"This doesn't make any sense." They were seated around a table in the galley. Jace continued. "What does he want anyway? 'Holy crap! I hate this one guy, so let's destroy the whole military'! No offense, Ray."
"None taken. Honestly, I don't know. Nor do I care at this point. All I do know is that he needs to be put in his place."
Ashe picked at her food. "We've been trying to find him for a couple days now. All we can do is keep looking before he sends his droids after us."
"Well, the spooky haunted houses, creepy castles, and dark foggy forests have all been checked."
Glenn asked between bites. "So, I have a question a bit off topic. Is Ray Hadron your actual name? Reason I ask, is because you knew nothing of your past before, but you remember everything now right? Sorry it's a bit awkward, but as a friend I just think it's convenient to know. That's all."
"Hell if I know. Last thing I remember is waking up on a doctor's table with a sudden urge to kill humans and get a bunch of mithril."
Ashe put down her fork. "So if you were like that then, why are you act so selfless now?"
"Because I didn't remember any of that until recently. I suppose I adopted what I'm assuming my original personality was prior to being awakened as the Demon Commander. When I did remember, I suddenly hated myself so much I wanted to travel back in time and shoot myself."
Ashe stared at him coldly. Ray cleared his throat. "So I suppose I didn't care about any of that anymore. What reason do I have to despise humans?"
Jace resisted the urge to fiddle with his own silverware. "Why then?"
"I don't know. I was spliced with a ton of alien DNA. What else do you think those bugs think about?"
Glenn lifted an eyebrow. "I thought you just said you didn't remember anything before your initial transformation?"
"I don't. But based on where I woke up, what I was thinking about, and the fact that you don't even want to know how I ended up looking when I got all of the Gems, I'd say it's pretty obvious. Trust me, that armor was for more than protection."
"Fair enough." Glenn thought back to the Black Knight he'd seen in his vision. "I'll take your word for it."
Ashe rested her chin on the backside of her hands. "You regained your abilities when you came in contact with the Gems. So why were you able to unleash that attack in Stadium Arcadium BEFORE you'd touched Canis's sword?"
"I didn't know at first, but the really big dudes, protected the Gems, right? So naturally they were around those pieces of mithril all the time. That probably is what gave them the power to shoot lasers and stuff and probably even talk. So when I was close to them I probably was able to absorb the Gems’ power because they had it. The more abilities I gained the more familiar I became with how to use them. As for why I still look like a normal human being and not a freak of nature, I can't answer that."
"So why did you originally go after the Gems the first time? Or how did you learn about them?"
Ray began to get aggravated. "Because they were the most powerful chunks of mithril on the planet. Aliens can sense that crap. And reasonably I was an alien."
"If you can resist killing off people now so easily, why did you try to kill us in Breaken City?"
"Because I was struggling with myself and I was still angry with the fact like everyone knew who I was and I didn’t and mithril didn’t do shit to me and I…I…" Ray sighed and put his hand on his head.
"Sorry, Ray. I'm just --"
Glenn leaned back in his chair and smiled. "Concerned? Worried? Trying to care?"
"Shut up!" Ashe's cheeks grew rosy.
Glenn smirked. "So when's the honeymoon?"
Ashe aimed her fork at him. "Glenn, cut it out, or I'll have you picking your teeth up off of the deck!"
He continued to smile. "I'm just yanking your chain. I'll stop."
Ray smiled lightly. "He's just trying to get you to lighten up. We like seeing you smile sometimes."
"Aww. Thank you."
Glenn laughed and bit his tongue to keep from saying anything else. Ashe didn't pay him any attention.
"Anyway, I'm sorry Ray. I know you probably don't want to be bombarded with questions."
"It's fine. I just don't want to remember any of that mess. I don't like to think of myself as some barbaric, demonic, alien-hybrid."
"I know you don't. And I won't bother you anymore. I'm just trying to --"
"She's trying to confess her love for you."
"-- understand." Ashe straightened her posture. "You know, Glenn. I begin to wonder who the real dysfunctional member of your family is."
Ray chuckled. "Come on Glenn, just leave her alone."
Ashe set her fork back down. "One more question though. Don't answer if you don't feel comfortable. Canis said that that sword was a combination of both mithril and steel. Does that mean it was created from whatever piece it was originally?
Ray put his hands down. "If I remember correctly, yes. Also if I remember correctly, tempered by heating and then cooling it in the icy waters from the northern mountain area, which likely the Gem’s power activated and gave it the ability to freeze shit. Mithril has always made the best weapons.”
An announcement sounded over the intercom.
"*All hands report to the briefing room immediately, all hands report to the briefing room immediately."
Everyone was packed into a room that looked like a huge college room. In the front was a giant monitor, and Master Chief stood underneath it. Beside him was the Admiral. It displayed what looked like a topographic map.
"We believe we have located the enemy." Master Chief began. "Our spies managed to find a small group of red-armored soldiers that lead to this area here." Master Chief used a laser pointer to identify the area he spoke of. "Whether it's actually a hidden base or something, we can't confirm, but given the state that it's heavily guarded and the fact that it hasn't been explored, you can almost bet your ass that's the enemy headquarters."
Someone raised their hands. "Isn't that where the abandoned Crazy Carnival is, Master Chief?"
"Indeed. Why this place I don't know I don't care. But bottom line --"
A Strike-clad soldier burst through the doors.
"Master C-Chief! The enemy is approaching from the south! We need to retaliate immediately!"
"They've moved already? And stop stuttering."
"Y-yes Master Chief, Master Chief!"
Master Chief gave the soldier a funny look. Ray sat near the front left of the room, along with the rest of his unit. Glenn leaned over and spoke to him.
"Does that guy sound funny to you?"
"I know. I can sense it, too."
Ray stood up. "Excuse me, sir? Can you tell us the number of enemy units we're looking at?"
"I-it's well over one-hundred thousand."
"Hmm. And how are you feeling, sir?"
"I am well, thank you."
"Your voice sounds horrible. Are you operating at full capacity? You don't sound too well."
The soldier looked at his arm. "My vocal sensors are at one-hundred percent capability and fully functional. I-I mean I don't know what you're t-talking about."
Ray fired his LIT07 he'd snuck in. The shot struck the soldier square in the forehead. Master Chief was horrified.
"HADRON! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!"
The other people in the room attempted to restrain Ray. Glenn, Jace, and Ashe stood up to defend him. Ray pointed toward the soldier. He began to shimmer, and his armor changed into a different, red armor. The soldier's face melted into something else. A drone.
Sirens blared throughout the room. An announcement called out through the speakers.
"EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY! ALL HANDS ON DECK! EMEMY TARGET APPROACHING BASE FROM THE NORTH! ALL HANDS ON DECK! ENEMY TARGET APPROACHING BASE FROM THE NORTH! ESTIMATED TIME OF ARRIVAL: FIFTY-THREE MINUTES AND FOURTY-EIGHT SECONDS!"
“That dense motherfucker tried to flank us!”
There was a tremor. The topographic map indicated a change in the area where the Crazy Carnival was -- it was now levitating high in the air.
The room was thrown into a panic. Master Chief attempted to calm everyone, but to no avail.
"EVERYONE CALM DOWN!"
Ashe began to charge her Energy Glove and fired toward the *overhead. Everyone immediately stopped. She brushed the debris from her hair and sat back down.
"What are we going to do?! What if more of those things are in here?!"
"The Carnival! It's floating?! How are we are supposed to get to that?!"
"We aren't prepared to go to war now! An hour isn't enough time!"
"And we don't know anything about what we are up against!"
"No, but they do!"
The attention fell heavily on Ray, Glenn, Jace, and Ashe. Ray felt a bit nervous, but spoke out.
"These things are robots capable of shape shifting. Other than that they're about as stupid as the common speedling. They have flaws, like an imperfect speech pattern. But in a battle situation it'll be hard to tell. Your visors would be the best weapon to fight them."
The Admiral was talking through a radio. He put it down by his side. "Unit AE-Z. Get down here."
Ray gulped. "Aye-aye, sir." He left his seat and obeyed. The others followed suit.
The Admiral had them stand at attention and face the rest of the room. He grabbed Ashe's collar and pinned something on it. It was a collar device, in the shape of a silver oak leaf. He did likewise with Jace.
"On behalf of myself and the coalition government, I am promoting you two to the rank of *Commander. Support your allies and your unit. Commander Guardia. Commander Canon. I expect great things from you. Do you accept?" Both Jace and Ashe saluted.
The Admiral mimicked their salutes, and dropped together. He placed a different device on Glenn's collar. It appeared as a silver spread-winged eagle.
"Venture, for your excellency and commitment to your military service, and outstanding performance, you are more than qualified to receive this position. I hereby promote you to the rank of *Captain. I am certain you will have the ability to make proper decisions in this time of conflict. Do you accept?"
Glenn saluted. "Yes, sir!"
The Admiral returned his salute, and finally moved to Ray. He placed several pins in his collar. Five silver stars in a pentagon-shaped pattern.
"Ray Hadron. Under normal circumstances I would not trust you to this for several reasons. Or any commissioned officer rank for that matter. But from your records, your capacity to defend and protect your unit is second to none. Given you possess the most knowledge of the situation and continue to remain optimistic, I trust you will lead us to victory. Regardless of what you once stood for, we entrust the fate of this military, nay, the world, to you. I hereby promote you to the rank of *Fleet Admiral. Do you accept the responsibility of your position?"
Ray hesitated. The thoughts of what he'd caused centuries ago flooded his mind. In spite of knowing who he once was, the government was ready to place the entire naval operation under his command. Several questions began to accompany his thoughts. Are they for real? What if I suddenly snapped? What if I turned against them and repeated the tragedy of two-hundred years ago? His thoughts shifted. A bright light shown, and whispered to him. "We're ready to forgive you. What about yourself?" Ray's expression hardened.
The Admiral saluted him as well and they dropped their arms together. "Now what do you propose our first course of action should be, sir?"
Ray and his friends were standing around a large dome shaped projector. Above it hovered the landscape showing the approaching enemy. Not only R.O.M.E.-clad drones, but Aparus trooped among their ranks. Thanks to holding most of the Gems and probably technology, Shadus now had enough power to control them. History was about to repeat itself. But this time, Ray knew who the real enemy was.
"It appears they operate with an internal reactor that is powered by a mithril shard. So they do not radiate heat like normal machines." Said a researcher.
Jace nodded. "So the greatest advantage we have is use of your infrared visor settings. Regardless of how these drones disguise themselves, you should be able to identify friend from foe."
Ray pointed toward a large gorge in the map's projection. "This area is going to take them a while to cross by foot. We should have plenty of time to prepare and assault them from the high ground once they proceed within. We also need to ready any airship, fighter, or mobile mech armor we've got. We have to utilize every possible advantage we may have."
Ashe stood beside him. "We also need a few transports to accompany us into the Crazy Carnival area. We have to put a stake through the heart. It's only accessible by air, and enemy fighters are buzzing around it like Energy Flies to a chunk of mithril."
Glenn's hands were both formed into fists. "That circus is now a floating war factory. It's spitting out more battle drones each second. We need our ground units to hold their advance at all costs. Enemy airships are taking the drones to the ground. Our own airships need to focus on them. Fighter escorts have to stick close. If the enemy tries to draw you away, do NOT engage. Stick to the airship and keep those fuckers off."
Ray spoke again. "Now that our fleet is set, let's discuss our ground units. We'll put heavy Andromedae and Perseus resistance on the front lines. Once the enemy tries to cross the gorge, it'll provide a good vantage point for Thunder Snipers. Mech and tank pilots focus on any artillery they use. Likewise, Cygni Heavy troopers concentrate fire on enemy vehicles, or larger aliens. We don't have too much more time, so we need to get moving."
The engines of the Mach Dragonfly hummed while the team finished loading it with ammunition, medical, and utility supplies. All of the onboard weaponry was also stocked and ready for use.
"Are you sure about this, Ashe?"
"Certainly. I know how to fly, but I'm not exactly a pilot, Jace."
"What makes you think I'm any better?"
"I've watched your scores in the flight simulators. You surpassed me by a long shot."
Jace laughed. "Well the difference of 21 points I wouldn't call a long shot."
"Still. You're more familiar with the Dragonfly's controls. After that test flight you'd taken it on a while back, I'm pretty sure you'll have a better handle on it."
A Tank-armored fighter pilot approached them. He gave a salute.
"Everything is prepped and ready to go, sir."
Ashe replied, returning his salute. "Is everyone in position?"
"Yes ma'am. We are on standby and await further instruction, ma'am."
Ray and Glenn jogged over from two different directions, after they'd ensured the rest of the base was ready for action.
"Good. Ready yourselves for take-off."
Ray held his helmet underneath his arm. "Everything all set?"
"Uh-huh. What of the main fleet?"
"Ready to go."
"And the infantry?"
Glenn rested his hands on the hilts of his blades. "Ready."
- All hands - In lay man's terms, this pretty much means "everybody available".
- Overhead - Naval term for ceiling.
- Commander - In the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, commander (abbreviated "CDR") is a senior officer rank, with the pay grade of O-5. Commander ranks above lieutenant commander and below captain. Commander is equivalent to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the other uniformed services.
- Captain - For the naval rank, a captain is a senior officer of pay grade O-6 (the sixth officer rank), typically commanding seagoing vessels, major aviation commands and shore installations. This rank is used by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the NOAA Commissioned Corps, and the U.S. Maritime Service. For the ground and air forces rank, a captain is of pay grade O-3 (the third officer rank), usually serving as the commander of a company-sized unit in the ground forces, as a flight leader or other squadron officer in air units, or serving as an executive officer or staff officer for a larger unit such as a battalion or squadron. This rank is used by the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Marine Corps.
- Fleet Admiral - Fleet admiral (FADM) is a five-star flag officer rank, and it is considered to be the highest possible rank attainable in the United States Navy. Fleet admiral ranks immediately above admiral and is equivalent to general of the army and general of the Air Force. The fleet admiral rank is reserved for wartime use only and the grade is not currently active.