"So you've been with her for a while?"
"Yes. I met her when she tried to ambush me outside of Olympia City. I've been watching out for her since."
"Was it just out of pity, or for another reason?"
Bard walked with Glenn from the bridge.
"Mainly because I understand what it feels like to lose family members. Other points go toward her youth, and I learned from someone I once knew that I shouldn't need a reason to help those in need."
Glenn was silent for a moment.
"Does it bother you to know she's high on the wanted list?"
"Absolutely not. I never approved of some of her actions no, but she's a good kid. She's atoned for her mistakes. From my point of view, that is."
"Good to know she's had support. Capital murder is pretty serious…"
"From what I understand, she will either have life in prison without possibility of parole, or…the death penalty."
"……I see. Anyway her minority will prevent that?"
"It could. But even if she's tried as an adult, I'll make sure authorities are aware of her situation. How I see it, she's also a victim here."
"Let's try not think about that right now."
They walked out onto the main deck. On the front of the bow Rei stood facing out toward the sky, with Keena beside her. It was hard to tell from behind, but Rei appeared to be in discomfort. She spoke when both Bard and Glenn reached them, without turning around.
"It's only just crossed my mind. As badly as I want to see them again, what would they think of me after what I've done? Would they be ashamed? What if they never even wanted to see me? Is everything I'm doing now to free them -- all meaningless? If so, then what will I do after this is all said and done?"
Glenn placed his hands on the railing. "I've fought beside your parents for quite a few years. If there was only one thing I knew about your dad, he'd never give up on you."
Rei looked down. "You would really think so?"
"Of course. He's just that kind of person. Like I told you before. You can't just give up on family, and they're not about to give up on you. Everyone has regrets. I could never hate my own daughter…"
"You have a child?"
"Few years younger than you. Jace gets it honest. He has two sons. Says they bicker a lot."
Keena smiled lightly. She folded her arms and leaned on the railing. "Ah, brothers. Can't live with them, can't live without them."
Rei looked over to her. "I remember you saying you had an older brother."
"I do. We got into it pretty bad once, haven't seen him since. Going back to what Glenn said, I live with a lot of regrets. So many things I'd like to tell him, but I can't."
"If he was standing here now, what would you say?"
Keena exhaled heavily. "Apologize for how stupid I acted last I saw him. I'd tell him for the longest time my life was a living hell. I honestly wouldn't know what else to say it's been so long. Other than that, how much I love him and miss him."
"When was the last time you saw him?" She asked.
"Longer than you can imagine…"
Bard's lips lifted into a slight smile. "Makes me want to play a song."
Rei frowned. "Well, correct me if I'm wrong but I thought some of the crew had 'borrowed' your lute when you set it down a little while back."
To prove herself, she turned and pointed. Much of the crew was on top of the deck tightly knit together. Sure enough, one was strumming Bard's lute while the entire crew danced and sang:
"Do what you want, 'Cause a pirate is free You are a pirate!
Yar-har fiddle-di-dee Being a pirate is alright with me Do what you want, 'Cause a pirate is free You are a pirate!"
Glenn buried his face in the palm of his hand. "They're a reliable and trustworthy crew, but they never get tired of that jolly tune…I remember hearing five ships-worth of them singing it all at once."
Rei chuckled. "It's surprisingly catchy."
While a lot of the crew on board were lost in song, others weren't. One member in particular approached Glenn. He frowned when a message was relayed to him. He looked back at Rei.
"You'd better come with me."
Glenn dismissed his associate and led Rei to the bridge. In the middle there was a large table with a bubble-like dome in the middle. A bright blue explanation point hologram hovered above it. Glenn took a deep breath and answered the incoming call. The explanation point phased and replaced itself with a pair of broad shoulders and a face; it was a hologram of a man. Medals were lined on the right side of his dress uniform, along with a long spread-winged eagle. He had bright silver collar devices, and his hair was trimmed short. Rei knew this to be a high-ranking military officer from the main base. Worse, she knew exactly who he was.
"Captain Glenn Venture. I've had some rather interesting news reach me several days ago. Word is you had a wanted suspect aboard your flagship. Even after a thorough search in the city of Minocrete no one was found. I'd ask for the truth, but it seems I have all the evidence I need." He said, focusing on Rei. "So you're the one responsible for the assassination of our general, correct? You seem to match the description perfectly. And haven't we met before?"
Rei folded her arms. "We've met. I came to you and other officers for help. But I got a middle finger and was sent off."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I needed help finding my kidnapped parents. Remember me now, Captain Epsilon?"
"…Yes, I remember. I don't believe I recall your name."
"My name is Rei. Rei Hadron."
"…Wait, you're Hadron's daughter? I had no idea. That's beside the point. I DID wish to help you. So why would you turn to murder?"
"YOU did. Everyone else didn't. Especially your superior. And instead of saying 'I'm sorry, but we can't help you, please understand' I got 'screw your problems, now fuck off' from him. The world might think different, but I felt it was justified. At the time, anyway. My parents are in Hell's Keep. They're being kept by a group called Magnum Chaos. I'm sure that name is familiar to you."
Epsilon said nothing for a moment. He sighed heavily. "I suppose it can't be helped. But if what you're saying about your parents is true, I have a proposal for you."
"…What kind of deal are we talking about?"
Glenn said they would be closing in soon. A couple more airships from his fleet joined him, as well as a couple of military cruisers. Bard questioned the military's involvement, but Rei told him not to worry. Sailors were running back at forth, prepping themselves and assuming their battle stations. Rei stood on the bow with Bard and Keena beside her. Rei was clad in her Phoenix armor, while she held her helmet underneath her arm. Keena wore plating on her forearms and shins. Bard still wore his indigo robe, but he left it untied and draped around him. His hood however stayed on, covering most of his head. Only his amber eyes and lower face were visible. His expression remained emotionless. Glenn approached the trio after checking the ship.
"We've found a bunker on the radar. Judging by the anti-aircraft guns, that's where we're headed." He said.
Bard folded his arms. "I already know you aren't going to simply land this vessel. By what means are we getting to the ground?"
"Smaller transports will be doing that. As for you three, I've got something else in mind. Come with me."
Glenn led them to what looked like a private hangar. There was only one aircraft inside. Jace stepped out from the side, in full jet-black armor.
"All systems are go. She hasn't been run in a while, but everything is fully operational."
Glenn smirked. "Then it looks like we're ready to go."
Everyone stepped into the craft. It featured sliding side doors. The overall appearance seemed to be a cross between a transport vehicle and a fighter craft. Rather than jets, it used VTOL ducted fan rotors on each side that were between the pairs of wings that extended from the top. The tail had four oblique wings near the end, giving it an "X" appearance. Glenn fastened something within Rei's helmet before she put it on. It was a radio. Glenn engaged his own personal Thunder armor, and tested the radio frequency. Jace and Rei gave a thumbs-up. Jace picked up the vehicle and called.
"Be careful, this thing has a lot of torque."
He gunned the engines forward, and the vehicle shot forward. They soared from behind Glenn's airship, and looped around. Other gunships and transports likewise were flying from their respective airships, toward the bunker's location.
"Not counting your airship, I've never been on an aircraft before, Glenn. It's surprisingly smooth." Said an astonished Rei.
"Yeah it is. It's pretty old actually. Your mother used to fly it. It's a TF/A-Mach I Dragonfly. It's the first model of the class. Military is using the Mach Raptors now. They're Mach III generation. Much faster, but they aren't as reliable for extraction and landing in tight areas since they're fixed wing jump jets. The shields are also lighter and can't take as much heat. The Mach Dragonfly we're in has gotten us through thick and thin."
Jace cut in. "Plus the Raptors don't have twin-mounted quad-barreled-hypersonic laser miniguns that came standard on this thing. The plasma cannon and extra heat-seeking Stinger missile capacity I actually installed myself. I also upgraded the shield to release an ultrasonic EMP wave when it depletes. Anyway, might want to hang on tight. I'm sure anti-air will be waiting for us when we get there in a couple minutes. As soon as I land, be ready to get out quickly. Glenn will give you further instructions."
Jace wasn't kidding. It took no time at all for gunfire to go off. Military aircraft scambled and returned fire toward the turrets. One released a bomb onto the bunker, making a hole large enough for a small group to drop in at once. Both Glenn's and the military's transport ships began to land and drop off troops. Jace did likewise. He lifted off again once everyone had stepped off. As armor-clad troops and buccaneers made their way towards the broken bunker, Other men in Chaos armor began to step out and open fire. No one suspected the large amount of aliens to pour out of the broken bunker. They weren't unlike the usual speedlings, scorpions and the like, but somehow a bit different, as if undergoing a few cosmetic mutations. The armored pillbugs looked more like small turtle-dinosaurs, moving by spinning rather than curling up and rolling. Panthers were even resembling velociraptors. The entire advancement was halted, just by the sheer amount of alien opposition erupting from a single hole.
Glenn drew both of his blades while a yellow aura enveloped his body. Thanks to his BLADEMASTER, he gave a mighty leap and sprang from alien to alien like a skilled assassin, picking them off one by one. Rei continued to fire off in triple volleys. Bard's bō had somehow become tipped with a blade of what looked like blue, fiery energy, giving it a glaive-like appearance. The added reach let him swing through nearby aliens and the occasional Chaos soldier all in one swing. Keena followed Glenn's example, going from alien to alien, slitting throats. Bard called to Rei behind him after several minutes.
"There is enough of an opening. You need to get in, now!"
Rei's knees were already shaking. "You can't be serious…now?"
"Yes, now! Don't quit, you've come too far."
"I'll try, but --"
"I don't want a 'try'. Do it or do not."
"The Aparus…there's way too many!"
"Leave them…to me."
Bard grabbed at the front of his cloak. He pulled it from around him and threw it aside. Pointed, fuzzy ears extended from out of his white hair, and a fur covered tail fell behind him. A lycanthrope.
He turned back to Rei and motioned his hand for her to follow.