Previous: Chapter 15
The last image Sardec saw before closing his eyes was the dark caves of planet Hellus. He opened his eyes again and found himself in complete darkness. He realized he wasn't feeling the security of his Magma armor. He felt cold, naked, and afraid. He heard a door creaking open, with a bright light coming through. A shadowed figure approached and its face flickered like a broken television.
The dark room was then filled with light and the shadowed figure now appeared as a woman in a doctor's coat. Sardec rubbed his eyes and his vision cleared up, seeing himself in a bed and hooked up to several medical machines.
"My my. Sleeping Beauty is finally awake!" said the doctor.
"What? What is this? What happened?"
"Please relax, Mr. Julian Sardec and drink some water." she said as she handed him a cup.
Sardec grabbed the cup and took small sips.
"I'm so glad you finally woke up. I was starting to think I'd have to kiss you to get you up and alert."
Sardec heard yawning at the left side of his bed. Nikida sat in a chair, stretching her arms.
"Hey! Dragons may be real, but this is no fairy tale. No funny business."
The doctor chuckled.
"I'm just joking, General Nikida. I know you have feelings for him."
"I didn't say-"
"Say what!?" Sardec asked, confused.
"Ha ha! Look at you two. You have a lot of catching up to do. I just came to check Sardec's vitals. Everything seems fine. I'll come back in a few minutes and we'll get you back on your feet."
The doctor walked back towards the door.
"And Sardec. If things don't work out with her, you know where to find me."
"LEAVE!" shouted Nikida.
The doctor laughed playfully as she closed the door.
"What a piece of work she is."
Sardec looked at Nikida, with a nervous half smile.
"Hey! It's not like that! I-"
"Nikida, what happened? How long have I been out?"
"Promise you won't freak out?"
"One whole week."
"Hey! You promised."
"Right, I'm sorry. Was I in that bad of shape?"
"I don't think you noticed, but you haven't slowed down to catch your breath since you first disappeared. Did you even sleep when you were at UBP116?"
Sardec stayed silent.
"After we slew Sigmund, you collapsed. When I carried us through the portal, Kellogg and the rest of the regime were still there, waiting for us. You were placed on a gurney and have been in bed since."
"Have you been in that chair the whole time?"
"Well... I had to make sure every survivor made it back okay." she said, scratching the back of her neck and smiling.
"That means a lo-"
Suddenly, Sardec's four VOIDs flew from under his blanket.
"User Sardec is awake. Collapsar now ready for operation."
"You're okay? You can count on Nirvana to continue protecting you."
"User Sardec can now evade danger again now that I, Twilight, am once more ready for use."
"Sardec, I'm sorry I couldn't protect you better. What kind of Catalyst am I?"
"Yeah, they're here too. They refused to leave." said Nikida.
"It's good to see you, VOIDs." Sardec then sighed.
"Sardec. Are you sad that Hygeio is still missing?" Catalyst asked.
"I now have unfinished business at two planets. Where do circumstances draw the line?"
"Hygeio is missing in action." said Nirvana. "Nothing is yet certain. She may still be out there."
Nikida placed her hand on Sardec's shoulder.
"I'm sure we'll have to go back to Hellus eventually, Sardec. And we'll be better prepared next time."
The door opened and the female doctor entered the room.
"Oh, the gang's all here. Are you ready to get up, Sardec?"
A Fair Trade
Sardec followed Nikida to a weapons lab, where Kellogg was seen examining Sardec's equipment.
"My God. You're finally awake. How are you feeling, son?"
"I feel bed sores."
"Wonderful! While you've been out, the engineers at the research lab have been taking a closer look at your Magma armor. We still don't quite know how it discharges a wave of geothermal energy. It has something to do with something called 'VOID material'. I have no idea what that means. We would like to take a closer look at your VOIDs and see what the connection is."
"Well, if it helps counter the enemy better, I suppose."
"Sardec! You're letting us go?" asked Catalyst.
"Guys, you've served me well. If it weren't for all of you, I would not have survived our encounters at UBP116. First you all saved me. Maybe now you can help save others. I hereby give authorization of VOID use to Valcode Kellogg."
"If new use involves explosives, then Collapsar is recommended."
The VOIDs floated away from Sardec and over to Kellogg.
"We'll take good care of them, Sardec. Thank you. Now for my part of the bargain. Follow me."
Kellogg escorted Sardec into a shooting range. Near the door were three cylindrical glass pods, one of which containing a grayish purple armor.
"This Sardec, is what the boys call 'Krypton Armor'. Try it on and I'll tell you more."
The pod containing the armor opened. Kellogg took a big whiff.
"Ah, don't you love that new armor smell?"
Sardec grabbed the Krypton legs and fit them around his own. He reached for the chest and found it to be heavy.
"Watch the shoulders." Kellogg chuckled.
Sardec felt the weight of the chest on his back and waist. He poked his arms out of the sides and reached for the arms. The arms fit him like gloves. He reached for the helmet and lowered it around him. The visor's display activated and he could see outside the helmet.
"That'll strike fear into the faces of your enemies. How does it feel?"
"Extremely comfy, actually."
"I would expect. That thing was tailored for your height, weight, and size. It's one of a kind. Now go ahead and put on your backpack, Immortal."
The pod containing the backpack opened, showing a green turtle shell-like plate. Sardec placed it on his back and felt it lock on.
"I felt bad that you lost Hygeio, that I had the boys make this one last-minute. If things get too rough out there and you find yourself wounded, Immortal here will patch you up just enough to get you back on your feet. Now for your weapon. Open the third pod."
Sardec opened the third pod and saw what appeared to be a metallic bow. Sardec grabbed the blow and suddenly an energy string appeared between the bow tips.
"This is called the HBS-VI Phantom. The scientists like to spook the janitor by saying 'A mysterious material has been put to some kind of evil use in this new type of weapon'. That's bullcrap. They just used Mithril. But enough about its roots. Walk towards the center of the range."
Kellogg left the range and Sardec walked towards the center. Kellogg's voice was heard over the intercom.
Several dummies appeared from the ground. Sardec took a battle stance and pulled the bow string, firing dual energy projectiles. The projectiles struck and exploded the dummies. One last dummy remained. Sardec fired the bow, striking near the feet of the dummy, causing the explosion to propel the dummy into the air and stuck on the ceiling.
"Looks like that one's tired of our aimless shenanigans." Kellogg laughed.
"Now Sardec. Try this!"
Dummies deployed in close proximity of Sardec.
"Oh my, using your bow at that range is inefficient. Point the bow upwards and relax your grip."
Sardec did as Kellogg said. The bow hovered above his hand and the bow began to shift its shape into a sword. Sardec grabbed the sword, dumbfounded.
"Impressed? Now show those dummies pain!"
Sardec slashed the dummies by their necks, beheading them all in one swing.
"Well done. That'll be enough target practice. To change it back into a bow, hold the hilt upwards. Come on up here, Sardec. It's time our campaign takes another step forward."
Sardec stood beside Kellogg in a room full of computer screens.
"Sardec, the data you collected back at The Archives showed three planets that supply resources to the Kartinava. You've already seen UBP116 and we both saw Hellus. One more planet remains. We last ventured into their homeworld. Now it's time we venture into our homeworld. Planet Earth. We had discovered that Aivsht Murak and his legion have been transporting goods to UBW-594244. All three planets circulate their own technology. The Magma armor originates from Hellus. You got yours at UBP116 due to trading routes. Mithril from UBW-594244 has been transported to Earth as well as VOID material from UBP116. They're making unspeakable things at Earth. If we can sabotage their resources as we did at Hellus, the Kartinava will become that much more weaker to our attacks."
"I don't know if I can leave more unfinished business at a third planet."
"I know it's been a long and tough battle, but we're almost there. Don't give up now, Sardec. Our future as a free race is within our grasp. Your new equipment should make things a little bit easier. One more planet, then we can help you finish what is needed at the other planets. Are you in?"
"Sure. I'm ready for duty."
The Earth teleport beacon fired its light high into the sky. Three Chaos soldiers patrolled the Lair. The ground shook and several transport drills broke to the surface with fauna body parts stuck to the drill. The Chaos soldiers stomped onto the ground and Speedlings rose from it. The drills opened and UNCC soldiers stormed out. Plasma Slugs and Energy Flies crawled out of the walls.
Some soldiers dispatched the Plasma Slugs with machine guns while others took care of the Energy Flies using shotguns. The Chaos soldiers retreated up a steep hill and returned fire. Kellogg fired the Gemini-32 towards the hill while Sardec slashed the Speedlings with the Phantom. The enemy soldiers took cover and shouted unknown words. Alien Rhinos stepped out from the cracked walls of the canyon and Elite Speedlings appeared from underground. The UNCC soldiers backed up as the hostile creatures approached. Gunfire was spread out. As the Rhinos were pushed back, Acid Bombers dug out of the Speedling burrows. The UNCC soldiers were backed up into a single group.
The Chaos soldiers then revealed themselves, holding strange white/green grenade launchers. They fired strange grenades. Upon landing, the grenades walked towards the UNCC and exploded, leaving a purple residue. The UNCC received damage from the residue and spread out across the neighboring hill. Sardec broke from the Chaos soldiers' sight and snuck past some crevices, sword ready. Now at their flank, Sardec prepared to charge, until something struck his back. He was pushed forward and saw an Elite Panther behind him. The Panther pounced and Sardec quickly held the sword forward, allowing the Panther to pounce into the blade.
The enemy soldiers heard the commotion and turned their attention to Sardec. Sardec quickly switched the Phantom to a bow and ran from their homing grenades. He fired several energy arrows, knocking the weapons out of their hands. Strange energy emitted from the soldiers' Chaos armor, appearing like a magnified atom. They charge at Sardec, claws ready. Sardec switched the Phantom to a sword again and prepared for their push. He quickly stepped to the side, evading their charge and striking one of them in the back, downing him.
The remaining two tilted their heads forward, pointing their horns toward Sardec. One charged and clashed with Sardec's sword. Sardec parried the attack and kicked the Chaos soldier away. The third soldier struck the back of Sardec's head with its fist. Sardec turned around and the third soldier charged again. He knocked him back with the hilt of his sword and lunged forward, striking him down.
The last soldier recovered from Sardec's parry and ran for his grenade launcher. Sardec quickly changed the Phantom back to a bow and shot the grenade launcher away. The final soldier snarled at him before it was killed by one final blow from the bow. Sardec examined the grenade launcher with his HUD and identified it as "J.O.K.E.".
Sardec regrouped with the rest of the UNCC, where he saw them finishing off the hostile alien fauna.
"The Chaos soldiers have been vanquished."
"Good job, Sardec" said Kellogg. "That Krypton armor really is doing the trick. Maybe when I get back, I can finally use your old Magma armor and kick ass more efficiently as well. But enough about that. Ready the beacon!"
Nikida pressed buttons on the beacon's console.
"Coordinates set, sir! Opening portal now."
"Everyone form a single file! Any volunteers to take point!"
"I will." Sardec said.
"Great spirit, son. We've all got your back."
The portal opened wide. Sardec took point and approached the portal. As he entered the portal, it suddenly vanished, much to the surprise of the UNCC.
"What the Hell just happened!?" Kellogg shouted.
"I don't know." Nikida replied. "The console is not responding anymore."
The console shone a red light and displayed a message: "HUMAN TOUCH. SELF-DESTRUCTING."
The console heated up and destroyed itself.
"No! No! NO!" Nikida punched and kicked the console.
"Ease up, Nikida. I'm concerned for Sardec too. Can the console be repaired?"
"I'm not sure. It's hot to the touch!"
"Wait for the console to cool down. Everyone else, hold position. I can only hope that Sardec is okay."
They waited in the now quiet Lair canyon, waiting for an update.