R.A.M. | Prologue | Chapter 21 –Death March
image source: AnnMarieBone
Author's note: A massive complete chapter!
The muscle on her abdomen tightens into a painful cramp. She keels forward and bashes her head against the control panel. Her helmet’s visor strikes one of her eyes but the blunt pain is nothing compared to the pain coursing through her body. Sharp agonizing pain like her spine is being crushed and pulled out of her body.
Clementine: “Samael… SAMAEL!!!”
She is in despair over her lost golem. She felt every blow Rosetta threw at it. After the final blow, the feeling of death struck her mind, making her experience death first hand.
However, in spite of all the pain and suffering she is experiencing, one thing still holds true. The absolute order that weighs more than anything. The one that she cannot defy.
[Stand your ground and engage the enemy Rosetta.]
[Engage with the mission objectives in mind. Use everything you got.]
Clementine: “GhiiHII!! GRrrRRHh!”
She smashes her fist against her chest. Her lungs finally respond and draw in the much needed air. Gaining a sliver of relief, she manages to pull off her helmet and toss it aside. Her entire face is wet from sweat, tears and saliva pooled inside the helmet. She grabs her sides, clamps her eyes and mouth shut and forces herself to breathe slowly.
Clementine: [Drown out the pain. Drown it out.]
Her mana pulses begin to slow down. Slower. Weaker. Bit by bit, her mana begins to disappear.
Rosetta: “There you are.”
Standing against the side of a building, Rosetta stares down the golem Seraph that is standing still in the middle of a four-way intersection. Its posture is peculiar. Its limbs are limp as if the golem has collapsed. Rosetta sighs as he pulses his mana in its direction.
Rosetta: [I do not sense any mana. Has the golem user died from the mana backlash? If so, then…]
Soldier: “(I found the robot! Repeat! I found the robot!)”
Soldier: “(Keep your weapons aimed at it! Surround! Surround!)”
A truck pulls over nearby and Chinese soldiers exit the vehicle. They cautiously surround the golem, watching it for any sudden movements.
Soldier: “(It’s back up! Retreat! Retreat!)”
-Dakka Dakka Dakka-
The golem jumps back to life, sending the Chinese soldiers into a panic. They scatter in all directions while firing back at the golem. Rosetta on the other hand regains his interest and jumps down towards the golem.
Clementine clambers to regain control of her golem. Her attention is focused on the screen showing the Chinese soldier retreating in full sprint. She remembers her discarded helmet on her side but she decides against putting it on. The tears, sweat, and drool has smeared the visor and she cannot afford to waste time cleaning it.
Clementine: “Tch!” [The Chinese soldiers have caught up-]
Clementine suddenly looks down on her legs in surprise. When she tries to step on the acceleration pedal, she feels no response from her legs. Fearing the worst, she pinches her thigh as hard as she could.
She feels the pain from her pinch but the pain is dull and numbing. Her legs won’t listen to her anymore. Clementine grips her knee is frustration and anguish.-Kraash-
Clementine: [!!] “Rosetta!”
The large form of the magician lands before the golem. He stands at his full height staring right at Seraph’s cockpit. He spreads his arm apart to activate his magic but Clementine reacts almost immediately. She quickly releases her mana for her magic and the pedal begins to move itself.
Seraph reverses away from Rosetta. A huge blast of wind smashes Seraph from behind. But it’s not only from behind Seraph. All the air around the areas rush into the spot the golem was previously in.
The Chinese soldiers scream and scatter from the truck they hid in. The air blast lifted the truck or the road and drops it on its side. Contrary to the surrounding chaos, the golem and the magician face each other with an air of calm.
Rosetta: “You recovered from the mana backlash of your dying golem and you’re still capable to fighting back with your golem magic.”
He puts away his arm and moves the other towards the center of his previous spell. His fingers close around what seems to be a tiny ball of liquid floating in midair.
Rosetta: “Did you sever the link before the backlash? Did you delegate the golem to one part of your body and amputate it when it died?”
His words make no sense. She shakes those thoughts off her mind and takes aim at the magician. Rosetta, unfazed, takes a step forward, the arm holding the ball of liquid outstretched in Seraph’s direction.
Rosetta: “Don’t tell me, you are a religious person?”
Rosetta: “Those who have strong faith are capable of shedding anything they deemed unnecessary for them.”
His words strike deep in her. Being reminded of her fallen golem, her anger flares up and she pulls the trigger to fire the missiles locked on to Rosetta.
Rosetta: “Well, It doesn’t matter. For you options to fight have dwindled.”
As the missiles fly towards him, Rosetta releases his spell. The ball of liquid decompresses and erupts into an intense blast of air. As if guided by his hand, the decompressed air travels in one direction; towards the golem Seraph. The missiles, Clementine and her golem are struck with a wall of air. Rosetta watches the massive golem is lifted off its feet and sent flying across the street. Dew and ice form on every surface and in midair, as the decompressed air lowered the temperatures of the area caught in the blast.
Seraph crashes and skids over the road. Clementine, a little shaken, gets her golem on its feet. She shoots an angry glance in Rosetta’s direction. He has sent her golem flying a few hundred meters away from him.
The sound of the missiles missing their mark and exploding echoes in the distance. In that short exchange, Clementine has come off worse than before.
She notices the missiles left in Ramiel’s armament. Only four missiles remain. No matter what she does, there is no way for her to defeat Rosetta.
[Engage with the mission objectives in mind. Use everything you got.]
She bashes her head against her seat. However, her orders are still present in her mind. Gritting her teeth, she pings for the location of the Fire Lance armament. The armament pings back its location. It has been released by Nathan and has landed in the city, constantly moving around to evade the Chinese forces. Clementine blinks and shakes of the tears in her eye. She broadcasts a signal of her location and the RAG system confirms the armament’s response.
RAG: "Fire Lance package enroute."
Rosetta: “What did you call for?
Rosetta performs a great leap and descends on Seraph. His limb split into long strips that are poised to wrap and entangle the golem.
Clusters of explosives rain down on the scene. They explode, sending smoke and dust up in the air. Rosetta scans the sky in response and finds the culprit hidden under the darkness of night.
Rosetta: “A fourth golem-“
The explosions continue as the bombs continue dropping. Taking advantage of the confusion, Seraph speeds off through the enormous cloud of smoke and dust.
The Fire Lance armament arrived on the scene and converges into the road lane Seraph is on. It is a large and long vehicle with a jet engine on the back. Clementine gives it a sideways look of disdain and pull Seraph to a stop. The golem faces its back towards the Fire Lance and mounts the armament on its back.
RAG: "Circulating thermite."
The armament begins its function, circulating its payload throughout the golem. Clementine looks around in fear. All around her, foreign mana pulses around her. She senses a violent and fiery aura from it. It feels repulsive.
RAG: "Fire Lance for Seraph unit ready to deploy. Please exit the unit."
RAG: “Please exit the unit.”
Clementine sits still in her golem. The screen before her flashes the evacuation warning and she closes her eyes to it, squeezing out tears that run down her face.
RAG: “Please exit the unit.”
Her will is forced to yield once more. She wipes away her tears and pushes the cockpit open. The cold night air stings her skin as it brushes her face. Surprised, Clementine realized that her face is wet from cold sweat.
Using both her arms, Clementine lifts herself out of the cockpit. Her fears are reaffirmed once more. She has lost the use of her legs.
Clementine: [Right. Let’s not lose hope. Agent Ginn might still be able to heal this...] “!! SERAPH!”
She quickly ducks to the side and Seraph lunges forward with its limbs outstretched. The sudden lunge knocks Clementine out of the cockpit and the golem intercepts the large body of Rosetta which descended on the golem. Clementine lands on her side and scrambles up to see the scene before her.
Rosetta: “You are done here!”
The strips that is conjured from his limb wrap and entangle Seraph on contact. The golem’s joints creak from the immense force applied by them.
It does not stop here. The feelers on Rosetta’s back becomes erect once more and the air becomes electrified.
Clementine: [This is..!]
She feels her connection to Seraph severed. This is it. The same feeling that ultimately results in the loss of Samael. Furthermore, her worst fear has announced its arrival. With her connection to Seraph, her restraint can no longer hinder its function.
Rosetta: “This! DAMN!”
Rosetta notices the fiery mana stored in the golem a few moments too late. Seraph grabs Rosetta with its limbs and flares the massive jet engines. The entire golem quickly becomes red hot and fire starts to flare out from its joints. Clementine scrambles away from them and casts an anguished glance at her golem.
Clementine: [Goodbye, Seraph.]
The jet engine roars at full blast. In an instant, both Rosetta and Seraph launches into the air and streaks across the city at high speed. They glow brighter and brighter. Faster and faster.
The fireball zips past the buildings and the following shockwave tears the glass off the buildings. The glass shards glow orange as they fall before raining on the street as molten rain.
The fireball suddenly dips its trajectory and crashes through the front of a shopping complex. Jets of fire flares from the fireball as it sinks deeper into the floor.
The fire sweeps through the complex, engulfing everything in its path. The windows and doors all burst open to release flares that lick the nearby buildings surrounding the complex.
Clementine: “Ha.. Hagh.. Hot..”
Clementine pulls herself up onto the sidewalk. Her face is flushed with sweat. The cold night air that once stung her face now licks it with an unforgiving heat. Even though it is obscured by buildings and is a great distance from her, she can still feel the brightness and heat of the fire. The air keeps getting hotter and hotter.
She realizes that the heat she feels is no longer from the hot draft. Her worst fear has come. The heat suddenly burns with searing pain, engulfing her entire body as if she is in a furnace.
Clementine: “AAAAGH!!! I’M BURNING!!!”
Her skin feels like it has vaporized from the heat. Clementine tugs at her suit, as if trying to put out the phantom fire that is burning her. The burning pain seeps deeper and deeper into her flesh. Her muscles; bones; everything is burning.
Clementine: [Help! Help!]
The pain is unbearable. Unable to keep her stance, she keels over and drops to the ground. The burning has reached her throat, silencing her cries completely.
Clementine: “Ugweeck!! RAwa!!”
The burning reaches her innards. Her stomach twists and contracts, forcing stomach juices and drool out of her mouth. The burning is driving her mad. Clementine tightly clutches her head and screams her prayers in her thoughts.
Clementine: [O Lord, please save me!! Cast away the pain!! Cast away…]
The burning sensation reaches her head and an unimaginable pain of her brain burning takes over. Her prayers burnt away, Clementine’s consciousness falls deeper into the darkness.
The south wall of the complex buckles under its weight and falls. The adjacent wall falls shortly after followed by the roof caving in. The rubble falls into a molten sea formed from the building’s melted interior.
The surface of the molten swells and bursts, revealing Rosetta. He looks at the hellish surroundings around him. He leaps into the air and lands on the side of a nearby building. Finally out of the hellish heat, he anchors himself against the wall and assess his situation.
Rosetta: "Damn... I was careless with my mana." [Even though I stepped up my magic.]
He has not forgotten his loss in Vietnam. To fight against the golems and their master, he scales up the power of his magic accordingly. Any more will result in her death at his hands. Yet, in the face of his magic and tactics, she persevered when she should have fallen.
Rosetta: [Did you have a hand in this, Gibson?] “Gibson.. You monster..”
Pushing his agent to a suicidal front. It is within his character to do so. He looks down on the inferno below. Half of the large building has melted away into a burning molten sea.
Rosetta: “What a terrible spell..” [A significant amount of my mana is burnt away. Also..]
He recalls the golem that struck him with the spell.
Rosetta: [The golem melted completely. The mana backlash must have struck her. She must have died from the pain.] “Haa…”
He casts a sorrowful sigh. Pondering on what he could have done to achieve a better outcome, his attention catches on to some lights hovering in the horizon.
He focuses on them for a closer look. The lights belong to civilian helicopters, flying at their top speed towards the city.
Rosetta: [News helicopters…]
Anxiety suddenly grips him. His time in this city is spent. Due to the commotion caused by his engagement with the golem user and the Chinese forces, the civilian press has begun to take notice. He turns to look in the direction of the golem user’s last location.
Rosetta: [Even if there is a small chance of the golem user surviving, I can't risk my exposure by taking away her magic. I’m done fighting.]
Rosetta sprouts a pair of massive wings on his back. Runes glimmer and dance on the wings, giving the wings a ghostly look as they catch the wind.
Rosetta: “I’m coming, Jiang Shuu Ren.”
He leaps off the side of the building and flaps his wings. The runes glow in response and a large updraft catches his wings and whisks him into the sky.
Alexa: “Sir! I am watching Agent Greeves’ condition! He- Her vitals.. has stopped.”
Alexa turns to Director Devon Lance with a distraught look. Devon looks directly at Alexa who quickly understand his intent. She scrambles back to her workstation.
Alexa: Please. Please. Please
Alexa begins the protocol that she stacks all her hope on. This will activate her healing mana stored within Clementine’s pilot suit. Devon turns towards the live video feed from the plane circling the city. The city is alight from the fire cause by a weapon he never seen before. And many block away, an indicator marks Clementine’s location; her status currently in critical condition. Devon flares his teeth as he connects to his other agent, Nathan Terrozzo.
Devon: “What is going on over there, Agent Terrozzo?! What the fuck is that weapon?! What is Fire Lance?!”
Nathan: “I-I don’t know, sir! I recall deploying that weapon from my storage but I don’t know anything else!”
Devon: “What do you mea- AARGH!”
The director swings his fists down on his desk. The reply he got is the ramblings of a confused man. He turns to look at the startled operation staff before him.
Devon: “Does anyone knows what is going on?! What is Fire Lance?!”
The staffs avoid his gaze and face their work. The entire room is silent, echoing their loss in this dire situation. Devon tries again with a more pressing matter.
Devon: “Is there anything that can be done for Agent Greeves?!! Anyone?!!”
No response from anyone. Not even Nathan who is at the field. Devon takes a step back and slump forwards on his desk.
Devon: [This is supposed to be a covert operation. She is only supposed to harass the magician until he leaves Chinese territory! This has become a suicide mission!]
Knowing that something has been strange with two of the field agents, Devon puts his thoughts together.
Devon: [Greeves is charging Rosetta without any regard for the mission or her safety! What has driven her to literal suicide?!]
The reserved and conservative Greeves. She was calm and collected since the start of the mission. However, her erratic behavior only started after her last conversation with Agent Terrozzo.
Devon: [Terrozzo.. He said that he remembers deploying Fire Lance but does not know what it is…]
Then it struck him. The only magic that can cause Clementine’s suicidal behavior and coax Nathan to release the Fire Lance without prior knowledge.
Devon: Mind control.
Devon straightens up. The director knows that none of the agents possesses that sort of magic. Realizing the identity of only one capable of that feat, Devon turns around and approaches Jeroth Gibson who is unmoved from his seat.
Devon: “Jeroth? You’re behind this?”
Before he can continue, Devon storms up to him and grabs him by the collar. Jeroth is lifted off his seat and shoved against the desk. He looks at his director and friend staring him down with bloodshot eyes. He shifts his gaze to the rest of the room. Everyone is silent. More than half of the staffs shift their attention to the commotion while the rest obediently focus on their work. Devon tightens his grip on Jeroth’s collar.
Devon: “JEROTH! WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO?!!!”
Jeroth sighs and opens his mouth to speak. However, a shrill voice cuts through the silent room. Alexa hops off her seat and waves her arms to catch Devon’s attention.
Alexa: “Si-Sir! Sir! I am getting a response! Her vitals are returning!”
Devon looks at her before turning back to Jeroth whose face has turned complacent. Fuming with thoughts of whether Jeroth turn the situation around for his convenience, he cannot abandon this chance. Devon lets go of Jeroth collar but not before giving him a violent shake.
Devon: We’re not done. You hear me?
Devon angrily points at Jeroth before quickly returning to his post. He hunches over his desks for a moment to plan his thoughts. He then turns to Alexa who is constantly switching her attention between the director and monitoring Clementine’s vitals.
Devon: “Ginn, keep monitor her status. Let me know if her condition gets worse. I need everyone on communications to do this! Get in contact with her immediately! Get a response from her and bring her back!”
It’s dark. It feels like nothing. No hot or cold. No pain. No pain at all.
Something stirs the silence. A breath seems to be drawn. In fact, breathing may have started.
Nathan: “…!!! …!!! …..!!!”
That is someone’s voice. But the words cannot be discerned. The darkness begins to dissipate and a soft glow begins to take over.
The first thing she sees is the asphalt directly in front of her. The sound returned and the chaos in the distance can be heard clearly. Clementine slowly pushes herself from the ground.
Confusion struck her. Her view rises as she gets up but she does not feel herself rise up at all. She feels nothing.
Her view begins rocking and spinning. Her confusion becomes worse. Is her head moving? Is she moving it? Is she dreaming?
Her vision suddenly flicks upwards, showing the sky. She hears something knock with a thud. Did she fall backwards? Did she hit her head? There is no pain. There is no feeling at all.
Clementine: [I am..?]
Nathan: “Greeves! Clementine Greeves! Are you there?! Can you hear me?!”
A voice coming from the radio in her suit. Clementine recognizes the voice and the name ‘Nathan’ lingers in her mind. Another name she recognizes emerges. Her own name.
Clementine: [Greeves? Yes.. I am Clementine..]
Just as Clementine regains her sense of self, her mind clouds over. Those words. The orders that anchored her will away. She can only recall fragments of them but their power has not waned.
[Stand…] [Engage…] [Mission…] [Everything…]
There is no pain; for she can’t feel anything. She can only hear and see. Yet the orders are clear and Clementine calls out once more to her golem.
Clementine: Cher.. “Cherub… Cherub…”
Nathan: “Cheru- Wait! The mission is over! Rosetta is leaving for the sea! Director Lance has called for a retreat! Clemen-“
Devon: “Agent Greeves! This is Director Devon Lance!”
Nathan’s transmission is cut off and the voice of the director shout in its stead.
Devon: “I have ordered a retreat! Agent Greeves! Stand! Down!”
Clementine shows no response. Her mind cannot afford a response as what’s left of it is firmly in the grasps of those words.
The wind becomes turbulent and a large aircraft slowly descends on Clementine. Its main body is long, slim and slick. Two large turbo fan turbines keep the aircraft hovering in place and instead of wings, four big long metal blades are attached on each side of the aircraft’s body. The blades look like transparent glass as it reflected its surroundings and the runes engraved on it shimmer and glow, giving it a mysterious sheen. Clementine glances up at her golem, Cherub, opening its cockpit, welcoming her in.
Devon: “Greeves! Listen to me! This is a direct order from your director! I am ordering you to stand down! STAND! DOWN! FU-”
Despite hearing the orders from the director, she does not heed them. Devon’s transmission cut off as he swears out in anger. Clementine turns towards her golem and braces herself to get up.
Even though she can move her arms normally, the experience is jarring when she could not feel anything. Clementine looks around in confusion. Her legs are limp. They are not moving the entire time she has been telling them to. She remembers that she has already lost control of them a while ago.
She builds up her mana within her. She has not forgotten. Her own flight suit is her golem as well. Her suit springs to life and quickly put Clementine back on her feet. She grabs the side of Cherub’s cockpit and lifts herself inside.
She sees herself being pulled away from Cherub. She catches sight of a pair of arms wrapped around her torso, pulling her off her golem. She turns around and sees a winded Nathan with his parachute dragging behind him.
Nathan: “Calm down, goddammit.”
Nathan takes out an oxygen mask and tries to strap in onto her face. Clementine realizes his plan to capture her with his containment magic. She puts power in her suit and struggles out of his grip. Nathan quickly maneuvers his hands over her head and pins her with a headlock.
Clementine: “RRAGH! NO!”
She stomps her heel against Nathan’s shin. Grunting from pain, Nathan draws back while maintaining his headlock and pulls her off balance, dropping her to the road. Clementine thrashes around for a moment before looking up to Cherub.
Nathan: “God.. DON’T DO THIS! GREEVES!!”
A machine gun slowly lowers from Cherub’s underside. Nathan shakes Clementine in panic as it slowly turns towards him.
The radio on Nathan’s person beeps loudly and a voice calls out to Clementine. Recognizing Jeroth’s voice, Clementine freezes in place.
Jeroth: “Clementine Greeves. I retract my orders. You are free.”
In an instant, her mind goes blank. Then, like her mind’s eye is blinking, it gets clearer and clearer. Losing the drive within her, Clementine goes limp and Nathan frees her of his grip. Exhausted from the near death experience, Nathan stumbles onto his feet.
Nathan: “Fu.. Fuck.. You could have been a little faster, Director Lance.”
Devon: “I wish everyone was, Agent Terrozzo. This is your next order. Secure Agent Greeves and her golem. Then find a place to hide from the Chinese forces. When there is a chance, we will extract you from site. Priority given to Agent Greeve’s condition. Keep her alive.”
Nathan: “Roger, Director.”
He walks over to pick up the fallen oxygen mask and straps it on Clementine’s face. The frea\sh oxygen, invigorates her, giving her enough consciousness to utter a murmur.
Nathan: “Your golem is fine. Let’s get you back home.”
After plugging up Clementine’s ears, Nathan opens his jacket and activates his magic. A black void appears on his chest and the surrounding air is sucked inside. The black void expands and engulfs Clementine and her golem Cherub. It then shrinks and fades away as Nathan closes his jacket. Releasing his breath that he held during his magic’s activation, Nathan runs away from the scene to escape the Chinese who has started to swarm the streets.
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