Sardec spent his final moments daydreaming about the life he wanted, when his helmet received a transmission from a nearby source.
"User Sardec", said Catalyst.
"What do you want?"
"Should you grant us access, we may be able to lessen the severity of your situation."
"What do you mean? Elaborate please."
"Should enough falling speed be reduced, I may create a protective shield to save you from certain death."
"Brand's Gift wouldn't have enough power to counter my descent. Unless... Hygeio!"
Outside sound began to return as Sardec entered UBP116's atmosphere.
"I need you to use every unit of your power to create an overshield!"
"I have never used that much of my fortification protocols to that extent before. I cannot guarantee you will live."
"I have no other choices, Hygeio! When I reach the tallest mountain, overcharge your power to my suit!"
"It shall be done, Sardec."
"Good, now attach to my chest. Catalyst, I need you to attach to my back!"
"Right away, user."
Hygeio drew to the center of Sardec's chest while Catalyst stationed itself above the Brand's Gift backpack. Sardec examined the desert terrain that was coming ever closer. Within a moment, the winds pushed him along their current, nearby the tallest mountain.
"Twilight, evasive maneuvers!"
The horizontal motion sent Sardec away from the mountain top, free from the wind current. Elevation was dropping rapidly.
"Here goes everything!"
A green aura appeared along Sardec's armor. He used the Brand's Gift thrusters to orient himself and push against the fall.
"Right away, user."
A large shield engulfed Sardec. He closed his eyes as the ground was now several yards away. Sand splashed high into the air as he reached a complete stop, knocked unconscious.
Sardec regained consciousness, feeling a blunt object jab as his ribs. He opened his eyes to an armored Turauz grunt holding the butt of his rifle towards him, surrounded by other Turauz soldiers armored in Black Hole, Despair, Dread, and Magma. Sardec lifted his left arm, only for the sapient creatures to point their weapons at him.
"Wait! I'm not one of them!"
Their guard was still up.
"Please, let me prove my innocence!"
Sardec slowly lifted his right arm, now bringing both arms closer to his helmet. The figure next to him in the crater nudged its rifle, allowing him to proceed. Sardec slowly lifted the Magma helmet, revealing his cybernetic head free of any parasite.
The Turauz were astounded at learning he was telling the truth. Two more entered the crater and lifted him by the arms, escorting him out onto the flat ground. Sardec looked around at the base he had landed at, examining the cargo and structures appearing similar to those at the Banished Battlefield. Out in the distance he saw a tall slender creature similar to the one he saw at the Lava Core. It had begun to sink into his head that they were all Turauz resistance bases.
The creatures brought Sardec into the norther structure, where a figure stood at the second floor, armored in Black Hole with an orange stripe on its forehead. It descended to down the small ramp, holding a blue sword in its right hand. Sardec's HUD identified it as PWC-I BloodSeeker.
The orange-striped creature spoke.
"So you really are not of the Kartinava? Yet our reports state that it was you who sabotoged our vital bases. It was you who gave our Planetary Fortress, our last line of defense, to them. You are their ally!"
"I swear, I'm not!"
"You speak lies!"
The Turauz drew its blade to Sardec's neck.
"I should kill you where you stand!"
"Radian tricked me! I thought I was helping my own kind! I hate the Kartinava just as much as you all do!"
"'Your own kind?' What exactly are you?"
"My species is called human. I come from planet UBW-594244. The parasite enslaved my race, and I was trying to fight back!"
The figure lowered its blade slightly.
"Are you the resistance leader? I have one back at my world too. We all share the same goal."
The Turauz resistance leader rose its blade again.
"Come with me. I shall send you on your way."
Sardec was escorted to the outer edge of the small Turauz base. Their resistance leader called to the slender creature and it approached them. The creature kneeled down to their level. One of the resistance grunts entered symbols into the holographic console set before the creature's eyes. The creature raised its two tentacles and formed a portal.
"Now, leave." the resistance leader said.
"Come with me. All of you. They don't have a large space station over my planet. You don't have to die here."
"You come to our planet, destroy our VOID production, exterminate all of our organic vessels, hand our greatest weapon to the enemy, and now you insult our capabilities? Exactly how petty are you 'humans'?"
"That's not what I meant. I can help!"
"You have 'helped' enough. We will never abandon our planet."
"What if I come back and-"
The resistance leader raised its BloodSeeker to Sardec's neck.
"If you ever come back, I will personally kill you."
Sardec stayed silent. He simply nodded and put his helmet back on, turned to the portal and walked forward, vanishing from their sight.
No Place Like Home
A flash of light overtook Sardec's sight as he felt a slight stinging sensation amongst his skin. As his vision returned, he found himself in a very familiar facility--a Human Farm.
The people around him shouted in panic and ran away swiftly. The Possessed guards watching above were caught by surprised, but soon fired their weapons at him. Sardec activated Twilight to evade their gunfire, sending himself behind a point of cover. He reached for his UNS-III ShadowArbit and fired back at the guards, killing them. Soon after an alarm sounded throughout the facility.
From a distance, Sardec could hear footsteps drawing near. He looked around at the litter the humans left behind and found a Fool's ball. He hid behind cover and heard more Possessed guards enter the room. He tossed the Fool's ball out of cover, causing the guards to open fire at the ball's position. With the guards distracted, Sardec switched to his F-ADV HatredSpine and fired at the guard balcony, destroying their support beams and causing them to fall to the ground. He then deployed Collapsar to blast them to pieces.
Sardec listened to the alarm as he waited for more reinforcements to arrive, only to start hearing gunfire from outside the compound. The VOIDs retracted into his backpack as he slowly approached the front door, cracking it slightly open. He saw a missile heading for the door, closed it, and quickly ran for cover. The front door blew apart, with Eagle-armored soldiers coming in from the dust, heading in search for the civilians.
"Follow us! We're busting you out of here!" they said in a human voice.
The soldiers continued their search, with one of them noticing Sardec watching them with his weapons lowered. The soldier pointed his weapon.
"I got a target over here!"
"Please, I'm not one of..." he sighed.
"Wait, you must be one of us. I didn't know they were sending heavy units inside. Never seen that armor before though. Come with me! We need to get our people and flee!"
Sardec looked around at the other Eagle soldiers escorting the civilians.
"We need to go now, sir!" the soldier said.
Sardec followed the Eagle squad with his ShadowArbit in hand, firing at the hostile reinforcements outside. The civilians were rushed into transport drills. A figure approached in an armor Sardec's HUD identified as Harrier.
"Is that all of them?" the figure asked in an familiar feminine voice.
"Yes mam! We also got the heavy support out here!"
"I don't remember that arm... never mind, we have no time. We need to wrap up here and get back to base. Get the others ready!"
"Right away, Nikida!" the soldiers said.
Sardec followed the Eagle soldiers, looking back at Nikida in disbelief, then shook his head and returned to the soldiers. They arrived at the eastern plane, where the remaining guards had heavier weaponry and a heavy assault carrier. The carrier pointed at Sardec and fired large purple energy bullets. He leapt out of the way, drawing attention of enemy snipers. Red target lasers started to point nearby him and the other UNCC units. Sardec switched to the HatredSpine and fired volleys near the sniper positions. The other heavy soldiers drew their rocket launchers, imitating Sardec's tactics.
The sniper fire was suppressed, leaving attention for the heavy infantry. The Possessed heavy units charged their railguns near the heavy assault carrier. The UNCC soldiers dispersed to distract the heavy units while Sardec was left facing the heavy assault carrier. The heavy cannons began firing, striking Sardec in the chest. The carrier approached Sardec as he was on the ground wounded. Someone's arm appeared by his side.
"Get up soldier!" Nikida said.
Sardec grabbed her arm and pulled himself up.
Sardec and Nikida hurried away from the charging carrier. Nikida equipped two purple machine pistols and began firing at the front of the vehicle, between the two cannons.
"Disable its treads!" she shouted.
HatredSpine in hand, Sardec fired volleys at the treads on the vehicle's right flank. With their integrity weakened, Sardec charged his Magma armor and unleashed a green geothermal energy wave, melting the treads and rendering them damaged beyond repair. The carrier was disabled, causing the hatch at the top to open up.
The pilot revealed itself wearing Chaos armor. It held a large railgun that Sardec's visor identified as RABS-II Harbinger. Sardec reached the his ShadowArbit, only for the pilot to shoot the weapon out of his hand, destroying it.
"Over here!" Nikida shouted as she fired her machine pistols at the pilot. The enraged pilot turned around to Nikida's position, charging its Harbinger and blasting small craters by her feet. Nikida deployed a white shield from her Harrier armor as the pilot fired a volley at her chest.
Sardec reached for his last weapon and fired a volley at the pilot's back, grabbing its attention. The pilot let out a battle cry as it began to overcharge the Harbinger. Sardec quickly deployed Collapsar, sticking to the pilot's chest. It dropped the Harbinger and frantically attempted to pull Collapsar off, only to explode into many pieces.
A Small Victory
Nikida was startled at the appearance of the Collapsar. "What the hell is that red thing?"
Collapsar retracted into Sardec's backpack. Sardec wanted to speak, but was still distracted by his affairs at UBP116, thinking about all the Turauz he placed in danger.
"Not going to talk? Fine. We don't have time for small talk."
She looked to the other soldiers.
"Is that all of them?"
"Yes mam!" one of the soldiers said.
"Alright, let's get back to base."
She looked back at Sardec.
"Go ahead and take that pilot's railgun. I think you've earned it."
Sardec snapped out of his trance and looked down at the Harbinger by the body parts of the pilot. He grabbed it and held it close to his backpack, where it condensed down and fit inside.
Sardec examined the others getting into the transport drills and soon did the same. He entered a drill and took his seat. Nikida entered the same drill and shut the door.
"Take us out of here."
"Yes mam." said the operator.
The vehicle's engine turned on and they began their descent underground. Nikida took her seat across from Sardec's.
"That was a hell of a fight soldier. You performed remarkably."
Sardec finally broke his silence.
Nikida removed her helmet and was stunned.
"Wait, you sound familiar. May I see your face?"
Sardec reached for his helmet and slowly removed it, revealing his cybernetic face.
"O-O-Oh my God!" Nikida grabbed Sardec's shoulders and brought him in for an embrace.
"Rookie! You're alive!?"
"I have a name, you know."
Nikida released him and blushed.
"Right, sorry. Sardec. Julian Sardec. You are certainly no rookie anymore. I thought you were dead! Kellogg thought you were dead. What happened out there? How did you return?"
"It's a very long story. Way too long. I'll tell you everything when we get back at the base. Have things expanded here? How is progress?"
Nikida sighed and looked down to the floor.
"Not so good. After you entered the portal, Kellogg lost your signal. We were going to create another portal, but more Possessed reinforcements ambushed us. We were outnumbered and lost many people. They tracked us down and well... we're at a major setback. We had to pack our things and move onto another place for a base, which is where we are heading."
"The base under Trailblazer is gone?"
"Yeah. It was a horrible sight. But since you're back, maybe you can help raise our morale."
"I wouldn't count on that." Sardec groaned.
"I just need some rest. Wake me when we get there." He leaned his head back against the wall.
"I wouldn't count on that either. I think I'll take a nap too. Pilot, wake us when we get there." Nikida crossed her arms and lowered her head.
"You got it, mam. Nighty night."
Sardec closed his eyes and immediately saw the Turauz back at the Sand base. He tried to picture himself in a world free of the Kartinava once again as he drifted off to sleep.