No shit... Sarge" Marvin adjusted his helmet and searched his pockets for a cigar. Then he turned and followed Spears and the flashlight. The cavern was little more than fifteen feet across, roughly circular, and as Spears got to the other end he ran his hand over a strange protrusion of stone, smoother and straighter than the rest.

"What the fuck is tha...oh..."

Marvin's eyes widened as Spears stepped back and shone the flashlight over the legs of the Elder Spider. There were three of them in total, embedded in the wall and curling around the floor and ceiling of the cave.

"I think..." Spears scratched his stubble as his piercing grey eyes observed the severed legs. "We were teleported."


"The Spider..." Spears shone his flaslight over the strangely spherical shape of the cavern. "It triggered it's own summoning orb."

"You mean that glowin' thing the Noob fucks came outta?"

"And it sent us and three of its own legs... to wherever we are now."

"Oh fuck..." Marvin's dabbed at the sweat around his eyes as Spears carried on talking.

"We teleported into solid rock. But there must be something between the legs - something that created a space for us."

"Fuck man... fuck!" Marvin gasped, "Where the hell... what are we...?"

"Keep your shit together, soldier." Spears turned and checked his pistol, shooting Marvin a glare.

"I'm claustrophic, Sarge! What the fuck are we gonna...!"

"You're gonna check your kit, that's what." Spears's voice seemed to undercut the gunner's panic, but he had barely ended when another sound ventured out through the rocks underfoot.


Spears shone his flaslight around, his pistol gripped in the other hand. But Marvin's reaction was altogether different. The gunner threw off his helmet and dove to the ground. "JAKE!" He started digging at the rocks with his bare hands, his claustrophia forgetten as he burrowed for his friend. Spears brought the flaslight over, picking out the strands of dusty ginger hair that gave away Jake's location.

The ISAF engineer was somewhere beneath the rocks, down where one of the Elder legs had embedded. Spears planted the flashlight and joined Marvin in throwing aside the rubble, working as fast as he could to clear a space. They couldn't tell his exact location, only follow the sounds of his moaning.

But one thing was clear....

... Jake was hurt.

[SUMMARY: After attacking an Elder in its summoning form, three soldiers from the siege of Dystopia find themselves in an unknown, alien place.]
Re: Location X

"Help... oh God... Sarge.. hel-... I don't wanna... Sarge...!"

As the last rock was pulled away, Sergeant Spears gripped Jake's outstrecthed hand, squeezing it with full force. "You're okay, Soldier - we've got you."

There was a dry cough as Jake forced the dust from his lungs, blood flecking his lips and chin. He gasped for breath and his eye's contracted in the beam of the flashlight.

"We gotta get him outta here, Man!" shouted Marvin, who had been hovering behind the Sergeant as he cleared the last of the rubble. The gunner ran forward, throwing off his combat helmet and trying to get his arm under Jake's. But Spears pushed him away before he could get to his friend.

"We move him, we kill him." The Sergeant's voice remained unshakeable, countering Jake's ragged breaths even as he felt underneath the injured man's torso. "He's torn the TC* the trap**. The girder's touching his spine. We make a mistake and we're looking at nerve damage."

Marvin stood awkwardly behind the Sergeant, scratching at his sweat-drenched hair. He remembered now... Jake had thrown himself in front of the Sergeant when the Spider struck. He taken the brunt of the Elder's limb... and he was lucky his spine was still in one piece.

Marvin came back to his senses as Jake convulsed with a scream, the cry echoing around the claustrophic cavern. "Shit, Sarge... fuck! FUCK! What are we gonna do?"

Spears threw the rest of his medi-kit at the gunner, keeping only the morphine syringe in his hand, which he promptly jabbed into Jake's arm. "Hang in there, Jake."

[Jake is injured and immobilised. Spears gives him morphine and tries to keep Marvin from panicking.]

*Thoracolumbar muscle.
** Trapezius muscle.
Re: Location X

A half hour had passed and Jake had fallen silent. The morphine had finally taken effect and the engineer was lying back amidst the stubble staring dreary-eyed into darkness. Beside him Sergeant Spears continued tearing scraps of his ISAF uniform into bandages. He kept his flashlight off for the mostpart, using it only when he needed to dress Jake's wounds or shine the light in his eyes to keep him conscious.

Sitting across from them on one of the rocks, Marvin was anything but sparing with his own flashlight. He flicked it on and off as he rocked nervously, adjusting his combat helmet as if it would somehow spare him from the helplessness.

"H.. hey..." said Jake after a while, his voice somehow distant. The wounded man was smiling as he looked at the cavern ceiling, as if it was somehow beautiful. "My wife's gonna be mad... isn't she?"

Spears carried on sorting through the first-aid kit, while Marvin came forward and gripped his friend's hand again. "Shit man, she's probably got Rosoft by the balls right now, tellin' him to get his shit together and find us!" He laughed, even though his eyes were tearing.

"We... we did it, right? We.. took down the spider?"

"Affirmative," answered Spears, not looking up as he prepped another morphine needle. "We've sent a message. That's all that matters."

"It'll... be over by Christmas, right?" Jake's eyes rolled back in their sockets, his words slurring as the morphine washed through him.

Spears got up, taking one of the flashlights and leaving the first-aid kit with Marvin. As the two old friends were left alone, Marvin's tears finally broke and cut a line down his cheek. "Get a grip, man." He squeezed Jake's hand tighter. "You gotta explain to the missus - tell her this wasn't my fault. She still blames me for the mailbox thing. And... and the kids, Jake.. well, they gotta know their dad's this big hero now."

"I'm...." Jake's pale lips formed another smile. "...trying to raise them pacifist, remember?"

Marvin stifled another laugh, rocking again as he held his friend's hand. "You're full o' shit, man."

"Marvin." Spears's voice sounded from the other side of the cave. "Bring the flashlight."

Marvin looked up, blinking the tears from his eyes. "Sarge? But what about Ja..."

"Bring the flashlight, Soldier!" The sergeant's voice left no room for bargaining and Marvin was forced to leave his friend in the dark and carry the second torch over to the sound of the sergeant's voice.

And there he found Spears crouched by the cavern wall, the beam of his flashlight appearing to vanish into a pool of darkness. Marvin drew closer and knelt beside the sergeant, shivering in the unnatural cold. But when he raised his own flashlight, all thoughts of his discomfort vanished.

"Shit, sarge..."

There was an opening in the cavern wall, a small three foot tunnel stretching beyond and into further darkness.

"Get your pistol," Spears ordered, a grim resolution in his voice.

[SUMMARY: As Jake enters a morphine half-slumber, Spears and Marvin find a small tunnel leading out of the cave.]
Re: Location X

"How you holding up, Solider?"

"Sweating like a bitch, Sarge. Fuck..." Marvin wiped his eyes again, shifting his grip on his flashlight and pistol and trying no to stumble.

"You're a Tank Gunner with claustrophobia?"

"It's the motion, Sarge. As long as I'm moving I don't feel trapped."

"You're a complex human being." Sergeant Spears ducked as the tunnel became narrower, squeezing between the damp rocks. His half-open eyes were fixed dead-ahead, straight into the darkness, even as he kept up the conversation with his nervous comrade.

"Anything scare you, Sarge?"


"What, like moths?"

"No, moths are fine. It's butterflies."

Marvin clonked his head on the tunnel ceiling as he forget to duck. "Fuck! Er.. butterflies but not moths?"

"Yep." Spears pulled Marvin through the narrow space by his harness. "Everyone thinks butterflies are cute because of their wings. They never notice the monster between them. Scares the hell out of me."

The sergeant moved ahead then stopped as he heard Marvin falter. "What about Jake, Sarge? We can't... we can't just leave him there."

"We waste the time to go back - we kill him anyway."

Marvin cursed under his breath, stopping to wipe his eyes again. Spears could hear the gunner's breathing, sharp and violent like the breath of the desperate. He stepped towards him, meeting his eyes in the gloom. "Relax. Jake is sleeping on the morphine now. He's gonna ride this whole thing out. We need to concentrate on getting to the surface. Our boys in Scrap City need us." He moved ahead once before. "And we don't wanna miss all the fun."

"Yeah, sure..." Marvin muttered as he carried on following the Sergeant.

It was another hour before Spears spoke again. "You smell that?"

"Smell what?"

"Engine fumes. There's traces of them coming down the tunnel."

"You think we're underneath Scrap City?"

"If we are, then there's one hell of a fight going on."


"Touch the walls."

One of Marvin's hands ventured into the darkness, finding the tunnel wall and instantly feeling the tremors. It was like the whole world was shaking, both above and below. "What the fuck is that, Sarge? Someone drilling?"

"Turn your flashlight off." One of the beams went out.


Marvin had his own flashlight grabbed and turned off, plunging him into darkness. He went to yell, but Spears' hand clamped around his throat and he was pinned against the tunnel wall.

"Eyes left," Spears whispered and there was a dull click as he readied his pistol.

Marvin's eyes drifted to the left and there he saw it. A light at the end of the tunnel.

They had found the way out...


[Spears and Marvin find a way out of the underground]
Re: Location X

Step by step, they neared the end of the tunnel.

It was not sunlight that shone from outside, but an eerie glow that could only have been artifical. Spears took the lead, stooping low so Marvin could train his pistol over his shoulder. And they both slowed as they realised the precipice that lay beyond the tunnel.

They were not underground at all. They were in the side of a mountain...

And as they reached the edge, squinting in the light, both men were frozen to the spot as they saw what lay beyond.


"Sarge... what the fuck..."

"Keep your head down."

The soldiers flattened themselves either side of the opening, and in their eyes was the contrast between the two men: Marvin's flickering between the machine-mountains in nervous starts; Spears's taking in as much of the detail as he could.

"We... we're not in Iwaku anymore, are we Sarge?"

"Don't know," Spears muttered, refusing to acknowledge Marvin's fear. He leaned out from the cave opening, checking the mountainside. The air above them was choked with fumes, a black canopy through which no light could venture save the electric discharge of lightning.


"What are those things?!" Marvin cried.

"Quiet!" Spears moved next to Marvin and clonked him on the helmet with the butt of his pistol. "I think we're in Elder-town."


"The Spider we took down - it activated its teleport, right? If it was an emergency jump, it would've returned to the point of origin."

"Point of... orig... OH SHIT!" All at once Marvin tried to lunge to his feet. But Spears took his legs out with a single knee, twisting his arm behind his back as he fell. "Aaagh! Fuck!!!"

"Stow that shit, Trooper," Spears ordered as he knelt on Marvin's back, keeping the armlock in place while surveying the Machine City.

Machine City... that was the phrase that went through his mind. That and the word Engine - it sounded like an engine, a sick and throaty sound that rumbled across the landscape. It was like a great churning, metal on metal, computer processors, gears engaging and disengaging. Everything was a hive of activity, industrial and utterly alien.

Spears's eyes tracked to a flicker of white light that broke the darkness. For a moment he thought it was another lightning strike, but then he saw the shape of it - orb-like and constant. And hanging over it was a shape he recognised, only much...much... much bigger.


The great spider seemed to nestle at the heart of the Machine City, legs the size of peninsulas twitching slowly and crawling with thousands of smaller spiders. The normal-sized Elders were scuttling out of the body of this larger machine and descending towards the orb of light beneath it.

Spears squinted, focussing as best he could. And there, in the heart of the glowing orb, he made out the shape of a world.

"We gotta get outta here, Sarge!" Marvin whimpered as he was pinned against the floor. "Gotta get back to Iwaku..."

Spears looked at the planet inside the orb, watching the smaller spiders vanish into it, their summoning crystals glowing bright amber as they leapt into the light.

"That's not going to be easy," Spears answered.

[SUMMARY: The true nature of Location X is revealed.]
Re: Location X


Marvin was against the tunnel wall again, cradling his injured arm after the Sergeant had twisted it. Thankfully the pain had taken his mind off the soul-drenching terror of his predicament.

"So.... we're at the homeworld of the Spiders. But... but this ain't a world, Sarge... someone BUILT this place."

"That they did, Trooper," answered Spears, who was now checking the cliff-face beyond the precipice, looking for paths and handholds. "A giant machine, constructed for a purpose."

His half-asleep though hawk-like eyes scanned the valley below, where the massive city-like spider hung over the orb of light to which the Elder Spiders were migrating.

"See that orb of light down there?"


"Y... yeah," answered Marvin as he found the strength to get up again, still cradling his arm.

"I think that's home."



"Shit... shit, shit, shit..."

Spears shot the trooper another look to stop his panic escalting. Then he nodded to the horizon, where the great machine-towers punctuated the landscape.


"Those towers have got the same spheres of light in them. They must be other worlds... stored..." He looked again at the valley below, "Processed..."

"They're trying to process Iwaku?! The fuck you mean, Sarge?"

"I don't know," muttered the Sergeant, his brow creased in thought, his hand scratching idly at the wheel-tattoo on his bare chest. "But the way they attacked... it wasn't just a strategic invasion. They were looking for something. And it's taking them too long..." He nodded at the valley again, where thousands and thousands of spiders were vanishing into the orb of light. "They're getting impatient... I can feel it--"

Suddenly his arm was seized. Spears turned to see Marvin gripping his wrist, the gunner's eyes staring upwards, into the smog-laden air. He was now as pale as ivory. "S...sarge... I think I've found the creator..."

Spears followed his gaze upwards, and there, through a clear patch in the toxic clouds, he saw something descending... something bigger than the Spider City below... something more powerful and more terrifying than any of the Elders before.

Re: Location X

"Going up to the spirit in the sky..."

"... that's where I'm going to go when I die..."

"...when I did and they lay me to rest..."

"...I'm gonna go... to the place... that's..."

Jake winced as another ripple of pain washed from his back and through his body. The morphine was starting to wear off. He gasped, blinking up at the ceiling of the cavern and the embedded leg of the Spider looming over him. It was emitting a pale light - his only illumination in the chamber since the others had left.

"Prepare yourself.... you know it's a must... gotta have a friend in..."

He thought he heard a voice... his youngest, Tarquin. He was the runner - always charging around with his tongue out. Jake always told him that he'd fall over one day and bite his tongue clean off.

Jessy would be cooking dinner about now, the soldier thought, picturing his wife at the stove, back in Moscow Town.

They must be wondering where he is... Carly would be waiting for her bedtime story.

Bedtime... I'm coming Carly... I'm here, darling...

Jake's eyes rolled closed.

Light streaked across his vision. He was moving, tossed from side to side, the rocks passing. Perhaps he was falling. But there were hands on him, one on each shoulder, holding him to a soft but taut surface. Marvin and the Sergeant were either side of him, telling him something. He tried to hear but he couldn't for the sound of their boots, thumping on the stone. They were running, carrying Jake between them, their flashlights navigating through the tunnel.

"Hang on, Solidier," spoke the Sergeant's voice, "We're going home!"

But it wasn't calm - not like the Sarge usually was. There was urgency. Spears was trying to get somewhere.

Finally, there was light, and cool air. The world seemed to turn. Jake blinked as he was pulled out of the stretcher, Marvin and Spears supporting his arms. He stared out into the night, feeling the verge of the cliff beneath his toes.

"We gotta jump, Man!" shouted Marvin's panicking voice. "We gotta do it!"

"Keep your body loose, Jake." The Sergeant slapped his shoulder. "Try to roll when we hit. We won't let you fall."

There were other orders, but they were drowned. There was thunder, rising from below, shaking the world. It felt as if his bones were separating, his skull fracturing under the pressure.

Something was rising, from below... something huge... something terrifying.... and all around there were spiders dying. The Elders were being fried... the machines ripped apart, the Noobs disabled. Something was destroying them... in their hundreds...

And the three ISAF soldiers were falling towards it. Spears had pulled him... pulled Jake and Marvin into the open air, and they were falling towards it... towards the saviour....

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