Ashe sat in the pilot's seat with her head hung. The controls were set to auto-pilot. Ray sat in the opposite seat across from her. His feet were propped on the dash. He was deep in thought. Glenn stood up toward the aft portion of the cabin. He stared outside of the ship. Jace sat and fidgeted with the chip Canis had given Ray, wondering what it was for. All he knew was it was related to the drones they had stumbled across.
Not much longer, and they had arrived back at base.
"Anything to report? What did you find?" Shadus asked them as the four of then entered his office.
"A whole lot of trees, and a whole lot of aliens." Ray responded, boringly.
"I beg your pardon?" Shadus asked, rather confused.
Glenn spoke up next. "Nothing to report. Seems the outbreak was merely coincidence."
Jace attempted to bring up their findings concerning the drones, but Glenn cut him off.
"Nothing of interest. Except a bull trying to figure out how it had gotten stuck between two trees. We searched the entire perimeter."
Shadus didn't seem convinced at first. But he blinked and shook his head. "Odd. But anywho, here is where I'm wanting you to go next."
He pointed to an area on the holo-map that sprang up from his desk.
"This area you may recognize as the old Training Base. It hasn't been used since the simulators became the primary form of training, and was also abandoned completely after Aparus have inhabited the area. Currently, the military is working to repel the massive outbreak here. The brave souls fighting there are your brothers-in-arms, so I need you to aid them first. Once the action is settled down enough, I need you to break off to the secondary area here." He pointed to another place on the map. "There are very strong energy readings in this area. I'm assuming something is either being hidden, or waiting to be found here. If it's important, do NOT let them have it. For now, get some well-earned rest."
The next morning Ray, Glenn, Jace, and Ashe were already geared up when they went to morning chow. They only revisited the compartment to retrieve their weapons. After a quick gear prep, the unit bolted for the Mach Dragonfly and headed toward the Training Base, which only lay about seventy-three miles from the main base. As soon as they had taken off, Ashe hit the auto pilot and turned to face the others.
"We don't have much time, so I'll try to be as brief as possible. The Training Base was used prior to the Simulation courses we have now. Captured aliens were loosed in the arena for battlefield scenario preparation. Of course, enemies were weakened without making them completely different, like the teeth removed from speedlings to prevent their bites from doing any harm. But currently, it's turned into a REAL battlefield. Because it lies so close to the main military base, retaliation was in immediate order, and full-scale counterattacks have been initiated. So when we arrive, be prepared to move through inhospitable conditions and expect heavy gunfire."
And she was right; even from the furthest area of battle, solders could be seen running, shooting, and slashing. Ashe brought down the ship in a safe area behind the heat of the action. A lieutenant greeted them as they proceeded toward the forward command center.
"I see we've gotten more help. The majority of them are attacking from the *starboard side. What I need you to do is go *port side. There is an arena I need exterminated so we can focus on the main threat. Got it?"
The unit sprang immediately into action. Glenn walked in front, and led them around the port side of the battlefield. A small band of Aparus was in there way, however. A mutant speedling chomped at Glenn, but he jumped out of the way and countered with his blades. Jace fired a rocket toward a few more proceeding aliens and took them out. They found an entrance to the arena. When they entered they found a good handful of soldiers already fighting. The arena consisted of an overhead ledge that looked over the lower floor, where there were statues, most decapitated. Glenn rushed a panther that tackled another soldier. Jace stood up on the balcony, firing his R-700 or rockets. Ray weaved through the chaos, and had to stop to shoot down a couple of speedlings. He otherwise continued to try and find traces of secret or hidden passageways. Ashe unleashed fury from her Energy Glove, firing explosive energy in every direction. One panther managed to jump at her. She raised her arm in defense, and it wrapped its jaws around her weapon. She attempted to shake it off. It fought back, and managed to knock her over. Ashe rolled and kicked it off, losing the Glove in the process. The creature dropped it and rushed at her again. Ashe cursed to herself for leaving her White Drill at base, thinking she wouldn't have needed it. She couldn’t get around the panther and had no choice but to run and abandon her glove. Even with the help of her F.L.O.A.T. boost she couldn’t quite shake it. She needed a weapon fast. Anything would do. A stick, a lead pipe. She was cornered before she could find anything useful. The panther crouched and sprang. Ashe prepared to intercept, but a blue projectile struck it in midair and it fell to the ground at Ashe's feet. She looked up.
"You ok there?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks…Ray."
"I figured you'd be needing this." Ray tossed her Energy Glove back to her.
"Kitty ripped it off my arm."
"Well it’s a good thing kitty didn't rip your whole arm off. C'mon, let's go!"
Ray ran in front, shooting anything in front of him. Ashe trailed behind him. A few soldiers thanked them for saving their lives.
"Oh, COME ON!" Ray shouted.
A bull strolled from a large hole on the starboard side wall. Just as Ray and Ashe held there weapons up, a chain of bullets struck the side of the beast, and it ceased to move. A voice called over the radio.
"I CALLED DIBS!"
Ray answered back. "Thanks Jace. Keep it up."
"Oh, I'm on a ROLL here!"
In the distance, Jace could be seen holding his golden machinegun. He waved it back and forth, sending a fan of bullets to every corner of the battlefield. How he managed to keep from hitting the other soldiers was a mystery. But within a minute the entire battlefield was wiped clean of Aparus. The four regrouped. There were a few casualties, but most of the soldiers in the area survived. The thanked Unit AE-Z for their help, and ran out of the arena toward the main bulk of battle. Only a few stayed behind to attend to the damage. As soon as the last soldier cleared out, Glenn motioned for them to follow.
"I think I've found it. Let's go."
They didn't notice until they arrived where Glenn led them, but two soldiers had tagged along.
"We appreciate the help, guys. We needed the back up." Said a man in Perseus. The other wore Cygni armor, resting an unusual RPG on his shoulder. It bore three barrels.
"Yeah. We would have been toast if you hadn't have showed up."
Glenn nodded. "Thank you, Corporal. Just doing my job."
"So where are all of you headed now? The heat is that way."
"We're on a private mission of our own."
"I see. For helping us out, we'll aid you."
Glenn raised an eyebrow, but didn't protest. He led them all through a narrow tunnel until they reached another open room. Ray pointed toward a pedestal similar to the one they saw in the Valkyrie Space Station.
The Perseus-clad man walked toward it. Jace called after him.
"Wait! That's raw mithril! Don't touch it!"
"Hey, I got this. And I don't take orders from Seamen." He approached the pedestal. A large mass dropped onto him. A scream was heard, and there was no other response.
The man in Cygni was horrified. "Thetus! You'll pay for that, you big orange lump!" He fired. Three rockets flew, one from each barrel. The monster jumped high in the air, and everyone scattered. As soon as it landed, it immediately charged toward the Corporal. Weighed down by his weapon, he couldn't move fast enough and was bowled into the wall.
Ray took to action and started firing. The beast flinched. It turned toward him and roared.
"That is one ugly crab!"
It began to advance toward Ray. Jace was already pelting it with his own bullets, but it didn't seem to care. Ashe released a charged blast from her Energy Glove. The large creature turned toward her and coughed up a large green blob in her direction. Poison. Immediately, the wings of her F.L.O.A.T. opened and bluish-green jets of flame spurted out. She floated backward out of the splash, and hovered harmlessly over the toxic substance. It hadn't realized yet that Glenn was standing close by its head. With his shotgun ready, he pulled the trigger. The monster angrily began to spew poison. Having a similar advantage, Glenn began to hover and gently flew over the poisoned-stained ground. When he backed out of range, the beast prepared itself to charge. It sped toward Glenn at a high rate of speed, despite its massive size. It knocked Ray and Jace over, but Glenn began to glow with a yellow aura and ran toward it as it ran toward him. At the last moment he hit the ground. As he slid underneath its belly, he buried Jericho into the soft undercarriage and passed from under it. The beast staggered a bit, but it only seemed to get even angrier.
"Damn! Lost my blade!"
Jace had resumed his fire when he'd gotten back to his feet. The agitated monster turned in his direction, obviously tired of the bullets. His weapon suddenly started to click very rapidly with nothing exiting the barrel.
"Lost your blade? Well I'm out of ammo!" He said, swappin’ weapons.
"I told you bullets are unreliable!" Glenn snapped back.
"Boys! Now is not the time to argue! Don't forget where we are!"
Ashe's warning got their attention and they began to think. Ray continued to fire normally.
Glenn drew his other blade and called out. "Someone get it to turn around!"
What Jace had done next was arguably either reckless and brave or just plain stupid. With his M-27B1 still in hand, he glowed with his own red aura and ran toward the monster. It might have just been confused by Jace's action, but it merely watched motionless as he proceeded toward it. When he got close enough, he bought his weapon overhead and slammed the barrel into its ugly face with obscene force. The beast was already angry, but the gesture only made it berserk. Jace put away his weapon and began to backpedal. The large creature relentlessly followed him, slobbering poison and staggering somewhat. As it was fully focused on Jace, Glenn ran behind it and grabbed one of the spines protruding from its abdomen, and began to climb. There was a soft spot behind the plate of spines and horns on its head. Raising Ai high into the air, Glenn brought the blade down. Electricity surged through his arm, and into the monster. The beast roared in pain, and shook him off. Glenn rolled and stood up. It limped a bit, and breathed heavily.
"You....think this is over?"
Ray lowered his weapon. "It speaks, too?"
The monster continued. "If you...want the Gem take it, but you won't........change anything....."
Ray was just confused. “What the hell do you mean? What isn’t changing?”
If the Poison Pit could laugh, it did. “This world’s fate is sealed. History always repeats itself, and it…soon…will.”
With its final words, it flipped over on its back and its legs curled. Glenn retrieved his blades and returned them to their sheaths. He clutched his right arm and walked back over toward where the corporal lay. He was still breathing. Ashe ran over to him.
"I've already contacted a transport. The other man is dead." She noticed him holding his arm. "Here. Let me take a look." She held his arm, and carefully removed the armor. There were burns lining his arm. Removing her own armor from her hand, she gently held the injured part of his arm. Light blue energy glowed from her hand. Glenn's arm was still a bit red, but the burns were gone. Ray and Jace ran over toward them as he was putting his armor back on. Ray was already holding the Gem from the pedestal.
"Looks like we're done here." He said.
"Good." Glenn replied. "I need some sleep. I think we've all put up with enough crap today."
He held his hand above his visor as he looked up to see a medical transport descending into the arena.
- Port side- left
- Starboard side- right