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 8.”

The Great VSP Saga:
Part II

The Bad Guys Strike Back

Table of Contents

Part II

Chapter 8

'THE GREAT ESCAPE'

Mason's attitude of cocky confidence was wearing off quickly. Despite the fact that he now didn't need a plan, he was getting quite nervous. He could see through the bars of his cell, but Jenni was trapped behind a stone wall. He had called out to her a few times, but he hadn't heard any answer, so the stone was probably soundproof. He had heard a crash and a huge explosion from somewhere nearby, so apparently the battle was heating up. The only thing he had in his favor was that there were no guards guarding his cell, since it was protected by a forcefield.

"If only I had finished designing the Chaos Archon, I could summon one from my patch and be out of here in no time!" he thought. But it was still in the development stages, as well as the other Common Foe units, and so they couldn't help him right now. His enhanced infantry units didn't have powerful enough weapons to break through Broker's forcefield. He didn't have access to any computers, and the narrator wouldn't let him go because that would be boring. So all he could do was sit around and think and wonder how to get out.

***

Zeus Legion looked up from the furious fighting and said, "Somebody's nuking us."

"How can you tell?" asked Auspex as he reloaded his C-10.

"I can sense it. I'm in tune with nuclear energy or something. We're about to be nuked."

"Anything you can do about it?" yelled MilkDuds over the roar of battle.

"Of course." Zeus pulled out his nuclear control briefcase and hit the Cancel button. The nuke flew off to wherever canceled nukes go and exploded harmlessly.

***

Mason got an idea. He obviously knew the Narrator pretty well; assuming that the Narrator was like him, he was a Xanth fan. He would probably allow pun logic in the story.

He took his Common Foe patch, which looked like a circular blue piece of cloth, and held it against the forcefield. Patches are used to put over holes. There was a patch against the forcefield, so obviously there must be a hole there. He took the patch off, and sure enough, there was small a hole in the forcefield. It had worked! Mason quickly went to work making the hole bigger.

***

Broker's control room was abandoned, so nobody had noticed that the nuclear strike was aborted. All of Broker's men were running down the hallways towards the hangars. Broker, Dvorak, and some other men were headed toward the lowest-level hangar, where his personal battlecruiser was stored. They heard the sounds of a firefight up ahead. His guards were shooting it out with the VSP and WASTE right in his path. This was no time for a fight, however. Broker drew his laser rifle, summoned from the Purity Precursor demo, and charged on through.

***

MysteriousGuy saw Broker himself and several of his men charging from behind them. "That's funny," he thought, "I thought *we* were supposed to be the ones attacking from behind."

He took aim with his Gauss Rifle, hoping to bring down Broker. Broker had no time for this, however, and shot at him. MG dodged aside quickly, and ran into one of Broker's men. They both fell to the floor in a daze. MG's rifle fell from his fingers, and he felt Broker hauling him roughly upright and pulling on his jacket. He had hit the floor pretty hard, and couldn't think very clearly, but apparently there was a battle going on and this man was trying to get him to safety. He broke into a stumbling run.

***

Tyrel Dvorak was also a bit dazed. He knew that there was a battle going on, and he seemed to be right in the middle of it. He saw three people by his side, standing between the legs of a huge war machine, and a discarded gun on the floor. He picked up the gun and started firing at the people that the people with him were firing at.

***

Mason Wheeler had broken through into Jenni's cell. She looked up. "Mason! How did you get through?"

He shrugged his shoulders, half-smiled, and said "pun logic." He put his arms around her and leaned in...

...but this is not a story about the two of them, and he suddenly heard several explosions echoing down the hallway from the Mad Cat's LRM-20s. He jumped back, startled, quickly grabbed her hand instead and pulled on her arm as he jumped through the hole. "Come on, we've gotta get out of here!" They headed down the hallway.

"What's going on, anyway?" she asked.

"Basically, a villain from Starcraft has escaped into our world and is trying to take over everything. He wanted to use my programming knowledge to help him bring more villains from other games."

"WHAT?!?"

"Told you it was a long story. I'll explain it all later."

"But I don't play Starcraft. What should I do?"

Mason stopped, opened a door, and walked in. It happened to be the armory for Broker's fortress. "Suit up," he said.

She looked around at all the formidable-looking weaponry, which she had no idea how to operate and no desire to kill anyone with, then found a white suit with a rod and a shield. "This doesn't look like combat armor; what is it?"

"That's a Medic suit. Get in; it would be perfect for you. Just keep the heal beam on me and I'll get us out of here." Mason removed his Sleeper Firebat suit and donned Marine gear. He used the patch to convert it to flying Hero Marine gear.

Jenni got in the Medic suit. "You mean we're going into combat?"

As if on cue, another string of explosions echoed down the hall. "Sounds like it. You've always wanted to go to medical school; just think of this as training." Mason walked out of the room and down the corridor, with Jenni right behind him.

***

Meanwhile, Codebreaker's group had almost made it to the dungeon area. There were just a few more guards to get past. They turned a corner and were confronted by a sight so horrible it made them all gag. A huge slimy worm-like creature was there, with claw-like appendages for arms and an insane smile on its evil face. Behind it was a small legion of Hero Zerg units.

Zethys telepathically ordered his Zerg to attack. Flyspeck threw a handful of pretzels which took out several of the Devouring Ones, but it didn't hurt the Hunter Killers or Torrasques very much. Zeratul, Phoenix, Flare, Tarun, and Odin's Eye moved in to attack range, while Codebreaker and Lambda Corps attacked with their rifles. They managed to kill the last of the Hunter Killers, but there were still eight Torrasques to deal with. The heroes were hurt badly, and they didn't have any Medics with them. They weren't sure if they would survive or not.

***

Mason turned a corner and came to a dead halt. Jenni slammed into him in classic cartoon style and they both fell down. He picked himself up and held a finger to his lips.

"What ARE those things?" she whispered.

"Zerg. The most evil creatures in Starcraft. And it looks like my friends are right on the other side. Get that healing rod ready; it's time for combat." Mason dropped to one knee and took careful aim with his Hero Gauss Rifle.

***

The team was working on killing one Torrasque at a time. They had killed three of them so far, and were working on the fourth. Suddenly, one of them bellowed in pain, turned its back on the group, and started charging down the hallway. It headed down the dimly-lit hallway, pulled its Kaiser Blades back in preparation to attack its assailant, and swung. It got in several hits, then collapsed in a shower of gore. Whoever was shooting it had to be incredibly tough; he decided to take on another one after all that punishment. A second Torrasque broke from the group and charged down the hallway.

"There's only one person who would be helping us from that direction." yelled Tarun.

"Yeah," said Phoenix, "but Mason couldn't have survived that Torrasque. What's going on?"

***

Another shock of pain lanced through Mason's body as the Kaiser Blades ripped at his chest. Jenni ran the healing rod over the wound, trying valiantly to keep up with the beast. She noticed something disturbing, however. The purple bar on the side of the healing rod had been slowly turning white. She was pretty sure that it was an energy meter of some kind, and this suit seemed to be running out of power.

***

Codebreaker's group finished slaying the rest of the Torrasques. Zethys was nowhere to be seen; apparently he had gotten away during the fight. Lambda shot the Torrasque at the far end of the hall and it collapsed. They started walking down the hall and saw two figures. One of them was trying to get to his feet, obviously wounded. The other one took one look at their group, turned the corner, and ran back down the hallway.

***

"Hey guys! You sure took your time getting here!" Mason gave Codebreaker a high 5.

"Who's that person who took off just now?" asked Tarun.

"That was Jenni. She's gone to get a new Medic suit; hers was drained."

"Jenni?" asked Lambda Corps. "You mean—"

"Yeah. Broker took her hostage to ensure my cooperation."

Jenni got back from the Armory in a new Medic suit and started healing everyone. Since this was real and not Starcraft, she was able to heal people while moving, and they headed towards where the rest of the heroes were.

***

Zeus looked up as the reinforcements arrived. It was the rest of the VSP and WASTE, along with Mason Wheeler and a stunningly beautiful Medic. He looked at her, perhaps a bit too intently...

"OUCH!" he said as Spooky slapped him in the face. The medic started moving among the group and healing people, and with the help of the large group of reinforcements, the rest of Broker's men were quickly beaten.

Seawolf looked up from the battle, as if noticing Mason's arrival for the first time. "Hi Mason," he mumbled distractedly.

"What's wrong, Seawolf?" Mason asked.

"It was you, wasn't it? You're the one who killed Rockwell," he said sadly. It was more a statement than a question.

Mason hung his head. "Yes. I'm sorry I got us into this mess. I made a Crossover patch to get into Antioch and kill him, but I played right into Broker's hands. He had set the entire thing up, and took control of the Crossover. I can still use it, but so can he, and I can't turn it off. Now I've put us all in danger. I'm sorry."

"You're going to have to stand trial on the Antioch Forum when we get back, you realize?"

"I know, and I'm willing to accept whatever you decide to do to me, but right now there are more important matters at hand. I have to get to Broker's command room and shut down the Crossover."

The VSP and the Antioch staff stayed behind to watch for any more guards as Mason, Jenni, and WASTE headed for Broker's main command room.

***

Broker's fleet left the platform, which was only a staging point anyway, and headed for their main base on the dark side of the moon. Now that the evacuation was complete, he had another matter to attend to. Mr. Dvorak had been acting strangely. He went to the brig.

"Broker," said MysteriousGuy from his cell, "I don't know who this Dvorak person is you keep talking about, but why don't you let me out of here, give me a Gauss rifle, and face me like a man?"

He realized that something was wrong. He ordered his guards to hold him down and strip off Dvorak's Marine armor. They did this rather roughly, and underneath it he was wearing a black leather jacket emblazoned with the VSP/WASTE emblem. A smile slowly spread across his face. "Well, it would seem we've got the wrong Dvorak after all. Who would have thought you'd cross my path again, Tyrel? And as an enemy this time?" He made a motion with his hand and his guards left the cell. He reactivated the forcefield and turned to leave. As he was passing through the door, he spoke one word. "Clones."

He heard the thump of a body hitting the floor, and began to laugh evilly.

***

Mason's group came back down the hall. "Did you do it?" asked Codebreaker.

"It wasn't there. This whole place seems to be empty. Broker's men must have evacuated. We have to follow them." He activated a stimpack and dashed towards the nearby hangar, not even hearing Spooky's shouted message that they didn't have any ships.

Sure enough, the platform was deserted. No Fenix, no X-wings, no army, nothing. And the ruins of the DragonSlayer lay all around, damaged beyond even the repair capabilities of their nanoprobes. He called over his shoulder "What happened to my ship?!?"

Spooky ran up to him. "I was trying to tell you. It got destroyed when we crashed our way in here. We don't have any ship. What will we do now?"

Instead of panicking, Mason didn't seem worried at all. He took the patch and used it to give Seawolf a Jetpack. "Go retrieve the Hyperion," he said, "while I get us a new DragonSlayer."

Seawolf flew off into the void of space towards his Battlecruiser in the distance. "How will you do that?" asked Mat-Def. "The ‘Slayer's destroyed. Even your patch can't provide a second copy."

Mason reached into his pocket and brought out a Zip disk. He unzipped the zipper on the side, grateful for this small piece of pun logic, and pulled out another patch. He activated it, and another DragonSlayer appeared before them. He smiled at Mat-Def and said "Every good computer guy keeps a backup."

Auspex, Zeus, Ytse-Jam and Odin's Eye emerged from the corridor into the hangar. They were bodily dragging MysteriousGuy with them. "Something's wrong with MysteriousGuy," said Ytse. "He's trying to fight us. I had to confiscate his gun."

"Just knock him out." said Mason. "Clones!" But nothing happened.

"Look," said the clone of Tyrel Dvorak, "I don't know who you think I am, but I'm not. I'm Tyrel Dvorak, Broker's chief scientist, and if you don't let me go, he'll come back for me and kill you guys."

Everyone exchanged serious looks. It seemed they still had a big problem.

And nearby, but still infinitely far away, Mason Wheeler, the Narrator, laughed.

***

How will this case of mistaken identity be resolved?

What will be Mason's fate at the upcoming trial?

Will Flyspeck ever run out of pretzel throwing stars?

Can Seawolf ever forgive his friend for this?

And what's going on back at VSP HQ?

Find out on the next episode of the Great VSP Saga, Part II!

Mason Wheeler


Back down on Earth, Bakjak was bringing system after system in the VSP Headquarters under his control. He’d already figured out that the building had had only that one nuke, no more. Too bad. More nukes could have made things VERY interesting....

He estimated he had direct control of about half of the headquarters’ security system, and the other half would be his soon. He also controlled all external doorways, meaning that he could block any attempt at opening them.

But best of all, he had found that the evil Mason Wheeler clone’s secret weapon was still in the fortress, hidden far below in the basement. Bakjak grinned as he prepared to bring it online....

And then, for no reason other than to bring a ‘lost’ character back into the story, he thought about his fellow bad guy, TGF. What ever had happened to him?

***

In the chaotic retreat from Broker’s platform, TGF had silently slipped away from Broker’s fleet in a “borrowed” X-Wing and was heading down to Earth.

He had exchanged some fire with the VSP and WASTE before the DragonSlayer had met its noble end in the side of the platform. Like the others in the lower decks, he hadn’t heard exactly what had happened, and didn’t know the station was going to be blown to bits in a few minutes, but he didn’t need to. As soon as the impact had rocked the station, TGF knew it was time to haul tail out of there. He had rushed to the main hanger bay to find the burning remains of Mason Wheeler’s ship there, and little else. Certainly no operable ships. So he had instead headed for one of the two secondary bays and stolen the X-Wing he was now retreating in.

TGF was very glad for the excuse to leave Broker’s platform, and even more happy to be able to leave Broker entirely. TGF, like Bakjak, was not the kind of person to be bossed around, especially when it kept him from personally dealing with the loathed VSP and their friends.

Not quite sure where to go but also not really caring, TGF entered the Earth’s atmosphere.

And there, rushing up from below him, was a nuclear missile, coming straight at him.

His first thought was ‘I’m dead!’ His second was to swerve as hard to the right as he could, hoping the missile would lose its lock and continue onward.

TGF pulled the control stick hard, and went into a sickening 7G turn. When he came back out, lightheaded and sweaty, he didn’t see the nuke anywhere. He glanced way up, and saw that the missile had suddenly changed course, but hadn’t even attempted to follow him. He breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

His next thought was one of wondering where the heck that missile had come from. He began his descent towards the surface again, and brought up the X-Wing’s advanced computer scanners. Within seconds, they had plotted the nuke’s course, and the source was...

“No, can’t be,” TGF said aloud.

It was the old fortress from the last VSP Saga. He had never actually been there, but knew from his dealings with the evil Wheeler clone before where it was.

He plotted a course, and then his scanners picked up something else: a message beacon from the nuke, being transmitted to anyone who would listen. He brought it up on his screen:

‘Bakjak r0x0rs you!’

TGF grinned and focused on flying to the fortress. If Bakjak was there, he would probably want some help from his old ally....

***

Seawolf actually kissed the control panel of the Hyperion as he slid into the command seat. “Glad to see ya again, old girl,” he said as he brought the ship out of standby and headed for the station.

As he approached, he felt his mouth drop open as he saw a Proto-Cruiser there, fully intact. How....?!

***

Mason and Phoenix were rummaging through the wreckage of the original DragonSlayer. “Where is it?” Mason asked aloud.

“I’m not even sure exactly what it looks like,” Phoenix replied. “And hey...how could you DO this?!”

“What?”

“You started this whole mess! Seawolf and I and all the others risked our lives to save you, and you couldn’t even have the decency to tell us the truth!”

“He’s right,” another voice chimed in icily.

Mason and Phoenix turned to see Seawolf standing behind them. Past him, they could see the Hyperion on its landing struts in the otherwise deserted hangar.

“Phoenix, go help get everything loaded up into the Hyperion, man, and get it ready to go.” Seawolf’s angry gaze was fixed on Wheeler.

Phoenix had never seen Seawolf as angry as he was now, and he immediately obeyed.

After he was gone, Seawolf walked up to Mason. Without a word, he punched him hard in the jaw.

Mason reeled back and had to brace himself to keep from falling.

“Why?!” Seawolf shouted. The look of anger was still there, but tears were forming around his eyes.

“I...I have no good reason,” Mason replied, head hanging. “I just...I just couldn’t stand Rockwell.”

“You don’t even get it,” Seawolf replied. “I meant why didn’t you TELL US?! Jeez, man. We risked EVERYTHING to save your skin. I DEFENDED YOU, and all along it WAS you!”

Mason couldn’t even find any words to say. He just hung his head and looked very pitiful.

Seawolf stared at him for a moment more, and then turned around and walked outside.

***

“Codebreaker, Lambda, Zeratul! We need to talk!” Seawolf shouted as he emerged from the broken ship.

The three walked over, and Seawolf continued. “This is nuts. You see what happened last time we followed Broker...the DragonSlayer got torn in two and my ship almost got blown away. I didn’t get it patched up just to do the same thing again.”

“So I suggest this. Have MASON follow Broker in his new ship, if he’s so insistent. We all load up in the Hyperion, head back to base, and try to think up a plan. We’ll let Broker come to US.”

They all thought it over, and decided it was a good idea, except for one detail.

“What about MG?” Lambda asked.

“Ooooh. Right,” Seawolf realized.

“We can’t just leave him,” Zeratul added.

“Okay, here’s what we do,” Codebreaker spoke up. “Mason, Zeratul, Lambda and I will take the new ‘Slayer and find out where Broker’s other base is. Seawolf, you take everyone else back to base and try to figure out ways we could get into a base like Broker’s and rescue MG, excluding things we’ve already done.”

Everyone nodded, and Zeratul went inside the broken shell of the DragonSlayer to tell Mason. Seawolf and Phoenix went up to Hyperion’s bridge to get all the preflight stuff done while everyone else (minus CB, Mason, Zeratul, and LC) piled in.

But one other person wanted to go with Mason...Jenni.

“It’s too dangerous,” Codebreaker held her back from boarding the DragonSlayer II. “You just go back with the others, and we’ll be there soon, too.”

Zeratul emerged from the original DragonSlayer. Mason followed behind him, holding a wood and metal board.

“What’s that?” Jenni asked.

“The DragonSlayer’s plaque. All spaceships have them. It’s kinda the heart of the ship...I’m gonna hang it in the new DragonSlayer. It’ll kinda be like the last one never...uh...died.”

“Ooooh. Hey, Mason, can I come?” Jenni asked, ignoring the stare from Codebreaker.

“No, you go with Seawolf and the others,” Mason replied, his voice faltering a bit when he said Seawolf’s name.

Jenni looked dejected, but nodded her head and hugged Mason, then walked up the main entry hatch on the Hyperion.

Mason watched her go, then followed Codebreaker, Zeratul, and Lambda into the DragonSlayer II. Zeratul was dragging Tyrel Dvorak along with him, and took him to the bridge and handcuffed him to a chair. “He can help, maybe,” Zeratul announced to the other two. “He IS one of Broker’s guys, after all. Maybe he knows something about the base that can help.”

Dvorak looked away defiantly, and Zeratul smiled. “Oh, you WILL talk later,” he said.

Codebreaker stifled a laugh. These WASTE guys were a bit nuts sometimes, but they sure were good allies.

***

Stay tuned...as the Great VSP Saga: Part II continues next time!

Seawolf


The Narrator looked down upon his creation and frowned. It had been drifting from comedy towards drama for some time now, but these actions of Seawolf's were too much. But it had been written; it was too late to undo. Very well, then. He would restore humor by turning Mason's story into a parody of heroism, and the rest of the Saga into a bad thriller.

***

Mason started his preflight sequence on his computer, which he had hooked into the DragonSlayer's main control systems. It would take about three minutes to get the ship ready. He stood up and faced Codebreaker, Lambda Corps and Zeratul. "I know we're only supposed to find Broker's base, but I'm going to defeat him. This is my mission. I put my friends at serious risk, and I'm going to redeem myself. But I probably won't come back alive. This isn't your battle, and if you don't want to come, you don't have to. The Hyperion hasn't left yet; if any of you don't want to join me on what's likely a suicide mission, I won't think any less of you for it."

Predictably, Codebreaker, Lambda, and Zeratul all decided to go anyway. They weren't surprised by his announcement; everyone had realized Mason would probably try something like this. CB and Zeratul were the leaders of their respective groups, some of the best fighters in the Forum, and Lambda didn't want to miss out on anything humorous that might happen along the way. Mason loaded Starcraft, linked it to the ‘Slayer's control system, and bowed his head in a short, silent prayer. Then he looked up. They were all still there.

"If you're sure you're going with me, take your stations." Mason pointed the three to various consoles. "Zeratul, you man the weapon Feed systems; make sure the bombs and missiles don't jam while reloading. Lambda, altitude control. Codebreaker, you're at Comm. All systems ready for liftoff, shields up, weapons online, and away we go."

***

The remaining members of the VSP and WASTE, as well as Jenni, watched solemnly through the Hyperion's viewscreen as the shields shimmered to life around the giant Proto-Cruiser. Its belly thrusters held it fifteen feet off the ground as the landing struts retracted. Then the great main engines came to life with a blue glow and the ship headed off. They received a hail from the DragonSlayer. Seawolf put it on screen.

"Seawolf, you can go back to Earth now. I'm going to finish the mission," said Mason.

"What? You can't survive that!"

"I don't care. I put you all at risk, and I'm going to finish the mission myself to make up for it. After today, Broker will no longer be a threat to you."

"What about Lambda, Codebreaker, and Zeratul?"

"They've decided to come with me, of their own accord. I couldn't ask for better comrades by my side." Seawolf knew Mason hadn't intended for it to sound like what it sounded like, but that comment really stung. "I'll make it. Don't worry about that. I still have a few tricks that Broker can't cope with."

Everyone watched in shocked silence at what Mason was proposing. They knew the insane odds he would be facing.

"I have one last confession to make before I go. When I killed Rockwell, I took over as the Narrator to keep you from reviving him with time travel. But Broker had planned for that as well. He's somehow managed to separate the Narrator from myself. He's me, but we're separate people. Everything I've done has played right into Broker's hands, and now I'm going to fix it. You're right; I may not survive, but I'm going to set things right for the rest of you. He manipulated me to use for his evil ends. Worse still, he put my friends, and the girl I love, in mortal danger. I can't forgive him for that. DragonSlayer out." The viewscreen returned to an empty view of space.

Everybody sat there in stunned silence for about three seconds, then pandemonium erupted as everybody but Seawolf tried to talk at once. He just sat there, thinking.

When everybody had stopped talking, Jenni said to Seawolf "You can't just let him do that. I don't quite know what's going on, but I do know he'll never survive against all those ships I saw coming in here."

As the DragonSlayer headed towards the asteroid belt, which would be a perfect place to hide a fortress, Seawolf sat down at the command console and, with a coldness he could not make himself truly feel, said "Time to go."

"What?!?"

"I said, 'time to go.' If Mason's trying to redeem himself, then interfering like that would be the worst thing we could do."

"But what if he gets—"

"If he can't do it, we wouldn't be of any use either, and we'd probably get ourselves killed as well in the process." He sat down and lifted the ship off.

***

Mason watched the Hyperion taking off and heading back to Earth. He was saddened that he had lost the trust and respect, and probably the friendship, of all the people onboard. Even Jenni had looked at him with anger in her eyes when she found out that he was the cause of the whole thing. His mouth set in grim determination, still smarting from the earlier punch from his good friend. *For you, Seawolf. And especially you, Jenni.* he thought. *I am doing this so that I will feel worthy to be your friend again.*

They were halfway to Mars when Codebreaker gave a small shout of pain and tore off his communications headset.

"What's wrong, Codebreaker?" asked Lambda.

"We just picked up a LOUD burst of static."

"Which frequency?!?" asked Mason.

"Umm... lemme see... that's strange... it isn't on the radio-wave or microwave band at all. It was a massive neutrino emission."

"Coming from where?"

"I can't get a fix with only one reading, but I'd say somewhere behind us. And relatively close by."

Mason turned the ship around. "That was a dimensional hole; Broker's using the Crossover again." Mason checked the sensor logs. "Hmm... whatever he just brought took a lot of energy. We're going up against something big. Something else big, as well as The Fenix."

"I know it's a bit late to bring this up," said Lambda, "but do you know how we're going to get through?"

"Don't worry. I've got that part all planned out. I'm going to succeed on my mission; I'm just not sure whether or not I'll make it back."

***

Bakjak sat in the VSP HQ's command room, tracking the incoming X-wing. He had no idea why there was an X-wing coming in when this was a Starcraft story, so he decided to use his force powers to find out. He reached outward, upward, until he could sense the X-wing and its pilot. It was TGF! He hailed the X-wing.

"Hey TGF, I have the most incredible news. I've taken over VSP HQ!"

"You mean that fortress—"

"Is where they've build their new headquarters! Isn't it great?

TGF laughed evilly. "And you know how it's laid out. You know it better than they ever will. Mwahahaha!"

"So, you want to join me?

<FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER>

TGF and Bakjak sat in the VSP HQ Control room. "Well, lookee what we have here." said Bakjak, pointing to his radar screen. "It's the Hyperion. What say we give the heroes a proper welcome?"

TGF was already on the phone. "Hello, is TELE there?"

***

"I just detected eight neutrino bursts. He's bringing through a whole fleet of big things." said Codebreaker. "I'd say slightly bigger than battlecruisers."

"Can you get a fix on their location?"

"Looks like they're coming from..." he tapped at the computer at his console for a few minutes "...the dark side of the moon."

"In that case, that's where we're headed." Mason changed course.

***

Broker watched the DragonSlayer's movement through the spy satellites he had tapped. When he noticed it changing course, he announced "They've finally found our base. About time. It would seem the great hero is trying to redeem himself. Mr. Kautarn!"

"Yes, sir" said Kautarn #6. (The first five had all displeased Broker somehow.)

"Where did he get that ship? I've never seen a Battlecruiser with that weapons configuration before."

"From his campaign, Common Foe. It's a Proto-Cruiser."

"Ah yes, that's right. He was always talking about the 'Proto-Cruiser patch' in that chatroom. See if you can find where he keeps it. I'd like to summon a few of them for my fleet. And what was the name of his ship? DemonSlayer or something like that?"

"DragonSlayer, sir."

"Aaaaahhhhh yessss. *Dragon*Slayer. So the boy envisions himself a white knight, does he? In that case, I can give him an even better welcome."

***

The DragonSlayer had passed by the moon far enough away to keep from attracting attention (or so Mason thought) but close enough to get plenty of sensor data.

"OK, let's see. One Fenix, one ConFed Battle Platform, eight Dark Templar Avatars, five battlecruisers, twenty Wraiths, fifteen X-wings... ooh! Only one science vessel and no other detection. Big mistake there."

"And why is that a mistake, Mason?" asked Lambda. "I don't recall you saying that this ship could cloak."

"It can't. But I know one that can."

"What's that?"

"Jonathan 'Johnny' Davis. He's a wraith pilot from Common Foe. Talks and acts like a cowboy to hide the fact that he's smarter than any enemy of his. Makes them underestimate him. And he's just what we need right now."

"Can you summon him?"

"Sure. Just a second..."

"Hang on. I'm reading another neutrino surge."

Mason put it onscreen, as a big hole in the fabric of reality opened. "Wow," he whispered. "The people who did 'Sliders' got will never know how right they were." Out flew a great beast that Mason recognized almost instantly. It seemed to somehow recognize its target as well; it turned and flew straight for the DragonSlayer.

"We have a bigger problem right now. I didn't realize he knew about the Final Fantasy series, but that right there is one of the toughest monsters ever to grace a videogame screen. Shinryu, the God Dragon. It's from FF5, sort of a 'bonus boss'. It's even harder to beat than the final boss, and not really part of the storyline at all. It just guards some big sword. Zeratul, make *absolutely sure* those missiles don't jam."

Mason had picked the name of his ship a few months ago. He just made up the name out of nowhere in an #Antioch story. But it was time for the DragonSlayer to fulfill its name. Otherwise, they would never survive.

***

"Here they come," said Halo14. "They're about to land, right outside."

"Sounds good to me," said TELE, who was wielding a big bowl of butterscotch pudding. "Finally I can get back at Auspex for banning me."

"You guys remember what to do, right?" said TGF. "No attacking until they're all inside the fortress. We don't want them using the Hyperion's weapons against us."

"Sure, we won't. We've been waiting for months to get back at these guys; another few minutes won't make any difference."

***

The heroes disembarked the Hyperion with heavy hearts. They were going to make preparations to take out Broker's fortress in case Mason failed.

"As soon as we stash our gear, I'll fly you home," said Seawolf to Jenni.

"I want to stay here. I don't know all that much about Starcraft, but I know that Mason's good at it. He'll be able to survive this battle somehow. And if you ever do get smart and decide to rescue him, you'll want a Medic there too."

"Hey guys, does this place seem a bit too quiet to you?" asked Ytse-Jam.

"Come to think of it, you're right," said Seawolf. "It is too quiet in here. I don't hear any technicians."

"Something's wrong," said Spooky.

"Hahahahaha. That's right!" Everyone whirled around as the fortress's doors slammed shut behind them. Suddenly, a big glob of orange slimy stuff fell on them from the ceiling, coating their suits. It was like being Ensnared.

"Eeeeeeeewwwwwww! What's that?" asked Spooky.

Phoenix sniffed, then said, "It smells like..." <sniff> "...butterscotch."

"Indeed it is." A figure walked into the room, holding a bowl. "Quite careless of you, leaving your fortress unguarded like that."

"TELE! You scum! How did you get in here?" asked Odin.

"I let him in, as well as the rest of the ‘Banned Ones’!" came Bakjak's voice over the speakers. "You should have remembered that I used to work here. I know this fortress better than you ever will. And, I know about the secret weapon in the basement. I think it's about time to test it out, don't you?"

"Oh yes. That pitiful band of good guys will make a very good test group," came TGF's voice.

"Sounds good to me." This was the loathsome voice of Optiplex.

"I say kill 'em all now with the security system and save the secret weapon for taking over the world with." This voice everyone recognized all too well; it was Halo14, only absent a short while from the forum.

"Aww, shut up Halo. You're outvoted." said TGF.

TELE threw more butterscotch pudding on them from his bowl, then walked out of the room before any of them could raise their weapons. The team heard a grating sound from below them. Whatever the "secret weapon" was, it was pretty big.

Seawolf turned to Jenni. "Well, it looks like we'll be needing your help after all."

***

What is the secret weapon?

Will the DragonSlayer be able to defeat Shinryu?

How will Mason survive his mission?

Can the rest of the heroes defeat the villains who have taken over their fortress?

Will anyone but Mason ever write what happens to Mason?

And what's going on back in the Real World?

All heroes must survive.

Bring the DragonSlayer and the Hyperion to the beacon.

Collect 10,000 minerals.

And above all, keep reading!

Mason Wheeler


The Narrator-ego of Mason Wheeler wasn't the only person wondering why Mark Brown and Company were going to Blizzard Headquarters. Mark Brown himself was also wondering the same as he stood at the doors of the place.

"Whoa, look at the size of that thing!" Ruaquick1 exclaimed as she saw Blizzard HQ.

"Cut the chatter, Red Two," Mark scolded, jokingly. Ever the Star Wars fan, he couldn't resist throwing in a good obscure Star Wars reference whenever possible. "I'm sure you are all wondering why we're here."

Three enthusiastic nods answered him. "I'm wondering why, too." Three groans; the others turned to leave. "Now, just wait! We're here because we need to find the new Narrator, who is messing up our favorite forumers’ lives! Blizzard HQ is how we do that! We can track the StarCraft world from inside of here, and find out who the narrator is. And then...the final showdown."

"So, how exactly do we get inside?" Kultcher asked.

"We walk in the front doors," Mark Brown declared.

***

In the Blizzard HQ building, our ragtag group of narrator-dethroners were completely clueless as to how to proceed. Rua suggested looking for elevators because higher floors are always more important. Big Dave simply thought the best way would be to knock some people out and take their computer stations.

Kultcher and Mark, however, preferred to try a more discreet method. Pose as engineers making last minute fixes to the Diablo II servers... The two looked at one another and nodded. They'd seen enough Canadian animation to know what needed to be done.

"REBOOT!" They both yelled. Instants later, both were perfectly passable techno-geeks. Rua and Dave followed suit.

The odd quartet marched through the halls, stopped by no one, until they reached a room guarded by four men. This in itself meant nothing except for the big "Diablo II" logo emblazoned on the doors. Mark smiled. He pointed, indicating that was the target.

The four attempted to walk through the doors, but were stopped by the guards. "We'll need to see some clearance here."

Mark put on a stern face. "You don't need to see our clearance."

The one guard looked at the others and said, "We don't need to see their clearance."

"These aren't the intruders you're looking for."

"They aren't the intruders we're looking for." The guard repeated. Rua, Dave, and Kultcher watched, jaws agape.

"Move along, move along..." Mark trailed off, and waved his hand.

The guard mimicked the motion, and the doors were opened for them. The four faux-geeks walked through and they closed again.

"How...?" Dave managed.

"If they don't believe it can happen to them, it can happen to them." Mark responded, somewhat cryptically. In fact, on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being a slap in the face and 10 being the Crypticon himself, Zeus Legion, he was at a solid 6.

Dave immediately decided to drop the subject, deciding that pressing further might only cause his head to explode. He was even further compounded by the fact that the room had only four computers. All of which displayed perfectly synchronized screensavers reading, "Hack the World!"

All four laughed at the sight; they'd all seen the movie Hackers. But then they shuddered, wondering how in the world such a coincidence could happen. Differences in religious beliefs led the subject to be dropped before it was brought up. Each then sat down at a terminal, ready to start looking stuff up.

"Okay, Dave, these are all slave terminals for now, so load up StarCraft in all of them while I talk with Rua and Kultcher." Mark semi-ordered. Dave nodded and got to the task. "Now, you two. We're going to figure out what is going on in the VSP Saga now, and if we can, help our heroes out. But don't mess with it too much, we don't want to create a paradox. While you're doing that, I'm going to find out who the narrator is... Dave, uh, guard the doors in case they get curious."

"Right, got it." Dave said, then walked back to the doors to see the still-clueless guards.

The copies of StarCraft loaded, and the other three logged into the VSP Saga to see what was going on...

***

Broker frowned. He felt something. A disturbance in the Force he'd not felt since... since the last time he'd felt the old narrator's influence. Indeed, Broker had a sixth sense about such things, almost as if he himself were a narrator at one time. Now, Broker was a smart one, so he knew what he could do about these meddlers...

***

"I've been locked out of the system!" Rua cried out. "All I got to see was the DragonSlayer up against..." She listed all of the stuff that Mason and his noble crew were fighting against. "I couldn't do anything though."

"Kultcher! See what you can get there! I still have to find the narrator..." Mark barked. He was NOT going to lose to a crime lord in a stinking video game.

Mark searched his way through the databases for the telltale signs of subtle nudging that a good narrator always left... but there were none. Cripes, what kind of sick freak was this narrator? Didn't even help out his favorite characters in their time of need... But then he found one. A plot contrivance that allowed Mason Wheeler and Jenni to get out of the doors... Yes, there it was. But what Mark Brown discovered about the narrator didn't make him happy at all... His thoughts were interrupted. Kultcher was yelling at him.

"He locked me out too! I didn't have time to upload anything to help them. I saw at the VSP Headquarters, all of the banned forum personalities are fighting the remaining members of VSP and WASTE." Kultcher frowned.

Mark had no time to waste. Using his strangely fast typing skills when he was angry, he quickly searched through something - anything, that he could upload to help the heroes...

He made a split second decision that there was nothing he could do for the heroes at the VSP HQ without getting totally lame. As a Good Narrator, he'd made a solemn vow to never do that under any circumstances except the most dire... Which this wasn't, because the All Heroes Must Survive win condition was up at the HQ.

It wasn't, however, in space at the massive battle. Mason, Codebreaker, Lambda Corps, and Zeratul were sitting ducks and they weren't protected by that condition.

Quickly Mark thought of what could be useful, and then it hit him. As he saw the dragon from Final Fantasy V, something else hit him.

Five clicks later, he'd sent all he could through to help the beleaguered crew of the DragonSlayer.

He then began typing a message to the Mason Wheeler in the game... It finished and he sent it, hoping it wasn't locked out before he was...

"Guards! They're coming, we gotta jet!" Dave yelled. Mark nodded and scrambled out of there, leaving the copies of the game booted up. Fortunately they weren't caught, but their mission fulfilled, Kultcher was still unhappy.

"Damn it!" he shouted.

"What?" Mark asked.

"We should have seen what Blizzard's unannounced project was!"

"DOH!" came the simultaneous shout from the other three.

With that, the four parted ways back to their destinations. Mark Brown knew what to come had to be done alone. He thanked Kultcher, Big Dave, and Ruaquick1, and promised to keep in touch, then headed back to the north.

***

Lambda Corps detected five more neutrino surges from his console. The four on the DragonSlayer looked out in horror as they saw what materialized: Omega weapon from Final Fantasy VIII and three Star Destroyers. The fifth thing wasn't visible.

Mason, who usually never cursed, would have started cursing except he received a message from someone he'd never expect to receive one from... He shouted out to the others, "Guys, it's a message from Mark Brown!"

Between the time he'd said that and the others were next to him, Omega weapon began attacking Shinryu, the Star Destroyers went after the X-Wings, Battlecruisers, and Wraiths, and a comm message from space beeped.

"This is Roughneck Two-Zero," a voice said. "Don't quite know why we're here, but we've secured this big hulk of metal with the big gun for you."

Codebreaker and Lambda Corps exchanged high fives, then Mason started reading the note.

"Mason, Mark Brown here. It's a pleasure to be able to help you all. You can thank Big Dave, Kultcher, and Ruaquick1 for helping me get that stuff to you. It was all my doing, I hope it's able to save you all. Just be careful, the condition that protects you is down. Now, there's one thing I need to warn you about. Broker is like a narrator, and he's somehow connected to —-" The transmission ended.

"$^$@!" Mason shouted. He'd never curse, so the censor just placed that in to make it seem like he did. "What did he mean?"

A blast rocked the DragonSlayer. Mason would have to worry about that later.

***

What did the end of the message read?

What about the heroes at the VSP Headquarters?

What is Gurney up to?

Could anything else possibly be crossed over?

Find out next time in the Great VSP Saga Part II!

Mack Kilimaro


The Narrator looked up from his musings. He felt a gigantic disturbance in the fabric of Plothood. Quickly, he looked through his story. There it was, as plain as day to those who knew how to read such signs. Somebody was tampering with his story. There was only one person with enough expertise to be able to do that. Mark Brown.

He had somehow been able to channel the node of narrative power concentrated at Blizzard HQ to alter the story directly, without the use of the Narrator Tools. Something like that could ruin the story. Humor was fine, but the use of unauthorized plot contrivances could push it far beyond humor, into corniness, and that could destroy all that the Narrator was hoping to achieve.

This could not be allowed.

He quickly activated his Narrator tools and began to contrive. With them, he had far more subtle control over the storyline than Mark Brown did with his creative energies alone. He imbued Broker with the supernatural power to detect Narration, and to counteract it. He then contrived Broker's attention in the direction of this new disruption and watched as the holes were plugged without any attention being drawn to him. Once all the holes were filled, he erased Broker's new powers, leaving Brown none the wiser, and began to assess the damage.

Curses! Broker's defensive fleet had been obliterated by these plot-contrived allies, removing all possibility of the thrilling scene that was to come. Unless...

It would take some uncomfortable alterations, but he could make it work.

***

"Sir," said one of Broker's no-name officers, "Our fleet has been set upon by several Imperial Star Destroyers and a huge robot, and something has taken control of the ConFed Battle Platform."

"What?!? Where did they come from?"

"They seem to have been summoned from Crossover-space."

"What about the Fenix?"

"It's still intact, sir."

"Good. Then there's still hope. I didn't want to do this, but I'll have to." He walked to the supercomputer that controlled the Crossover mechanism and input the final map of Enslavers: Dark Vengeance. He began to tap at the keyboard, his voice dropping an octave and becoming frighteningly echoic and dramatic. "Ulrezaj! I summon you!!!"

The lights in the room dimmed as the power required to extract the unstable Dark Archon was fed into the Crossover Device. A reality-rift opened in the room, and out floated an immense Dark Archon.

"Ulrezaj, I am Kurt Broker, the leader of a resistance group against the Protoss of Aiur whom you hate so much. Outside, there is a heavily-armed space platform that is holding a group of Dark Templar hostage. They are vital to my plans. If you can mind-control the platform's controllers, they will set the captives free and we can continue our battle against the oppressive High Templar. Will you help me?"

"Wwee aGgRReee. tHee evIll ProOtoSss of AiiiiUr muSSt bee sTopPed." replied the mad Archon.

Broker had a group of his men escort Ulrezaj to the surface, where he summoned all of his psionic power and enveloped the entire ConFed battle platform in a mind-control field. This left him greatly drained, both in shields and in psionic potential, and he began to float back to Broker.

Ulrezaj suddenly realized that he was alone. His escorts were no longer with him. He saw a rift forming in the room and realized that his job was done. A sense of pleasure filled his essence for having helped in the fight against the tyrannical Templar of Aiur. He floated through the rift and found himself back at his secret base.

***

Broker smiled. The ConFed Battle Platform was his once again, and the unstable archon was no longer in any position to cause him any harm.

And far above him, the Narrator smiled as well.

***

"I'm not sure what just happened," said Codebreaker, "but that battle platform just switched sides again and blasted one of our Star Destroyer escorts into oblivion."

"WHAT?!?" asked Mason.

"More bad news. The Shin-whatever-you-called-it and the Avatars are ganging up on that giant robot. It isn't going to be any help to us in a minute."

"Anything else, while you're at it?" asked Mason.

"Yeah. The Fenix seems to have noticed us. It's coming around to attack."

"I just had to ask," Mason mumbled. "OK, bring us about. We have to deal with Shinryu first. Then we'll worry about the rest of it."

Mason moved in on the giant dragon and watched in shock as it breathed an atomic ray at the battered Omega weapon, destroying it completely.

"You sure we want to go up against that thing?" asked Zeratul. "I'm all for assassinating lamers and doing battle, but I don't know if we can beat THAT."

"We can if you keep the missiles online. It's wounded now, and that's all the advantage I need." Mason pressed Y on his keyboard and selected Shinryu. His ship's Yamato Gun charged and blasted a hole in the side of the beast. Then he moved in to engage the dragon at close quarters with his missiles. "Codebreaker, keep an eye on those Avatars. Tell me if you start reading any energy buildups above about 235." He engaged the missiles, and began to destroy the God Dragon.

The battle was fierce. The DragonSlayer fired its anti-matter missiles in rapid succession, ignoring the blasts of the Avatars' lasers against its shields. Shinryu breathed an atomic bolt at the DragonSlayer, and its shields dropped to 3%. "Stay together. Stay together just a few more minutes," Mason whispered under his breath.

Codebreaker called above the din of battle, "Mason, those Avatars are all at about 235 right now."

"Good. This is going perfectly. Lambda, reroute all unused power to shields. If we survive the next twenty seconds, we have this one in the bag."

Mason silently counted to twelve, then engaged the DragonSlayer's thrusters full throttle. The Avatars completed charging, and all began to ready their Energy Channels. Mason dumped half the shield power into thrusters as he saw the green buildup. He had to get out of there! He pressed a button on his console, dropping a single saturation bomb to drift in space, then dumped the rest of the shields and all the rest of the ship's power into the engines. Suddenly, the Energy Channel bolts launched, all converging on where he had been a second ago. They struck the bomb, and upon hitting something solid, lost coherence and exploded with nuclear force. Mason was only a half-second ahead of them in transferring all power back to shields, and he yelled "Brace yourselves!"

The titanic shockwave obliterated all eight Avatars, stripped the DragonSlayer of its shields, and caused seventeen hull breaches in various decks. Unfortunately, their problems were not over yet. Shinryu had survived it. Not by much, but well enough that it could still fight. With the unerring determination of a Final Fantasy boss, it flew towards its target.

Zeran, piloting the Fenix, seemed to be more reasonable. The giant battleship backed off to wait out the conflict and clean up whatever was left at the end.

Mason silently cursed himself for not having a copy of FF8 on hand. Eden would be immensely helpful right now. He brought the DragonSlayer about and resumed firing.

An atomic ray blasted into the warship, making stress fractures all along the side of the starboard nacelle. One of his missile launchers had gone offline. The other three would have to be enough for—he glanced at his energy readout; it read 132—another eighteen seconds.

"The battle platform just finished off the last of the Star Destroyers. It's pretty heavily damaged, but it can still cause us some trouble," reported Codebreaker.

"One thing at a time!" said Mason.

"Don't you think it's time we got away from here for a while and worked out a new plan of attack?" asked Lambda.

"NO! Never give up! Never surrender!" said Mason, throwing in a less obvious reference.

CB and Lambda sighed and resumed their stations. Zeratul noticed a jam in the missile-loading system and rerouted the launchers to keep the weapons running smoothly.

146...

Mason fired another salvo of anti-matter missiles. These last few seconds were crawling by agonizingly slowly.

148...

Shinryu reached out with its gigantic claws to tear a gouge in the ship.

149...

Mason barely changed course in time, and the claws only got a small section of the front. That was another missile launcher lost, but by now it didn't matter, because his energy gauge read 150. He pressed the Y button on his keyboard again, and clicked his mouse with a sense of finality. The Yamato Beam spat from the front of the DragonSlayer and finished the work that the Avatars could not accomplish. Shinryu exploded, then the fragments turned translucent purple and vanished. All that Mason could see was a small fragment of metal floating in space. It was the sword Ragnarok, freed from its guardian and now belonging to the one who had defeated the dragon.

"Zeratul, if you want that sword you can tractor it in. It should be useful to a blade-wielder like yourself." Mason plotted a course away from Broker's fortress to give the ship time to regenerate and to plan his next course of action. Due to a fortuitous plot contrivance, the ships of Broker's fleet were stricken by panic at the actions of the humongous warship. If it could do that to Shinryu and destroy eight Avatars at once, what could it do to them? None, from the smallest to the largest, gave pursuit.

Mason activated the Crossover and linked it to Common Foe. Time for Johnny Davis to make an appearance.

***

The Narrator set down his keyboard and panted with exhaustion. The sweat was pouring down his face from the sheer magnitude of creative work required to reverse the damage to his story. But it had been done, and everything was on track now, and the DragonSlayer had finally proven itself in combat by slaying the strongest dragon of all. He set the story aside to continue telling itself. After that effort, he needed to rest, but there were more important concerns at the moment.

*Ah well, no rest for the weary* he thought, and began to prepare for the inevitable conflict with Mark Brown.

***

What will Johnny Davis' little Wraith be able to do where the DragonSlayer has failed?

How are our heroes faring at VSP HQ?

Do you smell... what ~TELE~... is cooking? It smells like butterscotch!

Keep watching as the exciting second episode of the Great VSP/WASTE saga continues!

Mason Wheeler


BACK AT THE VSP HEADQUARTERS....

Our heroes still heard the grating sound beneath them, getting closer. But at the moment, it was the least of their concerns.

The team was engaged in battle with their own security system.

“Rather ironic, don’t ye think?” Endarire breathed to Mack, sharing a safe zone behind a pillar with him.

“What’s that?” Mack asked, occasionally taking potshots at the gun and missile traps with his Luger.

“We built this system to PROTECT us, and its first true test of effectiveness is AGAINST us.”

“Yeah,” Mack replied, shaking his head in frustration. “How’d TGF and Bakjak GET here, anyway?”

Endarire merely shrugged.

Mack shook his head again and continued firing.

Nearby, Seawolf, MilkDuds, and Jenni hid behind a similar pillar. “Don’t you think maybe, just MAYBE, our Posse friends overdid it a bit with the security?” Seawolf remarked to his fellow WASTEr.

MilkDuds merely sighed and fired off a couple more C-10 rounds at the numerous traps popping up and down around the room. “There’s GOT to be a better way to do this,” he remarked.

“Yeah,” Seawolf agreed. “This is getting us nowhere.” He looked over at Mack and Endarire, then down at Jenni to see if she was okay....

JENNI. That was it. Seawolf blinked hard like he always did when an idea hit him. Then he rubbed his face at the pain and angrily threw the idea back in the direction it had come from.

This was so crazy it HAD to work.

“MD, Jenni, we’re gonna try something. Yo, Mack! End! Listen up!”

***

SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA....

While he hadn’t been able to determine exactly who the new narrator was, Mark Brown HAD had the time to determine approximately where the narrator was.

He dug into his pockets and dug out his few remaining dollar bills. It wasn’t a whole lot, but it was enough for busfare to Washington state. The new narrator’s interference seemed to originate there.

Mark unhooked his lightsaber and turned it on, practicing a couple sweeping moves before shutting it back off and heading for the nearest bus terminal.

The final showdown between narrators was soon to come....

***

AND BACK TO THE VSP HQ....

Flyspeck, Mat-Def, and Odin all huddled behind a little table they had overturned. Flyspeck was saving his remaining throwing pretzels for whatever was coming to greet them from the basement, and like the others, was taking occasional shots at the security emplacements with his C-10. Mat-Def, still mentally kicking himself for leaving the Mad Cat in the Hyperion, plugged away with his Gauss Rifle, and Odin just sat back and tried not to get shot, his psi blades pretty much useless at the moment.

“This is nuts!” Mat shouted over the din. “There’s too many...what were you all thinking, Odin?”

“It was intended to insure our safety,” Odin’s Eye replied. “Guess we did a good job ensuring no one would get in.”

“No kidding,” Mat mumbled.

“We HAVE made some progress,” Flyspeck said with cheerfulness he didn’t really feel at the moment. “Three of the nearby gun traps have been destroyed.”

“Yeah, that only leaves about fifteen more,” Mat said bitterly. He sighed and jammed another clip into his rifle.

And nearly jumped right over the table as a loud shout broke over the noise from the traps.

“What...?!” he shouted in surprise.

Flyspeck was peering around the table to see what was happening. He grinned and looked over at Mat and Odin. “Our knights in shining armor,” he said.

They all looked, and there were Seawolf and MilkDuds, firing continually from behind two different columns and shouting their heads off. They appeared to be spearheading an attack, but after a second the trio realized that the two heroes were just providing cover fire.

Up ahead of them, Mack Kilimaro and Endarire were the real spearhead, taking out the traps one by one while Jenni followed right behind them, protective shield raised, keeping the two melee attackers healthy. The combination of the fire from Seawolf and MD, Mack’s flamethrowers, and Endarire’s sword Calvinius made very quick work of each trap, such that Mack and End almost didn’t even have to stop moving.

With another shout, Auspex Turmalis, Zeus Legion, and Ytse-Jam rose from their hiding place and rushed in, picking up on the plan. Auspex and Ytse took up positions near Seawolf and MilkDuds, laying down more cover fire with their C-10s. Zeus joined Mack and Endarire in the up-close action, warp blades swinging wildly.

Looking at each other, Flyspeck and Mat leaned out from their table and opened fire, while Odin charged in to join the other melee warriors, psi blades ignited.

From around the room, the other heroes all joined in as well, and mere seconds later, the room was clear.

The heroes all gathered together in the center of the room, breathing heavily. Jenni healed them all up and then moved into the center of the group.

With their temporary leaders Auspex and Seawolf in front, they all turned together towards a large wooden door. Behind it, they heard the grating get closer and closer and...stop.

The “secret weapon” was here. The door swung open, and the team gasped and raised their weapons.

It was...

***

BACK IN SPACE....

On the bridge of the DragonSlayer, Dark_T_Zeratul was practicing some moves with his newly-acquired Ragnarok sword, smiling with pleasure at his new toy and at Tyrel Dvorak, who seemed quite afraid of the obviously-talented warrior. Lambda Corps was watching from his chair, occasionally checking his readouts for anything interesting. Codebreaker and Mason Wheeler were huddled over the command console, reading the latest damage reports.

They weren’t promising, at least to Codebreaker. The battle with the great dragon had been costly, and nearly all areas of the ship except the heavily armored bridge were still under severe hull stress, if not opened to space entirely. One of the missile launchers was still offline, and not very likely to be available again soon, considering it had been ripped apart by Shinryu’s claws.

But other than that, the ship was in decent shape. Its shields were back up to 70%, charging much faster than any other ship Codebreaker had seen. All saturation bomb launchers were still ready to go, and Mason assured him that given time, he could get hull integrity back and that the nanites would even seal up the hull breaches. “As long as there’s more ship than lack of ship,” Mason had assured him, “she’ll heal right back up given enough time.”

He had told Codebreaker that nearly an hour ago. And while the Fenix and the other remnants of Broker’s fleet were still reluctant to attack, Codebreaker knew that sooner or later, they would overcome their shyness and come out to play. And right now, the DragonSlayer was in no shape for that, nanites or no nanites. Especially if it lost its shields again.

But seeing little other choice at the moment than to just wait and hope they would have the time they needed, Codebreaker sighed and walked over to Zeratul, nudging him and whispering into his ear.

Zeratul smiled and walked over to Dvorak, Codebreaker following behind him.

“Well, Mr. Dvorak,” Zeratul hunched down to the scientist’s level. “Since it appears we still have a lot of time to pass, why don’t we have a little chat?”

“Li...like about what?” the obviously frightened man replied.

“Let’s start with why you look just like our friend MysteriousGuy, and go from there,” Codebreaker said.

“I...I don’t know all the details about that. I am a clone, I know that much.”

“A CLONE?” Lambda asked as he walked over.

“Yes. The first successful clone Broker ever made. The others before me would always die shortly after being created. I assume I am the clone of this friend of yours,” Dvorak replied.

“Hmmm...do you know anything about MysteriousGuy, your look-alike and “clone dad”, and his history with Broker?” Codebreaker continued.

“And what made you special so that you didn’t die like the rest?” Zeratul added.

“And what do you know about Broker’s station out there? Any weaknesses?” Lambda chimed in.

“I...I...I can’t tell you all that!” the young man said defiantly.

“Oh, really?” Zeratul smiled, and ignited a warp blade, holding it very near Dvorak’s throat. “I must not have heard you correctly,” he told the terrified scientist. “What was that again?”

“I...uh...I said...I said I’ll tell you!” Dvorak nearly shouted.

Zeratul’s smile broadened, and again, Codebreaker and Lambda barely contained their laugher. “That’s what I thought you said,” Zeratul stated. “Now...do tell.”

***

What IS that secret weapon that our heroes in the VSP HQ are finally face-to-face with?

Does it have a butterscotch-shooter?

Will Dvorak tell all before Zeratul loses his patience and WASTEs him?

How long before the DragonSlayer is good to go again?

How long before Broker’s fleet overcomes its shyness and attacks?

Which will happen first?

And what will happen with Mark Brown, old Narrator, and evil Mason Wheeler, new narrator? Is it a WWF-like Smackdown? A water balloon fight? A cutthroat game of Go Fish?

Find out the answers to these questions and more next time...in the Great VSP Saga: Part II!!!

Seawolf


Bakjak grinned, thinking to himself. Who needed help, especially from banned forum members. Ambition overcame him. He coughed, a bit of blood dripping out of his mouth. He dabbed it with a cloth and looked at the viewscreen. The VSP, led by Seawolf and MilkDuds, were destroying the defenses of the HQ. Bakjak clutched a staff with a peculiar blue orb on top of it and started speaking arcane words, words only known to himself, and disappeared from the control room.

Bakjak's voice echoed out, "I've decided to go solo, TGF! I don't need you, Broker, or anyone. I do what I please."

TGF said questioningly, "What the...?"

Bakjak reappeared inside Broker's base and grinned. Anyone peering into his eyes would know he had a maniacal look in them...

He saw his first group of enemies approach him, encircling him.

***

What will TGF do now that Bakjak is gone?

Why is Bakjak at Broker's base?

What is that secret weapon at VSP HQ?

What of the battle being waged outside Broker's base?

Mark Brown vs. evil Mason Wheeler? (place your bets here)

Find out the answers to these questions and more next time...in the Great VSP Saga: Part II!!!

bakjak


Phoenix stood in awe, looking at the secret weapon. It was huge! It was enormous! It was... what the hell was it?

The so-called secret weapon was something none of the heroes had ever seen before. It was incredibly large, filling up the entire room. It had several "arms" sticking out of the "body". The body was filled with hundreds of razor-edges. It looked like quite a deadly weapon.

In a situation such as this, something that rarely happens in real life must happen.

All of the heroes, including Jenni exclaimed, in unison:

"What in the name of the Baphomet is that?!"

Suddenly a voice was heard from the walls.

"Alpha Weapon! AWAKEN!"

It was the voice of the banned forumers in unison.

The huge Weapon stood and morphed into a vaguely humanoid-form.

"Hahahahaha!" TGF's voice was heard echoing through the building.

"The Alpha Weapon came to us not long ago. What it wanted, I don't know, but we were not stupid enough to refuse it, well Halo14 was, but that's not the point. This is something you can never defeat!"

Before any of the Forumites had time to react, the Weapon spoke.

"I am Alpha. I am Death. I challenge one of you to a duel."

The Forumites were taken back at this statement. Surely, this Weapon had the skill and strength needed to battle them all and win? Apparently, the same thought had struck the Banned Ones.

"What? No, wait! Weapon! Fight them all! No one-on-one here! Stop! Argh!"

Optiplex's voice was clearly annoyed.

"God damn it! I told you he wouldn't do any good! Bakjak, talk to him!" TGF exclaimed.

Silence.

"Bakjak, where are you? Hey, where's Bakjak?"

The voices stopped.

"We're on our own now," said Auspex. "Look. This... Weapon wants to fight one of us. This someone will probably die, I don't think the 'All heroes must survive' objective had planned for this. However, while this warrior fights the Weapon, we other can reach the control center. Perhaps someone can turn him off..."

The Weapon spoke.

"I am Alpha. I am Death. Choose one warrior. I duel with him. NOW!"

The Weapon's howl actually stunned the Forumites.

Phoenix sighed. He knew it would come to this. Well, no matter. Here was his chance. His most trusted ability would come to use, and it would save them all. He spoke.

"Auspex, Zeus, Ytse, Seawolf, and all the others. This is MY battle. It is time to show what I'm useful for. I influenced the Narrator to write me into this story, and now I will show why I came here. It is time for me to finally prove myself. To you, to me, and to the world. This duel goes to me. I will fight with this Weapon. You must be quick, take control over our fortress. Try to reach Mason and the others. Farewell."

The team was actually a bit stunned. More than a bit. Most of them stood with their mouths open.

"Now, go! Rescue our friends! Leave me with him!

Phoenix turned against the Weapon.

"Foul abomination, your blades will be no match for me. For I am the Silver Phoenix. And you will not be able to evade my wrath. Leave the others out of this, this is between you... and me."

Phoenix stepped out of his armor, and took off his clothes. For a second he stood there naked, but then he closed his eyes, then exclaimed something in some unknown language.

"Jennaielmin!" it sounded like.

The human form of Phoenix turned to flames. The fire burned bright, so bright that no forumer could watch him more than three seconds, unless they wanted their eyes to be destroyed.

The Weapon, of course, had no such weakness.

The forumers left Phoenix and Alpha, with three good-luck cheers.

"Fight well, Phoenix, I trust you!" said Seawolf.

"You do me honor, Phoenix. Show this Weapon what an Antioch fan can accomplish!" said Auspex.

"Hey, you’ve got a nice butt," said Jenni.

The flames of Phoenix lessened to become more human-like. His form was now smooth and the flames were controlled. He had the form of a Zealot, with two blades in place of arms. He was of pure fire, the red center of the flame glowing brightly and eternally exchanging with the brightest of silver shine.

*It Is Time*

*My Ultimate Test*

*I Will Vanquish Alpha*

Alpha versus Phoenix.

The Weapon stood clearly, adjusting to the size of his opponent. Impressive as the Phoenix's form might be, the Weapon held no such respect of reverence for a lesser being. He was the Alpha. The first, the best, the most skilled. Perhaps this puny weakling would provide him with some amusement before he found another more worthy opponent. He formed himself into a Zealot, to taunt the Phoenix.

*That Was A Mistake*

Without waiting for the Weapon to adjust himself in his new form, Phoenix attacked. He charged against the Weapon, holding a low position to enter inside the Weapon's defense. When he was in range he lashed out with his right blade, aiming for he lower torso, and found his blow deflected. In reflex, Phoenix brought his left blade up to block his head. Alpha's own blade was rapidly slashing towards Phoenix head, but the three blows were blocked in time. In the blink of an eye, Phoenix quickly struck his blades together for a dual strike at Alpha's head. It was blocked.

Countless strikes were exchanged by the fighters, something that was recorded among the best battles ever. If any of the Forumites could see Phoenix now, they would be surprised. Under the friendly, humorous surface of a nice guy was a deadly fighter, one of silver flame. His speed was as magnificent as his strength, and to move came out wrong. He was never stunned at the repeated merciless attacks by the Weapon, instead he kept on changing pattern from pattern.

However, his skill was matched by this Weapon. It had come to find an opponent to match his skill in battle, and this... Phoenix had this skill. But he was a machine, and while a human opponent would have been surprised, this machine gave no such advantage to Phoenix.

*He Must Die*

*I Will Vanquish Alpha*

After a spinning strike, followed by alternating slashes from high to low, left to right, Phoenix raised his blades in a pause-gesture. Such a gesture was never looked upon as cowardice. All men and women of honor recognized this gesture as one to engage in conversation towards one’s adversary.

"What do you want?" asked Alpha Weapon.

"You are a most skilled adversary. I wonder only why you came here," said Phoenix, in a voice that held infinite wisdom, but also tremendous sadness.

"I will grant you this knowledge, as it is impossible for you to pass it on."

"Then tell me, Alpha. Who are you?"

"I am my own being. I have been present since long before the creation of the world, and I will exist longer than after it is destroyed. I gather the skills of all fighters I fight and kill and implement them into my own mind. You fight against seven worlds of great fighters. And now you know me. I wish to know you. Tell me, who are you that can stand against my might?" The mechanic voice still held human traits such as curiosity, and surprise.

"I am the Silver Phoenix. As you I was born into the world before it was created. I had 6 phoenix with me when we were born but they are all completely dead. I live a human's life, then die when the human would die. Yet I am resurrected. So was our legacy. I am the last Phoenix. And I will never yield to you. This battle goes to no less that the death of one of us. It will be our last battle."

"You are as ancient as me. That I was not prepared for. Nevertheless, we must fight. Only one of us leaves here alive."

The fight started again. Hundreds of strikes were exchanged, blade facing blade, the fiery silver-flame meeting cold ancient steel.

Phoenix jumped high in the sky, quickly turning in the air, and plunging downwards to strike his enemy from above. His blades for the first time felt blood, as it were. The Weapon had not been able to block in time, and its "back" were struck with the fire of Phoenix's blades. Alpha roared and quickly turned around, slashing towards the fire-creature and hit nothing but air. Somehow, the silver phoenix had dodged his blow, and in anger, Alpha had poured incredible strength into the lunge and could not stop himself from losing his balance after the mighty strike. He sensed the lessening of his abilities. This was not good.

*He Is Not Invincible*

*I Can Strike Him Now*

Phoenix, with amazing speed drove his two blades together and pressed it into Alpha's right "leg".

The scream of the metallic creature was ear-deafening. This was not the first time alpha felt pain, but it had not happened often.

In its immobile state, for the moment, Alpha could not retaliate. Phoenix sensed victory was near and slashed out several lightning-quick strikes, taking as much strength as possible into the strikes without losing his balance, and his advantage.

A right-handed over-strike.

A quick low-left stab.

Three consecutive slashes towards the torso.

And finally, the dual strike against Alpha's "head".

Alpha Weapon fell down on the floor. Defeated.

How? It is not possible! I have not been defeated. No enemy can defeat me. How? HOW?!

"HOW?!" screamed Alpha.

"You may be incredible. You are incredible. Never have I faced an opponent such as you. But you are still nothing but a machine. I am a son of life. I cannot die from but one thing."

"But you were 7 from the start! They died of what?!" Alpha was furious. He was dying. He knew it.

"We can die only of one thing. Not strikes of blades. You hit me several times. And I am wounded. But I do not die. I heal. We die only from one thing. One you cannot inflict on me."

*I Won*

*I Beat Alpha*

*I Have Proven Myself*

*Yet Again*

The Phoenix bent down and whispered to Alpha.

What he said will not be recorded here. As this is knowledge bound only for the last phoenix and those that can not reveal this secret.

Alpha nodded.

"You are a truly great warrior. Take my mind. You have defeated me, and as such you will get the knowledge of the seven worlds greatest fighters. Farewell, Silver Phoenix. Live well."

And the Alpha Weapon lived no longer.

The mind of Alpha turned to Phoenix. And he was one with the knowledge.

*This Was Not The End*

*There Is Still Challenges*

*I Must Find Them All*

*But Later*

The glowing form of Phoenix increased its flames. Silver and red, yellow and white colors engulfed the room. Bright light flowed through his body.

"Dannaielmin!"

And when the light was dimmed, a naked body lay on the floor. The body of Phoenix's human form. A 16 year old boy.

He awoke.

"My friends, I have succeeded."

The voice of Phoenix echoed through the building, reaching even outside it, reaching the world, reaching up into space, reaching Mason Wheeler and the others. Not many know the meaning of these words.

But what has transpired in the VSP headquarters 'secret Weapon room' is for the last living phoenix to tell.

Phoenix stood up, found his clothes and his armor and put them on. He began following the trail of his friends.

He was no longer the silver-flame creature. He was only Phoenix now. And Phoenix would be enough to help his friends defeat Broker and the Banned Ones.

Smiling, Phoenix started to run.

Phoenix