I’ve been resting for too long. How long has it been? My only reassurance that the gate is closed. But they won’t be gone long. They never are. I make my way to the armory, hoping my armor isn’t too badly damaged. Right, what am I thinking? There’s no time. Especially with those politicians grilling me on what had happened since we left, whether Somsien could be trusted. I don’t care if he saved my ass once, if I have to bail him out again… There’s never any time.
On my way, Dahvid falls in step beside me, “Have you seen him?”
“Seen who?” I ask, “Somsien?”
Dahvid’s oil covered face beams like a child with a secret, “I guess not then. He’s all tattooed up. And I think he has his tongue pierced, but he wouldn’t talk. He was heading out on another patrol.”
“Uh huh…” I couldn’t even process it all at once, so I changed the subject, “You been workin’ on those bombs on wheels in the shop?”
“Just cause they run on fossil fuel doesn’t make them that dangerous. We’re lucky they do,” he seemed offended.
I was never a big fan of classic vehicles. But hydrogen cells and engines are nearly impossible to come by, and the hierarchs think vehicles like those in the shop would be a waste of enchantments. So they run on good old gasoline. After the global switch to “clean” hydrogen, gas prices were negligible- until use of gasoline was deemed hazardous and you needed special licenses to handle the stuff.
“And besides, you don’t need all the computers to fix them like the new vehicles. You just use your hands… and a helper bot. It hands me all my tools ‘cause not many people will sit that close to a few gallons of explosive liquid for very long,” he shrugs a little, “I dunno why not…”
We arrive at the armory to several techsmiths looking over our armor. They all seem very unhappy as I reach the group.
“What’s up guys?” I ask, before I see my armor lying on the table, “Wow, I didn’t realize titanium could shatter like that…”
“It’s shot. The whole entire thing is just shot to heck,” the lead smith, Aeliis, says while shaking his head in disbelief.
“To hell,” Dahvid chimes in.
“I can’t believe it got this jacked up…”
“I think you mean fu-” his sentence ends in an oof noise as I elbow him in the ribs.
“You guys can’t fix it?” I ask, knowing there wasn’t much to do about it.
“No. But, if it’s any consolation, it’s not all your fault… if getting all grasped up by a ghoul can be overlooked. I think we may have forged the inner, steel plates wrong,” the techsmith walks around the table and picks up a piece.
His US military flight-suit is outfitted with several pockets that hold any assortment of tools and spell repair foci. Yet the most absurd thing about him is his absence of hair- besides a thick braid from the back of his head like in the old kung-fu movies. I never did ask about that…
“You see, when we quenched the plates, you were rushing me. Not thinking, I water quenched them. While this made them harder, they were weaker,” Aeliis launched full force into an unnecessary explanation, “Because diffusion of the carbon atoms couldn’t occur at that rate of cooling, it made it a fine pearlite- they distorted the lattice and hardened the steel into martensite, and super saturated the carbon in the alpha iron. While this increased the magnetism and arcane charge carrying capability, it made the steel much too brittle. In turn-”
“Nevermind. What do we do now?” I ask, much too confused by his rant.
“Well, we’ve been working on a new alloy of Palladium that we think-”
“Palladium? It’s low grade platinum. We can’t make armor out of that!”
“When it’s alloyed and enchanted it’s… well, really strong.”
“Well, how long ‘til it’s done?” I ask, impatient as ever.
“If we forged you a new suit straight out? The plates are done, but three weeks for the underlay,” he says, but follows quickly with, “But we have a better method.”
It can’t be three weeks; we don’t have enough people out on the field. I just listen, hopeful his new method is plausible.
“We’re going to thixoform it directly onto you. With nano-tech, the rheopectic properties can be changed on a molecular level. We’re basically going to spray-paint your underlay on, then you set the hardness, and cover it in plate. And it will act as a cushion when impacted hard enough.”
I can tell Dahvid is pretty lost with all the jargon, no matter how mechanical minded he is, “What’s thickso-”
“The concept is that the substance’s viscosity will decrease when agitated. If you move it, it turns into a liquid. Sort of like the opposite of quicksand, which is shear-thickening. But they say I can control it’s solidity with the suit’s computers,” I knew I’d gone to college for a reason.
“Oook,” I can tell he’s still very lost.
“Good, let’s try it,” I say, confident Aeliis knows what he’s doing, “When can we give it a shot?”
“A few days at the most, I have to get everything together,” Aeliis said, overjoyed I agreed to his unorthodox idea.
All the techsmiths scatter as he begins calling out instructions, like ants on a mission. I miss ants…
Dahvid looks bewildered, like a child who went astray from their family in a toy store- lost, but it can’t be soo bad.
I ask him, “Hey, I’ll come watch you fix those bikes if you want. Maybe somethin’ will blow up…”
We both laugh a little, as the airlock begins to open on the other side of the room. We turn to see the huge doors spread apart to allow a hunched over figure in a tattered trench coat limp in through the opening.
Somsien approaches us, whispering something, gasping it under his breath. Blood drips all over the floor, from the bottom hem of his coat, from his right hand clutching some gruesome mass, and his left hand covering the left side of his face. The right side of his face is covered with what looks like a masquerade mask tattooed on his skin, but the most demonic mask I’ve ever seen, that trails down his neck onto his bare upper-chest. It looks like he hadn’t been wearing a shirt at all, but the overcoat and pants he’s wearing are torn to bloody shreds.
He holds out his hand as if to offer its contents, and he lowers the other from his face. His left eye is missing from its socket, pouring blood from a horizontal claw slash from the bridge of his nose to his temple. I look into my hand to find it filled with an assortment of gory demon eyes, and I finally hear what he says before he collapses on the floor, “It’s OK… I got them back.”