The assault on Remnant Rock continues.
"MISTER LI, STOP!"
"We're going to fucking die!"
"Are you out of your mind?!"
Li ignored the passengers as he drove towards the flames with a look of stanch determination on his face. The creatures continued to bang on the roof of the car, their screeching still just as haunting and bone-chilling. Then, the old man drove them into the flames.
"STOP!!" Blossom's scream rang through the air, as flames leaped into through the open windows and whipped around the vehicle, the screams of the passengers even louder as they ducked for cover where they could. The beings attached to the car dropped as they continued through the flames, letting out their own ear-splitting screams.
Once they made it to the other side of the bridge, Li slammed the brakes of the car, pulling it to a stop, and wiped sweat off his forehead. Somehow, maybe by pure miracle, he remained unharmed. He quickly glanced out the back window of the car, noticing the beings were paused behind them, most in a giant pile of burning bodies. Feeling a small sense of relief, he then began looking down at his companions. "Everyone okay?"
"No, we're not okay!" Blossom screeched as she sat up in the car, holding her burnt left arm.
"Oh, okay. First aid kit is in the back if you need it," Li said, as he flipped the windshield wipers on once again, scraping the charred remains of the creatures from the windshield. "At least we all — except for the things — made it out alive."
"That fire was traumatizing," Chris said, relieved that he was alright. He turned to Li, feeling a bit mad. "For future reference, I would prefer this incident not be repeated."
Samuel looked around him. "What the hell, old man?! Did you ever take a defensive driving course in your time as a taxi-man?" he shouted to Li.
"Old man?! Are you questioning my driving skills? Let's see you try better when you have demon things punching the windows and roof of your van!" Li nervously smiled.
Melissa glared at Li. "Driving us through fire was stupid and risky."
"Come on guys, we don't have all day," Blossom interrupted, opening the first aid kit back up again and using some of the water to cool the burns. "Let's get a move on."
As Steven writhed in pain, he turned around to make sure they were safe. Thankfully, there was nothing behind them except a collection of corpses, burning in the mysterious wall of fire. Where? How? he thought, his head spinning.
Samuel looked through the shattered glass to get a better view of Remnant Rock. The surrounding area, which looked like grayish clay from a distance, was now revealed to be steel. The complex itself was a massive, featureless building. Empty boats stood docked and ready, platforms stood above the sea, and black lighthouses watched over the area. Intending to get a closer look, Samuel looked through his rifle's scope.
"I think I see a few guards, not sure. Should we continue driving, or go on foot? Not to repeat what happened last time, but this car isn't safe."
"Samuel is right. We need to get out of this van," Li stated, beginning to get up from his seat. "It's suffered internal damage from the fire and could go up at any moment. Go, move, now, hurry, run!" With that, the old man was out of the van, with the others following behind quickly.
Blossom ran along with the others. As she ran, the details of the guards standing in wait on Remnant Rock began to become more vivid. Their odd, green armor was the color of vines. Their long, thick boots were the only part to be colored black instead of green. Blossom stared at the guards, failing to realize she was slowing down and the rest of the group was way ahead of her.
"Come on Blossom, you're holding us up!" Melissa shouted.
"Coming!" Blossom began sprinting up towards the group.
Running as fast as he could, Samuel suddenly heard something in the distance. Briefly looking behind him, he watched in horror as the vehicle he carefully selected was now set ablaze. Confused, and not wanting to fall behind, he continued running.
The group continued onwards, as they reached a point in which the bridge prepared to fuse with a downward metal road. "Almost!" he called out.
Everyone nearly reached the bridge's end — until a familiar obstacle appeared. To everyone's horror, embers once again appeared, rising to completely obstruct the entrance to Remnant Rock. Not wanting a repeat of recent events, the group stopped in their tracks. They watched as a similar fate hit the sides of a bridge — a blockade of flames, lighting up the left and right sides.
Seeing the wall of fire, Blossom stopped running instantly, gripping her gun tighter as she glanced around.
"I, well —" Samuel readied his rifle, pointing every-which-way. "Keep — keep on guard!"
Li unsheathed his dao as he turned back and looked at the van, now in a fiery red blaze. "Our van!" he mumbled quietly.
"So much for the first aid kits," Steven nervously muttered.
"How are we supposed to get out of this?" Melissa asked.
"I am unsure. The best course of action would be to remain here, it would not be wise to continue forward," Chris looked around the bridge when he noticed something odd about the wall they had previously driven through.
Examining it closely, it appeared some rapid movement began to happen towards the bottom. A swirl, of sorts, as if a spiral portal of embers was created. It continued to move, before slowly spiraling violently, becoming a homogeneous red. At once, the spiral was thrown directly at the group, spinning violently. Everyone prepared to move from its trajectory — before it shot into the air, dissipating.
Looking into the newly created hole, five figures began to emerge.
"I didn't know I was going to be dealing with this when I agreed to this mission," Blossom exclaimed, aiming her gun at the figures.
"This isn't too bad," Li commented, holding his dao up defensively.
The figures on the other side of the bridge walked very passively. As if taking a stroll on some warm day, they did not appear as enemies to the group. As they walked closer, it could be made out what they were: Alchemilia androids. The featureless mechanical humanoids barely resembled their Wellington derivatives. Their skin was the achromatic color of Remnant Rock and cyan light was emitted from their heads.
Leading the androids was the most intriguing. It was a regular human woman, dressed in simple clothes instead of the bulky exosuits of her companions. A black, long-sleeve buttoned-up coat, with streaks of red. Her skin was a bit tan, and her red hair was housed by an Alchemilia cap. Despite approaching an armed brigade, the woman had no visible weapons. She spoke quickly. "Your little incursion ends here. All of you are under arrest."
Melissa felt rage building as she heard the woman, glaring at her. She spoke. "What did you just say, you little bitch? You aren't arresting anyone."
The woman smiled as all laid their weapons on her — yet, she stood her ground. Briefly, she turned to Melissa, smiling. "It is not 'little bitch,' I'd prefer General Nabi; Miss Devlin." Melissa stood surprised.
The general turned her attention to the rest in the group, laughing softly. "You all are pathetic. You've loaded up some weapons in that little van, storming a military installation to kill innocent lives — think about that. I am letting you do this voluntarily — come with me, and there will be no bloodshed. Hell, tell me where Anoethite and Rooke are and I might even give you a nice cell."
Blossom dropped her weapon in shame. "I... surrender." The others turned to face her in shock of her words. She shut her eyes, imagining how disappointed the group was. How disappointed Atticus would be.
Steven mumbled something quickly: a meek, shaky noise from his throat. He attempted to correct himself, not looking Nabi or his compatriots in the eye but keeping his head down. "I surrender." Steven bit his lip, chewing uncomfortably while he began to sweat. "It's the only... logical course of action. Marshall, Atticus, and Fontaine are in the tunnels underneath. Just don't hurt them, please."
"What the hell?!" Blossom completely lost control. "You're giving up our friends for a comfier prison cell. Don't ever open your mouth again!" She turned away for a second, crying slightly.
Steven clenched his teeth and began to tremble, still keeping his eyes down. He mumbled incoherently, avoiding Blossom's eyes.
"Well, we failed," Li acceded, dropping his sword and raising his arms above his head. "Might as well give up. We're screwed. I surrender."
Samuel slowly lowered his rifle, his hands shaking. Months of preparation, hope, ambition — for this? He was mixed with frustration for Steven's decision and sadness for their failure. Solemnly, he placed the intricate weapon on the ground. "I — will surrender."
Melissa tore her eyes away from Nabi to look at Blossom. "Never speak to my brother like that again, understood?!" She then turned to Steven. "I can't believe you'd betray us like that. What is wrong with you?! We're supposed to be a team."
"Melissa, please," he spoke, struggling through a stutter. "I can't let you die and we don't have a chance in hell here!"
"We had a chance if you and the rest of this 'team' hadn't given up instead of sticking to the plan!"
"Melissa, my deepest apologies," Chris said. "But I'm with Steven, Li, Samuel, and Blossom on this one. We don't really have a choice here..." Chris detached his arm and placed it on the ground. "I surrender."
"Magnificent," began the general. "I wouldn't expect it to take this long, but you've finally chosen to face the consequences for your actions. Don't worry about your friends, Doctor Arsene would not want them dead."
The group solemnly lowered their heads and walked toward the woman, their weapons left on the pavement. A black limousine with no windows began to appear as they walked forward. Two armored men emerged.
"Those who chose wisely, wait in that car or be forced in. Allow us to address your friend," Nabi said, motioning for them to head inside.
Steven looked to the ground before starting to walk towards the car. "Please, Melissa, give up. We can figure this out, but only if you live through this." Steven said, before looking back with tears welling up in his eyes.
Blossom walked behind Steven towards the car, getting in and sitting next to him. Behind her followed Chris, Samuel, and Li. All of them looked solemn knowing that they had failed the mission, had failed Fontaine. The car was dead silent inside, so quiet one could hear a pin drop.
Melissa gripped her shotgun tightly, loading the pump and aiming it at the red-haired woman. She refused to take the easy way out as her friends had.
Nabi simply shrugged off Melissa's angered eyes. "So, this is it, then?" she said, amused at the lone wolf that stood before her. "There's no need to keep this up. Do as your friends have." Melissa did not budge. "Sometimes, overconfidence is used to cover for a lack of confidence. I'm sure your friends wouldn't want you to die."
A silence — and then Melissa spoke. "Do you want my friends dead or alive?" she said, a hint of defeat in her voice.
"We do not intend to kill —" Before Nabi could finish, Melissa pulled the trigger.
She watched as the bullet was deflected by the General's gloved hand. Before she could shoot again, Melissa found herself knocked back. Laying on the rough pavement, her eyes began to fill with red hues — and then nothing.
Melissa's eyes peered open, blinded by the white light above her. Her body rested on a thin mattress. For a moment, she was unsure of where she was. The room she was in was barren, completely featureless. It was gray and dusty, with only one small frosted glass window. Most would not be able to sleep comfortably with how bright it was. Melissa walked over to the room's sole sink, washing her face with lukewarm water.
As she examined the room, Melissa noticed a man turned to the wall in a nearby bed. Approaching him, her suspicious about where she was confirmed. Looking at the blonde-haired man, she could at least be thankful Alchemilia allowed her to stay with her brother. She chose not to speak to him after his compromising of the mission at the bridge. Melissa sat down on the bed, silent.
Steven turned from the wall and looked to his sister.
"You shouldn't have told them," she whispered. "Now we're locked in here while Atticus and Marshall could be getting killed."
Steven remained on his bed. "I did — I did what was logical..."
"It wasn't logical, it was stupid. Now we're stuck in a cell for the rest of our lives!" Melissa yelled.
"You just don't get it," Steven rested his chin on his hand, continuing to speak quietly. "That woman at the bridge — we, we were surrounded. They'd have found out anyway, I just didn't want you to be hurt... You were lucky she didn't hurt you that much. We shouldn't have come here—"
Melissa glared and took a breath, fuming with anger. "We knew it was risky when we agreed to the mission. Just because we got caught doesn't mean we had to throw the others under the bus. We could have stalled them, at least to let Marshall and Atticus get a good head start. We might've been hurt badly, but it's what we agreed to from the start. We didn't come here to betray our friends at the first flicker of danger!" she said. "I have never been more disappointed in you than I am right now."
"Melissa, listen!" Steven said, his tone picking up. "I did what I had to do to keep us safe. If we stayed and fought, we would have been killed. Even if they didn't execute us on the spot we would've been beaten, captured, and then tortured for the location. If it wasn't for me, you could be rotting in a dark cell alone."
"How do you know that's not what they're gonna do to us next? Do you really think they'll treat us kindly forever?"
"I know they won't treat us great forever, but hopefully it'll be long enough for us to find some way out."
"You've always been a coward, you hide from any sign of danger. That's probably why I joined the militia. You're so overbearing and controlling!"
"I may not be the bravest, but I'm no coward either! I knew we had no part joining in on this doomed operation, and you had just as little reason to run off and with that suicidal militia," Steven growled.
"Just shut up. I don't want to hear this nonsense anymore," Melissa snapped, turning around in anger and with slight tears dripping from her eyes.
She felt a heavy mixture of feelings — sadness, disappointment, worry, shame. They had come this far only to be captured, only to have their only hope given up by one of their own. This was so unlike the Steven she knew, he had always been a solid rock.
She began to take slow and steady breathes, calming herself before speaking again. "I remember the day I left for the militia. You were so angry at me. You called it a suicide squad then too and I fought you every step of the way. But you were strong, relentless, didn't give up on your view. What happened to you?"
She felt Steven's steady gaze focus on her, as her words shocked even herself. She didn't know how, but she felt a strange sensation.
Gasping at the revelation that hit her, she held her hand to her mouth. "I remember..."
Blossom paced around the room, anxious and without anything else to do. She felt Li's gaze on her as she moved. "Mister Li," she asked timidly. "Do you think Atticus and Marshall will make it out?"
"Eh... let's just go with that, sure," Li replied. He stayed seated in a rusted chair attached to the floor, picking the dirt and gravel from his fingernails.
"Seriously? That's all you have to say?" Blossom stopped pacing and turned to face him, growing angry at the dull expression on his face.
"Well, I am aware they have survived many things but Alchemilia has been a formidable foe for many decades now. Multiple attempted coups. All failed. However, with Fontaine's help, it's slightly feasible. I have high hopes for them and us. Maybe," Li said, as he walked over to the door.
Feeling uneasy due to the nature of the conversation, Blossom sat down on the bed that was pushed up against the wall and sighed, rubbing at her face.
"Decades?" she spoke up, glancing at Li as he surveyed the door.
Turning back to the girl, Li sighed then spoke. "Decades. Alchemilia Corporation has been around for centuries. Perhaps I will tell you more once we are both out of this cell."
"We're not going to get out of here, old man. We're just — ruined." Blossom sighed. "All because Steven couldn't keep his mouth shut! I hate him, I wish he never joined us on this mission."
"Now, now. We will get out. We need to be a united front. It will do us no good to sit and mope. Here," He pulled a harmonica out of his pocket. "I will play you a tune to cheer you up." He began playing an uplifting song, much too Blossom's annoyance.
Blossom sighed, placing her face in her palms. "Can you just stop?"
Hearing a noise, she turned her gaze towards the opposite side of the cell, quickly realizing Li was nowhere to be found. Through the wall, she could hear Li's faint voice. "What were you saying?"
"What the hell, where are you?!" Blossom yelled. "Let me in there!"
"Technically, this is out and you are in, not reverse," Li corrected her. "I'll get you out as soon as I grab a few things." The old man then hurried off.
Li ran down the textured hallway and to a clean, white table with messy papers and files, scanning it. Above the table, a bulletin board of notes, flyers, and posters. He quickly found a small but incomplete map of the building and shoved it into his pocket. Footsteps sounded as he hid under the table. The guard stopped and carefully looked over the board. Li crawled from under the table, standing up behind the man. He tapped his shoulder lightly and asked "Care for some tea?" to which the guard exclaimed "Mother—" before being sucker-punched. The guard fell to the floor.
"One too many lumps."
Li hurried away from the guard and peered down the ground floor of the prison. Quickly, he examined the crumpled piece of paper. It did not provide much, but it did give him ideas of a plan for escape. "Interesting. Entrances out of the prison at the ground, fifth, and tenth... biological testing? Android storage? Those weren't here before. Ah, there we are, third door from the right." Li walked forward, carefully correlating the map and the prison, before arriving at what seemed to be an ordinary cell door. Opening it — a gray staircase revealed itself. "Bingo."
Chris awoke with a strong sense of déjà vu until he attempted to open the room's door. It was shut tight, and through its small window he could slightly make out rows of repeating doors. In a corner, Samuel stopped meditating and looked to the android. "Took you long enough."
"Samuel?" Chris asked. "Why are you in here with me? Where is everybody else?"
Samuel stood up and approached Chris. "Once we all walked to the car, they forcibly shut you off. Precautions, I guess. They drove us here, searched us, and placed everyone in different cells," he sighed. "I don't know where the others are, but they're probably nearby. It's over."
Chris nodded. "Are we going to remain here forever?"
"No," responded Samuel, confidently. "I do not intend to remain in this raggedy prison forever. We'll be out before the day ends."
"Well, how do you plan on getting out? Even if we get out, do you think this cell has been left unguarded?" Chris said.
"Of course they have guards outside. In fact, I believe they're coming now."
Before Chris could respond, he could hear the sounds of a lock turning on the door's other side. At once, the metallic door opened loudly and slowly. Peering into the room were two figures, clad in black armor. At first glance, one might assume they were androids.
"Wellington, you're needed in Doctor Arsene's office. Come with us," said one of the guards.
Chris anxiously followed the guards, looking around Remnant Rock's prison. It was a singular, massive room that seemed to extend in all directions. To his left, a metal railing prevented a drop from ten stories down. "Do you know what he needs to see me for?"
"No, but you'll find out when we get there," a guard responded.
"That makes sense."
Pulling a handheld radio out of his pocket, the guard began to speak into it. "We've got him, we're on our—" Eerily, the man stopped mid-sentence. Chris and the other guard looked to the man.
The android found himself pushed aside by the silent guard. Looking up, he saw the guard choking his peer. The man attempted to claw out of the other guard's tight hands, his armor failing to provide any protection. As if gifted with supernatural strength, the guard then threw the man across the fencing. A faint crack could be heard seconds later when he finally hit the ground.
The remaining guard took off his helmet. Looking down at the bottom of the prison, he took out a pistol and aimed it at his skull. "Yes, yes, yes..." he said, pulling the trigger.
Chris was astounded at the sudden change of circumstance. This is my chance, he realized. He glanced at the hallway ahead, towards the administration sector and Arsene's office. Chris turned around and began heading back to his cell.
Let's see if I can get more than two. Samuel opened his eyes slowly, ceasing a meditation that he started when Chris was taken out of his cell. He placed two fingers on the gray, metallic door in front of him. It quietly swung open with only a light push. Samuel walked out of his cell, looking around the massive area. He heard someone approaching and paused.
"Ah, there you are. The guards — well, that problem took care of itself," Chris said as he noticed Samuel. "How'd you get out?"
Samuel walked towards Chris and spoke quietly, "My cell was unlocked."
"Well, let's find the others and get out of here," Chris was not entirely convinced of Samuel's explanation, but considering his own experience he decided it was not impossible.
"First order of business is finding Li."
"Do you have any idea where he is?" Chris asked. "In case you haven't noticed, this building is quite large."
Samuel peered downwards. He could barely make out a large door at the prison's bottom. "We can't lose time. We need to find a ladder and see if we can catch Li: he's out by now, I'm sure of it."
"I don't see any ladders."
"Just — just look around. Again, we can't waste any time," Samuel quickly walked through the prison's tenth level, being careful not to make his footsteps too loud.
"Did you hear that?" Chris asked Samuel. "It sounded like Li."
"Keep your voice down! Nothing sounded like Li, get a ladder —"
One of the prison hall's many cells swung open, interrupting the silence Samuel was attempting to set. Wellington's observation had been correct — Li emerged from the door, carefully observing a crumpled up paper. Surprised, Samuel did not wait for greetings. "I— Well— Is that a map? We need to get out of here."
Before Li could respond, a figure crept up behind Samuel and Chris. The man took a puff of his cigar before speaking.
"Out? You don't get out of Remnant Rock. Unless you'd prefer an abrupt, violent demise, you three are going back to your cells and shutting the doors behind yourselves."
The man took a final puff, then dropped it, stomping it out.
Samuel turned around and looked at the man without fear. "I said before we'd be out by day's end. Empty threats aren't going to change that."
"You think my threats are empty, Inmate 4279?" Just then, two armed guards appeared behind them. "Nobody has ever gotten out and no one ever will. Let me reiterate. We can do this the easy wa—"
Several loud sounds of sparks began to reverberate through the hall, breaking the eerie silence. As the main generator failed, the lights illuminating the main hall slowly began to shut themselves off. First, the prison's top light — then, the lights of each level. Only the dim lights that could be seen through cell windows lit up the room.
So, you're alive. Go figure. Samuel looked to Li and Chris, nodding. Fontaine had explained this would be the most important part of Primo Victoria: they knew what had to be done. Praying that the dark room would be enough to shield them from bullets, they quickly diverged from the armored guards. Gunfire would not impede them from opening every cell in sight.
Slash, slash, slash.
The sound of swiping could be heard in the still air, as the light and monitors of the room shut off. Backing up, Atticus looked around the small breaker room, the knife still in his hand. To him, it was somewhat claustrophobic: in each corner, four glass chambers protected a conglomeration of wires and processors. Monitors surrounded the room, and a collection of generators stood in the center.
Atticus looked at the two men laying on the ground as the lights continued to fail. After exiting the train station, the trio made their way through Remnant Rock's lower facilities to the breaker room. Fontaine had vanished, opting to search for any future threats from Alchemilia. After catching the two off guard, subduing them was simple, though their motionless bodies served as a reminder of what he had become.
The room was now completely devoid of light.
"Atticus?" Marshall asked.
"Yeah, what is it?" Atticus answered.
"We should have packed a fucking flashlight."
"No shit," Atticus snapped, folding the knife and stuffing it down his pocket. "Find the wall and use it to guide yourself out of here. It won't be long before they figure out what we've done."
Now outside of the room, Marshall placed his hands on the smooth walls of the building, looking for a possible exit. "Do you even know where to go from here?"
"No," Atticus replied, following the wall as well. "I wonder where Fontaine is."
Marshall stopped walking. Pulling a lollipop out of his pocket and unwrapping it, he spoke. "Who cares?" Marshall started walking again. "We're doing fine without him," Marshall said, now with the lollipop hanging out of his mouth.
"Keep your voice down," Atticus whispered. "Alchem employees could be anywhere right now. And we do need Fontaine, he's the only one that knows where we should even be going." Looking ahead, he noticed a green light slowly illuminating.
"Let's check that area. Remember: be careful and ready for anything."
"Sure, whatever," Marshall said as he sucked the lollipop.
Eventually, they came to the source of the green light. A large metal door stood before them, green light seeping from it and illuminating the halls in an eerie glow.
Atticus opened the door to an uneasy sight: another long hallway with metallic black floors. Lining the corridor were massive, cylindrical tanks, illuminating the room with a mysterious glowing green liquid. Each contained a featureless human body, gray and muscular. They gave off an uneasy aura. Nearby, notebooks stood atop each other in neat piles.
"Fuck, they're still doing it," Marshall cautiously stepped into the room. Both boys remembered the tests they saw Alchem perform months before.
"What's going on here?" Atticus asked as he slowly crept over to one of the tanks and tapped his finger against it.
"What is going on?" A woman dressed in a gray general's uniform stepped out from between two tanks. "Mister Williams, you and Mister Keller have just entered a Gimel-tier restricted area. I should be asking you what's going on."
Atticus tried to explain. "I — uh, we were alone when the power went out," he felt his heartbeat growing faster. "Tried to ask what was going on but comms are offline too. This is the only room we could find which still has power so I figured—"
"Enough," said the general, stepping forward. "This sector needs a skeleton crew until Director Pavlovic and his staff receive the all-clear. You both have standard genetics certifications, correct?"
"Yes," Atticus and Marshall responded in near-unison. Neither had checked their alias' list of certifications, but Marshall was sure it was on there and Atticus wanted to appear confident.
"If the latest reports are accurate, my services are needed elsewhere. You will make sure the systems remain online and I will not mention this incident to your superiors."
Atticus and Marshall nodded.
The general walked over to one of the tanks and stared at the creature within. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Selma Klosterman, head of security for the Genetics Department," She looked back at the two. "This creature is a Tiefling."
"A what?" Marshall interjected. Atticus glared at him, but Klosterman did not take issue with his query.
"Tieflings are demon-human hybrids, although only one in our possession had a demon parent. When that original specimen was discovered, we began to research ways of replicating its abilities in human subjects. The others are the results of our testing."
A door opened behind Klosterman and two armed guards entered.
"Do you understand what a Tiefling is now, Rooke?"
Atticus and Marshall immediately drew their weapons, but before they could make use of them a shot rang out and a body fell to the ground. One of the guards had shot Klosterman.
"What the hell just happened?!" Atticus yelled as he aimed his gun at the rogue guard.
"I'm Reti, he's Isaac. We're two of Fontaine's rebels," the guard frantically explained. "I'll explain as we go, but right now we need to get out of here." The guard stepped over the bodies that lay on the floor, motioning to the door.
Atticus stared down at Klosterman's body. A sense of nausea passed over him as he realized she was dead due to them — they had gone on this mission to avenge Savannah's death and now another lay dead. This is justice...?
The words of Reti echoing in his head, Atticus gripped his gun tighter and took off after the man, leaving Marshall behind in the room.
The group raced down the halls, Reti leading the way. "They're this way, in the cells!" During their dash, Reti had explained that he and Isaac were part of a rebel group under the Fontaine's lead. They were rogue Alchem guards who would attack from the heart of Remnant Rock when the time was right. Due to fears of their operation being compromised, the existence of the rebels was kept from Teams A and B.
Marshall opened the door and looked out into the fiery prison. "What the hell is this?"
He looked to the eighth floor and the riots, the fire, and the fleeing prisoners. Prisoners rushed in front of him, shoving, kicking around, trying to get out.
"We need to find the others."
"How are we going to find them in this mess?" Atticus exclaimed. "They could be anywhere!"
"You better start looking! By now, they could be dead — probably are. Come with me if you wish for the exit," Reti prepared his scoped rifle frantically.
Scanning the area, Atticus began to lose hope at finding their friends. There were too many prisoners roaming about, causing chaos. "We can't leave," he told Reti. "We're not leaving them here, not after coming this far."
Blossom stepped out of her cell and surveyed the area. Smoke was filling the air as fire spread throughout the prison and prisoners were frantically trying to escape. Blossom quickly got down low to the ground and held her breath. When she reached the end of the hallway, she got back on her feet to run.
When Blossom reached the railing on the fifth floor, she leaned over and looked below, watching a crowd of prisoners fleeing. Suddenly, she felt a force from behind as several prisoners bumped into her in a hurry. The sudden impact was strong enough for her to lose her balance and fall over the railing.
Blossom screamed as she fell to the third floor and crashed into the ground. She shrieked as she tried to drag herself to a corner where she would not be trampled.
Atticus heard screaming. He looked back at the crowd, scanning it before taking a step into it. "That sounded like Blossom, I'm going to look for her. She could be in danger!"
He ran through the crowds, pushing up the stairs in a heavy struggle. As he ran, Atticus could hear the screaming grow closer. When he finally got to Floor 3 and got through another crowd, he found the source of the sobbing. Just as he had feared, he saw Blossom laying in a corner by the railing, sobbing.
"Blossom!" he exclaimed. "what happened?" Her body lay there limp as she looked up at Atticus.
"Someone pushed me off floor 5!" Blossom cried out. "I can't move!"
"Where are you hurt?" Atticus asked quickly.
"My legs! I think they're broken, I can't stand up or move them," she replied.
"Alright, alright," Atticus said, bending down and placing his arms around her waist, slowly lifting her. "I'm going to have to carry you out of this."
"Thanks. I'm glad you were able to find me." Blossom looked at Atticus, feeling a slight bit of comfort.
"No need to thank me, we're going to get you out of here, don't worry about it," Atticus told her as he blended back into the crowd, heading back to the where he had left the rebels and Marshall.
Running through the crowd with Blossom in his arms, Atticus finally noticed the railing for the second-floor staircase and began to make his way towards it. "We're almost out of here, just wait."
The girl did not respond, still in pain. Just as Atticus reached the railing, he felt a rumble shaking the floor and saw smoke rising from the lower sections. Tightening his grip on Blossom, he gritted his teeth as people began to push him into him. Was that an explosion?
Running down the staircase, Atticus descended onto the first floor again, quickly searching for the entrance he had used before. A quick survey of the room confirmed his suspicion of an explosion. Before he had time to fully examine the room and possible exits, loud stomping sounds boomed out from behind him.
Shouting filled the prison hall, a caravan of both Alchemilia prisoners and guards running through the unlit pathways. Bullet shells reverberated through the room. Once Samuel, Chris, and Li had opened a few cells and revealed their plans, a riot was inevitable, as the once-imprisoned people of Remnant Rock's prisons attempted an escape.
"Just die already!" The Alchemilia guard held a tight grip on Samuel, stabbing his right shoulder with a black knife.
"Not yet!" responded Samuel. He tightly squeezed the man's wrist, surprising him. Quickly, he removed the knife from his shoulder. Before the guard could react, Samuel placed him into a choke-hold and threw him over the railing. Feeling a sharp pain, Samuel ran forward, attempting to ascend to the top-level.
Inmates pushed and threw one another, guards shot at prisoners or, inexplicably, their coworkers. Smoke filled the air and flames billowed from lit sheets and beds. With the smoke continuing to fill the air, people began screaming and running.
Chris had long lost sight of Samuel or Li. Finding them was no longer a concern as he decided the many immediate dangers and the locating and exit were more important. He saw a hallway up ahead, the perfect place to let his overclocked emergency systems cool down. Before he could reach it, he saw Steven run through a junction hallway.
"Steven! What are you doing here?" Chris called out.
Steven kept running for a moment before stopping, recognizing the voice. "Chris! It's — it's a long story. I and Melissa were in the same cell so, of course, we got into a fight. Right when it ended we lost power and our cell opened up, the riot starting soon after. I took my chances and ran," Steven explained.
"Well, you're in luck. Once all my systems are in order we're going to take the first exit we find," Chris said.
"Exit? We can't leave now, not without the others."
"Frankly, I don't think that's wise. I want at least one of my friends to make it out alive, but going back is certain destruction for us both."
"We came here together and we are leaving together," Steven clenched his fist. He spoke softly. "I'd rather die than leave Melissa behind. I — you're an android, right? You can protect me. I mean, you've made it this far. Come on."
Chris was silent for a moment. "The last time I thought a friend could survive on their own, she was murdered. I'm not going to repeat that mistake."
"That's supposed to make me want to leave? The whole reason we came here was to depose Alchemilia, to avenge Savannah. We came here with no idea what would happen, but the chance — no matter how minuscule — that we could put a stop to the evil that killed our friend and countless others kept us together. You don't want to lose any more friends and I want to know I made an effort to protect my sister."
"Go find her yourself then," Chris said. "If you want to get yourself killed, you're gonna have to do it without me."
"You —" Steven gritted his teeth. "Coward." he looked away from Chris. "Just you wait, Melissa," he ran down another hallway.
As Chris waited, he realized he should not have been so selfish. Maybe Steven was— His thoughts were interrupted by a loud thud.
"—hard way it is," The general swung at Li and missed, hitting a wall.
"That working out for you, Santo?" Li grabbed Santo and shoved him against the wall. Santo pushed him down to the ground, punching at him, but Li rolled side-to-side and Santo missed again. While the general glanced at his bloody knuckles, Li took the moment to pick himself off of the ground. Li swiped his leg at Santo's, narrowly missing.
Santo pushed Li into the wall. "Goodbye, Inmate 4280."
Li took one last breath before knocking his head forward at full force — breaking the general's nose and knocking him unconscious.
Li bent over and pulled the pistol from the man's holster and a small metal box from his pocket. "Might as well."
The man ran down the hall, his breath faltering with each step. The fight had tired him out, but he had to keep going. Seeing a figure at the far side of the room, he placed his fists in a fighting stance and slowly crept towards them.
Just as he approached them, the figure stepped forward and grabbed his right hand, preventing any blow that Li was prepared to give. "It's me," Samuel's voice bellowed out. Li lowered his hand, smirking. "About time you showed up."
"Next time we do this, have a —" Samuel paused. In the darkness, he noticed a dark mass approaching Li. It prepared to jam a knife into the old man's neck. Feeling the grip, Li readied himself to retaliate before a loud bullet shell eliminated the threat.
Samuel gripped the pistol tightly, smiling. "— plan. Can you see the map?"
"Too dark. Where are the twins, Android, and Blossom? Grab and go," Li slammed his hand on the wall suddenly in frustration. "I cannot crack it. The new inmate placement algorithm. Just run a bit until we find them, should not be too hard."
"If they're not here, check upstairs. I've been running up and down this place for a while. Should be higher," responded Samuel.
"Wonderful. Let's go," Li started running to the end of the corridor as he noticed Samuel was slowing down. "Move it, let's go!"
Samuel sped up his pace, easily catching up to and passing the old man. Fortunately, the seventh level of the prison was mostly clear. Past the repeating cells, a metallic door slowly came into view in front of them.
"What a nice door," Li commented.
Removing the explosives Isaac had given him, Marshall piled them near a structural support wall. Pulling the lighter from his pocket, he lit it and threw it at the pile before sprinting to find and get behind something.
Before he could, the explosives went off and he was thrown upward. He fell into rubble, scraping or cutting his arms, chest, and legs in the process. The explosion took out the support column, leaving a large portion of the prison to crumble. Dust and smoke filled the air of the first two levels.
Marshall pulled himself from the debris, fighting to live. He ran to the stairs, coughing, trying to get above the dusty air. He reached the third floor, before stopping to watch the destruction as more the prison crumbled.
Li glanced over the railing, watching a section of the prison tumble down. "Some men just want to watch the world burn," he said, sighing and glancing at his watch. "Open the door now, Samuel. Looks like we do not have much time left."
Nodding, Samuel approached the metallic door. Without thinking much of it, he turned the knob and the door swung open. As light poured into the dark hallway, Samuel prepared himself to enter, before a gloved hand began to squeeze tightly at his neck.
Li quickly prepared to shoot the assailant with Santo's pistol. He had almost pulled the trigger when he saw the attacker's face. In the doorway stood General Nabi, now in a tattered uniform and a deep cut in her right eye. Remembering the feats she demonstrated at the bridge, Li hesitated to fire.
"Missed me?" she said as Samuel fruitlessly attempted to claw at her hands. A sharp pain hit him, as the woman's hand began to glow a light red. Without hesitation, Nabi threw Samuel across the railing. He made impact with a surface several floors down.
Eight feet of metal covered in bone white plating dropped from a floor above, mechanical hands drenched in blood as its eternally grinning face stared Samuel down upon impact — The visage of a canine skull, filled with wires and screws. The area of the floor that Samuel had landed on was populated only by corpses, their faces twisted into masks of terror. A tail, segmented with a cone shape on the end, began to twist around the monster and move towards Samuel while a static hum emitted from the creature's mouth.
Samuel attempted to crawl away, but to no avail. The cone at the end of the tail opened into four segments as a long metal needle extended from its tip. Moving like a snake up Samuel's body and to his neck, it found its mark in his carotid artery, numbing the man's body.
The mechanical beast dug his foot into the ground, before pushing off of the concrete to leap to the next floor. It ran, dropping to all floors as it pounced towards the open door that marked a stairwell onto whatever poor soul was heading down.
The metal creature first mauled a rebel on the stairwell, before turning around at the sound of Atticus' heartbeat. Returning to a bipedal stance, the canine monster dropped to the bottom of the stair with a heavy thud. Like a predator salivating at prey, blood dripped from its jaws.
Staring down the creature, Atticus realized how trapped he was. While every instinct in his body screamed for him to somehow fight for his only chance at survival, he tightened his grip on Blossom once more and sprinted into the crowd in the hopes of placing distance between them and the mechanical horror.
The abomination shifted into a sprint, pushing anything in his way to the side. Seemingly, it had decided on Atticus as its prey. A robotic growl not unlike a car's engine escaped its jaws as it got closer.
Atticus continued to sprint across the floor, shoving his way through the crowd. After nearing the other side of the floor, he noticed several doors lining the walls, some open and with people flooding into them. He looked over at the door with the least amount of people, shoving through the crowd and leaving through it.
The creature stopped dead in its tracks as its jaw swung open, unhinging to reveal a metal cylinder with a thin beam of white light now targeting the crowd. As the monster seemingly braced itself, digging its feet into the ground and crossing its arms in an 'x' shape, a chunk of concrete made contact with the back of its skull.
It turned around, looking a young man dead in the eyes. No fear was visible in the eyes of Chris Wellington as he stared down the monster, only determination.
As the monster prepared to tackle Wellington, a few bullets connected with its face from the gun of a rebel. Whipping its head around and running at the assailant, Chris sprinted to follow Atticus.
"Atticus!" Chris exclaimed, as he quickly stopped to avoid crashing again. "Where have you been? Is Blossom okay?"
"Have we lost it yet?!" Blossom looked around hurriedly.
"I don't know, I hope so!" Atticus replied, rushing out the corridor and into a new room. The room was long and narrow, with people bustling through, pushing into each other as they ran. Rusted metal chairs and tables were thrown around the concrete floor, light seeping in from the two windows located far apart from each other.
A hard tap on his shoulder caused Atticus to jump around, getting a disgruntled groan from Blossom. Behind him stood Chris, looking tired and missing an arm. "We need to get out of here. Fontaine and Marshall are missing, Blossom needs medical attention and that technological abomination has set its sights on our destruction."
"Keep an eye out for any exits. I want to get Blossom to Port City, at least," Atticus remarked, running to keep up with Chris.
After running down the corridor a bit, Atticus noticed a longer and less crowded section of it, trailing off into a dark, largely unseen hallway. "Let's try this way."
With the group descending upon the path, they ran through the darkness until a wooden door came into sight. A square glass window on the door was stamped with ALCHEMILIA AIRCRAFT HANGAR.
"I'm not saying this a good idea, but considering today's events I'm willing to do anything that will get us out of here," Chris said, as he slowly pushed the door open.
Across the hangar and standing by a soldier was a tall man with a lavender jacket draped over his shoulders, his white hair wild and his green eyes wilder. Light reflected off of his glasses as Gabriel Arsene stared Atticus down. His face began to twitch as he met the boy's eyes, twisted in rage.
Gabriel stepped forward, his shoe scraping against the concrete ground as he held a cane in his clenched fist, his knuckles white. "I genuinely believed you would have the decency to take all your associates with you when you ran. You've proven even that was too generous, you fucking rat."
"You're one to talk. Why were you here if your plan wasn't to escape while everything around you burns down?" Atticus' face mirrored Gabriel's enraged glare.
The suited man took a step closer. Atticus backed up a bit, feeling Blossom's weight in his arms still. "Can't handle a little smoke after all the fires you've started?"
Atticus was beginning to feel uneasy about how close Gabriel was getting. Letting go of Blossom with one hand and adjusting her weight onto his other arm, he dropped his free hand to his waist, pulling out one of the Five-Sevens and raising it. "I wouldn't suggest getting any closer."
"Oh come on, Atticus," he snarled, baring his teeth and swinging his shoulders back to throw his jacket off. "It's time to end this little pissing match." Twisting his other hand around the metal snake coiled around the tip of the cane, he pulled just once to reveal a green blade, long and thin.
With a mad spark in his eyes, he quickly shot forward towards Atticus, the sound of a gunshot ringing out through the room following.
Gabriel swung his sword to the side as the bullet collided with it, filling the room with the deafening sound of metal heating up, like the whistle of a kettle. The bullet shot through the nearby guard's helmet, leaving a smoking hole as fell to the ground. Gabriel grinned. "Is this justice?" He landed on the ground, closer to Atticus. "I think you know better."
With the gun in his hand shaking, Atticus's breath caught as he stared at the now lifeless guard laying in their blood. Dead due to him, because he wanted to be the hero. Atticus turned his gaze back to Gabriel, his voice shaking slightly as he began to speak. "No, far from it. This is far from the first innocent you've killed. Do you remember Savannah?"
Arsene's face flashed to anger. "Nothing! I've done nothing!" He began to stomp forward, his blade at the ready as his eyelids twitched violently. His fingers began to shake, so he clenched his hand again into a fist. "Limitless progress deserves to come to a grinding halt because a hired gun went off-orders?!"
Gabriel noticed something in his peripheral vision and bit his lip, stepping back from Atticus slowly. The slow steps back quickly shifted into a sprint, before leaping behind a Hummingbird. Desperately, he searched through his jacket to find a radio. "Hello? Hello?! Shit." The small object was crushed, unusable.
"Chris," Atticus snapped. "Take Blossom and hide with her somewhere safe while Arsene's distracted."
Chris grabbed Blossom from Atticus' arms, rushing into a nearby plane without a word. The plane was huge, with few windows, and lacked a protective seal on the door. He locked up the doors and laid Blossom down in a small blue seat, crouching down behind one of the front seats so that he could see the encounter.
"Hello, Miss Nabi," Li said, keeping his gun aimed at the general. "Just standing there waiting for someone to open the door?"
Mechanical screeches continued to echo through the halls like clockwork, as Li fearlessly stared the woman down. "You're going to die here!" she screamed as she slammed a fist onto the metal pathway.
Spontaneously, the burning sheets that littered the prison began to morph. They swelled, covering larger areas like small fireballs. Railing that lined each level received a small, flaming barrier. The prison was now significantly illuminated, the smell of burning linen and corpses from the prison's bottom ever-present.
"Then... I'll see you in the Underworld," Li said, firing before she could react. Dropping his firearm, the old man ran to the closest exit he could find. A mix of sweat and blood dripped from his face; he was filled with fear.
"Don't even try!" echoed through the eighth floor, as the aggression in the woman's voice confirmed the shot was not fatal. As Li looked at the pathways, he could now clearly see the consequences of his brigade's actions. There was no time to reflect on the corpses however, as the metal floor lit up with flames in a matter of seconds.
"Forgot that doesn't work with her," he muttered.
Li ran. He came to the stairwell where he leapt down it to the next floor hoping to evade Nabi long enough to receive help. Looking back, he lost sight of the general.
The old man wiped a bit of sweat off his head. He prepared to walk forward before chunks of metal began to fly towards him.
A massive flaming gap emerged in one of the staircase's metallic walls, as Nabi emerged once again. Her injuries were even more apparent, as bruises and cuts littered her face. She quickly rushed towards the old man.
Melissa's body was littered with bruises as she continued to run through a dark passageway. The adrenaline that ran through her almost lessened the pain of her face colliding with a metal railing some minutes ago. There was no sense of organization for the caravan that crowded the pathways. Dozens of prisoners had died not from being shot by guards, but slow, painful deaths from being trampled.
Over the prisoner's heads, Melissa noticed where the group was now arriving. Coming into view was a dead end with one generic cell door. Her nerves spiked, fearful of the fatality a sudden about-face would cause. Fortunately, the quick thinking of a female prisoner did not allow this to come to fruition.
"Staircase!" the prisoner's yell could be barely heard amiss the sounds of bullet shells and screams. Without another word, Melissa and the others began quickly crowding the small door. A gray staircase quickly came into view. Wanting to be quick, the girl tried as best she could to go up the staircase. Even though it was relatively small, the group of prisoners shifted forward and backward from overcrowding.
After some minutes, an entrance came into view. Preparing for an all too familiar trek, Melissa began to move towards the doorway.
It was not long before the lines of hopeful lavender-clothed prisoners began to fall dead. The small corridor provided great assistance to Alchemilia guards, as droves were shot dead in front of Melissa. Hearing the sounds of shotgun shells, some prisoners quickly began to descend the staircase, searching for an alternative route.
Melissa had to think quickly. She would be either pushed backward by fleeing prisoners or pushed forward by daring ones. Her heart racing, Melissa looked forward and pushed aside a huddled mass of shot prisoners that were about to fall. Using the chaos to her advantage, Melissa proceeded to turn right, preparing to enter the hallway opposite the bloodbath.
Melissa pushed passed panicked prisoners, searching for any familiar faces. "Steven! Blossom! Chris?!" She shouted, trying to be heard over the noise. This is hopeless, she thought. Running to dodge the prisoners and guards, she began searching for a way out of the madness so she could collect her thoughts and decide her next move.
Steven ran back down the hallway, stopping just before the main corridor to stop and scan the area for his sister. "Melissa! Where are you?!" He shouted out, failing to get his voice to carry out over the riot. "This is gonna be harder than I thought," he mumbled. Steven ran into the chaos, dodging gunshots and avoiding fights as he continued his search.
Steven scrambled to a corpse, searching for an intact radio. From body to body, all he was finding was junk crushed under the rubble. "Come on, come on... Yes!" He nearly shouted under his breath, finding what he'd been looking for as he quickly punched some numbers in. "Fontaine? Are you there?!" A few seconds of silence passed before a gruff voice responded.
"Yeah, right here. Are you with your sister? Go get her and head for the hangar, you need to get out of here as quickly as possible. We don't have much time."
"Got it," Steven said, dropping the radio into his pocket as he ran.
Marshall looked out at the rubble. Atticus? Chris? Blossom too. They probably need my help. Fine, I'll go, but they owe me, he thought. As he turned around, he was met by another general.
"Going somewhere?" Alfred Hermann asked.
"How many of you bastards are there? Are they sending reserves in?" Marshall swung at Hermann.
"Not quite," Hermann, dodging, pushed the boy back. Marshall suddenly lost his balance, falling to the metal floor. The general held his hands out, pulled them back far and, like a mousetrap, snapped back, pushing Marshall several yards back. The boy tugged at one of his guns as Hermann stepped closer and closer. He finally pulled it out.
Hermann fell the cold, hard floor. The thud echoed in Marshall's head. The firearm slipped from his hand, falling through the railing to the ground floor.
"Shit," Marshall snapped back to reality. He picked himself up, brushed off his uniform and continued toward the staircase. As he made it to the staircase, he heard Li screaming; the screams grew louder and louder as he ran up the stairs.
Li noticed Marshall running towards him and began frantically pointing to him to go the other way, to no avail.
"What is—" Marshall noticed the woman chasing after the older man. "New friend?" the boy quipped. He began sprinting with Li. They made it to the ground floor, exhausted, but kept going. Out in the wide, open courtyard of the prison, bodies lay on the rubble and ground. Some had been caught in the explosion, others had been killed by the canine mechanical creature.
"So, uh, what now?"
As the boy uttered out the statement, Nabi burst out of the stairwell.
"You..." the woman rapidly walked towards the two. "You've gotten farther than anyone else ever has, congratulations."
Li looked at Marshall, then to Nabi, then down. The old man's synapses starting firing rapidly, before coming to a sudden realization. She's not human, the shot should have killed her. Demon? Appearance is too normal. Quick, think. The things on the bridge were somewhere between demon and human. Maybe she's something similar? The things didn't like the car horn... At that moment, Li inhaled deeply before letting out a loud screech as Nabi drew closer. The Halan man, not stopping, pointed for Marshall to leave. Instead of obeying the orders, Marshall joined in.
Nabi shielded one of her ears from the loud sounds of screeching. Of all the terrorists she had dealt with in the career, this "method" of attack was unique. She hesitated speaking up, as Marshall and Li continued to scream as loud as possible. Smiling, the woman prepared to silence the two — before a thought. Wait, she thought. Loud sounds? The art-
The woman's amusement turned to a bitter rage, as a realization occurred within her. Unaffected by the noises, rings of fire spontaneously appeared around the red-haired woman. She looked to the two in anger.
Marshall was taken aback at the strange occurrence, but trusting in his friend, he continued to screech. They came to an end, however — as the woman clenched her fists and let out a loud grunt.
Immediately, the two were knocked back across the floor; hit with a scorching wave of heat. Marshall let out a scream at the sudden shock. As he looked up, he could see a sudden sphere of fire quickly expanding like a supernova. Many near her were instantly charred.
Marshall looked in shock before Li yelled for a bright hallway. The boy did not have time to think as he rushed towards the exit. The metallic tiles reflected the fire that slowly "chased" him. Sweat dripped from their bodies as Marshall and Li ran, both from Nabi's supernatural fire and exhaustion. They ran aimlessly, searching for an exit — before the bolded word "HANGAR" stood out to them. Immediately, they ran for the open door.
"Throwing a party?" Li quipped. "Shame we weren't invited."
Gabriel's footsteps of his irregular gait echoed in his head. "It's been a while, Gabriel."
Li slowly walked farther into the hangar. Out of nowhere, a bullet came from above, piercing the older man's right shoulder. He almost fell to the floor, but caught himself.
The old man peered upwards into a hangar, searching for the location of the assailant. Unfortunately, this only made him an easier target. A red dot quickly manifested itself on his forehead before a shot was fired. The man did not scream, as life drained from his body. His vision blurred as he fell to the floor.
Marshall frantically pulled a gun out of his holster, screaming at the loss of his comrade. He shot aimlessly, above, attempting to pinpoint the location of the gunmen. At once, the attackers revealed themselves. Thirty men armed with grenade launchers, pistols, and plasma blades rushed towards Marshall.
He unsuccessfully attempted to pierce their armor with his bullets. Not caring for Marshall's desperate assault, one man kneed the boy to the ground. As Marshall lay on the cold floor, he felt the force of a metal fist connecting with his jaw. The pain would only end as a blue blade plunged itself into his heart.
Watching the commotion occur, Atticus instantly jumped behind one of the hummingbirds stacked around the hangar, leaning against it and looking around the corner of it, looking for any sight of Gabriel. "Where'd you go, you bastard?" He called out, tauntingly.
Gabriel grinned, though his eyes remained focused, before launching himself at Atticus from the shadows. The man bared his teeth further as he swung the blade, narrowly avoiding Atticus' neck as he kicked off of the white-haired man and began to run.
"Too slow!" Arsene shouted, jumping forward as he swung again, this time making contact with Atticus' hand, removing his little finger and leaving a nasty cut.
Feeling pain sear through his hand and down his arm, Atticus dropped to his knees involuntarily, overtaken. "Fuck...I—" With a loss of words, he gazed upwards at Gabriel.
Gabriel stood to his feet, swinging the sword around lightly as a natural extension of his arm. "Victory: what a wonderful feeling," Raising it above his head, ready to strike, he adjusted his glasses. "To see the fruits of one's labor, to bask in greatness," Gabriel began to laugh, "That's the best feeling!"
Atticus gazed at the man, a half-smile spreading across his face as he spoke. "I agree."
Pulling his second gun out of its holster, he aimed it upwards at Gabriel, shooting twice.
Gabriel swung his sword, a bullet flying away yet again, though this only left an opening for the other to strike him in his chest. "Sh- shit!" He exclaimed, staggering back and biting straight through his lip in pain. His white suit began to turn red around the bullet hole, but Gabriel pressed on back towards Atticus, "I can take this!" He swung his sword wildly. "I'll disintegrate you, you bastard!"
Avoiding the swinging blade, Atticus threw himself backward, landing on his back before kicking forward and making contact with Gabriel's knee, using the chance to fire his gun again.
Gabriel shifted the sword into a defensive position in an attempt to deflect the bullet. Raising himself again to his feet, he twirled the sword around and stepped on Atticus' aimed hand. Gasping for air as his shoulder twitched, uncomfortable seconds of silence were broken by Gabriel's hushed rage. "You should learn when to quit." With a shout following, the sword plunged into Atticus' stomach.
Atticus dropped his gun, his scream becoming inaudible low sounds as he struggled for air.
"Everything I have done—" Gabriel gasped, swallowing saliva. "—all of my actions are those of justice." He pushed the blade further, grinning for a few more silent seconds before he collapsed to the ground as well.
A solemn picture developed in the room. The bodies of Atticus and Gabriel lay stiff near each other, each man having died from their wounds as they bled out over the floor.
Across the hangar, the guards hovered over Li and Marshall, gazing down at their work with slight smiles on their faces. The other members of their group, the "Devlin siblings" as their data read, had already been killed by the android. Only Chris Wellington and Blossom Cane remained and their capture was imminent.
The scene then darkened into complete blackness, before crumbling into particles and blowing away, leaving Atticus blinking at the entrance of the hangar, Chris next to him and Blossom in his arms. Gabriel stood with his guard near a hummingbird, his hand over his cane and his gaze focused on Atticus, rage flowing through it.
Processing his vision, Atticus knew what he needed to do. Quickly moving Blossom to one arm, he grabbed one of his guns from his holster and shot towards Gabriel. Firing several rounds, he shot at Gabriel's guard first, killing them instantly before turning the weapon on Gabriel and shooting his cane out of his hand, blood flowing in its wake.
"Motherfucker," Surprisingly, Gabriel seemed relatively unfazed, though with a cursory glance at his bloodied hand he noticed a severed pinkie. "Do you believe in fate, Atticus?" He winced in pain. Arsene began to feel around in his pocket, desperately, while he spoke. "There's no reason that you should be the one standing in front of me, of all people, and yet..."
Keeping his gun aimed at the older man, Atticus smirked. "Yeah, I guess it works in mysterious ways. It's led us to here. How does it feel to watch your empire fall? Do you feel powerful now?"
"Shut the fuck up!" He jumped forward at Atticus with a small knife from his pocket, barely enough to leave a cut, as his eyes flashed back into a manic rage and his mouth twisted into a snarl.
Surprised at the man's new form of attack, Atticus pressed his finger on the trigger again, shooting off several rounds at Gabriel in a blast, only stopping when Gabriel fell to the ground, dropping his knife.
Gabriel crawled backward, using his arms to prop himself up. Blood began to shoot from his mouth in small fits of coughing.
Samuel launched four grenades towards the metallic door. The explosion blew it open, revealing a massive aircraft carrier illuminated by daylight. He looked down at the scene before him, from the second level. Standing out from the barren area, he watched in surprise as Atticus loomed over Gabriel, gun in hand.
The man jumped downwards into the hangar, carrying his weapon with him. As he walked down, he could see Chris come into view, observing the altercation. "Hey," he called out, "I'm getting the hell out. You coming?"
Atticus looked over to Samuel, keeping his gun aimed at Gabriel. He decided not to question Samuel's sudden arrival or the blast. "How do you plan to get out of here? What are we going to do about this rat?"
Samuel ignored Arsene and continued to be fixated on Atticus. "He doesn't matter. I'll get one of these jets and leave."
"Okay, but we need somewhere safe for Blossom, her legs and arms seem to be broken," Atticus told the man. Glancing down at Gabriel, he began to speak again. "We can't just leave him here, the whole purpose of this mission was to get rid of him."
"There's no time, Atticus. We're sitting ducks. You and Chris work something out, I'm taking one of these choppers," replied Samuel.
"Chris, can you please carry Blossom to the aircraft with Samuel? I want to remain here a bit longer," Atticus asked, staring down at Gabriel, who simply stared back with a pained expression.
"Sure thing," Chris said, taking Blossom from Atticus and placing her in his arms, he began motioning to Samuel as he headed to the aircraft. "Let me know if you need any help with Doctor Arsene."
Upon entering the hangar, Li motioned Marshall to go ahead with Samuel and Chris to the Hummingbird. Li slowly waddled with pain over to Atticus. "Come on," he said monotonously, looking down at the man. "It's done."
Samuel silently noted as Marshall started to follow him. The two followed the man briefly, as he searched for an appropriate vehicle to use for his exit. In one of the room's corners, his choice would come into view. Neatly parked on the light green floors of the aircraft hangar was a glossy black hummingbird. The aircraft had large rocket mounts in its front and was capable of seating about ten people. Samuel smiled at the sight. He tossed his empty grenade launcher to the side.
Samuel opened up the back-doors of the vehicle, revealing sizable leather seats. "Get in. Now."
Looking over at Li, Atticus nodded slightly. Placing his gun in his holster again, he turned away from Gabriel without saying a word, following behind Li as he walked towards the hummingbird, the only sound audible Gabriel's coughing fits of laughter.
Melissa limped forward in the metallic, dark hallway. Her right arm was black with burns, cuts, and bruises. As the sharp pain ran through her veins, she remembered vividly the great explosion of fire that occurred within the prison. The blast had killed most of the guards, making her escape easier, but the twisted faces of corpses were imprinted within her mind.
A bright door slowly came into view. She could barely make out the evening sun shining into a room in front of her. Confidently, she walked forward into the room, which housed dozens of aircraft carriers. She scanned the room, before noticing the faces of Chris and Marshall before. With an ounce of adrenaline, she ran forward towards them, pain all over her body.
Breathless, Steven continued to run, hearing the metal pounding behind him grow closer. Barging into the hangar room, he saw his sister running towards their group, everyone seemingly being there. Sighing in relief, he took off running again, before coming into contact with a figure on the ground and tripping over them. Looking up, he noticed a silver-haired man on the ground, covered in blood from numerous gunshots. Standing up, he was unsure of what to do and looked over at the group hovering around the hummingbird.
Pouncing from the roof and drenched in blood, a broad-shouldered skeleton of metal and bone loomed over Steven. Gabriel grinned, shedding all pretense of pain and weakness. In one fluid motion, he grabbed his cane again and stood to his feet. "Bravo, Hound! Who's a good boy?" Steven's face froze in fear as he felt the presence of something massive behind him. He reached into a pocket, before finding he had no weapon and then finding a fist through his abdomen.
There was no pain, only shock as the canine monster grinned behind. Steven reached to grab the fist, one hand still in his pocket, as Gabriel ran to duck behind cover. Blood dripped from Steven's mouth as he realized he could not speak, and thus only had one option.
"Call me only if something goes wrong and you can't make it out alive," Fontaine had told him a few minutes prior. This seemed like as good a time as any. His sister, yes, he had to do this for his sister. Out of his pocket slipped a radio, along with the gruff voice of John Fontaine.
"I understand. Godspeed, Steven."
"No!" As if she had been the victim, Melissa felt a frustrated nauseousness. Her vision blurred momentarily, as the life slowly drained from Steven. Her legs moved forward, running towards Steven.
Atticus felt a sense of dread develop him as he watched his vision unfold before his eyes: he had failed to save Steven. He couldn't let himself get distracted here, he could still save a life.
Breaking from Li's side, Atticus sprinted across the hangar, quickly catching up to Melissa and grabbing her hand, pulling her back. The metal beast stood in its spot still, its eyes trained on them. "We have to get out of here, you'll only die!"
Melissa looked back at Atticus, tears in her eyes. "He's my brother, we can't leave him here. I finally remembered my life with him and now he's dead."
As soon as she stopped speaking, the complex began to shake in a loud rumble, the glass windows shattering over them.
Covering his face with his other arm, Atticus turned around and began dragging Melissa with him. "We have to go now. We have no choice, now come on!"
Without a word, she nodded and turned to face him, the two of them running towards the hummingbird.
The hummingbird's front window closed as Samuel hastily situated himself. From the window, he watched in disappointment as the body of Steven Devlin was tossed aside like trash. The mechanical creature moved to Arsene, as the two began heading in the opposite direction. As the building continued to shake violently, he turned his focus to escape. He flicked the hummingbird's engine on, causing a whirling sound to reverberate through the interior.
Li watched with uneasy confidence as Samuel took control of the vehicle. Managing a set of triggers and buttons, Samuel activated the vehicle's four sets of rotor blades. Atticus and Melissa quickly ran towards a passenger door, launching themselves into the aircraft. At once, the aircraft began to ascend.
Not wanting to search for a runway, Samuel launched the aircraft upward into the glass ceiling. Firing two sets of rockets, the ceiling was quickly blown open. Glass descended onto the floor and hummingbird as Samuel maneuvered himself into the newly created hole. This explosion would be followed by more, as sounds of large explosions could be heard below them. Flying into the open sea, Atticus peered into an open window.
Large chunks of metal began to fall into the open sea as Remnant Rock slowly began to collapse. Each large snake statue slowly began to sink as large explosions befell the city. As Samuel continued to accelerate the hummingbird, Atticus could also see as the Port City bridge began to fall apart. Not wanting to see anymore, Atticus turned his head away. The mission had been completed.
As the screen centered on the blonde woman, a long-time Silivian newscaster, as she stared directly into the camera and began to speak without haste.
"Good evening, I'm Danica Bash. We interrupt your local broadcasting to bring you breaking news of an attack on Alchemilia Corporation properties. Remnant Rock, headquarters of Alchemilia Corporation in Port City, has been bombed, the death toll is in the high hundreds," the newscaster paused to take a breath as she listened to the information pouring in from her earpiece. "The Alchemilia Corporation buildings in Gladea and here in Silivia have been burnt to the ground, death toll is unknown. Currently, it is unknown who or what group is behind these attacks and we hope to keep you updated as news continues to pour in."
The woman turned her gaze away, the segment preparing to end. Instantly looking back up at the camera, she began to speak again, shock visible on her face. "I was just informed that the identities of the masterminds behind this attack are now known due to a tip. The attackers are human and local to Silivia."
One by one, pictures of seven figures appeared on screen, next to the woman.
"Steven Devlin — scientist at the Laboratory of the Unexplainable.
Melissa Devlin — sister of the first attacker.
Chris Wellington — associated with the Laboratory of the Unexplainable.
Wen Li — owner of Plant Empire.
Samuel Brownlee — scientist and owner of the Silivia Cognitive Science Center.
Blossom Cane — assistant at the Silivia Cognitive Science Center.
Marshall Rooke — long-wanted petty street criminal.
The newscaster paused again, before continuing.
"Atticus Rosington — the son of Governor Rosington, officially declared deceased months ago after disappearing in a demon attack on the outskirts of the city. He is very much alive and seemingly radicalized. As more news comes in, we'll keep you updated."
A girl hobbled through an unfamiliar darkness. She reached out her left hand and found a cold, rough surface — a cave wall. It was not much, but she could use it as a reference point as she continued. She grasped for a wall to her right. Only air made contact with her palm. It took four steps to reach the other side of the cavern.
There was a mine in the girl's hometown, Gladea. The town was built around it when mining was still a manual task. Even after androids entered the workforce, the old prospectors stuck their ground. It was only after the Great War that they conceded. Alchemilia's metal men still dug in the vast subterranean site beneath the quiet company town three hundred years later.
In her mind, the tunnel extended infinitely forward, behind and above her. A junction miles ahead would allow her to choose between three paths: forward, left or right. Both lead to identical junctions of tunnels extending in every direction. North curved and intersected the original path. South was a downward incline, while west or east extended upward.
The girl continued to walk forward. She tried to focus on proceeding onward. Then, after she had steadied her pace, a light appeared behind her. The illumination showed that the cave only extended a bit above her reach. The strange thoughts of its infinite complexity vanished. She turned to see a man holding a lantern. He wore dirty blue trousers and a workman's jacket. Somehow, the girl found his smile comforting.
"Welcome to Charonium, Savannah," he said. "Don't worry, you won't be here long."
Savannah had many questions. She decided to start with, "Who are you?"
That name was invoked at funerals, where preachers would ask him to safely guide souls to the afterlife. That's where I've heard Charonium before, she thought. It's the afterlife.
"Uh. What did you mean by me 'not being here long'?"
"You've been given an exceedingly rare opportunity. A literal second chance at life," Tuisco turned away from her. "Take a walk with me, Savannah."
Savannah followed Tuisco as he walked through Charonium. As they traveled, the walls and floor changed to transparent glass. Nothing was visible through the glass, except for their faint reflections from the lantern. Tuisco stopped soon after this apparent change of location. He pointed to a small, white disc, like a distant star in the night sky, barely visible in the darkness. It was growing larger, slowly.
Its expansion suddenly sped up. In less than a second, the light consumed everything barring the glass.
Then it was over. Savannah now saw an expanding celestial canvas. Pillars of light formed new stars which now dotted the once-empty space. In place of the sphere, there were now six figures. They looked ahead, away from Savannah and Tuisco. One was a tall woman whose green skin looked like it was made of metal. Bits of it were missing, revealing machinery where organs should have been. She wore asymmetrical white robes and a large white crown. Another was a muscular humanoid with deep blue skin. His face held a stoic expression.
There was a pale, muscular man in a white suit of armor. He stood next to a tall man whose armor was made from leather with metal plating on the chest and shoulders. The taller man had white, avian wings. Next to him was a robed body that possessed no head: instead, the sphere floated just above. The last was Tuisco, exactly the same as he was next to Savannah. He was remarkably out of place with the warriors and robed figures, though he did not seem to mind.
"I represent an organization of powerful entities," Tuisco explained. "Your kind aptly refers to us as 'the Powers.' I was one of the first to be created, as you can see."
"So you've always dressed like that," Savannah remarked incredulously.
"This is not a one-to-one recreation. The forms we took then could not be perceived by human eyes, so I took the liberty of giving us more recent appearances."
He set down the lantern and continued walking. The stars faded from view. It was soon midday. They stood just above the ocean as a helicopter flew overhead.
"Your world has been locked in perpetual war for centuries. That is going to change very soon. An escalation is on the horizon," Tuisco looked out at ocean. Massive waves erupted from the east and crashed against the glass. "Within the next few years, in fact, a victor may be decided."
They walked on. The sky changed to a bright pink. Three spires topped by orbs stuck out from the ocean. Tuisco regarded the scene with disgust.
"Your survival is imperative for the conflict to end in humanity's favor, not to mention in favor of the Powers," he said. "The specifics are best left unsaid at present."
"This is a lot to take in," Savannah said.
"That's putting it lightly. Still, you understand the urgency of the situation, right?"
"Trust me, you'll figure it all out in due time," Tuisco reassured her. "When you're ready to be alive again, go on ahead."
|Season One:||Catching Smoke • White Room • Bare Trees • One Night in Gladea • Ceasefire • Hide & Seek • The Hounds • Reunion • In Somnis Veritas • Carpe Diem • Primo Victoria • Don't Fear the Reaper|
|Season Two:||Crumbling Castle • Roaming King • Safe Haven • Marked Map • The Less I Know the Better • Riding the Wave • Centuries of Damnation • House of the Rising Sun • The Master • Everybody Plays the Fool • Loyalty|