|Act III: The Price of War|
Decembris 22nd, 1215
It was a cold, snowing night and All Spirits Eve would be upon Anduruna in a matter of days. The lights were strung across the streets, the trees were decorated and children were singing in front of homes. It was a time of celebration and worship for the gods and spirits of the Sacrare faith who brought the dreamkeepers into being.
Of course, not everyone was being cheerful and spreading joy.
In a dingy, old bar in the Margate District, a slightly drunken, seven-foot-tall grizzly bear dreamkeeper was thrown out and into the snow, his muzzle bleeding.
"Come back when you're ready to lose another fight, ya foreigner!" a patron shouted as the others laughed and closed the door.
"Basturds!" the bear screamed. "You shall pay for dis! You have heard of Scald's reputation! Scald has broken many of you tiny, Anduhrunahn men! Dis is not ovah til' Scald sayz it tis ovah!"
Standing up, the bear didn't bother to keep his blood from dripping onto the sparkling snow. Beaten and embarrassed, he trudged through the snow, away from the bar.
As he walked through an empty park, he breathed heavier and heavier, his anger rising. Suddenly, a white halo with a crimson red glow appeared above him. His eyes glowed red.
Without warning, he roared and shot two smooth particle beams from his eyes. The beams went through a tree, slicing it down near its base.
As it crashed with a thud into the snow, the bear huffed and puffed, his halo still active.
"Easy there, buddy. A stunt like that will get you thrown out of this city, rather than thrown out of a bar."
The bear spun around to see a wolf sitting calmly on a bench.
Aizer Pulse grinned at the bear's anger-fueled display. "Scald, I presume? You sure have a lot of pent-up frustration for a Antarean native!"
Scald dissipated his halo and snorted. "Little man should not concern himself with Scald! Leave Scald alone!"
He began to walk away, but Pulse stopped him with a statement.
"So, is this what you want? A life of brawling and drunkeness? I know who you are, Scald! Your parents would not be proud of this behavior!"
Scald stopped in his tracks. Turning slightly to look back at Pulse, he grumbled. "How do you know Scald's parents?"
"You told me. With your mind. You obviously don't know who I am, otherwise you'd recognize me and know that I read your mind."
Scald turned completely to face him. With a drunken hiccup, he gazed at the wolf. "Who are you?"
"Aizer Pulse. I am the leader of two resistance movements. The Troika and the Aequitus Equitus Republic. I'm sure you've heard of the Troika from time to time."
Scald laughed once. "Scald has heard of them. In fact, Scald gets his favorite fermentae from Troika on many occasions."
"Let me guess, Scinter's Mark!"
"Da!" the bear replied. "Most incredible drink! One of Scald's wildest wishes is to someday meet this Scinter and tell him just how much Scald love his drink!"
Pulse smiled, seeing his chance. "Well, how about I grant you that wish right now?"
Scald's face lit up with surprise. "What?"
"Come on! We need to get out of here, anyway! Someone must've reported that tree falling by now!"
* * * * *
Walking through the front door of the Troika's Margate safehouse, Pulse looked over his shoulder to see the tall, hulking dreamkeeper lumbering up.
"For a minute there, I thought I had lost you on the way here!"
"Scald is not very drunk! Scald can still follow strange, little men!"
With a chuckle, Pulse stood to the side as Scald walked past him. Closing the door, Pulse stuck close to Scald as they walked into a living area.
Looking into the kitchen, Pulse saw Scinter stirring some sort of mixture in a pot on a stove while Igrath sat at a dining table drinking coffee and reading a data-scroll.
Pulse looked up at Scald and saw the bear staring dead at Scinter, his jaw hanging.
"Could it be?" he asked in disbelief.
Both Scinter and Igrath looked up.
"Ah, Pulse! You're back! And I see you brought a friend!" Igrath said cheerfully.
Scinter simply smiled, turning off the burner that heated his mixture. Walking away from the stove, he said, "Another recruit, eh? To be honest, I was-"
Before he could finish, Scald had ran over and grabbed him in a massive hug.
"OOOOHHHH, HO, HO, HO, HO! SCALD IS VERY HAPPY! SCALD'S WISH HAS BEEN GRANTED! OOOOH, HAHAHAHA, HO, HO!"
Igrath stood up from his seat in a flash, preparing to help Scinter before Pulse walked forward with a calming gesture.
"Take it easy, guys! He's just a simple-minded man with a rather deadly Power! And he's also a big fan of Scinter's Mark! A big enough fan to, uh, show his appreciation to the man who came up with it!"
Scinter remained calm as Scald spun him around in a tight hug, laughing loudly.
"I know I've got fans here and there, but this guy takes the cake!" Scinter commented.
After a few moments, Scald finally released Scinter, dropping him to his feet.
Scald spun around to face Pulse, who was bracing for a hug of his own. Instead, Scald grabbed his right hand and shook it with both of his hands.
"Scald is so happy! Now Scald is indebted to you! Scald will join your little rebellion!"
Pulse blinked, slightly surprised by Scald's sudden willingness to join.
"Well,... if you insist! But, just so you know, if you're joining us just so you can be a part of Scinter's little operation, I'm afraid you'll have to change your plans!"
"W-wait a second, Pulse," Igrath said with concern. "What are you saying? Why can't he join the Troika?"
"If you'll give me a minute, I'll explain it to you and Scinter in private! But, as for you, Scald, I've got a plan! I want you to be a part of a special team of Power users, consisting of myself, you and three others! Until I've found our other three partners, I'll leave the rest of the details confidential! I hope you don't mind that I stick you with Scinter and his merry bunch until the team starts expanding!"
"Ohhh, Scald does not mind at all, little man!" he replied with noticeable glee.
Pulse laughed at Scald's way of addressing him. "Little man, eh? I could get used to that!"
* * * * *
Februaris 11th, 1216
In a snow-filled alleyway in the Calypsa District, a seven and a half-foot tall German Shepherd dreamkeeper ran as fast as his muscle-bound frame could take him.
In a torn, raggedy business suit, the dreamkeeper looked right as he flattened against a wall, hearing shock troopers running along a nearby street.
The dreamkeeper huffed. 'How did this happen? How did they find out?'
Tearing off pieces of his suit that were simply hanging off his arms, he checked for bullet wounds. He was uninjured.
'Well, at least I had time to use my Power before they prepared to shoot me. Still, this is unthinkable! How did they know?'
Shaking his head, he pulled his legs through the snow as he kept close to the walls of the alleys.
Several corners later, the canine heard crunching in the snow in front of him. Several shock troopers slowly trudged through the snow, carefully scanning the area.
"He's here somewhere! Thermal optics on!"
Hiding behind a dumpster, the dreamkeeper activated his Power. His body slowly transformed into solid, navy-blue colored stone, yet his limbs and skin were still flexible. He looked up at his gray halo, which was slightly illuminating his hiding spot. It was the middle of day, but with thick cloud cover, blocking out the sun and causing some darkness.
One of the troopers held up a fist. "Hold! I think I see something. There's a light coming from that dumpster over there."
"It must be him!" the squad leader presumed. "Set your rifles to punch through that metal! We are kill-authorized!"
'Kill-authorized?! I didn't even kill anyone! All I did was knock the bodyguards out! Damn it all!"
Without waiting for them to take aim, the canine ran as fast as he could through the snow.
"He's running for it! Fire!"
The troopers open fired at the stone dreamkeeper. The springer rounds simply bounced off his back, causing no damage except for additional bullet holes in his shirt.
"Shit! It's no use! His Power is defensive! We'll never bring him down with these!"
As the dreamkeeper gained distance down the alley, the bulky shock troopers struggled to keep up.
"Fuck it!" the squad leader cursed. "We've got this whole block surrounded, anyway! Bring in the special teams! We'll have to bring him in alive!"
The dreamkeeper stopped as he rounded a left corner then a right corner.
He kept his Power active, realizing it was too dangerous to be in his normal state.
'Think, Vidar, think! You're a District Senator! Or, at least you WERE! You have to have a plan out of this mess!'
As he turned right to continue down another backstreet, he spotted a large dreamkeeper in the shadows of an overhang.
The canine known as Vidar stopped dead.
"You!" the figure said quickly.
Vidar looked around quickly, then pointed at himself.
"Yes, YOU!" the figure shouted. "You are Vidar, yes?"
Vidar nodded. "I am Vidar Rivers, yes! Who are you? Are you an undercover agent for the Guard?"
"Niet!" the figure said loudly. "Scald is me! Scald is undercover, but not for tiny, baby men who carry long, baby guns! Scald is undercover for Troika!"
"The Troika?" Vidar gasped with relief. "Really?"
Scald stepped out into the daylight, revealing his brown jacket with the Troika crest on each sleeve. He wore a white t-shirt with a blue flag, black circle, red star and a green line in the center underneath the jacket, as well as blue jeans with a brown belt and black boots.
"Scald work for Troika for time being!" the grizzly bear said. "But, Scald come with job offer and promise of safety in the Aequitus Equitus Republic!"
"The AER? Did... Aizer Pulse send you?"
"Da! He put Scald in ranks of Troika for temporary service! Scald actually answers to the Commander! Troika tell Commander that you are in danger and Commander send Scald to bring you to safe place!"
Vidar looked around, hearing the shock troopers getting active on the streets.
"Well, if you have a plan on getting off this block and past the Guard, I suggest you use it. I think they're about to bring in some special weapons to tranquilize me! They'll be swarming these backstreets very shortly!"
Scald grinned, bearing his rather sharp teeth.
"Scald is afraid that his plan is not subtle, nor safe! Scald will have to know what your Power is!"
"I... I can turn my body into unbreakable stone! But, that's it! It's a non-aggressive Power!"
"Unbreakable stone? Da, that will work nicely! If Scald's plan does not work, Scald will have to take extreme measures to protect you!"
"Would you mind explaining what your plan is and what you mean by 'extreme measures'?"
Scald looked up at a tall, ten-story building that was under construction on the northwest corner of the block.
"There is a lake just across from the west side of this block! Scald will weaken that structure with his Power as we make our way to the top! The Guard will most likely spot us as Scald's Power is not very discreet! We will find a way to topple the building from the roof so that we fall into the lake and hopefully swim to safety before the Guard can surround us!"
Scald watched his protectee, who gave him a dumbfounded look.
"Do you even realize just how dangerous that is to us and anyone who will be in the way? There's bound to be civilians in the area! Have you even tried anything like this?"
"The civilians have been evacuated from this block when you arrived and they're being kept away from here for their safety! As for this plan of Scald's, Commander has told Scald to be creative and that risks are necessary for the greater good of our nation! Commander sees you as a valuable asset to our rebellion and has ordered Scald to use any means necessary to liberate you from this city!"
Vidar nodded, the gravity of the situation pushing down on his mind. "I see. I suppose Pulse means business in this matter! I originally thought him to be a corrupt politician attempting to enslave us all, but after what just happened to me several hours ago, I should've known better to think that the evidence against him was true! The same thing happened to me today, you know!"
Scald nodded. "Da! It is wrong to suspect without knowing what is true! Now, come! We must move or we will be in danger soon!"
* * * * *
Hiding along a fence covered by a tarp, Scald and Vidar peeked through a torn hole at the bare frame of the building, which would be an apartment building and the tallest building for over a mile around.
The equipment and materials in the construction site were small, making cover nearly impossible. The site was perfectly visible from the streets, which were bustling with shock troopers and law enforcement officers.
"Scald sees no way to approach undetected!" Scald observed. "Scald is amazed we have not been spotted already! Scald suggests that you keep your Power active! You will need to protect yourself as we run for the building! Do not worry about Scald!"
Vidar nodded, then shook his head. "If I'm using my Power, then you're using me as a shield! I'm not going to have a murder charge pinned against me because of your carelessness!"
Scald stared at Vidar, then grinned. "Scald was hoping you would say that! Get ready! You're going in first!"
Vidar sighed, summoning his Power. "What did I do to deserve this madness?"
His body becoming solid stone, he broke a lock and chain holding a gate and shoved it open.
Keeping on Vidar's heels, Scald summoned his own Powers, his eyes glowing crimson.
"For Anduruna!" he screamed, firing off a beam from each eye.
The beam swayed to the right, cutting through multiple supports and floors in the lower floors of the structure. The sensitive frame moaned as flowood and drywall cracked
Moments after, the City Guard took up firing formation in the street and opened fire. Bullets pinged off of Vidar's body, Scald staying close to his back.
Running onto a maintenance lift, Scald punched the up button as he fired his beams at the troops. Turning his beams to the left, he sliced an eight-man squad of troopers in half.
"We've got a whole squad down!" a trooper reported. "Eight KIA! Dreamkeeper with laser beams!"
"Spirits! Get the fire teams now! We're bringing that building down!"
"Nethers! Was that really necessary?" Vidar shouted.
"Scald must protect you on this lift! Can't have them shooting the cables and bringing us down, now do we?"
The structure began to sway slightly, damaging itself due to Scald's inflicted damage.
The lift stalled several times, but it reached the ninth floor. The tenth floor had yet to be added.
Scald looked around, seeing the four corner supports jutting upward.
Looking at the corner support pointing northwest, Scald pointed at it.
"Mr. Rivers! That support! Can you ram it?"
The canine saw what Scald pointed at and cringed. "Well, if springers can't harm me, what harm will running into an iron beam do?"
Backing up to the southeast support, he ran as fast as he could in his dress shoes, pointing his right shoulder out. Slamming into the beam, he felt himself sink into the beam.
Using his free left arm, he pushed himself out of the beam just as he could feel the building beginning to tip sideways.
Looking over the side, he could see the lake starting to get close.
"Hold on, Mr. Rivers!" Scald shouted, fighting to keep himself level.
Vidar grabbed the beam, realizing they were going for a swim.
* * * * *
"Get clear!" a trooper shouted.
Troopers ran for safety as the building crumbled as it toppled. The top three floors slammed into the water, the rest of the building slamming into a street, burying CG groundcars and their knossus steers.
In the debris-filled lake, Scald and Vidar surfaced. Vidar dismissed his Power in order to float.
"If this is what you rebels do for a living, I think I'll stick to my desk job profession," Vidar commented with a gasp.
"Scald is afraid that Commander have different plans for you!"
"I'll have to talk to him about those plans! But, first, we better get out of this water before we get shot or freeze to death!"
Scald nodded. "Agreed! Let us go! There is a safehouse roughly ten miles from here! We'll have to commandeer some manekales!"
As the dust and snow had yet to clear from the collapsed building, the City Guard struggled to regroup as Scald and Vidar swam to the side of the lake opposite from the scene.
Somewhat safe, the chilled dreamkeepers ran into a frozen, small swamp full of fog.
* * * * *
Februaris 12th, 1216
"I have to admit, I was not expecting any assistance from THE Aizer Pulse!" Vidar commented.
Pulse and Vidar stood by a road on a hill overlooking Outpost Fenris.
Pulse laughed. "I apologize for not coming to your aid myself! I had some business to attend to in Antares! I'm sure you've heard of it!"
"Of course! The Viscount has mentioned it on many occasions! Thankfully, he has opted to leave it be, in fear of giving his opponents ammunition for the next election!"
Pulse nodded. "Good for him, I suppose! And especially good for us! We don't want him trying to get Coddley on his side! Though, knowing Coddley's outlook on Calah and our current form of government, I doubt he would want anything to do with Calah!"
"So, this is what you've been up to these past several years!" Vidar said, looking at Haven. "A former emissary seeking justice for being wrongfully accused and building a more prosperous Anduruna! I'm not sure why you want me to be a part of it! I don't see what I could do!"
"I'm forming a team, Mr. Rivers!" Pulse replied. "A team that I can depend on in missions of vital importance! I'll fill you in on the details when I've found the rest of our teammates!"
* * * * *
Mayris 4th, 1216
Outside of a high-class nightclub in the Talocan District near Sabbaton, a orange, female frilled lizard walked out in a trenchcoat, her part-time job as a stripper done for the night.
She looked down at her right arm.
"Oh, shit!" she cursed, realizing she had forgotten something.
She spun around, seeing a Doberman dreamkeeper in a waiter's uniform running to her.
"You almost forgot your purse, man!"
"Oh, thanks, Maurice! Shit, I just wanted to get outta there so fast, all I wanted was to grab my coat and hustle on home!"
Maurice laughed. "Yo, you'll be alright! Them boys just want a good show! We got security, ya know! You'll be alright!"
"Yeah, yeah, I know! Thanks again, Maurice!"
"Sho' thing!" he replied, running back in to the nightclub.
As Alicia slung the purse over her right shoulder, she pulled her coat together tightly as she began the long walk to the district telepad.
* * * * *
Taking the public telepad from Talocan to the Margate District, Alicia was just blocks away from her apartment.
As she walked towards the mouth of an alley, a meerkat dreamkeeper in a ragged hoodie and dark blue gym shorts stepped out onto the empty street.
"Hey, babe, ya got any change? I need a fare to the Kojiki District."
Already sensing trouble, she pulled her purse further up her shoulder.
"Sorry. Don't have any change."
As soon as she passed him, she was grabbed by her neck as a knife probed her face.
"Sorry, bitch! I think me and my friends are gonna have to check and make sure you ain't lyin'!"
Alicia panicked, struggling to free herself as she was dragged into the alley.
Being thrown into the wall, she was pinned against it as she stared at the meerkat and his two other meerkat friends who were waiting.
Her arms pinned by two of the thugs, the third one grabbed her purse. She hopelessly watched as he carelessly opened the compartments and slung various objects out that they deemed useless.
"Let's see... I.D., receipts, notes, and... oooohhhh shit!"
"Whatcha find, man?"
"This bitch must work at a strip club, man! Lookit the cash she's got!"
As he showed his occupied friends the main compartment full of her daily tips, he stuck his hand in and dug around amongst the paper bills. Pulling it out, he showed them a string of condoms.
"And she must have a side job, too! Mmmmmmm-MMM!"
Alicia winced, knowing what was now on their minds. She was a prostitute on the side and liked to leave her "work clothes" at work when her stripper job was done. The only thing she would wear afterwards is her coat, since she would usually head straight home after work. Unless, she found a few customers along the way in her other job, which was another reason for going to the nightclub with no regular clothes on, but just her coat.
The meerkat who subdued her leaned forward into her ear. "I'll bet you're one helluva sexy lady under this coat! Speaking of coats, you're lookin' a little overheated, baby! Maybe me and my boys should help you cool off, hmm?"
His friends chuckled in delight as he reached down for her coat buttons.
Her fear igniting into anger and humiliation, she let out a scream as her mouth wasn't covered. As she did so, the frills of her neck shot out and smacked both of the thugs holding her in the face.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to make them release her, but to enrage them.
"OOOHHH fuck, man!"
The third thug dropped her purse and slapped her hard across the face. She shrieked, pulling her frills back in.
Tears in her eyes, she could only watch as the third thug squeezed her neck, choking her.
"Yo, man! We need to train this bitch on how to behave! First order of business, we cut off those flyswatters she has! Yo, hand me your knife!"
"No, please, no...," she begged, her eyes blinded in tears as the first thug handed the third thug a knife. Keeping her still, the second thug covered her mouth, keeping her from screaming.
Even then, she tried to scream, causing her frills to shoot out again. The thugs holding her were prepared this time, leaning their heads away.
The third thug smiled at her futile screams. "That's it, baby! Keep 'em out for me!"
As he reached to grab her left frill, a figure walking by the alley caught his eye.
The figure stopped and turned to face them.
"I suggest you let her go, boys. There's no need for that."
Instantly, the meerkats released the terrified lizard. She fell to her knees coughing as her attackers turned to confront the stranger.
A German Shepherd dreamkeeper, he was wearing brown dress shoes and trousers, a white shirt with a brown tie, a brown overcoat and a brown fedora. In his mouth was a lit cigar. He stood an impressive seven and a half feet tall and was a muscularly large canine. The muscles of his arm flexed beneath his shirt and coat.
"Yo, fuck off, man! This ain't got nothin' to do with you!"
The canine chuckled. "Son, if it's your business to go around terrorizing young women, then it becomes MY business. Don't you boys have better things to do, anyway? Maybe, I don't know, like study in your school subjects or help your parents around the house or better yet, sleep! It's very late, you know! We all need our sleep!"
One of the meerkats pulled out a springer pistol from the rear of his shorts. "Yo, cap this motherfucker!"
He shot at the canine's privates. A solid *PING* rang out as the bullet hit.
The thugs gasped at the sound as the bullet fell to the ground, leaving a hole in the canine's pants, revealing his manhood slightly.
The canine sighed. "Kids today..."
Taking off his hat and overcoat and placing them on top of a trash can, he summoned his halo to full strength. His body slowly turned into solid stone, from head to toe.
"Oh, shit!" the gun-weilding thug shouted, unloading his weapon. The other two thugs pulled out their own pistols and open fired.
The bullets bounced harmlessly off of their target as he marched forward.
All out of bullets, one of the thugs ran forward to use his gun like a club. The canine reached out and grabbed the thug's head with both hands and gave him a hard headbutt, knocking him out.
Another thug tried to follow his friend's lead, but the canine grabbed him by his shirt and just threw him into a nearby wall.
The last thug grabbed the knife and charged at the canine. He stabbed the blade into his chest, but heard a screech. Pulling the knife back, it had bent itself in half and the tip had broke.
The thug looked up at the towering canine, who grabbed his arm and, with the greatest of ease, twisted it. The thug screamed as he cradled his broken arm.
"Let that be a lesson to you, young man!" the German Shepherd said calmly. "Now, go! And don't worry about your friends! I'm sure they'll still be in one piece when they wake up!"
Sobbing from the pain, the last thug stumbled off, clutching his injured arm.
Alicia, still on her knees, had watched the whole scene in amazement.
"Ho. Lee. Shit!"
The canine looked at her with a half-smile. "I suppose that's one way of putting it."
Standing up, she slowly walked to her rescuer, who dismissed his Power.
"Who are you?"
"The name is Vidar Rivers! I'm sure you've heard of me on the news! Wanted for multiple counts of sexual assault on Tinsel Nanaja and a Class A Infraction! A pleasure to meet you, Ms...."
"Alicia!" she said quickly, suspicious of her rescuer now knowing who he was. "My name is Alicia!"
"Alicia! Nice name! Though, I'm afraid this is no place for formal introductions! The Guard is bound to be on its way after all that gunfire and screaming!"
Still suspicious of her rescuer's true intentions, she asked, "Where are you taking me, 'cuz I know you ain't gonna let me go!"
Vidar raised his eyebrow at the statement. "And what makes you think I won't let you go?"
"Well, I'm sure you're probably expectin' a reward from me and I know you men can't resist an attractive woman. Unless, you just want cash. I'll be happy give you as much as I have."
"Now, what in Nethers' name makes you think I want a reward in sexual intercourse?!" Vidar shouted. "If I really had to take a reward for a good deed, it would be recognition for my actions, not currency or carnal pleasure! Spirits above, the young adults of this generation are out of control!"
Alicia reared back. "Okay, okay! You need to chill out! If you don't want nothin', then I best be on my way before the po-po gets here!"
As she was about to walk past him, Vidar held his arms up.
"Well, you see, you were right to suspect that I wouldn't let you go. But, I have a good reason why! I have a job offer for you!"
Alicia lowered her gaze at him with a doubtful look. "A job offer? So, now you're an employer?"
"Not necessarily! I'm actually a recruiter! I would like you to join the Aequitus Equitus Republic!"
Alicia gasped, backing away. "You're... you're with the rebels? And you want me to join? Why?"
"Look at you," Vidar said, holding his arms out to her. "You're a beautiful woman who was nearly taken advantage of. Surely, you can find some other use for your talents for a worthy cause! That is what the Commander of the AER wants from you! He has been to the nightclub where you work and he knows full well that you are aware of your Power!"
"He... knows about my Power? How? I haven't used it since I was thirteen, when I first discovered it!"
"He is telepathic! He is Aizer Pulse! A man forced into a life of lies and injustice! His rebellion is out to bring justice to those who have oppressed the lives of others with deceit and corruption! And he wants you to be a part of the justice that will be brought to this country! While you work for us, you will be trained in proper self-defense and mastery of your Power! You will not have to be worried about being assaulted by two-bit hoodlums ever again! Will you join us?"
Alicia looked around, thinking hard about this. Her biggest fear about her occupation was being attacked or raped, which nearly happened. Due to the probabilities of domestic violence, civilians were not allowed to be given self-defense lessons unless they were to join the City Guard or a private security company. Weapons, of course, were deemed illegal and not even self-defense made their use righteous. Power use was just unacceptable. These facts flew through Alicia's head, now understanding that killing or even injuring the thugs with her Power or a weapon would have saved her life, but possibly had her thrown in prison or even banished from the city. She now knew that the ways of the current government were wrong and the laws of non-violence were an unjust punishment to all those who would try to defend themselves from pain or death.
"Let's go, wherever it is we're going!" she said sternly.
Vidar nodded, leading her across the street and into an old apartment building.
* * * * *
Mayris 7th, 1216
Standing ten feet away from three clay dummies, Alicia stood in a navy-blue bodysuit, staring the dummies down. Her lime-green halo at full brightness, she stomped her right leg forward, opened her frills and screamed.
A wave of sonic energy eminated from each of her frills, blasting the clay dummies into dust.
She panted, folding her frills and standing straight up.
Pulse and Vidar stood nearby. Pulse walked forward, clapping his hands.
"Not bad!" he commented. "You've gained a lot of progress in very little time! You'll make a fine addition to the team!"
Alicia smiled. "Thanks, dawg! From what Vidar told me when I first met him, I wasn't expectin' to be on no team!"
"Well, I wanted to be the one to tell you that, since I'll be in command of this team! Speaking of which, I know you're wanting to know more about it, but give me a chance to find our next worthy team member! I'll even give you the assignment of recruiting him, if you're up to it!"
Alicia grinned, taking up a pose. "Boy, I know I'm up to it!"
Pulse smiled, holding his chin with a hand as he watched her. "Good. Very good...."
* * * * *
Juliris 18th, 1216
The sand of the Dune Sea was always being disturbed. Most of the time, it was from natural winds brought in by the nearby coast.
But, the winds of the desert were also caused by a more artificial source.
Across the desert a blinding yellow streak flew from one side of the Dune Sea to the other, from eastern Starfall to the Alchera coastline.
Suddenly, the streak stopped dead in the center of the desert.
With a sarcastic breath, a yellow fox looked around, his sun yellow halo glowing as brightly as the Sun itself. Taking a drink from his flask, he straightened out his jacket.
For a moment, he glanced at the proud insignia of the Troika on his right sleeve.
'Jeez, Jerry, I sure hope you don't regret joining these guys someday,' he thought to himself.
The fox named Jerry looked in the direction of the coastline.
"Guess I'll see what's going on in No Toll," he said aloud. "See if there is any trouble brewing at The Dive!"
With that, he took up a runner's stance and bolted in a yellow flash, heading for the port town.
* * * * *
In less than five seconds, the fox stopped at the mouth of The Dive's entrance. Walking down the stairs into the stone basin that served as the inner structure, he could tell it had already been a madhouse, as usual.
Dismissing his Power, he jogged up to the counter and asked, "Need any help?"
A bartender turned around from cleaning a glass and said, "Oh, hey Jerry! Not right now! The more rowdier usuals had helped themselves out not too long ago! Still, stick around! These people don't have to be usuals to cause trouble!"
"You got it!" Jerry replied. "Hey, can I have a glass of water? This flask of mine isn't keeping me very hydrated on my jogs!"
The bartender laughed. "Sure, sure, Jerry! Here ya go!"
Taking his glass of water with a "Thanks!" in return, Jerry walked over to a vacant table and watched over the bar. Taking a sip, he watched carefully for any sign of a possible hostility. While the owner never asked for his assistance, Jerry had made himself a freelance bouncer for The Dive, making sure the more violent drunks and troublemakers were shown the door.
Through the small sea of patrons, Jerry could make out some familiar faces from the Troika. He could tell they had spotted him as well.
Several minutes passed as Jerry finished his water. No sooner had he placed the empty glass on the table that a trio of sailors marched up to him.
Jerry looked up with a smile. "Ahoy, mateys! What can I do for you?"
The sailor in the middle sneered and grabbed Jerry by the collar of his maroon t-shirt.
"We're here ta put ye out of yer misery, boy! Ye threw our Cap'n out of the bar last night when he was 'bout ta savor a fine jewel of a woman! He wants us ta cut off yer head to show as an example to anyone who tries to deprive him of what he wants!"
Jerry smirked. "News flash, buddy! We're not here in this world to do whatever the hell we want! The owner of this place lets things happen because he knows he'll end up dead if he tried to stop any of it! I'm here to put a little order into this bar! Your 'Cap'n' is gonna have to learn how to control himself when he's in here as long as I'm around! As for savoring women, I seriously doubt a woman would want to savor him back, depending on what kind of a moldy, soggy, wrinkly package he has under those old trousers of his!"
The sailors went wide-eyed at the insult, then sneered, showing their rotting teeth. The sailor holding him brandished a dagger.
"Say yer prayers, ya scurvy brat!"
As the sailor reared his arm back to jab the dagger into Jerry's face, the fox summoned his Power as he smiled.
The dagger phased right through Jerry's head. His shirt phased through the sailor's grasp as well.
"He's using his Power!" a fellow sailor shouted. "Let's get out of here!"
As soon as they turned to face the exit, they took the first step and fell flat on their faces. They looked down at their legs to see their pants had been mysteriously pulled down. Almost instantly, the patrons busted out laughing.
Jerry leaned against his table, grinning as he kept his Power active. "Gotta admit, your packages don't look too enticing, either. Just saying."
Pulling their pants back up, they ran for the exits. "This place is finished! Ya here me? FINISHED! When I tell the Cap'n 'bout this, he'll blast this entire bar and anyone in it off the face of the Dreamworld with our ship! Then, we'll be comin' after YOU, ya overgrown mutt!"
Only the sober patrons stopped laughing after hearing the threat. Jerry's smile was replaced with a scowl as he stared the sailors out of the bar.
Sitting down forcefully, he dismissed his Power and sighed. 'Scinter is gonna kill me when he hears about this.'
As he was about to order another glass of water, a female lizard dreamkeeper in a navy-blue, navy captain's trenchcoat walked up to his table.
"Hey there, baby! I saw what you did there! Thank you for getting rid of them... and their captain who was makin' moves on me last night!"
Jerry looked confused, then smiled. "Oh, yeah! You were the chick who was getting hit on! I thought you looked familiar! In fact, you look VERY familiar! It didn't hit me when I first saw you, but now it's on my mind! Do I know you?"
The lizard looked around. "Come with me! We should talk about this in private!"
She walked towards the exit, Jerry rising from his seat to follow.
'Not a problem, as long as we do more than talk!' he thought. 'Even I can barely keep myself from tappin' that ass!'
* * * * *
Further into town in an alley, Jerry and the lizard stood face to face.
"My name's Alicia! I want to give you a job!"
"If it involves being your personal bodyguard, sign me up!" he said immediately.
She blinked with a creeped out expression. "Uh, no, dawg! I work with the AER! I want you to join us!"
Jerry's eyes went wide. "You work for the Republic? So, that's why you look so familiar! I saw you talking with some of the new recruits at the Troika fortress on Eduro Peak a few weeks back!"
"That's right, homie! You wanna switch over from them to us? It'll be you, me, two other dawgs and the boss himself as a team!"
"Me being on a team... with Aizer Pulse as the leader? Fuck... YES!"
Alicia laughed, then nodded. "All right, then! Come on! Let's head over to the safehouse and we'll warp to Eduro, then we'll head to Haven!"
Jerry remained silent, smiling from ear to ear at the thought of joining the rebel army.
* * * * *
Augustris 4th, 1216
In a makeshift briefing room in an outpost currently under construction between the Dune Sea and the Frontier, the four assembled members of Pulse's team sat in fold-up chairs facing a large data-scroll, all dressed in standard ACU clothing.
Jerry smoked a cigarette, Alicia filed her claws, Vidar read a personnel report, and Scald was holding a bottle of Scinter's Mark upside down trying to get the last drops out.
Moments later, a door opened and two rebel soldiers armed with Screamers walked in. Behind them came Pulse.
"Dismissed!" he said to the soldiers. Obeying, they walked out and closed the door on their way.
Taking out a small data-scroll, he plugged it into the wall-mounted data-scroll in front of the team.
"Jerry Forza, Alicia, Vidar Rivers, Scald!" he said as the data-scroll flashed to life. "Each and everyone of you have been waiting a long while to know what this is all about! Well, as of now, you're going to find out! I've brought you four together to form a team of elite special forces operatives for this rebellion! From here on out, the five of us together will be known as Team Sierra! Don't even ask me where I got the name, I just made it up!"
The new team members remained quiet, nodding in acceptance.
"Okay then! Now, our first order of business! As you know, a certain member of our newly-formed team has stirred up some trouble with a pirate captain and his crew! For weeks, we and the Troika have been keeping an eye out for the pirates and their ship! So far, all we know is that the ship is a Titan-class vessel, one of the largest naval warships ever developed! So far, that's all we know! Unless... the four of you have some new intel to share, since you've all been gone since this development reached my ears!"
"Da!" Scald spoke up, throwing his bottle aside. "Scald has much information to share! Scald hear that they call themselves the Alchera Axes! Long-time pirate group!"
"Ah, yes, the Axes!" Vidar broke in. "I have heard of them myself! I wasn't quite sure these pirates were them so I didn't say anything about them! They've been around for many decades! Because the City Guard hasn't been able to finance a commission for a sizable fleet due to fear of city-wide protest, the Axes have been running rampant! Plundering ships and killing their crews! The Axes used to be a massive fleet, but years of manhunts by the Guard and deadly storms have whittled their numbers down exponentially! Now, last I heard, they're down to just one ship, and that ship is the Titan-class warship, the White Razor! And her captain is a weasel named Belchin Prescott!"
"Tsk, that fool is as old as the sand in the Dune Sea!" Alicia commented. "I can't believe he was tryin' to seduce me, in The Dive of all places! Tsk, boy needs to learn that he just ain't that young no more!"
"Well, some just can't let go of the past, you know?" Jerry added.
"Scald also hear that they intend to return from their voyage in the Alchera and strike a small merchant ship that is scheduled to leave No Toll Town tomorrow!" the grizzly bear added to his findings. "At ten o'clock in the morning, if Scald recalls correctly. And after they are done with the merchant ship, they will continue to No Toll and will bombard the town around the vicinity of The Dive in order to destroy it, as they promised!"
Pulse nodded, looking at the data-scroll as a map of Anduruna had appeared on-screen.
"All right, here's the plan! We're going to sink these guys and put a stop to their crimes once and for all! The Guard can't say we didn't do them a favor! From Outpost Leviathan in the heart of Mount Starfall, we're going to fly in a Dumbbell straight out into the Alchera Ocean and fly northward! By the time we get close to No Toll Town, the White Razor should be coming in! Also by that time, the merchant ship they intend to hit will be leaving! We'll be saving the asses of that ship's crew while our Dumbbell makes a single attack run on the ship to thin out their numbers! After that, we'll circle around and rope descend down to the deck! I'll jump out and freefall my way down and cover you guys!"
Pulse looked around, watching the team nod in approval.
His Power barely active, he listened in on their true thoughts of the plan.
'Scald like dis plan! Scald will rend tiny sailors with his gun and lasers!'
'I really don't feel confident in being in this mission or even in this team, but I guess I should be fortunate that I at least received the basic training!' Vidar thought.
'Shit, this is gonna be some crazy shit!' Alicia thought. 'They better watch my back on this! Ain't no way I'm havin' this body of mine get ruined!'
'Of course he's gonna go down first and start the fun without us!' Jerry thought. 'But I don't care! That's what makes him awesome! Those creeps won't know what hit 'em!'
Pulse smiled at Jerry's thoughts, then replaced it with his disciplined frown. "So, once we're on the ship, we eliminate any remaining crewmen and execute Prescott! We do NOT leave that ship until he's confirmed dead! Any questions?"
The team shook their heads in unison.
"Okay then! Let's head back to Haven! We've got a big day tomorrow!"
* * * * *
Augustris 5th, 1216
In the armory at Outpost Leviathan, Scald armed himself with the triple-barreled Demon heavy repeater, the ammo box strapped to his back.
Vidar grabbed a Razor heavy repeater and loaded the drum clip. He held it against his chest in regular, relaxed military fashion.
Alicia loaded a Slasher PDW and added the foregrip. She slipped it into her holster while she put a hand on her hip, striking a pose.
Jerry grabbed a pair of Daredevils and clapped them together, holding them sideways with one hand. Grabbing two clips, he loaded both weapons in sync, then grabbed the gun on top with his free hand. Spinning them around, he stuck each one in a holster on each hip.
Pulse grabbed a Screamer assault rifle and clipped a sling to it. With the sling, he hung it across his back. Grabbing a Stingray, he loaded each bullet into the chambers of the cylinder. Holstering it, he walked over to a weapons locker that held the melee weapons.
Opening it, he spotted a machete in its sheath. Grabbing it, he strapped it to his right leg near the ankle.
Turning around to face his team, he grinned.
"Let's get moving! Better not keep those pirates waiting!"
* * * * *
"There be the ship we're after!"
A bearded weasel limped over to the railing of his ship, the White Razor, as he stared at a small merchant ship that had one mast and a water wheel on its right side for extra propulsion. The ship was roughly a mile away from the docks of No Toll Town as the White Razor drifted ten miles offshore.
"Set them sails, ya swab's!" Captain Prescott ordered. "Get the chain shot ready, but don't be hurtin' yerselves while doin' it! This ship will be an easy plunderin'!"
* * * * *
High above the skies of Anduruna, Pulse and his team looked down out the sides of the helicopter to see the immense city. Pulse looked straight forward and saw the majestic Sabbaton Towers going by as they passed it.
"Uh, Commander?" the pilot called from the cockpit. "Are you sure it's a good idea for us to be flying over the city? The Guard has to have seen us by now!"
"We're flying above their radar signals! They won't see us until we descend, but we'll be out of range when we pass the coastline! So, keep it together, pilot!"
Roughly seven minutes later, the chopper glided low across the waters, the yellow sands of the Dune Sea to their left.
As No Toll Town was nearly in view, Pulse could see two vessels in the distance, roughly five miles away from No Toll.
Pulse glanced down at his watch. "Damn it, Scald! They've already hit the merchant ship! They've probably wiped out the whole crew by now!"
"Uh, that is one thing Scald forgot to mention! The ship is maintained by one man!"
Pulse stared at him with a hint of doubt in his face. "One man?"
* * * * *
"Woud ya just shoot meh and get it ovuh with?"
Captain Prescott grinned at the hostage they had taken from the merchant ship, which had lost its mast during the attack.
"Mr. Grunn! Me didn't think you were still sailin' these waters! Me thinks you've got a death wish to be out here by yerself! 'Specially in your condition!"
The maroon shark burped. "Ah ain't got nuthin' left to look for! All ah gots is mah banduh! Ah just wanna be left alone! Is that too much tuh ask?"
"I'm afraid that IS too much to ask for! You owe us quite a bit of money for that one time you assaulted one of our ships when our fleet was still around! Ya hit the gunpowder reserves and blasted the ship straight to oblivion! Looking at you now, me finds it hard to believe you were able to destroy that ship all by yerself! A dear shame we have to put you down for not payin' yer debts!"
A pirate sailor kicked Grunn's knee, forcing him down to both knees.
Prescott pulled out a springer pistol, releasing the safety and aiming it at Grunn's head.
* * * * *
Fifty yards away and closing, the Dumbbell flew at full speed towards the warship.
"Open fire, pilot!" Pulse ordered.
"Affirmative! Firing weapons!"
The pilot looked at the cockpit's windshield, which doubled for a data-scroll screen. Tapping away at a keyboard, the chopper's targeting system locked onto the ship's three masts.
With a press of a button on his flight stick, three rockets were fired from the rocket pods. As the rockets raced for their targets, the pilot pressed the trigger and fired the Demon heavy repeaters.
* * * * *
Before any pirates could react to the warning, explosions rippled all around them.
Prescott fell to the floor of the poop deck. Turning onto his back, he looked up and saw the masts falling down, tangling themselves up with the ropes as they fell. All three masts fell over the side of the ship.
During all of this, gunfire pelted the poop deck. Many of the pirates were hit while they laid on the floor to avoid the blasts and debris.
"What the devil is this?!" Prescott screamed. "Look alive, ya swabs! Get the guns and prepare for battle!"
As Prescott made it to his feet, he saw Grunn jump over the railing of the ship.
"Blast it all! Forget the wretch! Find whoever's shootin' at us and return fire!"
"It be a chopper, sir! But,... I've never seen anythin' like it!"
"What are ye sayin'?!"
Prescott looked up and saw the Dumbbell slowing down as it began to drift over the ship.
* * * * *
"Here we go! Harnesses ready! I'm going in!"
Pulse jumped out, Screamer in his arms. He fired almost blindly as he summoned his Power.
Eliminating four pirates on his way down, he positioned himself upright as he pointed his left arm down. As he bent his right leg backwards to land on one knee, he shot out a cushioning blast just inches from the deck.
Landing solidly, he instantly rose and fired his rifle with one arm while using his free arm to send pirates flying into the ocean.
Meanwhile, Prescott retreated into the lower decks, recognizing who had jumped out of the chopper.
With the pirates focusing their efforts on Pulse, the rest of Sierra team roped down.
Releasing their harnesses, the team readied their weapons and returned fire.
Scald unleashed the firepower of his Demon while firing lasers at more hard-to-reach targets. Jerry raced around the deck of the ship, moving way too fast for any of the pirates to even start to aim at him. At times, he stopped to stand between two pirates and as they turned to shoot, he would flash away and the pirates shot each other.
Alicia used the burst fire mode of her Slasher to suppress the pirates around the ship's steering wheel. Suddenly, a large pirate wrapped his arms around her. She struggled, then opened her frills, slapping him. He released her as a result, then she spun around, summoned her Power and screamed a sonic blast. The pirate sailed off of the ship, his ears bleeding along the way. Vidar made his way onto the upper part of the ship near the steering wheel, knocking down pirates with his stone frame as he took short, consecutive shots with his Razor.
With most of the pirates dead and the remaining pirates jumping overboard, Pulse ran to the entrance to the lower decks.
"Keep the poop deck clear! Prescott went down here! I'll take care of him!"
His team nodded, standing back to back near the remnant of the center mast.
Slinging his rifle onto his back, Pulse pulled out his machete and Stingray. He could sense their were still several pirates in the lower decks with Prescott.
As he rounded a corner, Pulse was tackled by a pirate with a knife, causing him to drop his weapons. Struggling for several moments with the pirate, he hit the pirate in the gut with his knee, then grabbed his wrist and broke it, forcing him to drop the knife.
As the pirate knelt down in agony, Pulse looked up and saw another pirate appear in a doorway in front of him. The pirate aimed a springer pistol.
As fast as he could, Pulse grabbed the injured pirate and held him to his body. The other pirate fired as Pulse used the injured pirate as a shield. He was careful to maneuver his body since springers were strong enough to punch through a body with ease.
As the pirate emptied his weapon and attempted to reload it, Pulse reached out with his arm and his Stingray flew into his grasp.
The pirate finished reloading and aimed to fire, but Pulse had already pulled the trigger of his own weapon. The pirate went down hard. Pulse finally let go of his dead meat shield of a pirate.
Retrieving his machete, Pulse continued his search and found Prescott typing away at a data-scroll in the gunpowder storage room. Hearing Pulse's approach, Prescott grabbed the scroll and tore it apart.
Turning around, he faced Pulse with an ugly sneer. "You think you're all that and a platter of fish and chips, don't ya? You're nothin' but a coward! A coward who is refusing to accept his fate as the criminal that he is!"
Aiming his Stingray at Prescott, Pulse sneered back. "And you're just another fool who's allowed himself to be convinced by a bunch of lies and a piece of fake evidence! I am no criminal, Prescott! I am a judge! And I will judge all those who did me and so many others wrong! Starting with you! Your wave of naval tyranny and crime ends here!"
Holstering his Stingray, he squeezed the grip of his machete as he marched forward and grabbed Prescott by the coat.
"This is only the beginning," he whispered with a grin.
Ignoring the statement, Pulse hacked his blade into the man's shoulder. He screamed as Pulse pulled the blade out and hacked it again into the shoulder. Prescott crumpled to the floor with the blade still in his shoulder. Pulling it out, Pulse walked over to a barrel of gunpowder and stabbed his blade into it. Pulling the machete out, a drizzle of the fine, combustible powder leaked out.
Using his Power, he picked up the barrel and led it through the other lower decks. In the very bottom deck, he dropped the half-empty barrel and returned to the stairs leading to the poop deck.
Pulling out a comm-scroll, he hit a button and placed it to his ear. "Pilot, get the team ready for exfil! I'll be right behind them!"
"Roger that, sir! We'll be waiting!"
Rolling the scroll up, Pulse pulled out a match and lit it. After a brief minute, he threw the match onto the trail of gunpowder. The trail ignited and went in two different directions. One went to the storage area, the other snaked into the lower decks to the half-empty barrel down below.
Pulse bolted up the stairs, turning left to see the Dumbbell hovering next to the ship's railing. Vidar was just getting on.
"Move it or lose it!" Pulse screamed as he jumped off the railing and onto the floor of the chopper.
"Punch it, pilot!"
The pilot yanked the flight stick to the left, moving the chopper away from the ship. Seconds later, the gunpowder reserves exploded, destroying the front part of the ship. Several smaller reserves of gunpowder and cannonballs detonated in the fire, blasting holes into the poop deck. The half-empty gunpowder barrel exploded, rupturing the lower hull and causing a breach.
As the Dumbbell gained altitude and circled the ship, it sunk and burned. The last of the Alchera Axes were finished.
"Well done, team!" Pulse said with a sigh. "Well done."
Glancing towards the White Razor, he saw the crippled merchant ship that was close to the action. He could see the ship's only sailor stumbling about, picking up random objects and debris that were scattered on his poop deck.
"Pilot, take us down to the merchant ship! I want him to know who just saved his bacon!"
* * * * *
"Well, uh, thanks fer the help. Ain't got nuthin' tuh give ya, so...."
Pulse held his hand up. "Don't even worry about it! The Axes needed to be taken out for good, so we just caught two air ryuu-neko's with one net by helping you out! Looks like your ship is totalled! You won't be going anywhere without that mast!"
"Awww, so whut? I was plannin' on doin' some banduh fishin' when I got back to the city, anyway! It's the only thin' bringin' in the money for me! I make more money banduh fishin' than treasure huntin'!"
That last statement caught Pulse's ear. "Is that right? Mind if I took a look at your records?"
Grunn shrugged and trundled into the office beneath the steering deck. He returned with a stained folder.
Taking the folder, Pulse opened it up and scanned through the earnings reports. What Pulse saw made his eyes bulge.
With a grin across his face, he closed the folder and said, "Say Mr. Grunn, how good are you with kids?"
* * * * *
"So, let me get this straight..."
Pulse, Igrath and Scinter sat in a lit-up basement of a safehouse in Margate.
Igrath stood in front of Pulse, pinching the skin between his blind eyes. "You just recruited a drunken sailor, who's lost all passion and love for sailing, into the Troika... so that he can build a dock... to permanently anchor his ship... and then convert the said dock... into an ORPHANAGE?! So that the kids who are brought there can be used as child labor?!"
Pulse leaned against a stack of crates he used as a seat. "I didn't say anything about 'child labor'! Where did you get that idea? All I said is that the kids can just go out in boats and fish around for bander for fun... as long as they catch something while they're out there!"
They both looked over at Scinter, who instantly looked away and held his open palm up to them.
"Talk to the hand, gentlemen! Leave me out of this!"
Igrath slapped his hand to his face. "Pulse, out of all the plans you've come up with for the Troika, this has to be the one I have to go against! You said the sailor told you he's a constant drunk! What makes you think he won't go on a drunken rage and assault one of the orphans who end up there? You want that kind of a crime to fall on your shoulders?"
"Then, what do you suppose I do for the Troika, then?" Pulse shouted. "I looked at the Troika's earnings for last month! An all-time low, even in Scinter's Mark sales! I won't accept this! If starting up an orphanage for the orphans to fish for bander all day is what it takes to keep the Troika afloat financially, then so fucking be it! I've seen this man's earnings on selling bander! The guy knows how to bander fish and manage his profits, despite his binge drinking! If you can come up with some other way to keep the money pouring into this rebellion and that is risk-free, then tell me now! Otherwise, we have nothing more to discuss! My decision on this matter is FINAL!"
Igrath was silent for only a few moments before he said, "You're right, we have nothing more to discuss! We'll send the proper bribes to the district social offices so we can send some workers in to build the dock! In the process, the dock will go on record as an official orphanage!"
Pulse nodded with authority, standing up and marching towards the telepad. He stopped, spun around and said, "And by the way, if Grunn does end up causing any sort of trouble for those orphans, tell me! I'll take full responsibility for it... and I'll deal with the problem myself!"
|Setting the telepad coordinates for Outpost Fenris, Pulse stepped onto the pad and it automatically launched.|
As the grey light dissipated, Igrath and Scinter looked back at each other.
"Why do I have the feeling that he's getting a bit frustrated?" Scinter asked calmly.
"Well, he does have a point! The Troika hasn't been doing very well as of late and if what he says about this 'Grunn' and his bander profits is true, then this orphanage may be our only way to keep us financially stable until we can improve our profits in other areas of business! I just wish that we wouldn't have to drag children into this! It's hard enough trying to keep our more casually drunken members from spilling out secrets, now we have a guy who is drunk almost on a daily basis! Who knows what he may say to those kids! Or even worse, what he may DO to them!"
Scinter picked up a knife and started sharpening it. "Which is why we're going to keep an eye on him and deal with him appropriately when a situation arises!"
"But, didn't you hear what-"
"I heard what Pulse said and I know this is what he wants! Don't you see, Igrath? He wants us to start becoming more independent from the AER! Even with his knowledge, he can only juggle around two resistance groups for so long! I think he wants us to disobey him... so that he doesn't have to deal with us and our problems all the time! He wants us to deal with OUR problems now!"
Igrath nodded, coming to an understanding. "You're right! I suppose he's leaving us in full control of the Troika now, without actually announcing it!"
"Don't worry! I've been here since the beginning and you're a former City Guard Captain! When he finally announces it, if he ever does, we'll be all right!"
Igrath looked over at the telepad. "I hope you're right."
Octobris 10th, 1217
Sitting in the mess hall in Outpost Fenris, Aizer Pulse was reading scroll messages being sent to him by Scinter.
As he tapped away at his own scroll, he re-read Scinter's latest message...
ThreeOfAKindMofo: So, have you heard about the recent controversy with the Cutter Twins in Sabbaton?
Gavel Man: You mean those two, spoiled-rotten gorilla twins who have been secretly using their Power to make themselves and their parents filthy rich? No, I haven't heard. Do I finally have a good reason to kill them now?
ThreeOfAKindMofo: Maybe. I hear their mother kicked the bucket last night. And according to her will as well as the will of their father, their parents' half of the family fortune was supposed to go to the government for charity, education reforms, and tax returns. Unfortunately, she left the responsibility of this transfer of money to their son's, Dial and Mondy. Now, they're refusing to give their parents' half of the fortune to the government and if the Committee tries to make any move on getting that money, the twins threatened to cut their annual monthly funding to the government.
Gavel Man: Those fucking greenbacks...
ThreeOfAKindMofo: Yeah. I don't have to tell you just how important the Cutter Family has been to the economy over the years. If it weren't for the twins, Anduruna would've seen three government shutdowns inside of ten years.
Gavel Man: Well, I guess this means I'm gonna have to go and have a little chat with those punks. Its been a while since I've been in the Towers. This'll be a good excuse to go back and see if anything's changed.
ThreeOfAKindMofo: When you say "chat", you really mean "beat the living shit out of them or just use my Power to force them to comply with the will's".
Gavel Man: You know me so well, Scint. xD
ThreeOfAKindMofo: Naw, you're just easy to read. And when did you start using emoticons?
Gavel Man: Meh, I've taken a liking to them. Sure, they're overused by teens nowadays, but I still like them enough to use them.
ThreeOfAKindMofo: Well, I guess you're still young enough to enjoy new trends. I just don't see the point in most of the stuff they make for kids these days. I can't wait until the revolution.
Gavel Man: In time, Scint. Patience is a virtue. ... Okay, forget I just typed that. Hypocrites like me don't deserve to talk about patience.
ThreeOfAKindMofo: Laughing Out Loud! I'm signing off now. Good luck in the Towers.
Gavel Man: All right. Take care!
Pressing an icon to leave the chat room, Pulse went into a list of other active chat rooms, seeing that Jerry Forza was hosting a room with a small group of Private and Corporal-ranking rebel soldiers. Pulse entered the room...
Gavel Man has entered the lobby.
TheYellowStreakLOL: So, have you guys seen the trailer for Kill of Duty 3, yet?
xX69ladysman69Xx: they're making another one?! spirits, i loved the first two!!
TheYellowStreakLOL: Yeah, but I wouldn't be surprised if this one blows! If this one sells as badly as the previous installment, I wouldn't be surprised if Acti-Eyes and Unlimited Wardens file for bankruptcy. Then again, if it sells good, then they'll probably make a fourth one and a fifth one and so on. That seems to be their trend with the other trilogies they've made.
BailsTheBullet: Uh, soldiers, I hate to interrupt, but I think the Commander is here.
Gavel Man: At ease, boys! Jerry, I'm gonna need you to cut this chat party short. You, me and Alicia are heading to Anduruna for a little op in Sabbaton.
TheYellowStreakLOL: Oh, shit! Really?! That sounds awesome! Sorry, guys! G2G!
arty617: it's k. bye.
underwearkevin: ;3 Later, Jerry!
xX69ladysman69Xx: peace, dude.
BailsTheBullet: Goodbye, Forza!
Pulse closed his data-scroll and left the mess hall.
Pulling out a comm-scroll, he pressed a speed dial button and placed it to his ear.
"Alicia, it's Pulse! Me and Jerry are going to be at the Margate safehouse near Grunn's orphanage! Meet us there! Special Op mission!"
"Okay! I'm comin'!"
Closing the comm-scroll, he looked to his left and saw Jerry bolt out of a barrack in the blink of an eye. Before Pulse could react, Jerry stopped next to him and said, "Yo!"
Pulse flinched. "Jeez, man! Do you have to always do that?"
"Well, yeah! What better way to stay in tune with your Power than to keep using it? Right?"
"And that's what I'm afraid of! Lose control of yourself for a single second and you just might slam through my body! Try running around the fields or the forest if you gotta 'stay in tune'."
"Okay, okay! Yeesh! Sorry! So, what's this about? We gonna assassinate somebody or what?"
"No! That's the Troika's job [sometimes]! Let's meet up with Alicia at one of the Troika's safehouses, then we'll talk!"
"You got it, boss!"
* * * * *
Standing in the kitchen of the safehouse, Pulse and Jerry looked up to see Alicia come through the door to the basement.
"All right, I'm here, dawg! What's up?"
"Okay! As you may have heard in recent celebrity news, the Cutter Twins are trying to screw the government out of money that their parents had planned to give away upon Mrs. Cutter's death! But, their parents left it up to their boys to ensure that the money is given to the right sources in the government! A stupid move, obviously! I've never had anything against them using their Power to become rich, but refusing to give away half of the fortune that they made per their parents' last wish, I won't stand for that! So, I'm gonna go kick their asses while you two do some spying on any off-duty safety troops or police officers in the fancier malls! I'm sure I can handle them on my own!"
Jerry folded his arms, thinking about the plan. "If I recall, they can turn their bodies into solid diamond! Their asses are gonna be pretty hard to kick, you know?"
"Well, if they give me any trouble, they'll have to punch through my psychic shielding and I can keep flinging them around until they give up! You know, now that I think about it, I think this'll be my first time fighting a pair of dreamkeepers with their own Power fully active! This should be interesting, if not educational!"
"Well, good luck with that!" Alicia said. "I know them fools! They may have money, but they ain't no different than the guys out here! They're gonna give you some trouble, honey!"
"Don't worry about me! I'll be fine! I'll be done with them before you know it! Now, come on! Let's get to the public telepad!"
* * * * *
At the Margate District telepad station, Pulse, with his Power active, and his teammates looked around at the bead stands and other kiosks as the Harvest Festival was in full swing.
"Hope we have time afterwards to scan the beads later!" Alicia said. "I may need some Bravado and Venus beads for tonight! I'm taking the night off from the strip club to get my own entertainment!"
"I think I'll hit a game store while we're at Sabbaton!" Jerry voiced. "I've beaten Kill of Duty 2 like ten times now, so I'm gonna check out the cheat codes it has in the game guide before I get ready for the next release!"
"You can do your shopping AFTER this is done!" Pulse said with a hint of annoyance.
Jerry and Alicia went quiet as the team stood on the telepad with over fifty civilians.
In a grey flash, the pad's occupants were dematerialized.
* * * * *
Reappearing on the central telepad station in the Sabbation Towers, the telepad station jutted out from the central tower, on the five-hundredth floor. Pulse and his teammates walked along the wide pathway to the interior of the Towers. As they entered from the telepad station, they stood inside of a high-class shopping mall.
"All right, you two! Remember, stealth AND survival are paramount! Look around for whatever you want, but keep your mind on the job! I'll take care of my business and will call you when I'm finished! We'll meet back here and warp back to Margate! If something goes wrong, I'll try to contact you and tell you to leave without me! Understood?"
Jerry and Alicia nodded in stereo.
"Good! See you later!"
Jerry and Alicia walked left towards an escalator while Pulse walked right towards the elevators.
Seeing that one of the elevators were out of order, he reached out with his Power and slowly pulled the doors open. Shoppers passing by looked at the creaking doors in bewilderment.
Still concealed with his Power, he raced past the shoppers and jumped into the elevator shaft, grabbing onto an emergency ladder. Reaching behind him, he used his Power to slam the doors shut.
As he began climbing up, he thought, 'If my memory is correct, they should still be living somewhere on floor six-hundred and twenty-eight. Guess I've got a ways to go. The prices you have to pay for stealth.'
* * * * *
Opening the doors on Floor 628, Pulse pulled himself up and closed the doors behind him. The floors above the five-hundredth floor weren't as luxurious as the Viscount's private floor or the political housing near the top of the Towers, but it was easy to tell that the upper half of the main tower radiated with wealth and status.
As he walked among the halls, he reached out with his telepathy, attempting to root out the Cutter Twins from any of the residents on the floor.
Suddenly, he stopped and could hear echo's in the room right next to him. He turned to his left and saw a door with a thin line of diamond surrounding the doorframe. The echo's were audible now.
'It's them! This is their place!'
With his Power, he reached out and could see the locks behind the door. With his telekinetic abilities, he undid the locks and gently pushed the door open. Stingray in hand, he entered.
The walls, floor and ceiling were all painted a dark violet, but nearly every single object in the room was made of solid diamond.
'Amazed that the Cutter's were able to keep their secret for this long! I guess having all the money in the world to bribe the taxpayers offices in not asking you where you're getting the diamonds helps!'
Making his way across the living area, he heard two similar voices coming from a bedroom.
"Yo, man, I just don't get it, man! Why the fuck do we have to just hand the money over now and disappear? What's he afraid of?"
"Look, man, we ain't supposed to question the Nab, all right? We're just supposed to do what we're told to do! If he wants us to give away our money and disappear, then that's what we're gonna do! 'Sides, we're walkin' diamond mines! It don't matter if we give all the money away! We can make just as much in a matter of days when we're out on the streets! We don't have to worry about Mama and Daddy holdin' us back like they have over the years! It's just gonna be us and our millions of lucre, man!"
A hallway ran from the living area down to a bathroom. Pulse waited on the right side around the corner as the Cutter Twins emerged from the room carrying suitcases. Both wore a hoodie and baggy pants, but Dial's hoodie was blue and his pants were black while Mondy's hoodie was black and his pants were blue.
The twins walked into the living area as Pulse stepped up behind them, his Stingray ready.
"Don't try anything stupid, boys!"
They both glanced at one another, then dropped their suitcases and threw their arms up. "Shit, man! We shoulda left when we had the chance!"
"Turn around!" Pulse ordered.
The twins obeyed, reluctantly turning to face Pulse.
"Oh, shit, man! It's the Pulse!"
"The Pulse? Is that what I'm being called nowadays? Funny I wasn't aware of that! Anyway, I think you boys know why I'm here! As much as I hate the government, I also hate the fact that you guys are cheating them out of money that they were supposed to receive for good causes! Money that your parents promised in their will's! So, what are we going to do to fix this?"
Pulse could barely tell the twins apart without his telepathy, but the easy tip-off was that Mondy would wear the same clothes as his brother, but in opposite colors, which were not very popular.
Dial smirked. "Shit, man, there's been a complete misunderstandin', man! We changed our minds, you see? We're gonna give 'em our folks money, man! So, how 'bout you get on out here before we have-"
Faster than Pulse could react, the twins summoned their Power, their bodies transforming into unbreakable diamond. Pulse could sense the move coming, but hesitated, as he pulled the trigger of his weapon. The bullet ricocheted right off of Dial's head.
Mondy rushed forward, grabbing onto Pulse. But, Pulse was already falling backwards and focusing his telekinetic energy around his feet. Flipping Mondy over, he kicked his feet into the gorilla's chest, sending him shooting through a wall and into the hallway. Dial quickly ran for the door.
Pulse was about to grab him with his grip, but Dial grabbed a small diamond table and flung it at Pulse. It was enough of a distraction for Pulse to use his Power to divert the table's path, having it fly into a wall, embedding itself.
As he tried to focus on Dial, the gorilla ran out the door, his brother joining him.
"Damn it!" Pulse shouted, running after them.
* * * * *
Pulse bolted out of the apartment, spotting the Cutter Twins race around a corner, heading for the elevators.
'Elevator or stairs, doesn't matter! I'll catch up to 'em, eventually!'
Turning the corner, he saw them dismiss their Powers as they slammed their way into the stairwell. Pulse followed closely behind, his revolver still drawn. The Cutters were a flight down from Pulse as he took pot shots at them. They cringed as they ran. Suddenly, they ran through another door just two floors down from their apartment.
Pulse busted through the door and found himself standing on a platform that encircled an indoor garden that dominated most of the floor. He walked to the edge of the platform and looked down.
The Cutters had activated their Power once more so they could jump down to the garden fifty feet below without harm. Keeping their Power active, they ran into the jungle-like vegetation.
Pulse looked out at the garden. He could see nor sense anyone else in the garden except for the twins. Frowning hard, he hopped over the railing of the platform. Barely inches from the ground, he cushioned his fall with a blast.
* * * * *
Several minutes passed as Pulse slowly snuck through the botanical underbrush, his revolver poised to fire. He knew the twins had their Power ready, making his gun useless, but it didn't hurt to have insurance ready.
'They're hiding,' he thought. 'I wouldn't expect them to come here and hide! It's almost like they know what they're doing and they fully intend to kill me, if possible! For a pair of spoiled, thuggish twins, they sure seem to have their scraws in a row!'
A few moments passed before Pulse emerged from the vegetation to stand on a tiled path. The path went through the jungle-like garden with S-curves.
Walking along the path, he could sense a threatening approach from his left. Jumping back, he watched as Mondy blasted out of the greenery, swinging a sword made entirely of crystal clear diamond. Moments later, Dial appeared from the right side of the path.
The combatants stared down one another. Pulse watched as Dial softened the diamond that was his right arm. Digging his left hand into his right arm, he forged a diamond blade of his own. The blade was merely two feet long, but it began to extend three feet more right before Pulse's eyes.
"You're out of your league, man!" Mondy snarled. "Fuck off 'fore we have to fuck you up!"
Pulse smiled. "Out of my league? I can use my Power as easily as the both of you and I'm not that much older than you two! As for fuckin' me up? I could make you two fuck each other up and I wouldn't have to even lift a finger! To be fairly honest, none of this is even necessary! I just want to know why you've been stirring up trouble and now deciding to reconcile! What's this all about?"
Dial and Mondy looked at one another, then Dial turned to say, "Let's just say that we've been explorin' new... enterprises, if you will! And, a man in one of these enterprises wants us to cause some excitement and rethink our current lifestyle before we begin investing in his business! He wants us to convince him and show him that we've got what it takes to go all-out, man! So, you see? There ain't nothin' more about it than that, man! So, are we cool? Can we just walk away and forget this ever happened, man?"
Pulse frowned as he thought, 'Okay, enough of beating around the bush! What are you not telling me?'
Determined to know more, Pulse attempted to enter both of the twin's minds. As he did so, an indescribable pain jolted Pulse's head. He yelled in pain as he fell to one knee, fighting the agony as he winced.
'What the hell?! My head!'
Dial and Mondy looked wide-eyed in confusion, then looked at each other. Mondy snarled and ran forward, cocking his sword back.
Through the pain, Pulse's eyes shot open.
'Gods damn it!' he thought as he rolled out of the way.
Pulling his machete out from his sheath, the pain in his head dissipated almost instantly.
'What the hell just happened? It's like... they blocked my telepathy!'
Mondy regained his composure and charged again. Pulse threw his machete up to block the cut. Mondy's sword cut right through the machete, splitting it in half.
Pulse glanced at it, then back at Mondy. "Oh, boy...."
Mondy grinned, raising his sword for a killing blow. Pulse shoved his open palm into Mondy's chest. With a blast, he sent the gorilla skidding across the path. Due to his increased weight from the density of his diamond form, his feet didn't leave the ground. Slamming his sword into the tile, he slowed to a stop.
Dial ran forward, but Pulse threw another blast at the twin. He followed Mondy's strategy.
'How did they block my telepathy?' Pulse thought in distress. 'I just don't understand!'
Dial and Mondy began to walk backwards. Pulse could see Mondy whispering to his brother. Suddenly, they turned and made a run for it.
"No!" Pulse shouted out loud, sending the word from his mind to the twins. Again, Pulse's head stung with pain, but not as intensely as before. Still, it was enough to stop his thinking. By the time the pain dissipated, the twins were gone.
Pulse glared. 'I want to go after them, but... I don't want to, either! If they somehow found a way to block my Power, what's to stop them from actually using telepathy against me? I'll have to have the Troika keep an eye out for them!'
As Pulse looked for the exit, another thought entered his mind. 'What if... this is a sign? Could they be... dark dreamkeepers? They seemed to have had a strategy in hiding from me, then striking when the moment was right! They are also adept with using melee weapons, made from their own Power, no less! Even out of curiosity, why would they want to train themselves on how to make swords out of their Power?'
Reaching the exit, Pulse rubbed his head hard. 'The Troika will have to know about this, for sure! If possible, they'll be captured by somebody, so I can get some answers about all of this!'
Walking out a door, Pulse pulled out a comm-scroll as he made his way to the stairs to return to the telepad station.
Septembris 11th, 1219
Staring up at the Calypsa District tower, Pulse glared up at its center. Just like this tower, the other districts had a tower of their own, located in or near the center of each district. These towers served as the inspiration that is the monolith, the Sabbaton Towers.
Pulse glanced over his shoulder. Alicia and Vidar looked at him intensely. He smiled at them reassuringly.
Pulse and his two teammates of Sierra Team were about to conduct a crucial assassination. Arguably, the most important assassination for the AER and Troika alike.
The assassination of Viscount Calah, who was scheduled to arrive at the Calypsa tower for a State of the Nation address.
Vidar walked up to stand by Pulse. "You do realize what kind of chaos and turmoil this is going to cause, right?"
Pulse smirked. "The people will heal! They will forget! That is my biggest hope! There are other resistance groups who want Calah dead just like us and when they hear that we were responsible for his death, they will join us! There are also plenty of politicians who are in these groups as well as the bandit lands who will be willing to return to take part in the reformation! I'm sure you are one of them!"
Vidar nodded, staring up at the tower. "Yes, but this is a bit extreme! Everyone and everything will be in disarray when the news is out! Everyone will panic! They still believe you to be a failed tyrant! They will not accept you like they used to back then!"
"That's a risk that I will take and live with! The people will understand what I have done for them! Especially those who have fallen victim to the oppression and favoritism of the bureaucracy! They will speak for me! I've run all out of patience! I've been building an army to ignite a revolution in the form of a foreign invasion! But, now, after hearing more and more stories of corruption and unfairness to the people, I can't stand it any longer! Calah must die here, tonight!"
Pulling out a comm-scroll, he punched a speed-dial icon and held it to his ear. "Omega Squad, are you inside?"
"Yes, sir! Took us long enough, but all eight of us are inside! The place is packed! Mostly rich people, but there're enough locals here to blend in with! We'll be waiting for you!"
"Have the tower's custodial staff dropped off our equipment at the designated location?"
"Yes, sir! The chief janitor confirmed it a success just a few minutes ago! We're all set in here!"
"Good! Me and my squadmates will join you momentarily!"
Ending the call, Pulse hit another speed-dial icon.
"Jerry, are you in position?"
"Yeah, Boss! No sign of City Guard traffic where me and Scald are! Theta Squad is in the basement of a bar across the street from me! They've got a hacked line to CCA headquarters established and will let me know of any strange occurances! No one should know about this little attack of ours! Only those at the briefing know about it!"
"Right! Okay, then! Me, Vidar and Alicia are going in! The auditorium will be on the twentieth floor, while our staging area will be in an empty office area on the tenth floor. We'll grab the equipment from the supply closet and gear up in that office area! I'll contact you for a status report on the City Guard's activity when we're ready! After that, you won't hear a word from me until the deed is done! Underdstood?"
"You got it, Boss! I'll call you if something comes up before then!"
"Roger that! I'm out!"
Ending the call, he stuck the comm-scroll back into his pocket. He turned to Vidar and Alicia and nodded. Walking out of the alley they stood in, they walked together to the main entrance, where a long line of dreamkeepers waited to enter and be part of the address. Pulse could see the more wealthier citizens being given instant access as they stepped out of their luxury groundcars.
'Sickening...' Pulse thought sourly.
He glanced to his left to see a long river that ran past the tower, from one large lake to another.
'Wonder if we should use that as an escape route if things go south,' he thought. 'No, wait! What am I thinking? This ISN'T going to go south! Calah is not leaving this tower alive!'
As Pulse and his squadmates walked up to the end of the line, he brought his Power to full strength, his halo fully lit.
"Let's go!" he said quietly as he and his squadmates walked past the line unnoticed.
* * * * *
Pulse peeked through a door to see an office area, nobody inside. Opening the door, he entered with Alicia and Vidar on his heels.
The room was long, full of cubicles and was in the side of the tower that faced the river down below. The middle of the room was empty.
After entering the tower, Pulse nodded at the members of Omega Squad, who were congregated in an area near the elevators. As Pulse and his squad members would go up first, Omega Squad would proceed up to the tenth floor one-by-one to avoid attention.
Half-an-hour passed and all of Omega Squad was gathered in the middle of the room with the partial Sierra Team. Pulse and Vidar left the office to go to the supply closet and gather the gear for the mission. After ten more minutes of back-and-forth carrying of bags and cases, the rebels began dressing into their uniforms and loading their weapons. Alicia carried her Slasher, Vidar his Razor, and the entirety of Omega Squad carried Screamers. Pulse was using the Echo sniper rifle for this mission, since he thought of every possible means to kill Calah, from near or far.
"All right, people! This is it! No turning back! We end this war before it even starts!"
Alicia, Vidar and Omega Squad nodded.
Pulse reached back into a satchel and pulled out an ITE. Walking to the wall opposite of the office windows, Pulse placed the charge to the wall and primed it, setting it to twenty minutes to blow.
"This will be enough to blast this entire office out of the tower, but not enough to cause enough damage to collapse the whole thing! It'll stir up the people and will serve as a distraction!"
As he turned and glanced at his watch, his comm-scroll rang. Pulse answered it.
"Perfect timing, Jerry! I was about to call you myself! Any problems before we start this?"
"Uhhh, Boss? You guys might want to abort!"
"What?! Abort? What are talking about?"
"The Guard has the entire place surrounded! I tried to call you earlier, but I couldn't get an answer from you! They must have been jamming our communications! The Viscount has been evacuated! We've been compromised!"
"BULLSHIT! That's impossible! Nobody knew about this! Nobody but those... involved... wait!"
Pulse suddenly began sifting through his memories of the mission briefing, then the rebels standing by the Outpost Fenris telepad. Pulse was talking with Vidar and Omega Squad's leader. In Pulse's side-vision, he saw a kangaroo dreamkeeper Private walking out, claiming he was going to the restroom before they left.
Pulse's eyes went wide with horror. "I don't... fucking... believe it."
"A.P.?" Alicia asked with concern.
Pulse spun around to face Omega Squad. "Sergeant! Where is Morales?"
Omega Squad's leader looked around and took a head count. "The hell?! He was just here! Where did he go?"
Pulse's face contorted in anger. "No! For Nethers's sake, NO!"
* * * * *
In the CCA headquarters in the Sabbaton Towers in the dispatch center, high-ranking City Guard officers and the Calypsa District Senator were standing around a single dispatcher.
"And they say they apprehended the rebel who fed us the information about Calah's assassination?" the District Senator asked.
"Yes, sir! When they cuffed him, he was already screaming to be placed into witness protection! Which I'm sure the Viscount will grant him! The Viscount owes the man his life!"
"Indeed! Good to know at least one of those anarchist's are willing to see the error of their ways! Make sure the Viscount knows that the rebel has been apprehended and is responsible for exposing this heinous act of terrorism!"
"Yes, sir! I'll inform him as soon as he arrives!"
* * * * *
"All ground squads are in position and Apollo, Valkyrie and Hercules Squad's are moving in on the tenth floor office to apprehend or eliminate the targets," a trooper reported to his commander on the surface in front of the Calypsa tower.
"Very good! And our snipers on that building across the street?"
"They'll be in position within seconds!"
* * * * *
"Sniper Squad Medusa is in position! I have targets in sight! I have visual confirmation of Aizer Pulse! Repeat! Visual confirmation of Aizer Pulse!"
* * * * *
"Senator! A sniper team on the scene is reporting visual confirmation of Aizer Pulse with the rebels!"
A lieutenant-ranking officer nodded. "Looks like the defector's info checks out! Pulse was really trying to make a move on the Viscount! Can't believe he's still alive after all this time!"
"Most rumors of wanted terrorists and criminals being dead are not to be believed, Lieutenant!" the District Senator said harshly.
"What is the situation, gentlemen?"
The Senator and the officers froze as Political Councilor Tinsel Nanaja walked into the dispatch center.
"Well? I'm the Political Councilor and the Viscount was being threatened! I demand to know the situation now!"
The Senator nodded, pulling on his suit collar. "O-of course, Ms. Nanaja! T-the rebels are holed up on the tenth floor of my district's tower! A pair of snipers have them in their sights! I-if you wish, you may take control of the situation!"
Tinsel smiled with an understanding face. "Why, thank you, Senator!"
She walked forward to stand behind the dispatcher.
* * * * *
"Uhhh, dispatch, this is Sniper Squad Medusa! I think I see some kind of explosive device on the wall of the office! I believe it's an explosive, I've never seen anything like it! I'm patching you through to my FullScan goggles!"
* * * * *
On an absurdly large data-scroll in the HQ, a feed from the sniper's vision was being shown. Pulse and his troops, along with the ITE, were in view.
"That is indeed a suspicious looking device," the Senator commented on the ITE.
Tinsel rubbed her chin, thinking hard. At the same time, a smile creeped across her face.
* * * * *
Back in the office, one of the Omega Squad members was using his own FullScan goggles, stolen and laundered from a City Guard trooper, to look through the walls.
"Oh, shit! Commander, we've got company! Three squads of a dozen troopers approaching fast!"
Pulse glared towards the door. "Take cover! We're fighting our way out of here!"
* * * * *
Down below near the tower's entrance, a reporter attempted to gain answers on the situation from the trooper commander.
"Excuse me, sir! Can you tell us anything about what is going on in there?"
"All we know is that a group of rebels and presumably their leader are stuck inside and we're moving in to take them down! Now, step back!"
"Well, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen!" the reporter exclaimed to the scroll-camera as he walked backwards. "Just another day of justice for the City Guard! We'll keep you updated whenever we can reach the commander!"
* * * * *
Pulse glanced over his cover at the door. Tact lights shone through the cracks around the door.
"Sir!" the Omega Sgt. hissed. "Those prototype grenades you added to our inventory a few days ago! Should we use 'em?"
Pulse nodded fiercely. "Yes! When they blast that door open, they'll toss in some sparkers! After they go off, lob those grenades!"
Omega Squad readied their prototype grenades.
Pulse turned to Vidar. "Rivers, I'm gonna need you to stay close and cover Alicia! When this gets messy, which I'm sure it will, I'm gonna need you to protect her while I move along the windows and get in close! They won't last long against my Power!"
"If you insist, Pulse!" Vidar agreed.
"Get ready!" a rebel said quietly.
Pulse reached out with his telekinesis and entered the minds of the troopers. Three troopers were placing their rifles against the door.
"Pins out!" he said mentally to his soldiers. Omega Squad obeyed, pulling the pins of their grenades.
Seconds later, the door was shot right off its hinges. Pulse watched as sparkers came flying in at random. They exploded among the cubicles closest to the door, while Pulse and his troops were positioned near the center of the room, out of sight.
The first few troopers began to file in.
"Now!" Pulse shouted. The rebels threw their grenades.
The explosives bounced around the cubicles affected by the sparkers.
"What the hell were those?" a trooper yelled as he grabbed cover. "Rocks?"
Suddenly, the grenades detonated and released a large cloud of dust-like particles throughout the room.
"AUGH! My goggles are on the fritz! I can't see!"
"Take them off!" a trooper yelled. "We'll have to do this the old-fashioned way.
Pulse summoned his full Power and stood up. "Open fire! Kill them all!"
The rebels rose from their cover and fired their weapons at the distracted troopers. Only half of the troopers managed to make it in and six of them went down in the gunfire. Those who had made it in dropped to the floor to avoid the bullets.
"Suppressing fire! Don't let the others make it in here!"
* * * * *
"Dispatch, this is Medusa! Suspects are opening fire! We've suffered multiple casualties! I've never seen weapons like those before! Whoever these guys are, they're not our usual bandits and rebels!"
* * * * *
Tinsel stared into the data-scroll, which was still patched to the sniper's goggles.
"Should we send a helicopter to eliminate them from the air?" the Senator suggested.
"Now, now! Let's not be hasty! We don't want to make a mess of your tower now, do we?"
The Senator went quiet as Tinsel watched the firefight from the sniper's view.
"Instead, we better have our snipers destroy that device that's on the wall!"
"The device? But,... what if it's a bomb? A stray bullet could set it off and do Spirit's knows what kind of damage! Not to mention the loss of our troopers inside!"
"And what if it isn't? For all we know, it could be a communications device! They could be sending messages to other rebels within the city to intercept the Viscount! We have to disable that device for the Viscount's safety!"
The Senator went quiet yet again as Tinsel leaned on the desk. "Tell that sniper to shoot the device! Now!"
The dispatcher paused, then nodded. "Sniper Squad Medusa! You have direct orders from the Political Councilor to open fire on the wall device! You are mandated to obey! How copy?"
* * * * *
The sniper looked over at his spotter, who shrugged.
"Copy that, dispatch! Engaging target!"
The sniper steeled himself, focusing his crosshair's on the ITE.
* * * * *
"I'm moving in! Cover me!"
Pulse crouch-walked along the cubicles while Vidar moved to Alicia's right side.
Walking to the end of the cubicles, he stood up and was about to run along the windows to reach the safety troopers position.
No sooner had he taken the first step that a bullet whizzed past his face through the window.
He turned to see where the bullet was going. Everything was like slow-motion after that.
Pulse watched in disbelief as the ITE detonated prematurely, obliterating the wall it was attached to. Vidar, who's Power was fully active, flinched as the blast smacked into him and he fell on top of Alicia. The flames engulfed them both. Omega Squad was being blown to bits while others simply went flying.
Pulse threw his arms up as the flames were nearly on him. His psychic shield went up, but not fast enough to cover his head. The flames creeped over the spreading shield and smacked Pulse in the right side of his face.
He screamed in pain as his shield faltered and the blast sent him flying out the window. Thousands of pieces of debris flew out and tumbled the short distance down.
Pulse could only see with the left half of his vision, which was running red. The right half of his vision was all black. As he fell back first to the surface, he could see Vidar hugging a stunned Alicia as fire and architecture filled the air.
He knew what was below him and through the pain in his face, he braced for the impact.
He splashed into the water of the river and slowly began drifting under the surface. He looked to his right and saw Vidar and Alicia fall in as well.
Pulse could feel himself fading, the pain overtaking his thoughts. He could feel himself bobbing up to the surface before finally passing out.
* * * * *
Tinsel stared wide-eyed at the data-scroll. The whole dispatch center went silent, except for the panicked radio chatter of the safety troops at the scene.
Tinsel glanced to her left and saw the Calypsa Senator glaring at her intensely.
"Oh, fuck....," she whispered, turning away. Then, a small smile appeared on her lips, unnoticed by the disturbed individuals.
* * * * *
"AURRGHH! Dispatch, it's Medusa! Target hit! It was a damn bomb! I was staring right at it at full zoom! I'm blind!"
* * * * *
On the ground near the tower entrance, troopers scrambled to rush inside and secure the river.
"Did anyone see anything fall into the river?" the commander asked.
"I thought I saw several bodies go in, but I couldn't tell who or even what!" a trooper replied.
* * * * *
It seemed like an eternity had passed before Pulse regained consciousness. He was being dragged out of the river, far away from the tower, but still in Calypsa.
His vision was foggy, but he could tell it was Jerry dragging him up. A shocked look was on his face.
"Don't worry, Boss! I'm gettin' you out of here!"
As Jerry wrapped his right arm around Pulse and held onto him, Pulse looked to the left and saw a small group of rebels pulling Vidar and Alicia out as well.
Again, Pulse passed out.
* * * * *
Septembris 12th, 1219
Pulse awoke with a start, half of his vision still blacked out. He shot up straight, but was quickly grabbed by the shoulder. He looked up and saw the hulking form of Igrath Winters.
"Take it easy, Pulse! It's me! We're here! Just calm down!"
Pulse looked forward and saw Scinter, Grunn, and Sierra Team all standing or sitting around in a patient's room. Pulse recognized it as a room in the Outpost Fenris infirmary.
Pulse groaned and placed his hand on his face. He felt half of his head was wrapped in bandages.
"What happened to me?" Pulse asked weakly, but with authority.
A doctor stepped out from behind Winters and walked up with a clipboard.
"Commander,... you've suffered a second degree burn to your face. Deep partial thickness. The burn is all around your eye. Excision and grafting does not appear to be necessary, but we will have to do more thorough examinations just to be sure and we will have to apply healing agents on an hourly basis for at least three days. If we see improvement by tomorrow morning, then we will forget the surgeries and just stick to the healing agents."
Pulse turned and stared into space. He felt the bandages once more.
"I understand," he said plainly, falling back into his pillow.
Troika and Sierra Team alike looked around at each other.
* * * * *
"And, you're sure I'll be safe until then, correct?"
Viscount Calah sat across from a hand-cuffed Pvt. Morales, the kangaroo rebel who exposed Pulse and his plan, at a table.
"That is what the witness protection program is for, Mr. Morales," Calah said gleefully. "You'll be given a new name, new personal information, new home, a new life! A frest start for a young man who has decided to be a hero! I owe you my life! Congratulations, Morales! You should feel proud!"
Morales gulped, but smiled widely. "Thank you, Mr. Calah!"
* * * * *
Septembris 15th, 1219
Just like three days prior, Igrath, Scinter, Grunn, and Pulse's Sierra Team had gathered in Pulse's recovery room.
Pulse sat on the edge of his bed, while the doctor stood in front of him.
"Okay, Commander! This should be the last time we remove those bandages! I was nearly convinced that you were fully healed last night, but because you said you were still having difficulty seeing, I decided to hold my breath and wait until now! So, here we go!"
The doctor grabbed a piece of the bandage and snipped it with a pair of scissors. After that, he began unwrapping the bandage from Pulse's head.
He could still see out of his left eye and he was expecting light to come through the bandages as they were pulled away from his right eye.
The doctor looked concerned. "We're halfway there, Commander! Do you see anything?"
"No," Pulse grunted.
The doctor swallowed hard, continuing to remove the bandages.
After another agonizing second, Pulse's friends and squadmates were holding their breath, waiting to release it in celebration.
They nearly did so, but stopped short as the last of the bandage was removed.
Pulse's face was fully healed, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine. But, a very noticeable difference.
The pupil of Pulse's right eye was a full ghostly white. Both his eyes are normally purple.
Pulse felt his heart beat rising fast. Nothing but blackness dominated the right half of his sight. He raised his right arm, but couldn't see it. He stretched it across his face and finally saw it in his good eye. But, his right eye saw nothing as he pulled it back.
Pulse lowered his eye as a nasty glare covered his face.
"I'm sorry, Commander!" the doctor apologized, his head downcast. The others were downcast as well. They looked up as Pulse jumped to his feet and slowly walked to the door.
"Where are you going?" Scinter asked.
Pulse looked back, his bad eye staring at him.
"I'm not sure."
Pulse closed the door behind him, leaving the room's occupants to their shaken thoughts.
* * * * *
Septembris 28th, 1219
Morales tapped his feet anxiously as he sat hand-cuffed to a bench in a small cell. For his safety, he was being held in the underground prisons until the revision of his identity was complete.
He looked up fast as the locks to his cell door were released. As the door opened, a single safety trooper with a springer rifle stood in the light.
"All right, Morales!" the trooper said with a deep voice. "You're free to go!"
"Oh, thank gods!" Morales exclaimed as the trooper walked in and freed the kangaroo from his cuffs.
The former rebel walked out and started walking down the cell hallway.
"I can't wait for the makeover I'm gonna get! Pulse will never be able to find me once that's-"
Before he could finish, a bullet slammed through his body. He looked down, feeling the wound. Within moments, he fell lifelessly to the floor.
The trooper lowered his rifle. Reaching up to his helmet, he took it off.
Pulse stared down at the traitor with a hateful sneer.
"Yep, you're free... to go... to *hell*!"
Even as alarms began to ring throughout the prisons, Pulse casually walked the opposite way, his Power fully active.
* * * * *
Aprilis 5th, 1220
In the Sabbaton Towers, a squad of City Guard troopers stood in front of an apartment door. Placing their rifles against it, they fired and blasted it out of its frame.
Tact lights on, the troopers entered the pitch black apartment.
"Emissary Cornwallis?" a trooper called out. "Are you here?"
"Spread out! Keep your eyes open!"
As the troopers splintered to cover the whole apartment, a trooper carefully peered into the bedroom and pointed his light at the bed.
"Guys! In here!"
The troopers rushed to their partner, only to watch him stumble away, trying hard not to vomit.
The troopers stepped in and shone their lights in the room. It didn't take long for them to find their partner's discovery.
A mutilated dreamkeeper laid in pieces on the bed. A message on the wall that was written in the emissary's blood made the troopers back out of the room.
I A M T H E P U L S E
A N D I ' M S T I L L B E A T I N G
Act Theme: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGUzVUBltyA
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