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 13.”

The Great VSP Saga:
Part III

Revenge of the Good Guys

Table of Contents

Part III

Chapter 13: Settling Scores

Nannoth/Taeradun loosed another psionic blast directed at Mason's face. Mason threw up his arm to block the attack, but was still flung backwards, hard, against the wall. He shook his head clear and then noticed that his tabard was on fire.

Shouting in surprise and still-lingering pain, he quickly shed the burning coat and flung it to the ground.

Unlike many stories and movies of this type, Nannoth/Taeradun hadn't just stood in place watching this. Even as Mason looked back up to face the archon again, he was thrown sideways by another shockwave. This time, Mason found himself lying on his back, his head spinning and wet. He couldn’t tell if it was sweat or blood, but he guessed it was probably some of both.

Nannoth/Taeradun laughed evilly. He let loose another blast, but this one seemed to miss Mason...

...and instead hit his sword, sending it sliding across the room, much too far away for Mason to ever hope to reclaim in time to defend himself.

He closed his eyes and prepared to embrace death. A thousand fragments of thoughts and memories passed through his mind. Hugging Seawolf at the end of the first Part of the Saga. Killing Rockwell and starting Part II. Having the DragonSlayer torn apart around him by Broker's fleet. Jenni, in her cell in Broker's space station, with Broker laughing in the background. Seawolf, punching Mason in the jaw. The dragon Shinryu, dying under the DragonSlayer's assault. Broker, shooting him in the leg and then flying with him through the Crossover into the Antioch Universe. Guardian Steve and several others, with Mason convincing them he was a Guardian too, and showing them how to better win Games against Antioch Users. Codebreaker and Zeratul, fighting with him against Lavos. Seawolf, shutting his eyes against his coming deathblow from Mason's sword...‘How ironic,’ Mason thought.

He suddenly heard a horrible, metallic scream. He shut his eyes tighter for a moment, and then, realizing he wasn't dead, he opened them.

Nannoth/Taeradun was turned away. It looked as though he was fighting someone else, but who?

A second later, his question was answered. The archon moved aside, and there was Deos Arcana, coming at Nannoth/Taeradun with his onyx sword swinging as only an expert could handle it.

Mason got to his feet. His sword was on the other side of the pair where he couldn't get to it, so he could do little but watch, which he did, awestruck.

It was clear that Deos knew what he was doing. He was not nearly as worn down as his opponent, as he had been unconscious for the past several minutes. His black armor was dented where he had been struck before and his head had a large gash where he'd hit the wall, but judging by his fighting, it wasn't affecting him in the least.

In fact, it almost appeared as though Deos was holding back a bit. He didn't seem to be attempting to truly get in any real blows; it almost seemed as though he was simply driving Nannoth/Taeradun back. Mason looked behind the archon to see what Deos might be up to, and he saw a strange computer workstation there against one of the walls. It was powered up, and on the screen, Mason saw a shot of New Antioch. Not just an SCX-like screenshot, but a "live" picture, as if taken from inside the Antioch Universe....

And then he got it. ‘Of course,’ Mason thought.

Deos kept driving Nannoth/Taeradun towards the workstation, and predictably, a very familiar rift suddenly opened up in front of it. The archon didn't realize it was there until his rear shields began to sizzle.

Utterly surprised, he turned around and saw the rift. “NOOOOO!” the archon shouted, clawing at the air in front of him.

But it was too late. With a final, horrible scream, Nannoth/Taeradun was pulled violently backwards through the Crossover rift. Mason saw him falling towards the ground below, crackling with anger, just before the fissure sealed itself.

And then he felt eyes upon him. He looked over to see that those eyes belonged to Deos Arcana.

The black-armored warrior wasn't smiling. He was breathing a little heavily, his shoulders moving up and down slowly, but his mouth was closed tight in a straight line. His sword still in his hand, he turned to face Mason head-on.

For what seemed like an eternity, they just stared at each other. Deos was showing practically no emotion. Mason was trying hard not to, but he had so many emotions running through him right now that he knew he must look distressed. Unbelief, anger, joy, hatred, confusion...all played across his mind as he stared at the man before him. A man that until now, he had loathed for robbing him of killing another earlier. Now that man had saved his life in an eerily similar manner.

He suddenly realized that he didn't even know the warrior's name. “Who are you?” Mason croaked, surprised at his own weak voice.

“Deos Arcana,” the other said shortly, his face still unreadable. “Master of Illusion, Delusion, and All-Around Confusion.” He took a short bow.

“And my assistant,” said a familiar voice from behind.

Mason spun, and there he was. Mark Brown.

“We need to talk,” Mark said.

***

Lambda Corps cursed as Gauss fire raked across the back of his Lynx suit and quickly ducked back behind cover.

The remainder of Broker’s men were not stupid. They knew they had been caught completely off-guard and nearly all killed before the battle had ever started by one man. And they knew that Lynx suit or not, it was still just ONE man they were up against. They had spread out and were covering all angles of Lambda’s small safety alcove, such that as soon as he tried to get at an angle to fire on one of them, another was there to hit him from behind. It was exactly the kind of scenario that Lambda had wanted to avoid.

Still, he had managed to take out another marine since ducking into cover, and that meant there were only four left with ranged weapons. There was also that firebat somewhere, but he had yet to show himself. Lambda wondered absently if he’d perhaps hit the firebat at some point...

...just as he saw the firebat in question appear only feet from him, charging full speed with stimpacks activated and flamethrowers blazing.

Lambda had no time to move before the firebat was upon him, not that he could do much moving in these cramped quarters anyway. He cringed as the flames began running across the front of his suit, the heat scalding his skin in a couple spots as the front of the suit began to glow a deep orange. He finally managed to bring his weapons to bear on the threat, and unloaded a full volley at point-blank range into the firebat’s chest. The ‘bat stumbled back but managed to stay on his feet somehow. Lambda saw a genuine opportunity and quickly came out behind the firebat, scanning for one of his other attackers. He spotted a ghost peeking out to see what the commotion was and fired in his direction. The ghost ducked down, safe, but then came back up and fired back. As planned, the firebat took the damage, forming a nice shield in front of Lambda. Before the ghost realized what had happened, Lambda caught him with a second barrage and ducked back behind cover as the firebat finally fell.

‘Three to go,’ he thought with a smile.

***

Phoenix had found cutting through the hull of the hopefully soon-to-be-Hyperion more difficult than he’d expected. He had tried three different spots before finding one where his psi blades could cut all the way through. He’d made a square-shaped incision, leaving two of the opposing corners attached for the moment. But they’d lost valuable minutes trying to find a good spot.

“Okay!” Seawolf shouted over the noise of the battle raging around them. “Me first! Phoenix, when I say to, cut the corners and we go!” Phoenix nodded and placed a blade above each of the attached corners.

Seawolf forcibly calmed himself down. They were about to enter the “neck” of the ship, hopefully far enough back from the bridge that they wouldn’t face heavy resistance until they were all safely inside. But there was no telling until that hole was opened up and he jumped through. He might face nothing or twenty marines...there was no telling until it actually happened.

He breathed in, let it out slowly, and then nodded to Phoenix.

Phoenix instantly shoved his psi blades in, and the hole’s covering fell through, with Seawolf right behind it.

He hit the ground moving, rolling to the side of the hallway before he had even seen what was around him. He came up to one knee, Gauss Rifle raised, and gave the area a quick scan....

All he saw was a strange robot of some sort staring at him from a little ways down the hall. No soldiers or RoboZerg or security traps or anything.

He breathed out a huge sigh of relief, but then jumped as he heard a thud behind him. He swung around, rifle raised....

“Whoa whoa! Just me, man!” Orange said, hands raised defensively.

Seawolf lowered his rifle and smiled sheepishly. “I knew that, of course,” he said.

“Suuuure you did, boss,” Typhoon said sarcastically as he joined the pair below. Phoenix was only a couple seconds behind him.

They all brushed themselves off, made sure there really wasn’t anyone else around, and walked, as a group, towards the robot still looking at them with its head slightly cocked.

***

“Yes,” TGF said as the ConFed Battle Platform was fully revealed and began to come over the hills. “At last, victory is within my....”

“Sir,” one of his men interrupted. “I’m reading a hull breach...Deck A, Sector 38.”

“How DARE you interrupt my evil gloating!” TGF nearly screamed. “A hull breach is no concern to me. Victory will soon be....”

“There was no weapons impact there, sir,” the man persisted.

TGF hissed angrily. He was about to order the man shot when Makgraf spoke up from his board.

“He’s right,” Makgraf said. “That’s very odd, too...it’s almost as though something just cut a hole in the hull.”

TGF snorted. “Like what?”

“Sir!” another crewman cut in. “I’m reading four unauthorized lifeforms aboard.”

“Where?” Makgraf asked.

“Deck A, Sector...” the man paused, seeming shocked. “Sector 38.”

“Intruder alert!” TGF ordered. “Get a squad down there, now!”

“We...we have no squads aboard, sir,” the first man reminded him.

TGF came over and got only inches from his face. “Then gather some men, get them guns, and MAKE a squad,” he said quietly, barely keeping his anger in check.

“Ye...yes, sir!” the man replied nervously. He shot out of his chair and ran out of the bridge.

Seawolf


Dark_T_Zeratul narrowly escaped the RoboHydralisks’ spines shot his way. One of the RoboHydras got too close for comfort and had its limbs hacked off by Zeratul's warp blade.

He had wiped out more then half of the RoboHydras, but Zeratul was getting fatigued and had taken a spine in the leg.

***

Bakjak drew his hood as he ran up near where Zeratul was engaging the RoboHydras. The bodies of several hydras lay at the man's feet. He reached under his black rune-adorned robe, drew his M9, and lined up the sights on Zeratul's back.

***

Zeratul was getting tired and things were definitely not looking any better.

A RoboHydra leapt at him from his left. Zeratul was about halfway through his turn towards it when he heard a two shots emanate through the air. The hydra dropped at his feet, dead. Zeratul looked back to see the smoking barrel of a pistol, held by a caped man. He had a hard time identifying the man since his hood covered his face, although the robes looked very familiar. “Bakjak?” Zeratul asked, stunned.

The hooded figure said nothing, instead choosing to rush into what was left of the RoboHydras. He executed a perfect roundhouse on one of the robotic menaces, snapping its neck. After recovering from that motion, he whipped out the pistol and unloaded the entire magazine into another RoboHydra.

***

Bakjak hit the mag release and let the spent magazine drop, quickly inserting a new one. The depleted clip hit the ground with a thud then fell on its side.

Bakjak's eyes gleamed with fiery insanity as he rushed deeper into what looked like a circle of hydras, Torrasques, and a Leviathan.

Although he didn't notice it, Zeratul had followed him into the fray.

Bakjak holstered his pistol and the Staff of Magius appeared from under his sleeve. He swung his staff in an arc, knocking a RoboHydra out. Bakjak then concentrated for a moment and launched a blue fireball that killed off three more hydras. He heard two more RoboHydras give their gratey death cry as he turned around. Zeratul had taken out the last two RoboHydras. “Hey, is that you?” he asked Bakjak.

Bakjak still said nothing as he attacked one of the Torrasques with his staff. The staff deflected off the Torrasque's touch carapace, and then the Torrasque swiped at him with its large tusks, ripping into his left arm, already injured from his helicopter ride. Bakjak's arm was now crimson red from the blood being spilt onto the ground.

bakjak


“This just sucks,” MysteriousGuy said.

Codebreaker made a face beside him. “Just keep shooting,” he replied.

‘Well that shouldn’t be any problem,’ MG thought sarcastically. There were certainly plenty of targets around.

The PossePlane, like the other Good Guy ships, was engaging the Bad Guy vessels in a very compacted warzone, trying to use the Bad Guys as cover to avoid having the battle platform blow them to bits. In that, they were succeeding.

The tradeoff was that the dogfights of a few minutes ago had been transformed into close-range—sometimes point-blank range—slugfests. The Good Guy ships were built tough and therefore able to stand up to the abuse pretty well, successfully blowing away almost all of the remaining fighters and RoboZerg fliers. (Most of the handful of remaining fighters had picked up on what was happening and moved away to take potshots at the ground forces.)

But the battlecruisers were presenting a very serious problem. If the Good Guys found themselves wandering in front of one, they’d get blasted by the capital ships’ laser batteries, or worse, their Yamato Cannons. No one wanted to repeat Zeratul’s earlier brush with a Yamato blast.

Speaking of whom, by now they’d figured out that Zeratul had gone down, though no one had actually seen it. They were silently praying that he was all right even as they struggled to keep themselves alive.

MG’s Slushee was long gone, but he still bit on the straw nervously as he poured a few missiles into the nacelle of a nearby battlecruiser, seeming to do very little. He frowned and tried again, just a little farther to the left...

...and the PossePlane was rocked by a blast from behind, and then another. They took a third hit before Codebreaker, cursing like a drunken sailor, managed to bring the Plane out of the range of the battlecruiser that had snuck up on them.

Their shields had been completely zapped—AGAIN—and they’d taken some damage to the hull. Their actual hitpoints were now down to 76%....not too bad at all, considering what they’d been through so far, but not too pleasing considering what they still had to survive against.

And with their shields gone for the third time this battle, they’d have to evade any further damage for a while until their shielding could recover.

“This DOES suck,” Codebreaker remarked, bringing the ship about to try and get in some hits on their attacker.

***

Mat-Def pounded on his control board in frustration as he watched the battle raging outside. The Mad Cat was locked down, and though thankfully he was not under concentrated fire, Mat was most definitely out of the fight for the time being. And being the most powerful ground unit available, he knew that the Good Guys had to be suffering with the loss.

Mat was using up the time figuring out exactly what the Bad Guys still had to throw at them.

Fortunately, it appeared that almost all the enemy vehicles were gone. He had destroyed the last of the tanks personally, and now it appeared that a pair of vultures and a lone goliath were all that were left.

Of course, the Bad Guys still had a large number of standing troops. There were still far too many infantry and RoboZerg to count. Though the Good Guys still seemed to be holding them off, they were far from out of the woods yet.

To make matters worse, a handful of Bad Guy fighters had abandoned the air battle and were now firing on the Good Guy ground forces. They weren’t able to do much for fear of hitting their own troops, but it was just one more card the Bad Guys had in their hand that the Good Guys didn’t.

Finally, the lockdown wore off, and Mat quickly brought the weapons systems back online and headed back into battle.

***

The foursome of Good Guys in the Nemesis II had surrounded the strange robot they’d come across. Their weapons were raised, but they had no intention of starting a fight if they could avoid it.

The robot was tall, well over six feet. It was built like a human, with two arms, two legs, and a humanoid body. Its head looked a bit like a video camera, with one “eye” off-centered on the left side. It had a small slot under the eyes where a mouth would probably be...Seawolf, facing it head-on, assumed it was a vocabrator of some kind.

The robot was holding some sort of data pad in one of its hands, and that, coupled with the fact that it hadn’t attacked them or called for help, led Seawolf to believe it was probably a servant or repair droid of some kind, built to service the ship and help cut down on manpower.

Seawolf walked up close, and the robot focused on him, looking at him curiously. Seawolf swallowed hard and decided to see if he could communicate with it. “Um...hello,” he started, mentally smacking himself afterwards for sounding so stupid. “My name is...” he paused, then decided there was no sense in lying. “Seawolf. We’re here to...to...um...”

“...take over the ship. You can help us or you can get blasted,” Typhoon cut in. “There, boss...was it really that hard?”

Seawolf glared at him and looked back at the robot nervously. If it decided to set off some alarm now....

It didn’t. It trilled out a series of beeps and whistles, much like R2-D2, and strolled over to a nearby panel. Curious, the four heroes shrugged and followed it over.

The robot pulled the panel out to reveal a small computer terminal. It tapped at the keyboard there and then pointed to the screen, which read:

Z-47. Nice to meet you, C Wolf.

Seawolf smiled and nodded, letting out a small sigh of relief. The robot continued typing:

You will take over Nemesis II?

“Yes,” Seawolf confirmed.

Then Z-47 will help. The master is not kind to Z-47. Z-47 wishes to be free from master.

“The ‘master’ is TGF, right?” Orange inquired.

Yes. Z-47 will help you.

Just as they were about to ask how, they heard a shout from down the hall.

“It’s them...blast em!” a voice shouted.

They turned to see a number of crewmen with Gauss Rifles and Gauss Pistols pointing their way and raising their weapons. They didn’t appear to be real soldiers, but the four heroes didn’t want to take any chances. They dove for cover, finding it in a couple of doorways to who-knew-where along the sides of the hall. Their opponents stupidly clustered in the middle of the corridor and started firing.

Typhoon pulled out his Gauss Rifle and fired back, but he would occasionally reach into his pouch, pull out a rock, and peg some enemy in the head with lethal accuracy. Seawolf and Pure Orange, sharing a doorway for cover, took turns squeezing off shots with their rifles, and Phoenix, his blades and swords useless, was picking off opponents with his pistol.

They were whittling down the group rather quickly, but as they watched, another large crowd of men came up behind the first.

Seawolf made a face and upped his amount of firing.

“Where’s our robotic new friend?” Orange asked him over the din.

Seawolf gave a quick glance around, but Z-47 seemed to be gone.

“Dunno,” he replied. Where HAD the droid wandered off to?

“More on our six!” he heard Phoenix shout from the other side of the corridor.

Seawolf took a moment to look behind him, and cursed as he saw yet another group of men taking up position behind them. “Well this just keeps getting better and better,” he remarked dryly. Their opponents certainly weren’t warriors...their shooting was woefully inaccurate and their basic tactics were lousy, but there were a whole lot of them. Sooner or later, Seawolf knew, one or more would get a lucky shot....

He jumped as a large metal slab suddenly came down from the ceiling between them and one of the enemy groups. In less than a second, it crashed down to the floor, completely cutting the enemy off.

They heard another loud metallic screech and spun to see a second door shut off the other group.

And then they heard excited beeping from one of the rooms they could still see, and Z-47 came shuffling out.

“That...was that you?” Phoenix asked.

The robot nodded its head and went back over to the terminal it had been at before.

Z-47 helped?

“Yes, most definitely,” Seawolf said. “Thank you.”

Z-47 is glad. You are ready to free Z-47 from master now?

“Um...sure, I guess.”

Then Z-47 will teleport you to the bridge of Nemesis II. Are you ready?

‘Of course,’ Seawolf thought. It made sense for this ship to have teleporters...the original Nemesis had. “I suppose we’re ready, yeah.” He got three confirming nods from his friends.

“Okay, Z. Thanks again...and be sure to lay low until the battle is over so we can chat some afterwards, okay?” He got a confirming beep from the droid. “Well, whenever you’re ready, I guess.”

Z-47 beeped once more and turned back to the terminal to ready the teleporters.

***

The battle was going splendidly, even if the Good Guys were refusing to die just yet. But things were NOT going very well for TGF.

Whoever had snuck aboard the Nemesis II had seemingly escaped the dozens of crewmen that had gone after them. Somehow, they had managed to tap into the computer system, first using the emergency blast doors to seal themselves off from TGF’s forces and then disabling the teleporters to keep them from getting past the doors.

And that had all happened in the last two minutes.

TGF had immediately sealed the bridge, but he was worried that they wouldn’t try to come through any doors anyway. If they had managed to block TGF from using the teleporters, they could almost certainly use them themselves.

He had made sure to quickly arm everyone on the bridge since he really had only about a half-dozen true warriors at his disposal, and he had several techs throughout the ship working on fixing the teleporter problem. His best bet for getting the teleporters back was his robotic servant Z-47, but the droid wasn’t responding to his calls for some reason.

Even as he was still thinking of Z-47, his fears came true. Four figures, one of them all too familiar, suddenly teleported into the middle of the bridge and began firing.

TGF fired a poorly-aimed, sporadic shot at the Good Guys and then dropped to the floor, loading another round into his C-10 and cursing Seawolf’s name.

***

Seawolf thought he’d seen TGF when they had first teleported into the bridge, but he was gone now. He cursed and sought out another target, settling on a marine, one of the few true soldiers in the room, and filled him with Gauss rounds.

Pure Orange crouched on one knee behind what looked like the weapons console and started plugging away at several of the armed officers, their actions betraying that this was probably their first real battle ever. Orange made it their last, too...they were practically sitting ducks just waiting to be shot down.

Typhoon was once again pulling a David vs. Goliath act with his rocks, knocking techs and officers unconscious with well-aimed hits to their heads. He wasn’t even bothering with his Gauss Rifle anymore.

Phoenix was happy to have the opportunity for some melee fighting, and Gray and Silver were making their mark all over the place. A firebat, looking to be the only one on the bridge, charged him, and Phoenix waited until the last second when he felt the heat of the blazing flamethrowers making his eyes water before stepping to the side. The firebat’s momentum kept him going, and Phoenix used Silver to make a critical hit on the firebat’s gas tanks. First there was the satisfying clang as the sword sliced through the metal tanks and then a deafening boom as they exploded. Everyone, Good and Bad Guys alike, dove to the floor, either completely unsure what had just happened or aware and taking cover from the smoldering debris that flew through the room. Phoenix himself, being so close, had a small shard of metal slice across his back, causing him the yelp in pain.

The explosion had revealed to Seawolf the location of his nemesis, TGF. The coward was down on the floor, and Seawolf had spotted him as he had hit the deck himself after the firebat’s explosive demise. Smiling, he stood and started crossing the room towards TGF, Gauss Rifle raised.

Makgraf was just picking himself back up off the floor when he saw Seawolf heading for TGF. In another second, Seawolf would be in position to fire. Makgraf gave a shout and drew his Gauss Pistol....

Seawolf saw someone stand out of the corner of his eye, very close. He turned to see who was there, but made a critical error by keeping his rifle aimed forward.

He completed his turn and was shocked to see a vaguely familiar man bringing a pistol up to fire. Seawolf spun his Gauss Rifle around and hurried to fire first....

A shot rang out. For a long moment both opponents just stared at each other, neither really knowing who had fired and who had been hit.

Then Seawolf stumbled and fell limply to the floor, his trusty Gauss Rifle clattering to the deck and sliding several feet out of his grasp.

By now, the others were back to dueling, and only because Phoenix was turned towards Seawolf and Makgraf was he able to see his friend go down. Typhoon and Orange missed it entirely. Phoenix gave a shout of his own and ran in that direction, completely ignoring the shooting around him.

Makgraf came out from behind his station and looked down at Seawolf, crumpled on the ground, the battle around them suddenly seeming to be in another universe entirely. Seawolf was not moving, but Makgraf brought his pistol up to fire a shot into his head, just to be sure. However, a sudden movement caught his eye, and now it was Makgraf’s turn to make a crucial error. He looked up to see Phoenix rushing at him. Makgraf quickly turned his gaze back down to finish off Seawolf and then escape...

...but found himself looking at the wrong end of a Desert Eagle Pistol. He didn’t even have time to be shocked before a .357 bullet embedded itself into his skull, throwing his head backwards sickeningly and sending his lifeless body crumpling to the deck.

Seawolf lowered his smoking sidearm just as Phoenix came leaping over a control console behind him and rushed to his side.

“You’re okay!” he shouted, kneeling down beside his friend.

Seawolf laughed weakly. “Not quite,” he replied, lifting his left hand off of his stomach.

Phoenix gasped as he saw the wound underneath, blood flowing from it freely. “Oh my...” he started.

Suddenly he saw Seawolf’s eyes focus on something behind him, and he turned to see none other than TGF, C-10 trained on his head.

“Ah, so you are the one they call the Phoenix, the man that defeated Alpha Weapon. Good to meet you at last,” TGF said, his voice full of spite. “Sorry I don’t have time for a formal introduction, but I’m just wondering whether I should kill you first so that Seawolf can see it, or just shoot HIM outright.”

Phoenix growled, his mind racing about how to quickly disable the Bad Guy.

Both he and TGF were so wrapped up in their situation that they hadn’t noticed the sudden silence in the room.

“I suppose I may not get this chance again, so...” TGF said, and shifted his aim at Seawolf. Phoenix raised his blades in a vain effort to stop the shot...

...and they swung through air as TGF also fell to the deck. Standing over him, still holding his Gauss Rifle by the barrel like a club, was Pure Orange. “Yippee-ki-yay,” Orange said with a sloppy grin on his face.

“Thanks, man,” Seawolf said, smiling weakly. Then his eyes rolled back in his head as it dropped to the floor.

***

Auspex and the three others with him looked up in surprise as a crackling ball of energy fell from the sky above. It sounded like it was...screaming.

“Is that...” Desler started.

“...Nannoth/Taeradun?” FoG finished for him.

“What in the name of...?” Steve said.

*CRASH!* The energy sphere slammed right through the roof of the nearby Templar Archives, screaming and cursing in Protossian all the way. (Hey, they’ve gotta have their own language...you know how Ricky Ricardo would always go off in his native Spanish? Stop giving me that look!)

A blast against Steve’s shields brought him back to reality. He and the others kept shooting away at the remaining photon cannons.

***

Mason Rockwell cringed as he felt a scout’s photon cannon fire rake across the top of his tank. An alarm began blaring, but he couldn’t hear it over the music filling his cabin.

Ian Anduin had used his mines long ago, and he was simultaneously firing his vulture’s frag grenades and his Gauss Rifle at Protoss after Protoss. They just wouldn’t stop coming now; zealots, dragoons, templar, and even the occasional reaver or archon were pounding into the Good Guy lines unceasingly. The scouts picking at them from the skies weren’t helping matters any more. One of the two bunkers had already been destroyed, and all three remaining SCVs were hard-pressed trying to keep the other intact as it was under almost constant fire.

Ytse-Jam shouted a battle cry as he engaged a zealot at close-quarters, firing several shots into his opponent as he ran backwards away from him. The zealot was much faster, though, and just as Ytse managed to deplete its shields, the pale warrior was upon him. Ytse ducked as it swung a psi blade right over his head, close enough that Ytse’s hair stood on end from the psionic energy. He came up with the butt of his C-10 right in the zealot’s stomach, causing him to give a psionic cry of pain and bend a bit forward. Leaping up, Ytse brought his rifle down on the zealot’s head, knocking him out cold.

Ytse turned away to find another opponent, but stopped short as a smile crossed his face. He backpedaled and stooped over the fallen zealot.

Declan and the crew of the Bonnie Heather were hard at work trying to lessen the blow of the Protoss counterattack, but with their limited energy reserves, they kept finding themselves just watching from the sidelines, trying to will their energy back up to useable levels. In the captain’s chair, Declan was cursing like his older cousin on a drunken binge, powerless to help and hating it.

***

“Seawolf?! Seawolf!!” Phoenix shouted, not believing what he was seeing.

Pure Orange had taken a more rational course of action. He’d knelt down and was examining the fallen WASTEr.

By now Typhoon had sauntered over as well after dusting off the last few resisting forces. Only two people had been unarmed, and not wanting to kill them outright, Typhoon had mercifully just knocked them out with rocks.

On his way, he noticed a voice coming from one of the stations. Typhoon crossed over to it and discovered that someone was hailing the ship.

“This is the Punisher, calling Nemesis II. Is anyone there?”

Typhoon flipped on the intercom. “Umm...yes, this is the Nemesis,” he said.

“Is everything all right? We received a garbled message from you a minute ago.”

‘Crap,’ Typhoon thought. “That was nothing. Somebody just accidentally...ah...hit the transmit button.”

A pause. “We thought we heard gunfire. You’re sure there’s no problem?”

“No no.” Typhoon felt a cold sweat forming on his brow. “We’re all...we’re all fine here, now...thank you. How are you?”

Another pause. “Who is this? What’s your operating number?”

“Aaaah,” Typhoon said, annoyed. He scooped up his Gauss Rifle and emptied a few rounds into the console. “Boring conversation anyway....”

“Typhoon!” Orange shouted. “Get over here!”

Typh left the smoking console and joined his two allies.

“Help me lift him,” Orange said, grabbing Seawolf’s upper back.

The pair carried him over to a nearby reclinable chair (hey, they have to have SOME place to lay him...don’t scoff at my writing!) at one of the stations and laid him on it.

No sooner had they placed him on the chair then a blast hit the ship.

Out the viewscreen, they could see another battlecruiser facing right at them. As they watched, it unleashed another volley of laser fire right at the Nemesis II.

Phoenix came out of his stupor and stared with cold hatred at the viewscreen. He growled and ran to the pilot’s chair. “One of you get over to the weapons station!” he shouted, sitting down and seizing the slightly-unfamiliar controls.

Orange and Typhoon looked at each other, and then both started towards the weapons console. They stopped, looked at each other again, and then both started forward again.

After the fourth repetition of this, Phoenix shouted “Orange, you go!”, his anger at them only overshadowed by his anger at the ship firing on them.

Orange complied immediately, rushing over to the weapons station and quickly trying to familiarize himself with the controls.

Typhoon wandered back to Seawolf, frowning (rare, for him) as he looked down at his gut. He was starting to get a little pudgy....

Then he looked at Seawolf’s gut, and frowned again. It didn’t take a doctorate to realize that Seawolf wasn’t going to make it long without some sort of care.

Typhoon started rummaging around in storage bins for medical equipment. There had to be some somewhere....

Seawolf


*FWOOM! KAFWOOSH!* Flare barbecued a RoboZergling with his improved flamethrowers. He saw his friend Fenrir flailing away at enemies with his Bashing Bat™ quite effectively. What Fenrir didn't notice, however, was the Bad Guy firebat sneaking up on him, preparing to flame him (no pun intended.)

Flare fired a Flare grenade at the firebat. Unfortunately, his aim was off by a little, and the grenade exploded in the air next to the firebat (it was set on a proximity detonator) instead of all over him, blinding and wounding him with the explosion instead of killing him. "OUCH!" yelled the firebat. Fenrir heard him and whirled around, bringing up his bat and knocking the Bad Guy unconscious. He turned around to thank Flare, then saw the enemy wraith moving in to blast his friend with its lasers. It was too late to do anything; his mini-missile launcher wouldn't reach that far. His friend was dead.

Unless...

Frantically searching for a way to help Flare, the Chrono Trigger part of the Saga came to his mind. In a split-second he devised a Dual Tech to save his buddy.

“3-second grenade! Hit me!” he yelled. A look of confusion crossed Flare's face, but the urgency in Fenrir's voice left no room for argument. He set the auto-timer to three seconds and launched a grenade at Fenrir.

Fenrir brought his Bashing Bat up to his shoulder (incidentally knocking out the firebat again, who had just gotten up and raised his flamethrowers). He swung the Bashing Bat™ as hard as he could, hitting the grenade high into the sky in a shot that would turned any MLB home run champ green with envy.

*KABOOM* The grenade impacted on the bulletproof-glass canopy of the enemy wraith right as the timer ran out and it exploded with a force no bullet could match. The glass shattered, depressurizing the cockpit. The wraith's pilot was sucked out, and the last thing that went through his mind as he flew outward was shards of glass flying inward. He was dead before he hit the ground with a thump, landing with cartoonish accuracy on the Bad Guy firebat, who had just gotten up again. (Today was just not his day.)

The wraith itself, however, was not so fortunate. It continued to fly onward on the course it had been set....

Mason Wheeler


Miraculously, the wraith managed to fly straight at an enemy battlecruiser. It was turned away, so when the wraith hit, it impacted right on the engines. The glow coming from them began to flash on and off and then died entirely. The ship remained aloft, but its crew suddenly found itself with only their maneuvering jets as a means of propulsion. The capital ship had been turned into a sitting duck...one with a nasty bite, no doubt, but an easy target nonetheless.

This was not lost on the Good Guys. The Banned Ones, in the closest ship to the damaged cruiser, came in and started pounding on the ship’s engines to make sure they stayed dead. Meanwhile, Flyspeck and Nemesis brought the Falcon in and started pecking at the battlecruiser’s “head” from above. The wounded ship clumsily tried to turn and face its attackers, but it was very slow to do so and the veteran WASTEr and rookie VSPer had lots of time to get in some good hits before being forced to disengage and go evasive.

But then the PossePlane soared in and started hammering at the ship from the other side. Its captain obviously quite unsure what to do, the ship halted all movement and sat there for several seconds while the Good Guys fired on it at will.

It wasn’t long before it showed signs of serious damage. There were hull breaches visible along its “back” and the top of its “head”, and flames were now flaring out of the rear of the ship where the Banned Ones had been picking away at it nonstop. But then another battlecruiser finally came to its defense...perhaps too late to truly save the ship, but in enough time to drive the Good Guys off before they could finish it off entirely.

Well, MOST of the Good Guys.

Flyspeck, obviously not ready to just leave, swung around and started firing on the damaged ship’s underbelly, keeping it between the Falcon and the other cruiser...for the moment. He grinned as he saw another hull breach beginning to form under the Falcon’s assault.

Seawolf


“Mason, you’re not yourself right now,” Mark was saying to the battered Mason Wheeler. “I’m still not sure how, but the Baphomet has infected you. It’s making you do things you wouldn’t normally do.” He glanced towards Deos, who nodded.

“At least it was an interesting battle,” the Master of Illusion noted.

“Now, I know we’ve had our differences in the past, but you’ve got to trust me right now. Being the Narrator, I could come up with a cure, and I did. All you’ve got to do is drink this and you’ll be set.” He procured a vial of blue liquid and held it towards Mason.

Mason again went through an internal battle. Here was his chance to take the Narrator down...he seemed to be unarmed. All he had to do was try to get past Arcana and get to his sword.... But what if Mark was right, and he really did want to help? Infected? Could it be true? Mason thought again about things that had happened recently...and he thought of his friends and allies, especially Seawolf and Jenni. Somewhere deep down, past all the hatred and anger and lust for power that had almost taken him over completely, something was screaming for him to take that vial, just as loudly as the rest of him was screaming for him to take up his weapon.

Mason made his decision. The would-be narrator reached for the vial, and Mark smiled warmly but kept it out of his reach for the time being.

“Just a second. You’ve got to promise me something first,” Mark declared.

“What’s that?” Mason asked, not amused in the least.

“Promise me that you’ll get together with Jenni.”

Mason snorted and reached for the vial, which Mark held further away.

“I’m serious. That’s the one thing the Saga lacks – romance. We’ve got self-inserts, crossovers, cheesy plot contrivances, huge battle sequences...this is all we need. Promise, and you get cured.” Mark folded his arms, though he was grinning with much amusement.

“Alright, I promise.”

“Promise what?”

“I promise that I’ll get together with Jenni,” Mason said, unable to hide the extreme annoyance in his voice.

“That’s more like it.” Mark handed over the vial, which Mason drank immediately. He then shook his head clear and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, they seemed...brighter, somehow. He let out a deep sigh and rubbed his eyes.

Then Mark groaned.

“What the heck was that for?” asked Deos, whom both had almost forgotten was there.

“I just realized how much I sounded like my mother right then.” Mark grimaced, though both of the other two laughed at his discomfort with the situation. “Alright, very funny, ha ha. So what are we doing next?”

“What’s all this ‘we’ stuff? You’re going back to the Uberworld, aren’t you?” Mason inquired, almost in disbelief.

“Did you really think I came down here and planned on missing the huge, climactic action scene?” Mark rhetorically asked. Of course he got no response. “Besides,” he added, “I’ve got to make sure you keep your promise.” He gave Mason a wink.

Now it was Mason’s turn to groan.

Mack Kilimaro


Jenni ran across the field towards NovaSeaker. He had taken on a whole pack of RoboZerglings himself, as he had long ago been separated from Spooky. He’d come out on top, quite literally, but Jenni had seen him treating one arm gingerly as he stood atop the pile of metal shards left after the short and furious fight.

But as she approached, he shook his head a little and pointed over towards Spooky with one of his swords. They weren’t separated by much now, Jenni saw, but enough.

She was puzzled about Nova’s reaction, though. He smiled her way, seeing her hesitation, and raised his arm.

Jenni gasped a little as she saw his flesh actually crawling a little, the wound appearing to be repairing itself. “I’ll explain later,” Nova called to her. Then he leapt down off the pile of WASTEd RoboLings and dove right on top of a hydra, swords-first.

Jenni made her way towards Spooky, but a marine stepped into her path and stimmed up, raising his weapon. With a shout of surprise and a little bit of fright, Jenni brought up her C-10 and fired, but not before the marine did. She took her first wound of the battle as a couple of the Gauss rounds made it through her medic armor and raked her side. The shock caused her to drop her weapon as she instinctively touched the spot where she’d been hit...it was, after all, the first time she’d ever been hurt like this.

The marine recovered much quicker from being blasted, and fired again.

Jenni was already moving, though. Having enough sense to do so, she threw herself to the ground and scrambled for her weapon. She had just gotten her fingers on it when she heard another canister rifle firing repeatedly. Looking up, she saw the marine start to turn before a final canister round took him down.

Spooky stepped forward and smiled down at Jenni, extending her hand. Jenni took it and smiled back as she got to her feet.

“Are you okie?” Spooky asked with concern. Apparently she hadn’t realized Jenni was injured until now, when she saw the hole in her armor.

“Yes,” Jenni replied with a disarming shrug. “I’ve just never been shot before.”

Spooky smiled. “Me either.”

Jenni laughed a little and started healing them both. “How are we doing?” she asked while she worked.

“Hard to say. One second things seem to be going great, but then we realize how outnumbered we still are. Good news is we haven’t lost anyone yet, thanks mostly to you.”

Jenni blushed. “Just doing what I can.”

“Well keep on doing it,” Spooky said as Jenni finished healing her up. “And stick with me while you do. I don’t want the only other girl out here getting killed on me.” She smiled, and then the pair headed back off into battle.

***

‘We’re going to die,’ Dark_T_Zeratul thought.

The RoboHydras were long destroyed, but he and Bakjak had yet to severely damage any of the three Torrasques. He only wished he could say the reverse of that was true as well.

Bakjak was clearly hurt. One of his arms was ripped open, and only a hasty wrapping of part of his cloak around the wound was allowing him to continue using it. He had also been thumped good a couple of times as Torrasques had knocked him around. He had finally gotten the message and was taking on a more cautious approach than his reckless head-on assault before, and was ducking and swiping with his staff. But he hadn’t done much damage yet, as all but a couple times his staff had only glanced off the large beasts’ tough hides.

Zeratul had done little better. His warp blades had scored hits a few times, but he could get little more than glancing blows without risking serious injury himself. His wounded leg was really starting to slow him down, and he didn’t think he could outmaneuver a Torrasque blade if one started swinging his way close-up.

About the only good news was that the RoboLeviathan was just hanging back, watching. But even that probably meant trouble...it was probably waiting to finish them off in case the Torrasques failed. Certainly wouldn’t be the first time something like that had happened in the Saga...he knew all about the Mega-Blaster from Part II.

Things weren’t going well. ‘We’re going to die,’ he thought again.

It is at times when things seemingly can’t get any worse that one of two things happens: things DO get worse, usually much more so, or those in peril got a break. Fortunately for the two heroes, in this case, the latter proved true.

Having figured out that getting to a Torrasque’s sensitive spots between armor plates from here simply wasn’t happening, Bakjak decided on a new strategy. Using his staff as a sort of short vaulting pole, he ran at one of the massive RoboZerg and propelled himself up to its back. He didn’t quite make it, but was able to grab a hold of a protrusion in its side and pull himself up.

The Torrasque was enraged, and began to shake about violently like a rodeo bull trying to throw its rider. Bakjak hung on for all he was worth and spoke his first word of the battle. “Zeratul!”

The WASTE leader understood. With Bakjak distracting the Torrasque, Zeratul was able to run at it and get in a good slash right across its chest, the powerful Illumina blades penetrating the armor for the first really good hit on one of the mechanical monsters.

The Torrasque roared in what was likely surprise. It swung a massive blade at Zeratul, but he had already rolled out of the way, and the blade missed by several feet.

Bakjak now had the opening, and he used it. With a shout, he gripped his staff in both hands and drove it downwards, base first, into the beast’s exposed neck. It roared again and reared up on its hind legs, managing to throw Bakjak to the ground. It then turned around and roared a third time, sizing up the man that had wounded it.

It had apparently forgotten about the one that had hurt it first.

Zeratul drove both blades straight upwards into the Torrasque’s belly, dragging them several feet before pulling them back out.

The Torrasque was clearly damaged now. Several metal chunks fell out of its underside, and one of its legs buckled a bit. It took an unsteady step forward, but then stood stupidly, not doing anything.

Zeratul darted out from underneath the Torrasque as it did do something: collapse, its rear legs giving out, followed by its front ones. It lay there for a moment, sparking, before the light in its eyes went out and it moved no more.

Both heroes looked at each other from opposite sides of the fallen mechanical beast. If they were going to win, they were going to have to work together, not just separately against the same foe.

The foe wasn’t wasting any time, either. The remaining Torrasques roared and charged at the same time, one going for each of the Good Guys, splitting them up once more.

***

Tarun was not in a good mood.

He had been quite popular with the Bad Guys recently. They had robbed him of his shields a few times, and if there was one thing he hated, it was having to stay out of the thick of the battle while his shields recharged, like he was doing now. He kept having to leave the main battle and hang around on the outskirts, shutting down all unnecessary systems to let his shields recharge as quickly as possible. It was really starting to piss him off.

He spotted Aklan flying a little ways off. She had been instrumental in eliminating the enemy fighters, but was now having a tough time against the large battlecruisers. Her weapons simply weren’t effective. But that wasn’t stopping her...even as Tarun watched, she flew head-on at a cruiser that was firing on the Falcon and began pumping rockets into it. He smiled inwardly at her audacity.

The cruiser seemed to ignore her at first, probably not thinking Aklan was much of a threat, but then slowly, almost lazily, it turned on her valkyrie. But Tarun was horrified to see that it was not simply firing on her...it was charging its Yamato Cannon.

“NOOOO!” He slapped the Wreaker to life and punched the engines to full, screaming towards the battlecruiser while bringing his weapons online.

Aklan had noticed as well and was trying to move away, but it was much too late. Tarun watched in horror as the battlecruiser’s front flashed brightly and the Yamato shot forth, blowing the valkyrie apart.

He howled in rage as he closed the final distance to the cruiser, his eyes wet with tears of sadness and raw fury.

***

Aklan screamed as she fell towards the ground below. She had thought to punch out at the same instant her ship had exploded around her, but had had no time to grab a parachute or anything else.

She heard a series of new explosions and thought she saw the Havoc Wreaker scream by overhead.

The ground rushed up at her....

***

Blinded by rage, Tarun unleashed everything he had into the battlecruiser that had blown his love out of the sky. His hands were tight on the firing controls, and explosion after explosion lit up the “head” of the cruiser, so close together that he could hardly see the ship.

He was dimly aware that several warning lights came on, and then barely heard an alarm blaring. His weapons systems were overheating, but in his rage he didn’t put it together, nor would he have cared much if he did. He continued his relentless assault even as smoke began to boil out of several of his weapons emplacements.

***

Sky. Metal, a ship of some kind. Sky again. The orange fireball of some explosion. Another ship. The sky once more.

Aklan finally closed her eyes to stop the images flashing across her field of vision, knowing that impact would come any second.

And then it did. She felt a sharp pain shoot across her entire body, and then everything went dark.

***

Tarun finally recovered from his anger as a heavy explosion shook the Havoc Wreaker. And then another, rocking the whole ship violently. He took his hands off the firing controls only a split second before an even more massive blast threw him hard against the back of his seat. The whole cockpit went dark for a moment, and then only about half of his controls glowed back to life. The cockpit lights remained off, and only the flashing red light of some alarm allowed him to see.

He suddenly realized what must have happened, and a quick scan of his console confirmed it...his weapons controls were all down. Like a fool, he had overloaded his weapons systems, and his missile launchers had literally blown themselves apart, taking large chunks of the nose, and the sensors and steering vanes on or in it, with them.

He suddenly found himself unable to control the ship very well at all. It was like trying to fly underwater...all movements were very sluggish. Only his engines seemed fully intact...even his shields had been blown out.

He realized this as the battlecruiser he had been attacking blasted right into the Wreaker’s hull with its laser batteries. Apparently, it hadn’t been crippled as badly as Tarun had hoped.

Cursing, he extended the landing gear, hoping to land the ship and save what was left of it rather than bailing out and letting it crash. He felt his eyes bulge a bit as one of his remaining monitors told him that his front gear wasn’t working, yet another thing damaged by his stupidity. No time to think about that now, though...that battlecruiser was now launching a full counter-attack on his crippled scout.

He cursed again, more loudly, and started making a controlled drop straight down, knowing that trying to find another landing spot before being blown to pieces was highly unlikely and hoping that the ground below, and whatever was there, was relatively safe.

***

Typhoon sat down in a chair across from Seawolf with a medkit in his lap. He opened it up and blinked at all the gadgets and gizmos inside. “None of those silly help charts, eh?” he mumbled. He rubbed his hands together and pulled out the uppermost instrument, something that closely resembled a large cork opener. ‘Wonder what THIS is for?’ he thought, leaning over Seawolf to try and figure it out.

Meanwhile, Phoenix and Orange were having a tough time keeping the ship from taking serious damage. They were right in the middle of the battlecruisers, which kept them away from the battle platform, but as almost everyone had figured out that the Nemesis II had switched sides, they were getting blasted left and right by former sister ships.

Phoenix had almost forgotten how badly a typical battlecruiser handled, especially with just a two-man crew. The Hyperion had been heavily modified to be both much more maneuverable and also, using advanced droid brain and autopilot installations, to handle just as well with two or three people (or even just ONE person) flying. The Nemesis was better in that regard than the run-of-the-mill cruiser, but Phoenix was silently cursing as he fought the ship’s sluggish controls.

Orange, for his part, was doing quite well for himself. He still wasn’t real good with the unfamiliar targeting methods employed by the massive laser batteries, but he was getting the hang of it. He’d discovered, much to his delight, that he had a distinct cooldown and overall power advantage in the Nemesis’ lasers over the other battlecruisers he was facing. Seawolf had chosen well...this ship was definitely the best one in the group.

Its armor was proving that, as well. They had yet to have a major hull breach or systems failure, and they’d taken some rather significant hits. The fact that no alarms were screaming at them was a true testament to how tough TGF’s scientists had built this ship. Too bad they hadn’t considered it falling into enemy hands.

Everyone was so wrapped up in their work that none noticed that they were being hailed.

***

“No response, sir.”

“Well keep trying!” Broker ordered the officer.

Things had suddenly fallen into a state of near-chaos with the Bad Guy ships. The Nemesis II had begun taking fire from TGF’s other three battlecruisers after a period of just sitting in place for a few minutes. Quite unsure at first as to what was going on, Broker had ordered his ships to keep focusing on the Good Guys. TGF’s ships were still firing on the Good Guy ships as well, but with their attention suddenly split, the Good Guys had been able to get a little breather and do some damage of their own. A battlecruiser, one of TGF’s, had been crippled when the Nemesis had blown a good-sized chunk out of its “face” with a Yamato blast. He couldn’t tell from here, but Broker suspected that the explosion had reached back to the bridge, and it was entirely possible that the ship no longer had any control.

Broker had just had problems of his own. The Temujin had been firing on the Millennium Falcon, trying to drive it away from another battlecruiser, when the valkyrie that had come in with the Havoc Wreaker earlier had assaulted them. He had wanted to ignore it, but the Falcon finally abandoned its attack and moved off, so Broker had ordered the valkyrie destroyed before it had a chance to escape. It had torn his fighters to shreds, and he wanted to make sure it could cause no further damage. He had watched with a smile as the Temujin’s Yamato Cannon had blown the ship apart.

But only a second later, Tarun had shown up and started ripping the front of the Temujin apart. He had taken out a laser battery and quite effectively pummeled the face of the ship before inexplicably ceasing fire. When Broker was able to see the Wreaker again, it seemed to be damaged. He had immediately fired upon it, and when Tarun hadn’t answered back, he had ordered an all-out assault. He had almost been disappointed to see the scout head for the ground, Tarun taking himself out of the battle. The short skirmish had resulted in a victory, but the Temujin was now showing signs of damage in critical areas, such as weapons and sensors.

Between that and their losses earlier in the battle, the damaged Temujin, three other functional battlecruisers—two of TGF’s and one of Broker’s—and the ConFed Battle Platform were essentially all that were left of the Bad Guy fleet. The Nemesis was also still very active, but Broker wasn’t stupid. Whatever was happening, he knew that TGF was no longer in control of that ship.

That meant that he now had overall command. Normally, Broker would be happy with that, but now it appeared he had quite a situation on his hands. The Bad Guys weren’t losing—as long as that battle platform remained active they had a chance—but they most certainly were not getting the crushing defeat he’d hoped for. If this sort of stuff kept up, he might not win at all.

Broker sighed heavily. “Gunnery officer?”

“Sir!” the man replied.

“Fire a few shots across the Nemesis II’s bow. I want to see how they react.” He wanted to be sure that there was a problem before he blew an allied ship of out the sky.

“Yes, sir!” the officer reported.

He tapped at his controls, and the Temujin unleashed a series of shots that hit the Nemesis up and down its forward hull.

“CAREFUL, you idiot!” Broker shouted. “I said to fire shots ACROSS their bow, not UP it!”

“Sorry, sir,” the officer said, turning around for the first time.

Broker was taken aback. The man’s eyes were severely criss-crossed, staring right at his nose.

“Who are you, officer?” Broker asked, ready to have him thrown out the back of the ship.

“I’m an Asswhole, sir.”

“I know THAT,” Broker said. “What is your NAME?”

“That IS my name, sir. Asswhole. MAJOR Asswhole.”

“Who made this man a gunner?” Broker asked loudly with a little anger seeping out.

“I did, sir,” another cross-eyed man stood up and said. “Lieutenant Seth E. Asswhole. The major is my cousin.”

Broker looked back and forth between them. “I...I see.” He turned to address the whole bridge crew. “Just how many Asswholes we got on this ship, anyhow?”

“Sir!” most of the bridge crew stood up and said.

“I knew it!” Broker said. “I’m surrounded by Asswholes!” He sighed and turned back towards the viewscreen. “Keep firing, Asswholes!” he ordered.

***

“There’s the rest of em,” Orange reported. “We’re now taking fire from all the other battlecruisers. Looks like Broker picked up on what’s happened.”

Phoenix sighed. He was hoping for another minute or two of relative peace to get in some more shots on TGF’s last functional battlecruiser. “All right, then. Ignore the Temujin for now...we’d be best to knock out the other cruisers first. The Temujin’s hurt, but it’s still tougher than the run-of-the-mill cruiser. Broker will just have to wait. I’m gonna try to put a cruiser between him and us for now...probably that one that had its teeth knocked out a minute ago. Just keep firing at that one you were just working on.”

“Got it,” Orange replied.

On the other side of the bridge, Typhoon was still testing out things from the medkit he’d found. So far, about the only useful thing he’d done was slap a large medical bandage around Seawolf’s stomach and stopped the bleeding. He was convinced one of these tools oughta be able to help, but so far nothing had done the trick. The closest he’d come was with a small electric shock prod, which had succeeded in making Seawolf groan in pain...the first noise he’d made since slipping into unconsciousness.

He pulled out the next tool, looking like something a dentist would use as a torture device. Typhoon shrugged and started poking the wound with it.

***

Only one man was still engaged in combat with “Lynx Unit Lambda”. Lambda Corps had managed to pick off a marine when he had caught the man trying to get into a better firing position, and had recently felled another marine when he had been a hair too slow to duck back into cover after firing on him. The only enemy still fighting was a ghost, and a clever one at that. Knowing he was outclassed and outgunned, the ghost was relying on the only real advantage he had...stealth. He had already discovered that cloaking did little good...the Lynx suit had a detector. And with Lambda only being exposed for a handful of seconds at any given time, the ghost had tried but failed many times to lock him down. Each time, the lockdown round would hit some obstacle in the way or Lambda would simply duck back before it hit. But the ghost was using his training to snipe at Lambda whenever possible and make all his shots now good. He was hoping that his energy reserves could get recharged to a level where he could try lockdown again, since he had been so effective in hitting his opponent recently.

But just as the energy approached lockdown level, the Lynx stopped attacking all together. At first the ghost thought his opponent was simply resting, but when the Lynx failed to do anything for a minute, he began to wonder what his opponent might be plotting. He waited until his energy had exceeded the necessary level for lockdown by a few ticks and slowly slid on his belly across to the edge of his raised vantage point on a catwalk along one wall. He slipped on his night-vision goggles, knowing that he had only a few seconds before they began draining his precious energy. He spotted the Lynx quite easily...a good third of it was sticking out from behind cover. He watched for a second, then slapped a lockdown canister into his rifle and brought it up to fire. He aimed very carefully and squeezed the trigger, hitting the Lynx just a hair to the side of the machinery it was hidden behind. It was immediately surrounded by the familiar glowing ball of static that indicated a successful lockdown. The ghost smiled and aimed again to take his opponent out before the lockdown wore off.

But before he could fire a shot, he heard the distinctive click of a C-10 being cocked and felt the cold steel of a rifle’s barrel pressed against the back of his head.

“Ya know,” a voice said from behind him in a mocking tone, “studies show that most people never see the bullet that hits ‘em in the back of the head.” The ghost licked his lips, awaiting the shot, but it never came. After several nerve-racking seconds of silence, the voice spoke again. “Just slide that rifle off the edge there and then get up.” The ghost did as he was told, and his canister rifle clattered against the metal floor below and he stood and started to turn. “Don’t turn around,” the voice said, the tip of the rifle coming to rest on his back. “I want you to head to that control room up on that raised platform there and show me how to get the computers working again. I KNOW you all have got some code or disk or something to do it, so you just show me how and I’ll let you go, no questions asked.” The ghost sighed, and started walking down the catwalk towards the stairs to the floor below...

...and without any warning, he spun and brought his left arm out, knocking the rifle out of the owner’s hands and over the railing. His other hand simultaneously reached for the backup pistol he had in one of the pockets on his Hostile Environment Suit and he pulled it out and aimed in one fluid motion. His opponent dove to the ground and the first shot missed. The ghost re-aimed and fired again, but the man rolled right off the edge of the catwalk, giving a surprised shout as he fell over the side. Without waiting to hear his opponent hit the ground, the ghost turned and fled, running for the stairs to get down to the floor and then get out of here.

As he reached the bottom of the steps, a gunshot clanged off the rail only inches from him. He glanced back and saw the man that had supposedly fallen to the floor hanging from one hand underneath the catwalk. In his other hand was a pistol, which fired another shot at him as the ghost fled the room.

***

Cursing, Lambda Corps let go of the catwalk and fell the final few feet to the ground. He came up immediately, gun trained on the doorway, but he could hear the ghost’s feet pounding on the floor as he fled. He needed that ghost to show him how to override the virus or whatever it was that had knocked the computers out, and he had hoped that when he slipped out of the Lynx suit and snuck up behind the ghost that he could get him to cooperate with the offer to spare his life. ‘I shoulda known better,’ he thought. ‘Ghosts are too “professional” for that.’

He glanced around for his C-10 but couldn’t see it in the darkened room, so he gripped his Desert Eagle a little more tightly and sprinted into the hall to try and catch the ghost.

***

Only a handful of photon cannons remained between the TAC Staff-led group and their objective. Zeus had finally hacked through the second reaver’s shell after persistent slashing, tearing apart the sensitive electronics inside as soon as he had managed to expose them. He was now dusting off a couple of cannons with Auspex and Desler.

Steve and FistOfGod had paired up on the other holdout mass of cannons. Steve had cast hallucination on FoG, twice, and the two were enjoying relative peace as the hallucinations drew fire for them. FoG was having fun with his rifle, a custom-designed alternative to a Gauss Rifle. It was a bit slower, but much more powerful. This was his first chance to see it in use, and he was loving every minute of it.

Which was why he was almost disappointed when the last of the cannons was destroyed. He and Steve looked over to see their three companions demolish the last of their targets as well.

They approached each other and smiled. Zeus was the first to speak. “Now for the fun part.”

Nothing more remained to be said. They all turned, as a group, and walked towards the Templar Archives.

***

The noise of battle around him was so loud that Ytse could barely hear Auspex’s voice over the radio at his side.

“Ytse, we’re entering the Archives now. What’s your status?”

‘What’s my status?!’ Ytse thought crossly. “My status sucks, Auspex,” he replied, hacking apart a pale Protoss with the psi blades he’d acquired from the zealot he’d knocked out earlier. Even with their added help, he was still barely holding his own. He had lost track of most of the rest of the Good Guys around him...things had degenerated into an old-fashioned melee, with opposing warriors running around the battlefield and slashing, shooting, or otherwise attacking anything that was doing the same to them. Ytse had a gash across one of his arms and an intense burn on his back where a dragoon had blasted him at close range. It wasn’t really slowing him down yet, but he knew that couldn’t last forever. “We’re getting creamed out here.”

“Well just hang in there,” Auspex called back as Ytse drove his blades into a high templar that stumbled into his path. “Just a couple more minutes, Ytse. Hang tight.”

“Easy for YOU to say,” Ytse mumbled under his breath, lifting his C-10 to finish off the templar.

***

‘What’s this?’ Typhoon wondered, pulling a copper goblet of some sort out of the bottom of the medkit. It was the last thing in there...he’d already played with everything else.

Knowing what was coming, he reached out and caught the idea before it hit him. “Ha HA!” he laughed. “Thought you could...”

He stopped short as another idea slammed into his back.

Typhoon moaned and snapped it out of the air. The first one flew off and disappeared. ‘Since when do they work in groups?’ Typhoon wondered absently, examining the second idea.

“Oh, duh!” he said, releasing the idea and looking at the copper cup with new interest. “Orange!” he shouted.

“What?!”

“Pull up a map and find the nearest bathroom, would ya?”

“Bathroom?” Orange repeated, half mad and half bewildered. “NOW?! Can’t you hold it? I’m a little busy....”

“It’s important,” Typhoon persisted.

Pure Orange sighed heavily and brought up a map on his board. “Um...down the hall behind the bridge, fourth door on the left. NOT the right...that’s the ladies’ room.”

“Thanks!” Typhoon replied, running out of the bridge with the goblet.

Orange shook his head and went back to firing.

Seawolf


Tarun snarled as he tore open the canopy of the Havoc Wreaker and climbed out. He ripped open the cargo compartment and pulled his Zealot Power Suit out. As Tarun started to take his Lancer suit off and put on the ZPS, he looked at the Lancer suit, and deciding that the twin lances were too valuable to leave there, he removed them and attached them to his ZPS above the Psi blade emitters. He then turned to face the battle, and narrowed his eyes as they began to take on a deep crimson glow as the suppressed rage of Aklan being shot down began to rise within him again.

Tarun started making his way into the fray, running any enemy troops he came across through with a lance. As he neared the large battle the sounds of Gauss and C-10 fire, exploding missiles, and the death screams of countless enemies filled his ears.

Tarun quickly charged towards the main battle, roaring with rage and fury and leaping into a mass of marines. In moments the marines were turning towards the Zealot and attempting to dispatch him, but in his fury he noticed no wound. He suffered and killed them all without even thinking once.

Just then Tarun heard Odin’s Eye shout at the top of his lungs and turned to see a marine impaled on his mighty spear Hrungnir. “Thanks Odin,” was all Tarun said.

Without another word, Tarun turned back to the group of marines he had just killed and looked down at their broken and torn bodies, then went further into the conflict, Odin following close behind. Suddenly, almost out of nowhere, a RoboMutie came screaming at the two heroes. But before Tarun’s Disruptor cannons could lock on it, the mechanical Zerg was down on the ground with a large hole blown in its side. Odin turned to see Ixyon decloaking and giving them a thumbs up. Tarun grunted and continued on, Ixxie joining Odin and Tarun on their way.

As the trio made their way deeper into the battle, Ixxie noticed NovaSeaker in somewhat of a bind, surrounded on all sides by RoboZerglings with RoboHydras behind them. Odin noticed as well, and before Ixyon could say anything Odin was running towards the RoboZerg, Hrungnir in hand. “Damnit, why does everyone with melee weapons do that?” Ixxie said as he took aim with his C-15 and busted caps in a few RoboLings. Tarun turned toward the sound of the gunfire and narrowed his eyes and decided that he better help Odin, Ixxie, and Nova and charged right at the RoboZerg, howling in rage, slamming into the group and slashing at anything that looked Zergish. Odin impaled a few on Hrungnir, leaving his spear impaled in a RoboHydra and starting to work on the remaining RoboZerg with his psi blades. Soon it was over and Nova nodded towards the three.

“Let’s get going. There’s a war going on and standing here doesn’t help us win it,” Tarun said as he turned and headed to the center of the battle. Ixxie shrugged and started after Tarun. Odin pulled Hrungnir from the RoboHydra and spit on it, making his way through the carnage. Nova hopped over the mangled RoboZerg and ran to catch up with the others.

***

Aklan lay quietly, not knowing why what she was laying in was wet and cold...‘blood is wet, warm and sticky,’ she thought, ‘not cold and nonsticky’. Slowly she opened her eyes and looked around to see water surrounding her on all sides and beyond it several yards, land and just a few feet from the edge of the water she saw a few Zerg and marines watching her for signs of life. They had been waiting there since they heard something slap the surface of the water and watching to see if she was alive. Instinctively she lay still, floating in the water hoping to fool them. The marines mumbled amongst themselves for several minutes and the Zerg just watched coldly, which Aklan found odd for Zerg as they generally attack on sight, regardless of whether or not something’s alive. In a moment the group turned and walked away from the lake, towards the din of a large battle. She breathed a sigh of relief and lay floating in the lake, not daring to move for fear of drawing attention to herself. She decided it best to wait there for one of the Good Guys to find her, or until there was no one around the lake.

***

Tarun


Codebreaker swore, loudly and fiercely, as a blast from the ConFed Battle Platform went just wide of the PossePlane. He’d seen it at the last possible second and swerved just in time.

“WAY too close,” he said as he swung back around to reengage a battlecruiser the PossePlane and the Judicator were teaming up on.

MysteriousGuy, still rather shocked, was slow to fire, and even slower to talk. “Don’t do that again, CB. My heart can’t take it.”

“Yeah, yeah....”

***

Endarire cringed a bit as the PossePlane came inside his cloaking field again. Sure enough, the battlecruiser ahead of them started firing on the Judicator once more.

Fortunately, he had only lost his shields once so far, and that only due to his own stupidity in ignoring his gauges for a short while during the heat of battle. The TAC arbiter’s hull was decent, but if his shields were to drop again, it may very well be for the last time.

Therefore he was using the ship’s maneuverability to gain an advantage over the ungainly battlecruisers. He was circling, zig-zagging, and causing general confusion for the poor gunners on the larger ships, managing to avoid most shots.

But with his field of motion limited by the battle platform waiting to blast anyone that came into its range, he was taking more hits than he’d like. Despite his relatively good fortune, it was really only a matter of time before the Judicator would be worn down...unless something changed for the better rather soon.

***

Lambda charged up the stairs, beginning to tire. He had been chasing his adversary up the stairwell for some time now, and unless his calculations were wrong....

They weren’t. He grimaced as he looked ahead and saw a door with a window on it. Unlike the ones he had seen on the other floors, this one had sunlight coming through the glass.

And through the edges of the door as it closed behind the ghost.

Lambda hefted his pistol and charged through to the roof with a shout brought on by adrenaline and the pain in his tired legs...

...and he froze in his tracks as the ghost leveled his pistol at him.

For a long moment, neither man moved. Even as the battle raged on in the skies above them, they could still hear each other breathing, as though the battle sounds weren’t even there.

And now, as Lambda finally got to see the man in the light, he noticed something in his eyes. No, not IN his eyes...it WAS his eyes. They were...familiar somehow.

“Stop that,” the ghost said.

Lambda blinked and looked away for a moment, but his gaze drifted back.

“I said stop.” The ghost lifted his pistol a little more.

The voice was familiar, too. Lambda was sure, somehow, that he knew this man.

He was also beginning to realize that the ghost had not yet shot him. Perhaps he knew Lambda, too....

“Any last requests?” the ghost asked.

‘Or perhaps not,’ Lambda thought sourly. “Just one...tell me who you are.”

The ghost laughed. “A man paid very well to do my job.” He straightened his gun arm....

***

‘Whoa...what was THIS?’ Flyspeck thought.

“Is that Lambda?” Nemesis asked beside him. He was pointing right where Flyspeck was looking.

“I think so....” And some ghost had a gun trained on him. “Hang on.”

***

Lambda had wondered several times how he was going to die, many of those times having been during this whole Saga. Heck, this was far from the first time he’d come face-to-face with death in the Saga alone.

‘You’d think I’d be used to it by now,’ he thought. ‘Wait, could this be my final thought? Or this one? Or this....?’

He suddenly found himself off his feet, thrown backwards by some explosion. He came back down hard to the roof, dazed and very confused.

***

“Crap! Missed!”

Flyspeck shook his head in self-disgust as he saw Lambda and the ghost fly in opposite directions, flung away from the firing he’d done right between them.

As he squinted to try and spot the ghost again, Nemmy started shouting a warning. “Battlecr—” was all he got out before the Falcon trembled from a large impact. And then another. And then a third before Flyspeck finally brought them out of the line of fire of an enemy battlecruiser.

“NOT what I needed,” Flyspeck mumbled. Lambda would have to take care of himself for now.

***

Lambda picked himself up, shaking his head in a vain effort to clear the ringing in his ears. He still wasn’t sure what had happened, but he had a pretty good guess.

Question was, did this mean the ghost had been caught in the blast?

Lambda looked around, but saw no ghost. He DID see the ghost’s pistol near the edge of the roof, and he went over to investigate.

As he approached, he saw another shape right on the roof’s edge. It was small and moving a little bit. He got close and was able to make it out...a hand. The ghost was holding onto the edge of the roof.

Lambda leaned over the edge to see the ghost hanging on as tight as he could. One of his arms hung limp at his side, probably broken. He was looking downwards, likely wondering what it would be like to fall hundreds of feet when his other arm finally gave out. It was amazing that it had lasted this long.

For the briefest of moments, Lambda considered letting him fall. He could try to crack the computers himself, after all. If he worked at it long enough...but no. He needed this man’s help, and saving him was a good way to get it. Besides, letting him die like this would simply be wrong. Wouldn’t it?

He reached forward and grabbed the ghost’s arm.

The ghost, startled, jerked his head up, even as Lambda started to pull him over the edge. The ghost’s facemask was gone, either taken off or, more likely, blown off, and upon seeing the man’s face Lambda nearly dropped him in surprise. After a moment he tugged once more, and after a few seconds succeeded in dragging the injured ghost back onto the rooftop.

The ghost propped himself up on one elbow and looked up as Lambda stood. Both were in obvious shock...the ghost because the man he had tried to kill had just saved him, and Lambda because he was now sure he knew this man. It took a moment for Lambda’s voice to return to him.

“M...MilkDuds?”