Inane Tales of Kenshi - Chapter 3 - CT_7567 (2024)

Chapter Text

The rain batters endlessly against the durasteel roof, its acidic components unable to wear down the dense metal even after thousands of years of trying. It streams down the sides of the buildings in rivulets, pooling and soaking into the moist, black sand below only to slowly evaporate into the toxic fog above. It cycles and repeats over and over like the world around this city, and yet the buildings and those inside of them remain the same. They’re built of the same stuff, the buildings and their people, and here they all remain eons after their creators have turned to dust. The skeletons feign ignorance of the past, but I’ve been here long enough to know better. I hear the conversations they have when they believe us organics are asleep. I see the wistful glances they spare on the rare nights the planet is visible.

I have also noticed the bemused glares they aim at our new arrivals. They can’t help but see hivers as human, though our bodies seem to confuse them. Maybe it’s easier for them to pretend.

The rain had soaked Green through to his skin, his cloak and wraps much heavier with the additional weight. He glanced behind them, eyes scanning the line where the last hill disappeared into the low-hanging clouds. The bandits that had been tracking them were nowhere to be seen. Smart. They must know the clouds above the Deadlands tended to pour acid more often than not and decided not to chance it. He himself couldn’t tell the difference, but he was thankful regardless.

"’Ey. They don't seem to like us, do they?" The one robed in green chuckles as he sips at a bottle he'd produced from the pouch at his waist. Apparently, the skeletons are a lot less subtle than they thought.

"They do not like outsiders."

He laughs again. "Who does?"

The green one is clever.

The Up-Sticks, as the clever one introduced them, arrived at the inn three days ago. They were in a sorry state indeed - four of them were unconscious and being dragged in by the others. The Prince who speaks like a United City native had to run back out into the storm to help their last member, who was hobbling through the black sands on a broken leg. One of the Princes was missing his entire right leg, and Green, the clever one had lost his right arm up to his elbow. Surprisingly he was the one who was of sound enough mind to explain what had happened: they were traveling northeast from Skinner’s Roam when they’d been suddenly attacked by a deadly accurate sniper. I know the place well: it’s one of the last oldworld bunkers still standing. There’s a bot holed up inside, one who genuinely did lose his mind long ago. Green was hit first and their leader, Pili, was shot down trying to pick him up. Another, Gar, was unlucky enough to be hit in the head and was gone before he hit the dirt. Several more of their caravan went down in seconds. In the ensuing chaos the hunched silver one was able to drag the injured into cover, and from there the remaining group was able to hobble its way to the city.

He glanced around at their group. Bigger than it had been when they’d picked him up from that swampy drunk tank. They numbered closer to fifteen now, with Gar being their newest recruit. The western worker appeared to be talking animatedly at their leader, who was huddled into herself with her eyes downcast. She’d been distracted ever since they’d overheard a story of the United Cities general, Eyegore. A terrifyingly strong southern hiver, it was said he feasted on babies and could take on an army of skeletons single-handedly. Green was ready to chalk it up to a ridiculous legend, but Pili was immediately intrigued. She’d asked the barfly who relayed the story a dozen questions about him, but the drunkard knew little more than what he’d already conveyed. She’d been pensive ever since.

They’re in shock, for the most part. I’ve sourced replacement parts for both Green and the one-legged Prince, Silvershade. Green seems entertained by the fact that his new hand has more fingers than his old one, whereas the Prince is clearly very upset by his need for a prosthetic. I can’t entirely blame him; skeleton limbs would be heavy and unwieldy to any hiver. It’s unfortunate they chose now to arrive in the city - Foren and Longstoat left a fortnight ago to attempt to sell their custom hiver pieces to the more open-minded westerners, prosthetics that would have suited these travelers much better.

"So these friends of yours, they're, ah - they're like you?" Green asks, unsuccessful in his attempt to hide his curious glances at my torso. I look down, my enhanced vision easily tracking the tubes and wires as they snake in and out of my body. Perhaps it's garish to him, but to me it is a thing of beauty.

I nod. "They are also enhanced, yes. And the limbs they create are better in quality than even the skeletons can do."

Green does a clumsy flick with his new wrist and picks up the cap to his bottle, gingerly twisting it closed. “Ah, these aren’t so bad. With a little practice, I’m sure I’ll be able to reload my bow with it. Maybe I’ll even become a martial artist now? This is obviously a lot more durable than bone and skin.” His brighter outlook is surprising and, in a city rife with martyrdom, refreshing.

Not that Pili was the only one who’s mood had taken a turn for the worse. Most of their number was comprised of western hivers, and the constant downpour on their backs was familiar in the worst way. Shio had picked Shiver up when she’d begun to lag behind the party and was patting her back, looking like he was soothing himself while his eyes scanned over the darkened, dangerous territory. Jay and Kael were murmuring quietly to themselves, and Silvershade was hunched in much the same manner as their Princess. Even Beep, who was usually unflappable had not spoken since the rain had begun, opting instead to keep watch near the front of the swarm.

The other wounded have recovered quickly, as hivers do. Most of them are westerners themselves, a whole host of unwanted worker drones. The one soldier drone, Ray, is silent and has the concave stance of an ex-slave. Similarly, the juvenile female is hunched and apprehensive, attached at the hip to the one she calls “big brother”. The pale one covers his head at all times, perhaps trying and failing to hide his status as a deadhive. They are an incredibly strange group, as all lost hivers are, but perhaps no stranger than a southern hive soldier with cybernetic implants. No stranger than their leader herself.

“Spot me a sip, Greenie,” said leader intones, pulling up a stool in the empty space to my right. Her head is bandaged but is healing well, and otherwise looks to be in good shape. He hands her the bottle and she unscrews the cap, tilting it toward him with a solemn look on her face. “To Gar, and to Kael.” She takes a short sip and hands it back to him. He repeats her words and sips, and the table is quiet.

His own memories of the Hive threatened to overwhelm him if he inspected them too closely, if he acknowledged how he could almost believe he was back home if he closed his eyes and just let the water track along his body. He sighed and raised his right arm, shaking away the wet robes and reaching toward the darkened sky.

Pili is a southern hiver as well, obviously a princess. She arrived sporting her own clunky, rusted prosthetic leg, assumingly earned when she’d left the south. She looked uncomfortable when I first approached her, but after I made it clear that I didn’t care who or what she is, she relaxed considerably. I’m sure her last experience with red drones was none too pleasant. I’m honestly surprised she had the speed to outrun their clutches and the iron jaws of the King.

As for me, I do not care to know what the southerners have done since I left their ranks. I left them to improve my own strength, with the King as my first inspiration. Even still, I know how they would react were I to attempt to return. It is not something I plan on ever doing.

However, I may follow these lost ones for a time, at least to try to help them reach their destination. Perhaps we will also be able to track down my compatriots. With how danger seems to follow this Lost Hive, I may even get the opportunity to replace my remaining organic limbs with Longstoat’s latest design. Hiver prosthetics are truly superior to the skeletons, regardless of what the latter believe.

Thunder rumbled and lightning streaked across the void. Where his arm had been was now only fire. The rain hadn’t stopped, but as he fell to the sand below his feet all he could hear were screams. How odd.

Inane Tales of Kenshi - Chapter 3 - CT_7567 (2024)
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