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Spike

The Underworld : Corrupted (Part II)

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Shadows. Only the shadows protected their passage, the cold darkness swallowing their movements. Wooden shacks were passed, towering structures bypassed as the three figures crept towards their goal, weary and wary.
"There", McMillan whispered, pointing towards a low, almost industrious structure that surrounded the towering palace at the center of the necropolis. "There's no other way; we'll have to get through there."
"I don't like this," Hendry muttered. His eyes darted left to right, drinking in every detail, every point of ambush. "It's too easy. They've gotta know we're here by now."
High up above, the ponderous red bulk of a cacodemon drifted past without a second glance, continuing its watch.
"We've gotten this far," Kalliope smiled. "We can do this".
"Precisely", the Colonel grinned. "Now, let's move. Keep low if you can, and stay in the shadows."
Less than a minute later, the invaders reached the rusting structure, silently padding towards a heavy iron door. It hung open and unattended, leaving no clue as to what it contained.
"In, now." McMillan hissed, nodding towards the darkness within. Hendry and Kalliope slipped through the door. Checking the immediate area outside one more time, the Colonel followed.
"What the fuck is this place?" Hendry muttered. Kalliope moved to his side, gazing around the room. McMillan joined them a moment later, nodding as he recognised the equipment.
"Spawning vats", he stated. "Baphomet can spawn demons a-plenty, but not enough to justify the numbers we've been up against. These do the rest of the work."
The room was like some oversized corridor, a good thirty feet tall and just as wide. From the wall opposite the door jutted a series a massive, bowl-like objects, raised several feet from the ground and interconnected by transparent pipes containing a virtioloc green-black liquid. The vats bubbled quietly, the sound overlaying the soft breathing of unseen equipment.
Hendry lowered his rifle and stepped towards the nearest vat, pulling himself up just enough so as to seen inside. He remained there for a moment before dropping back to the ground, brushing dust from his hands and shaking his head. "They're empty" he sighed.
"What?" McMillan looked confused.
"Yeah, empty. Maybe it's an industrial action. Like the Workers Union stepped in." Hendry's grin was not mirrored by the Colonel. "This is good, right? Nothing here that's gonna jump out and get us."
The sudden flash of heat caught everyone off-guard.
Two towering, shimmering Arch-Viles materialised from the burst of flames, stepping towards the marines. A third blinding flash, a little behind the demons, faded quickly to reveal a near-human form. White eyes narrowed as it regarded the invaders, a fanged grin spreading across its face. The former human Wilson raised his arm to point a long, bony finger towards Hendry.
"Take him", he hissed.
The Arch-Viles leapt foward, launching bursts of fire towards Kalliope and McMillan. They threw themselves towards the ground, away from the searing heat. In that instant the glowing creatures wrapped long, slender fingers around Hendry's arms before vanishing amid another flash of heat and the Corporal's screaming protests.
"Hendry!" Kalliope yelled. She was suddenly back on her feet, but it was too late; the Corporal was gone.
"Where is he?" McMillan growled, hauling himself up. "What have you done with him?"
Wilson gave an indifferent shrug. "Why are you so concerned? You'll all be dead before long, with nothing to show for your efforts. Why waste time trying to find a soul, lost forever?" He grinned again, raising his rocket launcher. McMillan took a step back, grabbing Kalliope by the arm as he did so, urging her away. This couldn't be the end, not after everything they'd been through...
It was then that Wilson screamed.
An agonized, blood chilling shriek accompanied by the crack of bone as his kneecaps abruptly shattered. He swayed uncertainly, his eyelids fluttering over those milky white orbs before crashing to the ground. Kalliope and McMillan exchanged nervous glances before looking back down again upon the twisted ex-marine. The flesh surrounding his knees was quickly darkening into a blue-black bruise - a second later, the colour faded back to a discoloured white.
Kalliope swallowed, her eyes trying to watch everything around her at once. "Is he...?"
"'Don't know; not sure if I want to, but..." Taking slow, cautious steps, McMillan closed in on the broken form, shouldering his rifle and crouching down to check Wilson's pulse. Calloused fingers pressed around the left inner wrist - he glanced nervously at the prosthetic launcher resting mere feet away - hunting for some steady rythm of life. Frowning, he shifted his attentions to the carteroid artery, noticing with some disgust how it had become strangely bloated and discoloured, bulging from his neck like an elongated tumour. Before standing, McMillan shot one last glance at Wilson's knees. The legs had re-set themselves - but they were wrong; inverted, more like those of a goat. Or a demon...
"The will of the Master fashions the body of the Servant", Wilson chuckled.
The Colonel stumbled backwards, snatching for his plasma rifle. Behind him, Kalliope's shotgun was snatched up and aimed at the demonic human before them.
"Now now, there's no need for that..." The former human gestured towards the weapons. "Besides, I could kill you with a thought. We wouldn't want that, would we?"
"What's happening to you?" Kalliope asked, her voice and hands trembling.
Wilson glanced down at his legs. "Oh, that" he waved his hand dismissively. "A forseeable consequence. I suppose it caught me off guard", he seemed almost thoughtful for a moment, though his colourless eyes refused to betray his emotions. "Only by physical change can I accomodate my master; only by strengthening the body, breaking free of the shackles that my human body imposed. I was weak..." He began to stand, unsteady at first upon those animal-like limbs. "But now I am free."
He was upright now, his inhuman, decaying form straightened and stable. Kalliope aimed a little higher.
"Where's Hendry?"
Another of those chilling laughs escaped Wilson's lips. "Oh, Billy. Yes, I'd almost forgotten about him. He's rejoining the fold, returning to us. He's where he belongs."
"What the fuck are you talking about?" McMillan growled, stepping closer to the former human. "What do you mean, 'where he belongs'?"
The laughter came louder this time, more ebrasive, more malevolent. "You didn't know, did you?" His lips peeled back in an expansive grin, revealing sharp fangs that hadn't been there before. "You really had no idea!"
"Answer Me!" The Colonel yelled, reaching forward to grip Wilson by his cold, rotting throat. "Where is he?"
Wilson's eyes narrowed to slits, and with a swift blur of movement he swung the rocket launcher up into McMillan's face, sending him sprawling onto the ground.
"Hendry is one of us; he has been ever since my Master sent his forces to Athens. His body was shattered, but healed. Only his mind survived intact; we intend to correct the oversight."
"Fuck you", Kalliope growled as she pulled the trigger.
The shells spattered against the far wall of the spawning chamber as Wilson vanished in a pillar of flames. The only testament to his presence was the blackened, scorched floor where he'd stood. And something else. A few feet away, she could see a cluster of small, pink-white objects, ten in all. She eased in close for a better look, then drew away in disgust as she recognised them. Toes. Wilson's toes. It didn't make any sense...
"We've got to find Hendry", McMillan groaned from behind her. "Before it's too late."
His hand was fastened over his face, blood seeping steadily between dirt encrusted fingers. Kalliope stepped over to him and moved his hand away, inspecting the broken nose beneath.
"Can you manage?" She asked as he began to haul himself upright.
"As always", he muttered, a sour look on his face as he tasted and spat out coppery blood. "But we've gotta find Hendry soon".
"What was he talking about?" Kalliope asked, referring to the thing that had been Wilson. "He was lying about Hendry, yes? About him being dead..."
McMillan shook his head. It all made so much sense, now. The stigmatic wounds, the golden beast, the laughing... it made too much sense.
"He died at Athens Base", McMillan stated flatly. "He was killed defending the installation. But... they must have done something to him. Bought him back. They can do that, you know." He shuddered, remembering the Arch-Viles of the first invasion and their ability to raise the dead.
"But he was on our side!" Kalliope couldn't fathom it. "He fought with us; we may not have gotten this far without him."
McMillan grunted, flexing his his cybernetic hand; luckily, it hadn't been damaged in the fall.
"We can still get him back" he sighed. "We've just got to get to him before they correct their mistake. Before they corrupt him any further."
Kalliope looked around the spawning chamber again, suddenly aware of their vulnerability in that place. They still hadn't been attacked; surely the noise would have attracted the demons by now?
"So where could he be?", She asked.
"Baphomet. He'll be with Baphomet. It'll want to gloat before it finishes what it started. We push on," McMillan grabbed his rifle, checked the remaining charge. "We're gonna finish this in our own way."
Kalliope nodded, the Colonel's infectious determination infusing her with new hope. She grinned wolfishly.
"Let's get him back."

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