Heidi and Becky managed to slip out of town without attracting the attention of the Seed. They even found a working transport parked in an alleyway. Screams and crying had filled the streets as citizens scrambled about trying to avoid the marching Seed creatures. Worse yet the virus that mutated people into horrible monsters just like Bruno was spreading like wildfire. It had taken them most of the after noon slinking down alley ways and side streets before they had found the transport and even then it had taken them a while to get out of town. Night was now approaching as the sun had just sunk beneath the horizon. Now well on their way with the town sinking in the distance, Heidi couldn’t help but look back and feel guilty for leaving all those innocent people to die at the hands of the Seed. She turned away from the side mirror and sat back in her seat, her head slumping back against the head rest. Becky sat in the driver seat as she was in better condition than the Newman. Heidi had lost a lot of blood and now struggled to maintain consciousness. Becky looked over at her friend to make sure she was still awake and managed a weak smile when Heidi looked back at her. She turned her attention back to the road then discreetly lifted her shirt to check on her own bandage. She had quickly patched herself up while Samuel had been working on Teletha. She said a silent curse as the bandage continued to become blood soaked. She was still slowly bleeding and the bandage wasn’t stopping it. She slid her shirt back down over it and quickly checked to see if Heidi had seen her. Heidi’s head was slumped off to the side, her breathing slow and rhythmic. She was asleep but she looked stable at least. If they could make it back to the next town they could get medical help and water. Becky gripped her side as a wave of pain shot through her wound. It only lasted a second but it hurt none the same. She tried to take a deep breath but even that hurt. Sato meowed softly at the young woman. Becky smiled back and patted the Mag on the head.
“It’s ok, I’m fine.” She smiled
Sato kept quiet but she nuzzled up against her new friends leg. Becky turned back to the road and had to swerve quickly to keep from running of the path. Once she had regained control she quickly checked on her friend but Heidi remained asleep.
“Sleep would be so nice right now.” She sighed.
Sato meowed again.
“I know, I know.” Becky shook her head, “We stop know and we both might die.”
She continued on down the road glancing in her side mirror. One of the stars low in the horizon seemed brighter than normal. She kept watch on it as she drove and indeed it kept getting bigger and brighter. The roar of a ships engine soon thundered across the desert as a small rogue ship flew in over the transport. Giant spot lights beamed down over the transport and Becky heard grappling hooks pierce the roof of the cargo area. An EMP burst shot down from the ship disabling the engine. The transport settled down on the ground and three loud thumps came from the roof. Becky shook Heidi trying to wake her without making a sound. The Newman groaned but didn’t wake. Becky froze as she heard voices of the rogues. They began cutting holes in the metal then dropped down into the cargo area.
“Hey, what’s going on here?” One of them cried.
“Ya, where’s the stuff?” Another said in a gruffer voice.
“What kind of transport doesn’t carry anything?” The first one said, “Check the cab and ask the driver.”
“Duh, OK.” A third deep voice said.
Becky remained quiet listening to the footsteps approach her door. A big dog faced beast man appeared in the window. He smiled when he say Becky then turned to the back of the transport.
“Duh, hey Hiru, there’s a couple girls here.” He said.
“Girls, alright.” The deeper voice replied.
“Pipe down No.” Hiru said, “Let’s see what we got first shall we?”
“Huh, oh ya lets.” No nodded.
The short pink afro haired Newman popped his head up into the window with a little help from his big younger brother Do. He grinned and signalled for the beast man to set him down. The human named No dropped down from the roof and waited eagerly as Do opened the door.
“Welcome my dear.” Hiru smiled with a slight bow, “This is your lucky day. You’ve been found by…”
“The Vol brothers.” The trio said.
“Now if you’d be so kind as to step from your broken vessel...” Hiru said trying to sound smarter than he really was, “We will escort you to your new home.”
Becky just stared back at them for a moment before finally climbing down from the cab.
“You aren’t going to hurt me are you?” She asked softly.
Hiru looked at her and spotted the small trail of blood running down from under her shirt.
“Looks like some one already did.” He shrugged.
Sato floated over to the open door and hissed at the three men. They turned around and stared at the Mag.
“Duh Hiru, isn’t that?” Do began.
“Sure looks like it Do.” Hiru nodded.
No moved in front of the door and shone his flashlight in side.
“Hey, that looks like…” He gasped, “Could it be?”
“Don’t just stand there.” Hiru scolded slapping No across the head, which was a real stretch for him, “Get the poor girl out of there.”
No moved in to pull Heidi out. Sato moved out of his way and floated over to Becky. No carefully removed Heidi from the cab and set her down on the sand. Hiru moved in checking her bandages over then shook his head and turned to Becky.
“Where have you been?”
“Aramosa.” Becky replied, “It was attacked by Seed.”
“You better come with us.” Hiru shrugged, “You’ll be safe with us and Tylor will get you fixed up.”
“Wait, what’s going on here?” Becky frowned.
“Don’t worry sweetie.” Hiru smiled, “Any friend of Heidi’s is a friend to us isn’t that right?”
“Uh ya.” No nodded.
“Duh ya that’s right.” Do agreed.
Hiru moved over to the ship and called for a couple lift cables. They got Heidi and Becky on board then turned and headed back south. Becky was seated by a window and stared down as Aramosa passed by. It was lit up by several fires and she could see several small explosions go off in the streets from the remaining survivors still fighting. Hiru moved in beside her and peered out the window. He pulled his head away and slumped down in the seat beside her.
“When we get back I’ll get Tylor to send help for who ever is left.”
“Thank you.” Becky said softly letting her head rest against the glass.
Heidi awoke in a dark cool room. Panic washed over her and she tried to sit up but she quickly tangled herself in the I.V. tubes connected to her arms. She laid back down on the bed and calmed herself down before sitting up again. The only light in the room was from the display on her life monitor that was accompanied by the rhythmic beeping the machine produced to replicate her heartbeat. She pawed at her arms until she got the needles on the I.V. tubes to pull out then she pulled off the electrodes stuck to her chest. She swung her feet off the bed and dropped to the floor. The metal floor was cold under her bare feet. She quietly slid across the floor keeping her arms out to keep from bumping into anything. She found the wall and began searching for the light switch. The lights suddenly flicked on as the door slid open. A small child like beast girl appeared in the door. She smiled at Heidi and slid all the way in.
“You had us worried there for a bit.” She said.
“Liina!” Heidi grinned, “That must mean I’m in Tylor’s hideout.”
“Yep.” Liina nodded, “We’re just lucky those three idiots found you when they did. Guess they had to get something right eventually.”
“I was rescued by the Vol brothers?” Heidi gasped then sighed, “I’ll never be able to live down the humiliation.”
Liina laughed then waved Heidi to follow her.
“Where’s Becky?” Heidi asked.
“I’m not sure exactly.” Liina shrugged, “Don’t worry, she’s fine. We got her all patched up and she’s wandering around here somewhere.”
“Liina, I need your help.” Heidi said as they boarded an elevator, “Yours and Tylors I mean.”
“I know.” Liina nodded, “Becky told us all about it. Including your new found power.”
“Ya, that was a bit of a surprise for me too.” Heidi replied scratching the back of her head, “Only problem is I seem to be able to use it only when I get mad.”
“I’ll try not to get you mad then.” Liina grinned.
“You don’t have anything to worry about.” Heidi smiled back, “You could never get me that mad.”
The elevator door slid open and the two girls stepped off entering Tylor’s large office. The rogue leader was seated behind a large oak desk, one of the perks of his new position. On the view screen Heidi could see the image of Laia Martinez the Guardians president. Heidi froze in place not wanting to talk to Laia.
“What’s the matter?” Liina asked.
“I don’t want Laia to know I’m here.” Heidi replied.
“Why?” Liina frowned.
“Cause she doesn’t know I’m here on Moatoob and has no idea what I’ve been up too.” Heidi replied, “If she finds out she’ll order me back to the colony and I’ll never find my cousin.”
“Stay here.” Liina waved, “I’ll take care of everything.”
Heidi nodded and watch the little beast woman trot off down the slopping floor to Tylors desk. She whispered something into Tylor’s ear to which Tylor just nodded.
“Something wrong Tylor?” Laia frowned.
“Not at all.” Tylor smirked back, “My guest has arrived. Don’t worry I’ll send the Vol brothers out to the confinement site to help with the set up. They aren’t the brightest but they do follow orders.”
“Very good.” Laia nodded, “Parum and Neudaiz are ahead of schedule so as Guardians are freed up at those sites I’ll direct some of them your way.”
“Thanks Laia.” Tylor replied, “Any help is appreciated.”
He tapped the screen ending the communication then waved Heidi forward. Heidi moved slow but steady down to Tylor’s desk.
“I’m glad to see you’re feeling better.” Tylor waved to a chair, “You had us worried.”
“So Liina tells me.” Heidi said taking a seat.
“You’re friend told us of your adventure up to this point so I won’t make you repeat it.” Tylor said.
“Thank you.” Heidi nodded.
“So, you’re searching for your missing cousin.” Tylor continued.
“That’s right.” Heidi confirmed.
“And she is being held by the Illuminus.” Tylor frowned.
“So I’m told.” Heidi shrugged.
“This is not good news.” Tylor sighed sitting back in his chair, “We don’t know where their main base is. We checked out the location Iceberg and Isis had infiltrated but the entire place had been cleared out. I’m sure they will be back, it’s too profitable to abandon completely.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that.” Heidi tapped her fingers together, “The Illuminus’ actions lately haven’t exactly been typical.”
“True, I’m not sure what Lutz is up too.” Tylor shook his head, “The best we can do for you is drop you off at a southern mine we know to be under Illuminus control.”
“Thank you Tylor.” Heidi smiled, “I owe you one, actually two.”
“If you find the Illuminus base make sure I’m the first to know and I’ll call it even.” Tylor replied.
“Deal.” Heidi grinned shaking his hand.
Heidi followed Liina back out to the elevator. Liina hit the button and the elevator began to descend.
“We’ll give you what ever supplies you need.” Liina said with a smile, “I’ll arrange someone to transport you to the site.”
“I need some one to check my linesheild before I depart.” Heidi nodded, “For some strange reason it wouldn’t stop any of the attacks from the Seed creatures we encountered at Aramosa.”
“Alright, Becky has all of your equipment in her room.” Liina said.
The elevator opened and the two girls stepped off. Liina took Heidi to Becky’s room where indeed all her equipment was waiting for her. She scooped up her nanotransformer and slapped it on her back. Her clothes where placed in a neat pile next to her weapons. They had all been cleaned and repaired. Heidi slipped into them then stored her S-red daggers and her Ruby Bullet in the transformer then handed her linesheild over to Liina.
“This shouldn’t take long.” Liina said and scurried out of the room.
Heidi turned to the mirror on the wall and sighed at the pathetic looking girl staring back at her. She was pretty beat up but at least the medical treatment was healing her neatly. She would most likely walk away with this without a scare across her face. She picked up a hair brush off the dresser and quickly cleaned up the tangled mess on her head. When she finished it looked much better but still no where near the usual stylish neatness she usually kept it. She was even missing the flower that always sat on the left side of her head. She sighed softly then headed out into the halls in search of Becky. She found her and Sato in one of the hanger bays staring out the open bay door. Heidi strolled over to the door stopping beside Becky. She remained quiet and just stared out across the desert.
“I’m glad to see you’re feeling better.” Becky finally said.
“Thanks to you.” Heidi replied, “I don’t think I would have made it otherwise.”
“That’s what best friends do.” Becky replied.
This made Heidi turn to her friend with an upraised eyebrow.
“You are my best friend.” Becky said looking at her feet, “I’ve never had a friend who’d risk their life for me. Sure there’s girls I hang out with and do stuff. I’ve never had anyone who I could turn to with my inner most secrets. Look at me now.”
Becky looked up and smiled.
“To be honest, I’ve never had a best friend before either.” Heidi replied and hugged Becky tightly.
Heidi suddenly opened her eyes, staring straight ahead and said, “You can come in now Liina.”
The little beast woman stepped from the open doorway and into the hanger. The two friends released their embrace and turned to the beast girl.
“How did you know she was there?” Becky frowned.
“Newman hearing.” Heidi smiled tapping her ear.
“We’ve checked your linesheild.” Liina said walking over to the girls, “We can’t find anything wrong with it.”
She handed it back to Heidi who equipped it to her arm.
“The fact that is was useless against the Aramosa Seed attack has Tylor worried.” Liina said, “He’s going to send in a small team to, uh, collect samples.”
“Tell them to be careful.” Heidi said, “One creature took out three of us.”
“It’s not like I put up much of a challenge.” Becky frowned.
“The shuttle is ready to take you south.” Liina said to Heidi, “They’re waiting in the eastern hanger bay where the Landeel is parked.”
“Thanks Liina.” Heidi nodded then turned to Becky, “This is going to be very dangerous. Even more so than the Seed so as much as I’d like, I can’t ask you to come along.”
“Good thing you don’t have to ask.” Becky grinned.
Sato gave a happy meow and floated over to Heidi’s shoulder.
“Then you are going to need a line shield and some weapons.” Heidi smiled.
“Already taken care of.” Becky replied holding up her left arm, “Apparently I am a gunner.”
Becky shrugged as she drew her long bow from her newly acquired nanotransformer.
“I hope you’re a better shot with that than you were with a hand gun.” Heidi smirked.
“In case I’m not they gave me one of those too.” Becky replied with a chuckle.
“I’m doomed.” Heidi giggled.
The two girls continued to laugh and joke all the way to the hanger bay.
The flyer ride south may have been uneventful but it was anything but dull. Normally a flyer would be several thousand feet off the ground but the rouge flyer was only a couple hundred feet up. To avoid the Illuminus surveillance equipment the pilot had to stay low and follow the cannons. Heidi gripped the arm rest of her seat as the flyer strafed and twisted around rock formations and over hanging ledges. The flyer slowed as it approached the end of this particular valley they had been following. It pitched up and just hopped up over the edge landing softly on the top.
“OK, out quickly.” The pilot said, “It won’t take them long to get here and I don’t want to be around when they show.”
“Thanks for the concern.” Heidi muttered as she unbuckled herself.
She and Becky quickly disembarked from the aircraft and got clear of the blast zone. The flyer lifted off the ground, turned a hundred and eighty degrees, and then dove back into the valley. Becky and Heidi turned their backs to the valley and looked out over the flat desert before them.
“So this mine is just a short hike to the next valley huh.” Becky frowned adjusting her backpack.
They had packed both nanotransformers full of supplies then filled a couple packs with water and monomates.
“Yep.” Heidi nodded, “Let’s go.”
Heidi took a step forward when a gigantic explosion shook the ground. The girls spun around to see the flaming wreckage of the flyer crash to the valley floor.
“By the holy light.” Becky gasped.
“Should have seen that coming.” Heidi muttered, “We’ve been detected. Let’s get out of here quickly.”
Becky nodded and the two girls took off across the hard desert ground at full run. They kept the pace up for a while until the heat and sun took its toll and they could go no further. Heidi stopped first pulling a bottle from her pack. Becky collapsed to her knees taking deep breaths before drawing a bottle from her pack. Heidi downed a heavy swallow then pulled her cap of to wipe the sweat from her head. Becky took her cap off then splashed a little water on her forehead wiping it with her sleeve.
“I thought girls weren’t supposed to sweat.” She sighed.
“That’s ladies.” Heidi smiled, “And we are anything but ladies.”
“Speak for yourself.” Becky smirked and but her cap back on, “I would have preferred short sleeve shirts.”
“These will keep us from burning in this hot sun and it’s supposed to be light enough that it’s actually cooler with it on.” Heidi shrugged, “I’m not sure about the last part but I don’t really feel like a nasty sunburn today.”
“I guess not.” Becky shrugged and climbed to her feet, “Think we’ve lost them?”
“I’m going to err on the side of caution and say no.” Heidi replied, “But I think we have put enough distance so we don’t have to run.”
“That’s good.” Becky nodded, “Hiking is bad enough.”
It turned out to be a hefty hike to the mining site but they made it without seeing any sign of pursuers. They stopped at the ledge of the mining pit to survey the site. Security didn’t seem that high but there were plenty of guards to oversee the beast slaves. Heidi spotted a shielded spot behind an excavator where they could descend into the pit. They carefully slid down the slope stopping behind the large piece of equipment. Heidi peered around the edge just as a naked beast slave stumbled by. She quickly tucked back hoping she hadn’t been seen. Becky peered out for a second to see the beast heading away.
“Good thing these guys have a thick coat of fur covering up their shame.” She shook her head.
“What’s the matter?” Heidi grinned, “Big strapping muscular beast men not your type?”
Becky just frowned.
“Me either.” Heidi chuckled patting her shoulder, “Let’s move.”
Becky nodded then followed her friend over to some large storage crates. They continued to slink across the mining area finally stopping at the office buildings. A well built human exited the building they were hiding behind and headed for the elevator that descended underground. Heidi bolted around the corner catching the door just before it swung shut. The office buildings were nothing more than makeshift sheds that could be quickly taken down and moved. There were a couple tables covered in paper work and a single desk containing the only computer terminal.
“I’ve never seen anything so primitive.” Becky gasped.
“Travel Moatoob enough and you’ll get used to it.” Heidi replied sitting down at the desk.
Becky remained at the door to keep watch. Heidi tapped the computer terminal bringing the display to life. It was the work order and manifest for the Illuminus supply orders. Bosley’s company was one of hundreds of companies on the order list. GRM was listed several times followed closely by Yohomei.
“Neudaiz is getting supplies from the Illuminus.” Heidi gasped quietly.
She continued to scan through the data base but couldn’t find any listing of any Illuminus member by name or location. She wasn’t going to find her cousin in here. Becky waved at her as the human was headed back. The two girls quickly bolted out of office and around the back. They waited for him to enter the shed making sure they hadn’t been spotted.
“Now what?” Becky asked.
“We need to find an employee list.” Heidi replied, “I need to know what Illuminus members are working here. Hopefully Howzer or at least a Magashi is overseeing this place.”
“A Magashi?” Becky frowned.
“A cast clone of Howzer.” Heidi replied, “And there are a lot of them.”
“That’s convenient.” Becky smirked.
“We need to talk to one of these slaves.” Heidi said just as she spotted her victim.
She quietly slunk away with Becky following at a distance. Heidi stayed focused on a small beast woman working a mining cart trusting that Becky was watching her back. She slipped between a couple cargo crates. She pulled a dagger from her transformer then looked to make sure there were no witnesses. She sprang out and grabbed the beast woman by the mouth, placing her dagger at the woman’s throat then dragged her back to the crates.
“OK, I’m going to remove my hand and you’re going to stay quiet, right?” Heidi whispered in her ear.
The woman nodded nervously. Heidi slowly pulled her hand away in case the woman decided to scream. When she didn’t, Heidi relaxed a little.
“All I want is a little information.” Heidi hissed.
“I… I don’t know anything.” The woman quivered, “I’m just a slave.”
“Which means you know a lot more about this place than I do.” Heidi replied, “I want the mines employee list. Or at least who’s in charge here. Is it Howzer or Magashi?”
“I don’t know who those are.” The woman replied, “The man in charge here is a human named Cornelius.”
“Where can I find him?” Heidi asked.
“The main office on the first floor of the mine.” The woman pointed to the pit, “But you’ll never get down there without being spotted. Flee this place while you’re still free.”
“Sorry, I have a cousin to find.” Heidi shook her head, “And the Illuminus have her.”
“If that’s true.” The woman paused for a second, “She’s with Howzer, if she’s still alive.”
Heidi released the woman and stowed her dagger.
“I have to find her.” Heidi sighed, “If Cornelius knows where I can find Howzer then I must speak to him.”
“Good luck to you then.” The woman said and turned for her cart, “You’re going to need it.”
“I make my own luck.” Heidi muttered.
Becky came running up behind her and grabbed her shoulder.
“We’ve got trouble.” She said turning Heidi towards the office building, “Looks like they know we’re here.”
“More bad news.” Heidi replied.
“What now?” Becky gasped.
“We have to go into the mine.” Heidi smirked then headed for another set of cargo crates.
With a deep exhaled breath Becky followed her friend as they moved closer to the mine entrance. Human and Cast guards were moving about the pit looking for signs of intruders. Heidi bolted across an open area ducking behind a row of carts. Becky skidded in behind her. She started to protest but Heidi clamped her hand on Becky’s mouth and shushed her. A short bulky cast marched by on the other side of the carts. Lucky for them he didn’t check behind the carts. Heidi released Becky and moved to a pile of rocks. She peered around the pile spotting three guards standing beside the elevator.
“Blast.” She cursed quietly.
“Now what?” Becky whispered.
“Distraction.” Heidi replied.
“No way, I’m not…” Becky started to protest.
“Not you.” Heidi stopped her, “Me.”
“What are you going to do?” Becky frowned growing concerned that Heidi might do something stupid.
“Watch.” Heidi said holding up her finger.
She turned and peered around the rock scanning the field. Behind the elevator was a stack of photon reactor crates for the mining equipment below. That was her target. She closed her eyes and held her hand out. The image of the crates appeared in her mind. A large ghostly hand formed in the forefront of her mind. It was happening again just like before in the Landeel when she was trapped in the turret and about to be destroyed by the rogue A.M.F. ships. This didn’t feel as strong as her previous attacks but she was more in control of this. Those power outbursts had her in more of a trance, strictly focused on her target. Here she remained aware of her surroundings. She was calm and cool. No anger and no burning blood. No hate. She moved the hand to the crates and felt the flame of a Gifoie blast flow from her to the power cores. The pile of crates erupted in flame. Everyone scrambled to contain the fire. The guards moved from the elevator clearing their path. Heidi opened her eyes, grabbed Becky’s arm and bolted for the elevator. She pounded the down button as soon as they were on and the elevator began its descent. This caught the attention of one guard who turned and headed back.
“That was impressive.” Becky said, “But it didn’t look as strong as before.”
“That’s what it’s supposed to be like.” Heidi shrugged, “I’m not sure what that those other two were but I don’t really like them very much.”
“Too much anger and hate.” Heidi clarified, “It leaves me feeling really… well bad I guess.”
“Ah.” Becky nodded.
The elevator jerked to a sudden halt, then started back up.
“We need off now.” Heidi said drawing her daggers, “I hope this works.”
She dropped her pack and moved to the elevator doorway.
“Climb on my back.” Heidi said.
“What are you planning?” Becky frowned.
“No time just do it!”
Becky quickly took hold of Heidi and closed her eyes. Heidi took a step back then leapt from the elevator toward the rock wall. Her daggers dug deep into the rock and started to slide down a bit before stopping. The two girls clung to the wall for a moment as the elevator made its way back up. Heidi looked down to check her descent path then pulled a dagger free and began the climb down. The climb was long and tiring and several times the girls had to carefully switch spots. Becky nearly lost her grip a couple of times but Heidi was always ready to catch her or the falling dagger. They both let out a big sigh of relief when Becky finally touched down on the rock floor. The girls collapsed to the floor panting heavily.
“I do not want to do that again.” Becky exhaled.
“Me either.” Heidi agreed, “Think any one saw us?”
“Someone up stairs did.” Becky shrugged, “So why didn’t they come after us?”
“And why is there no greeting party waiting down here?” Heidi frowned scanning the area.
There were several beast slaves and guards working the main track lines a fair distance away but no one seemed to pay the visitors any attention. Heidi climbed to her feet and took back the daggers, storing them in her nanotransformer.
“This is too odd.” Heidi frowned as she helped Becky to her feet.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Becky shook her head.
“Me too.” Heidi nodded.
She cautiously moved left out of the elevator shaft towards a row of mining carts that they could use for cover. Heidi crept along the row peering around the end. She spotted the main office building not too far away. It was a simple structure carved from the very rock with a line of large windows set into the side facing the tracks so the entire operation could be monitored without ever getting up from the desks. Heidi could see at least three people moving about in there. She waved for Becky to follow then charged across the cart tracks and burst through the office door with daggers drawn.
I want to talk to Cornelius and I want to talk to him now.” She demanded.
The people in the office casually turned and regarded her with disinterest. One man just shrugged and they went back to work as nothing had happened. Becky ran up behind Heidi with gun drawn but quickly lowered it when she saw that no one was paying them any attention.
“I don’t think they’re buying it.” Becky shook her head when no one responded.
Heidi frowned and marched over to the nearest desk were a young woman was working. She drove her dagger into the woman’s paperwork.
“I’m not kidding.” Heidi growled, “Cornelius, where is he?”
The woman just continued to work around the dagger seeming completely unaware that she was being threatened. Confused, Heidi with drew her dagger and backed up a step. Becky went over to a man bent over a computer screen. She waved her hand in front of his face. She stopped when she didn’t get any reaction.
“Heidi, I don’t think these people are all there.” Becky frowned.
Heidi walked over to an unoccupied desk and swiped her hand across it knocking several papers on the floor.
“I think you’re right.” She said when no one responded, “These people don’t seem to even know we’re here.”
“So how do we find Cornelius?” Becky asked.
“Cornelius has found you.”
The girls turned to the door where a tall heavy set man was standing with three guards standing behind him
“It would seem.” He smirked, “I have known of your presence here since you landed. I wanted to know what you’re up too.”
“I’m looking for my cousin.” Heidi replied, “She was sold to the Illuminus from Aramosa.”
“We don’t keep slave girls here.” Cornelius shook his head, “Just slave labour.”
Becky shot him a scowl which he simply ignored.
“I know but I also know this is an Illuminus mining operation.” Heidi said, “Either you know where Howzer is hiding or you know someone who does.”
“Perhaps but since you are never leaving here I see no reason to tell you anything.” Cornelius shrugged.
“Don’t be so sure of that.” Heidi said taking a defensive stance.
“Are you really fast enough to out run a bullet?” Cornelius smirked.
“I don’t have to out run all of them.” Heidi smirked back, “Just enough to get to you.”
She sprang forward with daggers leading the way. Cornelius gasped and stepped back.
“Fire!” He ordered.
The guards stepped up and fired at the charging Newman. Becky dropped to her knees making her a smaller target and fired back. Heidi weaved and dodged but still took several hits to her line shield. She drove her dagger in to the belly of the middle guard and quickly swiped with the other taking out the guard on her left. She spun to her right taking a point blank hit before slicing the barrel off the guard’s rifle then drove the tip of the other dagger in to the guns photon pack shorting it out. The guard quickly dropped the gun raising his hands and backing away.
“Good boy.” Heidi winked then turned to Cornelius who was still trying to slink away, “Howzer, where can I find him.”
Cornelius slowly turned around with a sheepish grin on his face.
“Seems I overestimated the usefulness of my guards.” He shrugged.
The fact he blamed his guards and not himself for underestimating her was not lost on Heidi.
“Guess they just weren’t as motivated as me.” She shrugged placing a dagger to his throat, “Howzer.”
“There’s no guarantee he has her.” Cornelius stammered.
“Howzer!” Heidi demanded pushing the dagger forward into his throat.
“All right, he’s in a secret base located in a small rocky mountain just south of here.” Cornelius surrendered, “You’ll never find it.”
“Yes I will.” Heidi said spinning the man around, “Because you are going to take me there.”
“What!” He tried to protest but she jabbed him in the back with a dagger.
She led him back to the elevator where the three waited for the elevator to come down. No one paid any attention to the kidnapping and Cornelius began to curse the effectiveness of the Illuminus mind control device. He would never let these Guardians know of it of course. He let Heidi force him on to the elevator knowing his guards would be waiting at the top. All he had to do was keep quiet and be patient. The elevator reached the top and the three stepped off. They were surrounded by every guard on the surface all with guns trained on the Guardians. Becky gasped and crept behind Heidi.
“Ah poor Guardian.” Cornelius chuckled, “Looks like the little mouse is caught.”
“You haven’t seen anything yet.” Heidi replied and closed her eyes.
Cornelius tried to look over his shoulder to see what the girl was up too. Her tone had made him suddenly uncomfortable. The sudden blast of a Rafoie attack made him jump. A series of chained attacks flowed around the camp blasting away the guards. When it was over Heidi opened her eyes and exhaled heavily feeling quite exhausted. Cornelius smirked slightly. Heidi jabbed him forcing him into motion. He led them to his private flyer. He opened the rear hatch and nodded. Heidi motioned for Becky to check it out. Cornelius waited for the girl to disappear inside then lunged at Heidi, but her quick reflexes prevented him from grabbing her. He growled and charged again grabbing a pipe that was leaning up against a refuelling barrel. He swung at Heidi several times. She blocked each attack then swung at him slicing a chunk of pipe off. He growled and tossed the remaining bit at her. She ducked as the pipe flew passed her head. He charged ramming into her knocking her to the ground. He tried to jump on her but she rolled to the side coming up to her feet. He lunged at her again. She swung a dagger catching him in the arm. The sudden shot of pain stopped him dead in his tracks. Heidi slid forward stopping close to him with her dagger poised to drive into his belly.
“Are you finished or shall we continue this to its very short conclusion?” She asked.
“I yield.” He sighed.
She nodded then followed him aboard the flyer.
The flyer floated along the high altitude air currents giving it’s passengers an uneventful ride. Cornelius sat at the pilot seat concentrating on his course. Becky sat in the back passenger seat staring out at the desert far below her as she reflected on all she had been through. Back on Parum she had just been another young human woman among a sea of other human women. The worst she ever had to deal with was the racial treatment from the casts. Then she had been taken from her friends and family, stolen from her home, stripped of her freedom and rights and forced to serve the beasts of Moatoob. They hadn’t mistreated her physically but she had been torn and ***** mentally, beaten to submission. A tear broke loose from her eye and dripped down her cheek. She wiped it away with a sniffle and turned to look at the white haired woman sitting in the seat beside her. How her life had changed after meeting her. This strange Newman girl had shown her compassion and concern even though they had never met. She had an inner strength that seemed to radiate to everyone around her. If it hadn’t been for her, Becky was sure she wouldn’t have made it this far. Becky would still be a slave for a perverted beast man. Since befriending Heidi, Becky had not only seen what true inner strength was but had even discovered it in herself. She smiled at her best friend who sat with her head forward and eyes closed. The smile drained from Becky’s face as she watched Heidi’s fists clench and relax. Her breathing was heavy and pained; sweat began to form on her forehead. Becky climbed from her seat and placed a hand on Heidi’s shoulder. Heidi awoke suddenly crying out Clarissa’s name. She took several deep breaths before looking up into Becky’s concerned eyes. Heidi smiled and relaxed as Becky returned to her seat after Heidi assured her, she was alright. Becky closed her eyes and let her head slump against the flyers glass canopy. Heidi was still troubled by Clarissa’s death. Tearing her up was more like it. Becky had thought she had gotten over the worst of it but she still blamed herself for Clarissa’s death it seemed. Becky wanted to help but she wasn’t sure how. The flyer began to descend shaking Becky from her thoughts. She watched the ground get closer as the flyer settled down near a large canyon. Heidi opened the rear hatch but it was Becky who was first off. Heidi started down the ramp but stopped when Cornelius failed to move any further than the door.
“The entrance is at the far end.” He nodded, “That’s were you need to head.”
“Oh no, you’re coming too.” Heidi said as she turned to face him.
“And die in this waste land, I don’t think so.”
He kicked Heidi hard in the chest knocking her down the ramp. He laughed as he turned to head back to the cockpit. His laughing stopped as he felt something tap him in the chest. He looked down to see a small smouldering hole. He took a sudden short breath and slowly turned around as shock started to set in. He looked down to see Becky’s handgun pointed at him.
“You… you shot me.” He said then collapsed on the ramp.
Heidi stared at the dead man for a moment then over at her friend. Becky slowly lowered the gun and let it drop to the ground. Heidi climbed to her feet but remained quiet.
“I killed him.” Becky stated
“Just like that, I shot him.” Becky said slowly turned her head to Heidi, “I… he didn’t even have a weapon.”
Heidi went and hugged her friend tightly, “He was going to leave us here.”
“He’s dead and I killed him.” Becky started to cry.
“Yes, but you saved us.” Heidi said looking Becky in the eyes, “And now we have a way out of here.”
Becky wiped the tears away sniffing back the rest.
“But we wanted to come here.”
“We wanted the Illuminus base.” Heidi corrected her, “I don’t think this is it.”
A roar followed by the sound of twisting metal blasted out from the other side of the flyer. Heidi scooped up the hand gun and forced it into Becky’s hand before charging around the flyer. She skidded to a stop as her gaze fell upon a giant Bil De Vear with massive raking claws. It was busy tearing the side of the flyer apart. Twisted sheet metal, wires, and vital components already littered the ground and the beast had only taken two swipes. Heidi drew her daggers then closed her eyes. Becky bolted around from behind stopping beside Heidi who flashed with a red light, followed by blue, yellow and white. Becky looked down to see she too was now flashing the four colours. Heidi opened her eyes and smiled.
“Yes it worked.” She pumped her arm.
“I take it you don’t usually get Buffs to work.” Becky frowned
“They usually end up Debuffing.” Heidi shrugged.
“What no Giresta or Rentis?” Becky smirked.
“I don’t have any disks on those and haven’t figured out how to do them on my own yet.” Heidi replied moving toward the Bil de vear.
“Disks?” Becky frowned.
Heidi grinned but didn’t reply. Becky didn’t know she was referring to the technique disks Cerberus had brought from Ragol that explained how to perform techniques using your own mental energy. Giresta and Rentis were Gurhal techniques and never existed on Ragol. Retier and Zodial were also Gurhal exclusive buffs that boosted mental energy and accuracy but they were similar to Shifta and Deband which she did have disks on. It turned out the four buffs were very similar so she had little difficultly figuring out the two missing ones. Giresta brought dead people back, healing wounds like Resta and produced a side affect of time limited health regeneration. Rentis formed a protective barrier that protected one from technique attacks. These were very complex techniques and Heidi doubted very much she would ever learn them. She shook the thought from her head and turned her concentration on the monster. It took another swipe tearing out the port engines power stabilizer. The unit crashed to the ground right at the girl’s feet. Heidi looked down at the completely destroyed device then glared up at the monster.
“You are so going down!” She yelled.
The Bil De Vear turned to face the threat. Becky fired first missing with her first two shots but the third nailed the creature in the left shoulder. Heidi sprang forward slashing at the monsters leg as she rushed passed. It roared and started to turn. Becky fired again hitting it in the arm. This brought its attention back to her. Heidi rushed in leaping up and driving her S red blades into the creatures back. It roared in pain and tried clawing at her. Becky continued to fire blasting away flesh and fur. Heidi used her daggers to climb up the monster back leaving deep nasty cuts in her path. Knowing it had no way of getting her, the Bil De Vear rose up off the ground and began to spin. The centrifugal force sent Heidi flying off. She crashed to the ground receiving several nasty scratches from the stones. She was quick to her feet. The monster was charging at Becky who backed up as she pumped photon bullets into the creature. Heidi pumped her legs, charging at the creature as it drove Becky toward the rocky ledge. The Bil De Vear took a swipe at Becky who just managed to duck. The second swipe raked the ground knocking her back landing right at the edge. Heidi charged in swinging at the monsters legs. The daggers drove deep slashing away skin and muscle tissue. The monster turned and took a sweeping swing at her. She jumped to the side just missing the claw and drove both daggers into its leg. One blade cut clean through the muscle and tendons. The blade that followed finished the job as it sliced through the monsters leg bone. The Bil De Vear roared as his leg gave out and he came crashing to the ground. Becky was quick to her feet and ran over just as the monsters head hit the ground. It tried to get back up but Becky would have none of it. She aimed the barrel at the creature’s forehead and pulled the trigger. The creature relaxed back to the ground as the bullet burned through its brain. Becky was breathing heavily with the gun still aimed glaring angrily at the monster. Heidi gasped at her then placed her hand on the weapon and slowly lowered it.
“You’re becoming quite a shot.” Heidi said softly.
“Twice in one day I’ve killed something?” Becky asked still staring down at the creature. “I should feel bad for doing so but I don’t.”
“That’s not unusual.” Heidi replied, “These monsters are just animals and they’d have no problem killing you.”
“But I’ve never killed anything before.” Becky said turning her gaze to her friend, “The first time I felt guilt and sorrow for killing that man but not this thing.”
“The day you stop feeling bad for killing someone is the day you stop being human.” Heidi shrugged, “Killing these creatures is different. They only know one thing, kill or be killed. That’s how we survive out here.”
She stored her daggers then gave Becky’s shoulder a squeeze. “You just lack training. It helps you deal with these feelings.”
Becky just nodded staring down at her feet. Heidi released her shoulder and went to inspect the flyer. She softly kicked a few parts lying on the ground as she went. She stopped in front of the damage and stared up at the large hole in the side of the craft.
“Why can’t we get a break?” She sighed then turned away, “We should get any supplies from the flyer then get out of here. This Bil De Vear will attract scavengers.”
Becky nodded but didn’t move. Heidi moved around the flyer to get a view of the canyon. A flash of reflected sunlight from the far end caught her eye.
“By the holy light.” She smiled, “They are here.”
“Who?” Becky asked looking up from the ground.
“The Illuminus.” Heidi pointed at were the light had come from, “Come on lets go.”
Heidi started down the side of the cliff.
“What about the supplies.” Becky asked running to the edge.
Heidi was already a good ways down. Becky sighed and followed her down.
The climb down the cannon side was much easier than Becky had thought it would be. She skidded down the last couple feet landing on the hard rock bottom with a big smile on her face. Heidi was already headed away and Becky had to run to catch up. The floor of the canyon was mostly flat with only a shallow trench running down the middle of it marking where water had once flowed long ago. The desert vegetation was sp:):):):) here and there was no sign that any animal life resided here with only the odd insect scurrying under a rock to show that life existed here at all. The girls walked along the dried river bed for a couple hours chatting about absolutely nothing and enjoying every minute of it. That quickly came to an end as they approached the canyon end. The dried river bed disappeared into a dark cave. Heidi froze and tilted her head to one side as she listened for something Becky couldn’t hear.
“What…” Becky started to ask but Heidi silenced her with a finger.
Heidi then grabbed her by the arm and dragged her behind a large boulder that had fallen from higher up. The girls watched quietly expecting an Illuminus member to appear. Instead they saw a slim tall purple cast slip down from a ledge higher up and disappear into the cave.
“I don’t believe it.” Heidi growled.
“Who was that?” Becky frowned.
“Trouble.” Heidi replied, “Come on, lets get him.”
“Do you always go looking for trouble?” Becky asked as she followed Heidi.
“Always.” Heidi grinned drawing her daggers.
Heidi stepped into the darkness of the cave and stopped dead. Becky nearly bumped into her. Heidi stood in a defensive stance with her eyes closed.
“I sense him.” She finally said snapping her eyes open, “I shouldn’t be able to anymore but I can.”
“Any more?” Becky asked keeping her voice low.
“The spirit of this android used to haunt my dreams.” Heidi replied, “Because I had a small part of him I could sense him. I wasn’t ever able to make much use of it though and just as I was learning to read it, the spirit of my ancestor rose up and drove him out. She used to take over my body when I was in deep trouble.”
“OK.” Becky frowned, “Is that what happened back at the bar and at Bosleys?”
“No.” Heidi shook her head, “That was me. I was completely aware of everything and did have some control I guess. Before, when Amanda took over I had no memory of it. Maybe she left a deeper mark on me than I realized.”
They rounded a tight bend in the rock which opened up to a vast cavern. Iridescent moss covered the cave walls bathing the entire cavern in a soft green glow. There were large holes in the floor that contained shallow pools of water. Glowing seaweed provided homes for the small fish that lived in the pools. Glowing insects scurried across the walls and ceiling.
“Wow.” Becky gasped, “It’s beautiful.”
“Yes.” Heidi nodded, “So why would Kireek come here?”
“Because no one would think of looking for me here.” A voice said behind them.
The girls spun around to come face to face with a very menacing cast. He stared down at them with glowing yellow eyes.
“You.” He glared at Heidi, “How is it that I can not escape you.”
“How is it that I can still feel you, sense you?” Heidi asked.
“I have no idea what you are taking about.” Kireek waved her off.
“You know very well you used to terrify and terrorize me.” Heidi jabbed him in the chest.
Kireek just stood staring down at the Newman.
“Well?” Heidi frowned.
“I no longer possess the D cells or possessed by the spirit of Dark Falz so I have no idea what you are taking about.” Kireek growled.
“Then maybe I should ask Cerberus.” Heidi shrugged and went for her communicator.
Kireek's arm shot out and grabbed her wrist.
“I can not allow that.” He growled.
“Then tell me what I want to know.” Heidi cried pulling her arm away.
“I don’t know!” Kireek hissed.
“Heidi,” Becky said tapping Heidi’s shoulder, “Your cousin.”
“Huh.” Heidi sputtered looking back at her friend, “Oh right, we’re looking for the Illuminus. They may have my cousin…”
“They do.” Kireek interrupted.
“What, how?” Heidi gasped.
“I met her when I was in service with them.” Kireek replied with a nod, “She looks very much like you.”
“Tell me where I can find her.” Heidi cried.
“Why should I.” Kireek shrugged.
“If you help us we won’t tell anyone you’re here.” Becky said.
“How do I know I can trust you?” Kireek frowned.
“You have my word as a Guardian.” Heidi replied.
Kireek sighed and started to turn away.
“And as a Hunter.” Heidi added.
“You’re not a Hunter.” Kireek said turning back.
“Yes I am.” Heidi replied, “More than I am a Guardian. Cerberus has taught me everything about being a Hunter and I have sworn to follow the ideals of the Hunters Guild.”
Kireek paused for a moment studying the girl before nodding with a sigh.
“Very well, follow me.” He said stepping passed them, “But know this, If you betray me I will spend the rest of my life hunting you down.”
“Understood.” Heidi nodded.
Kireek lead them through a series of winding tunnels each illuminated by the strange moss. Kireek, being an android, never tired but the two girls were unable to keep up the constant jog and had to stop several times which Heidi could tell annoyed Kireek to no end. It gave her a little pleasure for having to put up with some one she truly hated. It wasn’t that he was evil or even possessed by evil. Now he was just a common black market crook but because he had haunted and terrorized her, her entire life she couldn’t shake the constant erg to jump him from behind and rip his internal processor from that smug head of his. Becky must have noticed Heidi’s hands clenching because she put her hand on Heidi’s shoulder and gave it a soft squeeze accompanied by a smile. Heidi smiled back and let out a deep breath. She felt a little better until Kireek’s arm shot out stopping them. Heidi frowned as she looked out at the larger tunnel they were about to enter. She opened her mouth to protest but clamped it shut when she heard the sound of grinding stone coming from the larger tunnel. As the sound got closer, Kireek pushed them tight against the wall and signalled for them to be quiet. He turned his head to watch the tunnel. A giant hard plated worm streamed passed the exit. It looked a little like De Rol Le from Moatoob's northern ice lands but this one lacked the large body length fins Rol Le possessed. It moved along the rock by flexing its hard plates back and forth along the length of its body. Each movement of a plate carved out the rock it slid across. Heidi stood gaping at the sight. Kireek grabbed her left arm and tapped the scan on her line shield. After on a few seconds the worm was gone. Kireek looked down at the readout on Heidi’s arm and frowned. Heidi pulled her arm away with a scowl.
“What was that?” Becky gasped.
“I don’t know.” Kireek shook his head, “And apparently neither does the Guardians.”
Heidi looked down at her arm and saw the scan of the worm. The classification display simply read “UNKNOWN”.
“Could this be some new life form?” Heidi asked looking up from her display.
“I’ve only seen them here.” Kireek shrugged, “They may not yet be discovered. We should keep moving before it comes back.”
The girls nodded and followed the android into a connecting tunnel. The mood had shifted from casual to serious as the girls now concentrated on listening for the grinding rock. The conversations had stopped too which pleased Kireek greatly. After what felt like hours of walking the tunnel finally ended in a great cavern. The floor changed from rock to sand and the phosphorescent moss now grew on the ceiling only leaving the walls bare. Even the glowing insects seemed to stay to the roof. Heidi stopped and tilted her head toward the cavern. Becky, not watching where she was going, ran into Heidi’s back. Kireek started into the cavern and Heidi almost let him before grabbing his arm.
“Something is not right here.” She said staring up at him.
“What are you…” Kireek began turning back to the cavern.
He paused as he looked around studying the area before turning back to her.
“You are right.” He nodded, “You do have the hunter’s instinct.”
“What is it?” Becky asked looking passed the two hunters, “What’s wrong?”
“First.” Heidi began holding up a finger, “The floor changes from rock to sand as you move to the center of this cave. Fairly quickly I might add.”
Kireek nodded his agreement.
“Second.” Heidi continued pointing to the ceiling, “The moss is not growing on the walls here. Up until now it has covered the walls and ceiling. Also if you watch the insects, they too stick to the roof and stay away from the walls.”
“So what do they know that we don’t know?” Becky frowned.
“Exactly.” Kireek nodded.
A centipede type of insect crawled out from a patch of moss close to the wall. The three hunters watched as the bug weaved and zig zagged its way down the wall. It got half way down when a giant worm like creature shot out of the sand and snatched the bug off the wall. The girls gasped quietly as the giant maw quickly chomped down the insect as the worm slowly sank back down into the sand.
“We must cross here.” Kireek said, “There is no other way to the Illuminus.”
“Think we’re in for a fight then?” Heidi smirked drawing her daggers.
“Indeed.” Kireek nodded gripping his Soul Eater.
Becky drew her bow and followed the others out into the sand. A worm shot from the ground, mouth wide open baring razor teeth, driving right at Kireek. A quick swing of the Soul Eater sent the worm reeling back. A second worm shot up aiming for Heidi. An arrow shot passed her head and right into the worm’s mouth. The worm quickly reeled back. A third burst through the shale rock at Becky’s feet. She yelped in surprise and her left arm went up in defence. Heidi quickly spun on her heals driving her dagger tip into the side of the worm. It did little damage but the worm retreated back into the ground. Two more shot up out of the sand. Kireek took a swing at one but only the tip of his Soul Eater managed to penetrate the worm’s thick hide. Heidi chopped at the other worm with her daggers but they failed to do any real danger either. Both worms retreated back into the sand, and then everything went quiet. The hunters slowly lowered their weapons when nothing further happened.
“Is that it?” Becky asked.
“I have a bad feeling about this.” Heidi muttered.
Kireek stood with both hands gripping his weapon. He slowly lifted his right leg and took a step forward. As his foot softly crunched down on the sand the floor began to shake.
“Guess that’s not it.” He said stepping back.
A large spindly hand rose up from the center of the floor followed by another. They slammed down on the ground and began to pull their body up. Kireek actually gasped as a monstrous worm rose up. It looked almost identical to the De Rol Le from Ragol. The arms where attacked just below the head and the worms they had been fighting were actually the tentacles extending from the creatures back.
“You look like you’ve seen this before.” Becky said to Kireek.
“Except for the arms this creature looks much like one I fought back on Ragol.” Kireek replied.
“Beta 772.” Heidi nodded.
Kireek turned and stared down at the girl.
“What, Cerberus.” Heidi shrugged.
Kireek turned away with a growl as he was reminded once again this Newman had been trained by his rival android from Pioneer Two. They had once been mortal enemies when Kireek had been possessed by Dark Falz soul. Now that he was free and not nearly so evil the two androids had become rivals more than enemies. Still, there was a little hate between them that remained. His attention was drawn back to the monster as it clawed its way free of the sand. Its massive and lengthy body took up much of the room in the cave. The tentacles shot out at the hunters forcing them to spit up. The creature used its arms for pulling itself around as it chased its prey. Becky fired several shots at the creature before diving away as a tentacle slammed down in an attempt to swallow her up. Kireek charged it batting away any attacks then chopped down at the body. He found it much softer than the tentacles. Heidi tried to move in but she had to fend off constant attacks from the tentacles. A tentacle slammed down on Kireek knocking him on to his back. It immediately struck out with mouth open. A quick swing of the Soul Eater knocked the tentacle aside. Heidi drove off an attack from the right then launched a ball of Foie at one coming from her rear. Becky fired several arrows at the other tentacles to keep them from attacking Kireek. The android rolled to his feet and charged in on the head of the creature. It had what looked like a boney helmet covering its head just like Beta 772. Kireek was hoping that the same would be true with this creature as with 772 and a certain amount of damage would remove the helmet leaving the soft head vulnerable. He sliced down on the helmet hoping to at least chip some off. The tip of the scythe slid across the surface leaving only the slightest scratch.
“Hmm, new tactics are required.” Kireek scowled.
A tentacle slammed down on Kireeks location. The android managed to jump back just in time but his Soul Eater was ripped from his hands and pinned under the tentacle. He tried to pull it free but it was stuck tight and the tentacle would not retract. An arrow flew passed his head slamming into the worm like appendage. It drew green blood from a small cut but the tentacle remained firm. Becky fired again but the tentacle would not release the weapon. Becky aimed for a third shot but had to change to another tentacle that was aiming for her. Heidi was still being held at bay by the constant attacks from three tentacles. Kireek sighed and reluctantly drew a trap from his limited supply. He stared down at the small Corellian device before activating it and tossing it at the tentacle. The damage trap exploded taking a large chunk from the side of the tentacle. The giant worm roared in pain as it quickly withdrew its injured limb. It began circling the cave in a vain attempt to run over the attackers. The three hunters were forced to split up to keep from getting squashed. Kireek tried to chase the head around but the creature was too fast. Becky moved back to the cave entrance and fired at the creature. Heidi kept to the center of the room watching at the worm circled around then leaped at a segment near the center of the body. She hoped she could get her daggers to dig enough to help her climb up. When they didn’t dig in enough Heidi found herself falling on to her back. She quickly scrambled to her feet narrowly avoiding getting run over. A tentacle slammed down at her at the worm came to a stop. She batted it away then returned the attack with a blast of Foie. A second attack came which she turned aside then blasted it with a shot of Zonde. With each attack from the worm, Heidi retaliated with a technique blast. She saw Kireek charge for the head from her side vision but kept her attention on the attacking tentacles. With each attack she felt her inner flame become hotter and hotter. She couldn’t stop but she knew another spell like the one at Bosleys place was about to swarm over her. The only difference this time was she didn’t feel any overwhelming hate and anger. This was warm, pure energy flowing out from the depths of her soul. It was powerful, threatening to break loose at any moment but soft and soothing at the same time. Each attack from the worm became easier to block and avoid. She hardly even felt the blades of her daggers clash with the tentacles and before they could start to retract she would blast them with an attack of her own. Becky slowly lowered her bow as she watched her friend fly across the cave deflecting each and every attack. Kireek continued to attack the body when he got close enough but even he was intrigued by the girl’s sudden power. The giant worm began to snake around the cave again trying to run over the two attackers that dared approach it. It shot out a twin attack on Heidi as a third one shot out at Kireek. He knocked it aside but couldn’t move fast enough to catch the second attack from behind him. He was pinned to the floor as the tentacle began to munch away at his armour. He tried to move but couldn’t. He knew he needed to call for help but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Becky spotted him and called out to Heidi just as Heidi finished deflecting the twin attack. She saw that Kireek was in trouble and released a massive Rafoie blast with a mighty cry. There was a sudden bright flash as her power reached its maximum.
“Woh.” Becky said covering her eyes.
Once the flash cleared she looked up at her friend hovering just a couple inches off the ground. She was now dressed in a sleeveless white gown. It and her hair flowed and waved as if blown from an unfelt wind. Heidi’s eyes had turned solid blue and her skin had taken on a snow white appearance.
“By the holy light.” Becky gasped.
She spotted Sato lying on the ground a good distance from where Heidi was floating. The Mag must have been thrown away when she transformed. Becky rushed over and scooped the Mag up then hurried back to the safety of the cave entrance. Heidi gently floated over to where Kireek was pinned. She waved her hand out in front of her and the tentacle sliced clean off. Now free Kireek was slow to his feet. The worm had managed to chew through his armour and some of his vital systems. His balance was off and his legs were not working right. He took a step forward and nearly fell. Heidi looked down at him, her face remaining emotionless. Her hand slowly extended out and a waved of white sparks flowed over him. By the time they reached his feet, Kireek was completely healed. Heidi turned to face the worm that turned to face her. It launched a full attack with all remaining tentacles. Heidi waved her right arm and the tentacles exploded in a massive Rafoie blast. The worm screamed in pain and charged at her, its mouth open wide. A simple wave of Heidi’s hand sent the worm flying back from a zonde blast. The worm slowly unreeled it self and started to retreat into the sand. Heidi’s hand went up and the sand turned to molten lava. The creature screamed as the ground consumed it. Heidi’s hand went down and the lava returned to sand with no sign that the worm ever existed. Heidi turned and floated over to where Becky was standing. She looked down at the young human cradling the little blue fox and staring back up at her. Heidi tilted her head as if pondering a curiously then in a bright flash returned to normal. Her feet touched the ground and she folded under her own weight. Becky rushed to her side but Heidi was unconscious. Sato meowed softly rubbing her owners arm. Kireek stepped up to them and glared down at the Newman.
“So this is what they were trying to make back on Coral.” He muttered.
“What are you taking about?” Becky frowned staring up at him.
“There were long standing rumours in Black Paper that some scientists on my home planet were trying to make the ultimate being by combining Newman and human DNA. Newmans had been made incompatible with humans out of fear of what the result might be. It was said that at least one Newman woman had been created to breed with a human. The experiment was never finished and I had doubted the stories until I saw the uncontrolled power of Amanda. After that I suspected the stories might be true but I new she wasn’t what the result was supposed to be. She had plenty of power but she could not control it and therefore could never develop it. Heidi however has the power and the control. I believe we have just seen her full potential.”
“But she’s out cold and barely breathing.” Becky shook her head.
“The strain must be incredible.” Kireek smiled.
“We have to help her.” Becky replied.
“If we had some monofluids.” Kireek shrugged.
Becky just frowned at the strange term. Kireek waved her off then scooped Heidi up.
The rest of the trek through the caves was uneventful as most of the resident creatures had disappeared. Kireek, not needing rest, continued at his usual pace unhindered by the light Newman woman he carried. Becky had a hard time keeping up and was growing very tired and sore. Heidi was still out cold but at least she was still alive. Sato had taken up position above Kireek’s left shoulder so she could keep an eye on her master. The tunnel finally ended with the bright sunlight streaking down from above. Kireek stopped at the entrance and set Heidi down. Becky dragged herself over to where Heidi lay and collapsed on the ground. She looked out at the vast flat desert before her and sighed.
“Don’t tell me we have to cross that too?”
“Yes, you do.” Kireek nodded.
“Huh.” Becky frowned looking up at him.
“I will go no further.” Kireek said, “I have kept my word and so you must as well.”
“Keep your word?” Becky gasped, “You were supposed to take us to the Illuminus.”
“Continue straight across the desert and you will find them.” Kireek pointed, “I have delivered you safely through the caves. That is all I shall do.”
“It was Heidi who delivered us safely.” Becky muttered.
Kireek looked down at the human but chose to ignore her statement. Instead he simply turned and headed back into the cave.
“Hey, what about Heidi?” Becky called after him, “I can’t carry her.”
She turned away when the darkness did not reply. She drew a water bottle from her pack and took a drink. She looked up at the bright red sun as it was beginning its late afternoon decent.
“We won’t have much daylight left when Heidi wakes up.” She said to Sato who had sat herself down next to Becky’s leg, “Guess this is as best a place to make camp as any.”
They could use the cave for shelter if needed so Becky didn’t bother putting up the small tent. She pulled out the photon burner and readied it for lighting so they would have light and heat. The sun soon drew low in the sky and the rumbling in Becky’s tummy told her it was close to if not passed dinner time. She pulled out a couple of monomate bars and frowned at tonight’s choice of diner. She gave one to Sato. The Mag happily down the bar then jumped up into Becky’s lap. Becky chewed away at the bar as she stroked the fox’s head.
“If only you had fur.” Becky sighed.
Sato ignored the comment and quickly drifted off to sleep.
Becky awoke to the sound of rustling in the night. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and looked around. The Moatoob moon was high in the sky bathing the desert in a soft grey light making the shadows seem extra long and dark. Sato was seated next to her leg purring softly as she slept. What ever it was that had awakened Becky had not bothered the Mag. She glanced over to where she had left Heidi and sighed with relief when she saw the girl curled up sleeping soundly. So what had disturbed her so much as to wake her from a sound sleep? She decided to look around just to be safe. She picked up her hand gun and moved quietly away from the camp. Holding the gun out and trying to be silent she slowly crept out into the darkness. She hadn’t gone very far when she felt she was being followed. She slowly turned then exhaled deeply as a little blue fox came floating up from behind a dirt mound.
“Shouldn’t you be back keeping an eye on Heidi?” Becky asked.
Sato meowed curiously then took a spot over Becky’s left shoulder.
“If you think I need watching more than she then there must be something really dangerous out here.” Becky sighed.
Sato meowed softly tilting her head as if to say, “That’s what I was trying to tell you.”
Becky nodded and continued forward. She rounded a tall cactus and froze as something skittered away on her right. She turned her head and aimed the gun. It skittered around behind her. Becky spun to face it but it had quickly moved around her. She tried to follow it but it was too fast. The noise started to move away and Becky tried to track it. The sound came from the left now and as Becky started to turn the sound came from her right. Sato hissed angrily. The attack came swift and coordinated. Two small bipedal creatures sprang out from either side. Becky was facing to her right and fired at that creature first. Sato took up the slack and ran head butting the second creature away. Becky’s shot missed and the creatures jaw opened wide ready to comp down. Its teeth hit the invisible field that made up Becky’s line shield. The creature yelped in shock then attacked with a swing of its tail catching Becky’s leg and sending her falling back. The second creature, sensing an easy prey, tried to attack but Sato continued to move in its path preventing it from passing. The first creature snapped it razor teeth at Becky’s feet. She continually kicked back trying to keep the creature from finding a grip. She managed to deliver a solid slam to the side of the creature’s skull stunning it. She fumbled with the gun trying to aim but the creature recovered quickly and her shot went wide. It bit down on the tip of her boot only to receive a mouth full of line shield photons. She gave it a hard kick with her boot knocking the creature back. It rolled away with a sharp yip before regaining its footing. With a short growl and a wag of its tail, it charged back. Becky aimed with her gun lining up the shot. A flash of sharp teeth dug into her arm as another creature leaped from her left. The two went down, Becky landing on her right arm. The first creature clamped down on her ankle and was rewarded with the fresh taste of human blood. Becky’s line shield interface on her left arm beeped as the line shield exceeded its limits and collapsed. Becky used the butt of her handgun to pound on the creature gripped to her arm at the same time she kicked at the creature munching on her leg. The creature on her arm simply kept its jaws clamped as she pounded on it so other than the initial bit, it wasn’t doing any real damage. The second one was much more determined to get its meal and dug in to her leg between kicks. Becky felt the creature’s skull finally give out as she drove the hand gun down. The grip on her arm went limp and she quickly brushed the body away. She aimed the gun down and fired burning a hole through that creature’s chest. It let out a single yip and slumped to the ground. Becky quickly looked around but couldn’t see Sato anywhere. She tried to climb to her feet but pain shot up her leg and the ankle just folded under her. She cried out then took a couple deep breaths. A faint meow from the darkness instantly drew her attention and drove her to her feet. She limped in the direction of the cry hoping to find her little friend. The meow came again from her right. She turned and continued forward. Sato continued to meow calling for help. Becky finally spotted the Mag lying in the sand. She rushed over and scooped up the little fox. Sato has several deep scratches and deep teeth marks in her metal skin. One tooth mark had actually punched through and a strange purple liquid seeped through. Becky stuck her finger in it and Sato protested loudly. This startled Becky but she sniffed the liquid anyway. It smelled terrible and she quickly wiped it on her pant leg. She pulled off her tunic top and wrapped the Mag in it hoping to keep as much of the liquid from leaking out as she could. She limped back to camp to find Heidi still fast asleep. She set the Mag down by the fire then crawled over to Heidi. She hadn’t the strength to climb to her feet again. To her relief, Heidi awoke with a weak smile.
“Becky, what happened?” She asked the smile draining away.
“I’ll explain later.” Becky replied nodding at the Mag, “Sato’s been injured.”
“We were attacked by these small brown two legged lizard creatures.” Becky explained, “Sato tried to keep one of them off me.”
Heidi ran over and scooped up her friend then turned back to Becky. She frowned when Becky had failed to climb to her feet. She walked back and gave Becky a quick once over, her eyes stopping on Becky’s torn and bloody ankle.
“Becky, why didn’t you say you where hurt?”
“I’ll heal, Sato won’t.” Becky replied, “She needs fixing. There’s some sort of strange liquid leaking from her.”
“You didn’t touch it!” Heidi snapped.
“Well, I stuck my finger into it.” Becky started to reply.
“Where?” Heidi asked grabbing her right hand.
“This one of course.” Becky said holding up her index finger.
Heidi examined it closely before letting it go. She slumped to the ground with a sigh cradling Sato.
“Oh Becky.” Heidi shook her head.
She suddenly looked very drained and sickly white in the flickering light of the campfire. She sat quiet staring at the ground. Becky started forward in an attempt to move beside her friend. Heidi looked up at her with sorrow filled eyes freezing Becky.
“That strange liquid is concentrated D cells.” Heidi said, “If you’ve been infected by them.”
Heidi let her thought hang there as her mind drew up a picture of her dear friend being twisted and mutated.
“What, what are D cells?” Becky asked softly.
She didn’t know exactly what was going on but she sensed it was very bad.
“What’s going to happen to me?”
“The closest thing I can compare them to is the Seed virus.” Heidi replied, “Except it’s not a virus its genetic material, living cells. They were produced by a being known as Dark Falz. It mutates anything it infects. Unlike the Seed virus, there is no cure.”
“Why would they create such a thing?” Becky gasped looking at Sato, “Didn’t they think something like this would happen?”
“Maybe but the power benefits of these little guys must have outweighed the risks.” Heidi shrugged, “Besides, Sato is a very old family friend going back to my great, great, very great Grandmother, before they discovered the D cells.”
“I’m sorry.” Becky sighed, “I don’t mean to attack Sato, heck she saved my life tonight. I’m just scared.”
“I know.” Heidi said moving beside Becky and wrapping her arm around her, “I’m going to help you through this. Heck we don’t even know if you’ve been infected and if so, some people never do mutate and change.”
“My luck hasn’t been that good so far.” Becky sighed.
“What are you taking about?” Heidi smiled, “After all we’ve been through, we’re still alive. That’s pretty good luck if you ask me. Now let’s do something about that leg.”
Heidi closed her eyes and held her hand over Becky’s ankle. A soft green and white light floated down from the palm of her hand and wrapped around Becky’s ankle. There was a soft flash and the light was gone, Becky’s ankle was completely healed.
Becky climbed to her feet and tried the ankle out.
“Thank you.” She smiled then held her arm up, “How about this?”
Heidi smiled and shook her head then proceeded to heal the injury on Becky’s arm. She unwrapped the Mag and looked her over.
“Well, it works on androids so maybe it works on Mags too.” Heidi shrugged.
Becky frowned but remained quiet. Heidi held her hand over Sato and let the green and white light flow. A flash later and Sato was fixed.
“I’ve go to learn how to do that.” Becky grinned scooping Sato up, “Thank you.”
She gave Sato a hug then let the Mag float back to Heidi’s shoulder.
“Any one can learn to do it.” Heidi shrugged, “Well except androids. They don’t have mental energy.”
“But I’ve seen Casts do techniques.” Becky frowned.
“With the use of a wand.” Heidi pointed, “The weapon substitutes the missing mental energy with the use of photon energy. It has the same effect but they’re not true techniques. It’s why this system never developed mental restorers, monofluid, like they did with physical restorers.”
“You mean monomates.” Becky said picking up her pack.
“Exactly.” Heidi nodded as she gathered her supplies, “I guess it helps level the field.”
“No, it lets the big three sell weapons to us.” Becky shook her head, “Can you imagine the market loss if everyone started using their minds for techs.”
Heidi grinned and looked up at the night sky. A shooting star flashed across the diamond filled blackness. The horizon to the east was starting to take on a silvery hue as Moatoob’s moon was getting set to rise.
“The moon will be up soon.” Heidi said still staring up, “It will make traveling easier.”
“We should use the rest of the night for sleep.” Becky replied.
“No.” Heidi said turning to her friend, “That attack on you would not be the last and we can’t afford to become some things dinner.”
Heidi took a deep breath and started toward the south. Becky stood for a moment gazing up at the night sky. She could just make out the blue glitter of Parum in the east. The rising moon would soon drown out the planet blocking her view.
“I miss my home.” She said softly and wiped away a tear.
She took a deep breath and started off after her friend. Becky had to hustle to catch up to Heidi who was moving at a fairly quick pace. The moon continued to rise as the pair marched across the desert sand. It seemed like they had been marching for hours but making no progress at all. Heidi stayed focused on her mission but Becky was growing tired and wishing for home. She watched the moon rise high into the sky then turned her attention to the east as the sun began to make an appearance. She finally had to stop for a drink. Heidi stopped too and took a quick swig from her bottle.
“Do you think we’re getting close?” Becky asked staring into her bottle.
The sound of handguns being drawn drew her attention. She gasped as several men stood around them all with guns pointed at the girls.
“I would say we’re getting close.” Heidi replied slowly raising her hands above her head.
The men quickly confiscated their gear. A large cast stepped forward. He stood a good seven feet tall and almost as wide. He wore parts similar to Cerberus’ RAcast design. He was coloured dark green with black trim and glowing green eyes.
“You are a long way from home.” He said with a metallic voice, “This is Illuminus land and you are trespassing.”
“As a secret terrorist organization, I would think you’d try a little harder at staying out of sight.” Heidi shrugged.
“If you were simple travelers lost in the desert then we would gladly leave you to your fate.” The Cast smirked.
“How comforting.” Becky muttered.
“But since you are Guardians and you are actually looking for us.” The Cast growled, “We could not allow you to go snooping around here.”
“Tell you what.” Heidi said, “All we’re after is my cousin. Newman girl, looks like me only blonde hair. Give her to us or tell us where she is and we will be on our way and you won’t even have to reveal your hide out to us.”
The Cast pretended to consider her offer for a moment then grinned evilly.
“I have a better idea.” He said then waved his hand, “Take them away.”
With a rather hard shove the guards forced Heidi forward. A jab of a gun barrel got Becky moving. Some how Sato had managed to pull off one of her disappearing acts. Becky looked around but couldn’t see the little fox anywhere but she knew she was not far away. The guards led them to a great ravine in the desert. The walls had been carved into walkways and tunnels. Platforms and rails lined and snaked around and through these tunnels to guild the hover carts carrying the mined ore. The cavern floor was bustling with activity as the naked beast slaves went about their tasks. A human or Cast guard was never far away and never shy about using their photon whips. Becky couldn’t help but cringe with every crack of the whip.
“Iceberg told me about this place but I never imagined.” Heidi gasped.
The guards ushered them onto an elevator platform. The platform dropped rapidly to the floor. They stepped off and the Cast led them across the ravine floor. Heidi and Becky exchanged gazes with several slaves. Some looked at them with painful hope, others with hate filled contempt. They entered the caverns through a simple cave door then were lead to a large metal elevator. The cast and two other guards stepped onto the elevator with the girls. The door slid shut and the elevator dropped several floors finally gliding to a gentle stop. The door slid open to a very imposing Cast.
“Magashi.” Heidi gasped.
He looked at both girls then raised his eyebrow.
“I hope you are not planning on convincing us you’re here to join us.” He said flatly.
“What?” Heidi frowned.
“Nothing.” Magashi waved, “Follow me. Someone wishes to speak with you.”
He turned and led them down a dimly lit corridor to a seemingly unimportant wood door. He pushed the door open and ushered the girls inside. A human man dressed in a white suit was seated behind a large wooden desk.
“You Guardians are becoming quite the nuisance.” Howzer said looking up at them.
“Just give me my cousin and we won’t bother you anymore.” Heidi replied.
“You must be Heidi Kimble.” Howzer said climbing from his seat, “I see how Kireek was mistaken and nearly robbed me of my favourite slave.”
“Kireek?” Heidi frowned, “So he did know.”
“Yes.” Howzer grinned, “But I don’t think she will be willing to go with the likes of you.”
“What makes you say that?” Heidi scowled.
“Ask her yourself.” Howzer waved.
A blonde haired image of Heidi stepped through a back door to the office. She strolled in as if she were in charge then gave Heidi a hateful scowl.
“Amanda.” Heidi gasped then smiled, “I’m so glad I found you. Your mother has been so worried…”
“Don’t you dare speak about my mother.” Amanda snapped, “Despite my best efforts you managed to make it here. This was my best chance to ride our family of you but I have failed.”
“What are you talking about?” Heidi gasped, “Your mother sent me to find you.”
“She would never do such a thing.” Amanda shot, “She would never lower herself.”
“She did.” Heidi started to say but Amanda cut her off.
“Lies!” She snapped.
Howzer stood by watching the exchange with mild amusement. He really did like his little slave girl and when she had approached him asking for a way to destroy her Guardian cousin, he was more than happy to lend her the resources. He had enjoyed standing back and watching everything unfold. Heidi had impressed him with her strength and abilities but he never imagined finding the kind of power that had been revealed in this young woman. He would never tell Amanda this but he was now more interested in her cousin than her. He wanted this power even if it meant losing his favourite slave.
“What did our family ever do to deserve this hate?” Heidi frowned.
“Do?” Amanda scowled, “You shunned and pushed us away. Took everything our great grandparents brought with them and left us nothing. Heck you didn’t even know we existed. We’ve been forced to sit on the side watching as every member of you’re family has made some kind of contribution to Gurhal while we slave away at remedial tasks never finding any kind of greatness.”
“I hardly think that’s our fault.” Heidi frowned, “Life is like that sometimes.”
“No, we could have done great things together but you wouldn’t share the knowledge of the Hunters Guild.” Amanda snapped.
“How do you know about that?” Heidi gasped, “I didn’t even know until Cerberus explained everything.”
This seemed to please Amanda a little. A small smirk grew across her face.
“Well, well, well, something my family knows that yours didn’t.” She said slowly stepping around Heidi and Becky, “its little compensation for all you stole.”
“Heidi didn’t know any of this.” Becky snapped, “It’s not her fault.”
“It’s her families fault.” Amanda swung around coming just short of slapping Becky, “Therefore it is her fault. The only thing that brings me any kind of joy is the knowledge that she is the last. Her line ends with her. Mine will carry on with my brother but she will end.”
“Wait, I have two cousins?” Heidi gasped, “How big is your side of the family?”
“Big enough that we could have wiped you out and no one would have been the wiser.” Amanda smirked, “It’s big and every one of them hates you just like me. By the end of this day I will be able to return to them and claim that the other Kimble line is finally ended with my own hand.”
“I think you forget you are a slave here.” Heidi said looking at Howzer, “Something tells me you aren’t going to get to just go home.”
“Quite right.” Howzer said finally hearing enough, “Amanda belongs to me and I shall do with her as I please.”
“But!” Amanda started to protest.
Howzer silenced her with a wave of his hand.
“However we do have one common interest.” He continued, “Seeing you come to an abrupt end.”
Heidi’s fists clenched but she remained still.
“And your pretty friend here will become a nice addition to the Illuminus.” Howzer grinned, “Either by choice or by force.”
“It’s not really a choice then is it?” Becky glared.
“Yes it is.” Howzer nodded, “Choose to join and enjoy all the freedoms of a member. Refuse and you will find yourself back in slavery.”
“Back in.” Heidi frowned, “How did you know?”
“Everything that has happened to you since you arrived on Moatoob has been by my hand.” Howzer said, “Your cousin being the brains and control of co:):):):).”
“So my drugged water supply, being sold into slavery, the Seed attack.” Heidi gasped, “That was all you?”
“Everything but your brief encounter with Kireek.” Howzer shrugged, “That was an unexpected surprise.”
“Heidi, he knows about…” Becky started but Heidi jabbed her arm.
“I know, I know.” Heidi whispered.
“There is nothing in this system that I don’t know about.” Howzer sneered, “The Illuminus are everywhere. Now, what shall we do about you Guardian?”
“Let me finish her.” Amanda pleaded.
“Do you really think you can take on a trained Guardian?” Howzer asked.
“I can take her.” Amanda growled.
“Very well.” Howzer nodded, “Take them to the arena.”
“You have an arena just for this sort of thing?” Heidi gasped.
The Guards took Becky and Heidi to the Arena barracks where combatants were outfitted with what ever armour and weapons were required in a particular fight. Heidi was stripped of her Guardian equipment then allowed to select from the arena supplied metal weapons. She picked out a couple short straight daggers that she slipped into her belt loops then selected a sabre as her main weapon. She had no intention of harming her cousin but she didn’t want to be unarmed against the crazed woman either. The guards had left the two alone until it was fight time. Becky seated her self on one of the benches and looked around. The floor was still stained with the last combatant’s blood. By the amount she guessed he hadn’t won. The walls contained a few lockers for storing personal items while in the fight. They were all empty and probably didn’t see much use anyway. She looked up at her friend as Heidi strapped on a breast plate then selected a small shield that sat tight on her left arm.
“What if you have to kill her?” Becky asked softly.
“I won’t.” Heidi replied.
“But…” Becky started.
“I won’t.” Heidi replied, “I didn’t come all this way just to see her die. I promised her mom I’d find her and bring her home safely.”
“Even if she doesn’t want too?” Becky said with a slight smirk.
“I’ll drag her home unconscious if I have too.” Heidi replied testing her weapon.
The girls heard a soft meow and turned to see Sato squeeze out from a small hole in the wall.
“I was wondering where you had got too.” Becky smiled.
“Sato would never let me down.” Heidi smiled as the Mag floated up to her left shoulder.
“I don’t know if they are going to allow this.” Becky shook her head.
“Something tells me they don’t care.” Heidi replied.
“Huh?” Becky frowned.
“Didn’t you see how Howzer was staring at me up there?” Heidi asked, “It was the look of a man who found power. Power he wants very much.”
“He wants you to win.” Becky nodded.
“And he knows I won’t kill my cousin.” Heidi sighed.
“Even if you win, we’ve lost.” Becky exhaled and looked down at her feet.
“We haven’t lost yet.” Heidi smiled.
A knock at the door was followed by two guards. One guard came to take Becky to her seat next to Howzer and Magashi. The other guard took Heidi to the arena entrance. The stands were packed with people. Heidi shook her head. The Illuminus claimed to be civilized and fighting for human rights but they still participated in barbaric entertainment such as these gladiatorial fights. Howzer rose to his feet and raised his arms. The crowd hushed and waited for him to speak.
“Welcome my fellow Illuminus.” His voice boomed over the speakers, “Once again we are treated with a show of strength from the subspecies. Tonight we are treated with two Newmans going head to head. While they may not present a show of superior strength it will be one of agility and maybe even some fire works.”
Heidi frowned at the last statement. Howzer was hinting that she might use her techniques which she had no intention of doing.
“It gets better yet.” Howzer said, “One of our combatants is a Guardian.”
This was followed by a chorus of cheers.
Howzer quickly calmed the audience then continued, “It gets better. Our two fighters are cousins so we have a family feud as well. First I present our own slave girl, Amanda Kimble.”
The crowd began to applaud as Amanda walked into the ring holding her sword high.
“And for our competitor I present the Guardian Heidi Kimble.”
The guard jabbed Heidi in the back to get her moving. She stepped into the light and was greeted by a series of boos and jeers. Heidi moved quickly to where Amanda was standing.
“We can still stop this.” Heidi whispered.
“Shut up!” Amanda shot back.
“There is only one rule.” Howzer said, “Last one alive wins.”
Howzer sat down and a bell ran starting the fight. Amanda spun and chopped down with her sword. Heidi just managed to get her shield up for a block.
“What’s with the little pet?” Amanda asked as she swung again.
Heidi blocked with her sword, “Sato is a little gift from Deepfreeze.”
Heidi hoped that Amanda knew who Deepfreeze was and it would further anger her. If she got upset enough she might start making mistakes that Heidi could use to disarm her. It did anger her. She screamed and started a series of quick chops. Heidi blocked every one easily. This was a trademark technique of someone with no combat training. Heidi felt sorry for her, she didn’t stand a chance. Amanda lunged forward hoping to slice some flesh. Heidi brought her sword down and on the inside so she could easily drive the sword down and to the outside. It worked perfectly and if she had been trying to kill her opponent she easily could have. Amanda drew back her sword and swung at Heidi’s belly. She leaped back and knocked the swing away. Amanda chopped down several times. Each one contacted Heidi’s shield.
“You’re never going to get to me by going through my shield.” Heidi smirked, “It just makes your sword dull.”
“I’ll dull you.” Amanda spat.
“That doesn’t even make sense.” Heidi replied blocking yet another lame attack.
Heidi continued to let Amanda attack hoping to tire the girl out. Amanda chopped then lunged. Heidi blocked then chopped down with her own sword knocking the weapon from Amanda’s hand. Amanda went for her weapon only to find a blade at her neck.
“We can stop this right now.” Heidi said.
Amanda just stared up at her. Howzer shook his head and climbed from his seat.
“I had hoped we would have seen a better show.” He said.
“It’s not over.” Magashi replied.
Howzer frowned at his Cast companion and right hand.
“Just watch sir.” Magashi said signalling to the man's seat.
Howzer nodded and took his seat.
Heidi stared down at her cousin waiting for some kind of response. She saw a sparkle in the girls blue eyes and gasped as she recognized it only too late. A massive heat wave blasted her back as Amanda unleashed a blast of RAfoie. Heidi landed hard, her sword flying from her grip. Her hair smouldering from the fire and she was sporting several nasty burns. Amanda was on her feet and marching at her. Heidi climbed to her feet and started for her sword. A blast of Zonde landed right in front of her.
“See, I said I could take you.” Amanda grinned, “No wands, no techniques.”
“So Howzer has kept things from you too.” Heidi replied.
“What?” Amanda frowned.
Heidi threw her arm out and a streak of Barta raced across the sand floor. Amanda jumped to the side just missing the attack. This gave Heidi time to grab her sword.
“How does she know how to do techniques?” Heidi gasped.
“Those stolen documents from the communion have paid off.” Magashi chuckled to Howzer.
“Very good my friend, very good.” Howzer replied.
Amanda let loose a Nosdiga attack. The ground split open at her feet and a stream of lava shot forward aiming for Heidi. She tried to dive to the side but the homing nature of the attack hit its mark. The blast caught her feet spinning her around as she hit the ground. Amanda stalked forward, her vision focused squarely on her cousin. Heidi looked up, breathing deeply from the pain of the attack, and shoved her arm forward releasing a ball of Foie. Amanda dodged the attack and responded with a ball of Megid. Heidi leaped to her feet springing to her right just as the ball rushed by. A blast of RAzonde sent Amanda crumpling to her back. She gasped deeply from the shock, her body temporarily paralyzed. Heidi rushed at her hoping to get her sword into play before Amanda recovered. It turned out she didn’t need to recover. Amanda turned her head enough to see Heidi and a bolt of Zonde stopped the girls charge. Amanda was slow to get up as her whole body tingled with pins and needles. Heidi was already moving and getting much too close. Amanda quickly cast GIfoie, a ring of fire erupting around her. Heidi caught the edge of it getting a little singed. She responded with a RAbarta blast. Amanda didn’t freeze but she was frost bitten. She went to retaliate but a ball of Diga slammed into her chest stopping her from starting the spell. Heidi blasted her again with Zonde. Heidi moved closer with each step zapping Amanda every time she tried to get to her feet. Finally the woman was so beaten she could only remain lying on the ground gasping for air.
“This doesn’t need to continue.” Heidi said holding her blade tip at Amanda, “We can still go home.”
“I will never go anywhere with you.” Amanda spat, “You might as well just kill me now.”
Heidi dropped the sword, “I have no intention of killing you.”
“You’re mistake.” Amanda sneered.
A circular blast of GIzonde sent Heidi tumbling to her back. Amanda climbed to her feet and a shimmering light washed over her. She picked up the sword then cast another spell where three white bars of light formed a circle around her waist. Her skin had taken on a slight shine from the first spell. Heidi gasped recognizing both as Giresta and Rentis. The first would continue to heal her wounds for as long as the spell lasted and the second one protected her from techniques.
“I have your sword and your techs can’t hurt me.” Amanda grinned, “What are you going to do?”
Heidi drew her daggers from her belt and smiled back, “Continue to beat you until I knock some sense into you.”
Amanda screamed in anger and rushed forward chopping down on Heidi. She blocked the attack with her shield. She pushed the sword away then sliced with her right dagger catching Amanda in the wrist. Amanda pulled away from the sting then held her arm up grinning as the wound quickly healed.
“Not good enough.”
Heidi just shook her head and rushed in. She jabbed with her left dagger which Amanda drove aside with her sword. This was exactly what Heidi expected leaving Amanda open. Heidi drove in with her right dagger digging deep into Amanda’s side. The girl screamed and jumped back. Heidi held on pulling the dagger free. Amanda growled at her as the wound healed. This was wasting Heidi’s energy; she would have to change tactics.
“Perhaps our reports were wrong.” Magashi said, “This is less than impressive.”
“If you only knew.” Becky thought.
“Give it time Magashi.” Howzer smiled, “You will be impressed.”
Magashi just snorted his response.
The two women continued to dance around the arena exchanging blocks and blows. Heidi was delivering much more damage but Amanda’s Giresta kept her healed and fit. Amanda had yet to deliver any kind of real hit. She was getting frustrated and angry. She finally had enough and launched a ball of Megid at Heidi. Heidi was at point blank range and only had enough time to register what it was.
“Oh crap.” She thought as the purple ball passed through her.
There was a tingling sensation followed by a cold chill as the purple orb sucked away her life force. Heidi collapsed in a heap on the sand floor.
“NO!” Becky cried jumping from her seat.
Howzer sat shaking his head. Magashi just smirked.
“When will I be impressed?” He said finally.
“Watch your tongue Cast.” Howzer snapped.
Amanda stood over Heidi’s body grinning. Sato still sat beside Heidi’s shoulder.
“Finally your line ends.” She said, “I have avenged our family. Now we shall take our rightful place here.”
She started to turn away when Sato let out a loud meow and started shaking. Amanda turned back around.
“What?” She muttered with a raised eyebrow.
Sato flashed with a bright light that flowed over Heidi’s body like a wave. The girl took a deep breath and sat up.
“No it can’t be.” Amanda gasped.
Heidi shook her head and looked up at Sato, “How did you do that?”
“What is that thing?” Amanda scowled, “It can’t be Gurhal made.”
“It’s not too late to end this and come home.” Heidi pleaded holding out her hand.
“I swear I will kill you!” Amanda shouted and charged.
Heidi got her left arm up just in time to block Amanda’s attack. Heidi’s counter attack merely knocked Amanda back and off balance. A swipe of Heidi’s leg sent the girl tumbling to the ground. Amanda quickly spun over to her stomach then jumped to her feet. She threw out her arm sending a Foie ball at Heidi. Heidi could only shield her eyes as the fire ball slammed into her. The heat was intense and burned Heidi’s skin. The heat quickly faded leaving her with several blisters. She returned the attack with Barta. Amanda went to jump out of the way only to find herself frozen in a block of ice. Heidi quickly cast Resta on herself then walked up to Amanda and shook her head slowly.
“I will take you home.” She said, “Even if I have to do it like this.”
Howzer stood up from his seat and glared down at the Guardian, “Finish her and finish the fight.”
“Never!” Heidi cried back and dropped her daggers, “I will not kill my cousin.”
Howzer sat down with a sigh. “This is not triggering her power.”
“So that’s it.” Becky thought staring at the two Illuminus leaders, “They are only interested in Heidi’s power. They don’t even care what happens to Amanda.”
“She will never harm her cousin and therefore will never trigger the power you seek.” Magashi replied.
“Then we need to add a danger that will.” Howzer said and waved to one of his guards.
The guard nodded and quickly ran off. The ice encasing Amanda finally began to crack and break free. The girl tumbled out and fell to the floor. Heidi was quick to her side.
“Leave me alone.” Amanda said and tried to shove Heidi away.
“No.” Heidi said, “I’m taking you home.”
A large door at the end of the arena opened up and a large mutated Bil De Vear stepped out. Its head was partially twisted from Seed infection. Large purple blisters covered its flesh and its normally large claws were even longer and curved like sickles. The inside edge of the blades were serrated like sharks teeth. Its hooves were elongated to look more like feet and hinged in the center to allow for proper walking.
“No!” Amanda cried climbing to her feet and turning to face Howzer, “This is my fight. I will kill her. You can’t take this from me.”
“You belong to me.” Howzer replied flatly, “I can do what ever I please.”
“Get behind me.” Heidi said stepping in front of Amanda, “I’ll handle this monster.”
“Gladly.” Amanda muttered and grinned at Heidi’s exposed back.
“It’s not a Seed creature yet so it shouldn’t be much harder…”
Heidi was interrupted by an intense sharp pain in her back. She reached back to where it hurt then gasped down at her blood covered hand. She spun to face Amanda who was holding a bloody dagger. The expression on Heidi’s face said one thing and one thing only, “Why?
“I told you I was going to kill you.” Amanda grinned.
Heidi opened her mouth to speak but instead collapsed to the floor. It took all her energy just to keep breathing.
Howzer sighed and shook his head. Magashi just chuckled.
“Well, I’m not impressed but I am entertained.” The cast said and climbed from his seat.
“Heidi!” Becky cried jumping from her seat.
“The Newman girl will be executed for this.” Howzer said.
Becky gasped turning to the man.
“Fortunately I have a replacement.” Howzer said starring back at her.
Becky quickly turned away and slumped back into her seat.
“That’s easy enough.” Magashi said pointing to the arena, “Just let your pet deal with her.”
“Good idea.” Howzer smiled returning to his seat.
Magashi nodded and started to leave.
“Not interested?” Howzer asked.
“A good fight I always enjoy.” Magashi replied, “Senseless Slater not so much. If you will excuse me.”
The cast bowed and headed out from the arena. Amanda stood staring at her dieing cousin feeling proud of herself. The Bil De Vear let out a gurgling roar and started for the Newmans. Amanda gasped at the monster then turned to face Howzer.
“Ok the fight is over.” She said, “You can let me out now.”
“The fight is far from over my dear.” Howzer grinned evilly, “I have enjoyed your company.”
Amanda quickly glanced at the approaching monster then back to Howzer who continued to smirk at her. She returned his smirk with a scowl then turned back to the monster. It stomped across the arena floor solely focused on her. This was something she just wasn’t strong enough to face and if it got close enough it would tear her to tiny bloody shreds. She glanced down at her dying cousin then back to the monster, down at Heidi and back to the monster finally cursing.
“You take everything from me.” She quietly cursed Howzer.
She placed her hand over Heidi and cast Resta. Heidi gasped deeply filling her lungs with much needed air and quickly sprang to her feet with renewed energy.
“Thank you.” She smiled, “I knew you’d come around.”
“I didn’t do it to save you.” Amanda snapped and pointed at the monster, “I did it to save me from that.”
“Fine, get behind me.” Heidi said then quickly jabbed her in the chest, “And don’t stab me in the back this time.”
“I won’t.” Amanda huffed then quietly added, “Not until the monster is dead anyway.”
The creature snarled at the flash from Heidi’s daggers and charged forward with head down, its horns ready to pierce through the soft flesh. Heidi gasped and pushed Amanda out of the way then jumped clear as the creature stormed by. She landed on her side hard. One of her daggers slipped from her grasped and skidded across the hard stone floor. Heidi spun to her feet and watched as the Bil De Vear turned for Amanda. She was on her back trying to back peddle away from the charging creature. Heidi sprang forward slipping behind the Bil De Vear and took a slash at its calf. Black sticky liquid squirted from the wound hitting Heidi in the face. She tried to wipe it off with the back of her hand but it just smeared like grease. She gave up and went back to attacking the monster. She landed two more hits before the creature batted her away with a swing of its claw. Amanda managed to get to her feet and toss a ball of Diga at the creature. It landed square in the creature’s chest.
“HA!” She cheered.
Her jaw dropped as the creature turned back completely unfazed and glared at her right in the eye.
“Oh no.” She muttered.
She quickly began tossing different technique attacks at the monster. It blasted through every attack without even slowing. Amanda readied her sword and braced herself for the hit. The creature brought up its right arm preparing to chop the girl down. Amanda watched through squinting eyes until it was on top of her, then she closed her eyes and prepared for the end. The hit never came. She opened her eyes to see Heidi clinging to the monsters back. It was spinning and bucking in an attempt to toss her. Amanda ran up and slashed at the creatures shin. It snarled and swung a claw at her. She managed to duck just in time. Becky, not being able to stand and watch any longer, sprang from her seat and charged down the isle. She hit the arena ledge and jumped over the side landing on her feet. Howzer just sat and smiled. This was better than he hoped. At first Becky wasn’t sure what she could do as the Illuminus had taken all her weapons. A voice from behind her called out to her.
“Draw your bow!”
She turned back and looked up at the stands but she only saw Howzer grinning back at her. Everyone else was focused on the monster. She turned around with a puzzled look on her face then shrugged as she reached back to her nanotransformer. To her surprise, a photon bow appeared in her hand. It was even set with light element arrows. She took one last puzzled look at Howzer then ran to help her friends.
Amanda just avoided a swipe losing only a couple hairs in the process. With her head still down she watched the blonde hairs drop to the floor.
“Too close.” She thought.
Heidi landed hard on the floor as the De Vear finally managed to toss her. She sprang to her feet then winced as a sharp pain shot through her shoulder. She almost dropped her dagger as she went to grab her shoulder. A white arrow shot passed her ear landing a hit in the creatures left shoulder. She turned to see Becky lining up for another shot. She shot Becky a smile then turned back to the creature. Amanda drove her sword into the creature’s leg dropping it to its knees.
“Not bad.” Heidi smiled.
The creature growled and took a swing at Amanda catching her in her side. The hit sent her flying across the arena landing hard between Becky and Heidi. Heidi turned and ran to her cousin as Becky covered her. The creature tried to pursue but it slowly succumbed to Becky’s bombardment. Heidi skidded to Amanda’s side dropping to her knees. She rolled her cousin onto her back. Amanda groaned and gripped her side.
“Guess I was too slow.” Amanda groaned.
Heidi moved her hand to inspect the wound.
“Oh, it’s not that bad.” Heidi replied.
“Liar.” Amanda grinned.
“No really, it’s nothing a little Resta can’t fix.” Heidi shook her head.
She didn’t have the heart to tell Amanda the wound had been infected with the Seed virus and had already started turning the raw flesh into purple pulsing boils.
“Don’t lie to me.” Amanda groaned, “I can feel it changing. I can feel the burn.”
“Lie still.” Heidi said, “I’m going to get you out of here and we’ll get you the cure.”
Before Amanda could reply, Heidi jumped to her feet and turned to face Howzer.
“This ends now Howzer.” Heidi cried, “You will cure my cousin and then you will let us go or I will make things very unpleasant for you.”
“Good, get angry.” Howzer muttered then stood to address the Newman girl, “This is my world and I will do as I wish. You mortals have no power to stop me. If I wish you to die then that is just what you shall do.”
Becky turned to Heidi and frowned, “What is he talking about.”
“Something is not right here.” Heidi replied.
“Nothing can stop us now no matter how much you pathetic little things try.” Howzer continued, “We came to this world to rule it and that is just what we are doing. I believe we wish you to die.”
Howzer turned and started walking up the isle to the arena exit.
“Howzer!” Heidi screamed.
“Enjoy.” Howzer said on his way out.
“What do we do?” Becky asked looking down at Amanda.
“We get her out of here.” Heidi replied and went to scoop up her cousin.
The arena door opened up and in marched a mutated Bil De Merlan, two Delnadian, three Dilnazen, and three Gaozoran. The two girls stood in stunned silence and the creatures spread out and surrounded them. The sorcerer like Gaozoran phased in and out as they took up attack positions. One was a fire element while the other two sported ice. The Delnadian reminded Heidi of the pictures of Delsabers that Cerberus had shown her from Ragol. These were three times the size and just as quick. The tall and long limbed Dilnazen were the resulting creatures of a humanoid Seed infection. Heidi stood back to back with Becky watching the creatures move around them. They both knew they were in for the fight of their lives and only a miracle would save them now.
Howzer slumped against the bathroom sink feeling very sick to his stomach. He looked up at the reflection in the mirror only to see a strange face staring back at him. For the most part he had been able to control the Seed entity living inside him but lately it had been breaking through. Too much had been revealed in the arena, too much had shown through. They weren’t ready to show their true hand but he was loosing control, he was loosing himself. Soon only the Seed would exist. He was starting to regret this arrangement.
“This is not what we agreed.” He glared at the reflection.
“The agreement is mute.” The reflection replied, “We have gained what we wanted and what the flesh wants is not important.”
“You had no intention of living up to your end of the bargain and now I will be the instrument of Gurhal’s destruction.” Howzer coughed.
“As has been planned from the beginning.” The reflection replied, “This place will become our new home and all will be our hosts.”
“I will fight you to the last.” Howzer spat.
The reflection simply sneered back at him through the spattered blood. The bathroom door burst open and a young human man waved at him.
“Sir, you need to see this.” He said excitedly.
“What is it?” Howzer shot back.
“The Newman girl sir.” The man pointed with his thumb.
Howzer gasped and quickly followed him back to the combat arena. They slammed through the doors and gasped at the scene before them. The two girls were still alive and doing quite well. Howzers attention was drawn to Heidi as she smoothly danced around the creatures with a mix of melee from her daggers and technique attacks.
“Shall I summon Magashi?” The man asked.
“The cast is not important.” Howzer waved, “Besides she still isn’t drawing out that power. We are close.”
Howzer watched for a moment longer then turned to his underling.
“Fetch me my sniper rifle.” He said.
The man nodded and quickly departed.
“Time to push things along.” Howzer sneered.
The man quickly returned, handing Howzer his gun. Howzer moved down the isle few rows then raised the gun. Placing the scope up to his eye, he zeroed in on Amanda first. She was still breathing but the infection was getting worse. She would be turning soon which pleased Howzer to no end. He moved the scope over to Becky who had her back turned to him. She was firing off several rounds of arrows at a Gaozoran who was trying to move in on Heidi. Howzer aimed at the girls left shoulder. It wouldn’t be a kill shot but it would leave her completely defenceless and hopefully a victim of a monster. He pulled the trigger and watched at the small spurt of blood indicated a hit. Becky screamed and dropped to the floor. Heidi spun and cried out for her fallen friend. She ran to Becky’s side to make sure she wasn’t fatally hit. Howzer remained in place so when Heidi looked up at him, she knew exactly who had done it. She shot him a hate filled look so he knew she would be coming for him. He sneered back and took a seat in the stands
Becky was holding her shoulder trying to stop the bleeding. Heidi was fixed on Howzer and only responded when Becky grabbed her by the arm and pulled.
“I could really use a little Resta for this.” She said, “It’s not that bad really.”
“Right.” Heidi nodded and stood up.
She placed her hand over Becky and began concentrating on the Resta spell. She felt the healing energy build up inside and began to flow out through her out stretched hand. A blast of Foie from a Gaozoran interrupted her. She spun and tossed a Foie ball back but the sorcerer quickly moved out of the way. Becky tried to get up so she could move out of harms way but a second shot from Howzer took out her right leg. Heidi spun with death in her eyes and tossed a Foie ball at Howzer. He jumped from his seat just avoiding the ball. His underling was not so lucky and let out a single scream before he was incinerated. This only fuelled Heidi’s anger.
“Yes, get angry.” Howzer thought, “Show me your power.”
Becky screamed as a Delnadian leaped on top of her and drove its claw shield into her left leg pinning her to the floor. It raised it’s sword to drive it into her.
“NO!” Heidi cried and threw out a Megid ball cursing it with all her hate.
The monster instantly fell dead. Heidi turned to face a Gaozoran that was closing in on her. She fired a Barta blast at it and when that only froze the creature she followed with a Diga ball. The monster exploded in a blast of purple goo and molten lava. The second Delnadian hit her from behind sending her flying across the arena. She landed hard and felt a sharp pain in her right wrist. This only fuelled her hate. She jumped to her feet and couldn’t help but let the hate filled power take over just as it had before. She began to levitate off the floor and glide slowly toward the remaining monsters. She didn’t even notice that Sato was no longer with her. The Mag had remained behind meowing at her in a plea to stop what she was doing. She couldn’t hear the little fox. She felt the power build to maximum level and in a flash of light her appearance changed. She was in a black tight fitting full body suit that was cut low in the front. Her boots were now knee high black leather with very high heals. Her hair had turned blood red and her skin turned to a very dark tan. Her eyes had turned solid red and her lips were black as midnight. She softly glided across the arena, her feet just a few inches off of the ground. The two remaining Gaozoran flew in behind her in an attempt to attack from the rear. Heidi’s arms went up and the ground beneath the sorcerers opened up and a pillar of lava shot up swallowing the two monsters. The remaining Delnadian shot right at her but only made it half way when a giant ball of Foie slammed into it. The creature exploded in a shower of purple goo. The Bil De Meran charged from Heidi’s right, nearly stomping on the two injured girls. Heidi’s right arm shot out at the monster. A storm of Zonde rained down on the creature and the girls. Becky screamed as the shock flowed through her with an intensity she never felt before and hoped would never feel again. The monster fell dead and Becky was left gasping on the ground completely stunned and unable to move. Amanda’s breathing was becoming more and more laboured as the infection continued to spread. The three Dilnazen swooped down at her in a frontal attack. Her arms went wide and a wall of ice shard flew out at the monsters. The creatures fell to the floor bleeding and either dead or dying. A few stray shards landed on the girls. This time even Amanda was forced to cry out in pain. Howzers eyes went wide at the sight of this new technique. He quickly pulled a scanner from his pocket and scanned the girl.
“Amazing.” He drooled, “She is channelling dark photons through her body.”
“Now I am impressed.”
Howzer turned to find Magashi standing behind him.
“How…” He started to ask then quickly changed his tone, “I did not summon you here.”
“News travels fast around here and this news intrigued me.” Magashi replied peering at Howzers scanner, “Her whole body radiates of photons. I have never seen such concentrations. Could we be staring at the holy light?”
“No.” Howzer grinned, “Just the opposite. This is more like the demonic light.”
“Amusing.” Magashi grinned, “And just how do you plan to stop it?”
He pointed down at the approaching Newman who was solely fixed on Howzer. Howzer waved to his guard to release more creatures. The guard nodded and the doors opened releasing a hoard of Seed and native creatures. The monsters swarmed in at the three girls. They never got close to Heidi but Amanda and Becky were in no shape to defend themselves. Becky cried out to Heidi for help. Howzer watched intently, the life force inside him craving for blood.
“Tell me Sir.” Magashi smirked, “How do you plan to use something that wants to kill you every time you make it mad?”
“We will have to find a different way of triggering this.” Howzer nodded as he watched his creatures quickly disappear under the power of this not so simple girl.
Becky cried out for her friend as the smaller creatures leaped around her taking nips out of her legs and arms. One took a bite of Amanda’s arm but let go instantly not liking what it tasted. The rest of the monsters were quickly swallowed up in Heidi’s wrath but as she moved closer to Howzer she began to slow. Her head would twitch as if an itch was starting to bug her. Howzer watched intently as she stopped and shook her head. Her eyes returned to their natural blue and she spun to face Becky.
“Becky!” She cried and landed softly on the ground.
She took a step toward her friend as she started her run and in a flash of light she had returned to normal. With daggers slashing she made quick work of the small animals that were trying to feed on her friends. She collapsed beside her badly injured friend. She scooped Becky up into her lap and began to cry.
“I’m so sorry.” She wept, “I had no idea.”
“I’m just glad you’re you again.” Becky winced with pain.
“I will make this better.” Heidi nodded and gently set Becky down.
She placed her hand over Becky and concentrated on Resta. The spell seemed to come harder this time and she had to use all her mental energy to activate it. The healing light finally sprang forth flowing over Becky and Amanda. Becky was healed but Amanda’s infection rejected the health energy. Heidi collapsed to the floor no longer able to stand. Becky sat down beside her exhausted friend and hugged her.
“Have the guards round them up and find suitable cells for them.” Howzer said to his second, “We will continue this tomorrow.”
The guard nodded and started to leave.
“I don’t think this is over.” Magashi pointed at Amanda who was slowly climbing to her feet.
“Belay that.” Howzer barked at the guard.
The three men quickly took their seats and watched as the girl slowly stumbled away from the other two. Becky took a glance over Heidi’s shoulder and saw Amanda slowly limping away.
“Amanda, where are you going?”
Heidi reacted to the question by spinning around to face her cousin. She gasped and managed to climb to her feet.
“Amanda, come back.” She called.
She tried to go after her cousin but stumbled with the first step. Becky caught her before she fell.
“Amanda!” Heidi called again.
The Newman woman ignored all their calls and continued to move toward the arena doors.
“Why doesn’t she respond?” Becky frowned, “She can’t get out that way.”
“The Seed creatures.” Heidi exhaled, “She’s being drawn to the other Seed creatures.”
“We have to stop her.” Becky said gently releasing Heidi.
Heidi dropped to her knees, still not strong enough to stand yet. Becky ran to Amanda and grabbed her by the shoulder. Amanda’s arm swung out knocking Becky away. Becky landed on her back with a yelp and stared up at the girl as she slowly turned and stared down at the human. Becky gasped as she stared back at the mutating horror. Amanda’s face was now a purple and black pulsing blister with blank yellow eyes. Her expression was emotionless and Becky doubted she even knew who Becky was. Amanda turned away and continued her march for the doors. Heidi forced herself to stand and even managed a few steps in Becky’s direction.
“That is one strong Newman girl.” Magashi stated dryly, “I can’t say I’ve ever seen that much inner strength before. Newman’s aren’t exactly the strongest of the races.”
“Yes, but this is no ordinary Newman my dear Magashi.” Howzer waved a finger, “According to our Amanda down there, their family descends from another planet and dimension.”
“I never believed any of that until now.” Magashi nodded, “Perhaps there is some truth to those old stories. In the Endrum Collective we were beginning to suspect there was something more to those Relic sites.”
Their attention was drawn back to the arena by the sound of twisting metal. Amanda had reached the doors and was actually pulling them apart. This prompted the remaining creatures inside to make a run for the door. They poured past the mutating Newman and filed out into the arena. With no further escape route their attention quickly shifted to the two remaining girls. Becky slowly drew her bow and Heidi managed to pull her daggers but she doubted how effective she would be and without any mental energy she couldn’t even turn to her techniques. She took a quick glance up at Howzer but when she saw his smirk had vanished; her scowl quickly turned to a scrunched nose and puzzled expression. Her attention was drawn to a charging Vanda. This native bipedal creature was showing the early signs of Seed mutation. Howzer was creating Seed creatures to experiment with. Heidi managed to bring up her right dagger to block a swinging claw then, through reflex, followed through with the left slashing open the creature’s chest and throat. It took a couple steps past her then fell to the floor twitching in pain as its blood drained away. Heidi quickly put the creature out of its misery with a quick chop to the head. She started to get angry again at Howzer for his treatment of these animals but quickly calmed herself, not wanting a repeat of before. Becky fired off arrows as quickly as she could, trying to keep the creatures at bay. Heidi rushed over to her to cover her back. After a few kills the more normal creatures actually backed off loosing their taste for the fight. The Seed creatures had no reservations and moved in as quickly as they could. Becky fired until the monster got too close then bashed one over the head with her bow. It stunned the creature long enough for her to drop her bow and pull her sabre. She drove it into the monsters chest then kicked the creature back. She blocked a second ones attack then with a clean slice, disarmed it. Heidi downed a few of the creatures as well but it was clear they were out numbered.
“I don’t suppose you have one last technique bomb left?” Becky asked.
“No.” Heidi shook her head slowly.
A great roar from the arena door drew every ones attention. The attacking monsters actually parted a path for a massive Seed monster. The head was very small and maintained much of its Newman features though the flesh had turned purple and blistered. Only a few scraggily strands of blonde hair remand on the scalp. The eyes were black with yellow cat like slits. Two long fangs stuck down from the upper jaw and were accompanied by two shorter ones sticking up from the lower jaw. The rest of the teeth were short and pointed like a sharks. The body had grown to a massive chest and slim abdomen loosing any of its female features it once had. The arms were long and thick packed hard with muscle. The right hand was simply that while the left was that of a sickle blade. Heidi did not want to be on the receiving end of that limb. The legs were long and slim with highly tensioned muscles for explosive speed. It roared again and swept its hand out in front of it. The ground erupted in a wall of molten lava swallowing any creature that was standing over it.
“Is that?” Becky started to ask but the question stuck in her throat.
“Yes, but why did she change into that?” Heidi gasped, “Seed infection always results in a Dilnazen.”
“Something to do with your alien blood perhaps?” Becky asked.
“Maybe.” Heidi shrugged, “Not really important at this time.”
The creature locked gazes with Heidi and started marching for her. It smashed and brushed aside any creature that was foolish to get in its way. The other Seed creatures backed off giving the girls room to move. Heidi signalled for Becky to break right. Becky nodded and darted over to a spot where a group of native creatures were hiding. They ignored her letting her take up her bow and aim for the monster. Heidi took off to her left drawing the monster with her. She tried to launch a Foie ball at it but her mental energy hadn’t recharged enough yet. The Amanda creature responded with a blast of Barta so powerful it sent Heidi flying back against the arena wall. She slumped to the ground covered in frost. She was slow to her feet and gasped as the monster charged at her. She quickly dropped to her right knee then sprang forward slipping under the monsters right arm. She rolled once coming up to her feet with daggers ready. Becky let loose with the arrows aiming for the creature’s upper body and head. The monster turned and started for the new threat but Heidi charged in running between the creatures legs slashing at its calves as she went. The monster roared and spun around using its momentum to swing its arm. Heidi was in the middle of her spin when the arm slammed into her side, tossing her like a rag doll. She landed hard knocking the wind from her lungs. She gulped in two big lungs full of air and watched as the creature charged at Becky. Becky stopped her barrage of arrows and took off in an attempt to escape the charging beast. Heidi sprang to her feet and ran to help her friend. The monster unleashed a massive Gidiga attack. The ground under Becky’s feet erupted in a giant explosion of molten lava. Becky screamed as she was hurled into the air landing hard against the arena wall close to Howzer’s seat. With no linesheild to protect her, Becky suffered sever burns from the Gidiga attack. She didn’t get up. The monster charged in for the final kill. Heidi knew she would not get there in time.
“Becky!” She cried then raised her hand and yelled at the creature, “NO!”
An ice wall sprang up in front of the creature blocking its path. The wall exploded into ice shards that drove into the creatures flesh spilling its purple blood. The creature stopped for a moment, not sure of what to make of the new attack. Heidi stood staring at her hand in disbelief. She knew her mental energy hadn’t recharged enough for a basic attack let alone something of this power. The creature moved forward toward Becky when it was sure no further attacks were coming. This drew Heidi away from her hand and back to the beast.
“You stop right there!” Heidi cried trying to draw back the creature.
It ignored her and stopped over Becky. It turned its head slowly to Heidi staring at her for a second mocking her then turned back to the human girl and raised its claw to strike.
“NO!” Heidi cried.
The claw began its decent straight for Becky’s heart.
“NO!” Heidi screamed throwing out her hands.
A wave of energy washed over her and shot out from her hands, smashing into the monsters chest blasting it away from Becky seconds before the claw drove into its flesh. Howzer climbed to his feet staring down at the stadium in awe. The crowd was quiet with only a few gasps and whispers as everyone focused on the Newman girl. Heidi was hovering just inches off the ground. She was dressed in a long white gown with blue crystal slippers on her feet. Her skin had turned white and sparkled as if she were covered in diamond dust. Her hair was now streaked in a light blue. Her eyes had turned to bright sapphires and her lips were cherry red. Her hair and dress continued to wave in an unfelt breeze. Sato had been caught in the transformation as well and now the Mag was no longer a little metallic blue fox but a large blue wolf. Her hair rippled and waved by the same energy force that was making Heidi’s clothing and hair move.
“That my friend, is the holy light.” Howzer said without bothering to check his scanner.
“Indeed.” Magashi agreed, “I did not think it possible to see such power in human form.”
“I would think this form should be much easier to control than the dark form.” Howzer grinned.
“At least it’s not trying to kill you.” Magashi frowned.
Howzer ignored the Casts remark and continued to watch. The monster climbed to its feet and took another run at Becky. Sato shot out across the arena positioning herself between Becky and the creature. She snarled at the monster with long razor teeth. This caused the monster to pause. Heidi floated across the arena floor in no apparent hurry. A wave of her hand sent another energy bolt out across the arena slamming into the dark creature. All the other creatures in the arena scurried for the twin doors that led back to their cages. The monster brushed off the attack and turned to face Heidi. She let another blast loose tearing into the monsters shoulder blasting away flesh and bone. Becky groaned and opened one eye. Sato turned her head to study the girl and when Becky managed to sit up, Sato bounded off toward the monster. It took a swing at her which she easily dodged. Sato swung around the monsters rear then clamped her mighty jaws down on the creatures left calf. It roared and went to swing at the blue wolf but Heidi blasted it with a bolt right to the chest. The attack tore into the monsters flesh and blasted away the twisted rib cage inside. Sato shook her head ripping the muscle from the bone. The monster unleashed a powerful RAfoie blast sending Sato flying back. The Mag landed on her feet and charged right back. Heidi swung her arm again sending a silver energy blade out that sliced off the creatures arm just below the elbow. Sato leaped at the right claw, chomping down on the creatures forearm. It shook the arm trying to shake Sato but the flesh let go instead of the wolves bite. Sato landed on her feet and dropped the large chunk of Seed flesh. Becky could only watch in amazement at her friend’s short work of the creature but something caught her eye as the creatures flesh was continually blasted away. At first she wasn’t sure but as more became clear she gasped at the figure inside. Becky climbed to her feet and ran toward Heidi.
“Heidi stop!” She cried, “Don’t kill it.”
Heidi ignored her until Becky ran into her side grabbing her arm. Heidi looked down at her but made no expression as to recognize her.
“Don’t kill the monster.” Becky pleaded pointing at the large hole in its chest, “Amanda is in there.”
At first Heidi just stared back with a blank expression but then she blinked. Then she blinked a couple more times. Becky stared back at her with pleading eyes.
“Amanda.” Heidi whispered.
“Yes, your cousin.” Becky nodded, “The one you’re here to save.”
“Amanda!” Heidi cried and turned to the monster.
It was down on its knees as Sato continued to tear away at it. Its strength was slowly slipping away. Heidi waved her right hand and Sato stopped her attack. She lifted up her arms and the creature floated up into the air. She swung her right arm down and the right half of the creature tore away. She swung her left arm down tearing away the remaining flesh leaving the unconscious Newman girl floating in the air. Heidi floated over to her cousin and touched her face.
“Amanda, I am so sorry.”
Amanda’s eyes popped open and she sneered, “Not nearly as much as you’re going to be.”
She swung her arms open and a bright red light blasted out forcing Heidi back. When the light died away Amanda was still floating in the air. Her skin had turned grey and her hair had become dark purple. She wore a tight black short sleeved top that ended just above her bellybutton, a mini skirt and long boots that stopped halfway up her upper leg. The entire out fit was laced with bright purple spider webbing. Amanda’s lips had turned black and her eyes now looked like rubies. She studied herself for a moment before looking up at Heidi.
“Same blood, same potential.” She grinned, “Looks like we just needed a catalyst.”
“We?” Heidi frowned then looked back at Becky.
The girl had dropped to her knees and was bent over ready to collapse. This only slightly registered with Heidi as a shadowy blurry image as she was fighting to keep the photon energy or, Holy Light as it was more commonly referred to, from taking over. Heidi turned back to the sneering Amanda but again she had to fight to even focus on the girl. Heidi took another quick look at Becky and the image was a little clearer. She could see her good friend was in pain and needed her. She turned back to her cousin who was now frowning at her.
“There is nothing you can do for your friend.” Amanda said, “Soon she will be ours.”
Howzer stared down at the two Newmans with a slight smirk on his face. It didn’t get passed Magashi who was starting to grow a little concerned over his master’s strange behaviour.
“Something amuses you Sir?” He asked.
“Our little slave girl is infected with the Seed and yet retains her humanity.” Howzer pointed, “We can use this, control it.”
“Are you sure?” Magashi frowned.
Howzer didn’t reply; instead he stood up and addressed his slave girl.
“Enough of this stupid banter.” He called, “Kill the Guardian quickly then you may join me by my side as my new General.”
Amanda snapped her head toward him and growled, “Oh I intend to kill her, and then I will kill you.”
She turned back to face her cousin who was still having difficulty focusing. Howzer just returned to his seat still smiling.
“That could have gone better.” Magashi said.
“We have nothing to fear.” Howzer replied.
“And how do you know that?” Magashi asked.
Howzer didn’t answer. He just sat smiling at the girl. Magashi just shrugged and returned his attention to the fight. Inside Howzers human part indeed feared the wrath of the slave girl, knowing full well that her new found power could easily destroy him. The Seed being in him knew better. It already could feel the girl’s soul. It could touch it, hear it, and as the infection continued to spread through her it would soon be able to control her. Already it had enough that if she did try to attack, it could easily stop her with a simple command.
Amanda attacked with a simple and primitive punch. Heidi easily swung out of the way and Amanda flew right passed her. Heidi waved her arm launching a light attack at her. Amanda turned just in time to get her hand up to deflect the shot. She returned with a Megid attack. Heidi put up a barrier that absorbed the ball then launched a Foie attack. Amanda dodged out of the way and threw several Zonde bolts at her. Heidi launched her self forward flying at Amanda dodging the incoming lightening bolts. Sato leaped from Amanda’s left and tried to clamp on to her arm. Amanda quickly brought her arm up forming an ice wall. Sato blasted through the wall but the impact sacrificed her momentum and she landed short of the target. Amanda blasted her with a Diga attack knocking the Mag back. She turned just as Heidi drove into her. The two girls landed hard on the ground. Both were quick to get back in the air. Amanda launched a ball of ice. Heidi deflected it with a shield then launched a Zonde blast. Amanda stuck her hands out together and split the bolt then pulled her hands apart throwing the energy to the side. One bolt landed beside Becky knocking her over. She screamed as the shock flowed over her burning more skin.
“No!” Amanda cried.
She launched a Megid ball at Amanda. The attack came with such speed and ferocity that Amanda didn’t have time to dodge or deflect it. The attack slammed into her and drove her into the arena wall. She felt the technique clawing away at her life force. She channelled her inner dark photon to absorb the ball. While Amanda was pinned on the wall, Heidi turned and flew over to Becky. She stared down at the girl until she managed to focus her mind then waved her hand. A white and green light flowed down over the human, healing her wounds and restoring her energy. Becky looked up and smiled.
“Thank you.” She said.
Heidi held out her hand and Becky took it. She suddenly felt weightless and gasped as her feet left the ground. Heidi lifted her back up over the wall and into the stands.
“Get to safety.” Heidi instructed her, “You can’t help here.”
Becky nodded and quickly ran up the steps to one of the higher rows. She wanted to stay out of danger for Heidi’s sake but she wasn’t about to leave her friend. Heidi nodded and started to turn. Amanda slammed into her side driving her into the stone floor. The stones shattered under the impact leaving a shallow hole. Heidi gasped from the hit and tried to get up. Amanda drove her fist into the girls face, then again and again. Blood started to run from Heidi’s broken nose. Amanda went for another strike but she was blasted back by the icy Barta attack. Heidi got up and wiped the blood away. Amanda flew up off the ground and growled. Heidi blasted her with a Foie attack then by her white energy blast. Amanda slammed into the ground. A small trickle of red blood ran down her lower lip. She sported a nasty scrape on her right bicep that dripped purple blood. She howled and launched several Zonde blasted then charged at Heidi. Heidi blocked the Zonde attacks but not the charging girl. She slammed into Heidi’s chest and drove her across the arena floor and into the wall. She pulled back her arm and drove it down on Heidi. Heidi twisted her head to the side just narrowly avoiding Amanda’s punch. Heidi slammed her fist into Amanda’s cheek and when her grip loosened Heidi drove her fist into Amanda’s gut. The girl reeled back and Heidi blasted her with a Foie attack. The fire ball slammed into Amanda driving her into the ground. Heidi moved in to finish the fight but as she approached the small crater a volcanic eruption blasted up knocking her back. Amanda flew up out of the pillar of molten rock and charged at Heidi driving her fist into Heidi’s chest.
Becky paced back and forth as she watched the two Newman’s battle it out. Heidi had told her to stay back but she needed to help. Howzer and the rest of the audience were completely captivated by the fight. She stopped and gasped as Heidi was blasted back by the lava blast. She relaxed when she saw her friend was ok until Amanda caught her by surprise. Heidi was driven into the ground and Amanda charged up a Megid ball. Becky drew her bow and fired. The arrow flew true and straight right for the girls head. Just as it was about to strike, Amanda raised her hand the photon arrow was split in two. It quickly dissipated soon after. Becky lowered her bow staring at the Newman. It had stopped Amanda’s Megid ball but as she slowly turned her head and glared at Becky, the human knew she was in trouble.
“Uh oh!” She gasped and bolted up the isle.
Amanda swept her arm out at Becky’s location and the stands exploded in a massive fire ball. Screams and shear panic followed as the crowd began to fight each other to the exit. The blast zone was littered with the dead and the injured cried out for help. Amanda turned back to Heidi with a grin on her face. The grin quickly faded as Heidi turned to her and Amanda saw for a split second, Heidi’s crystal blue eyes flash red. Heidi sliced her arms at Amanda releasing two photon blades. Amanda gasped as the blades slashed across her. Heidi followed with a white ball of photon energy then a Barta blast. Amanda could not defend and was driven into the ground. She tried to get up but Heidi cast a shower of Zonde upon her. She followed this with a Diga blast and more of the photon blades. Amanda tossed a weak Foie ball at Heidi who simply glided to the side then blasted her with a Foie ball then more of the white photon blades. Amanda groaned and tried to lift her arm but it quickly dropped back to the ground. Heidi glided up to the girl and stared down at her. She lifted her right arm up and Amanda floated up off the ground hanging limp in the air. Heidi brought her other arm up beside the right one then closed both fists as if she was gripping something. She slowly began to pull her arms apart and Amanda let out an ear shattering scream. Those few who hadn’t made it out yet quickly turned back to the arena. Becky had managed to avoid the blast and was standing a couple steps from the top exit. She gasped and covered her mouth as the Newman girl began to pull apart. Heidi continued to pull her arms apart and a shadowy duplicate of her cousin slowly began to emerge. Amanda screamed in extreme pain as Heidi continued to remove the Seed being from her cousin. With one last pull the beast popped free and Amanda slumped back to the ground. Howzer quickly got from his seat and started to leave.
“Don’t you wish to see the ending?” Magashi smirked.
“There is nothing left to see.” Howzer replied, “It is over. We must leave here now.”
Magashi looked down at the arena then nodded at Howzer.
“I believe you are right.”
The two quickly made for the exit disappearing in the crowd. The Seed Amanda struggled to get free but Heidi held it tight in her photon grip. She brought her right arm down in a slashing motion from the top right finishing bottom left. A photon blade slashed across the monster. It was sliced in half and Heidi followed with two more blades. The monsters pieces slowly floated down and vaporised into dust before they hit the floor. Heidi turned to the audience where Becky had been standing but the girl had disappeared. Without hesitation or emotion, Heidi turned back to her cousin. She lifted up her hand and both Amanda and Sato floated up off the floor. She looked up at the ceiling and in a flash of light blasted up through the rock with Sato and Amanda in tow. They flew across the desert sand and passed the cave where Heidi had met Kireek. The sun slowly slipped below the horizon as night time moved in. Heidi gently landed deep in the desert as her power finally expired. She reverted to her normal self the moment her feet touched the ground. She immediately collapsed not having the strength to support her self. Her last visible image was that of her little blue Mag floating up to her face, then her eyes slipped shut and darkness consumed her.
The first thing Heidi saw as she opened her eyes was the concerned face of her father staring down at her.
“Heidi?” He said and a smile grew across his face.
“Dad?” She replied rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “Where am I?”
“In the hospital on the Colony.” Jonathan replied, “We found you lying out in the desert…”
“Becky!” Heidi gasped springing up in her bed.
“She’s fine.” Jon replied pushing her back down, “If it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t have found you.”
“How?” Heidi asked.
“Seems she stole a transport from that Illuminus base.” Jon said, “She ran out of fuel trying to get to you and ended up walking almost all the way back to you. Smart girl too, she took the ships transponder with her. Oh, and she managed to get your gear back too but she won’t tell us how.”
“Where is she?”
“Back with her family on Parum.” Jon nodded.
“She’s recovering here in the hospital.” Jon said.
“She has the same power I do Dad.” Heidi said concern flooding across her face, “She, We can change. It’s this amazing power. I don’t know how to describe it.”
“Not quite like you.” A deep metallic voice said.
Heidi looked to the door where the voice had come from. Cerberus was standing in the door way smiling at her. He ducked through the door and sat down beside her bed.
“Becky told us what happened.” Cerberus said, “The doctors have done some tests on you both and while Amanda does have much of the same Corellian DNA you do, she is missing some. You managed to unlock your power all on your own but Amanda can not use hers without help. In the case of the Illuminus it looks like the Seed virus filled in the missing pieces.”
“I don’t remember anything.” Heidi frowned, “Just strange images of monsters and I remember seeing Becky but I...”
She grabbed her head as a massive headache swarmed over her.
“Take it easy sweetie.” Jon said grabbing her shoulder, “You still have a lot of recovering to do. What ever it was that happened to you drained most of your mental energy.”
“Dad.” Heidi said as her eye lids grew heavy.
“Yes?” Jon asked leaning closer.
“We have a family.” Heidi grinned and drifted off to sleep.