Authors: James Axler
“They don’t think I’ll lose,” Balor said.
Kane shrugged. “They’ve been wrong about me before.”
Balor raised both fists and slammed them down into the slope. Kane could feel the mountain shake beneath
his feet, and he tightened his grip on the shotgun handle. A few rough voices grumbled now, excitement starting to spread through the Fomorians.
“When you are ready,” Balor taunted.
Kane raised the shotgun and fired a blast into the titan’s chest. Skin ruptured and muscle rippled under the mighty impact, and Balor grunted. An arm the length of a log whipped around, and Kane threw himself to the ground to avoid being struck. The monstrous fist of Balor would be more than sufficient to crush him. Luckily, when Kane went to the dirt, he did so in a forward roll, his sleek and agile form tumbling so quickly, he avoided Balor’s other wrecking-ball fist as it crashed to the ground behind him.
Speed was going to be Kane’s best ally, but he still triggered the semiautomatic shotgun once more. As the weapon cycled a new round into the chamber under recoil, Balor howled as Kane’s slug hit him square in the groin.
“Bastard!” Balor screeched.
“With that face, you’re not going to be using those anyway!” Kane returned, pivoting the barrel up and blasting away. His shot went high. He’d been hoping to catch Balor in his baleful eye, but instead of catching the cybernetic orb, the fat bullet carved a crease into the titan’s forehead. With a frustrated howl, Balor lashed out again. This time, massive knuckles grazed Kane’s rib cage. Had he been an instant slower, the full force of the unstoppable fist would have hurled him hundreds of feet through the forest. As it was, the impact hurled Kane onto his back.
Balor sneered and stomped toward the fallen man. Kane triggered two quick shots out of the slug gun, heavy bolts of jacketed lead stabbing into Balor’s sternum. Fetid breath escaped the monstrosity’s lungs, and one hand rose to cup the bloody wounds in his belly.
Balor’s other hand darted out and grabbed the barrel and tubular magazine of the shotgun. Fingers as fat as Kane’s forearm squeezed and crumpled metal as if it was cardboard. With a shrug, Balor hurled the mangled lump of weaponry into the woods. Kane tucked his knees to his chest and speared both feet into the Fomorian’s wounded belly. The impact elicited a groaning creak from Balor’s lips, and gave Kane enough time to roll out of the way before a massive foot smashed the ground where he’d lain a moment ago.
“Get over here,” Balor snarled, a massive paw reaching out and wrapping around Kane’s leg.
With a flex of his forearm, Kane launched the Sin Eater into his grasp and the machine pistol bellowed authoritatively. A volley of 240-grain slugs punched through Balor’s forearm, tearing through muscle and ricocheting off bone. The massive hand released Kane’s thigh, and he toppled to the ground. Kane felt as if his hip had been dislocated, but he had no time for self-diagnosis. Smearing the blood off of his forearm, Balor glared angrily at the fallen human.
The sickly green eye suddenly blazed, and it took every ounce of Kane’s strength to leap out of the path of the burning beam. As if the pain of Kane’s left leg hadn’t been enough, now his right calf felt as if it had been left out in the sun too long. His skin had dried out
and cracked from the sudden, oppressive heat from Balor’s eye, and Kane knew that if it hadn’t been for the radiation-dampening properties of the shadow suit’s environmental controls, his leg would have been seared off by the Fomorian’s dread gaze.
“Baleful Eye monkey!” Balor howled. “I’m gonna cook you good!”
Kane triggered his Sin Eater again, bullets chewing through a slab of chest muscle and forcing the titan to flinch. This time, instead of using the deadly radiation blast of his eye, Balor backhanded Kane.
Kane was thrown against a tree trunk, where he slumped, struggling to regain his breath. As soon as he inhaled, Kane was delighted to realize that his ribs hadn’t been shattered, but his brains had been scrambled by the sudden acceleration and stop.
“Fuck this noise, Kane. Let me put some fifty into this monster,” Grant growled over the Commtact.
“He’s mine,” Kane rasped.
Fingers wrapped around Kane’s shoulders and he was lifted into the air.
“Trying to be noble, Kane? I’d take the advice of your friend and let them come into this. The more, the merrier,” Balor taunted.
Kane speared his elbow right in the Fomorian’s fist-sized eye. The lens cracked under the brutal surprise attack, and Balor dropped Kane, clutching the orb.
“You son of a bitch!” Balor screamed.
Kane landed on his feet, but the sudden jolt to his injured hip lanced a spear of pain into his side. He was red-faced under the shadow suit hood and faceplate, but
he was glad that no one could see the agony written across his features. He managed to summon enough strength to rise to his feet again.
Balor righted himself, tears pouring from the bottom lid of his oversized eye. “That hurt, you miserable little monkey!”
Kane turned and brought up his Sin Eater, triggering the machine pistol only a foot from the Fomorian’s face. The cybernetic orb sparked and flashed, cracking under the onslaught of a dozen slugs. Balor staggered away from Kane, coughing and cursing in pain. A blind flail missed Kane, but the breeze unbalanced the Cerberus warrior.
His footing unsteady, Kane tumbled a dozen feet down the slope as Balor continued to wave one arm about while his other hand cupped his damaged eye.
“You did it now!” Balor yelled. “I’m gonna boil the skin from your bones!”
“Balor! No!” Kane shouted.
Even from where he’d landed, Kane could see that the sickly green glow of the cybernetic eye was pulsing with an odd new color. The Fomorian wasn’t hearing any of it, and the intensity of the glow increased. A red smear of radiation pulsed along with the green ring of the iris, and a cone of light sprayed from the center of Balor’s face. The tattered rags of Balor’s nose ignited from the spillover heat, and trees burst into flames in a wide arc.
Balor screamed as the backlash of heat seared the inside of his skull.
“My head! It’s on fire!” Balor called out. “Father!”
Kane grimaced and struggled to his feet. Though he
had been fighting the Fomorians to the death, to see an opponent racked by so much pain was something he couldn’t stomach. “Turn it off!”
He shouldered Balor in the abdomen, but his weight and momentum weren’t enough to even elicit a grunt from the agonized titan. Balor’s screams increased in pitch and volume, and Kane looked up to see the poor creature’s hand and forearm had been charred to a crisp. He’d tried to close his eye and put a clamp on the searing energy that bled out of his face.
Instead, Balor had shorn off the limb as charred bones disintegrated and poured into the dirt.
“Stop the pain!” Balor pleaded as he stuffed his face into the dirt. The stench of roasting soil assailed Kane’s nostrils as Balor’s eye continued to burn out of control, blazing a circle of ground.
“I’m sorry, Balor,” Kane whispered. He fed the Sin Eater a full new magazine, then fired through the back of the Fomorian’s head. Twenty rounds thundered in the night on full-automatic, smashing the creature’s skull and blowing the cybernetic eye into splinters out the other end.
Balor rolled over, his empty, smoking socket staring emptily into the night sky.
For the first time since Kane had first seen the Fomorian, the creature seemed to be at peace.
Kane looked up, but once Balor’s eye had burned out of control, the other mutants had broken and ran for their lives. The battle had been too gruesome for them, and too many of their brethren had been felled by the Cerberus defenders.
The scourge of the man-eaters had been broken.
“Enlil’s ship took off just before you began your fight,” Domi said. “I think he wasn’t impressed.”
“What about Bres?” Kane asked.
“He’s all the way down in the valley,” Grant said. “But I have a feeling that none of his little muties are ever going to listen to him again.”
Kane shook his head, grunting in agreement with his friend. “So we’re done here.”
“Lakesh? Brigid?” Kane called over the Commtact.
“Thrush is still dead, if you’re asking,” Brigid’s voice came over the radio implant.
Kane groaned. “Yeah. In all the excitement with Balor, I forgot what happened.”
“Grant, is Kane okay?” Brigid inquired.
“The fool already had his head wrapped up in bandages when I got here. Then he decided to play pattycake with some mutie who made me look like scrawny little Domi here,” Grant explained.
“So Kane’s got a concussion,” Brigid said. “Just like the fake.”
Kane winced as he pulled off his hood. “Yeah. Just like the fake. But this time, do me a favor and shoot me in the head before going through all this shit again.”
Grant hauled Kane to his feet, supporting his friend.
“Not a chance, partner,” Grant replied, smiling. “Misery loves company.”
Kane cracked a smile of his own, but the pain and fatigue were clear on his features.
The most recent threat to Cerberus had been neutral
ized, but the Cerberus veterans knew that it was only a matter of time before Thrush or Enlil launched another offensive.
Together Kane and Grant trudged through the darkness to meet up with the other Cerberus personnel. The return trip to the redoubt beckoned, and the warmth and sanctuary it offered would be welcome indeed.
Copyright © 2010 by Worldwide Library.
Special thanks to Doug Wojtowicz for his contribution to this work.
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