Notice: The title given to this article is incorrect due to technical limitations. The correct title is “The Great VSP/WASTE Saga, Part II, Chapter 10.”

The Great VSP Saga:
Part II

The Bad Guys Strike Back

Table of Contents

Part II

Chapter 10

'CLEANING HOUSE'

Back in the VSP Headquarters, things were going well. Our heroes had almost reached the command room, but then they realized there was a problem. Well, Mack actually realized it, but that’s beside the point.

“Hey guys, hold up,” Mack called out as the team prepared to enter the final series of hallways leading to the command room.

“What?” came the simultaneous, annoyed reply from most everyone.

“Things are not gonna be so easy from here on out,” Mack replied, unfazed by the irritation expressed by the others. “We designed the security traps to be heaviest around the entrances and around the command center. The hallways coming up, and especially the center itself, are going to be VERY heavily defended by gun and missile traps.”

“Not to mention whatever other little surprises the banned goons have in mind for us,” Zeus added.

“Mack is right,” Odin agreed. “We made sure that if anyone got this far into the base, they’d have a real hard time making it to the really critical areas.”

“So what do you suggest we do?” Tarun asked.

“Yeah, for once it sounds like pure brute force won’t cut it,” Ytse stated.

“Drat,” Seawolf said disappointedly.

So they thought about it, and as always, it took several minutes of rather intense debating before anyone came up with anything.

Even though he was looking out for it, the idea that came still managed to hit Auspex in the back.

He sighed and relayed it to the rest of the group.

“Okay, guys,” Auspex gathered everyone’s attention. “Here’s what we outta do. Mack, there are computer terminals around where you could hack into the network and disable some of the security system, right?”

Mack pondered this a moment, and then Endarire replied for him. “Yes, there are several. The closest is a couple floors down, almost right underneath us.”

“I don’t know how much we could do, though,” Mack took back over. “Bakjak and TGF are bound to have some kind of continuing control over the computer systems, and they’ve got to be monitoring for just such an effort on our parts.”

“Then how about this?” Seawolf chimed in. “We don’t even try to disable them, at least not the way you’re thinking. How about we just knock them out completely?”

Everyone else just gave him a blank stare. “I’m afraid I don’t follow,” Auspex finally said.

Seawolf grinned. “Ever see Independence Day?”

“Yeah...ooooooh,” Auspex started to get it.

Phoenix got it, too. “A computer virus?” he asked.

“Exactly,” Seawolf said triumphantly.

“But the computer network is very virus-resistant,” Mack said. “It would probably just shrug off anything you threw at it.”

“Not if Bakjak and TGF are in control,” Seawolf argued. “They’re not exactly computer gurus, and if they have control of the network, which they obviously do, that means they’re overriding anything that was there before...”

“...including the anti-virus stuff,” Zeus realized.

“Yeah, exactly.”

They thought about it, and decided it was definitely worth a shot. So Seawolf led Phoenix, Mack, and Zeus down to the nearest computer terminal, while Auspex led the others in a slow advance on the command room, deciding it was at least worth seeing how tight the security really was. If worse came to worse, they could always pull back and wait.

***

Up in space, Mason, Codebreaker, Lambda, and Zeratul had their hands full. They had been attacked by numerous marines and ghosts as soon as they had stepped off the entrance hatch to the DragonSlayer, as well as three of Broker’s forgotten BattleMechs. The quick attack by Broker’s troops had forced them to quickly shut the DragonSlayer’s hatch and duck for cover. They were now underneath the Proto-Cruiser, hiding behind landing struts and firing back.

Codebreaker was reminded of the Star Wars battle in Docking Bay 94 between Han Solo and Chewbacca and a whole legion of stormtroopers. On a whim, he peeked past Broker’s forces to the hanger door...sure enough, there was the number 94.

He groaned and concentrated on his aiming again.

***

Seawolf, Phoenix, Mack, and Zeus had run into more trouble than they had expected. The terminals they were trying to reach were protected by a small but deadly cluster of missile traps that Mack had remembered a little too late.

“Wish Jenni was here,” Phoenix said over the noise. “Woulda made things a lot easier.”

“Yeah,” Seawolf agreed, as he leaned around a corner to fire off a few more shots. A missile locked on, and Seawolf barely managed to duck back before it blew a good-sized hole in the wall where he had just been. “Definitely woulda been nice,” he agreed again.

He leaned out once more, and noticed that the missile trap that had just fired on him was gone. In its place was a smoking hole in the ceiling. ‘What the...?’ he wondered.

He quickly scanned around the room, and saw the flash of gunfire coming from a hallway opposite them. He squinted, and was able to make out a single, shadowy figure though the smoke before it ducked back. Seawolf suddenly realized that was a good idea and did the same as another missile blew a hole in the wall.

“Guys, we seem to be blessed with unexpected help again,” he told the others. He pointed, and one by one, the other three snuck a peek at their ally on the other side of the room.

“One of the others?” Zeus wondered aloud as he ducked back after his glance.

“Maybe, but I doubt it,” Mack said. “Wouldn’t they be coming from behind us?”

“And why would only ONE come down?” Phoenix added.

“Yeah, good points,” Zeus agreed. “Then who is it?”

“Who cares?” Seawolf replied. “We’ll find out after this is over with.” He and the others went back to fire-and-duck attacks, taking out one trap at a time, until finally the room was clear.

They all stepped around the corner and raised their weapons, not wanting to take any risks of their “friend” turning on them now that the missile threat was gone.

Tentatively, the stranger also stepped into the open. He walked out of the still-clearing smoke, sporting a Gauss Rifle and a grin on his face.

“Pure Orange!” Seawolf shouted out. “How’d YOU get here?”

Pure Orange smiled a little more broadly and shook Seawolf’s hand. “Kinda a funny story, actually,” he said, greeting the other three before continuing. “Bakjak and TGF called all banned forumers here, since they assumed that they all hated you guys. What they forgot is that I was banned at the same time as Optiplex, since we unfortunately happen to have the same IP address. I took the call and joined up with them, claiming to want revenge for being banned when I was innocent.” He shrugged. “They actually bought it. So when you all arrived, I played along, pretending to enjoy watching you all being attacked. But when Phoenix here went into battle with that Alpha weapon thing, I silently slipped out and came to help. I heard the gunfire here, and came to see what was up. And that brings us up to about five minutes ago. I think you know the rest.” He grinned again.

“Remind me to unban you if we pull all this off,” Zeus said.

“I think I can remember that,” Orange replied, smiling broadly.

“Okay, well, you any good at computers?” Mack asked their new ally.

“Kinda,” Orange replied diffidently.

“Well, you can shoot at least, right?” Seawolf asked.

“Oh yeah,” Orange replied, lifting his rifle a little higher. “Need more proof?”

“We just might,” Seawolf said. “Welcome to our little group.” He shook Orange’s hand again, and they continued on to the now-undefended computer terminals.

***

MysteriousGuy heard the sounds of battle up ahead. Still unarmed, he didn’t want to find himself in the middle of a fight, but he DID want to know what was going on. He slowly slipped his head around the corner and got a look.

What we saw blew his mind. There was Bakjak, dressed in a strange black robe with his gun in one hand and a weird orb-topped staff in the other. Surrounding him was a small group of Broker’s men hiding behind various cover and firing random shots at Bakjak, with dozens more men littered across the floor. ‘Has Bakjak done all THAT?’ he wondered.

His answer came quickly. One of the marines showed himself a second too long, and Bakjak blasted him with a burst of blue fire from his staff. MG felt his jaw drop as the marine flew back several feet and slammed into a wall with a sickening crunch. ‘What kind of staff IS that?!’

MysteriousGuy noticed that no one seemed to be looking his direction, so he crawled forward a bit and grabbed a fallen marine by the collar, dragging him back into cover. He took his Gauss Rifle and examined his armor. It had a hole in the lower chest, probably a shot from Bakjak’s gun, but was otherwise undamaged. He stripped it off the dead marine and climbed into it himself, noticing a nice security cylinder in the breast pocket. He pulled it out and examined it, realizing with a grin that it had VERY high clearance. This must have been the group’s commander. He looked down at the chest tag of the suit, which read ‘WALLACE’.

“Cool,” he said. “What luck!”

He dug around a little more and found a disc of some kind in another pocket. He examined it, and saw a series of strange symbols and markings. The only recognizable thing was ‘3 OF 5’ written in small print near the bottom.

He shrugged, pocketed the cylinder and disc again and headed away from the battle. Bakjak wasn’t likely to help MysteriousGuy, even if he offered his help to the staff-armed man, and MG was in no hurry to end up in a three-way battle with just a Gauss Rifle and a marine suit with a hole in it for protection.

He started wandering around, looking for a computer terminal to use his new cylinder and disc on, hoping he could find a way out of here....

***

In Washington state, the narrator Mason Wheeler jumped out of bed at the sound of his front door being broken open.

He pulled on a black robe over his bed clothes, grabbed a pistol and a handheld cylinder, and slowly crept downstairs.

And there, wearing a brown robe and holding a cylinder much like Wheeler’s, was Mark Brown.

“You should not have come back,” Wheeler said, pulling out his own cylinder. “You left this state just recently for California...it was unwise to return.”

Mark laughed. “You have disgraced the position of Narrator. And I am here to take it back.”

Wheeler grinned. “Now I am the master. I’m not afraid of you.”

Mark raised an eyebrow. “You will be,” he lifted his cylinder and lowered his voice. “You WILL be.”

And at the same moment, both flipped a small switch on their cylinders, and a long, luminous blade came out of each, humming loudly. Mark’s was green; Wheeler’s was red.

They were lightsabers.

The ‘Duel of Fates’ had begun.

***

What will happen down in VSP Headquarters? Will the virus work?

Will Mason, Codebreaker, Lambda, and Zeratul be able to find MysteriousGuy before Broker’s men do?

What is Bakjak doing in Broker’s base, and where did he get that wonderful toy (staff)?

What can the Crossover disc MysteriousGuy found do, and where are the other three discs?

How many Star Wars lines will come up in the epic battle between narrators?

Find out all this and more next time...in the Great VSP/WASTE Saga: Part II!!!

Seawolf


Up in Broker's fortress, the tide was turning slightly in the favor of the Good Guys. They had been able to come out of cover and Zeratul and Codebreaker were fighting some Marines 1 on 1 with their blades. Zeratul had just finished mopping up some Marines when he spotted a shadowy figure running through the Hanger Bay door (the one with the big '94' on it). Zeratul followed him until they were in an empty hallway, then stopped. "Broker," he said. The shadowy figure turned. "Ah, I'm so glad that you recognized me. I was worried that from the back I would be too inconspicuous. But no matter. You're here, and the duel can begin. Broker removed a large sword from under his cloak that Zeratul instantly recognized as Cloud's Ultima weapon from Final Fantasy VII. Zeratul glared at him and ignited his Warp Blades. They clashed for awhile, never really doing much damage until Broker hit Zeratul over the head with the butt of his enormous sword. He then lifted the blade and swung it down in an attempt to split Zeratul wide open like a big ripe fruit. Zeratul instinctively blocked with his arms...

...and his Warp Blade generators were hit dead-on. They fizzled, crackled, and exploded. Zeratul's eyes clouded over with rage. He removed the Ragnarok from his side and began fighting like a wild beast. It was all Broker could do to keep from getting hacked to pieces. Then Zeratul scored a lucky hit and severed Broker's arm. It fell to the ground and spurted blood. "There, I won. Now, tell me where all the pieces of the Crossover are kept."

"What do you mean, 'won'?" replied Broker.

"Your arm's off!"

"No it isn't."

"Well then what do you call that?"

"Just a scratch."

"A scratch?"

"I've had worse."

"You lie!"

And the fighting continued. Broker charged out with his sword pointed forward like a lance...

...and lost his other arm. Zeratul kneeled down with the Ragnarok and began praying. "We thank thee Adun that in thy mercy—" Zeratul was rudely interrupted by Broker's foot kicking him in the side. "Come on, come on! Or are you chicken you stupid Templar?"

"You are very brave Broker," said Zeratul, "But the fight is mine!"

"What are you talking about?"

"I cut your arms off!"

"Merely a flesh wound!" And Broker began kicking Zeratul again.

"Look, I'll have your legs too!"

"The villainous Power-Crazed maniac always wins!"

"Alright then!" Zeratul cut off Broker's right leg.

"I'm invincible!" yelled Broker.

"You're a lunatic," replied Zeratul. "What are you going to do? Bleed on me?"

"I'll bite your nuts off!"

With that insult, Zeratul severed Broker's other leg.

As Broker was laying limbless on the ground, Zeratul continued to interrogate him. "Oh all right, I'll tell you," said Broker. "But only because I'm a clone."

"What?" asked Zeratul.

"Oh come on, you don't think Broker would lose to a jackass like you that easily! Especially when he keeps the fifth and most potent piece of the Crossover on his person. And another thing. Your swordsmanship is so awful—"

Zeratul decided he'd heard enough and neatly decapitated the Broker clone. Then he remembered his Warp Blades, the ones that had served him so faithfully for the last hundred years or so. Then he remembered that he could melt down a powerful sword into new Warp Blades. He stared at the Ragnarok. After a moment he recalled that it could grow even more powerful. He removed the Crossover fragment and a small palmtop computer from his pocket and entered the Arena from Final Fantasy VI. He bet the Ragnarok Sword and encountered a huge creature called Didalos. For plot's sake, he won. And received for his troubles the Illumina Blade. Then he summoned Ifrit and had the Illumina melted down. He then summoned the weaponsmith from Final Fantasy VII and had the molten blade forged into a new pair of Warp Blades. He smiled as he tested them out on the wall. They sliced through it like a hot knife through butter. They also cut some electrical cords, causing several lights to go out. He cursed, silently.

Dark T Zeratul


MysteriousGuy, wearing Commander Wallace's armor and holding his Gauss Rifle, ran down the hallway opposite of Bakjak, who was continually killing off hundreds of Broker's men. Why Broker didn't pull his men away, only he knows. But he sent them coming nonetheless, and they kept on dying before the wrath of Bakjak. MG didn't bother to try and find out, either. There had already been far too many chaotic, unrealistic happenings for MG to care anymore. The world of the VSP/WASTE Saga was falling apart, and there were so many conflicts, that there could be no real ending to it. No final duel could revive the shattered universe; no Crossover could better it without destroying more than its worth. There could be no end to this chaotic whirlwind of climaxes, duels, finalities, characters, and contrivances. Even the Narrators of the Saga were in conflict, being two of them. Even if one were to destroy the other, there would be no hope of restoring the Saga to its pure form. There was no 'All in All', no one thing that it all came down to. It was impossible, by definition. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. No one action could resolve the hundreds of tears and rips in the Saga.

MG sighed as he walked down the empty hallway, hundreds of Crossover's rushing past him, Broker's men in chaos. He even saw some VSP and WASTE members run by him from time to time, but he cared little anymore. Nothing would save the world that he had helped to create. Anything even attempting so would most likely hurt it more than help it. Disgusted with how impossible the situation was, MG took off his armor and dropped his Gauss rifle, keeping only the disk which read '3 of 5'. He wondered what that could possibly mean. Maybe it was in a series of floppy setup disks. Oh well, he thought, who cares? It's just a disk. But he kept it all the same, holding on to it for intuition's sake.

***

Mark Brown faced Mason Wheeler. They had their lightsabers drawn, green and red. At once, they both initiated quick right swings aimed at each other's heads. Since they were both right handed, they killed each other.

***

In Broker's fortress, Mason Wheeler suddenly collapsed to the ground.

"What?" said Codebreaker. He turned to Mason and began examining him. That was all the time Jack Frost needed. He leaped into the room, flamethrowers blazing. Fire went everywhere, frying Codebreaker and everyone else in the room. Including Frost.

***

In the VSP HQ, Mack Kilimaro suddenly collapsed to the ground.

"What?" said Seawolf. He turned to Mack and began examining him. That was all the time TELE needed. He leaped into the room, guns blazing in all directions. Bullets ricocheted everywhere, peppering Seawolf and everyone else in the room. Including TELE.

***

Bakjak continued to kill scores and scores of Broker's men, one after one. He had been at it for quite a while, and he had an itch in the back of his neck. He dropped his staff and itched it, and when he moved to pick up his staff again, he was gunned into oblivion by hundreds of marines. Tanks (out of nowhere) fired shells into Bakjak, until his corpse just flopped up and down from the explosions. He was dead.

***

MG was walking along with the '3 of 5' disk, minding his own business, when all of the sudden, he tripped over another one of Broker's dead men. He hit the ground hands first.

He got up, brushed himself off, and walked right into a Flame Trap.

***

MG woke up, finding himself in a room with lots of white light. He could barely distinguish other members of the SAGA also in the same room. He looked up, half-expecting to see Auspex. He did.

"I am Auspex," boomed Auspex, "You have completed your task. You are free to go."

"What?" asked MG.

"You have put your mind on things other than Antioch 3. That was the purpose of this Saga."

"Er- it was?"

"Of course it was, imbecile! I made it, didn't I?"

"You...WHAT?"

"Hahahahaha...you didn't think I'd let my fanbase stay dry, waiting for updates, did you? It was I that created the 2nd Saga, I that erased Rockwell! It was I that threw the Saga world into chaos, with hundreds of different sad attempts of heroism and encounters with Broker. I swear, you must've met up with Broker or his clones 50 times!"

"So YOU narrated the ENTIRE saga!"

"Heck ya! You don't REALLY think I've been working on A3 this whole time, did you? What did you THINK I was doing during my week-long breaks? Giving you lowlings something to do! Now, the task is completed. There awaits only three or four weeks until A3 is completed, and I'm sure you can manage yourself during that time."

"I thought WE made the saga!"

"No, I just messed around with the IP addresses and names so that it just SEEMED that way."

"Well, it's not done yet!"

"Sure it is! This IS your ending, isn't it?"

"Well, everyone dies! And it's not really the same plot. Someone else can write something."

"Fine, fine. They can tag this onto their plot if they feel like it. As long as I hear no more complaints about A3, I'm fine with it!"

And so, it came to pass that other Forumers stuck MG's 'ending' right before theirs. And there was much rejoicing.

MysteriousGuy


After a blinding flash, MysteriousGuy, Bakjak, Codebreaker, Seawolf, Mark Brown, Mason Wheeler (both of them), and all the rest suddenly found themselves back in the story, right where they had been before MysteriousGuy’s ‘ending’, and the story proceeded (after the aforementioned “great rejoicing” and convenient memory wipes)....

The Great VSP Saga II-11

'BEGINNING OF THE END'

IN BROKER’S STRONGHOLD....

Bakjak was no longer so invincible. He was surprised how many men Broker had diverted from defending against the members of the VSP and WASTE that must have been coming as well.

The Staff of Magius had allowed him to drive off almost two-hundred men so far, but the unrelenting attacks were taking their toll. His shield found it harder and harder to keep up with the harassing from the now very numerous enemy forces. Bakjak’s left arm had been hurt badly, and he had taken some damage in his back and chest as well, some of it bleeding. And Broker still had a lot more men coming at him.

Bakjak found himself wondering if this had been such a good idea after all.

***

Elsewhere in the base, MysteriousGuy had found a computer terminal and was trying to figure out how to use his code cylinder. He searched around and found what looked like the correct slot, and plugged the cylinder in.

The computer whirred to life and prompted him for a password.

“Awwww crap,” he murmured. He began to think, searching through his recently-reacquired memory...

...‘Tyderium’? He tried it, and after a brief pause, the computer accepted it and brought up the main database.

First, MysteriousGuy wanted a map, since a lot of the details about the base’s layout still lay just beyond his still-foggy memory’s grasp. He found one and studied it thoroughly, developing a rough idea of how to reach the nearest hangar bay.

Next, he pulled out the strange ‘3 of 5’ data disc and inserted it into the appropriate slot.

And once again, he felt his mouth drop. “Holy...”

***

“S#1T!!” Auspex shouted.

Auspex had made a very bad tactical error. His plan of attacking the security system bit by bit on approach to the control room, making progress now in case Seawolf and the others couldn’t disable the system, had resulted in near-disaster when the heroes had found themselves trapped between the emplacements they were attacking in front of them and a large group of traps that had popped up behind them. Everyone had leapt to the sides, some into doorways, some behind columns, some behind crates and furniture, and some were still far back enough to make it into the room they had come from before the traps behind the team had cut them off.

Mack hadn’t been kidding...the hallway was loaded with security emplacements. Most of the VSPers and WASTErs were just trying not to get shot, not even bothering to try and fire back.

Auspex had recently seen the genius behind it all. Up above, several security cameras were scanning the hall. He could picture TGF and the others laughing as they had watched and waited for the perfect time to spring their trap, landing the team between a rock and a hard place. He cursed again at his own stupidity and shot out one of the cameras.

“C’mon, Seawolf,” Auspex whispered. “Hurry....”

***

Seawolf was attempting to do just that. His fingers flew over the keyboard, typing faster than even he thought he could while the others with him kept looking back and forth from his terminal to the video footage of their friends upstairs, which Zeus had figured out how to keep on the other terminal’s screen.

After several agonizingly slow minutes, Seawolf sat up and proudly pronounced that he was finished. Mack sat down beside him and showed him how to access the network’s main operating system. Seawolf crossed his fingers and began uploading the virus.

“Do it,” he whispered quietly as the uploading percentage climbed. “Do it....”

***

In the control room, TGF, Optiplex, and Vank Tar (previously not mentioned but there just the same) stood atop the same raised platform that the final four villains from the last saga had faced the VSP and their friends from. They were laughing with delight as they watched the heroes that had walked right into their trap.

“Excellent plan, TGF,” Vank clapped his comrade on the back.

“Yesss...those ‘heroes’ are paying now for banning us! Good work,” Optiplex chimed in.

TGF smiled. “Why thank y....” His voice trailed off as he turned his head to look at the other two. His eye had caught an image on one of the many monitors around him, and he hadn’t liked what he had seen.

“What’s wrong?” Vank asked, studying his face.

TGF didn’t answer. He walked to the edge of the platform and looked down. There were TELE and Halo, carrying Gauss Rifles and casually patrolling the area around the room’s main entrance doors. But where was...?

“Where’s Pure Orange?” he asked. Vank and Optiplex looked at each other and then walked to the edge to look down themselves.

TGF ran past them, back to the video monitors. He manually scanned through the different camera views until he found the one he had seen before, and rewound it a bit...

...There! He let it play again, and saw five people crowded into a small computer room. He paused the view and zoomed in. There was that Seawolf character, along with the Posse member Mack Kilimaro, sitting at a terminal. With them were Zeus Legion, Phoenix...and Pure Orange.

“Traitor,” TGF whispered fiercely at the screen. “I should have known better....”

He zoomed in for a closer look at the terminal Seawolf and Mack were on. Squinting to see past the distortion, he saw the main system screen on the terminal’s monitor. Overtop of it was a window with a status bar....

“No,” he whispered. He quickly flipped on the main system on his own terminal, and blanched. Even as he watched, files began disappearing. TGF cursed and tried to do something...ANYTHING...to stop the virus Seawolf had uploaded....

***

Several floors down, Seawolf smiled as he saw another user, probably TGF, hack into the system and try deleting corrupted files before the virus could spread.

‘Too late, suckers,’ he thought.

His smile broadened as a new image came up on his screen, because he knew that the Banned Ones would now be seeing the same thing.

“Veeery cute, man,” Phoenix said from behind him.

Seawolf shrugged. “Figured I may as well complete the Independence Day reference,” he replied, and then picked up his Gauss Rifle.

“Let’s go finish the job, shall we?”

***

TGF was in shock. He sat in his chair, shoulders slack, and stared at the screen in front of him.

Staring back was an image of a laughing Jolly Roger, the only thing he could still access.

He swore again and walked over to the edge, picking up his customized C-10 as he went.

“We’re gonna have company!” he shouted to the others.

***

Auspex and company cheered as the traps shut down, one by one. For insurance, they blasted the now-motionless emplacements and moved down the hallway towards the control room.

***

BACK AT BROKER’S BASE....

Codebreaker, Lambda Corps, and Mason Wheeler finished dusting off the last troops in and around Hangar Bay 94 and ran into Dark_T_Zeratul. Quite literally, in fact.

After they all picked themselves back up off the floor, the three heroes noticed Zeratul’s new blades.

“Cool,” Lambda said. “Where’d you get those?”

“I made them, just now,” Zeratul replied, still admiring his new greenish-yellow tinted blades.

“Where’re your other ones?” Mason asked.

“I’ll tell you later. For now, let’s just find MysteriousGuy.”

They all decided that was a good idea, since it was one of the primary reasons they had come here in the first place.

So they continued into the base, picking off the occasional soldier that attacked them, until they heard a lot of gunfire and shouting up ahead.

Codebreaker held up his hand for everyone to stop, and slowly crept forward alone.

He came to the end of the hall, and carefully peeked around the corner to see...

...another hallway. At the end of THAT hallway, he saw the flashes and smoke of gunfire coming from a room at the end.

He sighed, hoisted his rifle, and slowly moved towards the end, signaling the rest of the team to advance a little behind him.

***

Meanwhile, the “duel of fates” between Mark Brown and the narrator Mason Wheeler was growing quite intense. It had started slow and predictably like the lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi, but had quickly progressed to a fast-paced blur like the Obi-Wan/Darth Maul duel, with the strikes and counter-strikes becoming hard to follow.

Sweating from the fight, Mark Brown was unhappy to discover that he was losing. Wheeler was slowly but steadily driving him back towards the wall, slashing unceasingly and leaving Mark no room to gain the advantage.

“I sense your vaunted power has diminished since last we met,” Wheeler taunted as he fought, throwing in a vague Starcraft reference.

Mark merely frowned back and continued to defend against the assault, stealing glances around the immediate area for something, ANYTHING, that could help.

And then he felt it. As he retreated backwards, his foot brushed against a speaker that had been overturned during the fight. He worked his way behind it, parrying blows, and with a forceful kick sent the speaker slamming into Wheeler’s legs.

The sudden impact caused Wheeler to stumble, and Mark was able to go back on the offensive, driving Wheeler back towards the center of the room.

“Impressive,” Wheeler commented. “Most impressive.”

“You’ll find I’m full of surprises,” Mark shot back.

“You can’t win, Mark. If you strike me down, both I AND my in-story self will die. And vice-versa, which is why I have only interfered when my counterpart is threatened.”

“You are only a Narrator of evil, Wheeler. You use the story for your own sick enjoyment.” Mark kept on attacking, but his growing anger began to make his slashes sporadic.

“Is that any different than you, Brown?” Wheeler countered. “You molded the original saga as well, using your plot contrivances to further the story. You steered it in the direction YOU wanted it to go.”

“No. No, that’s not true,” Mark said, his voice and anger building. “That’s impossible!”

“Search your feelings. You know it to be true.”

“Noooo!” Mark screamed, diving in with his saber.

Wheeler countered, and the duel continued.

***

BACK IN BROKER’S STATION (again)....

‘No way,’ Codebreaker thought. He signaled everyone else to have a peek into the room where the battle they had heard was taking place.

Lambda was the last to look, and he turned to the others in shock. “Is that Bakjak?” he asked quietly.

“Looks like it,” Codebreaker replied. “Cool. That’ll make for a great distraction.” He started to retreat back down the hall. “Now let’s use it and move on....”

“We have to save him,” Mason said, unmoving.

The other three turned to him, obvious surprise on their faces. “What?” Zeratul asked incredulously. “Why?! That’s BAKJAK we’re talking about. You know, our ENEMY?!”

Mason stared back intently. “He’s also vastly outnumbered. You saw he’s hurting bad. If we saved him, he could help us.”

“Or kill us,” Zeratul argued.

“Okay, don’t do it for that reason. Do it because he has another piece of the Crossover disc.”

“What?” Codebreaker broke in. “How do you know that?”

Mason shrugged. “A hunch. Think about it...Dvorak had one. He was Broker’s chief of security, among other things. Told Zeratul himself. He also told him that he and three other people had pieces of the Crossover disc. Based on those two facts, we can assume Broker passed out pieces of the disc to Dvorak and three more of his important officers and men. Bakjak was one of his key guys, leading the capture of the Antioch staff from N. C. State. So we can assume that Bakjak got a piece of the disc to protect.”

The others stared at him, taking a few seconds to catch up with his logic. “Okay,” Lambda said. “But that’s still just a hunch.”

“True, but it seems more than plausible,” Mason replied.

“Yeah,” Codebreaker agreed. “It does.”

Zeratul sighed and mumbled his agreement.

“Okay, then,” Mason said. “So we save him.”

“But how?” Lambda asked. “That’s a lot of soldiers in there.”

“Ummm...that I hadn’t figured out yet.”

The other three shook their heads and started to brainstorm.

***

IN THE VSP HEADQUARTERS....

Auspex and his group had been standing in front of the control room for a good minute, staring at the massive steel slab that was the closed and locked entrance door.

“Sooo...” Spooky finally broke the silence, “how do we get in?”

“Well last time,” Auspex spoke up, “Zeus and Zeratul cut a hole in the door with their warp blades. But, uh...neither of them are here right now.”

Tarun stepped to the front and ignited his psi blades. He drove them into the door, and they immediately fizzled out.

He tried again, joined by Odin and Endarire with their blades, but with the same effect.

In frustration, Ytse fired a C-10 round into the door, which of course had no effect.

Flare motioned everyone back and turned his flamethrowers on, focusing on one spot on the door, and kept them going steady for almost a minute before shutting them off. The steel wasn’t even warped.

He put his hands on his hips in frustration, staring at the door...

...and felt a small ball hanging from his hip. He looked down and saw one of the two photon grenades that Codebreaker had issued him before they had infiltrated Broker’s first base. He had completely forgotten about them, and so had everyone else: everyone except Auspex and Ytse had some, and none of them had been used yet.

He grinned and unhooked one from his belt. “Hey, guys....”

***

Downstairs the others were running to catch up, but as they approached the stairwell, they heard several people talking loudly in a room up ahead.

Seawolf, in the lead, ground to a halt, and predictably everyone else piled into him from behind and they all fell into a heap.

“Shhhhh!” he whispered fiercely as they all scrambled back to their feet.

“You hear that too?” Zeus asked.

“Yeah. Orange, any of your ‘buddies’ use that room?”

“Not that I’m aware of,” Orange replied. “They’re all hanging out up in the control room.”

“Then who...?” Phoenix started.

“Maybe it’s our techs,” Mack offered. “I’d assumed they hadn’t fared well after TGF and the rest showed up, but they could still be alive and well.”

“Then there’ll likely be guards,” Zeus said, igniting his blades.

“Yeah, probably,” Seawolf agreed. “Okay, nice and easy, let’s have a little look.”

They all crept forward, and as they reached the doorway, leapt through it and raised their weapons.

“Nobody move!” Seawolf called out, scanning for enemy targets.

“Wait wait wait!” Mack shouted. “They’re all techs, no enemies!”

Seawolf noticed he was right, except for one figure passed out on the floor....

“Gurney!” Phoenix saw him. “What’s HE doing here?!”

Seawolf walked up and examined him. Then he grinned and shook his head, taking a look at the frightened but still very drunk techs. “He’s sleeping. Looks like he drank himself right onto the floor.”

“I don’t envy the hangover he’ll have later,” Zeus said.

Seawolf laughed. “Yeah. Okay, let’s tie him up and explain what’s going on to our poor drunken friends.”

“And then,” Mack added, “we head upstairs to help mop up.”

“Just hope there’s something left by then,” Phoenix said, bringing over a power cord to tie up the traitorous Dale Gurney.

***

‘These hallways all look alike,’ MysteriousGuy thought to himself.

He had a printout of the base’s map in his hand, and according to it, he should be right at the entrance to the hangar he was trying to find. But there was no hangar. In fact, nothing around him seemed to match the map. So either the map was wrong, or he wasn’t where he thought he was. ‘Probably the latter’ he thought despondently.

After pacing back and forth down the hallway, looking for a door to the hangar, he finally decided that he was lost.

MG decided to retrace his steps, looking at the hallways and landmarks along the way to try to figure out where he was on the map.

While he walked back, he thought about the disc he had found. It hadn’t taken him long to figure out what it was...a piece of the Crossover accessing disc. More specifically, it was the piece that accessed the Star Wars universe, explaining how Broker had been able to call in X-wings as part of his fleet. If he could just get the disc back to Headquarters, not only would Broker not be able to call in any more Star Wars ships to fight the VSP, but the VSP would be able to call in ships to fight Broker! MG grinned at the thought, reaching inside his VSP/WASTE jacket to touch the disc and be sure it was still there. His paranoia dissolved as he felt the plastic edge.

A minute later, he figured out that he wasn’t that far away from where he wanted to be. The hangar was separated from him by a large room that was unlabeled on the map. MG assumed it was merely a storage area of some kind. The map showed a door into the room both here and on the other side of the room, right near the hangar entrance. It would be quickest, he decided, to just cut through the room.

He dug in his pocket for his code cylinder, and shoved it into the key slot. The door to the room swished open, and he retrieved his cylinder and walked in.

As the door slid closed behind him, MysteriousGuy realized this was NOT a storage area.

The room had thick carpet, and was filled with various humming and beeping pieces of machinery and video monitors. It appeared to be a control room of some kind, though fortunately for MG, it seemed to be deserted at the moment.

He hefted his rifle a little higher and moved cautiously forward, heading for the door on the other side of the room. Beyond that, the hangar, and freedom. Just a few more feet....

Before he even knew what was happening, MysteriousGuy found himself on the floor, looking up at the ceiling. He put his hand to his head, and felt blood from the spot where he had been bludgeoned.

Suddenly sensing his attacker coming in to strike again, MG rolled to the side. He heard (or rather, felt) a heavy thud behind him: a club of some kind striking the floor hard where he had just been.

He completed his roll and swiftly leapt to his feet, turning for the first time to see his attacker.

It was Kurt Broker.

Broker looked up from the spot on the floor, a large metal bar in one hand and a pistol at his side, and looked directly at MG with fire in his eyes.

“MISTER Dvorak,” he said, chuckling. “How appropriate. I should have killed you long ago when you failed me in your cloning projects,” he said with a sneer.

MysteriousGuy felt his own anger welling up inside, and he wished dearly that he still had his rifle, which he had dropped when he had fallen.

“You want this, don’t you?” Broker asked, picking up the Gauss Rifle off the floor. “The hate is building in you now.” He smiled and tossed the rifle to MG, who caught it and immediately aimed at his foe. Broker smiled even more broadly and stood tall. “Strike me down with all of your anger and your destruction of Antioch Three will be complete!”

MysteriousGuy blinked, his finger on the trigger. Here was his chance to take his revenge on the man that had destroyed his entire life. But if he killed Broker, he would indeed destroy A3. Whether he liked it or not (and he definitely didn’t), Broker was just as vital a character in A3 as Mason Rockwell....

MG made his decision. “No,” he said, tossing his rifle to the side. “I’ll never ruin A3. You’ve failed, Broker. I am a Good Guy, like my friends who accepted me after you destroyed my life.”

Broker paused for a long moment and made a decision of his own. “So be it...Good Guy.” He reached for his pistol. “If you will not be turned, then you will be DESTROYED!”

He pulled out his sidearm and fired, but MG, knowing how the quote ended, had already dived for cover.

MysteriousGuy cursed himself. ‘I could have at least shot him in the leg or something,’ he thought. Too late now...his Gauss Rifle was once again on the floor, only feet away but too far to get to with Broker firing on him.

‘NOW what?!’ he wondered, ducking down behind a control panel.

***

TGF couldn’t believe that things had gone so wrong.

Things had been perfect. The VSP Headquarters had been his, its advanced camera and security systems at his disposal. The VSP and their friends had arrived, the security traps had them tied down, and the secret weapon had been on its way up from the basement. Victory seemed within his grasp.

Then things had started going wrong. The heroes had overcome the security traps, that cursed Phoenix had destroyed the weapon, and Bakjak had deserted them. Then Seawolf had robbed him of any control over the headquarters’ computer network, and in that moment, TGF and the Banned Ones had lost their edge. It was no longer a matter of IF the VSP would reach the control room, but WHEN.

But the Banned Ones would not go down without a fight. They had riddled the area around the entrance with numerous booby traps, ranging from rudimentary tripwires to a large bucket of butterscotch ready to dump on the VSP, something TELE had insisted on. They were all armed with at least two guns, and had numerous clips they had salvaged from the VSP weapons lockers. All in all, they were prepared to go down in a blaze of glory if it came down to it, as long as they took some of the VSP and their friends with them.

Well, MOST of the Banned Ones were ready for that.

TGF had no plans of fighting to the bitter end. He intended to let the Banned Ones fight all they wanted. They could cover his escape. As soon as the VSP got into the room, he would slip behind them and flee back to his X-wing down in the hangar. “Live to fight another day,” he whispered quietly to himself.

A soft thumping sound on the door brought everyone’s guns up. It had sounded almost like a gunshot, muffled by the massive steel slab.

A few seconds more, and they could hear a soft, subdued hissing on the other side of the door. TGF strained his ears to try to identify it.

“Sounds like flamethrowers,” TELE turned and said.

“Yeah,” TGF said back. A couple seconds later, he concluded it probably was.

The VSP had arrived.

But after a little more time went by, the flamethrowers shut off, and everything was once again silent.

***

Outside the room, a small pile of little bluish balls was piled up against the door. Another one sailed through the air, arcing down towards the pile....

***

TGF saw Halo grinning. “They can’t get in,” Halo said confidently.

“Don’t be so sure,” TGF warned. “They did it once before, and they’ll find a way again.”

Halo looked at him with a sarcastic ‘yeah right’ look on his face, and TGF was tempted to walk over and slug him. ‘Insolent little....’

His thought was interrupted as the room was rocked by a massive explosion.

The door was blown right off its hinges, flying a good ten feet into the room and landing with a massive thump.

The Banned Ones all brought their guns up, training them on the doorway.

But no one entered.

The seconds ticked by, and the Banned Ones felt the sweat dripping off their brows, ready to fire on anything that moved through that door....

But no one entered.

***

Grinning, Auspex finished tying a tri-cluster of Jenni’s optic flares to one of the remaining photon grenades. He set the grenade’s timer to ten seconds, and rolled it through the doorway.

***

The Banned Ones saw a small object roll into the room, and Halo, his nerves shot, unleashed a quick burst of fire that missed, but scared everyone else even more.

As soon as they realized what it actually was, they all ducked down as lay as they could, shouting, just a millisecond before the grenade detonated.

Vank, Halo, and Optiplex, with their eyes closed, were scared out of their wits, but otherwise unharmed. TGF and TELE, with their eyes open, were not so lucky. The massive flash from the augmented flares blinded them, and they both began firing wild shots towards the doorway.

Only a second behind the explosion, the heroes of the VSP, WASTE, and TAC (and Jenni) rushed into the room, screaming like banshees and scanning for targets.

With TGF and TELE temporarily incapacitated, Vank, Optiplex, and Halo found themselves horribly outnumbered.

But then the booby traps began taking their toll. Tarun and Ytse hit a tripwire and fell to the ground, followed a second later by Spooky and Flare. MilkDuds and Endarire slipped on a large puddle of well-placed grease and went sprawling down as well.

TELE got his act together enough to activate the bucket of butterscotch, which dumped several dozen gallons of the sticky fluid on the heroes. Those who were still on their feet struggled to bring their weapons to bear, their movements slowed by the butterscotch.

The Banned Ones used the opportunity to fire on the heroes, but had only a couple seconds without retaliation, and the heroes recovered and fired back before any of them were hit, driving the Banned Ones back into cover.

TGF blinked rapidly, trying to clear his vision. He could make out greatly blurred movement, but little else.

TELE, similarly blinded, squinted and was able to make out a figure with a gun. He took aim and opened fire.

Optiplex screamed as he took a Gauss round in the arm from TELE’s rifle. Confused by the hit from behind, he turned and fired back randomly. TELE was fortunate enough to have already ducked back down, as the bullets ripped though the air where he had been standing less than a second ago.

The distraction gave the heroes covered in butterscotch enough time to reorganize themselves. They all got back to their feet, and those with guns began laying down cover fire while the others readied their blades or flamethrowers to take out any Banned Ones that got close.

Vank, like most of the rest of Banned Ones, was not exactly known for his intelligence. But he could see that they were going to lose. The VSP and their allies had shrugged off the booby traps with ease, and were now advancing into the room. Their numerous weapons prevented any chance of being shot without their attacker paying the ultimate price as well. So while the others continued to exchange fire with the invaders, Vank began looking for a way to reach the door. He quickly plotted out a route that should get him there without him having to leave cover until the very end, and he dropped down to his stomach and began crawling towards the entrance.

The Good Guys had grouped together in a loose box-like formation, heading towards Optiplex and Halo. Those with ranged weapons—Auspex, Ytse, MilkDuds, Flyspeck, and Spooky with C-10s and Mat-Def with his Gauss Rifle—were in the front, with Jenni hidden in the midst of them. The melee warriors—Odin, Endarire, Tarun, and Flare—were behind them, waiting for their chance to get a piece of the Banned Ones.

TGF’s vision was still blurry, but he was able to make out his surroundings and tell friend from foe. He saw the VSP and the others in the center of the room, staying in one large group and firing without pause. There were Optiplex and Halo, sharing a large computer panel as cover. Opti appeared to have already been hit. TELE was behind a thick metal table that he had overturned, loading a new clip into his rifle and blinking rapidly. ‘He must have been blinded too,’ TGF thought as TELE made his presence known by firing a short and useless burst of Gauss fire towards the heroes.

Vank was nowhere to be seen. TGF figured he must have already gone down, until he saw a lone figure crawling behind some machinery towards the door.

TGF grinned. ‘Wanna live another day too, eh Vank?’ he thought. TGF ducked down to follow his fellow Banned One.

The heroes were advancing on Optiplex and Halo’s position, firing constantly to keep them down. MilkDuds and Flyspeck had broken off and were farther back, covering the group’s flank against TELE with C-10 fire.

The two heroes saw movement near the door, and looked over to see Vank Tar crawling around behind cover, momentarily exposed as he scurried from one terminal to another. They redirected their attention and fired on Vank, though he scrambled back into cover before they could hit him.

The distraction had given TELE a few precious seconds of peace. He stood and aimed for the one person he wanted most: Auspex Turmalis. Finding his target, he raised his rifle and aimed....

MilkDuds saw the movement as TELE revealed himself, turning just in time to see him raise his rifle and home in on Auspex. “Noooo!” MilkDuds screamed, and he raised his own rifle and charged.

TELE heard the shout and saw MD coming. He swiveled and re-aimed just as MilkDuds opened fire. TELE felt the impact from his enemy’s customized C-10 in his leg just as he pulled the trigger.

MilkDuds fired again, even though TELE was already falling, and then suddenly felt a flash of sharp pain rake across his chest. He stumbled and fell, crumpling to the ground.

Flyspeck was right behind him, shouting and firing wild shots towards the downed TELE. He reached his fallen comrade, jumping in front of him to protect MilkDuds from any further attack.

On the other side of the room, Optiplex and Halo were still engaged with the other VSP and WASTE heroes in the lopsided battle. None of them had heard any of what had happened to MilkDuds and TELE, as the noise from the heroes’ fire was deafening. Because of this, Jenni remained in the middle of the pack to heal her newfound friends, unaware of the greater need behind them.

Vank, meanwhile, had reached the doorway. He looked back and was surprised to see TGF creeping towards him, and even more surprised to see him dragging TELE along, moaning in pain and bleeding profusely from a wound in his upper left leg.

Vank went back to help haul his wounded comrade to safety, and soon all three had escaped into the hall, leaving their two doomed companions behind.

Finally advanced close enough on the panel the two remaining Banned Ones were using for cover, Tarun, Endarire, Flare, and Odin rushed forward to finish things. Odin drove his spear into the computer panel, and the Hrungnir went all the way through. It missed both enemies, but distracted them long enough for Flare, Tarun, and Endarire to rush around the sides. Tarun quickly impaled Optiplex on his blades, and Flare toasted Halo before the freak had even turned his attention away from the spear. Endarire finished him off with a quick swipe from his Calvinius sword. Both Banned Ones screamed and died.

By now, the rest of the heroes had reached the panel, and trained their weapons on the two enemies, just in case. But after neither moved, they all regrouped and turned back, finally noticing Flyspeck hunched over the dying MilkDuds.

They rushed over just as Seawolf and the others charged into the room, weapons raised uselessly.

***

And just as one battle was coming to a close, another was beginning anew.

Bakjak looked on, amazed, as Codebreaker, Lambda Corps, and Mason Wheeler ran into the room and took down a half-dozen marines. A few seconds later, Dark_T_Zeratul ran in, screaming like a wild animal and bearing down on a pair of marines using a stack of crates for cover. He leapt straight over the crates and impaled each with a warp blade. The other three heroes continued firing and ran behind the now-unoccupied safe zone Zeratul had cleared for them.

“Bakjak!” he heard Codebreaker shout over the din. “Over here!”

‘What?!’ Bakjak wondered. Were they trying to HELP him?

“Bakjak,” Mason repeated. “C’mon! Hurry!” The four heroes leaned out and began laying down cover fire, distracting Broker’s men.

They WERE trying to help him!

Bakjak had to make a decision, and fast. He could either stay and fight, possibly still winning on his own, or he could take up his enemies’ offer and retreat with them.

Suddenly, Bakjak’s decision was made for him. His hesitation had allowed a small group of marines time to retaliate. They stimmed up and fired a wall of lead at Bakjak. He heard the firing and used his staff to send a blue fireball back at his attackers, throwing half of them back before they could get back into cover.

Then the bullets reached him, deflecting uselessly off his shield...

...but one of the bullets found just the right spot, hitting his staff and snapping it in two.

In an instant, his shields, his fireballs, his POWER were all gone. But he still had his wits and quick-thinking, which saved his life as he half-leapt, half-rolled back towards the quartet of heroes behind him. Broker’s remaining men chased him with bullets, but they all fell short as Bakjak ran full-speed behind the stack of crates where his saviors had taken residence.

He was yanked to the floor, shoved behind the others as they opened fire to cover their upcoming escape.

“Bakjak,” Codebreaker said without turning, “just follow us. Everyone ready?”

They were. Bakjak pulled out his gun and licked his lips, still a bit shell-shocked from losing his staff.

Codebreaker led the way as they ran back to the hallway. They all fired in the direction of Broker’s marines, sprinting at top speed.

Amazingly, they all made it. No one even paused as they continued to run ahead, following Codebreaker through the halls.

***

Lightsabers clashed. Sweat dripped. Hearts pounded. Opponents grunted from the strain of battle.

Mark Brown and the narrator clone of Mason Wheeler were tired. Unlike the Jedi that wielded lightsabers in the Star Wars films, the two narrators didn’t have power coming from the Force to offset the physical exertion that saber duels induced.

But neither would quit. Ignoring the burning and soreness in their arms, they continued to fight on. And on.

And on.

“You are weak, old Narrator,” Wheeler taunted.

“So are you,” Mark shot back.

“Ha!” Wheeler said, thrusting with his saber.

Mark countered, but managed only to deflect the blow. Wheeler’s red blade skimmed along Mark’s side. He screamed, stumbling back, and his saber fell from his hand.

Wheeler laughed evilly and raised his blade over Mark’s head, ready to bring it down.

Mark, on the floor, threw his leg out and swiped at Wheeler’s legs, knocking him down to the ground as well. He then scrambled for his lightsaber. He found it, flipped it on, and stood, sliding into a fighting stance as Wheeler took up a similar position in front of him.

For a long moment, they just stood there, breathing heavily and eying each other.

Mark had watched the last part of the Saga very carefully. He had seen the infested clone of Mason Wheeler, and the half-insane and evil look in his eyes.

Now, tinted red by the glowing lightsaber, that same look was staring back at him.

“You are more monster now than man,” he said to Wheeler. “Twisted and evil.” He decided that even if it meant killing both Masons, he HAD to stop this clone before he had a chance to further endanger his friends.

Wheeler grinned. “Prepare to meet your destiny,” he sneered.

He lunged again, and ignoring the intense pain in his side, Mark knocked the red saber away, and they fought on.

***

“No,” Seawolf kept saying over and over. “No no no....”

Everyone else was unable to speak as they crowded around MilkDuds, his head now resting in Jenni’s lap. She had tried to heal him, but he had told her to save her energy. His wounds were just too severe.

“Hey,” MilkDuds said softly, seeming to read their thoughts. “I’m okay with it.” He managed a weak smile. “I’ve helped save A3, and now...” he looked around him, “...I’m surrounded by the best friends I’ve ever had. Most people DREAM of a heroic death like this.” Another smile appeared on his ashen face. “I get to have it.” By now, hardly anyone’s eyes were still dry.

Jenni found herself realizing, for the first time, the true closeness between these friends of Mason’s. More than fellow forumers, they were as close as any friends got. Almost family. It was no wonder Mason talked of them with such pride. She suddenly felt great honor at being part of their group, and at the same time, genuine grief at the eminent loss of one of their own. Tears steamed down her cheeks, and she stroked the head of the dying hero in her lap comfortingly.

MilkDuds felt himself dying. It was a strange feeling...pleasant, really. “Thanks, guys,” he said weakly, “for everything. Now go...” he struggled for each breath now, “...go get Broker.”

It was suddenly too hard to speak anymore. MD took Seawolf’s hand, squeezed it, and gave him and Flyspeck, probably his best friends out of the group, a slight nod. Seawolf blinked back tears and nodded back, not knowing what to say, and Flyspeck smiled bravely, fighting against his own watering eyes.

Then MilkDuds took Auspex’s hand. He guided it to his customized C-10, and brought it to rest there. He looked Auspex in the eye, and mouthed “good luck”. Then he winked, smiled, and closed his eyes. His body shuddered as he drew his last breath, and then he was perfectly still.

MilkDuds, hero of both parts of the Saga, was gone.

***

MysteriousGuy was out of options. He HAD to make a run for that Gauss Rifle...it was his only chance at survival. Broker had him pinned down, and he knew that the Antioch villain was getting closer with each shot. Any second now, Broker would be upon him, and then it would all be over with one pull of the trigger.

He tensed and prepared to dive for the rifle...

...and paused as the firing stopped. ‘What the...?’

And then he got it. Broker had a pistol...a German Luger, if he recalled correctly. That only held so many rounds, and once they were exhausted, Broker would have to change his clip. Or use his other weapon....

MysteriousGuy suddenly realized what was about to happen, and he dove towards his rifle just as the metal bar demolished the control panel MG had been using for cover. ‘That coulda been me,’ MG thought, looking back at the destroyed panel.

Realizing he had missed his opponent, Broker lifted the bar and charged.

MysteriousGuy ducked and Broker swung just over his head. He quickly followed with a strike downwards, but MG had already rolled out of the way. MG smiled as he reached his rifle, and raised it to fire. ‘Not a fatal shot, remember. Not fatal....’

But Broker wasn’t in the mood to receive any kind of shot. He dove forward and swung the makeshift club, catching the end of the rifle and sending it flying.

MysteriousGuy recovered quickly. He reached out and grabbed the bar before Broker could bring it back to swing again. A short tug of war ensued, but Broker was victorious, pulling his weapon back out of MG’s poorly-established grip.

Having no other weapon, MG came in with his fists raised. He gave Broker a quick jab in the stomach, but Broker countered with a much more effective swing with his bar, hitting MG hard in the shoulder and knocking him to the floor.

Broker jumped on top of him, pinning him to the ground. He took the bar in both hands and pushed it into MysteriousGuy’s throat, trying to choke him. MG, struggling for air, brought his hands up underneath, trying desperately to push the bar off.

Broker grinned, sure of victory. “Goodbye, Mr. Dvorak.”

MysteriousGuy felt himself losing the battle, and consciousness. He had to get Broker off NOW. He pushed against the bar as hard as he could and felt it begin to lift off his throat. “My name...” he said, summoning all the strength he could muster, “...is MysteriousGuy.” He shoved for all he was worth, and the bar was lifted clear off him. It slammed into Broker’s face, sending him sprawling back.

Sucking in a quick, refreshing breath of air, MG stood and faced Broker, who was still off-balance. He went in fast, landing punch after punch in Broker’s stomach and face. Broker could do little other than try to block the blows, but was unable to do so. MysteriousGuy backed him into a wall, and landed one final uppercut that sent Broker slumping to the floor, unconscious.

MG stumbled back, exhausted, and barely managed to stay on his feet. He stood for a minute, swaying slightly and breathing heavily. He finally regained his strength, sighed heavily, and shook his sore shoulders.

‘Now, where was I going again?’ he wondered, shaking his head. ‘Ah yes...the hangar.’ Seemed like he had entered this room hours ago.

He retrieved his rifle and took one final look at Broker. He considered tying him up, but that would be pointless, since MG was the only enemy of Broker’s here anyway. And by the time Broker came to, MysteriousGuy would be in a ship heading back home.

He grinned and headed for the door.

***

TGF and Vank Tar guided TELE into the VSP HQ hangar, each offering a shoulder for their crippled ally. They loaded him into Bakjak’s wraith and strapped him in.

“He’ll make it,” TGF said, answering Vank’s questioning look.

“Unlike Optiplex and Halo...” Vank mumbled.

“They were idiots anyway. Both of them,” TGF said. “We can do fine without them.”

Vank sighed and nodded his head. “I suppose. So now what?”

“Now, we leave, before the VSP gets down here. TELE needs medical attention, and we need to figure out a new plan for striking back at the VSP. You pilot the wraith and follow me.”

Vank nodded and climbed into the fighter, powering it up.

TGF walked over to his stolen X-wing and prepped it for flight. ‘Defeated again,’ he thought, and sighed heavily.

He looked out the canopy. “Someday,” he said, eyes narrowed in anger. “I WILL have my revenge.”

***

“Okay, that’s far enough for now,” Codebreaker said, gasping for air like the others. He finally stopped, and the other four did likewise.

And with no warning whatsoever, Zeratul grabbed Bakjak by the collar and shoved him hard into the wall. “Where’s the disc?” he demanded.

“Zeratul!” Mason shouted at him.

“We just risked our butts for this little punk, and I want that disc,” Zeratul told him. He turned his attention back to Bakjak. “Well?!”

“In my inner coat pocket,” Bakjak said, struggling for air.

Lambda walked up, felt inside Bakjak’s trenchcoat, and brought his hand back out with the disc piece. “Two to go,” he said, stepping back and pocketing it.

Zeratul released Bakjak, who immediately coughed and leaned forward. “My gratitude,” Zeratul told him, mock-politely.

Bakjak just looked up at him, trying to hold back his anger. “So that’s why you rescued me?” he asked. “For the disc?”

Zeratul smiled. “That’s why I did, yes. The rest...I don’t know.” He looked over at Mason.

“Because it was the right thing to do,” Mason said, though it seemed to be directed more at Zeratul than Bakjak.

Bakjak suddenly realized what an opportunity this was. He had lost the Staff of Magius, a nice relic he had used the Crossover to retrieve, and therefore would need help in achieving his goal: destroying Broker and taking his base for himself. Assuming TGF and the Banned Ones had been able to hold the VSP Headquarters, which even THEY should have been able to do considering the excellent position Bakjak had left them in, he would control two major bases of operations and be able to defeat the VSP and their friends once and for all!

The irony was that the help he had been presented with were the very people he sought to ultimately destroy. But he knew how trusting they could be, and he should easily be able to convince them he was willing to work with them against their common foe, Broker. He already had Mason convinced, and Codebreaker and Lambda Corps, he knew, were saps also. Only Zeratul might present a problem....

But it was worth a shot. “Well,” he said, “I feel I must repay you. I will help you defeat Broker. It’s what I was here to do, anyway.” ‘Nothing wrong with mixing truth and lies,’ he thought to himself.

“Oh no, that’s quite all right,” Zeratul said somewhat harshly. “I think we can manage just fine on our own, Bakjak.”

“Now hold it, Zeratul,” Codebreaker cut in. “May I have a word with you?”

He pulled Zeratul a little down the hall and turned to him. “What is that all about?”

“CB, this IS Bakjak we’re talking about here,” Zeratul said, exasperated. “You really want HIM covering our backs?”

“I don’t trust him, either, but it wouldn’t hurt to have another man along,” Codebreaker replied. He sighed. “Okay, how about this? We let him tag along, but he stays near the front where we can see him. If he tries anything funny....”

“I’LL keep an eye on him,” Zeratul said. “I’d insist on that.”

“Fine. You watch him. If he tries anything, take him. That okay?”

Zeratul still didn’t like it, but they really COULD use the extra help. “All right,” he agreed reluctantly.

They walked back up, and Codebreaker offered his hand to Bakjak. “Your help would be most appreciated.”

Bakjak shook his hand, and then reached for Zeratul’s, who took it and squeezed much harder than necessary. “Be good,” Zeratul warned.

“I will be,” Bakjak replied innocently, taking his hand back. ‘For now....’ he thought silently, trying hard not to grin.

“Okay, now...how exactly do we find Broker?” Lambda asked.

“I’ve been thinking about that....” Mason started.

***

Auspex, Seawolf, and all the rest of the heroes in the VSP HQ (except for Endarire and Flare, who had volunteered to stay behind and get the station’s network running again) entered the hangar just in time to see a wraith and an X-wing taking off.

The Banned Ones.

Seawolf, enraged, activated a stim and charged at the two ships, shouting at the top of his lungs and firing wildly. Flyspeck was right on his heels, similarly incensed by the death of his friend MilkDuds.

TGF heard someone shouting. He turned and looked out his canopy to see the VSP and the others by the hangar door, and Seawolf and Flyspeck running at him and firing. He wasn’t worried about firing, but if they thought to lock them down....

He punched the throttle, and the X-wing lurched beneath him and shot towards the hangar entrance. Behind him, he saw Vank do the same with his wraith.

The two ships shot out of the hangar just as Flyspeck thought of using lockdown. He fired a canister at the wraith, but it was too late. The lockdown round fell short, and the two ships shot off into the distance. Flyspeck stopped and bowed his head.

Seawolf, still too angry to be thinking straight, ran right to the hangar entrance before finally realizing he couldn’t do anything. He shouted and fired a few more shots at the fleeing ships before finally coming to a halt. He put his hands on his knees and just stood there, breathing heavily and blinking back a second rush of tears.

“Hey,” a voice said behind him, and a hand came down softly on his shoulder. Seawolf stood and turned, and Auspex took his hand back. “It’s over, Seawolf. It’s over.”

Seawolf nodded, the anger finally subsiding. “For now.”

Auspex half-grinned. “Yeah. For now.”

Seawolf nodded again, slightly bowed his head, and walked past Auspex, back towards the others. He patted Flyspeck’s shoulder as he passed him, and Auspex and Flyspeck fell into step behind him.

Seawolf reached the others and looked up, scanning around and looking each in the eye before speaking. “You heard what MilkDuds said. It’s time to go get Broker. Mason says he’s got some secret plan up his sleeve, but I know that he has a tendency to get in over his head. I say we fly to Broker’s base and do whatever we can to assist Mason in whatever he’s doing. We’ll take care of the remaining Banned Ones another day.”

There was an aura of excitement as everyone nodded their approval.

It was time to finally end this part of the Saga.

***

MysteriousGuy smiled as he shoved his cylinder into the key slot for the hangar door. He pulled it out as the door swished open and walked in triumphantly to see...

...nothing.

No fighters, no capital ships, no transports, no escape pods. Nothing.

He just stood there in subdued silence. “Now what do I do?” he called out.

His answer came as a near-miss of rifle fire that tore into the wall behind him.

Caught off-guard, MG was in the open and didn’t yet know where the enemy was. He dropped to the floor and crawled army-style to a large refueling panel, scanning for his attackers.

There were six of them: four marines and two ghosts, taking defensive positions by the doorway through which they had entered.

‘Six to one...I’ve been through worse,’ MG thought. ‘Piece of cake.’

He got to his knees, leaning out of cover to fire, and was almost immediately forced to retreat back as enemy fire tore into the panel.

‘Hmmm...maybe not so easy....’

***

Codebreaker, Lambda, Zeratul, and Bakjak were all staring at Mason. They had been for a good minute after Mason had finished proposing his plan.

“You know that’s suicide,” Codebreaker finally spoke up.

Mason shrugged. “I know. I said I probably wouldn’t come back alive, if you remember.”

“So what do we do in the meantime?” Bakjak asked. Suddenly his chance at getting back at Broker personally had been snatched away. He couldn’t let that happen.

“Whatever you want. I would suggest you find MG, get back to the DragonSlayer, and get out of here.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Lambda interjected. “We’re with you.”

“Yeah,” Codebreaker agreed.

“I didn’t come here to kill a few marines and leave. I want a piece of Broker, too,” Zeratul said.

“So do I,” Bakjak said, truthfully for once. “I insist on helping you also.”

Mason smiled and shook his head. “Somehow I knew you all would say that. Okay, then we all go.”

They started searching for the nearest computer terminal. If they couldn’t find Broker, they’d let Broker find THEM.

***

Back on Earth, the TAC arbiter and the Hyperion both lifted off. Auspex and Zeus piloted the arbiter, with Ytse and Spooky, who had insisted on staying with “Zeusie”, riding along. Seawolf and Phoenix handled the Hyperion, with everyone else in the rear sections resting up from the battle with the Banned Ones and preparing for their next fight.

The two ships shot skyward, slipping through the atmosphere and heading for the moon, where sensors showed lots of floating metal debris...a good sign that that’s where Broker’s base was located.

It would still take a little while to reach the moon, at least a half hour, so Phoenix went down to see the others and left Seawolf alone with his thoughts.

Seawolf popped his ‘Top Gun’ soundtrack into the CD slot on the control panel and flipped on “Danger Zone”. He found that music always made it easier for him to think.

His first thoughts were about MilkDuds. He had formed a much closer relationship with MD than most of the rest of the heroes, with the possible exception of Flyspeck. The three of them had formed a tight group in the last part of the Saga, and that closeness had carried over since. Seawolf felt his eyes welling up with tears again, and he angrily shook his head and forced himself to think about something else.

‘I can’t believe you’re doing this,’ he thought to himself. ‘Mason betrayed you. He killed Rockwell, took over the narrator position, and threatened A3 and your very life. And then he lied about it.’

“But Mason’s still my friend,” Seawolf said aloud.

“And mine, too,” a female voice said behind him.

Seawolf swiveled his command chair around, and there was Jenni, standing in the main doorway of the bridge. She walked over and flopped down at one of the many stations near Seawolf.

“I knew you wouldn’t desert him,” she said. “Mason has spoken very highly of you. He considers you one of his closest friends, and I know you feel the same way about him.”

Seawolf sighed heavily. “Yeah. Despite what he did, I just...can’t bear the thought of not doing anything and regretting it later. I don’t know what he’s got up his sleeve, but I would bet my ship that he’s gonna get in over his head. And I have no idea what we can do, but I’m not gonna sit idly by and do nothing.”

Jenni smiled. “You ARE a good friend.”

Seawolf actually blushed a little. “Oh, don’t deceive yourself. He’s still got a lot to answer for. But I need him to stay alive so that I can kill him later.” Jenni would have thought he was serious if she hadn’t seen the lopsided smile on Seawolf’s face.

“Well, I’m glad you’re doing this. I don’t want to just sit on the sidelines either. I’m starting to get used to this whole ‘StarsCraft’ thing.”

Seawolf stifled a laugh. “Umm...that’s STARcraft.”

“Oh. Right.”

“Since we seem to have some time to pass, why don’t I explain Starcraft to you a little more....”

***

“How long before they pick up on the fact that we’re using this terminal?” Lambda inquired of Mason, who was typing away at a computer station.

“A minute or two, tops,” Mason replied distractedly, not even turning away from the monitor. “Especially once...there.” He clicked one final time, and the screen suddenly started flashing a bright red ‘Unauthorized User’ over and over.

“What did you do?” Codebreaker said, suddenly tense.

Mason grinned. “Just tried to hack in, knowing it would fail. Broker’s probably seeing the attempted hack right now. Should only be a minute more before....”

He was cut off as gunfire lit the room. Broker’s men had found them.

“Excellent,” Mason said as he and the others took cover and returned fire.

“Yeah, now we just have to wait for Broker to show himself,” Bakjak grunted, pulling out his gun to join in the fight.

“If he does,” Zeratul said skeptically.

“He will,” Mason assured him. “He will.”

“What makes you so sure?” Lambda asked.

“Because Broker knows I’m here now. He’ll show up. He can’t resist the temptation....”

***

Indeed, Broker was now aware of Wheeler’s presence.

He had come to with a nasty headache and sore arms, but it appeared that Dvorak had counted on being gone before Broker awoke, since he was not tied up or otherwise detained as he had supposed he would be.

Trying to figure out what was going on, he had patched into his remaining men via comlink and discovered that the heroes had rescued Bakjak, and it was believed they were now working together. Bakjak’s betrayal was complete. Broker would insure that he was made to pay. But later.

He wanted Wheeler right now, and was no longer concerned with whether he was taken dead or alive. Wheeler presented a very great threat, as he could easily take the Crossover away from him if presented the opportunity. Wheeler had to be found and either captured or destroyed.

And now, his board was indicating that Wheeler had tried to hack into the computer systems. A foolish move, since Broker now knew exactly where to find him.

He had quickly ordered his men to come into the room where the terminal was from all sides, trapping the heroes inside.

Unfortunately, it appeared that one of his detachments had found Wheeler and the others on their own. If the rest of Broker’s men didn’t get to that room very quickly, the heroes might have time to escape before he could box them in.

His thoughts were interrupted as the board pinged again. He looked down, and saw an alert from one his two remaining fighters that was patrolling around the base.

There was an arbiter inbound, with a ship large enough that it was probably a battlecruiser in its cloaking field.

“Well well well,” he said aloud. “I was wondering when you all would show up.”

He loaded the Crossover and summoned some Star Destroyers...

...but got an error. “What?” he wondered.

He tried again with the same result.

‘Someone must have gotten their hands on the Star Wars part of the disc,’ he thought. He could call in forces from whatever games the other four disc pieces accessed using his fifth ‘master disc’, which accessed the Starcraft realm directly and could hack into the other four realms as long as the discs remained in his forces’ hands. He had lost control of the Final Fantasy realm shortly before Wheeler and the others had landed at the base, and he assumed that the clone of Dvorak, who had had that part of the disc, must have been captured when he had mistaken the REAL Dvorak for him. He had lost control of the Diablo realm before he ever had time to tap into it, after he had given that piece to Bakjak right before he had betrayed Broker.

And now, it appeared that the heroes had Commander Wallace’s Star Wars accessing disc as well, leaving him with access only to MechWarrior, the only other piece his forces still held, and Starcraft.

But that would be enough. He quickly summoned an acceptable fleet to meet the incoming ships, and then turned his attention back to internal matters.

Broker reloaded his pistol, grabbed a Gauss Rifle from a weapons locker, and hurried to the room where Wheeler and the others were. ‘If you want things done right...’ he mused.

“And I definitely want to do this myself,” he said to himself, grinning at the thought of taking Wheeler down.

***

After a shaky start to the fight, MysteriousGuy had recovered quickly and was now doing quite well. Two of the marines and one of the ghosts had fallen to his Gauss Rifle, and he had yet to be hit. ‘Three to go,’ he thought.

He smiled broadly as another marine revealed himself a second too long, and MG wasted no time in putting a couple shots into his chest. ‘Make that TWO to go....’

***

“We’re coming up on the far side of the moon,” Seawolf’s voice called through the Hyperion’s intercom. “Probably a good idea for everyone to get to the bridge.”

Down in the living areas, the others stopped whatever they were doing and made their way forward.

***

Auspex, Zeus, Ytse, and Spooky were in the arbiter, hanging back behind the Hyperion, keeping it just inside the range of their cloaking field.

“Hey, Aus,” Seawolf said over the comm. “I can see the base.”

Auspex and Zeus strained to see, and were just able to make out a metal tower of some sort gleaming in the sun. After a few more moments, they could see the entire base on which the tower rested, a large metal construct suspended on pillars above the moon’s surface.

“Yeah, we see it too,” Auspex replied. “Not picking up any ships, though....”

“Neither am I,” Seawolf came back. “I’m guessing that debris is about all that’s left. Good news is that none of it seems to match the hull of the DragonSlayer.”

All four heroes in the arbiter’s cockpit breathed a small sigh of relief.

Suddenly, a light began flashing on Auspex’s board. He scanned his instruments...‘That’s odd,’ he thought. There were a number of neutrino surges erupting in space behind the ship. Probably just some random space anomaly, and nothing that could do them any harm....

The arbiter suddenly rocked violently from an impact behind them.

“What the...?!” Zeus shouted out, scanning his board.

“Weapons impact,” Auspex realized, checking the damage report. “Matches the explosion type of a Gemini missile.”

“Wraiths,” Zeus breathed.

“Yeah. Cloaked, too,” Auspex said, turning the ship around and flipping on the comm. “Seawolf...?”

“Yeah, I know,” came the reply. “Got a couple pounding on the Hyperion, too.”

Auspex and Zeus completed turning their ship around, and stared in shock at the viewscreen.

There were four battlecruisers, two science vessels, about two dozen blurred pockets in space where cloaked wraiths were, and a good half-dozen valkyries.

But worse still, behind that fleet was a small space platform, with a very recognizable gun turret on top...

...the Mega-Blaster, straight from the Bob Levels III.

“Guys,” Seawolf’s voice cut in. “We are in SERIOUS trouble.”

***

Thoroughly exhausted, Mark Brown and the narrator clone of Mason Wheeler were running on pure adrenaline. And the fact that Wheeler had been much more aggressive during the battle was beginning to show. He was much more tired than Mark, and had been trying merely to block the blows from the green lightsaber and not been on the offensive for some time.

And tired as he also was, Mark was definitely winning. He almost had Wheeler backed completely into the wall, and his slashes and jabs were deflected with waning strength. Finally, Mark scored his first hit, a quick jab that pierced Wheeler right through the stomach a la Qui-Gon Jinn. Wheeler’s eyes grew wide, and his lightsaber fell from his hand, switching off as it hit the floor. Wheeler followed a second later, falling first to his knees and then onto his back on the ground.

He quickly felt around for his saber, but stopped as Mark held the tip of his blade at Wheeler’s throat, breathing heavily and feeling light-headed from the duel. “You are beaten,” Mark said. “It is useless to resist. Don’t make me destroy you.”

Wheeler laughed weakly. “Congratulations, Brown. The story is now yours to control and manipulate.”

Mark knew Wheeler was trying to make him finish him off, but he resisted. “I help the characters, Wheeler. I don’t control them...they figure things out for themselves, and I help when they need it. I don’t try to ‘manipulate’ the story as you did.”

“Whatever you say, Brown,” Wheeler said weakly.

The adrenaline wearing off, Mark suddenly realized how weak Wheeler was. That final blow would probably be fatal. And if this Wheeler died....

No. He couldn’t let that happen. Somehow, he had to try to save this evil fallen clone.

But how?

Wheeler was studying his face. “Yes, I AM dying,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “And no, I don’t want that either.” He coughed, a little blood coming up. “Help me to the computer, and I will prevent it from happening.”

The hairs on Mark’s neck tingled. If he helped Wheeler get back to the computer and the narrator tools on it, he may very well do something awful to his heroes...some final, horrible plot contrivance that would doom them all.

But he had little choice. He lifted Wheeler from the floor, careful not to further agitate his wound, and guided him over to the computer.

Wheeler dropped into the chair, shook his head clear, and began typing.

***

MysteriousGuy’s last two opponents were not stupid. They had huddled together behind a computer panel and were synchronizing their attacks.

But being a hero facing non-heroes, MG had the definite advantage. He waited for a good shot, and managed to take out both the marine and the ghost with one final burst of lead from his Gauss.

He stood and walked over, making sure all six men were down for good. They were.

Then his thoughts turned back to why he was in this hangar in the first place. He was here to steal a ship of some kind and escape. He searched around a little bit just to be sure his assessment had been correct, and found he had been correct: there were no ships of ANY kind.

Undaunted, he walked over to a computer terminal and reached in his jacket for his code cylinder. If this hangar didn’t have any ships left, there must be another hangar somewhere in the base that did....

He paused as his hand brushed against the Crossover disc in his pocket. ‘Wait a second....’

His face stretched into a mischievous grin and he pulled the disc out. ‘I can get my OWN ship....’ He popped the disc into the computer and looked out the viewport into space while he waited for things to load up.

And soon the computer and the disc were forgotten. Out in space, he saw an arbiter in the middle of a good-sized fleet of Terran ships. There were a number of fighters and battlecruisers, as well as a small space platform with some kind of big gun on top.

That arbiter had to be some of his friends, coming to get him. And they were horribly outnumbered.

A large distortion also caught his eye, and as he watched, another battlecruiser slowly came out of cloak. It was only visible for a second before the arbiter’s cloaking field passed over it again, but he knew that ship. It was the Hyperion.

His friends WERE coming for him. And they were about to be killed doing so.

Unless....

He suddenly remembered what he’d been doing. The disc. The Crossover disc. The STAR WARS Crossover disc.

He smiled again and began to type.

***

“Shields down to 36%,” Zeus reported. Another blast rocked the arbiter. Zeus checked his board again and frowned. “32%.”

Auspex swore silently and made a hard right break, narrowly avoiding a blast from one of the battlecruisers.

Things had been bad from the very start. Auspex had quickly used up most of his energy reserves casting stasis field twice on the enemy fleet, managing to temporarily take most of the wraiths and one of the battlecruisers out of the fight. Unfortunately, he had somehow missed all of the valkyries, and with the other three battlecruisers and that Mega-Blaster to deal with also, they were still in deep trouble.

They had managed to destroy or disable three of the valkyries so far, and damaged one of the battlecruisers, but it was not nearly enough. The arbiter was fading fast, and the Hyperion, exposed by the pesky science vessels, was not in good shape either. Seawolf already reported a hull breach and some stress fractures along the right side of the ship.

And then, without warning, the stasis field wore off. Auspex’s sensors showed the ships charging theirs weapons back up, and his energy gauge was still only back up to 95. Not enough for another stasis.

“Guys,” he announced. “I think this is it.”

Zeus sighed in defeat beside him, but kept firing at one of the valkyries, actually doing some decent damage. But one less valkyrie would make no difference, and they all knew it. Spooky grabbed his hand from behind, and Ytse put his hand on Auspex’s shoulder.

They all watched the shields fade, bit by bit. 29%. 26%. 24%. And still falling as the ship was relentlessly pounded upon.

***

Seawolf and Phoenix were in about the same state of mind at the Hyperion’s controls. He hadn’t said anything, but Seawolf knew they were doomed. He stole a quick glance at Phoenix, who gave a slight nod before turning back to his station. ‘Been good knowing you too, man,’ Seawolf thought.

A new alarm rang out over the many already shrieking in the bridge. ‘Now what?’

Ahead, the answer became clear. A number of large rifts appeared in space, and his board showed the simultaneous neutrino surges.

“We got MORE ships coming in,” Seawolf announced to the others. ‘No point in giving them false hope now....’ “I think we’re done. The Hyperion’s slowly being picked apart. Look, I just want you all to know that it’s been....”

He was interrupted as a new voice broke in over the comm. “Unidentified vessels, this is Green Group, Alliance X-wing squadron. Do you require assistance?”

Seawolf felt his jaw drop. Sure enough, out of the rifts came about two dozen X-wings and a dozen or so Y-wing fighters as the Star Wars main title played from seemingly nowhere.

“And this is Gold Group, Y-wing squadron.” Gold Leader wasn’t exactly sure what they were doing here, or even how they’d gotten here, but his board, like Green Leader’s control panel, showed two of the ships in front of them as friendlies, and the rest as enemies.

Seawolf punched the comm to life. “Yes, we most certainly DO require assistance, as do my allies in the ”...‘hmmm, these guys have no idea what an arbiter is...ummm...’ “yellowish vessel to my portside.”

“Roger that, unidentified vessel,” Green Leader’s voice came back. The X-wings locked their S-foils in attack position, and they and the Y-wings formed up a tight attack formation.

“We are the Hyperion,” Seawolf called out to his new allies, “and our yellow friend is the....”

“Arbiter. Just ‘Arbiter’ will do,” Auspex’s jubilant voice cut in.

“I copy, Hyperion and Arbiter. May the Force be with you,” Green Leader said.

And with that, the Star Wars ships moved in. They made quick work of one of the valkyries, blowing it to dust while moving on the engage the battlecruisers and the Mega-Blaster.

Suddenly the tables had turned back a bit in their favor, and Seawolf and Phoenix went back to action.

***

Running down the hall, Broker came to a sudden halt. (Had there been anyone behind him, they likely would have hit him and they all would have fallen into a heap, but he was alone, plus he’s a Bad Guy {who aren’t supposed to be funny most of the time anyway} so this didn’t happen.)

He sensed something, something he hadn’t sensed since...since when all those Final Fantasy units had been warped in using the Crossover by someone other than him.

Whatever it was, he didn’t have time to worry about it now. He had Wheeler to deal with.

He clutched his Gauss close and continued on.

***

‘There,’ MysteriousGuy thought, gazing out the viewport at his handiwork. His friends would have a much better chance now, but they could still use one more special ship. He went back to the keyboard. ‘Time to call my own ride....’

***

Things were going well for Mason and the others. Too well, in fact. They had almost dusted off the last of the marines, and Broker had yet to show himself.

“Maybe he ISN’T coming,” Lambda pondered.

“He’ll BE here, trust me,” Mason said between shots.

But a minute later, the enemies were completely destroyed, and the room fell silent once more.

Everyone just stared at Mason. Even the mild-mannered Codebreaker looked a bit annoyed.

“Well?” Zeratul asked incredulously.

Mason looked around the room. ‘He had to be coming, he just HAD to be....’

“Mason,” Codebreaker got his attention. “I don’t think Broker’s coming.”

Mason took a final sweeping look around the room, and seeing nothing, sighed and started to turn back to Codebreaker...

...and saw a large group of infantry rush into the room behind his allies. “DOWN!” Mason shouted, throwing himself back into cover.

The others all trusted him enough to heed a warning like that, and were all in safe zones by the time Broker’s men opened fire.

At the head of the enemy forces was a firebat in different colored armor than the rest of the troops. He still had his flamethrowers strapped on, but was currently plugging away with a Gauss Rifle.

Zeratul recognized him almost instantly. “Jack Frost’s leading them,” he warned.

The others saw Frost too, and nodded. This could mean trouble...the first Bad Guy hero had entered the fight.

But things only got worse. Soon, marines and ghosts and firebats had rushed into all three entrances to the room, trapping the heroes in the center and splitting their attention between several groups of numerous targets.

And then, to top it all off, they heard a new voice barking orders at the troops. The heroes couldn’t see him, but they knew whose voice that was.

It was none other than Kurt Broker.

Zeratul looked over at Mason with a slight hint of embarrassment on his face. Mason had been right after all, and Zeratul was expecting to receive a confident, ‘told-ya-so’ look back.

But Mason just kept plugging away with his rifle, not even looking over.

Zeratul shook his head and loaded a fresh clip into his pistol.

***

Things in space were going better for the Good Guys, but still not nearly as well as they’d like.

Despite the new help from the Alliance fighters, the TAC arbiter was still taking fire, and its shields were still dropping, though thankfully not at the rate they had been before.

“We’re down to 7% on the shields, man,” Zeus told Auspex.

“I know, I know!” the pilot replied exasperatingly. “Just keep firing. You worry about those fighters,” Auspex said, pointing out at a pair of valkyries bearing down on them, “I’LL worry about the shields!”

Zeus grunted and turned back to his weapons console. He fired a couple quick blasts into one of the attacking ships, which was temporarily disabled and veered off course. The other came in, H.A.L.O. missiles firing, and flew past as the missiles pounded into the arbiter.

The first few rocked the ship violently, and then the last couple nearly threw everyone out of their chairs.

“Lemme guess...we just lost our shields,” Ytse said derisively.

Auspex scanned his instruments...the shields ticked back up to 1% as he watched.

“Yeah,” he said unhappily.

“Now we see how much damage the hull can take....” Zeus said, and went back to firing.

“Sorry I’m late, Mr. President!” a new voice broke in over the intercom. A very familiar voice....

And then, the other valkyrie that had attacked them burst into a fireball. And through the flames flew a new ship. A very familiar ship....

Auspex shook his head, partially at the unexpected new arrival and partly at the repetition of “very familiar”.

The ship was the Millennium Falcon. And the voice....

“Kinda got hung up back there,” MysteriousGuy finished his quote. “Couple wraiths I had to take care of.”

Auspex and Zeus looked at each other, their mouths agape. Neither had any idea what to say.

Seawolf said it for them. “Hey, MG!” he called over the radio. “Where’d YOU come from?!”

“Long story. I’ll tell ya later. All I can say for now is that those Alliance guys and I are here to try and get you outta this mess. Wish you hadn’t risked this for me.”

A pause. “Ummm...actually, we’re not the first,” Seawolf said.

“Whaddaya mean?”

“Later,” Auspex cut in. “For now, let’s just try to survive. Welcome to the fray, MG. Good to see you again.”

“You too, Auspex,” MysteriousGuy replied happily.

“By the way,” Zeus said. “Nice flying. Almost thought it was Han Solo himself there for a minute.”

MysteriousGuy laughed. “Well, thanks. Thank the makers of X-Wing Alliance. Who ever said Star Wars flight sim games were useless?” He laughed again. “Let’s do some damage, shall we? Falcon out.”

The Millennium Falcon shot away from the arbiter, going to help the Hyperion and a couple Y-wings take on a damaged battlecruiser.

Auspex stole a look at his instruments. ‘Good,’ he thought. The shields had been bought a small reprieve with MysteriousGuy’s arrival, and were back up to 8% already, and climbing.

Better still, his energy reserves were almost fully recharged. He spotted a group of condensed wraiths protecting a damaged battlecruiser nearby, and he fired up the engines and headed that way.

“Zeus, get stasis ready.”

Seconds later, Zeus fired a burst of antimatter at the pack, and five wraiths, a valkyrie, and a battlecruiser were out of the battle for a time.

“Excellent,” Ytse said from behind them.

“Why hasn’t that attacked yet?” Spooky asked out of nowhere.

The others followed her gaze towards to the Mega-Blaster, still sitting, unmoving, just outside the main fighting. “Odd,” Auspex said. The massive weapon had yet to fire a single shot.

As if on cue, a massive beam of energy erupted out the barrel of the gun, and two X-wings were instantly vaporized. Then the platform’s engines fired up, and the gun turned towards the arbiter.

“Crap!” Auspex shouted, opening up the throttle and flying out of the way. ‘Had to open my big mouth,’ he thought.

***

In the Hyperion, Phoenix was forced to turn away from the viewscreen as a blinding flash lit up the heavens. When he looked back, blinking to clear his vision, two X-wings were gone. No explosions, no burning hulks, no debris. They had just vanished.

“That blast came from the Mega-Blaster!” Mat-Def realized. The others on all the bridge all gasped and started talking to each other nervously.

‘So, that thing IS operational,’ Phoenix thought to himself, staring out at the platform-mounted gun that was fortunately turning away from them. He had been wondering if had just been a decoy of some kind for demoralizing the Good Guys. It hadn’t showed any signs of activity the entire battle. Until now, that is.

“Probably just called in as an insurance policy,” Seawolf said. “The fleet fails, the Mega-Blaster finishes us off. Gotta hand it to Broker...he really does a thorough job.”

Phoenix scanned around the battle zone. So far they had crippled one battlecruiser, which was now just drifting in space, no longer posing any threat. They had damaged two others, one of them pretty severely, but both were still able to fight back, except that one was temporarily out of the fight in stasis. ‘Delaying the inevitable,’ Phoenix thought cynically.

The fourth cruiser had received a few bruises, but little more. A dozen X-wings were circling it, trying to take the great ship down.

The valkyries, thank God, were all but eliminated. Only two remained, and one was currently in stasis.

Additionally, an early Yamato from the Hyperion had taken out one of the science vessels. The other was hurting pretty badly, but still in the fight.

Their biggest problem had been the wraiths. Their pilots were smart, shutting down their cloaking fields when they weren’t needed and reactivating them when they made attack runs, conserving their energy. And since the Good Guys had no detection ability, they were slowly being picked apart and picked OFF by the annoying fighters. The only good news was that it looked like Auspex had stasised a few of them. Including those few, he estimated that there were still more than a dozen left.

If things were left like that, they would stand a fighting chance. But with that Mega-Blaster joining the fight.... “We’re doomed,” he whispered silently.

Seawolf had come to the same conclusion. Again.

“Phoenix, how long on the next Yamato?”

A quick scan of his panel.... “Up to 107 now. Couple more minutes.”

“Too long.” Seawolf sighed heavily and flipped on the intercom, speaking into it while also addressing his allies on the bridge. “Hyperion to all allied ships. You saw it...the Mega-Blaster has entered the battle. Without that, we stand a chance. But as long as it remains, we’re in grave danger of defeat.”

He paused, preparing for the upcoming protests. “The way I see it, there’s only one way to take it out before it has time to take US out. I’m setting the Hyperion on a suicide run. It’s the only ship we’ve got with enough mass to disable that platform. It’ll give you all a fighting chance, and assure that the others can escape from that base.”

He paused again, looking at those around him in the bridge. Their faces showed remorse, but also grim determination. They agreed. He spoke back into the intercom. “Remember us, everyone. Remember what was done here today. May God watch over you.” With that, he shut the intercom off so that no one could try to talk him out of it.

He turned to the others, his friends. Like MilkDuds had said, the best he’d ever had. “Anyone wants out,” he said, “speak up now.”

No one did. They would do this together. It was just how it SHOULD be done.

“Okay then. Phoenix, if you’d show Jenni to the escape pod...?”

“No way,” Jenni interrupted. “I’m with you.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Seawolf insisted. “This isn’t your fight, Jenni. You have your family to get back to, and Mason to take care of. I’m not gonna be around to bail him outta trouble anymore, and I need to be sure someone’ll do it for me.”

At that, Jenni’s eyes teared up. Phoenix came over, slowly, but she turned back to Seawolf. “No,” she said resolutely. “THIS is where I belong. With the rest of you.”

Seeing it was pointless, Phoenix backed off and went back to his console. Seawolf sighed, nodded, and did the same. “Okay, Jenni,” he said. “Okay.”

He sat down, licked his lips, said a quick prayer, and fired up the engines, plotting a course.

“Phoenix,” he said. “I’m gonna bring us around behind the gun so that hopefully it won’t have time to turn before we reach it. We’ll go from there.”

Phoenix nodded and grazed the battlecruiser they had been engaging with a few more shots as they flew past it. Surprisingly, they seemed to punch in a bit deeper, and one elicited a rather spectacular explosion. Phoenix then realized how close they were, explaining the shots’ effectiveness. The Falcon flew in and started pounding on the weakened spot, accompanied a second later by a pair of Y-wings. ‘Good luck, guys,’ Phoenix thought as the Hyperion flew on.

***

The narrator, Mason Wheeler, was losing his concentration as he lost blood...and life. But he was almost done, and once this was completed....

A few keystrokes later, he was ready. “Brown,” he rasped, his chest filling up with blood. “I am...merging with my...in-story self,” he continued in broken phrases. “The narrator position...is yours...again.”

He struggled for breath now as he began to slip into unconsciousness. He focused all the energy he had left into making the final clicks, and then vanished in a puff of smoke, his black robe left in a heap on the chair.

***

IN BROKER’S BASE....

Mason Wheeler suddenly felt as though someone had whacked him on the back of the head. He closed his eyes, and after the initial shock and even pain wore off, he opened them and saw things in a whole new light.

He had sudden insights, as he had when he was still connected with his narrator persona. And that meant....

“Mark Brown is back in control,” he told the others over the din.

“How do you know?” Lambda asked between shots.

“I know. Just believe me. I know.”

He knew about the battle with the Banned Ones, and grimaced as he learned about MilkDuds’ heroic sacrifice. He knew about MG’s escape. He knew about the battle now being waged in space nearby. He knew all that had happened up to this point with all the characters in all the locations in the story. But it ended there...he could only peer back, not forward. He would have a special...sense about things to come, but otherwise, Mason Wheeler as narrator had officially ceased to exist.

But Mason also knew now exactly what to do. He didn’t have to sacrifice himself, at least not physically as he had thought. There was another way....

He had known Broker had a disc piece, and when he got the narrator intuition back, he was able to think back and knew that MG also had a disc. And now, with the arrival of these troops, likely the last Broker had left at his command, he now knew who had the fifth one....

He just had to get the other two discs, and then get to a computer.

***

IN SPACE NEARBY....

MysteriousGuy felt great sadness as he watched the Hyperion get into position behind the Mega-Blaster. He knew it was for the best, but it didn’t help the wave of grief that washed over him as he saw Seawolf engage the engines for the final ram.

***

Seawolf gave final commands to Phoenix and the others. “Okay guys, this is it. Phoenix, reroute all the power you can find into the engines. I mean ALL of it. Take life support if you have to...we won’t need it anyway.” Phoenix blinked at his bluntness, but understood and nodded, going to work at his console. “Everybody,” Seawolf continued, trying to think of what to say, “...thanks for the good times. If by chance anybody DOES survive this, give Mason and the others my best. Now strap in and brace for impact,” he finished, cutting off early to keep them from hearing his voice crack from the welling tears.

Phoenix indicated he was ready, and the Hyperion lurched forward towards its noble death.

***

Mark Brown suddenly felt very tired, and for reasons he couldn’t explain, very sad that the narrator persona of Mason Wheeler was gone. He might have been able to be redeemed.

‘But then again,’ he thought, slipping into the narrator seat, ‘perhaps he just was.’

He gave a quick scan over the current situation in the story to see if his help was needed anywhere. Mason, Codebreaker, Lambda Corps, Dark_T_Zeratul, and—whoa, Bakjak?! ‘Huh, I’ll HAVE to read how THAT happened later,’ he thought—were all locked in battle with the remains of Broker’s men. Okay, they were all right for the moment.

In space, it appeared that his heroes were in worse shape. MysteriousGuy was okay in the...Millennium Falcon?! ‘Man, I missed a LOT.’ The TAC guys and Spooky were all right, holding their own in that arbiter from the last saga. And the others....

He re-read what was happening, in shock. “Seawolf, no!”

Mark racked his brain, trying to think of a good plot contrivance, but his brain was mush from all that had happened recently. ‘Think, Mark, THINK....’

***

Many of the heroes on the bridge had closed their eyes, but the rest stared forward in grim fascination, unable to look away from the gray platform rushing up at them.

Phoenix was one of them, looking straight ahead, gripping his weapons console. He didn’t notice that the energy gauge clicked into reading 150, since he never looked down....

***

‘That’s it!’ Mark thought.

He quickly looked over the Mega-Blaster, trying to find the right spot....

His hands flew over the keyboard. He hoped he was not too late.

***

Everyone on the bridge flinched as the Hyperion’s Yamato Cannon fired, the nuclear-charged beam striking the Mega-Blaster right at its base assembly...

...and the massive gun, which had had turning towards them in a vain effort to shoot down its attacker, seized up and grinded to a halt as flames erupted at its base.

Seawolf suddenly realized what had happened. The Mega-Blaster was disabled, frozen in one fixed position!

And then he remembered what was happening here and now....

With a quick yelp of surprise, alarm, and joy, he grabbed the controls and pulled the ship up. But the Hyperion was a massive ship, and with its engines pushing it forward at such high speed, it wasn’t changing course fast enough....

“Phoenix!” he shouted, grunting as he strained to pull the ship out of danger. “Slow us down!!”

Phoenix came out of shock and threw the engines into reverse. The Hyperion screamed in protest at the sudden change, but began to slow.

Seawolf pulled up and up, nearly breaking the stick off as he pulled...

...and with a screech of metal against metal, the Hyperion slid overtop of the Mega-Blaster and into space behind it, dramatically lit from behind by the sun.

“We did it!” Seawolf screamed triumphantly.

***

“They did it!” Mark screamed at the same moment.

***

“Now, Phoenix,” Seawolf said, talking loudly to be heard over the many shouts of joy on the bridge. “Why didn’t you TELL me what you were doing?”

“I...well...I...” Phoenix stuttered. “Because I didn’t do it.”

“You didn’t do....” he trailed off into silence, thoroughly confused.

Mack understood. “Yo, narrator!” he shouted upwards.

***

Mark Brown smiled. He hadn’t heard someone say that to him for FAR too long. He flipped on the mic.

***

“Hello, guys,” the narrator’s voice came back. “It’s an honor to be back.”

“Where’s the other narrator?” Odin asked.

“He’s...uh...no longer around.”

A blast rocked the ship. The battle wasn’t over yet.

“Sorry, narrator, gotta go,” Seawolf said. Then, to Phoenix: “Let’s get back into action.” Phoenix nodded and re-routed power back into the weapons and other areas.

Seawolf flipped on the intercom, and was instantly barraged by several people talking at once, most of them calling his name. “Guys, guys, chill,” he spoke into the radio, trying to get their attention. When all was silent again: “We...uh...someone found another way to disable the Blaster. It’s stuck, and we can finish it off later. Just don’t get in its line of fire.” He scanned his instruments, and saw that now TWO battlecruisers were completely disabled, and both of the others were pretty well damaged. There were only a handful of wraiths left, and one valkyrie that looked to be in bad shape.

But most importantly, both science vessels were gone. And that meant....

“Auspex, Zeus, how’re you holding up?”

***

In the arbiter, Auspex took the call.

“We’re much better now. Our energy’s all used up for the moment...I had to recall MG out of the path of a Yamato a minute ago. But our shields are holding at 41% and hull integrity is good.”

“Well hold on tight,” Seawolf said, “because you’re gonna get a lot of attention soon.”

Auspex frowned and furrowed his brow, scanning his board. But he didn’t see any unfriendly ships heading in.... “You sure?”

“Absolutely,” came Seawolf’s reply, and Auspex noticed that the Hyperion was quickly approaching. “Their science vessels are gone. Everybody who’s able, make for the arbiter. Stay in its cloaking field, but try to circle it and make sure they don’t take too much heat.”

Zeus opened his mouth to protest, but Auspex cupped his hand over it. “Let them come, Zeus,” he said. “It’s our best chance.”

Zeus nodded and braced himself for all the fire they’d be taking soon, and Spooky again took his hand comfortingly. He looked back at her, smiled, and gently squeezed her hand.

***

“Frost,” Mason said. “We need to get Frost.”

“Why?” Codebreaker asked.

“He has another disc piece.”

The others knew better than to ask why he thought that, so they just nodded and began focusing on the group of infantry Jack Frost was controlling.

Frost saw this and moved back behind his men, ordering them to focus on Wheeler with his raspy, flat voice. But the Good Guys were proving to be too much with them all concentrating on one group, and Frost’s men quickly began to go down. Before long, it was just him.

He shouted and charged, throwing the Gauss Rifle aside and turning his flamethrowers on full blast. He leaped at the heroes...

...and Bakjak jumped up and landed a bone-crunching spinning kick that sent Frost flying into the wall next to them.

Frost recovered quickly, but barely had time to lift himself back off the ground before the slightly-singed Bakjak put a Talon Grenade right into his chest.

“Way to go, Bakjak!” Lambda shouted, enthused and shocked at the former enemy’s actions.

After a brief reprieve, gunfire erupted once again, and the heroes were reminded of the remaining troops.

But refreshed by decimating one of the three groups entirely, not to mention Frost, they fought with new vigor, and slowly but surely began to take out all their foes.

All except Mason. He slowly, carefully, began creeping towards Frost, determined to get that disc.

***

Mark Brown saw him, and knew what he was doing. He didn’t have much mental strength left, so he used a simple contrivance to keep Broker’s men focusing their attention on the other heroes, allowing Mason to reach Frost’s body safely.

***

Mason dug into Frost’s charred firebat suit, and pulled out the disc. It was pretty badly damaged from the grenade blast, part of it melted. But that didn’t matter, since he just needed to have it in his possession, whether it could be used directly or not.

Just one to go. ‘The most important one,’ he thought.

He darted back to join his friends, and grinned as he held up the disc. Then he pocketed it and joined back in on the battle.

***

Broker saw that his men were not going to hold. He saw victory slipping away before his eyes as man after man fell before him.

Wheeler was going to get away.

Broker could NOT allow that. He began to think, and suddenly remembered one last chance of victory...one final weapon he had at his disposal.

He ducked down and slowly crept back until he was out of view of the battle. Then he took off at a run towards one of the reserve vehicle hangars.

***

Mark saw this too, but had no idea where Broker was going or what he could do about it. He would just have to sit back and see what Broker had in mind.

He turned his attention back to space while the five heroes dusted off the last of Broker’s men.

***

MysteriousGuy grinned as another wraith uncloaked in front of him. Its pilot, realizing he was exposed, turned the fighter around and tried to flee, but MG fired his cockpit-linked quad lasers, and the small ship was blown in half.

One by one, the wraiths, forced to stay close to the tightly-packed Good Guy ships to try and take out the arbiter, the only ship they could see, were running out of energy and their cloaks were fading out.

Little by little, the Good Guys had gained the upper hand. Any enemy ships that tried to get to the arbiter were pummeled by the ships hidden in the arbiter’s cloaking field. Most of the wraiths had already been destroyed, as well as the one remaining valkyrie. Only the two still-operational battlecruisers, which had for the most part just hung back, leaving the wraiths to do the dirty work, still posed a serious threat.

***

Zeus had taken careful note of this. He had a nasty thought about why the battlecruisers were not attacking, and since he hadn’t done much firing lately anyway, he checked his logs of the battlecruiser’s recent attacks. Specifically, when they had last fired their Yamato Cannons.

He was alarmed to discover that it had been quite a while. He did some quick calculations, factoring in how long it took a battlecruiser’s energy banks to charge....

“Oh no,” he said.

“What?” Auspex inquired. “We’re fine, see?” He pointed as an incoming wraith was blown away by the Hyperion.

“No, not that,” Zeus said. “The battlecruisers.”

Auspex shrugged. “What about them? They haven’t done anything.”

“Exactly.” Zeus turned on the intercom, ignoring Auspex’s puzzled look. “All allies, this is Arbiter. We need to take out those battlecruisers. Now.”

“We copy, but why is that?” Gold Leader replied.

“You seen those large lasers they have fired a couple times, Gold Leader?”

“Yes I have.”

“We call them Yamato Cannon blasts. And they’re going to fire them again soon, at THIS ship,” Zeus explained.

“Roger that,” Gold Leader said. “Gold Group, follow me. We’ll cut across their axis and try and draw their fire, boys, and Green Leader? You can take your pick of the ship.”

“Thank you, Gold Leader. Green Group, our target is the starboard battlecruiser. Falcon, Hyperion: the other is yours. We’ll assist if necessary.”

“Copy that,” MG and Seawolf said together.

Gold Group led the attack, and everyone else went for their chosen targets behind them. Auspex and Zeus brought up the rear, keeping everyone cloaked as long as possible.

***

Mason, Codebreaker, and the others walked cautiously down the hallways of Broker’s nearly-deserted base, weapons at the ready and senses fully alert. Mason had told them about key recent events while they had walked, including MG’s escape and the space battle. But now he was silent, somehow knowing the enemy was nearby.

Zeratul was in the lead, his blades illuminating the darkened hall. They were back near Hangar Bay 94, and the lights were still out from when Zeratul had sliced some of the wiring in the walls.

Up ahead, they heard a faint scrape, and stopped.

They listened closely, and were able to make out a small, barely-detectable machinery sound. A hiss-clank, like the legs of a walker moving.

A walker....

Zeratul lifted his blades a little higher, thrusting them forward a bit, and they revealed a shadowy mass in front of the heroes.

A BattleMech.

They shouted and dove to the sides as machine gun fire tore into the floor, tracing down the hall.

Lambda was the first to recover, and he took up a half-crouched position and returned fire. Codebreaker did the same from the other side of the hall.

Bakjak, with the most effective ranged weapon of the group, fired his Talon Grenade Launcher in rapid succession while Zeratul and Mason charged at the massive metal construct.

Zeratul came in, blades swinging, and swiped at one of the Mech’s legs, but it didn’t work as he had hoped. Whatever metal the walker was composed of, it stood up to the Illumina blades, damaged but intact. But the shower of sparks that resulted from the blow temporarily lit up the hallway very brightly...

...and the Mech’s pilot was revealed through the glass canopy.

Mason slit his eyes and fired a few shots at the bulletproof glass, and at Kurt Broker safe behind it.

Zeratul growled and lunged at the cockpit...

...and took a bullet in the left arm, then the shoulder, from the walker’s autoguns. He gave a shout and fell to the ground.

Broker lifted the Mech’s leg to crush the leader of WASTE, but Zeratul rolled to the side as it came down and struck again at the same spot on the leg he had hit before.

This time, the blade went deep. As the leg crashed down, the weight of the walker on top of it bent the damaged metal, and then the leg gave way and the BattleMech tumbled down to its side.

“Zeratul!” Mason shouted. “Give me a blade!”

Zeratul was confused, but shrugged one of them off his injured, practically useless arm, deactivated it, and tossed it to his ally.

Mason caught it and immediately flipped the blade on, running to the back of the walker.

Broker was still trying to fight. He kept firing down the hall, hoping to hit one of the three ranged heroes there, but they kept moving, staying out of the way, and kept pumping rounds of their own into the downed Mech.

Mason, meanwhile, had reached the back of the walker, and began hacking at the entrance hatch’s locked handle there. Over the noise from all the firing, Broker couldn’t hear the warp blade hitting the hull over and over. Nor did he hear it finally break the door open.

Mason climbed in slowly, hoping to get what he came for and get out without Broker noticing. He looked around.... ‘Where IS it?’

‘There!’ The edge of the fifth and final Crossover disc piece was sticking out of a slot next to Broker in the actual cockpit. He crept forward, trying to be as quiet as possible. But the sound of the autoguns was deafening, and Mason had trouble hearing his own movements.

He reached forward, straining to reach...

...and got his fingers around the protruding edge of the disc. He pulled, and it popped out of the slot. Broker, fortunately, didn’t notice as he kept firing, looking straight forward.

Mason grinned and climbed back out, silently closing the hatch. He ran a few feet down the hall to a conveniently-placed computer terminal and plugged in his prize. Now that the Good Guys had all the discs, this oughta work....

Codebreaker knew that Broker had to be stopped before he was able to hit any of the three exposed heroes, and pumping bullets into the main hulk of the walker wasn’t doing it fast enough. It was time to try something different. He took careful aim, zooming in on the flashes from the autoguns. CB took a deep breath, held it, and fired.

And one of the two autogun emplacements was silenced.

Lambda picked up on the tactic and did the same to the other gun, and the Mech was left defenseless.

Codebreaker, Lambda, and Bakjak slowly made their way forward, while Zeratul finally picked himself back up off the floor, moaning in pain and growling in anger.

Mason finally had it...full access to the Crossover. He grinned and activated the program.

When someone had one of the discs, they had some control over pulling things in from other realms. But only once someone had all five discs could they send something BACK. Mason intended to send something, or rather someONE, back to where they had come from.

Knowing Bakjak’s intentions now after looking back with his new intuition, he knew what the turncoat was likely to do once this battle was over. Mason loaded up another window while he waited for the Crossover to load, and selected and highlighted the critical part to look at later.

Broker reached down for his rifle and his disc. The rifle he felt, the disc he did not. He looked down...it was gone.

He cursed and headed for the back door. It was cracked open, and the handle was destroyed. ‘How...?’

Broker cursed again, more harshly, and kicked the door open, rifle raised.

And there, only feet away at a computer terminal, was Mason Wheeler. Broker couldn’t believe his luck.

Things started happening very quickly. Broker aimed his rifle....

Zeratul, still closer to the walker than anyone else, saw the hatch fly open, and saw the tip of a Gauss Rifle come up from inside. Aimed at Mason.

Zeratul shouted out a warning and ignited his remaining blade, charging the short distance that suddenly seemed like several miles....

The other three heroes heard the shout and charged forward, ready to fire....

Mason heard the warning as well. He looked back just in time to see Broker homing in on him, and threw himself to the floor....

Zeratul covered the distance to the back of the walker and raised his blade....

Broker’s first few shots erupted, but sailed over Mason’s head....

Codebreaker and the others heard gunfire and picked up their pace, their view still blocked by the walker....

Mason heard the bullets wiz over his head, striking the wall just a little down the hall....

Broker realized he had missed and swung his rifle downwards....

Zeratul’s blade came down....

Broker saw the blade enter his field of vision and watched in horror as it sliced his rifle in two.

And then things slowed down. There was Wheeler, straight ahead. That blade must mean Dark_T_Zeratul was nearby, and he was sure the others would be here in just a second....

He leaped out of the crippled Mech and charged down the hall at his opponent, drawing his pistol as he ran.

Zeratul watched as Broker leaped out, screaming like a madman and running at Mason. Codebreaker, Lambda, and Bakjak reached the back of the walker just then, too late. The four of them could do nothing but watch, their movements too slow to intervene, as Broker drew his gun....

Mason was already back on his feet, and he pressed one last key at the computer. A large hole opened up behind him, looking like a wormhole from Star Trek.

“CB!” he shouted, bracing himself, “No matter what happens to me...” Broker was upon him, and aimed his pistol... “...rescue Rockwell and destroy the discs!”

And then Broker finally fired. Mason dodged to the side, but the bullet still found him, burying itself in his upper thigh.

He yelped in pain and turned as Broker reached him, his fist coming out. Mason threw his arms out, catching Broker in mid-swing and flipping them both backwards...

...and they tumbled into the gaping maul behind Mason.

“MASON!” Codebreaker shouted.

The hole flickered as the two men flew into it, and then shrunk down to the size of a baseball and blinked out.

They were gone. Broker and Mason both.

Codebreaker just stared. ‘What just happened here...?’

He was so out of it he didn’t even hear the brief struggle next to him. It took Lambda Corps’ body knocking into him to bring CB back to reality. He was instantly on alert, raising his gun...

...just in time to see Bakjak disappear around the side of the toppled BattleMech.

“I KNEW it!” Zeratul shouted. He charged around the walker, pistol in hand, but Bakjak was already gone.

Zeratul swore and ran down the hall after him.

“Zeratul, no!” Codebreaker shouted. “He’s gone, let him go!”

Zeratul realized CB was right, and skidded to a halt, firing a couple shots down the hall in frustration. He swore again and started walking back.

“You okay?” Codebreaker asked Lambda as he helped him up off the floor.

“Yeah, yeah...I’m fine,” Lambda mumbled, dusting himself off. “That little puke just knocked me aside and took off....” He looked down the hall in disgust. “Two times a traitor now.”

“Yeah,” Codebreaker agreed. He patted Lambda on the shoulder and walked over to the terminal Mason had been using.

On the screen was the Crossover’s equivalent of an operating system. The window stacked highest on the others showed the Antioch 2 Epilogue.

Mason had sent Broker back into the Antioch Universe. That’s what that hole had been. But that meant....

By now Zeratul and Lambda were behind him. He turned and explained, “It looks like Mason sent Broker back into Antioch, and stranded himself there in the process.”

Lambda just stared forward, not sure what to think. Zeratul shook his head in amazement.

And Codebreaker actually felt his eyes tearing up a bit, realizing what this meant. Mason had basically given his life for this. Unless they could find a way to hack into Antioch and get him out without using the discs, which Mason had ordered them to destroy, he would be stranded there forever.

And a single, wounded marine wouldn’t last long in what the Antioch Universe was shaping up to be.

“CB, look,” Lambda pointed past him at the screen.

Right underneath the Antioch window, there was what looked like a map. Codebreaker shrunk the Antioch window...it WAS a map. And there was one room highlighted in red. He cocked his head and leaned in, looking at the labels.

The label read: ‘Power core’.

He stood back up. ‘Why would Mason leave THAT?’

His answer came over the loudspeakers. “Hello there!” Bakjak’s voice called out over the comm. They all instinctively looked up to the ceiling towards the nearest speaker. “Miss me?” Bakjak continued.

Predictably, Zeratul was the first to speak. “I WILL find you, Bakjak. And when I do....”

“Ah ah,” Bakjak said disapprovingly. “I don’t think so. You see, this is a rather large installation, and you’ll never find me before THEY do.”

“They WHO?” Lambda said skeptically.

“Ha ha ha...you’ll see. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a base to take under control.”

“So that’s it,” Codebreaker said. “You wanted the base.”

But Bakjak had already shut off the comm.

“He’s bluffing,” Lambda said. “If Broker had anything left to throw at us, he would have done it.”

“I agree,” Zeratul said. “MysteriousGuy is already gone, presumably safe. Broker is gone. Broker’s forces are gone. So we have only one more duty here: find Bakjak and...let him know how we feel about being betrayed.”

“No,” Codebreaker said distractedly, looking back at the terminal screen. “There’s one other thing. And I think Mason had a better idea, anyway. One that will kill two scourges with one missile.”

The other two looked at him quizzically, and he merely smiled. “Follow me.”

***

Seawolf whooped with happiness as his target battlecruiser took a critical hit from the Hyperion’s laser batteries. MysteriousGuy followed up with a pair of concussion missiles from the Millennium Falcon into the same spot, and one of the cruiser’s nacelles was blown clean off. This elicited another hoot from Seawolf, as well as a battle cry from most people on the bridge. The battlecruiser began drifting, its thruster controls lost. It was out of the battle. “En Taro MilkDuds,” Seawolf whispered.

Nearby, Green Group was pounding the other battlecruiser into space dust, but not fast enough. On his sensor panel, Green Leader noticed something very disturbing.

The battlecruiser’s laser batteries were suddenly heating up. WAY up. They were about to fire that ‘Yamato Cannon’, and the only ship they could see was still the ‘Arbiter’.

Green Leader made a quick decision, and punched his engines to life, approaching the front of the battlecruiser at full throttle.

He saw the batteries beginning to glow, and a bright ball of energy was forming in front of them. He dove downwards, putting his ship between the weapon and the arbiter.

“May the Force be with you, Arbiter,” he called into the intercom.

And then, the charging completed, the dying cruiser fired its Yamato Cannon, and the blast vaporized the X-wing, Green Leader, in front of it.

But it was the behemoth’s last breath, in a sense. The X-wings of Green Group, joined by the remnants of Gold Group, the Hyperion, the Falcon, and then even the TAC arbiter, avenged their leader and fired everything they had into the ship, which was more than disabled. It was completely destroyed, reduced to several large hunks of space debris.

The enemy was completely destroyed. The final battle was over.

***

But the adventure still had one more chapter. Inside the base, Codebreaker led Lambda Corps and Dark_T_Zeratul deeper into the base.

“If we’re not going to get Bakjak, then where the heck ARE we going?” Zeratul finally demanded, his arm and shoulder now wrapped in some gauze they had found in a medical kit from the BattleMech’s cockpit.

“Good timing, Zeratul. We’re here,” CB pronounced, pushing the activation key for the door in front of them.

He walked through, and Zeratul grumbled to himself and followed. Lambda lifted up his rifle and stepped through behind them.

He was greeted by the sight of a large, illuminant reactor core, much like the reactor cores from starships in Star Trek. “Wow,” was about all he could manage.

Codebreaker grinned and turned to face his two companions. In his hand was a photon grenade.

“Heh, I kinda forgot about these,” he said. “Until about five minutes ago.”

“Wait a second,” Lambda said. “You’re proposing we blow up the reactor...”

“...and destroy the base?” Zeratul finished for him. He shook his head and smiled. “I like it.”

“And not only is the base destroyed, but the second scourge, Bakjak, gets hit by the same shot,” CB added.

Zeratul grinned. He’d rather impale the little punk on his blade, but an explosion would do the job just fine, too.

They all removed their photon grenades from their belts, and put them in circle around the reactor, close enough that all seven (Codebreaker had three, the other two each had a pair) were all touching it.

Codebreaker set the timer on one to five minutes, the maximum setting, set the timer on his watch at the same time, and walked back to the others. He turned and looked back, grinning.

Lambda and Zeratul both looked at each other, back at CB, and each slapped on one of his shoulders. “Hey, c’mon!” they shouted.

Codebreaker turned back and they all ran from the room. His watch already read ‘4:40’.

They had that long to get back to the DragonSlayer II and get out before the whole base blew.

***

Bakjak was just starting to bring systems online when he saw the screen flashing in warning. He looked more closely.

WARNING WARNING WARNING

REACTOR ROOM COMPROMISED

WARNING WARNING WARNING

REAC....

By now, Bakjak was already gathering his things, but then he realized something that made him pale and go slack.

He had no way to escape. He had used the Staff of Magius to get here, and now that was gone. Broker’s fleet was all gone. The only ship left was the one the heroes had come in, probably the DragonSlayer, and if he showed up there he’d be shot on sight.

Fighting off a sudden wave of panic, he pulled up a map of the base. There HAD to be a way....

***

CB’s watch read ‘03:27’ as he stole a glance at it, running full-speed towards Hangar Bay 94.

They only had one enemy left: time, which was rapidly running out.

***

Using the advanced computers on the Falcon, MysteriousGuy opened a rift with the Crossover disc back to the Star Wars game realm to send their allies back home. He had no idea of the sacrifice that had been made to allow such a feat.

“Thank you for your help,” Seawolf was telling the fighter pilots as MG walked back into the cockpit. MG keyed the mic, “Yes, thank you. We are forever in your debt.”

“It was our pleasure,” Gold Leader said. “This was our destiny...something we can never top. A true pleasure,” he repeated.

“Well,” Auspex said, “May the Force be with you.” The smile behind his voice was very apparent.

“And with you,” Gold Leader replied.

And without any further fanfare, the Y-wings of Gold Group and the X-wings of Green Group flew into the void, and the hole closed behind them.

“Now,” Seawolf announced to the others, “we go get Mason.”

Without waiting for either of the other two ships to respond, the Hyperion engaged its thrusters and headed for the station.

Seconds later, the Falcon and the arbiter fell in behind it.

***

Inside, Codebreaker’s watch ticked down to ‘02:00’....

***

Bakjak was running faster and harder than he ever had in his life. The map had revealed a secret escape pod in the highest level of the station, probably reserved especially for Broker.

But it would take a couple minutes to reach it, and if he knew the VSP and their friends as well as he thought, time was not something he had a lot of.

***

...‘01:30’...

***

MysteriousGuy, his ship the fastest, approached the base, but didn’t really intend to land there again. He’d just escaped, after all, and there was only one of him in the ship. The Hyperion would be a much better candidate for landing in a hangar, as its large complement of passengers would prove a nice little army for dealing with any of Broker’s lingering men inside the base.

He hung back and waited while the others caught up.

***

Codebreaker’s watch read ‘1:03’ as they finally burst into Hangar Bay 94. They ran straight to the entrance hatch, which CB quickly opened, running in and up towards the bridge before the gangplank was all the way down.

Lambda was right on his heals, followed by Zeratul, lagging a hair behind the others due to his injuries. The WASTE leader shut the hatch as he ran in, and then he went up to join the VSP co-leaders on the bridge as they prepared for takeoff. A variation of the VSP theme (the Ginyu Force parody from way back in the beginning of the last saga) suddenly blared out of nowhere, slowly building as the time on CB’s watch ticked down.

‘...00:51...’

***

Bakjak reached the escape pod faster than he thought he would, much to his pleasant surprise.

Not knowing how much time was left but knowing it likely wasn’t much, he opened the pod up and climbed inside. Five seconds later, he was strapped in and hitting the clearly-labeled ‘LAUNCH’ button.

Bakjak was slammed hard into his seat as the pod shot upwards, out of the base and into the safety of space beyond.

He had made it.

***

Mark Brown could do little more than watch as the pod flew away from the station. His mental energy all but gone, he couldn’t conjure up a plot contrivance to stop him.

Nor could he do anything to help the three heroes still in the base.

Mark just watched in grim fascination, silently hoping and praying for their safety.

***

‘...00:30...’

The engines were warmed up enough that the DragonSlayer II was finally able to take to the air.

‘...00:25...’

Codebreaker and Lambda Corps retracted the landing gear and swung the ship around so that they were facing the hangar door.

‘...00:20...’

The Proto-Cruiser’s engines lit the hangar with an eerie blue glow as they fired up, and the ship moved forward towards the main entrance.

‘...00:17...’

The ship approached the opening...

‘...00:15...’

...started to move through...

‘...00:12...’

...and cleared it. Codebreaker eased the ship up to full throttle.

‘...00:10...’

The DragonSlayer picked up speed faster than most ships its size, but still sluggishly due to the sheer size and weight of the vessel. It was like trying to accelerate underwater.

‘...00:08...’

The ship slowly made its way away from the base, starting to distance itself just a little....

‘...00:06...’

They were definitely picking up speed, but that base was still awfully close behind them.

‘...00:05...’

Codebreaker began to sweat.

‘...00:04...’

Zeratul held his breath.

‘...00:03...’

Lambda checked his board...

‘...00:02...’

...they were still pretty close to the station, but there was little they could do about it now.

‘...00:01...’

The VSP theme reached its musical climax. This was it.

‘...00:00.’

***

Inside the base, one of the small photon grenade’s timers ran out. Immediately it let out a faint beep and detonated. The other six grenades went off as the explosive force of their counterparts next to them did the same. It took less than a second before all seven had been activated, and next, the power core went, succumbing to the destructive energy thrown into it from all around. It glowed brightly and exploded dramatically, or at least it would have been dramatic had anyone been there to watch. But if anyone had been, they would have been reduced to ashes, as the core’s expanding energies vaporized everything within a 50-foot sphere around it.

The reaction across the base was immediate. Panels exploded. Pipes and wires blew apart. Entire floors were destroyed at once as the equivalent of a 6.5 earthquake literally tore the station apart.

Codebreaker, Lambda Corps, and Zeratul all saw this. They kept moving away from the station, which finally began to actually explode.

The release of many gasses from inside blown pipes combined with the flames and sparks of various explosion combined with the sudden rush of oxygen out of the base as it was ripped open caused various pockets of air to ignite, and soon nearly the entire base was engulfed in flame. Since the oxygen, and therefore the flames, were shot out into space, the base turned into a gigantic fireball, succumbing to its many wounds and blowing up with violent force.

The shockwave of this explosion rushed up on the DragonSlayer from behind....

“Brace for impact!” Codebreaker shouted, just milliseconds before the ship was slammed. All three heroes were thrown to the floor. Lambda found himself on his back, having been pitched right over the back of his seat. Zeratul yelped in fresh pain as he was thrown off his feet and landed on his bad shoulder. And Codebreaker pitched forward, his chest slamming against his console and knocking the air out of him as he flew overtop of it. He landed hard on his stomach, smashing his chin open on the hard floor.

But then there was nothing. No follow-up waves, no flames, no shrieking alarms. Just silence.

Slowly, the three tired and sore leaders picked themselves back up off the floor. The blast had shorted out the engines and spun the Proto-Cruiser completely around, and they were facing the station.

Well, what HAD been the station.

Codebreaker walked forward and stared. Lambda and Zeratul came up behind him to either side and they all stood, shoulder-to-shoulder, looking at the havoc they had caused.

“Huh,” CB said, putting his hands to his hips.

“Pretty...thorough,” Zeratul commented, rubbing his sore shoulder and then crossing his arms imposingly.

They continued to watch the remains of the base burn away, most of it now space-borne scraps of metal and flaming debris.

And behind all that, they saw a small fleet of ships heading their way. One of them, a battlecruiser, was clearly the Hyperion, bruised but far from broken. Another, an arbiter, they also knew. And the third....

“Is that...?” Lambda started.

“Yes. Yes, I think it is,” CB said, smiling.

“Cool,” Lambda managed.

***

Bakjak had somehow escaped unnoticed by any of the ships. The pod had a rather advanced flight system for such a small craft, and he was easily able to reach Earth, leading him to further believe that this had been Broker backup to his backup to his last-ditch plan of escape.

But that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that Bakjak was alive, and headed back to Earth. From there, he would find a way to take his revenge.

With Broker out of the way, it was time to turn his vengeance back on its original target: the Vancouver Street Posse, as well as their WASTE buddies.

He laughed maniacally, and for the first time in a while, coughed up a little blood.

“Your day will come,” he whispered out the main viewport, looking back at the station and dabbing the blood from his mouth with a handkerchief. “Vengeance will be mine, sayeth Bakjak, and then,” his voice went up a couple notches in pitch and got a slightly raspy tone to it, “you will respect my AUTHORITY!!”

He laughed again as his pod entered the atmosphere.

***

Finally, for the first time since their stopover at N.C.U., the heroes—VSPers, WASTErs, TAC Staffers, and general all-around Good Guys—were united (well, aside from Flare and End back in the VSP HQ...but we’ll get to them).

But after the initial greetings were exchanged and stories swapped, the occasion became a solemn one. Those who hadn’t yet heard about Mason were grieved, as were those who were just hearing of the death of MilkDuds.

With heavy hearts, the heroes headed back from whence they had come to take care of the thing that had gotten them all mixed up in this adventure to start with. Leaving the burning rubble of Broker’s base and fleet behind, the four battle-scarred ships turned, as a group, back to Earth.

It was time to set things right in the A2 Prologue.

***

Endarire and Flare had used the time the others had been adventuring quite well. They were waiting with a fully-operational VSP Headquarters when the others arrived, and it was completely under their control again.

The Good Guys all marched as a group to the control room, where several techs were still cleaning the mess from the climactic battle only hours before. Auspex, Codebreaker, and Seawolf, the three top computer guys in the group (in this story, anyway) with Mason gone, sat down at the main terminals while the others crowded behind them, all straining to see.

The trio made a simple hack-in patch, loaded up Starcraft with it, and started the A2 Prologue.

On another terminal, they plugged in the fifth Crossover disc, and the other heroes watched as Aus, CB, and Seawolf all vanished. On the screen, their patch took effect, and a perma-cloaked arbiter appeared in the upper-left corner of the map. Inside, they knew, were the three vanished heroes.

They all leaned in close to watch. This was so simple...

***

“...it just HAS to work,” Codebreaker remarked.

“Yeah, I hope so,” Auspex said, watching New Brisbane Station carefully. The first wave of wraiths came in, easily dispatched by the station’s forces. Seawolf saw a goliath heading up the defense, and was reminded of something....

‘Gurney!’ he thought. They’d have to be sure to send him back too after this was over.

“Here comes the dropship,” Codebreaker warned.

Auspex had already engaged the engines. “Yeah, I’ve got the timing pretty well down.”

CB and Seawolf exchanged a quick look. Sometimes Auspex seemed so much like just ‘one of the group’ that they forgot he had created the entire Antioch Universe.

And now they could see the dropship on approach to New Brisbane. Inside, they knew, was Mason Rockwell. And any second now....

On cue, a now-familiar neutrino surge flashed in front of the dropship.

The DragonSlayer emerged from Crossover-space right in its path, charged its Yamato Cannon...

...which promptly fizzled out as the target was lost. The dropship simply vanished.

Obviously flustered, the ‘Slayer flew forward a bit, trying to reacquire its target, but to no avail.

Finally giving up, it turned around and entered the Crossover vortex that appeared in front of it, the Mason Wheeler of the past inside undoubtedly vowing to find another way later. A second later, it vanished.

Auspex flew back away from the station, and the dropship was once again revealed as it flew out beyond the range of the invisible ship’s cloaking field, its occupants completely unaware of anything that had transpired. It was fully visible again by the time it came into view of New Brisbane, meaning no one on the base knew anything was amiss, either.

Satisfied that their mission was accomplished, the three heroes shook hands and accessed the Crossover to go back home.

***

The others were waiting for them, and cheered as the three heroes reappeared from out of a Crossover-induced hole.

Just to be sure, Auspex himself sat down and played through the rest of the mission, which proceeded as it always had before. After “Victory!” was declared, he played it again...

...and Rockwell arrived just as he always had, with no interference from arbiters or Proto-Cruisers or ships of any kind.

Auspex grinned and loaded up the other missions Rockwell appeared in. He was there, just as he had always been before, in all his glory (or, more appropriately, self-glory).

As a final test, he turned to Ytse. “Well?” Auspex asked.

Ytse-Jam cleared his throat and began to speak.

The voice was that of Mason Rockwell.

Another cheer went up, and there was some rejoicing at last.

***

THE NEXT EVENING....

Gurney, still too drunk at the time to know what was happening, had been sent back to the Antioch Universe, and the final piece in A3’s safety had fallen into place.

That morning, without any fanfare, they had incinerated the Crossover discs. They knew that the Crossover was still there, possibly able to be tapped again in the future, but they would have to worry about that when it happened. For now, this was all they could do, and in their minds, it was enough.

Mark Brown had moved back home and was getting used to narrating again, though he had missed almost the entire adventure this time. The others were very happy to have him back.

Everybody was gathered in the VSP Headquarters’ main hangar, where the DragonSlayer II, the Millennium Falcon, which had been christened the new ‘PossePlane’ (though the much cooler Star Wars ship name would continue to be used), the Mad Cat OmniMech, and the TAC arbiter (still nameless) all sat undergoing repairs.

The only fully-repaired ship in the hangar was the Hyperion, which Seawolf and Phoenix had spent the whole previous night and the whole day today patching up. Now, it was ready.

Seawolf, Phoenix, Codebreaker, Zeus Legion, and Dark_T_Zeratul stood in full armor at the entrance ramp to the ship, facing everyone else. They were on a mission...to find a way into the Antioch Universe. They had a friend to save.

Their first stop would be Broker’s first base. On the presumably still-functional computer network there, they hoped to find some logs of the specifics of the neutrino surges that had flared up whenever Broker had accessed the Crossover. If they could find a way to match those surges, they could make a new disc to break into the Antioch Universe (without upsetting events there, as trying to just hack in as they had to save Rockwell would) and save Mason. And this time, they could add some nice security features to the disc that would ensure it wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands. They couldn’t run the risk of repeating that episode.

The five heroes said their goodbyes and walked up into the Hyperion, the hatch closing behind them.

Seawolf and Phoenix, their faces locked in determination, brought the ship to life as the other three took seats behind them.

The rest of the Good Guys watched from the ground as the Hyperion lifted off. At the front of the group, standing a little farther forward than the others, was Jenni. She had decided that no matter how long it took, she would stay here until Mason was safe again, despite protests from Seawolf and others.

Now, she watched as Mason’s would-be rescuers turned towards the hangar entrance. Auspex walked up next to her and put a comforting arm around her shoulder, giving her a quick, soothing squeeze. MysteriousGuy and Lambda Corps came and stood to their left, looking on with many mixed emotions as the Hyperion’s massive engines glowed to life. Mark Brown, barely able to hold back tears being the emotional guy that he was, looked on from above, ready to narrate the adventures to come.

The rest of the Good Guys walked up behind the four heroes and watched as the Hyperion moved out of the hanger and lifted into the night sky, temporarily highlighted by the moonlight.

‘Hang on, Mason,’ Jenni thought. ‘We’re coming for you.’

Seawolf


THE END

To be continued...in The Great VSP Saga: Part III....