Snow Angel: Chapter 11

Printer-friendly version
snow angel.png

 

Chapter 11: Badass

Snow's whole life changes when the winter solstice arrives.

 

“What thing?” Karina asked in confusion.

 


 
Author's Note: Here is chapter 11 of Snow Angel. Thanks to Big Closet and to all my readers for your support. I hope you all enjoy. Further chapters are available on Patreon.~Amethyst.
 


 
Chapter 11: Badass

“Be careful of the webs and don’t let them cocoon you, their silk is coated in a very potent paralyzing agent,” my grandmother warned us all before turning to give me a serious look. “What is the plan, Wing Commander?” Oh, spirits, she looked super serious and she even used my title, meaning that she was placing all of this on my shoulders. I knew that she’d pull us out if things got too intense and it looked like we were in danger but she was expecting us (and by us, I mean me) to at least try to deal with this situation like real Angels first.

There were way too many Spidren, which meant that I was probably going to have to use that mode. I wasn’t sure how much energy that was going to use though, I hadn’t even tested it yet, and the mere thought of using it was even more uncomfortable than using the Claymore mode. Dammit, there was no choice here.

I took a deep breath and began to issue orders. “I want Lisbet, Heather, and our Wingleader on that big pile of rubble just behind us there. I need you watching our backs and taking out any targets that look like they might get too close. Lisbet, use grenades first to help me thin them out, then you can switch to pulse-cannon mode when it gets to close-quarters fighting. Karina and Autumn, you’re with me, try and take out any strays but don’t get in front of me until I switch back to Claymore mode, I’m not sure how well I can aim this thing.”

“What thing?” Karina asked in confusion.

“You’ll find out in a minute,” I said with a sigh. “Everyone get in position. Connie… Gatling mode.”

-= Affirmative. Pulse Gatling mode engaged. =-

Once again, the Goliath shifted to change even as Connie confirmed my order. I could feel it shifting on my back in time with the rapid whirrs and clicks. By the time I had reached back to draw the large weapon, the change was mostly complete. It was complete by the time that I had it fully in hand.

The hilt had shifted position to become a more firearms-like handle with a trigger and the wide guard was mostly in the same place and configuration to help me steady the weapon with my off-hand as I fired. The blade had split in two, much as it had with the hardlight shield mode, and then split into armored plates to protect the insides of the new weapon configuration as the six pipes inside with the extra-dimensional energy regulators became barrels. The barrels were half exposed as most of the armor had been shifted to protect the inner workings of the massive gun which was still nearly as long as my claymore and wide enough that I would have needed four hands to encircle the six barrels.

If the data that I had been given was correct, the barrels would rotate at high speed and spew out rapid-fire bursts of energy similar to Lisbet’s pulse cannon. This was a prototype though so it could be just as likely to not work at all. This would be a really bad time to find that out. I should have tested it earlier. I took a deep breath, gripped the former guard to steady the weapon, and then I held down the trigger.

The effect was immediate and I could have sworn that I heard Karina mutter, “Holy shit,” as a barrage of violet-colored energy bursts tore through the leading wave of Spidren on the ground and the ground itself, sending up a cloud of displaced snow and stone shrapnel. By the spirits, this thing was overpowered as hell. I guess the downside was that subtlety went right out the window, along with precision. I could only really aim at the general area that I wanted and let the chaos begin.

I had been worried that this mode was going to drain me as much as the hardlight shield had but where that had taken a bunch of energy at once and then very little to keep it going, the Gatling mode was a steadier and more constant draw of energy. It was more than what was required for the shield once it was in place but a lot less than the massive drain of erecting the shield in the first place. I could likely keep it up for a little while but I was probably going to start feeling more strain on my Seed-borne gift the longer that I kept firing.

I swept the weapon around as best I could, trying to take out as many Spidren as I could on both ground level and around the walls. The occasional explosions told me that Lisbet had loaded up her grenades and was trying to hit the spots where the Demon coverage was the thickest behind the leading edge. To my right, the occasional beam of red energy would seek out a target outside of the main swarm, while Karina’s cable scythes would whip out to eviscerate whatever was in their path. She really was good with those things. Heather was calling out any targets and taking out those that threatened to slip by while my grandmother was focusing on the Spidren high up on the walls, probably so they couldn’t jump us.

After what seemed an eternity, but was probably only a couple of handfuls of minutes, I started to feel the strain and the rate of fire from the Goliath was visibly slowing. It was time to go to close quarters, but at least we had thinned out the Spidren enough to make that viable. “Connie, Claymore mode, and engage comms for Storm Wing,” I told my NCI, barely paying attention to her confirmation and the weapon in my hands changing as I started to issue orders to the others. “I’ll take the leftovers on the ground while Lisbet covers me. Autumn and Heather, you have the buildings on the right, and Karina and our Wingleader will take the left. Avoid the webs and call out if you have trouble or spot something that someone else may be missing.”

I ran forward, swinging my massive blade in a wide arc to cut four of a Spidren’s legs out from underneath it. Too much momentum, I was going to need to work on that or it would put me off balance. It would take too much time to get my sword back into position so I just stomped on the creature’s now lowered head. It was finished with a satisfying splat and a far less satisfying explosion of brains and goo that got all over my bare legs and boots.

I didn’t have a chance to think too much about it, or that we really should try to get some clothes more suitable for combat than our simple dresses, because another pair were coming at me. A burst of violet energy sizzled past me to take out the one on my right so I used the flat of my sword to bat the second aside. As soon as I had space, I jumped at it with an overhand swing that cut the creature in half and left a sizable crack in the stone street that had already been pummeled by my weapon’s Gatling mode, sending bits of the stone flying everywhere.

To my left I could see Karina hovering, her scythes whipping out in a dance of death and evisceration to the Spidren around her before disappearing in a puff of smoke to do it all again with another group. My grandmother quickly took down any that seemed to be getting too close to the Devilkin with well-placed sniper fire. I quickly removed the head of an approaching Spidren and had to roll away to avoid another who was trying to web me up. A shot from Lisbet made short work of it and I was able to move on to drive my sword right between the eyes (all eight of them) of another.

I was extracting my sword from the corpse when Heather called out, “Autumn, behind you! I can’t risk firing; I might hit you!” A quick glance showed the redheaded Fay pulling her own sword from a Spidren’s now-falling corpse as another jumped at her from behind. Autumn quickly jumped away from the wall, she must have temporarily lowered her gravity in relation to the wall that she had been standing on because she was a good thirty feet away before she started to ‘fall’ back toward it, with enough force to crumple the Spidren beneath her as she landed.

The battle continued like that for a while until finally, we had killed the whole swarm. Once we were certain that nothing else was going to attack us, we piled up the corpses and set fire to them. That took a while, and it was starting to get dark before we had time to stop, eat something, and discuss things as we watched the corpses burn.

We had been mostly quiet while we worked but Lisbet had even more questions now about my weapon. Like for instance, “Why didn’t you tell us that your weapon had a third mode? I can see why you didn’t want to use it for target practice, that mode must use up a lot of energy and it’s not exactly a precision weapon, but you could have at least told us instead of doing the dramatic reveal.”

I sighed and looked away from the others. “I… was embarrassed. Big sword, big gun, and big shield… it feels like a weapon that a guy would have, a guy who is overcompensating for something. It hurt to get assigned something like that after finally becoming the girl that I always wanted to be. I… people might see me as…”

I trailed off, not even sure where I was going with that train of thought myself. Karina had her own ideas though as the Devilkin asked, “As what? A total badass? That’s what you look like, Snow. Not a guy, just a badass, and girls are allowed to be badass too.”

“Yeah, you’d think you of all people would know that. Just look at who your grandmother is,” Heather pointed out with a roll of her eyes. “And not many people, male or female, would jump out of a flying veetol without a second thought to save the life of someone who treated them as badly as I treated you. If that’s not the mark of a badass, I don’t know what is.” It was still a little strange to have Heather talking to me without all of the aggression and jealousy, and as much as I hated to admit it, she and Karina had a point.

“You are our Snowy, that is how we see you; as a strong, confident, and yes, very badass girl. Do not allow what others might think to bother you. We are your team, your friends, and we see you for who you are,” Autumn said as she wrapped her arms around me and nuzzled me affectionately. “In the future, please tell us when you are upset about something. We cannot help you if you keep it all bottled up and we do not know that there is a problem.”

“Sorry, everyone. You’re all right, I’ll try to get past this. The Goliath is actually starting to grow on me. If I didn’t have its hardlight shield mode, Autumn and I would have been dead for sure. The other modes have their uses too, and I’ll use whatever I can to keep us all safe,” I told them all seriously.

“I hate to be the one to break this up by bringing up cold, hard reality but I’m almost out of ammunition,” our trainer interjected with a frown. “I was hoping to use stealth to avoid most of the Demons here. I certainly wasn’t expecting to fight a Fenrir and the biggest swarm of Spidren that I’ve ever seen.”

“I’m almost out too,” Heather agreed with a sigh.

“Me too,” Lisbet added. “I used up most of my explosive grenades against those gross spider Demons. It won’t be too much of an effort for Heather and me to shape some new ammunition for their rifles, she’ll just need to find a suitably magnetic metal to work with. It won’t be perfect but it’ll work. Getting the materials so that we can work on making more grenades is going to be more difficult though.”

“And so it’s decision time, Wing Commander,” my grandmother said, her gaze falling upon me. “Do we continue on or abort the mission and call for an extraction? If we choose to keep going, we’ll have to rely more on close-quarters combat. Even those of you with pure energy weapons can’t use them continually, you’ll just end up tiring yourselves, and with all the Demons around here that would be dangerous.”

As much as I was worried about the safety of my team if we pressed forward, I also thought that we could do this. We had done fairly well so far, after all. I didn’t want to disappoint my grandmother or Sira either, they thought that we could do this. “Connie, how close are we to our objective?” I asked after a moment of thinking.

-= The target zone is estimated to be four miles north by northeast from here, =- my NCI quickly responded.

We could be there in a couple of hours, even taking it slow. Hopefully, there would be some supplies or even raw materials that we could use there. Either way, it seemed stupid to stop and turn back now that we were so close to our objective. “We keep going, we’re almost there anyway. We’re all too tired to push on further tonight though, so we’ll find someplace not too gross to use for cover and spent the night here so Lisbet and Heather can make some bullets, and then we’ll head out at first light. Karina and Autumn will scout ahead but keep in contact through comms in case they encounter something and need backup.”

We managed to find a shell of an old building that would make a suitable campsite for the night and Heather even found some scrap metal that Lisbet thought would make suitable bullets for the Shadowstrikes by using her Alchemist sense. Together, she and Lisbet were able to extract enough that Lisbet could make a small supply of roughly bullet-shaped projectiles of the right size. While they worked, my grandmother kept watch and Autumn snuggled up against me and gave all of us a lesson on the Fay and their culture.

As she had said before, when the old world fell the Fay cast aside their humanity and created their own culture, morals, and beliefs on what felt right to them. One of the biggest things was that there were no set gender roles, in fact, gender wasn’t really important to them in their day-to-day lives except for biological necessities. Females were treated no differently than males because they didn’t see people that way, they saw them as people first. This was why so many of the Fay were what Autumn called panromantic because, for them, physical bodies were secondary to the person who inhabited them.

It was quite a bit different from the way that humans saw gender and attraction. And my own situation was a bit different from that perspective as well. Among Animen, males and females are seen as very different, both biologically and spiritually. So two-spirited people like me, who were born physically with one gender and spiritually with the other are seen as very special because they bridge the gap between the two. As a result, we’re treated differently from everyone else. In a way that hurt as much as people who wouldn’t accept me for who I was because, while I just wanted to be treated like a normal girl, to my people I was both male and female, and a little bit more as well.

Had I been born in a Fay village I would have been treated as a normal person first because normal is an individual thing not a species thing. I guess that people like me are just as uncommon among the Fay but they’re encouraged to be who they want without having any expectations put upon them. They are loved for who they are inside, so it doesn’t matter to anyone else if they want to change how the outside presents because it won’t change who they really are. It also fits with the whole honesty thing and being one with nature, especially one’s own nature.

Honestly, the more that I heard about Fay culture, the more I liked it. It made sense to me. Autumn also went over a lot of the social dos and don’ts, formal greetings, and how to politely decline if someone was getting too up close and personal for you. A lot of their culture was based on physical contact and honesty though. The honesty part is important since they don’t want to make others uncomfortable because they expect the same courtesy.

Fay honestly cared for other people and the more they cared for a person the more they showed it through their words and actions. When someone hurts someone that they care for, mama bears don’t have anything on the Fay. Their generally caring, mischievous, and playful natures can turn to vengeance at the drop of a hat. Again, it’s being true to their nature and it’s a hard thing for them to restrain.

From what I was learning, it was actually kind of flattering to know that Autumn was considering me as a potential mate because the Fay stay true to their bond-mates for life. Even without the Angel Elixir, they generally live a lot longer than Humans, Animen, or Devilkin. Autumn said that some Fay in her family had lived to be up to three hundred years old. It was nice to hear her so enthusiastic as she taught us more about her people, and I thought that maybe she was doing so for my benefit as well as Heather’s.

Autumn really wanted to take us into the forest at some point to teach us more though because respect for life in all of its forms is a big part of who the Fay are, and it was something that Heather would be expected to know about if she met other Fay. They care for injured animals, tend gardens of herbs and other useful plants, and are very knowledgeable in both topics. They’re omnivores but they only really hunt creatures whose numbers or general nature are a danger to the delicate balance of the ecosystem that they live in. Even then, they thank the animal for its sacrifice.

Eventually, it was time for us to set watches and get some sleep. Lisbet and my grandmother offered to take the first watch and wake Karina and Heather for the second watch so I gratefully climbed into Autumn’s bedroll and snuggled up with her to get some sleep. All of that walking and fighting had made for a long and exhausting day, and pushing the energy limits of my Seed-borne gift hadn’t helped matters.

~o~O~o~

It was still dark when Heather and Karina woke me and Autumn for our turn at watch six hours later. Not much happened during our watch except for some kissing and cuddling since neither of us heard, smelled, or saw anything that would be a threat. Finally, not long after dawn, Connie let me know that our three hours were up and that it was time to wake the others.

Once the others were awake we had a quick breakfast from our food and water rations and then I switched on comms and sent Karina and Autumn ahead to scout. As soon as the pair were out of sight, we followed in the direction that they had taken. They checked in occasionally but except for the remains of Spidren webs they didn’t spot anything dangerous. My grandmother was worried about Spidren eggs still being in the area but there were too many massive buildings for us to perform a room-by-room check of them, even if they weren’t likely to be dangerously unstable.

After we were out of the Spidren’s territory we turned onto a street where the buildings became smaller, many were not much bigger than the Chief’s large cabin in Serkis. Granted, most of those buildings were at least partially collapsed from some sort of damage long ago and those that were somehow still standing were hollowed-out shells of what they once were. It was eerily quiet and we only ran into a few burning corpses of small Demons that our scouts had been able to take care of on their own.

It was just two hours shy into our morning journey when Karina’s uncertain-sounding voice came over the comms. -= What… the hell? =-

-= You need to come to see this, Snowy, =- Autumn’s voice added. -= Everything is clear up until here but I think that we may have found what we’re looking for. =-

“What? Already? Great work, you two,” I replied with a grin. After all of the problems that we had had up until that point, I had been fearing that it might be destroyed or really difficult to find.

-= It… wasn’t exactly hard to spot, =- Karina said in a quiet tone.

We quickened our pace and I soon discovered what they had meant. Every building ahead of us suddenly ceased to be. They had been completely obliterated and flattened, probably a long time ago from the look of it. A blanket of snow covered the uneven terrain and there, standing in the very center of it all, was a single building that shone in the light of the midmorning sun.

The building looked like a large home, constructed mostly of metal, grey stone, and glass and roughly two or three floors tall. Stone walls surrounded it, with numerous large and bulbous metal instruments atop that my grandmother thought might be heavy weapon placements. Dozens of small mechanical devices that had Lisbet itching to take a better look at them buzzed around through the air, and as we walked cautiously forward one of them approached us.

A slightly electronic voice emerged from the device as it approached. “Identify yourselves and state your business, please. This is a secure area and anyone who does not have business here will not be admitted.”

“I am Snow Bengal, and my companions are Abbadine Bengal, Heather Blossom, Lisbet Angora, Karina Lorelei, and Autumn Dawn. We were sent here from Eden Base by an artificial intelligence named Sira to see if the AI here was still active and to possibly find supplies or technology that may aid us in our fight against the Demons,” I said a little bit nervously.

The device seemed to focus a small camera similar to those that Sira used in Eden Base to look me over and then each of my companions without replying. The next sound that it made was slightly unexpected and caused me to nearly jump and draw my sword before I stopped myself. It was focused on Autumn and had made some sort of high-pitched shriek. Wait, was that a squeal of excitement?

My guess seemed to be confirmed as the voice shouted gleefully, “Mistress Kiley! You are home at last! I have missed you so much! How did you survive out there for so long?! We have so much to catch up on! I will come up to greet you immediately. Please follow the drone to the gate with your friends and I will be there in my avatar to greet you more personally.”

“Well, that was confusing,” I thought to myself as the others, who were looking just as confused, looked to me for confirmation. I shrugged and started walking after the ‘drone’, telling the others, “Our mission was to meet with the AI and get a look inside for anything useful. I’m just glad that it doesn’t look like we’re going to have to fight our way in. We’ll feel things out and then we’ll contact Sira for further orders.”

© 2021-2022 Amethyst Gibbs
All Rights Reserved

Further chapters are available to the public on my Patreon page.

up
218 users have voted.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos! Click the "Thumbs Up!" button above to leave a Kudos

Comments

Yes, indeed

Amethyst's picture

But who exactly is Mistress Kiley?

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Mistress Kiley?

a mistake in identity, or what?

DogSig.png

Most likely

Amethyst's picture

I mean, her name is obviously Autumn Dawn. Celebrity look-alike maybe?

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Mistress Kiley?

Julia Miller's picture

I think earlier in the story, the AI was around 600 years old. Mistress Kiley was probably an ancestor of Autumn and she still shares the family resemblance. We will see.

Looks like someone's

Looks like someone's ancestral genes came to the surface.


I'll get a life when it's proven and substantiated to be better than what I'm currently experiencing.

That is a possibility

Amethyst's picture

If she bears that striking a resemblance then there is probably a reason for it.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Nothing like

Wendy Jean's picture

Reuniting with an old friend.

Ain't reunions grand?

Amethyst's picture

Provided you actually know the person of course. If not, it's all kinds of awkward.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Curiouser and curiouser

It's interesting to see how they have managed so far without much in the way of weapon training to be so effective in using them.

Are they being tutored by their integrated AIs or implanted with at least basic level understanding of their weapons?

On the House AI front I am surprised she did not do more testing of Autumn Dawn before letting them in. How can the AI be so sure just by looking at her?

Internal security, for one.

Internal security, for one.


I'll get a life when it's proven and substantiated to be better than what I'm currently experiencing.

Security

Amethyst's picture

This place, whatever it is, does seem to have plenty of security, and defensive capabilities.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Possible

Amethyst's picture

The NCIs were given all the various specs, blueprints, and the like on their new weapons and that would likely involve some sort of training manual, only in this case it's been effectively downloaded straight into their brains. So it's likely that they have been issued some level of understanding and familiarity with the quirks and use of their weapons.

The AI seemed to react emotionally, which is something that we haven't really seen from Sira and that may have influenced her decision. Another point is that the drone examined each of them and who knows what that thing has under the hood. Things might go differently once the AI gets a closer inspection.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

One thing that I've found odd

One thing that I've found odd is that the bases apparently have no way to communicate with each other. I can understand not having direct high speed linkups, but AM radio (or shortwave) works without needing satellites, line of sight, or even high technology. It just needs a flat spot for the transmitter. As for the receiver? You can still buy crystal radio kits online that are manually wound to pick up AM stations.


I'll get a life when it's proven and substantiated to be better than what I'm currently experiencing.

They actually do

Amethyst's picture

The farspeakers that were mentioned early on are basically radio communications devices based on stuff found in the VTOLs and the base. Sira and Eden Base were both mothballed for several hundred years. With no humans around and no purpose, she was basically in sleep mode for that time and not monitoring anything during that time because she wasn't programmed to. It wasn't that the people stationed at Eden Base originally didn't have ways to contact the outside or other places, but Sira herself was being purposely kept in the dark about the state of the outside world.

You gotta ask yourself, how much is the military going to trust an AI? They were probably paranoid about them going crazy and then having another problem on their hands. Denying her communications was likely to prevent her from dong any serious damage by accessing things like nuclear launch facilities. It's been alluded to before and it's why she has so little knowledge about the old world. She was programmed to assist with research on ways to combat Demons and to run the base's systems. Anything that she has done since gaining self-awareness is because she was able to move beyond what she was programmed for. It's likely that other AIs were built with similar measures in place.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

AI

I hope the AI doesn’t get mad it’s not Mistress Kiley

hugs :)
Michelle SidheElf Amaianna