Keena was getting frustrated. It seemed like nothing she was doing was keeping her opponent on the ground, no matter how well-placed her blows were. It was as if he couldn't feel her dagger's sharp blade at all.
"How durable are you?!"
"I am bulletproof!"
"You've got to be kidding me…"
"Put up fists!"
Keena sighed and sheathed her dagger, and held up her arms ready. There was a constant exchange of blows. Keena was able to dodge or block every swing, and counter with kicks or judo throws.
"I will kill you with bare hands!" The heavy muttered as he stood up again. "Medic!"
"Ze target got away!" The doctor yelled from afar, running down the hallway toward their location.
"Charge now, Docta!"
Aiming his weapon at the heavy, a blue stream of energy shot forth. The heavy likewise was surrounded in a similar energy. He then raised his fists again. Almost immediately a roar sounded from down the hall, followed by an orange light growing bigger. A large fireball. It burst open right in front of the medic, causing him to erupt into flames. He tried to run, but fell to the ground screaming. Slightly distracted, Keena took a blow to her jaw, causing her to stagger a bit.
"Pow! Haha!" The heavy laughed. With the medic gone, his power-up wore off, but he didn't seem to notice. Keena wiped the side of her mouth and looked at the blood now on her hand. She cracked her neck, her knuckles, and then reared back. She threw her fist forward and connected with the heavy's chest, sending him flying against the wall, leaving a large dent where he connected.
"Oh, this is bad! Medic!" He cried out, unable to get up. "Medic!!"
He hadn't seemed to notice the medic die earlier.
The cerberlisk Keena had seen from earlier jumped through the flames. She prepared herself, but relaxed when it stopped when Canis slid off its back.
"I wouldn't have imagined you would tame that thing…"
"Well, we are a dominate species." He said, helping another female down.
"I don't think I've ever hit anyone that hard. Nice moves." Ashe held her free hand out. "You much be one of Rei's friends. I'm her mother."
Keena shook her hand. "We've been helping her find you. I can't imagine what you've been through down here…speaking of which, where is she anyway?"
"Ladon's apprehended her apparently." Canis answered. "Her father has given chase."
"Then shouldn't we be helping?"
"Ashe is in no position to fight, and I've been --"
"I am NOT helpless!" Ashe retorted, cutting him off.
"I believe we discussed this years ago. Now is not the time to make yourself an unnecessary statistic."
"I hate when you and husband are right…"
Canis turned back to Keena. "He will handle it. I need you to help me back outside. Rei's father won't fail, but we'll need to clear a path for them."
Ray sped through the halls on a mobile turret he found not far from where he was held. He concentrated hard to feel where Rei might be, but that didn't stop him from being…himself.
"Woo! Bumper cars!" He shouted, running over any one or thing in his way. One soldier tried to run after him and fire, but tripped up.
"Nice hustle tons-o-fun! Next time eat a salad!" He yelled behind him. Shortly after, he ran over a portly scientist walking out of a room with a donut and coffee.
"I am owning you, you fat, bald, bastard!"
His face tensed when he passed by some red blast doors with a large biohazard symbol on them.
He lost control of the turret while briefly distracted. It crashed into a wall, leaving the vehicle in scraps. Ray crawled out of the metal pile.
"Phew…Good thing I'm indestructible." He said, before getting up and approaching the doors. There was no key pad or any visible signs of unlocking the door.
Don't fail me now. He thought to himself. He concentrated hard. A purple, swirling portal appeared in front of him. He jumped through, right as it began to fade. Everything moved in slow motion inside appeared phantasmic, as if Ray had become a ghost. He could see everything. Ladon, a couple of men, and Rei bound to a table with machinery hanging above her. She held a struggling expression with teeth grit, but it was clear she couldn't move. He looked for a place to surface back into the real world. He followed the large cables from the machinery, seeing if he could shut them down. What he found was better than expected; they led toward a glassy dome containing the Gems, hidden behind several control panels. He willed a portal to open there, using the panels for cover. As soon and he phased through, he could barely hear power surging to the machines over Rei's threats. Ray felt proud and horrified at the same time.
Yep. That's MY girl.
"Everything is set up and ready for extraction, sir."
"Good." Ray could recognize this as Ladon's voice. "Begin."
More machinery began to power up. Ray cursed to himself. He stared at the Gems. Powering down the machines was easy, but other ideas buzzed through his head. But he wasn't sure whether to go through with them or not, given his daughter was in the same room.
It could mean us getting out of here, or being stuck dead. He thought. But Rei can't see me like that…No. I have to get us out alive. And Ladon needs to know who he's messed with.
There was a crashing noise, followed by machinery powering down. Ladon grew frustrated. He pointed to one of his men.
"Go see what happened. And hurry up!"
As soon as he disappeared behind the control panels, he went flying backwards. Ladon was stunned. He motioned toward one of his two remaining men.
"Don't just stand there, go check it out!"
He likewise ran around the control panels to investigate, but then began to yell, followed by gurgling.
Ladon's last henchman backed up against the control panels. "Sir, I don't like this. What if one of our alien subjects got loose and found it's way in here?"
"Shouldn't have. Go check it out, and take a weapon --"
An armored claw-like hand tore through the control panel, grabbing the underling's neck in the process. He was being pulled through the panel, screaming as his skin gashed and bones cracked. Ladon watched in horror. His armor encased his body, and he lifted an FIW-II Holy Spear toward the gaping hole. Immediately the control panel went flying to the side. Replacing its position was that of a black medieval knight. Bat-like wings were folded behind him, along with a serpentine tail. A single horn extended from his visor, and underneath were only two crimson eyes. It spoke in a bass-y, metallic pitch.
"So you believed the Gems to be myth, did you? Do I look like a myth to you? I'm very real, and so will your punishment!"
The knight advanced toward Ladon.
"Don't come any closer. I'm not buying your cheap cosplay. I figured I would have deserved more effort on your part. " Ladon said, holding the shotgun up.
Ray, underneath the armor, laughed. "You've hurt my family, and that's a grave mistake. The only thing you deserve is to be pissed on!"
"Pull it out, and I'll shoot it off!"
"You don't have enough energy cartridges, asshole!"
Ladon fired. The energy blast from the shotgun connected with the armor, but did no physical harm. He was stunned.
"Don't forget," Ray responded, "that I nearly once destroyed the world. If it was that easy to stop me, I would have never been heard of. Now, I'm here to kick ass and kick ass. And I'm all out of kick-ass. So let me demonstrate what happens when you fuck with my family!"
Ray rushed forward with his shoulder down. Ladon flew into the wall, the force of the hit even cracked his breastplate a little. He stood up weakly as Ray continued to walk toward him. He tried to speak, but uttered nothing other than gibberish. Ray grabbed a large wire off of the floor once he was standing in front of him. Ladon finally spoke.
"This can't be possible! This is just my imagination! You can't kill me!"
"Of course not. Death is too easy. I have other plans for you."
Ray wrapped the wire around him and kicked him over. Ladon struggled but was hopelessly stuck within his bonds. Ray then moved toward Rei, who had watched it all. Her face was pale and clammy, and she wore a panicked expression. Ray broke the shackles binding her to the table. She was too afraid to even move.
"Rei…" he spoke.
He closed his eyes for a moment. His wings and tail burned away, and armor pieces fell away from him, disappearing as they hit the floor. Likewise, the Gems fell to the floor. He opened his eyes, their normal hazel color looked toward Rei with sorrow.
"It's me, Rei. I'm here." He spoke softly, holding his hands out.
Rei sat herself up, but her expression didn't change. She reached out slowly, her hand shaking violently. She took her father's hand, and he closed it around hers gently.
"I didn't mean to scare you. I won't hurt you."
She threw her arms around his neck and began to cry into his chest. Ray pulled her close to him.
"It's okay, sweetie. We're going home."
Ray emerged outside. He cradled Rei in his arms. Across the ground lay dead soldiers and aliens, but most of the fighting had ceased. Within minutes a familiar craft landed in front of him. Ray sat down once he boarded the Mach Dragonfly. Rei had calmed down and sat beside him.
"Good to see you two are okay. Everyone else is waiting for you."
"Thanks, Jace. Good to see you, too."
Jace picked up and flew off. Ray closed his eyes and exhaled. It was all over. He was glad things can go back to normal. It only took a few minutes to reach the flagship. As soon as the three of them reached the top deck, Ashe rushed her family, pulling them both into a tight hug. The others followed.
"Feeling better, hon?"
"Me? I was more worried about you two! Rei, I missed you so much!"
"I missed you too, Mom."
Ray slipped away while Ashe bombarded Rei with questions. He approached Canis, who was exchanging words with Keena. Canis turned to face him upon noticing him coming.
"It's been awhile, hasn't it, Hadron?"
Ray chuckled. "It's been several years indeed. Although I'm sure 'awhile' isn't long for you."
Canis gave a half-smile. "Perhaps not. I see you have fared well. From what I perceived, a good father to add."
"I'll have to thank you for keeping my daughter safe. How did you two meet?"
"I met her right outside of Olympia City. I was simply minding my own business and we crossed paths."
"What happened? Was she frightened by your appearance?"
"She tried to kill me."
Ray laughed. "Not saying I approve, but you did try to kill us when we met."
Canis's expression brightened. "Fair enough. As for my appearance, she never knew up until we arrived here to bust you out. I simply stayed cloaked. I don't believe she even knows what I am named. She simply called me 'Bard'."
"Why that of all things?"
"Since we've went separate ways, I've…picked up a few hobbies. I've learned more from you than you would think there was for me to learn. I've been walking among human beings more often and adopted an ear for stringed instruments. That's what she wanted to call me, so it stuck between Keena and herself."
"Speaking of which." he turned faced Keena and offered his hand. "I should also thank you for watching out for Rei. I'm her father."
Keena's expression was tense. She swallowed and took a step back.
Canis folded his arms. "She…knows who you are, Ray. She isn't quite comfortable around you yet."
Ray lowered his hand. "I see. You still have my deepest gratitude…and apologies."
"I believe she feels your sincerity. Just give her some time. As for -- Rei? What…exactly…are you doing?"
Canis had not noticed Rei ever approaching him. She stood beside him, stroking one of his ears between her fingers.
"Are those real?!"
"Yes, Rei. They are…and that's making me a little uncomfortable."
Rei stopped. "They're so soft!"
Canis sighed. "You're just like your mother…"
Ray looked back at Ashe, who now stood beside him. Glenn and Jace had also joined.
"What? I was curious, so I asked once. It was when I was in the infirmary and you were…taking care of things. He wouldn't let me, though."
Canis rolled his eyes. "What she left out was she snatched my tail when I wasn't looking. I just so happened to be adjusting my cloak and she went for it."
Everyone laughed. Keena even giggled a little. At the same moment, something had fallen from under her belt and clattered on the deck. Canis looked slightly surprised.
"Ah, THERE is my hairbrush." He took the brush, sat down on the deck, and began to comb his bushy tail. Everyone's look was dumbfounding, with the exception of Keena, who appeared embarrassed slightly. Canis stopped at stared. "What? You find this unusual? You humans groom yourselves, so should I not?"
"No," said Glenn, "but it's hard to imagine cold and emotionless Canis being so enthusiastic about brushing his tail."
Keena raised an eyebrow. "Cold and emotionless? All he's done is smile, sing, and flirt since I've been traveling along side him and Rei. Granted, we haven't seen each other for almost a couple hundred years, but I don't think 'cold and emotionless' fits his personality description, and I certainly don't know what made the character I've been traveling with…"
"Couple hundred? How old ARE you? You're a wolf too, aren't you?" Rei asked with alarm.
"Two hundred and ninety one. He's well into his three hundred thirties I believe. And yes…technically, Canis…happens to be my brother." Keena removed her bandana for the first time, revealing black ears not unlike those of Canis. She also removed her belt, pulling away the cloth around her waist, making her tail visible.
"After you ran away, I've been a bit…indifferent about things. But once I got to know Ray a bit better since his unsealing, I've been getting better." Canis responded, standing back up.
Ashe sighed. "Smile? Sing? And FLIRT? You've DEFINITELY been spending too much time with my husband."
Ray actually appeared nervous. "Can we avoid the word 'unsealing' please? I have some issues with…young ears being present."
"I already know, Dad."
Ray's expression darkened. "How…?"
"Canis, was it?"
"Canis…told me everything. But that doesn't stop me from wanting you to tell me. I know about everything you hid from me, but I won't truly believe it until I hear it from you. Considering what I've been through to find you, I believe you have no excuse left to not tell me what I've been wanting to hear for so long, and you know it."
Ray looked around at all of his friends, and sighed before looked back at her. "I lied to you Rei. I never wanted to tell you my darkest secrets, ever. But you're right. It pains me to say this, but I'll tell you everything, from my first memory onward." He looked back at the others. "Everyone excuse us for a moment, please."
Rei walked back out on the deck, where everyone else continued to catch up to each other. Ray was right behind her, his expression more solemn than hers. Ashe embraced her daughter upon regrouping.
"I'm sorry, Rei. I know it's hard for you to understand, but your father means well and loves you very much."
"I know. It was hundreds of years ago, I don't care what happened then. I honestly think it hurt him more just to tell me than it hurt me to hear it."
In the meantime, Ray was speaking with the others.
"How did she take it?" Glenn asked.
"Better than I had hoped. My biggest fear was her hating me for the rest of our lives."
Jace raised an eyebrow. "Do you think she does?"
Ray sighed. "I don't think so. When I was done, the first thing she did was give me a hug and an 'I love you, Dad'. She even apologized to me, but of course I have no idea what for."
Canis folded his arms. "Perhaps she understands the burden you carried before you yourself accepted your own past. Over the course of searching for you, she has had some inner demons to face within herself as well. I'm sure she will explain it to you at some point, but she recently has had some hard struggles against daunting forces. Namely, myself, herself, and the black knight itself. Don't worry, she doesn't hate you."
"I see. Of all things, I'm just glad she is safe."
Surprisingly, Keena spoke to him. "I can see now why Apollo spared you. She was just a normal person struggling against herself. I can't see how you were any different."
"I had my friends' support to keep me walking straight. Likewise, she had you. Trust me, I don't approve of anything I did during those days."
She smiled slightly. "Rei's a good kid. Guess you are a good father."
"And I guess she found some good friends. Nice midriff, by the way."
Glenn, Jace, and Rei laughed. Ashe shook her head and sighed. Even Canis snickered. Keena's face grew rosy.
"And now we're doing this again…" she said.
"He's loyal, but he still has his moments. Suppose some things will never change…the only time I've seen him pay less attention to other women is when I was pregnant with Rei." Ashe said.
"Let me tell you, I felt so unappreciated during her pregnancy." Ray said. "All of her friends wanted to rub her tummy and say 'Congratulations!', but no one wanted to say 'Good job!' and rub my di --"
"I'm just saying!"
"I love you, but I still think you're an idiot."
Glenn was still laughing. "And how was the early years?"
Ray sighed. "When kids hit one year old, it's like hanging out with a miniature drunk. You have to hold them. They laugh and cry. They bump into things, they urinate, they vomit. The like."
Rei blushed. "Dad, can we not?"
A ringing sound came from Jace's pocket. He answered the page, and a holograph of a man's upper body floated above the device.
"Mr. and Mrs. Hadron. I see you two are in good health. I'm glad to know your daughter's mission has been successful."
Ray spoke back. "Epsilon. Been awhile. The Gems and your Magnum buddy Ladon are still inside. I made sure he wouldn't be going anywhere."
"I will ensure he is apprehended and the Gems return to safekeeping." He turned to Rei. "Young lady, I will give you time to spend with your parents, but don't forget about our deal."
"I won't, sir."
"I'll be staying behind to help with the casualties. In the meantime, best of luck to all of you."
Epsilon's image faded. Ashe looked at Rei. "Deal?"
"I'll explain later. For now, I think we could all use some rest."
Ashe didn't question any further. "I can't argue with that."
Ray turned to Glenn. "Can you get us a bed big enough for two?"
Everyone laughed again. Ashe buried her face in her palm, but couldn't help but laugh as well.
"Don't worry." He said. "There are plenty of open cabins. If you need me, I'll be steering us back home."
It's finally over. Mom and Dad are okay, and we're going home. My closest friends Keena and Bard (whose name turns out to be Canis) end up being members of a wolf race once thought to be extinct (which is really cool!). After some quick rest, everyone started sharing stories. From killing giant aliens in the military, to where Canis picked up his singing habits (which he would play his lute between sentences), and Keena shared hers. Mom and Dad were talking about moving back into the coastal villa permanently again, which Jace had watched and kept clean for years. In the end, glad to be going home and everything will be back to normal. My name is Rei Hadron, and this is my last entry.