|Here's Act II of my current story! :)|
Act II: Preparations
Augustris 26th, 1213
It was midday in Anduruna and business carried on, as usual. Though, many people, especially in Sabbaton, were more than skeptical that things were truly back to normal.
It was only five days after the traitor Aizer Pulse had escaped prison, slaying a fellow prisoner, ten safety troops and at least a dozen security personne in the process. During his escape, he caused massive property damage, destroying one of the only two elevators leading down to the prison and the Margate security entrance in the Inner Wall.
Near the Inner Wall in the Margate District, security forces stood on both sides of a long line of civilians wanting to enter Sabbaton. Due to the destruction of the large security doors and the threat of Pulse's reappearance in the area, Central City Authorities established a perimeter inside and outside the Inner Wall, effectively surrounding the Margate security entrance.
Standing in the same alleyway he used to sneak away, Pulse peeked around the corner at the line of civilians and the cluster of safety troops that stood guard to maintain order and, undoubtedly, keep an eye out for Pulse. Smirking, Pulse removed a toothpick from his mouth and flicked it away.
In the hours that followed his reawakening in Scinter's hideout, Pulse became a new man. Driven by a mad thirst for justice and revenge, Pulse vowed to let nothing stand in his way as he intended to crush the beaurucratic government that Viscount Calah continues to build upon and personally execute all those who were involved in his framing.
After listening in on the two inmates in prison, Pulse concluded that Calah had nothing to do with the framing, but was rather suckered in to believing that the 'evidence' was true. Tinsel Nanaja and Mantee Crispin were the one's to blame.
'I just don't understand,' Pulse thought. 'Tinsel's a spoiled little teen pop singer! And, Mantee... why did you do it?'
Originally, Pulse had no intention of killing Mantee in their reunion. His blind rage led him to kill his former friend.
'Only one key suspect left to get the answers from, now! But, that will come later! Right now, I need to know what exactly has changed after my imprisonment!'
Pulse stared at the mass of armor and weapons that blocked his path. Grabbing the hood of his hoodie, he cloaked his head and proceeded to the line of citizens.
In the course of two days, Pulse donned regular clothes for the first time in years. Black and white sneakers, faded blue jeans, a maroon tank top and, for symbolism's sake, a navy-blue hoodie, the same color as the jumpsuit he wore.
When walking about in Scinter's hideout, he would wear gray fatigues while going shirtless. Scinter was less than enthusiastic with Pulse's pencil-thin arms and flat chest.
"I suggest you start exercising. Being a rebel isn't like sitting behind a desk or standing at podiums. As long as you're running with me, you'd better be ready to keep up, 'cuz the City Guard will be chasin' us and I won't stick around to wait for ya."
Pulse was in full agreement and had already begun simple weight-lifting and treadmilling the day after his reawakening.
Feeling somewhat confident with his workout, Pulse marched for the waiting line. However, he already knew the troops would see under his hood and spot him immediately. Pulse had an experiment to avoid such a situation.
Taking a risk, Pulse ventured from Scinter's hideout and into the Calypsa District. Walking the humid streets of the district, Pulse could see just what normal life was really like. He studied average living enough from sociology and psychology books, but never really understood what it was like. Now, he was seeing it clearly and experiencing it.
The whole purpose of his exploration of the streets was to test another feat of his Power. Spotting a duo of enforcement officers, Pulse stepped out of an alley and walked right towards them. His halo was perfectly visible and his hood was down.
The officers did not see him at all. Neither did the nearby civilians. Pulse stepped out of the way before they nearly ran into him. Pulse watched them walk on. He suspected that being able to control other people's minds and block out specific things they were seeing would allow him to conceal himself, like invisibility. He was correct.
With this ability discovered, Pulse summoned his Power and locked onto as many minds as he could without straining himself. Specifically, he focused on the safety troops watching over the civilians and prayed that their data-goggles heat optics weren't active.
Concealed, Pulse watched the troops. None of them spotted him.
His Power remaining active, Pulse quickly walked along the waiting line and strolled right past the security guards at the entrance.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, somewhere past the one-hundredth floor of the Towers, Tinsel Nanaja marched through the halls of apartments used by the servants, security guards, bodyguards, and other essential employees of the uppermost part of the central tower. Turning a corner, she stopped at the apartment door of her accomplice.
'Damn it, Mantee! Why did you go and get yourself killed?'
Pulling a key from her top, Tinsel unlocked the door and entered. Closing the door behind her, she walked into a living area and was about to start searching for something.
Suddenly, she stopped and heard a commotion from his bedroom. Silently, she tip-toed to the door, which was cracked.
Her eyes went wide at who she saw placing a suitcase on the bed.
She bursted into the room. "Mantee?!"
The wingless bat spun around, then groaned through clenched teeth as he reached for his neck.
"Grrrnnn! Man, that hurt!"
Tinsel gawked, shaking her head. "I... I don't get it! The authrorities... they said you were dead!"
"Yeah, well, I'm here, aren't I? I guess my Power isn't restricted to flesh wounds! Turns out it heals bones, as well! But, Nethers, does it take a while for it to stop hurting!"
Tinsel put her hand over her beating heart. "Well,... that's good! Very good! I came to see if you were hiding anything important that may have been found by the moving crews when your apartment was going to be cleared!"
Mantee began throwing clothes into his suitcase. "I don't hide anything in this apartment! You know that! I plan ahead, unlike you! 'Oh, don't worry, Mantee! This plan is fool-proof! He's finished! He won't break out or anything like that! Nabonidus will be so proud!' BULL! SHIT!"
Slamming his suitcase shut, he closed the locks and walked past Tinsel to walk into the living room and slammed the case onto the floor.
Walking into his kitchen, he opened the refrigerator and snatched a bottle of a strong fermentae out. Slamming the door, he pulled the kork off and took a long drink.
Stopping with a gasp, he leaned onto a counter and glared at Tinsel. "I have you to thank for this!"
"What do you mean?"
"It's all thanks to you that I have to leave! Disappear! In fact, it's all thanks to you that I finally have the chance to be who I really am! I was getting tired of this bodyguard bullshit! So, thank you, Tinsel! Now, I can serve the 'Tall One' the way that I always wanted to!"
Pouring the last of the fermentae into the sink and throwing the bottle away, he walked back into the living room and grabbed his suitcase.
Tinsel followed him to the door, her hands clamped together. "Mantee, please! I'm sorry it all got screwed up! Please, don't end our partnership, now! Let's, uh... I got an idea!"
Mantee stopped, his hand on the doorknob. He looked over his shoulder at her with a toothy grin. "Kid, after your latest idea, you can take our partnership and-"
"You can be an assassin again!"
Mantee's face turned into doubt. "Really?"
"Well, YEAH! It should be simple, right? Pulse is going to be looking for us and seeking revenge against the government! While you're running around trying to stay away from him, I'm going to try and get a position in the government and you can assassinate any emissaries who may have somehow discovered Nabonidus's existence! Trust me, I've met some of them... in private! They've said things that tipped me off! Give me some time and I'll get high enough in the ranks to identify them, so you can eliminate them and Nabonidus will eventually forget this recent failure!"
She held her arms out with a large smile on her face.
Mantee looked away with an undecided look. Then, he smiled and shook his head.
"I can't shake the feeling that you're gonna get me killed, but what the hell!"
Tinsel jumped up with glee. "Awesome! You won't regret it, Mantee!"
She gave him a hug and skipped past him and out the door. Like that, she was gone.
Mantee looked away, then shook his head with a chuckle.
"I'm gonna fucking die."
Grabbing his suitcase, he walked out the door, not bothering to close and lock it.
* * * * *
Walking into the Margate District's Sabbaton lobby, Pulse proceeded towards the elevators that brought him back to the surface. The left elevator was out of order.
However, Pulse did not want to use the other elevator, as it only went up to the one-hundredth floor. He would have to walk along the wall until he entered the neighboring Talocan District lobby. The elevators in the luxurious Talocan lobby go all the way up to the very one-thousandth floor.
'I think it's time I looked around to see what the Committee's been up to... and spy on Calah while I'm at it.'
Seeing a mass of citizens filing into an elevator, Pulse knew that it would be a challenge to fit into the cramped space without being compromised. He watched as another mass of people stood at another elevator, waiting for it to return to the first floor.
Several minutes ticked by and the next elevator arrived. The waiting people started shifting their bodies as they prepared to enter quickly.
Pulse wandered up to the waiting group, hidden by his Power. 'I've got an idea!'
A ding sounded from the doors as the elevator stopped. The dreamkeepers in front inched forward.
Pulse reached out with his Power. As the automated doors began opening, they suddenly closed. The people in the crowd began complaining at the unexpected malfunction. Most of them backed away, looking for another elevator that was close to the first floor.
Seeing his chance, Pulse released his grip on the doors. They slid open normally as he ran in. No sooner had he turned to face the doorway was the crowd rushing for the opening.
Shooting both arms out, he waved them inward like a hug. The doors slammed shut, enraging the citizens on the outside.
'Sorry, people. Government business.'
Pulse punched in the number nine-nine-five and pressed the OK button. The elevator quickly went up the shaft for its designated location.
* * * * *
Floor 995 was not only the floor containing the Emissary Antechamber, but also the Viscount's office and private home. The office was located on the far side of the Antechamber, opposite the entrance.
The elevator doors sliding open, Pulse walked in and instantly saw a gray canine sitting at the lobby's desk. He looked up from the data-scroll he was reading with one eye.
Pulse was still hidden with his Power. The hound looked up completely and leaned over from his seat to look at the elevator. It closed its doors and began its descent.
With a careless grunt, he went back to viewing his data-scroll.
Even though the guard couldn't see him at all, Pulse couldn't help but think, almost subconsciously, "And here I was afraid the hiring standards were slipping around here."
* * * * *
Standing in front of a pair of yellow doors with gold-colored handles, Pulse pushed his Power further. Using his Power, he scoped the Antechamber. Eighteen emissaries were inside. No guards.
Pulling the door open, he kept his Power active as he closed the door and walked across the expansive floor. Small groups of emissaries were scattered about, discussing their own debates.
Walking towards the Viscount's office, Pulse cringed at the debates he overheard. Most of the emissaries were complaining about worker shortages, inflation, business shut-downs.
'He hasn't even made the slightest change!' Pulse thought angrily. 'Calah is just another Liddo!'
Reaching the doors, Pulse reached out with his telepathy, pushing through the doors to see if Calah was inside. He was, along with another individual.
* * * * *
"I swear to you, Calah, I had no idea until this morning!"
Calah paced back and forth behind his desk while his secret lover, Francia Jokoson, a yellow feline, held her hands together in a pleading pose.
"You had no idea? Three months... and you had no idea? I thought I impregnated you nearly a month ago! But, no! It was THREE months ago! And, you say you had no idea?! Preposterous! Why didn't you take a pregnancy test? Haven't you felt the symptoms? And here I just thought you got plastic surgery and wouldn't tell me about it!"
Francia looked down at her breasts, then folded her arms. "Calah, please! Don't be angry! We... we can work this out!"
"Well, of course! It's not like we have a choice in the matter! There's only one thing to do! Once the child is born, we're getting married! After another few months of being divorced from Elena, the timing should be right for another marriage when the child is born! There's no other way! Nobody must know of this child and believe that it's illegitimate! We must be married to encourage the contrary!"
Francia nodded. "All right, Calah! That's what we'll do, then! I... I'm really sorry, Calah! I should've known about this sooner!"
Francia turned to leave, not waiting for Calah's response.
As she walked out, Calah placed a hand over his face and thought, 'How many women must I wed before I find one who is not dim-witted?'
* * * * *
Standing to the right of the office doors, Pulse watched Francia walk out as he had a shocked expression on his face.
'Well, well! I never would have guessed! You're bolder than I thought, Calah!'
Pulse stared after Francia as a dark thought raced through his head.
'Three months pregnant, eh? Well,... you can't be a virgin forever.'
With that thought, Pulse quickly followed after Francia.
* * * * *
It was now late at night as Francia prepared to go to sleep in Calah's personal apartment. He was working late, so she would have to sleep alone.
With a sigh, she walked out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. Wearing a simple bra and panties, she laid on top of the covers and turned onto her side, falling asleep within minutes.
Half an hour later, the front door of Calah's apartment unlocked by itself. Slowly, the door opened to reveal the hooded figure of Pulse, in the glow of the hallway lights. A frown sat on his face as he squinted his eyes, knowing what he was about to do.
Walking in and closing the door behind him, he slowly made his way through the apartment as he approached the open bedroom door.
He practically glided in, grabbing the door knob as he entered. Looking towards the bed, he saw Francia on her back, her limbs spread out from a restless slumber.
Pointing his arm forward, he used his Power to lock onto her mind. Putting her in an artificial coma, Pulse slammed the door.
She didn't stir.
With a grunt, Pulse thought, 'I never had the chance to congratulate you, Calah. I'm sure you received all sorts of gifts from the emissaries. So, here's my gift. And, hopefully... just hopefully... it'll be the gift... that keeps on giving.'
* * * * *
Laying in a hammock in his hideout, Scinter took a swig of Scinter's Mark. From another room, he heard his state-of-the-art telepad buzz to life.
Leaning up with caution, Pulse walked out of the room, entering the living area.
Scinter relaxed, looking up at the ceiling as he looked at his data-watch. "Three in the morning. You sure are a risk taker. What have you been up to to be gone for so long?"
Not hearing an answer, Scinter turned to see Pulse. The young wolf was digging through the refrigerator.
Pulse pulled out a bottle of Scinter's Mark, pulled off the cork and took a massive drink.
Stopping after ten seconds, he looked over at Scinter with a cool smile before giving a quick hiccup.
"You know something, Scint? It feels good to be a crook."
With that, Pulse turned and walked to his respective bedroom, taking his Scinter's Mark with him. Scinter stared after him, then looked at his own bottle.
With a shrug, Scinter took another drink.
* * * * *
Septembris 5th, 1213
Walking back and forth, Calah patted his forehead as he beaded with sweat. A delivery room in a Sabbaton hospital was next to him.
'Too soon. It's just too soon. It must be a miscarriage. Well, maybe it's for the... no, no! This is my child! I must be concerned, among my other concerns!'
Pacing in front of the delivery room doors, Calah turned and nearly ran into one of the doors as the doctor walked out.
Calah gasped in surprise. "Oh, doctor! What's happening? It... it was a miscarriage, wasn't it? It's just too soon!"
A ghostly expression smeared the doctor's face, which scared Calah.
"Doctor? What happened?"
The doctor turned and faced Calah. "Mr. Viscount,... sir,... you might want... to come see... your daughter."
Without waiting for a response, the doctor turned and slowly walked back into the room. Worried over the doctor's attitude, Calah quickly followed him.
As Calah walked past the curtains blocking out the near side of the bed, Calah peered over the doctor's shoulders.
Francia laid in bed, holding a pink dreamkeeper infant in her arms. A pained expression was on her face.
"Calah... how?" she asked weakly.
Calah went wide-eyed, his jaw hanging limply.
"What... in the name... of Nethers... is THAT?!"
Marchris 14th, 1214
"...245, 246, 247, 248,..."
Pulling his head over a chin-up bar, Pulse counted the number of successful chin-ups he had made.
As he reached 250, Pulse dropped down from the bar. Looking around the exercise room in his personal luxurious safehouse in the Talocan District, Pulse grabbed a water bottle and took a quick drink.
At that moment, Scinter walked in, tapping at a data-scroll.
"Ah, you're done! How many this time?"
"Two-hundred and fifty! Won't be long before I start tossing YOU around like a ragdoll! Without my Power, that is."
"Well, at least you're getting as cocky as you are getting stronger."
"Ha-ha-ha! You're so funny, four-eyes! Now, what are you looking at there?"
Scinter looked down at the data-scroll while continuing to tap icons. "Well, we just received a report indicating five more volunteers from No Toll Town! The Dive is apparently the best place to look for them, despite its reputation as having the most crooked customers and being the roughest bar there!"
"Five volunteers, eh? Progress is taking too slow for my liking! We've only made roughly fifty volunteers in the past five months! That's disgusting! We need more volunteers in mass numbers! I don't want a division of troops! I want an army! Anything else to report from No Toll?"
Scinter tapped a few more links and icons before smiling at a page of texts.
"Here's something I know you'd want to look into! According to some explorers at the Dive who have been travelling the Frontier to the north of Starfall, they've found another civilization on the other side of the forests. Apparently, the forests don't go on forever, according to them. All they would tell the patrons who would listen to them is that the Frontier is only a hundred and seven miles long, the people who live in this civilization possess roughly the exact same technology as us, but their weapons and vehicles are far more advanced and different. And, they even have a name for this place... Antares!"
Pulse looked away with a distant stare. "Antares... that sounds familiar."
Scinter looked up from his scroll. "You've heard of it?"
"I think so. I'm sure I heard a distant thought from Liddo about Antares, but I wasn't really trying to probe his head at that time. Anything else on this place?"
"No, nothing else. Our contacts couldn't get anything else out of these explorers. Their lips are sealed."
Pulse rubbed his chin. "Interesting. Well,... our resistance isn't growing any faster and we're not getting any younger. I think I'll take a little trip through the Frontier forests. See what I can find about this 'civilization'."
As Pulse walked out of the room, Scinter followed in concern. "Now, hold on, A.Z.! Nobody's confirmed these guy's stories! We can only call these rumors, if not just fictitious stories! This is a big risk you're taking, going out into over a hundred miles worth of untouched wilderness to look for a city that may not be there!"
Pulse stopped, looking back at Scinter. "I've done nothing but take risks since this started! I don't intend to stop now!"
* * * * *
In the basement of the safehouse, Pulse smoothed out his clothing. A thick, red hooded jacket, blue jeans and black boots. He wore a backpack full of necessities and a springer pistol in a holster on his right hip.
As Pulse stood on a telepad, Scinter set the controls.
"You should arrive at our safehouse in No Toll Town! You can get a fresh manekale that should get you to wherever you're going beyond the Frontier!"
Pulse nodded. "Right. Won't be getting there on foot, that's for sure."
As Scinter finalized the sequence, he looked at Pulse and asked, "Are you sure you want to do this? I want to take down the bureaucracy as much as you do. I just don't see myself doing much on my own. Especially with the progress we've had in the past few months."
Pulse smirked, saying, "I'll be fine. If this exploration proves helpful, it may be all that we need to get our group together."
Scinter nodded. "If you insist, Aizer. By the way, we never did come up with a name for this 'group' of ours."
Pulse glanced around, thinking.
He looked over his shoulder at Scinter and said, "Troika. We... are the Troika."
Scinter tilted his head. "Troika? Doesn't that stand for 'three of a kind' or something like that?"
"Yeah. It'll make sense when we continue to grow. Now, send me."
"You got it!"
Pushing a lever forward, Pulse vanished in a flash of pale gray light.
* * * * *
After leaving the safehouse he was teleported to, Pulse walked along the docks and large sailing ships being harbored in the "bandit" haven of No Toll Town. He could tell he stood out from the sailors and pirates who stood around talking about their recent voyages and plunders. A heavily-clothed dreamkeeper with a bulky backpack and a handgun was bound to draw attention.
He didn't bother using his Power for concealment. His only worry when using the stealth capabilities of his telepathy is being spotted by the City Guard. Since the City Guard hasn't been near this region since the Toll Wars and the Dune Sea was not in Anduruna's borders, the Guard had no presence in the port town.
Walking further into the town and away from the docks, he could feel himself being tailed.
'Maybe I should've just stolen a ferrick from a farm outside of the city instead of coming to this hellhole. I haven't got time for unwanted trouble!'
Glancing discreetly over his shoulder, he could see two sailors trying hard not to look like they were in a hurry. He could feel their eyes locked onto him.
'Okay, time to stop this before it starts!'
Coming to a stop, he could feel the sailors approaching him fast. Closing his eyes, he entered both of the sailor's minds and could see one of them pulling a knife. The other was cracking his knuckles.
'Never bring a knife and a pair of fists to a gunfight, gentlemen.'
The sailors stopped instantly, hearing the thought inside their heads.
"What the bloody hell?! Where'd that come from?"
"You heard it, too?"
In their confusion, Pulse threw his arms down, letting his backpack fall to the ground. Spinning around, he whipped his pistol out and fired two shots, one for each sailor.
One sailor fell to his back with a shot in his heart. The other was hit in the throat. He fell to his knees as his neck bled, struggling for breath.
Holstering his weapon, he looked around at the citizens who were unaware of the situation until Pulse fired his weapon. They stared at him, then went on with their business.
Pulse smirked. 'Just another day in No Toll Town, I guess.'
As the second sailor collapsed to the ground, Pulse put his backpack on. Looking back at the fallen sailors, he sneered, sensing their true intentions as they followed him.
'No mercy for the wicked. I know a real bandit when I see one.'
With that, he proceeded down the street.
* * * * *
Walking out of the port town and into the northern outskirts, Pulse could see a sprawling forest in the distance.
An old house sat along a road leading out of the town. As Pulse approached, he could see a large pen full of ferricks and manekales in the front yard. A crudely-made sign hung from a wooden pole in front of the pen that read, "FErricKs & ManeKaLes / 200 LUcrE
"Perfect. I brought just enough."
Walking onto the front porch of the house, he saw a solid, metal door that served as the front door.
Knocking hard on the door, a slat at the top of the door opened. A pair of old, blood-shot eyes peered out. 'Whuttaya want?"
"Hi. I'd like to purchase one of your manekales. I'm heading for the Frontier. I'd like one that's nice and healthy."
After a brief moment, the slat was closed and locks were being released to open the door.
The door opened and an elderly, hunch-backed monkey dreamkeeper walked out with a springer rifle. He wore a pair of faded overalls, a faded white long-sleeve shirt and a straw hat with a feather stuck into it.
Pulse backed away a few steps. "Easy there, sir. I mean you no harm or trouble. I just want to buy a manekale, all right?"
"Awww, quit yer worryin', younglin'! Ah just have this here for inshurince! This here be some nasteh parts!"
Pulse looked around at the empty grasslands that surrounded the old mans home. "Well, for an old man who has a reinforced door and a springer rifle for security, you sure don't keep your steeds and steers in a more secured location. Somebody could jump that pen and steal one of your animals."
"Now, ah be the ol' man here! If there's gonna be any lecshurin', it's gonna be done bah me! And, ah know yuh not here tuh lecshure me! Now, hows 'bout yuh show me that luhcreh and don't try nuthin'! Ah can still fiuh one uh these things!"
Pulse nodded fast, holding his arms out in front of him. "Sure, sure! Just take it easy! I'm getting the money!"
Pulse dug into his pockets and pulled out two one-hundred piece lucre. "See? Two-hundred! Right here!"
"Awww, ah said quit yer worryin'! Ah won't use this if yuh don't give me no trouble! Just hand it over and ah'll fetch whichever critter yuh want!"
Pulse nodded, composing himself as he walked forward. "Right! Sorry. I just get a little jumpy around old people with guns. Bad things tend to happen."
The monkey chuckled as Pulse dropped the coins in the old man's hand. "Ah, believe meh, boy! Ah've used an' seen more of these things than y'all ever will! Ah know better than tuh get carried away with uh rifle!"
The monkey checked the two coins, then stuck them into his pocket. Walking gingerly down the steps, the old man walked to the pen as Pulse slowly followed.
"You... were in the Toll Wars, weren't you?"
The monkey stopped, a shocked expression on his wrinkled face. "Why... how'd ya know 'bout that?"
"I read your mind. You entered the Toll Wars at the age of seventy-two. You were a hero among the bandits for your efforts as an inexperienced general against the City Guard. You're General Auschman!"
The monkey scratched his head. "Read mah mind, eh? Ah swear, you younglin's are gettin' more and more strange bah thuh day!"
Auschman approached the gate to the pen, releasing the lock. "Yep, ah was nuthin' but an old fool just tryin' tuh do whut ah thought was right! Now, I'm an even older fool, just tryin' tuh do whut ah can to get bah in mah last years in thuh world!"
Pulse attempted to cycle through the old man's memories, but Auschman's mind was slightly scrambled from memory-deducing conditions. 'He at least remembers who he was back then, but his actual account of the events are vague. I can't read memories that aren't clear. I'll have to find a way around that, if possible.'
"Well, I'm sure you did the right thing! Foolish or not! Personally, I think there was more to the war! I don't think the bandits really did anything wrong! I don't have proof on that, but that's just how I feel!"
Auschman grunted. "Whut's done is done, boy! Yuh shouldn't live in thuh - "
As Auschman opened the gate, half of the ferricks and manekale bolted out of the pen.
"NAAAOOOO! NOT AGAIN!"
Pulse thrusted his arm forward, his halo at full strength. 'Stop!'
Almost instantly, the escaping creatures came to a stop. Some of them shook their heads, as if trying to get something off.
In a few short seconds, Pulse combed the animals with his eyes and spotted a moderately healthy manekale.
'You'll do. The rest of you, go back in.'
All of the animals except for his chosen manekale obeyed his command, turning back and entering the pen.
Auschman gawked at the animal's sudden stop and walking into the pen. Closing the gate quickly, he looked back and saw Pulse carressing his manekale's neck and head. His halo was still active.
"Well, ah'll be! Ah haven't seen one of them rings in uh looong time! Did yuh make them critters go back intuh thuh pen?"
Pulse nodded, smiling. "Yes, sir, I did. My Power is telepathy! That's how I learned of who you are! Judging by your expression from a few moments ago, nobody else knew of your identity. Thus, making it near impossible for me to discover who you were without asking a whole lot of questions. My Power just made it easier."
Auschman pulled his hat off and rubbed his head. "Well, ain't yuh somethin' speciuh. Ah don't think ah've ever heard of anybody with yer Powuh."
"You'd be right. What I have is rare. Probably no one else in recorded history has ever had telepathy. If they did, I'm sure they didn't use it for the same cause as mine."
With his Power, Pulse led his manekale to the front of the pen where a long line of saddles sat on top of the pen. Auschman followed. "Ah see, ah see. So, yer travuhllin' tuh duh woods, ain't yuh? That have somethin' tuh do with yer cause?"
Setting up the saddle and reins, Pulse grinned. "As a matter of fact, it does! I'm looking for a new city that some explorers have been talking about! A new civilization! This is what the manekale is for, to get me to wherever this place is and back! I'd like to see what this city has to offer for my cause! I'd like to tell you more, but I think it's best I keep the rest of that information to myself."
Auschman smiled a rotten-toothed grin as he put his hat back on. "Ah understand! Yuh younglin's need yer secrets! Well, yuh be careful now! Ah've been in them woods before! They ain't tuh be travuhed lightleh!"
Pulse nodded, mounting his manekale. "Thanks for the warning. Take care of yourself, general!"
Pulse rode off, General Auschman waving his hat in farewell.
* * * * *
Marchris 17th, 1214
Walking on foot, Pulse hacked away vines and other vegetation with a rusty, old machete he found along the way.
After nearly three days of travel, Pulse realized that he was in deep trouble. After several confrontations with wild predators, he lost his manekale in the last encounter. Now, walking on foot for nearly a day, he was slightly intrigued at how the temperate deciduous forest quickly turned into a tropical rainforest.
He was finally hoping that he would find a camp of explorers who would take him in for the night and give him transportation back to No Toll Town.
'Should've listened to Scinter. But, I've come too far now. I've got to push on for at least one more day.'
Suddenly, he stopped hacking at the greenery. Through the forest in front of him, he could hear muffled sounds from miles away. The sounds were too large to be a camp full of noisy dreamkeepers.
'Could it be?'
Slicing more ruthlessly through the vegetation, he could hear the sounds getting more clearer. The rainforest was getting thinner.
Finally, Pulse could see the edge of the rainforest. Through the last of the trees and vines, he could make something out far into the distance.
Pulse bursted out of the forest, dropping his machete.
Miles away laid a giant city on the other side of a wide river, containing small buildings and only a few buildings that were fifteen stories high. On the far side of the city lied a large castle in a forested area. An elongate building made up most of the castle's right side with a shorter elongate building to the left of it. The higher buidling had two towers, multiple turrets and numerous sculptures, balconies and windows.
Pulse shook his head. 'Amazing. I always believed there were other cities, but... this place has to be at least twenty miles wider than Anduruna. Just amazing.'
From within the city, Pulse could see objects rising into the open air. From his view, he could tell they were aircraft of some sort. It took him a few moments to realize they were headed in his direction.
As they drew closer, he could see what kind of aircraft they were. They were two helicopters, but not like the standard City Guard attack helicopters. These choppers were slightly bigger, longer and had a propeller that stretched out from each side of the chopper on a wing. They had a blue camouflage pattern and had strange pieces of equipment covering the front of the cockpit.
Pulse recognized the frontal pieces as weapons instantly. As they were within a hundred feet of him, the weapons he saw were completely unknown to him. Dreamkeepers were sticking out of the open sides.
Unstrapping his holster, he dropped it with his gun still in it. In an effort not to be hostile, he dropped his backpack and held his hands up. Soon after he did so, the choppers landed and six passengers dispersed from each one.
They were dressed in heavy fatigues and hooded jackets with blue digital camouflage patterns. A large vest with pouches covered their chest. Pulse guessed the pouches were used for holding gun cartridges.
Their weapons were the most alien. Half of the men in each group that dispersed from their choppers carried a bizzare weapon while the other half of the groups carried a completely different weapon. One of the weapons were small and compact, only twice the size of a springer pistol. The other weapon was large and bulky and was carried by large dreamkeepers. The weapon had three barrels and was assumingly a rapid-fire weapon of some sort.
The unknown soldiers rose their weapons to aim at Pulse, who continued to keep his hands up. He didn't dare use his Power to read their minds, not knowing if they, too, possessed telepathy and could detect his mental presence.
A soldier from one of the groups walked forward, his weapon poised.
"Do you understand me?"
Pulse nodded. "I do."
"State your purpose here. You're trespassing on Antarean soil."
"I come from Anduruna. I wish to speak with your leader about a very important matter. I'm a rebel leader seeking aid. Please let me speak with whoever leads your city!"
The soldier looked back at his fellow troops, then gave Pulse a side-long glance.
"Who are you?"
Pulse lowered his arms slightly. "My name is Aizer Pulse."
After a brief moment, the soldier began cackling. "What a surprise! An honor to have you here, Mr. Pulse! Please, follow me! Somebody grab his belongings!"
The soldier walked forward and led Pulse to one of the choppers while a pair of soldiers gathered his backpack and pistol.
Pulse boarded the chopper along with its respective passengers. The other group boarded their own chopper with Pulse's belongings.
The questioning soldier held out a hand to Pulse. "Sergeant Bails! Nice to meet you!"
Pulse shook the hand. "Same. So, what's this about? You treat all of your newcomers like this?"
"For security's sake, yes! Can't have a deranged explorer or exile wandering into our city and wreaking havoc, now can we?"
Pulse nodded. "I suppose. But, how did you know I appeared on your borders?"
"We have specialized sensors within the forest that detect dreamkeeper approach. We were mobilizing to intercept you just as you were nearing the edge of the forest."
"You seem to know who I am. Care to explain that?"
"Oh, I'll let the Dreshdae explain that when you meet him!"
"The Dreshdae?" Pulse asked.
"That's the name for our leader. The Dreshdae of our proud little country is Iggin Coddley. He's a strong, capable man who's family has led Antares for over two centuries! He is a blue owl dreamkeeper, just so you can be prepared on what to expect."
"Got it. Just out of curiosity, none of you wouldn't happen to be telepathic, would you?"
Bails and his men shook their heads. Pulse looked down. "I see."
"You were wanting to read our minds, weren't you?"
Pulse looked back up at Bails. "That's right. I guess you knew I was telepathic, too, right?"
Bails chuckled. "Like I said, Dreshdae Coddley will explain what you need to know."
* * * * *
Flying above the clay-colored rooftops of Antares, Pulse leaned out the side of the helicopter to see they were heading for the castle.
"The Rosetta Castle," Bails said. "Named after our very first queen, who was also our last monarch before she converted our country into a republic."
"Antares is a republic?" Pulse asked with intrigue. "I never thought I'd see a city with a conservative political system. It's all about democracy in Anduruna."
"Well, the transition was quickly welcomed by the people! I'll have you know that Antarean's aren't as laid back as you Andurunan's are nowadays! We are hard-working people! We work for what we deserve!"
Pulse pondered that last statement. "Work for what you deserve," he mumbled.
The two helicopters began descending towards a plaza that sat next to the castle. The Rosetta Castle looked more like a small cluster of luxurious resorts built together. A small ramp-like path turned in a U-shape leading to a gatehouse that would lead to the inner courtyard.
As the helicopters landed in an area of the plaza reserved for military landing, Pulse and the Antarean troops disembarked. Bails and his squad led Pulse to the bottom of the ramp as a bright blue owl in a suit, being escorted by two guards carrying yet another different type of weapon, walked around the U-turn and reached the bottom of the ramp.
The two groups stood face-to-face.
"Dreshdae Coddley! I would like you to meet Aizer Pulse! He has come seeking aid!"
Bails motioned for Pulse to approach the Dreshdae. Marching forward, he held his hand out for the Antarean leader.
"Mr. Coddley! An honor to meet you!"
The owl smiled and took Pulse's hand, giving it a violent shake. "Mr. Pulse, I cannot tell you just how amazed I am to make your acquaintance! Please, come with me! I'm sure there is much to discuss!"
Coddley placed an arm on Pulse's shoulder and led him up the ramp.
Bails and the two squads went back and boarded their choppers.
* * * * *
In the inner courtyard of the Rosetta, Pulse and Coddley walked side by side, Coddley's guards staying close behind.
"As you may already know," Coddley began. "We already know much about you, Mr. Pulse. It is a well-known fact that those you meet may not be who they seem to be."
"That's right," Pulse acknowledged.
"What I mean is, I have contracted many of my more courageous and adventurous citizens to travel to Anduruna and learn as much as they can about Andurunan society. Many other Dreshdaes have done this. It is why we know so much. We also know about how you have come to be an Emissary-turned-resistance-leader. You wish to topple the current democratic regime of Viscount Calah, I assume?"
"You assume correctly," Pulse said in a low tone.
Coddley glanced at Pulse. "And you wish to seek help from my people, how?"
Pulse glanced back. "I've seen the weapons your soldiers weild! The aircraft! I've never seen anything like it! My resistance, the Troika, is short-handed after five months of building! I've concluded that it may be best to keep the Troika small and sustainable! But, now, I want another rebellion that acts as an army! A wave of troops weilding never-before-seen weaponry and equipment against an unsuspecting city ruled by a suppressive tyrant! If you can supply me with whatever your military possesses and the volunteers who will help, I will pay you half of the Troika's black market earnings!"
Coddley rubbed his beak, thinking hard on this proposal. "Those I've contracted who have gone into the black market have told me of the money your resistance makes! I think we can make this deal work!"
"Excellent! I'm actually amazed you're trusting me this quickly with your ordinance and people!"
Coddley held his arms behind his back. "You are a victim of corruption. Whether Calah realizes it or not, he has taken part in this corruption. He continues to crush the will of the Andurunan people by following in Liddo's footsteps. I have long thought of making Antares' presence known to Anduruna and beginning peace talks with Calah to convince him to follow our conservative methods, our way of life.
"We are a laboring nation! We are always working on something! Nobody is to be lazy unless they are ill! Most of the buildings you see in Antares are shops and taverns. The open plains to the northwest are farmlands. Everybody has a profession here! Everybody is laboring, making money for themselves and for this country! Each job pays well! It is how we have managed to thrive long after the dissolution of our monarchy! Anduruna was once like this when it, too, was ruled by kings, many centuries ago!"
Pulse nodded. "Right. The Reign of the Kings. Believe it or not, this is the exact same vision that I have for Anduruna. You wouldn't happen to have an... emissary who is in the government, would you?"
"I do, as a matter of fact! That is why our visions are so much alike! He has told me of your speeches during your Viscount-Elect run! I have crafted my vision around your beliefs! We have the same goal in mind! Though, I'm sure you would like to change Anduruna yourself! It is how you have imagined it, correct?"
Pulse nodded, looking away. "That's right! I have to do this! Others will be by my side, but I will be the one who will deal the killing blow to the bureaucracy! Whatever the killing blow may be! So, could I see what your weapons are capable of?"
Coddley nodded with a smile. "Of course! Can't start a war without knowing what your weapons can do for you! We've reserved the unsettled lands to the north of here for weapons testing! We shall travel there once the weapons arrive there!"
* * * * *
In a grassy field that stretched out for as far as the eye could see, the day was coming to an end. The sun descended to the western horizon, shining its violet light into the faces of Pulse, Coddley and a large group of high-ranking officers and regular military grunts.
Several tables were set up holding the infantry weapons. One table for the sidearms, another table for the rifles, and another for the larger weapons and explosive devices. Several strange vehicles sat to the right of the group. Pulse did not see any manekales or knossuses, so he assumed they had some kind of self-propulsion system like the Andurunan City Guard tanks.
Pulse now donned the Antarean combat uniform, the same uniform worn by the soldiers who encountered him outside of the city.
"Since the City Guard is rarely dispatched into the Andurunan outskirts," Coddley explained. "They have never found the need to fabricate camouflage uniforms. They have always maintained the gray color of their uniforms along with the red star crest. However, since we Antareans have had quite a few heated conflicts in the past few centuries and we live in a forest environment, we have created many different camouflage patterns for almost all climates. Stealth is a key ingredient to success. Cloaking your men with the right camouflage is vital for ambushes and surprise attacks."
Pulse looked over the uniform, feeling the vest and checking the ammo pouches. Each pouch held a clip of ammunition.
"We simply call our "cartridges" clips, since early testing of these weapons have shown that it is easy to clip the edges of the loading port while trying to inject the clip. The name of our weapons, we like to call them spears."
"Spears?" Pulse asked.
"Spears, because the bullets they fire are elongated and filed down at the front for bodily penetration, while springer bullets are just round, metal balls. Our weapons are far weaker than the standard springer rifle, but our spears make up the firepower for speed and rate of fire."
Pulse walked over to the sidearms table and picked up a weapon with a cylindrical mechanism near the handgrip.
"The ANM-5 Stingray: A handgun with a rotating cylinder that holds six rounds! Because of that cylinder, we call it a revolver! Our most powerful sidearm to date. It can be equipped with a laser sight on the lower rail or a ranged scope on the top rail."
Pulse felt the weapon in his hand. "I think I'll be using you alot!"
Looking ahead of the assembled group, he spotted eight practice dummies. Holding the gun with both hands, he took a shot at the first dummy's head. The gun jerked back in his hands.
The bullet barely hit the dome of the dummy's head, grazing it and slicing it open. Pulse whipped his left hand around, sore from the recoil.
"You weren't kidding about the "most powerful" part! There's no handgun in Anduruna with a recoil like that!"
Pulse placed the Stingray back on the table and grabbed another sidearm.
"The ANM-4 Daredevil: the standard sidearm that holds nine rounds! Less powerful than the Stingray, but with less recoil, making it easier to semi-auto fire!"
Pulse aimed at the first dummy again. He pulled the trigger quickly, emptying the weapon on the dummy. Only minimal damage with each shot, but effective with proper aiming.
Placing the sidearm down, he walked over to the rifle table. He picked up the first rifle weapon, which was only twice as big as the Daredevil.
"Ah! That is the miniature variant of the ANM-12 Screamer! The ANM-11 Slasher! It has the red dot sight and foregrip, but without those attachments it is the most compact rifle-based weapon ever! You could easily mistake it for a handgun if you were ignorant of our designs!"
Pulse slid the foregrip piece and the red dot sight off of the attachment rails, looking at just how compact the weapon was. It was just light enough to hold with one hand.
Taking a chance with the recoil, Pulse aimed at the second dummy. He pulled the trigger and the gun fired simultaneously. Putting his strength into his right arm, Pulse fought the recoil with ease as he emptied the clip. The firing rate was quick and the weapon accurate, even with one arm. The dummy was moderately torn.
"Nice! I'll be using you alot, too!"
He put the gun down and grabbed the compact Screamer's big brother.
"That, of course, is the standard ANM-12 Screamer rifle! Nothing like a springer rifle! Very weak, but fast rate of fire. Also, the trigger mechanism is built into the bottom of the rifle rather than the side! This weapon and all of its variants hold a hundred rounds per clip!"
Pulse felt the weapon, testing the bullet ejector and putting the clip in the loading port.
Taking aim, he looked at the third dummy. He fired a few consecutive shots, then switched to single fire. The dummy lost its left arm and most of its chest.
"The infantry will have an easy time with this weapon."
Placing the Screamer down, he picked up a similar weapon.
"Almost the exact same model as the Screamer, but is semi-automatic for marksmanship! The ANM-13 Shriek: Basically an ANM-12, but only fires one round per pull of the trigger for accuracy. The carrying handle has a scope built into the rear of the handle."
Pulse nodded, noting it had the same feel and weight as the ANM-12. Taking aim at the fourth dummy, he squeezed the trigger after every second. He stopped after twenty-five shots. The dummy suffered massive damage to the chest area.
"Infantry will have an even easier time with this one!"
Dropping the Shriek, he picked up a weapon of slightly different design.
"That is a much different weapon compared to the Screamer. The ANM-14 Mist: The base of the weapon is similar, but it fires ten special rounds that shoot out a hail of miniature pellets in a cloud. Very deadly at close quarters, but with minimal effect from afar. The length of the barrel, the added rail to the carrying handle and the foregrip is to increase range and accuracy."
"Close-quarters, eh?" Pulse asked with interest. Walking around the tables, he approached the fifth dummy. Standing five feet away from it, he pressed the trigger. The dummy's chest practically exploded as a cloud of metal was pumped into it.
"Oh yeah, definitely deadly!"
Walking back to the rifle table, he took aim and fired once more. A chunk of the left arm went flying and more of the chest was blown off.
Pulse nodded in approval, placing the weapon on the table. He looked at the final rifle, which he quickly guessed what it was.
"The final rifle-type weapon we have to offer is the ANM-15 Echo sniper rifle! It's purpose I shouldn't have to explain! It has a range of over 2,000 meters and holds twenty rounds per clip! Complete with a ballistic scope, bi-pod for prone aiming and a foregrip for semi-auto, mid-range firing!"
Pulse unfolded the bi-pod and rested the rifle on the table. Bending down to take proper aim, he spotted a purple pumpkin far into the distance.
Steadying himself, Pulse fired. He watched through the scope as the pumpkin was obliterated five seconds later. Standing up, he folded the bi-pod and grabbed onto the foregrip. Taking aim at the sixth dummy, he squeezed the trigger nine more times. The dummy was nearly destroyed, save for its left arm, torso and right leg.
"Amazing! My snipers will be putting this to good use!"
Putting the rifle down, he approached the final table.
"Now, to the larger weapons that most of which you may find difficulty using."
Pulse grabbed a large weapon with a cylinder in the mechanism, much like the ANM-5.
"That there is a novelty in our military! The ANM-24 Nova grenade launcher! With a foldable stock, it acts much like the Stingray revolver, but fires high-explosive fragmentation grenades that explode upon impact!"
Pulse looked at the stock, which was already folded up. He unfolded it completely, resting it in his shoulder as he aimed it like a rifle.
"Grenade launcher, huh? So much for sparkers!"
A stack of crates rested a few yards behind the dummies. Taking careful aim, Pulse fired off a round. The glowing, red projectile flew at an arc for its target. Hitting a middle crate, most of the crates were blasted to splinters while the rest of them bounced away from the blast.
"Now THIS is an impressive weapon! I'll have to train some of my men to be specialized with this weapon!"
Pulse gingerly laid the launcher down and eyed a peculiar weapon with two tubes.
"An unforgiving weapon! That is the ANM-26 Basher, a double-barreled launcher that fires propelled rockets at thick or armored targets, such as groundcars, walls, barricades! This weapon is meant to weaken a hardened object or strongpoint! When one rocket is fired, the barrel rotates to the next barrel for another shot!"
Pulse grunted as he rested the launcher on his right shoulder, holding a handle that stretched along the side of the weapon. He turned back to the dummies and saw numerous armored groundcars and tanks thirty yards away.
Aiming carefully, Pulse fired off one rocket at an angle. The rocket sailed across the plain and nailed a groundcar in its center. The rocket detonated, blasting the groundcar into two uneven halves.
Pulse blinked at the result. "Well, that was definitely unforgiving! Shock troopers arriving on the scene won't know what hit him!"
Allowing the launcher to fall onto the table, Pulse groaned slightly as he looked at a weapon he had seen earlier when he arrived in Antares.
"That is an even more unforgiving weapon! I'm sure you saw some of the infantry carrying it and mounted into the sides of the helicopters like turrets! The ANM-28 Razor heavy repeater! With a two-hundred round drum clip and a high rate of fire, this weapon will completely mutilate a dreamkeeper!"
Pulse eyed the long, cannon-like gun. Picking it up with moderate difficulty, he stared at the seventh dummy target.
Bracing himself, he squeezed and held the trigger. Bullets erupted from the weapon as the barrel flashed before his eyes. Almost instantly, the dummies head and shoulder were gone. Within seconds, so was the chest and torso. Pulse struggled to keep steady as he aimed at the lower half.
Several seconds later, the dummy was decimated. Pulse dropped the gun onto the table, gasping.
"That... was incredible! But,... I think... I'll leave this... to the big guys!"
Coddley laughed. "Well then, I suggest you don't even look at the final weapon! The most destructive infantry weapon ever developed! The only weapon that can be used by infantry and helicopters alike! A triple-barreled heavy repeater! Test dummies have been reduced to shreds in mere seconds! The ANM-30 Demon!"
Pulse leaned up and stared at the wickedly-designed weapon, resting on a tri-pod. Three belts of bullets, being fed into each barrel, led to a box that rested on the ground.
"Well,... since it's on a tri-pod...."
Pulse grabbed the double triggers that served as the stock of the repeater. He looked down and saw a single trigger that served for mobile firing.
Breathing hard, Pulse swiveled the Demon towards the remaining dummies and pulled down on the triggers.
The weapon roared to life, all three barrels firing all at once. Pulse shook as he pointed the weapon at the first three dummies, mowing them down in an instant. He moved the gun to the right, annihilating the other dummies. None of them stood a chance.
Pulse released the triggers, gasping even harder.
"Spirits... above.... I think... I need... a... drink...."
A soldier walked forward, presenting a bottle of water to Pulse. He took it and drank nearly half of the bottle.
Coddley stepped forward, clapping his hands. "Well done! A newcomer who has never laid hands on such weapons and you didn't fail a single test! I think you've worked long enough! Now, I don't expect a resistance leader to be flying around in an attack helicopter or operating a battle tank, so I'll let some of General Phillard's men show you how the Havoc battle tank, the Dumbbell transport helicopter and the Scorcher attack gunship works!"
General Phillard nodded. "Reese! Culler! In the tank! Pronto!"
Two dreamkeeper soldiers jogged to a large tank. It was somewhat smaller than the City Guard's tank, but Pulse could tell the main cannon was much more powerful.
Reese jumped into a cockpit on the left side in the front of the tank. Culler hopped into a gunner's seat on the right side. Headlights came on as the main cannon swiveled around. The tank began moving forward, then turning right in the direction of the targets.
Pulse watched as the Havoc aimed its cannon slightly upward. He could tell it was aiming for a faraway Andurunan tank.
The tank fired, rocking back from the recoil. The shell went flying and hit its intended target. The tank's cannon and cockpit was blasted off the platform. One shot destroyed it.
Pulse grinned. "Not bad! Not bad at all!"
The tank backed up and parked itself back at where it was.
As Reese and Culler jumped out, General Phillard motioned for a pair of dreamkeeper pilots to board the Dumbbell. Pulse recognized this chopped as the one's that arrived to pick him up.
The pilots stepped into the side of the chopper and made their way into the cockpit. Strapping themselves in, they began flipping switches to start the engines. The propellers spun to life. Within moments, the Dumbbell took flight.
A large, metal container rested just behind the vehicles. The Dumbbell swiveled in the air as it positioned itself above the container. Pulse watched as the co-pilot left the cockpit and used a rope to descend to to the top of the container. The pilot flipped a switched and a bundle of ropes were ejected from the belly of the chopper.
The co-pilot took each rope and clamped it to each corner of the container. Giving a thumbs-up, the pilot began to lift-off. The co-pilot jumped down to the ground as the container was hoisted up into the air.
"The Dumbbell is used specifically for cargo and personnel transport, but it is also fitted with weapons for offensive and defensive purposes! Use it however you will!"
Pulse watched as the Dumbbell approached a crudely-made two-story concrete building among the practice tanks and groundcars in the distance.
"Armed with dual Demon repeaters and dual quad rocket launchers, the Dumbbell does more than its fair share of heavy-lifting!"
The transport fired off several rockets at the building, then fired its Demon's. The structure took moderate damage on the top floor.
As the Dumbbell flew around to the testing site to land, the co-pilot had entered the cockpit of the Scorcher.
Taking off, he flew past the Dumbbell as he advanced quickly on the damaged building.
"Despite its arsenal, the Scorcher is fast and nimble! Equipped with two Razor repeaters, two three-clustered Demon repeaters, ten fifteen-tubed rocket launchers and eight air-to-air missiles, you are looking at a guarantee in air superiority!"
Pulse watched the Scorcher close in on the building. Firing its rocket launchers, the building was quickly reduced to rubble in one pass.
|Pulse clapped at the display. "Well, well! I must say, you people know how to overwhelm with firepower! I promise you, Mr. Coddley, all of this will be put to good use, I assure you!"|
Coddley laughed. "I'm sure it will! But, what I want to know is, do you intend to use all of this as much as your troops?"
"Of course! Are you surprised by that?"
"You mean... you're going to operate the tank? And fly the aircraft?"
Pulse grinned, then tapped his head. "It's all up in here! If you can do it properly, then do it! I can keep myself safe! I won't always be leading my troops into battle anyway!"
Coddley nodded, rubbing his beak. "I see. Well, assuming you have all of the knowledge for these weapons in your head due to your Power, why did you make me go through the trouble of describing it all?"
Pulse laughed. "And deprive you the honor of looking impressive? I would never do such a thing!"
Coddley hooted loudly. "I see a strong partnership in our future, Mr. Pulse! I wish your resistance the best of luck!"
* * * * *
Marchris 23rd, 1214
Standing on a balcony of an ancient fortress in the Starfall Mountains, Scinter paced around.
'He said he'd be here ten minutes ago! What if he was double-crossed? What if these 'Antareans' decided to-'
Before he could finish his thought, he heard a strange roar over the wind of the mountain. Hearing the roar coming from behind him, he spun around and saw a helicopter bristling with strange weapons approaching the balcony.
Scinter backed up towards the fortress doors as the helicopter came in for a landing. With a soft thud, the chopper landed and its engines winded down.
The cockpit hatch lifted up and Pulse stood up, removing his pilot's helmet.
"Sorry I'm late, Scint!" Pulse shouted. "As you can see, I've been busy!"
Scinter shook his head at the new chopper Pulse had brought with him.
"The bureaucracy... is going DOWN!"
Novembris 7th, 1215
Pulse looked over a calendar on a data-scroll, showing all of the months of the 1215 year. Pressing a left arrow icon, the screen went back to the previous year's months. His eyes glanced up at the month of Marchris.
Sitting at a desk, he swiveled around to look at a flag on the wall. A blue flag with a black circle in the middle. Within the circle was a red star, the symbol of Anduruna and the City Guard. Running along the center of the flag from left to right was a green line that zig-zagged as it reached the black circle. The zig-zag represented a pulse on a heart rate monitor, signifying that the birth of the new Anduruna would be done by Aizer Pulse.
"So far so good," Pulse said aloud. "It won't be long, now!"
Standing up from his desk, he walked out a door into an office area where several male and female dreamkeepers worked in cubicles, speaking on a headset while working on a data-scroll.
Walking through the office area, he opened another door that led to the outside world.
A large compound sat before him, with multiple concrete buildings surrounding it. Squads of soldiers marched in various formations through the compound while manekale-drawn groundcars and an occasional Havoc tank drove along the dirt roads.
Stepping away from the door, Pulse walked forward and summoned his Power. Pushing his Power into the ground, he took off into the air, doing a backflip to land on the roof of the one-story building he just left.
Looking out into the distance, he observed the massive military base that was constructed for his army. A base built within a wide-open grassy field surrounded by the trees, deep in the Frontier. It was only half of a day's journey to Antares from the base via manekale.
The base was known as "Haven" by the bandits and runaways who travelled to it to be a part of the rebellion. Officially, it was known as Outpost Fenris.
The bandits called it Haven because it was a safe place to come to to escape the corruption and hypocrisy of Anduruna. Pulse accepted all those who had come to join the rebellion.
The rebel army he commanded was known as the Aequitas Equitas Republic. Shortly after Pulse returned from Antares, he had explained his plan to Scinter.
His rebellion would consist of two movements, the Troika resistance and the AER forces. The Troika would attempt to exploit the system and perform assassination missions while making purchases and selling products in the black market. 'Scinter's Mark' continues to grow in popularity and the sales were growing exponentially by the month, making Scinter's fermentae the most popular product the Troika had to sell.
Meanwhile, the AER would make occassional attacks on major structures throughout Anduruna, disrupting everyday life to damage the political and financial infrastructure.
Pulse was fully aware of the safety and well-being of the populace, but he could see no other way to incite fear and intimidation into the government without using violent, military action. He was specifically aiming his intimidation at Calah, who was suspected to still be unaware of Pulse's framing. No doubt, he would brand Pulse's actions as murderous and traitorous, using all available resources to hunt him down.
Of course, he was also fully intent on bringing Tinsel Nanaja to justice, but she was easy to find, so she was a low priority in Pulse's agenda.
Thanks to the Antarean's Dreshdae, Iggin Coddley, Pulse had been given a large army of volunteers who had travelled the short distance to Outpost Fenris, along with the large shipment of weapons. A group of over five thousand Antarean's, Pulse immediately began training them in combat with the assistance of Antarean military officers.
With the training complete, construction contractors were brought in to help the troops build the base.
All of this was done in nearly a year following Pulse's discovery of Antares.
With the base in full operation and the troops given their assigned duties and posts, Pulse commissioned for the construction of two smaller bases within the Frontier and five even smaller bases concealed among the peaks of Mount Starfall.
Pulse nodded to himself as he continued to look out at Haven. Suddenly, his comm-scroll vibrated. Pulling it out of his pocket, he answered.
"Pulse! You might want to meet me at our safehouse in Margate! It's urgent!"
It was Scinter. "I'm on my way!"
Jumping down from the building, Pulse ran for a nearby weapons assembly building, which served as the base's only telepad station. Weapons were teleported from Antares to this telepad, pre-assembled or in pieces.
Entering the building, he ran past several soldiers assembling Screamer's. Grabbing a Stingray and a Slasher along with a pair of holsters, he stood at the telepad console while strapping a holster to each thigh. Holstering his Slasher in the left holster and his Stingray in the right, he set the telepad destination for the Margate District safehouse.
Walking onto the telepad, he looked over his clothes and straightened them out. Knee-high combat boots, gray fatigues, a black sleeveless shirt with a neck-covering collar, strands of leather that wrapped around his shirt covering his lower ribs and torso, an olive green jacket with three belts to pull it closed and only went down to the ribs, fingerless black gloves, and an ammunition belt he wore diagonolly across the leather.
While he did like the tactical value of the Antarean combat uniforms, he preferred to wear his own attire, off-duty or in combat.
Standing still and bracing his body, he looked on as the telepad dematerialized him.
* * * * *
Reappearing in a dingy basement of their safehouse in Margate, Pulse quickly ran up the stairs to the floor above.
Bursting through the basement door, he looked into a living area and saw Scinter sitting on a couch, watching a news scrollcast on a large data-scroll.
Pulse was about to ask what the situation was, but saw what the newscast was about and decided to remain silent.
"After weeks of searching, City Guard authorities believe they have surrounded the possible hideout of convicted murderer, Igrath Winters, here in the Kojiki District!" a news reporter said. "The former Captain of the City Guard, authorities are taking every precaution in approaching the structure! While the structure is a condemned home here on the district coastline, the safety troops know better than to go charging in on their former commanding officer! Because Winters may have made preparations for such a situation, the City Guard is making sure all assets are available so that they can use every possible strategy to apprehend the convict! We will have more information as the City Guard updates us! Back to our studio!..."
Scinter stood up, knowing Pulse was behind him. "We're going to help him, right?"
Pulse folded his arms. "This was the urgent call, huh? Igrath went and got himself discovered! Are you sure he's worth it? He brought all this on himself by getting involved with you!"
Scinter spun around and Pulse could tell he was glaring through his goggles. "A stubborn fool he may be, but at least he had our best interests at heart! And I know he would not murder his own wife to keep his allegiance with us a secret! Someone figured it out and had framed him! Whether he's worth it or not doesn't matter! You may have your army! But, we Troika are few and have to keep our true affiliations a secret everyday! We risk our lives and our loved ones by going out and learning as much as we can about the shadier characters in the government; all without trying to be compromised! Besides, he's the ex-City Guard Captain! We could use somebody like that in the Troika! You made me the go-to guy in the Troika, which means I'm in charge of it! If you don't make the call, I will!"
Pulse reared back somewhat, taken aback by Scinter's monologue. He had forgotten just how much Igrath and Scinter had done secretly and how crushed Scinter was to discover Igrath was convicted of murder and was now on the run. They had become mutual friends and Pulse knew that it was nearly impossible to have even mutual friends when dealing in rebel and black market activities.
"You're right!" Pulse said in a nerve-shaken tone. "You need someone like Winters in the Troika! WE need him! I'm mobilizing two squads and a Scorcher to engage the City Guard around Igrath's hideout! We're getting him out of there! If he wants to join us, that's another plus for us! If not, I'm sure one of our safehouses will suit him nicely!"
As Pulse pulled out his comm-scroll, he looked at the data-scroll and the newscast had been transferred back to the studio. However, in the upper right corner, a small box showing a live broadcast of the situation was being shown. The scroll-corder scanned the area in front of the old house, showing a number of shock trooper squads behind barricades. At least three squads of four troopers stood in front of the barricades, preparing to move in on the front door. The scroll-corder aimed up to look at a City Guard helicopter as it shined its spotlight on the house.
Pressing a speed-dial button in his contact list, he put the comm-scroll to his ear. A single ring eminated from the speaker before a female voice answered.
"Hello! You have reached a private line! The owner of this comm number can only be reached privately by password! If you know this password, please say it now!"
"May the shooting star of justice rain gavels upon our land!" Pulse said smoothly.
"Password accepted! Patching your call to: Outpost Saggitarius!"
Several rings later, a gruff voice answered. "This is Outpost Saggitarius! What can we do for you, Commander?"
"Saggitarius, I'm gonna need a Scorcher to commence a Priority One attack on a CG chopper in the Kojiki District! Have him fly along the southern border into the Alchera and attack from the east! Dispatch two squads of twelve men and have them board the telepad to the Troika safehouse in Kojiki! I'll brief them there! This is a Code Green assault! We're going to save the former Captain of the City Guard!"
"Roger that, Commander! Orders are being sent to the barracks now! Good thing you requested that Scorcher from here! Anywhere else and it would've taken over half-an-hour!"
"Your located in the western part of Starfall! Naturally, it would be smarter to request air support from you! This is Gavel Man, ending call!"
"Roger, sir! Ending call!"
Pulse hung up and rolled his comm-scroll. He looked back at Scinter, who smiled with approval.
"I knew you still cared about the Troika! I'll tag along! I want Igrath to know I had a part in his rescue!"
Pulse nodded. "All right! But you're staying at the safehouse in Kojiki when me and the troops leave! I'm doing this not only for you, but because it fits with my plan for the Troika! And I need you alive for that plan to work!"
Scinter held his hands up. "All right, all right! After all this time, you still haven't completely told me what this plan of yours is!"
Pulse walked to the basement door, looking back at Scinter who followed.
"Well then, I'll give you the whole plan when we get Igrath! How does that sound?"
"Sounds good! Come on! Those troops are probably waiting on us already!"
* * * * *
As they teleported from the Margate safehouse to their Kojiki safehouse, they appeared in the basement and saw twenty-four armed soldiers filing up the stairs. Those in the back of the line looked to see Pulse and Scinter and saluted by putting their right arm across their chest and keeping their index and middle finger together, like feeling for a pulse.
Pulling out a compact data-scroll from another pocket, Pulse saluted back and signaled for them to ease. The AER Commander tapped away at his data-scroll, pulling up a map of Anduruna. As he and Scinter filed in behind the soldiers, Pulse dragged his finger along the map, drawing colored lines.
Several minutes later, the last of the soldiers made their way into a hallway, with Pulse and Scinter bringing up the rear. Keeping the data-scroll handy, he followed Scinter and the soldiers into a living room. Due to its size, half of the soldiers had to move into the dining room. One squad, designated Alpha, carried ANM-12 Screamers while half of the other squad, designated Omega, carried ANM-13 Shrieks, four men carried ANM-28 Razors, and the last two men carried ANM-15 Echos.
Scinter positioned himself to the right of a large data-scroll while Pulse stood to the left of it. Pressing a button, a connector popped out from the top of his data-scroll. Accessing a port in the lower part of the larger data-scroll, he stuck his own data-scroll into the port.
Instantly, the large data-scroll flashed to life as Pulse's altered map of Anduruna appeared.
"All right, gentlemen! Listen up! It'll be nighttime in the next ten minutes! We're going in hard and we're going in loud! We're going to let them know who we are, why we're here and that we mean business! Is that clear?"
The soldiers hollered in response.
"Okay then! As you may have heard, Igrath Winters is a wanted convict! Charged with the murder of his wife! I know there are some fellow Andurunan's here who used to work for the Guard and knew Winters better than the rest of us!"
Several of the soldiers spoke up slightly, acknowledging Pulse's claim.
"Well then, I'm sure you would suspect that Winters did not kill his wife, no matter the reasons! Someone had set him up! And now he's been forced to run for his life! He's surrounded and he probably believes nobody is coming to his rescue! Well, he's in for a big surprise!"
The soldiers nodded, some of them staring intensely at their leader.
"All right! Here's the plan! A Scorcher is going to move in from Saggitarius in Starfall! It'll fly along the south border before flying into the Alchera and then approaching the coast to engage the City Guard's air support! We're going to move along the backstreets and set ourselves up near Winters' hideout! I'll use my Power to blackout the area and we'll raise hell once our Scorcher is nearly in firing range! Once he takes out the enemy air, he'll double-back and provide covering fire! This'll be like a stage drama, but with real guns, real bullets and real blood! Don't get too cocky when shit hits the fan! I want the best out of you gentlemen and I want you to come back alive! We estimate at least fifty safety troops have that place surrounded, but the area will be blacked out and they'll have to activate optics! By then, we'll be attacking from the alleys pointing towards the hideout, right behind them!"
Pulse took a breather while the soldiers shifted around nervously.
"I know you guys can do it! This is what you were trained for! Some of you are fighting to see a better Anduruna! Some of you are fighting for justice! Some of you are fighting because it's what you're good at! Just remember you joined the Aequitus Equitus Republic for the cause! Bare that cause in mind, watch your backs and your teammates and you WILL make it back! Don't let me down, gentlemen! Now, let's do this! FOR ANDURUNA!"
The soldiers screamed with their leader, shoving their guns at the ceiling of the safehouse.
"Scinter will provide intel by watching the newscast of the situation!" Pulse added, putting a headset communicator on his ear. "Now, let's move out!"
Pulse opened the back door of the hideout and pulled out his compact Slasher. Alpha Squad filed out behind him, taking formation while scanning the empty backyard. A few snowflakes began to fall from the early night sky.
"Clear!" a soldier confirmed.
"Move!" Pulse whispered.
As he and Alpha moved out of the backyard and into a nearby alley, Omega Squad filed out and followed them.
Moving along the alleys, Pulse could hear chatter from the streets.
"Have you heard? They found Igrath Winters! He's hold up in an old house on the coast!"
"I hope that bastard gets what he deserves!"
Pulse shook his head in disappointment. 'Ignorance is bliss, but bliss isn't everything! They need to know the truth before they form opinions! Then again, they can only believe what they're being told and the truth is Winters is not a murderer! Guess I can't blame these people for being told lies that they think is the truth!'
Taking his mind off the street talk, Pulse scanned the alleys as Alpha Squad stuck close behind.
* * * * *
"Igrath Winters, this is the City Guard of Anduruna! This is your last warning! You have two minutes to exit the structure with your hands up and your Power inactive! Failure to comply will result in deadly force!"
The safety trooper squad commander lowered the megaphone, keeping his eyes on the crumbling, old house, which sat near an abandoned boardwalk along the beach.
The fifty-five troopers kept their eyes on the house as well, either behind barricades or from the roadblocks down both ends of the street. The CG helicopter kept its light on the house, hovering.
The squad commander looked at his data-watch and saw that a minute had already gone by.
"Idiot!" he said. "Get the squads ready! He's coming out of there! If he wants to do this the hard way, we'll bury him with mortars!"
* * * * *
Several seconds later, Pulse crouched behind a trash can in an alley pointing right at the hideout. The safety troops had their backs turned.
Alpha Squad and Omega Squad's CO's crouched forward.
"Sir!" the Omega Squad CO replied.
"Get Siegfried and O'Malley up here."
Dallas stood up and quietly walked down the alley to his squad. Pulse eyed the safety troops, realizing they were mere seconds away from approaching the house. Moments later, Dallas returned with Siegfried and O'Malley, who were using the Echo sniper rifle.
"Privates! I'm gonna need you two to get on this building and provide sniper fire!" Pulse instructed, pointing his left thumb at the building they stood next to. "Understood?"
"Yes, sir!" Siegfried acknowledged. Both the snipers being avians, they flew up and onto the rooftop out of sight.
* * * * *
"Beta Squad, move in!" the squad commander shouted. A team of three safety troops moved in on the left side of the front door.
"Gamma, take the right side! Delta, get ready to blast that door down!"
Two other teams of three obeyed the order, Gamma standing to the right of the door while Delta prepared to place their rifles against the door.
* * * * *
Pulse's right eye twitched. He looked up and saw the snowflakes coming down thick and heavy now.
Pulse threw his right arm out with his hand flattened pointing up at the sky. Then, he chopped the air with his arm several times.
Hoping his troops were paying attention to the sign order, Pulse summoned his Power. Closing his eyes, he reached out with his arm.
* * * * *
All along the street and the City Guard's staging area, gloworbs bursted, data-scrolls crumpled in front of their users and tact lights fell apart in pieces.
"Wha-?!" the squad commander gasped. "What just happened?! Beta, Gamma, Delta, get back here now! Everyone, night-vision on!"
* * * * *
With a thrust of his arm into the ground, Pulse flew up and landed on the roof of his sniper's perch. He walked up to the ledge a few feet away from them and shot his Slasher into the air.
"Down with the bureaucracy! ATTAAAAAACK!"
* * * * *
The squad commander spun around at the battle cry, only to see dozens of armed, hooded dreamkeepers running out of an alley. He attempted to raise his blast shield, but a bullet nailed him in the cheekbone, killing him.
The other troopers attempted to counter-attack, but they found themselves overwhelmed. Many of them had to jump over their barricades and use the other side of it for cover.
Within moments, fourteen troopers were gunned down. The others were forced to take cover behind their groundcars. The AER soldiers followed the same strategy, using the City Guard's own groundcars for cover.
As the situation broke down, the CG helicopter turned away from the house and was preparing to fire its guns on the rebels.
* * * * *
"This is Charlie 47! I have target in sight!"
The Scorcher requisitioned by Pulse was moving in from the ocean, as instructed.
"Target locked! Missile armed! NEKO TWO! NEKO TWO!"
* * * * *
As the CG choppers guns warmed up, it was hit by a missile, bursting it into flames as it spun around and crashed into the beach behind the house.
* * * * *
As the chopper went down, Pulse jumped down from the roof and used his Power to cushion the fall. Running to his men, he took cover behind a CG groundcar with four other soldiers and Maj. Dallas.
"Scinter! What do the news cameras see?"
"Can't tell ya!" Scinter hollered through the communicator. "The street your on goes downhill in both directions from that house! And the Guard is doing its best to push the paparazzi away from there! You guys must really be givin' them hell!"
"I guess you could say that! I'll be out of contact with you in a minute! I'm moving in on the house to get Winters out!"
"Gotcha! Wait... you took the Guard out already?"
"No. Most of them managed to find cover, even in the confusion. It's them between us and that house! I'll have to punch through by myself while my men provide cover!"
"Pulse, that's not risky! That's suicidal! You know that!"
Pulse chuckled. "You'd be surprised what I've been practicing in private, Scinter! I'm turning you over to Major Dallas while I'm gone! If something does happen to me, he'll be in charge of the operation!"
Dallas looked over his shoulder in concern. As Pulse tore the headset from his ear, he heard Scinter say, "Nice knowin' ya, A.P.!"
Smiling at the remark, Pulse put the communicator in Dallas's hand.
"You're in charge now, Major! I'll be right back!"
Dallas simply nodded, putting the headset onto his ear.
Readying his Slasher, Pulse yelled, "Cover me!"
Raising his Power to full strength, he ran out into the open and charged for the safety troops line.
They spotted him and opened fire. Thrusting his left arm forward while running, the bullets were inches from his outstretched hand as they pinged off a shield of transparent energy. Protected by his telekinesis, Pulse jumped up while using his Power to drag several barricades into the air with him. Throwing his arm forward, he sent the barricades flying into the troops. Eleven troopers went down and were pinned by the barricades.
Landing hard behind their defensive line, some of the troopers ran at Pulse, using their rifles like bayonets.
Pulse action rolled to get behind one trooper and unloaded several rounds into his back, putting him down. Another trooper lunged his rifle at Pulse. The wolf grabbed the rifle and pulled the trooper closer to him. Sticking his gun forward, he punched it into the troopers chest and pulled the trigger. The gun muffled as it fired into the troopers vest and body.
Holstering the Slasher, he pulled out his Stingray and fired at five more troopers who were taking aim. Three more troopers charged at him, but a thrust of his left arm sent them flying by a telekinetic blast.
The remaining troopers didn't dare take their eyes off of Pulse's men, who continued to take pop shots at them. From the rooftop, the snipers took aim, waiting for the troopers to leave their cover. From the groundcars, the Omega squadmates carrying the Razors stepped out and fired at the City Guard, keeping them pinned down.
Walking to the door, Pulse grabbed the doorknob and turned it. The door was unlocked, but it wouldn't open. He slammed his shoulder into the door, trying to knock it down. Pulse could feel it was barricaded.
Walking backwards, Pulse threw his arm forward. With a blast, Pulse blew off the entire doorframe out of the front wall of the house, along with the assorted objects that were blocking the door.
Walking through the debris, Pulse kept his weapon ready.
"Igrath? Igrath Winters? This is Aizer Pulse! I'm here to rescue you!"
The house was indeed condemned, crumbling away from abandonment. Turning to the left, he walked into the living area. As he did so, a springer pistol touched his head.
"Aizer Pulse, eh?" a gruff, tired voice spoke. "Prove it."
Pulse turned against the pressure of the pistol, seeing the blue-furred avian/feline dreamkeeper standing tall with his eyes closed.
Pulse chuckled. "Doubt, Winters? That's not like you to have doubt. Still, if you need proof... you're Igrath Winters! When you were seven years old, you wanted a Captain Proton action figure for All Spirits Eve!"
Igrath instantly smiled, pulling his pistol away. "Yep, you're him! That's exactly what I was thinking! I heard the firefight that started before you came in here! Did Scinter bring you and his friends along for this rescue?"
Pulse shook his head. "No. Actually, I'm in charge of this rescue! I brought my own troops! They're keeping the Guard busy while I get you out of here! In fact, it sounds like it's quieting down out there! C'mon! Let's go!"
Pulse and Igrath walked out of the house. Only five safety troops survived the battle, their hands up as they had been surrounded by a dozen AER rebels. The remaining rebels scanned the remains, checking for wounded safety troops.
Maj. Bolder, Alpha Squad's CO, marched up to Pulse. "Sir! We have five wounded and two KIA! Major Dallas is among the wounded! I took control of the situation as needed!"
"Good work, Bolder! Get everyone out of here! Take our deceased with you! Have the heavy gunners from Omega Squad rig the house with ITE's before you go, first! Leave three of your squad here to act as security! Igrath, go with the others! Scinter is waiting for you at the safehouse nearby!"
"You got it!" Igrath agreed. "I sure was starting to miss seeing him!"
"I'm sure you were! Now, move it!"
"We'll get him to safety, sir!" Bolder said. "Mr. Winters, are you okay? Why are your eyes closed?"
Igrath chuckled sarcastically. "Well, it's a funny story, actually...."
As the four heavy gunners from Omega Squad trundled into the house, Pulse marched forward to the captives.
Looking at his Stingray, Pulse pushed the cylinder out and began emptying the used bullets out. He shot five rounds, with one good round left.
Loading four fresh rounds into the cylinder chambers, leaving one of them empty, he watched as the gunners stomped out of the house.
"Explosives primed, sir!"
"Very good! All right, fall back to the safehouse! Go!"
As the gunners followed the last of the retreating rebels, only Pulse and his security were left with the five surviving troopers.
Sliding the cylinder back in place, he spun it around before stopping it with his thumb.
"Get them on their knees!" he ordered the soldiers.
Complying, they forced each trooper onto his knees.
"Remove their helmets!"
Again obeying, the rebels slapped the helmets right off the trooper's heads.
Pacing back and forth, Pulse glared at the safety troops, his eyes drooping from the heavy use of his Power.
"Listen closely, gentlemen!" he said to the troopers. "I have a gun here that is loaded with five bullets! The gun holds a maximum of six! Which means there is an empty chamber! I'm going to fire this gun six times! Four of you are going to die tonight! One of you is going to live to tell the tale of what happened here! But, there is also the chance that all five of you will die! But, that would be very unlikely!"
The troopers shivered in fear and from the cold snow that covered them.
Swallowing hard, Pulse turned his body perpendicular to them and aimed at the far left trooper's head.
"Your leader brought this upon all of you. Forgive me."
The trooper began shaking his head, but Pulse had already pulled the trigger. He went down, falling backwards.
Pulse turned to the next trooper, who sneered as Pulse fired.
The third trooper hissed through his teeth in horror. He screamed as Pulse shot him in the head as well.
The second-to-last trooper attempted to rise, but two of the three rebels grabbed him and kept him down.
Aiming at the chest in order not to hit his own men, Pulse fired.
The gun clicked, indicating an empty chamber. The trooper blinked as the rebels released him.
Pulse grumbled, not pausing for a second. Aiming at the last trooper, he fired as the trooper tried to scream, "Wait!"
The second-to-last trooper survived the odds. Quickly afterwards, he began to sob from the experience as the rebels grabbed his arms while Pulse bent down and grabbed him by the jaw.
"Now, listen to me VERY carefully! Tell your commanding officer, tell the Captain of the Guard, tell the Chief Emissary, tell the Viscount, tell... EVERYONE that you answer to that Aizer Pulse did this! And tell them, tell them ALL that I will not rest until I have crushed the corruption and tyranny that is plaguing this country! I can and I will bring about change! One way or another! Expect more of this from me very soon!"
Pulse released the traumatized troopers jaw, then motioned for his men to pull him up to his feet. Motioning towards the right end of the street, the rebels pushed the trooper away.
"Now GO!" Pulse screamed, watching the trooper stumble away through the bodies and carnage of the battle. As he did so, Pulse injected a thought into the trooper's scrambled mind.
'You did not hear me mention a safehouse or ordering my men to return to a safehouse.'
He turned back to look at his men. They stood with firm, disciplined expressions, but he could tell they were not expecting to take part in a public execution.
'Whatever it takes, my friends,' he said into their heads. 'Whatever it takes.'
Without telling them to follow, Pulse walked slowly into the alley.
Behind them, the ITE's went off inside the house, turning the structure and any evidence inside into rubble and flames.
* * * * *
"I gotta tell ya, I was not expecting you to come back!" Scinter said gleefully. "I guess you weren't kidding when you said you were 'practicing' in private! I thought you were talking about practicing something unrelated to combat... you know! That's what I thought you meant when you said 'in private'!"
Pulse gave a half-hearted laugh as he sipped on a mug of coffee. "Sorry, Scinter, but you'll have to try a lot harder than that to get me to laugh seriously!"
Next to him sat Igrath Winters, who was drying his massive frame with a multitude of towels after a long shower.
In the living room of the safehouse, the soldiers had long since boarded the telepad and returned to Outpost Saggitarius.
Pulse knew the three soldiers who stayed behind with him would speak about the execution and knew that many of them would not sit well with such an act.
However, Pulse was willing to accept the loss of manpower. 'The Antarean's certainly aren't innocent of such acts in the past, that much I have learned. I don't have to worry about many of them leaving the army, but the Andurunan volunteers....'
Pulse cleared his head of the frustrating thoughts as Igrath balled the towels up and dropped them at his feet.
"Well, I guess this calls for a well-deserved thank you for the rescue!" he said, slamming his claw-like hand across Pulse's back. "I thought Scinter was just full of it when he said you were hanging out with him and had formed an army comprised mostly of foreigners from another country! Though, personally, I think the whole battle was completely uncalled for! Those men were just doing their jobs!"
Pulse coughed, fighting to catch his breath. "Well, *urck*... you do what you can to make a statement! If I'm gonna go down one of these days, then they're gonna know that I was serious about everything that I had said and done! This country was going to be different! I was going to make it prosperous and honorable again! But then, I was betrayed by someone who I thought I could call a friend! And that celebrity bitch, Tinsel! They had me thrown in prison and handed Calah the Viscount's position on a silver platter!"
Pulse paused, realizing he was angering himself the more he ranted about the past.
Igrath, with his closed eyes, attempted to look shocked. "Did you say... Tinsel was one of the people who had you locked away?"
Pulse glared at him in confusion. "Yeah?..."
Igrath shook his head. "Kid, have I got some things to tell you about her...!"
* * * * *
Novembris 8th, 1215
Viscount Damien Calah felt his fur stand on end within his suit.
Sitting at his desk in his office in Sabbaton, he smiled clumsily at the secretary who stood in front of him, holding an open file.
"Would you mind... repeating that last part of the trooper's account of the incident?"
The female lizard secretary nodded, feeling the Viscount's uneasiness.
Clearing her throat, she looked into the file. "Trooper Douglas claimed that after he and four other safety troopers were surrounded by the cloaked individuals, all of them, along with Igrath Winters, had ran into a nearby alley with the exception of three of them and a wolf dreamkeeper! That dreamkeeper was Aizer Pulse, according to the trooper! Pulse would then use an unidentified weapon to kill Douglas's unarmed partners, leaving him alive to recall the entire incident! The City Guard has been working around the clock, checking every square inch of the crime scene for evidence! The house has apparently been torched and leveled with explosives of some kind!"
Calah nodded slowly, then waved his hand weakly. "Thank y-you, Helen! Please... leave me t-to my work!"
"Of course, Mr. Calah!"
The secretary left the office, leaving Calah to his agony.
"Spirits above," Calah whispered. "He's become a monster!"
At that moment, a Sabbaton guard walked into the room.
"Mr. Viscount, sir! I know you're busy, sir, but it's your youngest daughter, Namah! Ms. Muliebral can't get her to stop crying! Not even Lilith can calm her down!"
Calah rubbed his temple hard. "I'll... be right there."
As the guard left, Calah rose from his seat.
His thoughts were on Pulse, about what to do, about how to do it.
He thought of Elena and Francia... and now his second daughter, a child that he wasn't even sure was his own.
"I've been cursed. By Nethers, I've been cursed."
Shaking his head, he quickly walked out of the office.
* * * * *
Pulse looked over Anduruna from a short apartment building in the slums of the Ruskol District. The snow was thick on the ground and the rooftops.
Thinking of his next move, he walked to a door leading into the apartment building.
'Now that Igrath has joined the cause properly, I need to focus on a new objective. I think I need some... special people to help me with some special tasks from time to time,' he thought. 'It's time to get down and dirty!'
Act Theme: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kro1M9EWg8Q
You must be logged in to post to a thread.