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 14.”
The Great VSP Saga:
Revenge of the Good Guys
Phoenix was not enjoying this at all. Orange’s shooting wasn’t bad...he just didn’t know how to cripple a battlecruiser like Phoenix did. The only reason he’d disabled one so far was because he’d used the Yamato Cannon. Phoenix would much prefer that HE be the one shooting.
But he also knew that he was the best pilot in the group, at least with Seawolf out of commission. If only Seawolf were piloting and he were shooting...now THEY could do some serious damage. Phoenix had lost track of the number of times he and his friend had overcome impossible odds together in the Hyperion and lived to tell about it.
As he was thinking and trying to maneuver into a good spot for Orange to fire on one of the enemy targets, Typhoon silently entered the bridge again with the copper cup, now filled to the brim with water.
He walked right over to Seawolf, trying to avoid sloshing water all over the place (a difficult task, considering that the ship was under fire and rocking quite violently at times). He made it over with most of the water still in the goblet and leaned down next to Seawolf.
The Second-In-Command of WASTE was not doing too well at all. His skin was very pale and blood was starting to come all the way through the bandaging Typhoon had put on the gunshot wound. ‘Looks like I’m just in time,’ Typh thought.
He slowly, carefully pulled the bandage off, trying to avoid further aggravating the wound. Then, just as slowly, he lifted up the cup and began pouring water over the bloody hole in Seawolf’s stomach.
At first, nothing happened, and Typhoon silently cursed. But he kept pouring, and then saw the blood begin to wash away, accompanied by a strange puff of smoke. He heard Seawolf groan slightly as he emptied the last of the water on the wound. The rest of the blood was washed away, and as Typhoon was able to get a glimpse of Seawolf’s stomach again, he saw that the wound was...GONE.
Typhoon couldn’t contain his laughter. He started chuckling like a man on space crack.
“What’s the matter with you?” Phoenix looked back and shouted. “Have you gone completely....” He trailed off as his eyes focused behind Typhoon and got real big.
Typhoon whirled around, and looked directly into the eyes of a very alert and very confused Seawolf.
“Did you get the number of that bus?” Seawolf said in a stupor.
“SEAWOLF!!” Phoenix shouted, abandoning his station and running over and hugging his friend.
“Hey...hey,” Seawolf said groggily. “I’m okay, man. I’m all right.” He paused and grunted. “Phoenix....”
“You’re crushing my collarbone.”
“Oh! Sorry!” Phoenix said, finally releasing him.
Seawolf flashed that lopsided grin of his and blinked a few times, trying to clear his head. He looked at Phoenix, then Typhoon, then over at Orange, and then back at Phoenix again. “Uuuuhh...where are we again?”
Phoenix opened his mouth to reply, but just then a massive blast rocked the entire bridge.
After it was over, Seawolf got to his feet. “Oh yeah...I remember now. Where’s the...ah, there it is.” He started walking unsteadily towards the piloting station.
Phoenix was about to stop him, but he changed his mind almost immediately. “Orange!” he shouted instead, moving towards the weapons station. “My turn!”
“Sure thing,” Orange replied, getting up and heading over to another station with Typhoon to watch. “And good to see you up again, Seawolf.”
Seawolf slid into the pilot’s chair and gave a little sigh. “Thanks.” He gave a quick scan of the controls and then the battle zone. “Ummm...four cruisers left?”
“Yeah, one of em hurting pretty bad,” Phoenix said as he settled into the weapons console. “And a fifth one that’s completely defenseless. We’ve been using it as a shield.”
“Okay,” Seawolf replied. “You told everybody what’s up with us yet?”
“Uuuuum...no, didn’t think to,” Phoenix said.
“Good.” Seawolf smiled as he flipped on the intercom for all channels, Good and Bad Guys alike. “Attention, all forces,” he said. “This is the Nemesis II, officially switching callsigns.” He paused dramatically, hardly believing he was actually getting to say this. “Nemesis II is now...the Hyperion. Good Guy forces, let’s have a little revenge, shall we?” He heard a few shouts of celebration as he shut off the intercom, grinning. “Phoenix, shall WE?”
“You bet.” Phoenix had missed flying with his friend in battle. This would be fun.
But before he could fire a shot, the battlecruiser that they’d Yamatoed earlier suddenly exploded in a flash of light, blinding him. When he could see again, the cruiser was all but gone...vaporized. The few remaining chunks fell, burning, towards the ground below.
As his vision cleared further, he saw what had destroyed the cruiser.
The ConFed Battle Platform appeared as the smoke cleared, its massive gun turret now aimed directly at them.
Normally, Phoenix would have wet his pants at a sight like that. But he knew that having just fired, the massive ship would need a minute or two to build up enough energy for another shot.
“How’s our Yamato looking?” Seawolf asked.
“Ummm...142 energy right now,” Phoenix reported. “Another minute or two.”
“Okay. Lemme know the second it’s ready to fire.”
Phoenix nodded, dimly aware that Seawolf wasn’t moving out of the platform’s line of fire. “Um...Seawolf?”
“Shouldn’t we get out of that thing’s way? I mean, I think it blew away that cruiser to get a shot at us.”
“Ya think?” Typhoon put in.
Seawolf grinned a little, but ignored him. “Nah...I’m bettin’ we’ll be ready first.”
Phoenix was thoroughly confused for a second, but then he understood. Did Seawolf REALLY mean to do what he thought Seawolf was going to do?
Seawolf started tapping away at his board, and from here Phoenix couldn’t tell what he was doing. “Target that thing’s turret and get ready to fire the Yamato,” Seawolf said. “What’s it at...like 144 now?”
“Just hit 144, yeah,” Phoenix replied, in a little bit of shock. It looked like his assumption had been correct...Seawolf was racing the platform to see who would be ready to shoot first. He was hoping to take out the turret with a Yamato blast before it could fire. But that was VERY risky...if the platform was ready to fire first, or if the Yamato didn’t completely disable the turret, they’d be dead. There was no way they could survive a direct blast from the battle platform.
Seawolf seemed perfectly calm, though. He absently tapped at his board, cool and confident. Phoenix was a nervous wreck, but he held back the urge to beg Seawolf to move out of the platform’s line of fire and forced himself to trust that his friend knew what he was doing. After all, hadn’t he just been thinking about how he and Seawolf always seemed to get out of situations like this alive?
He wished that would help get rid of the fear creeping over him.
In the Judicator, Endarire couldn’t help but grin as he heard Seawolf’s voice announcing the successful takeover of the Nemesis II. But that quickly turned to a frown as he got a text message from the new Hyperion.
“He’s going to do WHAT?!” he shouted into the empty cabin.
Endarire frowned, realizing he didn’t have enough energy for what Seawolf had in mind...he’d used it up recently in casting stasis on a few Bad Guy forces on the ground.
And then he thought of a solution, without any ideas having to come and solve it for him. He was, after all, a poet...he was good at the whole inspirational ideas thing.
He quickly sent a message back to the Hyperion, to which Seawolf replied with a simple typed out “good idea...thanks.”
Endarire mentally crossed his fingers and silently wished the crew of the Hyperion luck as he went back to assisting in the ground battle.
That ground battle was not going particularly well for the Good Guys at the moment.
Mat-Def was out of missiles, for one thing. That wasn’t something he had ever had happen to him before, and he had stared at his indicator for several seconds when it had happened until a blast had brought him back to his senses.
Then his pulse laser had been knocked out. That had made it clear that his poor Mad Cat was starting to take some serious damage. He was down to just his regular lasers and his autoguns, and he didn’t have a whole lot of ammo left for the latter.
Hence the reason he was delighted to see the Judicator appear overhead.
“Heya, End,” he called into his headset. “Thanks for the cover.”
“No problem.” A pause. “Your Mech isn’t looking too good there.”
“I figured as such. Half my weapons are out. Mind sticking close?”
“Not at all,” Endarire replied. He settled into position just a couple dozen feet above the Mad Cat and started hammering on any Bad Guys that came into range. Mat happily joined in.
Not far away, other Good Guys were having their own troubles. Flare and Fenrir had been split up again, close enough to see each other but unable to get any closer. Fenrir in particular seemed to be the worse for it...his armor was not as thick as most of the Good Guys’, and he was holding his side over a wound Flare couldn’t see from his vantage point while swinging his bat with careless abandon with the other. His missile launcher was nowhere in sight...another bad sign.
Flare roasted the Bad Guy troops immediately around him and then spoke into his communicator. “Jenni, where are you?”
A moment of static, then it cleared to “...y the...ters’ east wall.”
“Over by the Headquarters’ east wall,” Jenni repeated, breaking through the white noise. “You need assistance?”
“Fenrir does,” Flare said with a little concern. “He’s here by...uh...” Drat. No landmarks around the area. He looked up...and got an overwhelming urge to give the Banned Ones a collective pat on the back. “Under the Banned Ones’ ship.”
“Got it. We’re on our way.”
‘We?’ he wondered, turning his flamethrowers loose again.
Mack Kilimaro had seen plenty of problems in his time, most of them in this Saga. He’d mowed down hordes of Zerg, both biological and mechanical. He’d charged headlong into danger in the form of masses of Terran infantry and support vehicles. He’d gone toe-to-toe with a goliath, a gun-toting Trouble, the huge Sam, and possibly the most dangerous creature of all time, Lavos, and lived to tell about it. But he’d never, ever, faced this problem before.
He was almost out of flamethrower fuel.
That should not be happening. Though he had used more fuel in this battle than any he’d been in before, it was still not to a degree where he should be THIS dangerously low. And Flare had told him that this new fuel burned more slowly than the normal variety Mack was used to, so that was all the more reason this should not be the case. But his gauges said he was low, and gauges did not lie.
He COULD just keep going and hope the fuel would last—the Bad Guy ground forces DID seem to be thinning out—but he knew that would be too risky and dismissed the thought immediately. He did have his pistol, but with only a couple of clips on him, the Luger wouldn’t last long either.
So he did the only rational thing and studied his surroundings, hoping to see something that could help.
The most logical help to him, Flare, wasn’t too far away. Mack could see him toasting enemies a little ways off. If he could get to Flare, he may be able to get some more fuel...but a sizeable pack of marines was between him and the WASTEr. No good.
For the same reason, Lucainan would be good too, but he was too far away. Mack could just barely make him out, fighting alongside Jamz Bond, with a lot of enemies in the way. No help there.
He COULD just pair up with someone and fight until he ran out of fuel and ammo—he saw Spooky and Jenni wading through enemy forces nearby—but then what good would he be? They certainly had enough to worry about without having to protect Mack, too.
So what could he do? He had to get more fuel or get somewhere safe, and fast.
He scanned around more, using his precious fuel to flame anyone who got too close. Maybe if he could get to where he could see the other side of VSP HQ, he would see something that....
‘Wait a second,’ his brain clicked. That was it! If he could get to the building, he could get more fuel. There was some in the hangar, he was sure.
But getting there would be an adventure. The path was far from clear.
He swallowed and reached down to his side, taking the safety off his Luger. Then he took a deep breath, locked his eyes on the nearest entrance to the HQ, and charged.
He met opposition almost immediately. A pack of RoboZerglings, working together just as their biological counterparts would, turned as a group and made to head him off. Shouting, Mack flipped on his flamethrowers and just kept going. He saw several of the robotic creatures fall as they succumbed to the heat, some bursting into flame. As he pushed on, he actually felt them at his sides, claws and limbs and bodies pushing against him as he charged through the pack.
And then he was through. He could still hear those that had survived screeching behind him, but he didn’t look back.
The door still seemed so far away.
He stole a glance at his gauges. They were already indicating he was out.
He swore under his breath, then again as he looked up to see a pair of marines in his path, one already turning to fire. He raised his arms and loosed a burst of flame...his last. The first marine fell back, his suit smoking and his readied weapon melted. His senses were too slow to pick up on this, and his finger still squeezed the trigger as he fell, the Gauss Rifle exploding in his hands.
The second, slower marine shouted a curse and brought his own weapon up. Mack squeezed the flamethrowers triggers instinctively, but nothing happened. His tanks were dry.
For a split second, he was too stunned to move. His eyes got wide as he saw the Gauss Rifle come up, and he realized he was still running towards the man. Almost without realizing it, he brought his arm up and smacked the weapon aside, and it fired up into the air wildly. His other arm then came out and he socked the open-visored marine right in the face. Without stopping he then shoved the stunned man aside and ran on, drawing his pistol as he saw that the door was now much closer. ‘Almost there....’
But not quite. A RoboHydra came rushing in from the side, and Mack turned and fired, focusing on the sensitive face.
The hydra gave a gritty shriek and spit spikes at him blindly. Mack emptied his clip and looked with satisfaction to see that the Zerg was virtually blind, with most of its face blown away. He dropped the clip out and inserted another one.
Seemingly out of nowhere, another Zergling charged in and knocked him to the ground. Mack shouted in surprise and fear as he stared it in the face. He backhanded it and rolled to the side, shoving it off of him. Then he pressed his pistol into its head and fired. It took three shots, and then he was moving again. ‘So close....’
Yet another RoboLing came at him, leaping high in the air, claws raised. He fired all his remaining rounds into its body, then ducked down as it sailed over him, hitting the ground hard. Never looking back, he jammed in his last clip.
And then he was there. He tried to pull the door open, but couldn’t. It took his brain a moment to catch up, and then he furiously typed in a passcode in the panel next to the door. After typing it wrong twice, he got it and threw himself inside, kicking the door closed behind him and sprawling to the floor.
“149 on the Yamato, Seawolf,” Phoenix reported.
“All right,” Seawolf replied, still not showing any signs of worry. Phoenix was surprised by that...Seawolf was almost always calm on the surface, no matter what was brewing down inside. But he’d known Seawolf long enough to detect when something was wrong, and even knowing what to look for to see how Seawolf was REALLY feeling...Phoenix still didn’t see anything to indicate he was the least bit concerned about what was about to happen. ‘He must have something up his sleeve,’ Phoenix thought.
In mid-thought, the energy reserves clicked up to the needed level, and the Yamato Cannon was ready to fire. “We’re set,” he announced.
Seawolf nodded. “Okay, try and hit right on the gun itself for maximum damage. Ready?” Phoenix was. “Aim.” Phoenix had. “Fire!”
The Hyperion shimmered with the familiar feel of the Yamato Cannon building up its energy, and then with a massive shudder and a short flash, the cannon let loose a miniature nuclear explosion aimed right at the ConFed Battle Platform’s guns.
The blast created a massive explosion that blocked out all view of the turret for a few seconds. Phoenix, Orange, and Typhoon all shouted out in celebration, but Seawolf just watched the viewscreen, waiting for the dust to settle.
When it did, the other three fell silent.
The turret was damaged for sure, a bit warped and off-center from the force and sheer heat of the blow. But it was still there.
And Phoenix’s board suddenly told him it was about to fire. It was building up its own massive energy surge to launch back at its attacker.
There was no way they could get out of the path of that turret in time, Phoenix knew. In a matter of seconds, they’d be dead. Whatever Seawolf had had in mind, it couldn’t save them now.
His eyes were glued to the battle platform’s guns. As he watched, they fired the shot that would mean their death, and he gasped as the viewscreen was filled with a bright flash of light...
...and then blinked hard as he saw the back of a battlecruiser in front of them. The battle platform was nowhere in sight.
“What the...?!” Typhoon asked for him.
“Thanks, Vank,” Seawolf said into the intercom, ignoring Typh for the moment.
“No problem,” Vank Tar’s voice came out of the intercom speaker on Seawolf’s console. “Just don’t make me have to do that again. I hate that kind of pressure...I’m sweating like a pig over here.”
Seawolf laughed, thanked the Banned One again, and shut off the intercom. Then he turned to face his three very confused comrades.
“Soooo...we dead or not?” Orange asked.
Seawolf laughed again. “Not.”
“Oh, good. Cuz I was hoping I wouldn’t have to be stuck with you for eternity.”
That got everyone laughing for a moment and helped them to relax a little.
“That was a recall, wasn’t it?” Phoenix asked. “That’s what you were doing before we fired the Yamato...calling the Banned Ones to recall us out of there in case we didn’t destroy the turret.”
“Elementary, my dear Phoenix,” Seawolf said, smiling.
Phoenix shook his head and turned back to his board. “So are we gonna keep fighting or what?”
As Jenni and Spooky made their way to the Banned Ones’ ship, Jenni was quite surprised to see a large vortex suddenly appear above it. She was even more surprised when a battlecruiser, a new-looking one, suddenly came sliding through. It was distorted for a moment, almost like a mirage, before settling above the arbiter, the rift disappearing as quickly as it had appeared.
“Never seen a recall before?” Spooky asked over her shoulder, blasting a path in front of them.
“Not really. Is that...?”
“Yes, it’s Seawolf.” She stole a quick glance up at the ship between shots. “I think.”
“What did you do that for?” TELE asked.
“What?” Vank replied from the co-pilot chair.
“That recall thing. That could have been the break we’re looking for.”
Vank tried very hard to not let his jaw drop. “You still want to turn on them?”
“Of course!” TELE said angrily. “They’re the enemy! You forgotten that?”
“They’re showing up as friendlies to me,” Vank spit back, pointing at his tactical console.
“Don’t get cute with me,” TELE growled.
“Look, I’m just wondering if we should still try t—”
“Have you forgotten what WASTE and their friends think of people like us? What they have DONE to people like us?” TELE shook his head. “They’re the enemy,” he repeated.
Though he held back from saying so, Vank was quite sure he now disagreed. He decided to drop it for now and went back to seeking targets, hoping TELE was just bluffing.
But TELE apparently had other ideas. “Bond, come in.” He had opened a private, coded channel that only the Banned Ones used.
‘Oh crap,” Vank thought.
The RoboTorrasques were proving surprisingly intelligent.
After toppling the first of the trio of mechanical beasts, Zeratul and Bakjak had been playing defense. Neither of the two remaining RoboZerg was letting either of the heroes get close enough to try any more stunts like they had with the first Torrasque. Whenever the two heroes teamed up on one Torrasque, the other would charge in after one or both of the Good Guys, and whenever they tried to split up they were simply no match for the powerful constructs.
“We need...” Zeratul started.
“...a PLAN?!” Bakjak finished. “Ya think?”
Zeratul ignored his sarcasm and tried to think. It was difficult while dodging blades as long as most of his body.
And then he got it, smiling as the idea smacked into him before being hacked in two by a Torrasque. “Bakjak...still got your pistol?”
“Yeah,” the other said, pausing while rolling out from under a descending foot intended to crush him. “What good is THAT going to do?”
“Shoot the eyes!”
Bakjak stared at him dumbly for a second before it sunk in. ‘Of course,’ he thought, pulling out his Beretta.
Zeratul started waving his arms around in front of the Torrasque Bakjak had been fighting, feinting at the beast with his warp blades.
Bakjak, meanwhile, ran a little to his side and took aim at one of the beast’s eyes, pausing only for a moment before pulling the trigger.
With a satisfying burst of sparks and loud electric snap, the eye exploded like a cherry bomb.
The Torrasque roared and shook its massive head, clearly confused. As it did so, Bakjak followed its movements with his pistol and shot out the other eye. It wasn’t as dramatic a visual as before, but the effect was the same...the Torrasque was now blind.
It began slashing about wildly, roaring and growling nonstop as it searched for its prey. The other Torrasque, either by chance or by some programmed revenge instinct, took this opportunity to charge at Bakjak. He began to dive to the side to avoid it, but the Torrasque was too fast, too close. Bakjak barely managed to avoid being gored as the blade still sliced across him, tearing into his back and sending his pistol flying from his hand. With a shout, he fell to the side as the Torrasque raced on.
This was lost on Dark_T_Zeratul, who was jabbing and slashing at the blinded Torrasque. It was still difficult; blind or not, the beast was a force to be reckoned with. But he was scoring several good hits, and the Torrasque bellowed as the warp blades continued to find their mark.
The charging Torrasque arrived, catching Zeratul by surprise. Unlike his unlucky partner, though, he managed to roll out of the way. The Torrasque bellowed loudly and came to a stop.
It was still close, and Zeratul half-ran, half-crawled to get away as it turned. The Torrasque roared again, very loudly, as it completed its turn.
Zeratul stared at the monster, and realized two things at once. First, it had not turned to face him, but the blinded Torrasque. And second, its side was ripped wide open.
At first, Zeratul thought that it was somehow Bakjak’s doing, or that he had inadvertently slashed the beast as it ran by. But neither the Staff of Magius nor even his Illumina warp blades could have done THAT kind of damage.
In its blind rage, the blind Torrasque had torn into its counterpart, and the second Torrasque was pissed.
With a low-pitched snarl, it turned on its unwitting attacker, slashing with both blades on opposite sides of the sightless mechanical monster. The large blades tore deep into the robot, and it gave a weak roar as it fell to the ground, fire coming from one of its sides.
But with a final defiant growl, it slashed with one of its own blades (the other lay mangled and half impaled in the ground) and sliced almost completely through the other Torrasque’s front right leg.
Enraged, the now crippled beast brought its blades down into the other’s head, silencing it completely.
Zeratul had watched in awe, but now saw his chance to end this for good. He shut off his blades and pulled out his DarkScythe, turning it on and running up on the Torrasque from behind as fast as his own bum leg allowed.
The robotic beast was struggling to free itself from the other Torrasque. The fallen RoboZerg’s blade was still in its leg, and one of the standing Torrasque’s blades was still impaled deep in the destroyed robot’s “skull”. This allowed Zeratul to get his first hit in for free, a deep slice into the beast’s left side, further tearing into the exposed components inside.
The Torrasque bellowed in rage, and with a crazed motion managed to free itself, snapping off one of its own blades to escape. Lifting its damaged leg underneath its body, it turned around and stared Zeratul straight in the eye, bellowing like a star of Jurassic Park.
Zeratul hadn’t expected this, and he stood for a moment in anxious shock.
That was his first mistake. His second was taking a couple steps back without looking.
His third was tripping, and he sprawled onto his back, the DarkScythe falling from his grasp.
The Torrasque was already charging, at least as fast as it could with only three good legs. It jumped up on its hind legs, coming down to crush him. Zeratul shut his eyes...
...and nothing happened. When he realized he was still alive, he opened his eyes to see the Torrasque’s busted, shortened leg hovering above him.
Confused, Zeratul scrambled to the side, then looked up and realized what had happened. The Torrasque had intended to crush him with one of its front legs. By way of bad combat programming or poor intuition (either way, bad programming), the Torrasque had chosen the leg that was still curled up underneath it. And the best part, at least for Zeratul, was that it was now standing in place, believing Zeratul to have been tuned into Dark_T_Pancake.
He smiled and ignited his warp blades.
This obviously caught the Torrasque’s attention, as it began to swing its head around, looking for the source of the blades’ humming. But it was already too late.
With a victorious laugh, Zeratul crossed his blades in an x-shaped slash right across the Torrasque’s chest, taking out a very large chunk and causing flames to suddenly erupt from the opening.
The Torrasque literally screamed, reeling back in anger, confusion, and whatever sort of pain these robotic monstrosities felt. It spotted Zeratul at last, and raised its blade...
...but it never came down. The Torrasque stood, prepared to deliver the death blow, but it never came. With a shudder that shook its entire body, it fell over on its side, a massive explosion blowing its head right off as it hit the ground and sending Zeratul flying.
Just before he hit the dirt and was knocked out, Zeratul wondered what ever had become of Bakjak.
“Bond,” the Banned One finally responded to TELE’s call. “Jamz Bond.”
“Where have you been?” TELE demanded.
“I had to get out of earshot of the one known as Lucainan.” He paused for a moment. “It’s time?”
“Yes,” TELE replied. “TGF is already defeated...you heard what happened to his battlecruiser. The Good Guys are struggling, but are still surviving. If we don’t act now, they may actually win.”
“And if we stay with them,” Vank tried to reason, “we can further gain their trust and strike at them la—”
“We strike NOW!” TELE cut him off. “They will PAY for how they have treated those like us. We will hit them now while they least expect it, and while we have potential allies opposing them. Not later, NOW.”
Vank opened his mouth to reply, sweat forming on his brow, but he was now being ignored.
“Bond,” TELE continued. “We go.”
The other practically giggled over the line. “Good,” he said, shutting off the connection.
Bond’s mouth twisted into the most evil smile he had ever smiled (which really isn’t saying a whole lot, actually) as he turned back towards Lucainan. He actually did giggle now as he gripped his rifle tightly and began to run back towards the feline-loving WASTEr.
Vank was sweating in full now. “TELE, we must not do thi—”
He was stunned when TELE spun around in his seat and sent Vank to the floor with a roundhouse punch. “Shut the @#%$ up!” TELE screamed. “If you’re not with us then you can DIE like the others!” He rose from his chair and went for his Gauss Rifle.
"There's nothing you can do to stop me, you miserable Good Guys! Ah hah hah hah!" exclaimed the traitor Jamz Bond as he dashed across the battlefield, taking potshots at Lucainan. "Dooooo yooooooooou know whyyyyyyy?"
A crystal staircase appeared from nowhere, as he changed his clothes magically into a tuxedo. Orchestra music then began as he climbed up the staircase.
OH YES! OH YES! OH YES!
I'M THE GREATEST LAMER
THAT EVER WALKED THE EARTH
Lucainan picked up a random stone, hurling it at Bond and knocking him off the staircase and down to the ground. "Jackass," remarked Lucainan with a grin.
The lamer picked himself up from the ground, dusting himself off. "YOU'LL PAY FOR THAT!" Bond suddenly had Lucainan's kitty, Felix, in his sights. Snatching the cat from Luc's side, he pressed his C-10 Canister Rifle against the feline and emptied several shells into it.
"NOOOO!" cried Lucainan in ludicrously slow motion, dropping to his knees, holding the dead kitty in his arms.
"You must know, Mr. Bond, that my kitties can be resurrected, but even so, you'll pay for this, you sexy coward!" Lucainan rose to his feet and ignited his Psi Blades, charging at Bond. Swinging the blades at Bond in an angered frenzy, the attacker seemed to miss the defender completely and fell to the ground.
Lucainan picked himself up and took another swing at Bond, but missed, only to slice Kathie Lee Gifford's head off with his blades. There was much cheering from the crowds.
While he was bowing to the crowd, he felt the butt of Bond's rifle knock him across the head. Falling to the ground with a thump, our hero was seemingly defeated.
"Hah hee hah hah! You can never destroy me!" Bond cackled. Then, he suddenly felt a sharp pain at his ankle. He looked down to discover that his leg had nearly been sliced off. Lucainan then thrust his blades into Bond's lower back and ran them up until they exited his body above the shoulders. An elbow from Lucainan bashed Bond's forehead and knocked him to the ground. Bond aimed up, his C-10 canisters pounding into Lucainan's armor as a Psi Blade entered into his chest.
“That’s gonna leave a mark!” John Candy sprung from his grave to make a completely random comment.
"Pleeeease! No mo-ore!" Bond abruptly fell to the ground (even though he was already there) and shrieked with unimaginable pain. Lucainan switched on his flamethrowers and turned the turncoat's body into a towering inferno. Bond, at that time, was surely dead.
“No, I’m not!” cried Bond, now resembling the Human Torch from Fantastic Four. “I’m more powerful than ever, you fool!”
Lucainan again raised his flamethrowers, emptying his tanks into the (f)lamer, only to fuel his fire, making him much, much larger. Lucainan was stuck in a predicament...what could he do?
‘What would you do, Regis?’ Our kitty-loving hero reached out to the game/talk show host.
“I’D EAT HIM! EAT HIM GOOD! OR I’D ASK HIM FAIRLY EASY GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUESTIONS!” answered Philbin.
“For the million dollar question: how many years were in the 18th century?” Lucainan magically changed into a shiny, solid-colored suit.
“That question...so easy...hurts head.... No....” Bond’s flame was extinguished leaving a charred black body that abruptly fell to the ground, certainly dead this time.
"May Felix live forever, my friends!" Lucainan pointed to Bond's scorched corpse. "Kitties! Sic him!" The seven surviving kitties devoured the lamer's dead body, leaving
no trace of his existence.
“Thanks, Regis.” The Superman theme began as Lucainan turned to the reader and winked.
As TELE dove for his rifle, Vank dove for his console, slapping the intercom on.
“Vank Tar to all Good Guys! TELE is about to switch sides! Our arbiter is about to atta—ARGH!!” He screamed as Gauss rounds raked across his upper back and left shoulder, and he turned back towards TELE.
TELE sneered, bringing his weapon back up.
But Vank was ready this time. As the Gauss spit out death, Vank dove to the side, and the rounds impacted all over his board, taking down shields, and unfortunately the intercom as well.
TELE roared in anger and tried to trace his new foe, but Vank had rolled towards the back of the arbiter. He scooped up his personal comm unit from his suit and flipped it on. “Take out the Banned One arbiter, now!” he shouted into it, also making it easy for TELE to find him. “Take it out, before TELE uses it to...DO IT NOW!!” he managed to get out before TELE opened up on him, silencing the Banned One-turned-Good Guy with a wall of 8mm Gauss spikes.
The Good Guys heard Vank Tar’s last frantic message, as well as the gunfire that ended it, and presumably the life of its deliverer. But they were hesitant to attack until they were sure Vank’s message was true...after all, the Banned Ones were certainly not past pulling big-time pranks.
It was about thirty seconds later, when the arbiter’s cloak shifted from Good Guy to Bad Guy ships and the arbiter itself started firing on the new Hyperion, that they realized it was no gag.
And Flyspeck had every intention of taking care of THIS. “He’s mine,” he called out over the channel. “I’ve wanted this guy for a while,” he said aside to Nemesis. “Hang on.”
The Millennium Falcon wasn’t the closest ship to the Banned Ones’ arbiter, but the way Flyspeck was flying, it sure became so quickly. He flew right in the path of TELE’s fire, putting himself between the Hyperion and the arbiter.
“Their shields are down!” Nemmy noticed. “I wonder if Vank....” He let the thought hang.
Flyspeck said nothing, switching over to missiles for a quick kill.
It was unclear whether TELE noticed this, or whether it was just because the Falcon was in the way of his original target, or even if he was just firing at any Good Guy ship in sight, but it was right at that moment that the arbiter shifted its attention to the Falcon, and a couple of disruptor blasts rocked the ship.
But it was too late. “See if THIS smells like butterscotch,” Flyspeck said as he hit the button.
A pair of Arkynd missiles exploded forth from between the Falcon’s front mandibles and screamed towards the arbiter.
TELE didn’t stand a chance. Whether by luck or design, the missiles slammed right into the cockpit viewscreen, and the arbiter blew apart spectacularly.
Flyspeck didn’t realize he was breathing hard until Nemesis tapped him on the shoulder. “You alright?” the VSPer asked.
Flyspeck considered that. “Yeah.” He smiled a little. “Yeah, I’m pretty good now.”
He waited until the debris all slipped below his view before flying back into battle. “En Taro MilkDuds,” he said quietly. “For you, MD.”
“Xeno” was the only name the man would give Lambda. The ghost claimed he had no idea who or what “MilkDuds” was, and Lambda was inclined to believe him. The MD he had known would never work with the Bad Guys, much less try to kill any of the Good Guys.
So who was this man? There was no denying he was a practical twin of Mil—
‘Oh DUH!’ Lambda thought. ‘Of course...that’s where he’s from.’
He was escorting Xeno back to the control room, where he promised he’d get him a medipak for his arm and some stimpacks for the pain. Of course, he’d also be sure to get the computers back on line in return. In the meantime, he had to see if his new theory was correct.
“So, Xeno,” Lambda asked, “How long have you been working for Broker?”
The ghost laughed. “Long as I can remember. What’s with the short talk, fella?”
Boy, he reminded Lambda of MilkDuds. “Just curious. I mean, it’s not every day I get to just chat with one of you guys.”
“One of ‘you guys’?” Xeno retorted. “What’s THAT supposed to mean?”
“Well, I just meant tha—”
“Look, I’m not some half-wit flunkie like the amateurs you managed to toast downstairs. I’m a specialist. It’s not coincidence that I managed to make it and they didn’t, pal.”
“Too bad I still managed to beat you,” Lambda replied wryly.
The ghost stopped and turned back, his face red. Only Lambda hoisting his leveled pistol up a bit seemed to remind him to keep himself in check. Finally he managed to bite out “We all have bad days.” Then he turned and continued on.
‘So much for subtlety. Time for the direct approach....’ “You know anything about Broker’s clones, Xeno?”
That struck a different chord. The ghost continued on, but only after faltering for a step. “Not much.”
“What DO you know? I know he has your everyday generic warrior, like the ones I ‘managed to toast’. But does he have any...uh...special clones tucked away somewhere?”
“I SAID I don’t know mu—”
“But you know about this, don’t you?”
The ghost stopped, but did not turn. He seemed to be considering.
“Broker has genetic copies on file of almost every one of your allies tucked away somewhere in one of his bases.”
Bingo. “And has he made clones from any of them?”
“Not that I’m aware of.” Xeno seemed to be getting more and more open, and Lambda suspected he knew why.... “He’s tried, without success. It can take months to successfully make a cloned copy of an individual, but once you have it you can pump them out at a steady rate. That’s why he tends to stick with one or two more ‘generic’, as you put it, clones for his marines, firebats, battlecruiser crewmembers...even ghosts.”
“What if I told you that I knew he’d had success with one of them?”
Xeno finally turned. His face already confirmed it...he knew.
“I once knew a man named MilkDuds,” Lambda said. “A good man. A ‘specialist’, in his own way. And he—”
“Is me, right?” Xeno snorted. “Wonderful. Terrific.” He shook his head and started moving again. “At least that explains it,” he said quietly.
“Explains what?” Lambda said, moving to keep up.
“Why I have no memory before a couple months ago. Broker said it was because of a battle I’d had with you and your friends while he was last in your universe-realm-thing. Son of a....” He shook his head again.
They walked on in silence for a minute, reaching the floor where the control room was.
“So was he good?” Xeno asked.
“This ‘MilkDuds’ guy. Was he good?”
Lambda considered, then smiled a little. “You tell me.”
It took the ghost a second to get it. When he did, he snorted, but Lambda could see Xeno was also grinning, just a little, as they entered the control room.
With the noises of battle behind them, Auspex Turmalis, Zeus Legion, Desler, FistOfGod, and Guardian Steve entered the Templar Archives. As soon as they stepped inside, it became deathly quiet. Not because the battle outside had stopped, but because the door slid closed behind them.
FoG, at the back, tried to open it up again. “It’s stuck!” he cried. The others came and tried to help, but to no avail. They’d have to find another way out.
Holding their weapons a little tighter, they continued forward.
Outside, Ytse watched the foursome disappear into the Archives.
‘Okay,’ he thought to himself, ‘now we just have to hold out until....’ He looked around the battlefield. The Good Guys had been all but obliterated. Mason Rockwell and his one remaining siege tank were still inflicting heavy damage, but they were the best hope the Good Guys had left. Ian Anduin and a few highlanders were still fighting it out, but it was a pitiful number compared to what they had started with...and what the enemy still had left. The Bonnie Heather had put a defensive matrix around both remaining tanks and was now irradiating enemy troops whenever its taxed energy reserves allowed, but it was not often enough to make a really significant difference.
The pale Protoss just kept coming and coming. Just as they would clear the field, another wave of zealots or dragoons or scouts would pour in. Clearly they were making more fighting units at their base as the battle wore on, but there was nothing Ytse or anyone else could do about it. The best they could do was try to somehow hold on until Auspex and his team returned.
“Fat chance,” Ytse mumbled sourly as he charged at the nearest zealot.
Tarun, Odin, Nova, and Ixyon waded through the mangled corpses of their enemies, literally carving a path through them.
Odin, Nova, and Ix were all wondering where they were going since VSP HQ was to their right. Tarun just lead them on with grim determination, heading forward, never veering left or right, always going forward.
Eventually a lake came into view a few hundred yards away surrounded by RoboZerg and marines and firebats. Tarun narrowed his eyes and growled, then broke into a run for the lake, letting out a single, terrifying roar as he came leapt upon the first marine. Odin and Nova took off after the Zealot, yelling at the top of their lungs and brandishing their weapons.
Odin fell upon a RoboHydra, running it through with Hrungnir and cutting a marine in two at the waist with his free hand’s blade. The marine gave out a scream of pain and shock before meeting his end as a Disruptor bolt impacting his chest, killing him.
Nova charged into a group of marine and firebats, swinging Shadowfang and Azurewrath, felling each quickly, severing limbs, removing heads, cutting open chests as he tore through their ranks.
Ixyon had dropped his C-15 to use his M1A4 Carbine and began dropping marines, firebats and RoboZerg like they were nothing. A marine who didn’t manage to be as stealthy as he would have liked met his end to a well placed knife from Ixyon. Ix chuckled and resumed fire, making sure to check his back incase anyone else wanted to think they were smart.
Tarun, at the front of this little battle, was tearing anything that got within striking distance apart with his lances and Psi blades and blasting anything he couldn’t immediately reach with a few Disruptor bolts, ignoring the wounds he’d suffered to get to the lake at all costs, knowing with absolute certainty that she was there and, more importantly, alive.
Aklan opened her eyes and looked over to the land and saw gunfire and Disruptor bolts flying through the air and impacting on something, and caught the occasional glimpse of blades, lances, swords, and a spear and knew that someone had found her and was trying to break through the gathered marines, firebats, and Zerg, and smiled.
Knowing that only one person would risk it all for her safety, she swam to the shore and pulled out a long combat knife from a leg sheath, slipping up out of the water behind a ghost that was sniping at her saviors. With a quick stab in the lungs, the ghost fell, unable even to scream. Aklan scooped up his C-10 and took aim at the nearest marine, blowing his head clean from its shoulders, then reloaded and shot a nearby firebat’s tanks. The resulting explosion took out a few marines and Zerg as well as the hapless firebat.
Out of ammo for the moment, she pulled her blade back out and slashed at a Zerg. The shower of sparks and clang of metal on metal startled her and she looked at the Zerg as it fell. Upon seeing wires and various internals only a machine would have figured out why they had behaved so oddly and she smirked, spinning around to catch a RoboZergling on her blade and laughing.
She scooped up a discarded Gauss Rifle and fired it in one hand, exploding another firebat’s tanks. Then slowly, methodically, she began shooting and slashing a path to her rescuers.
It was the work of but a moment for Mark Brown to Narrate himself, Deos Arcana, and Mason Wheeler back into the Saga universe. They appeared on the bridge of the DragonSlayer. (Of course it was called the DragonSlayer! It was Mason Wheeler's personal Proto-Cruiser. What else would Mason Wheeler call his personal Proto-Cruiser?)
Mason sat at the command console, Mark Brown manned the helm, and Deos took Tactical. Deciding on a sure way to one-up his obnoxious namesake, he started blasting a Garth Brooks CD both inside the cockpit and on the external speakers. Of course, in space, nobody can hear you sing, but once they re-entered the atmosphere, the music would be heard loud and clear by anyone outside.
With his usual flair for the dramatic, Mason set the DragonSlayer on a crash dive through the atmosphere. The battle was only minutes away....
MysteriousGuy whooped as he blasted apart one of the very few fighters left in the skies above VSP HQ.
He and Codebreaker were using that damaged battlecruiser that had had a very close encounter with a wraith as very effective cover, darting out to hammer on nearby ships and then, like a goldfish retreating to its little castle, heading for safety under the cover of the damaged BC. It was working very well, as their shields, all but depleted a short time ago, were almost fully recharged and they had scored some very nice hits using the strategy. But the Bad Guys weren’t stupid...they had abandoned their dead-in-the-water allies to their fate and pulled away, forcing the PossePlane to have to venture farther and farther away from their “castle”.
That was why MG was so excited at having destroyed a lowly fighter. It was their first good hit on the enemy in a while.
“We need to move,” Codebreaker said unhappily.
“Probably,” MG replied. “That’s what they want, though.”
“I know, I know.”
“Okay,” MG finally said. “Where to?”
Where to, indeed. Basically all that was left were battlecruisers, aside from the looming battle platform, and the PossePlane had already proven a bit weak compared to either. They could go assist in the ground battle, as they’d witnessed Endarire do, but the air battle was far from over. The new Hyperion was starting to show signs of damage, and the enemy was naturally focusing on it. The ‘Plane and the Millennium Falcon were the only ships left to assist her...out of their starting five. CB shook his head. They couldn’t abandon the air battle...even if it meant serious risk to themselves. Their shields were charged and they had plenty of weapons left, but that wouldn’t last long against the fleet the Bad Guys still had at their disposal.
But they really only had one choice.
“Buckle up,” CB said.
“What’s that light up ahead?”
“Not sure, Steve,” Auspex replied.
The light was pale bluish, and seemed to be increasing the further they moved into the archives. It seemed to move on the walls, almost as though it was coming from underwater.
Auspex frowned. “I have a pretty good idea, though.”
They continued forward until they entered a large chamber. Inside it became clear exactly what the light was coming from. Or rather, WHO it was coming from.
“I knew you would come,” Nannoth/Taeradun said.
And without a further word, the archon let loose a psionic storm.
Not prepared, the heroes all fell back, shouting and cursing.
Except for one, who seemed to shrug off the storm and stand tall.
N/T seemed perplexed by this. He loosed a psionic blast at the man that defied him and watched incredulously as he again seemed unaffected.
He raised his arms to try a third time, but was interrupted as a blast struck HIM...from behind. Enraged, the archon spun around and saw Desler standing there, who fired again as the archon turned. It did little, but it DID make the Nannoth/Taeradun even more enraged than he was before. He fired back, but Desler was on the move. He half-rolled, half-crawled out of the way and kept his finger on the trigger. So the archon decided on a different method and let loose a psi storm, simultaneously firing a powerful psionic shockwave. The storm caught Desler by surprise, and the CC founder moved out of it just as N/T had predicted...and right into the shockwave. Desler was flung backwards, hitting the ground hard and not rising.
Then a psionic storm suddenly opened up over the archon. Screaming, Nannoth/Taeradun whirled around, firing madly.
Hitting and seeing nothing, he stopped, seething.
“Up here, stupid!”
More confused than angry, the archon looked up to see that same cursed man from before hanging from the rafters. With a shriek loud and shrill enough to break glass, N/T tore into the spot where the man was. This time the man actually moved, the blast going wide. The archon followed the man’s movements, but couldn’t keep up as he dodged and weaved out of reach. That didn’t last, however. N/T faked the man out, blasting for a split second in one spot and then letting loose a couple feet away...just as the man moved there.
“Aaaaargh!” Steve screamed as he fell down to the floor with a sickening thump.
Nannoth/Taeradun smiled (however an archon does that) and made to finish him off.
Surprised, the archon turned towards the source of the scream just in time to see Auspex Turmalis and Zeus Legion rush at him. He fired on Zeus first, who shouted with the blow but kept coming. Not stopping, Nannoth/Taeradun shifted his aim to Auspex, who dropped to the ground and opened fire with his canister rifle. The psionic burst when right over his head.
Zeus reached the archon and swiped at him with his blades. The archon fired at him again, but Zeus was already on the move, rotating around the mad ball of energy and slashing, stabbing, and swiping nonstop. All the while, Auspex continued to fire as well.
Finally, Nannoth/Taeradun had had enough. He focused his thoughts, and as the pair of heroes watched he shrunk down in size, seeming to increase in density. Then with a shout, he shot back to normal size, a shockwave of pure psionic energy exploding from him and throwing Auspex and Zeus hard against opposite walls.
“PETTY HUMANS!” the archon screamed. “Implementers you may be, but you CANNOT DEFEAT YOUR OWN CREATION!!”
“Wanna bet?” a new voice asked.
Before he even had time to turn, a blast struck him that felt unlike any he had ever known. It didn’t inflict pain, but numbness. Nannoth/Taeradun suddenly found it very difficult to move.
Driven by pure fury, he momentarily broke that and shifted enough to see his attacker.
FistOfGod turned up the power from the extension mounted below his rifle barrel. The beam coming from it increased in strength and brightness, intense enough to actually change Nannoth/Taeradun’s color to a pale green. He started to shift in shape, his rounded edges losing their contour and becoming almost square.
The archon gave a defiant scream and somehow, miraculously, managed to raise his arms. FoG quickly flipped the cannon to its highest setting, sweatdrops appearing on his brow. It wasn’t working fast enough....
But finally, the archon seemed to lose all strength, and with a final, weakened howl, turned bright green and moved no more.
Happily, FistOfGod lowered his weapon, nodding with satisfaction at the archon-turned-vespene tank in front of him.
“Nice going,” Auspex said, limping over with Zeus in tow.
“Indeed,” said Steve, very slowly rising from the floor nearby. A few feet away, Desler was doing the same.
“Good moves, yourself,” FoG replied, wiping his brow. “That hallucination thing was a great id—”
“...*BZZZT* out here!” a scratchy, familiar voice cut in.
Auspex spoke into his radio. “Ytse, what was that?”
“We’re getting CREAMED out here!” Ytse repeated. “Are you done yet, Auspex?!”
“Yes,” Zeus said for him. “FoG just successfully managed to—”
“THEN GET OUT HERE! We need—”
A loud explosion cut Ytse short. Then there was just static.
No one took time to even try to reply. With a collective look of concern, they turned as a group and made for the exit.
No one saw that as they left the room, the vespene tank they left behind was beginning to pulsate.
Ytse-Jam was sometimes known to exaggerate a bit. Being a little bit of a pessimist, he had a tendency to get upset rather quickly when things went bad and to state things as being a tad worse than they actually were.
However, in this case, “creamed” was a bit of an understatement. “Routed” may have been more appropriate.
Mason Rockwell was in the only remaining siege tank, and he had been forced to un-siege and fire as fast as his 80mm cannons would allow at the enemies surrounding his vehicle. Ian Anduin and the pitiful handful of remaining highlanders were no better off, some engaged in hand-to-hand combat. The Bonnie Heather was aloft but useless, its energy depleted and its captain no doubt wishing for just one damn weapon to help.
Ytse himself was little better off than the highlanders. At least he had psi blades, which were seeing more use than probably even while they were in possession of their previous owner.
Within minutes, it would all be over. The enemy was on all sides...and in numbers that Ytse knew they could not fight off. Rockwell in his tank would survive this, perhaps, and Declan in his ship, but even they would not be able to escape before the next wave arrived. Ytse could already see a number of scouts on their way, flying in from the north.
His brain noted that there was something odd about that, but it didn’t compute fully until the scouts arrived and opened up with their cannons.
The scouts were firing on the pale Protoss. But why...?
The north. Nannoth/Taeradun’s base was not to the north; it was to the south. So that meant....
The lead scout, a different color and slightly different configuration than the others, confirmed what Ytse’s brain finally figured out.
“Son of a—” A well-timed explosion marked the Narrator’s continued anti-swearing rule. “Khrillian”.
New Antioch, to the north, had dispatched the cavalry.
It didn’t take long for more help to arrive. Several shuttles streaked in, escorted by more scouts and a distinctive carrier. The robotic ships touched down just long enough to unload...seemingly nothing. Of course, the enemy forces that started crumpling to the ground around the drop-off sites said otherwise. Ytse watched as one of the hidden Antioch dark templar was briefly revealed as it sliced a dragoon apart.
Emboldened by the sudden change in fortune, the highlanders gave a shout and tore into their attackers with new vigor. This was further increased with the arrival of Auspex and the others, who ran onto the battle scene as fast as their battered bodies allowed and literally dove, as a group, into the enemy pack, slashing and shooting and shocking masses of stunned zealots, templar, and dragoons.
Ytse-Jam was right about one thing: it was over within minutes.
Rockwell sieged up and opened fire on their retreating adversaries as they limped back to base, and Khrillian led a few scouts to pick at them before they came under the protection of their photon cannons and other defenses. Ytse laughed a little as the scholarly warrior held his ground for a short time, taking out a few cannons and even an outlying warp gate before the enemy rallied to the defense and finally drove the scouts away.
By then, the carrier had touched down, and unsurprisingly, Turmalis himself came walking down the gangway. The templar stopped at the bottom and was joined by Moloch, who appeared beside him with two of his dark templar brethren, presumably acting as bodyguards.
They walked over to Ytse, who gulped a little but stood tall.
“You are the commander of this force, Terran?” Turmalis asked.
“Uh...well, um...not exactly.”
“Then who is your commander?”
“I presume that would be me,” Auspex said, walking slowly over.
Turmalis turned to face him. “Identify your intentions here,” the templar demanded. “Why are you engaged with the force to the south?”
Auspex looked over to Zeus, then to Ytse, then back to Turmalis. “Well....”
“This is much better,” Codebreaker commented.
The Hyperion wasn’t the only battlecruiser showing signs of damage. One of the remaining four enemy Behemoths was looking quite sickly, with a large hole ripped out of its “head” section and a heavy list to port. Somehow it was still firing, though with only one functional laser battery it wasn’t much of a factor anymore. One other battlecruiser was clearly hurting as well, going head-to-head with the Hyperion and looking the worse for it, with Seawolf and Phoenix focusing on one of the nacelles and ripping it to shreds. The captain of the enemy ship was trying, and failing, to keep it out of range, and it was buying the Hyperion a break from heavy fire as the other battlecruiser was taking mere potshots as its crew fought to keep their ship from losing sensitive steering and sensors in the nacelle.
The Temujin was currently disengaged, something that Codebreaker was quite happy about. Broker had limped a short distance off after the PossePlane had finished what Tarun had started and blasted the “face” of the ship to pieces, seeming to destroy at least one laser battery and cause a nice explosion right above the bridge. The damage had to have been pretty bad for Broker to pull back like he had. Repairs and possibly bridge crew replacements were certainly underway, so in the meantime the ‘Plane had teamed up with the Millennium Falcon against the last and least-damaged battlecruiser, and with no other ships firing on them, they were free to weave about like bees on a nosey bear with near-impunity.
“Yeah, I’m liking this,” MysteriousGuy said, munching on his mangled straw again. He scanned for a moment and then squeezed the fire controls again, sending a pair of missiles into the battlecruiser and causing a satisfying explosion.
Flyspeck was much happier, as well. The destruction of TELE had lifted his spirits after his missed shot on the ghost atop VSP HQ, and this was just icing on the cake.
His shields had finally worn out a short time ago, but the hull was in good shape and he wasn’t taking much fire right now anyway. Just enough to keep the shields from starting up again, but not enough to cause any real concern.
“I just got one question,” he asked his Posse friends flying off to starboard.
“What’s that?” CB asked.
“Since it appears these guys are under wraps, what do we do after this?”
A brief pause, and Flyspeck used the time to set up a good shot for Nemesis. “I don’t follow,” Codebreaker said.
“The battle platform. We have any idea how the heck we’re going to take that thing down?”
The pause was much longer this time. That was indeed a problem, because once the battlecruisers were gone, not only would they cover be blown (as even the Hyperion was managing to keep an enemy ship between it and that massive gun), but that platform could still easily destroy them all and level VSP HQ single-handedly if given the chance.
“Let’s focus on the task at hand,” CB finally said.
“Translation: he has no idea,” Flyspeck said aside to Nemesis.
The young VSPer just nodded thoughtfully and took his boss’ advice.
They were about to get some help.
Xeno sat down in front of the main console in the HQ’s control room and popped his disk into the appropriate slot. He then shut the computer down, and looked over at Lambda in the dimly lit room and whistled a short tune. After an appropriate amount of time, he booted it back up and grunted as a menu came up.
Lambda walked over and stood behind him as he punched in a number of passwords, finally getting to a screen Lambda recognized.
“Okay,” the clone said as he rose from his seat. “The system has been wiped back to its original specs, so I hope you didn’t lose anything critical.” He sounded sincere. “You’ll have to reprogram those missiles and whatever else from scratch.”
Lambda nodded and slid into the chair. Fortunately, the computers they had installed had come with some basic programs for running the exterior defenses. He couldn’t do jack with the interior stuff, since the VSP had installed all that after moving in, but that wasn’t important right now.
Before he did anything, though, he had to restore main power. He opened up the appropriate programs and went to work as Xeno sat down heavily next to him.
It was dark and quiet as Mack Kilimaro entered the hangar at the VSP Headquarters. Well, quiet except for the sounds of gunfire, other weapon fire, and the snarling and grinding of various RoboZerg annoyances, both on the ground and in the air. And dark except for the fact that there was one single black light on over the center of the room – and, of course, said gunfire and other weapon fire and RoboZerg, which tended to generate a bit of light from the outside. But it was still pretty dark. And quiet. Yeah.
Which was why Mack had to close his eyes as he walked inside said hangar. Because according to some law of optics, his eyes had to adjust to the new, dimmer lights or he’d just see spots which wouldn’t really be of much use to him.
As he shut them he began pondering things and lost track of time. He knew that the others were beginning to give up on Mark Brown, the narrator who had gotten them that far and then seemingly abandoned them. Some of the newer conscripts (various Lamers and the newer WASTE members among them) had given up entirely.
Of course, he didn’t exactly expect most people to have as much faith in the narrator as he did himself. Mack was among the group who witnessed the first appearance of Mark Brown, back in those days before WASTE, when the VSP numbered five, and before Ytse-Jam and Desler had been drawn into this mess. Then again, it really wasn’t a mess back then, either....
Those other people also didn’t seem to share the link that Mack somehow shared with Mark. (Then again, Mack had no knowledge of the fact that he was created by the narrator himself, nor did any of the other characters in the Saga, but then if he did that would ruin the fun of the situation anyway.) Mack wasn’t sure why exactly he had that kind of link, but he considered himself the narrator’s closest ‘friend’ in the game universe. What Mark actually thought, he did not know. Nor did he know if he would ever know, since that kind of information depended on the narrator’s return. Which he knew WAS coming, or so he had to convince everyone else. Even he was a little doubtful of that fact.
Or at least, he was doubtful until a resounding CLANG sounded in his thoughts and he found himself falling backwards onto the ground.
“What in the world...?” he wondered aloud, seeing only a bit of cloth covering some unknown object. He pulled at the cloth and found that it was rather large, and continued to tug until he had it all. As he tossed it aside, he saw the letter “V” on it.
The smile began to cross his face about the same time the whirring noise began and the lights turned on in the hangar.
If it only had a face, the PosseMobile would have been smiling right back at him. As it was in his state he was fairly convinced that the “VSP” logo looked like some kind of smiley face.
This, Mack was certain, was the sign he’d been waiting for from Mark Brown. Since nobody was around to tell him that it was in fact Lambda who had restored the power to the VSP HQ, it would work nicely, even though Mark DID happen to be otherwise occupied at the moment.
He scanned around and found what he had come for...fuel tanks. He took off his suit’s tanks and filled them up, then set them in between the PosseMobile’s front seats.
“Now let’s see here, what can this thing do?” Mack asked himself as he hopped in the primary driver’s/gunner’s chair. “Eh, this button looks pretty cool....” he continued as he pressed a blue-ish button.
The windshield wipers began to move.
“So anticlimactic! I’m going to have to have a talk with that bloody narrator....” he grumbled, pressing the blue button again.
Although Mack was doing his best to get the PosseMobile working, his current progress wasn’t much help to one of his fellow original five VSP members.
Spooky found herself slowly being surrounded by RoboZerg and members of Broker’s forces. She and Jenni had been split up shortly after assisting Fenrir. Jenni had stayed by the wounded Good Guy while Spooky had moved off a little to buy her time to heal Fenrir. But when the female VSPer had tried to make her way back, it hadn’t worked out very well. She had practically been driven back towards VSP HQ, with enemies coming in from all sides and forcing her on the defensive. She had long since expended her lockdown charges, and recently run out of acid shells, and continually was pushed back even as she fired canister shell after canister shell. She wasn’t even fully aware of her plight until she backed up against a wall.
Snarling Zerglings made their way forward towards her, and her shots picking off one at a time were not stopping their advance. It was time, she realized, to start saying her final prayers....
“Oh,” Mack said, seeing the wheel in front of him with two toggle buttons on it where either of his thumbs would rest. “This looks like fun....”
Twin autocannons shot up from their concealed places and began to blast into the wall of the hangar. It was not long before it was riddled with bullets and Mack was left yelling like a fool as he stopped firing.
“Uh...how does it move...?” he inquired to no one in particular.
Then he smacked himself and slammed down on the gas pedal.
With a very hearty VROOOOOOOOOM, the PosseMobile burst through its confinement, while leaving little damage to itself yet completely blowing away the wall – and conveniently crushing the RoboZerg that had been engaging a very stunned-looking Spooky.
Without warning, bullets seemed to explode from the wall right next to Spooky, and the wall itself blew outward. Then the PosseMobile drove out, crushing the few remaining enemy forces there. It drew itself to a stop, and she heard Mack’s voice over the comm system.
“Hey!” he called, grinning even though she could not see him.
Spooky blinked twice. Then the tinted driver’s window lowered and she smirked as she saw Mack.
“Going my way?” he asked with his own grin.
Turmalis had not followed everything Auspex had told him, but he understood enough to have offered warriors to go back with the TACers. Fighting a smile, Auspex had politely declined the offer. So the ex-Judicator had done the next best thing: dressed their wounds.
Fortunately, none of them had turned out to be too badly wounded, even after their ordeal with Nannoth/Taeradun (or mass pale Protoss, in Ytse’s case). Not that anyone was complaining...the Protoss meds felt good.
“You say that YOU are me?” Moloch asked Zeus.
Zeus cleared his throat and responding in the same voice. “I am.”
Moloch’s face stretched into a look of surprise.
“Fascinating,” Khrillian said from nearby. Zeus laughed.
“Is there nothing we can do to aid you further?” Turmalis inquired of Auspex a short distance away.
“You’ve already done more than enough,” Auspex said, still finding it odd to be speaking with the Protoss face-to-face. “We really have to go.”
“That’s too bad, Jabro—” Rockwell started, but cut himself short. “Uh...Turmal—” he stopped again as both turned to look at him. “Er...uh....”
Ytse patted him on the shoulder as he came up behind the rock-loving hero. “Easy there,” he laughed. “Know your role.”
Rockwell did something he was not accustomed to...he shut his mouth.
Ytse laughed again, play-punching Rockwell in the shoulder...only to be then be socked in the face by the larger man.
It was Auspex’s turn to laugh. “Smell something?”
“What Rockwell is cooking,” Ytse said, picking himself up and dusting himself off. “Good shot, Mason.”
Rockwell smiled now and slapped Ytse on the back. “Candy-ass.”
“Okay guys,” Desler cut in. “Time to get going.”
“Right,” Auspex said, turning to Turmalis. “Thank you for your assistance, and good luck with...them.” He pointed to the pale Protoss base.
“En Taro Adun,” Turmalis said.
The others said their goodbyes, and headed for the outside of New Antioch’s walls. They didn’t want the Protoss to see HOW they departed.
On the way out, they passed the Anduins, joking with each other and their few living highlander comrades. Auspex had almost said something to them, especially Ian, about events to come. If they were able to seal the Crossover as they hoped, all that had happened in the Antioch Universe since the start of the Saga would be undone, restored to the end of A2’s storyline. It would then proceed as normal...including the events to befall both Ian and Declan.
But Auspex could say nothing. Part of it was principle, as they were trying to reveal as little as they could to protect this universe long enough to restore it. But the other part was...what? This man was not real. This whole universe was not real. It was Auspex’s creation, as was the man before him. Yet he could not do it. He couldn’t tell the man he was going to die.
So instead, Auspex stopped and turned to him. “Ian.”
The highlander turned. He was sober for once, mostly because he hadn’t had a chance to drink yet since the battle ended. “Yes?”
“I...uh...I just wanted to say that it was a pleasure to meet you in person.” He extended his hand, which Ian and then Declan shook. The other TACers (and friends) did likewise, and then Auspex nodded once and moved on. He didn’t feel better, really, but...satisfied.
They made it outside the walls, and as the gates were closed behind them, Rockwell came walking through.
“What are you doing?” Ytse asked.
“Rockwell...uh....” he seemed to stumble over his words.
“Yes?” FoG asked.
“I just wanted to say...thank you,” Rockwell finished. “You all saved my life, a couple times. I may not remember it later,” he said with a strange face, knowing a little more than the Protoss heroes, “but...well, that’s it.”
“No problem,” Zeus said for everyone.
“Thanks for YOUR help,” Auspex said.
Rockwell smiled, stepping back towards the closing gates. “Take care...Jabronis.”
“You too,” said Ytse, switching to Rockwell’s voice. “And keep on pleasing those...MILLIONS...and MILLIONS of Rockwell’s fans!”
Laughing, Rockwell waved them off and then disappeared as the gates shut fully.
No one spoke for a minute. Then finally, Steve, whom everyone had almost forgotten about, broke the silence.
“You must go,” he said.
“Yeah,” Auspex said dumbly. “Uh...sorry. Just that...that....”
“That was some experience,” Zeus said.
Auspex nodded. “Exactly.”
“I understand,” Steve said. “But your friends need you.”
“Right.” Auspex pulled out his PDA, loaded with a mini-crossover patch linked to their Warp Rift in Auspex Studios. “I would thank you more fully, Steve, but there’s not a lot of ti—”
“Hold your thanks, Auspex Turmalis,” the other said. “It is I who must thank you. Your actions will be long remembered. Here,” he said, reaching into his robes. “Give this to Mason Wheeler.” He handed Auspex a hard object wrapped in cloth. “He may be something different than what I thought, but he truly was a good Guardian...and friend.”
Auspex took it and tucked it away.
With one last exchange of handshakes and goodbyes, Auspex opened a small rift. The heroes stepped in, somewhat reluctantly, and were gone.
Lambda smiled as the lights came up around him. He didn’t bother to actually look up...his primary concern was to get perimeter defenses back up to aid his friends outside. He had no idea how things were going with them except that he had still seen a large number of enemy troops and several battlecruisers—not to mention that looming battle platform—still duking it out while he was on the roof. That alone put some urgency into his work.
But with main power restored, it was a relatively simple task, easier than he had at first thought. Within a matter of minutes, the defensive systems were restored, including cameras showing several views of outside. Lambda watched with great satisfaction as the dormant turrets and photon cannons the enemy had not bothered to blow to bits came online and began tracking targets. Only seconds later, they opened up, mostly targeting the massive ConFed Battle Platform.
“Well done,” Xeno said. “Glad I was able to help.”
Lambda looked over and grinned. “So am I.”
Xeno shuffled his feet a bit and fiddled with a switch on his suit. “I...uh....” Lambda’s eyebrows lifted a little. “I need to go.”
Lambda realized what it was he was doing. “No, wait.”
Xeno flipped the switch, smiling as he faded from view. “It was a pleasure,” the cloaked man said. “I envy him.”
Lambda looked around, trying in vain to spot his new friend. “Him who?”
“MilkDuds. He was a lucky man.” Xeno’s voice was fading as he walked further and further away.
“He had good friends,” Xeno said, his voice now out in the hall.
“Xeno, come back!”
He didn’t come back.
Mason Wheeler leveled out right above the battlefield as the DragonSlayer popped through a cloud.
Deos beamed down to the battlefield after transferring Tactical control to Mason. He drew his onyx sword, wasting no time in sowing his particular brand of confusion among the enemy forces. He materialized exactly where he wanted to be: in the middle of the Bad Guy troops. He thrust and slashed his sword all about himself. Everything around him was a target; the targets all around him could not say the same. He was the only one who could attack without fear of hitting a comrade, and he pressed this advantage as hard as he could. Of course, he had a second factor working to his advantage. Being the Master of Illusion, Delusion, and All-Around Confusion, he displaced his image. There was nothing to be seen where he was; he appeared to be at random positions three to seven feet away from his actual body. His image shifted to a new random position every few seconds, further confusing the Bad Guys. The only way to tell where he truly was was when he cut down a Bad Guy soldier with his blade, and by then it was too late; as soon as he struck, he moved again.
Mason had different plans. He opened a voice-only channel to the Temujin. “Hey Broker, I'm back!”
“Where have you been?!” Broker yelled at him. “We're getting ripped apart here.”
“Taking care of the Narrator. You don't have to worry about him, sitting up there in the Uberworld, writing the Good Guys to victory anymore.” Mason winked at Mark Brown. It was time to take a truly desperate gamble. If it worked, though, it would all be worth it. “How's the battle coming?”
“Horrible. We're losing troops left and right. The Nemesis II has been captured by Good Guy forces. The Alliance is blowing our troops up with new and inventive styles of fighting. And we have yet to kill even one of them!”
“None of them? How is that possible?”
“Some hero Medic unit. She seems to have unlimited energy, and every time we wound one of their men, there she is, helping him back to full health!”
Mason sneered. “I know all about that particular Medic. Leave her to me.” He cut the comm channel.
Seawolf saw a new icon appear on his sensor screens. Much like the current Hyperion, it was a battlecruiser with blue engines and plasma shields. But the red-dragon-in-slashed-circle logo painted on the ship was unmistakable. It could only be the DragonSlayer, and Seawolf had a score to settle with its pilot. He set an intercept course.
The DragonSlayer pressed forward, seemingly oblivious to the weapon fire battering it from the turrets on the ground. Several saturation bombs fell from its belly, but they were purposefully off, just barely injuring Fenrir and Flare. Just as Mason had planned, Jenni moved to the area to heal them. The DragonSlayer charged its Yamato Gun and blasted a great bolt of energy right at the hero Medic. Half a second later, there was nothing where she had been standing except smoking scorched earth. Even the usual bloody splat seemed to have been vaporized under the destructive energy of the DragonSlayer's supercharged Yamato Gun.
Seawolf transferred weapons control to his console, ignoring Phoenix’s surprised bark as he loosed his own Yamato Gun at the DragonSlayer, then flew in at full speed, lasers striking with a fury to almost equal the rage boiling within him.
“Seawolf!” Phoenix warned. “The platform!”
The WASTEr turned and saw the ConFed Battle Platform, its great cannon bearing on them, from which one shot would surely annihilate the damaged Hyperion.
Some of the red cleared from Seawolf's vision as his instinct for self-preservation kicked in. It would do nobody any good for him to get killed before he could take Mason down. Throwing the Hyperion into a slow roll, he tried to miss the coming blow. It worked, but not as well as he had hoped...the platform’s blast went wide, but still skimmed along the port side, doing heavy damage to the nacelle and tearing open a few hull breaches. Seawolf ignored the alarms that started blaring and flew up underneath the battle platform to fire on the DragonSlayer from cover.
“What did you do that for?!?!?” screamed Mark Brown. He raised his Pen of Narration, preparing to erase Mason entirely for his horrific crime.
Mason ignored him, typing away at his keyboard. Mark found, much to his horror, that his Pen didn't work on Mason, since he had been a Narrator himself once. “Resume your station,” said Mason.
“All will be revealed soon.” Mason loved that line; it made him sound like Zeus. “Resume your station.”
Mark Brown realized that somehow none of his Narrator powers could affect Mason or anything within the ship, nor could he leave it. He was a prisoner inside the DragonSlayer. Being a sensible Narrator, he decided to play along.
He resumed his station.
Several RoboZerg fell on top of Tarun from a ledge and began slashing and biting at the Zealot. A moment later they all went flying in several directions and Tarun stood, roaring, his arms out to his sides and held above his head. He then went to putting the RoboZerg out of commission and continued hacking and slashing through all his enemies to the lake. As he pulled his arm back to cleave a marine in two, the enemy dropped to his knees, gurgling, and collapsed. Standing behind the now dead marine was Aklan, smiling at Tarun.
He quickly moved close to her and embraced her in a loving, worried hug. “I thought they had gotten to you...” he said on the verge of tears. Aklan returned the hug just as lovingly and said, “No, they didn’t. And they never could, not with a guy like you willing to put it all on the line for me.”
She pulled away slightly and smiled at him. “Come on, let’s go kill shit.”
Tarun nodded, getting that bloodthirsty, vengeful look in his eyes and together they turned and charged back towards Nova, Odin, and Ixyon.
The three were handling themselves quiet well, despite complications.
Ixyon had ran out of ammo for both his weapons and only had a few knives left and was quickly finding them not too useful since all the marines and firebats got smart and put their face plates down.
A hand grabbed Ixyon’s shoulder and he started, spinning around to drive the knife into whoever it was. A large, strong hand caught his wrist before the blade connected. As Ixyon looked up he saw it was Odin. “Good thing for you I caught your wrist,” he said and chuckled, handing Ixxie his Psi blades. “These work better than knives. Take ‘em.” Ixyon nodded and stabbed them on then flipped the switch, two aquamarine blades sparking to life and humming. He looked at Odin and grinned.
Odin nodded back and hefted Hrungnir, and they charged over to where Nova was and found they weren’t needed as Tarun and Aklan had already arrived and killed the last of the RoboZerg, marines, and firebats. Odin looked to Ixxie and Ix looked to Odin and together they shrugged and walked over to the three.
Nova pulled the bloody blades from two separate bodies and looked to the rest. “Come on! The battle is far from over, and we have to win it!”, with that Nova was off, charging forwards, Tarun and Aklan followed close behind, and trailing in the back were Ixyon and Odin.
The PosseMobile, now with two people inside, made its’ way across the battlefield, shooting all the way. Spooky had insisted on driving, as females tend to do, but Mack was all-too-happy to oblige this, considering he’d rather shoot all of the guns than worry about dodging things like mines and projectiles.
Men and Zerg alike came to oppose the surging vehicle, and men and Zerg alike were gunned down and left strewn about in its’ wake. As they came about, they tried to find ways to aid their allies, few and far between, who were across the battlefield, but could find none. Neither thought any were dead, but they knew that their friends would probably not be easily found.
Naturally that presumption was proven false within five seconds, as an arbiter came screeching to a halt right above their heads.
Mack spun a turret around to blast it out of the sky when Spooky frantically shouted, “No, wait, that’s the Judicator!”
“Oh,” Mack replied. “See, I knew that.”
“Sure you did, Mackie, sure you did.”
“Hey, I really d—”
Endarire interrupted the bickering before it started. “Not t’ be rude, but got space? I’ve just been locked down.”
“Hop in, mi amigo. Let’s kick this pig,” Mack declared.
“An’ leave ‘em squealin’ from the feelin’,” Endarire put in.
“Squeakin’ from the freakin’,” continued Spooky.
“Oinkin’ from the boinkin’,” Mack finished, then paused dramatically. “Uh, guys?”
“Let’s never quote from Down Periscope, ever again.”
The three laughed nervously, then popped the hatch and let the poet drop right in.
Deos Arcana continued the work of death among the Bad Guy infantry. Marines and firebats fired almost at random trying to hit him, doing more damage to each other than to the assistant Narrator. Suddenly he heard the sound of a large motor approaching, louder than a vulture but not as loud as a Siege Tank. Several marines in front of him exploded into death animations, and the PosseMobile drove up, its autocannons and grenade launchers firing in all directions.
One of the rear doors opened and Mack called out, “Deos, jump in!” Mack was looking at Deos's displaced image, and watched, perplexed, as it ran in front of the PosseMobile and leaped upwards. Then suddenly the true Deos Arcana appeared in one of rear seats PosseMobile.
“How did you do that?” Mack shut the door quickly and manned the controls again.
“I am the Master of Illusion, Delusion, and All-Around Confusion. How do you think I lasted that long alone against the Bad Guys?”
“Good point,” Spooky said. “Why are you here, anyway? I thought you Narrator people were staying out of the Real World.”
“Mark and I came back with Mason to finish the Saga.”
Mack blinked. “He's with Mason!?” He pushed the thumb triggers on the steering wheel, blasting a swath through the Bad Guy troops.
“Yes. In the DragonSlayer. Why?”
“Don't you know? Mason's with the Bad Guys.”
Dark_T_Zeratul found himself unable to breathe. At least, he did until he raised his head from the ground and spit out a mouthful of dirt.
He wasn’t sure how long he’d been out, and wasn’t immediately sure what he was doing here and why he was so stiff and sore. A short distance away, he saw a massive battle going on, with soldiers shooting on the ground and ships shooting in the air. He remembered that he had been part of it before ending up here.... He closed his eyes and angrily shook his head, trying to clear it.
As he opened his eyes once more, he realized he was under a large shadow that he hadn’t been when his eyes had shut. Something told him that was bad, and as he rolled over and looked up at the source, he remembered why, as well as what had happened to get him here.
Standing no more than a hundred feet away and looking down with a low, menacing growl was a RoboLeviathan.
Zeratul scrambled to his feet, reaching for his DarkScythe before remembering that he didn’t have it. Cursing, he ignited his warp blades. Normally comforting in their length and power, the blades seemed pitifully small compared to the behemoth before him.
Before Zeratul even had time to think, the Leviathan attacked. With an unearthly roar, it rushed forward and swung a long, spindly leg at its enemy.
Zeratul gave a shout and tried to dodge, and though he avoided being gored by the pointed foot, he was still clobbered and knocked off his feet. Without any chance to recover, he was thrown the other direction as another leg sideswiped him. He blindly swung with his blades, but hit nothing as a third leg came in, this one slashing his shoulder and sending him airborne to crash back down to earth several feet away.
Dazed, Zeratul somehow staggered back to his feet, looking up as the Leviathan roared once more, its mandibles under its saucer-like body opening to reveal a circular set of razor-sharp teeth. Even as he watched, it began to form some type of yellow-greenish slime around its mouth. He realized what was coming, and tried to dive back but was too slow. The Leviathan spit a large glob of the acid at him, and he was knocked to the ground. He felt as though his body was burning, the pain was so intense. He couldn’t move, couldn’t breath, couldn’t think, save that this was the end.
He looked up one more time, seeing the RoboLeviathan preparing to let loose a final acidic blast, the fluid dripping from its jaws....
“Shirak!” he heard from off to his left. The voice was very familiar...and as he watched, the Leviathan was struck from the voice’s direction by a cluster of bluish balls of energy. Those were familiar, too.
He rolled onto his side, trying his best to ignore the pain, and saw Bakjak standing with the Staff of Magius outstretched towards the Leviathan. His back was wet, and the slash across his robes answered the question as to why. His arm was clearly bleeding again, too, and Bakjak didn’t look extremely stable on his feet. But he was obviously stable enough...he thrust the staff out at the beast before him and loosed another magical blast. This time, the Leviathan responded with a loud, hateful snarl.
Pain. Intense, unbelievable pain. Bakjak was doing his very best to block it out, but his back was screaming in protest at his standing, and his arm was no better for the banging it had taken from that charging Torrasque either, the blow reopening the wound he’d suffered early in the battle. Only with the support of the Staff of Magius’ power was he able to get to his feet and face the Leviathan when he saw Zeratul fall. His powers had returned to him in full, perhaps even fuller than before. The staff was once again virtually an extension of its master.
And now, as the Leviathan turned away from Zeratul to face him, Bakjak realized that he would have to use it as never before if either he or Zeratul were going to survive.
He began channeling his energy....
Zeratul watched in grim fascination as the Leviathan turned to fully face Bakjak. He had been spared...the mechanical monstrosity was now completely ignoring Zeratul and focused on the man that had hurt it.
Seconds later, it loosed an acidic shot at Bakjak, and Zeratul mentally winced as he saw it about to hit the robed figure. But he was amazed as Bakjak let loose his own blast which hit the acid and caused it to dissipate in the air harmlessly.
The Leviathan was clearly outraged. It tried again with the same results, and then bellowed loudly and swung with one of its legs....
Bakjak saw the leg coming in, and focused his energy. Time seemed to slow down for a moment, and he was able to backpedal in time, the leg slashing the air only inches in front of him. Another leg came in, and he ducked under it. Then another, and then a fourth, both of which he was able to dodge before he felt his power slipping and time sped back up to normal.
But the creature did not try again...the damage was done. The Leviathan stood still, just staring down with hate at Bakjak, the man it could not seem to harm.
Bakjak’s heart sunk as he saw the Leviathan turn away...back towards Zeratul. That wasn’t supposed to happen; he was supposed to be keeping the beast’s attention.
Chanting quietly, Bakjak closed his eyes and began to gather all his remaining energy.
Zeratul tried to get to his feet, but didn’t quite make it. His body still burned with the acid, and his legs seemed to have no strength. So he crawled backwards, trying to escape the upcoming assault as the Leviathan abandoned its attack on Bakjak and turned back to him.
He knew it was in vain even as he crawled...the shadow all around him stayed in place as the RoboLeviathan easily matched his slow pace. He could feel the creature’s steps shake the ground, hear it rumbling with anger, smell the slime he knew would soon be upon him.
For the first time he could remember, Zeratul was completely helpless in the face of a foe he couldn’t defeat, and the thought terrified him.
Hearing a loud noise and interpreting it as the behemoth finally delivering the death blow, he spun around and raised his blades, ready to at least go down fighting.
But the Leviathan was no longer looking at him, and the noise was not coming from it either.
For the second time, Zeratul found himself looking over at Bakjak, and he was once again awed at what he saw.
Bakjak was literally glowing. It almost looked like plasma shields surrounding his body, only much more intense. His eyes were closed and he was holding the Staff of Magius in both hands, chanting something Zeratul could not hear.
The Leviathan apparently had enough intellect to know that this meant trouble, and it roared menacingly and spit acid at its glowing opponent. Bakjak made no moves to deflect it, but it didn’t seem to harm him, splashing against the energy field around him and hissing loudly before becoming a puff of greenish smoke. Again and again the Leviathan spit at him, seeming to exhaust its own energy trying to harm its foe.
Finally, it shrieked loudly and hatefully, raising up two legs to bring down on the man that refused to die.
It was then that Bakjak let loose his assault.
With a loud shout of his own, he opened his eyes and raised his staff above his head. The energy that surrounded him suddenly gathered into a massive glowing orb before him, hovering as it got bigger and bigger for several seconds. The Leviathan hesitated, keeping its limbs in the air but just watching, as is frozen in place. But then its whole body shook as it bellowed defiantly, finally bringing its legs down.
At that same instant, Bakjak cried out in some arcane tongue and stabbed his staff forward as if to strike the Leviathan. The now massive ball of energy shot forth, catching both descending legs and simply dissolving them. But the creature did not even have time to cry out before the orb continued onward, slamming with great force into its main body and punching a hole all the way through it. This also seemed to create some kind of feedback which sent a flash of blue light back along the path the energy had flown, hitting Bakjak and causing him to crumple to the ground, the Staff of Magius falling to the ground beside him.
The RoboLeviathan did not move for several long seconds. It stood there looking as stunned as a faceless creature could, flames burning around the fatal wound it had suffered and slowly beginning to engulf the body that remained. As the synthetic skin began to burn away, the creature finally let out a long, low cry, as though wondering how this could have happened. It then seemed to falter, stumbling back a step, and Zeratul scrambled back, sensing the creature was about to come down on him. It did not right away, but stepped the other direction and overcorrected, unable to balance with its missing limbs and toppling forward into the ground with a massive crash.
Zeratul rose on his unsteady legs, waiting a few seconds for their strength to return. They tingled more than burned now, like they had been asleep for a long time.
When he felt he could, he made his way to the Leviathan, spotting his DarkScythe on the way and making a short detour to retrieve it.
Then he made it to the mechanical creature itself, and he came around to the front which had plowed into the dirt.
The large dark eye on the front was still open, and turned very slowly to face him as he approached. The giant robot rumbled low, but it seemed to be more a moan of defeat than any type of menacing growl.
Zeratul walked right up to the eye, looking the creature face-to-sorta-face. The eye dimmed for a moment, but then seemed to light up again and refocus on Zeratul. The Leviathan once again moaned, and began to move slightly. That was enough.
“You have been officially WASTEd,” he said, then drove his scythe up to the handle in the RoboLeviathan’s eye. It didn’t stir or make any sound, save for the sparking that came from the eye as it dimmed out. “Have a nice day,” Zeratul finished, then pulled the DarkScythe out and started towards Bakjak.
Bolstered by a second gunner, the PosseMobile continued to surge across the battlefield, slowly gathering an escort of various troops allied with the Good Guys. One of the first they found was Mat-Def, gunning away at a pack of Zerg who had surrounded him. These were quickly slaughtered, and Mat-Def, realizing that when they were outnumbered so badly, safety would definitely come in numbers.
Others were around, too. Flare, desperately trying to reload more fuel into his flamethrowers, was all too happy to see the PosseMobile and the Mad Cat roll up. Fenrir, too, his arm tired from swinging the Bashing Bat, fought his way towards the others as soon as he saw them and continued along the side of them.
All of the assembled Good Guys could tell from their radar that the only remaining hero that was not alongside of them was Lucainan. And his kitties, of course. Or at least the surviving ones.
“Were you going to bail me out or just sit there all day?” asked the kitty-loving WASTE member.
“Only because you asked, Luc,” Spooky shot back with a grin. “Move to point oh-six, we’ll cover for you.”
“Negative, negative. My kitties have taken casualties, and I will NOT leave any behind.”
In the PosseMobile, Spooky turned her head around to look at Mack and End. Both nodded, and she shrugged.
“Okay, then. You might want to duck,” she said nonchalantly, right before the two people in the PosseMobile gunner chairs opened up with a full barrage of projectile weapon fire. From the flanks, the Mad Cat took a few shots, too, and Flare and Fenrir rushed forward after the chaos to finish off the few stragglers. A makeshift infirmary was fashioned from one of the other spaces inside the PosseMobile, and Lucainan took care of his kitties while occasionally manning some more of the guns on the Mobile.
Behind the Good Guys lay a veritable sea of charred RoboZerg parts, spent ammo cartridges, blast craters, and all of the other telltale signs of an epic Saga-ending battle.
Yet behind them was also an army of RoboZerg, preparing for one final charge into the Good Guy ranks, hoping to take some of them out in dying, if not coming out victorious.
Mack had never considered himself much of a strategist, but for some reason there was one thing that was sticking with him. He seemed to recall hearing someone once tell him that to emerge victorious in a battle, one must fight his enemy at a time and place that he chooses, attacking from a direction his enemy does not expect, on ground that his enemy does not expect to have to defend.
Or, in this case, a straight out charge, right then, at that very second.
The words came out, words that he had never spoken before, words that none but Spooky understood. “Los! Los shen’al’Vancouver! Los muad’drin! Los!” Translated, “Forward! Forward the VSP! Forward, foot soldiers! Forward!”
Fortunately, Spooky was familiar with it, and she gunned the PosseMobile forward at full speed. The other Good Guys could pick up the meaning of the words from that alone. Projectiles lit up the sky as the sun began to set once more.
The RoboZerg were caught almost completely off guard by this maneuver. The shells that began exploding in their midst did not help at all. Then to make matters worse for them, Tarun, Nova, and their little group rushed in from behind and began slashing and shooting through their ranks.
The PosseMobile’s doors flew open even as it crushed RoboZerg underneath it, and Mack leapt out and began torching RoboZerg at close range. Flare joined him, their combined heat destroying anything in its’ path. A few of the Zerg tried to get into the now-open hatch but were quickly crushed by Fenrir’s Bashing Bat™ and slashed apart as Deos leapt from the vehicle as well. The melee was fast and the melee was furious, but the Good Guys struck with such speed and precision from seemingly add sides that the enemy had never had a chance to fight back. Though the Good Guys were badly outnumbered, it did not matter to them, though they did have to wait longer for the onslaught to end.
Minutes later, Flare tapped Mack on the shoulder. The Posse’s firebat looked around and realized that the last of the Zerg had finally been brought down. He slumped back up against the PosseMobile and looked up to the sky.
Seeing Seawolf distracted by his vendetta against Mason, Kurt Broker moved the Temujin towards the Hyperion. Broker’s ship was heavily damaged, and most of the bridge crew had been killed by the last attack from the PossePlane. All, ironically, except Lt. And Major Asswhole. Broker had, naturally, promptly shot them and taken control of the ship.
The good news was that the Hyperion was also seriously damaged, and Broker had the firepower to eliminate it once and for all. He pressed the big red button labeled CHARGE YAMATO GUN. He noticed, to his satisfaction, that the DragonSlayer was coming up behind him and charging its Y-gun as well.
Broker smiled. There was no way that the Hyperion could survive both blasts.
Suddenly his comm crackled to life. “Hey Broker,” Mason asked, “How’s your hemorrhoids?” Broker’s face showed confusion only a second before he was thrown forward as the Temujin was rocked by a massive impact.
The DragonSlayer’s Yamato blast tore into the Temujin with lethal fury. The impact rocked the ship, turning it slightly at the last moment, right before it loosed its own Yamato blast. With its aim spoiled, the nuclear energy blast drilled into the ConFed Battle Platform. The platform, which had just finished recharging its weapon, fired on the Temujin reflexively, blowing both nacelles off the evil flagship and leaving the rest in little better condition.
Seawolf stared at the screen, trying to figure out what had just happened. The Temujin had been on the verge of delivering the deathblow when it had jumped forward, as if struck from behind. It had then turned a bit, likely from whatever had hit it, and fired on the platform, which then fired back. Now Broker’s mighty ship hung in the air, flames still coming from its side.
Seawolf watched in further awe as the DragonSlayer appeared from behind the Temujin. He was so confused that he didn’t notice the comm beeping until Phoenix informed him of it.
The pain before was gone. In its place was a kind of surreal tranquility.
Bakjak smiled a little. He had fallen as he had always secretly hoped...in battle. He had done so saving a man he had come to respect, one that he knew would continue to lead his new allies—and friends? yes, friends—long after he had been remembered and laid to rest.
He looked up to see what could be described as one of the most beautiful skies he had ever seen. The sun was starting to set, and the sky was a brilliant orange with flecks of lingering blue and some purplish stripes where the heavens met the earth. He smiled again. So this was how it ended....
And then there he was, Death himself.
The robed figure came in from off to his side, looking down with his scythe over his shoulder. Bakjak couldn’t see his face, but that made sense.
“Come to take me, have you?” Bakjak asked sardonically. “Well here I am...come and get me. I’ve run long enough...do your worst.”
Death shook his head. “You must have gotten hit harder than I thought.”
Bakjak was confused. That voice sounded familiar, but in his state he couldn’t place it. He smiled stupidly one more time, and then his head slumped back as he slipped into unconsciousness.
Dark_T_Zeratul shook his head, folded up his scythe and clipped it back to his side, and then hoisted Bakjak over his shoulder and headed towards VSP HQ.
The face on the screen was an enemy; Seawolf knew that. Yet what it said rang of the friend he had had until recently.
“Hi guys. What's up?”
Seawolf responded with a close-range laser blast right at the DragonSlayer’s bridge.
The screen fuzzed out for a second, then came back with Mason frowning. “What're you doing?”
“Giving you just what you deserve, murderer,” said Seawolf. He fired again, and on the screen the Slayer’s bridge rocked from the impact.
“Murderer?” asked Mason, sounding confused. “Oh yeah, that. Hang on a sec.” He walked off-screen, and it was only out of morbid curiosity that Seawolf held his fire.
Then Mason reappeared with Jenni at his side.
“See?” said Jenni with a dazzlingly beautiful smile. “Told you he wouldn't really turn on us.”
“There is nothing to fear, Seawolf,” said a new voice. Its bearer walked into view, and there was an audible gasp from the foursome on the Hyperion.
“Perhaps you’d like to hear Mason’s explanation?” Mark Brown said with a smile. “It’s really quite a clever little plan.”
“...so I needed to get her out of the way before the Bad Guys did. I used the Yamato blast as cover so Broker wouldn't notice me beaming her to the DragonSlayer just before the bolt hit her position.”
“I just got one question,” said Orange. “Why'd you pretend to turn traitor on us without letting us in on the plan? Any of us would have killed you in half a second after you shot Jenni.”
“That's what I was counting on. If you showed any indication that you were still my friends, my cover would have been blown, and they'd have surely killed me.”
Seawolf had no idea what to say. In a matter of hours, Mason had gone from lost friend to lethal enemy to frustrated ex-friend to murderer to good friend who had saved his life. So he said what seemed natural: “My head hurts.”
On the viewscreen, Mason smiled, then quickly turned serious. “Look, I’m sorry about what happened. I didn’t have complete control over it, but I still—”
“Yes, I heard. Mark just told me, remember?” Seawolf paused and shook his head a little, looking down at the floor. “I need to think about this a little.”
“While you’re thinkin’,” Typhoon interrupted, “maybe we oughta help them out.”
He pointed to a second screen that showed pips representing the PossePlane and the Millennium Falcon moving towards a huge red blip...the Confed Battle Platform.
Seawolf nodded thoughtfully. “Right. Okay, you want to help prove yourself, Mason, then follow me.” He shut off the viewscreen and switched it back to an outside view, where it showed the two Good Guy ships pecking away at the platform, looking quite pitiful in comparison. Missiles and plasma blasts from the ground were slamming into the platform from underneath, but the only real damage showing on the massive weapon was the earlier Yamato blast on its turret.
To help even the odds a bit, Codebreaker was playing it safe by coming up underneath the battle platform to attack, staying away from that turret, which would be quite unpleasant to encounter up close.
The last battlecruiser had been a pushover with the two Good Guy ships not having to worry about other ships firing on them. With some well-placed missile blasts, the ‘Plane and the Falcon had taken it down surprisingly fast.
This would not be fast, he could tell.
“MG. Pull up whatever we have on this thing.”
MysteriousGuy tapped some commands on his board. “And I’m looking for...?”
“Weak points, power sources, hull stats...anything.”
There wasn’t much. The armor was thick all around, and the main reactor core was deep inside the platform.
Codebreaker looked over the layouts while MG fired on the floating construct. There had to be something.
A voice crackled over the intercom. “Hey guys, how’s it going?”
Codebreaker kept his eyes on the screen while he replied. “Frankly, Seawolf, I don’t know how we can even dent this thing. Any ideas?”
“I was able to do some damage earlier,” the other came back, “but that was with my Yamato. And it needs to charge some more. But Mason and I are on our way in.”
A pause. “I think there’s a long explanation in store later, but yeah.”
Codebreaker nodded slowly and his mind went back to the task at hand. A Yamato had only been able to warp one of the weaker parts of the platform, and as long as Yamatos took to charge.... ‘This is going to be a LONG fight.’
Then, as they typically do at such times (in this story, anyway), it hit him. He didn’t care how the idea got into the cockpit, he was just glad it did.
The reactor. It was tucked deep inside the battle platform. But he knew from the specs in front of him that the reactor was air-cooled, and huge. So it had to be receiving that air from someplace, probably some kind of....
There it was. He zoomed in the view on the screen and saw just what he was hoping to find: the fatal flaw.
And it was quite familiar, he realized with a smile. This would actually be fun.
“‘Plane to Hyperion and Falcon,” he called into his comm. “Listen up. I’ve got an idea.”
“What the hell happened here?!” Auspex shouted.
“Looks like they lost,” Zeus said, his voice low with anger and grief.
“That...that can’t be,” Auspex replied. “They must...they....”
“Wait a second,” Desler said. “Look at that.”
At the burned-out entrance of Auspex Studios, there was a patch of soft dirt. And in that dirt was some kind of strange scratching.
The group walked over to read it.
“V S P...” Desler started.
...“H Q,” Auspex finished.
They all looked at each other. “VSP HQ!”
“Hot damn,” Zeus said. “Now we just need to get there.”
With the Hyperion and the DragonSlayer keeping the Confed Battle Platform distracted, the PossePlane and Millennium Falcon flew along its underside.
“Where is it...where is it....” Flyspeck was saying over the intercom.
“There!” Codebreaker shouted. “I see it...follow me!”
The ‘Plane banked to the right and flew right at a hole on the platform’s belly, the Falcon right on its heals.
The hole was an exhaust port, which expelled hot air from the reactor core. On the other side of the platform was an intake port which fed it cool air.
“Use the force, Specks,” MysteriousGuy joked over the comm.
“I’m just glad we don’t have TIEs on our tail or anything,” Flyspeck came back.
The two ships entered the tunnel, and only the Falcon’s headlamps kept them from being plunged into darkness.
But the further they went, the less the lamps were needed. There was something shedding a great deal of light up ahead.
“Okay, we may only get one shot at this,” CB said. “This thing is huge, so we both have to hit it. If we miss, they may close off the ports to keep us from trying again. You ready, Nemesis?”
“You bet,” the young Posse member came back.
“Here it comes,” Flyspeck said.
Codebreaker looked out his viewscreen and saw the tunnel opening up ahead. MG tightened his hands on his controls...
...and then, very suddenly, they were in a massive chamber. The reactor, even larger than CB had assumed, loomed in front of them.
Without a second thought, MysteriousGuy fired, a volley of missiles streaking forth. They were joined by a pair from the Falcon, then a second pair.
They did not all hit at once, and they did not hit with extremely dramatic explosions, but they definitely did their job.
As the two ships flew past, the reactor began to rumble loudly. As they entered the intake port on the other side, it exploded.
The Falcon, the faster of the two ships, was farther ahead than the two VSPers. It roared out of the tunnel, backlit by the setting sun.
The PossePlane had flames licking at its engines. CB tried to will it to go faster as the explosion overcame them, and they saw fire creeping around the edges of the screen. A red light began flashing as the ship’s hull began to overheat.
But they could see something else ahead of them...the purple-orange mix sunset. The sky.
And then, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, the PossePlane exploded from the tunnel, leaving the flames behind as it rose into the sky.
“Yaaaaaaahoooooooo!!” MysteriousGuy shouted.
Codebreaker was grinning from ear to ear as he spotted the Millennium Falcon coming back to join them.
“How was that for a role reversal, eh?” CB called to Flyspeck.
Nervous, but relieved, laughter came back to him from the WASTEr.
“Well,” Seawolf said, watching flames come from the top and bottom of the platform, “I love a happy ending.”
Almost as soon as he was done speaking, an alarm went off.
“What’s that?” Orange asked.
“It’s a...oh crap!” Seawolf slapped the intercom on. “Mason, look out!”
Through the flames, the Confed Battle Platform’s gun came about, pointing squarely at the DragonSlayer.
There was no way to stop it. No chance to recall, or for the ‘Slayer to roll, or for anyone to block it. Nothing.
And in that moment, Seawolf remembered nothing of Mason except his friendship. He didn’t care about what else had happened. Mason was here, now, and that was all that mattered.
And as Seawolf watched, the cannon charged and...nothing happened.
There was a collective sigh of relief on the Hyperion’s bridge.
“That was no fun,” Mason’s voice called over the comm.
“Hey, man,” Seawolf said. “I got some fresh underwear over here if...you know, you happen to need some.”
“Only one pair?” Mark Brown asked.
This wasn’t happening. This could not be happening. How could these...these COMPUTER GEEKS have defeated him?!
Broker had never been this angry in his entire life. His ship was destroyed. Main power was down, and he had no control over anything. He had no idea how it was even still aloft with half of the aft portion blown away.
“How’s your hemorrhoids?” he said angrily and with great sarcasm. “That traitorous, cocky son of a—”
“You still there, Broker?” a crackly voice said.
‘How ironic that the intercom worked,’ Broker thought. He punched the transmit key. “I have nothing to say to you, Wheeler. Just destroy my ship and be done with it, you little—”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Mason replied. “Sorry, but no. I have a better idea.”
A new voice followed that. “Hello, Broker.”
Kurt Broker punched the comm, sending sparks flying.
“I think he’s mad at you,” Zeus said with a smile.
“Good,” Auspex said. “Too bad he won’t remember it.”
The TACs and Desler had found one of TGF’s trashed arbiters outside Auspex Studios. It couldn’t fly, of course, but using their creative talents, they had modified enough for a one-way reverse recall to VSP HQ.
And Auspex had brought his patch with him.
“So long, Broker,” he said quietly, activating it.
With no fanfare whatsoever, a warp rift appeared, sucked in the mangled Temujin, and blinked out.
Desler borrowed the PDA and did the same with the Confed Battle Platform, sending it back to the LotC Universe.
And just that quickly and anti-climatically, it was over.
“Where’s TGF?” Phoenix suddenly realized.
With a start, Seawolf jumped out of his chair and looked around. The Bad Guy was gone.
“I took care of that,” Mark Brown explained. “He’s in the Land Of The Banned, right where he belongs.”
“Why didn’t you do that before?” Typhoon asked.
“Because I couldn’t.” Mark paused. “It’s a Narrator thing. Trust me.”
“Then why could you now?” Phoenix asked.
“What would you have done with him?”
“Thrown in prison or something,” Seawolf said. “Or worse.”
The smile was evident in Mark’s voice. “Then just consider this the ultimate prison. That’s why I could do it now.”
“Good enough,” Phoenix said.
Seawolf frowned a little. He would have preferred to do it personally, but somehow he figured he may yet have his chance at some point. He almost hoped for it. Almost.
“Hey,” Mack Kilimaro asked over the intercom. “Everybody alright up there?”
“Better than that,” CB said. “Can I say it now?”
Mark laughed. “Please.”
Codebreaker cleared his throat dramatically, and everyone could picture him punching his fist into the air. “VICTORY!!”