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Lava Core

As the portal closed, Sardec's skin began to sting as the temperature in the air dramatically changed. He fell down onto his knees, staring at the heated rock floor supporting him. He rose up, examining his new environment. The air was red and polluted with smoke. The tall hills in the distance appeared warped by the heat waves. Neighboring the hot rocky floor, a river of lava flowed downwards below. Within the river of lava, artificial drilling machines were extracting white crystals without malfunctioning from the immense heat. Just looking at the smokey air made Sardec want to throw a coughing fit, despite his armor filtering what he inhaled.



HatredNuke

Sardec looked to his left and saw a tunnel structure with green fluids dripping from the ceiling. He stepped in and saw to his right, the same engineer he saw at the Bizzare Greenhouse, constructing a Fort-I turret. The engineer looked behind and saw the intruder. It stood up and roared at him. Soon after, Diggers and Tacorlions crawled out of the green sacs attached to the ceiling. As they landed, they set their eyes on their target. The engineer crouched and grabbed ahold of the Fort-I handles and began firing. 

Sardec leapt out of the tunnel entrance, finding some bullet marks on his Despair armor. 

"Nirvana, danger!"

"Roger." 

Nirvana spun in motion and fired a super heated laser, striking through the Diggers and the Tacorlions behind them. In a moment, their exoskeletons shattered and their flesh torn open. 

"Danger eliminated."

"I wouldn't say that so soon."

Out from the sacs, more creatures descended. Five Black Mayflies and three Myth371s approached. The Black Mayflies flew in a circle around Sardec. He equipped the TRIP-9694 StormHerald and frantically tried to take them down, but to no avail. The spheres surrounding the Myth371's emitted steam as they slowly evaporated. The Black Mayflies retreated as the Myth371s lobbed their energized water spheres at Sardec, dealing fair damage.

"Please seek cover, user!" said Hygeio. 

Sardec wanted to, but soon the Black Mayflies surrounded him again. He grabbed Collapsar and tossed it directly above him, drawing in the Black Mayflies before exploding. Their entrails scattered, some on the Despair armor. The three Myth371s drew closer. Now against slower targets, Sardec steadied the StormHerald and accurately fired at their orifices, killing them and causing their energy spheres to collapse and evaporate immediately.


Sardec turned back into the tunnel, where the engineer fired immediately at his position. One bullet struck dangerously close to his feet. A different tactic was required. He accessed his HUD and set his armor for a Thunder overcharge. Leapt in at high speed, supported by the Gravity's thrusters. With the LT6630 Eclipse now in hand, Sardec fired a rocket at the ceiling above the engineer's position. The strike caused a ceiling fragment to fall down, crushing the Fort-I.

Infuriated, the engineer drew two mouth-like energy gloves, one fitted on each hand. Each glove fired a burst of explosive energy, traveling at great speed. They struck Sardec, causing him to drop his Eclipse, where it slipped through a crack in the floor, into the lava. He was taken aback, allowing for the engineer to fire another round. Sardec regained his focus and quickly evaded the 8 projectiles.

"Nirvana, danger!" he shouted. 

"Roger." 

Nirvana once again spun in motion, firing a laser at the engineer's chest. It cried in pain as the hull of its armor broke open. Sardec drew the StormHerald and shot one of the gloves out of its hand. He switched to the CPPS-I BloodMoon and fired a shell at the exposed area. The engineer became quiet and trembled as it wiped the blood off of its chest, before falling backwards into the lava flow.



Demster

"My, that was brutal." said Hygeio.

"It was either him or me." Sardec replied.

He grabbed the mouth-like glove he shot off the engineer's hand and examined it. His HUD identified it as F-ADV HatredSpine. He grabbed the glove and fit it around his hand. He clenched into a fist, firing a burst of 4 explosive projectiles. 

Sardec continued his exploration of the area, traveling down the slope on the right side of the first tunnel, arriving at a large flat area. Far ahead of him, he saw an unusually large creature moving through the seemingly endless sea of lava. Despite all of the noise he had caused earlier, the creature seemed to take no note of him.

Sardec then looked to his left, where he saw a thin bridge of rock connecting to another broad tunnel. He carefully walked across the bridge, when three spinning entities came out of the tunnel across and towards the bridge. They stopped spinning and stared at Sardec. The HUD identified these shelled creatures as "Demster". They then started spinning again, charging fast across the bridge. Sardec fired his StormHerald, only for the bullets to bounce off. The Demster in front struck Sardec, knocking him back, close to the edge. He frantically pushed himself away from the edge, closer to the center. 

"Nirvana! Danger!" 

"Firing laser."

The laser struck the Demster's shell, but seemed to not harm the creature. 

"Laser failed. You must seek an alternative tactic."

"Damn it!" 

Sardec tossed the Collapsar, where it suspended past the edge of the bridge, drawing in two Demsters, only for them to fall off into the lava. 

The final Demster retreated into its shell and charged. Sardec drew the HatrdSpine and fired at the ground in front of it, knocking the creature off its balance and sending it to spin off the edge into the lava.



Flashback

Sardec crossed the bridge to the wider tunnel, where he saw a smaller tunnel connected. As he was about to enter, he heard a familiar battle cry. Out of the smaller tunnel, a large horned creature charged through, pushing Sardec aside. He looked at the creature and was surprised to see what it was: the same species as the creature he had battled at Stadium Arcadium--the Mambull. He immediately tossed his two offensive VOIDs to attack it.

"KILL IT! KILL IT! KILL IT NOW!" 

As the Collapsar prepared to explode, the Mambull lowered its face, shielding itself from the blast. Nirvana fired a laser, but only managed to anger it.

"HYGEIO, DO SOMETHING!"

"EEP! I'm sorry, but I don't have any combat protocols!" Hygeio cried.

The Mambull prepared to charge once again. Sardec took several steps back to the bridge and waited for its approach. The Mambull made a mad dash at Sardec. As its mighty horns were about to impale him, Sardec used the Gravity thrusters to suspend himself off of the bridge. The Mambull could not stop its own inertia, and fell down into the river of lava. Sardec's thruster ran out, and he began to fall, but not before grabbing onto the ledge and pulling himself up.

"Alright, I officially hate this planet."



An Objective

Sardec entered the smaller tunnel, where he found a cache of equipment, including the same kind of outfit the engineer wore. The HUD identified this suit as "Magma Armor". On the other side of the cave, he saw a stash of Nami Bombs. It was then that he received a transmission.


"I see you are handling the Lava Core quite nicely."

"Go to Hell."

Kellogg laughed.

"Alright, enough jokes. I need you to focus. As you know, that place is a breeding ground for the local fauna. Those Nami Bombs are normally used for mining, but today you're going to use them to destroy the place. Equip that Magma armor so you may not die when the place falls apart and you have no place left to go but the lava."

"Wait, this thing can withstand LAVA!?"

"So long as its hull is not compromised. The backpack acts as a motor when swimming through."

Sardec examined the backpack. The HUD identified it as "Brand's Gift."

"Why is it called 'Brand's Gift'?"

"That's one thing the data you extracted cannot answer. Now move!"

"Wait! What about the security code?"

"It's not on the island. Once you cause enough damage, the code will come right to your doorstep."

"Is there at least another island to dock?"

The transmission cut off.


"Hello? Damn it, not again!"

Sardec started by removing his helmet. The immense heat made his eyeballs feel like they were boiling. He made haste and stripped off his Despair armor in exchange for the Magma armor, followed by transferring the contents of his Gravity backpack into Brand's Gift. In the third corner of the cave, two weapons were seen: a UNS-III ShadowArbit laser assault rifle and a Comet-II auto shotgun. He removed the StormHerald and BloodMoon and set them down, in favor for the two new weapons. He grabbed four Nami Bombs, a remote detonator, and placed them in his backpack. He exited back into the wide tunnel, where he saw an upward ramp. He travelled up and found himself in the same place as when he first exited the portal.

He entered the room with green sacs and placed one Nami Bomb. As he continued down the east ramp, he heard two different kinds of hissing. Green Ladies and Stalkers descended from the egg sacs and began their pursuit. He hurried down the ramp and placed a second Nami Bomb at its base. He ordered Nirvana to take out the creatures as he proceeded across the bridge. 

Back down the wide tunnel, he placed a third Nami Bomb where it connected to the bridge. He walked to the upward ramp and placed the fourth Nami Bomb at the half point. 

Now ready to set off the bombs, Sardec first approached a crack in the floor and put his hand close to the lava inside. He felt no increase in temperature and quickly tapped the lava, only to see it run off of his glove without harm. He returned to the bridge with the detonator in his hand. Sardec took several steps back and ran forward, leaping off of the bridge, pressing the detonator while in midair.

The rocky island broke apart and slowly sank into the river of lava. Sardec swam up to the surface and witnessed the fauna nest burn to a crisp.



Cerberlisk

The lava current carried Sardec a large distance before arriving at a smaller rock island. He pulled himself onto land, where a large double-headed creature stared at him. It looked ahead of him and saw parts of the original destroyed island. The creature looked back down at Sardec and both of its heads roared. Its orange head inhaled and fired a large fire ball at him. Sardec cried in pain. He used Brand's Gift to boost himself out of the fire and quickly put out the burns on his armor. He examined the creature and his HUD identified it as "Cerberlisk".

Cerberlisk's blue head took a deep breath and blew a heavy wind, pushing Sardec away, towards a rock wall and striking his back. With Sardec stunned, Cerberlisk lowered its body and charged at him. It grabbed him by its paw and prepared to expel more fire at him. Sardec got an arm free and fired laser bolts from the ShadowArbit, causing the canine to flinch. Cerberlisk swept its paw, smacking Sardec away from him. Sardec sprinted away from Cerberlisk. It turned around and lowered its orange head, spitting out a cluster of fire balls. Sardec carefully and narrowly avoided each other.

Cerberlisk became frustrated and its blue head started to suck the air around, creating a powerful vacuum. Sardec clawed at the ground to support himself, but to no avail. Into the blue mouth, he was pulled. Inside, he was being chewed on, then spat out.

Sardec's armor became scratched. This made him angry.

"If you compromise my armor, I will dunk your head into the lava!"

Cerberlisk lowered its body and made a second mad dash. Sardec used Brand's Gift to boost himself out of the way, causing Cerberlisk to bash its heads against the rocky wall. Nirvana was deployed and fired a laser at the creature's posterior, where Sardec then unloaded several Comet rounds onto the burned area. Cerberlisk cried out in pain and blew a heavy wind to get Sardec away from it.

Its blue mouth opened wide as it created another powerful vacuum. Sardec once again was being dragged across the floor. As he came closer to being swallowed, he deployed Collapsar into the blue mouth. It closed up and a muffled explosion was heard. Cerberlisk spat Collapsar out and smoke came out of its blue mouth. As it was stunned, Sardec threw two HatredSpine volleys its way. 

Cerberlisk sat on its two legs and both of its heads howled into the sky. It opened its blue mouth and hurled a powerful wind while its orange head spat out a large fireball, creating a fiery cyclone. Sardec evaded, but the cyclone followed. As he ran, he tripped over a rock, allowing the cyclone to catch up and engulf him. As Sardec was covered in flames, Cerberlisk walked up to him and swung its heads at him, knocking him into a nearby pool of lava.

Sardec could now feel minor heat coming through his armor. He quickly clambered his way onto land. Cerberlisk prepared to swing its sharp claws, only for Sardec to fire several shotgun shells into the elbow. With Cerberlisk stunned, Sardec made his way to the creature's posterior, where he deployed Nirvana to create another weak spot, then deployed Collapsar to amplify the damage.

Cerberlisk cried in pain and turned around, opening the blue mouth to blow another powerful wind. With Sardec pushed further away, Cerberlisk began to suck with its blue head while firing a cluster of fireballs with its orange head. Struggling to evade, Sardec was then struck by several of the fireballs in motion. 

Cerberlisk stood on its hind legs and prepared to stomp Sardec into the ground. Sardec grabbed the Comet and fired pellets into its underbelly. The canine fell onto its side. Sardec got to his feet, pried its blue mouth open, and stuck Collapsar inside, then took a few steps back. The explosion destroyed the area between the heads, leaving only their outer portions remaining.



Twilight

Sardec held the Comet pointing toward the hole, ready for Cerberlisk's pilot to reveal itself. It was then that he saw a light flash and was knocked to the floor. The Black Hole-armored pilot then appeared at his feet and spoke.

"You and your kind are a plague to this planet. I am begging you to cease your efforts!"

"N-Never! I WILL get that beacon deactivated!"

"Then your journey ends here." 

The pilot held a long blue rifle pointed at Sardec's face. 

"NIRVANA! DANGER!"

"Roger!"

Nirvana spun and fired its laser as the pilot's hands, causing him to drop the blue rifle. Sardec grabbed the rifle and tackled the pilot. 

"I said, 'I WILL get the beacon deactivated.'" He fired a powerful laser from the rifle, causing the pilot's head to explode. 

Sardec examined the rifle in his hands. His HUD identified the weapon as "Reflection", as well as displayed a message that his carrying capacity was maxed out. He dropped the Reflection down and left it next to the pilot's decapitated corpse. He rolled the body to its belly so he could search the back side. As he moved the body, a small rocket-shaped object flew around sporadically and spoke in a scratchy female voice.

"User was not fast enough! New user found! My name is Twilight! Are you fast on your feet!?"

"No, no, no! Not more crazy personalities! I am somewhat quick, but holy crap, please keep it down!"

"He's nice once you get to know him." Hygeio commented.

"Alright, alright. Lowering master volume."

"Thank you." Sardec said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a code to find. 

As he examined the corpse, he found a strange sequence of symbols.

"There's my code. But where is the beacon? I need to make a call. Come in Kellogg!"

"What? Did you need something?"

"Yeah, I got the code, but you never told me where the beacon was."

"To be honest with you, I don't know where it is either. The data shows that it is in the area, it just doesn't say where."

"Alright, I guess I'll keep looking. Over and out."



Mobile Security

Sardec made his way back to the mouth of the island, where he watched the debris from the larger island float down stream. Soon he saw the large creature following suit, in search for stable land. It now took note of Sardec and approached him. He readied the ShadowArbit and pointed at its eyes. The tall slender creature lowered its body until it was at Sardec's eye level. A hologram console then projected from the creature's face. 

"You're the beacon? Security really tightened up here."

Sardec entered the code. The beacon was deactivated. A second screen appeared on the hologram console, now in english, reading "Planetary Fortress accessible. Travel now?"

Sardec was skeptical, but pressed the button to travel. The creature raised two of its tentacles and formed a portal in front of Sardec. His heartbeat increased and he felt sweaty. 

"User, are you nervous?" Hygeio asked.

"Yeah, sort of." 

Sardec took a look back at the dead pilot and its destroyed Cerberlisk vessel, turned forward, swallowed, took a deep breath, and slowly stepped towards the portal. With it right at his toes, Sardec closed his eyes tightly and leapt into the portal, vanishing from sight.

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