While the deaths and terror that ensued as a result of the angels could never be undone, Silivia was in a better state three months later. After the event, Silivia experienced many days of walk-ins, protests, road blockings — calls for government transparency. Now under tighter, proper protection from a combination of Silivian militant groups and military soldiers, people continued through their lives hoping for a better future.
Alchemilia Corporation, meanwhile, had shut down their location in Gladea after numerous riots resulting in civilian casualties. Gabriel Alchemilia was moved to Remnant Rock indefinitely, with a period of radio silence from the company. Sightings of violence were reported in the following weeks, but nothing could be confirmed.
As far as Fontaine was concerned, the destruction of Alchemilia would come very soon. Fontaine had spent the past three months training his "recruits" — an android, a group of teenagers, and scientists with no combat experience partaking in what most would call a suicidal pact. While the man's exercises and instructions on the utilization of weaponry were not easy, it was a breath of fresh air for most within the group.
Within the Laboratory of the Unexplainable, Chris, Steven, and Melissa, had their own home, of sorts. Not having to worry about any significant dangers for some time, Chris began to understand the world around him better. After being instructed by Fontaine, he began utilizing tactics rather than relying on his abilities. Steven had spent time with his sister, growing closer. There was always a sense of anxiety within Melissa, but she would never "surrender to Alchem," as she described it. Rooke found employment in Plant Empire, as well as a place to stay in Li's upstairs loft.
Atticus had begun a relationship with Blossom Cane and the two had moved into an apartment of their own. When not working in the lab, Blossom spent her spare time working on her pottery and painting skills, becoming much more experienced with the former. She began selling her paintings, pots, and vases and would sometimes utilize them in their home. After being instructed to use an alias by Fontaine, Atticus got a security job working nights at a Silivian warehouse.
For a bit of time each day, everyone would meet Fontaine at several locations throughout the city for training and exercises. Soon, it would be time to strike.
"Do you ever regret taking up Fontaine on his offer?" Chris asked Melissa as he walked into the lab's living room and took a seat.
Melissa plopped down on the couch next to Chris, looking over at him. "No. not really. My only regret is we didn't get to share this time with Savannah."
"It's best you continue living your life to the fullest. We really need to value the present and not the past," Chris said, placing his hand on Melissa's shoulder.
Steven walked into the living room and scanned for a place to sit, before placing himself on the tattered leather couch across the room from Melissa and Chris. "Don't worry, Melissa. It won't be long until Fontaine contacts us to start the mission, then Alchem will pay for all they've done."
"That's a relief to know," Chris said, as he looked around the room. "Where's Dr. Devlin?"
"I think he's out getting more supplies for some project he's been working on. He'll be back later if you need him," Steven replied.
In the Laboratory of the Mind, Fontaine sat across from Samuel at a small table. By now his injuries had healed, leaving him scarred but no longer deformed, and his missing eye was replaced with a prosthetic. In his hand he rolled two six-sided dice, dropping them with a clattering noise.
"Two sixes," Samuel looked at a nearby piece of paper with various tally marks. "Luck is on your side, my friend. Let's hope we have luck in the near future — and the future beyond." Putting down the scoreboard, Samuel raised his hand slightly. The two small dies rose. Turning his palm over, the two cubes deconstructed themselves, their pieces rotating through the air. Seemingly directed by the clenching of his hand, the two dies combined into one, intricate twenty-sided cube.
"I'd say it's time that we begin today's work," Samuel said, with a smile.
Fontaine nodded silently and slid his hand across the table, numerous blueprints and folders appearing from thin air and sitting as though they'd been on the table for weeks. In one hand he summoned a mug of coffee, and in the other, a small phone. With the press of two buttons, he held it to his ear awaiting a response from Chris Wellington.
Chris picked up the phone and put it to his ear. "Hello, Fontaine." He noticed a somewhat perplexed look on Steven and Melissa's faces.
"Would you mind contacting the other recruits, Chris?" Fontaine said, politely. "All of you are needed at Samuel's. It's nearly time."
"Of course," Chris replied. "I'll tell Melissa and Steven right away," He looked back at his friends. "You guys coming or what? I know we haven't been on amicable terms with him lately, but I'm gonna call Atticus. This is rather urgent."
"Um, of course, did he say why we were needed?" Melissa asked him. "And calling Atticus? Are you sure that's wise?"
"Fontaine said it was nearly time, so yes, we need Atticus," Chris replied, dialing Atticus' number.
Sunlight poured into the small apartment, illuminating the room. Atticus sat at the small dining table with his girlfriend, Blossom. They were both enjoying grilled chicken sandwiches for lunch. Atticus bit into his and chewed before speaking. "This sandwich is delicious."
Even though it had been over a month since the two had moved into their apartment, Atticus still hadn't adjusted to the quietness of the place. Used to living with his group of friends, the silence that followed as he awaited Blossom's reply filled the air and hung over them.
"It's really good, isn't it?" Blossom smiled, pushing their basil and oregano plants aside so that would be more room on the table. She enjoyed her new life with Atticus and having his company. Living with her parents was often a bother as they would often nag her about work. She continued eating her sandwich until the sound of Atticus' phone ringing snapped her out of her thoughts.
Pulling his phone out of his pocket, Atticus motioned for Blossom to pause and quickly answered it. Hearing the words from Chris, he glanced at the girl before replying, "Yeah, I know about our plans. But things have changed since then, are you sure it would be okay for us to show? Things aren't exactly great with Marshall currently."
"Look, this is important, you have to come," Chris said, frustrated. "We are already on our way and I'm gonna call Marshall. Is what you have with Blossom more important than defeating Alchem? My answer is no. I know Marshall's been mad at you lately, but now we'll all be back together in accomplishing this task. That's gotta count for much more to Marshall than petty grudges. Just get to where Fontaine is, quick."
Sighing softly, Atticus replied. "Yeah, sure. We'll head over soon."
With that, he ended the call and got up from his seat. "We gotta go," he said to Blossom. "Fontaine's scheduled another meeting."
With the sudden ringing of a phone interrupting Li's sweeping, he leaned his broom against the wooden store counter and walked over to the phone mounted on the wall.
"Don't," Marshall said, as the boy looked up from where he crouched in front of a shelf, dusting the bottom row.
"Why? Continuing your temper tantrum?"
Missing the call, Li quietly listened to the voicemail left behind.
"Hey, Marshall, it's Chris. Wanted you to know Fontaine's big thing is today and you need to come and meet him."
"You are an integral part of this mission," Li said, placing the phone back in place.
"Yeah? Well, so what? Atticus just ran off with his little girlfriend. Why should I bother?" Marshall grumbled.
"They still showed up to training however, there is no issue here. Focus on the bigger picture, we need to stop Alchem. If we do not do it, who will?" Li recited. "Come on. Yu and Da can care for Plant Empire while we're gone. They should be back from buying groceries soon, I'll leave a note for them."
Standing up and rearranging plants on the top row, Marshall became silent and thought about Li's words carefully. "If we do not do it, who will?" He has a point. They do need us.
"Fine. I'll go," Marshall replied, defeated.
"I see that you have at last arrived. We — well, Fontaine has been expecting you all," Samuel looked at the recruits who had arrived, once again, to his laboratory. They sat themselves at the table where Fontaine had first explained his operation. It was not common that they would be called here. The last time the man remembered a significant meeting with this group was upon their first entry to the building.
Blossom looked at the people around her, getting dirty looks from Chris and Melissa. She hadn't talked to them much (or at all, in some cases) within the last few months, and whenever she tried they seemed apprehensive. She got lost in her thoughts as they waited for Fontaine to show.
Chris noticed Marshall had not appeared, but decided it was best not to talk about it. He was glad Atticus made it, at least.
Then the door opened. Instead of Fontaine, the group saw Li entering the foyer and Marshall carrying a box of food in from his employer's truck.
"Is anyone even here?" Marshall said, not looking inside. "We brought foo—" he said, looking up. "Oh."
"You're late, though your courtesy is most appreciated. We have seats for you." Samuel said as he examined the two as the laboratory's glass doors closed.
Marshall brought the food in and set it on the table.
"We got some food from Frog Kingdom," Marshall started, slurping on a milkshake and unloading the various food items from the box. "Soup for Steven, a few Froggers for everyone else, some fries, and a—"
Marshall was interrupted by the sudden arrival of Fontaine. He entered from the kitchen carrying a plastic bag. "Glad you all could make it. Don't worry, there's no training left." He placed himself on a generic folding chair as he poured featureless white cubes out of the bag onto a coffee table.
Marshall picked one up.
"What the fuck are these?"
Li tried to answer. "These are—" he paused. "I have no idea what these are."
"Are those edible, Fontaine?" Steven said, as Marshall's generous delivery of food remained untouched.
"These are Alchemilia Nutrition Cubes. Completely tasteless and provide every vitamin your body needs." Fontaine explained. "You will eat nothing but this until the mission's over, understand?"
"But my milksha—" Fontaine shot a glare at Marshall, prompting the boy to leave the milkshake on the table.
"Why can't we eat anything else?" Blossom spoke up.
"Simple, it wouldn't be healthy." Fontaine tossed her one of the cubes, which felt strangely soft like a marshmallow.
"Where's that chicken sandwich when you need it...?" Blossom mumbled to Atticus, staring at the squishy and extremely bland cube.
Melissa looked at the cubes. "I think I'll stick to eating real food, thanks."
Picking up a cube, Atticus examined it before placing it in his mouth and chewing. As he expected, the cube tasted just as bland as it looked. Once finished, he decided to get to the point of the meeting. "Fontaine, what have you called us for here today? You mentioned there's no more training left, is it time to..." Atticus paused, fully aware of the weight of his question. "-launch the plan?"
Melissa glared at Atticus as he ate one of the cubes. He really will eat anything, she before turning back to wait for Fontaine's reply.
Fontaine tossed a cube in his gloved hands, nodding. "Today's the day. I would have hoped you'd all be prepared at any time... Come on, Melissa, eat the cube."
Melissa smiled. "Say please and I might eat it," she said, crossing her arms.
"Enough games, alright?" Atticus shot towards Melissa. He turned his attention back to Fontaine. "If it's time, where do we go from here? What is the next step?"
"Don't ever try to tell me what to do Atticus, you are not my boss, alright." Melissa stated angrily.
Fontaine responded to Atticus, ignoring Melissa. "When we arrive at Remnant Rock, we split into two teams. Team A, consisting of myself, Atticus and Marshall, will disguise ourselves as technicians and enter the facility through an unconventional entrance. Once we're in, we'll deactivate the water defenses and send a boat for Team B. The rest of you, Team B, will get into the base and begin dispatching Alchem's forces."
"Once everyone has finished their rations, we'll head to the armory," he smiled. "I think you'll all like the selection."
Samuel placed the keycard into the basement door reader. The metal door opened wide automatically. Prior to Fontaine's explanation of his operation, the basement of the laboratory was seldom used. He found new usage in it — storing the new weapons that would be bestowed onto the group. He entered, and everyone descended down the dark staircase.
Arriving at the dark, large room at the bottom, Samuel flipped the switch on.
Following behind him, Atticus walked into the room and was awed at the sight around him. The room was somewhat small, but sizable enough for everyone to fit in comfortably. Tables and shelves draped in green cloth lined the room, littered with weapons: firearms, blades, even portable explosives.
Fontaine crossed his arms. "Now, since you've all trained with these, you're free to pick whichever you want, just be responsible. Try not to lose any limbs."
Melissa's eyes lit up as they scanned over the weapons, she walked over to the knives laid out. "How many are we allowed to have?"
"As many as you can carry. Just don't point them at each other." Fontaine looked around at the weapons, making mental notes on each of them.
"If we intend to be smart with this operation, clear the shelves." Without another word, Samuel walked over to the leftmost corner of the room. Before he could "clear the shelves," he opened a dark, metallic case that lay on the floor.
Walking over to the shelf next to Samuel, Atticus began examining the guns — this weapon type had quickly become his favorite. Wrapping his hand around a Five-Seven, he pulled it back and began to examine it before noticing Samuel.
"What's in that?"
Samuel examined the weapon within the black case. In the case was a long-barreled sniper rifle coated in a black carbon fiber. Handcrafted with the help of a blacksmith some time ago, the weapon was capable of firing laser-powered bullets from miles away. He picked it up, examining the sharp, smooth corners. Samuel looked towards Atticus. "An art project."
Fontaine picked up two bulky metal cases. "I've made you something personal, Chris." He opened one, revealing a strange replica of Chris' entire left forearm. "This should be easy to install. Hold still..." In a few seconds, Fontaine replaced Chris' forearm with a new one.
"I took the pleasure of handcrafting the software myself, in fact, and it should download into your central processor soon," Fontaine said. He did not pick up a weapon, but he still held the other briefcase.
Suddenly, Chris' hand popped off to the side, and a gun muzzle took its place. "This is cool. Thanks, Fontaine," Chris said. "What's in the second briefcase, if you don't mind me asking?"
"I'm not planning on spoiling that surprise yet. All I can say is it's a weapon and I'm taking it to Remnant Rock."
Blossom looked over the weapons before spotting a revolver in the corner. While not her favorite, it would be the most practical for the journey and her own self-defense. She picked it up and examined it.
Steven grabbed a pair of 9mm pistols and a belt of grenades. You may never know when you need a distraction. An explosion just might do it, he thought.
Melissa picked up a small shotgun and loaded it. She walked over and looked at the knives, trying to decide which would be most useful. She saw a tactical knife with a leg holster and smiled, picking it up. This'll come in handy, she thought, kneeling down to strap it to her leg and covering it up with a pant leg. "Well, I've got my weapons now," she announced.
Marshall started stockpiling weapons. He grabbed a lighter and shoved it into his shirt pocket. Marshall turned to the guns and grabbed a holster and two pistols: one named "Deference" and the other "Integrity." He spied a small butterfly knife and grabbed it as well, inserted it into his pocket.
Li admired a fine Halan Dao before attaching it to his waist. He glanced over to Marshall and smiled. "That'll do, Marshall. That'll do."
Adding a second Five-Seven gun to his holster, Atticus looked around the room. With everyone having gathered all the weapons they wanted, he nodded and spoke towards Samuel. "I think we're good, where do we go now?"
"The van is parked in the back of the building," replied Samuel. "We aren't leaving yet — if need more weapons we definitely have time."
The group began pouring out of the room, taking note of Samuel's words. Few had embarked on a mission such as this, yet even after being told today was the day, they remained confident.
As Chris climbed into the back of the van, he noticed Atticus wasn't with the group anymore. "Anyone know where Atticus went?"
"Looks like Steven isn't here either," Samuel commented. "Should've been back by now."
"What the hell is taking those two so long?" Marshall asked, sweat pouring down his face from both anticipation and the sun's heat.
"Atticus?" Steven called out as he was preparing to leave.
Still in the armory, Atticus turned towards the entrance when he heard Steven calling out. "What is it?"
The man walked over to Atticus. "It's just — Well, let's try to keep this quick. You're 17, right?"
"According to Chris, yeah, I am. Why?"
Steven began speaking slowly. "Now, I'm sure you know your... relationships are not the same they were three, maybe even two months ago. I'm just asking, are you sure it was the best decision to live together with Blossom? You're young, and everyone's reaction has not been the best..."
"Can we just focus on the mission?" Atticus replied. "Blossom and I made our choice and we're both old enough to care for ourselves. The rest of you just need to accept our choice and focus on completing this task."
"Of course. I don't want to seem like I'm pushing you around — but think about it once in a while, you know?" replied Steven.
"Again, we've already made up our minds. We're not going to change our dec—" Just as Atticus began to speak, he felt a sense of nausea pass over him as the scene of the room changed.
He was in an open and spacious room, illuminated by a bright light that shined through a glass ceiling. In the middle of the area, he could see Steven trip over an unidentified man. As Steven got up and noticed something in the distance, he quickly cried out in pain as a large fist burst through his stomach, spraying blood over everywhere. With the young man falling over to the ground, dying, a tall figure could be seen standing in his place, the shadows hiding their identity.
Suddenly, the scene faded away and Atticus was back in the room with Steven. Looking at the man, he could barely manage to find words, shocked by what he had just seen.
"You alright, Atticus?" Steven asked. "You blanked out for a second there."
Atticus stared at Steven, still at a loss for words. He knew exactly what it foretold. He had been having these visions for the past two months, and they always came true. The visions would manifest at random times when he looked at certain people, he seemed to have no control over it or even an idea of why he started having them. The first was of a shopkeeper who Atticus saw gunned down in a robbery. A week later, the vision came true. Then he saw his coworker have a heart attack before it happened. There were many more after that, but none of them were people Atticus knew closely. His mind raced trying to decide what to do or say. No one else knew about it: he feared the others would see him as unfit for the mission if they knew.
Blinking, he looked at Steven again. Slowly, he turned away and walked out of the armory, in the direction of the others.
Port City was a fascinating part of Thales. Not only for its boisterous community of sedentary fisherman, but the ability to see the soldiers of Alchemilia first-hand. One of the city's most defining features lay near its border: a magnificent, aging bridge. Most bridges of such caliber were destroyed in the war, however, the bridge's protection under Alchemilia allowed it to stay standing. Soon, Atticus, Marshall, Fontaine (now dressed in Alchem uniform) would head for the sewers and the others would go onto the bridge.
Samuel looked out into the gray saltwater of the pier, smoking a malura cigar in his leather gloves. Elsewhere, weapons would be an alarming sight, but Alchemilia was seen here quite often and none of the locals thought much of it. The man sighed, before looking back at the recruits.
"Let's get a move on. You all remember what to do, yes?"
"No, please remind me what we're supposed to do," Marshall shared sarcastically.
"Let's hope John and Atticus serve you well, Marshall," replied Samuel, displeased. He looked to the group that would be going with him. "Li, you'll drive, correct?"
Li walked up to Samuel and smiled.
"Absolutely. Back when I was younger, I used to work as a taxi driver. I am an experienced driver."
"And did your taxi driving entail evading potential gunmen and bombers?" asked Samuel.
"I do what I must," Li answered.
Melissa looked over at Blossom. "Are you sure you're capable of handling this sort of mission?"
"Of course I am," Blossom replied. "I've been training for months, just like everyone else. What makes you think I'm not?"
"The only thing you seem capable of doing is making out with Atticus. You are just the girl from the strange lab after all." Melissa answered.
"Stop this ludicrous arguing!" Chris demanded. "When we agreed to this, we were all friends. Now it's as if we're always at each other's throats."
Samuel sighed at the android's outburst, as he looked towards Melissa and Blossom. He took a hit of his cigar. "Please take into account that your survival will absolutely depend on each other. Now, it's time to stop horsing around. Li, get the car going. Time is of the essence." Li smiled and approached the black van.
Samuel looked to Fontaine, Atticus, and Marshall. "With John in your group, I am sure you will know what to do. We will see you soon."
Blossom huffed, walking off towards Atticus as he loaded his guns. She gazed at him for a second, realizing that this moment was quite likely to be one of their last moments together.
"Hey," she spoke softly. As the anxiety of losing him began to set in, Blossom grabbed onto Atticus' arm, pulling him into an embrace.
Dropping his weapons to the ground, Atticus wrapped his arms around the girl, placing his hand against her back. "It's going to be okay. We'll be fine, just make sure to follow what we trained."
Blossom placed her hand on his cheek, giving him a gentle kiss on the lips. "You know it's impossible for me not to worry. Just be careful, please."
After kissing back, Atticus began pushing away from the embrace. "I know, I know. But we have to do our best. It's time to go now, take care of yourself. We'll meet again after this is over."
"Alright," Blossom replied, staring out in the distance as Atticus picked up his guns and walked off in the opposite direction with Fontaine and Marshall.
John Fontaine looked solemnly at the small island, if it could even be called an island. It resembled a large gray oil rig with bright golden lights and massive featureless statues of the human face around all four corners. Two large statues of humanoid creatures with serpentine features, both armed with stone spears, stood at the end of the bridge.
Fontaine adjusted his gloves, both bright red, and walked towards a nearby sewer grate engraved with intricate designs and a large A. "Marshall, Atticus, let's go."
Marshall and Atticus followed Fontaine to the manhole cover. Engraved in capital letters, it read:
Marshall looked down and saw two holes. He inserted his fingers into the holes and lifted the cover, pushing it over to the side. The black-haired boy looked to Atticus, and then to Fontaine.
"Who wants to take the first leap into the unknown?"
Fontaine pulled a flashlight out of his coat, shining it into the sewer. "I'll go first, just follow me." With a thud, he dropped into the dark, still carrying his weapon in its case.
Without a word, Atticus dropped down into the hole, landing behind Fontaine and glancing around at the sewer interior. Once adjusted to the small place, he pulled one of his guns out of the holster and held it at his side. Marshall climbed down the galvanized ladder down the hole and into the sewer.
"It smells like something died."
"It's a sewer, of course it smells bad. Just stay focused, this isn't the time to mess around." Atticus said, following behind Fontaine.
"C'mon, you two. There should be an opening somewhere around here that'll drop us right into their tunnel network." Fontaine said, examining the floor with his flashlight.
"So..." Marshall started, trying to break the awkward silence that followed. "How's it going with that flower chick?"
Fontaine chuckled. "Aren't you the biggest flower chick here, Marshall?"
"Why do you even care, flower boy? Last we talked, all I heard was I had abandoned the group," Atticus said, glancing at Marshall as they walked through the dark.
"Oh, you didn't just abandon the group, you abandoned me," Marshall kicked a carton of milk to the side. "We walked all the way to Silivia together. We robbed a café. We sat in an alley and hid from Alchem. We shared a hospital room together. Yet despite everything - everything we've went through together, the minute you saw that chick — you ran to her and left me."
"What? My relationship with Blossom didn't affect our friendship. Also, I 'left' you? Did you think we were-" Atticus began.
"That's enough," Fontaine said, trying to remain stern through suppressed laughter. "You two can settle this later."
"You're lucky old Johnny boy stopped you, Anoethite," Marshall said, gritting his teeth.
Atticus quickened his pace to get a distance between him and the other boy. After the group took a turn, Atticus began down the next tunnel when he noticed a piercing green light far in the distance. Fontaine and Marshall stopped to gaze at it for a moment. A loud rumble coming from the movement of something large an oven them, could be heard.
"The train." Fontaine gritted his teeth. "Put on your game faces, boys, and act natural. We're getting on it." He continued forward, describing the situation. "Up ahead, shouldn't be too far, there'll be a small station. The underground train system goes back and forth from there to Remnant Rock. Just don't cause a commotion and we'll be fine."
"Are you sure they won't recognize us?" Atticus asked as they walked further towards the light.
"Don't worry," Fontaine smirked. "I planned for this."
Atticus' fears were not assuaged, but the group carried on.
As the group continued to walk forward, they soon came upon a small train station as Fontaine had described. Discovering a large crowd of Alchem soldiers gathered before the stop, the two boys stalled frozen at the sight.
"We're dressed like them, so they won't notice a thing if you keep your faces down — and holster your gun, Atticus," Fontaine whispered behind them. Following his instructions, the three blended into the crowd.
With a loud screech, the train pulled and eventually came to a stop. The doors automatically opened and the crowd poured into it, pulling the group forward. "Just find a place to sit where we won't find attention," Marshall grumbled.
With that, Atticus sat in a seat in the back of the train, with Fontaine and Marshall following. The seat was secluded from the others on the train, allowing them some privacy. Slowly after the train started to chug forward, Atticus closed his eyes, feeling tired from the long walk, but unable to find the rest he wanted. His mind kept replaying the vision of Steven's death.
I never got the chance to tell him...if something happens, will it be my fault? Did I have a chance to change this? And who were the others?
The thoughts continued to swirl in his mind, until he heard Fontaine barking out directions. "Lionel! Stop daydreaming, the train has come to our stop."
Recognizing his alias, he quickly opened his eyes, noticing the train had indeed stopped. Standing up, he started forward before Fontaine stopped him.
"Now, once we leave this train, we'll be on the inside of Remnant Rock. We've made it this far. Now make sure to get your tasks done, failure will mean death."
As the gray, dilapidated arches of the bridge came into view and the waves of the shore could be heard through the tinted black windows, Samuel remembered riding through the streets of Silivia within his mind.
They had been driving for some time now, weapons in hand. Li and Samuel sat in the front seats, the others in the back. While Fontaine had told them not to expect anything on the bridge, some were still anxious.
With the anxiety of the mission racking up, Blossom dwelled on her past as she stared out the back window of the van. She had thought about what lead up to all of this, with all the training that now felt completely useless combined with the sudden nervousness. Blossom had never done well under pressure and the nature of their mission made it far worse.
The silence between the group drifted throughout the car; a pin could be dropped and nothing would be heard. Blossom took a deep breath and remembered why she was doing this — a better life for the future generations of Euclid. She looked up at the towers of the bridge as Li drove the group down it. Atticus' words echoed through her mind. We have to do our best.
Melissa watched the bridge. She checked to make sure her gun was loaded before speaking. "Don't you guys think that this area is a little... too quiet?"
Li chuckled from the front seat. "Trust me, nobody is here." Li's words settled in, slightly easing the tension. "Just a straight drive."
Two camouflaged snipers sat high atop the bridge. Without their specially designed visors, they would have been completely invisible to each other. They eyed the road through their rifle scopes.
"Nobody's here, what's the—"
"Quit it," the other commented. "Just focus and do your job. Something's passing now."
Annoyed, the man looked through the scope of his rifle, zooming into the mysterious black van that passed at a steady pace. A technological marvel, the man could make out quite a bit of the vehicle's interior.
"Never knew we hired soldiers that old." The invisible man carefully looked at the men in the front seats. He briefly looked in the passenger seats. The other watched. "Where the hell are their uniforms? Are they even old—" a revelation passed the man. He peered in closer, examining those in the vehicle. Familiar, he thought.
"Hey, take a look at this." the man said, frantically.
"It's gonna be nothing, but might as well check anyways." The man looked to his rifle disinterestedly, examining the passengers.
"What? I'm pretty sure we recruit as low as fift —" As the vehicle passed below them, he saw it. He saw what would grant him a large bounty, a personal grant from Alchemilia himself. There would be no need to tell his partner what was so interesting about the passengers — it was impossible not to recognize Chris Wellington and Melissa Devlin.
Chris heard a patter of bullets hitting the roof of the van. "It appears we're being shot at."
"Floor it, old man!" Blossom shouted at Li, startled by the sudden barrage of bullets. "We need to get out of here!"
Melissa grabbed her gun tightly and began looking for where the shots were coming from. "Get away from the windows! Li, you need to pull over somewhere so we can get out of the line of fire," she said.
Ignoring her request, Li drove faster, dodging the obstacles that lie on the road ahead. "I'm doing the best I can!"
"Melissa, are you crazy?!" Blossom replied erratically, "We'll be sitting ducks if we pull over. We need to get out of here!"
"Listen, guys, Blossom is right!" Steven shouted. "We need to get out of here right now."
Eight rounds of ammunition, a pause. Each man unloaded a repeated pattern of four sniper shots into the car; releasing a reign of bullets unto what they considered criminals. Unfortunately for the men and luckily for those in the car, they had not taken their chance to shoot from the front. They could now only aim from the back.
Melissa continued to plea for Li to stop as the car swerved widely. Then, at once — the backseat windows of the van shattered, sending glass onto the road and into the car.
"What happened to this being bulletproof?!" Blossom turned around, the shimmering glass laying around her.
"Bullet resistant," commented Samuel, unfazed by the situation unfolding. "Just keep driving until they stop. They're immobile, clearly, and we'll be out of range soon."
Li nodded, his shaking hands continuing to steer the car. Let's hope this doesn't end badly.
The snipers continued to shoot, but now their bullets were futile. Outranged by a moving target, their bullets could now only graze the back of the car — before eventually becoming inaudible to those inside.
"Well shit." Both men threw down their rifles onto their small bay, angered by themselves and their failure.
"Looks like we're gonna have to try something else. Any idea who the compatriots are? Didn't see any warrants their capture."
"Doesn't matter. Fetch Operative 569. Schedule said she's passing by today, so let's give her something to do."
The other man nodded, taking out a silver tablet.
"Looks like we're out of range now. You guys okay?" Li said, looking back as he slowed down.
"Yeah, I think I'm okay..." Blossom looked down, realizing some of the glass pierced the skin on her arm. "Got a few cuts, though."
"I would not consider that okay, but suit yourself," Chris said, as he looked to see if the others were okay.
"I'm fine," Melissa said looking over at Blossom's injuries. "Need some help with that?" she asked.
"Yeah, I think I do," Blossom replied.
"Perhaps we should stop now," added Samuel. "Are you sure we're good to keep going?"
"Why do we need to stop?" Li questioned.
Continuing to look at the building that awaited them, Samuel responded. "Bullet-hell rained down on us. Check the tires. There's a spare in the back."
Not wanting to drive a damaged car, Li obliged. "Alright, but we better be quick about it." Stopping the acceleration, Li parked the damaged van near the green-tinted seawater. He unbuttoned his seat belt and stepped out into the empty road.
Samuel got out of the car, stretching his arms and keeping his weapon in his seat. Forced to situate himself within Silivia for protection, it was rare to experience the smell of sea salt. The statues at the end of the bridge loomed over him, as if they were the eyes of some god. He looked around the vehicle, carefully examining each tire.
He saw a small gold-plated object ever so slightly pierced into one of the tires. Carefully, he removed it and held it up. "Ha." As he looked at the islands of trees in the distance, Samuel threw the bullet over the bridge and into the water.
"I'm pretty sure a car as advanced and well-equipped as this would have a first-aid kit," Chris said to Melissa and Blossom. He started digging around in the seat pockets, and was relieved to have found some suitable materials. "Will these do, Blossom?"
Blossom took the pack and examined it and its contents for a moment before deciding it would work. "Yes, thank you," said Blossom, pulling out a pair of tweezers, a few bandages, and a few alcohol swabs to tend to her cuts.
"Let me help," Melissa said as she pulled up the girl's sleeves to see the wounds better, seeing a few pieces of glass buried into her skin. "Can I have the tweezers?" She asked.
Blossom handed Melissa the tweezers before stopping to look at the girl's arms. "Melissa..." Blossom started, "You have a few cuts there yourself."
Steven stepped out of the van to help evaluate any damage from the shooting. "Other then the few windows and that one tire, this van doesn't look half bad after that hellfire of bullets. See Melissa," He called out through the window, not noticing the current conversation, "I told you that would be the safest thing to do."
Samuel continued to examine the black van, removing shards of glass wherever possible. Knowing that it wouldn't be wise to remain stopped at the bridge, Samuel called out to everyone. "We need to get going, best not to be imm—"
Shattering glass was heard, loud enough to deafen the sounds of the pleasant sea. The group perked up, unsure of the sound's source. Before Samuel could provide an audible reaction, a cacophony of inhuman screeches began to approach. An engine could be heard roaring in the distance. As Samuel nervously looked down the road, he could see a brigade of fully gray humanoids approaching.
Samuel quickly ran back into the vehicle. Steven took a second to get a better view of the horde before running into the van himself and slamming the door behind him.
Hearing the loud screeching, Blossom jumped up in her seat, feeling a sense of extreme unease wash over her. Looking up at the front of the van and through the window, she noticed the swarm of beings rushing towards them and couldn't help but scream: "What the hell are those things?!"
Forgetting the injuries, Melissa up looked to see what Blossom was talking about. The creatures were definitely demons, but they looked different from the creatures she knew. Their limbs had been removed and replaced with crude robotic implants.
"Who cares what they are? We just need to go, go, go!" Li spoke frantically as he slammed on the accelerator, skidding slightly.
"Why are we driving towards the crazy demon things?!" Blossom exclaimed. "If we're going to continue down the bridge, we need to swerve around them. They could kill us!"
Their nails skidding on the surface of the bridge, the creatures dropped to all fours and began sprinting. Upon closer inspection, they didn't resemble demons at all. Rather, they appeared to be human — humans twisted beyond natural limits, but humans nonetheless.
As one lept onto the windshield, so too did another shriek like a banshee. They began punching it with their metal fists, one piercing the glass.
As the strange creatures jumped into the vehicle, Li punched the horn.
"You rat bastards! Wretched, uh, things!"
Li flipped the windshield wipers on. The skinless creature lept back at the noise, clutching its head in pain. More inhuman screams echoed from its throat, as the others stepped back as well.
The older man started swerving back and forth, hoping to throw the beings off of the van. "Let's see how you like this!"
Chris got his hand into gun mode, then shot at one of the creatures through a smashed window, but only succeeded in hitting the ground. The creature began to climb the door, so Chris hit it with a glass shard, causing it to yelp with pain.
Samuel peered out the window, aiming his rifle at the strange creatures. While their agility caused him to miss several shots, he closely attempted to pinpoint what was their "vitals" — their flesh, or their mysterious mechanical implants.
Blossom bit her lip nervously. "What are we gonna do if they get in the car...?"
"We die!" shouted Samuel as he continued to shoot at the beasts.
At once, one of the creatures maneuvered towards the back of the van. Taking advantage of the shattered glass, it thrusted its mechanical arm through the back of the car, barely touching the backs of those in the passenger seats.
"Shoot from where the windshield was so there won't be any up ahead," Chris instructed Blossom and Melissa as he shot the arm of the creature behind him.
Melissa aimed her gun towards the broken window. "Li, drive faster!" she shouted as another creature was trying to crawl through the window. She fired her shotgun, causing the cyborg to fall to the ground.
Blossom aimed between Li and Samuel, shooting one of the creatures left on the windshield, which left him sliding down the hood. "Bastard!" she shouted. She trembled, realizing she just shot a living being. Taking a deep breath, Blossom continued to check her surroundings for more of the creatures.
"Damn, they're everywhere!" Steven yelled as the creatures continued alternating their strategy. Some attempted entry into the vulnerable back, some continues to try and penetrate the roof. No matter how many shots they took, they would persevere.
"Keep going, they won't last forever!" Samuel was forced to fire at point-blank range, as a creature nearly peered its head the vehicle.
"Fast, fast —" The man looked down the road, the building continuing to come closer. As Samuel worried about what would happen when they reached the building, he looked in horror as a massive wall of flames manifested itself in the distance.
"Wall of flames. Lovely," Li grunted as he drove straight for the crackling flames.
"What the hell, man! Stop!" Blossom shouted as he drove towards the flames. "Are you out of your mind?!"
"Hope you kids aren't afraid of fire," Li said as he pushed his foot down on the accelerator and drove closer and closer towards the flames, and then — into them.
A girl hobbled through an unfamiliar darkness. She reached out and found a damp, cold surface — a cave wall. It was her only reference, so she used it to guide her. As the girl walked forward, her chest tightened and her eyes began to sting. She caught the distinct scent of smoke and hastily changed direction.
As the girl tried to quicken her pace, a light appeared behind her. She turned to see a hooded figure clothed in tattered black robes standing in the mist. Its left hand, which held a dying lantern, was bone white with purplish-blue fingers. The creature lifted the lantern with an outré jerk, allowing the girl a clear view of its face.
Both of its gray eyes were bloodshot and trained directly at the girl. Its mouth displayed wide, toothy leer; every denticle was yellowed, translucent, cracked, misaligned, and unusually narrow. The creature had two slits in the center of its pale face where its nose should have been. The girl wanted to run away from the monstrosity but her body refused to budge.
"Welcome to my domain," it was scarcely a whisper, yet the being's words were firmly burned into the girl's mind.
"What?!" the girl managed to shout before the figure silenced her.
The spirit stepped closer, "You have a choice to make."
|Season One:||Awakening • White Room • Bare Trees • One Night in Gladea • Divided we Fall • Hide & Seek • Exit Music • Reunion • In Somnis Veritas • Carpe Diem • Ticking Clock • Primo Victoria (Part I • Part II)|
|Season Two:||Until Dawn • Roaming King • Safe Haven • Silver Lights • Marked Map • The Less I Know the Better • Riding the Wave • Centuries of Damnation • House of the Rising Sun • The Master|