This deep inside the Glowing Planet, things started to get weird, especially when they entered the boneyard. The increased density of naturally-formed resonating exotics caused everyone to feel as if they took a dive into a lukewarm bath.
The pressure they felt could solely be felt in their minds. No matter how much they shielded their bodies, they couldn't escape the pervasive thrum of power that radiated off the pieces of Rorach's Bone.
In that regard, the mining machines had a field day excavating all of the trace materials. Picking up a couple of milligrams here and there became as easy as breathing water. However, the Mech Corps ceased to care about these scraps and started to hunger for larger samples of Rorach's Bone.
The larger the piece, the better its potential. A thousand pinches of Rorach's Bone couldn't hold a candle to a single fingertip-sized sample. Most of the mining machines focused on seeking even larger samples of Rorach's Bone.
Eventually, they hadn't managed to find anything notable before trouble came knocking at their door. Everyone aboard the Gregarious Wrath ran to their stations when an alarm rang out. The Wrath's long-ranged sensors detected a massive energy signal approaching their position.
"It's a devourer king!" Chief Petrisc exclaimed as the researchers finished analyzing the readings. "According to the projections, this beast is ten times as large as a regular devourer!"
Ves had been afraid of this. While Venerable Drake easily mopped up the regular devourers, they never faced the true tyrants of the core of the Glowing Planet.
The Gregarious Wrath prepared for a hard fight. Every other mining vehicle swiftly retreated upwards while the Wrath moved so that her mechs had room to fight, not that anyone expected the regular mechs to hurt the devourers.
Through constant battle, the Mech Corps learned that the devourers were attracted to energy sources. In this case, the otherwise useless mechs at least served as bait.
"Ten seconds until the devourer king is in sight!"
The creature finally emerged from the walls of the core. The gigantic snake was at least half as large as the Gregarious Wrath. However, when it opened its endless maw in a challenge, it stretched wide enough to engulf the tunneler in a single gulp.
No one could imagine the extent of the damage should that happen. They had to stop the devourer king in its tracks.
"Are the dimensional smoothers ready to be overloaded?" Chief Petrisc asked an engineer in charge of keeping them safe.
"They're still recovering from the last time we stressed them out. We only have a twenty-eight second allowance this time. Any longer and they'll automatically return to normal levels."
That didn't sound very good. If this devourer king put up a decent fight against their expert pilot, then the Wrath might not escape unscathed this time.
"Do we have any other countermeasures against the energy beings?"
Even after many days of experimentation, the Gregarious Wrath remained as helpless before the devourers. Nothing could stop their advance except with the help of the effects stirred by resonating exotics. Out of the thousands of people in the deep mining expedition, only the Venerable possessed the ability to do so.
The Fire Worm emerged from the rear of the Wrath as flamboyantly as always. The mech's oversized flight systems pushed the aerial striker forward in a direct confrontation with the incoming worm. The mech had already started accumulating energy inside the Wrath.
All of that poured into the rifle held in the Fire Worm's arms. After a short moment where the energies piled up inside the rifle, the weapon spat out three bright lances of lasers.
The beams instantly struck the giant devourer's maw, which strained to absorb the destructive energies.
"The devourer king is hurting!"
"It's not enough." Ves shook his head. He worryingly held Lucky in his arms. "The maw is the strongest part of a devourer!"
Indeed, the triple laser beams hadn't been able to inflict any notable damage other than giving the devourer some belly aches. After the Fire Worm expended all of the energy it accumulated in the rifle, started to charge its second set of armaments.
As the devourer king slowly inched up the tunnel with its maw opened wide, the Fire Worm released its most destructive blast of firepower. Two massives flares of flame almost engulfed the entire maw. The two flamethrowers continued to project streams of augmented flames until they finally ran out of energy.
"It's still alive!"
Amazingly, the devourer king survived, though it hadn't escaped unscathed this time. The flames had been so intense that it forced the energy being to shut its maw. This allowed some of the flames to scorch the devourer's semi-corporeal exterior, inflicting severe burn damage to its front.
The devourer king became enraged. Just as Venerable Drake began to charge his mech yet again, the creature did something none of the stupid devourers had done.
The king dove through the tunnel and into the bedrock.
"Damn! This organism grasped our weakness!"
The fact of the matter was that the Fire Worm could only fight inside the tunnel. As much as Venerable Drake would like to, he couldn't turn his mech into a ghost and chase after the devourer king.
This single move had completely negated their only advantage!
On the sensor plot, the signal emitted by the devourer king followed a looping path that brought it straight towards the side of the Gregarious Wrath.
"Overload the dimensional smoothers!"
The Wrath groaned as she pumped an abundance over power into the three devices the Mech Corps borrowed from the MTA. Everyone held their breaths. At least they bought some time for themselves to figure out a solution.
At least that was what they thought.
As the incoming signal came close, the devourer king emerged from the wall and sunk into the hull of the Gregarious Wrath. The creature had withstood the effects of the overloaded dimensional smoothers!
Countless alarms blared out and the status projection highlighted portions of the Wrath in an alarming shade of red.
"We're hit! We've lost telemetry of the middle starboard side of decks eleven to twenty-six!"
The devourer king retreated after it made the attack. The dimensional smoothers still worked to deter the creature, but only after it came near to one of the devices.
"The creature has a much higher tolerance to the dimensional smoothers! We aren't able to cover the entire length of the Wrath with only three devices!"
The devourer king attacked the giant tunneling machine twice, each them taking a bite out of the affected sections. Everything in its sphere of influence that ran on power turned into useless scrap, while every man or woman turned into braindead idiots as if they had their lives sapped out of them. Despite the lack of physical damage, the energy being had virtually annihilated a large swathe of the Wrath.
"Where is the Fire Worm?"
"He just reentered the Wrath, but he won't be able to tell where to go!"
The devourer king cunningly swirled around the Gregarious Wrath after each attack. This prevented it from being pinned down and minimized its chances of meeting the Fire Worm.
Ves felt his heart begin to thud like a drum. The Mech Corps truly possessed no other means to fight against this deadly creature. He thought they might have hidden away a trump card or two, but it turned out they didn't have any other means to fight against an energy beings. They were just so rare in the galaxy and had never shown up in the Komodo Star Sector before.
He began to think of an exit strategy. Ves had no faith that the Fire Worm could take down the king before it could engulf the entire Wrath. He quietly stepped back from Chief Petrisc's side and eyed the exit hatch.
"The dimensional smoothers activated their safeguards! We can't overload them anymore!"
That was very bad news. The Gregarious Wrath's only form of deterrence against the devourer king lost much of its effectiveness. The devourer king evidently sensed this change. It ceased to attack an unimportant corner of the Wrath and dove straight for the power reactors in the rear engineering bay.
"It's coming straight for us!"
The devourer king easily endured the weaker dimensional stabilization field emitted by the smoother and dove deeper into the Wrath. Hundreds of crewmen lost their lives as the monstrous creature passed through their bodies. The Wrath herself ceased to move as she sustained too much damage.
Ves didn't have the opportunity to run. Everything happened so quickly that he could barely take a few steps away from the main control panel. Just a second later, a part of the transparent form of the devourer king emerged from the roof of the engineering bay.
A few armed crewmen shot their weapons at the approaching maw of doom but accomplished nothing at all. Others screamed, panicked or cried. Chief Petrisc faced his approached his impending death with an impassive face.
Just when all seemed certain, Lucky jumped out of Ves' grasp. The cat turned into a silver streak that bumped straight into the blackish map of the devourer. Upon reaching it, Lucky activated a supercharged version of his energy claws and tore a small hole out of the abyss.
Somehow, this minor action stopped the massive energy creature. Lucky fell back down in an exhausted state.
"Lucky!" Ves called and ran after his cat who collapsed on the deck. "Are you okay?!"
Lucky appeared much dimmer than before. He even lost some of his silver luster. Yet his single act of defiance had saved them all from imminent death. The devourer king sustained so much damage that it had been pushed back a couple of decks. Still, the wound only hurt it slightly. The monster hadn't sustained any actual damage.
However, before it could make another attempt at devouring the power reactors, the Fire Worm finally reached the right compartment to attack the devourer. It instantly fired off its laser rifle against the devourer's side.
This time, the lasers hit home on the creature. The lasers burned aside the monster's thick exterior and dealt severe internal damage. The devourer became so hurt that it started to rear back from the Wrath, but Venerable Drake didn't let go of his prey.
Without thinking of the consequences, the Fire Worm fired off a single enhanced flame strike. It burned the entire deck into crisp and cremated all of the bodies that had died from being passed through by the devourer.
The flames bore through the gap burned by the laser and inflicted an even greater level of internal damage. The flames burned so hot that the surrounding compartments melted apart.
The devourer king finally couldn't take it anymore. The creature burned from inside out and finally let out a final inaudible roar before it ceased to move.
Moments after that, its ethereal form fragmented into pieces and drifted out of the tunneler. The devourer king had been slain.
No one celebrated the victory this time. The Wrath suffered grievous damage to the point of crippling her in place. Getting her back in a barely functional state required a lot of emergency repairs. With their time on the Glowing Planet running out, the Mech Corps had to race against all odds to retrieve the Gregarious Wrath.
In the meantime, Ves hugged Lucky tight against his chest. "I don't know what you just did, but I'll be sure to pay you back what you lost! I'll get the Mech Corps to feed you some Rorach's Bone if I have to!"
"Meow!" Lucky already perked up when he heard those words. The gem cat already started to salivate at the thought of munching on some of those extremely delicious exotics.
Ves had no doubt the Mech Corps would acquiesce on this issue. After all, everyone in the engineering bay witnessed Lucky's feat. Without his timely assistance, the Gregarious Wrath would have truly become stranded deep inside the Glowing Planet. As long as the engineering bay remained intact, the Wrath could still regain her mobility.
Chief Petrisc approached Ves with a touch of awe. "When I saw you being followed by a mechanical cat, I didn't think it hid such capabilities."
"What can I say? He's a marvel of Rubarthan engineering." Ves lightly boasted. He wanted to intimate that his pet came from a first-rate superstate. Only they could turn a mechanical pet into a killing machine that was capable of harming energy beings. "I hope the Mech Corps doesn't have any intentions for my pet."
"Don't worry! I'm sure command can keep their greedy hands off your property. We aren't that desperate to steal your cat. Besides, we won't be able to beat its loyalty programming anyway."
That lifted off a weight off Ves.
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