“I thought you said the signal was coming from a ruin,” Velloro said into his comm unit, looking up at the huge, very intact fortification in front of him with a large, unruined door blocking the way forward. The captain’s response was garbled, no doubt thanks to the rocky, mountainous terrain between him and the Sunrise Maiden. “Ye… …is th… …thing there?”
Rolling his eyes dramatically for the sake of his companions, who had instinctively turned toward the comm unit to try to decode Navasi’s transmission, Velloro shrugged. “Guess we’re improvising, Chk Chk,“ he said, winking at Keskodai’s larval son as he spun slowly in his protective canister. “Raia, can you get that door open?”
Before the technomancer could respond, a recess in the doorframe began to flicker with a dim red light that grew brighter and more steady. As it did, the ground thrummed with the energy of a long-dormant system sputtering to life.
“Yes—I’ll get the door,” Raia’s telepathic response darted through the hallways of Velloro’s mind as she began casting a spell that would magically bypass the door’s locks.
Several other vertical recesses in the wall drew Velloro’s eyes as they, too, activated. Boxy machines rose out of the staggered parapets, topped with gleaming barrels pointing straight up, then swiveled down to point directly at Velloro and his friends.
“Fall in—NOW!” Velloro’s last word was a telepathic shout to prevent the opening salvo of eight massive turrets firing heavy rounds from drowning it out. With no time to be polite, he pushed through his companions, knocking them off balance. Raia’s spell failed as her concentration faltered, but she immediately began to cast it again, cleaving close to Velloro as he raised his shield just in time to intercept the first wave of pounding projectiles.
As he often did in these situations, Velloro began to experience time much more slowly, to take notice of everything around him more carefully. He saw the firing mechanism jam on the fourth turret to the left of the entryway. He felt the heavy, staccato thud of rounds as they slammed into the ground just feet away and began to describe a dotted line that would momentarily bring the molten-hot metal slugs into contact with his shield, his armor—and possibly his friends.
The firing seemed to slow, but Velloro knew the automated turrets were cycling shots to prevent overheating; those towers wouldn’t run out of ammunition any time soon. Raia, somehow sounding out of breath despite being in his head, said “I’ve got the door,” and it slid open with unnerving silence and speed.
Three red-scaled, lizardlike ikeshtis wearing sand-tattered defrex hides skidded to a stop just in front of the entryway. They had been running toward stairs leading to the top of the wall, but now they turned to the intruders, semi-auto pistols in their clawed hands.
Velloro immediately charged the startled ikeshtis, smiling as he did. With each step, he drew more and more energy from the ground beneath his feet pushing back at him, until he’d gathered an invisible storm of entropy around himself, a cloak of molecular disorder that easily deflected the ikeshtis’ first few panicked shots. In just a few seconds, he was among them, facing down the biggest one as the two next to him flinched in anticipation.
The large ikeshti took the opportunity to fire at the lashunta nearly point blank, two bullets screaming toward the ancient rune of Castrovel glowing in the middle of Velloro’s chest plate. Velloro grunted with the impact of the first, yet this he could use. As the atoms of the bullet interacted with those of his armor, disorder bloomed like a coalescing storm cloud. Molecular lattices broke and reformed in countless chain reactions, ones Velloro could shape, divert, invest—and control. As the second bullet hit fractions of a second later, Velloro used the explosive energy of the first, all its waste heat and shrapnel and friction, to mitigate the damage from the second. The shiny metal round clinked harmlessly off his armor, no more destructive than an idly flicked pebble.
The lizard creatures on either side of Velloro raised their guns, taking advantage of the momentary distraction to aim at Raia and Keskodai. But Velloro was ready to react, grabbing the barrels of both weapons with either hand and crumpling them as though they were made of thin-pressed aluminum, before dropping them to the ground with a smirk.
Velloro turned his attention back to the one ikeshti that was still armed and swung his fist in a wide arc, gathering the remaining excess energy into his chest before sending it screaming to his shoulder, down his arm, and into his fist, where it whirled and careened in an ever-growing nimbus of destructive energy. As his fist made contact with the stunned ikeshti, Velloro cut the tether with the disorder he’d hoarded, sending it fully into the creature’s dry and brittle armor, which splintered and caved in. The ikeshti fell to the ground writhing in pain, futilely scratching at the ruined clasps of its armor in a desperate attempt to relieve the crushing pressure.
As Velloro turned back to the other two ikeshtis, who’d drawn their batons and were advancing on him cautiously, a gruff and incredulous voice rang out from somewhere high up, bouncing off the towering flat walls of the fort.
He looked up and knew her immediately, a towering and extremely familiar shobhad who was shouldering a sniper rifle that had moments ago been leveled at Velloro’s head. As the shobhad held two of her four hands out to stop the ikeshtis, Velloro grinned at Keskodai, who had already begun to focus on ripping the newcomer’s mind apart with his own.
“Hold on a sec, bud. This should be interesting…”
About the Author
Joe Pasini is the Starfinder Lead Designer at Paizo. He is steadfast in his belief that gaming is for absolutely everyone, and he’d love to play a game with you sometime! You can find him on Twitter at @joeadultman. His most recent passion project, the Starfinder Deck of Many Worlds, is out in December of 2019.
About Iconic Encounters
Iconic Encounters is a series of web-based flash fiction set in the worlds of Pathfinder and Starfinder. Each short story provides a glimpse into the life and personality of one of the games’ iconic characters, showing the myriad stories of adventure and excitement players can tell with the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games.
Iconic Encounter: A Hail Of Bullets
Thursday, October 3, 2019