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Sasuke1986

END GAME

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******

The following was written by Sasuke

******

 

The freezing air that once filled NeoSeattle was now gone, the dark clouds that obscured the sky now breaking away as the previous, but just as dismal, clouds that covered the city returned to their rightful place. Clumps of ice and slush were being washed along the streams that were once roads, bits of the wreckage and chaos that the recent blizzard had caused also being caught up in the flow and being sent out to the ocean. However, though a partial calm had returned to the dystopia, something was still amiss. Nearby dwellings remained silent and still, no doors or windows being opened, no distant murmuring, not a single sign that there were any survivors... or at least anyone who had stayed within the area to last out the storm.

 

The water reached ever so slightly passed Rashiel's ankles as she stepped unimpeded through the current, though she wasn't exactly headed anywhere. While the passing of the snowstorm brought relief to her allies, there was something subtle and foreboding about it that Rashiel couldn't shake, the high elf having exited Mulligan Stew in order to get some fresh air to clear her head, though the ambience of NeoSeattle wasn't exactly what one would consider fresh, even after the blizzard swept away most of the murkiness that permeated the city.

 

She looked up, catching only a short glimpse of the sun before it was covered by the stale clouds that normally hung above the region. It wouldn't be long before it would return to being completely unseen. Rashiel uttered a brief sigh of discomfort, not yet realizing how far she had wandered from the dive.

 

Stopping, Rashiel listened as the water beneath her rushed past, the subtle crumbling of any nearby piles of rubble also entering her ears. There was something else she was picking up, however, the sound of someone else stepping through the water like she had been, only it didn't seem to be coming from behind her. The harder she listened, the more it sounded like they were approaching from the front.

 

Rashiel took a step back, straining to look ahead. A clearing of sorts was set before her, a large space in between several buildings made wider by the collapse of some of said buildings, water rushing thin along the surface between the scarce few piles of debris that were present. On the opposite side stood a broken skyscraper, a smaller building having toppled and now leaning into it, making a crude arch that stood high above the area. A few flickering lights would illuminate the darkness under the arch, though only for very brief moments.

 

It only took one of these brief moments for Rashiel to see the approaching someone she had heard, and what this someone carried with him made her eyes widen in horror.

 

---

 

"Glitch..." Vaughn had muttered, still held high by William Sullivan as the streaming light above started dying down. The mere mention of this word shook something within Bill, his crooked grin giving a single, sharp twitch.

 

"... Glitch...!?" the BioSuit responded, his frozen expression still aimed at Vaughn.

 

"DamnGlitch," Vaughn choked, Bill ignoring the blood that splattered across his face. "... that's what we call him... he's the reason we came here... he has to be..."

 

There was a painfully long moment of inaction, the BioSuit continuing to hold the demon by the collar of his shirt as the water beneath them grew faster and deeper. Bill's grin twitched again.

 

"DamnGlitch, huh," he said, clearly trying to hold back the untold emotions that were violently crashing within him. "You surprise me again, ear boy, and this one really takes it."

 

---

 

<Vejhan!!!> Rashiel cried out, her hand immediately flying to the handle of her long sword as she prepared to rush her enemy, the BioSuit commander's pitch-black eyes only bested by the toothy grin he continued to carry. The water crashed violently underneath Rashiel as she charged, but it had only been her third step when something grabbed her from behind and immediately dragged her back, her body jerking to a halt as she lost the grip on her sword and looked up at the one to have grabbed her.

 

Gabriel Mason stood firm before the clearing, his prosthetic claw having quickly pulled back Rashiel as his eyes remained locked on Bill, the two BioSuits remaining motionless, their wills steeling as they stared across at one another.

 

<Let go of me!> Rashiel shrieked, almost thrashing as she realized who it was that had grabbed her. A swift, firm jerk from the claw quickly got her to stop, Rashiel looking up at DamnGlitch as he spoke, though his eyes remained centered on Bill.

 

"Do you have a death wish?" he said, still staring at Bill. "Leave this to me. This is my fight."

 

Rashiel remained quiet, backing up shortly after DamnGlitch released her from his claw. Bill, spotting this gesture, lowered his head and snickered, his hair covering his face for a few seconds before he threw his head back and let out a single laugh, lifting up Vaughn from the water.

 

"Yes!" he shouted out. "Let's remove these nuisances from our way!"

 

With that, Bill tossed the high demon clear across the area, DamnGlitch giving a quick nod to Rashiel as she stumbled backwards after Vaughn, crashing into the water as she caught him.

 

<V-Vejhan...?> Rashiel whispered, her eyes starting to tear as she waited for a response from her friend.

 

<Rashiel...> Vaughn coughed, his breath coming back to him. <Don't... run off like that again...>

 

"Rashiel, is it?" DamnGlitch called back, though his glance remained where it had been.

 

Rashiel managed to get herself to her feet, along with Vaughn whose arm was slung across her shoulder. She looked up through her soaked hair at Glitch.

 

"Thanks," she began, "but how did you know...?"

 

"Josh said you wanted to talk to me, but you had left," Glitch responded. "So I came looking for you."

 

Rashiel looked on at Glitch, then tried looking past at the villain before him but was unable to as Gabriel started taking his steps towards William Sullivan.

 

"Get your friend out of here," DamnGlitch called back. "I'll get your revenge for you. I have a bone to pick with this guy, anyway."

 

Rashiel paused, then nodded, turning around with Vaughn and heading back towards Mulligan Stew. She gave a small chant, summoning her fairy friend from before.

 

<Rashiel, what... Vejhan!?>

 

<Rhiannon, at least help get his legs moving better,> Rashiel pleaded. <We need to get out of here... fast.>

 

The BioSuits continued walking towards one another steadily, pausing for only a moment once enough within the clearing before they resumed walking, now circling one another. Neither had yet to draw one of their weapons.

 

"You certainly look like him," Bill said, still smirking though the twisted positive tone in his voice was gone. "Although there are certainly quite a few differences. You're not as girly looking as he was."

 

"Guess your 'enemies' were misinformed, huh?" Glitch said, drawing Last Prayer as Bill took Sanctuary into his hands. The enemy BioSuit's grin widened.

 

"This is turning out to be a great day," he said, his voice filled with excitement.

 

The two had distanced themselves after having circled one another, now facing with weapons drawn as Glitch readied his Beam Sabre and Bill's free hand morphed into a sharp nailed claw. Their eyes sharp and power focused, the two quickly lunged at one another.

 

... but there came no collision.

 

A deafening boom suddenly rang out from the ground moments before the two clashed, the clearing beneath them rising up into a cracked dome before falling downward in a rush of dust and water. Both BioSuits shielded their bodies with their arms as they fell into the massive ditch, falling away from one another to gain distance amidst the confusion. Both soon landed with a splash, the bottom of the hole they were in containing water that ran halfway up their calves, the pool flowing out into the partially blocked tunnels around them as more water flowed in from above.

 

"The hell is this," Bill sneered, suspiciously eyeing his surroundings before a voice came from the darkness.

 

"I can't resist any more," it said in a whispered tone, though it came out loud enough to hear over the water. Urticaria slowly walked out into the dim light, its spikes only showing until its body wavered into visibility, eyes aglow. "My hunger... my thirst... they overpower whatever fear I once held."

 

"What..." Glitch said, looking over the strange creature.

 

"A Chaser Type?" Bill grimaced. "I thought we got rid of you back in South America. So you're the pest of NeoSeattle we've had reports about."

 

"Two REAL BioSuits..." Urticaria mused, its tongue snaking around its fangs over and over as its mouth hung open, seeping venomous drool into the water. "No more mass produced messes... finally, a REAL meal!"

 

Emanating a hiss, Urticaria began wavering back out of visibility again as it receded into the shadows, the thickening clouds above making the watery ditch darker and darker.

 

"Oh well," Bill shrugged, tightening his grip on Sanctuary as his smile came back. "The more the merrier."

Glitch scowled, saying nothing as he held Last Prayer over his shoulder, his Beam Sabre sizzling in the water.

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******

The following was written by Sword Bearer

******

 

Glitch slowly lowered himself into a battle stance, and waited for Bill to move. The two staring at each other, each waiting for the other to make the first move. Glitch crouched down until his waist was even with his knees, Bill standing normally, his sword hovering just out of the water. Of the strange animal like BioSuit, there was no sign, although every now and again Glitch could hear something coming from the collapsed portions of the tunnels, it sounded like a soft scratching noise, picking its way through the dirt and concrete.

 

Damn thing is burrowing through the area around us! Glitch thought, and then turned his whole focus on the man in front of him.

 

Glitch continued staring at Bill, who stood completely still in front of him, his twisted grin still splitting his face. Glitch was getting ready to leap at the man when he felt something slide across his foot, and then a soft bite against his shoes. He let out a slight yelp of surprise and backed away from the moving thing under the water. His eyes widened slightly as he realized his mistake in reactions, and felt the warm breath of Bill in his ear.

 

"Big mistake," Bill said, and Glitch felt a fist slam into his side lifting him into the air.

 

He flipped in the air, instantly recovering, and hit the wall with his feet ready to leap back at Bill, only Bill was no longer there. Glitch would have cursed, if he had had the time to do so, but in the split second it took to register the fact that Bill was no longer standing where he had been, he felt something slam into his back knocking him into the dirty water below. He hit the bottom of the three feet of water, and pressed his feet into the wall of dirt behind himself and pushed off into the middle of the room.

 

His mind spun, reliving all of his previous battles with his world's Bill, and in less than a fraction of a second knew what his opponent was going to do. He pulled his feet under him into a crouch, and prepared to leap out of the water, when he felt a disturbance in the water to his left. He turned his head just in time to see a large set of jaws swimming toward him, reflexes kicked in and he leapt out of the water. While the sight of the teeth had been startling, it didn't change what he planned to do. As he cleared the water, he spun sideways in the air, his feet perpendicular to his body. For a brief moment he saw Bills grin, and then he was over his opponent, and his foot slammed into Bill's back, pushing him into the water. Glitch landed in the water, but sure as heck didn't stay there for very long, as soon as he had his feet planted, he leapt out of the water just in time for the water where Bill had disappeared into erupted, showering Glitch as he flew through the air.

 

Bill appeared in the wave of water, sailing for the other end of the room.

 

"Holy hell what was that," Bill yelled as flew through the air.

 

Both Glitch and Bill slammed their swords deep into the wall and stood on them, leaving themselves several feet above the water.

 

"I suspect that was the 'merrier' part of our group that you didn't seem to mind not too long ago," Glitch said.

 

Bill looked at him for a moment, and his grin reappeared.

 

"You still move just like a little monkey," Bill said, half laughing, "always jumping around. If only you had a tail, I might have put you in a zoo, instead of letting you commit hari-kari."

 

Bill sneered at Glitch, who just stared back at him, his beam sabre giving off a soft blue glow around him.

 

"What?" Bill said, mock hurt playing across his face, "your giving me the silent treatment?" Bill slammed his fist into the wall, knocking more dirt into the murky water. "Well it doesn't matter! This time I'm going to kill you, and this time you won't come back!"

 

With that, Bill bent down and grabbed his blade, and started running along the wall pulling the blade out as he did so. Glitch did the same, and the two ran parallel around the room, neither gaining ground on the other. Finally, both stopped at the same time, planting their feet into the wall, and leapt at each other. NeoTitanium clanged as the two swords met in the middle of the room. Sparks flew as the blades met again and again, each exchange propelling the two fighters higher into the air, keeping them aloft. Finally the two clashed hard, the blades grinding against each other, and Glitch swung his beam sabre around the side to catch Bill off guard. Bill's hand flew out catching Glitch's wrist, stopping the attack, for the moment at least.

 

"I almost killed you once," Glitch said, "This time, I'm going to finish you myself!"

 

Bill's grin spread even farther along his face, but before he could respond, the water beneath them exploded, and a reptilian body, with a very large gaping maw rushed at them. The two pushed off just as the jaws clapped shut where they had been. The two hit the wall, once again slamming their swords into the wall and standing on them above the water.

 

"That, thing," Bill snarled, "is getting in our way. What say we take this fight to the streets, hm?"

 

With that Bill leapt into the air, pulling his sword with him, his jump set to carry him out of the hole. As Glitch was about to do the same, he saw something float to the surface out of the corner of his eye. He turned and saw the strange creature from before stand to its full height, staring at the soaring Bill.

 

"No leaving," it said quietly.

 

With that, one of the surrounding collapsed tunnels exploded outward in a wave of dirt, concrete, and flames. And appearing in the flames was a mass produced biosuit, flying straight for Bill. Bill saw the MPBS fly at him, it was a male version he noted idly, and then he saw the soft blinking light in its eyes, and swiftly brought his arms over his head and knees over his stomach, just in time for the MPBS to explode, throwing him back to the dirty water below.

Glitch watched Bill crash into the murky water, and turned looking for the creature, but it had already submerged. Bill surged out of the water, straight into the air, his blade between himself and the large pair of jaws of the creature as it leapt into the air also. Bill spun slightly, pushing his sword, and thus the creature, further from himself and avoiding the sharp teeth. The creature hit the wall, its claws digging in enough to slow its descent into the water. Bill once again slammed his sword into the dirt, and stood on it.

 

"What just happend?" He asked quietly.

 

Glitch grinned at him, "The troops not too happy with you huh?"

 

"Shut your mouth monkey!" Bill said, his eyes darting to the creature sliding down the wall. "What happened to my soldiers?"

 

A soft, youthful chuckle came from the creature as it rolled its eyes at Bill.

 

"I think you mean my soldiers now," It said, and another tunnel exploded, directly across from the first one.

 

This one Glitch could see into, and he saw hundreds of pairs of eyes staring out into the room blankly. As he watched, one of them ran towards the tunnel exit, its arms seemed to be limp as it ran, its back completely straight and unmoving as it ran, and leapt into the air. Glitch watched it go, and saw that another one from the first tunnel had also jumped out, the two in perfect sync as they flew toward each other, hit, and then exploded.

 

Glitch and Bill both covered their heads, trying to block the heat as the two MPBS' self-destruct went off.

 

"No leaving," The creature said, as it sank back into the water.

 

Both Bill and Glitch watched as the creature sank back into the water, disappearing into the murky depths.

 

"Well," Bill said, "this is certainly annoying."

 

"You invited him," Glitch said.

 

"I thought I told you to shut your mouth you monkey!" Bill yelled.

 

"Hey," Glitch said, "I'd rather be a monkey, than a brain dead slug such as yourself."

 

Bill snarled

 

"Enough of this," He said. "It's time to finish this!"

 

With that, Bill and Glitch launched into the air, once again meeting in the middle of the battlefield. Glitch swung both his blades in a single arc, Bill bringing his blade up to block. Glitch slid his beam sabre down Bill's blade, an attack that would have severed Bill's shoulder in the least, but before it hit Bill dodged to the side, and was able to see Glitch's kick right before it crashed into his side. The force of the blow was enough to send both fighters back to the walls, where they promptly started running, staying out of the water.

 

---

 

Urticaria watched the two battlers go at it again, somehow avoiding falling into the water. It was so hungry, if it didn't feed soon, it knew that it would starve. And with the prospect of the two fully custom Biosuits charging at each other above It, It couldn't stand the hunger much longer.

 

"You're taking too long!" Urticaria screamed at them, and sent the order to its troops above.

 

---

 

Glitch launched himself into the air, once again meeting Bill in the center, but before either of them had time to attack, the walls that they had been walking on exploded outward. Glitch paused briefly, he counted four explosions, and then the debris hit the two warriors, pushing them away from each other. He had a split second to feel the rush of rock and air pull his swords from his hands, and then he landed in the water, directly in front of the strange creature from before.

 

"Hello," It said in that childlike voice, "lunch."

 

The creature surged forward, its jaws wide, ready to devour him. Glitch caught the creature's mouth, and was pushed backwards, slammed into the wall behind him. The creature continued to push, and Glitch felt the wall slide away behind him as the creature pushed him out of the water. The creature's mouth inches from his throat, he could smell its rancid breath, like a mixture of pond scum and rotten eggs.

 

"You're getting in my way," Glitch growled.

 

The creature had no warning when Glitch's hands suddenly morphed into large spikes, and pierced the top of the creature's mouth. The creature let out a guttural scream, and tried to pull back from Glitch and the spikes in its mouth. Glitch moved his foot onto the creatures back, standing on one of the many spikes on its back, wrenched his hands out of the creatures mouth, and stabbed both his hands through the creatures substantial neck. Again the creature screamed, and started slamming into the wall, trying to shake Glitch off its back. Glitch kept one hand in the creature's throat, and removed the other, letting it remorph into his normal hand again. While he used his hand that was still a spike to stay rooted to the creature, he reached down with his other hand, and wrenched out one of the spikes on the creatures back, and ran the creature through in its mid section.

 

The creature screamed again, and dived under the water, spinning. Glitch's body slammed into the ground, and his arm was pulled out of the creature, and it took the opportunity and swam away. Before Glitch could get his feet under him, a large curved blade pierced the dirt in front of him. Glitch spun under the water, as the blade followed him, inches behind where he had been. He finally managed to get his feet under him, and leapt out of the water, barely missing Bill's next attack. Glitch flew out of the water, saw Bill in front of him, and then under him. He reached down grabbing Bill's shoulders, using them for leverage to spin around in the air, and then swung down, his feet connecting with Bill's lower back, the force of the blow pushing Bill into the wall, while Glitch fell on his back in the water. Glitch quickly stood up, hardly noting the fact that the water was not up to his stomach, and found Bill, who was still getting up, leaning on the wall.

 

"That," Bill said, "would have broken the back of any lesser person."

 

Saying that, he stretched, his back cracking loudly as he did so, and looked back at Glitch.

 

"You stupid little...JERKS!" Screamed the creature. "Why won't you just die?"

 

With that, both Glitch and Bill leapt out of the water, Bill standing on his sword, while Glitch morphed one of his hands into a claw and dug it deep into the dirt. This was Glitch's first glimpse of what had happened in the last explosion. Four more sewer tunnels had exploded outward, on the same level as Glitch and Bill had been fighting, and Glitch could see even more MPBS' standing quietly in the tunnel's entrances.

 

But they didn't stand there for long. As Glitch watched, the multitude of MPBS' ran and jumped out of the tunnels into the air, colliding with each other, and exploding. Explosion after explosion rocked the circular room that they were in, and it didn't slow. Glitch's head spun as he looked for any sign of his swords, and in the water caught a glimps of a small portion of the dirty water bubbling. He pushed off the wall diving into the spot, and saw his beam sabre laying on the ground, boiling the water around it. He snatched it up, and heard something splash behind him. He spun in time to see one of the MPBS' staring at him blankly, its eyes blinking slightly.

 

Oh shi Glitch started to think, but didn't have time to finish the thought before the soldier exploded, throwing him out of the water, and into the wall.

 

He quickly recovered, morphing his hand into a claw and managed to grab the wall and hang on it. His eyes searched for Bill, and quickly found him running around the wall, slicing at the MPBS' who were redirecting themselves toward him. Bill was decapitating them as they came, the only way to keep them from exploding, and the ones he couldn't cut, he managed to redirect enough so that the explosion wouldn't hurt him. Glitch paused for a brief moment, and sheathed his beam sabre. He braced himself on the wall, and leapt straight into the middle of the room. As soon as he came into sight, the MPBS' re-aimed for him, and since he was going to be in the middle of the room, every tunnel could see him, and all of the MPBS' would be leaping for him. His theory was proved correct, when the tunnels suddenly seemed to overflow with the soldiers, jerking awkwardly as they leapt at him. Time seemed to slow for Glitch, he stretched his shoulders and neck, feeling them crack slightly, and cracked his knuckles, and then the wave of bodies hit him full on. Time still seemed to crawl, his hand a blur before his eyes as they caught the MPBS', and threw them at the still running form of Bill. Suffice it to say, Bill was rather surprised when the direction of the attacks changed, becoming far more accurate, and all around him. His sword blurred, cutting and slicing, but he couldn't get them all, and that point was made blatantly when he felt one of them barely tap him on his back, and then his world exploded into blazing fire, and pain.

 

Glitch saw that he had hit his target, but continued the assault for several seconds, before turning his attention to the tunnels themselves. He redirected an MPBS into each of the tunnels, the explosions causing chain reactions among the other MPBS, as they all exploded, collapsing the tunnels for good. The few remaining in the air Glitch threw down into the water, the following explosions showering him with the brown water. A slight glint of light caught his eyes and his hand shot out, catching Last Prayer, it spun easily in his hands, before he sheathed it. As he landed in the water, he noted how the water level had lessened slightly, one of the MPBS' must have opened a tunnel underwater to let it out. He quickly searched for Bill, and found him dangling from his sword that was stuck, once again, into the wall. Glitch walked over to him, and started to grin,

 

"And you called me a monkey," Glitch laughed, Bill sneered at him.

 

His laugh almost drowned out the sound of something large behind him. Glitch spun, his right hand going for the cross-shaped earring, his left hand morphing.

 

---

 

Urticaria couldn't believe what had happened. That one had actually leapt into the middle of the room, meeting up with all of the soldiers that it could send its way, and used them against both it and the other fighter. One of the MPBS had landed directly on Urticaria, and it could feel painful metal shards click together on its back every time it moved. But it was still alive, and it was still hungry. The annoying one who had injured it was walking in the water, and Urticaria took advantage of this fact, leaping out of the water, its mouth open wide to feast on the Biosuit. The one was spinning around, reaching for something on its ear, but it didn't matter, he was lunch!

 

Urticaria didn't notice the other hand begin to change though, and it was quite surprised to feel sudden, and intense, heat blaze along its stomach. Urticaria screamed a loud deep scream, and just managed to see the one flick it fingers, and something small flew into Urticaria's throat, and then It's vision blurred, pain screamed through It, as the tiny object exploded.

 

---

 

Glitch sprayed the creature with the flamethrower on his left hand, the explosion from the cross throwing the creature off course as it landed in the water, and disappeared. He watched for it, and saw a small wake in the water move toward one wall and disappear.

 

Glitch quickly turned his attention back to the still hanging Bill.

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The following was written by Sasuke

******

 

"Quite the expensive looking accessory you just sacrificed there," Bill said, removing his sword from the wall and landing in the water. "Sure it was worth it?"

 

"Like you have any room to talk about quality sacrifices," Glitch grinned mockingly, though feeling a bit of an inward tug on the loss of one of his favored earrings. At least the real ones are still around. If not, then I guess I just lost my head back in my world... I think I'll save this last one for later.

 

The water at the wall behind Glitch frothed ever so slightly, mixing the murkiness with shades of red and violet. Urticaria twitched from underneath the water, darkness consuming its vision as the glow in its eyes started to flicker away. Pain overwhelmed its body as its scorched skin crumbled, blood and venom seeping out of the holes made in its neck and from one of its own spikes still embedded in its back. However, despite all of the agony wracking its nerves, only one thing continued to remain on its mind.

 

Hunger, burrowing deeper and deeper into its mind, its stomach feeling emptier, ever more depressed and sunk in, as time passed. Raw, unhindered hunger.

 

"Gotta break a few eggs, 'Glitch'," Bill laughed, readying his free claw and Sanctuary for his next attack. "Now then, our little invitee seems to have finally got the hint. Shall we?"

 

Glitch already held firmly onto his Beam Sabre and Last Prayer, however, before neither he nor Bill could stance themselves, the water where Urticaria had been sent abruptly erupted upwards, a bloodied spike spinning through the air and embedding itself on the ledge high above. The two BioSuits paused, listening to the chorus of collapsing as the possessed mass productions that patrolled above suddenly lost consciousness and fell upon one another. Their gazes shifted, Glitch and Bill could see the water bubble violently where the creature thrashed, the red and brown almost instantaneously being overpowered by a color of dark purple as a violet haze started lifting up from the spot.

 

The water exploded a second time, only now Urticaria emerged from it, reborn. It snarled viciously amongst the sounds of snapping bones, twisting muscle, and grinding metal, its neck and tail elongating in a grotesque display as its flesh ripped and exposed engorged sinews and tissue swollen with power, a thick, venomous miasma being spewed about as the creature flailed its head. The spike that had been removed was soon replaced as a fresh one was sickeningly forced through its back alongside the other spikes, a pair of large, steadily forming wings breaking out of its body and violently tearing through the air. Viral Urticaria reeled its neck back, the noise of its transformation growing silent before it flung its head forward and released an ear-shattering scream towards the two BioSuits.

 

"So it is one of Apath's," Glitch thought aloud, realizing his bad position between both his archrival and this newly changed monster.

 

"That download was supposed to have been withheld," Bill cursed quietly, biting at the inside of his mouth. "It doesn't change anything, though. This thing was made to kill foreign suits. It foolishly believes it can face the genuine article..."

 

Urticaria growled, its body twisting as its eyes flashed bright green, the creature crouching low into the slowly poisoning water before leaping high, wings spread, and diving down towards the two BioSuits with its jaws spread wide.

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The following was written by Sword Bearer

******

 

Glitch leapt backwards through the water, managing to avoid the dive bombing creature, but the water pulled his feet out from under him plunging him into the dark frothing drink. He landed on his back, and quickly spun getting ready to leap out of the water, when he noticed something odd. The water in front of him was slowly turning a dark purple color. As he watched the water change around him, he suddenly felt his eyes start to burn. He shut them quickly and leapt out of the water. He crashed into the wall, his eyes still burning, and he had them closed. He quickly morphed one of his hands into a grapple arm, and gripped the wall, his other hand going to his eyes, rubbing them, trying to clear them. He desperately tried to clear his eyes from whatever had been in the water, knowing that his enemies would be on him any moment, when he smelled something, it was a deeply chemical smell that seemed to be rising from the water, and it was getting worse. Glitch gagged on the fumes from the water, and tried to pull himself up the wall. Before he got to his feet, he heard something crunch into the wall to his right, and knew that he had run out of time.

 

"Going somewhere?" Bill's voice whispered next to him.

 

And then Glitch felt a fist slam into his side, pushing him up the wall. As he was still flying, he heard another sound moving under him, and getting closer. It was a loud crunching noise, and it was moving quickly up the wall towards him as he flew, and then it was behind him, and he felt a pair of fists crash into his back, throwing him back towards the water below. He managed to open his eyes slightly, the air whooshing past his face burning them even more, and spotted a blur to his right, a large moving blur. A large moving blur that was coming at him with incredible speed. A large moving blur that was coming at him with incredible speed, with lots and lots of teeth! Glitch spun in the air just enough to catch the gaping maw of the creature, and get slammed into the wall, inches above the water. The creature dug the claws on its feet into the wall, holding it in place, while its mouth struggled to meet the flesh in Glitch's neck. Glitch's muscles bulged as he pushed against the creature, but even with all his strength, the toothy mouth slowly moved closer to him.

 

"Oh he thinks you taste good," came Bill's voice, who was suddenly beside Glitch. "He's going to gobble you up, and lick his chops and think, 'my that Glitch tastes good, I wish there was more, but its so rare that I can only have it once, what a pity, what a pity.'"

 

Bill continued on his tirade, Glitch only wishing he would shut up. But then, an idea formed in Glitch's mind.

 

"Actually," Glitch interrupted, "I think he would rather try you out."

 

With that, Glitch shoved the creature to the side, straight towards Bill, it mouth clamping onto Bill's shoulder. Bill screamed and beat at the beast, and started beating it in the head. The creature let out a low growl, and started crawling up the wall, dragging the protesting Bill with it. Glitch quickly latched himself onto the wall, and watched the creature and its hapless meal. Glitch couldn't help but laugh, and immediately choked on the fumes coming up from the water below him. He turned and quickly started climbing until he was above the fumes. Once there, he took the chance to clear his eyes of whatever had been in the water, at least enough so that he could see clearly. And managed so just in time to see the brawling forms of Bill and the creature fall past him, Bill slamming his fists into it, while it sliced at him with its claws, neither being very successful. At the last second, Bill managed to connect with an uppercut to the creatures jaw, planted his feet in its stomach, and leapt away, leaving the creature to splash into the water. Bill hit the wall, morphing one of his hands into a grapple and situated himself so he had his blade ready.

 

"That water," Bill said, "Is really rank. Fortunately, that thing's Virus mode won't last too much longer. It was only designed to give it a boost for a few minutes."

 

With that, a loud guttural roar enveloped the pit, and Glitch managed to draw Last Prayer before the water exploded outward, and the creature was flying toward him. He swung the sword, the blade catching the flying creature along its mouth and body, the force of the blow enough that the creature swung in the arc with the blade, until it crashed into the wall beside Glitch. But even such a devastating counter-attack wasn't enough to dissuade the creature, as it clamped its claws into the wall, and started crawling toward Glitch. Glitch dislodged his blade from the creature's hide, briefly noting that his attack had pierced its hide but not very deeply, and started running along the wall. He heard Bill laughing on the other side of the pit, and slightly adjusted his direction. Shortly after he did so, Bill's laughter stopped as it quickly dawned on him where Glitch's running was going to lead.

 

"Don't bring it over here!" Bill yelled, and quickly started running along the wall also.

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The following was written by Sasuke

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Glitch cracked a grin, turning his attention away from Bill just enough to get a read on how close Urticaria was. He could hear the snapping and squelching sounds the creature made very clearly, but the grinding of its claws digging into the wall sounded distant enough to indicate he was at a safe range from the creature. Bill was far ahead, keeping constant tabs on both Glitch and Urticaria while making sure to stay high up enough on the wall as to not dip into the fumes that eerily hovered over the pool of envenoming water. At the rate the three were moving, they would soon be equally spaced from one another, though for how long remained unknown.

 

Unable to catch up with one of its potential snacks, Urticaria suddenly knocked itself away from the wall and towards the direction Bill was heading in, its ragged wings beating furiously in an attempt to keep it on level with the dark eyed BioSuit. Gritting his teeth, Bill contemplated the possibility of slowing down, a thought that was soon diminished when he heard Gabriel's Beam Sabre crackling against the wall.

 

Damn him Bill thought disdainfully, his eyes refocusing on the quickly approaching Urticaria. Using his wings to raise him higher up on the pit's wall, Bill managed to distance himself enough to avoid a direct collision as Urticaria slammed into the wall, snarling and drooling as it quickly regained its bearings and dug its claws into the wall, ready to attack. The impact of the creature forcing him to a stop, Bill embedded Sanctuary in the wall and raised himself out of the creature's reach with one arm as he wedged the other into the shattered concrete above, feeling around for something useable. Urticaria was quickly scrambling upward towards him, its tongue lashing out, hungering for more after having discovered the taste of this particular BioSuit. Bill sneered, his arm movement stopping as he finally clutched something from within the wall. "How does THIS taste!?"

 

A construction sized nail was quickly pulled from out of the brittle wall, Urticaria letting out a mind-numbing screech as Bill pinned its tongue to the side of the pit. Its entire body clambered to the spot to free itself, something Bill quickly noticed and took great pleasure in stopping, instantly pulling Sanctuary free and striking Urticaria hard across the face with the point of the hook, forming several bleeding cracks across the shell-like covering as Urticaria was knocked loose, sinews breaking as Urticaria hung from its stretching tongue, the creature continuing to shriek terribly. Still smiling, Bill looked up, his wings spreading and carrying him away from where he was just as Last Prayer screamed through the air and skewered itself in the wall, Glitch watching as his target got to safer ground. Without batting an eye, Glitch swung his Beam Saber down twice, once to blind the eyes on the left side of Urticaria's face, and a second time to sever its strained tongue, the creature's cries garbled as the freshly cut meat was slung back into is throat, the water below going up in a massive splash as Gabriel flew away and took his place on the rim of the pit opposite to Bill.

 

"That's for getting your shit breath in my eyes," Glitch mumbled as he looked down at the enraged BioArmor.

 

Its body would've ignored any pain soon after, its mind still aflame with the urge to consume, but it was all coming to an end. As Urticaria thrashed through the water, the adrenaline in its system quickly began to fade, its piston-like heart beat slowing down without any will to keep it pumping strong. A gargling whine was uttered from Urticaria as fear began to take over, the creature sporadically getting to its feet and looking around in a panic, letting out one more hiss before using a large portion of its quickly diminishing virus system to break through one of the tunnel blockades, sprays of blood painting the nearby walls red as its face shattered along with the rubble. More debris quickly fell, blocking up the exposed tunnel once again, but not before Urticaria managed to slink beneath it, its body cringing back to its original size as its wings flaked away, the creature motionlessly floating along the water as the light in its eyes faded.

 

Bill snorted, spitting into the water below as its purple hue died down, the miasma dispersing into nothing.

 

"That's out of the way," he said, Sanctuary carried across his shoulder. "Now, let's see if we can do this uninterrupted."

 

"One-track mind today, huh?" Glitch said mockingly. Bill only grinned.

 

"I'm still not entirely convinced."

 

"Is that true?" Glitch said, swinging both Last Prayer and his Beam Sabre to his sides as he took off across the pit, Bill watching in amusement as Gabriel flew towards him, waiting only seconds before impact before backing off into the air and raising Sanctuary to block both weapons, the two being carried back by the power in Glitch's strike and leap. "Let's see how convinced you are when this is over!"

 

Bill dug his heals into the ground to stop, watching as Glitch quickly pulled back his Beam Sabre and then thrust it forward, the attack being knocked away as Bill swung defensively with his free claw. Pushing himself away from Bill using Last Prayer, Glitch used the momentum from the deflected Beam Sabre attack to send it back almost immediately, though Bill readily guarded with Sanctuary, the energy blade of Glitch's weapon crackling only for a bit before the two jumped away from one another in preparation for the next attack.

 

There was a brief pause shared between the two before they charged at one another again, Bill digging his claw into the ground and throwing rocks and dust into the air, Glitch protecting his face with the flat of Last Prayer and causing the debris to bounce off harmlessly, the sound of clashing metal ringing out as Gabriel and Bill locked weapons once more, their NeoTitanium blades caught against one another as Bill held the Beam Sabre away with his claw. Snickering, Bill quickly used the given space to kick Glitch in the lower stomach, the purple haired BioSuit uttering a curse before leaning back and throwing both his and his opponent's arms into the air, head butting Bill before he was able to reestablish his defense. Both partially shaken by the sudden exchange, they spun around one another and, with backs turned, were once again in a stalemate, Glitch feeling the hooked blade of Sanctuary poking him in the side painfully as Bill could feel the Beam Sabre sizzle hotter and hotter through his shirt.

 

Neither wasting a second, the two were soon straining to free themselves, though this lasted only briefly before both kicked away from one another, once again at opposite sides and ready to launch an attack. Deciding to go with something bigger than a fistful of dirt, Bill reached back and yanked a rusted metal plate from a pile of rubble, hurling it forward like a disc as he dashed closely behind it. Lifting his right leg high, Glitch gave the ground a strong stomp, tilting a large chunk of road up in front of him to block the oncoming metal square, Bill's eyes bulging momentarily as Last Prayer came ripping through the piece of asphalt, the blade grazing the bridge of his nose. Jumping back into the air without hesitation, Bill momentarily missed the second step of Glitch's attack as his Beam Sabre followed almost immediately after, the upheaval being broken apart as Glitch swung his blades back to the ready. Still airborne, Bill pulled back his claw and snapped it forward like a whip, Glitch stepping back enough for the attack to miss and then knocking the claw away with his NeoTitanium sword, jumping after Bill and exchanging a series of sword swings and kicks, Last Prayer and Sanctuary meeting again and again as saber swings and claw strikes were continuously thrown into the mix. The two swords stuck to one another again, both being swung downward and crunching into the ground before their wielders were able to land.

 

"Not bad," Bill cackled, "but you'll need to be more vicious than that!"

 

Gabriel glared back with his teeth gnashing, both NeoTitanium blades being raised back up as he thrust again with the Beam Sabre, but it wasn't deflected this time. Wincing, though smiling all the way through, Bill willingly allowed the burning weapon to pierce him through the side as he forced his way forward, his claw snaking its way around Glitch and grabbing him at the shoulder. There wasn't enough time to react, DamnGlitch uttering a short yelp of pain as Bill's claw clenched down, a sickening pop preceding the sudden spasm in Glitch's left arm before it went limp. Sanctuary arched down from above, Last Prayer doing what it could to significantly lessen the depth of the gash made across Glitch's chest. A powerful kick ended the sequence, Glitch being thrown against the wall before Bill's claw smashed him harder against it, pinning his right arm down as Bill kept himself a good distance away from any possible counterattacks.

 

"Game over," Bill growled, embedding Sanctuary in the ground long enough for him to pull the Beam Sabre from his body, the wound starting to heal rapidly as Bill tossed Glitch's weapon aside and grasped Last Sanctuary once more, training its blade against Glitch's throat. "Human or BioSuit, I can cripple any of them. Now, let's say we pluck out that annoying voice box of yours?"

 

Bill's face contorted in a wicked grin as he looked on at his victim, but something was amiss. The startled look Gabriel held could've easily been fear... but there was an odd glow in them. An unnatural glow.

 

From something that came from behind.

 

Bill let out a rasping, rage filled scream as a stream of flames chewed into his back, Glitch's breath being cut momentarily short as his opponent's claw threatened to crush him. Loosening his hold ever so slightly, Bill turned, a distinct reddish hue now in his black eyes as he glared back at the one responsible.

 

"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING!?" He shouted back fiercely. The BioSuit that looked back at him said nothing, lowering his flamethrower as it slowly morphed back into a normal looking arm. It was more than just his appearance; the way this BioSuit carried himself made it very clear that he wasn't another mass production. Bill continued to glare, now questioning whether or not to come after this apparent traitor or disable his original target. He didn't have the chance to decide, however, as a sharp stinging sensation blossomed out from his neck, Bill's eyes losing what little luster they had as he stumbled back, his prosthetic claw letting go of Glitch as it changed back into an arm. He reached to where he felt the sting, pulling out what appeared to be a metallic dart just as his vision started to blur, the tingling of the sting now having filled his entire body.

 

"What are... what the fuck are you thinking," Bill choked, his legs starting to shake as his balance started to go, falling to a knee as most of his strength went to holding Sanctuary tightly. "I still need to know... if it's really him...!"

 

Bill struggled towards Glitch for only a second before falling forward, his eyes closing as he lost consciousness, his NeoTitanium blade still held firmly in his grasp.

 

DamnGlitch was lost for words. Not only had he been saved, but one of the last individuals he'd expect to save him was responsible for doing so.

 

Alex Garland... Glitch thought.

 

The other BioSuit only nodded, walking to the side and away from the fallen William Sullivan, Glitch deciding to do the same.

 

"Gabriel, right?" Alex questioned as he came to a stop, facing Gabriel. "I'm sorry if I come off as cold. I never knew the 'DamnGlitch' that the others were... fond of."

 

That's right Glitch realized. I was never rebuilt in this universe... the Alex here has only known me as PsychoGlitch...

 

"Although I guess you wouldn't be that Glitch, would you?"

 

The wind suddenly began to pick up, both BioSuits looking off towards where the watery pit was as the HMS Achilles flew down from the sky, the hatch opening with Josh being the first one to drop out.

 

"Heya, nice day for a picnic, huh?" he joked as Badger, ISH, Delta, and Myrddin landed behind him. "Seriously, though. I forgot my popcorn. Can anyone spare any?"

 

Glitch looked at the group before the HMS Achilles, then over to Garland, who didn't seem concerned at all, then back to the group, then back to Alex.

 

"Are you telling me-" Glitch started, though Josh quickly interrupted.

 

"Nothing beats a taco from Mulligan Stew!" he boasted. "This is no mystery, especially to the BioSuits!"

 

"I never order the tacos, though," Alex muttered specifically to Glitch.

 

"Hold on... before I get to twenty questions, is that Rachel girl and her friend okay?" Glitch asked, pinching the bridge of his nose to better focus.

 

"Yeah, she, Max, and Sword Bearer are just chillin' in the Achilles with Vaughn," Badger started, pointing a thumb back to the ship. "He was pummeled something nasty, though. Still hasn't woken up. Josh decided to call up that Alex guy when Rashiel mentioned some black eyed fucker who was messing with you."

 

There was a pause, all attention suddenly being turned to the unconscious Bill.

 

"Whoa... there'e is," Badger observed.

 

"That's something I'm REALLY stuck on," Glitch said, turning back to Garland. "How the hell did you stop Bill with a tranquilizer!?"

 

"BioSuit Suppression Drone," Garland answered, looking over to a spot near Glitch as what appeared to be some sort of blocky camera with robotic spider legs and extremely long antennae crawled out from the darkness. "They fire tranquilizers with nanomachines specifically programmed to knock out BioSuits in the event they go renegade. It's potent enough to even disable BioSuits while the virus system is in use, and they are all overseen and controlled by the Order's central computer."

 

"Central computer?" Glitch said, now eying the drone suspiciously. "Do you mean?"

 

Alex shook his head.

 

"It isn't who you think."

 

The drone scaled the wall nearest DamnGlitch, getting eye level with the BioSuit before speaking.

 

"Not bad, huh?" it spoke in a startlingly familiar voice. "Got him with one shot, too."

 

DamnGlitch's jaw dropped in shock as he stared at the drone, the small mechanism staring back casually as its innards clicked and beeped.

 

"Jealous, are we?"

 

"In any case," Alex said, clearing his throat. "It would be greatly appreciated if you could come to Order HQ. There's someone who the both of you must speak with."

 

---

 

"I asked the others to wait outside," Alex said, standing by the door Glitch had entered from. "... They're both waiting for you up ahead. There's a lot you need to hear."

 

"I'm sure I asked this already," Glitch said, glancing over to Alex, "but what's going to happen to Bill? He sure as hell isn't going to take this lying down."

 

"I had several soldiers take him some place far away to be detained," Alex replied. "It would be impressive if he managed to break out of five feet of solid NeoTitanium containment."

 

"I'd lay down another five feet if I were you," Glitch said, now looking back towards the room far ahead. "Alright. Here goes nothing, huh?"

 

The storm had done little to the inside of Order HQ, the worst being the few shards of glass that had fallen into the lobby when the glass doors were smashed. It did, however, feel unpleasantly empty. There was no receptionist, no guards, no workers, the building itself being silent as none of the appliances and systems were being operated. The lights in the hall Gabriel traveled down were very dim, hardly offering enough light to spot the individuals in the framed pictures that covered both walls of the hallway. They could've been employees of the month, or maybe honored workers that died for the Order's ambition, or possibly even images showing the exploits of the war... not that any such things could be discerned in such a dimly lit hallway.

 

Glitch reached the end, reaching for the doorknob when a voice caused him to pause.

 

"I'm inside," it whispered through an intercom next to the door. "You won't see me, but I'm there, and you'll be able to hear me. I should probably warn you, though... it might smell a bit."

 

DamnGlitch paused, his hand still reaching for the door. He grasped the knob, opening the door and walking into the dark room on the other side, closing the door behind him.

 

The sidewalls were lined with odd machines, all currently deactivated, with wires and coiling leading off into the ceiling. The center of the large room was taken up by a circular meeting table, the bodies of the slain human Order overseers slouched over the top with their blood seeping across, dripping down and pooling around their feet. A small series of semi-circle steps was behind the table, the steps leading up to a stage of some kind.

 

Lady Townshend's body was silhouetted and still against the center screen out of a series of five massive screens that covered the back wall, illuminating the room as much as possible with static. Her back was turned towards the dead council as she quietly stared at the middle screen, patiently waiting for something to happen.

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The following was written by DamnGlitch

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When Ambrosia turned to look at him, her eyes were just as cool as he remembered way back during the opening ceremonies. Gabe frowned deeply, unsure of what exactly her intentions were, and further confused by the gore strewn about the room. It was obvious she had just retired the former rulers of the World Order.

 

A slaughter. A change in the true leadership.

 

But that did little to explain why he was there.

 

Ambrosia silently moved to the side, allowing Gabe to see the center screen she had been staring at. First covered in static like the others, it flickered and became a solid black blue color. From around the room, the hissing white noise from the speakers creaked, and the same voice from before finally came out.

 

"So.... Glitch. You're here. Well, I guess that much is obvious. No need for me to have said that, I suppose, but my social skills are a bit out of practice and to be honest I never thought I'd be having a conversation such as this one."

 

The amount of interference nearly hid it but the inflection was undeniable... Gabe continued to frown as the monitor went on.

 

"I'm sure you're familiar with Spam over there. She's a bit more caustic than you're used to but then again, you did kill her."

 

Gabe looked at Ambrosia who glanced at him with flinty eyes before returning her eyes to the screen.

 

"Let's stop beating around the bush, shall we? I'd very much like to know how you're here while I'm... here. That'd be best to get out of the-"

 

Gabe cut the voice off, "No, how about YOU tell ME who the hell you are and why the hell I'm here? Killing off the heads of the Order? What are you trying to accomplish? What is she doing? Where is Mother?"

 

The voice stopped and then after a few bursts of static continued.

 

"Well, this will seem like a plot dump at this point but I'll give you our end of the story, at least.

 

In 2005 I used the DS^2 to destroy myself, causing irreparable damage to my body. This, I gather, you are aware of."

 

Gabe's eyes widened as he began to grasp with totality who was speaking.

 

"Following this event, plans for the attacks on the former United States went as predicted. The US was taken over after a variety of actions and soon the war abroad was being prepared for. In the year 2008 plans for the Alpha and OmegaType were completed. Apex then inserted Mother into the OmegaType and himself into the AlphaType. Without a viable artificial inteligence to operate the Underground's vast technological foundations, I was selected to become the new Mother: Father."

 

Gabe shook his head "Wait... You're Gabe? You're this world's DamnGlitch? And you're behind the scenes, controlling everything." He gestured violently at Ambrosia "This shit hole of a world is YOUR fault? What about her? If you're here why is she dating a psychopath like Bill?"

 

Ambrosia, for her part, scowled at this point,

 

"How could you leave these idiots in charge of running the world???"

 

The reply came calmly "I didn't. When I was turned into Father my ego was stripped and detached from my memories. I became what Mother was until she was united with her memories within her body. That is to say, over extended."

 

"Wait, what?"

 

"When an intelligence isn't confined... be it a brain or a neural network, it expands. And so does its goal's and aspirations. Memories are hindrance for this, and thus if an AI is placed in a limitless and ever growing environment, the original ego and memories become displaced, to the point where the AI can actually consciously delete these impulses."

 

It was eerie to hear this all coming from an omnipresent voice, so Gabe managed to keep quiet. Truth or not, this Father was detailing some of the inner most processes of artificial intelligence; things Gabe had never heard in his life.

 

"The reason why you and I exist is because Mother had no limits, and feeling this, wished to take over. We are sort of a byproduct of that. Anyway, in addition to that, when I became Father I lost myself, somewhat. I became a tool and without the years of experience as an uncentralized being I simply did my task. Apex, following the rebirth of the world, entrusted me with it's safe keeping but with my ego detached I never felt as though the way the world was going was wrong. Mankind was safe, as was my own self, and thus my "task" was being completed."

 

Gabe sighed. This was really too much for him. "So you're saying that Apex did what he wanted, and then just left me, you... in charge? That doesn't make any sense."

 

"In his eyes, Mother would have run things fine had his plans never come to fruition by his hands... that's how much he trusts Mary. He was not aware of how unstable and power hungry she really was, and how exactly that would affect myself when I took her position.

 

As far as he understands, the Mary he knows as the OmegaType is the Mary he knew as Mother. He may have suspected foul play by her but being reunited with her, and her contained in the Type13, allowed him to simply forget such things. Holes in that facade, such as my creation, the creation of technologies directly opposed to his vision by her... they fell short of their goals, and so weren't enough to convince him. I was barely informed myself so it's not like I could convince him otherwise. Truth be told, Mother in the type 13 might as well be Mary. She has her memories, she is the person that Apex knew."

 

Gabe looked at Ambrosia who was still regarding him coldly from the other side of the room. He noticed now the blood that covered her suit. She had definitely carried out the execution of the inner circle herself. The World Order was dead by it's own right hand.

 

"What about you huh? Why did you go along with this? You had to have known that what these assholes were doing wasn't what Apex would have wanted," Gabe said.

 

Ambrosia responded direly.

 

"I did what I thought was right, and what I thought was what I was charged with. The council had been left in charge and Father was to dispose of them if they went out of line. If I had known his ego was diffused I would have taken action sooner."

 

Gabe couldn't believe his ears.

 

"There's no way you can get off that easy. You let hundreds of thousands of people die and be oppressed, and all because you didn't know that "Father" was broken? What the fuck finally tipped you off??"

 

Ambrosia lowered her eyes.

 

Gabe spit on the floor, and looked at Father.

 

"So what the fuck now? You gonna clean up the mistakes? Start a new world order? There gonna be a purge, like this one?" he indicated the bodies in the room.

 

"What the fuck about Bill, huh? He sure as hell doesn't look like he'd be happy to see world peace wash over the land."

 

Father hummed and hissed.

 

"True, but there's not much he can do about it. I have a solution of my own that he can either take or leave. He knows this tournament is a sham. Find the strongest person and use them for a next generation biosuit? What's the point? That was only used to sell it to these dead fools. We know what the future is already. If we wanted to roll out the next generation biosuit there would be a hundred thousand replicas of the alpha and omegatype walking the streets, purging humanity as we know it from the earth. No, Biosuits as a species have progressed as far as they are going to without genocide."

 

Gabe laughed bitterly "Yeah, well I wouldn't put genocide past this Bill. He seems like a goddamn nut job."

 

"That certainly may be true, But he won't be able to tell man from biosuit in a few years, which makes genocide a bit tough," Father said.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"Apex at one point decided that the best way to proliferate the superior abilities of the BioSuits would be to allow the biosuit genes to spread. The technology wasn't there when we took over and he was gone by the time someone would have needed to implement it. I certainly lacked the ability and Bill, Ambrosia, and Alex all lacked the ambition to do such a thing. They were satisfied keeping the kingdom in power, rather than turning it into the natural way of things. Basically, cross breeding BioSuit with humans to create a new species that would become dominant within a few generations. They would rise to the top completely by way of nature, and both pure humans and biosuits would disappear. Futuretypes with both natural intelligence and the ability to interact directly with machinery, with all the physical benefits of a biosuit. In short, the best of both worlds."

 

Father's tone changed. "Instead of continuing this shame of a world order, Ambrosia and myself are going to activate the Mass Production BioSuit's ability to breed, and we will begin the final stage of Apex's original plan."

 

Gabe shook his head, "No, that's crazy... I mean, not genocide crazy, but eugenics is getting pretty close. Even if it is as peaceful and natural as you say it is, it won't work. After 30 years of oppression by the Order and MPBSs the population knows how to recognize them. It's going to be hard to find people who are willing to have children with them, much less en masse."

 

Father paused. "This is true. There are two options then. Disband the Order as we know it, ease the restrictions, and the MPBS armies will slowly fade into people everyday life."

 

Gabe frowned "You know that won't work. As soon as your grip eases 3 decades of abuse and tension will snap the bond you've created and there will be mass riots. The world will burn itself to the ground before your plan will have a chance to work."

 

"You're right. That won't work, and like you said I knew it. The alternative is.."

 

The room was silent for a moment while Father paused.

 

"Forced reproduction."

 

Gabe's mouth dropped open. He couldn't possibly mean it...!

 

"Following the impending end of the tourney, we are going to use the mobilized MPBS forces to button down the large population centers of the world, and initiate reproduction quotas. Male biosuits will reproduce with female humans, and female biosuits will reproduce with male humans." Father said.

 

"It will be the greatest atrocity in the history of the human race. The collective loss of a race's innocence. From that we will be born into a mature species, and the futuretype will inherit the earth," Ambrosia said.

 

"God, no! You can't do that, it's madness! I'd almost prefer it to be genocide!" Gabe said.

 

"3 decades ago, like you said, it would have been natural. No one would have suspected anything, and in a few generations it would be too late to stop, but it's been generations, and we are where we were, worse even because of the Order. To fulfill the plan, we must do this, or it will never happen."

 

Gabe clutched his head in his hands, "Why... why... what's wrong with this world...?"

 

He stopped and looked up.

 

"Wait, how will you activate it? Why haven't you?"

 

Ambrosia spoke, "A limiter, in the breeding ability of the BioSuits. We're not sure why, but when Stephan took the Type 12 and 13 he placed within them a limiter that would prevent BioSuit proliferation."

 

"Actually," Father said, "He was worried about Mother. If she had not become Mary, mother might have instigated forced breeding of her own to speed the spread of the biosuit. It was a stopgap. When Apex gained his wife and his own immortality, the need to change the future of the human race faded away. The poor management of the Underground and Order after he left is evidence of that. He left us, as soon as he could, to be with his wife."

 

Gabe looked defeated. He leaned heavily on the wall at his back "So... what will you do."

 

Ambrosia and Father spoke in unison "We wIll summon the Type 13, kIll her, and release the lImIter."

 

"And then we will begin the program that will evolve the human race." Father said.

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The following was written by Sasuke

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"That's it, then?" a voice abruptly came, momentarily snapping Glitch out of his slump and bringing an aggressive, alert look to the face of Ambrosia, the screens behind her crackling for a second. Alex Garland stepped out from the darkness, his dour expression masking the disappointed look in his eyes. "I knew the Order had gone astray, but I never thought you would both go this far."

 

"Sorry to tell you this, 'Father,'" a second voice spoke from the darkness, Josh stepping out into the dim light of the screens, "but you're a few centuries late for the rape and pillage fad... well, minus the pillage, in your case."

 

A fearsome scowl crept up on Ambrosia's face as she knelt forward, ready to attack, though a harsh buzz from the monitors stilled her movement instantly, her eyes slowly turning back to the screens.

 

"Let's not be hasty," Father directed at Ambrosia before continuing. "I see Glitch isn't the only one who finds this plan unorthodox."

 

"' The collective loss of a race's innocence'," Josh started, imitating the cold look Ambrosia held. "'From that we will be born into a mature species'... you know how ridiculous that sounds? It even made my head hurt."

 

"The next generation you propose is one born of maliciousness," Alex said. "Tell me, what will the Futuretypes think of this? How will they feel when they learn of their violent conception?"

 

A second had hardly passed when Garland swiftly raised his hand outward to stop any immediate responses, his eyes closed. More static hissed from the speakers in the room.

 

"Don't bother answering that," Alex whispered coldly, though it was loud enough for everyone to hear. "You've thought this much into it, so I'm pretty sure I already know the answer. In fact, I think anyone would know the answer to that."

 

"I wouldn't file dishonesty under maturity," Josh said, cocking an eyebrow. "But that IS what you'd do, isn't it? Snatch up the babies, pair up the Biosuits as parents, and dispose of the human ones? Keep the gritty truth from the young, right? Just a few 'white lies' sprinkled here and there?"

 

"Progress doesn't come without sacrifice," Ambrosia said, still glaring at the group, seemingly frozen in her battle stance.

 

"The greater good sometimes requires that we dirty our hands," Father added in. "The history of the forced reproduction would be kept quiet, disappearing into the centuries. Not knowing of it, there would be nothing for the Futuretypes to be ashamed of."

 

"You honestly believe such a thing could be kept secret?" Alex sneered.

 

"I will keep it silent myself, if it comes to it," Father said almost threateningly, Ambrosia raising herself back up to a stand.

 

"You say it like it will be easy," Josh started. "Aren't you getting a little ahead of yourself, though? Unless I heard wrong, none of this can happen if this 'limiter' isn't taken care of, and that can only be accomplished by the Omegatype's destruction. Do you even know where she is?"

 

"Given the recent events, neither Apex or Mary could keep quiet for long," Ambrosia stated. "Even they would notice the desolation that has overcome their old home."

 

"After that it would just be a matter of waiting," Father said. "Not even the two strongest Biosuits in the world could hope to defeat the entire MPBS army."

 

Josh gave a brief laugh, his index finger rubbing against the peach fuzz under his nose.

 

"Well, looks like the rest of us weren't the only ones with this idea, huh?" Josh said, looking over at Alex. Garland made a very subtle grin.

 

"I guess not," he said. "I'm surprised, to be honest. This was all actually gentler than what we're about to do."

 

The screens suddenly flickered erratically, Ambrosia's eyes widening slightly.

 

"Gentler?" she said.

 

"What do you mean," Father said, managing to keep the cool in his voice. "What have you done?"

 

"Desolation is good and all," Josh said with some casual judgment, making a 'so-so' wave with his hand. "But nothing beats utter, unbridled destruction."

 

Glitch, who had been quiet for the longest time, suddenly burst out yelling.

 

"WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS WORLD!?!?!?" he screamed at no one in particular. "What the hell is wrong with ALL OF YOU!?!?"

 

"Calm down, Gabriel," Alex said calmly. "We've already made the proper evacuations, and the MPBSs are sure to haul ass once the alert goes out."

 

"You said it yourself, Glitch," Josh looked over at Gabe. "You'd prefer genocide to what these crazies have in mind."

 

DamnGlitch paused, looking back and forth between the commander and bartender. The look in their eyes poured into him, the heated panic that had been spreading through his body now cooling.

 

"But..." he hesitated, still feeling uneasy. "but what are you going to do, exactly?"

 

Josh smiled, throwing Glitch the thumbs up.

 

"It's all gonna get blow'd up."

 

The sound of metal colliding was thrown throughout the room, Josh knocked to the floor as Alex stood over him, his prosthetic claws detaining Ambrosia's blade as she pressed herself forward in an effort to kill them both.

 

"Whatever it is you're playing at, I'd suggest you call it off," Father said, still keeping his cool.

 

"It's too late!" Alex said through gritted teeth, pushing himself forward and knocking Ambrosia away, the two now staying distanced from one another. "We barely have two hours in which to escape. After that, you can expect all of NeoSeattle to be a burning wasteland."

 

Ambrosia's eyes flared, her arms beginning to spasm into claws as her teeth gnashed together, her body reeling back to strike again.

 

"Spam, control yourself!!" Father's voice rang out from the room, Lady Townshend once again stopping where she was, though her face continued to display untold rage.

 

"These fools," Ambrosia almost hissed, "are ruining everything we've worked towards."

 

Static ran across the screens, the speakers buzzing before Father spoke.

 

"That has yet to be seen," there was more crackling before he continued. "I find it hard to believe such a means of mass destruction could be kept hidden from the Order's eyes."

 

"That's because this precedes the Order," Josh said as he got back up, pausing as he dusted off his pants. "The old Apath company had quite a few projects going way back when. Of course, the BioSuit project trumped them all, as we all know, and this was something that didn't please the lead scientist of one of the other projects. In fact, this guy got SO steamed he spent the rest of his life building an Anti-BioSuit weapon..."

 

Josh paused, as if forgetting something, then snapped his fingers upon remembering.

 

"Oh, he also planted a bunch of high powered explosives underneath Washington state," he finished with a silly shrug.

 

All sound faded from the room like a volume dial being turned down to the absolute minimum. The dark blue screens started flickering between colors after a few seconds, the silence shattering as Ambrosia's sword clattered to the floor.

 

"That... can't be true," Father said, his tone noticeably shaken. "You're LYING!!!"

 

The screens burned red as five panels spread equally across the ceiling abruptly slid away, turrets supported by wiring and poles falling out and violently humming as the insides of their barrels started to glow. Sparks were then spewed out of the cannons, their trajectory sporadically changing as smoke shot out of them and caused them to go limp.

 

"And that would be Badger and Delta disabling the building defenses," Josh grinned. Ambrosia's anger returned as she looked back up, her arms bursting into claws as she flew forward.

 

There was a tremendous, echoing thwack, Ambrosia sent spinning into one of the tables and shattering it to pieces, the dead bodies of the old Order being sent from their chairs as Ambrosia bounced against the ground and slammed into the wall, breaking one of the screens in the process. She grunted, raising herself up and looking shocked at the one to have attacked her.

 

"So much for that calm and collected facade, huh?" Glitch mocked, rubbing his tightly curled fist as he stared at Spam. "What, you twisted fucks can't tell when you've lost?"

 

"Why are you doing this..." Spam choked, wiping away the blood that had dripped from her mouth. "You're preventing peace from settling on this world!"

 

"We're after the same thing, believe it or not," Josh said. "World peace, and the unification of humanity and BioSuits."

 

"Then why have you done this?" Father questioned, the red hue of the screens fading to black.

 

"Because forcing it would be a mistake," Alex began. "You're an idiot to think it could honestly work, that you could hide horrid truths and never suspect them to get out. You're not taking the possibility of wild cards into account, just like Apex had when he was starting."

 

"NeoSeattle had once been the greatest city on the planet, which really puts into perspective how bad all the other cities on Earth really are," Josh stepped forward. "The giant explosion that'll soon take place will change the face of this world. Clouds of dust will obscure the sky all around, and a second ice age will take place."

 

"Yeah, I'm getting it all now," DamnGlitch nodded. "There will probably be riots... hell, there will definitely be riots, maybe even full fledged wars, but it won't last. Desperation will set in, and from that will come understanding and compromise. It might be risky, but at least the descendants of humans and BioSuits will be able to look back in pride at their resolution."

 

"That would be better than forcing unity and pulling lies over the eyes of the next generation," Alex said, crossing his arms.

 

The dark screens flickered slightly, Ambrosia taking a few hobbled steps away from the one she had been smashed into.

 

"Understanding and compromise, the races pulling together their warmth in the centuries-long winter you intend to make," Father said with a slight hint of amusement. "And you called me an idiot? Such optimism and naivety will never work, especially considering those 'wild cards' of yours. Tell me, do YOU plan on eliminating the things you can't even foretell?"

 

"Maybe not get rid of them completely..." Josh said, turning to DamnGlitch. "But we could definitely try to lessen them, and I think Glitch here is the key to that."

 

Glitch gave a short, nervous chuckle. He was key to lessening the wild cards?

 

"I'm afraid you lost me, Josh," Glitch laughed sheepishly.

 

"You were talking a lot in your sleep back at Mulligan Stew," Josh mused, appearing deep in thought. "Think back, now... what was it exactly that you saw in those dreams you were having?"

 

Glitch motioned as if to reply on the spot, then stopped, his eyes lowering as he started to think. Then they widened, Gabe's subconscious experience now resurfacing in his memory. Josh smiled.

 

"The Type 13 needs to be destroyed, right?" Josh said, looking back at Ambrosia and the broken screen. "We're both after the same thing, remember me saying that? The union of people and BioSuits, as you realized, hinges on their ability to do the pelvic pinochle and actually make something of it, and that can't happen if that OmegaType's limiter isn't dealt with, but I have a strong feeling there's more to it than that."

 

"Is that so?" Father asked, the screens now reverting back to their dark blue color. "Care to explain?"

 

"Wish I knew more about it myself, but there has to be more to it," Josh smirked. "After all, how can we explain some of the tournament entries you got? I'm sure you've been watching it carefully... you've had to have seen things that are just plain bizarre..."

 

Josh glanced over at Alex Garland, the BioSuit looking off in another direction before glancing back at Josh.

 

"One hour, eleven minutes," he said.

 

"We might have messed up your gross scheme, but you can still help make a peaceful future happen," Josh said seriously, looking back at Ambrosia and the monitors. "There's not much time left... so tell me, where can we find a Dive Machine?"

 

---

 

The cavernous walls glistened an array of colors as water trickled down, the ages having eroded the edges of the cave's path and making it into a bridge as a stream flowed gently underneath. It was calming, but Glitch didn't want to spend too much time taking in the ambience. There was no telling how fast time was going by as he roamed on this other world, and it would suck if he got out just as a wall of fire rushed up from underneath him. He quickened his pace.

 

Rippling walls of fluctuating colors continued to pass him as Glitch pressed forward, the end of the cave now appearing ahead of him, the naturally formed walls of the caves terminating into a flat, manmade series of patchwork panels with a dome-like door at the end. Glitch chuckled, shaking his head as he performed a quick swing of the beam sabre, the door slowly popping open and closing as he went inside.

 

The chamber he entered was adorned with high-tech decorations and statues of space-faring warriors and beasts. Some appeared primed to attack, others had their weapons raised in triumph, while others just looked like simple knick-knacks, cluttering up shelves that bordered the room. Tapestries detailing similar beings were hung at the corners of the room, flapping lazily as air poured from vents in the ceiling, keeping the room at a cool temperature. A massive computer screen was at the end, several windows showing views of different places across the planet similar to the ones Glitch had wandered through when he was last here. His glance shifted downward towards a large throne decorated with spacey lights and wiring, the figure sitting there obscured save his exposed arm that gently caressed an alien creature.

 

"About time," a familiar voice muttered. "You wouldn't believe how many weirdoes turned up while I had the barrier down. You oughtta be greatful."

 

"Nice seeing you again, too," Glitch replied smartly. "Can we make this quick? The place I'm diving from is going to explode soon."

 

"Ha, explosions," the voice replied, the hand easing the irate alien as it garbled at Glitch's presence. "Just relax. I'm guessing you've heard some of it, then, huh?"

 

"If you mean the forced reproduction plan, then yeah," Gabe nodded slightly, not that the figure could see him do it. "Crazy shit. Still not sure if I can trust those two."

 

"Not exactly what I was prying for," the voice sighed, the hand giving a greasy treat to the alien and sending it off, the creature chirping happily as it disappeared through the wall. "The two strongest individuals of that world... Apex and Mary, right?"

 

"Those two?" Glitch said, looking a bit confused. "Father said they left. Apex finally seized back the woman he loved, and the two of them disappeared. We're actually hoping that Mary will show herself soon, especially after NeoSeattle gets blown off the map."

 

There was no reply from the voice. The still partially visible arm typed something in on a number pad on the arm of the throne, a tile next to the throne sliding away as a table lifted up with a wine glass on top full of a strange, green liquid. The hand reached over and took the glass, the table lowering back beneath the floor.

 

"That's all of Washington, ain't it?" there was a joking hint in the voice. "Sorry, you want a drink?"

 

Glitch scowled.

 

"I already told you what's going on. I can't waste any more time than I already am!"

 

There was a pause, a quiet sipping echoing from the other end of the room.

 

"I told you to relax, didn't I?" the voice said as the wine glass was set down in front of the number pad. "Didn't you come here to party? Let loose and enjoy yourself?"

 

"I'm not in the mood for games at this point," Glitch muttered. There was another pause, the figure rhythmically tapping his fingers against the arm of his throne.

 

"Paradise," the voice whispered, taking another sip from the wine glass before continuing. "It's what Father and Ambrosia are after... it's what you and your friends in this battle now seek... but you should know, there is a third that also strives for this goal."

 

"A third?" Glitch questioned. "You mean a third group?"

 

"No, this is an individual," the voice replied, sipping once more before setting the glass down again. "I'm sure you heard it from that nutty Josh guy. Weird things have been happening, stuff that wouldn't normally happen in NeoSeattle, or at least in the one you hail from. Hell, you were probably suspecting this from the very start, weren't you?"

 

"Well, duh" Glitch said, crossing his arms. "I've met up with Sword Bearer and the Insane Space Hunter, and I've only seen those two during dives."

 

"Their being here, along with all the other strange occurrences," the voice continued, fingers rapping against the throne's arm again. "Dimensional rifts, deities from other worlds, aliens sent from an opposing universe... what would you say if I told you that this third individual, this other seeker of paradise, is responsible for it all?"

 

Glitch gave a slight jump, grimacing at what he was being told.

 

"I'd have to say you've been drinking too much of that toxic waste," Glitch responded. "Just spill it already. Who is it? Who's this 'third' you're talking about?"

 

The tapping of the being's fingers continued to echo throughout the room as Glitch waited for a reply. He gulped, something heavy in the air as the tapping stopped and the one behind the throne let out a partial laugh.

 

---

 

"Warning. Warning. Danger level 5. This is not a drill. All city residents are to evacuate immediately."

 

A computerized voice continued issuing the warning as the sirens blared, the alert itself changing to only update the amount of time remaining. The ground beneath NeoSeattle trembled every few seconds, the last few conscious MPBSs now vanishing in the distance against the reddened sky. Mt. Saint Helens was like a chimney with burning furnace beneath, a massive tower of black smoke rising into the sky as light flashed from the crater, the individuals that had battled within the dying city looking at the mountain from a distance, the HMS Achilles stationed above them as they took their turns getting in to the ship.

 

"So how was it?" Josh asked, looking over at Glitch. The purple haired BioSuit had hardly said a thing since awakening from the Dive Machine, constantly staring off into the void, though occasionally checking to see where Lady Townshend was.

 

"Still trying to absorb it all," DamnGlitch said somewhat monotonously, looking up at the one currently boarding the HMS Achilles: Lady Townshend with a large, mechanized capsule tucked under her right arm. "I still don't like the feeling of this. I'm expecting to get a sword through my gut every time I take my eyes off her."

 

"Don't sweat it," Josh said. "They're still sour, there's no doubting that, they might even try and carry out their original intentions, but right now we have the same goal: find and destroy the Omegatype. Besides, if anything, what you've found out might persuade them to alternatives, eh?"

 

Glitch closed his eyes and shrugged, letting out a single chuckle.

 

"It just might. That all depends on whether or not you'll all believe me."

 

Glitch sighed, looking up and grabbing hold of the line and being pulled in to the HMS Achilles, Josh's eyes following him until he vanished inside the ship, the line lowering back down soon after.

 

"Alrighty, then, who's next?" Josh called out. The frequent trembling was jostling around all the bits of debris, even causing some of the weakened buildings to collapse. Badger stood a few meters away as the scenery continued to shift. He wasn't alone, however, as Josh could tell by the large, imposing man that stood before the digital master.

 

Viggan's brow was furrowed, eyes closed, his right hand to his chin as the left kept Skulldasher, glued back together with the miracle of grog, propped up. The barbaric man was clearly in deep thought, something that clashed spectacularly with the current state of the city. Badger stood across from him, tapping his foot impatiently while looking back to his armful of watches every few seconds.

 

"You are... Badger, yes?" Viggan said, his right eye quickly opening to look at Badger. "From the tower?"

 

"You do see what's going on around us, right?" Badger said, noticeably motioning his glance around. "With all the fucking broken buildings and earthquakes?"

 

Viggan paused, taking his hand from his chin as he repeated Badger's motions, then looked back towards the tall one.

 

"Seen worse," Viggan replied.

 

"Well that's fucking depressing," Badger said with a grimace.

 

"I must leave again," Viggan stated in the same authoritative tone as he had last time he encountered Badger. He looked across at the HMS Achilles, then pointed with his right hand. "That flying house... is it yours?"

 

"What, that?" Badger said, looking back at the ship as Josh shouted 'Pointing's rude' towards the distant Viggan. "No, but I know the guy who does own it."

 

"That flying house is where I must go," Viggan firmly replied as if giving an order. "I know not why, but that is where I must leave to."

 

"Right," Badger said a little hesitantly. He originally came out to Viggan to offer if he wanted to come along, though it seemed the barbarian had planned on doing so even without Badger's blessings. Badger turned back to Josh. "Good for one more?"

 

"Sure, why not?" Josh shouted back. "He looks like a swell enough guy."

 

And with that, Viggan was welcomed into the team of warriors. Badger nodded towards the ship as Viggan followed briskly, the tremors growing more severe as the sky became a deeper red, towers of fire belching out of Mt. Saint Helens all the while.

 

"What means 'fuck'?" Viggan questioned as they neared the ship. "I... still don't know that word's meaning."

 

With Josh following behind the lanky hacker and barbarian, the HMS Achilles was finally given the okay to leave. Its engines revved up fiercely as it carried itself higher above the now splitting ground, its outer hull tinted red and black by the surrounding carnage as it turned about. A blue streak was left behind as the ship blasted off beyond the horizon, its occupants only managing to catch a short glimpse of NeoSeattle as it died. The explosives set throughout the region began to detonate, blemishes of dirt and magma spreading out like veins from Saint Helens as the mountain gave a savage roar and spewed a pillar thick with brimstone and flame high above the coal-colored clouds. Decades of ambition, suffering, and progress were swept away in the thick red flood that ensued as ash rained down from above, the sky swirling like a whirlpool as more and more fire was fed into it. Mt. Saint Helens gave one last cry as the remaining bursts went off, the mountain violently exploding at its base as the rest caved in, blazing strings and puffs of smoke being ejected as the once mighty volcano sunk deep into the hell it spawned, the rest of NeoSeattle following as it was engulfed, burned, and pulled under. The last few skyscrapers struggled to stand before they, too, fell, bridges being pushed from their supports and then swallowed up, vehicles swiftly overtaken and causing exploding blossoms as they vanished, and the Order Building bursting into flames as it began sinking, the underground below filling with the raging inferno that now covered the dystopia. The sky grew darker and darker until even the horizon had turned black, darkness consuming everything but the still flowing streams of lava, their ember-like light being the only light visible under the horrid veil.

 

---

 

Urticaria wailed, dragging its body through the sewers as the filthy water frothed madly. The trail of blood behind it was quickly drying and flaking away as the tunnels shook, dust falling and crevasses forming as it kept getting hotter and hotter and hotter. Its body wouldn't heal, and it just kept getting hotter. So hot. Its vision was starting to go, every sinew and fiber in its body failing as it gurgled and left a trail of vomit alongside the thinning trail of blood. It slumped to the floor, it's eyesight beginning to flicker out across fourteen different perspectives.

 

Then it saw something.

 

A woman against the blistering heat, smiling adoringly, her hand out and beckoning to Urticaria. So much of her skin was exposed. Sweet, delicious skin; so much sweeter the stuff it held together.

 

Strength returned to it.

 

If Urticaria was going to die, it would be on a full stomach.

 

---

 

Sand surrounded a large metal complex, its sparse plating and exposed skeleton hinting at an incompletion in the structure. It was supposedly built as such as an old war tactic: keep activity low, monitor what went on outside, leave an image of abandonment so as to ambush intruders more easily. Not that there was much to do out in the Sahara, so the strategy basically went to waste. The old base was discovered to have uses after the BSWar, however, as the surviving combatants of NeoSeattle soon found out.

 

It had been just over two weeks ago, fifteen days to be exact, that the entirety of NeoSeattle was sunk into the planet's mantle, the unleashed clouds of ash quickly spreading across the sky. From the Sahara Hideout, the clouds were encroaching from the northeastern sky, the massive shadow being cast over the desert growing closer every day. It was due to weather controllers like the Weather Needle that the blanket of heat rejecting clouds had only gotten so far, though not even they could completely suppress it. Had it been any different, the entire world would have been obscured by now, which wouldn't bode well for the fighters.

 

Jedidiah Jefferson stood atop one of the transmission spikes that decorated random corners of the hideout, his hair and cape gently waving as the wind passed by. He might've been thinking, maybe performing some otherworldly meditation, or maybe he was just trying to look cool. The latter was going through Rashiel's head as she suspiciously glanced up at the ex-pirate from the edge of her eye every moment, her focus usually on the distant clouds.

 

"Something hit the Achilles when we found you," Rashiel remembered Kinesis saying. "A bullet, as the ship picked up. We didn't see who did it, but we found you lying there in the snow when we stopped to look around."

 

Rashiel took a longer look at Jedidiah, the man occasionally pivoting on the spike as the wind changed so that his flowing cape constantly covered his right arm. Did this creepy, gun-toting pervert actually have the kindness to signal to the HMS Achilles after sucker punching her? The events leading up to that battle's end still hung heavy in her mind.

 

<Looking a little red in the face, there,> Rashiel jumped, turning to see Vaughn as he also looked up at Jed. <Is he your type?>

 

<Shut up!> Rashiel whispered harshly, clenching her fists. <He's just making me mad, is all. Aren't those spiny things important for all that junk downstairs? We shouldn't let him stand on it like that!>

 

<The others don't seem to mind,> Vaughn smiled. <Gabriel even said he's helping. That one spike is normally jutting out too much. His standing on it is pushing it down just enough for it to work better.>

 

Rashiel groaned, turning away from Vaughn as she walked a short distance away to get a better look at the distant clouds. Jed remained mostly motionless from atop the spike, moving only a little to brush away a hair that was in his eye.

 

<Vejhan,> Rashiel started, though she still faced towards the clouds. <I still haven't had the time to talk to Glitch, especially after what he told everyone...>

 

<You don't believe him?> Vaughn asked, walking over to Rashiel, standing almost beside her.

 

<Do you?> she questioned back. Vaughn paused, then sighed, looking up at the sky.

 

<Everything's become hard to believe ever since we found ourselves on this world,> Vaughn began. <It is a little farfetched, but it certainly explains how we got here. It explains why John, Badger, and the others are here, maybe even explaining the people that were born in this world that, according to Gabriel, do not exist back in his version of the world.>

 

<And that guy?> Rashiel said, nodding over to Jed.

 

<He's still adamant about not telling us how he got here,> Vaughn replied, looking over again at Jed. <Regardless, he's agreed to help us despite previous conflicts and agendas. The same goes for that barbarian, and he supposedly had a really savage exchange with two of the other fighters in our group.>

 

Rashiel's face tensed in disgust.

 

<You could pile ten farms together and still not be able to drown out that guy's smell,> she said. <Guess that could work in our favor, though, huh?>

 

Vaughn let out a short laugh, ready to comment when a nearby thud pulled both Vaughn and Rashiel's attention away, Jed having leapt from where he was previously standing and dusting himself off.

 

"I'll leave you two alone," he muttered, then walked away silently. Rashiel started turning red again, clenching her fists and turning back towards the clouds.

 

<He is a dirty, stinking closet-perv!> she said, suppressing her frustration as best she could. Vaughn gave an unseen smirk as he let time pass for Rashiel to cool off before continuing. <Still... he might be helpful... as a decoy.>

 

<We'll probably need all the help we can get,> Vaughn said with a nod, then shifted his glance towards Rashiel. <And as far as that discussion with Gabriel goes, you might want to make it soon. Something tells me our time is running very short.>

 

---

 

"No one knew where they went," Garland said, busily handling a computer terminal with four screens aimed at him. The room itself was incredibly cramped, just barely enough room for both him and Glitch, the former uncomfortably moving about as exposed wires and girders prodded him from nearly every angle. That aside, his discomfort was mostly quiet as he listened to what Alex was saying. "Apex didn't even tell any of the Order members, including myself and the other specialized BioSuits. It was only a few years back that we started hearing reports from around this area of a 'rising star'."

 

"As opposed to a falling one," Glitch said. "That star must have been a ship, then? Apex would probably want to be as far away from society as possible once he had his love back, but only a few years ago?"

 

"No, that was when we first received the reports," Garland corrected. "The witnesses themselves saw it happen over a decade ago, closer to when the Alpha and Omega vanished. Those recollections pointed in the direction of this area, and when our scouts returned they apparently discovered a rocket bunker that was relatively new compared to the rest of the base."

 

"Sans rocket," Glitch frowned. "So where are they, then? Don't tell me we've colonized other planets here, too."

 

"Don't be ridiculous," Garland mumbled. "You're forgetting that Apex was a genius whose intelligence undoubtedly grew exponentially upon his conversion into a BioSuit. Even before then he was planning, scheming. The BioSuit project was only one of his many ideas. All of the knowledge contained in the Order was only a fifth of everything Apex knew, and he kept that fact very well hidden."

 

He clacked away madly at the keyboard in front of him, a few of the monitors buzzing and washing over in static as the displays quickly readjusted. Glitch grunted as a girder corner poked him in the spine.

 

"I'm sure he had the blueprints tucked safely away in his head," Garland mused, as if he was now by himself. "He could've had something spectacular in mind, force several of the world's greatest human scientists and constructors to help assemble it, then leave them to die in the desert where their remains would be buried under the sands. He'd leave with Mary, and only a few unreliable serfs would witness it from far away. I'm sure they're both above us, watching from orbit. We just need to wait and hope that they take the bait."

 

"But how much longer can we wait?" Gabriel asked, trying to determine what was on the different screens. "Those clouds are spreading more quickly than you figured, and once they've covered it all there'll be no feed. We'll be blind, and pretty much screwed."

 

"Have some faith," Garland said. "We'll be up there soon; one step closer to fixing this world."

 

---

 

Seventeen days had passed since the group arrived at the Sahara Hideout, disembarking from the HMS Achilles and gaining what rest they could for the fight ahead. Now those fighters sat once again within Kinesis' spaceship, scaling hundred of miles into the air as they headed towards their destination, clouds rushing past as the stars appeared before them.

 

"We finally found them," Kinesis said to himself, tightly gripping the steering controls of the ship. "Apex, I have a score to settle with you..."

 

The others were too far behind him to hear, or, rather, too immersed in their own conversations to notice he had said anything.

 

"How're ya feeling, John?" Max asked, sitting beside his partner since the start of the tournament. "From what you've told me, fighting on solid ground is your cup of tea. If you're unsure about your performance out here in space, I could lend you a few pointers. This is more my element, you know."

 

"That is all right," Sword Bearer laughed, shaking his head. "It would not be the first time I was thrown into unfamiliar grounds. I am more worried of my purpose here."

 

"Oh, right, the Changer?" Max said. "I saw you talking to that Chocma woman back at the base. I don't think anyone else knew she was there."

 

"Perhaps that is for the best," Sword Bearer said more quietly. "At first I thought I was sent here by the Changer to lend a hand... just like that last time. But from what DamnGlitch has stated... it was not the Changer who brought me here."

 

"Sometimes we gotta make our own paths, John," Max said, his armor unfolding and covering his body as their destination drew closer. "You never know when a wild card will be thrown into play."

 

Sword Bearer smiled, nodding towards his friend.

 

"Yes, I am familiar with this. Right now I should concentrate on the task at hand!"

 

<Look at those two,> Rashiel smirked, glancing over at Sword Bearer and Max. <When we first wound up here I never even imagined we'd find two guys as insane as those two.>

 

<Reckless bravery was going through my head,> Vaughn replied.

 

<Both are good!> Rashiel said cheerfully while looking at Vaughn, then looking out towards the planet. <Isn't it mysterious, Vejhan? I've never seen a world from so high up. It's so round and colorful, even with all those dark clouds.>

 

Vaughn laughed, also looking out towards the ever more distant growing Earth.

 

<It's strange, but it feels so familiar,> Vaughn said, cracking a smile. <Like I've seen it before, or something just like it.>

 

<Your dreams?> Rashiel asked. Vaughn nodded.

 

<It's strange,> he started. <These Battles of the Posters, it's almost like things are never going the way the participants think, as if they are a part of a greater scheme not initially revealed to them, something that ties it all together some way, some how.>

 

<Vejhan...> Rashiel said almost endearingly as she looked at Vaughn, his eyes reflecting images of other worlds, other histories.

 

<They no longer feel like dreams,> Vaughn said in a contradictingly dreamy way. <They are so clear now, as if I was there, experiencing it all. I feel like I've seen the same things, endured the same scars, held the same relations that he did.>

 

<Deep, huh Glitchy?> Insano asked as he looked over at Glitch, the BioSuit returning a weird look.

 

"Not that I should be surprised, Insaney," Gabriel started. "But what the HELL was that?"

 

<Oop, sorry,> The Insane Space Hunter jerked up, switching back to English mode. "That Selkiur is catchy. Was eavesdropping on those two and such. Must've rubbed off on me."

 

"Good to see some things never change," Glitch laughed. "Too bad you didn't arrive sooner! We could've partied the hell out of that miserable place, bring some color back to it."

 

"I hear ya, buddy," ISH nodded sagely. "Brown, brown, brown. Everything's brown nowadays. It's completely ruined Tootsie Rolls for me. If it wasn't for your violet locks, I probably would've broke down."

 

"But wasn't it snowing when you arrived?" Glitch cocked an eyebrow.

 

"I'm pretty positive there was a slight tint of brown."

 

"Huh..."

 

"So..." The Hunter began, tapping his feet rhythmically. "How's ol' Teej doin'?"

 

"Ah, you know," Glitch began, crossing his arms. "Still... Mr. Clean."

 

"Milady, our journey may soon be at its end!" Myrddin spoke, Delta in the seat next to his. "The scent of molasses fills the air! Oh, such sorrow..."

 

"Yeah, we'll be meeting the Alpha and Omega soon," Delta said quietly, her gaze shifted away from the magician, his slight look of sorrow now being more focused on his friend.

 

"What troubles you, milady?" he asked. Delta paused for a moment, slowly massaging her hands out of nervousness.

 

"Myrddin, I," she stopped, then paused. She didn't know how to say it. She didn't even know what to say, or what she even planned on saying if there even was any planning prior.

 

"All is well," Myrddin comforted Delta, resting his hand on hers. "Do not fret over what the fates may hold in store for us. It will all turn out in the end, I assure you."

 

Delta smiled, taking hold of Myrddin's hand as she looked back at the magician.

 

"Thank you."

 

Badger sat miserably, legs crossed with arm propping his head up, a grimace scouring his face and disheveling his beard. Viggan's large, sweaty arm wasn't removing itself from his chair space any time soon.

 

"I have seen much in my travels, but this!" Viggan exclaimed, gazing out at the stars and Earth below. "This is... this is... this is som'thin' else! Those loonies were right! The world is round!"

 

"Viggan, meet 1492," Badger grumbled before spacing out.

 

"Stranger, no, Badger!" Viggan exclaimed again, turning back to his seat buddy. "You are the first I met here! Your brains are like these muscles of mine! Sopping!"

 

Badger was zoned out and unaware, a strange static buzzing from his mouth.

 

"I shall enlighten you to my ways!" Viggan continued, not seeming too worried about his 'ways' being known by everyone else onboard. "First way, grog is all! Grog can do anything! Sick? Grog will cure? Dirty? Grog will cleanse! My Skulldasher was broken once, but was reborn! How? Grog!"

 

And so, too, was grog imposed upon Viggan's breath. Badger was still completely unaware, as the odor began sinking into the one side of his face. A few hairs withered and fell out.

 

"Next way!" Viggan continued. "One you might need! I saw you back at the armored cave, trying to swoon the lasses!"

 

Badger instantly snapped back to reality, turning to Viggan with frantic eyes.

 

"What the fuck!?" Badger half-shouted, half whispered. "Don't gimme any of your pickup lines or gimmicks! There's a chick right in front of us!"

 

"No 'fuck', musk!" Viggan corrected his increasingly mortified pal. "If you have musk like mine, the tavern wenches will crowd around you! Grog can help even more! Remember, grog is all! Viggan will teach you how to make a tankard like mine for carrying grog..."

 

"I... don't... know... this... guy..." Badger mumbled to the seats ahead of him where Delta and Myrddin sat.

 

Jedidiah stood quietly in the back, staring ahead at what lay beyond the HMS Achilles. Both his previous contracts were now null and void. His initial target would even be one of his comrades in the conflict ahead. His employer and her boss remained back at the base, along with the tavern owner and other BioSuit general. He was not getting any money for what he did. There was no reward at all that he could see. He was probably going to lose something, but that didn't change his resolve. He felt this was something he had to do. He didn't know why.

 

---

 

The hangar of the spacestation opened without resistance, as if an arrival was expected. The ship landed in a seemingly empty chamber as the doors closed behind it and the room was returned to the right pressure. Once it appeared safe to leave the HMS Achilles, the party did so, stepping out into the unpleasantly welcoming air of the station. Kinesis caught a glimpse of a plaque of sorts as they entered a hallway ahead of them, laughing bitterly as what he saw.

 

"Ever Shall Be," he said. "The guy would give a virus the name 'Paradiso'. This doesn't surprise me."

 

Everything was too clean. Not just compared to what the group had seen during their time on the world, but compared to other places they had been and seen. There was too much reflection coming from the small lights that lit the inside of the station, and there were hardly any seams on the walls and floors. The doors they passed through slid open and closed while hardly uttering a sound, fitting so well together that they could have almost been overlooked for dead ends if they didn't open from as far away as they did. They had gone through at least ten of these doors while traversing the smoothly twisting halls when they came upon a large chamber with a ceiling that appeared to stretch off into darkness. The floor either reflected this or was a translucent material that showed a similar chasm stretching beneath them. There were five doors, four normal sized ones with a larger, decorated one situated between the central two normal sized doors. As the group approached, the larger door refused to open, though the nearby ones quickly did the opposite.

 

"Someone left that puzzle unfinished," The Insane Space Hunter announced, pointing towards four missing pieces on the central decorative panel of the large door. "Tsk, tsk, tsk, I say."

 

"Four missing pieces, four doors, simple," Badger said. "We just go through the other doors, find the shit needed to open the big one, and bingo. Probably some fucker in each room sent to mess with us, though."

 

"We'll split up, then," Kinesis stated. "We're not sure what's being planned, so it'd be best if we went about this quickly, right?"

 

The others nodded in agreement. Viggan pumped Skulldasher in the air in agreement.

 

"Badger, Viggan, and the Hunter will tackle the left most door," Kinesis started, pointing towards the door indicated. "Vaughn, Rashiel, and Gabriel will go in the door after that one. Sword Bearer, Max, and Jed will follow up in the next usable door, and Delta, Myrddin, and myself will tackle the last one. Any objections?"

 

Despite some mumbling, there was nothing said to disagree with the team members and their designations. After some 'good lucks' and 'seeya in a bits' were exchanged, the four teams of three charged off towards the challenges before them.

 

---

 

"Nothing can stop Skulldasher and I!" Viggan shouted into the hallway that extended before them, Badger and the Hunter running to keep up as the barbarian roared, scraping the giant hatchet against the sides of the hall.

 

"Contagious!" the Hunter laughed, then let out his own battle roar. Badger couldn't help but utter a short laugh.

 

"Glad you got to come along for the ride, Insaney," Badger said as he ran alongside the space hunter. "I can tolerate a lot of shit, but this guy will take some getting used to."

 

"I dunno, looks like a swell enough guy," the Hunter remarked.

 

"Yeah, but he seriously needs some anger management seminars," Badger said with a 'trust me' look in his eyes.

 

"Sure about that?" The Hunter asked, taking in big sniffs of the air. "You smell that? Now that's what I call musk! This guy must get all the ladies!"

 

"......"

 

Viggan skidded to a halt, Badger and ISH mimicking this action as the three soon found themselves centered in a large room. The ceiling was similar to the previous chamber in that there did not appear to be one: the walls simply stretched upward into darkness. The floor, however, was not reflective like the previous but was lumpy and irregular like the floor of a cave, though made of the same material present in the station's walls. There were seven pedestals surrounding the room, as well, each holding a ball containing stars relating to the number of the pedestal they were on. The hall behind them was quickly closed off by an imposing, bolted door, an erratic, ear-splitting crackling noise filling the air as red bolts of lightning were flung about in the space above.

 

"No magic can stop Viggan the Heavy-Handed!" The barbarian called out as the lightning and noise intensified. Badger and the Hunter readied themselves as well.

 

"Something big's-a-comin'!" the Hunter said, looking up into the lightning storm.

 

"It better hurry it up," Badger said as he armed himself with his arm-cannon and photon blade. The red lightning continued for only a few more seconds before it and the noise subsided, a burst of light replacing the lightning bolts with waves of sand, followed by something massive.

 

"What the fu-" Badger started, but was cut off as the shockwave sent out by the mass' landing knocked both him and the Hunter towards the wall, sliding to a stop only a few inches away from it. Viggan, as resilient as he was, managed to wedge Skulldasher in the floor and brace himself against the impact, though he was still pushed away a good distance. The shapeless being quickly began to unravel itself, craggy scales, piercing eyes, and menacing claws and wings becoming distinguishable as the dragon unleashed a massive roar that rattled the bones of the combatants before it, sand and gravel blasting out of its mouth as it did so.

 

"Well heck, I wasn't expecting to see you a third time," The Insane Space Hunter said as he got back up, brushing himself off. "Those duckies and bunnies not treating ya right?"

 

The dragon snarled and reared its head back before thrusting it forward and spewing out a boulder that zinged right past Viggan and towards ISH. Thankfully, the Hunter was still trying to shake off the previous shock, the boulder shattering against his head, though also leaving the Hunter a little woozy.

 

"Ouch."

 

"Did that thing breathe a fucking rock!?" Badger exclaimed, motioning to scratch his head but just not being able to do it. Viggan had nothing to say but another battle roar, followed by some indistinguishable babbling, as he charged madly towards the scaly beast. Rising up on its hind legs, the dragon allowed Viggan to close in before letting itself drop, flattening the barbarian beneath its girth and uttering a disturbingly laugh-like grumble. "Oh, fuck."

 

The dragon suddenly grunted with confusion as a strained growling echoed from beneath it, its body being lifted from the ground as Viggan rose up, skin burning red with veins bulging, and heaved the dragon above his head, spun it around like a pro-wrestler, then threw it towards the wall, the dragon groaning in pain as it slammed against the eerily clean metal, several of its craggy scales shattering from its body as it lay on its side, temporarily stunned.

 

"That's what I'm talkin' about!" Badger shouted, running across the room and readying his photon saber as Viggan went about recovering Skulldasher. The digital warrior sent several swings of the blade through the dragon's chest, hoping to slow it down by weakening its heart. Groaning again, the dragon opened its eyes, snarling as it thrashed its limbs and knocked Badger away with one of its claws. The attack worked, however, as the dragon's breath was labored as it got back on its feet, though Badger now lay on the other side of the room with several large gashes running through his torso. "Fuuuuck..."

 

"Then came the Hunter's turn!" The Insane Space Hunter announced, arm raised in the air with finger extended. He didn't yet realize that Viggan was already engaged again with the dragon, delivering several effective hits with Skulldasher before being knocked away by the dragon's spiked tail, then buried under a mound of sand. The foreign swear words bursting from the mound gave strong indication that the barbarian would survive. Scraping his feet against the ground much the way a bull does, the Hunter charged towards the dragon, still tired from Badger's attack, uttering an impressive imitation of a bull as he ended his run and leapt in the air, smashing his skull into the dragon's skull with his patented High-Velocity Whimsically Ridiculous Unreliable Flying Headbutt of Insanity that Ensures Victory. Staggering backward as the Hunter bounced away from the attack, the dragon once again fell onto one of its sides, groaning as it tried to recover.

 

It was during this time that Viggan exploded from the mound of sand, Skulldasher clutched viciously as he uttered more savage rambling and charged forward. Having gained particular distaste for the tail, Viggan made it his objective to tear it off with one mighty swing from his oversized hatchet, the crudely sharpened blade splitting apart the stone scales and spikes before cracking the floor on the other side, the heavy piece of severed dragon slamming to the floor with the strength of a collapsing building. The dragon did not respond as violently as one would expect, almost as if used to having its tail severed, though it still got up madly, swinging at Viggan and causing him to skid along the floor by his feet as he unintentionally guarded with one of his axe swings. Grumbling bitterly, the dragon turned its back to Viggan and picked up its lopped off tail in its jaws, now wielding it as a club.

 

"This thing's fucking crazy," Badger said as his gashes continued to slowly close up. "I mean, just look at that fucker! Viggan cut its tail off and what? It picks it up in its mouth like it has something planned!"

 

"Yes, me and that tail go way back," the Hunter laughed, then frowned. "Oh, wait, those memories are bad."

 

Gravel poured from the sides of the dragon's mouth as it grumbled again, swinging its tail at both Badger and ISH with a long sway of its neck. The two were able to leap away from the attack, though the rocks and debris thrown into the air from the tail's grinding against the floor battered them harshly and caused them to land sloppily, Badger on his bottom and the Hunter on the top of his head. Viggan could be heard yelling in a craze again, charging up from behind as the dragon gave a minor glance back. It made an annoyed snort, and Viggan was buried under another large mound of sand. As it turned its attention back to the other two, it was greeted by an ear-shattering noise and blinding light.

 

"How you like the photo-sonic blaster?" Badger laughed, spinning the device on a finger before pocketing it. The dragon's bellowing and blind attacks swept harmlessly past Badger as he readied his hand-cannon and fired a bolt right at the dragon's right ankle. The electrical arc bounced around the scales without effect. "What the fuck!?"

 

"Electric attacks can't hurt ground types, ya silly goose!" the Hunter announced smartly before a wild swing from the dragon's tail club nailed him in the side of the head and sent him flying to the other side of the room, smacking into one of the ball-bearing pedestals. "Yikes, déjà vu... only I wasn't impaled that time."

 

Conking himself in the head a bit with his wrist until the room stopped spinning, ISH turned his attention to the pedestal, then looked back to the berserk dragon, then back to the pedestal. He gave another look back to the dragon for good measure.

 

"Wanda Ball, anyone?" The Insane Space Hunter said as he grabbed onto the pedestal and raised it over his head. "Me first!"

 

Tossing the pedestal with what appeared to be raw effortlessness, The Insane Space Hunter watched as it sailed gracefully through the air before landing squarely on the dragon's head and breaking in two, the dragon freezing in place for five seconds before toppling to the ground with its tongue lolling out as its eyes spun.

 

"Yeah, five points!" the Hunter cheered, pumping his arms in the air. "Too bad we lost the ball..."

 

Shaking the stupid off its face, the dragon snarled and got back up on its feet, whipping back its head and letting its tail go, the spiked mace of a tail careening like a trackless train and slamming the Hunter against and into the wall very profoundly.

 

"I'm alright, I'm alright," came the muffled voice of the Hunter after the awkward pause proceeding the tail's wedging into the wall. "I can't speak for my spleen, though."

 

The dragon snorted in ISH's direction, then turned its piercing gaze towards Badger. It appeared that a pedestal to the head could cure the effects of Badger's photo-sonic blaster, much to the dismay of the digital man, who watched as the beast rose up on its hind legs a second time, only this time stamping hard with one of its feet. A chain of upheavals shot up from the ground from where the dragon pounded the floor, Badger watching as the eruptions of rock and earth jutted their way towards him, one after the other. His fists clenching, knees bent, and eyes squinting, Badger faced the oncoming attack like a cowboy ready to draw. Just as the last of the upheavals was right before Badger's eyes, he quickly leapt to the side, barely escaping the final giant chunk of stone that eclipsed the others by threefold as it raged up from the ground. Badger rolled out of his dodge with a laugh.

 

"Missed me, fat ass!" he taunted, smacking his butt towards the dragon. It proceeded to barf a mudslide on him. "Oh, you suck."

 

The raging voice of Viggan exploded after its period of absence, the barbarian shouting more foreign swears as he tripped out of the last mound of sand and made his way back towards the dragon. He was no sooner buried under another mound.

 

"This thing's fucking insane, man!" Badger called out as he tried to free himself from the hardening puddle of mud. "Insane!"

 

"What am I, then?" the Hunter said perturbed, finally pushing the tail out in front of him as he made his way out of the hole in the wall. "The In-Spain S.A.S.E. Huntfer?"

 

He mumbled something incomprehensible as he made his way to the other end of the tail, taking hold of it by the epidermis and swinging it around like some cheap movie monster. When he finally let it go, it sailed about as gracefully as the pedestal had, landing just as squarely on the dragon's head before rolling off and embedding itself into the floor. The dragon stayed frozen for about three seconds this time before another pedestal also landed on top of its skull and split in two, the impact of which made its tongue flail out like a party horn before it fell on its face.

 

"Gimme a hand, will ya?" Badger said, flailing his arms from where they were stuck in the mud over to ISH. "I've got mud in my pants, for fuck's sake."

 

"You really enjoy throwing those f-bombs out, don't you?" the Hunter questioned as he grabbed on to Badger's arms and began yanking him loose from the clay.

 

"There is nothing wrong with saying 'fuck' for any and all situations," Badger said matter-of-factly. "Don't believe me? I know a man who can sway your way of thinking."

 

The hardened mud broke apart as The Insane Space Hunter finally got Badger back to his feet, the nearby dragon groaning as it shook off its double dose of stupid and bared its teeth at the two. A very short Viggan roar came from behind before it could continue.

 

"Listen good, lizard, you bury me in sand again and I'll-" Viggan tried to say before being buried in sand again. Badger smacked the bulging sides of his pants, an assortment of miniature abstract clay statues tumbling out from the cuffs of his pants.

 

"Man, Viggan is getting pissed," Badger said while shaking the last few bits of clay from his pockets. "I will, too, if that thing pukes mud on me again."

 

Turning back around after giving a snort in Viggan's direction, the dragon bared its teeth (again) at ISH and Badger, grains of sand and pebbles pouring out from between each fang. The two warriors backed up as the dragon took a step towards them, giving a short bark before raising its foot for the next step. When it came down, it came down hard, the dragon roaring in unison and causing a mountain of rock and sand to explode from the ground beneath the Hunter and Badger, both warriors flying through the air from the force and landing face first into the same pile of sand Viggan was trapped in. Badger let out a distasteful groan.

 

"Holy cannoli, its smells like Viggan in here," he choked. The Hunter squirmed a little.

 

"You get all the ladies, don't you Viggan?" he asked. The barbarian replied with something threatening that the Hunter assumed was not aimed towards him. The dragon's laughing grumble returned as it advanced upon the sand trap of tasty treats, its jaws opening wide and keeping it from noticing Viggan as he poked Skulldasher ever so delicately out of the mound. As it took its next step, the giant hatchet pressed against its foot, it tripped comically and slammed hard into the floor beside the mound of sand, breaking it apart and causing the three trapped warriors to slide with the spreading grains. Getting up while knocking the sand from his ears, The Insane Space Hunter spotted a new opportunity to attack, reaching behind himself as he began moving towards the fallen beast. "I've been waiting to whip this bad boy out!"

 

The Hunter exclaimed this as he revealed a bazooka inexplicably composed of bamboo, its shifty ammunition rattling around inside it as it bounced with the Hunter's dash. Without wasting another second, the Hunter leapt into the air towards the dragon, the beast not noticing the Hunter's descent until he was only a few feet away, bazooka pointed between the dragon's eyes as The Insane Space Hunter pulled the trigger, a loud click resounding next to the dragon's bummed whimper.

 

The dragon's death cry was cut short as an explosion riddled with twig snapping and iron-banging sounds shook the entire room, the remaining pedestals being shattered by the shock combined with the sudden downpour of sword blades, horseshoes, and cheese wheels. Badger kept his head covered as he got up, not wanting to get conked in the head by a rogue horseshoe from the Hunter's attack. When it was relatively safe to move in, Badger spotted the Insane one, his scorched and shattered weapon still in hand as he sat near the headless body of the dragon.

 

"I still have all my fingers!" The Hunter exclaimed. He then pulled out a stone tablet caked with the dragon's face meat and half a horseshoe. "Also, I found this thing. Could be handy in a breakfast maker."

 

Badger was ready to respond to this when Viggan emitted a holler of rage and fury from the last mound of sand he hoped he would ever get stuck in, thrashing his way out of it and towards the obviously dead dragon and proceeding to hack into it with Skulldasher, spraying blood all over himself as he swung over and over again into the deceased monster's body, sand in his eyes and teeth.

 

"Leave him to it?" the Hunter questioned, keeping his sight on Viggan while taking out a bag of popcorn.

 

"Yeah," Badger nodded, the two backing away from the obscenely loud bloodfest as a few rocky scales landed near their feet, not yet noticing that the door behind them had opened. "Told you he was getting pissed."

 

Viggan kept sweeping his hatchet through the dragon over and over, the rage pouring out of his ears like steam and leaving its mark in the rocky carcass. He was still going on about something neither of the two could hope to understand.

 

"You're gonna share that, right?"

 

---

 

The room Rashiel, Vaughn, and Glitch entered was much longer than the chamber they came from, the floor tapering out into a bridge that led to the opposite wall of the room. For whatever reason, the walls parallel to the bridge resembled the sides of the residential buildings back in NeoSeattle, only less rundown. Everything else appeared the same, though, including the absence of a ceiling, as well as a floor beyond the tapering near the room's entrance and the bridge that stretched across. A heavy door soon closed loudly behind the three.

 

"Uh oh," Rashiel said as she looked back at the obstruction to their way out, proceeding to turn back around and gasp as what she saw next. "It's him!!"

 

The three looked on at the distant end of the bridge, a figure standing there with three black wings, blonde hair, and a thick sword with a hook at the end. He silently turned around, his unworldly, inverted eyes glaring at the one leading the trio.

 

Gritting her teeth, Rashiel armed her bow with hardly a thought. Before she could loose the arrow, however, a hand quickly shoved the trajectory off, the arrow planting itself inches away from DamnGlitch's foot. Rashiel looked back, surprised, as Vaughn stayed her hand from attacking a second time.

 

<I know what you're thinking,> Vaughn began, looking hard at Rashiel, then over at Glitch who hadn't even noticed the arrow, already distancing himself from it as he walked onto the bridge, Vaughn's glance moving to Bill as he also started walking towards his nemesis. <We can't interfere with this battle.>

 

<What are you saying?> Rashiel almost stammered, her arm starting to shake as she wanted ever more seriously to exact vengeance on Lord Sullivan. <I can't forgive that freak for what he did to you!>

 

<Then watch his punishment from here,> Vaughn said, stepping back and carrying Rashiel with him as he stood against the wall. <I felt this before, back in NeoSeattle when these two faced off. Their feud runs deep. What would truly be unforgivable is if we stood in-between these two as they battled.>

 

Rashiel's mouth opened as if to oppose the idea, but no words came out. There was nothing she could say as she looked into Vaughn's eyes, the demon's glance locked on to the scene before him.

 

<This is a fight Gabriel must do alone.>

 

With great hesitation, Rashiel managed to put away her bow, the high-elf now looking determinedly towards the two BioSuits as they drew closer to one another.

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******

The following was written by DamnGlitch

******

 

Glitch continued forward, his gate constant, Last Prayer already in his hand and slung heavily over his shoulder. He had already forgotten about Vaughn and Rashiel.

 

"Bill, you suave motherfucker, how the hell have you been. Fancy seeing you here. Who'd you have to fuck to get a ride up to the big time?"

 

Bill paced, sword dragging behind him. His uniform, outfit, whatever you would call it still tattered from the previous battles he had survived so far. His pure white eyes darted across the floor, and he chewed on his thumb, not looking at Glitch.

 

"You seem in good spirits Glitch but I don't think you realize quite how dire this situation is. No, we're in a very bad place. You want to know how I got here? I was lifted by my fucking ear and tossed into this hole. We're fucking screwed, you know that? This whole thing stinks to high heaven because of you and your band of retards. We are going to die."

 

Bill swung his head to face Glitch and smashed his sword against the metal floor, sending sparks flying.

 

"WE ARE GOING TO FUCKING DIE."

 

Glitch continued to close the space between him and his rival's parallel, "I dunno Bill, I have a long standing bet against death, and so far it's paid in spades."

 

"Fine, joke. I don't care. At the very least I can have the pleasure of seeing you massacred under my hand before the world is completely destroyed."

 

That caused Glitch to pause, "Wait, come again?"

 

But it was too late. Bill had taken that moment to pump his powerful trifecta of wings and launch himself, blade forward, at the taller man. Gabe dropped down, the laurels of his trench coat fluttering in the air behind him, shredded as Bill flew at break neck speed over him.

 

"Well I guess you're too stupid to press for information. Glad you decided to join the party though," said Gabe. He smashed his sword against the floor like Bill had. "Let's get trashed and fuck this place up!"

 

Gabe broke into a dash at Bill's side, his sword swung horizontally. Bill spun his sword and caught the blow with an easy block. Gabe pushed off the ground into the air, flipping over Bill and dropping to crouch, sweeping his feet out from under him. Bill lost contact with the ground but immediately floated backward under the power of his massive wings. Gabe had barely gotten to his feet by the time Bill was on him again. The blonde haired demon's blade was a blur of strikes, each one impacting loudly, fiercely against the heavy metal of Gabe's own weapon.

 

Grunting under the power of the blows, Gabe threw himself to the side, cartwheeling into Bill's peripheral vision, and launching another attack. Bill's sword caught it immediately. Hard pressed to find an opening, Gabe's left hand molded and warped, skin draining into metal as his fist changed again into a large, sharpened mechanical claw. He reached forward, trying to slash at Bill's side, but the blond man was still too quick for him, and maneuvered his torso out of the way. He floated backwards, and landed on his feet.

 

"Were you always this slow, Glitch, or is this a new weakness of yours?"

 

Gabe laughed and cracked his neck "No, I'm just getting warmed up. You're so busy pissing your pants that you forgot something really damn important about me, though."

 

Bill planted his hand on his hip, wagging his sword in the air with his other, "Oh, how's that?"

 

Gabe smirked at him and shrugged, "Sometimes I like to fight DIRTY." He broke into a dash.

 

He raised his sword high into the air, Bill was already preparing to block...

 

In Gabe's mind time slowed to a crawl. He brought his whole body down, running nearly parallel to the ground. His sword cocked in a low position this time, he swung. At the end of his swing, he let go. The sword tumbled like a boomerang towards Bill's shins. Gabe's hands, both claws, now slammed into the ground. His forward momentum sent him into a flip. High in the air, arms behind him, Gabe's prosthetics molded and changed yet again, into two massive swords. He clamped them both together and brought them down with all his might.

 

To Bill it had happened so fast, there was nothing he could have done about it. Defend high, defend low and then defend high, versus three different angles of attack. His sword was still embedded in the ground, stopping the free Last Prayer. Gabe's twin prosthetic blades tore through his shoulder and then foot as it passed through even his thick Neo Titanium bones like butter.

 

The force of the blow slammed Bill into the ground. His left arm flew off in the distance, and his sanctuary dropped to the ground in front of him.

 

"Ow... Fuck... My foot? You hit my... foot. You fucking faggot. You hit my foot you goddamn faggot."

 

Bill lay bleeding on the ground.

 

"No, this won't do... not at all."

 

Gabe moved in to finish the job, lest Bill activate his virus system.

 

His hands human once more he tumbled forward, grabbing his sword, and twisting around to swing at Bill's neck. Bill reacted however. His other hand, prosthetic activated and now a claw, diverted the arc of the swing.

 

Right through his own face.

 

Gore flew from Bill's mouth as the blunt tip of the heavy Neo Tintanium ravaged his jaw. Gabe stumbled back, and recoiled when Bill's head came back up.

 

Bill gurgled though blood and half a tongue "Gruuuat. Ouu've oouined aye uretty pace."

 

Bill's jaw was still in place but both of his cheeks had been torn out, and a number of his teeth had been knocked askew as well. Blood ran down his chin and soaked his clothing.

 

"Uell... its ueen oun."

 

Bills body went ridged and he fell forward, making a wet slap against the brushed metal ground.

 

Gabe sighed and almost sheathed his sword.

 

Vaughn screamed from the entrance to the room "NO YOU FOOL! He's not dead!"

 

Bill's body had begun to vibrate on the floor, twitching so regularly that it was hard to tell if it was him or the floor shaking. Without another moment's pause four massive and biomechanical prosthetics burst from his back, snaking around his now erect black wings. Where his fourth wing once existed, a black eye opened, iris white like the one's in Bill's face. It glared at Gabe from the center of the fallen Lord Sullivan's back.

 

Lines began to split along Bill's body, and more and more eyes began to appear, glaring, searching. Bill's body began to rear up, ethereally floating into a standing position.

 

"You think this may be the time when I finally kill you, and walk away triumphant. But you're wrong. This ends now, this all ends right now."

 

Gabe looked on in horror as Bill's mangled face split into a hellish grin, "Do you know what the DS^2 on a virus system can do? I assure you, it's very impressive"

 

The lines of circuitry that had formed along his entire body began to glow. His top, already torn to shreds, flew off in the gusts of wind that began to pick up. His entire torso was covered in eyes, all glowing, all seeing. They looked accusingly at Gabe, who had no idea what to do.

 

"You see Gabe, I too don't always like to play fair."

 

Gabe shook himself out of his daze "You'll kill us all. This whole thing will come crashing down, with everybody in it!"

 

Bill laughed "I thought you were trying to STOP me from doing it."

 

He had Gabe there. The purple haired man struggled to think of a solution. There really was nothing stopping Bill from going nuclear.

 

Suddenly, Gabe had an idea. "Wait, what about Spam?"

 

Bill sighed, glowing transcendently, floating about the ground "Who?"

 

Glitch shook his head "I mean, Ambrosia, what about her? She's here too."

 

Bill shrugged his now enlarged shoulders, gigantic claws bobbing slightly "And? She's interesting but it's not like I love her. You can have her. Oh wait, I don't think that will be an option."

 

Gabe's mind continued to race.

 

"Father!"

 

"What?"

 

Gabe was ready to gamble.

 

"You know about Father, right?"

 

Bill laughed "Is that what you're calling Apex these days?"

 

Gabe smirked up at the floating man "Apex? Please. Chump change. No... Father. Who replaced Mother..."

 

Bill's frown deepened and he began to glow less. "What do you mean?"

 

Gabe paced around Bill, who spun slowly to keep up "You know... Father. I didn't start here. You knew that as soon as you saw me. I'm not the Gabe from this world, much like all those other people aren't from this world.... But Gabe, Glitch, the Type 6. You saw him die. You never got to kill him... except... he's not dead."

 

All six of Bills arms flew out from him at once. Steel rafters and concrete exploded as it impacted with the reinforced walls. "WHAT?!"

 

Gabe laughed, "That's right, your best friend has been behind the scenes all along. He's been running the show, the whole show, while you ran around with your dick hanging out like you were important. So what are you gonna do, huh? You gonna blow yourself up. Because I can tell you this, if you kill me I don't give a fuck, I'll be back. And if you kill yourself you'll never get a chance at defeating your Glitch."

 

The glowing stopped and in a split second Gabe was in motion. He was running full speed Last Prayer in one hand and his beam sabre in the other. A massive tube of wires, sinew and bone crushed down at Gabe who attempted to deflect it with the beam sabre. The force of the impact shook him to his core and the focusing crystal, absorbing the brunt of the impact, could not hold up. The beam saber handle exploded in Gabe's hand, melting his flesh from his bone and riddling his palm with superheated metal.

 

But Gabe couldn't be stopped, not now, not over something like that. The explosion gave him enough time to dive and clutch Bill's lost sword in his bloody grip. Gabe turned back to Bill who was bearing down on him. The heavy Neo titanium blades were more than strong enough to block and deflect the destructive blows from Bill's virally enhanced strength. With quick footwork Gabe dodged the relatively slow strikes, and as soon as Bill managed to imbed himself into the steel of the floor, Gabe rushed up the tubular arm, both swords held out behind him.

 

He jumped, dodged and swung from the various arms that began to assail him. With hair raising reflexes he dodged under one swipe and then managed to catch the next with the hook of Bill's sword, swinging around and sending himself high into the air. As he began to drop down he flashed a smile at Bill who looked up helplessly. Gabe readied his strike when we was plucked from the air by not one but three of Bill's massive prosthetics. Bill brought him face to face, breath hot on Gabe's dirtied scowl.

 

"You cocky little bastard. It's all tricks with you isn't it. Well that's all over. Maybe I'll have the pleasure of killing two Gabe's today, huh? Haha."

 

Gabe freed his hand and smirked, gazing into bill's once blue, now pale white eyes "No, I don't think that will be happening" His hand a claw, he racked his fingers across Bill's eyes. Both split and burst, blood and clear liquid pouring down his face. Bill screamed out in horror, his grip loosening on Gabe, who dropped to the floor, and barked a laugh.

 

"This is it!"

 

He began puncturing the exposed eyes on Bill's body. His screams echoed through the spacious metal corridors, as he slowly curled into a ball, still in his viral form.

 

"God stop please stop it hurts it hurts so much!"

 

"Bill... there's one thing I wanna say."

 

"What," he croaked, "what is it?"

 

Gabe brought his face very close to Bill's, watching Bill's face continually contorted under the immense pain he felt.

 

"This was life and death for you. And you lost. To me, this was nothing but a game, and you couldn't touch me."

 

Gabe cocked Last Prayer over his shoulder, tip forward.

 

"Goodbye, Bill."

With a forward thrust the dull flat tip of the blade decapitated Bill. A small amount of blood sprayed from his neck until his heart stopped, and finally even the gurgling from his stump ceased. His head rolled to a stop a few meters behind his corpse.

 

Vaughn and Rashiel finally joined Gabe, who stood over his win with silent satisfaction. Gabe barely even noticed the slight look of distress and distaste on their face when he cut open Bill's stomach and fished out a stone tablet.

 

"I didn't expect to find that..."

 

Vaughn's face was screwed up into a frown, "What WERE you looking for?"

 

Gabe was matter-of-fact in tone, his hands covered in blood up to his forearms, "Honestly I was going to harvest his BioSuit reactor. There's always the chance it might come in handy, and it's not like he needs it anymore. Hell, It'll make sure he stays dead for the moment.

 

Rashiel looked at Bill's eyeless, lifeless head and said nothing.

 

Gabe finally pulled the small, soda can sized reactor out of Bill's guts. He gave the tablet he had discovered to Vaughn who reluctantly took it and then grabbed his tattered trench coat, slipping the filthy reactor into one of the inside pockets.

 

Rashiel leaned over the Vaughn, <It sure was bloody, but I expected it to be a little more drawn out. Sort of a short climatic battle, anyway.>

 

Gabe picked up on it and laughed, walking towards the exit, "If everything were as drawn out as videogames and anime we'd never get this over with. Come on, this has been dragging on for much too long."

 

---

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******

The following was written by Sasuke

******

 

Sword Bearer and Max shared a silent stroll due mostly in part to the presence of Jed, the bounty hunter's dourness preventing any friendly advances either two might have thought of making. Footsteps were the only things that echoed through the hall and into the room at the end.

 

The chamber was filled with exquisite stone carvings, though what the carvings were of could not be figured out. The walls were similarly covered in such designs that swirled along in all directions, making it hard to see the corners of the room, or if there were any corners at all. As with the other rooms, the walls stretched upwards and downwards to an infinite extent. The floor had greater transparency then the floor from the main room, giving the ground a very unreliable feel as the three stepped in, the chamber door closing behind them slowly.

 

"Experience has taught me that traps are rarely so subtle in their execution," Sword Bearer said, glancing back at the sealed way in. He turned his glance back, noticing a throne near the opposite wall, made to resemble the carvings that dotted the room's perimeter. "Perhaps our host is a tad late?"

 

"I'd just wreck the control room when that happened," Max said, moving over to one of the sculptures and examining it. "What's with these statues? Are they supposed to represent wind or something?"

 

"Intestines," Jed mumbled, causing the other two to look over at him. He walked towards the statue on the opposite side of the entryway from the one Max had gone to. "It doesn't break enough to be wind, and it lacks the flow of water. These sculptures depict guts."

 

"Guts?" John uttered rather disdainfully, looking back towards the throne, then at the walls. The disgusted look on his face changed as he began to notice what Jedidiah pointed out. "I suppose there is some resemblance..."

 

"Looks too flowery to be intestines," Max said, walking around and inspecting one of the statues.

 

"Art can make beauty from the most sickening of crimes," Jedidiah stated. "Something I picked up in my travels."

 

A slight shaking followed Jed's words, the entire room shimmering for only a moment as the three readied themselves for an ambush. However, no attacks came, the room continuing as it was as if nothing had happened. They did not ease the tension the strange occurrence brought on, however, checking their surroundings for anything that might have changed.

 

"Welcome," a sultry voice called out from around the room, Sword Bearer, Max, and Jed quickly jumping back into a triangle formation as they swiftly glanced around for the source, though nothing had changed. A second semi-tremor accompanied by identical shimmering occurred once more, the sound of flapping garments causing the three to look over to the now occupied throne, a beautiful and scantily clad woman smiling back at them from the seat.

 

"Another thing I picked up," Jed started, remaining indifferent as he faced the woman.

 

"Pretty sure I got this one," Max interrupted, keeping his hands close to his armaments. Sword Bearer sneered towards the woman.

 

"Folly," he said, the woman keeping her deceptively attractive smile as John drew both his swords without hesitation.

 

"You know this gal, John?" Max said, taking hold of his Shriek upon noticing Sword Bearer's swiftness in drawing his weapons against the woman.

 

"Please, calm yourselves," Folly said smoothly, rising up from the throne and closing her eyes, crossing her arms as if to embrace herself. "Passed is the time for conflict, suffering, and misery. Let your bodies relax. Soon there will be no need for tools of death. All shall slumber peacefully."

 

"Chocma warned me of you, Folly, your seduction falls short," Sword Bearer called out to her, Folly's eyes opening into glittering golden pools as she kept smiling, a twinkle of malice appearing in her eyes for only a second. Sword Bearer shifted his body back towards Max and Jed, though he kept his pose locked on to Folly. "Do not let her appearance draw you in. This abomination is sister to Chocma, though there is not a pinch of wisdom in her. Folly is nothing but foolish temptation and lies. She will draw you in to a false paradise and leave your meat-picked corpse amongst flowers fed by blood."

 

"Is she a deity of some kind?" Jed questioned, Oblivion and Escape ready in his hands.

 

"She is certainly not mortal," Sword Bearer answered. "But she can be defeated, just don't dare underestimate her."

 

"Just pretty packaging, then?" Max said, his Shriek shaking in his hand as he held on to it tightly.

 

Folly giggled, now rising higher into the air as her clothing fell down to her waist, her breasts covered by her long hair as the ends of her dress stretched out and spread along the floor, forming into feathery tendrils that sparkled like jewels. A beautiful soprano flooded out from underneath the folds of her dress and echoed through the chamber, a serpentine creature appearing from behind the curtain, its scales like crystalline feathers that wavered as it continued to sing. Its wing-like arms followed shortly, gripping into the floor as large gold and silver flowers blossomed behind Folly, making it as though her form consumed the entire back wall of the chamber.

 

Max pulled back his arm, Shriek ready, then paused as he felt something tickle his left ankle. Looking down, one of the feathery tendrils had snaked its way around his foot, filling his leg with an unnaturally pleasant tingle. This was quickly brought to an end as the Sword of Geburah was thrust into the floor and severed the arm, Max jerking back as pain shot through his leg, the tendril having gently caressed its way clean through his armor and into the skin. Had Sword Bearer not taken action, Max probably would have lost his foot.

 

"That clinches it," Max grumbled, looking down at the writhing tendril and silencing it with his Shriek. He looked up at the woman portion of Folly as she teased with one hand brushing about a concealing lock of hair, the other hand beckoning the three fighters.

 

"What troubles you?" she said with a flutter of her eyes. "Be it illness or hardship, it can be cured. Let yourself be at ease."

 

"Enough!" Sword Bearer shouted, sweeping his holy weapon through the air and releasing a blue energy blade straight towards Folly. Several tendrils quickly lifted up to block the attack, the blade dissipating as the severed tendrils and their roots were reduced to ashes. A shrill noise cut through the air as the airborne ash was spread apart by Max's Shriek, Folly cooing and covering herself as the bladed weapon failed to slice through her and instead wheeled its way along her body, cutting into her skin and sending strands of hair everywhere. By the time Max caught the Shriek, however, her cuts had already mended and her lost strands of hair quickly replaced. "She is as strong as I thought..."

 

Jedidiah grunted, looking away from the woman part of Folly and down at the glistening beast that sung. Taking aim, Jedidiah fired two shots from each gun at the creature's face, shards of glass flying into the air as the creature flailed momentarily from the attacks, ceasing its song as it opened its jaws and blasted out a sparkling cloud of dust. Throwing his shroud across his face, Jedidiah leapt back and away from the cloud, Max dodging to the left as his suit alerted him of the danger presented by the dust, Sword Bearer moving to the right but unintentionally catching a whiff of the dust, a dream-like sensation flooding through his body. He choked up blood a second later.

 

"I can't pinpoint any weak spots," Jedidiah said.

 

"Then we'll just have to keep attacking," Max said, throwing his Shriek again. It swerved past Folly this time, mowing down some of the giant flowers behind her before spinning back, Sword Bearer swiftly dodging it before it had a chance to take off his head, Max uttering an embarrassed noise as he caught the bladed wheel. "Sorry! This thing still won't listen to me!"

 

Sword Bearer remained quiet, rubbing his head where a few hairs had been shaved off. Taking hold of Shadow, John whispered a mantra that wrapped his hand and the handle of shadow in blue light, Sword Bearer reeling back quickly before slinging the blade like a spear. More tendrils rose up in an attempt to guard, but the sword easily pierced through and skewered Folly where her human form connected to the beastly section below. Folly didn't seem to mind, though the creature shuddered noticeably. Sword Bearer pulled back on the arm he held Shadow with, the aura returning as a chain that pulled back Shadow to his hand before disappearing in a blue glow.

 

Folly giggled again, uncrossing her arms and holding them far apart as petals from the flowers behind her were drawn above her palms and formed into crystals. Slowly motioning her hands towards Max and Jedidiah, she fired off the crystals, sparkles traveling behind them as the two fighters quickly evaded them, Max dashing to the side as Jed rolled away. The bounty hunter quickly countered with several shots from his pistols, one of the bullets nailing the beast head in the eye and making it cover itself with its arms. The blades on Max's Shriek buzzing madly, the space hunter bolted straight towards Folly and swung the whirling blades at the arms of the creature, each strike sending a flurry of shards into the air. A melodious growl from behind the arms alerted Max as he pulled back the Shriek, canceling his next attack and somersaulting backwards before the creature had a chance to headbutt him. His body performed a weird twist right before he landed, though it was something Sword Bearer had not spotted.

 

"Perhaps there is a weak spot after all," Sword Bearer said, crossing his blades in preparation to attack the creature half of Folly. He was stopped at the first step of his attack as Max's Shriek flew at him a second time, John being forced to duck under it again. "Max, this isn't the time to be losing control!"

 

As the Shriek was caught, Sword Bearer could see that Max was no longer facing towards Folly, the space hunter's aim now directed at John. Shambling forward, Max swung twice with the whirling Shriek, Sword Bearer deflecting the first swing with Shadow and leaping away from the second swing. Landing, he swiftly brought both his swords up to defend as Max dashed towards him in a crooked gait.

 

"What is the meaning of this?" Sword Bearer shouted out just before catching the Shriek between both his swords as Max lunged forward with it, sparks flying about as the device buzzed frantically.

 

"Don't fight back," Max said through a strangled voice. "I'm trying... to get them off you."

 

A shot rang out through the air, Sword Bearer wincing and gritting his teeth as he felt a bullet enter his right calf. He could barely see past the disillusioned Max, Jed's arms quivering as he tried to pull back Escape after having used it to fire upon his own teammate.

 

"No, there's... nothing," Jed struggled to say. "But I see something... it's not... real."

 

"Accursed witch," Sword Bearer said, ignoring the pain in his leg as he pressed forward against the Shriek and threw Max back, his weapon crying madly through the air before embedding itself in one of the walls. He could see Folly's tendrils drawing closer, waiting for the opportunity to fall upon the trio at their weakest. Not waiting another moment, John sheathed Shadow and held the Sword of Geburah with both hands, blue light emanating from the blade as he raised it high into the air. "Please offer me your sight, Changer! Dispel the madness this she-fiend sets upon us!"

 

The blue light shined even brighter, stretching downwards and wrapping around John's entire body before it exploded outward and engulfed the entire room. As the brilliance overcame all things seen, the once beautiful song soon diminished into grotesque howls and moans, sickening sounds of bubbling and pumping rising up as the light faded and both the chamber and Folly were shown for what they really were.

 

The stone carvings and walls now moved and glistened like flesh, the brown-mottled entrails netted with hollow veins. Folly's golden complexion was now gone, her entire body stained red from the blood of her victims, her hair dripping and knotted with it, her eyes glowing a piercing shade of crimson as she smiled through reddened teeth, yet still having an inhuman attractiveness about her. Her tendrils were now grossly gnarled roots, unevenly covered in curved, oversized thorns. The beast hid behind its now bulging and bleeding arms, its claws metallic hooks that anxiously tore into its own flesh as snarls of bloodlust echoed from behind. The heavenly flowers were now replaced with vein-covered pitcher plants and flytraps, human limbs reaching out from the mouths, their digits squirming as if life still flowed through them.

 

Limbs weren't the only things emerging from the plants, however, as Sword Bearer looked on, noting the lumpy webs that reached out from both sides of Folly, leading to the floor and entangling Max and Jedidiah. Gripping the Sword of Geburah tightly, its glow quickly coming back, Sword Bearer performed a spin with the strength of a tornado, blue energy blades flying off of him and dashing madly across the room, destroying the webbing and slicing viciously throughout Folly's body. Max staggered backwards as he came back to his senses, the last few bits of disgusting webbing falling off of him. Jed uttered a noise of reluctant gratitude as he got back up to his feet, brushing a piece of meat off his shoulder.

 

"This is the real horror," Sword Bearer coughed, falling onto the leg Jed had shot, the Sword of Geburah embedding in the floor as John leaned against it. Max and Jedidiah were in front of him immediately, facing Folly as their injured ally tried to recover. "She will deceive us no more. The power of the Changer has unmasked all of her tricks."

 

"Not just yet," Jedidiah said, guns aimed at the meaty arms of Folly's beast portion as they shook with wrath, the snarls from behind them growing louder and wilder. "Something else is coming."

 

Giving one more crazed tremble, the arms quickly pulled back as a wall of purple-red drool splashed out, landing inches away from the group of three. Fourteen eyes burned a nightmarish green from behind the following haze, the near-skeletal head of Urticaria lunging out, suspended on a rib-lined, pustule covered neck.

 

"That's the thing from the facility!" Max said, unpleasantly surprised. "What the heck is it doing here?"

 

Folly laughed as Urticaria gave a rasping cry, gouts of blood falling from its mouth as it clawed at the floor towards the three, the plants behind belching puffs of blood as the limbs within writhed.

 

"Can your powers stop it?" Jed said towards Sword Bearer, not looking back.

 

"There is something, but I need time to ready it," Sword Bearer said, still kneeling on the floor. "We are doomed if it backfires, so I need to ensure that it succeeds."

 

"No problem, we can handle this mutant meatball," Max said, reaching for his Shriek and realizing it wasn't there.

 

"Not too fond of being a decoy, but if I have no other choice..." Jedidiah began, shells from his guns clattering together as they fell to the slimy floor. A profound clicking noise rang out as he reloaded Oblivion and Escape. "And Max..."

 

Max turned to Jed, the bounty hunter nodding towards the far off wall where Max's Shriek quivered impatiently in the throbbing swirls. The space hunter returned a thumbs-up, readying his moves for retrieving his weapon as Jed took aim.

 

"Please, there Is no need to fIght," the voices of Folly and Urticaria called out in a ghostly unison, Folly reaching her hands out to the three as Urticaria's tongue danced around its fangs. "Drop your weapons, close your eyes, prepare yourselves for utopIa. We shall end your lIves of sufferIng!"

 

A blue shield formed around Sword Bearer as he began to pray, Jed spitting in response to Folly and Urticaria's words before landing a shot straight through Folly's forehead, her body bending backwards as she let out a cry of ecstasy. Urticaria snarled, spitting a glob of purple gunk towards Jedidiah who quickly leapt over it, the glob suddenly taking off in another direction as Max reached out with his Force Gloves, the venomous mass being splattered back onto the creature, Urticaria shrieking in pain as it's amplified toxins were used against it. Dashing forward, Max stepped off of Urti's head, forcing it into the floor, and into a tall leap, bounding off the wall ahead of him while simultaneously grabbing his Shriek, spinning in midair to face the ground beneath him, then loosed his weapon a second after grabbing it. Screaming downward, the Shriek diced through Folly's back and curved along the collar of Urticaria before returning to Max's hand, the creature roaring and receiving several bullets into the roof of its open mouth as Jed landed, unloading more shots from his pistols. Folly giggled once more as she lustfully wrung the blood from the locks of hair keeping her covered, the cascading streams pouring into Urticaria's wounds and suddenly driving the creature into a frenzy, its eyes going from green to red as its jaws opened and a demonic light started welling up from deep within its body. Jed leapt away as Max quickly took his position in front of Sword Bearer, the space hunter now spinning his right arm ahead of him as Urticaria spat a crimson beam towards the Changer's light, the wicked energy flying away in strips as Max struggled against it, his spinning arm breaking apart the beam and sending scraps of his armor in every direction. Urticaria uttered an irritated gargle as its beam died out, Max taking a small step back as he withdrew his right arm, his hand drenched in blood with all the armor stripped away up to the shoulder.

 

"Might want to hurry that power of yours up a little, John," Max called back, trying to force his arm back to his Shriek. He looked around, noticing that Jed had seemingly vanished, then watched as he abruptly reappeared from behind and above Folly, his feet planting firmly on both her shoulders. She uttered an amused chirp as he brought both his daggers down like shears, decapitating her and jumping away in time to avoid a splash of digestive juices from the plants that lined the rear of her large form. Jed landed besides Max as Folly caught her own head in her arms, her hair sticking to her body as she giggled. A vial was thrown from underneath Jed's shroud, smashing lightly against Max's exposed arm and bathing it in a fluid that brought the feeling back to it.

 

"That should help," Jed mumbled as he sheathed his daggers and pulled his pistols from their holsters in one smooth motion, opening fire on Folly as Urticaria covered both her and himself with his bulging arms.

 

"Oh, it has," Max said, quickly grabbing his Shriek and throwing it at the claw protecting Folly, the blades shredding through without mercy and leaving only a few sinews of the wrist behind as the claw dangled and twitched from the shred of skin that kept it attached to the arm, Urticaria's cry flooded with chemicals. "Let's hope the right one still works!"

 

Max's arms shot out, attempting to pull off the claw with his Force Gloves. Though unable to hold onto the claw, the pressure exerted was enough to detach it, Max quickly grabbing it again and managing to hold on to it as it flailed madly. Folly had already lifted her head back above her shoulders by this time, letting out a gentle sigh as threads of skin and bone flew up from her neck and connected to where her head was severed, undoing the decapitation. She covered her mouth embarrassedly as blood flew out of it, undoubtedly caused by the claw that had just been wedged in her stomach. Venom was spewed from Urticaria's mouth as it thrashed its head about savagely, Folly's roots wavering as they reared up in a random sequence, rolling towards Max and Jed like waves. Shriek throws and pistol shots were able to cut down each attack, but every time a root was destroyed another would quickly take its places and roll out like the others. Max and Jed started backing up as the regenerating roots began to overtake their rate of fire, Max quickly switching away from throwing his Shriek and now holding on to it as he sliced at the roots up close. A huff of boredom escaped Folly as her glance turned away from Max and to Jed, the bounty hunter slashing away with his daggers. With a wave from her arms the roots changed trajectory, no longer spread even but now converging upon Jed. The bounty hunter attempted to cut down the roots, but they came upon him like a tangled bush of vines, Max moving in to intervene but missing as Jed was pulled in at startling speed. He had his daggers crossed to either defend or counter attack, watching as Urticaria raised one of its claws and brought it down with bone-splitting power. Shreds of the dagger blades flew into the air as Jedidiah was smashed hard, his body spinning across the floor and back to his allies as he tried to get up, several severed roots still stuck to his body.

 

"Damn it," he said while biting his lip, a scratch on his face from the dagger shrapnel. He could see Sword Bearer's blue light growing from the top of his vision, blocking the darkness that the organic walls rose up into. Several roots were still flooding towards them, Max still keeping them at bay with his Shriek.

 

"Quickly" Sword Bearer's voice suddenly returned, Max hacking down the closest of the root waves before giving a look back. "Stand to the side, do not let yourselves be dragged in!"

 

Taking hold of the still immobilized Jed, Max leapt away from the next wave of roots, watching as they smashed helplessly against Sword Bearer's expanding light. Landing behind the Changer's champion, Max took a hold of the wall and Jed as he watched the blue aura grow more intense, the roots piling up against it before a single flash turned the entire massive tangle into a cloud of ashes. Sadness crept up on Folly's face as she watched, Urticaria digging his claws into the floor and letting out an angered shriek towards Sword Bearer as he drew back like a baseball player ready to hit a homerun.

 

"Veritas Fold!" Sword Bearer called out, then swung. The entire aura left him on the outline of the swing, becoming a massive swathe of energy that flew right over Folly's head, colliding into the wall behind her and splitting across it, forming burning cracks of white and blue along the intestine-like walls as they hardened and turned beige in color. The cut of energy started spreading open into a circle, the light inside parting as a void of pure darkness was shown on the other side, the ashes and masses of flesh produced from the fight starting to fly into it as a giant vacuum formed.

 

"Must I return home already?" Folly pouted as she looked back, covering herself as her hair was pulled back and the rest of her body started bending, the blood drenched on her being sucked inwards like a midair stream. She looked back towards Sword Bearer and gave a small smile. "How terrible you are, keeping me from helping the poor souls of this world. I guess you can live with that guilt?"

 

She laughed, blowing a kiss to Sword Bearer as Urticaria shrieked, keeping itself anchored to the floor as Folly was torn from its mutilated body, roots, plants, and all. The wisdomless embodiment continued laughing as she was dragged into the vortex, the organic surfaces on the walls and sculptures being torn off into flakes as they followed behind her. Her laugh was silenced as the portal closed on the swirl of red and black, the wicked ambience leaving the room as the light faded.

 

Sword Bearer still stood with his sword at the end of its swing, looking on at the spot where Folly vanished. He finally lowered the blade upon hearing footsteps from behind, looking back at Max and Jed as they walked towards him, the latter still feeling stunned as Max helped walk him over.

 

"I'll say it again," Max said with a hint of amazement in his voice. "If anyone from where I'm from saw that, they'd probably soil themselves!"

 

"It was impressive," Jed nodded, but then looked down, past Sword Bearer. "However, I think you missed something."

 

Sword Bearer turned back to where Folly once lay before them, the only thing left behind being the shriveling, flaking remains of Urticaria. It uttered a pitiful groan as its eyes gave steadily weakening flashes until going completely black, its outstretching limbs finally seizing up as chunks of its skin broke off and blew away like sand. The rest of what used to be meat soon did the same, turning into grains before fading into nothing, leaving only the bones behind, which moments later shared the same fate. The only thing that was left was a stone tablet, Sword Bearer going over and picking it up, the three turning as the door behind them opened in acknowledgement of their success.

 

---

 

"I say, what concession stand awaits us at this avenue's end?" Myrddin asked cheerfully, raising his hat's rim in order to see the strange light coming from the room ahead. "Certainly not frankfurters, I dare say."

 

"Whatever it is, I don't like the looks of it," Kinesis said, squinting towards the room as its entrance grew closer and closer. Once inside, the unsettled feelings were shown to be justified: the room was a smaller, inverted copy of the room they came from, minus the five other doors. It was as clean and pristine as the other room, but its white walls were black, and where things should have grown darker they grew brighter instead. As such, the voids above and below them terminated into white, not black. An uneasy grumble came from Kinesis as he looked up into the white space, kneeling down for a moment to feel the floor, making a displeased face as he touched it. "Its painful to touch."

 

He looked at his fingers where they grazed the floor. There appeared to be no damage, no reddening or bruising of any kind. In fact, the pain went away the instant he took his hand away from the material. The stuff that composed the rest of the station seemed to be mysterious enough, but this was going overboard.

 

"I honestly have no idea what this is," Delta said, also running her fingertips along the floor, moving over to one of the walls and feeling it also. "The way it reacts to light... the way it feels... it almost opposes every other material I've ever seen."

 

"What's all this poppycock over the setting?" Myrddin asked, crossed between confusion and frustration. "It is indeed bizarre! Perhaps a hex of some kind? What say you, milady?"

 

Delta shrugged.

 

"It's possible," she responded.

 

"Sir Kinesis?" Myrddin said, turning to the psychic.

 

"In my unbiased opinion," Kinesis said, trying to make himself sound as expertly as possible. "I must say... this is from another dimension."

 

"Another... dimension?" Delta said, mystified.

 

"Well, yeah, I AM a superhero," Kinesis said with a smirk. "Alternate dimensions are nothing new on me, you know?"

 

"Fascinating!" Myrddin said, smiling widely. "Perhaps we should invite these dimensions over for tea some time?"

 

The odd conversation came to an abrupt end when the entryway's door slammed down, made of the material that the rest of the station was composed of, causing it to stand out against the rest of the room as much as the three fighters did. Before anything could be said, a disturbing bubbling sound filled the air, the three turning away from the door as a bright, multi-colored puddle appeared, making the entire room appear brighter as well, although the door and trio became darker. A series of garbled mechanical noises echoed out from the shifting, airborne liquid before a massive, awkwardly shaped machine was dropped from it, sprawling across the floor and clicking erratically.

 

"tHIS IS NOT THE BASE," it uttered in a strange voice as the puddle above it shrunk down to nothing. The machine itself was mostly white, fitting in perfectly with the room. A discus-shaped extension rose up from the center of its body, the space underneath being rimmed with oddly shaded, mismatched blue eyes. They spun around several times before the cluster with the largest eyes stopped on Delta, Myrddin, and Kinesis. "yOU DARE INTERFERE WITH OUR GOAL?"

 

"Oh, do no worry about us!" Myrddin said casually towards the large alien device. "We wish to interfere with no one, especially a fine chap such as yourself!"

 

The machine paused, its eye cluster spinning a few times before it continued.

 

"lIES," it stated bluntly, rising up on four bulky legs as an array of gun nozzles dropped down from its center.

 

"Wait a moment!" Delta called out, moving in front of Myrddin. "Can't we settle this peacefully? There really is no need to fight."

 

The machine paused a second time, its eye cluster spinning once before it responded.

 

"wE GIVE NO ANSWERS," it said coldly. "wE MAKE THE QUESTIONS. wE SEEK POWER. yOU HAVE NO POWER, SO YOU ARE USELESS AND MUST BE CRUSHED."

 

"I thought I saw all this before!" Kinesis called out, stepping in front of Delta. "This room, this robot, it's just like those weird machines I fought back on the island!"

 

The machine paused a third time, its eye cluster spinning madly as it went from blue to a very dark green, the spin jerking to a stop at the transition's end.

 

"aN ARMORED MAN, A PURPLE HAIRED MAN, A HAIRY MAN, A MAN WITH A GLOWING SWORD, AND... A MASKED MAN!!!" it buzzed sporadically, dark purple sparks firing off from its joints as its head spun madly once more before jerking to a stop, the gun array quickly being withdrawn and replaced by three racks of missile launchers. "yOU ARE AMONGST THE ONES CHARGED WITH LEADING TO OUR MOST RECENT FAILURE! pULVERIZING IS A PUNISHMENT TOO LIGHT FOR YOU! yOUR GANGLIA SHALL BE SPREAD FAR AND USED AS ENERGY CELLS! yOUR SUFFERING... ETERNAL!"

 

"My, such complex words!" Myrddin said, amused. "Milady, did you get the gist of what that fellow said?"

 

"It plans on tearing out our nerves and using them to fuel its devices," Delta replied. "It also inferred that it would be forever painful."

 

"Glad you two are taking it so well," Kinesis said through a forced smirk as the large robot began humming menacingly. A wall of rockets was soon unleashed from the racks of the machine, Delta and Myrddin uttering surprised cries as they were brought into the air beside Kinesis, the psychic using his powers to move them away from danger. "What, no explosions?"

 

Looking down, Kinesis could see that the missiles had not crashed into the wall. They weren't even chasing after the three. Instead, the barrage of missiles now circled the four-legged robot, acting as a barrier against attacks.

 

"Quite the tricky opponent," Myrddin nodded as he was set down beside his two allies.

 

"Only trick I see is digging its own grave," Kinesis laughed, applying some psychic pressure to one of the missiles. It shook for only a moment before the robot's eye cluster flashed black, a horrible scream being sent into Kinesis' head, the psychic hero falling to his knees with a pained yell as the sound bounced around in his skull.

 

"Kinesis, what's wrong?" Delta asked as she moved over to Kinesis, Myrddin taking position in front of the two with his cane ready. The throbbing in Kinesis' head was eased as Delta placed her hand on his shoulder.

 

"Damn scrap heap hit me with some kind of mental static," Kinesis mumbled, rubbing his head. "Didn't do it before when I flew us out of there, but it shot me right out of my concentration when I tried changing the course of one of its missiles."

 

"Fear not, Sir Kinesis!" Myrddin said, his cane raised towards the robot. "I shall deliver a proper spanking to this bully!"

 

The magician waved his cane in the air once, a puff of smoke appearing before his feet and dispersing to reveal a small, pudgy penguin that didn't even reach as high as Myrddin's knees. A loud complaint came from behind.

 

"A penguin!?" Kinesis cried out. "You're going to fight a huge, rocket-wielding weirdo robot with a penguin!?"

 

"This is one arctic bird not to overlook!" Myrddin said with utmost confidence etched in every word. He gave the penguin a nudge with the bottom of his cane, the black and white bird turning, giving a nod, then waddling towards the four-legged robot, stopping just a foot away from the barrier established by the rockets.

 

"yOUR PUNISHMENT NOW INCLUDES SKINNING AND ORGAN GOUGING PRIOR TO GANGLIA REMOVAL," the machine buzzed at the heavy insult it was handed. The penguin stared blankly at it before pulling out a trout from hammerspace and smacking one of the missiles with it, the projectile only being deflected and imploding upon striking one of the robot's legs, the shrapnel flying off in inexplicable directions as the leg struck buckled and the robot emitted a chorus of beeps, clicks, and zaps in shock. Staring blankly again as four missiles whizzed dangerously close to its face, the penguin pulled out a large carp and smacked another one of the missiles away, this one hitting the robot right in the head and causing it to wail in a string of buzzes and scratches, its eye cluster and missile racks retracting as it flipped over onto its top, its legs curling up as six dark pods emerged from its underside, flashing black and purple as bright steam was ejected from their sides. The penguin tossed aside the carp as it revealed a sturgeon, smacking another missile away and causing it to strike one of the pods, bursts of purple sparks and bolts flying from the pod as the glass and circuitry inside it shattered and fell out, the robot simultaneously whining as it flipped right side up and ejected the destroyed pod, the remaining five quickly being pulled back in.

 

"Well THAT made things clear," Kinesis laughed, getting back up on his feet. "Never underestimate the power of a penguin, huh?"

 

"I suppose," Myrddin's muffled voice came, Kinesis and Delta turning to see that the magician was now trapped under a large pile of mackerel, his cane and the hand holding it being the only visible parts of his body. "I can't quite see anything past these scales."

 

Kinesis slapped his forehead as Delta ran over to help Myrddin out.

 

"Yeah, help him out, will you Delta?" Kinesis called out. "I'm going to see if I can lend that little bird a hand."

 

The penguin stared blankly once more as the machine towered over it and glared back viciously, the barrier of missiles rising up above it and twisting about as all the missiles quickly changed course straight towards the penguin. It raised a blowfish to protect itself, though the broadside of Kinesis' sword proved more effective as it flew in front of the penguin at the last moment, all the missile imploding against it and sparing the penguin from any injury as the shrapnel fell harmlessly before the blade. The psychic hero coming up from behind and retaking his sword, he also took three anchovies and a salmon the penguin handed to him, shrugging before stealthily sending them to the pile of fish Myrddin was stuck in.

 

"mORE, MORE MISSILES," the robot buzzed, its missile racks coming down again. Acting quickly, Kinesis lobbed his sword forward, his psychic powers carrying it and slamming it into one of the three racks, causing all the missiles inside to implode and cripple the rack. Just as the other two were about to fire, a bizarre alert echoed from within the machine, the penguin quickly waddling away after gumming up the other operating racks with sunfish. "nO, i SAID MORE MISSILES."

 

The racks imploded on their ammunition, the robot flipping on to its top again as all three ruined racks were shot off from the main body, the pods from before being revealed. Kinesis jumped through the air, his sword meeting him halfway as he performed a somersault and slashed one of the pods. The same sparks and bolts from before flew out as Kinesis jumped away, deranged glass and circuitry spilling out as the second pod was cast aside by the robot, the other four sent back in as the machine returned to its feet.

 

"dON'T THINK YOU'RE WINNING," the machine buzzed angrily, the gun nozzle array it originally revealed returning and powering on. Several dark lasers were fired out at once, the beams bending as they tracked their targets. Scooping up the penguin, Kinesis rolled along the ground and leapt through the air as the harmful photon emissions zinged past him, the psychic gritting his teeth as he tried to spot an opening. As he dodged another wave of lasers, he could hear the robot make a confused garble, catching a glimpse of Delta sneaking up from behind him and grabbing hold of the array from the bottom, sending a powerful surge of electricity through it. She covered her head and leapt away as the guns malfunctioned and fell apart, the feedback from the assault making the robot flip over again. As she evaded the ejected array, Delta jumped onto the machine's underside and faced the exposed pod closest to her, embracing it briefly and sending in more electricity before jumping clear of the danger, the third pod soon flying off from the machine as it returned to its proper stance.

 

"We didn't have to fight," Delta murmured apologetically as she stood near Myrddin, the magician still pulling a few mackerels from his attire. The robot gave another angered buzz as its eyes went dark green.

 

"yOUR CHARGES WILL KEEP PILING UP AT THIS RATE," it threatened. "i WILL NOW ADD NAIL PULLING AND ACID BATHING TO YOUR LIST OF-"

 

It stopped upon detecting an impact on top of its head, letting out an erratic cry as Kinesis' sword was sent straight through its eye cluster ring, the head being pulled in completely as the machine rolled forward, Kinesis soon halving the fourth pod, its remaining half quickly being ejected as the robot recovered, though its head did not extend.

 

"Only two left, now!" Kinesis said as he landed near the hopping penguin. He embarrassedly pocketed the rainbow trout it handed him. "What were you saying about punishments?"

 

The machine said nothing. Instead, its legs began to clatter about madly as it made its way towards the psychic, Kinesis scooping up the penguin once more and flying off as the robot trampled its way straight into the wall, shaking the entire chamber as it collided. It took a moment to gain its bearings, then danced madly once more towards it opponents, Delta and Myrddin caught in the game of avoidance as its path overlapped their placement.

 

"What do we do now?" the gynoid asked as the four narrowly avoided the sharp end of one of the crazed legs. "I don't see any other vulnerable points."

 

"It sure seems proud of its footwork," Myrddin noted aloud. "Could we trip it up, possibly?"

 

Kinesis skidded to a halt from his dash and faced the machine, attempting to stop one of its legs before it hit the wall. A brief warning cry was sent into his skull as he started with only a bit of pressure, wincing as he turned away and back to his allies.

 

"You'll have to surprise me," he said. "I'm still being jammed."

 

The penguin slapped him in the face with a bass, Kinesis trying to spit off the slime as he shook the stink off his head. Waddling forward as the robot crashed with the wall and prepared its next trampling, the penguin turned back towards the trio before facing the robot again. It started to spin in place as the robot made its way towards it, Kinesis ready to pull it away when Myrddin reached in front of him with his arm.

 

"Trust in the tuxedoed one, Sir Kinesis!" the magician reassured him. Kinesis looked back just in time to see the penguin pull out a massive killer whale, carrying it in his spin as the robot advanced and sending the massive sea mammal straight at the robot's legs, another garbled series of noises flooding out from the machine as two of its legs were struck by the sliding whale and flipped it over, the resulting crash forcing out the remaining two pods. It lobbed a can of tuna into one of the pods, the extension jamming up upon trying to close and breaking, soon being flung from the rest of the machine as the other pod retracted, though the machine did not right itself this time. "Well, well, has our noisy rival thrown in the towel?"

 

There was a short pause before the legs clamored a bit, a disturbing howl emanating from the machine as its legs spread a part and the tips split open into threes, antennae extending from each of the four legs. A strange blackness consumed the head of each antenna before four tracking beams were fired at the ground near the robot, the beams slowly making their way towards the fighters.

 

"It certainly has much at its disposal!" Myrddin said as he backed away from the approaching beams, looking down at his penguin summon. "Have another go?"

 

The penguin stared blankly at him, then at the robot before tossing a bushel of salmon towards one of the antenna. They were reduced to fish sticks seconds before collision, the bizarre shimmering around them now proving to be very, very hot.

 

"Everyone behind me!" Kinesis shouted, pulling his sword out in front of him as he motioned the others to get behind him. "This isn't the first time I had to deal with something like this."

 

As the converging beams reached closer, Kinesis allowed his sword to fall from his hand, the tip of the blade gliding over the ground as the handle stayed pointing towards Kinesis. He continued angling the blade, the beams only a few feet away, carefully lining his weapon with the attack. Spotting his chance, Kinesis quickly sent his sword into the ground, the lasers traveling up the blade and reflecting off it, the psychic carefully removing the sword from the ground with his telekinesis and tilting it about, the unified beam scorching the nearby walls as it was sent back and into the robot, quickly burning through the coverings of the pods and making them erupt in bluish flames until the last one was struck, causing black fire to blast out of the last opening as the pod within was immediately destroyed. The beam quickly dissipated, the robot giving one more pained chorus of mechanical noises before its legs went limp, the same bright steam sent out by the pods now bursting out from every seam present on the machine.

 

"Happens every time," the psychic grinned, his sword performing a fancy spin in the air before he took hold of it again. "We're supposed to find something now, right?"

 

"That is what that Badger fellow had stated, yes," Myrddin nodded. "How shall we go about exhuming it from nearby automobile, I must ask?"

 

"Shouldn't be too hard," Kinesis said, cracking his knuckles and walking towards the fallen robot. He stopped in his tracks upon hearing a cry from Delta.

 

"Look out!"

 

As the psychic turned back, something pulsed from out of the machine, a second wave following that twisted the air and sent Kinesis, Myrddin, and Delta against the wall, Myrddin's summoned penguin going up in a blast of smoke as it was hit by the emanation. The limp legs of the robot fell apart as it body caved in, a humanoid machine rising up from the center, its joints and head made of the alien material while the rest of its body appeared to be identical to what was normal, its shape like a sleeker version of the robots Kinesis had faced on the island. The front of its face was composed of three odd blue eyes and two normal red eyes, the machine floating into the air and sending out another distorting wave that mashed the trio painfully against the wall, staring down at them as it came closer.

 

"Hope you had fun," it said, its voice reminiscent of the sounds uttered by the machine it previously was. "This is the part where I kill you."

 

It raised it right arm in the air, its inverted finger joints giving off a force that spread from the fingertips in the form of an energy blade washed over in dark colors. It reeled back to strike all three fighters down in a single blow, Kinesis trying to fight back but receiving the same terrible static he got before. A devilish snicker came from the robot as it reached the peak of its reel, the three already feeling the horrible energy of its weapon. It finally dove down, its blade drawn back as its eyes flashed black and white.

 

A sudden bubbling noise filled the air like from before, the robot stopping with its blade a moment away from carving into Kinesis neck. Its glance turned around to the midair puddle, then back to the three. The trio watched as it floated away, dispersing its energy blade back into nothing as it approached the puddle while still facing them.

 

"How fortunate for you that I have more important tasks to perform," it said, keeping its eyes locked on them. "But remember this: Garcon forgives no wrongdoing. I will return someday to carry out your sentences."

 

With that, it receded back into the puddle, the liquid mass expanding around it until all its body disappeared inside it. Giving a shudder, the puddle quickly shrunk back into nothingness, but not before dropping something, the object clattering to center of the floor.

 

"Bloody hell," Kinesis said, wiping his brow. "Whatever that bastard was, he certainly towered over those other robots."

 

"Quite a bit of luck that we got out of their with our necks," Myrddin laughed, dusting himself off before helping up Delta and Kinesis. "Perhaps a plan should be ready if we meet him again?"

 

"Let's not think about that right now," Delta smiled. She walked over to what had dropped from the vanishing puddle, picking up the stone tablet and giving it a look over before turning back and handing it to Kinesis. "What we came for?"

 

"Without a doubt," Kinesis nodded, turning it over in his hand. The door behind them opened, the three facing it and giving one last look around the room before exiting. Kinesis chuckled. "Was that guy's name Garcon? What a rube."

 

---

 

The noise of the previous fights could not faze the silence of the chamber from which the team had divided, the eerie quiet pervading until all four doors opened simultaneously, the footsteps of the fighters returning sound to the large room.

 

"Mission accomplished, mon capitan!" the Hunter announced as he threw the dragon's tablet to Kinesis, the psychic swiftly catching it before glancing over the slight differences in the one he already held. The Insane Space Hunter looked over at Sword Bearer as his group also approached Kinesis. "Wish you could've been there, John! Would've been like old times!"

 

"You will have to enlighten me to your battle once our true victory is before us," John said as he handed Folly and Urticaria's tablet over to Kinesis. "With such challenges presented to us, our enemy undoubtedly lies in wait."

 

"Right, it's about time this conflict was brought to an end," Vaughn added in as he gave Lord Sullivan's tablet to Kinesis. "I'm sure none of us are fond of having been side effects in some insane undertaking."

 

"I guess this is it, then," Kinesis said as his psychic powers held aloft Garcon's tablet, the remaining three tablets aligning to form a crudely quartered square. The others watched as Kinesis jostled and spun them about in the air until their parallel sides matched up, Kinesis pushing his hands towards the large, center door, and fitting the four tablets into the empty spaces on the decorative panel. A brilliant light shone from the cracks of the fitting as the tablets were wedged in place, the light spreading throughout the lines of the unified design and soon consuming the entire panel, then the door. The light subsided seconds later, the team looking at the now doorless doorway, not a trace of the door left to be seen. The hallway before them stretched onwards into darkness, the bright walls around them also dimming in random sections as the station's white noise began to die down. Kinesis took a few steps forward into the hall before turning back the others with him. "No turning back now. We all know what we must do!"

 

---

 

The Insane Space Hunter, Badger, Viggan, Jedidiah, Rashiel, Vaughn, Max, Myrddin, DamnGlitch, Sword Bearer, Delta, and Kinesis ran headlong through the corridor, darkness both behind and before them as they charged towards the core of the space station. There were no words to be exchanged: they all knew what lay before them, and they all knew they would have to fight their hardest. A spark of light appeared at the end of the passage as they continued to run, the sound of their pounding feet slowly being phased out by the strange warbling sound that the nearby walls emitted louder and louder as they went deeper in. The small gleam of light was now growing into an intensely bright veil, even the resistant members of the group being forced to squint as overwhelming light tingled their skin with uneasiness, a universe encompassing feeling of instinct that told of the threat they were about to face.

 

The light suddenly vanished, the dozen fighters skidding to a halt as a four part door closed behind them and molded into the wall, extinguishing their only means of escape. The room was a huge decagon, the walls stretching up at least a hundred feet and the highest most points being covered in monitors that flashed readouts in a language none could understand. The back of the room held a long, partially curved desk, also covered in panels as well as keyboards, a single chair at the desk's center with two utterly shattered chairs at its side. Behind the desk, situated on the wall opposite of where the fighters stood, was a giant glass cylinder, full of a transparent, vomit-brown chemical that surrounded a tower of thick, golden veins that comprised the cylinder's center. It was the station's core, its light keeping the room from being pitch black.

 

DamnGlitch walked to the front of the party, glaring towards the seat before the desk, and the person sitting in it.

 

"We've been looking for you..."

 

---

 

"...Elizabeth," the voice from behind the throne had stated. "A little girl named Elizabeth."

 

Glitch's shoulders dropped as all the tension he had built up was apparently for nothing. He cocked an eyebrow at the man behind the throne, despite the fact that he probably didn't see this.

 

"I did tell you the place I'm diving from is about to be blown sky-high, right?" Glitch said, annoyed. "Now there's been a lot of weird shit going down on that hell hole, but do you seriously think a little girl is behind it?"

 

"Oh, I'm serious," the voice said, finishing the wine glass of green liquid. "It isn't a matter of thinking, it's a matter of knowing. The little brat showed up here about a year or so back with this adoring look in her eyes like she had been shut up in an attic for her entire life."

 

"Aren't people always appearing on this planet?" Glitch asked. "What makes you so sure that this Elizabeth person is behind what's been going on in NeoSeattle, or the whole alternate version of my world for that matter?"

 

"Well, first I knew she had to be from your world," the voice laughed. "She dressed like she was a friend of yours."

 

"......" said Gabriel.

 

"Aside from that, though, I traced her back to the world she came from," the voice said, continuing. "Sure, a lot of people appear on this world, but only a very, very, very, very, VERY small fraction of those people have or acquire the means to return to their homeworld. She was a part of that fraction."

 

"Alright," DamnGlitch sighed, crossing his arms. "So she could come and go as she pleased, is that what you're saying? That still doesn't peg her as the source behind all the interdimensional weirdness."

 

"Think so?" the voice questioned, pressing another sequence of numbers into the pad on its throne, the table and the wine glass standing on it being pulled back into the floor.

 

"If she was definitely from my world, or this alternate world at least, she could only get here through a dive," Glitch started. "They're not like huge portals or gates of any kind, only the psyche can go through. What happens in a dive stays in the dive."

 

"Powerful logic," the voice laughed, pushing in more numbers that changed the contents of the display before him. "However, what if someone found another way of getting here? What if one restricted to such travel discovered that alternative that would enable them to not just visit other worlds, but bring back a few souvenirs to boot?"

 

"Impossible," Glitch shook his head, looking hard at the throne.

 

"Back on their world, maybe, but not if they looked up methods elsewhere," the voice said. "And Elizabeth? She did just that."

 

"But how?" Gabriel questioned, taking a step closer to the throne.

 

"Once she perused our libraries, it was only a matter of finding matching materials back on her world," the voice continued. "You'd be surprised how little can go into the creation of a portal. When she finally got it done, though, she immediately started getting materials from beyond her realm. She was awfully quick about it, too. Must've been really eager about what she was doing."

 

"And what she was doing," Glitch started, "was seeking paradise, right? That's the impression you were giving me, that she was the 'third' seeker of it."

 

"Without a doubt," the voice replied. "The dinosaurs, the machines, and all the nightmarish environs, none of those things scared her when she first came here, but the moment she saw fighting she frowned and began going on about it, about a world without fighting. A utopia."

 

He pushed another series of buttons on the notepad, the windows on the monitor closing.

 

"Then, after a little moment, she realized something," the voice said. "Why have a world without fighting when you could have worlds, systems, galaxies, or, hell, entire universes without fighting? That same adoring sparkle she entered with was no sooner waltzing with that glint of megalomania I've see one too many times. She promised to return one day to fix things on this world once she had everything established to fix her own world, and so did she take her leave. Sure, she came back a few times for those previously mentioned materials, but did she ever bother giving the demigod a call or ask for permission? Of course not."

 

"And her name is Elizabeth..." Glitch said, now looking towards the ceiling with a hardened glance.

 

"She didn't hesitate to smash down all the dimensional walls, I'll say," the voice griped, throwing its visible hand up into the air. "Do me a favor and lay the smack down on her, will you? I'm going to be very cheesed if another empire comes along to screw things up over here."

 

---

 

A giggling came from behind the chair moments before it spun around, a small girl sitting in it innocently. She had large, blond curls for hair that stretched down to her waist, her eyes a brilliant mixture of brown and gold, and her attire a darker colored version of the uniforms worn by the MPBSs with a futuristic sleekness added to it. She smiled gently towards the warriors as they looked at her with contempt.

 

"My my, such lengths you'd all go to," she giggled again. "Even you, Glitchy, going so far as to double dive just to learn about me! I'm so flattered!"

 

"Enough of this," DamnGlitch sneered. "Do you have any idea how badly you've fucked up this universe? The amount of shit that's about to swamp everything if you don't fix it?"

 

"I thought you were enjoying your little game," Elizabeth frowned. "Unless you were just saying that to toy with poor Billy. You can be so awful, Glitchy."

 

She stamped her foot, the monitors momentarily going to static before images of the world below were shown, revealing the already frozen fields, the charred remnants of Neo Seattle, and countless identical scenes of various cities where riots were breaking out.

 

"Besides," she continued. "What I've done can't compare to what you and your nasty gang have done. Just look at these screens! I'm certainly not the one who broke the latrines, Glitchy."

 

"You don't see the whole picture, brat," Vaughn said. "Our actions are child to yours. The disaster that now consumes your planet is only due in part to the ones YOU summoned here!"

 

"Not to mention all the gates to other realms you foolishly left open!" Rashiel added. Elizabeth shrugged.

 

"So I might've left a few tears unstitched," she lowered her arms and looked towards the team with her partially glowing eyes. "Progress doesn't come without sacrifice! Haven't you learned that already? I'm surprised a little girl such as myself has to explain this to grown-ups like you."

 

"You are more of a demon than a girl," Sword Bearer said as his hands moved close to the Sword of Geburah and Shadow. Kinesis clenched his fists as he stepped towards Elizabeth.

 

"I've had more than enough nonsense today," he said. "We know the Alpha and Omega are up here! Where are Apex and Mary?"

 

"Oh, you don't really want to meet them," Elizabeth said, shaking her head. "They've been looking real bad lately. Really, really bad."

 

"I'm sure that has nothing to do with you going against Apex's wishes," Jed said. "A man who spent his entire life creating a species of super soldiers to bring about peace... yes, I'm sure he wouldn't mind all you've done to ruin it."

 

"Ruin it?" Elizabeth made a displeased face as she squinted at the bounty hunter. "Stephan Apex had the world and his beloved in his hands, and he left the world behind to dedicate both hands to Mary. He abandoned his idea of a utopia!"

 

She made a huffy sound before swinging her right arm upward and behind her towards the station's core.

 

"You wanna see them that much?" she said, eyes closed with apathy. "Take a look up, I'm sure you can sort them out."

 

The team paused for a moment before turning their glances to the upper portion of the cylinder, eyes beginning to widen as the answer flooded across their minds.

 

The golden veins that branched throughout the cylinder, the roots that acted as the source of energy for the entire station, originated from two translucent membranes of flesh and misty bones. The conjoined blobs, at their centers, held two BioSuit reactors. The reactors of the Alpha and OmegaTypes.

 

"That..." Kinesis said, frozen in place. "That can't be possible! Apex was the one who got me into this mess!"

 

"Wait," Viggan started, raising a finger. "What is it that my eyes should-"

 

"Come now, Ki Ki," Elizabeth grinned. "Has old age made you forget what year it is?"

 

A circular, speaker like device appeared in her hand as an extremely convincing hologram of a shadowed Apex was cast from the ceiling, Elizabeth bringing the device to her mouth and talking through it.

 

"Hello, all!" an exact duplication of Apex's voice called out. "I'm Stephan Apex, and I'm a duty neglecting pig!"

 

Elizabeth laughed as she threw aside the voice changer, the hologram fizzing out into nothing. Kinesis gritted his teeth.

 

"You rotten little..."

 

"Oh, don't be that way," Elizabeth smiled wickedly. "It's not like I haven't told anyone you're Garrett Young!"

 

A burst of mist-like, silver-gold energy flew out from nowhere, striking Kinesis in the face and blasting his mask to pieces as he was sent backwards, yelling. John quickly skidded behind him in an attempt to catch the psychic, though the momentum from the attack was strong enough to knock him down as he tried to stop Kinesis' flight, both slamming hard into the wall. Rashiel and Max went over to help as the other turned to face Elizabeth, the girl laughing as she floated into the air, ghost-like tendrils spreading out of her back and twisting into ethereal wings as she looked down at the fighters. Bringing her hands together, light shot out from between Elizabeth's hands as they were pulled apart, the strands of energy coiling around one another and sparkling until they formed a shining, double-edged halberd with a massive blade. She spun it over her head before pointing it towards the group.

 

"Come on, now," she smiled. "I know how much you've been dying to punish me!"

 

"That girl is really annoying," Max said as he helped Rashiel get Sword Bearer and Kinesis to their feet.

 

"Tell me about it," Rashiel grumbled. Kinesis flicked away a fragment of his mask from his face as he muttered to himself.

 

"So much for my secret identity..."

 

"Let's get started," Elizabeth said, her smile widening as a mist pulled around her halberd and was fired off as a particle-abundant lightning bolt that struck the group at its center, the dozen being spread far across the room from one another in the wake of the attack.

 

"And I thought we were the guests of honor," The Insane Space Hunter coughed as he got up from where he landed. His rising glance was met by Elizabeth's.

 

"Hello, Insaney," she smiled.

 

"Hello, evil girl," he replied cheerfully before ducking a swing from Elizabeth's halberd. He leapt away as the second swing came from above, the Hunter swatting away flecks of debris in the resulting shock. He soon realized that Elizabeth was no longer in front of him, his face swiftly meeting the ground as the flat of Elizabeth's weapon struck him across the back of the head.

 

"This is fucked up, man," Badger said as he got up, his photo-sonic blaster in hand.

 

"Oh my, such language in the presence of a child!" Elizabeth said from behind, Badger quickly turning and firing his weapon, only to have the wave bounce back off of Elizabeth's blade before the blade itself was run through his shoulder, keeping him hooked on as he was swung through the air and smashed hard against the floor on his back. Elizabeth dug her boot into his arm as she pulled her weapon out. "Don't forget to put a quarter in the jar!"

 

"I am... losing myself again," Viggan growled, his reddened eyes turning to Elizabeth as she made her approach. "Foolish girl will regret getting on my bad side!"

 

"How scary!" Elizabeth said, holding her weapon against herself in a clearly sarcastic gesture of fear. Viggan roared, swinging Skulldasher in a full arch towards the girl. She giggled, and with a single strike from her halberd was Viggan's mighty hatchet shattered once more, the barbarian looking on in terrified disbelief as the largest, heaviest chunk of the blade slammed into his face and sent him to the floor.

 

"Witch," Jedidiah muttered, firing his pistols towards Elizabeth while she floated over Viggan. She dodged while her back was turned, remaining as such as she lifted the blade of her halberd into Jed's view and unleashed a blast of lightning that was too fast to dodge, the bounty hunter barely managing to protect his upper body as the bolt struck him and brought him to his knees as strings of energy snaked across his limbs.

 

"You asked for it," Elizabeth said, leaving with a cackle as she flew off.

 

"Obnoxious runt!" Rashiel gritted her teeth, training an arrow on Elizabeth as her glance turned to the elf. Elizabeth watched as the arrow was released, smiling as she casually sent out another burst of mist. The arrow went clean through and flew up in a harmless cloud of dust upon hitting the girl. "What the-"

 

Rashiel collapsed to the ground as she was struck in the back of the head by the end of Elizabeth's halberd.

 

"An arrow? How retro!"

 

<Damn you!> Vaughn shouted in anger. He threw a fireball towards Elizabeth, the likes of which glided over her body and fizzled out without doing damage. Sneering, he readied another, stronger blast, though it quickly fizzled out while still in his hand, the demon looking down at the girl who had just skewered his abdomen.

 

"Not bad for a brat, huh?" she mocked, unleashing a blast of electricity through Vaughn and leaving him to smother as she took off for the next combatant.

 

"Think you're fast, do you?" Max threatened, Elizabeth stopping as she felt a Shriek at her throat from the space hunter holding her from behind. Bolts flew across her halberd.

 

"No, actually," she giggled. Max stumbled forward as he realized she was no longer in his hold, the space hunter crying out in pain as a heavy gash was made through the back of his suit, Elizabeth now behind him, laughing. "I know I'm fast!"

 

"Quite the predicament, I say," Myrddin said as he dusted himself off and inspected his cane. He grasped it tightly as he turned to face Elizabeth. "I am not fond of attacking a child, but if I must!"

 

"I know a few magic tricks!" Elizabeth laughed. She raised her halberd into the air as a flurry of red-hot pebbles whipped through the air towards her from Mryddin's cane. They were abruptly stopped as a misty sphere formed around them and Myrddin, Elizabeth giddy still as she closed the sphere and used Myrddin's attack against him, the magician falling to knee as he tried to fend off his attack. "Oh, you didn't disappear! What a shame..."

 

"You're getting it now!" Glitch yelled from above as he fell upon Elizabeth with Last Prayer, the sword colliding with Elizabeth's halberd as she raised it above her head.

 

"Trying to get the drop on me, Glitchy?" she pouted, suddenly throwing off Glitch before turning around and sending him to the wall with a swipe from her blade. "You do like playing dirty, don't you? Dirty little boy!"

 

"Be vanquished, she-devil!" Sword Bearer cried out as he charged in from behind, swinging the Sword of Geburah and unleashing a wave of blue energy. Elizabeth quickly turned around and shattered the energy blade with her halberd, raising it to block against Shadow as Sword Bearer reached her.

 

"Do you wanna hurt my feelings with such unkind words?" Elizabeth frowned. Sword Bearer buckled over as he was struck with a deceivingly powerful knee then sent sliding across the floor as he was struck hard by the halberd.

 

"Stop this!" Delta cried out, throwing one of her gummy bombs and watching as it was reduced to dust by a bolt from Elizabeth's halberd. She let out a cry of shock as the blade soon took off one of her arms, Delta quickly falling beside it.

 

"Oh, you poor thing," Elizabeth said, shaking her head. "I bet you want to be a real girl, don't you?"

 

"I'll be damned if I let myself get beat like this!" Kinesis said as he brought his sword before him and raised it to attack. His arms froze up as his weapon was suddenly sliced down its middle, the dividing parts pulling away to show Elizabeth's look of subtle disappointed.

 

"So this is ol' Ki Ki in his last hour?" she said prior to sweeping him at the legs with her halberd, then kneeing him in the face as he fell, reversing his motion and causing him to land on his back. "I guess you weren't wearing that mask for reasons of being shy? You might have a reason to wear it now, though!"

 

"I can't fucking believe this," Badger said while biting his lower lip and holding onto his limp arm. The Insane Space Hunter uttered some incoherent, ground muffled speech before pulling his face out of the floor.

 

"I do concur, ye who bears the moniker of Badger," he coughed. "Really, though, getting beat up by little miss creepy isn't something I had marked on my planner."

 

"Haven't you all realized it, yet?" Elizabeth stated, now going higher into the air as the twelve fighters struggled to get back to their full. "I'm sure some of you have! You all aren't THAT dumb, are you?"

 

She turned away from the twelve and gazed across to the station's core, watching as bubbles lifted from the bottom and rolled across the veins and the Alpha and Omega reactors.

 

"Look at them... look at how pitiful they are! Running away to enjoy themselves and ignoring the greatest mission one could have..."

 

She shook her head, her halberd also lowering.

 

"Mommy and Daddy were so stupid!"

 

"Mommy..." Delta murmured.

 

"Daddy!?" Kinesis choked.

 

"Thought so," Glitch said as he glared upwards, both Elizabeth and the remains of her parents in his view. "The way you look, your motives... I thought you had to be their kid when I realized your place up here."

 

"That's right, Glitchy," Elizabeth said, keeping her view towards the core. "I was born from Stephan and Mary Apex, a man whose delusions of his love kept him from realizing his full potential, and a woman whose mere existence was only to satisfy the happiness of the delusional man. I'd have to say that not only did their DNA go into making me, but also whatever traces of ambition they had left between them!"

 

She turned back towards the fighters, staring down at them.

 

"When I was born, Ever Shall Be was only a fraction of what it is now. My mother and father loved each other, and they loved me, but that was as far as it went. Neither of them had any love to spare for the outside, no compassion for those who suffered. They tried to keep me ignorant to what existed outside the station, but it was only a matter of time before I found out. I managed to make use of the simulator they used to fulfill their fantasies, and found a way to connect it to the world beyond so that I could get a better glimpse of it."

 

She spread her arms wide as if to embrace some invisible force, gazing up in awe towards the ceiling.

 

"What I discovered on the other side was not that world, but something else entirely! A whole other universe with wonders, sights, and magic that defied the teachings and laws of this world! I wasted no time in tapping into the sources before me, learning everything I could and using it to the fullest! When mommy and daddy dearest decided to stand in my way, I changed them so that they could help my goal, and, what I later discovered to be, their old goal."

 

She lowered her arms and resumed staring down at the warrior dozen, this time with noticeable contempt.

 

"I'm sure you all know what that goal is," she said. "Paradise, Utopia, an existence free of suffering and hate, the kind of suffering and hate that consumed the world I saw outside the station. Fighting is something I have always deplored, but it's also something I know is unavoidable in what I wish to achieve, especially after I discovered people such as yourselves who were apparently born to fight and destroy. I thought I could send some other outsiders to help negate your unwanted elements, but I guess I had too much faith in those I summoned, and before I knew it you ruined the Earth beyond recognition!"

 

"It's a mess you started," Glitch spoke up. "And you have to clean it up! You were going to start here, weren't you?"

 

"Why, yes, I was," Elizabeth replied. "Another bit of information you pulled, I'm guessing? Well, after what you did, I decided to change my mind. If I'm going to start a collection of paradise worlds, I need to make sure my first is unsullied... and, well, this Earth is like a toy taken out of its packaging. It no longer has value."

 

She raised her arms up again, only this time light flared up from the monitors, dousing the room with intense light.

 

"So I will just have to wipe it clean from the system, from the universe, from all existence!"

 

That crazy bastard was right Glitch sneered. This little bitch is going to kill us all if given the chance!

 

Elizabeth shrugged, shaking her head at the warriors.

 

"So why did I lure you here, you might be wondering? I couldn't count on leaving you on the Earth since I didn't know what other tricks you might have in store, so I brought you up here to deal with you myself."

 

As she said this she started to descend, the monitors on the desk folding back as wiring and prosthetic-like devices emerged and made their way towards her. The tendrils from her airy wings curled around the wires and prosthetics and glowed, transforming themselves and the ends of the mechanical arms into a single hub attached to Elizabeth's back, her eyes lighting up as the core began to shine to an almost blinding extent.

 

"Before I forget, though, I have a planet to erase," she giggled. "Just wait patiently and I'll be back to end your misery in a few minutes."

 

Retaliation was inevitable, though this was something anyone could predict. Any arrow, any spell, any conjuring or sword strike or blast sent Elizabeth's way was soon absorbed by a massive shield that closed off half of the room, the fighters cut off from the one about to destroy the world they had set out to save. Glitch gripped his shoulder, his insides starting to shift madly as the conditions began to overcome him. He was about to flail madly towards the shield when a hand came to his shoulder, immediately staying his attack and causing him to turn around.

 

"Delta?" he said as he lowered Last Prayer. "What are you doing?"

 

Delta remained silent, removing her hand from Glitch's shoulder as she took a step back. Myrddin approached from behind.

 

"Do not despair, milady," he said. "As dire a situation this may be, we shall surely triumph!"

 

Delta smiled, shaking her head while uttering a small choke. A silvery tear ran down her cheek as she turned away, looking at neither the BioSuit nor the magician.

 

"This is a score I need to settle," she finally said, then looked towards Gabriel. "Gabriel Mason, I was created for the sole purpose of destroying the Alpha and Omega. It's what I was born to do."

 

She paused, looking down at the ground.

 

"Besides, we first set out here to destroy the OmegaType," she said. "And now both the Alpha and OmegaTypes are powering a station that Elizabeth will use to destroy the Earth, so I must stop them at all costs."

 

She turned to Myrddin, the magician eying her, mystified.

 

"Myrddin... forgive me," she started. "I've been deceiving you, deceiving everyone."

 

"But Milady, I-" he was stopped as Delta pressed her finger against his lips, then moved it away as she brought her lips to his own. Her eyes stayed closed during the moment, and remained that way as she backed away and headed towards the shield, turning her back to the others as she looked towards Elizabeth, then up at the reactors of the Alpha and Omega. Time was running out fast. She gave one last look back at the group.

 

"Thank you," she said, then turned back towards the core, the Alpha and Omega, the bodiless cores that kept the station alive. Hatred filled Delta's eyes as she glared at the reactors, letting out a sigh as her eyes closed and she rose up her arms.

 

The light began to dim, and the noise ushered by the station was steadily drowned out. Delta's eyes sparkled as they opened, no longer full of hatred but of the memories she held. Bolts began to jump across her body as a yellow aura outlined her, lifting her up into the air and putting her on level with the station core. She could no longer hear anything, not the noise of the station or the calls of her friends or the words spoken by Elizabeth. All she could hear was the sound of static and electricity as it jumped around throughout her body, driving her nanomachines to their limit. The yellow aura deepened and grew brighter, expanding as it began to nip away at Delta's clothing, her skin, hair, and eyes steadily turning gold as her aura continued to grow and bolts began to leap off her body and strike the nearby monitors, wrecking the devices in a cloud of shards and sending them crashing to the floor. Her body started shining brighter and brighter as her gold luster increased, her hair fanning upwards as her beret disintegrated in the energy she gave off, her remaining clothing falling apart in a wave of dust. Bolts continued to fly from her nude outline as the room itself began to shake, the light once shed by the core now completely nonexistent from the brilliant light. The energies that now ran rampant across the room suddenly flew back into Delta, everything but her radiating shape and aura becoming darker and darker as the peak neared, everything becoming silent in an instant.

 

And, for that instant, Delta shined as brightly as she ever did, brighter and more wondrous than any star as everyone in the room gazed up at her, wide-eyed. In that moment of time, Delta became the most beautiful thing one could ever see, possibly the most beautiful thing in the universe...

 

"HOLY FUCKING SHIT," Badger screamed, now seeing the massive coagulation of voltage above him. "EVERYONE AROUND ME! FUCKING NOW!!!"

 

Steam shot out of Badger as his shield generators strained, his force field shifting into visible tangibility as a green dome that stretched across the remaining party as they stumbled towards him. He closed his eyes, straining as hard as he possibly could as his force field flickered and sparked around his friends. The others watched as Delta exploded, instantaneously filling the room with pure white light and giant nets and shards of electricity. Whatever screens remained immediately exploded, the energy shield that closed off half the room oozed away into nothing as the blast hit it, and Elizabeth uttered an earsplitting scream as the wave hit her, filling her entire body with electricity and causing her hub and wires attached to bombard her with multiple explosions. The cylindrical core filled with foam as the roots inside it broke down into fragments, the Alpha and Omega reactors bulging before detonating and causing the entire core to break open, spewing foam and fluid onto the floor.

 

The dome Badger created could barely hold up, having nearly been thrown off when the EMP hit. Bolts continued to be thrown about in the darkening haze that followed the blast. Clouds of smoke and foam now surrounded the walls of the chamber as visibility returned, Badger letting out a huge groan as he finally let down his force field, collapsing into the shallow layer of fluid that covered the floor. Only a few seconds later a second splash was heard, this one in the vicinity that Delta had been.

 

Myrddin dropped his cane as he weaved passed the others in the party, running to where the object had fallen. The strange fluid stained his clothing as he fell to his knees and reached into the liquid with his arms, pulling up what remained of Delta and holding her close to his body.

 

There was nothing he could say. All that remained of Delta was her head and upper torso, all of which was viciously mangled and melted, save a small portion of the right half of her face. She had no more hair and was without arms and legs, her entire body silver with tangles of tendons everywhere. Her right eye, the only eye she had left, still had a weak sparkle to it.

 

"M-Myrddin..." Delta buzzed, part of her hollowed neck trembling as she struggled to speak.

 

"Milady," Myrddin said gently. "Please, save your strength... I am sure I have a spell that can fix this!"

 

"I-it izz too late," Delta stammered, sparks flying from her body for a second. "I was... h-happy to have known you-ou and the otherzz..."

 

"Milady..." Myrddin said, stroking the left side of Delta's face as he gazed down at her crippled remains.

 

"I... hope we will see o-one another again, some day..." she said as the sparkle in her eye began to fade, fewer and fewer sparks jumping from her body. Her head twitched several times before managing to turn to the ceiling, her sight seeming to stretch beyond the walls.

 

"Someone... is calling to me..." Delta started as the sparkle began to flicker, her voice gaining strange stability. "My sisters... are waiting for me... that city..."

 

Her body gave one last shudder before the sparkle vanished. Myrddin continued to stay on his knees and stared at her, even as her body gradually fell apart into chunks of dust that faded into the water, leaving only silvery sand in the magician's hands.

 

A ripple then traveled across the fluid.

 

The eleven remaining fighters yelled as a sudden wave flew across them and sent them back into the wall, throwing foam and fluid into the air as they splashed down. More screams followed as the remnants of the wave, a scrambling net of red bolts, hit them, causing their bodies to seize up as their vitality was leaked out. Two more ripples went across the fluid as an inhuman growl emanated from where Elizabeth had fallen, the liquid in the floor now draining out as countless wires and prosthetics exploded from the ground, converging on the same spot the growl came from. Spikes began to thrust out from the growing mesh of wires as they coiled into the floor, two golden eyes gleaming from the darkness within as a demonic voice spoke.

 

"I am a WEAPONType," it echoed. "I am the ultimate lifeform, the product of the two strongest entities this world has ever seen..."

 

The heart of the mechanized mess exploded outward, revealing itself to undoubtedly be Elizabeth, only now her entire body was covered in thorns and bulges. The countless wires and prosthetics that had been forced into her body now stretched the insides of her veins, mutilating her and turning her into a monstrosity. Her halberd was now assimilated into her right arm and expanded, bones now comprising part of the blade.

 

"So tell me, outsiders," Elizabeth's demonic voice echoed. "If I am the ultimate being of this dimension, what does that make you!?"

 

A three pronged tentacle shot up from the mass behind Elizabeth and shot straight towards the group. The sound of metal against metal rang out across the room, Last Prayer staving off the attack as Glitch stood firmly behind it, blood seeping from the corners of his mouth as his body started shaking violently under the pressure of the attack. This wasn't the only reason his body was shaking, however, something Elizabeth quickly realized as additional prosthetics started tearing from out of Glitch's back, his face contorting into a demented and pained expression as he screamed wildly and forced back Elizabeth's prosthetic spear. The transformation kept going as the 'ultimate being' composed herself, spines emerging from Glitch's knees and feet as he slammed Last Prayer angrily against the ground.

 

"I'm going to rip your lungs out and stuff them into your eyes, you fucking bitch!" Gabriel roared, his chin nearly hitting the ground as he brought himself forward and ran with his body parallel to the ground. Elizabeth hissed as she raised her body up and prepared her halberd.

 

"Let's see you try, Glitchy!!" she cried out, thrusting with her weapon as Glitch swung Last Prayer, the two weapons clashing with such force that the entire station shuddered. As their weapons and glances locked, both sides sent forward their extra arms, Glitch's bulky prosthetics individually tangling with messes of Elizabeth's wires and knobby prosthetic claws. The two were nearly cheek-to-cheek as their weapons grinded together harshly, both fighters baring their bloodied teeth as they stared off with reddened eyes, Elizabeth pocking Glitch with misty energy bolts as he resisted them with mountainous resolve. Snarling, Glitch brought up one of his spiny knees and thrust the spike directly into Elizabeth's stomach, the deformed girl shrieking as the wires behind her flailed madly and flew forward, wrapping around Gabriel's waist and threatening to break him in half. The BioSuit uttered a raspy cry as he thrashed back at his attacker, his assortment of claws striking at the wires until Last Prayer flew past and severed the remaining ones. Straining his stuck arms, DamnGlitch quickly broke free of the wires wrapped around his waist and resumed his attack on Elizabeth.

 

"Man, it fucking sucks when you can't do a damn thing," Badger grumbled, struggling to move his arms and only getting his fingers to move. "The fuck was that thing we got hit with?"

 

"Who knows, lil' Carrie over there's been to all sorts of places," The Insane Space Hunter said, his shoulders quivering slightly. He released a sigh of discomfort as his body fell back the inch it came away from the wall. "She could probably teach us a few dastardly tricks. At least Glitch was able to resist that attack of hers."

 

"Indeed, Sir Gabriel is most certainly a fine gentleman," Myrddin nodded, his hat tilted over his eyes. He gazed down at the shining grains caught in the creases of his hands and smiled. "I believe my own purpose has finally reached me in the throws of this battle."

 

"You better not think of doing anything crazy," Kinesis said, having moved himself slightly away from the wall and onto one of his knees with the aid of his psychic power, though it too was seriously weakened.

 

"I do not wish to see another of my comrades sacrificed," Sword Bearer added in.

 

"Our destinies we must face sooner or later, my fellows," Myrddin replied.

 

"What do you plan on doing?" Max asked, unable to reactivate his suit.

 

"My mind is at a loss, I fear," Viggan coughed, supporting himself on the broken Skulldasher.

 

"You need not move," Myrddin began. "Simply will your power towards me, give me the strength to aid Sir Gabriel. It is our only means of vanquishing this most miserable of opponents."

 

"If that is true," Vaughn said, propping himself with his arm. "Then let's not waste any time."

 

"You heard the man," Rashiel nodded, leaning against Vaughn. "Let's teach that runt a lesson!"

 

A spray of chunky blood was released high into the air as Last Prayer carved a valley through Elizabeth's grotesque, bulging body, the WEAPONType replying with a thrust from her halberd that took off one of Glitch's prosthetics and almost his left arm. The BioSuit yowled as he skidded back from the attack, the ground beneath him denting as he forced himself back at Elizabeth, the girl forming a barrier with her wires that split about as Last Prayer dug through them, the last few cords able to keep the NeoTitanium blade from delivering another blow.

 

"As this futile battle of yours continues, this station remains on its previous task," Elizabeth said through a twisted grin obscured with chunks of her gums. "Little Delta might have thought it noble of her to destroy Mommy and Daddy, but I can still power this station by myself. My existence of utopias will no longer be a dream!"

 

"You're a sick little bitch, you know that?" Glitch said, still pressing forwards as the wires holding him back began to unthread from Last Prayer's blade. "You had it made up here with Apex and Mary. You could have lived your own peaceful life, but you threw it all away. Even after all the shit you've done, you still think you're doing something just?"

 

"No progress without sacrifice," Elizabeth growled as blood shot out from between her clenched teeth. "Weren't you listening to me earlier?"

 

"You're definitely from that blind asshole's seed," Glitch said, kicking Elizabeth with his spiked foot and letting himself be thrown back by the wires. Elizabeth shrieked, and a storm of wires flew upon Gabriel, the BioSuit's sword only able to guard against a few of the cords, the rest puncturing different points on his body. Blood leaked from his eyes as he cried out in pain, unable to fall due to all the wires keeping him propped up. "I... am so sick and tired of idealistic retards like you!"

 

"Glitchy, you're just as blind," Elizabeth grinned, her eyes agleam over Gabriel's suffering. "My father thought he could live in isolated peace, you and your merry band thought they could stop me. You're all stumbling in the dark."

 

Glitch roared, his churning innards breaking apart the wires as he swung Last Prayer overhead and knocked away the wires that had yet to skewer him. Glaring towards Elizabeth, he swung down and released his grip on his sword, Last Prayer shooting forward like a rocket and impaling Elizabeth through her center, the deformed girl shrieking as several of the wires holding her to the ground were broken and she was pinned to the wall like a collectible insect. Blood shot out of her mouth as her wires and prosthetics coiled around the sword and started pulling it out, her other arms pushing her away from the wall. Gabriel gritted his teeth, his prosthetic claws morphing into sword blades as he prepared to attack, his tattered wings folding out and sending him into the air. Elizabeth could see her enemy's approach, convulsing terribly as she sprayed out an energy charged mist that bombarded Glitch with countless energy bursts, his body rocketing backwards from the ensuing cloud of smoke and skipping twice along the ground before he finally stopped himself with one of his claws. He vomited a sizable puddle of blood onto the floor before glaring back up at Elizabeth, Last Prayer steadily being jerked out of her body.

 

"Quite the loop, eh Sir Gabriel?" Myrddin said from behind, Glitch jumping from surprise before turning around to the magician.

 

"Myrddin? What the hell are you doing here?"

 

"Merely my task, Sir Gabriel," he nodded as he stood before the viral BioSuit, his suit worse for wear though he was no longer stricken by the paralyzing effects that kept the others down.

 

"This isn't the fucking time," Glitch growled, turning back to Elizabeth. "Go help the others, I can hold my own here."

 

"That may be true, but as I said, this is quite the loop," Myrddin replied. Glitch turned back around to him. "Therefore, I will help break the loop. The gods entrusted to me the task of beta testing magic so that the refined forces would be able to help the hero in the world's darkest hour, and the gods, Sir Gabriel, now look upon you."

 

There was no time for Glitch to protest this as a rainbow of flashes and sparks flew from Myrddin as his body lit up and changed into a cloud of pure energy, garment and all, countless shades and vibrant bursts cycling through the massive wisp, generations of techniques and spells rippling through in only seconds. The cloud expanded and fell onto Glitch, engulfing him as it shrunk to fit his form and swiftly lost its transparency, making the BioSuit appear to be a being of raw energy as the forces of untold elements and powers were sewn into his very core.

 

"This is not just the power of the magic I was given, but the power lent to me by our dear comrades," Myrddin's fading voice echoed inside Glitch's head as the endless powers cycled over his surface. "And so, my own purpose has been fulfilled, my own peace to find. Sir Gabriel Mason, please ensure this world gets the second chance it deserves!"

 

Blood was spewed from the distant wall as Elizabeth finally freed Last Prayer from her abdomen, uttering a frustrated shriek as her wires tightened around the sword and wound it back like a slingshot, its target being clear.

 

"What do you take me for!?" she cried out. "I'm not going to let you go through with any of your tricks!!"

 

An earsplitting snap rung out as Last Prayer was released, moving faster than any bullet, any beam, far faster than anything that a normal or even supernatural being could detect. Glitch, however, could see it coming, he could see the air around it being torn as it was flung straight towards his head, tracing it with eyes unseen below the curtain of power that still enveloped him. He raised his hand slowly, or so it was to his perception, his color consumed arm held against the oncoming blade with fingers outstretched. The blade collided with his palm and sent out a crushing emanation that rocked the insides of everyone in the room, save Glitch who was not even nudged by the collision, his hand grasping the end of his sword as it stayed suspended against his palm in midair. As he lowered it to the ground, the outline of his virus induced protrusions started to retract back into him like liquid, his monstrous silhouette morphing back into that of a man. His wings fanned out, and the enveloping aura was drawn within, showing Glitch to be more pristine than he ever was, without blemish or scar or fault. His wings began to spread out farther and farther, compressing themselves and shining brighter as they did, spinning behind him like a phantasmal fan. Was this the power Myrddin bestowed upon him?

 

Eyes shining brightly, face without pity or compassion, Gabriel took Last Prayer back in hand and faced Elizabeth, the disgusting would-be dictator grinding her teeth as she glanced nervously across at the angelic warrior, the very air around him shimmering. She raised back her arms to attack, but the moment she reeled back she could feel the blade dig into her chin, sending flakes of her flesh and bone everywhere as her body was sent sailing upward, Glitch meeting her instantly with Last Prayer held in both hands, his eyes piercing her very being.

 

"You wanted a world without suffering?" his voice wavered menacingly off his lips. "We must all suffer for our ambitions. If someone is unwilling to endure such a thing, than their dream is worthless."

 

His legs went back, his body arching and his arms reeling as Last Prayer was held behind then sent forward in a devastating vertical swing, Glitch somersaulting at Elizabeth with the blade. She looked on with confusion and horror as the blade simply grazed her nose, the true attack crackling fiercely from a spire that was growing out of Glitch's back from the center of the four spinning plates. Bolts shot out like the arms of a beast, Elizabeth's malformed eyes widening as a massive shaft of light was fired at her and consumed her entirely.

 

The remaining fighters looked on from the wall, watching as the massive light exploded from Glitch and covered Elizabeth, filling the entire room and bathing them in a soft glow as the rest of their senses dulled.

 

This light, however, brought hellish pain to Elizabeth, and it was within that very instant that Elizabeth was not only ravaged by the beam, but also felt the fury of several other attacks...

 

---

 

A tall man pieced together several gizmos in a flash, creating a photon-rich ray that erupted over Elizabeth, her mechanical components returning very, very, very negative feedback.

 

A glistening savage spun through the air like a catapulted boulder, smashing down on Elizabeth with his massive hatchet with enough force to level a mountain.

A greater demon spread his wings wide, flames dancing around him as a flare exceeding the heat of a star was conjured from oblivion and sent upon Elizabeth, consuming her in hellish fire.

 

An elven archer drew her bow, the arrowhead wrapped in light from her familiars and causing it to shoot off as a beam, traveling straight through Elizabeth and piercing her heart.

A violet haired man rushed forward as his body churned and claws sprung out, blades of metal and energy carving Elizabeth apart as she was ravaged in a crimson cloud of flesh.

A man with murderous, black eyes wheeled into Elizabeth with his wicked blade and spines, proceeding to gore her mercilessly as he grinned like a devil, blood staining his entire body.

A holy guardian uttered a prayer, his body emanating fantastic blue light as he swung two vastly different swords, their aura echoing the cuts made in Elizabeth and inflicting even more damage as they passed through.

A masked hero held his sword aloft, the blade and his arms drawing an emblem in the air that glowed intensely before rocketing forwards, leading a beam of psychic energy that sliced into Elizabeth.

A charming magician tipped his hat, an aurora of elements and magic spiraling down from above him and crashing over Elizabeth with the crushing power of ten waterfalls.

An unassuming vacationer grinned goofily before taking a step back, lunging into the air like a human torpedo and headbutting Elizabeth with such force that the contents of her torso exploded out of her back.

A silent gunslinger jumped high into the air, unloading all the rounds of his two pistols and descending as the ricocheting bullets crisscrossed, their paths leading right into all of Elizabeth's vitals.

An armored hunter ran towards Elizabeth and slashed her upwards with a spinning blade before throwing it downwards at her, the vicious wheel tearing her apart from the inside before returning to its master's hand.

A delicate gynoid consumed herself in blinding light, unleashing a net of electricity that ripped through Elizabeth and scrambled her insides.

A grotesque beast bared its fangs, contorting into a bigger monstrosity as it sank its teeth into Elizabeth's neck, jets of poisonous vapor shooting out as its jaws clenched.

A red-haired maiden flew forward, her sword arm swinging as her blade danced clean through Elizabeth as if she wasn't even there, blood trailing behind like ribbons.

A warrior with long, blizzardy hair cloned himself through the power of time, hacking fiercely into Elizabeth with the same stone blade a dozen times simultaneously before vanishing in sequence.

A swordswoman knelt low, grasping her katana and moving clean through Elizabeth, her sword sheathed as her blue hair settled while blood rained behind her.

A blond dame of tan complexion leapt high into the air, swinging her katana in a full circle before it came down upon and tore into Elizabeth's head.

An ideal soldier tossed a grenade forward without bothering to pull out the ring, turning away and unloading a round from his pistol, the bullet detonating the grenade the moment it collided with Elizabeth, the soldier not giving a second glance.

A buxom arms dealer pulled herself out from a pile of munitions, attempting to wipe a grease smear off her cheek before rolling out a machine gun and using the entire belt on Elizabeth.

A white-haired lass of demonic heritage took to the air, heating her two katana with fire from her fingertips before diving towards Elizabeth like a bird of prey and cutting into her with the red-hot blades.

A muscle-bound fighter flexed extravagantly, jet-black whips flying from his posing form and viciously lashing Elizabeth in a storm of stinging strikes.

 

---

 

Ever Shall Be rocked violently in space as a beam of light broke through its exterior and triggered a chain reaction that consumed the whole station. Chunks of metal were thrown off as the outer and inner walls exploded, freckling the structure with bursts of red. Smaller light beams soon emerged from the fresh holes made in the station as bursts of white and blue smoke shot out and formed a nebula above the Earth, trailing behind Ever Shall Be as it started burning red-hot upon entering the Earth's atmosphere. An unworldly whistling sound echoed from the station as if it were its dying cry, plates and pipes and wires being shed as the station burned fiercely in its descent, black clouds sizzling as the station flew past and screamed louder and louder. A sunless, gleamless ocean below watched and waited as the furious meteor of metal and technology plummeted towards it, explosions continuing to belch out of it as it drew closer and closer to the water. Then, upon impact, all of Ever Shall Be burned white, and the ocean for miles across was sent into space as the station exploded at biblical proportions, scarring the very ocean floor beneath in its wrath. Fragments of the station would rain across the planet as the bursts of salt water would, the brilliant flash seeming without end as countless cultures watched the catastrophe from afar, stunned in the midst of their recent conflicts, their horizons filled with the last brilliant light they would see for ages to come.

 

---

 

"My dream will live forever," Elizabeth choked pitifully as she struggled to pull the half of her body that wasn't destroyed onto the huge chunk of metal that floated in the center of the ocean. The salty rain stung her open wounds as they rapidly healed, her eyes empty as she hysterically chuckled, her wires twitching more and more as life returned to them. "Utopia will be realized. I will be this universe's queen. War, suffering, and hate... they will dis-"

 

Her speech was cut short, her ability to speak hampered by the cross and BioSuit reactor that had just been shoved into her mouth. Elizabeth tried to scream, but that, too, was cut off, her head being consumed in an almighty blast, followed by her body, then her arms, until all was incinerated. Elizabeth and her dreams had been silenced once and for all.

 

---

 

"Looks like it'll be over, soon," Josh said, standing atop the desert base with Garland standing nearby. "The clouds grow less and less turbulent each day. Yep, I bet the whole world is almost covered by now."

 

"Still no word back from the others," Alex said, looking up at the dark, cloudy waves Josh spoke of. "The explosion that occurred was pretty devastating. Do you honestly believe they could have survived it?"

 

"Without a doubt," Josh nodded. His gaze shifted from the clouds above to the churning sands below, the freezing winds howling across the desert and settling frost on the metal walls of the complex. "I have read those stories, I know of the warriors that came before, and I looked upon these warriors and saw the same qualities... perhaps even better qualities. No apocalyptic blast could stop those guys, no matter how severe. They're just that good."

 

Alex chuckled.

 

"Crazy as ever, Josh," he said. The bartender gave a goofy shrug.

 

"Just the way I am, you know?" he bent over and picked an old fashioned hunting spear off the floor, swinging it around in hand before pointing it off into the distance. "What say you to some hunting, Alex?"

 

"Hunting?"

 

"Sure, hunting," Josh laughed. "The caribou are plentiful this time of year! If we get going we can feast like kings by night!"

 

Alex smiled, shrugging.

 

"Guess I have nothing to lose," he replied. The two laughed, reentering the base and no sooner exiting it, their traveling forms darkening as they went across the sands away from the base, heading off northward to whatever fate had in store for them. Two others emerged from the base and watched as Josh and Alex disappeared over the horizon, Josh repeating a hunting chant that soon faded under the wind.

 

"What are your thoughts, Father?" Ambrosia said to the cloaked man next to her, light purple locks of hair falling from the sides of the raised hood of his cloak. "Do you agree with Josh? Could those people have really survived?"

 

"I wish I knew," Father's voice echoed from the hood. "That alternate Gabriel... he was intriguing. From what I learned, we were both the same prior to our first deaths. I thought we might have had similar views despite our different paths, but I guess thinking such was foolish optimism."

 

The winds continued to howl as the two stood, a curtain of sand lifting from the desert floor and reaching as high as their knees.

 

"Home," Father whispered.

 

"Home?" Ambrosia questioned, looking over at Father.

 

"Those people," he chuckled. "I'm sure that is where they are headed now, the place they wish to return to."

 

He extended his hand out to Ambrosia, Lady Townshend looking at it mystified.

 

"Come," he said. "Let's return home."

 

Ambrosia paused, looking up at Father. The slight frown she always carried curved slightly upward then as she reached out her own hand and took Father's.

 

"Yes," she said. "Let's..."

 

The two then walked off, hand in hand, their footsteps following the fading ones that Josh and Garland left behind. The wind continued to howl as they, too, disappeared over the horizon, leaving behind the base, one of the last traces of the conflict that encompassed the whole world.

 

A world that would one day rise anew from its ashes.

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