Notice: The title given to this article is incorrect due to technical limitations. The correct title is “The Great VSP/WASTE Saga, Part III, Chapter 12.”
The Great VSP Saga:
Revenge of the Good Guys
“Well, so much for being slowed down,” MysteriousGuy said.
Up ahead, the Bad Guy fleet was clearing the hills and covering the final stretch to the Good Guy defenses.
“Show time,” Codebreaker said under his breath as he flipped on the intercom. “Okay everyone, here’s the plan,” he announced. “We hold here and let the HQ’s defenses have a go at them. They’re probably not going to just sit there and get pounded on...they’ll probably fly right through and attack, so get ready.”
“I recommend we target the fighters first,” Zeratul said. “They’ll pick us apart if we let them. The more of them we take out, the less weapons the enemy has.”
“Agreed,” Codebreaker said.
“And remember my little mission, boys and girls,” Seawolf added. “If you see the Falcon heading for a battlecruiser, leave that ship be. I’d hate to get blown out of the sky by friendly fire.”
“Of course,” Endarire called from the Judicator. “If you’d like, I could even cloak the Falcon when the time is right for your attempt.”
MG rolled his eyes. “Seawolf and his battlecruisers,” he said to Codebreaker. “You know he just wants another Hyperion.”
“I know,” CB said. “But it really could be a big help here. Let him try it.”
MysteriousGuy shrugged and went back to watching the oncoming fleet. They were almost at the defensive perimeter. Any second now, VSP HQ’s missile turrets and photon cannons would open up on them.
And then the REAL fun would begin.
Ruaquick1 was giggling with excitement. She was in the rear sections of the Nemesis II, watching a sensor screen. She would have to time this just right for the maximum blow to the Good Guys’ morale.
The sensors suddenly showed a small number of hot objects inbound. Missiles.
Rua squealed with delight. “All your base are belong to us,” she said as she activated the virus.
Zeratul watched as the HQ’s defenses opened up on the Bad Guy ships, firing a volley of missiles at the fleet. As expected, it did little, but the next volley might have some more luck if they struck in about the same spots as the first one had....
It never came. Something was wrong.
“Something’s wrong,” he called over the intercom.
“No kidding,” Seawolf said. “Lamb, what’s going on with the defenses?”
“Lambda, what’s up with the defenses?” Seawolf repeated.
This time, there was a reply. Static.
“Lambda?” Codebreaker cut in. “Lambda, can you hear me?” A pause. “Lambda!”
“It’s no use. Something must have happened,” said Phoenix.
“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” MG said dryly.
“Want me to go check it out?” Mat-Def offered.
“No, we need all of you to stay outside to fight,” Zeratul said.
“Now more than ever,” Seawolf said with a hint of dread creeping into his voice. “Look.”
The others turned their gaze back at the Bad Guys to see a number of dropships coming out of the battlecruisers’ hangars and heading towards the ground. Right behind them came wraiths, valkyries, and RoboMutalisks, RoboGuardians, and RoboDevourers.
“Lock and load!” Mat shouted out to those on the ground.
“It’s WASTEing time!” Fenrir called out.
“Bring it on!” hollered Tarun.
“Aye!” Endarire agreed.
“We shall not fall!” Zeratul shouted.
“We will not surrender!” Mack added.
“We’re gonna KICK SOME BUTT!” Seawolf finished.
“May the battlefield be littered with the death animations of our enemies!” Codebreaker yelled.
A series of “Yeah!”s and “Alright!”s followed.
Seconds later, the battle officially began.
The opening shots were by the Bad Guys, their battlecruisers lighting up the battlefield as their laser batteries all opened up at once. The shots were perfectly timed such that the Bad Guy fighters and RoboZerg fliers came around the front of the larger ships right after the laser beams slammed into the lead Good Guy ships. By the time the Good Guys could return fire, the smaller ships were upon them.
Aklan’s valkyrie proved useful once again, as she and Zeratul quickly decimated the first wave of wraiths. But they were immediately followed by a number of RoboMuties that converged on Aklan, causing her to have to fall back. Zeratul, however, had his shields to protect him, and he held his ground and fired into the pack. Seawolf and Phoenix brought the Millennium Falcon alongside the corsair to assist him, with Pure Orange and Typhoon blasting away with their quad laser cannons.
Codebreaker and MysteriousGuy were more ambitious. They made a beeline for a group of valkyries, knowing that the air-to-air fighters would have a hard time defending against a single ship, especially one with the advanced weapons systems of the PossePlane. Codebreaker lined up for a perfect shot, and MysteriousGuy blasted the lead pair with a virtual wall of laser fire intermingled with Gemini missiles. One of the valks suffered a large explosion and dropped towards the earth below, the other spun out of control but somehow stayed aloft.
Endarire hung back with the ground forces, keeping them cloaked as long as possible. The first of the dropships came into his range and he opened fire, but he knew that even the Judicator’s advanced disruptor cannons would never be able to stop it before it landed.
TELE and Vank brought their arbiter forward, targeting the rear dropships trying to slide underneath the Good Guy ships.
‘A good idea, actually,’ Zeratul thought. “Seawolf, stay here...keep them busy. I’m heading for the dropships.”
Without even waiting for acknowledgement, the Thanatos screamed after the dropships. The Banned Ones had one damaged already, and Zeratul came up behind it and finished it off. He targeted another and began blasting away, but was suddenly thrown forward as a massive impact rocked his corsair from behind. Several warning lights came on at once and an alarm sounded, which Zeratul slapped off angrily. “What in the name of...?!”
“Boss, you all right?” Seawolf’s voice came from the intercom, rich with concern.
“Fine, just fine,” he replied gruffly. “What WAS that?!”
“Yamato blast. Guess the battlecruisers didn’t like you going after their dropships.”
Zeratul had been thrown off course by the impact, and was further incensed when he brought the Thanatos around towards the dropships. Some of them were already unloading their passengers, and his comm came alive with the shouts of those on the ground. It appeared that TELE and Tar had brought down only one more dropship, meaning that all but two had made it. He cursed loudly and swung back towards the air battle.
The sky was filled with ships. Not only were there the very noticeable battlecruisers, but fighters and RoboZerg of all kinds were dancing a lethal ballet around them. The missiles and laser beams and glave wurms and other weapons were everywhere.
Zeratul gripped his controls a little harder and followed the Falcon back into battle.
BACK INSIDE TAC....
“Never,” Auspex said quietly, “did I think it would come to this.”
He and the others were camped just outside New Antioch on Shakuras. Behind them were the forces of Turmalis and Moloch and the dark templar fleet of Khrillian.
In front of them were the pale Protoss forces under the command of Nannoth/Taeradun...or the Baphomet, depending on how one looked at it.
Their plan was simple...find Nannoth/Taeradun and incapacitate him. The team had brought along just the man for that job: FistOfGod. He would be able to alter the “body” of the archon just enough to prevent the use of any awesome power that the Baphomet might try to work through Nannoth/Taeradun...for a time, at least. The archon would return to normal eventually with the Baphomet’s help, they knew, but by then Auspex and the others would be back in the Saga Universe. They would quickly find some way to get Broker back in here where he belonged and then they’d undo all that had been done to the Antioch characters since the start of the Saga. Of course, that meant that they’d likely have to wipe away all the work they’d done the past few months on A3, but the payoff was more than worth it. It was either that, or allow the Baphomet to escape. More than anyone else, they knew that the ramifications of that were far too great to even consider allowing it. (Even though they just had.)
The key was that they had to get to the archon before he had time to carry out whatever evil scheme the Baphomet was trying to accomplish through the psionic being.
Anyways, back to the actual story....
Desler looked over at Auspex. “Shouldn’t he be back by now?” he whispered.
“He’ll be back,” Auspex assured him. “Even if he were found somehow, he could just say ‘A3’ over and over until their heads exploded,” he said with a grin. “Works for some of the fans, I heard.”
Desler snickered. “I’ll have to try that when we get back. CI, CI, CI....”
They both jumped as a figure suddenly appeared between them.
“Jeez, Zeus!” Auspex hissed angrily. “Warn us next time, okay?”
“You scared the crap outta me,” Desler added.
Zeus couldn’t help but crack a grin. “Sorry,” he said, obviously not meaning it.
“What’d you find?” Auspex inquired.
Zeus shook his head. “I didn’t actually see Nannoth/Taeradun, but I think I know where he is. There’s a Templar Archives that’s surrounded by photon cannons and guarded by a couple reavers. It seems horribly out of place and way over-guarded to be anything but Nannoth/Taeradun’s little hangout. It’s over near the west side of the base, just on the top of that ridge over there.” He pointed to a cliff nearby, and Auspex thought he could just make out the top of the building.
“I think I see it,” he said.
“Okay,” Zeus continued. “I was able to scale up the cliff there and get just below the building, and I think that’s the best way to go. It’s a pretty easy climb...lots of hand and footholds.”
“But of course, as soon as we get to the top, those defenses are gonna open up on us,” Desler pointed out.
“Right. That’s what we have Rockwell and the clansmen for,” Zeus said with a lopsided grin.
“Did someone call the Great One?” Rockwell asked from his spot nearby.
BACK IN THE SAGA UNIVERSE....
The battle was well underway, and both sides had taken quite a beating. The Good Guys had somehow destroyed about a third of the enemy’s fighters and airborne RoboZerg so far. Aklan and Tarun had proved most effective in dogfighting with the fighters, especially Aklan, who was able to chew through any enemy fighters or RoboZerg that were foolish enough to cluster together. But you’d never be able to tell by looking at it...the ships just seemed to keep coming and coming.
Even more amazing was that they’d completely incapacitated one of the battlecruisers already. Codebreaker and MysteriousGuy had gone head-to-head with the cruiser after dusting off a good number of valkyries. They had taken a tip from Tarun’s earlier surprise attack and gone for the engines of another battlecruiser while Seawolf and Phoenix had brought in the Falcon and hammered away at the ship’s sensitive “neck”. Both piloting duos had caused spectacular explosions in their respective target areas, and the dual attack had proven to be too much for the capitol ship. It had crashed headfirst into the ground below and was still burning brightly.
In the air, despite the odds, the Good Guys seemed to be winning.
But the ground battle had been another matter. Endarire had long ago been forced to take the Judicator to higher altitudes and assist in the air battle to avoid being blown apart. The dropships that had gotten through had been stuffed beyond capacity with marines, firebats, ghosts, medics, goliaths, tanks, and RoboZerg of almost every kind. Even a fear-instilling RoboLeviathan had somehow been stuffed away into one of the cargo ships and was moving around the battlefield, though thankfully it hadn’t really made any effort to attack yet.
The other Bad Guy forces had attacked, however, and they were hammering on the Good Guys hard. What had started as a classic line-to-line battle with the opposing groups facing each other across the field had quickly degenerated into an all-out mêlée, with blades clashing left and right and bullets and other projectiles flying everywhere. Some Good Guys had managed to pair up, but for the most part it was every man and woman for him- or herself, surrounded by Bad Guys on almost every side. It was only because of the Bad Guys’ fear of hitting their own that the Alliance forces weren’t simply mowed down.
And though they were holding their own and all still standing (a feat in and of itself), hardly any were still without injury of some kind. Mat-Def’s Mech had taken the worst of it. Dents and even a few small cracks pitted the walker’s surface, but Mat had learned from Part II and made the armor much thicker since. The Mad Cat was wounded, but still taking down large numbers of enemy troops and more than holding its own.
Mat unleashed everything the OmniMech had into a cluster of Bad Guys. They fell quickly before the wrath of the giant war machine. Configured for fighting close-in or from a moderate distance, the Mad Cat held two packs of LRM-20 short-range anti-air missiles, extended-range medium ER lasers mounted on each “arm”, and two ER large lasers and a medium pulse laser mounted on the center torso, as well as short-range Goliath twin autoguns on a 360º-rotating turret on its “belly”.
It let loose with its medium ER lasers on Bad Guy goliaths across the battlefield, the laser bolts tearing apart the Mad Cat's smaller cousins, while the missiles ravaged a RoboMutalisk that strayed a little too far from the air battle.
A group of the scarce enemy siege tanks moved in to take down the Mech...after all, they figured, with that much weaponry, it had to have paper for armor. They began to siege up, turning their turrets to fire.
Mat-Def punched the jump jets to life, giving a quick burst to fly just above the ground to inside the range of the huge cannons before they could fire. In siege mode, the tanks were defenseless. Mat’s lasers wreaked havoc on the siege tanks, melting armor and shorting out electronics while his autoguns chewed apart a couple infantry escorts of theirs. The OmniMech's lasers completely melted one of the tank's turrets at the base, welding it into place. He kicked it with one of the Mech’s powerful legs, crumpling its side in.
*PFFTFOOM* Mack Kilimaro was duking it out with enemy ground troops, using his flamethrowers to good advantage. This new fuel of Flare’s was really living up to its reputation.
A ghost tried to sneak up on him. Mack, having a very keen sixth sense in battle, turned and let loose with his flamethrowers as the ghost approached. This only served, however, to keep him at arm’s (or flame’s) reach. The ghost brought up his C-10 rifle and aimed.
Mack dashed forward and knocked the rifle out of the ghost's hands and into the air with a judo-style kick. (Tough to do in a firebat suit, but this IS Mack we’re talking about.) He brought up his flamethrowers and fired just as the spinning rifle fell down to the ghost's level. Unfortunately, it had gotten turned around and was now pointing directly into the ghost's faceplate. The heat from the flamethrowers set off the C-10 ammo. ‘Oh well,’ thought Mack. ‘Scratch one ghost.’ He headed to his left to deal with a group of RoboZerg.
Lucainan was doing some serious damage too, despite a Gauss round impaled in his left shoulder. His kitties were nearly impossible to hit, and they formed a perfect diversion as they pounced from Bad Guy to Bad Guy, with Lucainan quickly taking down the victims as they took their eyes off him and focused on his feline sidekicks. He was trying to conserve his flamethrowers’ fuel and relying on his psi blades at the moment, much to the dismay of a marine whose head he sliced clean off.
Odin’s Eye was nearby, using brute strength to take out his opponents. His psi blades dispatched any that got in close, while he used his spear to reach any that were a couple feet away. A firebat charged him, flamethrowers on full, and Odin ducked low and jabbed the end of his spear into the shocked man’s chest. He then stuck the other end into the ground and used the firebat’s momentum to flip him over Odin’s head, where he came off the end of the spear and bowled over a pair of RoboZerglings, squashing one flat.
Spooky and NovaSeaker had formed one of the few teams in the skirmish. Spooky fired her C-10 as fast as it would allow, the modified, acid-tipped bullets proving particularly effective against RoboZerg, dissolving circuitry as they hit and causing the mechanical constructs to fall to ground in a shower of sparks. Nova was slicing and dicing any enemy forces that got in close, and several robotic and organic warriors lay in pieces at his feet. He had blocked out all pain in his left leg for several minutes now, which a lucky RoboZergling had gotten one of its claws into, and deep. Seemingly unhindered despite the grave-looking wound, Nova’s eyes were pure fire as he viciously cut another RoboHydralisk to smoking scrap metal.
Ixyon was right in the thick of things too, shooting enemies left and right. A RoboZergling leaped at him, and he dropped to one knee and blew it right out of the air, its broken form falling in pieces around him.
But suddenly about a dozen firebats moved in on him. Ixxie knew his time had come, and he stood ready to meet his end by taking as many of them with him as he could. He activated one of his few stimpacks and emptied what was left of his ammo clip, cutting several of his opponents down, but the remaining five firebats converged on him...
...and vanished in flashes of light. Ixyon turned around, surprised, and saw Bakjak behind him, his staff pointed in his direction. Ixxie slapped in another clip and nodded to him, and Bakjak nodded back and then turned to find the next Bad Guys to attack.
He did not have to wait long. A group of marines (twelve, of course) who had seen his magical attack began moving towards him. Smiling wickedly, Bakjak began chanting in an arcane tongue. The marines moved towards him, raising their Gauss Rifles to fire just as Bakjak completed the spell and launched it at his foes.
*PSST* “Ahh yeah, that's the stuff!” The marines stimmed up and began to fire right as the spell struck, as Bakjak had intended. To their horror, the stim injectors were now stuck open, jammed by Bakjak's spell. Deadly overdoses of adrenaline, stimulants, and worse coursed through their veins. Their eyes bulged, battle madness overtook them, and they began firing at each other or anything else that moved. Bakjak stood very still and watched in glee.
Finally, as the stimulant levels reached lethal megadose concentrations in the marines' bloodstreams, they fell down on the ground convulsing, their fingers still tightened on the triggers in an unbreakable hold, spewing their ammunition about randomly and causing more damage to their own side than to their enemies until their Gauss ammo ran out at last.
Fenrir was proving to be one of the better-equipped Good Guys. His Bashing Bat™ had barely been used thus far, as his missile launcher had kept almost every warrior he’d faced at bay. He whooped loudly as he found another target, blowing a RoboZergling apart.
Jenni was still clutching her C-10 tight, but she had found herself crawling from Good Guy to Good Guy nearly the whole battle to heal them, using her borrowed weapon only when someone stood in her way. She spotted Flare nearby hosing down a pair of ghosts with flames...and limping badly. She made her way to him, pausing only for a moment to blast a zergling that suddenly appeared in her path. When she reached Flare, he looked her way for a moment and flashed a quick smile. “It’s my right thigh!” he shouted. “I think it’s a hydra spine.” She leaned in close to examine it.... “Duck!” he shouted, and she threw herself to the ground.
Flare lined up on the marine that had gotten a bead on her and blew him away with a Flare Grenade, throwing the soldier back a good ten feet and sending him crashing into a couple of RoboZerg. “That got him!” Flare shouted triumphantly.
Jenni got back up and turned her healing rod on Flare’s wound. It used up about a half-dozen energy bars.... “That musta hurt!” she exclaimed as the wound finally closed up.
“You’re tellin’ me!” Flare agreed. “Thanks, Jen. Now, I’d get to Luc next if I were you. He’s off to my right....” he said, pointing in the general direction. “I think I saw him take a bullet earlier.”
“Okay,” she said, starting off. “Good luck!”
Flare nodded in her direction and then turned back to do battle with a RoboZergling.
Jenni hoisted her rifle and headed towards her next patient.
Had she not been so intent on getting to Lucainan, she might have noticed the group of infantry that was working on breaking through VSP HQ’s main doors.
Bakjak had gotten himself away from the others and now stood staring down at the forces of TGF. Just then a breeze suddenly picked up, making Bakjak's black robes flow around him. He drew his hood back and looked up into the heavens. A familiar corsair flew by... “Zeratul!” he exclaimed, his earlier anger returning at the sight of the Thanatos. “I'll kill him!”
Bakjak jumped down 10 feet down from his vantage point and hit the rock below with a thud. His face cringed with pain, but it quickly dissipated as he ran after the Thanatos. “All I wanted to do was kill that retarded loser Rockwell,” muttered Bakjak. “What the hell am I running after Dark_T_Zeratul for?”
There were only three things that mattered much to Bakjak. Money, power, and money. The scout Magius he guessed had been a distant fourth. That fourth thing had been destroyed by Dark_T_Zeratul due to one god-like shot. Some people just have to make themselves have an all-powerful weapon because they must be lacking in other areas. Bakjak grinned at his logic.
“What the hell?” he gasped with astonishment. Directly in front of Bakjak was a helicopter. ‘Where'd this come from?’ he thought. There was a banner attached to the tail of the helicopter that read —- ‘Will you marry me, Spooky?’
A thought occurred to him. Bakjak got out a white crayon and wrote 'Magius' on the side of the black helicopter. The breeze picked up again as Bakjak donned his sunglasses. There was no time to take the banner off; that cursed corsair was getting away.
The band Queen started to play in the background. “...ain't no sound but the sound of speed, machine guns ready to go. Are you ready, hey, are you ready for this? Are you hanging on the edge of your seat? Out of the doorway the bullets rip, repeat to the sound of the beat...yeaaah...another one bites the dust...another one bites the dust...”
Bakjak was humming to the tune as he took off and put the helicopter on autopilot. He brandished his M4-A1 assault rifle and emptied the entire magazine into some RoboHydralisks spitting spines at him. Bakjak had forgotten to bring extra clips for the gun, so he threw it at a RoboZergling. The gun knocked its head right off.
He still had old faithful with him though, Mr. Big Gun itself: the Talon Grenade Launcher. Bakjak got back to the pilot's seat and flew higher to avoid attacks from the hydras.
He silently said a short prayer to himself as he sped ahead after Zeratul's smoking corsair, damaged from the Yamato earlier and a recent attack by several RoboMutalisks.
Suddenly, a mutie busted the door off the 'Magius' helicopter and a piece of shrapnel embedded itself into Bakjak’s left arm. He gripped the flight stick hard as the pain raced down his injured limb. His right hand automatically grasped at his arm as he struggled to regain control of the chopper....
‘So THIS is how TGF must have felt in the last Part of the Saga,’ Lambda thought sourly.
He was typing away furiously at a terminal in the control room, trying in vain to bring something, ANYTHING, back online. He'd lost it all...cameras, sensors, communications, scanners, and most importantly, the security systems, both outdoors and inside.
The net result was that the base was a big sitting duck. If only a handful of the Bad Guy troops managed to sneak through the Alliance guys outside....
Lambda paused in mid-thought. With nearly all the equipment off, the room had been pretty much silent except for his key tapping since the virus had been activated.
But he wasn't tapping anymore, and the room WASN'T silent now.
Out in the hall, he heard footsteps. Quite a few footsteps. They were soft, professionally quieted, but they were definitely there. And they were coming his way.
A cold sweat formed on Lambda's brow. He slowly stood, looking down off of the raised platform into the room below. Outside one of the room's two main entrances, he saw several faint lights bobbing around. The fools were using flashlights to see, giving away their position at the same time.
“Not that it matters much,” Lambda whispered to himself. In a minute or two they'd be here, and all he had to fend them off was his Gauss Rifle and pistol. With security systems down, that was the best he could do.
He yelped with surprise as an idea came out of nowhere and slammed into his chest. He reached down and scooped it up...
...and felt a lopsided grin cross his face. ‘Of course.’
There was one other new toy he had at his disposal, one that Auspex had given the VSP to help thank them for all they'd done so far in the Saga.
Lambda quickly pulled his keycard out and walked over to a nearby storage room.
If nothing else, he'd give these goons a run for their money.
The battle was going well, though not as well as Broker had hoped.
He and TGF had both lost a battlecruiser, and TGF’s Reckoning had STILL not rejoined the main group. And there was something even more powerful than the wounded battlecruiser that should have shown up by now, too....
“Patch me through to the Nemesis II,” he ordered the Temujin’s comm officer.
A second later he got a “ready, sir” and flipped on the speaker switch on his command board.
“Yes, Broker, what is it?” came the reply.
“Oh, nothing,” Broker replied, annoyance beginning to creep into his voice. “I was just wondering why your one battlecruiser hasn’t come forward yet.”
TGF snorted over the line. “They’ll come forward when they’re ready. We don’t really need them anyway, though.”
With that, Broker lost his patience. “Are you completely INSANE?! Not one Good Guy has yet been killed—not ONE—and yet we have already lost half our fighters and TWO battlecruisers. Every ship counts in this battle, and speaking of which, where the $#@% is your battle platform?! Is it going to sit out THIS battle, too!?!”
“Calm yourself, my friend,” TGF said. “The Reckoning’s captain has informed me that they are going to escort the battle platform in...that is the reason for the delay. And Admiral Ra'Chek says that the battle platform is only a couple minutes away now...that thing is very slow, I must remind you. So both warships in question will join us VERY shortly.”
Broker took in a breath and let the air out through his teeth. “Very well. But I still say we should have waited for the platform before attacking in the first place. We would have won by now. You even said that it would ‘lead us to victory’ in this battle.”
TGF ignored that. “Victory will be ours very soon, Kurt. TGF out.”
Broker blinked. TGF’s use of Broker’s first name had surprised him.
But perhaps it shouldn’t have. After all, Broker had learned that TGF was anything but predictable.
He hoped the Good Guys hadn’t picked up on that, too.
“Sir!” one of his lackeys called out. “There’s a scout and another ship I can’t identify coming straight at us!”
Broker turned to the viewscreen and saw not just any scout, but the Havoc Wreaker, accompanied by the “unidentifiable” Millennium Falcon.
“Well shoot them, fool!” Broker shouted.
But it was too late. Broker braced for the coming weapons impact...
...which didn’t come. The two Good Guy ships flew right over them.
But the Temujin was near the rear of the Bad Guy fleet. If they weren’t after Broker, then where WERE they going?
“Helmsman, bring us about.”
At exactly the same time as Broker was talking to TGF and barking out orders to his men, Dark_T_Zeratul was still blasting away enemy fighters with neutron flares.
He was so wrapped up in it that he didn’t notice the helicopter bearing down on him.
His chopper spinning nearly out of control, Bakjak saw a big yellow blur up ahead. He pulled hard on the stick, but it did little. He screamed towards it....
A sharp impact from the starboard side of the Thanatos slammed Zeratul hard into the opposite side of the cockpit, causing him to blank out for a second. He quickly sat back up and shook his head clear, though it was hard to clear his head in the environment he was now in.
No less than four different alarms were screaming at him and half his control board was blinking all over with warning lights. He quickly scanned through them to prioritize the most critical problems while a small part of his brain starting trying to figure out what had just happened.
The Falcon and the Wreaker sped towards the battlecruiser Tarun had crippled earlier. With the enemy fighters now in more manageable numbers, they were hoping to take out the battlecruiser before it had a chance to form up with the rest of the Bad Guy fleet.
Tarun, his scout slightly faster than the Falcon, was in the lead. He came over the hill, saw the battlecruiser...
...and also a whole lot more gray than should be there. A good portion of his field of vision was filled with metal, and after a moment he figured out what exactly he was looking at.
“Seawolf, pull back!” he shouted into the intercom, pulling his own ship into a steep climb. “ABORT!”
The Falcon had already cleared the crest of the hill when Tarun began shouting at its pilot. Seawolf dumbly flew forward a few more seconds, in shock at what he saw, before following Tarun’s lead.
“Attention all Good Guys,” Phoenix made the warning call. “Beware: the Bad Guys have brought along a prototype ConFed Battle Platform. Do not, I repeat, do NOT come over the southeastern hill. The platform is only another minute or two out. Get ready!”
“Phoenix,” Seawolf said as soon as he’d shut off the intercom. “Start looking for a good cruiser to grab.”
Phoenix stared. “Now? What about Endarire covering us?”
Seawolf shot him a quick look. “No time to wait for that,” he said as he piloted the Falcon back over the hills. “We need to move.”
And they did need a battlecruiser...NOW...if there was any way they were going to survive this battle, much less win it.
For the second time today, Bakjak found himself parachuting out of his mortally wounded ship. And once again, it was Dark_T_Zeratul’s fault...at least indirectly.
There had been a pair of emergency parachutes in the rear of the chopper, and Bakjak had grabbed one while rooting around in the back in desperation after slamming into what he’d decided must have been the Thanatos.
He’d come to that conclusion when he saw the corsair screaming towards the ground, fire coming from its engines, after bailing out of the helicopter.
It hadn’t taken Zeratul long to determine his biggest problem.
His engines were gone. Completely.
Whatever had hit him—he had determined it must have been a physical object to get through his shields like that—had impacted on the starboard side back near the engine exhaust, ripping a good chunk of the engines completely away as it had scraped along the back of the Thanatos and continued on. All he had now were maneuvering thrusters and the weak landing jets on the underside of the ship. There was no way he could stay aloft with just that.
About the best he could hope for was a controlled crash.
Zeratul turned the landing jets up as high as they would go, hoping the trick would slow his descent. It helped, but it wasn’t enough. He fired the thrusters up to full, too, and finally saw a real effect.
He looked ahead and was shocked to see how close he was to the ground...and what was there ahead of him.
He swore loudly, knowing he had little choice but to land nearby anyway. He jerked the stick as far to the right as it would allow, trying to get as far away from the enemy group in front of him as possible. Maybe they wouldn’t see him....
As he fought the ship’s sluggishness, Zeratul heard a frantic message come through his damaged intercom, broken up quite a bit by static. It sounded like Phoenix. “Atten...all Good....ware: the Bad Gu...ave brought a...totype ConFed Bat...form. Do no...peat, do NOT come...e sou...ern hill. The...orm is o...other min...two ou...et ready!”
Zeratul had no time to contemplate the message’s meaning. Having put as much distance between him and the enemy group he’d seen as possible, he leveled the corsair and braced for impact, his knuckles white as he clutched on the stick.
The initial touchdown was anything but gentle. It felt as though the Thanatos would shake apart.
Then it was relatively smooth, almost like driving down a highway, as his ship skidded along the ground, turning slightly to port as it finally came to a stop.
Zeratul threw off his harness and grabbed his DarkScythe, knowing that he would almost certainly need it very soon. Then he popped the canopy and leaped out, scanning the area.
The first thing he saw was, not surprisingly, VSP HQ, standing imposingly over the massive ground battle at its base. A little further to the right he saw the air battle, and was disturbed to see the Falcon and the Havoc Wreaker come screaming over the southern hills. He was reminded of that garbled message he’d heard on the way down. Phoenix was in the Falcon....
His thoughts were cut off as he heard, and felt, the enemy group he’d tried to avoid coming up behind him. Zeratul turned and saw them rapidly approaching: about two dozen RoboHydralisks, three RoboTorrasques, and a RoboLeviathan.
Zeratul swore again. So they’d seen him after all. He ignited his blades and lifted his scythe up to a fighting position as he had many times before, but was surprised and alarmed to discover something he hadn’t expected.
For the first time he could remember, Dark_T_Zeratul was scared. Not just apprehensive, but downright terrified.
He shook his head angrily at his own emotions. “I have no room for that now,” he said to himself. He shook his head again, clenched his teeth, and forced himself to be calm.
Because he was about to fight the battle of his life.
And he wasn’t the only one.
Bakjak had hit the ground running, quickly, almost frantically, undoing his parachute straps and sprinting towards where he’d seen the Thanatos go down. He could already see the group of RoboZerg making for the wrecked ship.
Bakjak wasn’t even thinking at the moment. Adrenaline and pure instinct had taken over: ‘ally down, ally in trouble, help ally.’
If he had been thinking, Bakjak would have realized that he was rushing to save person he had only minutes ago wished dead.
Nannoth/Taeradun was beginning to tire. He had seen Mason Wheeler's fighting power before, in "The Case of the Missing Archon", but this cold-eyed warrior before him was something else entirely. N/T struck with another force attack, which Mason caught on his shield. Mason reposted with lightning speed, and N/T barely managed to evade the golden sword.
But Mason was tiring as well. The "mighty Archon" was proving mighty indeed. The battle had been going on for ten minutes now, and first blood had yet to be drawn. (Yes I know that Archons don't have blood, but this is a figure of speech meaning that neither combatant had yet wounded the other.) Despite all of his magical strength and skill provided by the Valheru armor and sword, Mason could not find an opening in N/T's psionic defenses. He felt another psi attack coming, ducked under it, and stabbed toward Nannoth/Taeradun. His foe quickly conjured up a psionic barrier, deflecting the blow. Then, suddenly, he pulled an Eye of the Xel'Naga from his pocket (or whatever it is that Archons use to carry stuff around with them) and activated it.
The force beam knocked Mason backwards nine feet. He would have gone much further had a wall not been seven feet behind him. He lay stunned on the ground as N/T walked/floated/hovered through the hole in the wall to stand over him. The archon stood over him, preparing a psionic assault that would utterly destroy him. As N/T raised his psionic arms to unleash his ball of fury, Mason stabbed upwards with his sword, striking the archon in whatever it has that passes for a stomach. He began to drain Nannoth/Taeradun's energy through the wound, revitalizing himself. N/T roared a telepathic roar and used the Eye of the Xel'Naga again. Mason was wounded sorely by this second assault. N/T activated the Eye a third time to finish him off...
...and nothing happened. N/T looked at the Eye in confusion and saw that its batteries were dead. He suddenly remembered that he had been intending to recharge it before attacking Mark Brown, but had forgotten to in his haste to act before Mason could take over first.
Both combatants were extremely weakened, and the next to make a mistake would die. Mason managed to roll away from the coming strike and regain his feet, somewhat unsteadily. He held his sword before him, and the combatants began the obligatory circling of one another that always seems to happen in these fencing matches, each looking for an opening in the other's defenses....
Slowly, silently, Broker's men entered the VSP command room. They fanned out as they came through the doorway to cover as much space as possible. They knew that the computers they needed to get to were up above on the raised platform, and they had disks to deactivate the virus and claim the VSP Headquarters as their own.
But they also knew that there would likely be opposition. And since they hadn't faced any since they got inside, they knew it must be here.
Two of them were thinking that very thing as a small mine popped out of the ground under their feet. That thought was their last.
As the others turned to look, another mine took out a marine and a firebat, and then yet another unburrowed and exploded, throwing a ghost against the wall, his body then hitting the floor with a sickeningly wet thump.
After a few more seconds of shouting from the survivors, the room was quiet once again.
Well, ALMOST quiet. With the remaining troops now holding their breath, frozen in place, they could hear a low hum coming from the back wall. With a little squinting, they could also make out a faint glow from several pinpoints of light.
And even as they looked, two powerful spotlamps suddenly sliced through the darkness from the same area. A speaker-enhanced voice followed right behind it. “Lynx unit Lambda reporting!”
Broker's men opened fire, but still blinded from the Lynx's headlamps, they couldn't really see what they were shooting at.
Lambda Corps smiled behind the Lynx suit's visor and opened fire.
The lead pair of Broker's men fell within seconds. The rest wisely spread out to avoid splash damage.
Rather, it WOULD have been wise if not for the remaining mine. Three of Broker's men found that out the hard way as it detonated beneath them.
The others managed to find cover before Lambda could get a bead on them. He wasn't sure, but he thought there were about a half-dozen left...all marines and ghosts except for one firebat he'd seen dive behind a computer panel. The odds were much better, but now it was down to a straight shoot-out.
And at the moment, he was exposed and the enemy was not. He worked his way behind a heavy shelf unit, moving clumsily in the unfamiliar Lynx suit. The others took a second to fire upon him before he was fully hidden, but their shots couldn't quite make it through the suit's armor.
And so they settled into a typical (for the Saga, anyway) firefight, the two opposing forces ducking in and out of cover and taking potshots at each other, not knowing how critical control of the HQ’s defenses was. Especially now, with that battle platform about to enter the fray.
Phoenix was piloting the Millennium Falcon while Seawolf focused on picking the best battlecruiser possible. With the odds about to shift badly out of the Good Guys’ favor in the air, he was looking for the least damaged cruiser in the pack, preferably one that had especially tough armor. Seawolf had discovered long ago that despite how Starcraft portrayed it in the game, no two battlecruisers were alike. Some were always tougher than others.
Phoenix was using the Falcon quite effectively in the interim, twisting and rolling around enemies in ways that would have made Han Solo proud. He was trying to save his missiles for Flyspeck and Nemesis and relying on Pure Orange and Typhoon to do the fighting. It was hard for them to get a bead on most targets with Phoenix rocking around like he was, but they were doing it anyway, blowing away RoboZerg after RoboZerg. (Most of the Terran ships were gone by now, thanks to the PossePlane’s efforts early on.)
Phoenix spotted a couple of RoboGuardians making for the ground battle. “Oh no, you don’t,” he said, coming around to follow them between two battlecruisers. He grinned as one of the others in the back blasted one of the crab-like creatures apart. “Got him!” he heard Orange call through the comm.
Phoenix smiled a little more broadly at that, but was startled when a silverish cloud suddenly appeared in his path.
He gave a shout and tried to climb over it, but with little warning, the underside of the ship still passed through the metallic cloud. He heard several loud scraping sounds on the Falcon’s belly, concluded with a particularly awful-sounding screech.
“What was THAT?!” Nemesis shouted behind him.
“Flak,” Seawolf answered for Phoenix, spinning around to face him and Flyspeck. “Damage?”
“Minimal,” Flyspeck reported, checking the instruments beside him. “Some sensor damage, but nothing critical.”
“Good,” Seawolf said, seeming somewhat distracted. “You ready to take her over, Specks?”
Flyspeck gave him a questioning look. “Now?”
“Lemme have her, buddy,” Seawolf said, turning back around. Phoenix relinquished control and Seawolf took back over the piloting. He immediately swung them back around towards one of the two battlecruisers they’d just passed between, pausing for only a moment as one of the gunners dusted off the other RoboGuardian.
He sensed the stares of the other three in the cockpit. “That flak cloud wasn’t there by accident,” he started to explain. “Nemmy, go get the others. Tell them to get set.” He paused while Nemesis got up and left the cockpit.
“So how’d it get there?” Flyspeck asked.
“One of those battlecruisers released it out a specialized launcher tube on the side...I saw it,” Seawolf said, maneuvering above one of the battlecruisers. “What other ship have we seen that had flak launchers?”
Phoenix got it first. “The Nemesis.”
“Right. And we know TGF’s here, too, and I don’t see any other carriers around....”
“So you think that he’s in a specially-modified battlecruiser now?” Flyspeck finished for him, starting to understand.
“Bingo. The very one that launched that flak at us.”
“And the very one we’re about to board,” Phoenix said.
“You got it. It’s sure to be the strongest single ship in their fleet, and we get the added bonus of taking out one of the Bad Guy leaders. Sow some confusion into their ranks,” Seawolf finished, bringing the Falcon into a hover over the battlecruiser and getting up. “Flyspeck,” he said, looking his friend in the eye, “she’s all yours.”
Flyspeck slid into the captain’s chair, and gave Seawolf and Phoenix a thumbs-up as they moved for the cockpit door. “Good luck, guys,” he said.
Phoenix nodded and went through, but Flyspeck called Seawolf to stay for a second. After the door closed, he looked back at Seawolf with a serious look on his face. “Be careful, boss. I already lost one friend...I don’t wanna lose another one, too.”
Seawolf gave a tight smile and clapped his friend on the shoulder. “I will be. Now you do the same...that’s an order.” They both chuckled, and Seawolf gave Flyspeck a final nod as he too left the cockpit.
Endarire saw the Falcon a little ways off, hovering above a battlecruiser. ‘Going without me, eh?’ he thought. It made sense, he supposed. If what they’d said was on the other side of the hills was really there....
It was. Even as he looked, Endarire saw the top of the ConFed Battle Platform rising above the grassy hills, its massive gun trained forward.
As big as it was, he was happy to see it was not a full-size model—the real thing was said to be one-quarter the size of the moon—but rather closer to the in-game size...a few times larger than a battlecruiser. Still huge, no doubt, but more manageable than the alternative.
He started racking his brain, trying to think of possible weaknesses. If he remembered correctly, the platform only had one real weapon to speak of...the huge gun turret on top. It was incredibly powerful—strong enough to take down the average battlecruiser with a single shot—but also very slow to recharge. Seemed all superweapons worked that way.
And as he thought of superweapons, an idea hit him. He picked it up and smiled.
“All Good Guy ships, get in as close as you can to the Bad Guy fleet.”
“End, you nuts?” MysteriousGuy’s voice came over the intercom.
“Remember Return of the Jedi, MG?” Endarire shot back. “How the Alliance fleet survived against the second Death Star?”
“Good point,” MG conceded. Up ahead, Endarire saw the PossePlane suddenly come into view from amidst a pack of RoboZerg fliers. It continued to blast away at them, but moved full-speed towards the clustered Bad Guy battlecruisers.
He pushed the throttle forward and followed his teammates to safety. If you could call being in the middle of a fleet of enemy ships “safety”.
Flyspeck and Nemesis saw the platform, too. “Hurry up back there, guys!” Nemesis called over the comm.
Seawolf acknowledged and quickly briefed his three companions. “Okay, quick review. I pop the door and we all go at the same time. Get down low against the hull so that the other ships can’t see us while Phoenix makes our entrance door for us. After that, I’ll go in first, Orange next, then Typhoon, and Phoenix last. Got it?”
They did, and they were ready. Phoenix had his psi blades strapped on and his twin swords in crossing sheaths on his back, as well as his backup Desert Eagle pistol in a holster at his hip. Pure Orange clutched his Gauss Rifle, its barrel having recently been shortened to resemble Seawolf’s. Typhoon had a Gauss as well and his bag of large rocks hanging from his hip.
Seawolf looked each of them in the eye, nodded, and hit the controls for the entrance ramp. It hissed and slid downwards.
Seawolf counted down from three, and then they all ran down the ramp and jumped, screaming, onto the battlecruiser’s hull. They felt a rush of warm wind as the Falcon moved off to hide from the battle platform, Flyspeck closing the hatch from the cockpit.
Phoenix ignited his blades and started cutting into the hull as the others waited, mentally biting their nails and hoping this would work.
OUTSIDE NEW ANTIOCH....
By now, the Good Guys had been seen. At least, MOST of the Good Guys.
Ytse-Jam, Rockwell and his men, and Ian Anduin and his highlanders had all taken up position a little outside the base of the pale Protoss, somewhat hidden but visible enough that they’d been spotted rather quickly. After a few zealots sent to investigate had been blown apart by Rockwell and the group’s three other siege tanks—the same three that had gone up against Charlie Mox’s base with Rockwell in A2—the pale Protoss had left them alone. Undoubtedly, they were preparing an all-out assault against the encroaching group, but that was just fine. After all, the Good Guy pack WAS just a diversion.
Inside the Protoss encampment, Auspex Turmalis, Zeus Legion, Desler, FistOfGod, and Guardian Steve were climbing the rock face below Nannoth/Taeradun’s supposed location. It had proven to be more difficult than Zeus had insisted, especially for Steve, who wasn’t used to such strenuous workouts.
But they WERE making progress. In fact, they were almost to the top. ‘Finally,’ Steve thought. He felt as though his arms would fall right off his body.
Not surprisingly, Zeus reached the top first, and he paused just below the edge of the cliff and waited for the others. Once they caught up, he got a good hold with one hand and then plucked a radio from his side with the other and brought it up to his mouth. “Zeus to Ytse,” he said quietly. “We’re set.”
“In ten,” his fellow TAC Staffer replied. “Good luck.”
Zeus popped the radio back into its holster and gave the others a thumbs-up. “Ten seconds,” he told them, then turned to prepare to shimmy over the top of the cliff.
Rockwell turned his shock cannon towards the designated spot and ordered his fellow siege tank pilots to do likewise. He popped in one of his favorite music discs and began drumming his fingers on the firing controls in anticipation. Almost time to lay the Smackdown....
Ian Anduin fired up his vulture and climbed aboard, taking a last swig of scotch before tucking it into a storage compartment and belching loudly.
Though he hadn’t been mentioned before, Declan Anduin was present too. The Bonnie Heather was still on the ground, trying to hide the fact that the Good Guys had a science vessel. But now that things were about to get interesting, Declan ordered the ship to take off, and it went into a hover a few feet above the ground. He hoped that the grav-well projectors would hold up....
The highlanders were all very nervous, but had taken up defensive positions around the siege tanks. A few were fortunate enough to make it into a pair of recently-built bunkers.
Ytse was directly in front of Rockwell’s tank, with the shock cannon dramatically coming to a stop right over his head, aiming directly forward. Ytse had his C-10 held at an angle in his hands and a stolid look on his face, as if to say “come and just TRY to get through me.”
Rockwell was counting down the seconds, calling each number over the intercom starting at five.
As he reached one, everyone tensed.
And then, just as he’d done at the end of A2, Rockwell shouted out “OPEEEEN FIIIRRRE!!!” He simultaneously fired his cannon and flipped on his music, and some Paradigm Blue began blaring across the battlefield.
All four tanks fired at once, and a cluster of three photon cannons, as well as a pair of dragoons just behind them, was blown into atoms.
The Protoss were out of range for everyone else, so they just held their positions and waited for the inevitable counterattack.
Below them and a ways off to the left, the five heroes scaling the cliffs heard a loud explosion as the pale Protoss took their first hit. Without another second going by, they scrambled over the cliff’s edge.
As predicted, the two reavers guarding their target had just turned away to head towards the area of the base under attack. Zeus ignited his blades and let out a battle cry as he charged them while Auspex, Desler, and FistOfGod pulled out their weapons and opened up on the nearest photon cannon. Steve, his Guardian powers working even here, hit a key on his belt and shouted out “reboot!” and was suddenly a high templar hero, though his human features remained. He immediately let loose with a psionic storm over the reavers, which struck just before Zeus reached them.
Zeus saw the storm rip across the reavers’ hard bodies as they started to turn back towards him. He grinned as he saw their shields crackle and begin to die out, but was forced to stop for a moment to avoid damage himself. This gave the reavers another few seconds to turn, and though they were slow to do it, Zeus knew it was suddenly a race. If they managed to face him before that storm died down, their scarabs’d kill him. On the other hand, if he went a second before the storm died down...he’d be hurt, sure, but it was much better than the alternative.
The reavers had almost completed turning by the time Zeus’ thoughts were finished, and though the storm was still playing across the lumbering machines of war, Zeus knew he could wait no longer. He charged and leapt atop one of the reavers, clenching his teeth as the storm’s energies played across his body.
Steve had already turned away to assist Auspex, Desler, and FoG, who had already trashed two photon cannons and were in the process of finishing off another. They WERE, after all, hero units, so their weapons were able to quickly cut through the shielding and then tear apart the metal underneath. With Steve now helping, too, the destruction of the third cannon was even faster.
The Protoss’ response time to the initial attack was excellent. By the time the tanks got their fourth volley off, a small pack of scouts began screaming towards them, followed by a large group of zealots that came charging from the base.
“We got incoming!” Ytse yelled out pointlessly.
“Ach! No kiddin’, laddie!” Ian replied, revving his vulture’s throttle.
The zealots probably wouldn’t be a big problem...the tanks had already re-aimed and blown away the lead handful, but the scouts certainly could be. Ytse had his C-10, and several of the highlanders had Gauss Rifles, but beyond that, they were pretty much defenseless against aerial units.
But there was little time to think about that now...the scouts were upon them. Ytse brought his rifle up....
Zeus was hacking his way through his ride’s armor...or at least trying to. The reaver’s shields were gone thanks to Steve’s earlier psi storm, but the armor plating was holding up quite well against even his overpowered warp blades.
He saw the other reaver making its way towards him, and he quickly devised a new plan.
Jumping off the reaver he was on, Zeus started jumping up and down to make absolutely sure he had the other reaver’s attention.
He did. The war machine opened up its “jaws”...
...and Zeus dove to the side as the scarab that flew out blew a smoking hole in the hull of the other reaver. It gave out one final, pitiful beep before an internal explosion of some sort blew its “head” right off.
By then, Zeus was already on his way to the second reaver. Obviously, he wouldn’t be able to pull THAT stunt again, but it sure had helped to even the odds.
He once again jumped on the reaver’s back and started hacking away, knowing it would probably do little good but not really able to think of any alternatives.
Ytse-Jam launched a lockdown round at an enemy scout, then at another. In a Rockwell voice, he said, “The Great One’s layin’ the lockdown!”
Seeing a very large group of dragoons and more zealots starting towards them as the first zealot pack continued to be ripped to shreds, he formulated a devious plan. Ytse was actually quite a bit smarter than his pro-wrestler-wannabe alter ego; doing some math in his head real fast, he fired a few shots at the group of enemies to draw their attention, then started to sprint towards a certain location on the battlefield. A good-sized chunk of the Protoss broke off from the main group and began to chase him.
When he reached the perfect position, Ytse started firing his rifle at one of the locked-down scouts. After several shots, its shields were depleted. Counting down the time in his head until the lockdown wore off, he turned and fired at the pale enemies, who were just entering range to fire at him. ‘3...2...1....’ He turned and, taking precise aim, fired one last C-10 bullet at the enemy scout, just as the static-like lockdown field around it disappeared.
The pilot immediately punched his engines to full acceleration when the lockdown wore off. The bullet penetrated what little shields had regenerated and hit the ship's thruster exhaust port, bending it upward slightly.
The result was exactly what Ytse had hoped for. With the thrust exhaust directed upwards, the ship plummeted downwards, flying as he had calculated and crashing right on top of the group of Protoss as the dragoons opened up their disruptor cannons’ hatches to attack him. As a finale, Rockwell landed an Arclite shock round on the site exactly as the scout impacted. Only one word could adequately describe the pale Protoss’ situation after the resulting explosion: WASTEd!
“You've just had the Smackdown laid on you if you smeeeeell what Rockweeeell is cooking!!” Ytse and Rockwell said in unison.
Right then the lockdown on the second scout wore off and it moved in to attack Ytse. He checked the energy gauge and smiled evilly. Just enough for one more lockdown.
Incidentally, the point in which Mark Brown had returned to the narrator seat before, in what was now known as “Part II”, was the point when he was most needed ever in the Saga—his story, if there ever was one, despite that brief period when he was out of the cockpit thanks to the whole dual Mason Wheeler thing that had gone on—where it could simply cease existing if certain things went wrong. Really, he hadn’t intended for things to get THIS out of hand, but right as Mark had set up the alternate reality of his house inside the Saga for the duel that he knew was coming, they came.
It seemed that the FBI was actually a tiny bit peeved about the whole Blizzard Headquarters thing from Part II, once they found out about it. Breaking and entering and hacking a corporation...apparently, they didn’t really like any of that stuff. True to Murphy’s Law, while on his adventures, Mark failed to consider security cameras. They had a picture of his entrance, and had posted it over all of the major news networks and newspapers and things like that.
‘A guy just can’t get any credit for narrating a story, can he?’ Mark had thought to himself at the time. Of course, it wouldn’t have worked for him to stay around to see what his parents or friends had thought of the whole thing—certainly the FBI would be using them to get at him. So he had loaded every single program and piece of data he had onto his laptop and fled the haven that was his house with only the clothes on his back.
He had a bit of a quandary in deciding where he would hide out. All of his friends’ houses would be monitored, and certainly so would any stores he had ever gone into and purchased something. In the end, there was only one place that was quite appropriate to hide. One place where he could set up shop and know that no one would ever think to look for him.
With a cry of “All your base are belong to us!”, Mark Brown snuck into a storage room in an Abercrombie & Fitch outlet and began working to take back his game world. Clearing his name, after all, could wait, but making sure the Saga stayed true was far more significant. To him, at least.
Now, the first task on the agenda was to figure out what exactly he had missed, something that took far longer than he would have hoped, because really, there was not much good to report. The troops had been losing faith in him, he knew. There was Deos Arcana, out cold, Mason Wheeler and Nannoth/Taeradun fighting in the illusionary house he had created. Though, as it ended up, this was a good thing, Mark knew. One of them would take out the other, and for all the trouble Mason Wheeler had caused him, Mark actually hoped that the misguided would-be narrator would come out on top.
After all, as the narrator, he knew that the Baphomet had infected Mason somehow. Its influence had been getting worse and worse...Mason was not acting like himself at all anymore. And there was only one way to fix it. Mark would have to enter the Saga Universe and administer the cure himself...after he’d created it, which he had to do and then place it somewhere handy for him to use. Normally this would be a piddly task for Mark, but his being on the run compounded its difficulty infinitely. The two previous times he’d entered the Saga, he had been at his house, and had prepared for a somewhat lengthy amount of time. In a few minutes, after he’d found and created the cure, he would have to enter spontaneously, an effort that could hurt both him and the Saga. ‘Lovely how things tend to work out,’ he noted grimly to himself.
Failure, however, was not an option. He wanted neither his own life nor that of his masterpiece to expire.
Mason’s infection was now placed on an isolated portion of his hard drive, and he began trying to find the cure for it. Not even so much for Mason, as for Jenni. There would be no more heartbreak in his Saga, not if he had anything to do about it.
Minutes later, Mark was projecting himself into the Saga for what he hoped would be the final time.