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Dreamkeepers Forums - DreamKeepers: The Pulse - Act V

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Subscribe to this thread DreamKeepers: The Pulse - Act V created by Prometheus on November 29, 2014

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Prometheus11/29/14 11:21pm
Act V: Revelations Awakened

Augustris 23rd, 1225

Time went by slowly for Aizer Pulse. He had very little to do.

In the months that followed the massacre he had caused in order to incite rage and rebellion into the population, Pulse went into a downward spiral when the plan failed and the Troika had added him to their list of targets for assassination. Consumed by guilt and uncertainty, Pulse called the forces of Outpost Fenris to an address of the rebellion. In the address, Pulse had officially stepped down as the leader of the Aequitus Equitus Republic and had put Vidar Rivers in his place. The rest of Sierra Team would act as Vidar's personal security detail, but Vidar was free to re-assign the team however he saw fit.

Pulse's stepping down as AER leader had helped to make the Troika second-guess his true position. As a result, they had placed him on a list of dreamkeepers who would be under heavy surveillance by Troika agents within Anduruna. In addition, the AER would no longer be considered a hostile faction on condition that they not act in any malicious way to Troika forces or facilities.

As the months turned into years, Pulse was staying mostly within Anduruna. His dream of taking his rightful place as Viscount crushed, he had resorted to heavy drinking and frequent visits to the more luxurious nightclubs. Because of his Power, however, he was able to stay sober regardless of his alcoholic intake. Along with drinking, he would also use his Power to "persuade" back room club dancers to give him a more *private show*.

Eventually, he would begin to realize that he was better than this kind of conduct. Reluctant to resume his quest to become Viscount, Pulse decided that he would do whatever he could to weaken the government and let them know that he was still around.

Even then, whenever Pulse wanted to be seen, those who do see him would claim that he is usually hanging around a bar or club. Because of this, both the Troika and City Guard were vaguely aware of his favorite evening hot spots.

In recent months, Pulse took up a part-time job, illegally, as a bouncer for an underground nightclub suspectedly run by the Troika. He would confirm this as more and more Troika agents would begin to come days after he was given the job in order to watch him.

'If I stay on their good side long enough, they just might get off my back.'

Scinter was doing his best to convince Igrath and the other high-ranking Troika officers that Pulse was trustworthy. Even after the massacre, Scinter believed that Pulse had no intention of causing it without thinking of the consequences.

In actuality, Pulse *did* think of the consequences, he just didn't care. He firmly believed that the sudden bloodlust from the troopers on the protestors would've been enough to enrage the city, regardless of the media's attempt to cover it up. It was a gamble that Pulse wanted to take and he lucked out. He realized that the vow he made to himself about becoming Viscount or turning Anduruna into ashes was half-hearted. He had no intentions of committing either acts.

Walking into the nightclub, Pulse dwelled on the haunting massacre. Heading for the security room to change into his uniform, he was suddenly stopped by one of the female bartender's.

"A.P.! Come quick! You have to help them!"

"What's wrong?"

"It's the Marallang's! They're in the back alley with a pair of gorillas! They're in trouble!"

'A pair of gorillas?' Pulse thought in shock. 'It can't be!'

"I'm on it!" he said, running past her to the main entrance.

Bolting out the doors, he turned left and ran for an alley that led to the rear of the club. He turned the corner and saw the two pairs of twins.

Indi Marallang was being pinned to the wall by Dial Cutter. Mondy Cutter held onto Digo in a bear hug.

"�Hijo de puta!" Digo screamed. "Let her go!"

Dial glanced at her, then back at Indi. "What's your problem, man? All we wanted to do was say hi. Ain't nothin wrong with that. Ain't I right, baby?"

Indi sneered as Dial's large hand had her head completely engulfed.

Pulse pulled out a Daredevil and fired it into the air.

"Oh, shit!" Mondy cursed, releasing Digo. Dial released Indi and both men summoned their Powers, turning into diamond. They turned to face the gunman.

"Awww, hell, man! It's him again!"

"Well, I sure ain't the Lone Trooper." Pulse said wittedly. "Weren't expecting to see me ever again, eh?"

As Digo knelt down to her gasping sister, she looked back at their saviour.

"Wow! Que es el Pulso!"

Without warning, the Cutters charged at Pulse.

Crossing his arms, he raised his psychic shield. But, as he looked up, the Cutters both ran past him, tricking him into thinking they were going to ram him.

"Clever," Pulse mumbled, deciding not to chase after them just yet.

He walked over to the Indigo's. "You two all right?"

"S�, we're okay! Just go get those men! We've been looking for them!"

"Right!"

Bolting down the alley, Pulse raced after the gorilla twins.

Mondy looked back to see Pulse race out of the alley, pursuing him and his brother.

"Let's hustle, man! He's comin'!"

Not bothering to dismiss their Powers, they shoved people aside as easily as they would a fly as they ran down the street.

Pulse veered to the right side of the street and used his Power to jump to the top of a building.

'They'll never lose me when I'm up here.'

Running along the rooftops, Pulse could see the Cutters forcing their way through crowds. Pulse could tell they were running for the Talocan District telepad near the heart of the district.

'They've got a ways to go, if that's where they're headin'!'

Watching the Cutters closely, they turned right onto another street, leaving his view. Pulse continued to run along the roofs, hoping to reach the next row of buildings.

As he stood over the next street, he spotted the twins each riding a manekale, stolen from a nearby bar.

Pulse frowned. 'Well, this isn't going to work.'

Looking down at the bar, he saw a confused bystander on his own manekale. Positioning himself directly above the bar, Pulse jumped down and landed on the manekale behind the rider. He pulled the rider back, causing him to fall to the ground.

Grabbing the reins, Pulse pulled out a roll of paper bills and threw it at the rider's feet.

"Buy a new one! YAAAAH!"

Snapping the reins, his steed galloped down the street.

For a solid half-hour, Pulse chased after the Cutters as dozens of people were forced to stumble or jump to the side to avoid being trampled by the manekale-riding dreamkeepers.

Eventually, the public telepad came into view. The Cutters jumped off their mounts as Pulse galloped up.

'You're not getting away this time!'

Pulse could tell the telepad was about to jump. The Cutters were nearly on it.

Pulse stood up on his manekale and focused his Power into his legs. With a mighty leap, he launched off his steed and went sailing through the air towards the pad.

The Cutters turned just in time to see Pulse's manekale trotting up to theirs.

"Where is he?" Dial whispered to Mondy, trying not to draw attention from the telepad crowd.

"I don't know, man. This is bullshit."

His stealth active, Pulse landed quietly in a bare spot in the crowd. As soon as he stood up straight, the telepad flashed to life and in an instant, he and the pad's occupants were now in the Ruskol District.

Looking to the front of the departing crowd, the Cutters were the first to step off the pad. They were both speed-walking to get away from the pad.

"Don't stop. He has to be behind us, man. He has to be!"

"Shit, I ain't stoppin' for all the bitches in the world, man! Last thing I want is to get caught by that crazy motherfucker!"

Pulse grinned as he snaked his way through the crowd.

* * * * *

Ten minutes later, the twins stopped in an unused park surrounded by the rocky terrain of the nearby Starfall Mountains.

"Holy shit, man. You think we lost him?"

"Not a chance!"

The twins spun around to see Pulse appearing out of thin air. His revolver was already drawn.

"Don't you two ever learn? Nobody gets away from me."

Dial chuckled, though nervously. "Well, that wasn't the case the last time we met. You was freakin' out, if I remember."

"Don't expect that to happen this time!" Pulse said sternly. "Now, what were you doing assaulting the Indigo Twins? What's this about?"

"Man, you still don't get it, do you?" Mondy shouted. "You haven't figured it out yet? The guy we work for now is more powerful than you and everybody else in the world. He's got plans, man. Things aren't gonna be the same when he really gets rollin'. It's gonna be like the Big Bang, man."

'Is that right?' Pulse thought doubtfully. 'I can't say I'm the most powerful dreamkeeper ever, but how can anyone be any stronger than me? Maybe this explains why I couldn't read these punks' minds.'

"Well, maybe you can enlighten me on who this guy of yours is?" Pulse asked.

"Sorry, man. That's classified."

"Oh, really?"

Pulse holstered his gun and clenched his fists, taking on a fighter's stance.

"I guess I'm gonna have to persuade you boys to tell me. The old-fashioned way!"

The gorilla twins grinned, summoning their Power. "Just try it, bitch!"

The twins charged. Pulse reached out with his Power and picked up an old bench. He threw it at the twins, but it fell to pieces as they smashed into it.

He ran at the twins, his Power forming a shield in front of him. The twins contacted the shield and they bounced off like pinballs. They fell to the ground, but rolled back to their feet.

Dial looked up just in time to see Pulse running up to him. His fist glowing white with energy, he gave Dial an energy-infused uppercut to the jaw. The blast of energy that followed sent the gorilla flying into a tree.

Pulse spun around and raised his shield to avoid a hammer-like blow to the head from Mondy. The wolf pushed a blast into him, but it only pushed him back a couple of inches. Mondy recovered quickly and continued the attack. Pulse kept pushing Mondy back in defense.

Finally, Pulse pushed Mondy back once more. As Mondy slid away, Pulse squatted down and clamped his palms together. A single blast of telekinetic power formed in both hands.

Mondy instantly recovered and charged to attack, but was met by Pulse's intensified blast in the chest. The gorilla flew across the park before crashing into another tree opposite of his brother. The tree collapsed from the impact.

Nearby, Dial jumped down from the branches and ran at Pulse. Mondy leapt to his feet and charged as well.

As they were nearly on top of him, Pulse jumped and unleashed a blast spreading in all directions. The twins tumbled across the ground, parts of their clothing and their diamond bodies smoldering from the intense energy.

Still, the twins rose, though slowly.

'That blast weakened them, but I can't keep this up forever!' Pulse thought. 'If I can't find a way to end this now, I may have to just let them go and catch them by surprise at a later date.'

The Cutters growled as they shook the dirt from their clothes and ran towards their enemy.

Pulse was about to throw his arms into the ground and send an energy wave sliding across the ground when something hit him in the face from a tree.

He reached up to pull it off, but his hands stuck to it and it wouldn't come off his face. It completely engulfed his face, blinding him and making it difficult to breathe. It was sticky and smelt of blood.

'The fuck is this?!'

Suddenly, the sticky substance yanked his face, forcing him to the ground. He felt himself being drug across the park before being lifted up into a tree. Finally, it stopped, leaving him hanging from a branch. He flung his legs in an attempt to get some footing. His hands stuck to the substance that stuck to his face, he was helpless.

'Why does the freakiest shit keep happening to me?' he thought in distress as the substance slowly began to engulf his head. Eventually, all he could hear was his constricted breathing as his hearing was cut off from the outside world.

* * * * *

As all of this happened, the Cutters stopped to see the substance, a long string of red shooting across from a nearby tree, hitting Pulse square in the face. As it drug him to a tree, they stared in awe as it left him hanging from a branch and began to smother his head.

They walked over to observe the helpless wolf.

"Yo, man. The fuck is this shit?"

"A pleasure to meet you, gentlemen."

The twins looked up into the tree to see a dreamkeeper hanging upside down from a higher branch. Suddenly, he fell and twisted in mid-air to become upright. He landed solidly on the ground in front of the twins.

The dreamkeeper was a furless, wingless bat with bleach-white skin and blank white eyes. He wore an all-black outfit consisting of a beanie, a long-sleeve shirt covered by a bullet-proof vest, fatigues, gloves, and boots. A flowood firefighter's axe sat in a sheath across his back and a standard Andurunan springer pistol in a holster on his right hip. A maroon halo floated over his head.

He stood up straight to see the twins face-to-face.

"Whoa, man! Who the fuck are you?"

"Mantee Crispin. Nice to meet you, boys. I was ordered by my employer to give you two a hand. Although, I think you had this idiot well under control without my help."

Mantee looked up at his former friend, making sure his head was completely covered. At that point, Pulse could do nothing but hang there and think. However, he could hear nothing outside of the substance around his head.

"Your employer?" Dial asked in disbelief. "Wait... you work for the Nab just like us, don't you?"

"That's right. For some reason, he felt you guys were in trouble, so he sent me to help. Do you like my Power?"

The twins looked up again at the helpless Pulse. "I don't even know what your Power is, dawg. Is that... blood?"

"Right again! My Power is blood self-manipulation. I can turn my blood into an adhesive weapon, sticking it to almost anything. Makes for an effective surprise. I don't really think Pulse saw it coming."

The twins nodded, relieved. "Well, let's kill this shit and get out of here."

"No!" Mantee yelled. "He only told me to help you! He said nothing about killing Pulse. If he doesn't give an order, then he doesn't want it to be done. That's how he works. Now, come on! We're leaving!"

The Cutters looked at him in surprise, then back at Pulse. Reluctantly, they sneered at the wolf and quickly followed their new partner.

As they fled, Mantee shot his arm at a tree and a strand of his own blood shot out from a vein in his wrist. The adhesive blood stuck to the tree and he began swinging from tree to tree, using his blood like a rope.

He cackled as the Cutters followed on the ground.

* * * * *

Hours seemed to go by for Pulse as he was finally able to breathe more easily. Suddenly, the blood flew off of his face. He shrieked as he fell back first to the ground.

He groaned as he tried to get the feeling back into his numb arms and legs.

"What was that?" he mumbled, looking up into the tree.

He tried to comprehend what had happened. As he hung there, he attempted to use his telepathy to see if the Cutters were still there or anyone else for that matter.

He was able to sense the Cutters and one other person. Pulse could sense that the individual was a male and that, more importantly, he was familiar to him.

'I can't shake the feeling that I know who he is! Whoever he is, he saved those twins from a moderate beating!'

Pulse didn't pry with his telepathy, in fear of suffering the same mental roadblock he experienced with the twins years before.

As he made it to his feet, he brushed off his clothes and rubbed his face.

"Well, at least I helped out the Indigo's!" Pulse spoke aloud. "Speaking of which, I better go let them know that I couldn't catch the Cutters!"

* * * * *

In a well-hidden Troika facility within Starfall Mountains, Pulse stood facing Igrath, Scinter, Grunn, and the Indigo's. A large number of Troika troops stood behind Pulse, obviously expecting him to make an attack of some sort.

"And, you have no idea who helped the Cutters escape, correct?" Igrath asked sternly.

"Correct! Whoever helped them made sure I couldn't see or even hear what was happening! I have the suspicion that it was someone who I know, but I didn't take any chances with my telepathy to make sure!"

Igrath rubbed his forehead hard, feeling doubt. "Pulse, knowing your actions in the past, I find it really hard to believe that you just didn't let the Cutters go! You don't even show signs of being injured, even though you're skilled enough to avoid suffering damage in any sort of engagement!"

"Oh, so one mistake I make in order to soften the country up for the revolution and you no longer trust me? I *stepped down* as the leader of the AER because of that, the same rebellion I founded! I've cut all non-essential ties with them! I just saved these two strippers of yours from Nethers knows what from the Cutters! What more do you want from me?"

Igrath reared back, still holding a face of distrust.

Indi and Digo each grabbed one of Igrath's arms. "Please, Igrath! He's not evil! We can trust him!"

"Si! Just give him another chance!"

Scinter walked forward. "They're right, Igrath! He deserves another chance! If he truly was against us, he would've left the girls to fend for themselves! Furthermore, he wouldn't have taken that guard job in our stripclub if he was afraid of being spied on all the time!"

Igrath looked down at the puppy-eyed Indigo's, then back at Pulse and sighed.

"All right, all right! Fine! You're off the hook! No more Troika surveillance! But, don't think *I* won't be keeping a close eye on you! And, yes, I know the irony in that statement, but you know what I mean!"

Pulse smiled with a laugh. "Fair enough! Now, as much as I hate to do this... I think I'm done playing tug-o-war with the government! For now, at least! I think it's time I tracked down the Cutters and see who they're working for and who their *guardian angel* is! Which means, I would like to become one of your assassins!"

Igrath looked surprised. "You're joking! I just pardoned you and you want to start taking on assassination missions for us? How will I know that you won't go and-"

"AH-AH-AHHH! I'm 'pardoned', remember? Plus, not missions! Contracts! I want to get paid for this! I've gotta put food on my table, too, ya know!"

Igrath shook his head. "Fine, fine! When will you be ready for a... contract?"

"Tomorrow! I need to rest after that fight with the Cutters! Oh, and just so you know, I'm not cheap!"

With that, Pulse turned and the Troika troops stepped aside to let him pass.

~~~~~

Augustris 24th, 1225

Deep in the slums of the Ruskol District, Mantee Crispin tested the edge of his axe. Nodding in approval, he slid it into its sheath on his back.

Just as he reached for his pistol and holster, a banging came from the front door of his apartment. Hesitating, he grabbed the pistol and rushed to the door.

"Who is it?" he asked sternly.

"It's me! Nanaja!"

Shocked, but also amused to hear his partner's voice, Mantee unlocked the door and swung it open. Instantly, Tinsel stormed in and poked her finger into Mantee's chest.

"Why didn't you tell me Nabonidus called for you?!" she screamed.

"Keep it down!" Mantee hissed, running to close the door. "You know the punishment for yelling his name out with people around!"

"Answer me! Why didn't you tell me you were doing Nabonidus's dirty work? You could've at least brought me up to speed!"

Mantee glared at her while grinning. "What's it to you if I decide to do some work directly from him? I've grown tired of depending on you and your motivation to keep him impressed with your occassionally flawed schemes! You seem pretty hostile for someone who's cemented herself firmly into the Viscount's heart and the heart of the government!"

Tinsel's ears drooped as she looked away. Mantee stared into her dodging eyes. "It's almost like you're... jealous at the fact that I've decided to do Nabonidus' bidding by myself! Haven't you done enough yourself to earn his trust... or is it something completely different?"

She sneered and turned away with her arms folded. "I don't have to explain myself to you!"

"And, why not?"

Tinsel turned to look at him, but without warning, he grabbed her by the hips and placed her against his body. She looked up at him in shock as he smiled down at her.

"Let's not forget...," Mantee started.

He dug into a pocket and pulled out a faded gold ring. Tinsel looked wide-eyed at the ring.

"The Viscount isn't the only man who's heart you've won over," he said slyly.

Tinsel shook her head and smiled, placing her hands on his vest. "I swear to Nethers, I'll never understand why I agreed to marry you!"

"Hey, with the way you seduced me in order to agree with your poor planning, how could I not pop the question? Speaking of which, I'm amazed that Ravat guy didn't beat me to the punch! Or did you turn him down?"

Tinsel moaned as her face contorted in disgust. "Please, don't put the image of that man as my husband in my head! You two may be similar in age, but manners have yet to grow with him! Then again, I don't think you're a good husband when you say you've grown tired of depending on my 'occassionally flawed schemes!'"

Mantee wrapped his arms around her. "Hmph. Well, maybe I should... convince you to forgive me?"

Tinsel smiled, her arms around his neck. "Now, you're a good husband!"

They both went silent as their lips locked together. Moments later, their feet led them to the couch as they fell onto it together.

* * * * *

Hours later, in the Troika facility in Starfall, Aizer Pulse walked past a line of Troika recruits practicing their shooting. Next to the shooting range was Scinter on a comm-scroll.

"Pulse, get over here!" Scinter shouted, motioning the wolf over.

"What's up?"

"I've got Rivers on the line! He says he's re-routing a call from Antares to here!"

"A call from Antares?" Pulse asked, barely surprised. "I think I know who it is! Hand it over!"

Scinter nodded, giving Pulse the comm-scroll.

"Rivers! It's Pulse!"

"Puuulse!" Rivers said with glee over the scroll. "Good to hear your voice again! I've got an old friend on the other line who's been looking all over for you!"

"I'm sure! Put him on!"

"Stand-by!"

Pulse waited as a soothing instrumental tune began to play in the background. Suddenly, the music ended as a dreamkeeper cleared his throat.

"Hello? Is this Aizer Pulse?"

"It is! And this must be Dreshdae Coddley!"

The Antarean owl hooted with laughter. "Oh, no, dear boy! I have effectively retired! This old bird has had enough for one life! No more Dreshdae work for me! I sincerely apologize for not getting in touch with you sooner after your... resignation from your rebellion! Retirement life seems to be a bit more tedious than politics, I'm afraid! I would've contacted you the moment I discovered what happened if I-"

"Calm down, Coddley! It's all right! I'm in no need of pity for what happened! What I did was my choice and I decided to give myself a consequence for it! By stepping down as leader of the AER! I have a former politician and a close friend who has taken my place, so the rebellion is still in one piece! I'm at least glad that you decided to check up on me! I appreciate that!"

"Of course, of course! And I'm very happy to hear that you are alive and well! However, checking up on you wasn't the only reason why I wished to speak with you!"

Pulse laughed. "Of course! My gut was telling me there was more!"

"Indeed! I've learned from a few contacts of mine in the Antarean government that several Antarean military officers have been seen conversing with two individuals that the Troika have been searching for! My successor has long since been informed of the situation, but without conclusive evidence there is very little he can or will do!"

"I think I know who you're talking about!" Pulse said, nodding. "They wouldn't happen to be a pair of gorilla twins, would they?"

"Yes, that's them! They've been seen all throughout Antares! If the Troika are in search of them, then they must be up to no good! Are they spies for your city's government?"

"No, Mr. Coddley, I think they're spies for a completely different entity! The only problem is we don't know who or what this entity is! I personally want to find out myself! The Troika want them alive to get their own answers, too! Where were they last seen?"

"I do believe they were seen casually walking about a marketplace in the northwest part of Antares! But, that was roughly an hour ago! They could be anywhere in this city by now!"

"Don't worry," Pulse said with determination. "I'll find them! I'm coming over there now! Just gimme some time!"

"Of course, Pulse! My successor will be waiting for you! Safety be with you, my friend!"

"To you, too!"

Pulse ended the call and dialed for Rivers's number.

"Rivers, I'm gonna need a Dumbbell to come and give me a ride to Antares! Some young punks are stirring up trouble there and they're wanted by the Troika!"

"You got it, Pulse! It'll be at your location shortly!"

"Roger that!"

Pulse rolled the scroll up and handed it to Scinter.

"You know where Igrath is? I need to speak with him about the...terms of my first contract!"

"So, you're really going through with this contract idea of yours, eh?"

"I never said I was a member of the Troika! I work alone, now! If I'm doing this, it's gonna be done with money as a guarantee! I'm a hitman, now! What I do I do for cash! Now, where is Igrath?"

Scinter nodded, walking towards a flight of stairs leading to a catwalk. "He's in the command center! Come on!"

* * * * *

Scinter and Pulse made their way into the command center, which had a octagonal table in the middle of the room and a cluster of data-scrolls dominating the far wall. Igrath was looking over each data-scroll, which had various information about the Cutter Twins including their background and activities.

"Hey, Igrath! Pulse is here!"

Igrath turned to face his friend and hitman. "Ah, good! I suspected you would come here first before heading off to Antares! We received the call from the AER and when we learned it was Coddley, I began digging around and discovered that the Cutters had been seen passing through No Toll Town on their way to the Frontier! That was three days ago, though"

"Yeah, Coddley confirmed that they're definitely in Antares! They've been talking with some military officers around that city, which is not a good sign! I don't know what they're up to, but I'm gonna find out! Which brings me to the main reason why I came to see you!"

Igrath sighed. "Okay, Pulse. Name your price!"

"I intend to bring these punks in alive, so... a basic one thousand lucre should get me started! Payment upon completion of the contract!"

Igrath grinned. "Done! For a minute there, I thought you would go overboard and make it ten-thousand!"

"Oh, well since you decided to bring it up..."

"I said DONE! Don't push it, Pulse!"

"Okay, okay!" Pulse said, laughing. "It's a deal! I'll get those twins! Count on it!"

Igrath nodded. "Good luck to you, then!"

Pulse and Scinter walked out of the command center and out to a helepad where the AER Dumbbell was waiting.

"Be careful, Pulse!" Scinter warned. "Whoever attacked you while you were busy with the Cutters is bound to be watching over them! We may be dealing with some serious Dark Dreamkeepers here! Watch your back!"

Pulse nodded, stepping into the chopper. "I will! See you around, Scint!"

Pulse sat down as the chopper veered away from the Troika base and headed north for Antares.

* * * * *

Several hours passed and the sun was nearly setting on Antares. The chopper landed at a large Antarean military base deep within the city.

After informing the city's new Dreshdae and the high-ranking officers of the military of the situation and his intentions, Pulse set out for the streets of Antares.

Checking the local marketplace in the northwest part of the city, Pulse was able to mind read the numerous merchants who were closing shop for the day. They had seen the Cutters earlier in the day heading west.

Continuing to use his telepathy on the citizens as he patrolled the streets, he was quickly pinning down the Cutters most recent location.

Minutes went by and Pulse found himself wandering into a somewhat deserted part of the city. Walking into an apartment courtyard, he spotted three dreamkeepers conversing.

Pulse reached out with his Power and sensed that the two gorillas standing in front of a Gold Retriever canine were indeed the Cutter Twins.

But, the identity of the third individual shocked Pulse deeply.

'It's Bails!' Pulse thought. 'The hell is he doing talking to the Cutters?'

With his telepathy locked on to their minds, Pulse was concealed as he approached them.

"So, you down with this plan, dawg?" Dial asked to Bails.

The canine laughed. "Of course I am! Who would disagree with the Overlord?"

"I would!" Pulse growled, revealing himself.

"Oh, hell no!" Mondy shouted, summoning his Power. Dial did the same. Bails stepped back in fear.

"Bails, what in the blue hell are you doing talking to these shit's? What's this about?"

Bails regained his composure, grinning.

'Oh, you have got to be-'

"NOOOOW!"

Pulse instantly braced himself for a sudden flurry of gunfire, but instead he was hit by something completely different.

He fell back first to the ground. Opening his eyes, he stared into the face of an other-worldly creature with glowing blueish eyes.

'What the hell is this thing?'

Pulse gasped as he realized the creature was strangling him. He grabbed its thin arms and slowly began prying them off his throat. As he slowly overpowered the creature, he had a chance to glance at its body. It had no legs and was levitating over his body. Its skull was elongated and the lower part of its body was merely a ragged strand of its own flesh.

'It can't be!' Pulse thought in denial. 'It's impossible!'

Several feet away, Bails and the Cutters slowly walked backwards.

"You do realize that thing doesn't stand a chance against him, right?" Bails asked Dial.

"Well, yeah! But, this is what the Nab wanted so, fuck it!"

"Why would your leader want to give me this 'Sandman' if he knew it was too weak to face Pulse?"

Dial shrugged. "My best guess is he's givin' out clues! As far as I know, he's been doin' that for years! Assassinations, Nightmare sightings, corruption! The guy loves screwin' around with the few people who may know about the Nightmares or even heard of 'em!"

Meanwhile, Pulse bent his leg forward and shoved it into the creatures chest, sending it flying.

Instantly, it reverted to a vertical position and floated to the ground. Pulse jumped up to his feet.

'It's a Nightmare!' Pulse thought. 'It's a friggin' Nightmare! How the hell can they still be alive?'

As Pulse struggled with the monster, he could easily overhear the chatter between Bails and the twins. 'They're obviously letting me hear this stuff! Whoever this 'Nab' person is must want me to know that he's dealing with the Nightmares! But, I still can't believe it! The Nightmares are still alive!"

Brandishing a machete from his left hip, Pulse readied himself for an attack from the Nightmare. Moments later, it charged, its clawed hands poised to strike.

Pulse stepped aside, causing it to miss. At the same time, he held his left arm out, holding the machete. The creature ran into the machete, impaling itself. The creature squealed in pain, attempting to pull the blade out.

His Power fully active, Pulse focused his energy on the blade. The Nightmare looked down as the blade began to glow with a clear white energy. The color of the world around the energy went black and white.

With a twitch of his finger, the energy dispersed and the creature gave a final squeal of death as its body exploded.

Almost instantly, a large cloud of a light-blue smoke engulfed the area. Startled by the smoke's sudden appearance, Pulse failed to raise his telekinetic shield as the smoke hit him. His lungs suddenly failed and he couldn't breathe.

'Oh, shit! Gotta get out of this smoke!'

* * * * *

Moments earlier, as the Nightmare charged at Pulse, Bails and the Cutters ran out of the courtyard and onto the empty streets.

As they stopped at an intersection, Dial said, "Well, this is where we split up! Good luck, man!"

Bails panicked as the Cutters took the left street. "Wait! Shouldn't we stick together? If he catches up, we'll take him on as one!"

"Sorry, man! That wasn't the plan! Besides, when you run with the Nab, you better be ready to fend for yourself! If you get killed, it's your own fault! Peace!"

Bails watched as the Cutters ran down the street.

"Oh, Spirits! What have I truly gotten myself into?"

Feeling desperate, Bails ran down the right street and into a nearby alleyway.

* * * * *

Now, as Pulse stumbled out of the courtyard and away from the putrid smoke, he shook his head and caught his breath.

'Okay,... things just got a little more complicated.'

Regaining his senses, Pulse looked down at the dirt road and could see three fresh set of shoe prints.

'And, where do you three think you're going?'

Following the prints to the intersection, he saw that two pairs went left and a single pair went right. Pulse knew the the two pairs were the Cutters.

'Fuck those punks! I'll get them later! Bails has got some questions to answer!'

With that, Pulse followed Bails' tracks to the alleyway.

The alley led to the backyard of a two-story house. The yard was grassy, but Pulse could see the flatness, indicating tracks. They led to a pile of hay next to a ferrick.

With a wave of his arms, Pulse split the hay in half, sending both halves sliding away. Bails cowered in the middle, covering his head.

"You've gone and fucked up big time, Bails!" Pulse growled, grabbing the Antarean officer.

"Y-you don't understand, Pulse! T-they blackmailed me! I don't even know who they were! They-"

"Save it!" Pulse snarled, smacking the grip of his revolver against Bails skull.

* * * * *

Bails blinked his eyes as he awakened. He suddenly found himself hanging upside down with a piece of cloth wrapped around his muzzle.

He looked up at his body and saw he was completely pinned by rings of ropes. His ankles hung from a rope tied to a branch. That's when he looked down and saw a stream underneath him. He looked to his right and saw Antares was only a couple of miles away. It was then that he saw Pulse, standing on the shore of the stream with his machete in hand.

"Glad you're awake, Bails!" Pulse shouted. "Now, you're going to answer these questions and you're going to do so truthfully! If you don't, I throw this machete and cut that rope holding you slowly but surely! Are we in agreement?"

As Bails prepared to answer, he remembered that his muzzle was shut tight by the cloth. It was then that Pulse used his Power to untie the cloth from afar.

"Full agreement, Pulse!" Bails said frantically.

Pulse nodded, frowning. "Okay, then! Now, I'll make this brief! Why are you affiliated with those apes and their employer? Why are you affiliated with the Nightmares? Why did you sic one of them on me? Why are you on the wrong side of the fence in this little world of ours? Tell me everything!"

Bails gulped. "L-listen, Pulse! I-I already told you! The Cutters were blackmailing-"

"Nope," Pulse interrupted. Casually, Pulse slung his machete, sending it spinning towards the rope. The tip of the blade barely ripped through it. Bails, however, could feel the jerk in the rope and screamed.

As the machete spun back to Pulse's grasp, Bails shouted, "Okay, okay! The truth! It's Nabonidus!"

Pulse leaned forward, his left leg on a rock. "Who's Nabonidus?"

"H-he's the one... who sent the Cutters to convince me and several others in the Antarean military to join him! He's in league with the Nightmares! The monster he gave me was called a Sandman! I brought it to life with my own saliva! I wasn't sure what I was doing at the time! I swear to you, that's all I know! The Cutters knew you would catch me and they left me for dead! That's all I know! I swear it!"

Pulse was about to respond when he heard sirens wailing in Antares. Pulse looked over his shoulder and saw masses of helicopters lifting off from the multiple military bases within the city. Some of them were winching tanks. The choppers were heading for the Frontier.

'What the hell? The Antarean military is mobilizing? And, they're heading for the Frontier? Wait...'

Pulse looked back at Bails, who was watching the mobilization from his precarious position. Then, he saw Pulse glaring at him.

"P-Pulse, I have nothing to do with that! I swear! I don't even have the rank to order a mobilization!"

"Fuck you!" Pulse shouted, slinging his blade. It went through the rope, cutting it completely.

Bails screamed as his bound body slipped into the running stream.

Pulse caught his blade, slid it into its sheath and pulled out his comm-scroll.

Pulse called Coddley and when the ringing stopped, he shouted, "Coddley! What's happening? The military just mobilized and they're flying for the Frontier! What just happened?"

"You should've stayed in prison!"

Pulse felt his heart skip a beat. "Who is this?"

"I think you know, Mr. Pulse."

Pulse swallowed hard, glaring. "Mantee."

"Bingo!"

"Where's Coddley?"

"Awwww, you didn't hear? The old man was just murdered a few hours ago! Didn't take long for the government to find out! Turns out an AER assassin took him out! But, I think we both know you're not falling for that!"

"Mantee, I don't care how you're still alive! But, when I find you, I'm going to make sure there is nothing left of your cold, dead body that will come back! You're going to die for killing Coddley!"

Mantee laughed. "Sure, sure! Just try and come over to his place and find me! I'll be a quarter of the way into the Frontier by the time you get here! You have no idea who you're stirring bad blood with! I suggest you worry more about your precious little rebellion than revenge!"

"I know who you work for, Mantee! You tell Nabonidus that his ass is gonna become my personal bath scrubber when I get through with him!"

"Ahhh, so he wants you to know about him and his merry bunch, eh? Well, that changes nothing! You still don't know who you're getting involved with! Stay away from us if you want to enjoy what's left of your sorry excuse for a life!"

Mantee laughed as he hung up.

"Shit!" Pulse cursed, dialing for Rivers.

"Ah, Pulse! It's you! How's the search going?"

"Screw that! The Antareans are coming! The entire fucking military is heading for Haven! Put all bases on Code Red!"

"What?! Why? What did we do?"

"Coddley's been killed and we've been framed for it! I don't see myself being allowed anywhere near their leaders to plead my case, so negotiations just won't work! Now, initiate Code Red status now!"

There was a pause on Rivers' end. "Roger that, Pulse! I just gave the order to the PA officer and our communications crew! We should have our primary defenses ready by the time they get here! What are we looking at?"

"At least fifty choppers, twenty of them are carrying a Havoc tank!"

"Spirits! Good thing we stocked up over the years! We should be able to match that! I take it we should be expecting full loads of troops in each chopper?"

"Right! They don't stand a chance against Haven's number with infantry, but that's what their choppers are for! This is gonna be rough! A true test for the AER! Get ready! They'll be there very soon!"

"Okay! Will you be here?"

"I would, but I just learned something that I think the Troika are gonna want to know! All of us are gonna need to know! It's pretty serious! Then again, I'll have to travel all the way back to Anduruna through the Frontier! I'll see if I can't commandeer a chopper and fly my way back! I'll launch an attack run from behind them when I get to Haven! Pulse out!"

"Roger! Haven out!"

Pulse pushed the comm-scroll into his pocket and ran into the city.

* * * * *

After a solid twelve minutes, he reached a barracks containing a single Scorcher. With his stealth active, Pulse walked past the guards at the entrance.

Approaching the Scorcher and their pilots, he waved his hand while still walking. 'Sleep.'

Instantly, the pilots collapsed. Pulse jumped into the cockpit and prepped the chopper for lift.

The guards looked back at the Scorcher and saw it preparing to take off, but the pilots were down and nobody was in the cockpit.

Pulse watched as the guards began running at the chopper, firing their weapons. He lifted off, flying away from the barracks as the guards continued to fire.

* * * * *

It was past midnight when Pulse could see the first flames of battle on the edge of Haven. Half of the choppers were still deploying troops while the armor support was pressing the attack. Antarean Scorchers swarmed the air along with AER Scorchers. Antarean Dumbbells were flying past Pulse, going back to Antares to retrieve more troops.

Pulse flew in low to the tops of the trees. Locking on to several tanks, he warmed up the guns.

* * * * *

Down below, just outside of Haven, Rivers stood behind a sandbag barrier with Alicia, Jerry, Scald and several low-ranking soldiers. Dozens of sandbag barriers and AER tanks surrounded the perimeter of the outpost.

Rivers watched as the Antarean armor advanced.

"Damn it all! Where are our rocketeers?"

A trio of bulky dreamkeepers with Basher's ran up to Rivers. "We're here, sir!"

"Pick a tank and open fire! The one closest to this base goes first!"

"Roger that!" a rocketeer replied. "Wait! Sir, I see an enemy Scorcher coming in low and fast!"

"Hold your fire! I think I know who that is!"

* * * * *

Pulse opened fire with his machine guns while maintaining lock on the tanks. He mowed down a long line of Antarean infantry as he fired his missiles at the trageted tanks.

Pulling up, he watched as four of the tanks were destroyed and one was disabled.

* * * * *

Rivers watched the Antarean Scorcher fly over them and across Haven, heading for the Dune Sea.

"Yo, Vidar!" Jerry called. "Was that the Boss?"

"Either that or a Section 8 Antarean!" Rivers repiled with a smile. "Return fire! All of you! We are *not* dying because of some lie!"

* * * * *

As Pulse flew out of Haven, his sensors detected two Antarean Scorchers pursuing him.

Looking out of the cockpit towards his rear, he confirmed the choppers were chasing him into the southern Frontier.

'You guys are chasing after the wrong guy!' Pulse thought harshly.

Pushing hard on the flight stick, he increased his speed in an effort to outrun his pursuers.

After hours of flight, his engines were slowly failing. He checked the cockpit display and his fuel was nearly empty. He could feel his chopper slowly down.

'Wonderful.'

Pulse glanced into the distance and could see the Dune Sea was in view.

'I'll have to fight it out with them out there! No choice!'

As he and his pursuers glided across the skies of the Dune Sea, with the early morning sun quickly approaching, Pulse could sense they were in firing range. Moments later, both enemy choppers opened fire.

Pulse was forced to take evasive action. As he yanked his chopper to the left, he leveled it out in order to return fire. The enemy choppers did the same.

One of them, however, was already level. 'He's gonna shoot me down with a missile, isn't he?'

Pulse locked on to the other chopper while at the same time firing his guns. Several rounds punched through the cockpit and killed the pilot. Pulse fired off his missile just to make sure. It was then that the other chopper fired its missile at Pulse.

Summoning his Power, Pulse shattered the windshield with a single blast. He leapt out just as his chopper was hit.

The splash blast sent him spinning as he fell to the desert below.

'Don't think I remember breaking a fall from this high!' Pulse thought nervously as he leveled his body. 'But, I've got no choice now!'

Jumping out from nearly eight thousand feet up, minutes ticked by along with his distance to the ground.

Nearly five hundred feet up, Pulse readied himself. Holding his arms up as he fell, he formed a blast in each hand.

As he was a mere fifteen feet to the desert sand, he thrusted his arms down. A smooth, massive crater formed beneath him in the sand.

Breathing hard, the wolf stood up straight and weakly climbed up the crater.

Standing at the top, Pulse could see his chopper and one of the enemy choppers burning several miles away. Then, he looked up and could see the last remaining chopper descending as it approached. The Antarean pilot tracked him as he fell.

'Well, shit!'

Pulse readied himself, forming a shield around his body as the Scorcher moved in.

As it entered firing range, it shot off a tubed rocket.

Pulse went wide-eyed and threw his arm out in desperation. Instantly, his psychic grip caught the rocket, but the rocket's engine was still going.

'Well, this is a first for me!'

Pulse turned the rocket around and sent it flying away, watching it spin into the desert sand and explode.

The Antarean chopper flew overhead and prepared to make another pass. As he lined up for another run, Pulse held both arms back.

'Strange that I seem to be trying out a lot of first's now that a war is on!' he thought humorously.

As the chopper approached, it began firing its guns. His shield weak due to the concentration in his arms, he ignored the bullets that whizzed by his body.

Before the chopper could pass over him, he threw both arms out. Instantly, the chopper stopped and its rotors stalled. Pulse strained as he held onto the dead weight of the aircraft.

Twisting his fingers around, the rotor wings bent upward and folded onto the top of the Scorcher. The chopper bent in half and folded upward on itself. Through the rending of metal, Pulse was sure he could hear the pilot's desperate cries.

Sweeping both arms down hard, the ruined mass of metal slammed into the sand.

Pulse sighed hard, somewhat exhausted. 'Well, I guess that's that!'

He looked east towards the Alchera Ocean and could see the silhouette of No Toll Town in the distance. It was at that moment that the sun broke the horizon.

Looking up to the north, he could see more choppers incoming. Thanks to the sunlight, he could tell they were AER aircraft, airlifting wounded soldiers to the outposts in Starfall.

'Looks like the battle at Haven hasn't let up yet! I'm not sure what I should do first! Give my rebellion a hand or start searching for this 'Nabonidus' character! First things first, I need to let Igrath and the others know about the situation!'

Turning to No Toll, he began the long jog to the port town.

* * * * *

After reaching the telepad in the AER safehouse in No Toll, Pulse transported himself to the Troika base in Starfall, where many of the AER wounded were brought for emergency treatment.

As Pulse walked off the telepad, he instantly saw the hulking Igrath marching his way through the rushing personnel to confront him.

"What in the name of the Spirits is going on, Pulse?" Igrath demanded. "I receive a distress call from Haven claiming that they need our help in tending to some wounded because the Antareans are attacking them! What did you do?"

"I didn't do shit!" Pulse snarled. "Don't get any ideas, Igrath! The last thing we need right now is for you to disregard what I have to say! Because what I just learned is gonna change things around here!"

"And, that is?"

"The Nightmares!"

Igrath raised his eyebrows. "Come again?"

"You heard me. The Nightmares... are alive. I'm not sure how, but they're alive. I was attacked by one of them! It was under Bails' command!"

"T-the Nightmares? I don't believe it! What kind of evidence do you have?"

"Hold on a second!" Pulse said, summoning his Power. He reached out with his arm and focused on Igrath's mind. The feline/avian shook his head as Pulse's recent memories of yesterday flowed into his mind.

Within seconds, Igrath could see all that Pulse had seen.

"Nethers," Igrath gasped. "A Sandman? Bails a traitor? Nabonidus? And, you killed Bails? We could've gotten more information out of him!"

"Hey, he said he knew what he knew! I figured he had nothing left to give! And, maybe my anger at the thought of him having a hand in Haven being invaded might have caused me to take him for a swim!"

"For Nethers's sake!" Igrath mumbled, slapping his hand to his face. "How did this mess between the Antarean's and the Republic start?"

"Mantee is the one to blame for that! He killed Coddley and somehow managed to frame the AER for it! Looks like he's in league with this Nabonidus and the Nightmares, too!"

"Mantee?! But, didn't you kill him when you broke out of prison?"

"Of course I did! But, somehow he's still alive! He must have a Power that kept him alive or something! I don't really know! I'll have to find him! On top of all that, the Cutters got away again! I decided to go after Bails instead since I figured he be easier to catch and interrogate than one or both of the twins!"

Igrath nodded, struggling to process the information. "The Nightmares... this is definitely serious! No more messing around with the government! We need to figure out as much as we can about this threat!"

"You focus on the Nightmares!" Pulse said. "I'll focus on finding Mantee or the Cutters! If I find them, I'll find Nabonidus! At least, I'm hoping that's how it'll happen!"

"Okay, then! But, wait! What about the Republic?"

Pulse looked at the scores of injured soldiers scattered throughout the facility. "Aww, shit, you're right! Rivers is gonna need help! He and Sierra Team are gonna have to know about the Nightmares, too! They've got enough to worry about with the Antareans attacking, but they *have* to know! I'm leaving to go there now!"

"Right! Well, I better get back to helping with the foot traffic of the wounded! This place is in chaos!"

"Hold it, Igrath!"

Pulse reached out with an open hand towards Igrath. "You owe me!"

"You still want to be paid? Really? After you failed to catch the Cutters?"

"I think finding out about the Nightmares is more than worthy enough for payment!"

Igrath sighed, taking out the one-thousand lucre from a pocket.

As Pulse counted the bills, he said, "If you ask me, this cash isn't the reward. The chase was the reward. Take care of yourself, old friend."

Sliding the money into his own pocket, Pulse proceeded to the telepad to be transported to Haven.

~~~~~

Januaris 11th, 1226

Aizer Pulse soon found himself in the middle of an unravelling mystery. The months flashed by for him as he was pushed into more and more contracts. Many of them were assassinations, but he soon found himself being pushed into intelligence gathering and escorting.

Following his somewhat failed mission to capture the Cutters, the Antareans had declared war on the Aequitus Equitus Republic. Just like Viscount Calah, the Antareans were given falsified evidence that pointed the finger at the AER for the murder of the ex-Dreshdae Iggin Coddley.

All attempts to plead their innocence to the Antareans failing, the rebels were forced to defend themselves. For days, the Antareans threw waves of troops at Outpost Fenris, but the base managed to hold its own. Finally establishing air superiority over the outpost, the AER was able to halt any further troop deployment near Haven. However, the Antareans were now setting up small bases in other open fields within the Frontier. The assault on Haven was over, but now it was time for the waiting game. For months, both sides have been watching each other closely.

Meanwhile, the Troika had gone into full panic mode. After receiving the information on the Nightmares, Igrath Winters began arranging as many intelligence gathering missions as possible. With the threat of the dreamkeepers' mortal enemies possibly looming, Igrath and his friends were preparing for the worst.

While many of the Troika's undercover agents were out looking for any leads on possible Nightmare information or evidence, Pulse was being assigned to eliminate targets within the government who have been causing corruption or acting suspiciously.

* * * * *

Hours into the cold winter night in the Talocan District, an emissary made his way to a groudcar outside of a nightclub, a full team of security standing by. Two bodyguards entered the groundcar with him while the remaining eight split in half and stepped into two separate groundcars.

The convoy moved away from the nightclub, maintaining an I-formation with the emissary's groundcar in the middle.

After travelling for merely six blocks, the convoy came to a stop in the street. A bodyguard in the emissary's vehicle leaned forward and poked through a flap to look at the rider.

"What are you doing? Why did we stop?"

"I don't know! The car up front stopped, too! The manekales are acting spooked!"

The bodyguard leaned back into his seat and looked to his right at the emissary. "Don't worry, sir! I'm not sure what's going on, but-"

He stopped as he looked past the emissary and out the window of the right door. Their groundcar had stopped in front of an alley. In the darkness, a giant creature was galloping out of the alley. The creature in question was a knossus, being ridden by a dreamkeeper.

"Spirits! Get down!"

The knossus slid to a halt just as it pointed its head down and rammed it into the emissary groundcar. It, along with its steers and rider went tumbling into another parked groundcar.

The dreamkeeper leapt off the knossus and spun around in the air before landing on the road between the two remaining groundcars. He brandished two Stingray revolvers and fired just as each bodyguard stepped out of the groundcars.

Lowering his black hood, Pulse holstered one of the revolvers and approached the emissary's ruined groundcar, now on its side. The door pointing to the sky opened as one of the bodyguards climbed his way up. Battered and bloody, he reached down into the groudcar to help his protectee out.

"Come on, sir! We need to get out of here!"

Just as he was about to climb down ahead of the emissary, Pulse fired his weapon, hitting the guard in the heart as he fell to the ground below. The emissary shrieked, losing his balance as he too fell off.

He shouted in pain, reaching down to feel his right leg. He looked over his shoulder at the approaching Pulse. The wolf maneuvered around so he could face the politician directly.

"You should've stayed clean, Mr. Fayer!"

With that, Pulse aimed at his head and pulled the trigger.

* * * * *

Mayris 6th, 1226

ThreeOfAKindMofo: You sure we can trust this librarian? This 'archive' sure sounds fishy! I mean, I know its been around for as long as Sabbaton has, but can we really expect there to be any sort of knowledge on the Nightmares in it?

Cross Hair: Well, it's the only lead we have. Months of searching and digging has determined nothing. Any tip we get will have to be taken seriously, no matter how farfetched it is. Besides, if the archive is as old as Sabbaton, then there *must* be something on the Nightmares.

ThreeOfAKindMofo: I guess you're right. So, who do we send to go inside that archive?

Cross Hair: Who else?

ThreeOfAKindMofo: You sure about this, Pulse? There's no telling what is even in that archive. For all we know, the very bottom is probably crawling with Nethers knows what along with all the books and scrolls.

Cross Hair: Awww, so what if something happens to me? The Troika has survived long before I started helping it out. It can sure as hell survive if I keel over. But, don't worry. I *will* be back, with or without something useful.

ThreeOfAKindMofo: I gotcha, Pulse. If I don't see you before you head to the library, good luck!

Cross Hair: Right. See you around!

* * * * *

Junris 10th, 1226

In a small building full of communications equipment, Pulse and Vidar stood by a hole in a wall caused by an Antarean tank round.

"Looks like Haven has really hit some hard times, eh?" Pulse asked, observing the damaged base.

"The Antareans have been doing their best to weaken us!" Vidar responded. "Weeks of ambushes from the north, east and west of the base have left parts of our

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structures damaged and unsound! Every so often, they'd send a few tanks and a couple of dozen troops out of the forest to engage our perimeter defenses! Their tanks would purposely miss our defenses in order to hit something within the base! We're lucky that none of our structures have collapsed! Not yet, anyway!"

"I visited Outpost Parasite yesterday! According to them, the Antareans haven't attempted to attack any of the other outposts in Starfall!"

"Correct! For a variety of reasons, the Antareans believe that true victory can be achieved by focusing all efforts here on Fenris! They don't want to attract the attention of the Andurunan government and get the City Guard involved! Plus, the other outposts are strategically placed throughout the mountains! No way they can drop troops off by helicopter near the outposts and they'd have to travel on-foot to get to them! They have to focus on Fenris! Their efforts would be wasted on Starfall!"

Pulse nodded. "I'll help however I can! You people look like you could use it!"

Vidar looked back to the outside.

"By the way, how did your mission into the archives go?"

"It was enlightening, to say the least! I'm amazed I was able to find what we needed, let alone anything at all! The very bottom of the archives is like a cave! No telling how old it really is!"

"So, what can we expect from the Nightmares?"

"Can't say exactly, yet! Still analyzing the scrolls I brought back! I collected quite a few, but like I said, I'm amazed I found what I did find and that it was related to the Nightmares! I'll let you know what we know as time goes on!"

"Very well! Thank you for checking up on us, Pulse! I'm sure the troops appre-"

"Enemies! To the north! Another attack!"

Pulse and Vidar instantly reacted, jumping out the hole in the wall and ran for the perimeter. So did a wave of AER troops.

"Just like old times, eh, Commander?" Pulse shouted to Vidar.

The German Shepherd chuckled, readying his Razor.

* * * * *

Septembris 25th, 1226

On the 14th of Augustris, four police officers of the Margate District Police Department were arrested on suspicion of raping and murdering a prostitute in the basement of an apartment complex.

Officially, the officers had been tried and sentenced to thirty years in prison. Unofficially, in actuality, the officers were cleared of the charges due to a major cut of jobs at the police department. Losing just four officers, whether guilty of the crime or not, would be catastrophic to the enforcement of law in Margate. This was the mindset of the CCA and the emissary committee.

Pulse, however, did not share this mindset.

Sitting on a three-story convenient store rooftop, he looked across the street at a nightclub to see the four off-duty officers, now wearing disguises and under new identities, walking into the club.

Walking to the stairs, Pulse made his way down to ground level and proceeded to the club.

Once inside, he spotted the officers at the bar. Concealed by his Power, Pulse brandished a thin metal blade from his belt. Aiming at the second officer from the left, he threw the blade at his waistline.

"Ow!" the officer howled. He leapt up from his seat and reached for the blade in his waist.

"What's your problem?" one of his friends asked.

The target removed the blade, looking at it closely. "Someone just stuck this into... me. What... the... hell?"

The officer blinked and rubbed his eyes as everything around him started turning into colors. He looked away from his friends and looked out across the club. The lights were giving off multiple colors and everyone was waving around like water.

He turned back to his friends to be greeted by a heart-stopping sight. His partners were turning into nightmarish freaks, consisting of flesh, claws, horns, all protruding out of a large mass of fresh meat and blood.

He reached for his hidden pistol. "Nightmares! NIGHTMARES! Kill 'em! Kill 'em allll!"

"Gibson! What're you-?!"

Before his partner could ask, the drugged officer pulled out his weapon and shot all three of his friends. He unloaded his weapon into their bodies as the clubgoers fell to the floor in fear.

Out of ammo, the officer threw his gun at the corpse of a partner and ran out of the club, screaming at the top of his lungs.

As the terrified clubgoers rose from the floor, Pulse walked out of the club, hearing the officer screaming blocks away.

'Let this be a lesson for all law enforcers,' Pulse thought to himself. 'Obey the law just like you serve the law.'

With that, Pulse walked into an alley.

* * * * *

Februaris 9th, 1227

A squad of AER grenadiers with Nova grenade launchers fired back at Antarean soldiers advancing on Haven.

Several feet away, Vidar took burst shots with his Razor. Scald was by his side.

"Scald hear rumors that this may be the last of their ambush's!" the bear shouted.

"I wouldn't doubt it! They've thrown over fifty hit-and-run attacks on us and each one results in them losing more men and machinery! They can't keep this up forever! Either they throw everything they have at us or they pack up and return home!"

As he spoke, he saw someone running past him.

"Hey, you! Don't go out there!"

He watched as he suddenly recognized the figure running at the Antarean platoon.

An Antarean Havoc aimed its cannon at the advancing dreamkeeper. The tank fired.

The figure stopped and threw his arm up. The tank shell stopped a foot away from his face.

Pulse reached up and pulled down his black hood. With a twist of his hand, he turned the shell around and shoved his arm forward. The shell flew back and went straight into the tank's cannon. Instantly, it exploded, shrapnel hitting nearby soldiers.

Seeing the wolf standing before them, the remaining ambushers retreated into the forest.

Pulse walked back to Haven, past the wreckage and corpses of dozens of Antarean tanks, helicopters and soldiers.

The AER soldiers gathered around Pulse, congratulating him for his assistance. Vidar broke threw the crowd with a smile.

"Always throwing yourself at danger, eh?"

"Nah, I'm just saving danger the trouble of throwing itself at me!" Pulse replied.

Vidar laughed, grabbing Pulse by his shoulder and leading him to the base mess hall.

Sitting at a table, Vidar spoke. "As you may have heard, the Antareans are thinking of returning home. We've completely worn them out. Their troops, their resources; they've done all they could to weaken us, but they took more damage than we did. Sure, Haven is in ruins, but our troops didn't falter! And, we still have more than enough weapons and troops to start our revolution with Anduruna!"

Pulse nodded, though slightly. "That's great! Good. Glad to see the Antareans are getting the message that we won't die over their unguided anger."

Vidar leaned forward. "Something's on your mind, Pulse! What's wrong?"

Pulse stood up and paced around. "I'm conflicted, Rivers. When I heard that we were close to victory against Antares, I was nearly convinced to return here and ask for the Commander's position back! But, after months of studying Nightmare activity with the Troika, I realize that the government, as twisted and corrupt as it is, will soon be the least of our worries! But, I still can't help the urge to wage my rebellion against it, because I know that if we can conquer Anduruna and put in place a more fair form of government, we can train the people! Prepare them for the Nightmares! They're coming, Rivers! And I fear that our nation will be devastated if the people do not prepare themselves."

Vidar stood up as well. "I know, Pulse! If you do not wish to be our commander again, I will do whatever I can to prepare for the attack on Anduruna! You just help the Troika with whatever they need! Now is not the time for conflicting emotions! The time is nearly upon us to choose which side we're really on! We all need to stay calm and keep clear heads!"

Pulse nodded with a satisfied smile. "Thank you, Rivers! I'll do just that! In the meantime, let me know if you guys need help with anything! Anything at all! This is my rebellion, you know! I still need to do my part for it!"

"Of course, sir, of course! So, what now?"

"Well, now that we know that the Nigthmares are increasingly active, I need to focus my efforts on tracking down their supporters! Mantee, the Cutters, a former safety trooper by the name of Ravat, and I've got plans of my own for Tinsel! But, first I need to find Mantee! This "Nabonidus" is heavily involved with the Nightmares somehow and I need Mantee to lead me to him, if possible!"

"Do you even know who Nabonidus is? Do you know anything about this man?

"Not a thing. He could be a Nightmare for all we know! All we know is that he's involved with the wrong crowd! He may also be a leader of sorts, which is why Mantee and the Cutters answer to him! I need to figure it out! When I find Mantee, I'll hopefully find Nabonidus!"

Pulse looked at his watch. "I better get going! Igrath has hired me as a temporary drill sergeant for some Troika recruits! When that's done, my hunt begins!"

"Drill sergeant?" Vidar said with a chuckle. "I know you can be a good speaker, but I never imagined you with that sort of profession!"

"Whatever puts money in my pocket, I guess!" Pulse replied with a shrug. "Anything to keep me away from Grunn whenever he stops by the base! I swear to Nethers, that vagabond's stench gets worse and worse by the minute! Everyone else is okay, but that guy...."

Vidar laughed. "You'll be alright! You've dealt with worse characters, I'm sure! You better get going, then! Be careful out there!"

Pulse nodded, saluting to Vidar. "Right! See ya around, Commander!"

* * * * *

Augustris 28th, 1227

Walking through the streets of the Ruskol District, Pulse scanned the nearby apartment buildings. After months of chasing leads from Anduruna to the now hostile city of Antares, Pulse has concluded that Mantee Crispin's most common whereabouts are in Ruskol.

'The locals have been a big help! If I can pinpoint his hiding place, then follow him whenever he leaves....'

Suddenly, Pulse's comm-scroll rang. "Hello?"

"Pulse! This is Outpost Parasite in Norvondire! We've been attacked! We have multiple KIA's and a ton of wounded! We need your help!"

"What the hell happened? Is it the Guard?"

"No, sir! It was a dreamkeeper! He snuck onto one of our supply cars! When we let the groundcar in, he leapt out and started killing everyone! I've never seen a Power like his!"

"What did he look like? What was his Power?"

"He was furless and it looked like his skin was bleached! He was waering all-black! Looked like he was controlling the blood pouring from his wounds somehow!"

'Mantee!' Pulse thought. "Where is he now?"

"He took off before we could raise the bridge! No telling where he could be now!"

"I'm on my way!"

Pulse closed the comm-scroll and raced for a nearby safehouse.

* * * * *

Using the safehouse telepad, he arrived within the Outpost Parasite castle. Running through the stone halls, he ran out the main doors to be greeted by a wave of butchered and murdered AER soldiers in the courtyard. Medics and uninjured soldiers did what they could to help the wounded and clear them away for foot and groundcar traffic. Other soldiers had their weapons at the ready, aiming in almost every direction predicting an attack.

Pulse spotted the outpost's commanding officer, Captain Harborson, giving orders.

"Fawkes! Contact the outposts in Starfall and tell them we need airlifts now! And inform Commander Rivers of the situation!"

Harborson turned in time to see Pulse approaching. "Ah, Pulse! You're here! You're a little too late, though! We've got at least ten dead and twenty-three wounded! The attacker got away before we could raise the draw bridge! Not sure what we could've done afer that, though! The man was ruthless! Some of our own tried to use their own Powers, but he overwhelmed them!"

"I know who it is!" Pulse said menacingly. "I've been looking for him and so have the Troika! I'll find him! I'm sure he's still nearby!"

"Good luck with that, then!" Harborson replied, stepping aside to let a medic pass. "I've got this mess to deal with! I'd offer some troops, but..."

"I'd turn the offer down, anyway! This dreamkeeper is nobody to screw around with and you've lost enough men for one day! I'll take care of it myself!"

"All right, Pulse! Be careful!"

"Right!"

Pulse approached the castle draw bridge.

"Drop the bridge!" Harborson yelled.

"Don't bother!" Pulse rejected. Summoning his Power, he leapt up with a blast and landed on the guard post above the draw bridge archway. With a mighty leap, he skipped across the air in short intervals with his Power. Above ground, Pulse fell and landed with a cushioning blast.

Looking down at his feet, he could see streaks of blood leading down the road and into a nearby farm that had been preserved over the centuries.

'Wounded, eh?' Pulse thought, following the trail. 'Don't think that that's gonna make me hold back, 'old buddy!''

Following the blood trails around the farmhouse and across the field, the trail led to another castle. However, it stopped at the edge of the castle's moat, where the draw bridge lands. Then, he noticed streaks of blood going up the side of the bridge's archway, leading up to the guard post.

'He must've jumped across and climbed in somehow! Well, I can do the same!'

With his Power, Pulse jumped across the moat and landed on the lip of the bridge's archway. Crawling along the reeled-in bridge, he grabbed onto a crack in the archway. Finding more cracks in the architecture, Pulse began scaling up the arch.

'Free-running!' he thought in amusement. 'When the "easy way" is just too easy for your liking! In my case, I could've just pulled the bridge down with my Power, but my claim stands!'

Reaching the battlements above the arch, he leapt up to the safety of the guard post. As expected, the castle was deserted, like most of the others in that area of the district save for Parasite.

He looked around the post and saw that Mantee's blood stopped in a puddle.

'Hmmm. He must've stopped here to patch himself up. Now, he could be anywhere in this castle. Or maybe he left here and is leading me on a wild air ryuu-neko chase!'

Pulse jumped down into the main courtyard. A multitude of construction material was laid about, but sign of weather damage indicated that the material was there for a long time.

'Obviously a restoration project that got shot down due to lack of funding,' he thought.

Keeping the castle's possibly fragile structural integrity in mind, Pulse entered.

Walking the halls, he noticed a bloody handprint on the walls, one for every three feet.

'He must be hurt pretty bad. Limping through the hallways.'

The handprints led up a flight of stairs.

Pulse reached for his firearm, which was no longer a Stingray revolver. But, a prototype, two-in-one spear weapon developed by Scinter in recent months. The only one of its kind, it was designed with the barrels of a CG springer rifle and pistol, but used Antarean-made ammunition. The primary weapon fired spear shells much like that of the Mist while the sidearm secondary fired the standard rounds used in the Daredevil pistol.

Walking up the stairs, poised to fire his primary weapon, he entered a banquet hall. A table almost as long as the room with twenty chairs was in the middle of the room. Pulse walked up to the table and found two handprints side-by-side on the nearest end to him.

'He stopped here,' Pulse thought, scanning the room for more signs. 'Where did he go now?'

Pulse froze, looking at the handprints again. 'Oh,...'

Pulse was about to glance up at the ceiling when something landed behind him. He spun around only to be kicked square in the face.

He stumbled towards a long line of stained windows, grabbing his face. Before he could recover, he was kicked in the face again and sent crashing through the windows to the outside world.

Summoning his Power, Pulse braced for impact. Falling flat on his back and head, he groaned as cobwebs appeared in his eyes.

'Thank the Spirits for the Power boost!' Pulse thought dazingly. 'Without your Power, that fall would've killed anyone!'

Jumping to his feet, he cleared his head as he looked up at the shattered window. A blood-curdling cackle echoed from the banquet hall above. Sneering, he grabbed his gun and ran to reach the main courtyard.

Stopping in front of the front doors, Pulse watched as they flung open and his target acrobatically flipped across the castle grounds.

Finally coming to a stop, Mantee Crispin stood up straight, a fanged smile on his face.

"It's been a long time, Mr. Pulse," he hissed.

Pulse put away his gun and brandished a wicked-looking tomahawk. "Not long enough!"

"I told you to stay away from us! Now, you've become a legitimate threat to my employer, along with the rest of his enemies! He's ordered me to take care of you! And we both know that I'm more than qualified to 'take care of you'! After all, I *was* your head of security!"

"If I had known what you were going to do, I would've had you thrown in prison like I was, while Tinsel gets sent to a juvenile detention facility! Why, Mantee? I trusted you! I befriended you! Why did you two ruin me?"

Mantee laughed. "For Nethers' sake, Aizer! For someone so smart thanks to that Power of yours, you just can't seem to figure out the simplest shit! Hasn't it occurred to you that Nabonidus just so happens to know when things are going to happen in advance? Haven't you been paying attention to the signs? I mean, really? What reason would me and Tinsel have had, at that time, to want you framed and branded a traitor? I *was* your best friend and Tinsel was an up-and-coming singer minding her own business! Think about it!"

Pulse shook his head, figuring it out instantly. "You've got to be kidding! You two were...."

"Tinsel has no idea that I've been involved with the Nab long before she was, but don't tell her I said that! Not like you're gonna have a chance to."

Pulse squeezed the grip of his weapon. "And what makes you say that?"

Mantee chuckled. "Sorry, old friend! But, you're not leaving here alive!"

Mantee pulled out a combat knife. Without warning, he held out his right hand and stabbed his knife through it. He screamed through clenched teeth, stumbling about in pain.

'What is this?!' Pulse thought in shock, keeping his composure.

Mantee stopped, breathing heavily. Then, he chuckled and pulled the knife out fast. Blood poured from the fresh wound. Suddenly, the blood stopped and hung in the air like a drop of water on a faucet.

Mantee began swinging his arm around, a strand of his fresh blood following. He then spun his arm in circles, the strand wrapping around it. Still holding the knife, he stabbed himself in the intestines twice and once in his right thigh. Slowly, a strand of thick blood flowed out from each wound and levitated in the air. Suddenly, a strand reached out and gingerly took the knife from Mantee's grasp. Another strand reached down and took the pistol from his holster. Another grabbed his flowood axe. The final strand began forming itself into a large, crimson fist on the end.

Three of the four strands were holding his weapons, leaving his natural hands free for hand-to-hand attack.

Pulse swallowed. 'Aww, hell!'

"This is the end for you, Aizer Pulse!"

With that, Mantee charged, his blood swinging his axe and knife at the same time. Pulse dodged the knife as he parried the axe. The living blood fired the pistol, but Pulse raised his shield to stop the bullet. Mantee reached out and landed a hit to Pulse's jaw.

As Mantee sent Pulse on the retreat, the wolf was able to fend off the blood's weapons, but could not stop the bat's blows.

Kicking Mantee in the gut, Pulse did a few backward leaps to gain distance. Stopping, he pulled out his gun and fired at the pistol. Mantee gasped and turned away as the pistol went flying from his blood's grasp. But, the strand of blood quickly extended and recovered the weapon, then returned to Mantee's desired length.

He laughed. "Nice try, ass... hole?"

Turning back to face his adversary, Pulse was gone.

Snorting, Mantee began prowling the courtyard. "You can run and you *definitely* can't hide!"

Nearby, Pulse hid behind a stack of stone blocks as he tried to peer around the corner of his cover.

'He sure put a lot of emphasis on the 'definitely' part! What does he mean?'

He looked down at himself to check for injuries and saw blood on his sash. 'What the...? Where did that come from? Doesn't look like it's my blood, so it must be his! Wait a minute...'

Pulse slowly looked around the corner and saw Mantee walking right towards him. "There you are!"

Mantee did a combat roll as he appeared in front of Pulse's hiding spot, his blood poised to strike. Mantee went wide-eyed as all he found was a bloody piece of cloth. The blood suddenly rolled off the cloth and crawled across the ground as it snaked into Mantee's boots.

"I always knew you were a fast learner!" he yelled out. "But, I didn't think you'd catch on to that little trick of mine! But, don't worry! Eventually, all you'll have left is your ass and I'm gonna enjoy hearing you rip your own fur off so you can run and hide again!"

From another nearby cover, Pulse scowled. 'Fine! Let's go at it again, then!'

Pulse leapt over his cover and sent a telekinetic blast into his enemy. Mantee spun around and was smacked into the defensive wall by the blast. He charged forward, but was slowed down by consecutive blasts as Pulse quickly advanced. Pulling out his gun, he fired off a shell that severed each blood strand from its master. Mantee summoned another blood strand to recover his knife. As he did so, Pulse skipped forward with a burst of speed and grabbed Mantee by the vest. The bat saw his chance and lunged his knife into the wolf.

Pulse screamed, the knife going right into the center of his chest. But, he didn't let go of his foe. Instead, he leapt up with his Power, taking Mantee with him. He spun them around in a whirlwind fashion before releasing Mantee and sending him crashing into the ground hard, rolling across the dirt towards the castle. The blood strand went with him, but it released the knife, keeping it in Pulse's body.

He collapsed to the ground, but fought through the pain to get to his feet. 'Must... end this... now!'

Looking at a long box to his right, he reached out and tore it open with his Power. Long steel rods poured out of the box, ten of them being in Pulse's psychic grasp.

Mantee leapt to his feet with no sign of injury, but went wide-eyed at the sight of the rods hanging over Pulse's head, his hand pointing up at them.

Mantee chuckled. "Welp, somehow, I knew I was gonna lose, anyway."

Pulse sneered, throwing his arm forward.

Mantee screamed as the rods impaled him in various parts of his body. The rods kept going, taking his body with them. Finally, they slammed into the wall of the castle by the front doors, embedding themselves.

Pulse watched as Mantee gurgled and convulsed in a futile struggle to free himself. Slowly, the dying dreamkeeper went still, his body going limp. At that moment, a rumble of thunder came from a distance.

Pulse looked up and saw that a storm was moving in unexpectedly.

"How appropriate," he said aloud to the sky.

Suddenly, he groaned hard, feeling the knife that was still in his chest.

'It's... it's in one of my lungs! I can feel it! Damn it...! Have to get back... to Parasite!'

Limping to the draw bridge, he shot his arm forward, knocking the bridge down with authority. A downpour of rain fell at that moment as Pulse stumbled across the bridge and over the farm preserve.

* * * * *

On the guard post above the Parasite draw bridge, an AER lookout spotted Pulse through his binoculars.

"Oh, Spirits! Lower the bridge! Pulse is wounded!"

By instruction, the guards below turned the crank and lowered the bridge. A team of medics and soldiers raced out of the outpost to meet Pulse.

But before they could reach him, the wolf collapsed in the rain.

* * * * *

Septembris 1st, 1227

Pulse reawakened in a hospital bed, a breathing mask over his muzzle. He looked to his left to see the mask was connected to a breathing apparatus while a heart beat monitor observed his vitals.

"Oh, good! You're awake!"

Pulse turned quickly to his right to see Harborson, who walked over to stand by Pulse. "You're lucky to be alive! If you had pulled that knife out before we could get you to the infirmary, you would've bled out or suffocated! You've been out for four days, even after the surgery! We didn't think you were gonna make it!"

Pulse turned away, looking up at the ceiling.

"Well,... I did,... so that's all that matters," he hissed through the mask. "Where... is Winters?"

"He, Scinter and some of their friends just arrived here! They're waiting for you to wake up! Want to let them know?"

"Not yet. Just... give me a minute. Did... you guys ever find Mantee's body? The one who attacked Parasite?"

Harborson looked bewildered. "Well, some of the boys who came out to help you broke off and followed the blood trails before the rain washed them away! They followed the trail to the castle across from ours next to that farm! They found a huge blot of blood on a wall with ten bloody metal rods lying on the ground..."

"WHAT?!" Pulse shouted through the mask. "AAAAUUUuuuuggh!"

"Take it easy, Pulse!" the Captain pleaded, grabbing Pulse by his arms. "Your lung is still healing!"

"It's... impossible! No... fucking way... he could've survived... that! I put... ten of those rods... into him! One of them even went through his left eye and out the back of his head, for Nethers' sake!"

Harborson let go of Pulse, looking confused. "I don't know what to tell ya. Mantee wasn't there! He must've used his Power somehow!"

"Right! It's his Power! It... keeps him alive... or revives him! But, I don't... understand how... he freed himself! Unless... an ally of his came... to get him! He told me... that Nabonidus... could see things... before they happen!"

"So, that basically means that at any point, he could work his plans in a way that would ensure that we fail! Depending on what resources he has at his disposal!"

Pulse nodded. "Exactly! He... could've stopped us! But, why? Why... didn't he have me... killed off? He knew... I would escape prison and form two... resistance movements! One of which... has now shifted its efforts to stopping the Nightmare cause! The secret is out! We know the Nightmares live... and we are preparing for them! But, he... he could've stopped us by having me killed! Why...?"

"I... I don't know, sir! It's almost like he wanted himself and the Nightmares to be discovered!"

"You... you're right! It's just like what the Cutters said to Bails last year! He's been... letting people know... about him and the Nightmares... for years! He *wants* an army to be formed! He wants... a challenging opponent! He knows... because of the... leisurely, laid-back attitude... of the Andurunan people... and the outlaw on Powers... that the Nightmare invasion would be nothing... but an all-you-can-eat buffet! Everybody... will be slaughtered! But,... with an army... waiting for the invasion... then, the Nightmares will have to work... for that buffet!"

Harborson nodded. "Yes, that makes sense! So, this Nabonidus may had already known about us, letting our armies grow, anyway! But, that may also mean he is aware of the outcome of the coming conflict! Maybe, he has foreseen his own victory and the victory for the Nightmares!"

"Maybe," Pulse sighed.

"Well, at least you're still alive to help us! You should be fully healed in a couple of weeks! What do you intend to do when you're up and about?"

"My primary purpose... all these months... was to track down Mantee... and hope that he would lead me to Nabonidus! Now,... he escaped me... and has probably moved his safehouse from the Ruskol District... to who knows where! It may take me even longer to find him now! It took me... months... just to start looking for him! In fact,... I'm convinced that Nabonidus... knew that I was looking for Mantee... so he sent him to attack... our Anduruna outpost... and lure me into a deathmatch! If this Nabonidus... truly can see the future... then I may never get close to him! The only way I will... is if he lets me!"

Harborson shook his head. "No telling when that'll be, if ever!"

Pulse snickered. "Yeah. Guess there's only one thing left to do! Build up... our armies! The Troika... are preparing for the Nightmares' arrival... all the more... defending their assets... from the City Guard,... while the Republic... is prepping its own invasion of Anduruna! How ironic is it... that in some way... I foresaw... the Third Great War? That my wish as Viscount... to legalize Power use... may very well have tipped the scales in our favor immensely? That is why... he had his followers frame me! He wanted... the war... to be easy! But, not *that* easy!"

"That's some really twisted thinking, Pulse! But, you've got a point, too! We do need to get our armies built up and ready for what needs to be done!"

"Go ahead... and let our friends know... that I'm awake! I'll see them now!"

Harborson nodded, walking to the door.

Pulse rested his head against his pillow, turning thoughts over in his mind.

* * * * *

Octobris 1st, 1227

"So, what do you think we should do next?"

Pulse, Igrath, Scinter, and Grunn sat around a table with the map of Anduruna stitched into its surface.

"Not sure," Pulse replied to Igrath. "I mean, the best we can do right now is keep recruiting as many people as we can! Keep raiding the City Guard's storage facilities, keeping a low profile and smuggling illicit goods! To put it bluntly, keep doing what the Troika have been doing since day one!"

Scinter shrugged as he cleaned out the barrel of a springer pistol. "Sounds good to me! I ain't getting tired of this job by a long shot!"

Grunn belched after a long swig of fermentae. "Speak fer yuhself! Ah still have tuh deal with uh bunch uh snots all day! Two of which ain't makin' things eaziuh fer me!"

Pulse raised an eyebrow at the drunk caretaker. "You know, I'd be more than happy to charter a boat, have you tied to the mast then set the boat into a drift into the ocean if the orphans are that much of a pain in the ass for ya!"

Grunn hicced as his face contorted into worry. "Uhhhhh, nah Pulsh! That ain't neccuhsareh! Ah've been at this fuh yeuhs! Ah can still do it!"

Pulse grinned. "Good! Now, then I think we've stayed up long enough! It's nearly dawn, so I'm gonna get some much-needed rest until noon! See ya then, boys!"

Saying their goodbyes, Pulse stepped out the front door of Igrath's Kojiki safehouse.

Looking towards the brightening horizon across the city, Pulse thought, 'Something's coming, for sure! And, no matter what, we *have* to be ready for it!'

~~~~~

Act Theme: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Om5uXsD-aVo

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