Laia Martinez burst onto the engine room of the Landeel with Doctor Tomrain on her heels. Tylor was overseeing the installation of the star drive which Cerberus and a team from the colony were just completing. Heidi stood by quietly petting Sato as Jon and Phoenix conversed with the rogue leader.
"How much longer?" Laia demanded.
"We should be ready for power trials within the hour." Tylor replied.
"Better make it sooner." Laia said, "We just tracked a flyer leaving Moatoob. It headed out of the system then disappeared."
"Oh no." Jon sighed.
"We have completed the translation of the star map." Tomrain said handing Tylor the data pad, "It's a long way away."
"I see." Tylor nodded.
The door opened again as Lou entered followed by Lisa who now sported a brand new casing and more human like eyes. The skirt from her RAcaseal uniform was gone. Pushan hovered happily above her shoulder. Sato meowed happily. Cerberus smiled when he saw the little android.
"Lisa, I'm glad you're up."
"Thank you." She grinned, "I feel so good and I look great."
She did a little pirouette and finished with a giggle. Heidi got up off the floor and quietly walked over to the group. Lisa looked up at her and smiled.
"My, you look just like her."
"She does." Cerberus nodded, "She's a perfect knock off of her great grand mother."
"I bet you've got her fire too." Lisa grinned.
"I know you're all trying to be nice but I am me not her." Heidi glared, "Stop comparing me to her, she's dead and gone and I am my own person."
Heidi then quickly turned and walked away with a bit of a huff. Sato meowed softly.
"What did I say?" Lisa asked looking a little hurt.
"I don't know." Cerberus replied.
"She's never acted like that before." Jon said.
Tylor walked over to the group breaking up their conversation.
"The installation is complete." He said reading the report, "We must depart now."
"What's the urgency?" Cerberus asked.
"Kireek has left the system." Jon said.
"How long ago?" Cerberus asked.
"You have immediate departure permission." Laia said, "Come Lou, let's go before we get dragged along."
Lou nodded and followed her out. Tylor tapped his com piece and contacted Liina on the bridge. Phoenix stood staring up at the alien device connected to the Landeel's engines.
"I hope this thing works." He grumbled.
"Me too, or this is going to be a very short trip." Cerberus replied.
"Let's get to the bridge." Tylor waved.
The docking clamps on the colony released the ship as it powered up its engines and pulled away. Cerberus stayed in engineering to monitor the star drive as they began to power it up. They quickly exited the system unaware that they were being watched by the dark planet.
"OK, ready for power up." Cerberus reported.
"Liina, light speed." Tylor ordered.
Liina, looking a little scared, slowly reached out with a shaking finger and pushed the button. The ship lurched forward as the star field turned into a tunnel of streaking light.
"Inertial dampers are at maximum." Liina reported.
"We're looking green here." Cerberus said then muttered, "Can't beat Pioneer Two technology."
"Amazing." Phoenix smiled.
"Think of the possibilities." Jon gasped.
Tylor smiled but he was already calculating the profit he could make selling this technology. As the awe slowly wore off the group began to break up, many going to their assigned quarters. Cerberus remained in engineering to watch his engine. Heidi kicked off her boots and flopped onto the bed in her quarters. They were small and cramped but at least the bed was warm. Sato settled down on the end of the bed and meowed.
"What?" Heidi frowned.
The Mag tilted her head and stared at her.
"Don't look at me like that." Heidi shook her head, "I know I shouldn't have snapped at Lisa like that but, it was like I couldn't help it."
Heidi walked over to the small wall mirror and looked at the bandage still stuck to her neck. She reached up and slowly peeled it off. The wound was all sticky with some sort of goo. Heidi picked up a cloth from the small sink and washed it off. The wound had healed over but the surrounding tissue was still purple and bruised.
"That's very strange." Heidi muttered.
Sato meowed softly.
"You don't like the look of it either huh?" Heidi smiled.
She applied a new bandage then went over and flopped onto the bed. Sato floated over and began to softly rub her head.
"I see why my great grandfather protected you." She smiled, "I'm glad you’re my friend Sato."
Sato meowed happily. Heidi smiled and quickly drifted off to sleep.
Heidi was standing in an open field wearing only her underwear. The grass was cool and wet under her bare feet. A strong wind heavy with the smell of rain blew down from the nearby mountains. Heidi shivered as she looked around. Behind her there was a dense wood forest. Standing at the edge of the forest was a boy dressed in a white robe. His hair was the blackest she had ever seen and he appeared to be around the age of ten.
"Excuse me!" She called.
The boy turned and ducked into the forest.
"No wait!" She yelled and chased after him.
The brush was thick and scratched her skin as she pushed through it. She caught a glimpse of the boy as she ran but she couldn't quite catch him. The bush started to thin out as it turned from lush green to dead twigs. Everything around her was dead and the sky turned dark as a heavy storm moved in. Lightening flashed as the rain started to pour. Heidi had to slow to a march as she shivered from the cold. The boy continued to run around in front of her but she couldn't catch up to him. They entered a clearing containing a circle of eight rectangular stones. They had strange symbols etched on them. A skull sat atop of each one. The boy stopped at the center of the clearing. Heidi stopped at the edge. She wanted to go to the boy but she couldn't move. From the far side of the clearing a skeleton entered from the woods. It was bipedal like a man but its skull was that of a horse. There was a bull's horn on each side of its head. Its arms were twice as long as it's body length with elongated hands on the end. It's legs where shorter and thick as tree trucks. It had canine like feet. To its left a Dulk Falkis appeared. To the right a dark shadowy creature entered. Its base was a creature with three heads. The body appeared to be the head and upper body of a person twisted and mutated which supported an ugly twisted head and spear like arms. On its back sticking up was a fan of long spears. All three creatures were no more than seven feet tall but felt much larger. The boy stood still staring at these creatures. Heidi tried to yell for him to run but she couldn't. Kireek popped up in front of her, his eyes glowing red.
"You lose." He growled.
He glided backwards grabbing the boy then flew into the monsters that melted into black goo. It pulsed rhythmically as it grew then lunged out at Heidi.
She awoke in her cabin screaming. Sato rubbed her leg. She jumped out of bed away from the stunned Mag. She calmed down by taking deep breaths.
"I'm sorry." She said to Sato.
Sato meowed with a tilt of her head.
"A very bad nightmare." Heidi nodded, "Strange that I've never reacted that strongly before."
Sato pawed at the blanket for a moment then floated over to the small computer terminal in the corner. Heidi stepped up and tapped the terminal. She brought up a picture of Dulk Falkis.
"He was there." She said, "We always find these guys in the core of a Hive. The other two I've never seen before. Oh and Kireek was there too, as he always is."
"Sato stuck her little pointed front foot into a side terminal and a picture of the other dark creature appeared. Heidi gasped as she stepped back.
"That's it." She said, "What is that?"
"Dark Falz" appeared on the screen.
"That's the monster Cerberus told me about?" Heidi asked.
"There was this skeleton creature too." She said.
Sato removed her foot then meowed with a tilt of her head.
"Don't know huh." Heidi sighed, "It's OK, it was just a dream."
She picked Sato up then headed for the bridge. Phoenix and Tylor were the only ones there. They turned and stared at her.
"What?" She frowned.
"Forgot something?" Tylor smirked pointing at her bare feet.
"Rough night." She shrugged.
"I'll say." Tylor chuckled.
Heidi looked at her reflection in one of the blank computer screens. Her hair was everywhere and the little make up she wore was smudged.
"Oh." She sighed, "So how much longer?"
"Long enough for you to get cleaned up." Tylor grinned.
"Relax, Heidi." Phoenix said "We are still several days away."
"Days." Heidi gasped, "Oh my."
She slowly turned and headed back to her quarters.
Icebergs emergency rations were starting to run out. They had been hiding in the back of the flyer for five days now. Day one Isis had managed to close the door to the flight cabin without Kireek noticing. This gave them the freedom to move about, stretch their muscles, sleep comfortably, and use the lavatory. Iceberg thought it fortunate that the Illuminus had decided to confiscate only his weapons leaving him the rest of his equipment, monomates, and water rations. They had taken Isis nanotransformer leaving her with nothing. He handed her half a monomate bar and ate the other half.
"How's our supplies." Isis asked softly.
"Water's not a problem." Iceberg said, "The flyer has plenty but the food rations are nearly gone."
"How much longer?"
"I have four bars left." Iceberg replied softly.
"Four days then." Isis sighed.
"If it goes much longer we will not have the strength to apprehend the cast, say nothing for trying to defend ourselves."
"He just had to take an extended range flyer with no food on it." Isis huffed as she nibbled her bar.
"Survival is now our top priority." Iceberg said, "I just wish I knew where we are."
"I doubt we'd know even if someone told us." Isis replied.
"We are a long way from home." Iceberg nodded.
"I wonder why no one developed interstellar technology." Isis replied.
"We have three habitable worlds in our own system." Iceberg shrugged, "Why would we need to go anywhere else?"
"Haven't you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered if anyone else was out there?" Isis frowned slightly.
"Neudaiz was always the predominate object in the Parum Sky." Iceberg said, "Every time I looked up I was reminded of all the different life forms in space. I had no need to wonder if life existed elsewhere. I suppose if there was only a single world here then we might begin to wonder if we're alone in the universe but here in Gurhal we know we are not."
"When I was a little girl on Moatoob, I use to stare up at the night sky and dream about aliens coming down to visit." Isis said softly then smiled, "It usually ended with them taking me away with them so I wouldn't have to live in misery."
"Quite understandable considering your past." Iceberg nodded, "I'm just sorry I didn't find you sooner."
"All that matters is that you did save me." Isis grinned, "My hero."
Iceberg couldn't help but smile back. The flyer began to shudder.
"We're slowing." He said.
"Thank goodness." Isis said climbing to her feet.
The flyer began to shake and buck. The Guardians managed to stay on their feet as the internal temperature began to rise.
"Atmosphere, that's a good sign." Iceberg said.
"Except casts don't need air conditioning." Isis said as sweat began to form on her forehead.
"The air conditioning system should compensate automatically." Iceberg replied.
As if on cue the air began to cool.
"How do you do that?" Isis smirked.
The flyers decent began to slow then stopped with a thump. Iceberg immediately hit the rear hatch button. The ramp descended and he quickly dragged Isis out. They had landed in the middle of a vast open grass field. In the distance directly in front of them stretched a vast snow capped mountain range that vanished into the horizon. Behind them grew a massive green forest with trees stretching high into the sky. Iceberg heard Kireek coming so he quickly headed for the forest.
"Aren't we going to arrest him?" Isis called.
"We can not face him head on." Iceberg replied, "We must pick an opportune moment."
Isis just sighed and continued to chase after her partner.
Kireek stepped off the ramp and looked around then took a sniff of the air.
"Impossible." He growled, "The stench of that system is here too."
He strolled around to the nose of the flyer spotting the retreating Guardians.
"Prey, finally." He chuckled.
The Landeel dropped from light speed then slowly approached the bright blue and green sphere in front of them. It was the only solid planet in this system. The three other planets were gas giants that stood as guardians against any space debris that might threaten the little world. It was close to a fifty percent land to water ratio with two giant land masses separated by ocean. There were no polar caps and no deserts. The only ice and snow was the caps and glaciers on the many mountain ranges that fed the rivers and lakes. Tylor smiled slightly as he gazed at the tiny world. The Guardians slowly began to file on to the bridge with Lisa and Heidi being the last ones.
"Hey Tylor?" Liina said looking up from her board.
"Yes?" Tylor replied.
"I'm readying a flyer on the surface." She reported.
"Are you sure?" Tylor asked.
"Quite sure." Liina nodded.
"Kireek." Cerberus growled, "He beat us here."
"He hasn't won yet." Phoenix grumbled.
"Any signs of the cast Liina?" Jon asked.
"Not around the flyer but the engines are still warm." Liina reported, "They haven't been here too long."
"Tylor, if you would set us down there." Phoenix said.
"Guardians with me." Phoenix ordered then led them off the bridge.
The Landeel set down gently beside the flyer. Heidi waited patiently at the back of the group. Phoenix stood in front with Cerberus at his side. Her father stood behind the two casts. Lisa stood just in front of Heidi gripping her new rifle tightly. Pushan slowly bobbed up and down above her shoulder. Heidi gave Sato a little pat as the door and ramp began to open. The others quickly filed out but Heidi was a little slower as she gazed at an all too familiar mountain range. Her boot crunched down on the dry and browning field grass causing her to pause. The others quickly began to fan out. Cerberus and Jon headed for the flyer while Lisa and Phoenix kept watch. A sudden surge of panic forced Heidi to rush out into the field and around the other side of the ship.
"Oh no." She gasped.
Before her stretched the dense forest from her nightmare. She looked around but there was no dark haired boy. Something drove her forward and she began to run straight for the woods. No one noticed her leave. She pushed through the thick bushes that bordered the edge of the forest then thinned out inside. She took a deep breath then headed inside. It was brighter and warmer here than in her dream with rays of sunlight breaking through various small holes in the canopy. The woods were alive with the sounds of animals scurrying about searching for food or escaping the approach of this new intruder as well as the chirping of insects calling for a mate. It was all quite beautiful with various ferns and wild flowers covering the ground. Heidi should have been enjoying her walk but she couldn't shake the fear that was squeezing her heart. The snapping of a twig caused her to freeze. Sato let out a soft meow.
"Quiet." Heidi whispered, "We could be in danger."
Sato wiggled her tail then bobbed quietly. Heidi nodded then moved ahead slowly. Deeper she went constantly looking for any sign of an attack. The rustling of bushes nearby made her freeze again. She could hear footsteps moving around her. Whoever it was, was circling her. They weren't getting any closer but they weren't moving away either. She slowly reached back and drew her daggers. Slowly she started forward again feeling a little braver now that she was armed. As she passed a large tree she heard the sound of a blaster safety being removed. She froze in mid step.
"Don't move." A deep voice said.
"OK." Heidi replied.
"Relax Iceberg it's just Heidi." A female voice said.
A tall dark skinned human male and a tight tan beast woman stepped out from behind the tree. Heidi let out a sigh of relief as she looked at the too Guardians she had met at the Laia's big meeting. She relaxed and stored her daggers.
"Does this mean the rescue party has arrived?" Isis asked.
"I guess it does." Heidi smiled, "What are you guys doing here?"
"We stole a ride on Kireek's ship." Iceberg replied, "And you?"
"Tylor gave us a ride." Heidi replied, "With the use of Cerberus' star drive."
"We are going to need all the help we can get." Iceberg said.
"Where's Kireek now?" Heidi asked looking around.
"He was following us." Isis replied, "But we haven't seen or heard from him in the last ten minutes."
"We have also lost his trail." Iceberg added.
"You wouldn't happen to have any spare weapons on you?" Isis asked.
"You can borrow my Rudy Bullet." Heidi said retrieving the weapon, "Ever since Cerberus gave me these ancient daggers I haven't had a need to carry anything else."
"Not even wands?" Iceberg frowned, "Aren't you a Newman? Don't you do techs?"
"Let's see, no, yes, and yes." Heidi giggled slightly.
Iceberg frowned heavily at her.
"Care to explain?"
"Do you guys promise to keep this secret?" Heidi asked holding up a finger, "And I mean you can't tell a soul or other wise."
"Alright." Iceberg nodded.
"Of course." Isis grinned.
"I can do techs with out wands or rods." Heidi smiled, "And apparently I'm really good at it too."
"What!" Isis gasped.
"Are you serious?" Iceberg leaned back slightly.
"Totally." Heidi nodded, "I took out almost a whole squad of AMF drone fighters with something Cerberus called Grants."
"Well, I'm glad you're on our side then." Isis smiled squeezing Heidi's shoulder.
"I see why you want this kept a secret." Iceberg said, "You have my word, I will not tell anyone."
"Thanks." Heidi nodded once.
"Where should we try next?" Isis asked.
Heidi closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"This way." She said.
"How do you know that?" Iceberg asked.
"A feeling." Heidi shrugged.
"A feeling." Iceberg crossed his arms, "That's it, a feeling."
"Do you have a better suggestion?" Isis smirked.
Iceberg just growled and shook his head.
"Then we follow her." Isis nodded at the disappearing Newman."
Heidi marched through the forest completely oblivious to the two Guardians that had joined her. Isis continued to ask the odd question but was always greeted with silence. She was beginning to wonder if following this strange little Newman had been such a good idea, then the girl suddenly halted starring down at her feet.
"What is it?" Isis asked approaching from behind.
"A road." Iceberg said stepping past them.
Coming from their left and disappearing into the distance on their right sat a single lane dirt road. The hard gravel dirt and thin wheel marks showed that it was frequently used.
"We're getting close." Heidi said turning to her right.
They continued along the road until it ended with the sights and sounds of a bustling little village. Farm animals scurried between the small wood shacks and barns as small children dressed in white shirts and dark pants and boots, or long neutral coloured dresses and boots tried to catch them. The men all wore similar clothes to that of the boys and the women wore slightly fancier dresses than that worn by the girls. The loud clanging noise of a steel hammer pounding against an anvil rang out from one of the work shops. Several large four legged animals with long hoofed legs, strong backs and heads that looked very similar to the head of the skeleton monster from Heidi's dream were tied to fences or hitched to carts. Their tails made of long hair swished gently from side to side as they tried to shoe away the flies. The three Guardians could only stare at the amazing sight before them.
"Have you ever seen anything like this?" Isis gasped.
"Never." Iceberg shook his head.
"It looks so cute and simple." Heidi smiled.
"I doubt they've seen anything as advanced as us." Iceberg said, "Best to keep our weapons hidden." Iceberg said stowing his gun.
"You better stay out of sight too." Heidi said to Sato.
Sato meowed and floated down behind Heidi's back.
"I don't think that is going to work." Heidi smiled at the Mag.
"I wish I had something better to wear." Isis sighed.
"Let's just hope the sight of you doesn't scare them off." Heidi giggled.
"You either." Iceberg said giving her ear a flick.
"Hey." Heidi frowned.
"They look human so you lead big guy." Isis said.
Iceberg nodded and headed down the small hill and into the village. Everyone froze as the strangers passed by. Mothers quickly pulled their children close. Iceberg spotted a man who looked a little better dressed then everyone else and headed for him. The man stood his ground but was clearly frightened.
"Greetings." Iceberg bowed.
His deep voice seemed to echo throughout town.
"Pl…pl….please don't hurt me." The man quivered.
"I intend you no harm." Iceberg replied.
"If you have come to take me away I beg for your mercy." The man started to shake.
"Huh?" Iceberg frowned.
"Please, I know I have sinned but surely I do not deserve eternal damnation." The man pleaded, "Please show me mercy."
"Sir, please calm down." Iceberg said, "I am not here to take you or anyone else anywhere."
"But, then why do you enter our village accompanied by two demons?" The man frowned.
"I was afraid of this." Heidi muttered.
"Demons?" Iceberg frowned looking back at his friends, "Ah, these are not demons. They are my friends. This is Isis and that is Heidi."
"But that one is clearly the beast guardian of Hades." The man pointed at Isis, "And that one has the pointed ears of the Devils demon minions."
"I assure you we mean you no harm." Iceberg said.
"That is exactly what the Devil wants us to believe." The man pointed harshly, "We welcome you in then when we least expect it you rain death and destruction on us."
"That seems very inefficient." Iceberg replied, "If I was here to destroy you I'd just do it right here, right now."
"Yes but…" The man paused, "You would? But you won't?"
"You have my word." Iceberg smiled.
"How good is your word?" The man frowned.
"My word is my honour." Iceberg bowed.
"Then you are welcome here." The man sighed and smiled, "My name is Mayor James Terrance. This is my village; if you need anything just ask."
"There is one thing." Heidi said stepping forward.
"Yes." The mayor smiled.
"We're looking for someone." She replied.
"What, but you just said…" The mayor stammered.
"It's not what you think." Heidi smiled, "The man we're looking for is a stranger as well. He wears a suit of metal, coloured purple."
"We have not seen him." The mayor shook his head, "Come, you must be hungry from your trip."
"I'll say." Isis smiled.
"We will give you food and drink." The mayor waved to some people in the crowd, "Oh and proper clothing for the ladies."
"Finally." Isis smiled.
"What's wrong with my cloths?" Heidi said looking at herself.
"You enjoy traveling in your undergarments?" The mayor snickered.
"These aren't my underwear…" Heidi started to protest then took a quick look at the women's cloths.
"Oh." She blushed.
"We would be most grateful." Iceberg bowed slightly.
"Wonderful." The mayor clapped, "Follow me."
He lead them down the main street to a large single story log cabin. The floor was filled with rectangular tables. Each table had six chairs surrounding it. There was a long bar at the back of the room where a tall thin bald man stood polishing a ceramic mug. The mayor sat the travelers down at a table near the bar.
"Sam, food and drink for our guests." The mayor called.
The bald man nodded then disappeared in to the back room.
"I will fetch a couple seamstresses for the ladies." The mayor bowed then excused himself.
"OK Heidi, what in the name of the holy light are we doing here?" Isis asked, "Kireek hasn't even been here."
"No but something we need is." Heidi replied, "We just have to find it."
"And what is It anyway?" Isis asked.
"We'll know it when we find it." Heidi shrugged.
"Kireek is all we need." Iceberg growled
"But if we need it, he may need it too." Heidi said, "If so then he will come."
"That's a big If." Isis said.
"And if he doesn't?" Iceberg asked taking a sip from the water glass in front of him.
"Then my father will get him." Heidi smiled.
"I now your father well." Isis said, "He's a very capable Guardian but he's no match for Kireek."
"He's got Cerberus and Phoenix with him." Heidi shrugged.
"That makes things a little more even." Iceberg grumbled.
Sam returned from the back carrying three plates that he placed in front of the Guardians then went back to the bar. Heidi stared down at the plate. There were round slices of some kind of orange root, white fluffy mush and slices of a dark meat. She picked up the metal fork and speared a piece of root then sniffed it. Isis poked at the mush while Iceberg sliced off a piece of meat.
"What do you think it is?" Isis whispered.
Iceberg shrugged staring at the meat. Sam returned and plopped down three mugs full of foamy liquid. Heidi took a deep breath and popped the root in her mouth. A couple of chews and it was gone.
"This is really good." She said popping another piece in her mouth, "It's kind of sweet."
Iceberg tried his meat and actually smiled as he took another piece, then took a swig of the foamy liquid.
"Delicious." He said, "There's not an ale that come close to this in all of Gurhal."
The Guardians quickly cleaned their plates and Iceberg and Isis emptied their mugs. Heidi took a sip then sat the mug down. It was a little too bitter for her and tasted of alcohol. Sam returned and cleared the table without a word. Two women carrying arms full of cloth entered the tavern and rushed over to the Guardians. They sat the pile on the table and ushered the girls out of their chairs. The cloth turned out to be dresses that the women pulled out randomly and held up to the girls searching for the right look and size. They settled on a beige and pink long dress for Isis and a smaller aqua green dress for Heidi. They assisted the girls in putting the dresses on and once Isis was wearing hers, she discreetly discarded her Illuminus rags. The women quickly tied her hair together with a bright red ribbon then tied Heidi's hair into a pony tail. They stepped back to admire the girls then giggled as they congratulated the Guardians on their new look. Iceberg sat staring up at them with a smirk.
"What?" Isis shot.
"Nothing." He chuckled, "You look… very nice."
"At least it's better than those rags." Isis scowled.
"You look very beautiful." Heidi smiled.
"Thank you." Isis bowed.
"If you ladies are finished, we need to start looking for whatever it is that we need." Iceberg grinned climbing from his chair.
Kireek had started pursuing the stowaway Guardians hungry for their energy, but now found himself headed in the opposite direction. As much as he hungered for their spilt blood and rich souls something much stronger called out to him now. The forest was much older here with many dead trees spread across the forest floor. The remaining live ones were barely that with browning and withered leaves just clinging on to life. At any moment a strong breeze could come along and tear them from their parent and sent tumbling to the floor below. Kireek trudged forward driven by that piece of Dark Falz that remained inside him. The creature had told Kireek that he had freed him in exchange for the alien queen but that had obviously been a lie. Kireek should have known better than to trust a being of darkness but then he had, had little choice. He carefully marched down a small ridge to what were the remains of an ancient space craft. Most of it was long gone or buried beneath earth and plant growth. He pulled away the vines covering the metal hatch then easily pried the door open. Centuries of exposure to the elements had rotted away the door lock and hinges. He slowly stepped inside testing the strength of the floor. When he was satisfied that it would hold him he continued inside drawn to a small room with a black screen that stretched from the floor to the ceiling. Kireek reached out to touch it but he was stopped by a spark that jumped from his finger to the screen. The screen came to life filled with sparkling white light. Kireek instinctively reached out and touched it. His hand passed through it.
"A teleporter." He frowned, "Where did this come from? It's similar to the technology from the ancestral worlds of Algo but looks even more advanced than that which we had on Coral."
Kireek studied the device for a moment and the surrounding room. It provided no answers and there was no obvious control panel. Kireek started to turn to leave, wanting to explore more of the ruins, but his Soul Eater jerked forward toward the screen dragging him with it. He tried to let go but his fingers would not release it. The Soul Eater passed through the screen pulling Kireek in. Everything went instantly dark then slowly his vision returned. He was standing in a vast underground cavern staring up at the skeleton of a giant monster. Its body and legs were short and thick. It's arm and hands were much thinner and nearly twice the length of the body. Its head was that of a horse with two horns grown out of the sides of the skull. Its mouth was still full of massive razor sharp fangs. As he stood there staring up at the creature his Soul Eater began to glow and emit a purple mist. It floated up away from Kireek and toward the creature.
"No!" Kireek gasped.
He could feel the power given to him by Dark Falz and the D-cells slowly leave him. He reached out trying to grab the mist and bring it back but his hand simply passed through it. The last of the energy drifted away leaving him drained and his Soul Eater restored to normal. The mist floated up to the skeleton and began to swirl around it. With each pass more of the energy was absorbed into the bones. Kireek watched as the last of the mist fell into the skull. The eyes sockets began to glow red. The skull slowly turned and looked down at the android. Kireek instinctively stepped back.
"I live again." The creature growled, "Yet I am incomplete. Two parts together, one still lost."
It lifted up its long arms and flexed its fingers before pointing one at Kireek.
"State your name tiny thing." The creature boomed.
"I am Kireek." He replied.
"You are the one that brought this soul fragment to me?" It tilted its head.
"Yes, I suppose I did." Kireek nodded.
"How did you find me?"
"I don't know." Kireek shook his head, "I was dragged through a warp."
He turned and pointed at the screen on the cave wall.
"You came through that?" The creature boomed, its eyes glowing bright.
"Yes." Kireek nodded, "And I was in the middle of a very important hunt."
"You seek the power of life?" The creature asked.
"How do you…" Kireek quickly stopped himself, "I do not know what you're taking about."
"Do not try to deceive me." The creature snapped, "A part of you is part of me now. You came from its hiding place then."
"That is what I was led to believe." Kireek nodded.
"Then you found her?" The creature asked.
"Found who?" Kireek frowned.
"The guardian of the life power." The creature hissed, "The one that did this to me."
"I saw no one on the planet and the spacecraft in which I found the warp was centuries old." Kireek shrugged.
"Centuries?" The creature almost grinned.
"That's right." Kireek nodded.
"Then she is long dead and it is now unguarded." The creature said, "Finally mine for the taking. The tracking tag I placed on her craft worked perfectly. And she thought I didn't know about it, however I was unprepared for the strength of her attack. First I must find my flesh so that I may be one. I must regain my strength. YOU!"
Kireek stepped back again. The creature stretched out a long boney finger and touched the Soul Eater returning it to its twisted red and black form. Kireek sighed as he gazed once more at his chain of slavery.
"This will link us again so you may return here." The creature said, "You are now my servant."
"I am no ones servant." Kireek pointed.
"You've been a servant this long and you will continue to be a servant." The creature growled, "Now return to that world and seek out the life power."
Kireek turned and headed back to the warp.
"Oh I intend too." He muttered as he passed through.
Cerberus and Jon exited the flyer after completing their inspection. Jon was still holding a couple of ration bar wrappers. Phoenix and Lisa went over to hear their findings.
"The engines haven't been shut down for very long." Cerberus said, "Kireek must be around here somewhere."
"On the plus side he had stowaways." Jon said, "Guardian stowaways, we're hoping they've managed to slow him down."
"Let me see those." Phoenix said taking the wrappers from Jon.
He studied the wrappers for a minute then nodded.
"These are not one of the more popular flavours." He said.
"There are popular flavours?" Jon shrugged.
"While most Guardians no longer touch this stuff choosing monomate instead there are still a few who do." Phoenix explained, "Among those the top flavours tend to be fruit mix and roast rappy. This is Koltova and pia fruit."
"Yuck." Jon shuttered.
"Indeed." Phoenix nodded with a smile, "There is only one Guardian I know who still stocks up on this flavour. If I'm right then he's causing Kireek a great deal of grief."
"Who?" Cerberus asked.
"Iceberg." Phoenix replied.
"Guys, where's Heidi?" Jon asked looking around.
"She was right behind me." Lisa said.
"Perhaps she's still aboard the Landeel." Phoenix suggested, "She has been acting strange lately."
Jon quickly tapped his com unit.
"Tylor, is Heidi aboard the ship?"
"No, Liina says she left with you guys." Tylor replied, "Is she missing?"
"Yes." Jon nodded.
"We don't see her from up here." Tylor said, "I suggest you check that forest."
"Thanks Tylor." Jon nodded and released his com, "She's wandered off."
"The forest." Phoenix pointed.
"It's the only place." Jon nodded.
"Then let's go." Cerberus said drawing his rifle.
Heidi left Iceberg and Isis at the town pub and began to wander around the side streets still feeling like she was being drawn to something. Most of the men were out working the small fields that surrounded the village leaving the women to tend to the house work and watch the children. Now that she was dressed like the locals most of the staring and frightened looks had stopped and the most she got now was a quiet nod. She passed a cabin with a young man about her age tending to one of the strange animals hitched to a wagon. Their eyes met as she passed and he actually smiled. Heidi blushed slightly and looked away.
"Is there something you're looking for?" He asked.
"Yes." She replied, "But I'm not sure what it is."
"Then how will you know when you've found it?" He smirked.
"I'll just know I guess." She shrugged.
"You're very strange for a demon." The boy smirked.
"Oh really." Heidi smirked back, "Have you met many."
"If they're all as pretty as you then I wish I had." The boy grinned.
"Aren't you the smooth talker?" Heidi blushed stepping up to the fence then pointed at the beast, "What kind of creature is that?"
"You've never seen a horse before?" The boy asked with amazement.
Heidi shook her head, "We have nothing like it on my planet."
"Oh I see." The boy grinned, "You're an alien not a demon right?"
"That's right." Heidi nodded.
"Really?" The grin drained from his face.
"Really." Heidi nodded, "I come from a planet called Neudaiz in the Gurhal system."
"Wow, a real alien." The boy said, "Do you all have pointed ears?"
"No, some are human like you." Heidi said, "Some, like my friend Isis are beasts, then we have… uh knights in permanent armour."
"They never take their armour off?"
"They can't." Heidi shook her head.
"Amazing." The boy said then stuck his hand out, "I'm Isaac."
"Heidi." She replied shaking his hand.
"So, is this Gurhal system far away?" Isaac asked.
"Yes." Heidi nodded, "We couldn't have got here without the help of some old alien technology."
"More Aliens?" Isaac gasped.
"From another dimension no less." Heidi nodded.
"Wow." Isaac gasped, "And here I was all worried about tending to the crops in the field."
"Don't sell yourself short." Heidi sighed, "You have a very peaceful and simple life. My world is being threatened by an alien virus right now. I'm almost jealous of you here."
"Yes but the things you've seen." Isaac shook his head, "And I'll bet you don't live in a drafty old wood cabin."
"No, my house is a little warmer." Heidi laughed.
"You have a very pretty laugh." Isaac smiled.
"Stop it, you're embarrassing me." Heidi giggled.
"As you wish." Isaac bowed, "Is there anything I can help you with?"
"Not unless you know anything about a power of life." Heidi shrugged.
The smile drained away from Isaacs face.
"What do you know of that?"
"Ah, nothing really." Heidi stuttered.
She was completely taken by Isaacs's sudden harsh tone.
"Only that we need to find it before a certain evil knight can get his hands on it." Heidi shrugged.
Isaac looked around then bent real close to Heidi.
"Don't go mentioning this to anyone." He said, "If anybody found out you're looking for that, things could turn pretty ugly."
"We only wish to keep it safe." Heidi said.
"I understand but if this is the beginning of the prophecy then we are all in trouble." Isaac sighed.
"You know of that too?" Heidi gasped.
"There is not a person on this planet that doesn't know." Isaac shook his head, "We are the decedents of the original keepers. The story has been passed down from generation to generation. All of it written down from the very origin so the story has never changed. We all became a little concerned when little David was born."
"What's so special about him?" Heidi asked.
"You'd have to see him." Isaac shrugged.
"Is that possible?" Heidi asked.
"I suppose I could take you there." Isaac smiled, "He lives with his mother a little ways away from here. Loners they are, shunned by everyone out of fear. I haven't seen the boy myself but I've heard stories."
"Never put any fact in stories." Heidi said.
"You're right." Isaac nodded, "Besides, the company will be worth any kind risk we might run into."
Heidi blushed, "OK, but don't get any ideas. I can't stay here. Once my mission is done I'm going back to Gurhal."
"Then I shall enjoy the time we have." Isaac grinned.
"Something tells me I'm going to have to keep an eye on you." Heidi smiled.
Isaac grinned then looked around quickly before hopping over the fence. He took her hand and led her down a side street and out of town. The road ran along the edge of the forest gradually inclining up the gentle sloping hill. Heidi could feel Isaac staring at her as they walked and though he was quite handsome, she found herself staring more at the scenery and the strange animals than at him. Occasionally she'd look over at him and smile. He'd smile back as his face turned red then he'd quickly turn away.
"Good one Heidi." She thought, "Its bad enough your girlish charms have all the boys in Gurhal following you around, now you had to go and make a poor boy from another planet fall for you."
She looked at him again. He blushed and quickly looked away.
"Great, he's got it bad too." She sighed.
"What?" Isaac asked.
"Nothing." Heidi quipped then thought, "Brilliant, now he thinks your crazy. He is pretty cute. So why don't I feel anything? I know we can't start anything but I should feel something. I should be attracted to him."
Heidi reached up and touched the bandage on her neck. The path narrowed slightly and as it reached the top of the hill it turned into the forest. The walk down the other side was much easier ending with a small wooden cottage hidden away in the trees. Small puffs of grey smoke gently rose up out of the small stone chimney. Everything was eerily quiet. The single chirp from a small bird hidden in the tree tops actually made Heidi jump.
"My, you're edgy." Isaac grinned.
"Sorry." Heidi shrugged, "This place kind of has me on edge."
"It does that to most people." Isaac said.
"But it shouldn't." Heidi shook her head, "It's very peaceful and beautiful here."
"Yet even the animals steer clear of this place." Isaac pointed, "I swear there are supernatural powers at work here."
"Supernatural." Heidi frowned, "Come now, you're much to smart to believe in nonsense like that."
"I don't know." Isaac shook his head, "I've seen things. Things I couldn't explain. Things that could only be accomplished by the other worlds, I swear."
"Unexplained things are just things that haven't been explained yet." Heidi shrugged.
"Ok." Isaac frowned.
"Long ago we use to think things like techniques and prophecy were things caused by supernatural or unholy powers." Heidi explained, "We later learned that it was all caused by photon energy. It was all scientific. There are still people who worship this Holy Light but it's all been explained."
"Does your science explain ghosts and spirits?" Isaac said, "Does it explain ones soul?"
"Ah, no." Heidi said shaking her head, "It doesn't look like anyone is around."
"Mrs Jacobs is probably out looking for food and water." Isaac said, "Little David could
be anywhere. He's like a shadow in these woods."
"Hello!" Heidi called.
"What are you doing?" Isaac gasped.
"We want them to know we're here, remember?" Heidi shrugged.
Isaac remained behind; wanting to follow his new friend but fearing the stories he had been told.
Heidi, not ever hearing any of the stories, casually strolled up to the wooden door and gently but firmly rapped her knuckles against its surface. She paused and when no one responded she knocked again. There was still no response so she gently turned the knob and gave the door a push. It opened onto a small living space with a small wood burning stove, a table and two chairs, and a wood counter top with a wash basin set into it. Heidi stepped inside slowly looking around at everything.
"Hello!" She called, "Is anyone here?"
No one replied so she continued her search. A door at the back of the room opened onto a small bedroom that contained two cots and nothing more. Heidi shrugged and closed the door. She started to turn and nearly jumped when she saw Isaac standing behind her.
"We should go." Isaac shook, "There's no telling when she'll return."
"Who?" Heidi frowned, "The mom?"
"Why are you suddenly so frightened?" Heidi frowned.
"I never expected to be in the witch's house." Isaac replied, "Seeing it from a distance, no problem, but is she catches us here she could make us disappear just like her husband."
"Oh please." Heidi sighed and turned away, "I'm more dangerous than anything here."
"Not more than a witch." Isaac pointed, "And her demonic child."
Heidi ignored it. She continued to look through the personal items on the table, not sure of what she was looking for. She stumbled on a gold medallion hiding under a book. She picked it up and turned it over. There were three small circles placed in a triangle connected by a large double ring. There was a center ring with writing around it. More writing was scribed into the double ring. Heidi stared at it for a moment. She had seen this symbol before although the writing on this one was different. She couldn't read it. Sato let out a soft meow from under her dress.
"What was that?" Isaac asked looking around.
"I didn't hear anything." Heidi said quickly as she smacked her dress.
"Huh." Isaac shrugged, "What do you have there?"
"I've seen this symbol before." Heidi said handing him the medallion.
"What does it mean?" He frowned.
"I don't know but I don't think it comes from our universe." Heidi replied.
"What?" Isaac frowned not quite grasping the concept.
"I learned not long ago that there are other universes out there." Heidi said, "Separated from ours, existing just as we do. Apparently there are certain places out in space where doorways exist allowing someone to enter another universe just as we enter another room. A friend of mine comes from one of these universes. I think this medal does too."
"How many universes are there?" Isaac gasped, "Are there other us's too?"
"I don't know." Heidi shrugged with a smile, "It's all a little above me."
"If it's a little above you then it must be miles above me." Isaac sighed.
"Not really." Heidi shook her head, "You're handling it quite well. Remember you don't have to be technologically advanced to be smart."
"What are you doing here?" A voice barked.
Heidi spun to find a woman holding an axe standing in the doorway. She had long chocolate brown hair, slightly tanned skin, and dark brown eyes. She wore a dress similar to Heidi's but much more worn and faded. She gasped as she gazed upon the Newman.
"Demon!" She cried and charged forward.
Isaac stepped in front of Heidi stopping the woman.
"I believe your son is the demon not this girl." He said.
"Are you mad?" The woman gasped, "Just look at those demon ears. She comes from the devil I tell you."
"I'm not a demon." Heidi said, "I'm an alien, from outer space."
"Is that supposed to be better?" The woman growled.
Heidi then remembered where she had seen the symbol. She quickly pulled one of her S-red Daggers from her nanotransformer and stared down at the hilt. Sure enough the same symbol was stamped there, only the writing was different.
"Woh, where did that come from?" Isaac gasped.
"Before you kill me look at this." Heidi said tossing the dagger at the woman's feet.
She slowly bent down to pick the object up never taking her eyes off of the young pair. Slowly she looked down at the hilt. Her eyes went wide at she spied the symbol.
"Where did you get this?" She gasped.
"From a friend." Heidi said, "We are looking for…"
"I know what you seek." The woman snapped cutting Heidi off, "But you'll never find it. I won't let you."
"I don't want it." Heidi replied, "I'm here to keep someone else from getting it."
"That's right." Isaac nodded, "A knight in purple armour, right?"
"When did you hear that?" Heidi frowned.
"Just try to keep a secret in our town." Isaac replied.
"What about the others?" The woman growled, "The tall man, the male and female demons, also the two knights in red and their small squire in white."
Heidi had to think for a moment before responding.
"Those are my friends." She said, "We're all here to stop the purple knight."
"He must be a very powerful warrior to require such a force." The woman said lowering her axe.
"He possesses a power given to him by the devil." Heidi replied deciding to give in to their folklore.
"Really?" Isaac gasped.
"Yes." Heidi sighed, "He has super human speed and strength. His thirst for death and destruction is unquenchable. We have faced him a couple times and failed."
Heidi reached up and touched the bandage on her neck.
"What makes you think you can stop him now?" The woman frowned.
"Something drew me to this village." Heidi replied, "Something in my very soul told me the answer is here."
The woman handed back the dagger hilt then gestured to the chairs where they each took a seat.
"My name is Annette." The woman said, "What I am about to tell you may sound very strange. I am of mixed blood. Not race mind you but species. My ancestral mother came to this place long ago with a few Earthlings. Here they established a small community with the sole purpose of keeping it hidden. My family story says that she and everyone on this world came from another place, another universe."
"Yes, I too can trace my blood line back to this other universe." Heidi nodded.
"Then that is how you knew to come here." Annette said, "Then you must also know of Profound Darkness."
"What?" Heidi frowned.
"A being of pure evil." Annette said, "Once imprisoned on a burnt out world he escaped and came to our world searching for it. He destroyed the planet before he was divided into three parts and cast throughout the universe. One part flesh, one of bone, and one of soul."
"Dark Falz." Heidi muttered.
"What was that?" Annette asked.
"My friend Cerberus told me of a dark entity buried in an ancient space craft they found on a planet." Heidi explained, "It absorbed all the people in the colony then used a poor young woman to create a new body. It was in this space craft they found a map to this universe."
"It must be the creature's soul." Annette said, "Where is this entity now?"
"From my understanding it was turned to flesh and destroyed." Heidi said.
"How?" Isaac gasped.
"I don't know." Heidi shrugged, "Cerberus never had time to go into it but he did mention that the purple knight received his power from this entity."
"Then the soul is already here." Annette gasped standing up.
"But if the other parts are somewhere else." Heidi started.
"If the soul is free then it will be drawn to its other parts." Annette said, "If the knight is here then his other parts are here too, or at least access to them."
"Is it possible the other parts came through the same door you did?" Isaac asked.
"Anything is possible." Annette said, "When David was born I knew this day was coming but I had hoped it would take longer."
"I still don't understand." Isaac said.
"Neither do I." Heidi shook her head.
"We must find David." Annette said, "He is in great danger."
Kireek found himself a minion to a more powerful being once again and this irritated him to no end. He had become used to searching for his own goals and had even learned to tune out the nagging voice in his head. This power of life was supposed to be his and not someone else's. He could already feel this creatures influence over him, directing him, controlling him. Worse yet now this creature knew where this planet was and Kireek could feel it trying to reach out. It would find a way here, Kireek knew this all too well and it actually frightened him. He entered a small dirt road and began to follow it down a hill. It gently curved left and behind some thick brush. He could hear voices farther ahead. Voices he knew very well.
"Cerberus." He growled.
The android and his party were moving away. An ambush from behind would easily take out the others but the RAcast still possessed Deepfreeze's sword. The counter part to Kireek's Soul Eater. Forged from the same piece of metal and charged with the same photon generator the Spirit Guard was the only weapon that could destroy him and his Soul Eater. The photon generator had overloaded during the charging process giving the Soul Eater its viral properties and which linked the two weapons together. Thanks to Dark Falz not only did the Soul Eater feed off of Kireek's soul it also bonded to it so now for either of them to die, both must be destroyed. It was a life insurance policy that Kireek quite enjoyed.
"Attacking the others would give Cerberus too much of an opportunity to attack." A voice in his head said.
It was bad enough he had to listen to Dark Falz all these years, now he had to listen to this being.
"Fool!" The voice screamed, "Same voice, just two parts complete."
"Don't try to deceive me creature." Kireek replied, "I know as well as you that soul is not yours. You're just using it like you use me."
"Silence and obey me."
"Didn't expect this link did you?" Kireek grinned, "I know you. The physical energy of your soul is lost but its essence remains with your bones. Who do you plan on using for your skin?"
"Your link is not as perfect as you think." It snapped, "This soul may not be my original but it is a spawn of my soul. Now be silent or the others will hear you."
"Why do you fear them?" Kireek frowned, "I don't even fear them."
"I know what that android has done in the past." The creature growled, "I can not afford to let him interfere. I am too close to completing my plans. Too close to becoming whole again."
"There you are!" Another voice said.
Kireek looked down the road and glared at the red RAcast pointing at him. His three friends were backing him up.
"Yes, here I am." Kireek growled, "I ought to finish you here and now."
"What's stopping you?" Cerberus smirked.
Phoenix took a step forward ready to charge but Cerberus pulled him back.
"Not yet." He said softly.
"Short answer, IT." Kireek replied then thought, "That should throw him off a bit."
"He is the immortal evil, he can not be destroyed." Kireek waved, "A piece of him always survives. Fused to me and my Soul Eater. He has found a new host and soon he will be restored and will rain death down on you."
"Then we will have to destroy you!" Phoenix yelled.
"You are too late cast." Kireek grinned, "I expect nothing less than complete failure from such an inferior model."
"Inferior!" Phoenix cried, "I am far more advanced than you. You are nothing more than scrap and I will help you get there."
Phoenix charged forward before Cerberus could stop him.
"Blast." Cerberus grumbled.
He ran after the cast as Lisa and Jon took positions on his sides. Kireek blocked Phoenix knuckles then took a swipe with the scythe catching Phoenix in the arm. His line shield deflected the shot.
"What!" Kireek gasped.
"Lost a little power huh?" Phoenix grinned.
He drove forward for another attack. Kireek did his best to block but the fury of slashing and rapid jabs from Phoenix photon art cut into Kireek's armour driving the android back.
"You will pay for that!" Kireek said clutching his chest.
"You have nothing left." Phoenix grinned.
Cerberus, Lisa, and Jon circled around surrounding the android.
"Give up Kireek." Cerberus said, "You've lost."
"DON"T LET THEM CATCH YOU!" The voice screamed.
Kireek cried out and launched himself at Lisa knocking her on her back. He leaped off of her and ran into the forest. Lisa quickly twisted to her belly and fired. The shot caught Kireek in the side causing him to stumble before he disappeared into the woods.
"He still got his speed." Jon said helping Lisa up.
"Yes but did you see how my line shield repelled his attack?" Phoenix mumbled.
"He should have sliced right through your arm." Cerberus nodded.
"Perhaps the Spirit Guard is no longer required to kill him." Lisa said stowing her gun.
"He's still bonded to the Soul Eater." Cerberus shook his head, "He'll still keep coming back it's just easier to hack him up now."
"Enough talk." Phoenix barked, "We need to follow him."
"No, we need to find Heidi." Jon pointed, "If she's out there by herself with that crazed cast running around…"
"Alright." Cerberus nodded, "Phoenix, take Lisa and go after Kireek. Jon and I will try to
Phoenix nodded then looked down at the little android.
"Are you a capable warrior?"
Lisa drew her L&K 14 Combat mechguns and calked each one for show.
"More than you are." She smirked.
"We shall see." Phoenix grinned and took off into the woods.
Cerberus turned around and stared at the road they had been following.
"My scanners don't detect any additional life forms around but there must be some." He said, "This road has recently been used."
"Then we continue to follow it." Jon said and headed down the hill.
The road lead them to a small village bustling with activity. Shops were lined up on both sides of the road. Homes and farms were built up on side streets and surrounding fields. The new comers drew a few stares but little else.
"Strange reaction." Jon said.
"Yes, we should be drawing much more attention."
A tall man wearing a long blue coat and AMF pants and boots exited the local bar followed by a beast woman wearing a local dress.
"I don't believe it." Jon said, "There's our answer."
"Iceberg!" Cerberus called.
The man waved and casually strolled over to the two Guardians.
"Jonathan Kimble." Iceberg smiled, "It is a pleasure to see you here. You as well Cerberus."
"Jonathan?" Cerberus asked softly.
"It's good to see you." Jon smiled ignoring Cerberus, "And Isis, what are you wearing?"
"The locals didn't approve of my wardrobe." Isis grinned with a shrug, "Can't say I blamed them."
"What?" Jon frowned.
"Long story." Isis waved, "Anyway they didn't like our modern look so they gave Heidi and me this nice dress."
"Heidi, she's here?" Jon asked quickly.
"Somewhere." Isis nodded, "She's out questioning the locals. Said something about finding the key here. That's a very odd daughter you have."
"She hasn't been acting herself lately." Jon sighed.
"We need to find her quickly." Cerberus said.
"You think she's in trouble?" Isis asked.
"If she feels the key here then so will Kireek." Cerberus nodded.
"We should see if the locals have seen her then." Iceberg said then turned and walked off.
The others quickly split up leaving Jon standing by the saloon entrance. He stood standing there deep in thought then slapped himself in the forehead.
"The com unit." He said and tapped his ear piece.
"David honey!" Annette called, "Where are you?"
There was no response.
"Come out sweetie." Annette called out, "Mommy promises these people won't hurt you."
"Really?" A boy's voice replied.
"Have I ever lied to you before?" Annette asked.
"No." The boy sighed.
A young boy about the age of ten stepped out from behind a large tree. He was dressed in a similar white shirt and brown trousers that Isaac wore but they were much dirtier. His skin was pale white and a direct contrast to his short black hair that seemed to absorb light itself. Heidi gasped as his gaze moved from Isaac to lock eyes with her. His eyes were completely white except for the tiny black dot that was his pupil. Set against the white of his eyes were latterly small flames waving and flickering just as any fire would as it licked away at its fuel.
"I don't believe it." Isaac gasped, "What does your science say about that?"
Heidi couldn't reply. The boy moved forward never breaking his gaze with Heidi until he stopped right in front of her.
"I felt you coming." He said.
"How, why?" Heidi squeaked out.
"You and I are connected." The boy said sounding much older, "We are counter beings, opposites. We feel the same evil."
"Even now he is searching." Heidi said in an almost trance like state.
"His servant is getting close." David said.
"The purple knight?" Isaac asked.
"That's right." David nodded, "He does not know, but he is actually looking for me."
"Wait, I thought he was looking for the life power." Isaac frowned.
"He is, but to find it he must find me first." David sighed, "And his servant shall lead him right here."
He looked up at Heidi and frowned.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Heidi frowned, "Oh no, not me. I came here to protect you and the life power."
"If you say so." David replied and turned away.
"I'm a Guardian and my mission is to stop the knight from finding you." Heidi frowned.
"Impossible, the Black Hound will find his prey and then the darkness will rise again." David said, "Even now he grows in strength. He only needs to find his flesh."
David sniffed the air around him stopping at Heidi.
"You smell of his flesh." David said, "You have done battle with it. Your clothing underneath that dress is soaked with his scent."
"But what could that be." Heidi frowned, "The only threat to the Gurhal system right now
is the Seed."
"The Seed?" Isaac frowned.
"I smell another evil." David said, "Similar to his flesh but different. What else are you hiding under your dress?"
"David!" Annette snapped.
"Secret is out." Heidi sighed, "Come on out Sato."
The little blue fox crawled out from under her dress and took her position above Heidi's shoulder.
"Everyone, this is my good friend Sato." Heidi smiled.
"What is that thing?" Isaac gasped stepping back.
"Sato is a Mag, a living machine." Heidi said.
"Infused with evil." David said stepping back.
"Oh no, Sato isn't bad." Heidi waved her hand, "She's really quite sweet."
"And this Seed?" Annette asked.
"That is evil." Heidi said, "They drop giant seed pods down on our planets that spread spores all over the landing site. It infects plants and animals, changing them. At first people appeared to be immune but it eventually started infecting us as well. It mutates them into these twisted violent creatures."
"What did you do?" Isaac gasped.
"At first all we could do was kill and purify the creatures but now we have a vaccine that so far restores them back."
Heidi's com link started to beep causing Annette and Isaac to step back. David didn't budge. Heidi reached up to her ear and tapped her communicator.
"Yes." She said.
"Heidi, thank goodness." Her father replied, "Where are you?'
"Geese Dad you've got to stop fussing over me." Heidi grumbled, "I'm a big girl now and can take care of my self."
"I'm sorry but I am your father." Jon replied, "It's my job. Now where are you?"
"Fine." Heidi grumbled, "I'm at a small cabin just outside of a village I found."
"I'm at that village now." Jon said.
"Is Cerberus with you?" Heidi asked.
"He's around here somewhere." Jon said.
"Tell him I found the key and we'll be back shortly." Heidi said and cut the com then grumbled, "He's probably been fussing over me too."
The others remained silent and stared at her.
"What!" Heidi snapped, "I am a full grown woman capable of taking care of my self."
She paused for a moment then took a deep breath.
"I'm sorry guys." She said, "I didn't mean that. I just haven't been feeling myself lately."
David nodded with a frown then turned and headed for the village. The others fell in behind him with his mother staying close to his side.
"Are you alright?" Isaac asked softly.
"I think so." Heidi nodded, "This seems to be happening more and more lately. I don't have a temper but now it seems like the smallest things will set me off. I don't like it."
"If there's anything I can do?" Isaac started.
"Thanks but there isn't." Heidi sighed, "Except bare with me and remember that I don't mean any of it."
"Deal." Isaac nodded.
David suddenly stopped and looked around.
"David, are you all right?" Annette asked.
"Mom, where are we going?" David asked.
Heidi leaned over to Isaac and whispered, "The child is back."
"What?" Isaac frowned.
"Just watch." Heidi nodded.
"To the village to get help." Annette said.
"No!" David cried and started to run back to the house.
"Woh there big guy." Isaac said as he grabbed David's arm.
"No don't take me there." David struggled to get free.
"Remember we are not welcome at the village and the villagers were not exactly nice to us." Annette said.
"A witch and a demon." Isaac sighed, "I remember."
"You do not seem afraid. Annette said.
"I admit Ma'am that when I first came I was." Isaac said holding David tight, "Now that I've met you I see those stories are false. While I can not explain the boys strange appearance I do know you are not evil."
"I can protect you from the villagers but I can not protect you from the purple knight." Heidi said kneeling down to David, "My friends are in the village and they can help me to keep you safe."
"Those people are mean!" David glared, "I won't go there."
"They won't hurt you with me around." Heidi smiled, "Sato here won't let them hurt you either."
Sato gave out a happy meow.
"Why does your fox meow like a cat?" David frowned.
"She's a very confused fox." Heidi shrugged. "So, what do you say? Come with me to the village. It's much safer there."
"You promise they won't hurt me or my mom." David frowned.
"Cross my heart." Heidi smiled holding out her hand.
"Ok." David nodded taking her hand then smiled, "You're very pretty."
"And you are a very handsome young man." Heidi grinned.
She stood up and started for the village. David looked at Isaac and stuck out his tongue at him as Heidi led him away. Isaac raised his eyebrows then frowned at the boy taking up a position in the rear. Annette fell in beside Isaac and watched Heidi until they had made it half way back to the village before whispering to Isaac.
"She's a remarkable young woman."
"Ya, she's something else." Isaac nodded, "She's very pretty but there's something about her that goes beyond physical beauty. She's almost magnetic."
"Normally I'd blame it on you but the way David has taken to her forces me to agree with you." Annette replied, "He's usually very weary of strangers and actually I've never seen him warm up to anyone before."
David had started chatting away with Heidi shortly after they had left and now he was in full story mode exchanging fables and questions with her. Isaac watched for a moment then chuckled softly.
"I remember my first crush. I wasn't much older."
"What?" Annette gasped.
"Don't tell me you never had a crush on a boy." Isaac said.
"Of course I did but David is much too little." Annette said.
"I hate to be the barer of bad new, but your little boy is growing up." Isaac smiled.
"I know." Annette sighed, "I just hoped it would take longer."
"Ha, ha, ha, my mom said the same thing." Isaac chuckled.
"But she's so much older, is that normal?" Annette asked.
"Didn't you ever have a crush on a teacher when you were young?" Isaac asked.
"No, though my best friend did." Annette sighed.
"There you go." Isaac smiled, "Crushes don't mean anything. He just needs to meet some kids his own age. Then Heidi will be just a forgotten memory."
"I wish that were true, but the villagers fear and David's strange appearance will prevent that from happening." Annette shook her head.
"Don't be so sure." Isaac said, "If the villagers can accept Heidi and her friends then they'll be able to accept you too."
"I hope you're right." Annette tried to smile.
They entered the village from the same road they had departed from. Heidi led them down a side road heading for the main street. Up ahead Iceberg was taking to a local woman.
"Iceberg!" Heidi waved.
She felt David's hand tense up.
"It's OK, he's my friend." She said.
Iceberg nodded to the woman then walked over to the group. Heidi could see the fear wash over the woman as she spotted David and his mother. She quickly ran inside slamming the door shut. Iceberg stopped and looked down at the boy. David slunk in behind Heidi peering out from behind her dress.
"Who is your new boyfriend?" Iceberg asked.
His deep booming voice scared David back behind the dress. Sato chirped out a meow.
"His name is David." Heidi said, "He's what we came here for."
Iceberg raised an eyebrow as he glared down at the boy then frowned at Heidi.
"I know it sounds strange but it's true." She said.
"And the purple knight will be looking for him." Isaac said.
"Purple knight?" Iceberg asked.
"Kireek." Heidi said softly.
"Ah." Iceberg nodded, "Then come along young man. There are others looking forward to meeting you."
He turned and headed for the main road. Heidi started to follow but stopped when David grabbed her hand. She looked back and saw tears welling up.
"Hey." She said softly, "Remember my promise."
He nodded but still didn't move.
"Don't be scared of Iceberg." Heidi smiled, "He's very nice. He only looks big and scary to frighten the bad guys."
David nodded and allowed her to lead him to the main road. Jon and Isis were waiting in front of the saloon. All activity stopped as David and Annette stepped out. Whispers quickly spread as everyone watched the group. The mayor dropped what he was doing and reluctantly crept over to the group.
"What are you doing?" He asked keeping his head down.
"Annette and her son are in danger." Heidi said, "We brought them here to protect them."
"In danger?" The mayor scowled, "They are the danger."
"Don't be ridiculous old man." Annette growled.
"These two are not to be feared." Heidi said.
"They are not witches or demons." Isaac added.
"The purple knight is the only danger." Heidi said, "And he will be coming for the boy."
"Then let evil have its child." The mayor spat.
"My son is not a demon!" Annette cried.
"Be silent witch." The mayor snapped, "You are lucky we let you live."
Heidi lunged forward grabbing the mayor by the collar and slammed him up against one of the pillars supporting the saloon awning.
"She is not a witch." She growled, "Now you listen, and listen carefully. That boy is the key to our salvation. If the purple knight gets his hands on him, you and all of your ignorant followers will be wiped off the face of this planet and every life form in the universe will fall to its evil. That boy has never done a single thing to you but you cast him away just because you didn't understand. He's just a little different like me so start showing a little respect."
"I was right." The mayor sneered, "You are a demon."
Heidi cried out and drilled the mayor in the face with a full fisted punch. The mayor dropped like a rock. It didn't knock him out but he was stunned.
"Heidi!" Jon gasped.
"I'm sorry; I don't know what came over me." She said.
Her hands were still shaking.
"These outbursts of yours are getting worse." Cerberus said, "I'm starting to get worried."
"Why is everyone always worrying about me?" Heidi started to yell then froze.
A cold chill washed over her. She slowly turned and looked down the main road to the forest. Up on the hill glaring down at them stood Kireek.
Kireek looked the small group over with contempt. He had worked hard to lose the other two only to run into more. His gaze shifted to the black haired boy standing by his mother.
"No, it can't be!" The voice in his head gasped.
"It's a human child." Kireek said, "He is no threat."
"Fool, he is no normal child." The voice growled, "He is the controller."
"What are you blabbering about?" Kireek grumbled.
"That child can open the power and control it." The voice said, "He is the only one who can. It was his ancestor that split me and cast me out among the stars. Without him the power source is useless."
"Are you telling me that if I found this power it would be useless to me?" Kireek growled.
"What, you thought you were going to be able to use it." The voice chuckled, "You are a fool."
"So how do you intend to use it?" Kireek frowned.
"You should be familiar with the properties of my soul." The voice sneered.
"Dark Falz." Kireek growled, "You intend to absorb him."
"I had hoped to do it while he was an infant." The voice said, "You were late."
"I did not realize I was working on your schedule." Kireek growled.
"You have always been on my schedule." The voice said.
"No, I was controlled by Falz." Kireek said, "You are not Falz."
"I am greater than Falz. Falz was me." The voice screamed causing Kireek a great deal of pain, "Now bring me that child alive!"
"I shall obey." Kireek said clutching his head.
"Now that is weird." Isis said, "What do you think his problem is?"
"It appears he is under someone's control." Cerberus said, "Last time I saw him act like that was back on Ragol."
"Think he was telling the truth about Dark Falz being alive?" Jon asked.
"I'm starting to lean that way." Cerberus nodded.
"It is far worse than that." David said sounding older again, "The Dark One is awake and he is reaching out for our world."
"What!" Annette gasped, "Are you sure?"
"Yes mother." David nodded, "I see the Dark Ones aura around the purple knight."
"How do you know it's the Dark One?" Iceberg asked, "Have you seen it before?"
"I have never seen it yet I know it." David said.
"A genetic tag." Heidi said still staring at Kireek.
Cerberus looked down at her and noticed her eyes had changed again.
"It is in his blood just as it's in mine. I passed all my experience and memories down to my children."
"Heidi?" Jon said slowly.
"It's happening again." Cerberus replied.
"I spent my life fighting to prevent this and yet here we are watching it happen anyway." Heidi said, "We have to stop this now."
She pulled off the dress and drew her daggers.
"Heidi?" Cerberus said grabbing her shoulder, "What are you doing?"
"No Cerberus, it's me and I'm doing what I always do." Heidi replied.
"Amanda." Cerberus said softly.
"Who else?" Heidi replied.
"This isn't right." Cerberus shook his head, "You can't take over your granddaughter like this."
"What are you taking about?" Heidi frowned.
"Don't you remember the reflection in the lake?" Cerberus asked.
"I also remember someone stunning me." Heidi glared at Sato.
The Mag back away and sat behind Cerberus' shoulder.
"You hurt Heidi when you do this." Cerberus said.
"The fate of the universe is more important than this." Heidi said, "Deepfreeze understood, heck he practiced it."
"But he wasn't willing to sacrifice someone else for this." Cerberus released her shoulder, "If you were really Amanda you wouldn't be doing this. Please give us Heidi back before we lose her completely."
"She has her own battle to fight right now." Heidi said, "She can't handle that and Kireek."
"What are you talking about?" Jon frowned.
"Will someone please tell me what's going on here?" Iceberg frowned.
"Not now Mr. Iceberg." Heidi said as she watched Kireek charge down the hill.
"Oh great." Cerberus said drawing his sword.
Iceberg took position beside him as Jon drew his rod. Isis quickly ushered everyone into the Saloon. Heidi stood ready lightly bouncing on her toes ready to strike.
"Isis!" Cerberus called, "Try to contact Phoenix and Lisa. We are going to need them."
Isis nodded then pointed behind him. Cerberus turned to see Heidi bolt ahead charging for the android. Sato meowed softly.
"I know, she's going to get us all killed." Cerberus grumbled.
Kireek ducked a Foie blast from Jon then sidestepped Heidi's attack drilling the butt of the Soul Eater into her stomach knocking her down. He chopped down at her but she rolled out of the way springing to her feet.
"You fight like your grandmother." Kireek sneered.
"More than you know." Heidi replied.
"Amanda, so you left your granddaughter to deal with the other me." Kireek grinned.
"And we're both going to kick your butt." Heidi grinned.
"I think not." Kireek smiled and ducked just as a Foie ball flashed over his head.
He raised his Soul Eater to strike but a series of shots knocked him off balance. He regained his balance only to block an attack from Cerberus. The two weapons collided in a shower of sparks. The Spirit Guard left a small knick in the shaft of the Soul Eater. Kireek laughed and whipped out a leg kicking a charging Heidi. The impact sent her on her back.
"You hunters are still just as pathetic as ever." Kireek sneered.
Heidi sprang forward driving a dagger into his side. Kireek yelled more out of anger than pain, pushed Cerberus back and swung at Heidi. She tried to fall back but the Soul Eater caught the side of her arm giving her a nasty cut. Heidi regained her footing as Cerberus attacked again. Kireek blocked with his Soul Eater then spotted Heidi charging at him. He got his left arm up just in time to block her. He jabbed his foot at Cerberus' knee knocked the big android off balance then swung at Heidi forcing her to jump back. He turned to attack Cerberus only to be pounded by a series of gun shots followed by a massive technique explosion. Kireek was slow to climb to his feet. Heidi charged forward swinging in a series of dagger strikes. Kireek blocked most of them but a few got through chipping away at his armour. He made a final block then ducked and swept the girls feet out. He tried to chop the girl in half but Cerberus blocked with his sword. Kireek quickly drew a confuse trap and threw it in Cerberus' face. It exploded in a purple mist. Cerberus' systems went crazy. Kireek swung up to chop him down when a ball of molten lava slammed into him. He was blasted back landing on his back. He slowly climbed to his feet only to be knocked down by Heidi's shoulder check. He sprang to his feet and chopped at the girl. She blocked with her left dagger and drove her right in. Kireek knocked it away but Heidi followed her momentum, releasing the Soul Eater and ended up behind the android. She swung back feeling her weapon sink into metal. Kireek roared and spun around swinging his weapon. The shaft caught Heidi knocking her down. Kireek turned to glare at her with anger.
"I know Amanda and you are not Amanda." Kireek spat.
Several shots slammed into his chest. He growled and charged at Iceberg. The ranger continued to fire but Kireek dodged every shot. He slammed the end of the Soul Eater into Iceberg's chest knocking him to the ground. Kireek swung to chop the man but Cerberus blocked with his sword.
"You are starting to annoy me." Kireek growled.
Cerberus started to reply but Jon clubbed the android in the head with his rod. The android slumped to the ground but quickly recovered. Heidi charged in swinging her daggers in a quick series of jabs. Kireek blocked but she didn't give him an opportunity to counter attack. A pink light formed around her as she suddenly whipped around him slicing at his armour then an upper slice knocked him back as she rose up into the air. Her daggers spun free of her hands then sliced with a downwards left to right attack. It pierced Kireek's armour and severed a few circuits.
"Retreat!" The voice boomed.
Kireek growled clutching his chest but did not argue. He turned and ran for the forest. Heidi stood frozen as though she had been stunned.
She was back in the field. The ships were gone and the sky was cloudy. A white haired Newman woman stood in front of her. She was dressed in the same green uniform that had been stored in Jon's chest. The woman was smiling at Heidi.
"What was that just now?" The woman asked.
"It's called a photon art." Heidi said, "We learn them in the Guardians."
"Works pretty good with my old daggers."
"Ya I guess they do." Heidi smiled.
"It's very impressive." Amanda nodded.
"It's one of many skills I learned." Heidi said, "Please Grandma, let me be me. I thank you for the experience you've given me but I really need to be me. I can finish what you started. Trust me."
"I think you are right." Amanda nodded, "Cerberus was right though, if I really was the real Amanda I never would have done this. My job was to lead you here not to take over. I am sorry. I shall leave you my wisdom and I'll take care of that piece of Kireek that has haunted you for so long."
"Thank you Grandma." Heidi smiled.
"Just don't let your guard down." Amanda said, "There is something else in here besides the shadow of Kireek and it's trying to take over."
"So you feel it too?" Heidi gasped.
"Yes, it's the work of the Soul Eater." Amanda nodded, "I can't help you with that."
"I'll be ready." Heidi nodded.
"That's my girl." Amanda smiled and slowly vanished.
A tap on her shoulder brought Heidi back to the village.
"Amanda, are you alright?" Cerberus asked.
"Amanda is gone." Heidi said looking up at Cerberus with bright blue eyes, "I'm me again."
"Thank the holy light." Jon said and hugged her tight.
"The cast has escaped." Iceberg growled.
"Yes, but he didn't get what he wanted." Cerberus said, "He'll be back."
Isis' communicator beeped. She quickly tapped it and nodded a couple of times before releasing it.
"Phoenix and Lisa have picked up Kireek's trail and are following him now." She said.
"They better be careful." Jon said.
"He's with Lisa." Cerberus said stowing his sword, "She knows Kireek very well. She'll keep Phoenix out of trouble."
"Phoenix can be head strong and stubborn." Isis said, "He may not listen."
"Lisa's got his back." Cerberus shrugged, "She's good like that."
His prey was close and it was wounded. He could smell the electrical discharge from the severed wires and the fluids leaking from the broken lines. He didn't think the wound was bad but it was enough to give him a trail to follow. He quickly and silently slipped from tree to tree which was quite a feat for a cast of his size. He checked to make sure his knuckles were secure then bolted from his cover to the next tree. He didn't even hear the little android that was following him as she took his previous position. An expert hunter she was. Phoenix actually found himself glad that she was with him. His prey had slowed its pace unaware that it was being stalked. Better yet it was headed back to the landing sight where the rogue pirate Tylor waited. Lisa quietly ran up beside him and pointed to where the prey was. Phoenix nodded then signalled for her to go ahead and come in from the right. She nodded and quickly ran off. That should steer Kireek right to Tylor. Phoenix frowned as something started to nag him in the back of his brain. Something about this situation was wrong. Kireek was damaged and the only place to repair would be the flyer, but he must realize that they would have tracked his flyer and landed there.
"Perhaps he thinks we came in a flyer as well." Phoenix thought to himself, "Which would also be empty. He's in for a shock."
Phoenix quietly slipped to the next tree taking only a second to look around the trunk. He spotted Kireek walking away slightly bent over with a deep cut in his back.
"That looks like a dagger wound." Phoenix muttered then smiled, "Good girl."
His former student had learned her lessons well and was on her way to becoming a skilled hunter. No where near as skilled as he but then no flesh could ever match a cast. He peered out again. Lisa was moving in. Kireek noticed her and turned left. Good, he was in no mood for a fight. Kireek disappeared into the thick brush that lined the forest edge. Phoenix bolted to where Lisa stood. She looked hesitant to follow. Phoenix started to enter the bush but Lisa grabbed his arm.
"No." She said, "That's what he wants."
"Release me woman." Phoenix growled.
Lisa did but she also shot him a nasty scowl. Phoenix took a step forward.
"What are you doing?" Lisa growled.
"Claiming my prey." Phoenix replied.
"Phoenix no." Lisa horsed.
Phoenix ignored her and entered the thick bush. He never saw the attack. Something solid smashed into him from the left. Phoenix landed on his face. Something heavy pressed down on his back and a long staff stomped down in front of his face.
"You should have listened to her." Kireek sneered, "She's far smarter than you."
"Thank you, that's very kind." Lisa smirked.
She leaped at Kireek smashing her shoulder into his side. Kireek was knocked off of Phoenix landing hard on his back. Phoenix climbed to his feet but not before Kireek leaped to his. He swung hard drilling Lisa with his fist then charged at Phoenix. The cast barely had time to brace for the attack locking his knuckles with the scythe. Kireek growled as he pressed on the cast forcing him back.
"I shall enjoy the taste of your soul." Kireek sneered.
"A taste is the best you might get." Phoenix replied, "Right before it obliterates yours."
"You do not have the power to defeat me." Kireek growled.
"Alone, perhaps not." Phoenix replied, "But I'm not alone."
Lisa fired several rounds blasting away at Kireek's armour. The android was forced to release Phoenix to shield himself against the barrage of bullets. Phoenix charged forward to strike. Kireek sprang at Lisa chopping as he flew through the air. The Soul Eater sliced through Lisa's new line shield and dug into her side. She cried out as several lines and circuits were cut. Phoenix swung at Kireek who blocked with his shield. Phoenix immediately swung his left knuckle at the android. Kireek pulled his scythe free and used it to block. Lisa collapsed as the scythe pulled free from her side and tore out the front. Phoenix withdrew his knuckle and prepared to jab but Kireek landed a solid punch first. Phoenix stumbled back then charged forward in a quick series of jabs and punches, purple energy flowed with every movement. Kireek was driven back finally falling on his back. Lisa aimed from the ground and fired a couple rounds. The shots dug into Kireek's chest armour. She pulled the trigger again but the photon pack shorted in one of her guns forcing her to toss it away. It exploded right between the two androids. Kireek and Phoenix were sent flying back. Lisa uncovered her face and looked around. Phoenix was slow to get up but Kireek was gone.
"Dang, we lost him." She growled.
Phoenix got to his knees and started to get up then collapsed on his left hand. Lisa was slow to get up then limped over to him.
"Phoenix, what's wrong?" She asked.
"I seem to be injured." He winced.
"You feel pain?" Lisa frowned.
"Don't you?" Phoenix asked as he straightened up.
"I detect damage but it's a simple message sent to my brain." Lisa shrugged, "It doesn't physically impede me the way it does humans."
"And yet you can't move much better than I can." Phoenix pointed.
"Never said physical damage wouldn't slow me down." Lisa shrugged.
Phoenix lifted his right arm to examine his side. A piece of the guns handgrip had blown free and imbedded itself in his side. He carefully grabbed the piece of metal and pulled it free.
"Ah, that's better." He said but he was still slow at standing.
"Let me see." Lisa said grabbing his hand.
"Not necessary." Phoenix said pulling his hand free.
"Don't be stupid." Lisa shot and grabbed his arm.
She lifted his arm up and examined the damage. Some pink liquid slowly oozed through the small hole.
"It punctured a fluid line." She said.
"It's not bad." Phoenix grumbled.
"Unlike humans, we don't clot." Lisa jabbed him in the chest, "We just drain until there's nothing left."
"My auto repair system will take care of it." Phoenix pulled away.
"And I can fix it now." She snapped pulling him back.
She pulled a small pistol like tool from a kit she drew from her nanotransformer and slowly stuck the end into the hole pressing it up against the puncture. She gently squeezed the trigger releasing a foam epoxy that covered the hole then hardened sealing it. She used the epoxy to cover the ends of the severed wires so they wouldn't short against his casing.
"There, was that so bad?" She smiled.
"I…" Phoenix started then clamped shut.
He stared down at the little android who frowned back placing her hands on her hips.
"Thank you." He said softly.
She nodded then quickly went to sealing her own damage before storing the tool back in the kit. Phoenix checked his systems then they headed back to the ship.
Tylor had the entire Landeel crew on repair duty while the Guardians were away. The ship had never been designed to travel faster than light so every bolt, rivet, and seam needed inspecting. Young Stanley Martin was the newest member of the crew. Being a nineteen year old beast meant he felt he had to prove himself and was usually the hardest working member of the crew. He was also a quiet young man who was always willing to help his pears. He had quickly earned the admiration and respect of the crew and hoped he was also beginning to catch the eye of the very cute Liina. He was inspecting the port side of the ship just in front of the engines. He bent down to take a close look at the attachment point of the port engine when something caught his eye. Something small and dark was nestled between the engine and the hull. Using his hover board he lowered himself down to the strange object. It was a purple and black pod. He gave the pod a poke with his scanner. It was soft. He ran a quick scan and gasped at the readings. He quickly tapped his communicator.
"Captain Tylor, Crewman Martin here."
"Go ahead Crewman." Tylor replied.
"Sir, I'm here by the port engine." Martin said, "I found a strange pod attached to the hull. My scans indicate that it is of Seed origin."
"Don't do anything Crewman." Tylor said, "I'll be right there."
"Aye Sir." Martin nodded.
The pod began to pulse slowly. Stanley didn't notice it right away. It started to peel open into four tentacles. Stanley slowly turned to the pod and gasped. He tried to back away but the tentacle lashed out, grabbing his head and pulled him in. He kicked and pounded trying to free himself but it wouldn't let go until he stopped moving, then both creatures fell to the ground. Tylor and Liina stepped off the ramp just as the body hit the ground.
"No!" Liina gasped.
Tylor quickly ran over to the body and checked for life. He looked up at Liina and slowly shook his head. She slowly walked over to the body and looked down at the poor boy. Tylor got up and went to inspect the Seed pod. He even nudged it with his foot.
"It appears to be dead." He said.
"I've never seen a Seed creature like that before." Liina frowned.
"There's probably a lot of Seed we haven't seen yet." Tylor frowned, "No telling what's pouring out of Rykros."
"We must have picked it up as we left the system." Liina said.
"Killer space barnacles." Tylor frowned, "That's all we need."
"I'll have the body moved to medical." Liina said softly.
"Put the crew on alert." Tylor nodded, "No telling how many more of these we picked up."
Tylor looked out toward the forest. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw something move behind the flyer.
"Hmm." He muttered softly and drew his twin sabres.
He crept over to the flyer staying tight against the hull. Quietly he moved toward the rear hatch. The ramp was still down but the hatch was closed. He slowly ascended up the ramp and tried the door switch. It was locked. He stowed a sabre and drew his handgun ready to blast the lock. He paused when Phoenix and Lisa ran up the ramp. Tylor nodded to the door. Phoenix nodded and equipped his knuckles taking a spot beside Tylor. Lisa stayed back to provide cover fire with her remaining combat. Tylor fired blasting the door bolt from its frame. It failed to release the door.
"It's a pressure door." Phoenix said softly, "It will have several bolts securing it."
"Do we really care if we take this guy alive?" Tylor asked.
"I don't." Phoenix shook his head.
"Then I have the perfect cure for a stubborn door." Tylor smirked.
From his jacket pocket he drew a small explosive device. Phoenix nodded and backed down the ramp grabbing Lisa's shoulder as he took cover. The little android followed without question. Tylor set the charge against the door then backed away. When he was covered he firmly pressed the trigger button. The door exploded in a spray of hot metal shards. The Guardians quickly rushed the flyer but it was empty.
"He's not here." Lisa shrugged.
"That door was not locked before." Tylor pointed.
"Did you actually see him enter?" Phoenix asked.
"No." Tylor shook his head.
"This Kireek is crafty." Phoenix grumbled, "If he did not board the flyer then…"
"The Landeel." Tylor gasped.
He rushed out of the flyer and ran for the Landeel's boarding ramp. His two guards were dead, slashed from the right shoulder to the lower abdomen. He hurried inside with the two Guardians right on his heels. Inside the crew were rushing around trying to deal with the unfortunate ones that crossed the androids path. His trail lead to the Landeel medical center. Liina was outside tending to one of the medical staff.
"Tylor!" She called.
"Status." Tylor said as he ran up.
"That cast." Liina gasped, "He cut down everyone he saw. He's inside there."
Liina nodded to the medical bay door. Tylor waited for the Guardians to take position before opening the door. They rushed in blocking the exit. Kireek was standing over the body of Crewman Martin. He ignored the interruption, staring down at the dead beast.
"I did not know why I was being drawn here." Kireek said, "Now I see. His flesh came with you."
Kireek stepped back as the body began to flash in a bright light.
"It can't be." Phoenix gasped, "The boy is already dead."
"I don't understand." Lisa frowned, "What's going on."
The body flashed one last time as it mutated into a tall Seed creature.
"It's becoming Seed." Tylor sighed, "And now it can possess the dead."
"Then we must purify it." Phoenix said.
"Do what you must." Kireek replied.
He chopped the Soul Eater down at the creature slicing its arm off. He quickly scooped up the arm then jumped back as the creature took a swing with the other arm. Kireek drew a damage trap and flung it against the wall. It instantly detonated blasting a hole into the outer corridor which he used to escape. Phoenix tried to follow but the Seed creature cut him off. Its stump left by Kireek pulsed and oozed purple goo that slowly formed into a new arm. The new arm was longer and more slender than its original arm. Phoenix rushed the creature but was easily knocked away. Lisa fired blasting several holes in the creature's skull. It slowly slumped to the floor and lay still.
"Sometimes the situation demands a ranger's touch." She smiled.
"He murders several of my security staff and blows holes in my ship just for a piece of a Seed creature." Tylor frowned, "Why?"
"Nothing good will come of this." Lisa shook her head, "That's for sure."
"I will make him pay for this." Tylor growled.
"Then let's go get him." Phoenix waved.
He started to head for the hole in the wall but as he ran past the creature, its arm shot out and grabbed his ankle. Phoenix fell flat on his face then found his foot rising above his head. The creature stood up dangling Phoenix by his foot. He squirmed and took several swings at the monster cursing it. It shook him a couple times then flung him at the small android that had begun firing at it. Lisa jumped to the side avoiding the flying cast. Phoenix went crashing into the door way. Tylor drew his sabre and rushed forward. The creature's long arm stretched out grabbing Lisa by the chest. It picked her up, swung her around and into the rushing beast. The two were slammed into the wall. Tylor was forced to yelp as the android broke two of his ribs. Phoenix rushed in leaving the injured guards in Liina's care. The arm shot out at the cast. He dropped to the ground sliding under the arm then leaped to his feet charging at full run. The creature swung with its other arm. A shot from Lisa impacted its hand knocking it away. Phoenix charged up and blasted the creature with a series of rapid punches. He finished with an upper cut that sent the creature to its back. Tylor, ignoring the screaming pain in his side, leaped out swinging his sabre. It sliced down through the creature's neck. The head fell away. The body spasm for a second then reverted back to the beast boy.
"Now it is dead." He said wincing slightly.
"Liina!" Lisa called, "Tylor's hurt."
"Coming." Liina replied.
"I'm alright." Tylor waved.
"You may be tough but you're not invincible." Lisa pointed, "I heard something break when we hit."
Lisa helped Liina get Tylor onto the medical bed. The beast man didn't make it easy for the girls either.
"Stay." Liina jabbed.
Tylor just growled.
"Lisa!" Phoenix called, "The Seed creature has been subdued. We must pursue Kireek."
"I'm coming too." Tylor tried to get up.
Liina pushed him back down.
"No your not."
The Guardians ducked through the hole into the corridor only to be greeted by more of Kireek's destruction.
"How can one cast leave such devastation and death?" Phoenix shook his head, "Magashi and his clones don't even do this."
"Who's Magashi?" Lisa frowned.
Phoenix looked down at the little android and frowned.
"What?" Lisa shrugged, "I've spent the last hundred and fifty years living in some Neudaiz swamp half crazy. I haven't exactly had time to catch up on current events."
They turned the next corner and exited down the ramp. The arm Kireek took was still dripping blood leaving a trail that Phoenix's optical sensors could just pick up.
"Renvolt Magashi used to be Commander of the Endrum Collective, a special division of the AMF." Phoenix explained, "Everytime we Guardians tried to investigate a new Relics site or start looking into A-photon reactors the Endrum Collective would step in and use their military authority to push us out. Ethan Waber destroyed the original Magashi, only to have him return as a Seed creature, and then he had to face him on the first Seed hive. We later discovered Magashi was a cast recreation of Karl Howzer, a human supremacist and second in command of the Illuminus. Howzer built many of them."
"I see." Lisa nodded, "Kireek wasn't originally evil though he wasn't a modest citizen either. He was a black market arms dealer who had the unfortunate luck of being possessed by an evil being that now controls him. Believe it or not but he used to help people."
"And now he must be destroyed." Phoenix nodded.
The trail lead deeper into the forest, the undergrowth began to thin out and die away.
"Kireek is linked to that scythe he carries." Lisa said, "His soul is bonded to it through Dark Falz. They draw strength from each other. The Soul Eater can only be destroyed by that sword Cerberus carries and therefore Kireek can't be destroyed unless the Soul Eater is, but because they are now bonded Kireek must be destroyed at the same time or they just keep regenerating. Without this dark power the Soul Eater is nothing more than a parasitic weapon slowly draining the carrier until his or hers life energy is drained away."
"So where does the Soul Eaters power come from if it no longer drains its host?" Phoenix asked with a frown.
"From its victims." Lisa sighed, "Everytime Kireek kills, the Soul Eater absorbs that life force."
"Ah things are beginning to make much more sense now." Phoenix grinned, "Knowledge of an enemy is power."
The trail of blood lead to the ruins of an ancient craft. The only intact hatchway was open leading to the pitch black interior inside. The lack of light was little concern for the two androids. Phoenix entered first with Lisa right behind him. They continued down the curving hallway until they spotted a stream of light emanating from a small room. Slowly Phoenix looked inside. The back wall was a solid screen of white light.
"What in the name of Gurhal is that?" Phoenix muttered.
"I don't know but the purple blood leads right to it." Lisa pointed.
Phoenix slowly stepped up to the screen and touched it. His finger went through.
"A transporter." He smiled and started to step through.
"What are you doing?" Lisa gasped.
"Following your android." Phoenix replied and stepped in.
He reappeared in a vast cavern. Seated against the far wall was the massive skeleton of a strange beast. Kireek was standing in front of it holding the arm up. Lisa appeared behind Phoenix. She stared up at the skeleton as it reached out with an exaggerated long arm. The long bony finger gently touched the Seed arm. The arm melted and flowed up the finger in long sticky purple streams, growing and covering the bone as it went. It moved up the arm and to the body where it quickly spread. The two Guardians watched as the internal organs formed just before they were covered by muscle and skin. Kireek stepped back as the thick stumpy legs and skull were the last to be covered. The creature slowly stood up and stretched out its new flesh.
"You have done well my servant." The creature boomed, "As a reward I will let you keep the power I bestowed upon you."
"Thank you but I wish to be free." Kireek replied.
"Soon." The creature boomed, "I have need of you still. Serve me well and I will free you."
The creatures head turned and glared at the two casts. It appeared to smile as best as it could.
"You brought me more servants." It said.
Kireek turned and glared at the Guardians.
"Hardly." He growled, "Just some troublemakers who don't know when they've lost."
"You haven't won yet." Phoenix yelled.
"Are you blind?" Kireek replied, "The Dark One has been restored. You have lost."
"He doesn't have the power source." Phoenix said, "Until then we haven't lost."
"A minor detail soon to be rectified." The creature grinned, "But first you need to learn to fear me."
"I fear no one!" Phoenix replied.
"That will change."
The creature reached out to grab the little things standing before it.
Heidi felt a sudden chill run down her back. David turned a sickly green and fell to his knees. He had been leading them eastward away from the forest, still holding Heidi's hand and chatting away about all the fun little things that interested him. Jon was very proud of the way his daughter was responding to the boy, showing great interest in his stories and laughing at his jokes. Isaac walked beside him smiling as he watched the back of her head. Despite protests from the villagers, Isaac had insisted on coming. He felt there would be a great tale to come out of all this and he didn't want to miss any of it. Cerberus and Annette followed behind them with Iceberg and Isis bringing up the rear. They had no idea where they were headed and even though David showed no indication that he knew where he was going it was clear that he was leading them somewhere. Annette quickly ran to her son's side when she saw him collapse. Jon was right beside her having a little medical training. Cerberus frowned and tilted his head as he studied the Newman girl who now stood still staring straight ahead. He moved only when he saw her skin shiver.
"Heidi?" He said tapping her shoulder.
She jumped slightly then smiled as she let out a deep breath.
"Are you alright?" Cerberus asked.
"Fine." She nodded, "I just had this sudden feeling that something bad just happened."
"Not bad." David said slowly climbing to his feet.
The sick colour drained away from his face restoring it to its natural pale as he took a couple of deep breaths.
"Terrible." He said, "I fear he has been restored."
"No!" Annette gasped, "We're too late."
"He doesn't have the power source yet." Cerberus said, "We still have time."
"Yes, but its running short." David nodded, "It won't be long before he finds his way to our world."
"And the purple knight will bring him here." Isaac said.
"Everyone turned and stared at the young farm boy.
"What?" He shrugged, "Just because I'm not some advance alien doesn't mean I don't understand what's going on."
"You're right." Jon nodded once, "We're sorry."
"We must hurry." David said grabbing Heidi's hand.
"Hey!" She yelped as David dragged her away.
"Guess you've got some competition." Cerberus laughed as he slapped Isaac on the back.
"I don't stand a chance." Isaac replied following the bulky android.
Their path lead them across a vast flat plain full of golden wild wheat that gently swayed in the warm breeze. A bank of billowy white clouds gently drifted across the horizon. The sun slowly descended to touch the clouds as the day neared its end. A flock of birds flew over head silently setting down in the wheat not far from the party. The light smell of grass and wild flowers washed over them as a light gust of wind swept in from the south. Heidi closed her eyes as she inhaled the scents. David had been unusually quiet since his little spell. Heidi hadn't really noticed since she had been lost in her thoughts. She could feel something dark hiding in the back of her mind, waiting for its chance to attack her. She opened her eyes and glanced back at Annette. The woman looked a little worried. The group broke through the edge of the wheat stopping to take in the view. The plains ended with a vast green canyon. A winding blue river cut through the canyon and disappeared into the distance. Herds of grazing animals dotted the green flood plains. Flocks of birds had begun to descend on the few trees that dotted the canyon floor as they settled for the night. The sun turned bright orange as it touched the horizon.
"Night will be on us soon." Cerberus said, "We should be able to descend this side of the canyon before dark then make camp by the river."
"No!" David protested, "We can't stop."
"We can't tackle that river or the other side of the canyon in the dark." Cerberus replied, "That will wait until day and you all need the rest."
"We don't have the time!" David cried.
"I am aware of our situation." Cerberus said.
"Really?" David frowned, "I am the reincarnation of the life child, that first girl who rose up against the Dark being the first time."
"No you're not." Cerberus shook his head, "All you have is DNA encoded memories."
"What makes you think that?" David scowled.
"I scanned your DNA and you have similar tracers that Heidi has." Cerberus said then turned to the other Guardians, "One of the little upgrades Dr. Tomrain did to my sensor network."
"So you can do detailed bio scans now?" Jon frowned.
Cerberus nodded, "He felt it might be wise considering Heidi's condition."
"Leave it to Tomrain." Jon shrugged.
"Come on." Heidi waved as she headed down to the bank, "I spotted a good tree to camp under."
They settled under a big bushy tree beside the river. Heidi and Annette went about preparing a small meal while the others gathered up wood for the fire. Jon drew his rod and used Foie to start the fire. Annette and Isaac stared at him in awe.
"Your people have harnessed every aspect of photonic energy I see." David smiled, "This will prove very useful."
"They've served me well in the past." Jon nodded.
Heidi finished heating the simple stew they had made then served everyone a bowl except for Cerberus. Isis sat sniffing her portion but refused to be the first to eat.
"My cooking isn't that bad." Heidi frowned.
"She is always leery about everything she eats." Iceberg replied and gulped down a large spoonful, "Hmmm not bad."
"I know it’s a little bland but we didn't have any room for spices." Heidi shrugged.
Isis took a bite and smiled, "This is pretty good actually."
"She learned from the best." Jon smiled, "Her mother is a great cook."
"I miss Mom." Heidi sighed.
"I know and there's nothing I want more than to be back there looking for her." Jon nodded, "But there's not much point in finding her if the universe is going to be destroyed."
"Still we shouldn't have left her." Heidi said.
"Cerberus and I had this conversation already." Jon said squeezing her arm, "Our family has been preparing for this for so long we couldn't be the ones to miss it. We lose here and there won't be a mom to find."
"Thanks Dad." Heidi said softly, "I'm just worried about her."
"Me too." Jon replied.
"She's most likely with the Communion." Iceberg said, "They've been transferring many of the Communion women there, though for the most part it's been young maidens."
"Strange that your wife went too." Isis shrugged, "Once you’re a Communal Mother they generally don't change your post unless the need is very great."
"The Seed has left everyone short these days." Iceberg said, "Perhaps it's greater than Rutsu is letting on."
The group finished up their meal then Isis and Heidi quickly cleaned up as Jon packed up everything they would no longer use for the night. When she was finished Isis went and sat down beside Iceberg who was staring up at the night sky.
"Meseta for your thoughts." She said.
"I was just thinking how the sky looks so alien and yet so familiar." He replied, "I spent the first part of my career on Moatoob where the night sky is essential for navigation. After that I made sure I new the sky from every planet so I could never get lost. Tonight I don't recognize a single feature or pattern and yet that fuzzy blue patch looks very much like the Elysian Nebula back home."
Isis stared up at the blue hazy spot that Iceberg pointed too. She tilted her head slightly then gasped.
"Iceberg, I think that is the Elysian nebula."
Cerberus over heard the conversation and sat down beside Iceberg.
"No matter how many alien skies I sit under it never ceases to amaze me."
"It's not totally alien for us." Isis said pointing up at the blue spot, "We believe that's the Elysian nebula from back home. It's just bigger."
"Really?" Cerberus said looking up to where Isis pointed, "If the star charts Tomrain gave me are accurate then that's impossible."
"Why?" Isis asked.
"Because when we left Gurhal we were headed away from that nebula."
"I'm sure that's it." Iceberg said, "I know every feature in the Gurhal sky."
Cerberus ran the image through his processor and compared it with the ones Tomrain downloaded into him during his upgrade.
"Confirmed, you're right." He nodded, "It's the same."
"How is that possible?" Isis asked.
"I don't know but I'll continue to monitor the sky while you sleep." Cerberus said.
"You think we're moving?" Isis asked.
"Everything in the universe is moving." Cerberus smirked, "But if we're moving the way it looks like we are then the sun will never rise."
Heidi found a nice thick patch of grass near the river to lie down in. It wasn't quite as comfortable as her bed back home but it would do. She stared up at the stars for a while then closed her eyes and let the soft babbling of the water lull her to sleep. She was just about to drift off when she heard someone lie down beside her. She opened her eyes to see Isaac staring at her. He was lying opposite to her so only his head was beside hers.
"I didn't mean to wake you."
"You didn't." She smiled.
"Good, I was hopping you were still awake." He smiled, "Look, I know you said before that you'd have to leave when this is all over but I can't shake this feeling that maybe you belong here."
"No, you can't shake the feeling that you want me to stay here." She replied, "And it's very sweet but I have responsibilities in Gurhal."
"Who is he?" Isaac sighed.
"It's not a guy." She frowned.
"Who is she then?" Isaac replied.
"Hey stop it." She laughed giving his shoulder a jab, "I'm not in a relationship. I'm a career girl and my home needs me."
"Is it really that bad?" Isaac grumbled, "Is it so bad they'd miss one girl?"
"Yes." Heidi nodded, "Yes it is."
Isaac was silent for a moment. He just stared up at the stars then just before Heidi decided to say something he said softly, "I love you. You know that right."
"Oh Isaac." Heidi sighed turning to the sky, "Please don't do this."
"My whole life I knew there was someone special out there for me." He said quietly, "When I first saw you I knew my angel had come. Then I got to know you better and that was it. I knew for sure."
"Isaac please stop." Heidi said softly, "I like you but only as a friend. That's as far as I dare go and believe me it would be very easy to like you more but I just can't."
"But you're so smart and sweet and beautiful." Isaac started.
"Isaac please go away." Heidi said bluntly.
Isaac went dead silent for a moment then softly said, "OK."
He quietly stood up and walked away. Heidi rolled away from him then curled up into a little ball and quietly cried herself to sleep.
Heidi was standing in the field again dressed in her underwear. She quickly looked around but the Landeel and the flyer were gone. A crack of thunder drew her attention to the mountain range behind her. A strong wind flowed down the mountains and into the field washing over her whipping her long white hair around. Dark purple clouds grew up from behind the mountains to fill the sky. Bolts of lightning lanced out to touch the mountain tops. A ghostly image of the purple cast she now knew as Kireek appeared before her. It stared down at her and growled.
"Your time is short little one. My dark master draws near. He shall devour your flesh and your soul. Surrender now and he may let you live to serve him."
"Forget it Kireek." She pointed at him, "I no longer fear you or your dark master. I know you now and I am not that little girl you can terrify anymore."
"That's right Kireek." The white haired Newman in a green hunter's uniform stepped up beside Heidi, "I don't know how you managed this physic link with my Grand daughter but it is of no use to you now."
"Hi Grandma." Heidi smiled, "I thought you went away."
"Heidi, I'm part of your memories. I can never go away." Amanda replied, "But I am now buried in you subconscious. Only here in your dreams can I visit you only here were I need to fight him."
"You both shall be devoured." Kireek boomed.
"You have no power here android." Amanda shot, "I'm going to end this link forever."
"What!" Kireek gasped.
Amanda shot from the ground straight for Kireek. She hit him right between the eyes. The two disappeared into a bright beam of light. The light drove away the wind and the storm then as it shrunk Heidi heard Kireek call out, "You may have driven me from your mind but I shall own your body."
The statement left Heidi unnerved. The light formed to a point.
"The doorway is now closed." Amanda's voice rang out, "Kireek can never haunt you ever again."
"What about you?" Heidi asked.
"I will always be with you but now only in the land of your dreams."
The light winked out leaving Heidi standing in the field just as the sun ducked behind the horizon. Heidi couldn't shake the uneasy feeling Kireek's warning had left. She held herself tight and shivered.
She awoke to the sound of rustling water. Heidi quickly sat up and looked out at the river. She could see something moving around in the dark star lit water. It would just break the surface then sink under again. Whatever it was, it was big. Slowly Heidi stood up trying to remain as discreet as she could. A voice inside her told her to back away and get to the others, but instead she moved toward the water. Her curiosity over powered her instincts.
"Heidi, what are you doing girl?" She thought to herself, "This is a really bad idea."
She reached the waters edge and slowly looked in. A massive bulb for a head swam past followed by eight long flowing tentacles. The skin was some shade of light red or pink. The dark made it difficult for her to tell. The creature swam past again. It seemed to be searching or circling. Heidi started to step back. With her curiosity satisfied, fear began to take over. The head shot up out of the water, tentacles paddled rapidly to keep it afloat. There were no eyes but a large gaping mouth carved open the side of the head. Razor sharp white teeth glistened as it let out a gurgling roar. It woke the others up but only Cerberus responded immediately as he didn't sleep. It took a moment for the others to shake away the sleep and realize what was happening. Heidi tried to draw her daggers but a tentacle shot out wrapping around her chest and lifted her up into the air. The tentacles crushing squeeze pushed the air from her lungs. She could not scream and she could not inhaul. The creature's teeth chattered as it drew her near. A large fleshy purple tongue lapped the edges of the mouth in anticipation of its meal. Cerberus fired blasting the tentacle. The creature instantly let go sending Heidi into the deep water below. Isis dove into the water to rescue the drowning Newman. Iceberg and Cerberus ran to the shore blasting the monster. Isaac tried to follow but Jon grabbed him.
"No!" He cried, "It's too dangerous. Let us handle this. You watch over David and Annette."
Isaac nodded and reluctantly went back to protect Annette and her son. He just reached them when one of the grazing animals suddenly charged. These animals looked like a cross between a sheep and a goat and were the size of a cow. Isaac waved the others away as he drew the attention of the animal. It charged by narrowly missing him. As it ran past, Isaac happened to notice the creatures eye was completely black and seeping some sort of purple ooze.
"That's odd." Was all he could think.
The animal turned and charged at Annette and David. Isaac chased after it but he was way too slow. Annette grabbed her son and tossed him out of the way just as the animal slammed her onto her back. The animal then turned and headed for David. The boy just stood there as the animal closed in. Isaac ran by scooping him up.
"What were you thinking?" Isaac gasped.
"He is here." David replied.
"Who?" Isaac frowned.
"HIM." David said.
"No!" Isaac gasped staring at the animal.
The animal charged again. Isaac shoved David away but stood his ground determined to bring the beast down.
"What am I doing?" Isaac muttered, "Wish I had a weapon right about now."
The beast lowered its head ready to ram him. Annette slammed into Isaac knocking him away. The animal smashed into Annette. She cried out as she was trampled under its hooves.
"Mom!" David cried.
The beast turned to David. Isaac was now too far away to protect the boy. The animal began its charge.
"David run!" Isaac shouted.
The boy turned and bolted away. It was clear he was no where near fast enough to out run the powerful beast. Isaac took after them but he was much too far away. The creature got closer and closer, lowering its head to strike. Isaac stopped and watched helplessly. The ground suddenly erupted in fire and lava swallowing up the charging animal. With the threat over, David collapsed to the ground trying to catch his breath. Isaac quickly looked around spotting Jon still pointing his rod at where the creature had been.
"See to the boy." Jon said, "I'll check his mother."
Isaac nodded and ran to David. He was already climbing to his feet when Isaac reached him.
"Are you OK?" Isaac asked.
"Where's Mom." David cried looking around.
"This way." Isaac said taking the boys hand.
They met with Jon who was still kneeling beside Annette.
"How is she?" Isaac asked softly.
"Her wounds are not bad." Jon said, "Normally my Resta would heal her but she's been infected by some poison that's inhibiting my techniques. My Reverser won't cure it and my Resta won't heal."
"What do we do?" Isaac asked.
"I don't know." Jon shrugged, "When this happens on Gurhal it usually wears off or a little antimate will fix it up. If that doesn't work then we have to take them to a hospital."
"Mom." David sat down and took her hand.
"David, sweetie." She choked, "I'm so sorry."
"No, Mom." David shook his head, "I'm sorry, this was meant for me."
"I want you to be a good boy for these people." Annette coughed, "They're your friends and they'll protect you."
"What are you saying?" David started to cry, "You'll take care of me."
Annette went into a short coughing spell, spitting up blood. When it stopped she looked up into David's eyes and squeezed his hand.
"I love you so much and I'm so proud of you."
"Mom." David cried.
Annette let out one last breath then David felt her go. He fell on top of her and began sobbing. Jon closed his eyes and said a silent prayer for her. Isaac stood still choking back the tears he felt welling up. He hadn't known the woman very long but she and her son had quickly become his friends.
"Isaac." Jon said softly, "Watch over David, I need to help the others."
Isaac nodded and sat down beside the grieving boy and watched the alien man run back to help his friends.
The sea monster now had Cerberus and Iceberg in its tight grip. Cerberus' arms were pinned while Iceberg hung by his feet firing his hand gun wildly and cursing at the creature. Isis stood on the shore fending off another tentacle that was quite insistent on grabbing the coughing girl behind the beast woman. Isis wished she had her twin sabres right now but she had to settle for the metal sword she had picked up from the village. It was heavy and primitive but it was well crafted and inflicted a great deal of damage. The tentacle swung from the left. Isis chopped down on it. The blade easily cut into the flesh and stuck. The creature instinctively pulled away yanking the weapon from her hands. Heidi tried to get to her feet but a sharp bolt of pain shot through her chest. She collapsed to her hands and knees coughing up blood. She managed to tap Isis on the leg. The beast ducked a swinging tentacle then glanced back at the Newman who pointed at her dagger hilts lying on the ground. Isis nodded and scooped up the weapons. One of Icebergs stray shots flew passed her head.
"Hey, watch it!" She yelled.
"Die foul beast!" Iceberg cried.
"You better be talking to the sea monster!" Isis replied blocking a poking tentacle.
"Of course I'm talking to the monster, woman!" Iceberg replied still trying to hit the tentacle holding Cerberus.
"Don't get mouthy with me mister!" Isis yelled back jabbing at a swinging tentacle.
"Put more energy into your attacks and less into your mouth and you'll be more effective!" Iceberg replied.
"I'd be more effective if I didn't have to dodge your lousy aim." Isis shot.
"I'd like to see you try and hit these wiggling things with every shot." Iceberg growled.
"Will you two stop it?" Cerberus yelled, "You sound like an old married couple."
His attention suddenly shifted to chattering teeth that were much too close for comfort.
"Ah, a little help here!"
Iceberg tried to fire but the creature sent him flying as it tossed him away. Jon reached the scene only to be greeted by a falling Iceberg. The mouth opened up as the creature drew the android in. Cerberus kicked wildly but it was ineffective. A giant fire ball shot from shore smashed into the creatures head. It screamed and dropped the android. A second ball shot out cooking the creatures flesh. It quickly retreated into the dark water. Isis quickly spun around to see where the Foie had come from. Heidi stood with her arm still stretched out. She stood frozen staring at where the monster had been.
"Heidi?" Isis said softly.
Slowly her arm dropped then she grabbed her chest as she coughed up more blood.
"Oh no." Isis gasped and quickly grabbed the girl to help support her.
Jon quickly ran to his daughter as Cerberus climbed from the river.
"Cerberus, we need a scan." Jon said.
"Why not just cast Resta?" Isis asked.
"It's better if I know where to direct it." Jon replied.
"Dad, my chest hurts." Heidi said softly.
"Two cracked ribs, one broken one, and a punctured lung." Cerberus reported, "Jon, the broken rib is still lodged in her lung."
"Oh no." Isis gasped.
"Resta will not cure that." Iceberg said, "She requires a surgeon."
"Then we'll have to contact the Landeel." Cerberus said and he tapped his communicator.
"What?" Tylor shot.
"Tylor?" Cerberus frowned, "Is there something wrong?"
"Indeed there is." Tylor replied.
It was obvious by his tone and by the noise in the background that he was currently engaged in combat.
"Tylor, we need you to send your surgeon to our coordinates."
"Not possible." Tylor replied.
"Heidi is seriously injured, we need medical assistance." Cerberus said.
"Like I said, not possible." Tylor replied, "My surgeon is dead along with most of my medical staff. We are being over run by Seed."
"Seed!" Cerberus exclaimed, "How did that happen?"
"Little busy, explain later. Tylor out!"
"The Landeel has been over run by Seed." Cerberus shook his head, "The medical staff is dead. We are on our own."
Heidi slumped to the ground. The bad news drained the last bit of strength from her. Isaac and David wandered over as Jon sat down beside his daughter and put his arm around her.
"How bad is it?" He asked.
"There's internal bleeding." Cerberus said, "If we don't do something soon…"
He stopped there not wanting to say the obvious.
"And we definitely can't use Resta?" Isis asked.
"It would seal the lung around the bone and fuse the broken bone in its current position." Iceberg explained, "Her very breathing action would tear the lung to shreds."
"We'd do more damage than good." Jon shook his head.
"The village doctor…" Isaac started.
"We're too far away." Cerberus said, "We'd never make it back."
"And we'd lose all that time we spent getting here." Iceberg said, "The dark one would have no opposition and we would lose everything."
"If we could just get the bone back in place." Jon grumbled, "But I'm not a doctor, I wouldn't know where to begin."
"I have detailed files but I'm much too bulky to perform such a procedure." Cerberus said.
"Iceberg has medical training." Isis said.
"I only have field combat first aid." Iceberg replied, "Actual surgery is far out of my scope."
"If I instruct you, would you?" Cerberus asked.
Iceberg looked down at the Newman girl. She was very afraid but the look in her eyes told Iceberg she didn't want to die either.
"Please help my daughter." Jon pleaded.
"You know what this means." Iceberg said, "We have no anaesthesia, no pain killers."
Jon felt Heidi tense up. He took her hand and squeezed it.
"Isaac, take David for a walk." Cerberus said softly, "Far away please."
"Yes, of course." Isaac nodded and quickly led the boy away.
"Where is the rib?" Iceberg asked.
"Just below the left breast." Cerberus nodded.
Iceberg removed his gloves and washed his hands in the river. It was the best sterilization he could do under the circumstances. He pulled a small sharp knife from his nanotransformer and washed it too, and then he walked back to the group and knelt down beside Heidi.
"Remove her top." Iceberg said, "Let's do this as quickly as possible."
Lisa ducked as the creature tried to scoop her up just slipping between its fingers. Phoenix powered forward in a rush of pink light driving his knuckles into the monsters hand. Phoenix let out a small yelp as he actually bounced back landing on his butt. The Dark One pulled his hand back as he laughed.
"Greater beings than you have tried to stop me and failed." He turned his head and scowled at Kireek, "What are you waiting for, destroy them."
"But an all great and powerful being such as you should not need my help." Kireek shrugged.
"Insolent fool." Dark One growled, "Obey me or I shall destroy you as well."
"I knew your word was worth no more than Dark Falz." Kireek pointed.
"Fool, I am Dark Falz!" The creature roared.
In a full out fury he clawed and sc***** the ground trying to tear apart Phoenix and Lisa. Kireek didn't budge a muscle. He just stood staring up at the monster with contempt. Lisa dodged left then right but in the end she ended up flying across the cave. Phoenix drove his knuckles into the hand every opportunity he got but not once did he even hurt the creature. It simply batted him away like an insect. The only thing keeping him alive was that he was too fast for the Dark One to actually catch. Lisa slowly sat up brushing the small bits of dust and stone from her shoulders. An odd feeling started to tingle inside her. It was distant but familiar. Something from long ago. Pushan let out a soft trill.
"You feel it too." Lisa said.
Lisa had now drawn Kireek's attention though he had yet to actually move. Lisa sat up and slowly walked toward the Dark One. He was still occupied with Phoenix and did not notice the little RAcaseal.
"This place now has the same photon levels we encountered on Ragol." Lisa said, "They've been slowly building ever since we got here. I didn't notice it until now."
Phoenix jumped left as the claw came crashing down then rushed forward as the other claw scrapped through his position.
"Less talk, more action!" He yelled.
Lisa ignored him as she neared the monster.
"The same high levels of photon energy." Lisa said again, "The same. That can mean
only one thing."
Kireek suddenly figured out what the little android was talking about. He gasped and shot straight for the warp. It was no longer safe for him to be there.
"Where are you going?" The Dark One yelled.
Kireek ignored him and dove through the doorway.
"What are you waiting for?" Phoenix cried taking a couple swings at the Dark Ones leg.
It kicked him away then turned to Lisa.
"How is it you still stand in defiance to me?" He growled, "Do you not know you are not strong enough to even hurt me?"
"I'm not!" Lisa yelled and pointed at her Mag, "But he is!"
Pushan began bobbing as he let out a ring. The circular tri symbol appeared beneath Lisa's feet as she raised her arm.
"Dark One!" She cried, "Meet Golla!"
A multicoloured moose like creature appeared above her head. Electricity charged all through its antlers as it reared up on its hind legs then with a flick of its head, the energy shot forward in one massive bolt. It drove into the Dark Ones chest blasting him back. He roared in anger and pain. Phoenix was stunned. He had never seen anything like it.
"Run to the warp!" Lisa yelled.
"Huh?" Phoenix frowned.
"Run!" Lisa waved as she took off.
The Dark One sat against the wall clawing the ground and chattering his jaws. The photon blast had blasted a small hole in his chest but it was quickly healing. Phoenix watched Lisa cross halfway through the cave before running for the warp. He still beat her through. They ran out into the dark hallway before he stopped her.
"Tell me, what was that?" He growled pointing back at the room.
"That was a photon blast."
Kireek stepped out from the darkness stopping behind Lisa.
"Why are you still here?" Lisa asked after she turned to face him.
"The moment that thing decreed he would destroy me, I felt his influence leave." Kireek replied, "I am finally free and back to myself."
He held his Soul Eater forward so they could see that it had returned to its normal appearance.
"As you can see, his power is gone too."
"So you are a normal cast again?" Phoenix grinned.
"Yes." Kireek nodded.
"Then I should have no trouble killing you." Phoenix growled grabbing Kireek by the throat.
"Phoenix no!" Lisa cried pushing them apart, "Kireek was never really evil. He was just being controlled by evil."
"It is true." Kireek nodded.
"Hey!" Lisa shot jabbing him in the chest, "This doesn't excuse you from your other crimes as Black Hound."
"That is unimportant." Kireek said pushing her hand away, "This monster thing is alive and awake. He must be stopped."
"That is a very heroic statement." Lisa said, "When did you start showing concern for deadly circumstances like this?"
"The prevention of my termination is very important to me." Kireek shrugged.
"Enough talk!" Phoenix broke in, "Talk will not stop this creature, we must act."
"You remind me of someone." Kireek frowned.
"Doesn't he." Lisa grinned, "Come on, we better go find the others."
They quickly exited the ship and stepped onto the forest floor. The whole planet suddenly shook violently. A large vortex of swirling purple energy had formed in the night sky.
"We need to clear the forest and get a better look at that." Phoenix said.
"Follow me then." Kireek waved.
Kireek headed east with the two Guardians close behind. A hard run brought them to the forest edge where a small village lay. The town's people gathered at the town center to gaze up at the strange sight in the night sky. It was clear from the conversations floating up to the androids that there was much fear. They quickly made their way to the edge of the crowd and looked up.
"He must be drawing us to him." Kireek said.
"He can't possibly have that kind of power." Lisa gasped.
"He does." Kireek nodded, "But it requires almost all of his strength."
"Worse yet, there's Gurhal." Phoenix pointed up at a small star, "If he's close enough to the Gurhal system we could be in real trouble."
"Why?" Lisa frowned.
"Rykros." Phoenix said, "A planet sized Seed hive for him to feed on."
"He would become unbeatable." Kireek said.
"We have to stop him now!" Lisa gasped.
"It's the purple knight!" Someone cried.
The crowd turned then broke up in a large panic. The androids were quickly left standing alone. Only the mayor dared step out and approach them.
"Be gone evil one!" He waved, "You have lost. Our band of knights have already left. You will not find the life power."
"Cerberus was here?" Lisa asked.
"How do you know the red knights name?" The mayor frowned.
"He's my best friend." Lisa nodded, "Which way did they go?"
"A trick." The mayor snapped, "You travel with the purple knight, you are not friends of the red knight."
"Why you little…" Kireek growled and stepped forward.
Phoenix grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back.
"Very well." He bowed, "We shall leave."
He slowly backed his group out of the village and into the forest.
"What are you doing?" Kireek snapped.
"We don't need him." Phoenix shrugged, "We can just call the others on the communicator."
Phoenix quickly tapped his communicator and had to wait several beeps before someone answered. He was surprised the get Isis.
"Isis?" He asked.
"That's me." She chirped, "Phoenix, is that you?"
"Of course it's me." Phoenix replied.
"Sorry, it's good to hear from you." Isis grinned.
"Enough idle chit chat woman." Phoenix snapped, "The situation is grave and there is no time."
"Still your charming self I see." Isis frowned.
"You are not listening." Phoenix grumbled, "Where is Iceberg, I can get farther with him."
"Hey." Isis snapped, "He's busy with a patient."
"Patient." Phoenix frowned, "What are you talking about."
"Cast!" Kireek snapped, "There is no time for this."
"Quite right." Phoenix nodded, "Isis, where are you located."
"We are approximately east by south east of the Landeel." Isis replied, "You may come across a small human village along your way."
"We are there now." Phoenix nodded.
"Then we are a days walk due east of there." Isis said.
"I doubt we have time to catch up to them." Kireek said.
"We must try." Phoenix said, "Tylor could pick us up."
"No good, the Landeel has been over run by Seed." Isis replied, "He can't help."
"Oh no." Lisa gasped.
"Then we will assist Tylor." Phoenix said, "Isis, you must get to the power source quickly."
"We can't move right now." Isis shook her head, "Heidi's been injured."
"What, how?" Phoenix asked then shook his head, "Never mind, some of you must leave her behind. The creature is awake and he's pulling us to him."
"Is that what that swirling thing the sky is?" Isis smirked.
"Isis, try to focus for one minute of your life." Phoenix grumbled.
"So, that is what those lights are?" Isis held back a giggle.
"ISIS!" Phoenix roared.
Kireek pulled Phoenix hand from his communicator cutting the link.
"There is no use talking to that dumb beast."
"Perhaps but what she said causes me concern." Phoenix said.
"Heidi is unimportant." Kireek waved.
"Cerberus seems to think she is very important." Phoenix shrugged.
"Cerberus has no idea what the truth is." Kireek shook his head.
Kireek turned and headed back to the Landeel with Phoenix falling in beside him and Lisa hanging back just a bit.
"Just what is the truth Kireek?" Lisa asked.
"If she is not strong enough, it will be very unpleasant." Kireek replied.
Lisa frowned and felt like pressing him for more information but it was obvious Kireek was not about to give her anything more. She sighed and looked back to the east hoping that her friends were alright.
The link on the communicator went dead. Isis couldn't help but giggle a little. Driving Phoenix crazy was one of her little pleasures in life. Beasts were always looked down upon by the other races as being stupid but casts with their supremacy complex seemed to treat them the worst. Anytime a beast could get the better of a cast they jumped on the opportunity. Isis quickly jogged over the others. Heidi was asleep on the ground wrapped in a blanket.
"How is she?" Isis asked.
"Jon's Resta has healed the wounds but she's running a temperature." Iceberg said, "It's like she has an infection but Cerberus can't detect anything and Reverser has no effect."
Isis placed her hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. It had torn him up to have put that poor girl through that kind of pain and the stress was finally starting to show. It had been rough on everyone and though the physical scars were gone the mental ones would last for a long time, perhaps forever. It was something Isis would never forget and something she hoped she would never have to go through.
"Iceberg, we have a problem." Isis said quietly.
"The swirling vortex." Iceberg replied.
Isis nodded, "I just talked to Phoenix. The Dark One is complete and he's dragging us to him."
"Then we can not delay any longer." Iceberg said.
"We need to leave Heidi behind." Isis nodded.
"Agreed." Iceberg nodded, and wiped a tear from his eye.
"Jon and Isaac can watch over her." Isis said, "We can take David the rest of the way."
"I shall inform Cerberus." Iceberg nodded.
The following conversation went much better than Iceberg expected. Jon wasn't about to leave his daughter and neither of them were in any condition to travel. Isaac was only here because of Heidi; so he was happy to be chosen to be left behind. Cerberus wasn't happy about leaving her but he knew there was no other option. The group quickly gathered up their things and headed for the dark cliffs on the other side of the river valley. Jon and Isaac watched as the others entered the water and began the swim across. The current was light and calm making it fairly easy to swim. They watched the others reach the other side then disappear in the night.
"Is she going to be alright?" Isaac asked looking down at the sleeping girl.
"I don't know." Jon shook his head, "We just have to hope the fever comes down on its
"What about that cut on her neck?" Isaac asked.
"That has me concerned as well." Jon replied, "That should have been healed up a long time ago, instead it looks infected."
"I've never seen an infection like that before." Isaac frowned.
"Neither have I."
This statement sent a shiver down Isaacs's spine. He was hoping that this space man from another planet would know everything there is to help her and yet he was just as baffled as Isaac. Isaac nodded slowly then went to find a place to lie down. There wasn't much for him to do right now and he needed rest. Jon sighed and checked her forehead. It was still quite hot and covered in sweat. He lied down beside her and soon fell asleep. He wasn't asleep very long when a sudden sense of dread washed over him. He sat up and looked around but Heidi was gone. He quickly jumped to his feet.
"Heidi!" He called.
Isaac slowly woke from his sleep. He rubbed his eyes and looked around. Jon called out again.
"What is it?" Isaac asked.
"Heidi's gone." Jon replied.
"What!" Isaac jumped up.
He looked around frantically but there was no sign of the girl. She had simply slipped away in the dark.
"You think she went after the others?" He asked.
"She was running a fever." Jon shrugged, "She could have wandered off anywhere."
They continued to search and call out but Heidi was gone.
The Landeel hadn't been twisted and mutated like most Seed infections but the place was still crawling with creatures. Beast's bodies littered the ground along with dead Seed creatures but it was obvious the Seed had won the field. They could hear shots ringing out from the inside of the ship. Phoenix frowned at the scene because it appeared that the infection began outside when he knew it started inside with the beast boy, but they had killed that creature.
"There must have been more Seed pods on the ship." Lisa said.
Phoenix agreed with her assessment but didn't say so. He wondered how many of the crew had been turned before the Seed started replicating its army. How many of the crew had been driven inside and forced to take cover. Phoenix let out a soft growl and equipped his light knuckles. Lisa drew a pair of ancient looking mechguns.
"How many of those old weapons do you have?" Phoenix tilted his head.
"A little lesson I learned from an old friend." Lisa grinned, "Always come to battle armed to the teeth."
"I think I would have liked this old friend." Phoenix nodded.
"I think so too." Lisa replied.
"He was a worthy adversary." Kireek said.
"Then let's show these creatures just what hunters are all about." Lisa said as she slammed a couple fresh power cells into her H&S25 Justice.
The three charged in with weapons swinging. Phoenix drove his knuckles into every creature he could. Kireek used his agility to dodge, weave, and slice anything that moved. Lisa used each gun to target a separate enemy doubling her killing efficiency. A couple of Deljaben managed to throw off a couple of Megid balls. Lisa side stepped the first, then dove under the second coming up with both guns pointed at each creature. A quick squeeze of the triggers relieved each creature of its head. Kireek and Lisa came together as the Seed closed in around them. This gave Phoenix a clear path to the boarding ramp. The smaller Seed creatures began to thin out as their bodies piled up around the two hunters.
"These are hardly worthy to be called dark creatures." Kireek laughed as he chopped down a couple of Pannon.
"Nothing like the dark monsters in the ruins." Lisa agreed.
In response, three large Seed Vance sprouted up in front of them. They let out a chilling cry waving their long tentacle arms in the air.
"That's a little better." Kireek cried rushing forward.
"Kireek wait!" Lisa cried then grumbled, "What is it with male androids."
The lead Vance drove its tentacles into the ground. The tips popped up at Kireek's feet twirling like little blades. Kireek jumped then swinging his Soul Eater down chopping the tentacles off. The Vance cried out pulling its wounded limbs from the ground. Kireek landed clean and bolted forward. The Vance took another swipe. Kireek countered slicing the limb off in mid attack. The Vance swung the remaining limb. Kireek ducked the attack then with one solid chop, drove the Soul Eater into the Vance's stem. He drew a damage trap from his pack and tossed it up at the pod shaped head. The trap stuck to the underside. He leaped away as the head exploded in a spray of purple goo. Kireek landed beside the next one turning to attack. The Vance collapsed in front of him from a barrage of mechgun bullets. The two androids turned to the last Vance and drew damage traps from their packs. They quickly tossed them at the Seed. The traps stuck to both sides of the Vance's head. A second later the Vance exploded in a shower of purple blood and black goo.
"Is that all you've got?" Kireek cried.
Four giant creatures appeared before them. They had a tiny head twisted in a permanent grin. The right hand was a sabre, and the left hand was a three forked claw. The creatures were at least twice as tall as Kireek.
"You just had to tick them off didn't you?" Lisa frowned tightening the grip on her guns.
"Delsabers do not frighten me." Kireek replied.
"How do you feel about Delsabers on steroids?" Lisa pointed.
The four Delnadian began to march on the hunters. Lisa immediately fired at the lead monster. Her guns tore away at the creature but it still marched forward intent on killing her. Kireek rushed in on the second.
"Careful Kireek, these are a lot tougher." She yelled.
"Finally a challenge." Kireek grinned.
The Delnadian swung its sword like arm. Kireek blocked with his Soul Eater then found himself flying through the air as the Delnadian hit him with its claw. Lisa slowly backed up as the Delnadian moved in on her. Her guns blasted through its right shoulder rendering the arm useless yet it still came. It raised its claw to strike. Lisa quickly targeted the claw and fired. The impact forced the monster to stumble back. She targeted the head and fired. The guns tore away at the skull until there was nothing left. The creature collapsed in front of her. Its partner attacked her from her left. The swing impacted the shield on her left arm. Combined with her line shield the attack was easily deflected but the sheer impact knocked her to the ground. Kireek landed on his feet right next to her. He was holding the Soul Eater in one hand and a Delnadian arm in the other.
"Their body parts still make good weapons." He laughed and charged forward.
"Glad some one is enjoying himself." Lisa grumbled.
She quickly rolled away as a large blade crashed down on her. She stopped her roll and fired blasting away her attackers head. She climbed to her feet and smirked as Kireek finished off the last Delnadian.
"These Seed are less than impressive." Kireek growled.
"So you keep saying." Lisa sighed, "Something tells me these were only the guards left outside. I'll bet the real force is inside with the Landeel crew."
"Then we must assist." Kireek said, "Can't let that poor excuse for an android have all the fun."
"I don't know who's more self absorbed, you or him." Lisa sighed and followed Kireek inside.
Phoenix was a little disappointed he couldn't help the hunters with the monsters outside but as a Guardian his duty was to ensure the safety of the Landeel crew. He expected the real fight was yet to come. The hallways were infested with the smaller Seed creatures and the Seed infection had started to warp the ships interior. If they didn't hurry and clean up this mess the Landeel would become a hive and they would be trapped on the planet. He rounded a corner drilling a couple Pannon into the wall just as they leaped at him. More Seed creatures turned and headed for the lone Guardian who continued to punch and pound anything that got near him, taxing the photon generators in his knuckles to their limit. He started to laugh as the warrior inside him came flooding to the surface. He continued on down the corridors littered with the bodies of the Landeel's security force until he reached the cargo hold. He skidded to a stop in front of the open door. Tylor, Liina, the Vol brothers, and much of the remaining crew were pinned down behind some cargo crates. They kept firing trying to keep the creatures back but they weren't having much success and when they ran out of photon chargers the monsters would over run them. Phoenix was not about to let that happen. He wished he had access to his Suv weapon but being out of the Gurhal system put him out of range of the Suv satellites. The room was full of large Seed creatures. They were strong, tough, and would attack him the moment he stepped inside. He needed an alternate method of attack. A large earthquake violently shook the ship knocking everyone and everything down. The dark one was getting close. Phoenix grumbled as he climbed to his feet and noticed a couple cargo containers still hanging from their hoists.
"Oh now that's good." He smiled.
He drew his hand gun and aimed. Two carefully aimed shots knocked the container loose sending it plummeting to the floor squashing one of the monsters. He quickly fired at the two remaining containers taking out two more monsters. This drew the attention of the others. He drew his knuckles and stood ready.
"Bring it." He growled.
They started to charge but several of them were stopped by an attack from behind. The Rogues had come out of hiding and were charging full force. Phoenix nodded and charged into the biggest fight of his life.
The alien world that was drawing them in was now quite visible in the sky. The ground had begun to shake and heave from the influence of the other worlds gravity. They were quickly running out of time. Cerberus urged the others on even though they were at the brink of exhaustion. David had long since reached his limit and had taken a seat on Cerberus' shoulder. Iceberg finally stopped after he had to catch Isis as she stumbled on the uneven ground.
"That's it." He exhaled, "We must rest and rehydrate."
"Ya, I'm dying of thirst." Isis nodded.
"OK, I don't need rest." Cerberus said, "I'll go ahead with David. You guys can catch up."
"That is not a good idea." Iceberg said, "You have no idea what dangers wait for you."
"He's right." Isis said taking a big gulp from her canteen, "We can spare five minutes to recharge."
"I'm hungry." David said tapping Cerberus' head.
"Guess I'm out voted." Cerberus smiled setting the boy down, "OK we'll take a break here."
Isis looked up at the rocky world in the sky. It was now the size of a small moon. The star that was the heart of the Gurhal System shown brightly as the new planet shadowed its parent star from their planet.
"We are really close to home." She said.
"I had no idea there was a planetary system so close to us." Iceberg said.
"It may not have been." Cerberus said, "I suspect this might be a rogue system and it's quite possible that the dark one is drawing us and him toward Gurhal.
"He can sense the Seed there." David said, "He wants the power that would be gained from absorbing them. He needs that strength to absorb me."
"What!" Isis gasped.
"The only way he can control the life power is to absorb me for I am the controller."
"Is this what he tried to do the first time?" Isis asked.
"No." David shook his head, "He didn't know this then. He rained fire and destruction upon the world as he tried to take it. I… I mean my ancestor took control of the power before he could find it."
"And ever since his soul has been rising up to continually terrorize the universe." Cerberus shook his head.
"Worse yet over the years it has divided into pieces that have spread through universes." David said, "It started with the Algo system and has ended up here."
"What's Algo?" Isis asked.
"It was a tri planet system." Cerberus said, "If my memory is still good, I believe there was a temperate world containing forests, plains, and oceans. A desert world and a distant ice world. Humans primarily lived on the temperate world with colonies on the others. Each planet had its own indigenous life both friendly and hostile."
"Sounds similar to Gurhal." Iceberg said.
"It does." Cerberus nodded, "If my history is correct then the people of Coral came from Algo."
"Our history is also shrouded in mystery." Iceberg began.
Cerberus snapped to attention and began looking around.
"What is it?" Iceberg frowned.
"Something is approaching." Cerberus replied.
"Something?" Isis frowned.
"My scanner is picking up something very strange." Cerberus said, "It looks humanoid but I can't make out the bio readings."
He suddenly jumped up and scooped David up.
"This is serious." Iceberg said, "What did you detect?"
"D-cells." Cerberus replied.
This didn't mean much to the Guardians but they could tell from Cerberus reaction that this was very bad. Iceberg and Isis quickly gathered up their gear and followed the android into the marsh that lay ahead.
"I hope this thing didn't hurt Heidi and the others." Isis said stepping into the knee deep murky water.
"Jon is a very capable Guardian." Iceberg replied, "He could handle anything that threatens his party."
"I suppose but whatever this thing is, it has Cerberus scared." Isis said softly.
"Indeed." Iceberg nodded, "Which causes me concern."
"You?" Isis frowned, "Now I am worried."
David looked back and saw something slip into the water. He stared for a moment but it had disappeared. It should have been mid morning by now but with no star to provide heat and light the planet was trapped in forever night. The only source of light now was the swirling vortex of energy that was dragging them through space. Even the temperature had started to drop.
"It's getting cold." David said softly.
"Yes, the planets heat is bleeding off into space." Cerberus said, "I estimate there's only about a day's worth of comfortable heat left."
"How long before it gets too cold to support life?" Iceberg asked.
"Two or three days at most." Cerberus said, "Once it starts to get really cold the temperature will drop really fast."
"That's not much time." Isis said, "Even if we had the capacity, we couldn't evacuate everyone in time."
"So no matter whether we win or not hundreds if not thousands are lost." Iceberg growled.
"Let's make sure it's not millions." Isis said, "Where is this power?"
"We must reach the center of the swamp." David pointed, "It is hidden there."
The trek through the thick mud and water was slow and tiring. Every now and again they'd catch a glimpse of the thing following them. It would only appear for a second and never close enough to be identified.
"It's following us to the power source." Iceberg said.
"Looks like it." Cerberus nodded.
The barren alien planet now dominated the sky. The vortex disappeared plunging the planet into total night. The center of the swamp was in sight now. It was a small island with a stone obelisk at the center. A crystal orb sat on the top.
"There!" David pointed
Something exploded from the surface of the other world. A beam of light shot out landing in the swamp close to the guardians. A massive flame washed over the surface of the other world turning it into a small dim sun. The swamp lit up under the soft orange glow of the other world. The beam of light vanished leaving a giant monster behind. It stretched out its long arms and roared. Cerberus hurried to the island and sat David on the dry ground then drew his rifle to face the monster. Isis and Iceberg joined him.
"Too late puny things." The creature growled, "I am awake and I am whole. Now I will take that power."
"You have to get through us first!" Iceberg yelled.
"No, I don't." The dark one grinned.
David let out a yelp drawing the attention of the others. Isis gasped as she saw Heidi holding the boy tight with a dagger pressed against his throat. Her eyes had turned solid purple. Her neck sported a large purple spot were the scratch had been. Twisted purple veins stretched out from the spot weaving all over her body. She had a nasty set of fangs growing from her upper jaw. She just glared at the Guardians.
"My child has done well." The dark one laughed.
"She does not belong to you." Cerberus pointed.
"Yes she does." It replied, "A gift given to me by my former servant. This is her true purpose, her destiny. Look at her; she is the exact opposite of your precious controller. He may be your son of life, but she is my daughter of death."
"Cerberus?" Isis looked up.
"She's not evil." Cerberus replied, "She's infected by D-cells. Something is preventing her from completely mutating."
"Stand aside!" The Dark one boomed, "Or I will kill the boy."
"No you won't." Cerberus pointed, "You need him to control the power."
"You're right." The Dark One nodded, "But I don't need the girl."
The dagger moved from David's throat to Heidi's throat.
"Now stand aside." The Dark One roared.
Cerberus lowered his gun and stepped out of the way.
"What are you doing?" Iceberg gasped.
"Saving Heidi's' life." Cerberus replied, "Now stand down."
"Cerberus!" Isis gasped.
"Do it now!" Cerberus barked.
The two Guardians slowly lowered their weapons and stepped aside. The monster grinned as he closed in on the boy. David tried to struggle free but Heidi held him tight with a super human grip.
"Heidi, please let me go." David pleaded, "I know you're not bad. Please fight this. Let me go!"
Heidi held him tight. She didn't respond to either his struggling or his pleading. The Dark One moved in stretching out his long arm to scoop David up.
Slowly the dagger dropped away from her throat, but the grip on him remained tight.
"That's it, fight." David smiled, "You're my friend, please I need you."
The Dark One reached down to snatch the boy up. Heidi jerked the boy away putting her between him and the monster.
"No!" She cried.
"What?" The Dark One said pulling his hand away, "What do you think you're doing?"
"This is my friend and I won't let you hurt him." Heidi said.
She blinked a couple of times and her eyes returned to normal.
"I am not evil and I am not your child." She cried, "I am a Guardian and we eat guys like you for breakfast!"
"That is a pity." The Dark One shook its head, "You could have lived as my princess. My child for all eternity but now I will destroy you along with these other puny things."
"I will gladly die resisting you." Heidi grinned, "Fortunately for me, I don't plan on dying today.
She drew her daggers and took an offensive stance.
"You forget she is not alone." Iceberg said.
"I did not forget." The Dark One waved, "I simply don't care."
He took a swing at the Guardians forcing them to scatter. Iceberg took aim as Isis took position beside him.
"I have a full nanoblast." She whispered.
"Good, we'll need it." Iceberg nodded.
Iceberg fired a couple rounds that impacted against the creature's skin. Cerberus fired at the same spot but the fire power was ineffective. The Dark One laughed then raked the ground with his massive claw like hand forcing the rangers to retreat. Isis drew her metal sword from its sheath and charged.
"David, get to the crystal." Heidi cried.
David nodded and started to run.
A giant hand came crashing down in front of him blocking his path. Heidi lunged at the hand with a strength she had never dreamed of; driving her blades down hard. They bounced off. The Dark One laughed then with a flick of his long finger, sent Heidi flying into the murky water. There was nothing to stop him from grabbing David now. Heidi had to try anyway. She jumped up and leaped through the water. Cerberus and Iceberg continued to fire. The monster reached out for the child closing his fingers around the boy. Isis roared and in a brilliant flash of light, transformed into her nano form. She charged forward and just as the Dark One closed his fingers, she jumped onto his hand, clawing and scratching at the tough flesh. The Dark One growled and flicked her off. Heidi reached the edge of the island and was joined by Sato. She nodded at her Mag and ran to David. The Dark One's hand came down on her. With daggers crossed she used every bit of her new strength to keep him from crushing her and David. Sato began to make some strange chirping noises.
"What is it?" Heidi groaned.
Sato began to meow like crazy. She was trying to tell Heidi something but the girl didn't know what. Cerberus' rifle ran dry. He'd have to wait for it to recharge not that it was doing him much good. Iceberg popped a photon charger in his and continued to fire. Isis recovered and charged for the monsters hand. Cerberus looked out at Heidi and saw the fuss Sato was making.
"It can't be." He gasped and charged for the island.
He stowed his drained rifle and drew the Spirit Guard. As a weapon it wasn't much good but it made a decent club.
"Heidi, Sato has a photon blast ready!" He called.
"A what?" Heidi grumbled.
David shrugged as he slowly backed away from the hand that was trying to crush him. Cerberus ran in at the hand. The sword began to glow.
"That is very strange." He thought, "It doesn't normally do that."
He swung down at the hand. The blade sunk into the flesh. The Dark One quickly pulled his hand back.
"Heidi, blast him." Cerberus said.
"With what?" Heidi shrugged.
The Dark One swung down at the two Guardians.
"Now!" Cerberus cried.
Heidi threw her arms up and spun in a circle ending up with one hand raised and the other on her hip as the circular symbol from her dagger hilts appeared below her. A multi coloured dolphin appeared over her head. It did a quick back flip then drove forward into the monster. The Dark One roared as the light energy burned into his flesh.
"David, the crystal!" Cerberus barked.
The boy quickly turned and ran for the obelisk. The Dark One slammed his fist down forcing the boy to skid to a halt. Cerberus charged forward driving the sword into the massive hand. The hand swatted the android away. Cerberus landing in the swamp with a giant splash. The Dark One began to chuckle as he reached out for the boy. David yelped and ran for the obelisk. Heidi ran after him watching the hand that was reaching out for her friend.
"Man this guy is slow." She thought.
The hand whipped out smashing into her sending her sailing into the water. She landed hard but managed to hang on to her daggers.
"Great, he's fast on the attack." She muttered spitting out swamp water and mud.
Cerberus climbed out of the swamp and bolted for David. The giant hand came down quickly. Cerberus slid under the closing hand holding the sword up. The tip drove into the palm of the hand and the fingers closed around him plucking him from the ground. Heidi started to run back to the island but something grabbed her ankle dragging her into the water. She clawed at the water with her daggers but she couldn't find what held her.
"Isis, Iceberg, I'm stuck." She called.
"I'm stuck too." Isis yelled clawing at the water.
Iceberg ran for the island and as he stepped onto the solid ground a muddy brown vine shot up and grabbed his leg.
"No, release me." He growled and fired at the vine.
The plant was ripped to pieces but two more shot up grabbing his wrists.
"The elements are mine to control." The Dark One laughed.
"He's infecting the plant life." Cerberus gasped and pushed the sword a little deeper.
The Dark One didn't seem to notice.
"David, the orb!" Heidi cried.
David nodded and tried to run for the center of the island. The Dark One reached out again but now there was no one left to stop him. The hand slammed down on David and the fingers started to close.
"David NO!" Heidi cried.
Two massive laser bolts blasted into the Dark One's chest knocking him back. Heidi looked up as the Landeel dove down from the sky blasting away at the creature. It didn't do any real damage but the force was enough to keep the creature back. David reached the obelisk and with the very tip of his finger, touched the orb.
"NO!" The Dark One roared.
A blast of white light shot from the orb and into David. The boy was blasted back. He climbed to his feet, an aura of light formed around him. His eyes burned bright with flame.
"Enough!" He said with a loud booming voice.
It was a voice made of every voice that had come before him. He raised his arms and long green reeds rose up from the water wrapping around the Dark One. The reeds sprouted vines that continued up his body then down his arm where they pried his fingers open releasing Cerberus.
"You have destroyed this world and doomed everyone here." David said, "You destroyed my home and slaughtered most of my people. You have continued throughout history bringing death and pain to this universe."
"Release me you insect." The Dark One growled, "You can't kill me."
"No, but I can banish you to the three corners of the universe." David said, "Where you shall once again slumber as an incomplete being."
"No, not again!" The Dark One cried.
David swung his arms up lifting the creature off the ground. With one hand he pulled the flesh from its bones then flung it into deep space. Then he pulled the soul from the bone and tossed it in the direction of the Gurhal system. Heidi watched as it disappeared into the night. She hoped it didn't land anywhere near her home. David took the bone and flung it into space. He lowered his arms then turned to his friends. He raised a hand lifting them from the swamp and brought them to him. He turned to Heidi and smiled.
"Thank you." He said, "I could not have done this without you."
"Thank you for saving me." Heidi smiled.
"It was your own inner strength that saved you." David smiled, "I see no need for you to carry these scars."
He waved his hand around her casting white shimmering sparkles that floated down over her. As they slowly fell to the ground, Heidi was restored to normal. The mutation and the D-cells were completely removed. She reached up to touch the fangs in her mouth but they were gone.
"Thank you." She said softly.
David nodded then turned to the Landeel and watched as it touched down nearby. He waved his hand and the ship was covered in the same white sparkles.
"That should take care of the last of the evil." David smiled, "And now I must return the power."
He turned to face the orb and with a point of his finger he returned the power to it. The orb rolled off of the top of the obelisk and rolled to his feet. He scooped up the orb and nodded.
"You've done well son." Cerberus smiled.
"Thank you all." David smiled, "Now I must take this far away so no one will ever find it again."
"Don't leave a map this time." Heidi grinned.
"I won't." David smiled back.
"We must leave." Iceberg said, "Time is still short."
Everyone quickly climbed the ramp. Jon was waiting at the top and Heidi leaped into his
"I'm so glad you're safe." He said softly.
"Thanks Dad." She whispered back.
The Landeel lifted off and headed back to the field were the flyer still sat. A repair crew from the Landeel were replacing the ramp on the back of the flyer. Isaac was waiting there with the people of his village. The earth tremors continued to get worse as the gravity from the two worlds tore away at each other. The Landeel gently set down and David quickly exited the ramp. Heidi followed him down stopping at the bottom.
"Where will you go?" She asked.
"I'm not sure but I'll have a good guardian looking out for me." David shrugged.
"Huh?" Heidi frowned.
Isaac stepped forward.
"Some of us have decided to go with David." He said.
"You have?" Heidi frowned, "I thought you might come to Gurhal with us."
"There's nothing I'd like more and many of my people will be going with you but as your place is there, my place is here." Isaac said, "Time for my own adventure I guess."
"I'll miss you." Heidi said wrapping her arms around him.
He hugged her back.
"I'll miss you too."
She let go and stepped back. Isaac nodded once then turned for the flyer. David gave Heidi a quick hug then boarded the flyer behind Isaac. A few more men and women followed them filling the flyer to its capacity. Heidi watched the flyer lift off and disappear in the sky. She continued to stare up as Cerberus, Isis, and Iceberg quickly ushered the rest of the people aboard. Heidi followed the last of the refugees up followed by Isis and Iceberg. Cerberus took one last look at the small world as it slowly began to break up and felt bad for all the lives here they couldn't save. He turned and started up the ramp. Kireek stood at the top.
"You!" Cerberus growled.
"Cerberus." Kireek nodded, "We need to talk."
"We have nothing to talk about." Cerberus said drawing the Spirit Guard, "Your reign of terror ends here."
"I am not the black devil you have been pursuing for so long." Kireek said holding up a
hand, "That evil has been taken from me."
"Tell me another one Black Hound." Cerberus growled and charged.
Lisa stepped in front of Kireek holding up her hands.
"What are you doing?" Cerberus gasped.
"Kireek's not evil." Lisa said, "He helped us save the Landeel."
"That does not excuse his crimes." Cerberus pointed.
"I will not claim to be innocent." Kireek shook his head but I was not responsible for the evil that controlled me."
"I intend to make sure you pay for your crimes." Cerberus growled.
"Fine, but not here." Lisa said, "Let's wait to get back to Gurhal and leave it to the authorities. I'm sure he's facing charges there too."
"Fine." Cerberus sighed stowing his sword.
"I see there is no point in asking for your forgiveness so I shall leave you." Kireek said and disappeared inside.
"He's not evil." Lisa said.
"But he is the Black Hound." Cerberus said, "And his crimes are many even before he was influenced by Dark Falz."
"And he will finally have to face the consequences of those crimes." Lisa said, "Come on, we've got a whole new home to chase bad guys in. Let's enjoy the rest before we get back."
Cerberus nodded and took one last look at the planet before heading up the ramp. Lisa was right, this new world promised many new adventures for him and he was actually looking forward to it. He smiled with a nod as the hatch closed behind him. The Landeel gently lifted off the ground then headed for home leaving the two worlds to their doomed fate.