As the sun took its place in the skies above the small farming town of Gladea, Gabriel Arsene paced up and down the halls outside his office. He tapped his cane on the ground anxiously as he awaited a report from Baptiste Rousseau. Already he was worrying about how this manhunt would further sour his relationship with Silivia's governor, Theodore Rosington. A bitter phone call with the man's secretary justifying the search was enough to ruin Gabriel's mood for the day.
If the bureaucracy necessary to conceal Gabriel's reasoning for hunting down the Wellington android was not enough, a worker robot arrived to interrupt his brooding.
"Oh my god, what is it?"
"Doctor Arsene, Chairman Pointer sent me to bring you the reports from Silivia."
Gabriel attempted to survey the android's blank expression. The young figure stared back without blinking.
"What is it?" he asked, and the android handed him a large red tablet. Gabriel read through its contents, looking through security footage and transcripts of emergency calls. His eyes widened.
"Go bring this to Officer Nabi. Tell her I'm making a call to Rousseau's troop."
"Yeah," Beth responded. "I don't know, but it looks pretty important. A troop is here too. The broadcast is about to start," she beckoned Steven to follow her as she headed downstairs. Melissa and Savannah shared an uneasy glance at the mention of the company, before following. Downstairs, the two girls approached the small crowd of uniformed workers that stood in front of the television — Beth, Richard, and Steven were at the helm of the group.
As Baptiste made his speech, Melissa was, at first, relieved; This man, the Director of Robotics, wasn't among those who had witnessed their unwilling theft at the company building. A sense of dread washed over her, however, when he referred to Chris Wellington.
Before the announcement was finished, Savannah turned around and made her way back towards the door they had first entered the laboratory from.
"Hey!" Melissa shouted, running behind her and placing a hand on Savannah's arm. She lowered her voice. "It's not safe for us with Alchemilia soldiers out there."
"And it's safe for Chris?" Savannah retorted. "I'm not leaving him to handle this alone."
"He's not your responsibility," Melissa said, tightening her grip on Savannah's arm.
"I'm not forcing you to come with me. If you want to stay, stay." She pushed Melissa's hand off.
"What's going on?" Steven asked, approaching Melissa and Savannah. "From the sound of things, you two seem agitated."
"Savannah wants to go find Chris, which I find to be a dangerous idea," Melissa responded.
"That's insane, why would you get involved with Alchemilia's search?"
"He was one of my companions, I didn't have time to explain this to you earlier," Melissa replied.
"The last time we saw Chris, he was being led away by Gabriel Arsene. Of course, this is before we discovered Alchemilia Corporation was torturing people," Savannah shot back.
"Wait, what? You guys had a run-in with Alchemilia, and you're accusing them of torturing people? On what bas-"
"I don't care if you believe me or not, we have to find Chris before they do!"
"Relax." Steven tried to calm her down. "I obviously don't know all the details, but even if what you say is true, it's still too dangerous to try and find him."
"That's, frankly, none of your concern," Savannah said, irritated. "I'll go tell Richard I'm leaving."
As Savannah walked away, Steven turned to Melissa, shaking his head.
"I know what you're thinking. Please don't do it. You'll get captured or worse."
Melissa sighed. "I can't just leave her to do it alone. We already lost the others from our group, we have to stick with each other as much as we can."
"I'll lose you again... I don't want that to happen," Steven said.
Melissa didn't know how to respond to that. "I'll be fine."
Richard walked toward them, followed by a visibly frustrated Savannah.
"I can't let this happen, Melissa. You just came back after a year, and you leave the same day? Please don't do this," Richard pleaded.
"But we need to-" Savannah said, growing angry.
"No, you don't need to. You want to go find him and put yourself in harm's way, I won't accept that. If Alchemilia Corporation is searching for Chris Wellington, they must have their reasons," Richard tried to explain.
"Listen, Richard, Steven, I know you care for me a lot, and you want to look after me. But I can handle myself, and so can Savannah. She wants to go find Chris, and I want to help her. For now, our goal is to make sure he is okay, and we'll be back, I promise." Melissa paused. "Just, please, let us go. It's important we do this."
"Is this really that important to you?" Steven asked quietly.
"Yes," Savannah said. "And if we want to go, we need to head out now."
Richard shook his head and started to object, but Steven held up his hand to stop his uncle.
"Uncle, I want to talk with you," Steven nodded at Savannah and Melissa as he led Richard away.
"Let's go," Savannah whispered as they left. "If Richard comes back, he won't let us leave."
The two exited the building, making sure to check the sidewalk before leaving the laboratory grounds.
John Fontaine waded through the sea of clamoring civilians. They flooded past him into the center of the city as he made his way to the outskirts. Rousseau's platoon had already done a thorough sweep of the more populated areas of the city, and though Fontaine had his doubts about their competence, he was ordered not to interfere.
He shoved past the bystanders as he looked over the crowd for any sign of Wellington. Eventually, they became few and far-between, and before long he had reached the depopulated Silivian outskirts. Beyond the abandoned suburban homes were fields of grain, and with that the end of the metropolis.
Chris, still avoiding suspicion in his hastily stolen clothes, quickly walked down the seemingly-endless streets of Silivia to a small junkyard. Various dejected-looking civilians sat around barrel-fires and slept in broken-down automobiles. With the dirt on Chris' face from his escape at the Alchemilia building, he considered blending in and taking refuge in this location.
No, he thought, I can't be around this many people. One of them is sure to eventually divulge my identity to the authorities. I need to escape this city.
Instead, Chris broke into a sprint and leapt over the chain link fence into a dilapidated row of houses. Only one other person was here, a girl who he quickly identified as his previous companion, Savannah Whitesmith, who appeared to be searching for something. The same hope he felt when he heard Melissa's name from the laboratory assistant had returned, and he ran over to her.
"Chris, oh my God."
"Hello, Savannah. It is good to see you again."
"I'm glad I finally found you. Look, Alchem is here, and they're sending people after you."
"I am aware of the ongoing manhunt."
"Get in here."
As the rain began to fall down upon him, and he was now out of the masses' sight, Fontaine pulled his mask over his face. He bared his weapon, a black pistol with a red laser attached, as he stalked through the barren, fenced-in area. He stepped out of the downpour and into a small, decaying home, where he narrowly avoided colliding with a young girl inside.
The girl's face was unremarkable, with choppy brown bangs and green eyes. Her clothing was splattered with mud and grass-stains. It brought Fontaine the faintest memory, however. He returned his gun to its holster.
"Hi," Fontaine said. He blocked the door and tilted his head. "Don't worry, I just want to ask you a few questions. Is that alright?"
Savannah hesitated. "Yeah," she said quietly.
"Let me make this quick," he spoke. Savannah averted her eyes. "I don't know if you saw it from out here, but there's a dangerous fugitive on the loose." Fontaine fiddled with something inside his coat. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about…"
Savannah let out a small gasp as he revealed a manila folder. A small label across it read:
"...this, right? Just making sure, is all."
Thinking quickly, Savannah lurched her shoulder into Fontaine's chest, attempting to knock him from his feet. The man responded with a punch to her face, breaking her nose. While she was stunned, he slipped a long knife from his boot.
At this point, Chris Wellington emerged from the house's kitchen.
"Get away from her!" Chris shouted from across the hall, brandishing his sword-arm.
"Oh, that's why you were here," Fontaine addressed Savannah, whose nose was now bleeding. He wrapped his arm around the girl's throat, placing his knife on her throat. "Cool trick. Don't come a step closer, or she dies."
Chris hesitated, and Fontaine chuckled. "Guess this is your weakness, huh? Can you remove that thing? Put it on the ground and kick it over."
"My plasma sword is retractable. You would have to rip it from my shoulder." Chris stood, pointing his weapon at Fontaine. "I will not come quietly."
"Suit yourself. I can only take one of you, though."
Savannah struggled and clawed at Fontaine's arm as he applied pressure and cut into her throat. Cold steel dragged against warm flesh as Savannah sputtered and gasped for air. Fontaine dropped her to the ground with a heavy thud and braced himself for an attack from Chris. The android brought his blade down towards Fontaine's head. The operative responded with a guard from his knife. The two were locked together for a moment, before Fontaine kicked the android in the chest. Freeing himself from the grapple, Fontaine stepped back out into the cul-de-sac, beneath an enormous shadow over the city.
As Chris continued to wildly swing at his pursuer, his vision began to blur. Memories of training, of code implanted into him centuries prior, flooded his mind. It was not long before the tide of the battle had turned, and when Chris came to his senses he was on top of John Fontaine. A disassembled gun was on the ground next to the two of them, and rain was leaking through Chris' joints and into his internal mechanisms.
"Listen," sputtered the operative, whose mask had been torn to reveal bloodied flesh. "I can… I can call off the search. Your friends will be f-fine."
"And all I will need to do is come with you?" Chris asked.
"Yes, just… just," Fontaine gasped. Chris' sword had been plunged into the center of his chest. The machine pulled himself from the man's body and stood to his feet. He glanced at Savannah's cold corpse and felt a pang of regret. Slowly, he made his way out of the rain and back into the building as his body sparked from the moisture.
Before Atticus could successfully pull Marshall out of the barbershop, the front entrance was slammed open as nine armored figures poured in. At the sight of them, the two boys froze, unsure about their next move.
The leader stepped forward, removing his helmet and holding it against his side. He was a dark-skinned man who appeared to be in his early thirties, with thin dreadlocks and a small mustache.
"Hello, boys. It's nice to see you're alive, you had us worried there for a bit," he said. "You'll be coming with us."
Holding his hands over his face in an attempt to hide his identity, Marshall began speaking. "What's happening? What do you mean? We were just robbing a barbershop. We shouldn't be in this much trouble."
Ignoring Marshall's comments, two of the armored men prepared to restrain Atticus and Marshall with handcuffs. One ripped Marshall's hands from his face and into the cuffs as he struggled against them. Atticus looked around the room desperately in search of an escape. With no options, he held his head low and placed his hands in the air.
"Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Anoethite," the leader noted.
Marshall managed a surprised glance at his companion. The leader of the soldiers took out a phone.
"Anoethite and Rooke have been apprehended. Send a transport to Silivia," His face dropped when he heard the response. "Understood."
He put the phone back in his pocket. "Update from command. We'll be staying in the shop."
"Why?" one of his subordinates asked. "We got them. Let's get back to HQ and see what they can tell us."
Before the leader could respond, Marshall attempted to push his way out of the soldier's hold.
The leader bashed him in the face with his weapon's stock. "Have some manners. Don't forget, we're taking you in alive." He turned to his men. "We were instructed to remain in place for the time being. There is an ongoing situation in the city."
Atticus and Marshall were forced to kneel. Soldiers guarded the doors while the leader stood over them.
"I suppose we can begin the interrogation here," he set down a recording device and activated it. "This is Director Baptiste Rousseau interrogating fugitives Atticus Anoethite and Marshall Rooke. Let's get the obvious question out of the way: where is Chris Wellington?"
"He's in this room with us, he's standing in the corner over there," Marshall answered.
"Very funny," Rousseau smacked the boy again. "Do you have anything to add, Anoethite?"
"No clue where he is," Atticus said. "We didn't know he got out until the broadcast."
"We barely knew that they took him," added Marshall. "He just went with your boss, and we didn't see him after."
"Alright, I can believe that. Can you tell me where the stolen laptop is?"
Marshall smiled, blood leaking from his face. "Remember the car crash?"
Rousseau scowled. "The wreckage was examined thoroughly. If the device was there, we would have found it."
"We were there all day, nobody was looking there," Atticus added.
"So both of you know nothing about the android, and the laptop is unrecoverable. Do you even know where the other—"
The director was interrupted by a flash of light from outside, followed shortly by screaming. Citizens ran past the barbershop.
"You," Rousseau directed the soldier closest to the door. "Find out what's going on out there."
The soldier nodded and went outside. After only a few seconds, he ran back into the store.
"Angels," he said. "The city is under attack."
"Were you spotted?"
"I don't think so."
"Everyone, stay calm," Rousseau told his troops. "Stay away from the windows, get to a back room."
As they prepared to move, the glass shattered. A figure appeared at the storefront. He wore a suit of boiled leather. Metallic, copper-colored plates went from the neck and wrapped around the torso, leaving the limbs exposed. The symbol of a wheel, with eyes in the center and each cardinal direction, was painted upon it in white. Long white wings protruded from the back. In his hands, there was a gun with a laser diode in place of a muzzle. A click of the trigger bored a small hole straight through the head of a soldier.
The boys, still handcuffed, were taken aback by the angel. Atticus had never seen anything like it. Rousseau shot at the angel with his pistol, trying to buy his men more time to escape. The attacker swiftly moved out of the way. More soldiers joined in the counterattack, one striking the angel squarely between the eyes.
In unison, three of the soldiers unleashed a barrage of bullets on the angel. The being instantly covered his body with its wings, shielding himself from any harm. Seeing the futility of their efforts, Rousseau took the opportunity to retreat with some of his men. The angel retracted its shield and fired at a retreating soldier.
In the ensuing chaos, none of the soldiers kept watch on Atticus and Marshall. The latter used the opportunity to get up onto his feet. He helped Atticus up before making his way out of the shop through the shattered window. A soldier took notice of his escape, which only gave the angel an opportunity to demobilize him. Atticus followed suit, running with Marshall away from the barber shop.
They heard the screams of those still in the store grow quieter as they ran down the empty streets. Eventually, the noise completely faded. The boys slowed down.
"Okay, okay," Marshall wheezed. "I think we're safe. That was way too close."
"Yeah," Atticus agreed. "We need to find somewhere to hide."
"Well, since we know that Gabriel's goons are occupied for the moment, we could stop at my dad's place. It isn't that far from here, and he can definitely get these cuffs off."
"How do you know that?"
"He's done it before. Let's just say Dad isn't a model citizen."
"That's reassuring," Atticus muttered.
The two boys continued at a steady pace along the empty sidewalk. Cars were left abandoned in the street as people had taken shelter in their homes. Dogs could be faintly heard barking from inside buildings.
"I just want to say, real quick," Marshall spoke up. "I'm sorry. For all of this."
"I mean, apology accepted, but it's pretty much pointless to apologize at this point," Atticus responded.
"If our guardian angels hadn't shown up, we would be in an Alchemilia prison," Marshall sighed. "They sent my mother to a place like that when I was seven years old."
"If you don't want to talk about this, I understand."
"No, you deserve an explanation. My mother worked for Alchemilia for a long time. She and her colleagues felt betrayed when they saw just how immoral it really was. They organized a rebellion against the chairmen. Long story short, it didn't go so well."
"That's why you stole the laptop. You wanted revenge."
"Yep. They took a lot away from me, Atticus. I couldn't properly repay them: letting some of their well-guarded secrets into the open would be a good start."
"Then why didn't you take it from the wreck?"
"It's taken a while to admit, but I do feel bad for you guys ending up in my little crusade. Plus, it was fifty-fifty something damning or useless paperwork. If I got, say, a video of that surgery room, it'd be different." He looked ahead, away from Atticus. "Come on, we're almost there."
"Why?" Marshall paused.
"Look up there," Atticus pointed towards the sky. Large floating carriers were visible, with angels descending from them in vast numbers. Flying towards them, aircrafts were seen shooting missiles at both the angels and their ships. The carriers returned fire, shooting numerous aircrafts down.
Atticus and Marshall watched as a new wave of aircrafts flew towards one of the carriers, purposefully crashing into it and causing a large explosion.
"Did they just..." Atticus' voice trailed off.
"Yeah. I never thought I'd see something like this, I thought Silivia was safe. We need to get out of here."
A blast of light suddenly went past Marshall's head. In horror, they saw a group of angels rounding a nearby corner. They sprinted away in the opposite direction. Another shot, however, hit Atticus in the leg. He slid onto the ground, his skull hitting the hard concrete. Marshall tried to help him up, only to be quickly immobilized himself.
Atticus heard gunfire in the distance. A long battle occurred between two groups he could not see, although he knew one was the angels. Someone picked him up and began to carry him as he lost consciousness.
|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|