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Jace knocked on the door. A voice spoke on the other side. "Yes, please come in."

Jace opened the door and entered the office. Ray, Glenn, and Ashe filtered in behind him. Ray spoke up. "You requested our presence, sir?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Err... Mr. Jasra."

"Haha. I suppose that will do. But there is no need to fear using my name. Anyway, I hope all is well with you all?"

There were nods and "Yes sir"s.

Shadus leaned back in his chair and laughed. "Seriously. No need for the 'sir'. But that aside, I heard your previous mission was a success. I also heard about your incident, Ray. I am glad to see you're unharmed. I'm unsure how you lived through that. But regardless I wasn't there, so I don't know exactly what happened. But before I rant on, do any of you know why you are here?"

"I'm afraid not." Glenn said, shaking his head. "But I'm assuming it's for disciplinary reasons."

Shadus flicked his wrists. "Oh pish posh. You aren't in any trouble. I've requested that you perform some special assignments. Let us say, confidential tasks that I need truly skilled operatives to perform."

Ray and Glenn exchanged glances. Ashe raised an eyebrow. Jace scratched his head and replied.

"But we are only a recent unit. Surely there are other units WAY more capable than we are."

"True. But as a team, you may possess the greatest potential of any other unit I could have picked out."

Ashe kept her eyebrow raised. "Greatest potential? How do you figure that?"

"To start, I do so apologize for your lack of ability, Ray."

He shrugged. "It doesn't really bother me. As long as I can pull the trigger and swing my blade, I have all the ability I need."

"I see. But to prove my point, I've looked through every unit's paperwork and records. Of all the units on this base, Unit AE-Z is the only one who has all different power types in one team. An Arcanite, an Enhancer, and Medic all rolled into one team. Other units lack this combination. They all have two or more of something."

Glenn folded his arms. "...what kind of special tasks?"

Ray set his fork down. "So if I heard that correctly last night, we have to go retrieve some artifacts from hostile marked areas...crawling with aliens?"

Jace fiddled with his fork as usual. He dropped it when he received a glare from Ashe. "That about sums it up. Our first one takes place at the Valkyrie Space Station. It was deserted when it got infested with those creepy things."

"But I don't recall there ever being some treasure or old precursor crap on display. Why would it be there?" Ray asked him.

"Legends say that when the station was constructed, there was some old looking vault where it is now. It can't be opened. More than likely Shadus wants what's in there." Jace responded.

"But why does he want what could be in there? Is he a jewel hoarder?"

Glenn huffed. "As usual Ray, when you fail to pay attention you miss things. Shadus said and even provided written evidence saying that records indicate the most hostile areas possibly contain these old artifacts. His concern is that the Aparus are after what may lie there. Shadus thinks if they are after it, it must be too important to ignore."

"Ah. But what still confuses me is...we may have the most 'unique' team up here, but we lack a lot of experience compared to some of the other veteran units. Why send us on high level missions so suddenly?"

Glenn began a rhythmic tap on the table. "That part still worries me. I really can't say why. Maybe the military knows something about ourselves that even we don't."

"Hmmm." Ashe sighed as she propped her elbow on the table, "Perhaps it's a business thing. Shadus seems nice and all, but if we fail, the military isn't losing their better operatives. We may just be an independent variable to determine how difficult retrieving some old junk is."

Glenn nodded. "That is a good point. I hope that failure isn't something we have to face..."

"Well I'm done here. I'll catch you boys around." She got up and left. Ray and Jace followed suit.

"We're hitting the weights in an hour or so. Care to join, Glenn?"

"No thanks. I need to do something else. Maybe later."

Only a mere fifteen minutes had passed since Ray and Jace left the compartment. Glenn was sharpening his blades when a Chief Petty Officer walked in. Glenn hastily stood and saluted.

"Good morning, Chief. Seaman Venture, Division AE-Z awaiting further instruction, Chief."

The Chief returned his salute. "As you were, Venture."

Glenn dropped his salute and stood at ease.

"Just thought I'd drop by to let you know you won't be in the field for a couple days."

Glenn looked puzzled. "I respectfully request reasons, Chief."

"Your navigator will be in the brig for two days. You also have another one of your members *LLD in the infirmary." The Chief saluted. Glenn went to attention and mimicked him, and then both dropped their salutes. The Chief turned and left.

Glenn gave it a moment and burst out of the compartment and whispered to himself, "If Ashe didn't kill that idiot, I'll do it myself!"

A cloaked figure walked through the fog. Two guards parted from the doors they stood in front of, and he entered. When he reached a large room, he met with another man. The cloaked figure spoke from under his hood.

"I take it all is well?"

The other man answered. "Yes. Everything is going as scheduled. But what about the 'secret ingredients' you spoke of?"

"Yes. I believe we have located them. You needn't worry about that."

"But...what of the main military? Didn't you mention that they have made a decision to collect them themselves?"

"Indeed. We must gain their attention with a distraction."

"What kind of distraction? An assassination?"

"I have already tried that myself. But I do not believe one single act will gain their attention alone."

"I see. But regardless, with your laboratory now nothing but scrap, and your 'project' on the loose, what do you plan to do then, exactly?"

"Yes, that is most unfortunate. I have lost much of my work. But no matter. May I see your progress?"

The man led the cloaked figure though a series of hallways and brought him to a large acrylic screen. It overlooked the inside of a large factory. Many robotic arms were assembling humanoid figures. And fitting them with armor and weapons.

"This is what you have had us working on. As you can see, we are mass-producing as many of these drones as possible with the resources we have available."

"Good, very good. And have you fitted then with the new chips I have developed?

"It has been done. We have also tested and confirmed this new capability. But I fear we may not be the only one with this technology."

"And, tell me...exactly what you mean by that?"

"He came back. And he managed to take one of the chips before we ran him out."

"He...? You mean that flea-bitten man who continues to cause our production problems?"


"Grrrr. He may be a nuisance, but he is also essential to us. He has one of our...'ingredients'...arguably the most important. See to it you manage to nab him. Alive if possible."

"Understood. But back to my original question...what do you plan to do concerning our military problem?"

"This is where you and our work will come in. We must raise an army to oppose the military. When we have their full attention, we move in."

"Move in? And you mentioned that we were going to get rid of their highest commanding officer, right?"

"No. Not just any officer. Their Director."

  • LLD- Light Limited Duty
  • FFD- Fit for Full Duty
  • Aparus- The technical name for the aliens.

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