Shadus examined the Mithril Horn.
"Well done! I already have your next mission in order. I need you to go to the Lost Sands. Your directive is located about ri-"
"THE LOST SANDS?! The same desert wasteland that's said to be home of Siegfried, the sleeping dragon that helped aid the fabled guardians in the Epoch Nightmare events nearly two-hundred years ago?!" Jace gasped after finishing his run-on. Ray put a hand on his shoulder.
"Take a breath, dude."
Shadus blinked. "Anyway I-"
Master Chief burst through the door. "Jasra. We've got big trouble! I need-" He stopped and looked at the unit that stood in front of him. "Am I interrupting something?"
Shadus shook his head. "Not at all, Master Chief. I was just giving these four a private mission in the Lost Sands."
"I see. To look for one of those flashy jewels of yours? Fair enough. That works out perfectly. I need you four to do some of my own work. There is a project that we've been working on. Currently none of my men have reported back. I want you to go check it out. All the other units are helping clear the old Training Base. So I'm using you ass-clowns. Don't disappoint me. And wipe that stupid-ass grin off your face, before I have you cleaning the head* with your tongue."
Ray nearly burst out laughing. "Aye-Aye*, Master Chief."
"Straighten up, dick head. I want a mission report on my desk ASAP. You got two days. No later than 18:00 on Thursday. You fuck this up, I'll make sure every one of you are doing push-ups until your arms literally break off. Do I make myself clear?"
Ray snapped to attention. "Yes, Master Chief."
"What was that?"
The others followed suit and spoke as one. "YES, MASTER CHIEF!"
"Glad you're learning something new today. Now get to it."
As planned, Unit AE-Z left in the morning. Everything followed suit, from gear prep, radio check, to lift off. The journey itself seemed to be endless. According to what Ashe had said, the GPS estimated a good two and a half to three hour trip.
They all stretched upon touch down. After releasing some tension and loosening up, Ashe began her usual map description.
"The Lost Sands is what it sounds like. Nothing but sand, rocks, and a lot of storms. It's said wanderers wind up lost here often due to the frequent sandstorms. Said to be able to tear the very flesh from your bones. But deep in the heart of the desert lies a canyon named 'The Lair', supposedly the place where the fabled Siegfried dwells. Siegfried is said to be a large, agile, winged reptilian beast that has slumbered here for nearly two-hundred years. A dragon, if you'd like to call it that. But our first concern needs to be that thing." She pointed outside of the windshield of the ship. The other three followed her finger toward something behind a large rocky wall not too far in the distance. It was some kind of tall, almost cone-shaped structure radiating some kind of energy at the top. "That is Master Chief's directive location. It's the site where his men have been disappearing at. You need to head there first and foremost. The scanner is indicating clear weather. If I detect any signs of storms brewing, I'll contact you. If you cannot find cover, copy back immediately. I can attempt to pick you up, but if there is too much sand, it could potentially choke up the engines, resulting in engine failure. Then we will be stranded out here. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. Better get moving."
Ray, Glenn, and Jace stepped off of the Mach Dragonfly and onto the desert terrain. Ashe performed her regular navigation role and remained behind. They had walked far enough away from the ship for it to be completely out of site. It wasn't long after that a voice sounded from a large boulder.
The team halted and looked around. Glenn looked up.
"Well look who it is..."
Canis jumped from his place on top of the boulder. Glenn continued.
"Did we forget something when we left?"
Canis showed no emotion. "No. If I recall correctly, last time we met you mentioned you were looking for some sort of ancient artifact. I'd seen your craft fly overhead toward this direction. I figured you'd end up here."
"So did you come to tell us there isn't anything here, either?"
"I could. But there is much to be found here. I am here on business. I have some old acquaintances of mine that would much like to see you." He said, crossing his arms.
Ray seemed puzzled. "Old friends of yours? What would they want with us? This isn't some kind of trick is it?"
"You've no need to be alarmed. And I don't intend to take time out of your assigned tasks."
Glenn cut back in. "At the moment we are actually here on account of fellow comrades not reporting back in."
Canis lifted an eyebrow. "Is that so? I'm guessing they wanted you to investigate your military excavation over there? If yes, then I can tell you that you won't find anybody, unless the storms haven’t finished with some of the bodies. You wouldn't happen to remember those drones you ran into would you?"
Glenn nodded. "Yes..."
"They are the reason your men have been disappearing. I'd suggest you steer clear of over there. Despite your mission, you'll be walking into a death trap. Drone snipers are overlooking the area from somewhere. Waiting for anyone to walk in."
Everyone expressed shock. Canis remained expressionless.
"It seems your military has been digging up that ancient thing." Canis pointed to the large structure at their destination point. "You may not know, but it was used many years ago for the harvest of what you humans refer to as 'mithril'. It was made to fire blasts capable of penetrating even the hardest of substances. Over the years sandstorms have buried it. But recently the military seems to have developed a sudden interest in it."
There was a sudden crackle, and then Ashe's voice sounded in the radio.
"I'm not detecting movement from you. Is something wrong?"
Glenn responded. "Everything is okay. We've met up with Canis. He's given us some insight on what's up ahead. Apparently drones are camping out."
"Canis? He's here? But what are you talking about? I'm not detecting anything ahead. Only a few speedlings..."
"Looks like we will have to find out."
"Glenn, I'm not sure this is a good idea."
Ray spoke up. "Don't worry. We'll handle it."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
"It'll be fine. We've faced far worse than some rust-buckets, right?" Ray spoke with a small chuckle.
"I...okay. Just please be careful. And don't do anything reckless..."
Ray returned his attention to Canis. "Wanna help us Rock and Roll? We need these things out of here."
Glenn's expression hardened. "As much as I don't want to, if these stupid drones are wanting us out, we can't let them have whatever they're after."
Canis sighed. "I would normally not deign to waste my time with human military matters, but I fear you are right. These troublesome pests need to be eradicated."
Jace nodded. "Glad you can help. And thanks for the warnings...who knows how we would have ended up..."
They moved. As they began to move toward their destination, Jace spoke again. "Glenn, when I was trying to tell Shadus about the drones, you cut me off and never mentioned it. Any reason for that?"
"I had my suspicions. But I don't think telling them was appropriate at the time. If they think we are tangling with matters that they want our noses out of, then more than likely we'd be decommissioned and or discharged to somewhere remote. Or imprisoned."
"Fair enough. But why would the military have his own men killed? Or better yet, why would Master Chief send us out here if he knew what was going on?"
Glenn shrugged. "One likelihood could be that they short-circuited and went rogue. Another is it could be some kind of investigation trial, and Master Chief hasn’t actually lost anybody. Or, we are just test dummies for drones and they aren’t using live fire.”
Ray spoke next with a hint of worry. “Or maybe they want us silenced…”
The others stopped and looked at him. Canis shook his head.
"This is not the work of your military. Trust me. And they are indeed using live fire, I can assure you."
"HUMANS DETECTED ON THE HORIZON! FOUR IN NUMBER."
"GET READY TO MAKE FIRING PREPARATION."
"KEEP NOISE DOWN. THEY ARE ENTERING TARGET RANGE."
"...WHAT ARE THEY DOING?"
"I SAID, 'WHAT ARE THEY DOING NOW?'"
"I AM GETTING SO SICK OF ANSWERING THAT QUESTION!"
"YOU HAVE THE RAILGUN. I CANNOT SEE ANYTHING. DO NOT START TO YELL AT ME BECAUSE I AM NOT GOING TO JUST SIT UP HERE AND PLAY WITH MY USB CA-"
"OKAY, OKAY, LOOK...THEY ARE JUST STANDING THERE AND TALKING, OKAY? THAT IS ALL THEY ARE DOING. THAT IS ALL THESE HUMANS EVER DO, IS JUST STAND THERE AND TALK. THAT IS WHAT THEY WERE DOING LAST WEEK, THAT IS WHAT THESE GUYS ARE DOING WHEN YOU ASKED ME FIVE MINUTES AGO. SO FIVE MINUTES FROM NOW, WHEN YOU ASK ME, 'WHAT ARE THEY DOING?' MY ANSWER IS GOING TO BE, 'THEY ARE STILL JUST TALKING, AND THEY ARE STILL JUST STANDING THERE.'"
".............................WHAT ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT?"
"YOU KNOW WHAT? I FUCKING HATE YOU."
Everyone held up their weapons quickly and looked around.
Jace held his R-700 up. "Get down!"
At once, energy gathered around the rails and began to glow. After a couple of seconds, it glowed with the light of a Supernova. Jace pulled the trigger, and a large electromagnetic pulse surged toward an unknown location. A small explosive sound was heard in the distance.
"Heh. Nothing escapes my sights."
Ray looked at his weapon as he held it at ease. Most notably, the strange green fist-shaped cylinder cleverly attached just under the sniper's bolt.
"...umm...Jace? Is that...Ashe's Energy Glove?"
"Wow. She let you borrow it?"
Jace raised an eyebrow. "What? I didn't borrow this."
"Then how did you get it?"
"Well if you must know, I snuck into her portion of the compartment while she..." Jace closed his mouth quickly and wore a blank expression. "On second thought, I did borrow it..."
Glenn ignored them. "Let's check it out."
On top of the hill where Jace was aiming were two of the drones Canis has warned them about. They wore an armor over their robotic skeletons very similar to the ones Ray, Glenn, and Jace wore. It was a red and grey armor with yellow-orange inner glow. The helmet featured a Mohawk-like "plume". The chest plate had a circular feature on it. With the tip of his blade, Canis pierced it. The circle shattered and a small black square popped out. A chip.
Jace rested his gun over his shoulder. "That microchip looks like the same one you'd given Ray. I never could figure it out and the military researchers didn’t want to be bothered with it. What exactly is its purpose?"
Canis returned his sword behind his back. "The actual purpose I cannot say exactly. But from what I've experienced, it has a function is to allow it to change its shape at will."
Ray was taken aback. "Change...shape?"
"Change forms. Alter its appearance. That chip is derived from the data of hundreds of creatures and beings that have lived on this planet. That means, humans were also included in the mix. Basically, images and DNA have been shoved into that piece of hardware. It can't copy something much larger or smaller than it is. But can be deceiving nonetheless."
"How are we to tell if we are facing something real or this fake?" Glenn asked.
"There seems to be a flaw, or slight imperfection. It can mask its appearance, but it is glitchy, and it can't seem to copy sounds perfectly. It'll still have a somewhat metallic speech or sound pattern."
They were interrupted by Ashe's voice through the radio. "Aparus approaching from multiple directions! Be ready!"
Having been disturbed, aliens burrowed from underground. Jace swapped to his Plasma Neo. They weren't too heavy in numbers immediately, but annoying nevertheless. Mostly speedlings were what made up the main bulk of it of the assault. Something strange rolled up from out of the distance. Ray noticed and began to open fire, but every time a shot connected, a hexagonal force field appeared around it.
"That thing is like an armored armadillo!"
Jace looked at him coldly. “I’m pretty sure that thing is more like a pillbug."
Glenn kicked the head of a speedling from off of his blade. "Or a wood louse..."
Ray snickered. "Or a rollie-pollie."
Once the Armored Pillbug got so close to Ray, it attempted to ram him. He swapped to Collision and dodged. His cutter lit up with a green light. He tried a sword-beam, but it was also defected by the seemingly impervious shell. He got an idea. He switched back to his LIT07. He searched for that gut-feeling he got when he launched his sword-beam.
"Here goes nothing." He fired. The normal orange portion of his gun was a deep green color. A beam of greenish-yellow exited the barrel, and splattered on contact with the bug. The shell melted away, and the creature writhed in agony. Ray fired a normal shot and ended its misery.
Everyone stood back to back. Slowly, the Aparus grew in number. More Pillbugs, acid bombers, plasma slugs, even bulls began to proceed upon them.
Glenn grew frustrated. "There is no end to these things!"
Canis cursed under his breath. "Go north. You will find what you're looking for there. Leave this to me."
Ray didn't hold his fire. "Are you insane?! You can't single-handedly take on all of these damned bugs!"
"I've survived much worse. Think, boy. It's better me than all of us. Now go!"
Canis surrounded himself in a blue, fiery aura.
They hesitated, but obeyed. Ray looked back. "I hope you're right..."
Much to their surprise, he was. The path had led them toward the mouth of a cavern. Ray reported back to Ashe. "We think we've found it. It might be in the cave."
"Good. Grab the Gem and get out of there."
Before any of them could make a move, a bellowing roar echoed from inside the cave. Two claws emerged from the mouth and the dragon landed in front of them.
Jace continued to hold his Neo at ease. "The great and wise Siegfried. We're only here for-"
The dragon growled. "I know why you're here. You seek the Gem Wing, do you not?"
"For nearly two-hundred years have I slumbered. My sleep has been disturbed by a dark force at work. I knew eventually someone would show up here."
Jace blinked. "Dark....force...?"
"You are free to take it."
He blinked again. "You're letting us have it?"
"Even with it, the fate of this planet is sealed. I will not bar your path. If you have convinced yourselves that you can save this doomed world, then by all means. Take the worthless thing and begone."
Glenn's hand rested on the hilt of Jericho. "We've no quarrel with you. And I don't understand what you mean by this planet being 'doomed', but we have no evil intentions."
"Perhaps not...but how ignorant you are. It's easy to tell you aren't quite aware, but I can feel the energy in the atmosphere. The presence of the same evil that ravaged the world nearly two-hundred years ago has been awakened. You've lived so long in peace that it's blinded you to everything."
Ray noticed near-black clouds in the distance. They were moving rapidly. At the same time Ashe made contact.
"Guys, I'm seeing something heading your way fast. It's not a sandstorm. But it's...odd. I can't explain it. Get out for there quick. I don't know if I'll be able to fly if the weather gets rough!"
Thunder was heard in the distance. Ray exchanged glances with others and nodded. He stepped forward. "We'll take the Gem and leave you alone. I don't want to cause any trouble."
Siegfried didn't seem to have heard him. He was looking at the sky, as if he'd seen the storm clouds. But a closer look revealed they weren't normal clouds. Siegfried's attention could only mean one thing: it wasn't a good sign. Ray attempted to speak again.
"Those clouds. What are they? Where did they come from?"
This time, Siegfried had looked toward him. But he didn't look very welcoming.
"Hmm. How could I have not noticed you? It's been quite some time since you were last here."
"Huh? I've never been here before..."
"Ha! You don't know do you? Should I owe you an explanation? Or should I just kill you now and forget about it?"
"Kill me? I thought you were willing to let us go without a fight?"
"You can take the Gem. You specifically however, I should not. You truly don't remember our last meeting?
"I don't recall ever seeing you..."
Thunder boomed overhead. Unnatural magenta colored lightning shot across the sky.
"You don't know that you're- OOOOOOF!"
Lightning was crashing toward the ground. One had struck Siegfried. He collapsed without another word.
Glenn clinched his fists. "It must be in the cave. Let's go!"
Before they moved, Siegfried began to stand again. He focused on the three and roared. "WOOOOO! HUMAN? I’LL SHOW YOU WHAT TERROR IS ABOUT!"
Glenn drew both of his blades. "His mind is gone."
Jace likewise held his Plasma Neo at ready. "Clearly!"
The dragon took flight and immediately went into a low-altitude charge. They scattered and began to open fire. Ray called Ashe.
"Change of plans. We've got to fight!"
"Siegfried had agreed on letting us take the Gem. But he got hit by some strange purple lightning. Now he's gotten extremely aggressive."
"Watch carefully! He's capable of breathing fire from what I've gathered."
Ray looked looked up toward Siegfried. Other than the flapping of his wings, he hung in the air motionlessly. Jace held his fire. Glenn relaxed a bit and shrugged. After a few seconds the dragon flew directly sideways, as if he was imitating the motions of a helicopter. Jace continued to fire.
Siegfried landed close to Ray and let out a stream of fire. He backpedalled quickly and Siegfried lunged. He narrowly avoided his jaws, but got knocked aside. He got back on his feet quickly as Siegfried walked toward him. Glenn attempted to rush him, but Siegfried caught him in the chest with a sweep of his tail. Jace stayed at a distance and began to rev his Gatling. As soon as his bullet storm unleashed, the annoyed Siegfried turned and belched several molten chunks of fire toward him. He let off on the trigger and sidestepped. The dragon immediately flew into the air and continued to try and hit Jace with more fireballs. He grunted as Siegfried went motionless again.
"Look out! He's charging his lag!"
Siegfried charged almost directly backwards. Luckily Ray had been in a position to move. Using his LIT07, he'd tried to use his poison shots, but the reptile didn't seem to be affected. He tried firing sword-beams in groups of two in a criss-cross motion. That only made him angry. Siegfried snarled.
Ray swapped back to his LIT07's normal ammunition. As soon as he'd stopped fighting with his blade, Siegfried focused back on Jace. The attention swap was so sudden that he'd been hit by a charging head-butt. His poorly secured rifle had spun from his pack. Jace scrambled back to his feet. Glenn knew his shotgun lacked the power or range to continue using. He cursed.
"We can't kill this guy! He's too powerful!"
Ray shook his head. "What the hell are we supposed to do?"
Jace called out from behind his mini-gun. "It'd take a satellite-beam to take this lizard out!"
Ray recalled the structure outside. "Ashe? Can you see that large cone-shaped thing?"
"Yes...but what about it?"
"I need you to get to it!"
"We need some back-up!"
"But all it can do is..." She paused. "I'm on my way."
Siegfried continued to fight viscously. He resorted to mainly lunges and aerial charges. The three had to drop their fire often to avoid taking any more damage.
"Ok, I'm here. What do you need me to do?"
"Think you can operate it?"
"Hmm. It seems pretty old...but I should be able to. I'll need some kind of coordinates to input."
"Can you see the enemy?"
"Yes. I'm assuming you want me to use those? But Ray, that's dangerous!"
"Just do it!"
"But you could die!"
"Well one of us has got to have some relief!"
"Okay! But I need the target to be stationary!"
Glenn called over the radio. "How are we supposed to do that? We need to stun him somehow!"
Ray's foot bumped into something. Jace's R-700. Picking it up, he aimed toward Siegfried, who was focused on Jace himself. Ray held the trigger. Energy began to draw between both rails. Enough that the weapon began to shake. Ray released the trigger. With the explosive energy of Ashe's Energy Glove and the Atom's laser increasing power combined, a large beam almost as large as Ray stood tall launched from the end. The recoil nearly knocked him to the ground. As soon as the blast connected, Siegfried roared and fell to the ground.
"I'm working on it!"
"Everyone get behind something now!"
Jace and Glenn obeyed. They attempted to squeeze behind the nearest rocks they could. Within seconds, another large blue beam fell from the sky. It parted the dark clouds, and struck Siegfried squarely. The beam was so bright that Ray turned his head away. When it faded, a small crater was left where Siegfried was. The dragon never moved again.
Glenn and Jace peeked from behind their hiding places and emerged. Glenn looked around. The clouds were now gone, and the sun shown again.
"I think the Gem may still rest inside his den."
Ashe ran in from outside. Behind her was Canis, who had somehow remained unscratched. Jace, who was now holding his own rifle, was baffled. "That had to be the blast from the Orion MK III Satellite sent into orbit years ago! Why did I not realize that earlier! It had a turbo-charged laser that was powered by three electromagnetic turbines capable of gathering light from even the dimmest areas of space and focus it into a highly condensed beam of solid light that was strong enough to drill through hundreds of feet of diamond-plated steel and-"
Ashe bumped him. "We get it."
"Sorry...Oh, this belongs to you."
He handed her the Energy Glove.
"Next time, ask before you take my things." She snatched it from him.
Glenn rolled his eyes. "Let's just go."
The five of them entered the cave. Ray carefully removed the Gem Wing from its pedestal. Canis nodded.
"Now that you've completed your task, I need you to come with me."
Ray nodded in return. "Alright. What do you want us to do?"
Canis had let them to yet another cavern across the desert. It had many tunnels, like a maze. Unless you knew this place, you'd be lost. Finally the cave opened into a large spacious area where the walls sparkled with a blue radiance. There was mithril embedded in the walls. There were three men standing before them. The armor they wore was strange and foreign. It was identical, other than the inner glow. One was green, the other blue, and the last red. Jace and Ashe gasped. They had recognized them. The one in green, who stood in the middle, spoke first.
Ashe tried to speak. "You're..."
"Yes. We are the ones you call the Sky Guardians."
Head* = naval term for "bathroom"
Aye-aye* = naval term translated as "I understand and will comply."
"Red vs Blue: Why Are We Here?" is the property of Rooster Teeth Productions. Related reference is intended humor only, and not my official work.