Bet you didn't expect it *this* quick, did you? I pushed hard to finish it before AltaVista stops letting me on the net later tonight. Oh, and tell me what you think of Boss Man's 'finale'... heh.
Just a quick note: lines of dialogue that are enclosed in <>'s instead of ""s were not originally spoken in English. Instead, they have been translated from the original language to English for the convenience of the reader.
The Two Fates chapter 12 -- Into the wild blue yonder
I stand frozen for a moment, but am rocked from my fear when something slams into Predaking and explodes. A missile? I look over my shoulder to see that the personnel on the base hadn't actually been escaping earlier. More like going for bigger weapons. Several missile trucks are now rumbling toward the two Decepticons, as well as a dozen jeeps with large-caliber machine guns mounted on them. Blue, Michael and I dash toward them, hoping they will have brought something for us more powerful than a sword or Michael's service pistol. The fronts of the robots erupt into a shower of sparks as the machine guns open fire, a favor they return by blasting two of the jeeps into pieces. We reach the trucks just as they begin letting off a continuous flurry of missiles at the two robots, leaving them dented and scorched, with pieces of their plating beginning to loosen in places. Blue is handed a grenade launcher, Michael a high-powered handheld cannon (think Terminator II), and myself a bazooka. We fan out from the main battle group, surrounding the two invaders along with other soldiers on foot. More of the jeeps and two missile trucks blow up, as the Decepticons strain to aim through the smoke and fire of missile explosions. Those of us on foot begin firing on them as well. Suddenly, a particularly well aimed barrage of missiles slams into the back of Predaking, destroying the couplings that hold Divebomb in place, and those that secure Divebomb's wings to Predaking's back. Both crash to the ground, motionless and sparking. The assault continues on both sides, as the last of the trucks and jeeps are blown up and the Decepticons turn their attentions to the individual soldiers instead. Seeing that they are now the focus of the attack, the soldiers begin dropping back to find more protected positions. Several scream in pain as the robots find their targets before they have a chance to find cover. Michael draws back with them while Blue dashes toward our helicopter. I launch my last rocket of five, drop my bazooka, and dash toward the main bunker in search of another weapon. Michael and several soldiers have been concentrating their fire hard on Predaking, and have successfully blasted off the armor plating in several places. Blue, now piloting the 'copter, sends a large missile directly through one of the holes, blowing Predaking to pieces. This leaves only Bruticus blasting away at the entrenched soldiers. Unfortunately for us, he is more heavily armored than Predaking, and has held up better under the barrage. He stomps ominously toward where I and a group of other soldiers are protecting ourselves, behind a wall.
"This is nuts," says one of the soldiers as he gets close, "we're all gonna get it." I search frantically for another weapon, but he strides over our barrier wall before I find one. The other soldiers scatter as he turns around and levels his weapon at me. I leap toward him and out of the way of his first shot, drawing my sword while in midair. I land near his feet, where he can't get as clean a shot for fear of shooting his own leg off. Blue steers the helicopter toward him, but he looks up and blows the rotor off of the chopper, which crashes to the ground. While he's distracted, I slash my sword at his foot, and to my surprise it slides right through in a clean cut. "That's one stinkin' sharp sword," I exclaim while ducking out of the way of a hasty retaliatory shot. "In and out, bob and weave, slash and retreat," I say into the air as I make a couple more slashes that are complimentary to the first, sending a large chunk of plating falling to the ground.
"Pesky fleshling!" he bellows, "cut that out!" A blast from his gun hits the ground too close to where I've dodged to and knocks me to the ground. He raises hit foot to finish the job, an evil grin pasted on his metallic face... and falls backward, unconscious. I make a desperate, scrambling leap, hoping to get out of the way of what I think will be the end of my last fight, only to realize it's not coming. I look over to the fallen robot, and then at my scattered companions.
"What happened?" I holler. Everyone shrugs. I hadn't heard any explosions. I walk over to it's man-sized head and notice something odd inside the eyes. In each pupil is a small computer display, and both are completely blue, except for some tiny white letters in the center of each. Squinting, I make out the tiny words.
"Gen. General.. Protection... Fault." The soldiers watching me look on curiously as I fall down, laughing uncontrollably. Suddenly I remember Blue, shake myself out of my laughing fit, and dash over to the downed 'copter.
Inside, there's nothing to be seen. Looking frantically around, I see that Blue had survived the crash, got herself out, and was now cautiously approaching what remained of Predaking with sword drawn. I sigh with relief. A movement catches my eye, and I look over to see the wings, which had been blasted off of Predaking's back, shifting slightly. I am about to shout a warning when both the wings and Divebomb spring to life. Divebomb grabs Blue in his beak, knocking her sword from her hand, as his wings fire their rockets, launching themselves into the air and onto the back of the robot bird. He then takes off and quickly accelerates to what must be at least mach 3.
"Blue! NOOOO!" But my scream obviously has no effect. Michael dashes up to my side, taking aim with his hand-cannon, but looks away from the weapon in frustration.
"There's no way she'd survive having that thing blasted out from beneath her," he says, disappointed.
"Crap," I moan, slapping my hand to my forehead, "there's a nuclear bomb in New York that I've gotta stop and I'm all the way in Japan. My 'copter gets wrecked. And worst of all, Chad just got his 'prey'. My partner."
"We've got some pressing business to attend to," Michael interrupts my despairing. "Let's go get on the line to JT. There's no way any of us here will get to New York in three and a half hours. We've gotta figure out a plan of action. And QUICK." I follow him back to the small command center, a tear running down my cheek.
Meanwhile, Blue isn't having a very easy time either. Divebomb has "swallowed" her into a storage compartment inside his chest cavity. Which is fortunate for her, since he's now flying at more that Mach 4, hoping to be quickly out of range of any fighters or missiles from the base. Blue pounds on the walls of her new prison and yells in her native language. Divebomb emits a screechy, falcon-like cackle and flies on, ignoring her protests.
The screen on the communications console blinks to life. Instead of the static that had been the result of every previous attempt to call ARCA headquarters, an image of J.T. flashes onto the screen.
"Yes, Michael, what is it?"
"Hmmm. the Decepticons must have been jamming the signal" Michael mutters.
"What was that?" J.T. asks.
Shaking his head, Michael answers "Nothing, J.T. Just a stray thought about problems we were having earlier."
"Ok. What's the situation there?"
"Well, we were attacked by two more giant Decepticons, obviously sent by Chad."
"I'm getting awful sick of giant mecha hounding me," I say bitterly in the background, still despairing over the loss of Blue.
"Well, Jon, Chad's got to run out of 'em sometime." J.T. replies, "anyway, what happened? You defeated them, I assume?"
"Well, yes, we defeated them." Michael begins
"But they managed to capture Blue," I finish, "and from what they said during the battle, she was their main target in the first place!"
"I don't know why, J.T.." I say, "But it was her they were after!"
"How would Chad even know about her?"
"I don't know." I say, confused.
"Unless he's got some sort of spies in ARCA," J.T. muses.
"What? Impossible!" Michael protests
"It's possible. No organization is air-tight, especially to someone with so many connections."
"Well, either way, something odd is up," I say.
"You know," says J.T., striking inspiration, "we may be able to find out some information from what's left of the Decepticons. Did any of their systems survive? Any memory cores or anything?"
"Most of the one called Predaking got blown to bits," Michael begins.
"And the rest of him stole my partner." I add.
"But Bruticus survived mostly intact," Michael finishes.
"I'm not sure if his memory is corrupted or not, tho." I say, "There was a really odd error message displayed in each eye. Some weird software must have been running in him at the time."
"Well, someone should look anyway. Is that all?"
"We've got another problem, too, J.T." Michael begins.
"There's a bomb on one of the buildings near Times Square in New York," the large man continues.
"We suspect it's nuclear, and at least Boss Man and Waspinator are there guarding it." J.T. now surprises us by laughing.
"You two sure have had a lousy day, haven't you?"
"You betcha," I chuckle grimly. "We had four hours to get there when we first heard the message. Now it's down to about three-and-a-half."
"New York, huh?" J.T. muses. "From Japan? You'll never be able to make it in that little time. Even in the Aurora that's stored in that base."
"The Aurora?!?" I ask, surprised, "You mean the supersonic spy-plane kind of Aurora?"
"Since when do we had one of those all the way out here?"
"For a while now. I don't usually make it widely known exactly what equipment we have, and/or where we have things stored."
"You've trained in one of those things, tho, right?"
"Sure. Every agent's been in the trainer Aurora at the academy. None of us could ever figure out why that was part of our studies, tho."
"Well, now you know. And if you tell anyone else, you'll have to kill them."
"Just joking. Always wanted to say something like that. Anyway, take the plane and get to New York as fast as you can. I'll also have Tal send some agents there to stop the bomb, but I'd at least like you there to help with cleanup, and any interrogation that needs to be done. Mike, you and your agents at the base salvage what you can of Bruticus and begin scanning through his memory banks."
[Author's Note: Ha! Bet you didn't think of that. If I get so much as a pair of latitude/longitude co-ordinates out of the GPS logs of one of your mecha, I'll be in your base causing havoc before you know it!]
"Yes sir!" Michael and I answer simultaneously. J.T. smiles and reaches toward a control near the bottom of his screen, and his image disappears.
"Well, let's get to work, Mike," I say, and we head out the door of the small compound.
"Good luck on your mission, Jon," says Michael as we part ways, him heading toward the fallen robot, and myself walking toward the airman's lounge beside the largest hanger on the base, to get suited up for my flight.
"Thanks. Good luck yourself," I reply, "Be ready for some pretty crazy encryption trying to get into that machine's head."
"Thanks," hollers Michael just as he walks out of earshot.
Inside the airman's lounge, the air boss quickly re-briefs me on the Aurora's controls. He helps me into the special suit that flying at great speeds in such a primitive machine (when compared to Blue's space ship, for instance) requires. We then head out into the hanger, where he punches a special twenty-digit code into an otherwise nondescript security keypad. The floor of the hanger hinges upwards and away from us. As the secret door in the floor rises, I see that it's incredibly thick, and sandwiched in between layers of asphalt and steel are sound, radar, sonar, and electrical dampening materials. This was a really fancy setup! The Aurora is raised on hydraulics out of its hidden hanger and wheeled onto the runway, and I climb into the cockpit. Once the preflight check is over, I receive clearance from the tower, and am soon airborne (if that seems particularly fast for launching a very high-tech jet, remember, I'm in a bit of a hurry to get to New York).
About half an hour after my departure from the airbase in Japan, a helicopter is hovering over the New York skyline.
"There's Times Square," says Tal into his headset. He sits in the pilot's seat, steering the craft while trying to search the rooftops for their quarry. "See anything yet?"
"Nothing!" replies a young agent named Tim Randen.
"I don't see a thing, sir!" offers the other occupant of the 'copter, an agent in her early twenties named Sherry Davis. The sky is bright and clear, and the afternoon sun reflects off of the rooftops brilliantly, hindering any search for something on the tops of those buildings.
"I'll circle around some more," says Tal, squinting against the brightness, "you picked up some of those special anti-glare glasses, right?"
"Yup, chief," replies Tim.
"There! On that building over there!" cries Sherry, pointing to a particular rooftop.
"Hmmm. How best to proceed?" mutters Tal, "they've undoubtedly seen us by now, and we have no idea what kind of firepower they're packing." Almost as if on cue, a small missile blows the bay door off of the helicopter. Waspinator flashes past the windshield, laughing. "Aw, crap. Hang on guys," moans Tal. He spins the helicopter around 180 degrees more quickly than either of the other agents thought was possible. Quickly acquiring a lock of his own, he sends a missile off after Waspinator and banks the helicopter back down toward the rooftops. He directs the aircraft toward a building close to the one the bomb was spotted on, bringing it down for a landing amidst a forest of clotheslines, sending laundry flying and badly tangling the main rotor. Tal hastily shuts down the engine and brakes the blades to a stop.
"So much for the 'copter," comments Tim.
"We're still alive, crash-boy" Tal playfully shoots back, referring to Tim's own stellar flight record.
"To work, boys," Sherry prods, hopping out of the missing side-door, "We've gotta be ready for whatever they're gonna throw at us."
"Yes, mommy," grins Tal, climbing out of the pilot's door and hefting a laser gun that, while not quite as large as Blue's, looks like it could still hold it's own in a firefight with any giant robot.
"How come you get the cool weapons?" the small woman's pretty face is twisted in mock protest as she quickly shoulders her own automatic weapon. It hangs over her black jumpsuit beside a sword tied to her belt.
"It's not exactly... department issue." Tal trails off, grinning. Tim emerges from the side door of the helicopter, dressed and armed almost identically to Sherry. The only difference is that he is nearly as tall at Tal. The security chief himself approaches 7' in height. Tim is making his last hurried preparations for battle when he looks up. His face falls.
"Guys? We've got company." he moans.
"Y'all didn't think we was just gonna let'cha just march in and turn off our bomb, now, did 'ya?" chuckles a drawling voice from across the rooftop. Tal and Sherry peer around the side of the 'copter to see what is going on. Standing on the far side of the roof is Big Boss Man, surrounded by a large pack of Velocibarneys.
"Aw, shoot," says Tal, stepping out from behind the copter. "Why don't you just give up?" he hollers, "it'll be a lot easier for everyone involved if you did."
"Now, I can't go doin' that, can I?" Boss Man replies.
"Figures," Sherry states in mild disgust, stepping around the tail of the aircraft. "Typical villain. Let's go, boys," she says as she unshoulders her machine gun. Boss Man's face falls in disappointment.
"What, that's all of you? Y'all didn't bring along Johnny with 'ya?" he says, surprised.
"Sorry guy. We'll have to do for now," Tal states.
"Oh well. Dead ARCA agent is a dead ARCA agent," says Boss Man waving his arm to the Velocibarneys, "Let's go, boys!" The agents open fire just as the velocibarneys dash around Boss Man to attack, shielding him from both bullets and laser blasts.
"We'd better do something, or we're barney meat!" says Tim as the purple abominations draw close. The front of the barney ranks now sweeps over the three. In a flash, two katanas and Tal's own rather large broadsword are out, being skillfully brandished against the masses. Velocibarneys are falling left and right to sword, gun, and blow. But the horde is also taking it's toll on the agents.
"Any ideas?" asks Sherry, panting.
"As always," replies a strangely confident Tal. Next, he executes a stunning series of sword slashes and breaks free of the mob of Velocibarneys, running a distance from the battle to where he can get a good shot at Boss Man. "Call off your troops now, or I'll fry you like a cantaloupe!" he yells, aiming his weapon at the wrestler.
"A cantaloupe?!?" says Boss Man, confused.
"What, you've never seen a fried cantaloupe before?"
"Well then, you'll be surprised at what happens to you when I pull the trigger."
"That little gun won't get you very far. See, Chad gave me an energy shield before I left, so I'm not too worried about your little popgun." Boss Man snarls. Tal makes a face and fires anyway. True to his word, a glowing orb of energy lights up around Boss Man and the laser is reflected downwards and into the roof. "See? I told 'ya, fool!" Meanwhile, the battle between the Velocibarneys and the other two agents has kept going.
"A little help here?" hollers Tim.
"I'm working on it! Be patient," Tal yells back. He now looks up to the sky and whispers "Forgive me for what I'm about to do."
"Ya' better hurry, or my 'friends' are gonna finish off your kids over there," chides Boss Man. Tal now clears his throat, takes a deep breath, and begins yelling.
"You namby-pamby Jabroni! Stop being a wuss and letting your henchmen fight! Get your roody-poo candy *ss out from behind that force field and fight like a MAN!" He manages to make his voice sound a good deal like The Rock.
"Are you challenging me?" laughs Boss Man.
"You'd better believe I'm challenging you, you pile of monkey crap!" Tal yells again. Boss Man waves his hand and the Velocibarneys stop attacking.
"This could be fun. What d'ya want to do?"
"I challenge you to a one-on-one, no-holds-barred hardcore match for the lives of us three, and all of New York too! If you're man enough to do it!"
"Well..." Boss Man pauses for a moment to concider, "fine, c'mere so I can smack you down good." Tal resumes speaking in his normal voice, stands up straight again, and waves his hand toward Tim.
"Ok, Tim. You heard him. Fight the man."
"WHAT?" Tim and Boss Man yell in chorus.
"Well, it'd be completely unfair if I fought him. This way, he has at least a remote chance of winning."
"Oh. I see. Thanks a lot chief."
"Don't worry about it. You'll clobber him. Wrestling is fake, remember?"
"Oh, I'll be plenty 'real' with you, boy," grins Boss Man, cracking his knuckles and advancing toward the agent.
Tim sighs. "All right, let's get this over with." He flips off his sword, drops his gun, and advances toward the burly wrestler. Both circle each other for a minute, sizing each other up. Tim is just as tall as the wrestler, but he is far less muscular *looking*.
"You're so scrawny, how're you gonna beat me?" Boss Man chides.
"We'll see," replies Tim calmly.
"I want you to tell me if what I'm about to do to you *feels* fake or not, alright?"
"Can we fight already?" asks Tim.
"You asked for it," answers Boss Man. He lunges toward the agent, fist drawn back to strike. The wiry Tim springs to life and dodges out of the way. Sidestepping, he winds up for his own blow.
"Fake *this*" he says, sending a hard right to the larger man's midsection. Waspinator picks this moment to make his re-appearance, swooping in over the two other agents, who have been standing at a small distance, toward Tim and Boss Man.
"Hey, bug!" Sherry hollers, "don't go interrupting them!" She whips out a mechanical grappling hook and fires it at the robot. It's metallic jaws clink onto the stinger jutting from the back of his abdomen. Sherry wraps the other end of the wire around a pole jutting from the roof near her. The slack quickly runs out on the line, and Waspinator responds to a fierce tug on his stinger like any honeybee would. All of the electronics housed inside his abdomen and thorax are pulled out his rear, still attached to his stinger. The empty outer shell, now powerless, crashes to the roof about ten feet short of where the wrestler and the other agent are locked in combat.
"Why you little..." Boss Man recovers quickly from Tim's last punch and rams into him, slamming him down onto the roof. Tim does one of those classic "momentum" tricks and sends Boss Man flying over him and onto the roof himself. Both stand up and regard each other cautiously. It was going to be a more interesting fight than either had thought. This time, Tim is the first one to make a move. He throws a solid left at Boss Man's face, only to have it smacked away. Boss Man counters with a knee to the stomach, which sends Tim over backwards, somersaulting and coming up on his feet again. Tim dashes forward and fakes as if to punch left again, and when Boss Man's guard goes up, quickly shifts his weight and delivers a side kick to his right arm instead. Boss Man grunts in pain. The battle goes on like this for some time. The remaining velocibarneys gather around in a circle to watch. Blow after blow is traded between the pair, and yet neither seems to gain the upper hand. Back and forth goes the fight, and both combatants are starting to tire. Until Boss Man sees his salvation. He stoops and grabs a two-foot iron bar that had been lying on the roof. Brandishing his new weapon with a practiced ease and menace, he advances on Tim, who backs up cautiously. Tim stops backing up about five feet from the edge of the roof. Boss Man smirks.
"Can't run any more, boy. Time to die." He charges with bar raised high, ready to strike. In a flash, Tim falls onto his back, planting both feet into the stomach of the charging Boss Man, and sends him flying over the edge of the roof. Boss Man screams for a moment, and then stops. Tim peers over the side to see that the force field Boss Man was using earlier can also act as an anti-gravity parachute, as Boss Man is now safely floating the last few feet down to the ground. He pulls out a remote from his pocket and presses the big red button in the center of it.
"You've got two minutes left on that bomb, boy! Enjoy!," he yells up. Tim strains and can barely hear him over the usual roar of the city. He now turns back around to see that the velocibarneys have vanished as well.
"Where'd they go?" he asks.
"They all ran off when you threw Boss Man over the edge," replies Tal.
"Oh. Well, we've got two minutes left on that bomb, so we'd better hurry," says Tim.
"Well, lovely. Let's get going then." They quickly cross to the adjoining rooftop and advance on the bomb. Tal brings out a small toolkit, slides underneath to find an access panel, and sets to work as the seconds tick down.
"Hey, Tal?" Sherry says nervously, "hurry up, would'ya? There's only twenty seconds left."
"I'm working on it," Tal calmly replies.
"Ten seconds," says Tim, sounding a bit more worried. "Five, four, three, two---blank." Tim lets out a sigh of relief. Suddenly, all the lights on the bomb start blinking at once and it begins beeping.
"Aw, shoot!" cries Tal. Then a bright light engulfs the area, seemingly coming from Tal himself. Both he and the bomb streak up into the air, leaving a comet-like trail of light behind. Tal reaches an altitude of more that fifty thousand feet within seconds. He lets go of the bomb and plummets back earthward just as it explodes. As he lands on the roof again, the blinding light that had surrounded him fades quickly.
"What the...?!?" questions Tim. Sherry just stares, open-mouthed.
"It's... er... a new combat-aid system that I'm helping test out. It's nowhere near ready for just anyone to use though, and probably won't be in your lifetimes."
"Dangit," moans Tim, "cause that was *really* sweet." Sherry looks over at Tim and grimaces.
"It's like I said, how come he gets all the cool weapons?" she complains.
"Oh, and if you tell anyone about it, you'll have to kill them. And I *mean* that. By all rights, I should probably kill you two now."
"Err... It's ok by me that you don't," says Tim cautiously, "we aren't gonna tell anyone if it's *that* serious". Tal looks over at the two agents walking beside him back toward the building where most of the fighting took place and smiles.
"I'm not worried about it, so don't you be either. Anyway, let's collect what's left of Waspinator and call for a ride home and a cleanup crew."
Down at street level, Boss Man has been running through alleys, heading toward a transport truck he will use to get him and the remaining velocibarneys out of New York and back to a Chadco base. He is about to turn another corner into a wider side-street when the voice of a young Mexican boy rings out into the alley from high above.
"Stop right there!" it yells. Boss Man does so, more out of curiosity than fear.
"Who's there?" he yells back.
"So, you are the one."
"What one?" he asks his unseen addresser
"THE ONE WHO KILLED MY FRIEND!!!" the voice screams, enraged.
"I don't know what you're talking about," yells Boss Man, becoming worried at the sheer oddity of the situation.
"Of course you do. The chihuahua that you killed on your show!" the small voice accuses.
"You're mad at me for a dumb stunt like that?!? Are you from PETA or something?" Boss Man asks, incredulous.
"I want that murderer DEAD!" This time, the voice seems to be speaking to someone else. A tremendously loud growling fills the entire alley. Boss Man peers around the side of the tall building that obstructs his view of the side street in front of him. He screams in terror as a giant, green reptilian foot crushes him utterly. Atop the giant reptile sits a small yellow dog with bulging eyes. It smiles at the sticky mess that it's friend has just made.
"Good lizard," the dog says, "now, let's go find us some Taco Bell."
It has been about two hours since Divebomb kidnapped Blue and began his flight back to your base. He now streaks over an endless sea of savannah in Southern central Africa. Several miles back, a deafening sonic boom echoes after him. He spots his destination and begins descending.
The giant bird lands in a fairly nondescript patch of savannah. He looks around for a moment, and then a radio antenna inside his body broadcasts an access code that is picked up by a tiny aerial hidden in a patch of tall grass. It in turn announces the robotic falcon's presence to a set of big servo motors, which dutifully hinge upward a large section of the ground. Divebomb stalks down through the hole revealed by this well-concealed door after which it closes, leaving the surrounding savannah again empty.
Inside the giant hanger just beneath the place where Divebomb went underground, a guard stands on duty. It has been a boring watch, and he is drifting in and out of sleep. He is startled to full alertness when he sees what he at first thinks to be part of a dream, a giant bird lumbering out of the launch tunnel.
"Tell your master:" grins the mecha, "the hunt was costly, but successful." The guard nods and salutes, more out of fear than the need for formality. He dashes out of the room with his message.
Deeper inside the same base, you and the feline alien, whom you have named Felicia, stand alone in a large room. Workout equipment, martial arts practice weapons, and the like line the padding-covered walls, giving it the appearance of a gym or makeshift dojo. You are slowly, gracefully going through a series of martial arts concentration exercises. She stands five feet away in a white, loose-fitting workout suit, mirroring your every move. You both reach the end of the exercise and stand up straight. You look over at her, impressed.
"Very good, Felicia. You've already nearly mastered the basic forms," you say in admiration.
"Thank you, Sensei-i," she replies in her still-faltering English, having just learned the language from Eve the day before.
"Now," you say, grinning, "Let's see what else you've learned." You turn toward her, assume a fighting stance, and motion for her to begin sparring. "Now, attack!" Faster than you could ever have expected from a novice fighter, she swings for your midsection. And while you're plenty strong enough to withstand such a blow from even the most powerful of Earth fighters, she hits you with an amazing amount of strength. You gasp with surprise and double over. Next, she catches you with a kick that sends you flying a good 15 feet, nearly halfway across the room. You stumble to your feet.
"How'd you DO that?!?" you gasp, "You were never that strong or fast last time we practiced..."
"W-well, I was holding back some before," she states, and adds for explanation "we aren't a weak race, the Dark Angels were just stronger."
"So I see," you say, straightening up. "Now, let's try this again, shall we?"
"I don't want to hurt you again, Sensei," she protests.
"Oh, don't worry. Now that I know what to expect, you won't. Now ATTACK!"
"Ok," she says warily. She comes at you again with blinding speed and agility. Now that you are expecting it, however, you easily block most all of her blows and get in a few good ones of your own, too. You two spar for a good half a minute, until she makes a critical mistake and you send her flying across the room with a well-executed throw.
"See? I told you it wouldn't be a problem," you grin, just barely flushed in the face from the exertion of battle. She stands up stiffly, looking downcast that you had beaten her so easily.
"I guess so," she says, melancholy, her ears and tail drooping.
"Don't worry about it," you reply, walking over to her. "You're still one of the best fighters I've trained yet." She perks up at the compliment. "Now, are you ready to try again?" Your challenge is interrupted, however, when the guard from the hangar bursts through the door of the gym.
"Sir! Sir!" he calls. "Divebomb has returned, and he says the hunt was successful!" You turn toward him, immediately more formal and less fatherly than you were with Felicia.
"Just Divebomb?" you say, disappointed. "But the hunt was still successful, huh?" you chuckle, raising an eyebrow.
"Yes, sir. He just arrived, and that's what he told me."
"Jon's getting sloppy if he let that happen... Well, gather a bunch of velocibarneys and meet me in the hangar. I can't imagine our 'guest' will be too easy to deal with."
"Yes, sir!" says the guard as he salutes and leaves. You turn back to Felicia. Your manner softens again.
"Felicia, return to your quarters please. I trust you can keep yourself busy for a while? We'll continue your training after I take care of some... 'business'," you say, grinning gleefully and rubbing your hands together.
"Ok," comes her terse reply as makes her exit. You walk out the opposite door, heading toward the hangar where you know Divebomb will be waiting.
You enter the hanger from a far door. Inside are about thirty velocibarneys clustered around the towering mechanical bird. You stride quickly over to the group, after opening a weapons locker near the door and grabbing from it a belt with several grenade-like canisters attached to it. When you reach Divebomb, you look up and begin to speak.
"Divebomb, if I put her to sleep with one of these, can you still get her out of your 'storage chamber'?" It nods. "All right. Open wide." Divebomb opens his beak and looks straight up, so Blue would have less of a chance to escape. You pop one of the canisters from the belt you are carrying, pull the pin, and flick it perfectly into his mouth. There are some angry but indistinguishable alien words from inside and the canister is thrown back out before it has a chance to go off. You quickly incinerate it and the sleeping gas it contained with a force-blast before it can affect any of the Velocibarneys. "Ok, Divebomb. Actually close your mouth this time," you say crossly while preparing another canister. You flip it into the air and again land it perfectly in his beak. This time, the robot clangs his metallic jaws back together as soon as the sleep gas bomb is inside him. Several clangs echo from his head as she tries fruitlessly to get it out. In the middle of her last try, it goes off. The small storage chamber is quickly filled with the gas, and the excess billows out from between Divebomb's closed mouth, making him look more like a dragon than a falcon. A faint echo of coughing from inside can be heard gradually fading away, and soon all is still inside of the metal beast. At this point, Divebomb senses that his cargo has succumb to the gas and bends downward, opening his mouth, so that his head is level with the floor. An internal conveyor belt whirrs and the still, prone form of Blue emerges from the remaining fog from the sleep gas.
"Excellent," you say with hands held almost at eye-level, fingertips pressed together in front of your face. "Take our guest here to the special accommodations we've arranged for her," you order the velocibarneys. One fairly large one, who appears to be the leader of the pack (vroom, vroom), motions to the others. Ten of them gather around her body, lift her onto their shoulders, and march out the door.
<Wake up, little rosebud,> you say mockingly while peering into Blue's face. When she does not stir, you grab a nearby cup of water and splash it over her face. She begins to stir, but she is still groggy from the sleep gas.
<Wh-where am I? Who are you?> Blue moans with a thick tongue, as she peers through clouded eyes. Then reality begins to set itself right for her, and her vision clears a bit. She looks around the room and sees you standing in the middle of it. Recognizing you from the mental picture I had showed her, she tries to leap up, only to be stopped by something. She looks down to see that she is bound to a sturdy steel chair by a thick metal chain. <What do *you* want from me?> she snarls.
<Now, is that any way to speak to your host?> you say, grinning. She stops, surprised.
<You speak my language?>
<Apparently,> you smirk.
<You'll find out, my dear Azure. All in good time. But I have a few questions for you first.> (yes, Blue's alien name translates into "Azure" in English. So, the nickname that I gave her wasn't all that far off from her real name.)
<Don't expect me to tell you *anything*,> she growls.
<You don't trust me?>
<One of your robots shot down my ship. And you kidnapped my daughter!>
<I did no such thing. I merely went out and saved her from some drunk Japanese fishermen.>
<Return her to me and I will not kill you.>
<Kill... me?> you chuckle, <well, you're brave, I'll give you that.>
<Don't think these chains will hold me if you continue to deny my request.>
<Ambitious words. I'd like to see you back them up, though. Those chains are half-inch-thick Titanium alloy,> you laugh. <*I* might even have trouble breaking them.>
<Return my daughter to me.>
<Can't we sit and talk a bit first? There's so much I want to know about your species, about Jon, about his organization,> you smile as you drop your bombshell <About the *Dark Angels*.> Blue's eyes widen in fear at the mention of her race's greatest enemies.
<How do you know of them?>
<They've been attacking Earth and giving me trouble for years now.>
<WHAT?!? The sector police have never mentioned much Dark Angel activity in such a backwater system.>
<Your people must have simply been too involved in your own fight against them to notice their other aggressions.> You turn your head to the side, looking worried. <My armies have always managed to fight them off up to this point. But each time they attack, they become stronger. I'm worried I may not be able to protect the Earth for much longer.>
<I doubt a planet such as yours would survive a real attack by the Dark Angels. You are clearly lying, kidnapper.>
<You don't believe me? Here is your proof.> You press a button on a small remote that sits in your pocket. A panel in the wall about five feet away slides upwards, revealing a window into a holding cell. Inside is the dead body of a Dark Angel (this is the Dark Angel that died fighting your velocibarney in the hanger, but Blue obviously doesn't know that). Blue stares in amazement. <Just one of the casualties from our ongoing wars,> you say, rather triumphantly. Blue shakes her head to clear her thoughts.
<That is impossible. There is no *way* your planet could survive an onslaught by them. None of our intelligence reports even said that your planet was very much worth visiting, much less a Galactic Power of such a magnitude.>
<Ever wonder why 'intelligence report' is considered an oxymoron?> you smirk.
<No, you are still lying. You have shown me only *one* body. Where are their ships, wreckage even?>
<*Please*, Azure, help us,> you say, fake pleading oozing from your voice. <We are not sure when the next attack will come, or how strong they will be. We need information on them, on you, on Jon's organization.>
<Why do you need to know about Jon?>
<We suspect that his organization is working *with* the Dark Angels to infiltrate the Earth.>
Blue thinks silently to herself. "Now I *know* he's lying. I read enough of Jon's mind to know no such thing is true."
<That is false, and I am sure of it. I will not help you,> she says aloud, returning from her thoughts.
<Please, Azure. We have a common enemy, and the Earth may not survive without your assistance.>
<That is a lie. The air is thick with them. And every time you speak, the cloud of lies gets thicker.>
<I'm hurt, Azure.>
<This conversation is over. If you truly are fighting the Dark Angels, and yet are trying to deceive me like this, I hope they destroy you.>
<Azure, help us,> you plead. She simply glares at you. You can see you won't get any further with this tactic. "Curse her telepathic abilities," you think, turning away in frustration, "she must have gotten quite a bit of information out of Jon. Time to switch... 'methods'." You now turn back to her and place your hand on hers. She shudders at the touch, and you use what you learned from Eve to force open a telepathic link.
<What are you doing?> she asks, pretending to sound scared. In truth, she knows exactly what you are trying to do, and is secretly planning to use the same trick against you.
<If you will not help me willingly, I will just have to enter your mind and find the information for myself.> You now proceed to try and pry into her memories, looking for any information on ARCA, on Blue, on my plans. Unfortunately for you, she has had a long lifetime of experience with her telepathic powers (several hundred years, in fact, as opposed to the 20 or so years since you discovered your own ability), so she is able to deflect your probing with some effort. At the same time, carefully, stealthily, she is also probing your mind, looking for quiet little bits of information that could be of use. Suddenly, she strikes upon one thought of yours that completely shatters her concentration in a fit of rage. You smile as you finally break through her mental defenses. With anger and adrenaline fueling her, she tenses her muscles for what she will do next, and quickly swings her arms upward with enough force that she indeed does snap the chains that bind her to the chair. Her left hand catches you as it goes up, sending you flying onto your back and breaking the telepathic link. She kicks her legs next, breaking those chains as well. "She hits harder than Felicia" you think in surprise. You struggle off your back and up onto your elbows to look at her, and think you must be going crazy. For rising from her shoulders and surrounding her head there again burns a dim tongue of flame. The look on her face genuinely frightens you for a moment. You slide backwards out of her immediate range, and right yourself by executing an impressive move where you flip, from a prone position, backwards over yourself, and land on your feet in a fighting stance.
<YOU VIOLATED MY DAUGHTER!!!> Blue screams in rage. Surprised by her accusation, you effect a genuine air of hurt into your voice.
<I have *some* honor,> you growl angrily.
<You GENETICALLY violated my daughter!!! Changed her growth rate! Prematurely aged her!>
<Oh, that,> you say, embarrassed. Without warning, and faster than you could have thought possible for anyone but yourself, she lashes out and catches you on the side of the face, sending you flying across the room and leaving an angry red welt on your cheek. You get up, seething. <This little display has gone on long enough,> you hiss, and launch a very potent force blast at her. Blue screams as she is knocked back into the wall twenty feet behind her, where she lays in a heap. She is still breathing, but the tongue of fire is gone from around her head.
All right. Where the story goes from here is up to you.
-- Jon "it's finally done" Keim