Ever since that day, I've been having the same recurring dream.
I walked down the same road. The sun shining bright.
"I want to become a hero."
I heard myself say, as my hands dripped with blood.
"One who saves everybody."
As I walked by numerous corpses, dismembered bodies, burnt to a crisp.
"One who descends from the skies"
I looked up, at the beautiful sun shining from the clouds. The clouds that were oh so elegant, majestic. I held my hand out to try to touch them, but I knew. I always knew.
Those things in the sky were not clouds.
I watched as hordes of Severens descended from the heavens, and from behind the clouds, was not a sun. But a large glowing eye. The eye of a giant Severen. The King. The ruler, and greatest of its kind.
"To protect everybody."
The armies of the Severens began to pillage the university campus that I stood at with their thunderous blasts of energy. Their destruction and reckoning on this world.
"To tell everyone that..."
My white shirt ripped off as it landed on the ground, turning red as I watched as the giant Severen's eye glowed brighter and brighter. My skin scalding from the heat as the beam disintegrated me.
"I'm here now."
I closed my eyes as everything turned bright.
"Operator! The mini-operator is awake!" I heard a voice boom across the ship as I rubbed my forehead.
This won't do. Ugh.
Another horrible dream, and drenched in sweat too. That'd be the third set of clothes I went through in a day. I trudged out of my bed and clicked the button as I watched it fold in on itself.
"Mini-operator, while such hygiene is irrelevant to a Dataform like me, I would advise some better care for your body."
"I know. I don't need you telling me that, Folock. Also, stop calling me Mini-Operator. I'm not that short!"
A voice appeared from behind me.
"He's not wrong you know."
I slipped on a shirt and smirked. "That's because you spent your whole life in space. Your whole body is stretched out. I'm still way more jacked than you...
Deka's silvery eyes almost glowed from the shadows of the sliding door.
"Heh. I hope you still have your feistiness. We have a new mission from a Syndicate."
"We're doing it solo right? Like just you, Umbra, and I?"
Deka scratched his head. "Uhh..."
"Are you serious? I'm not going out there with them."
Deka sighed. "Shane, at some point, we're going to have to side with my brethren. You truly cannot be thinking we take on the Severens and save my mom with just us right?"
"Are you even listening to yourself?! Those same asshats renounced you! Hell, they have a god damn bounty on your head! Why are you still defending them?"
Deka regarded me. "Because at the end of the day, I am still a Valian. I fight for the honour and name of my brothers and sisters. That is why I operate my Lances. That is why I wield these weapons. That is why I fight."
I bit my lip as I slipped on my coat and my combat boots. I walked with Deka to the armoury to pick up my two Harkanon rifles and slung their compressed forms on my back.
"How's the new coat, by the way?" Deka asked.
"It's fine." I replied.
"It certainly makes you look like the Operator's Lances!" Folock chimed in.
"That's the last thing I want." I grumbled, imagining Yggdrasil getting its disgusting talons on my body again. The last time the ship's infestation system had touched me, it was to give me my Toron cybernetic implants. Yggdrasil has always been obsessed with me. And ever since it got a "taste" of my body, its obsession only got worse.
I went to the kitchen segment of the Lotuscraft to make some "space pb&j". Not that was a thing. I always keep forgetting, that we were in the future. In Deka's present. Ever since we had gained enough resources to rebuild the ship's time warp segment, I never got used to the shift. I mean who wouldn't? We're talking millennia into the future.
I still found it weird. You would think thousands of years into the future they would have some fine cuisine.
I stared at the two pieces of stale "bread" on the plate, along with the seasoned fish oil.
"You have fish oil, yes? Good for bones. Make you grow little boy!" The fisher at Cetus had told me.
That damn geezer. I'm not even a kid. In a few years I would be drinking age.
"Huh? Why're we teamed with him?!" A Helos Lance walked up to the two of us. We were deployed on the surface of Neptune to defend a cargo hold. Any time now those Toron-Corpo soldiers would be on our ass. Our job would be to protect it.
Normally, it would have been easy. I would just stay on the side with my Harkanon rifles and support Cap from afar. But it didn't seem like it would work this time, especially with the greater number of Valian guarding the cargo, they were definitely coming in full force. Just standing there would no longer be an option.
One of the other Valians glared at Cap.
"Doesn't matter. We do the mission get our rewards and book. Price is irrelevant anyway, considering he's using that piece of trash of a Lance. If he really is dumb enough to pull a fast one on us, my Slinger would just shoot him up in seconds."
I clenched my fist.
Calm yourself, Mayen. Umbra's voice emanated from his body.
I looked at Cap's Lance. Even though it was aiming at the surroundings with its gun, I knew he was speaking to me. I had developed the ability to communicate with Deka's Lances ever since the operation. But it seemed like only I was able to do so.
You're just going to take what those brats said about you?
Umbra was silent as Deka continued aiming.
The Valians, as mighty as they are, are still children. Surely you were like that at your age?
I grumbled as I set one of my rifles to sniper mode, aiming at one of the entrances. I was about to say something, but I kept it to myself. Umbra knew more about kids than I did. He had a son. I didn't want to go down that route, especially considering Umbra's tragic past. But still...
"Here they come." The Helos Valian said, as I readied my weapon, but before I could pull the trigger, the enemies were instantly dead.
"Easy." The Slinger Valian said, as she gunned down everything in her sight. Within seconds, everybody was dead. I didn't even get to fire a single round. I stood up and leapt to another region of the defence target, near the snowy hills, pinpointing a crewman. I brought one of my rifles up and set it to automatic mode, but just like before, a flash of light blinded me. By the time my sight returned, the crewman was dead.
The Helos Valian turned to me.
"I'm not letting some spectre steal my kills." He said, coldly, as he glanced at Price, who was zipping across the battlefield as Umbra. He was managing to get some kills as well, but it might as well have been for nothing, because the Slinger was killing everything in seconds.
"Look at that guy. Relying on spectres and still being out damaged. Pathetic."
The Slinger smirked.
"I don't even want to begin to see what the status report for this mission is going to look like." I muttered from within my combat mask.
"Damage Contribution Status Report: Vitri Eragon - 83%, Rinzler Thresh - 15%, Dekani Price - 2%" Folock said, happily in my HUD.
"Literally no one asked for that!" I growled.
"Mini operator, I advise you to fight harder, otherwise your progress to the mission will become too insignificant!"
"My name isn't even listed in the report- wait. Why isn't it listed?!"
"I believe it is because you're considered only a spectre." Deka responded.
Was I seriously that insignificant?!
"Raise your head, Shane. At least we have a good cover story. What would the Valians think if they saw you as my first mate? Then that would mean everybody would want one."
"I... guess." I muttered, as I continued firing my rifles, blasting enemies from a distance that I could pinpoint that were not in Eragon's field of view.
"But come to think of it, most of us probably wouldn't care less for that either. A spectre doesn't really do much additional damage anyway."
"I thought you were supposed to make me feel better!" I snapped.
Deka laughed. I zipped into the air as I closed in on a Moa. I took out my Gram Supra and slashed down as hard as I could, slicing the robot in half. I brought my other arm up, still wielding one of my Harkanon rifles and peppered a group of crewmen as they fell on their backs.
From the corner of my eye, I noticed Thresh had already cleared an entire squad of crewmen before Deka could reach it. I heard the Valian scoff as Deka turned to the other way.
How could Cap be okay with this? These assholes were looking at him with disdain knowing full well that Deka hadn't fully recovered from the time warp. But Cap was still doing his mission anyway. I bit back my negative thoughts. I was Deka's first mate. I had to do my part of the mission.
We continued hacking and slashing until we got to Wave 5. We finished all we needed and collected enough resources.
"Let's extract." Deka said.
Thresh holstered his Ignis. "Of course you would want that."
I clenched my fist as I stepped forward, but Deka held out his hand.
"Thank you for your time." He said, as he bowed.
Eragon scoffed. "Leech."
Thresh walked forward and pushed Deka.
"Hey!" I shouted.
Deka said nothing, as he resolved out of Umbra and looked Thresh right through his Helos Lance.
"Let's not resort to violence. We are fellow Valian."
Thresh resolved out of Helos and walked up to Deka, facing him.
"You're not one of us. Even before you decided to loot the VGA dojo, you were never one of us. You were always a joke. While we all were able to fight off the Scrava, you couldn't even hit a single mark with your gun. Can you imagine it? A Valian who didn't know how to fight?"
Deka turned and walked to the spot for his Landing Craft. Umbra beckoned me as I followed him, attempting to ignore Thresh's insults.
"And you know what is funny? After all this time for you to practice and fight, you're still running around with a damn Excal. Umbra of all Lances. It's almost like you think he's special! You're delusional, we all have that Lance. He's just a copy of the original."
Deka turned around. "Take those words back."
Thresh grinned. "Or what? You're going to kick my ass with an Excal? Your Lance isn't even min-maxed. Literally any Lance is better than that trashy metal puppet."
I gripped my rifle. But Folock appeared in my HUD.
"No, mini-operator. Don't fight him. You cannot win against a fully trained Valian at your current level."
Deka walked back to the Landing Craft, resolving into Umbra.
"Well, it looks like we've made a solid dent on this component. We'll pick up after the weekend." Deka said, as he looked at the Foundry.
"What are you going to do?" I asked Deka as we walked back to our respective rooms.
"Ehhh?" I asked.
Deka chuckled. "Hey, it's not my idea. Umbra likes fishing. It was that or all three of us play Komi."
"Fish away!" I quickly replied, as I packed up my things.
I walked to the Landing Craft after Deka and Umbra deployed to Cetus.
"What destination would you like to go to?" Folock asked.
"Two popsicles please."
"Oh my. Buying one for a date, perhaps?" The old lady asked from behind the counter.
"Uh. Yeah. Sure." I mumbled.
Obviously it wasn't for a date. Ever since I discovered this stand, it had become my go-to place for a nice treat. One of the few that offered popsicles that didn't taste weird. Meaning I was clearly going to go overboard with it. Of course, I didn't want to tell a sweet old lady that I was going to eat both of them.
"Young love! How adorable."
I paid for the popsicles and walked down the streets of Luam.
Cities aren't uncommon in the Star System. Maybe not for Valians, since they spend most of their time on missions or doing bounties. Deka is one of the very few Valian, if not the only Valian who takes weekends off. But it was never for his own benefit. During these weekends, he would spend time with Umbra doing things he likes, for instance, fishing, Komi, sightseeing, walks. As a first mate, Deka wanted me to also enjoy some freedom once in a while. It was one of the many things I admired about Captain Price.
I watched as a bunch of couples and children explored the streets. There wasn't much to do, but it was okay. Sometimes it was nice to just take in the scenery. The beautiful campus. The...
"I finally understand... I finally know why you did it, my dear boy..."
I clutched my head. No. No more memories. Not now, when I'm relaxing.
I sat on a bench and stared at the ocean. Mood ruined. Thanks PTSD.
I always resented my life back at uni. I never liked it. I saw it as something I couldn't escape from. Because that was what I was forced to do, to survive in society, I had to force myself to become something I didn't like, otherwise I would be unemployed. That was how it was. There was nothing I could do, though. I was just born into it.
I finished my first popsicle and moved onto my second one.
I looked up. In front of me were two people. A guy and a girl. They both had flowing brown hair, almost identical, but I could tell right away they were completely different. The boy looked menacing, his face was just pure scum, while the girl looked timid. She had her head down, and the left side of her face was reddened.
It took me a total of five seconds to realize that he had slapped her.
Now under normal circumstances, this might be the part where you would expect me to stand up and say something. Stand up to her for the way she was treated. But sorry to disappoint. I was not going to do something that naive. I've served as Deka's First Mate long enough to know that the wisest choice is to stay out of other people's drama. It might sound selfish and wrong, but there are always multiple sides to a story. What I'm looking at could be completely different from what it seems to be. What if the girl was expected to comply and had a loved one hostage by the guy? If I intervened, the guy might lose it and kill the hostage. Things like this must always be considered before taking action.
Hence why I will always stick to the things I am assigned.
To do what I am told.
Because the notion of being a hero...
Is completely fake.
I got up from the bench and walked away, as I could hear the faint echoes of their conversation.
"Rinne, you had one job. Isn't it bad enough that I have a useless Valian who can't fight for a sister? Now you got to mess this up too? You shouldn't have been born."
"I'm so sorry, Rinzler."
"Go and return it. Return all of it."
"Volco hasn't been fed for days."
"Why the hell do I care about that Alphon mutt? All it was worth was one mission. I have no use for it. And I'm certainly not going to waste money on it."
Rinzler? I stopped walked. I slowly turned around and caught a glimpse of the guy's face. That same face that had mocked my Captain. Who mocked Uncle Umbra. Then I glanced at the girl, who I presumed to be Rinne. She looked like she was about to cry.
I want to...
I clenched my fist. Stop. Stop it. After everything that had happened to Mom and Dad. You still have such dreams?
I watched my body instinctively turn around, moving against my will.
I want to save her.
"No. No you don't." I hissed, trying to stop myself. But the more I tried to convince myself...
I want to be a hero.
I took a step, and another step. Stop. Stop this, Shane. Stop. STOP.
"I'll return it, big brother. I promise." Rinne yelped as she ran off to a stall. Rinzler crossing his arms.
"Damn right." He grumbled.
I stopped moving. I should have felt relieved. I didn't need to step in. I wouldn't have gotten involved, but for some reason, I still felt horrible.
And so the rest of the weekend ended, and I along with the Lotuscraft crew continued with our mission to collect resources.
"Keep the enemy busy while another Valian raids the ship for supplies, that's our mission." Deka told me, as he resolved into Umbra.
Deka and I charged the Scrava as we fought off the enemy with a barrage of slashing, hacking, and shooting. The usual. A lot of these missions tended to be repetitive, but even so, I found a small thrill in it. Every enemy I took down was more experience on my part.
"At this rate, we should be able to get that one component we need to finish the segment." I commented.
"And after that, it'll just be getting resources. I think I can use Abaddon for that." Deka replied.
Of course, the moment we said that, luck happened to screw us over.
The lights flickered.
"Captain? Is it an enemy syndicate?" I asked.
Deka was silent, as we huddled together and shot enemies down left and right.
"That's... strange. I'm not getting any messages in my transmissions."
"What do you mean?"
Deka looked at me. "Usually, when things like this happen, an enemy syndicate would send me a transmission. But this time is different."
I drew Gram and readied myself.
"Is it SHADOW then?"
Deka resolved out of Umbra and held out his amp. He gritted his teeth.
"Even SHADOW would give a transmission."
The lights flickered once more.
From the corner of my eye, I saw something. A figure. A dark and ominous figure.
"Captain! It's SHADOW! He's here!" I exclaimed.
Deka and Umbra rushed to my side, but suddenly, the figure disappeared.
"Are you sure?" Deka said.
"I... I coulda sworn it." I replied. Hey now. What the hell is this? Deka didn't mention anything about an enemy like this before.
Deka pursed his lips.
"Lights flickering but no transmission. This isn't good. This is unlike anything I've encountered before."
We slowly moved back to the main room, but suddenly, we were greeted with a surprise.
"Everybody's, dead?" Deka asked.
The entire room was strewn with Scrava bodies. Normally, you would think this was unsurprising. Most Valian who were high ranked could do something like that, but this was different. The Scrava we were meant to fight were more heavily armoured variants. Even a Slinger Lance wouldn't be able to kill this many enemies at once. And even if they did, we would have heard their gunshots. A Saryn could wipe them out too, but these bodies didn't have any indicator that they were poisoned.
They are slash marks. Umbra said. The Tora confirmed it himself.
"Slash marks?" I asked.
Folock appeared in my HUD. "Operator, something is wrong. There isn't a Lance in my database that can achieve this many kills with a bladed weapon."
Deka looked uneasy. "Could this have something to do with that figure Shane had seen?"
The mission had gone successful, at least on our end. Unfortunately, the Valian who had done the ship raid wasn't too thrilled. And you wouldn't guess who that was.
"YOU AGAIN?!" Thresh walked up to Deka and grabbed him by the collar. I rushed forward, but Umbra held me back.
Mayen, we must not reveal your identity.
Deka, Umbra and I were in Cetus today, shortly after the mission to do some fish exchanging for standing. We also worked double duty to walk Flippy the Lupine (Deka's dog). But of course, the day had to be ruined by this jack knob.
Rinzler glared at us.
"What happened to keeping the enemy busy? I was assaulted by SHADOW! Why didn't you defeat him?"
Deka looked confused. "But... SHADOW didn't attack us."
Rinzler's face became more and more malicious. "Bullshit. The lights flickered for you guys. How did you let SHADOW escape? Any capable Valian should be able to beat that stupid stalker."
Deka scratched his chin. "There was no transmission. And he didn't show up to fight. This isn't SHADOW's style."
Rinzler took a deep breath and approached Deka. "Look here. I don't need you of all people to lecture me how that Severen trash operates. But because of you, I missed out on getting loot. AND you made me look embarrassing in front of Rinne."
I peeked from Rinzler's side and noticed Rinne standing from behind, her hands in clasped in front of her and her eyes empty.
"Hello." She muttered.
Deka sighed, and spoke into our coms.
"Guys, Thresh and I are going to take a while. Don't worry. A fight won't break out. We need to talk about whatever that thing that showed up was, Valian to Valian. Umbra, walk Flippy. Shane, I guess do whatever."
I glanced at Rinzler one more time. There was no way that thing was SHADOW. It couldn't have been. If it really was SHADOW, that vengeance obsessed freak would have leapt at Deka without any hesitation. But whatever I saw, was more elusive.
I walked to the market to pick up some stuff for dinner. I didn't really need to buy much. Umbra doesn't eat (obviously). Yggdrasil prefers eating me (not in a weird way). Flippy relied on DNA stabilizers, and for some reason Deka is sustained by the Void (???). Meaning I was the only person in the crew who needed to eat.
I looked at the two pieces of Mawfish in my hand. Which one was better? They were similarly priced, but one looked different from the other. One was rounder, and the other was flatter.
"What kind of dish are you thinking about making?" A timid voice appeared from my side.
"EEP!" I yelped, nearly dropping the fish.
"Hey! You drop, you pay boy!" The shopkeeper shouted at me.
I turned around. It was Rinne, she was looking at the fish in my hands.
"Oh, uh I was just going to steam them and eat them."
Rinne leaned in closer. Her hair smelled like lavender. Not like it mattered. Irrelevant information calls for irrelevant responses.
"Mini-operator, it appears your body temperature is rising." Folock warned.
"The flat cut benefits from a marinade. The rounder one could be grilled. It depends on what you like though."
Rinne glanced up and realized our faces were only like two inches away from each other. She quickly scurried away.
"Sorry! I didn't mean to invade your personal space."
Grilling and marinade. I don't think I've heard of those terms in ages. But then it hit me.
"Aren't you a Valian? I thought Valians don't eat because of the Void and stuff."
Rinne tilted her head. "Is that what you perceive us as?"
Rinne smiled. "You are quiet aware, for a spectre. That is, if you are one."
My eyes widened. "I, um... errr..." Classic Shane, freezing up in front of girls. Even after everything I went through with Deka and Umbra during those days in my time, fighting the Severens and returning back to his time period. Some things never change.
"How are you able to tell?"
Rinne wiggled her fingers. "I'm not much of a fighter, despite being a Valian, but I can sense things in the Void. Like it speaks to me. From afar, I thought you were a spectre, but then why would a spectre go running errands in Cetus?" She giggled.
I paid for the round piece and put it in a bag. I did feel like eating something grilled. I'm sure Captain Price wouldn't mind me borrowing his Ignis to cook dinner...
"So I guess you know how to cook then?"
Rinne nodded. "Yes. I cook for my older brother."
Judging from the way those two interacted, I was guessing he wasn't exactly a caring type to his younger sister. But I did my best to hide my thoughts.
"So... I'm guessing you're not on missions a lot."
Rinne sat down on the bench next to me. "I accompany my brother at times. But I don't fight, I don't own a Lance. Usually, Rinzler sends me into the chutes of spy missions to disarm traps."
This guy sends his little sister into those dirty caverns to do the dirty work for him. The more I heard about this Rinzler guy the more of a scumbag he appeared to be.
"Then... was it true? That Rinzler was attacked by SHADOW?"
Rinne wrung her hands.
"While you and Price were distracting the enemy, me and my brother were trying to extract intel from a Scarva facility. SHADOW normally comes out of hiding if the Valian who was fending off the enemy was unable to defeat him. Big brother wasn't geared for combat, so when he appeared, he nearly died."
"And you saved him?"
Rinne paused. "All I did was blast him with Void energy. That was all it was."
I could tell she was trying to make it sound like she didn't save him. I mean, I guess it made sense. Someone of his ego would be shattered if word got out his lil sis saved his ass.
So it was SHADOW that appeared. But why was he acting differently this time? Could it be that he knew we were time displaced? But even then, why would that be enough for that revenge hungry weirdo to avoid fighting us?
I looked at Rinne. She had a kind smile but it was so obvious that she was faking it. Her eyes were empty and hollow. I wanted to help her.
"Do you mind me asking..."
Rinne shifted in her seat and adjusted herself to look me in the eye.
"What exactly are you?"
A bead of sweat rolled down the side of my face. If I straight up told her I was a time displaced Terran who became a Valian assistant, word would break out.
Before I could answer, an annoying voice peeked from behind us.
"Rinne, we're leaving." Rinzler said as he grabbed her wrist and yanked her out of the bench.
Rinne bowed her head. "Okay." She gave me a faint smile, which looked laced in disappointment, almost like she wanted our conversation to keep going. At least, that was what it looked like. Who knew what she was thinking, or what anybody was thinking for that matter. Jumping to conclusions is stupid.
I got up to meet Deka. What the hell was I even thinking? Why was I making conclusions like this off of a girl I literally just met?
"I'll... see you Shane!" Rinne said, quietly, as her older brother dragged her to their Landing Craft.
Deka crossed his arms as I walked up to him.
"Any luck?" I asked, but Deka's face was dead serious. This wasn't good.
"Yes. But after talking with Thresh and contacting other Valians, it seems we were right on the money. The thing we encountered was not SHADOW."
Deka looked at me, and it was almost like I knew something bad was coming. Something deep in my gut.
"That thing we encountered was SHADE. The Great Valian Killer."
"SHADE? But he's a myth!" I exclaimed.
Deka sat in front of the table, scrolling through his codex and retrieving a holographic model of the Valian Killer.
To say he was threatening looking was an understatement. 185 cm of ominous darkness. There were many theories as to what he was. A corrupted Valian who defected to the Severen side. A Lance puppet. A Void spectre. No one really knew what he was or who he was. So as what legend would say.
But one thing was clear. This guy was by far the most dangerous person in the Severen side. It was said that once he set his sights on a Valian, that was it. That Valian was not seeing the light of day. The reason being, that this guy was so powerful, the default response upon encountering him was to extract as fast as possible.
The thing with SHADE, according to the minstrels and the stories about him, was that his motives were unknown. Sometimes he would spare the Valian, sometimes he would go all out and slaughter them. The Valian Gladiator Alliance was apparently the home for over a thousand Valian. There's only a few hundred now.
Despite all that, many people didn't acknowledge his existence. And the reason why was because unlike SHADOW, SHADE literally never shows up. No one has encountered him in the past few years. About a 3% chance according to Valian Brean Orsei, that the SHADOW shows up to take on the Valians. The probability of SHADE showing up isn't even a tenth of that.
But to know that we had run into SHADE himself and not only that, but to have been spared, that's a really bold claim.
"I know what you're thinking. The chances that we ran into a ghost makes more sense given we don't even know if SHADE exists. Who knows, he probably was a story made up by some Valian who had too much time on his hands. But the SHADE angle still exists. Thresh already alerted the various Valian Clans of a potential sighting. Right now, whatever happened in that mission is strictly confidential."
Deka put his hand on the table and gave me a stern expression.
"As your Captain, that is an order. Understand?"
With that, Captain Price dismissed us.
"Shane... I've always wanted to tell you all this time..."
Rinne's blush made her face so red. My heart was about to pop out of my chest.
"All those times you helped me, and saved me. You set me free. That time we spent together under that tree..."
Rinne leaned in closer.
"I love you, Shane May-"
Umbra's voice woke me up. I jolted out of my bed and hit my head against the frame.
"Ah! No! What are you talking about? I wasn't dreaming."
If Umbra's helmet didn't replace his face, I would have seen him smirk.
Were you dreaming about that Valian's younger sister?
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about." I grumbled as I got dressed.
Dammit! This won't do! Why was I dreaming about Rinne? This is wrong, this is so wrong. Fantasizing about girls?! What's gotten into me? I have to do something about that, but it will have to wait, because we have a mission.
Umbra followed me as I headed to Folock's operating systems. Damn that Lance. I sometimes forgot he was sentient when not being piloted by Deka. And it wasn't just that. I shared a telepathic connection with all the Lance's that Deka had resolved into. Meaning it was entirely plausible that Umbra had seen my dreaaaaaammmm????
"AAAAH!!!" I screamed as I banged my head against the wall. Umbra laughed in my head.
I didn't mean to peek into your dreams. Your feelings were so strong that they entered my mind. There is nothing to be embarrassed of, Mayen. I myself, have been through this route.
Right. I totally forgot that this guy had a wife. I mean, he had a son, so that would make sense. But at this point, I was so flustered that I just didn't feel like discussing this with a retired war veteran.
"I'm going to be using Ran for this. You guys sit tight." Deka said, as he loaded up into the Landing Craft.
"What? No! It's not safe with the other Valians. Let us come. You still have a bounty on your head." I replied, but Deka waved me off.
"The bounty is on hold, until we figure out how to stop the Severen's efforts. Right now we need to gather components and resources to build our weapons. And that means going to the Void. The other Lances are strong but lack survivability. Only Ran can handle this."
Deka gave me a thumbs up, which was weird, because he was resolved into Ran, who was female. I didn't know if Cap was giving me a thumbs up or a kiss since both seemed equally convincing.
I watched as Deka and three other Valians entered the mission. I was able to see everything from Folock's systems. I watched as Deka buffed his teammates with Ran's shields as the team fluidly dispatched Corrupted left and right.
"So coordinated..." I muttered.
Yes. One of the strengths of the Valian. Even if they do not wish it, in numbers they are almost unstoppable. That is the nature of the Toron Lances. Umbra responded, standing next to me.
"That's my Operator for you! Remember to let the Operator know when the next life support capsule is coming." Folock chimed in.
I concentrated on the flow of data Folock was providing me. Technically, it was Folock who should have been checking for life support, but for whatever reason, he decided to make me in charge of that. Who knew Dataforms could be lazy. The good news was this job wasn't as demanding as I thought it to be.
Toron Lances. Those things were the real deal. I heard from Deka that the Lances they operated used to be warriors who were converted by the Infestation. The way he explained it sounded so messed up, but Deka had a calm demeanour. It was almost scary.
But Umbra was right. The nature of the way these Lances were designed, it was designed in a way that they could operate both in teams and on their own. As long as the Valian knew how to set up the load out correctly.
I watched as one Valian, who was using an Ash Lance, leapt into the air, delivering several clones to cut into their enemies. I wondered if Deka owned an Ash Lance. That would be so cool to upload it into my Sheathe.
"Hey Captain, Life Support Incoming."
I marked the location on the mini-map. I also pinpointed the location of the Corrupted leader as well. There was really no point for this Corrupted leader to show up every time, knowing full well he was going to get assaulted by the Valians. But he kept showing up anyway. I guess they took Corruption cognitively too.
I watched as the Valian squad went to the marker for the leader's location when suddenly, the marker disappeared.
"Huh?" I asked.
Deka stopped in his tracks.
The other Valians looked just as confused.
"That doesn't make sense. We were all in here together. He didn't drop anything either, what gives?"
Suddenly, the lights flickered from Deka's vision cam. Part of me wanted to hear a transmission, but to my shock, no transmission came out.
"There's no transmission." Deka said.
My eyes widened. "Captain, extract, get out of there!"
Deka gripped his shotgun.
"No. We stay."
You're choosing now to be diligent?!
Umbra glanced at me.
Mayen, it's the same as before. Dekani must leave this zone.
"Folock, send in a Landing Craft for Cap, now!"
Folock was silent for a few seconds. When he finally spoke, well, "speaking" for lack of a better word, I could only sit in complete horror as Folock's glitched out voice responded to me.
"Oi!! What's going on?!" I exclaimed, as I went back to the cam.
"Captain, what do you see, what's going on in there?"
The camera stabilized, as I watched Deka bend down to tend to one of his Valian comrades.
"She's dead." Deka said, as he slowly looked up. I could only watch in utter terror. Everything Deka was seeing, I was seeing too.
A dark figure. Just like in the Codex.
"What is that?" One Valian said.
"You shoot, Max and I will melee it."
The two Valians engaged the dark figure, but in a flash of red light, the two Valians froze midair.
The dark figure's face was completely concealed, but his white hair, his long white hair fluttered in the wind. Grace and speed. I couldn't even register his movements. One of the Valians was a tank, and he had severed them in two halves instantly.
The Valians crumpled to the ground, as I watched the dark figure approach Deka.
"Umbra, we're going down there."
You shall not. Not until the Valian known as Dekani Price has too paid with his death.
I reeled back just in time before narrowly dodging a giant slash that destroyed the whole console. I fell to the ground and scurried back as another dark figure, similar to the one in the coms, menacingly approached me.
"How did you get into the Orbiter?!"
The figure regarded me, readjusting its great sword.
I was curious, why my comrade took an interest to you. But now I see why.
I held out my hand and summoned a Harkanon Rifle, setting it to auto as I blasted SHADOW with bullets, emptying an entire clip. But SHADOW deflected the bullets off of his great sword.
You may not be a Valian, but you serve one. Those who are in league with the Void Devils shall perish.
SHADOW closed in and swiped with his sword, knocking my rifle out of my hands. The Severen raised his sword again, but this time I deflected it with my arm sheathe. The two of us clashed as I slowly skidded backwards.
I rolled out of the way and held out my hands, summoning my twin Hellfire Machine Pistols. I leapt to the side, sidestepping and strafing as I fired my weapons at SHADOW. The first few rounds managed to stagger him, but slowly, SHADOW began to develop immunity.
Damn Severen adaptation!
SHADOW knelt down, and before I could react, the Severen charged forward, slamming into me as I flew several meters into the side of the Lotuscraft control room. I crumpled to the ground, wheezing.
I needed my weapons. Judging from the way this creep was fought, he was not going to give me a chance to call a timeout to get my weapons. Even if I did, what use was there? They were all modded to deal Corrosive damage. SHADOW, being a Severen, could easily adapt to that damage.
Deka wasn't here to neutralize his defences.
SHADOW leapt into the air and slashed down, as I dodged. The Severen swung again as I continued evading, countering with shots from my Machine Pistols.
It is true. There exists a human who fights like a Valian. Who wields their weapons. You even move like them.
SHADOW zipped and darted across the room, throwing a grenade at my direction. I flipped backwards, using the momentum to spin in the air and fire a volley of bullets in an outward spiral. But by the time I landed on the ground, SHADOW had already anticipated where I would be, and zipped in, pinning me to the ground as the both of us skidded, crashing through the Orbiter's door and smashing into the Transference room.
Even so, it seems your limits as a Terran have shown. You can mimic the teachings of Toron Ballard all you wish, but you will always just be close to the real thing.
I struggled to my feet, but SHADOW put his foot on my head, raising his sword.
I will slay you first, as per my comrade's request. Then I shall kill the Valian.
SHADOW looked at Deka's transcended body, which was housed in the Transference Pod.
"You... bastard!" I seethed.
SHADOW brought his blade down, but was suddenly intercepted by a glowing yellow exalted blade.
Tora Soldier. You dare interfere with my conquest?
Umbra knocked SHADOW away and put distance between us.
"Hey now, what took you so long, old man?!" I snapped.
SHADOW trapped me in the Armory. He took advantage of my Lance nature, likely the work of Ballard, my creator.
Umbra and SHADOW charged, blade against blade.
While having Umbra around made me feel better, it wasn't enough. Umbra's fight against SHADOW wasn't any better than my fight against him. We were both modded to deal the same Corrosive damage (thanks Scrava missions). Without Deka's void beam, there was no way we could neutralize his built up defences.
This fight would just be SHADOW wearing us both down until we were dead.
You seem to be mistaken. SHADOW taunted, as the two exchanged blows. SHADOW may have had better range with his great sword, but Umbra's sword was faster.
The two clashed again.
We may both be of the Excalibur class, but unlike you, I am not a rebranding of the default. I was created to kill your beloved Operator.
The Severen swiped upward and launched a weird disco laser ball. Umbra tried to dodge, but the ball chased after him, exploding on contact. Umbra hit the ground.
I got to my feet, and grabbed my Gram Supra from the busted armoury. I joined Umbra in the blade exchange.
Umbra and SHADOW clashed, with SHADOW pushing Umbra back, but I closed in, slashing with Gram and catching the Severen in the face as he reeled back. Umbra took full opportunity of this, and stomped on the ground, sending consecutive sword slashes at SHADOW's midsection.
SHADOW leapt in the air, but I summoned my Harkanon rifle in my other hand, set to anti-aircraft mode, as I launched a powerful explosive shell from the barrel, which exploded on contact with the Severen's chest. Umbra brandished his sword and rushed into the smoke as I set my rifle to auto, readying my own Gram great sword and charged too.
Even if SHADOW was wielding one weapon, it didn't seem to matter. Umbra and I were at a strict disadvantage. I watched as Umbra managed to slip a strike and cut at SHADOW's neck, but it was useless.
I watched as SHADOW sent Umbra hurtling backward, as he brought his blade up. I instinctively rushed forward to intercept the blade and caught it with both of my hands.
You truly are an interesting human. To know you lasted this long deserves praise.
I seethed as the blade continued to sink lower and lower until it began to pierce my chest.
"Aah. Gahhh!" I gasped from the pain.
I was gonna die. I mean, this was a perfect setup, you had to admit. SHADE intercepted Cap and his crew, while SHADOW took down Umbra and I.
I guess this was it.
That was as far as me being a Fake Hero was going to get me.
I was a fake...
At the end of the day.
I closed my eyes.
What am I doing?
Isn't this the point I think about the people important to me?
A girl I love?
Someone to love? Anyone?
Deka? Rinne? Umbra? Folock? Flippy?
I clenched my fists.
How come? Nothing is coming to mind.
Where's my generic protagonist flashback?
There is nothing going through my mind. But red.
I opened my eyes, gripping SHADOW's sword, clenching my teeth. Something inside me is coming out. Like a beast.
The potential, you have awakened.
I growled as I crushed the sword that had sprouted from my chest and broke it in half.
"Broken war..." I seethed, as I ripped the blade out of my body, and approached SHADOW, menacingly.
I glanced at the Machine Pistol on the ground and picked it up, aiming it at SHADOW's face and fired over and over again. But SHADOW shrugged it off.
I have developed immunity, this is foolish.
I continued shooting, walking forward, until I emptied the clip.
SHADOW brought his hands up and slammed me in the face with his fist, but I continued leaning forward.
I grabbed SHADOW's hand and went low, launching punch after punch at his midsection.
Each punch, for some reason, dealing damage.
Against his adaptation, shouldn't he be immune to my impact damage by now?
SHADOW leapt back, but I launched forward faster than he could react, and body slammed him through the other wall into Deka's personal quarters. Pinning the Severen on the ground, I continued punching him in the face until his helmet cracked.
I have been beaten. SHADOW said, in resignation.
I got up and watched as SHADOW began to drag himself into a dark portal. That was usually how it was. A Valian or group of Valians would beat SHADOW and he would escape. But... something in me said...
"No." I hissed, as I stepped on SHADOW's back.
"You... are not going anywhere." I snarled as I picked up SHADOW by the head, summoning Gram to my hand.
If you do this, you will be going against the Valian way.
"I am no Valian." I said, sinisterly. "I don't belong here, after all."
I pressed Gram against SHADOW's throat, pushing harder and harder against his adaptation.
I see. SHADOW said, as I heard footsteps behind me. It was Umbra.
SHADOW lowered his head.
You were always a monster. A killer.
What the hell was this guy saying? Did I hit him in the head too hard?
A beast, even before evolution. You will raze your enemies to the ground... Licita.
"Licita? What? Who?" I asked, as strength began to leave my body. For some reason, the crazy boost and high I just had was starting to dissipate, as SHADOW pushed me out of my stranglehold and slowly disappeared in his escape portal.
"Hey, wait! What? Is that guy you were with SHADE? What are you planning on doing!" I shouted after SHADOW, but he simply put his finger to his mouth.
Some things must be kept secret. To avoid it.
The Severen disappeared into the portal, escaping, but not before saying one last word.
"Folock, any word from Captain?" I asked, frantically.
"The Operator is safe. He has extracted. For some reason, the dark figure had let him go."
Umbra was silent as he watched the feed. No doubt taken aback at my violent outburst. I still had no idea what that was. It's usually some kind of trigger in a person that causes them to go berserk. But in my case... it just happened. There was nothing that made me feel angry. I was close to dying, and instead of being at peace, scared, concerned for my comrades... the only thing going on in my mind...
Was that I wanted to slaughter him.
I wanted to make him suffer.
I wanted to rip him apart.
And raze him to the ground.
"Captain!" I shouted as I rushed forward to greet Deka, who looked pretty traumatized.
"So... I guess the guy was SHADE after all. Haha."
"But Operator, the legend says SHADE never leaves his prey alive!"
You're calling our Captain prey?!
Deka sat down.
"Unless I wasn't his prey to begin with. I watched him sever Linxus and Easton in half with one slice of his sword. Hanah who was a Top Rank Valian was basically being toyed with by him. Those there never even had the chance to make a distress call to the other Valians."
Deka sighed as he adjusted himself. Umbra quickly went to gather a towel.
"Those three Valians were his prey. But I wasn't. He intended to keep me alive. I guess I was lucky enough that he set his sights on me."
"I'm just glad you're okay, Captain." I said, relieved. Deka laughed.
"Well it would certainly be a shame to leave such an amazing crew."
"Hey Captain?" I asked. I wanted to tell him. It was bothering me ever since he got back.
My name. Why did he call me that? What was the significance of that name?
"Ah... nothing. Haha. Get some rest."
"Shane, when you say it's nothing, it usually means you're hiding something."
"SHADOW, when he attacked us, we were able to fend him off despite neutralizing his defences."
"Yeah, I heard from Folock. You were an animal, Shane!"
"But... I did it with my bare hands."
I held them up, inspecting them, almost like they weren't even mine.
"I was supposed to die. SHADOW had impaled me and was about to finish off Umbra and you in the Transference pod. But something inside me almost awakened. And before I knew it, I had him pinned down and punching his face over and over again in like a frenzy."
Deka's face became concerned. I continued.
"Then SHADOW called me something. He said that I was always a killer even before joining evolving. And I don't know what he meant by that."
"Maybe you hit him in the head too hard?"
"I hope so. But he also called me by a different name."
I looked at Captain Price.
"He called me Licita."
"I think we're here." Deka said, inspecting the note.
This place is huge!
I stared up the ginormous "house" that belonged to the noble family. At the front, was the words engraved in a fancy font.
HOUSE OF LICITA
Deka glanced at me.
"The Licitians were a noble family line, serving the Toron for millennia. I think from what the history books tell me, the best of the best Tora were Licitians."
Umbra inspected the stonework of the mansion gate.
The Operator is correct. The House of Licita was a prominent figure in the Toron Empire. As a Tora, I fought alongside many respectable comrades. Those with the surname of Licita never failed to amaze.
We rung the doorbell. To the gate. Which was in another gate. Even the door had gates covering it.
Why were there so many gates?!
"Hello?" A voice buzzed in the coms.
"This is Dekani Price, MR18 Valian, the one who requested an appointment."
"We will be right there. Our master is currently away, but we can arrange something in the meantime."
"So who's the master?" I asked.
Deka was silent for a few minutes. His face looked sullen. But he noticed me staring and quickly switched on a smile.
"Ah, no need to worry about that. Let's just hang about for now."
Now what in the name of-
"Everywhere I go, I see you three buffoons everywhere!" Rinzler screamed at Deka's face.
"Why are you even here?!"
Deka scratched the back of his head nervously.
"I have an appointment with the Licita household."
"And you brought your weirdo spectre with you too? Why do you keep summoning it everywhere? What, you got no friends or something?"
I noticed Rinne wasn't around.
"We're just here for an appointment with Licita. We don't mean to intrude." Deka held out his hands, innocently.
I watched as a vein popped up on Rinzler's forehead.
"Whatever." He muttered, as he marched back to his house, which happened to be two houses away from the one we were going to enter.
"Just so you know" Rinzler called out as he opened the door to his house.
"Arsanios was raised a Licita. He doesn't take kindly to traitors. I would recommend you to not pry too hard."
I clenched my fist as Rinzler closed the door.
The maid led us inside as we sat down on a massive round table.
"This place hasn't changed since I last visited." Deka muttered under his breath.
I glanced at the numerous photos of various people.
Ciel Licita: General of the Tora
Kien Licita: The Toron Berserker
Ciel Licita was the greatest warrior I had ever had the pleasure of fighting alongside. Umbra was also inspected the photos.
A great general, who's skill was unfathomable.
"General Ciel Licita. The grandmaster of Zennen Ful." A boy spoke from the corner of my vision.
I spun around in shock. This guy...
Silver hair, clipped short. Silver eyes. A bright face.
He looked just like...
"Um, hello. I am Shane Mayen." I stuttered, before realizing I had just given my identity.
"I mean, I'm a spectre, and I was given a name. Because, I uh..."
"I know you are not a spectre." Arsanios said, as he beckoned me to the table.
I sat down as the maid brought Arsanios his tea.
"Thank you. Dismissed."
The maid bowed and left the room, as Arsanios placed the teacup on the table and crossed his hands.
"What business do you have with me, Price?"
Deka's face was deadpan serious. It was rare to see Cap like this. He was usually lighthearted and kind.
"Are you familiar with the legend of SHADOW?"
Arsanios narrowed his eyebrows. I didn't know why, but the air around us felt tense.
"Yes. I am one of the few that know of his lore. A story passed down amongst the generations of the Licita."
"Then are you familiar of a Licita who had joined the Severens?"
Arsanios clenched his hands. But his face remained welcoming. This guy... was dangerous.
"Now why would a noble do something so abhorrent?"
Deka nodded. "I see. Then let me ask this."
The Captain leaned in closer on the desk.
"Do you have any relatives that are still alive?"
Arsanios pursued his lips.
"Dekani Price. I am well aware that your bounty has been temporarily lifted."
Arsanios ran his finger on the table, leaving behind teal flames where his finger had traced. Void energy.
"But make no mistake. You are still a traitor to the Valians."
Licita looked up, and momentarily, his face was threatening.
A bead of sweat ran down my back, as Umbra tensed.
Deka raised his hands.
"I apologize, Lord Licita. I didn't mean to pry."
Arsanios relaxed in his seat.
"To answer your question, Price, I do not have any relatives that are still alive. My father, Kirin Licita, and my mother, Caterena Licita, were slaughtered in the Severen-Valian war."
Arsanios pointed at two pictures.
"I'm sorry." Deka said.
Arsanios got up from his seat.
"Why do you ask?"
Deka was quiet. There were no people who went by the name of Licita other than Arsanios who were still alive. Then why did SHADOW call me Licita? Maybe it was my first name? Not my surname?
"Shane, you were not born from this world. We found you... in a pod."
"Ack!" I yelped, clutching my head.
"Shane!" Deka shouted, as he ran to my side. Arsanios knelt down in front of me.
"A migraine? I will call Lexa right away."
Arsanios called the maid over as she helped me to my feet, putting a towel over my head.
Deka crossed his arms, as Arsanios regarded me.
"Tell me, Price. How did you meet this Terran?"
"I... don't know what you are talking about."
Arsanios walked up to me. His eyes began to glow teal, as he suddenly burst into a shower of teal sparks.
"Umbra!" Deka shouted, as he resolved into the Lance. But before he could do anything, Arsanios closed in with his own Lance, wielding a giant pole arm. The blade poked at my neck.
"If this boy was truly a spectre, if I bring this pole arm to his neck, he will dissipate in smoke. No harm will befall him. Will you continue to keep this a secret from me?"
Deka drew Skiajati.
"Arsanios, you will let him go."
Licita glanced at Deka, and within the blink of an eye, a white mirage of his Lance body had appeared, knocking Deka's blade to the ground.
"Let us make this clear. You are in a noble's house. Yet despite that, you interrogated me, asking sensitive questions. Then you choose to lie to my face. I find that repulsive."
Arsanios' voice became dangerously calm.
"My Ash far surpasses your Umbra in skill. I have fought endless battles. I have made a name for myself in all factions, and Rathuum. Arsanios the Death Shadow."
The blade began to dig deeper into my neck. My heart was beating like crazy.
This guy was no joke. He had moved so fast, faster than any of us could react. Faster than Deka and Umbra.
And not to mention his Lance.
It disarmed Umbra so quickly.
So this was the power of a Licita.
"I... I am a human." I gasped.
Arsanios paused, before letting me go. Deka stood his ground.
"Dekani Price, is this human your assistant?"
"He is my First Mate."
"You never cease to defile our name. A Valian only possesses companions. But in the end, it is to our strength that our enemies fall."
Well, after that awkward exchange, Deka and Umbra were given a tour of the house, like nothing had happened. But Arsanios took a particular interest in me. I guess that made sense. Considering I was probably the only First Mate to a Valian in history.
"Terran, are you familiar with the history of the Valian?"
"Uh, yeah. Deka talks about it once in a while."
"Then you must know about some famous Valian legends."
"Uh yeah. Haha."
Arsanios pointed at the photo of Ciel Licita.
"General Ciel Licita. They called him the Seventh Sense. All Valians possess the standard five senses. A sixth sense from the Void. But with Ciel..."
Arsanios waved his hand, creating a void projection of a man who was facing off against a larger opponent.
"It was almost like he had a seventh sense. To know his enemy. To be able to fight like he knew exactly what to do. At exactly when to do it. A Seventh Sense."
Arsanios swiped his hand again, causing the projection to change.
I saw Ciel tending and training a young boy.
"Ciel was the master of Zulach Ful. He taught him his own Tora style. And with that, Zulach taught his son. And these teachings were taught to his son. And so on, until they were passed down to Zennen Ful."
"Zennen Ful, known as the strongest Valian of all time. And my hero. My inspiration."
I looked at the photo of Ciel again. He must have been incredible.
"Those who mock Valians who wield only one Lance are rife with ignorance. Because the Valian Legend himself only wielded one Lance as well."
Arsanios gazed at his Lance.
"The Ash. The assassin. The most elusive of the Lances."
We continued walking, when suddenly, I noticed a plaque.
Gaja Licita - The First to Wield the Potential
Arsanios noticed me staring.
"Ah yes. The Licitian Potential. All members of the Licita bloodline possess it. The power to call upon the memories and traits of every Licita that preceded them. The power stems from the Grand Licitian Convergence."
My heart skipped a beat.
When I fought SHADOW.
It was like I had bypassed his Adaptation.
What if I never bypassed it in the first place?
I was getting stronger and stronger.
As he became more and more durable.
My punches were getting more and more powerful.
"What... does it enhance?" I asked.
Arsanios raised an eyebrow.
"It depends on who's traits you manifest. The speed of Tricity Licita. The skill of Ciel Licita. The strength of Kien Licita."
The strength of Kien Licita.
Could it be?
But that would mean I was a Licita. But... I was... that made no sense. Arsanios himself said that he didn't have any relatives who were still alive.
"Lord Licita? Do you have any brothers?"
Arsanios scratched his chin.
"No. I was a single child I think. I..."
Arsanios suddenly paused. His eyes went wide.
"Why can't I remember?"
"Do you have access to the files of the Ash Lance?"
"I believe the Operator has piloted the Ash Lance once, but he never fully ranked it. So a lot of his abilities were never unlocked."
"Do you mind if you upload them to my sheathe?"
I spent the weekend out in the Cetus Plains, hunting down random Scrava ruffians who were harassing the environment with their pollution. Well, actually, I just wanted to kick someone's ass with my new abilities.
Ash had defeated Umbra.
And was famed for being an assassin.
Now I'm not saying that Ash was better than Umbra. Or if he was a stronger Lance. Or if he was cooler.
I closed my eyes, thinking about that ability Arsanios had used.
"Hey! Valian scum!" The Scrava began firing at me as I dodged behind a boulder.
"Folock, the hell is going on? Why can't I use that clone thingy?"
"The Operator never unlocked the Blade Storm ability."
Blade Storm. So that was what it was called.
"Well, what abilities do I currently have?"
I stared at the ground.
"Yes. The ability to instantly teleport to a target. Within range of course."
What the hell is this lame skill?!
I bolted to another boulder, concentrating, and my surroundings instantly blipped. Changing as I teleported to the new location.
That was cool, I guess.
I aimed my Harkanon rifle and fired a volley of bullets, taking down a squad of Scrava. One aerial flyer took to the air and attacked me with missiles, which I deflected with Gram.
I switched my rifle to anti-aircraft mode and fired, but the flyer was a lot more mobile than I thought.
I tried to deflect the bullets with my sword, but the more I deflected, the more sore my arm got. I guess that was to be expected. Dual wielding two twenty pound weapons in each arm for hours on end without break, for someone like me, that was pretty demanding. Even with cybernetics.
A missile landed at my feet and exploded.
"Aaah!" I yelped as I hit the ground.
I concentrated on the aerial flyer. There was a way to beat that thing.
I instantly teleported to its location as the Scrava freaked out.
"Ora!!!!" He screeched as he began veering the aerial all across the sky.
I took out my Hellfire Machine Pistol and aimed it at his head and fired.
"Sh- Shane! What happened to you?" Rinne had her hand over her mouth.
I had come back from the Plains covered in dirt, my coat had ripped.
"I uh. Fell." I muttered.
"You're injured." Rinne said, as she ran up to me and put her hand on my arm.
"Yeah, it was from falling-"
My eyes widened. Shit. I shouldn't have said that! My identity will be-
Rinne laughed. "I knew you weren't a spectre!"
Rinne's eyes glowed gold, as I felt my body supercharge. My wounds began to close.
"Wha- What did you do to me?"
"I healed you."
Rinne gave me a smile. "I'm not much of a fighter, but I can heal with my powers. It can't heal Lances, but sometimes my brother comes home cut or bruised and I heal him right away."
"Ah, I see."
The two of us walked down the village of Cetus, and across the building.
"How was your meeting with Lord Arsanios?"
"It went okay. I didn't get much information though. He seemed nice."
We silently continued walking.
"I didn't see you when we were waiting outside." I noted.
Rinne was silent.
"Yes... things were a bit complicated at home."
Rinne noticed me staring and quickly put on a smile.
"Oh, family matters. Nothing too terrible."
"Well as long as you're fine-"
A breeze approached us, as I felt my long hair ripple. So did Rinne's, and that was when I saw it.
"Rinne, what's that on your face?"
I instinctively reached over and held her hair. It was purple. A purple....
"Bruise?" I asked, shocked.
Rinne's eyes widened. "It is nothing, Shane. I simply injured-"
"Did Rinzler do that to you?"
"No, Shane you don't understand."
I knew all right. What she had said. She wanted to see me again, when we were at the bench in Luam. Rinzler's face had momentarily became disgusted.
"Say, where is Rinzler now?"
I marched all the way to Rinne's house.
The human brain works in amazing ways. It has a way of filtering everything out, while keeping the one thing you're focused on with maximum retention. With Rinne, I had completely filtered all her pleas to stop. I didn't care for being a hero. This wasn't the time to be thinking about that.
I knocked on the door.
"No one's home. Screw off." Rinzler responded.
"Rinne." I muttered.
"How much does this door cost?"
"Umm, I would say a few Gronkuls?"
"I'll pay for it later."
"Wait, what does that mean-"
I swung my fist and smashed it open, marching inside.
"Hey! The hell did you just do to my front door- oh my. If it isn't Deka's spectre."
"Rinzler you damn bastard..." I growled as I slammed the kid against the wall.
"What is the meaning of this?" Rinzler said, as he turned to Rinne.
"Shane, stop! Please."
"What kind of older brother hits his younger sister for hanging out? Are you stupid?!"
Rinzler grabbed my wrist and tried to pry it off, but the difference in our strength was obvious.
"You're no spectre." He said.
"No, I'm not. You don't deserve to have someone like Rinne!"
"What's so funny?!" I snarled.
Rinzler suddenly began to glow until he disappeared in a shower of golden sparks.
I turned around and noticed a blunt object flying my way as everything went black. I smashed into the side of a wall and was buried in debris.
"Shane!" Rinne cried out.
"Now, Shane? Was it?" Rinzler said, as he approached me in his Helos lance, which towered over me.
I struggled to my feet, drawing out my Gram Supra.
I charged forward, but Rinzler intercepted the slash and pushed me back.
"I'm not sure how you Terran pigs handle your matters. But here, we stay out of people's family issues. This does not concern you, nor should it."
I fell back, but managed to slip another strike as Rinzler's Arca hammer smashed into where I stood.
I swung around and swiped at Rinzler, but his Helos Lance blinded me with light as I stumbled. Another whack from his hammer sent me through another wall. I felt something warm and cold at the side of my head, as something ran down the side of my face. I stared at the drops of blood that had leaked from my head and stained the carpet.
"Stop! That's enough!" Rinne shouted, as she stood between us.
"I'll do anything you tell me to. Just stop hurting Shane!"
Rinzler put down his hammer.
"Anything? But dear sister, haven't you always been doing anything I wanted?"
A bead of sweat rolled down Rinne's face.
"I promise... I won't scream or cry. When..."
Rinzler moved closer to Rinne, causing her to flinch.
"I love it when you scream."
I clenched my fists. This guy. This... scum.
Kien Licita: The Toron Berserker
I suddenly leapt at Rinzler with animalistic rage.
I slammed his Helos Lance to the ground, as I summoned my Harkanon Rifle and began firing at his face repeatedly in Anti-Aircraft Mode. The explosions shaking the entire mansion and sending Rinne backwards.
Rinzler grabbed the barrel to the gun before I could fire again, unleashing an explosion which sent me flying into the ceiling.
I hit the ground, feeling something inside me crack. Definitely a broken bone. My side exploded in pain.
"Little... Terran PIG."
Rinzler growled as he smashed his Arca Hammer into the side of my face, over and over again as I watched my blood stain the walls.
By the third strike, I had already anticipated where it was going to land.
I grabbed the hilt of his hammer and stopped it.
"You trash!" Rinzler growled.
I tightened my grip until the hilt bent and warped.
"Go die, you scum." I roared, drawing my other rifle and blasting Rinzler in the chest twice, then at his face.
Rinzler held out his hands as balls of light surrounded me and exploded. I coughed out blood as I fell to my knees. Everything was hurting and stung. It took me a little while to realize those bombs had given me severe burns to my body. My coat, charred and singed, disintegrated into ash as I fell to my knees.
"Enough!" Rinne screamed, putting distance between us.
"Please, just stop. Both of you, just stop!" She began to cry.
I got to my feet, and trudged forward, putting my hands on her shoulders.
That day my parents had died. It had been because of my selfish wish to become a hero.
But if being a hero meant being selfish.
Then I guess I was the most selfish of them all.
"I will protect you, Rinne. With everything I have."
Rinne stared at me.
"Because I'm a selfish bastard. But even a selfish bastard has to be better than whatever your older brother is."
I gently pulled Rinne to the side as I continued approaching Rinzler Thresh. Gram Supra in one hand, My Harkanon Rifle in the other.
"For a Terran, you sure are hard headed." Rinzler commented, switching to his Sawgun.
I didn't have time for a conversation. I rushed forward, as I used Ash's Teleport to get behind him.
"Rinne Thresh, is no longer yours. You don't-"
I swung Gram, as I smashed Rinzler in the side, causing numerous circuitry and electronics to bust up from within his Lance.
"YOU DON'T DESERVE HER." I yelled, as I launched Gram right through Rinzler's Lance, but not before Rinzler had already pulled the trigger to his Sawgun. Numerous blades came flying my way as I instinctively tried to shield myself. My body exploded in more pain as the blades cut into my body.
One blade had gotten through, and I watched in shock as it came flying at my face, cutting my left eye.
I fell backwards, and so did Rinzler, who resolved out of his Lance and fell flat on his ass.
"So... that's why. That's why you're able to move the way you do." He muttered, glaring at me.
"Why you're able to wield our weapons despite not being in a Lance. You learned the Way of the Valian."
Rinne stood in front of us, trembling.
"Please stop. Please."
How many times was she going to repeat that?
"Rinne, tend to me. Right now." Rinzler grumbled.
"To know that the traitor Price had not only renounced his kind, stolen from our Clan. But also committed the biggest taboo. Defiling the teachings of the Valian, and the guidance of Queen Lena by giving it to YOU."
I wheezed, as I put my hand over my left eye. I was badly injured, and blood began to leak from out of my hand, spilling on the ground. I hoped I wasn't blind in one eye.
"Rinne, what the hell is taking so long? Get your ass over here this instant, you slut."
Rinne hesitated, staring at my busted up eye.
"Rinne, you don't have to live with this bastard. You could... you could..."
"Shane, I have nowhere to go." She muttered.
"That's not true. You can live with us." I began hearing myself say. What was I even saying? Was there even space for Rinne on the Lotuscraft? Also what would Cap think just bringing a random Valian girl on board the ship?! Hell, what would Folock think?!
Rinzler scoffed. "Living with a Fake Valian. Funny. Get the hell out of my house."
Rinne clenched her fist.
"Rinne, are you serious? Look at this boy. He's the very definition of Valian Taboo. If you choose him, you will forever live your life under scrutiny. You will no longer be considered a Thresh. Do you hear me? You won't have my security as a Thresh anymore!"
Rinne looked at her brother.
"I... never had any security. Not once."
Rinne walked up to me and put her arms around me as I felt a golden glow engulf my body. It felt warm. Like a blanket.
"Shane, I'm so sorry." Rinne muttered.
A computer is capable of performing many tasks at a time. Even the most complex problems can be solved with computers. Whether it's solving a system or modelling it, computers never hesitate to get the job done. Skillfully. Flawlessly.
At least that was what I believed.
Until I met Folock.
"Um, Mini-Operator? Who is this?"
Rinne and I were standing together at the entrance of the Lotuscraft. Deka was nowhere to be found, and Umbra was meditating in the Captain's personal quarters. I think. It was that or he was playing one man Komi again. Weird old man that one was.
"This is Rinne Thresh. She's going to be staying with us for a while."
"Hello." Rinne held out her hand.
Folock was silent for a few seconds.
"You brought another Valian to the ship?! Why didn't you tell me beforehand! We must commence preparations for our new guest!"
"Wait, what? Folock?!"
The sounds of rumbling appeared all over the orbiter as I heard Folock's voice emanate from other rooms.
"A new guest! Calm down Folock. Calm down. We must not give a terrible first impression, otherwise the Operator will be most displeased!"
Rinne giggled. "Your Ship Dataform is such a sweetheart."
"Why? What's your ship data form like?"
Rinne put her hand on her chin.
"It's all business with Serces. Since Rinzler only sees her as an AI for missions. Nowhere to this extent. Folock seems... wholesome!"
I walked with Rinne and showed her around.
"There's a lot of segments in this craft that I didn't know existed!" She said.
That was true. A normal orbiter would have a Landing Craft segment. A segment for the Infestation System. A Transference room. And maybe a personal quarters. That's it. But with the Lotuscraft, Deka had upgraded it so much. Integrating the Clan Railjack into it, the whole ship had even more segments than normal.
A personal quarters for me, for Deka, and for Umbra.
A bathroom (mostly for me because apparently I'm the only one who eats)
A kitchen (see point two)
A game room (which contains a grand total of one game. Komi. You can never guess who that is for.)
We stopped at the kitchen.
"Yeah. So this is where I cook my meals."
I quickly swiped the Ignis that I had used to cook last night's dinner off the table and threw the flamethrower in the Armory before Rinne could see.
"It's like Rinzler's house. But smaller." Rinne said.
"Yeah. Captain really outdid himself with this place. Without him, I'd still be in a rut."
Rinne smiled. "You really respect Dekani Price."
"Of course. I'm proud to be his first mate."
"Oh hey, Shane. I was just trying out this cool recipe from a cookbook from your old place. This is cake, right?" Deka walked in, alongside Umbra. They were both wearing aprons, and they paused upon seeing Rinne, who stared at the two.
Dammit you two! Why is Umbra even cooking?! He can't even eat!
Actually, I can. When I was still a Tora, Isaah would always enjoy the meals I make.
I glanced at Rinne from within my fingers. She let loose a kind laugh.
"You must be Dekani Price, and Umbra, it is a pleasure to meet you two."
Deka set down the giant charcoal brick of a cake on the counter.
"Rinne Thresh, right? I see you've gotten acquainted with... oh."
"Captain, I told her that I was a Terran. I'm sorry. I should have kept it a secret."
Deka chuckled. "It's okay. Secret was bound to be leaked anyway. So Rinne, how long are you going to stay here?"
"She will be a permanent resident on the Lotuscraft, Operator!" Folock's voice chimed in from the speakers of the kitchen.
"Folock!" I gasped.
"I have already made arrangements for Miss Thresh. An extra room. And an extra bathroom, because you know how girls are!"
"Folock... please shut up..." I muttered.
"And since it was the young Mini-Operator that brought her home, we can only guess what that means! A separate room for the two of them to get intima-"
"FOLOCK!!!" I screamed.
We took our Orbiter to the planet Maraxus. A faraway planet home to the Valian Council, the elite of the elite Valians to discuss what we learned from SHADE. Since our encounter with SHADE was top secret, only the highest ranked Valians could band together and address it.
The trip was long, and I closed myself off to my room to reminisce.
Sitting in my bed, looking out the window, I watched the stars and space. From far away, it seemed almost like the stars weren't moving. But I knew we were flying at ultrasonic speeds. Something I wouldn't ever imagine myself doing, maybe a few years back. Back in college.
"Hey, Troy, did you figure out that one question?" I asked.
"Dude, I'm completely behind on all my classes."
A surge of excitement welled inside me. Yeah. I find joy in my friend's suffering. I'm messed up. But there was a reason. With that joy, I immediately took it with a grain of salt.
"Even so, you're still gonna beat me in the class though." I responded.
"You're always so lucky. I hate you."
Troy laughed. "Dude, I had a job interview. So I didn't have time to catch up."
My heart stopped. He had a job interview already? That quick in the semester?
I stopped walking, as Troy glanced behind me.
"Shane? You okay?"
I laughed it off. "Yeah, I'm fine."
That was a lie.
I was definitely not fine.
Everything in my world, in this world. It was like it hated me.
Why was everybody better off than me? Doing better than me?
Was it not enough that I was below average in all my classes? The least I could have done was get a job before Troy.
But I guess that's what happens when you try to mess with this world.
It messes with you back.
"Shane, you shouldn't compare yourself to others." My online therapist told me.
It was so easy for her to say.
That bastard Troy...
I hated him so much.
But he was also kind to me.
He was the only friend I had.
But he was born for this world, while I was not.
I wanted to be a hero. I always wanted that. But it was never for any noble reason. It was because I wanted something to stand out with.
Because if I don't become a hero, what am I?
I was always last place.
Because this world hated me.
I remembered all those times I looked at my grade on the board. And it would always be near the bottom. Despite how much effort I put in.
Troy was always above average. Even when he would do the silliest things. Like forgetting crucial details. Forgetting his pencil case. Forgetting when an assignment was due.
He somehow pulled through.
While I was the complete opposite.
It got to the point where I was happy whenever he failed. Whenever something terrible happened to him. I loved it. I loved to see him suffer.
Because I couldn't stand seeing him do better than me.
It seemed like he was always better than me no matter what. No matter what I did.
When I started hitting the gym, I was extremely skinny. I was lifting puny weights. Then after eight months of hard work, I finally benched a plate. It was incredible. I felt like I was finally able to pull ahead of Troy. For the first time, I felt like I was better than Troy at something.
Until one day, he told me that he visited the gym for a few weeks. Four months to be exact.
And the one thing I was terrified of happened.
He benched one plate.
He achieved what I achieved with all my hard work in half the time.
"Hey!" A girl called out to me.
I felt my heart beat faster. Like a rush had filled me with some feeling of giddiness. Yeah. That's right. Guys have that feeling too sometimes. At least, I do. Not just girls. I turned around and saw my crush, Lily, was waving me over. I think that day would be the major turning point.
Because on that day, I realized that Lily didn't call out to me.
She called out to Troy.
The following days consisted of me being incredibly distant and hostile to Troy. Of course, Troy didn't know what the hell was going on with me. How could he. I kept to myself and my feelings. No matter what it was. Lifting. Grades. Work. Careers. Money. Girls.
It was like I was some kind of mistake born into this world, and it was trying to make me quit.
My grades slipped like crazy. It was always barely below average. And that was with all my effort put in. But now, with myself seemingly doing the bare minimum, my grades dropped.
From the 60's.
To the 50's.
To the 30's.
"Damn you Troy. I loved her first." I muttered, as I picked up a string and played with it. It was a string that Lily had given me, that day we sat together in class. She had a piece of string that was loose in her jacket, and she ripped it off, playfully putting it on my head.
I kept that string ever since. It probably was super creepy, but it was really important to me.
I picked up a lighter and began to burn it. Replaying that memory of Troy and Lily holding hands in front of me as I was left all alone.
Suddenly, the flame raced upwards faster than I anticipated, and my hand began to hurt. Really bad.
"Ouch!" I squeaked, as I dropped the thread and stomped on it, putting out the flame. The whole room smelled of smoke, as I inspected my hand.
The next few weeks, I experimented with a bunch of things.
From burning myself.
To piercing myself with a safety pin.
For some reason, I felt some degree of solace from it.
It started with a lighter, then moved to pins. Then moved to little box cutters. To full on knives.
And I kept it all hidden under my bed, away from Troy or anyone. I started to wear long sleeve shirts, even in hot weather, as I couldn't tell anyone about this.
One day, I visited a weapons shop. Where they sold combat knives. It was then I discovered the power of firearms.
I looked at the numerous weapons in the store. There were so many. Their names too. They were so cool.
After buying the knife and doing my business, I began to look up some firearms on the internet. Watching tutorials online. Then watching anime series where the protagonists would wield these guns. They were so cool. So heroic. And so badass.
If I owned a gun, I would have power.
"No." I closed the window.
"I can hurt myself just fine. But I can never bring it on myself to do that. Killing is wrong. So very wrong."
That night, I cleared my browser history, and threw all the knives, pins, sharp objects, and things I used to hurt myself into the garbage. I stared at the tissues that were in the bin that were stained with my blood.
"I'm messed up. I'm so messed up." I gritted my teeth as a tear ran down my cheek. I took the bin in the middle of the night and burnt the tissues up.
And thus, I got over my self harm phase. It was almost eye awakening.
Even if I try to escape from this world, my own innate cowardice couldn't even let me do that. Just as much as the world wanted to punish me for being born. It wouldn't let me leave.
I wanted this world to burn to the ground.
But by some unforeseen circumstances. As long as it wasn't my fault....
I could begin my life anew in a new world. Where I could be in control, with my power.
I could become the hero I so desperately wanted to be.
A knock startled me.
"Hey, Shane. We're approaching Maraxus."
"Yeah! I'll be right there."
I put on my gloves, extending them further up my hand so it covered my scars on my wrist.
I would say Maraxus was beautiful. I mean, the top ranking Valian gathered there. But this place was completely barren. Borderline inhospitable.
"Rinne, stay in the Lotuscraft" Deka instructed.
Rinne nodded, as Deka, Umbra, and I left the Orbiter via. Landing Craft and arrived to the meeting room.
This place was like a palace. Gold trim and white pillars elegantly arcing everywhere. This was the classic refined Toron architecture that made up almost all our Lances and Supra weapons.
"Welcome, I am Seneka Eran, MR30 Valian of the Odin Alliance" A boy bowed.
Deka and Umbra bowed as well, with Umbra putting his hand on my head and pushing me to the ground as well.
Remember Mayen. These children, although young, are among the greatest of the Valian. Do not underestimate them. They outrank even the Operator.
Great to know a bunch of brats could potential cut off my head if they wanted to.
I sat next to Umbra and Deka, as we were in a gigantic round table in a moderately well lit room.
The Valian all around me looked so refined, and dangerous. Their eyes were critical, like they had already figured out like twenty two ways of taking me down upon first glance.
The seats all were named after the Valian. Their MR (Mastery Rank), their Clan affiliation.
As for the seats we were in, it said:
I tried to keep my eye from twitching in annoyance.
A young girl, probably the same age as Deka, sat next to us. Deka nodded at her. But I instinctively had my hand over my weapon.
The plaque on her seat read the following:
Quorra Lavine, MR30, Valian Gladiator Alliance Alpha (Leader), Council Rank: 8
Quorra Lavine was the girl who pretty much destroyed all of Deka's Lances. Captain Price used to own over fifteen of them. After his encounter with this elitist bitch, his arsenal was reduced to only four Lances: Umbra, Abaddon, Ran, and Monolith.
Of course, there wasn't much for me to do or say about it. Because Quorra was so easily able to defeat Captain Price. If I ever tried my hand with her, she'd probably kill me in two seconds.
More and more Valian took their seats. Only one seat remained.
Zennen Ful, MR45, No Clan (Unaffiliated), Council Rank: 1
Council Rank 1.
The greatest and strongest Valian in existence. No wonder Arsanios looked up to him.
"Hey." Quorra said, as she scooted closer to me.
I tried to hide my annoyance.
"Hello." I responded.
"A little bird told me that you met Arsanios Licita."
I looked at her.
"How did you-"
Quorra tapped her temple.
"The Void speaks to those who are blessed with its power."
"Okay." I responded, shifting in my seat and focusing back on Zennen's vacant spot.
"Did Arsanios go on and on about Zennen?"
"Why do you ask?"
Quorra laughed. "Oh dear, he is such a fanboy. So cute. Zennen Ful, the greatest Valian. Council Rank number 1. You know Valians are only at most able to get to a MR of 30 right?"
"Yes, doesn't it seem strange that he is a MR45?"
I turned to her, and realized her face was so close to mine that I could smell her breath. It was minty.
"Something the matter, Shane?" Deka asked.
Quorra slid back in her position and crossed her legs, like a princess.
That teasing bitch!
Another Valian sat in a seat a few down from Zennen's. The other Valians began to shuffle around, getting ready. It was about to start.
"By the way..." Quorra whispered to me.
Was she ever going to shut up?!
"Arsanios probably didn't tell you this, but he's also a huuuuuge fan of me too! Why do you think he always wields a pole arm in battle?"
I glanced at the Lance behind her. It was a Siren Lance. Capable of incredible crowd control. Strapped on his back, was a pole arm that resembled Licita's.
"Shush! The meeting is starting!"
I clenched my fist.
The Valian who was presenting held up a finger, and a massive red hologram appeared above the giant table. It was SHADE. Exactly like the dark figure in Deka's COMS unit.
"The Severen's greatest soldier. The SHADE. He was last spotted in a Survival Void Mission involving mid-tier Valian Dekani Price. The entire squad was slaughtered, except him."
All eyes turned to Deka.
The Valian continued. "Personally, I don't know why the Severen's greatest soldier would spare the Toron's worst Valian..."
Some laughter and chuckles rippled in the assembly.
Stupid brats! I was once again reminded that these people were all teenagers. 16 at most.
"But there is no denying it. From the feed that Deka's vision camera captured. His technique, his skill, his speed."
The same footage I had witnessed played out.
"A mix of Severen and Valian fighting styles. This is no doubt the technique of SHADE."
The display flickered back to the spinning model of SHADE in all his ominous glory.
"It appears he is once again on the move. I suggest we keep this information in closed doors. We cannot have a panic amongst our ranks, whilst the Severens are still on to us."
Several nods in the assembly.
"High alert on missions. We will need to tell our brethren of this, but how can we ensure SHADE does not take any more Valian? Certainly engaging him is not a good idea." One Valian said.
"Seconded." Another said.
A Valian who had occupied the Council Rank 3 seat leaned forward.
"The only Valian who has survived a one on one against SHADE was our greatest. Zennen Ful. But I cannot say the same for the rest of us. Miss Lavine can attest to that."
Quorra's face temporarily flashed in annoyance. But she put on a big smile.
"Yes, you are correct. The day SHADE had infiltrated my Alliance, even with the full power of our Orbiter cannons, and alongside two of my precious comrades, we were no match for him. It took the full force of the hundreds of Valian to drive him back, and even so, it was almost as if he did it voluntarily. Like he was bored of me."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
Quorra Lavine, the girl who basically kicked Cap's ass. Despite luring her into his Lotuscraft. With the full power of his Lances. Everything.
Couldn't even put up a fight against SHADE.
The fact that Deka had been face to face with that guy suddenly felt a hundred times more horrifying.
"If I may..." A Valian put her hand up, as she looked at Deka.
"I wish to hear from Price. I want to know why he was spared by the Great Valian Killer. Why him. His teammates are undoubtedly more decent Valian than he is. Yet SHADE killed them. Now one could reason that it would be plausible for the slaughter of the stronger Valians. But why keep one alive? For what purpose?"
Deka was silent.
That was true. I couldn't remember exactly what had happened. Deka never mentioned any of it. Because Umbra and I were attacked by SHADOW, and Folock had been glitched out.
Deka took a breath.
"When I watched my comrades fall, I thought I was going to die."
"I think 'assumed' would be a better word in your case." A Valian said from within the ranks.
"But then SHADE, for some reason, stopped. Like he, just looked at me."
The room went silent.
"I was basically out of my Lance, it was destroyed beyond repair. And in my Operator form. SHADE could have easily killed me, but he just stood there looking at me. Almost like he was... reminiscing."
"Reminiscing?" The head Valian who was running the meeting said.
"Yes. I couldn't see his face, since it was covered by his helm. But it was almost like he was remembering something. That was what I felt."
"Feel this. Feel that." A Valian got up from his seat. The plaque behind him read:
Ledger Koma, MR30, Odin Alliance Gamma (Head Officer), Council Rank: 14
"This was what made you the worst, borderline weakest Valian. You didn't feel it. You imagined it up. Look around you, Price. We are at WAR. There is no time for your impulses and your emotions."
Koma waved his hands.
"We want you to give every single detail out. Leave your touchy feeling bullshit to yourself. Lena isn't here with us anymore to put up with your baby-like tendencies."
It took everything I had to avoid punching every Valian in that place in the face. Even Umbra was impressed.
"Are you okay?"
Deka smiled and put his arm around me. It definitely felt weird. Since I was technically older than him.
"I'm a-okay, Shane. I appreciate you asking though."
We continued walking. In the end, I wasn't able to bring up the fact that SHADOW had called me "Licita" to these guys. Not like it helped. They were too busy making fun of my Captain. These stupid kids. On their high horse thinking they were sooo much better.
It made me sick to my stomach. Their elitist mindset. They almost didn't care about what Deka had been through, what we had been through in our time travel adventure.
They just cared about winning. And winning elegantly.
"What did you think about Quorra Lavine?" Deka asked.
I spat out my drink.
"I overheard your conversation with her. I was wondering what your thoughts of her were."
"I think she's a crude bitch." I responded.
"Well, I guess it's time to go back home." I muttered.
"You don't seem too happy about that, Mini-Operator!" Folock chimed in, gleefully.
"Where are we going?" Rinne asked.
Deka flipped a couple switches on the control panel as we all went to our rooms.
"We're going to the past. To fight the Severens. We have the firepower we need to tackle some of the harder missions now."
Rinne was frozen.
Flying so high in the sky over my old home planet didn't feel too great. I mean, sure, the view was amazing. But the memories... not so much.
"Shane, I didn't know you were time displaced." Rinne said, as she joined me up on the roof of the Lotuscraft.
"Yeah. We had to keep it a secret. For obvious reasons."
"So that was why Deka had left us."
We watched as the ship descended, as we watched the mountains come into view.
"Earth looks so different compared to ours. Not as much greenery. It kind of looks like a medieval Corpo."
"Pollution and industrialization. All that jazz." I replied.
Deka approached me, resolved as Umbra.
"Seems like fate has brought us to that place again."
I watched as our surroundings became clear as day.
Numerous buildings. For each department.
Good old campus.
"Shane, if this is too uncomfortable for you, Umbra and I can take point-"
"No." I held out my hand, glaring at the buildings.
"You'll stick out like a sore thumb. Especially with Umbra around. I'm going in."
I tapped my arm sheathe, as everybody turned compact, hidden within my coat.
"I'll contact you guys if anything comes up."
I leapt from the edge of the Lotuscraft as I soared to the ground, hitting terminal velocity.
"Folock, deploy ICARUS."
The disc in my back began to spawn several hexagonal projections as the Archwing was summoned, adapted to my smaller body frame. I slowed down as I soared above, hitting the ground from behind a tree.
Since the Severens had invaded, the place was no longer a place of learning. More like surviving.
I walked past the destroyed buildings. Remembering. The screaming of everybody. The looks of horror on their faces when the Severens had invaded.
I remembered distinctively. A boy and a girl. The girl was confessing her love to the boy, and the boy confessing his love for her. It was straight out of a drama or a manga. A wholesome heartfelt moment.
But then a giant chunk of debris had fallen from the sky.
And crushed the girl.
I took deep breaths, keeping my PTSD in check.
There it was.
A crew ship. With a bunch of Severens inside. Their eight appendages. I remembered.
I remembered how I had frantically fired those two assault rifles from the dead soldiers who were trying to protect me. To no avail. Eight appendages, deflecting the bullets flawlessly.
"A stray!" A Severen hissed, as a group of Severens descended from above.
I put my hands in the air, as one of them struck me in the midsection, tying me up.
"Take it to the rest."
The Severens sure knew how to treat their prisoners well. One of the Severen humanoids threw me into a cage within one of the classrooms, locking me up with six other guys.
Two of them had already gone insane, curled up with their knees to their chin, their eyes wide.
Another was standing in the corner, his face buried in the two walls.
The remaining three sat huddled together, eating their rations.
"Another one..." one of the men muttered, as I sat in the corner.
I needed to find a way to infiltrate these bastards. Once I done that, I had to figure out a way to evacuate them all. Once the hostages were free, we could blow up the Severen plant that was extracting resources from the planet in this area. Then the mission would be complete.
I knew coming back here was inevitable. It still didn't feel great.
"Hey. New guy." One of the men said to me.
I looked up.
"You're not getting any rations. Not until Charles is dead." The man pointed at one of the two men cowering in the corner.
This was messed up beyond comprehension.
I spent the night inspecting the holding cell. As I expected, the door was sealed with Severen technology. There was no getting out, unless I used my Toron weapons. But that would alert them instantly, and potentially kill all the hostages.
I wanted to save them all.
That night, a Severen came to our cell to deliver rations. A humanoid, but she looked female.
Now. Let me make one thing clear. I am not a sexist. I do what I need to do to complete the mission. So upon seeing her, I banked this as my opportunity.
With this, there would be a gamble. We'll have to see.
The Severen approached us and handed us a tray of... stuff. I'm guessing it was our rations. The guys in our cell rushed to it like dogs, as I eyed the Severen.
"Hey. You." I said, attempting to give off a chad vibe.
The Severen glanced at me.
"Yeah. Hot stuff." I said, awkwardly. If I was to be honest, I have never once flirted with a female before. In fact, I've never had a proper conversation with a girl before (except for Rinne). The truth was, I was actually a shy shut in who never spoke to anybody. So this was by far the hardest thing to ever do.
"I have something to tell you." I said, attempting to keep myself from throwing up from the cringe I was spitting.
The Severen walked up to me, and looked down at me with a look of contempt.
I never felt so inferior in my life!!!
Was this how talking with women always was?!
"You have some nerve to speak to me like that, human."
I cleared my throat. "Well, my life is shit anyway. It doesn't get any worse. Come on. I know you're busy with work, you know. Killing humans and all that. Why not have some fun with me before you leave?"
The Severen walked closer to me as I began to sweat.
Shit. Well. I knew this plan had a lot of holes. I guess I was a lot more awkward with women than I thought.
"You are afraid." The Severen hissed, as she brought her face close to my neck.
"Sweat. I love it when my prey is scared..."
The Severen put her hand on her chest, and suddenly I noticed a light had turned off.
"I love shy boys. Just this once, I'm going to use you all for myself. Little slave."
I figured out that the Severens had communications devices on them that needed to be turned on. Meaning if I was going to knock one out to escape, I had to disable their coms unit first. Since this Severen had willingly turned it off, in an attempt to go off the grid, it seemed like turning off their devices seemed a normal thing around here. More to my advantage.
The bad news.
It turned out the Severen I was trying to flirt with was a complete dominatrix.
Luckily for me, the Severen had noticed one of her colleagues round the corner. She quickly pushed me into the cell and switched back on her coms unit before leaving.
"Holy shit." I gasped for air. My heart was beating at a trillion beats a minute. That was terrifying.
I slumped on my back that night. Everybody had went to sleep. Well the sane ones anyway.
"Folock." I whispered.
"Scan the routine patterns of the guards. Process time of guard density vulnerability."
"Processing now. Would you like me to hand communications to Miss Thresh?"
"What? No. Just do the computation!"
"But I'm sure you will miss your dearest-"
"Folock! Just do the computations you stupid AI!"
"Such a terrible tongue! Thank goodness the Operator is still kind. You should learn more from him!"
"Hey. You up?" I heard a voice say.
"Yeah." Another responded.
I sat in the corner as I watched the two converse through the bangs that covered most of my face. I hadn't combed my hair since my imprisonment, but this was fine. It matched the vibe from these guys. Meaning it would help me fit in.
"I wonder if she's still alive."
"It's going to be okay. We're in this together. We can only pray."
"I miss her so much." The guy whispered.
"Do you remember, was it you or her who confessed."
"It was her. She was so cute. Blushing all over. She was going to give me a love letter but she tripped and fell. Started to cry too."
"She sounds like a keeper. She's alive, it's fate for you two to be together."
She was most definitely dead.
"Her hairpin fell out, one time. You know? I've kept it all this time. She thought she lost it and cried. Such a crybaby."
The other guy laughed.
"You still have it?"
I heard rustling of fabric as I presumed the guy had fished for it out.
"It looks really cute. Haha."
"That day the Severens came... she was so frightened. When we got separated... I haven't been able to fall asleep since. I'm terrified for her, man."
I would be too. "Kawaii" girls like her wouldn't last long in this world. This brutal world.
Cute girls. The very fabric that made up every single story you could find in mainstream Japan media. Every time girls were depicted in anime or manga, it was never "hot", or "beautiful". It was "cute". I always stopped to wonder how the rest of the world thought of that. The over generalization and stereotyping of that type of personality to women.
I remembered how much of a degenerate I used to be. I would always watch anime after class, read manga on my spare time. Wondering if Japanese girls were like those depicted in those silly cartoons.
Back then it was so simple, but it was also miserable.
I got up and walked up to the two who were speaking.
"Do you want to see your girlfriend again?" I asked.
The guy stared at me.
"What are you talking about?"
I turned to everybody else, who had woken up, in shock at what I had just said.
"I'm saying I'm getting the hell out of here. You all are."
One of the prisoners glared at me.
"This isn't funny, newbie."
I turned to my side, as I watched the same Severen guard who almost did it with me come by. Just as I expected.
"It seems you need to be taught another lesson." She licked her lips as she turned off her coms unit.
She wanted to torture me with her sick and twisted desires. But the first time, it was interrupted. So she waited for a time when no other guards were around.
I stood in place as the Severen opened the cell door and yanked me in her embrace. Licking my neck as I sifted through my pocket. Taking out my Hellfire Machine Pistol, with a silencer at the end.
"Hey, lady." I said, coldly.
"Shush, I want to savour this. Show me some more fear."
"Your job is finished. But don't worry."
I fired the gun at her midsection as the Severen's eyes went wide, stumbling backwards as blood spilled from her stomach.
"Wha... what did you-"
I aimed the gun at her throat and fired again, cutting off her voice, as the Severen fell to the ground. I walked up to her and aimed the gun to her face.
"Once I'm done, you're going to be seeing all of your comrades." I hissed, my face dangerously calm.
"In hell that is."
The Severen began to choke until I fired two more rounds that pierced her skull. The Severen's legs and arms began to flail as six more appendages burst from her body, returning to its original Severen form, and disintegrating.
I turned to the others, as I ripped the hand off of the Severen's body.
"Show me where the rest of you are."
"Folock: Rescue Objective Trace"
I reached into my pocket and pulled out my Toron mask, placing it on my face as my vision became illuminated with the full HUD of Folock's interfaces. The mini map lit up with all the proxies to rescue. As well as the Severens. I went through each place in a timed and coordinated manner, dispatching Severens and releasing prisoners.
"I can't believe I get to see Rena again." The guy said.
"My boyfriend, he has to be alive..." Another woman muttered.
I wouldn't get my hopes up. But I truly hoped they were alive.
We finally got to the last wing, when suddenly, Folock's voice lit up in my mask.
"Mini-Operator, the cells have been unlocked."
"No way!" One of the prisoners gasped.
From within the hiding spot, was another group of escapees. And leading them, was...
"Troy! I knew you would pull through man!" Several prisoners from my side ran to his, as they cheered him on.
"Hell yeah. We're not going down without a fight!" Troy said, as he led everybody to the evacuation route.
But I wasn't glad. Oh no. It was quite the opposite. My hand clenched into a fist as I felt myself shaking.
I watched as numerous prisoners clapped Troy on the back.
What kind of sick joke was this.
Every time I stepped foot in this god damn hellhole.
Something like this always happens.
This world spits at me.
But I can't escape it.
"Mini-Operator? We should follow the one known as Troy to the evacuation route. Then we can blow up the plant."
"Folock, can I just do it alone? Without following him?"
"Negative. This is the only way."
Of course it was.
I followed Troy and dispatched Severens with my machine pistols. But one had managed to slip my attention.
"Terran!" It snarled, as I whipped around and aimed my gun at its face, but not before hearing a
I stared at the Severen corpse as it flew away. Turning slowly, I noticed Troy had killed it with his shotgun.
"Sorry, man. Didn't mean to startle you. Come on, this way."
We finally reached the evacuation spot, as the prisoners all jumbled into numerous vans.
"I'm so grateful to you, Troy." A prisoner said, shaking his hand.
"If it wasn't for you and your scary sidekick, I wouldn't have been able to see my wife again."
"Don't worry about it. This isn't the end for us yet. There's still hope in the resistance!"
The man smiled.
Troy approached me and put a hand on his hip.
"Those are some crazy alien guns you have there. I take it you're from where those Severens were from?"
I couldn't answer. I was still in complete shock.
I was wielding Toron weaponry. Thousands of years more advanced than the guns in this age. I should have been the one leading the squad, and killing them off.
But in the end, Troy had normal guns, was the one who led the escape group. And killed all the Severens that threatened them.
It always has been like this.
"Umm, well. I'm going to go to the van. Come with us."
I shook my head.
I turned my back, as I went back to the University campus. There was still one job to do.
"Hey, where are you going?" Troy asked.
"Yo, kid. Do you have a screw loose? You're going back? Come on. Just do what Troy says. There isn't time for your-"
I spun around and aimed my gun at the prisoner's face. Everybody gasped.
"My mission does not concern you, Terrans." I spat the last word. For a second, I almost couldn't recognize myself.
"I am going to destroy this plant. This is my business alone. I have no patience for mere insects like you to interfere."
Troy stepped forward, his expression grim.
"If you're going to destroy the plant, so will I."
In the end, Troy tagged along, much to my dismay. We infiltrated the plant and destroyed the core cells. The evacuation group had already left.
"So, I guess there's no going back now!" Troy laughed.
I said nothing, as I tapped my mask.
"Folock, let Cap know the job is complete. Send in the Landing Craft."
"Mini-Operator, that might be an issue."
"What? What's wrong?"
Folock paused, before continuing.
"Because we're currently under attack. By Lena."
"What are you doing?" Troy asked.
"Shut up!" I growled, as I rolled up my right sleeve, tapping my sheathe module and transforming into my full battle attire. Toron Armoured Cloak. Twin Harkanon Heavy Duty Battle Rifles. Twin Hellfire Machine Pistols. And Gram Supra.
"Folock, deploy ICARUS."
"Negative. ICARUS is currently in use by the Operator."
"Then tell me where the Lotuscraft is-"
My command was interrupted, by a massive explosion in the sky, as I watched the Lotuscraft descend from the clouds and ram into a building. In the sky, were two figures. I took out my rifle and scoped in, making out Umbra using the Archwing, battling a larger Severen than the ones I had encountered. A beautiful feminine face in the centre, segmented limbs into eight equal partitions. Queen Lena of the Severens.
"What's going on? Who are you? Who are they?!" Troy asked.
This guy was really annoying. I bolted to the nearest building of the struggle, and tapped on my Arm Sheathe.
"Lance Upload Protocol: TESLA"
My sheathe began to glow, as I felt power surging through my body, blue electricity arcing from myself as I felt my speed increase exponentially.
I knelt on the ground and exploded into the air, latching onto the concrete with my fingers, smashing in and digging my fingers in. I ripped chunks out as I hurled myself into the air, up the building for higher ground.
"Captain! Mayen here. Heavy Artillery on Standby!"
"Shane! It's great to have you here!" Deka replied. I smiled. Even in this hell hole, there was still someone who relied on me. That made me happy.
I pulled out my rifles from behind my back and readied them, switching to anti-aircraft mode.
"Give me an opening, Cap! I'll blow her away!"
Deka swung his sword at Lena, sending her back. I focused, and pulled the trigger, firing two massive rounds in her direction. The force was so much that I skidded backwards. Thank goodness for my training at the gym. I wouldn't have been able to handle the recoil like that.
An explosion lit up, but I gritted my teeth. It was a miss.
"I missed! Look out, Cap!"
Deka tried to intercept, Lena's strike, but it was too much, and I watched as the Severen sent the Valian shooting into the ground.
"Captain!" I shouted. I leapt from the building and landed on the ground.
"Lance Upload Protocol: TESLA Superspeed"
I blasted forward, running at top pace to where Deka had landed.
I rushed forward and intercepted Lena before she could deal a killing blow on my Captain with Gram.
"You Severen Scum! How could you do this to your own son?!" I seethed.
"You were the Terran that was saved by Dekani Price." Lena remarked.
I found myself sinking deeper into the ground. This was bad. Lena was too strong.
"You didn't answer my question!"
"Do I need to?"
My eyes widened as an appendage came flying my way. I leapt back, but not before it had scraped my stomach. My midsection burst into pain.
There was no time to inspect the wound, as I blocked another appendage with Gram, then weaved out of the way.
Fighting Lena felt like fighting eight swordsman at once. Like I had to work at 8 times the effort.
I spun sideways, as I pulled out my Machine Pistol and sprayed bullets at Lena's face. Lena scowled for the first few shots, but after I had emptied the clip, they bounced off harmlessly.
I slid back, deflecting Lena's powerful strike with the flat edge of Gram and returning with a combination of bullets from my Harkanon set to full auto mode. The ground became littered with empty bullet casings as they hit the ground with a shower of "ping"'s.
Lena began to adapt to my bullets again, but Deka stood up and blasted her with Void energy, neutralizing her defences, as the two of us engaged her once more.
But even with the two of us, we were not enough, and I found myself completely outmatched by the Severen Queen. I ended up keeping my distance while Cap took her on head to head basically alone.
I watched as Lena flew into the air and spun, delivering a massive barrage of lasers. Deka bullet jumped out of the way as I held out my hand, generating a holographic shield. But the shield began to crack, as the shockwave sent me flying backwards, landing on my back.
I turned to my side as I watched Lena strike Umbra, sending him to the ground too. Numerous energy bands wrapped around his neck as Deka began to struggle, being lifted into the air.
"How are you-"
"Ballard was useful. His cells are more than enough to control your Lance, Valian."
Deka continued to struggle, but Umbra was practically frozen.
I got to my feet, but fell to one knee. My left leg was hurting really bad.
"Lena... why would you do this? Why are you doing this to these people?" Deka asked.
Lena regarded her adopted son.
"Why. Why was I forced to abandon my kind? Why did I leave my brother. Why did I leave my mother, Queen Luna, to succumb to her illness? Why did I betray my father, Gargantua, to lead you, the devils of the Toron, the devils of the Void?"
Deka resolved out of Umbra, as he stood to face his mother.
"You know the answer, Mom. You were tasked to kill us. But you couldn't. We lost our mother that day. And we gained a new one. YOU. You wanted children. Since coming to the Star System, you wanted kids to guide. To nurture. We needed our parents. But they were taken from us."
Deka stepped forward and put his hand on his chest.
"Even if many of us deny it, we want you to come home. I speak on behalf of my kind. We need you back. Whatever the Severens did to you, we can fix it."
Lena descended from the sky. I couldn't move. My leg was too busted up.
"No. Mini-Operator. The Operator must do this." Folock said, through my cracked up mask. My vision was messed up. Part HUD, part actual reality. Half of my face was exposed to the atmosphere as I glared at Lena.
Lena regarded Deka. Towering over him. He was completely defenceless. Umbra was restrained. I was incapacitated. Folock's main body, the Lotuscraft was halfway jammed in the god damn Chemistry building.
Whatever happened next, was completely out of my control.
"The Void. It is a powerful force. So powerful, that it even expands to the realm of reason. A convincing story. To get me to leave. To protect its demons. To protect you."
Deka's eyes widened as Lena raised her arm, which began to hum with power.
"We will save you, Mom. Whatever it takes."
"No... NO!!!" I roared, summoning anything I had, but I was far too injured.
Suddenly, a flash of light appeared from the corner of my vision.
"That's a bit harsh, isn't it, Mom?" A girl's voice appeared.
"Wha- What??" I muttered.
I watched as a Hannibal Lance approached Lena, pulling Deka back.
"I guess it didn't work, did it, Lavine?"
Quorra resolved out of her Lance and eyed Lena. The Severen Queen tilted her head.
"I know Dekani has always been a problem child. Never had the guts to kill. A bit weird. You know even after you left, he's still been the same way? Going against our code of honour? Teaching that Terran over there everything you taught us?"
Lena lowered her appendages, as Quorra continued.
"But even if he is incompetent, always breaking the rules. A bit weird in the head. And a petty thief. He's still right. We don't know what's going on. But we know that the Lena who nurtured us is still inside you. This is clearly the work of your bastard brother, Nero."
"Quorra Lavine." Lena said, as she began to approach the young Valian.
"You were always talented. A born leader. But your words, for once, will not work in your favour."
Quorra smiled, as she dissolved into purple sparks, resolving into her Hannibal Lance.
"Fine by me. Unlike Deka and Shane here, I can handle you just fine, being properly trained in The Way of the Valian. And to tell the truth, while part of us want you back, another part of us see you as a means to be eliminated. After all, the Severens are our enemy."
Quorra cocked her shotgun, aiming it at the Queen.
"We were taught this way, weren't we? If living includes feeling pain, then I guess that's just a mutual thing we have to compromise."
Lena began to hum with power, as she fired a volley of lasers at Quorra, who activated her Iron Skin and tanked it all.
Several shotgun blasts erupted from the smoke, damaging Lena as part of her hide shattered.
Lena ascended, and fired a massive beam in our direction, but Umbra and Deka had managed to escape. An arm grabbed me from behind as I whirled around in surprise.
"Come on!" Troy shouted at me, dragging me out of the way before I became a crisp.
I watched as Quorra took on Lena, blasting her with his shotgun shells, swapping to her sidearm and blasting her with her pistol, then switching to her pole arm.
I was in awe, as Quorra fought off the Severen Queen. Her mastery of the pole arm was elegant. Beautiful. Flawless.
I remembered what she had said. That she had inspired Arsanios. I now saw why. Of all the Valian I had encountered, Quorra wielded that weapon the best.
Lena slashed down with all eight of her appendages, but Quorra spun her pole arm with incredibly agility. It didn't matter if it was eight swordsman. Nine swordsman. A hundred swordsman. There was no breaching Quorra's defences. Her technique was so refined to the smallest detail, that it had completely negated the issue I had when I fought Lena.
"Hey, you're injured-"
I turned around until I was face to face with Troy. Troy's eyes were wide, as he was speechless.
I regarded my old roommate from what seemed like ages ago. But I didn't say anything. Because there was just so much to say.
I forced myself to my feet.
"Shane, your leg is busted."
I ignored him as I limped to Deka.
"Captain, what do we do?"
Deka resolved into Umbra and drew his assault rifle.
"We help Quorra."
"If you're helping her, so will I!" Troy announced.
"No." I replied, turning to him.
"I said NO." I snapped.
Deka put his hand on my shoulder.
"Shane, we need all the help we can get. Give him one of your rifles."
I glared at Cap, but softened. I reluctantly gave Troy the weapon. Just as I expected, he miraculously was able to wield it.
"Wow, you're able to handle its weight." Deka commented.
Troy smirked. "I've been working out."
"Hey, Shane. Let's kick some ass. Together. Just like the old days!"
I pushed his hand away and got to my feet.
"Now Shane..." Deka said.
I aimed my rifle right at Lena's head, as Quorra kept her distracted.
Captain Price may love you.
But I will always hate you.
For everything you did to the people here in this world.
For everything you did to my parents.
Tim and Dana Mayen.
I fired, as the bullet knocked Lena backwards, giving Quorra and Deka a chance to strike, but Lena flew into the air.
"Archwing mode, Price." Quorra said, as she deployed her own ICARUS, zooming into the air. Price followed suit.
"Folock, how's the jam coming along?"
"Coming your way, Mini-Operator."
I ran forward, with Troy in tow. I got to the edge of a falling cliff as I leapt off of it.
"What the hell are you doing?!" Troy screamed.
I free fell, and landed on the top of the Lotuscraft, as the entire ship flew upwards to meet Troy. I glared at him. This may be the first time in my entire life where I felt above him.
"Get on. Or I'll ditch you here." I grumbled.
We flew after the two Valians. I walked to the edge of the ship.
"Gimme my rifle back." I said.
I mounted my two rifles along two large modules.
"Compounding Harkanon Rifles for Ultra Heavy Artillery Integration." Folock informed me.
I readied myself as I hoisted my two ginormous guns from their shelves.
"Harkanon Rifles at Ultra Anti-Aircraft Configuration, Active, Mini-Operator."
I smiled sinisterly.
Time to light her up.
Folock navigated the ship to where Deka and Quorra were fighting Lena. We were so far up in the sky that I was starting to shiver. My cloak was not enough for the cold.
"Shane, I'm heading inside." Troy shouted.
Do what you want.
I watched as Quorra flew in, slashing at Lena, but Lena zipped out of the way, while Deka fired his Arch Mini-gun at her, which was disintegrated by another Severen Beam.
Find an opening.
"Deka! Quorra! Out of the way!" I shouted.
"Folock, full power!"
"CUT HER DOWN - I mean go for it!"
I pressed the triggers to my weapons as I let loose a massive barrage of powerful exploding shells. My arms rattled from the impact, as it took everything I had to resist the recoil and maintain the stability of my targeting reticule.
Lena held out her appendages as the full power of the Lotuscraft was channeled into my guns.
Lena began to descend from the sheer impact of the shells. Her armour starting to crack and buckle, despite her adaptation to the damage at this rate.
Folock followed her as we flew down. Quorra and Deka spiralling us and delivering bullet volleys with their own mini-guns and adding to the assault.
We flew downwards, as all around me, was a simple chaos. Bullets, wind, shells. Everything was a frenzy, but within a split second, I made eye contact with Lena, as she glared at me with critical eyes. I returned the glare with a violent frenzy.
Interesting. I had my suspicions. But perhaps another Ciel exists on their side too.
Suddenly, everything jolted, as the Lotuscraft attempted to stabilize its descend, but smashed onto the ground. Deka and Quorra hit the ground and resolved out of their Lances.
As for me, I elegantly got jettisoned out of my position and smashed face-first into the dirt before Lena. Who had recovered.
Lena levitated to me, as I got to my feet. My leg was still busted up, but I forced myself to stand, somehow.
I reached behind my back and drew my Gram Supra, levelling the blade to Lena's face.
Ciel Licita. The Seventh Sense.
The boost of power. I needed it. Alongside everything I had. Because if even Quorra Lavine couldn't take down Lena, with the help of Deka, I needed that power.
The Licitian Potential.
What will you do now, Terran? Lena asked me, telepathically.
"Lance Upload Protocol: TESLA Superspeed, ASH Teleport, ASH Partial Blade Storm"
It was now or never. I only had one use left of Deka's Lance abilities in my sheathe before they went into a full day cool down. But I knew they were not going to be enough.
I concentrated. Each time that Potential came out, it was from rage.
I remembered how Lena had descended into my world that day.
How my parents were killed off trying to save me from that Severen.
I remembered it all.
"I've never forgotten, Lena. The Valians may forgive you. But I will not."
My body surged with the combined power of my Lance abilities along with the potential.
Kien Licita. I need your strength once more.
I jolted to Lena's position, slamming Gram against the Severen as she blocked my strike, barely. But her talons cracked, as I flipped, kicking her off. I summoned my Hellfire Machine Pistol and sprayed, emptying my clip as I summoned Ash's Blade Storm.
One clone had teleported to Lena's side, and prepared to impale her. Lena turned to counter it. And I grimaced.
I teleported to Lena's location from the other side, as Lena spun around, realizing she had been left open.
"Checkmate!" I yelled, bringing the blade down, when suddenly, it was intercepted by a glowing red great-sword.
A dark force slammed into me as I skidded backwards.
From the corner of my vision, I realized that Deka and Quorra weren't assisting me in fighting Lena. I had thought they were incapacitated from the fall, but that wouldn't make sense. Since they both flew down with their Archwings. But now I knew why.
"Quorra Lavine, and Dekani Price. So now there's two of you, trying to interfere with our plans." Nero said, as he bashed the ground, causing the two Valians to acrobatically dart across the battlefield and evade.
"What the hell?!" I shouted, but another force faster than I could even see or process slammed into me. I fell to the ground, dropping my Gram.
It had begun to rain, as my vision became obstructed with raindrops, but I managed to sit up, seeing a dark figure next to Lena.
"My Queen. I shall fight in your stead. Proceed with Lord Gargantua's Sequence."
Lena recovered and flew to the sky, as lightning flashed, revealing the dark figure in all his glory. A black trench coat with Severen markings all over it. A misty dark aura, and a gigantic glowing red sword, similar size as Gram, was wielded in his right hand, the tip scraping the ground.
The figure regarded me from within his mask, his white hair dancing with the howling wind of the rainstorm.
I got to my feet, as I stood face to face with SHADE.
No way. The Valian Killer. I was face to face with the guy who was feared even among the top twenty Valians.
Who toyed with Quorra Lavine.
Who killed numerous Valians.
The monster that was the Severens' Greatest Soldier.
I trembled as I picked up Gram, adjusting my stance.
SHADE said nothing, as a temporary flicker in his figure appeared in my vision. It took me two seconds to realize he had disarmed me instantly. The realization hitting the moment Gram flew several feet from my hands and clunking on the ground.
There was no fighting this guy. It was impossible. There was no way in any universe fighting him was an option. The only thing I could do was talk.
"Who are you?"
SHADE tilted his head.
"WHAT are you?"
The wind caused his black trench coat to ripple. Red and black trim decorated it similar to how my cloak was decorated with Toron gold trim.
SHADE glanced at Deka and Quorra, as they struggled to hold off Nero.
"Is this heroic?" SHADE asked.
Everything seemed to stop. Time seemed to stop, to the point where it was just me and SHADE. Only me and SHADE existed. Nothing mattered. My heart skipped a beat.
"Wha- What are you talking about?" I stammered.
SHADE turned to me.
"Is this what it means to be a hero?" SHADE asked.
I was speechless, dumbfounded and unable to answer. It was terror, shock, surprise, and horror. All mixed into one disgusting, toxic package.
SHADE looked to the sky, as the rain plastered his long white hair, all over his mask and chest.
"I wanted to become strong. So I could become a hero. But once I became just that, I realized."
I watched as SHADE held out his hand, as my surroundings became darker, colder, more ominous. Frost emanated from his body as a hard cold chill ran down to my spine.
"Heroes don't exist. I am a fake." SHADE said, calmly.
"And so are you, Shane Mayen."
My heart almost stopped, as I lost consciousness.
The following day wasn't any better. If you were wondering.
After the battle, Lena, SHADE, and Nero left, leaving Troy standing there like an idiot.
Quorra took an interest in Troy, and after fully learning the truth of my recruitment to become Deka's First Mate, Troy was recruited to become Quorra's.
"Aww, don't look so pouty, Shane. Troy will become your rival, well. He's going to be better than you, what with me being his Captain." Quorra teased, as she stepped closer to me and breathed down my neck.
"Shane." Troy said.
"What the hell do you want."
Troy held out his fist.
"Let's do our best!"
Shortly after, Deka held a meeting at the Lotuscraft. And well... my status report had some interesting reactions.
"Shane, report?" Deka asked.
Rinne, Umbra, Folock (In his Dataform Projection Form), and Flippy (For some stupid reason), looked at me.
"Um. So I infiltrated the prison camp at the University and... I disabled the Severens..."
"Shane, how did you disable them?"
"Is that really important?!" I exclaimed.
Deka put his hands on the table. "Yes. We need to be consistent with our reports. For backtracking purposes. Folock needs to be informed."
"I uh... well I did some psychological warfare on uh..." I began sweating nervously.
"Shane? Why are you looking at me nervously?" Rinne asked.
"The Mini-Operator seduced a Severen Guard and almost lost his virginity. Then he gave her a load of bullets." Folock said, happily.
Rinne's usual calm demeanour turned into horror.
"FOLOCK! No! It wasn't like that! Well it was technically like that! No! Aaah! Jeez!!!"
With the meeting adjourned, everyone went to their basic activities for the weekend. But I went straight to Folock.
"Folock, I need your help. Bring me to Yggdrasil."
"Yggdrasil? What are you planning to do?"
During that fight with Lena at the University, I realized that I was still extremely inferior to the Valians. Even if I had these implants and could call on their power, I was still limited.
But there was still an advantage I had over those kids. I wasn't vulnerable in the Transference Pod, since I was on my feet 24/7. I didn't need to worry about Resolution Static. And there was still that Licitian Potential. I just needed to hone it down. But in the meantime, there were still some things I could work on.
I rolled out a piece of paper with all my ideas and sketches out, inventor style. I wanted the following modifications on my body. Agility and reflexes were a number one thing. The speed from Deka's Tesla was still limited to two uses followed by a two day cool down. I wanted to make it more integrated so I could call upon a percentage instead of a full power right off the bat. With Ash, he was famed for being an assassin. It didn't have to be his blade storm. But if I could access his agility in a continuous scale, it might offset my weaknesses compared to say, Quorra or Deka.
"Got that? Folock?"
"Mini-Operator... you are so..."
I fell on my back, exasperated.
I walked up to Yggdrasil, who's tendrils and claws excitedly fidgeted around.
"Um... hello again." I muttered.
"No, Yggdrasil, I want some body modifica-"
Yggdrasil pointed a spike in my direction.
I had spent a total of two hours reworking my proposal and explaining it to Folock so he could coordinate the surgery. Unfortunately, since neither one of us were too familiar with how a human body worked, we didn't account for a major number of factors.
Come to think of it, almost all of our ventures with Yggdrasil have been dumb luck and an asspull. I was surprised I was still alive, honestly.
Unfortunately, this time, I wasn't so lucky, because after explaining it to Folock, I was extremely tired. This would come to bite me in the ass.
"Mini-Operator, shall we commence the operation?"
"Yeah. Let's do this guys."
I sat on the seat as a spike hovered in front of me, and impaled my chest.
"RAAAAAHHHH!" I roared in pain as everything turned white.
My mind flashed with memories.
Me playing in the backyard of my old house. Riding the tricycle. My dad telling me I was a wuss and still using training wheels. Then I had taken them off and face planted in two seconds, crying.
Another time, getting my first letter grade in school. My first A. My parents were so delighted.
"Our little boy has a chance to support the family! Dana! This is my son! This is OUR son!!!"
Dad was so happy. Seeing Dad happy made me happy.
I wanted to make Dad happy.
But his idea of being happy was to force me to go into a degree I didn't want. I hated it, but I did it anyway. Because it was my job, as a son, to respect my father's wishes.
My first day in high school. I had racked up so many A's. I thought I was at the top of the world. I made no friends and resented everybody, seeing them as competition.
Before I knew it, I developed a terrible habit of comparing with others. But at the time, it wasn't such a bad thing. Because I was always coming up on top.
Then university happened.
Then that day. The day I looked into the sky and saw the sun. Shrouded by the clouds. But the cloud began to disperse. Becoming more and more grainy. The grains getting bigger and bigger until I realized each grain was some... thing. A Severen.
My Mom was in my arms. Her face was all cut up and her body was fatally injured, but she was still smiling.
"Shane... I get it now. I get why you always wanted to do what you wanted to do. Seeing you fight that thing. It took me dying to realize my son was always destined to be a hero. I'm so sorry..."
No child should have to see their mother die in his arms.
No child should have to bear with that burden.
Things were going in fast motion, as the next few memories went by in a blur. Faster and faster, I was starting to get disoriented, until everything went white again.
"Shane." A girl's voice said.
My eyes snapped open. I looked around me, and realized I was surrounded by a bunch of carnage. Standing before me, was Rinne. She was in an Operator uniform for some reason. This didn't make sense. Rinne didn't know how to fight. This never happened. This wasn't a memory...
Who's memories were these?
"Please, Shane. Come home." Rinne pleaded.
I wanted to ask her what the hell was going on, but my voice didn't listen to me. This was a memory after all.
Say something! Say something!
I watched myself turn around, glancing at the remains. The destroyed remains of the Lotuscraft. My heart dropped a hundred feet onto the ground.
What was I seeing?
"Rinne Thresh." I heard myself say.
"There is no Shane Mayen."
I walked to the edge of the railing to get a better view of the chaos. It wasn't just the Lotuscraft. Hundreds upon hundreds of Valian Orbiters were crashed on the ground, fires breaking out everywhere.
Toron Corpo. Toron Scrava. Both factions suffered tremendous losses. Their facilities and buildings were destroyed and in ruins.
And for some reason, I knew that it was because of me.
"Shane, it isn't too late! We can fix this. I love you. Please come back to me!"
What the hell was Rinne talking about?!
I feel like I was looking at something I shouldn't be looking at.
"Do you know why the future must be hidden from us?" I said.
Rinne tried to resolve into her Lance, but I bolted forward with speed I didn't know I even had, crushing her Lance, a Helos, in my grip, and grabbing Rinne by the throat and lifting her into the air as she choked.
I glared at Rinne, as her eyes flooded with tears.
"Because the future can't be changed. I was always destined to turn into this. He knew that too, when we clashed. When I did the one thing these Valian children could not. When I killed him."
"You are all that's going to be left of Shane Mayen. I love you too Rinne, but I must move forward. Move forward with destiny. I will save this world by destroying it."
I watched as I held out my hand, summoning a heavily modified version of my Harkanon Rifle and placing the barrel to her head.
"This is goodbye."
"Shane! Shane!" A voice peered above me as I opened my eyes. I guess the operation was successful.
I awoke to Rinne's hands all over me, healing my wounds. Deka looked furious.
"What the hell were you thinking?"
I sat up from my bed.
"Uh. Modifications. I was trying to get some upgrades after my fight."
Deka walked up to me and grabbed my collar.
"And what would have happened if you died? There are NO redoes in life. Just because we had a hiccup on this mission doesn't mean we have a right to resort to these methods. Shane, please. The next time this happens, talk to me first. As your Captain."
That afternoon, I requested Folock drop me off at the Simulacrum, where I faced off against an army of maximum level Scrava.
I needed to see if the surgery yielded results.
"Lance Upload Protocol: TESLA Superspeed - 45% Continuous"
My body momentarily sparked with blue electricity, as I felt a slight boost.
The Scrava pointed their guns at me as they charged with their bullets, but I was already gone, jolting and bolting up the walls, ricocheting off of any surface I could find like the world's angriest bouncy ball.
I zoomed inwards and slashed a wide arc with Gram, clearing out an entire row of Scrava units.
I landed on the ground, and bolted to the side again.
Tesla's powers were still active. Even if I couldn't bring out his full speed, the fact that I could evade these guys continuously was enough validation. Normal Valian would get hit at least once with their bullets, but I had evaded them all without even using my special wildcard.
I closed in and pressed my rifle against the Scrava's head, when suddenly my vision flashed with that memory. The destroyed ruins of the world at my feet. Rinne being strangled.
I hesitated, and before I knew it, the Scrava overwhelmed me, pushing me to the ground.
I left the Simulacrum, and went back to the main plaza.
"New look?" Rinne asked.
Rinne pointed at my clothes.
Right. My coat had been torn to shreds in my fight against Lena. So Deka had went on a mission to research new blueprints for an improved version of it. This cloak had more segmented padding on it. The gold Toron trim was replaced with white and gold Toron plating around the shoulders and bracers. The coat had gotten longer to protect more of my body when I had told Deka about my temperature issue in high altitudes, thus it reached down to my knee caps like a trench coat.
I shook my head. The last thing I would want would be that guy.
My face-mask was replaced with a mask that only covered my mouth and nose. My eyes were exposed, because during that operation with Yggdrasil, my left eye was removed, replaced with a cybernetic replacement. This new eye was what gave me an edge in combat.
Because uploaded into its cybernetics was an advanced CPU, with preprogrammed combat knowledge and reflexes of the Ash Lance.
Unfortunately, the resulting operation caused my sclera to be darkened, and my irises to gain an android like blue glow. Normally it would look completely out of place, but I mean, my left eye originally was already out of place, ever since Rinzler had slashed at it with his dumb Lance. Plus, with my hair being long as it was, there was enough to cover it whenever I went out in public.
But that was all nice and dandy on paper. The only way to really tell if all these upgrades were worth it was to test it out in a real world scenario.
"Shane, what kind of girls do you like?" Rinne asked.
I spat out my drink.
The realization finally hitting me. What the hell was I doing going out with Rinne?! I was supposed to test out my new upgrades. But instead, I got roped into joining Rinne in her expedition across Trife. From shopping, to sightseeing, to eating out at restaurants. It was also then I realized that Deka's claim that all Valians didn't eat was complete bullshit.
"I don't know. Why are you asking me something like that?"
Rinne rested her head on her hand.
"Since meeting you, you always seemed so reserved. I never got to really know you. But the very few times we interacted, you always seemed so protective of others. I guess what I'm saying is, do you mind sharing what's been going on in your life?"
I brushed off the pastry crumbs on my shirt.
"I'm not looking for relationships. I don't believe in them."
Rinne was quiet. I knew I shouldn't get mad. She was only asking, but whenever anyone brought this up, it always rubbed me the wrong way.
"What's the point of chasing the love of your life, when in a year, the passion is gone? It's almost like it's in our genetic code to feel accomplished to find our perfect someone. Once that passion is gone, it's routine. Like, hey. I did it. I found her. I found him. Almost like an achievement."
I clenched my fist.
"I don't want that. I don't want to see something dissolve like that. If all relationships end up mellowed out, I might as well not even pursue it in the first place."
I stared at the sun, as it began to touch the horizon, turning the sky into a flurry of beautiful colours.
"My whole life, I always felt like I was never in control. Before I met Captain Price, it felt like the world was pulling the strings for me in the worst possible way. For years I hated myself thinking it was my fault, when in reality, it never was. I was just born to be in a world that hated me."
I looked at my wrist, the numerous scars on it from the knives I had kept hidden inside my room.
"I thought love could fix it all. Finding the special girl of my dreams could somehow offset all the bad luck I had. But... even after getting over my crush... I realized it was never really worth it in the first place. Even if I got a chance to be with her, the passion would wither away whether I wanted to or not."
"It would be a fault for both me and her. Because this emotional decay is natural. Love and passion were the only colours in my life, and I was terrified of knowing it would fade away. So instead, I turned to becoming strong. Because being strong would also be a source of pleasure. So I thought."
I watched as a couple walked by us. Holding hands. The girl was laughing as she gave the boy a necklace.
I smiled. Matching bracelets huh.
"I trained. And became big. But even after becoming strong, I realized that even at the top of the world, I wouldn't be happy. Not unless I had someone to share that accomplishment with."
I looked at the boy again. He was scrawny, lanky, weak. Nerdy. Just like I was. But... the girl embraced him like he was the most precious thing in the world.
"The girls I knew wanted guys who were kind. They couldn't care less if they had muscles. Or were tough. They wanted someone with a kind heart."
My memory flashed to that vision I had, of myself choking Rinne.
"I'm... not that man. I'm not the kind of man girls want. And I guess, that's just how it is."
I turned to Rinne, and realized she hadn't said a single thing. She was staring at me, as tears had begun to form around her eyes.
"Oh! Sorry. I didn't mean to react this way." Rinne laughed it off, as she wiped her eyes.
"But Shane, you know there's going to be that special person. I know there will be."
I got up. This was too much. I had already revealed too much.
"It's whatever. I want to go back to the ship now." I said, as I walked back to the Landing Craft, Rinne following from behind.
We continued walking as I watched the sun go down. It always made such pretty colours. In fact, back then, when I was still attending Uni, the sun made pretty colours too, with the beautiful view. Too bad I took it for granted. I never really stopped to admire how beautiful it was.
"Eh?" I glanced at a begger on the streets.
It was a little girl with an eyepatch holding out a metal cup.
"Keep your distance, Filo." A mother said, as she pulled her son away. "Those without class are cursed."
"The hell?" I muttered.
Rinne regarded the girl, sadly.
"I guess since you're from the past, you don't know. But here, class means everything. Those who end up like that are typically a sign of criminal acts. Her father must have been a criminal and raised her as such."
"And you're not at all bothered by the fact that a ten year old kid is begging for food?"
Rinne pursed her lips.
"Shane, this is how it is in this society."
I watched as a group of Valians in their Lances approached the girl.
One Valian went up to the girl and knelt down, putting some coins into the metal cup.
"Thank you, kind sir!" The girl said.
"Yeah, good job Rinzler!" One of the Valians beside him said, his voice dripping with toxic sarcasm.
Huh? Rinzler doing something nice? That was a rare sight to see.
I turned to see Rinne's reaction, but her face was empty and dark.
"No problem, girlie." Rinzler said, as he pushed her over and took the cup along with all her money with him. "This'll look good on my Orbiter."
The Valians all laughed as they walked off.
I should have expected that.
I glanced at the girl. She continued smiling as she took off her hat and put it on the ground, continuing to beg for money.
"Rinne... you knew this was going to happen, didn't you?" I asked, my voice, low and dangerous. Containing my anger.
Rinne was silent. "There is nothing we can do. Valians are the top of the food chain. If we do something, it's basically equivalent to declaring war against the Capitol."
"You're a Valian yourself! This is disgusting!"
Rinne closed her fist, shaking it.
"Don't you think I hate what my brother does?" She whispered, her voice full of harshness and bitterness.
"This is how it is. There's nothing we can do about it!"
Nothing we can do. Those were the exact words I felt back then. Back when I didn't have the power to change it.
This was different.
"I'm getting her money and coin cup back. You stay here if you want. Forget you even knew me. I don't care." I said, as I ran off.
"Wait! Shane!" Rinne called out to me, but I didn't have time for this.
"Damn. That freak. Still smiling after I stole her life savings." Rinzler grumbled.
"Her father probably taught her that. Just to get under the skin of people who actually belong in society."
"Speaking of belonging in society..." Rinzler said, as I intercepted them in an abandoned courtyard.
"Didn't I say to stay the hell away from me? Fake Valian?"
I clenched my fist as I ripped off my shirt, tapping my gear module, donning my full battle gear.
"Just as I thought you couldn't get anymore scummy. You pull shit like that. But then again, I wasn't expecting less from an ingrate who rapes his own sister." I growled.
The Valians laughed at my threat.
"I heard you took my disgrace of a sister in. What are you? An orphanage?"
My vision turned red with rage.
"You two are Rinzler's lackeys?" I asked.
The two Valians regarded me.
"If this is about that Rinne chick, she was always sewer scum. If it wasn't for Rinzler keeping up the Thresh reputation, they would have ended up in poverty like that brat back there."
Enough talking. I was done with chit chat. These guys didn't need a lecture.
They needed to be eliminated from this world.
I grabbed my two rifles from my back and unleashed a volley of machine gun bullets at the three Valians, who instantly darted out of the way.
"Kick his ass!" One of the Valians said, as he rushed in with a sword. I held out my rifle and blocked it, but the sword was sharper than I thought, as it sliced it open. I leapt back, to be greeted by a Valian who was coming in fast.
I held out my other rifle and unloaded the entire magazine. Shells clattering on the ground as the bullets were reflected.
Dammit. A Mag Lance. Those things were annoying.
"Come on, faker. Show me what you got." Rinzler said, as he closed in front the front. My eyes widened as Rinzler sent a powerful punch at my stomach. I vomited blood as I smashed into two buildings.
Rinzler's Monolith Lance. A Lance capable of unparalleled physical strength. I knew that from Deka's missions that involved heavy hitting. A wave of nausea hit me as Rinzler grabbed me by the face and hurled me through another building.
Rinzler leapt in the air, but before he could deliver a punch, I concentrated, my mechanical eye instinctively providing a detailed analysis on Rinzler's fighting style, and sending my brain on autopilot. I rolled out of the way, as Rinzler's punch formed a crater from where I stood.
Rinzler swung around and fired dozens of saw blades my way, as my HUD assessed the projectile pattern, allowing me to dodge appropriately.
"A bit quicker on your feet, huh." Rinzler said, as he adjusted his stance, and switched to his sidearm.
"Dodge these." He said, as he unleashed a massive flurry of shotgun pellets my way.
"Lance Upload Protocol: TESLA Superspeed: Continuous 45%"
My body jolted with electricity as I paired my Ash reflexes from my eye along with the superspeed of Tesla.
I moved so fast that everything seemed like a blur, and within a split second I had instantly closed the distance between me and Thresh.
I couldn't see anything from Thresh since he was still in his Lance, but I wasn't going to let him speak another word from his foul mouth.
I reached into my cloak and pulled out one of my Hellfire Machine Pistols, switching it into shotgun mode, as I blasted Thresh in the midsection, sending him backward. I took out Gram with my other hand and smashed him from above, sending his head into the concrete.
The other Valians flanked me with their own guns. I narrowly dodged an acid shot from one Valian's blaster, and leapt to the side, zipping across the field as the two Valians frantically tried to gun me down.
"Isn't that Tesla's Superspeed?"
One of the Valians asked.
I rushed in, with Gram cocked back.
I hated them.
Their elitist mindset.
I hated them.
Suddenly, I stopped. Looking down, I realized my feet were planted down by Rinzler's Monolith.
"Tough luck. But not every fight is about run and gunning." Rinzler sneered, as a Valian switched to their axe, and swung.
I held out my arm, creating a holo-shield, but the axe's impact shattered it. I was sent hurtling into a wall, cracking it and hitting the ground.
Rinzler rushed forward with his Lance and smashed me through more walls until I regained my footing.
"Lance Upload Protocol: ASH Teleport"
I focused on one of the Valians, the one wielding the acid gun, and teleported to his location, slamming Rinzler against him.
"Get off of me! Thresh!" The guy shouted, as I put my foot on both of them. I pulled out my Harkanon and aimed the long barrel on Rinzler's back, configuring it to Anti-aircraft mode.
I fired, as the round pierced both Valian Lances. The sound of the gunshot echoing.
One of the Valians had managed to catch up to us, but I held out my Machine Pistol in my other hand, aimed and fired the gun in rapid succession. The Valian held out his hands, generating a magnetic field as I continued firing.
This Valian was using the Mag Lance. Meaning he had the full advantage over me, since all of my guns were metal. My armour was metal.
Yet despite that, he didn't just straight up hurl me around like a puppet. Meaning his powers had limits.
And I was going to deplete it to the ground.
I continued firing until my Hellfire magazine depleted. I pressed the button on the size as the mag slipped out, then aimed my larger firearm, the Harkanon, at the Valian and fired another barrage of bullets. These rounds even more powerful. The Mag Lance began to struggle keeping the bullets redirected.
I continued firing calmly, as I popped another magazine into my Hellfire, reloading it. I got off both of the Valians' backs as I continued to walk forward, raining bullet hell with my massive rifle pointed directly at the Valian's head.
"You're a taboo. A mistake." The Mag snarled at me.
"Yeah." I said, as I continued firing, sliding my finger across the barrel of my Hellfire Machine Pistol, switching it to shotgun mode.
"And this mistake is going to kick your ass."
The Valian's energy ran out just as my Harkanon magazine had emptied. He fell to his knees as I lowered my weapon, then put my pistol against his forehead.
I made my way back to the plaza. The place was still busy. The sounds of our fighting in the secluded area were ignored. In my hand was the girl's metal cup, the coins jingling inside.
I stopped by the corner to see Rinne kneeling down in front of the girl, talking to her. They were both smiling and happy.
What I did was to help the girl. That much was obvious.
But if it meant trying to prove to myself that I was a hero, then I was as stupid as Rinzler.
I walked up to the girl and put the metal cup on the ground. Fishing in my pocket, I also handed her some coins.
"Th- Thank you, mister!" The girl said.
I knelt down, looking at her.
"Where are your parents?" I asked.
"They died when the Severens invaded."
I sighed. Glancing at Rinne. She was unable to look me in the eyes.
"Do you want to come live with me instead?" I asked.
The girl stared at me, tears forming from the corner of her eyes.
I guess that was a yes-
"PERVERT!" She screamed.
A bunch of people around me turned to look at us.
What the hell?!
"How am I a pervert?! I just asked if you wanted to live with us, you'll have a clean bed to sleep in and-"
"You're trying to lure me in! I know men like you! Pervert! Pervert Pervert Pervert!"
People were definitely starting to stare at me.
Rinne stepped closer to the girl.
"What he means is you can live with us! We can take care of you. The gel cone I gave you, you can have lots of those, all you want!"
The girl's face began to glow up a bit.
She's luring her in with candy?! Isn't that the textbook definition of a child predat-
"Okay!" The girl said, as she hugged Rinne.
What was wrong with these people?!
"It's a puppy!" The girl squealed, as she ran up to Flippy and started petting it.
Rinne and I joined Deka at the planning table.
"Didn't know you were into lolis, Shane."
"I'm not a lolicon!" I snapped.
Deka laughed. "My ship just keeps getting more and more crowded by the day. Right, Folock?"
"Operator! I cannot take it! There's too many guests. I must lay out the preparations. The treats! The snacks! I am such a terrible host!"
"Folock, you don't need to freak out. She's just going to be staying temporarily... I think."
Rinne was quiet. I turned to her and realized her face was tensed up.
"I want to go out in the field." She said.
Deka raised his eyebrows.
"Are you sure? Rinne? You don't have the proper Valian training."
Rinne held out her hand and manifested a golden ball of light.
"I still have my Void powers. I want to help you guys on your missions."
Deka crossed his arms. Contemplating.
"What brought this on so suddenly? You're doing great as our medical purser."
Rinne closed her fist.
"And that's all I've been. I'm just... a medic. I was one of the victims of the Void Incident. I was just like you, Deka. I just... seeing Shane, a mere human, no offence." She said, glancing at me.
"Some taken." I grumbled.
Rinne continued. "When I saw Shane fight those three Valians the other day, I only watched. I felt so useless."
"Shane did what?"
A bead of sweat rolled down the side of my face.
"They were harassing the girl. Took all her money. I had to do something."
Deka glared at me.
"This is the second time you've recklessly done things on your own accord. You should have contacted the higher authorities. Not start a scene."
I shot to my feet. "What the hell were the authorities gonna do against Valians, Cap? That girl is living in poverty. Her parents are dead!"
Deka continued eyeing me as he punched in a bunch of data, searching for news on the assault of three Valian in Trife. Three names popped up.
"What happened to your previous philosophy? Of not getting involved? There's always multiple sides to the story. Because of what you've done, you're now known for assault. A better way would have been to give her your coins and a small bonus. Let whatever was taken get taken. And have the higher authorities or nobles negotiate with Thresh."
I clenched my teeth.
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. But then I realized. He was right.
What happened to what I believed in? What happened to just doing things as I was told? Not getting involved? What happened to all that talk I had?
Deka got up from the table and tapped on a module.
"Folock, I want access to the documents pertaining to the assault of Rinzler Thresh, Remus Lyle, and Baron Fraser. Assailant: Dekani Price"
Several documents popped up, as Deka gave me an annoyed look.
"Forget about this for now, Shane. I will handle this, and talk to them." Deka left the room and went to his quarters.
"Rinne! Rinne! Look at Flippy! I gave him a makeover!" The girl said, as she grabbed Rinne's hand.
I turned around.
"What did you do to our hunting dog- heehhhh?!?!?"
Flippy whimpered, as his fur was twisted in braids, at the top of his head, was a pink ribbon. He looked like one of those fancy dogs you would see in dog contests.
"This was a mistake. This was a grave mistake." I muttered.
"Umbra!" I shouted.
What is it, Mayen. Umbra said, from within the armoury. For some reason, I always found it hilarious that Umbra would spend his time in the armoury. Obviously, it was because he was tending to his swords and stuff. But like...
Come on. A Lance, spending his free time in the armoury? How cliche is that?!
"Can you take this kid off of our hands. Please."
Ah, children. Certainly.
The little girl stared at Umbra.
Umbra waved his hand.
"So cool!" She squealed, as she tackled Deka's Main Lance, a former Tora, the elite guardsman of the Toron King, to the ground in a swift flawless motion.
I walked with Rinne to her personal quarters.
"Rinne, you don't have to feel pressured into doing anything. I just wanted to let you know."
"No, Shane. I want to contribute. This is a choice I'm making myself. I'm going to see if I can set up a Transference Pod somewhere on the ship. Folock can help me, I hope."
I watched as Rinne went into her room, closing the door.
My vision flashed to that memory. Of Rinne in her Operator Uniform. Trying to resolve into her Lance.
It was coming true.
Everything in that vision was coming true.
Deka had me banned from missions for a week.
"What the hell?! That's unfair!" I shouted.
"Unless you learn to hold back, I'm not letting you out on the field. Besides, this mission is a spy mission. The last thing we need is some gun slinging lunatic alerting the enemy!" Deka, replied, sternly.
Rinne joined Deka on the mission. Since she was always the one going into chutes when she was still with Rinzler, she insisted on helping Deka. Not that I was jealous or anything.
Umbra volunteered to watch over the little girl, who's name was revealed to be Aurora (I'm sorry it took this long to figure out her name). Aurora wanted to go to the park, and Umbra didn't hesitate. I guess he really was good with kids.
I always wanted a daughter. Umbra told me, as he took Flippy out for a walk.
That left me with Folock.
"It's just you and me, Folock." I said.
"Great! Do you mind helping me with something then?"
"What do you need?"
A compartment expanded from under my feet. I narrowed my eyes, as I watched the machinery clatter around.
Wait. Is that...
"Folock, why is there a mop here..."
"Do you mind helping me scrub the floor?" Folock asked.
I spent around an hour scrubbing the floor to the entire Orbiter. It wasn't any better with Folock constantly pestering me.
"Mini-Operator, did you remember to clean between the crevices?"
"AAAAH!" I screamed in frustration.
Another hour passed, as I fell on my back, exhausted.
"How is housework- so tiring." I gasped.
"Do you not do housework often, Mini-Operator?"
"Heh heh. I don't know what you're talking about." I replied, nervously.
I got up and gazed out of the window.
"Folock, drop me down."
Folock dropped me to the city, as I took a walk.
Banned for a week?!
I was basically being grounded by my Captain.
I continued walking down the city. It was funny, but no matter where I went, the architecture was similar. The only differences being the environment of the planet.
When I saw it.
A polearm. A piece of it.
Toron weaponry? Why was Toron weaponry in the past Star System?
I ran up to it, and was horrified at what I saw.
"Ah... Shane Mayen." Arsanios muttered. His entire body was covered in wounds. His clothes were stained with blood, and his face was bust up. In the corner was his Ash Lance, impaled and a massive gash at the chest.
"Lord... Lord Arsanios!" I exclaimed as I ran up to his side.
"How? What happened to you?! How are you here?!"
Arsanios gazed at me, his eyes were on the verge of closing.
"I don't have the strength to... speak."
"Wait here, I'll call the author-"
Arsanios grabbed my sleeve.
"I do not belong here. In the past. Let me show you everything."
Arsanios' hand began to glow teal. He was going to use his Void Powers.
"My power of the Void. I heal when I resolve. Let me show you... everything..."
"Yeah. Go ahead. Just hang in there."
I held Arsanios' gaze as his thoughts. His perspective, his feelings. Everything was in his control as I peered at his memories.
I saw myself mid-mission. I had just extracted, and entered my Orbiter. No. Arsanios' Orbiter.
I watched as I tended to my Kavats, then the armoury. There were so many Lances in there. Even more than Captain Deka's. All of them were in Supra form.
Arsanios went to his quarters and ran his hand across the helmet of Lena.
I guess even if you were a high class Valian, you still had a heart.
"Mother, today I have assisted my Clan in building the Necrons. Each day is another step to war. But I do not see it as just a battle. We will save you from the Severens. Even if we must eliminate your kind. For it is our duty, as the Valian."
I held out my hand. No, Arsanios' hand. This vision stuff was trippy. His Codex appeared.
"I should inform Miss Lavine of my progre-"
"What... is this?"
Message of Termination: Arsanios Licita - from Valian Gladiator Officer Troyen Xerxes.
What was going on?
I read the letter.
We regret to inform you that your affiliation with the Valian Gladiator Alliance has been terminated. In response to growing concerns of identity fraud, we have discovered that your name was not registered in the Valian attendance list on the ship of the Void Incident. We are inclined to believe that your personal details were stated incorrect, upon registration to the Valian Collective. We have thus forwarded your resignation. Starting today, you are no longer considered a Valian.
We have provided you with forty eight hours to leave the Star System. Or we will hunt you on sight. For allegiance and cooperation to Rogue Valian Dekani Price, via. familial ties.
I thought the same thing as Arsanios.
Suddenly, a voice appeared from behind him.
Lights in the Orbiter flickered.
My heart stopped.
"Arsanios Licita." A familiar voice said. My heart crept into my throat as I instantly recognized it. The voice that had me frozen in terror. The voice belonging to the man who had disarmed me in an instant.
I saw myself turn around, face to face, with the Infamous Valian Killer.
SHADE holstered his great sword against his shoulder, his white hair, complimenting his black body armour and trench coat in a sinister synergy.
"You." Arsanios said.
"Your charade has gone long enough. Even if the Valians possessed the strength and power to defeat my colleague, SHADOW, in the end, you are still children. And children can so easily be manipulated." SHADE said, as he brought his sword down, the tip scratching the floor of the Orbiter.
Arsanios clenched his fist as he resolved into his Ash Lance. He took out his pole arm.
"You were the one who spread the rumour of my name."
SHADE stopped walking.
"Rumour? There is no rumour. There is only truth."
Arsanios levelled his pole arm.
"Am I? And who are you, to decide? Because you were favoured by Mother and Father over me?"
Wha..... Mother and Father?
Arsanios wasn't supposed to have siblings. He was the only Licita to survive.
Arsanios rushed in, teleporting behind SHADE with blinding speed, but SHADE simply spun around, kneeing Arsanios in the midsection, then landing a solid kick at his chest, sending him flying across the Orbiter, crashing through the doors, and landing in the Transference Room.
"This is a lie. I am an only child. My mother and father, they were killed in the war. They were... they were..."
SHADE regarded Arsanios, who was sprawled on the floor.
"Has the Void altered your memory that much? That you cannot distinguish a fake Licita..."
SHADE closed in, swinging his sword so fast that Arsanios had no time to react to it.
No one would have had time to react to it.
I watched as the sword connected with Arsanios' left arm, slicing it clean off.
His Ash Lance fell to its knees. Even if the Lances were just reanimated corpses, it was like I could feel its pain.
It was excruciating.
SHADE knelt in front of Arsanios, who had fallen in disbelief.
"From a real Licita?"
Arsanios' eyes went wide.
"No... it can't be..."
Even if it was a vision, I could sense Arsanios' memories beginning to open up. I saw Arsanios in the ship, with a bunch of other children. For some reason, Arsanios avoided the others, and clung to one Valian. Like a little brother.
That Valian was Dekani Price.
Then the Void explosion happened. The Void energy entering the children and the adults. The adults turning feral and insane, attempting to kill their kids.
I saw it all.
"Arsani! Arsani!" Deka ran up to Arsanios, putting his hands on his shoulders.
But Arsanios simply stared at him.
"Who are you?"
The flashback exited, as I was once again greeted with SHADE's menacing figure.
"This... this couldn't have happened..." Arsanios muttered.
SHADE inspected the Orbiter.
"Beautifully made. As expected for the Toron. But you now know the truth."
"I refuse!" Arsanios yelled.
"Your lineage. Your true lineage."
"For you were only adopted to the Licita household."
"Please... stop..." Arsanios begged. My own heart was wrenching. This was too hard to watch. But I suddenly remembered that this was just a vision. These were memories of Arsanios.
I watched as SHADE approached Arsanios, who no longer had the will to fight, but managed to get to his feet. Wielding his pole arm, as he swung it around, similar to Quorra's style.
"Bastard!" Arsanios yelled, but SHADE was just... way too fast.
A flash of red light appeared, as Arsanios fell backward. Staring at the massive gash in his chest, as the pole arm was sliced in half.
SHADE pushed the Ash Lance back, slamming into the Transference Pod.
"Accept who you are..."
I watched as Arsanios was motionless. On the ground. I never seen someone who was so defeated. So betrayed.
But it wasn't over.
"And now that your name has been revealed, I'm sure you know who I am, by now." SHADE said.
"Please... just kill me..." Arsanios muttered, in a stupor.
"Please kill me, Shardis Licita."
"No." Shardis said. As Arsanios looked up, in surprise.
SHADE/Shardis brandished his sword.
"I want you to fight me. I want you to see, what the true power of a true Licita can do."
"I lack the will to fight. There is nothing more-"
"Are you sure? Haven't you wondered whatever happened to your beloved Mother and Father? What happened to Lilac?"
Arsanios paused. His eyes were wide.
"What... what did you do.... WHAT DID YOU DO?!"
Shardis held out his hand, forcing Arsanios' arm to reattach to the Lance.
"Why... when I heard that my dearest older brother had defected to the Valian side. Even when you lived a peaceful life as a Licita. Even when we were taught that the Void Devils were truly evil. I simply couldn't take it."
SHADE ran his hand through his long white hair.
"Mother and Father. I was their son. But they took in a Valian, against their own teachings to me. They took in YOU. Then... you had to join the devils in that war. So... if the fake Licita had chosen to join the Valians, wouldn't it make sense for the true Licita to join the Severens? And to cut down all who support the Void Devils? After all... it was always taught to us, the Licita, that we must remain pure. Pure from the Void."
I felt power humming in Arsanios' Lance. He was getting more and more mad.
But SHADE continued.
"Despite everything I told them. They wouldn't abandon you. Mother and Father wouldn't abandon you. They chose you over me. Of course, the lovely Lilac would do anything to support her loving boyfriend. So..."
SHADE brought his blade into the air and slammed it onto the ground. The shockwave sent Arsanios flying backward.
"I cut away. I cut away those who tainted the Licita name. I killed them."
"SHARDIS!" Arsanios screamed, as he zipped in, sending a fierce volley of slashes with his pole arm. Only to have them dodged by SHADE at a ridiculous pace.
"Good. Very good. Let that rage out!" SHADE said, excitedly.
Arsanios yelled as he threw in a massive pierce from above, but SHADE put down his sword, holding out his hand.
And caught it.
"Surely you know, how I am able to hold you off so easily." SHADE said.
Arsanios leapt back.
"Ciel and Kien. You..."
"Indeed. The Licitian Potential." SHADE said.
The Licitian Potential?! But... how could he call upon it so continuously? Whenever I called upon it, it was seemingly a one time temporary thing. And after calling it, I would always collapse in exhaustion.
I stared at SHADE, who took the pole-arm and snapped it in half again. And in half again. With his bare hands.
"There is still retribution. Price. To regain the trust of your kind. To regain the trust in yourself. Haven't you always wondered why the Valian Dekani Price has been unable to meet you in the eye?"
He was right.
Every time Deka had talked to Arsanios, there was a tension between them. And I never knew why.
But... now I knew.
An older brother talking to a younger brother.
"He knew all along..." Arsanios muttered.
"Yes. He let you be taken. He let you be taken from your kind and live a life of peace in the Licita household. To ruin the lives and reputation of the nobles. And now, betraying his kind. They hunt you, because of him."
Arsanios clutched his half of the spear.
"I hate him." He muttered.
"I will... I will take his head!" Arsanios roared.
I watched as SHADE picked up his sword, and left the Orbiter. Leaving Arsanios as he threw a fit of rage in the Transference Room. His screams and yells echoing as the Great Valian Killer dissipated into smoke.
I exited out of the vision, staring at Arsanios in horror. He had fully recovered. His Ash Lance, fully repaired.
"There is no Arsanios anymore." The biological younger brother of my Captain stood up. His face was empty and void of emotion.
Before I could react, Price resolved into his Ash and in one sweeping motion, he had lifted me off my feet with his pole arm. I fell on my back.
"Lance Upload Protocol: TESLA Superspeed Continuous 45%"
My body flickered with blue electricity as I dove out of the way.
I widened my cybernetic eye, the reticule focusing on Price.
"Lock On: Full enemy scan!"
"Error: Unable to lock on to target." My HUD said, as Arsani Price darted across the battlefield.
I spun around and gasped, narrowly dodging his Guandao.
"Why..." Arsanios muttered.
I leapt back, evading his swipe as I took out my Hellfire, shooting, as the bullets were reflected by Arsanios' spinning pole arm.
"Why did he abandon me. Why did it come to this." Arsanios cried out, as he teleported behind me.
"Lance Upload Protocol: ASH Teleport"
I frantically teleported away, but Price looked up, bursting into teal sparks.
I teleported again, but Price also appeared behind me.
"I may not be a Licita, but I will always be loyal to the Valian. My inspiration for Zennen Ful. My devotion to the Ash Lance will not be undone by some cheap knockoff like you, Mayen!"
I tried to summon Gram, but Arsanios was way too fast, even faster than my Tesla Superspeed.
The blade of the Guandao caught me in the chest as I slammed into the ground.
I flipped out of the way, evading his pole arm blade.
I took out my other Hellfire, dual wielding my machine pistols as I fired continuous volleys of bullets at Arsanios, but he simply spun his Guandao at lightning speed, reflecting everything.
Quorra was also able to deflect everything Lena had fired at her with her Guandao.
Meaning bullets had no effect on Arsanios.
"Wait. Arsanios. We can still figure something out!"
"There is nothing to figure out. I will kill my brother. And prove to the Valians that I am still loyal. Even if they hate me. They will not reject me. My blood may say I am a Price, but my heart will forever be a Licita."
I was going to point out the holes in his logic. That being a Licita meant rejecting the Valians. But there was no time to be a smart ass.
I dove out of the way, evading Arsanios' swings.
There was no fighting back against this guy's ridiculous defence. His pole arm wasn't giving me any chances to strike.
The best I could do was defend. And run away. Everything I sent at him was like it was being consumed by his slashes. If I even so much as got close to him, he would land something on me. It was like... a...
Well. I guess it was now or never for me to realize how he got that nickname.
I teleported to the top of a building.
"Warning: Toron Sheathe at critical levels. Approaching ability cool down."
"Stop this, Arsanios. We still have to worry about the Severens! Is now really a good time to mess about with this? I get it. You feel betrayed-"
I evaded another strike, finally having got the time to take Gram out of its holster.
I clashed with Arsanios, intercepting a near lethal swing.
"My mission. My very existence is off of a lie! How could you possibly understand?!" Arsanios seethed.
"Because... I'm living the same thing!" I heard myself say.
"I wanted to be a hero. My whole life, I wanted to do heroic things and be cool! And when it happened, it was because of me being selfish! My own MOTHER thought I was a hero when all I did was be selfish! Everything I am doing is fake! But I'm doing it anyway, because even if it's fake, at least it's for the betterment of good!"
Arsanios pushed me back, and leapt into the air, summoning three Ash clones to my side.
I summoned my Toron Sheathe to create a holo shield that deflected the Clones' slashes.
"Toron Sheathe on Cooldown. TESLA Superspeed deactivated."
Arsanios landed on the ground, and shot forward with even faster speed.
I tried to block it, but I could only watch the blade slice at my stomach, cutting my coat open and my tank top from underneath.
"Ack!" I spat blood as I fell on my back.
Arsanios put his boot on my face as he lifted up his spear.
"No... don't do this..." I muttered.
"If it means killing his first mate, I will lure out Dekani. Then I will cut off his head too."
Arsanios tightened his grip, when suddenly, he stopped.
"What.... what is that?"
"What is what?!"
Arsanios got off me, stumbling backwards and resolving out of his Lance.
"On your stomach..."
I got to my feet, breathing heavily as blood leaked from the side of my head down my face.
"Uhh, it's a birthmark, dude."
"No... even after that. After all that. They had to do this to me too. The gods... have..." Arsanios' eyes began to leak tears.
"What? Never seen a birthmark before?"
"This isn't fair..."
Arsanios was starting to act his age. Like a little kid. A teenager, not having his way.
He pointed at me.
"That is the Licitian Birthmark. Only those born to the house of Licita have them... HOW DID YOU GET THAT?!"
"I was born..."
Arsanios lifted his own shirt.
"I have this mark... but only now have I realized it was cut into me by Father... you..."
Arsanios pointed at me.
"You are a Licita too. I will kill both you and Dekani Price!"
I froze up in fear. There was no fighting this guy.
The Licitian Noble. Even if he didn't have the Licita Potential, his mastery of the Ash Lance was ridiculous. Everything about him was superior to both me and Deka. Even if I had Deka by my side...
Arsanios closed in and kicked me in the chest as I flew into the side of a wall.
"Human trash. Have no place in this world. The Void didn't just change me. It made me superior. It gave me the power to fulfill my calling. To tear down those who were blessed with too much."
Blessed? You call this being blessed?
"Licita, you were blessed with too much. You are supposed to be a human. Nothing more. But my disgraceful brother taught you our way. Taught you to fight like us. You didn't deserve such a thing."
I didn't deserve this?
"You don't deserve such a family on his crew. You didn't deserve such love."
Arsanios launched a punch in my direction, but I caught it.
"I don't deserve this?" I asked, dangerously.
"You don't know anything!" I growled, as I launched a punch that sent him hurtling backwards.
I grabbed my sheathe and ripped it out of my arm, wires and servos ripping out of the cybernetics in my hand.
He stared at the metal and wires that had replaced what was supposed to be my right arm. What was supposed to be human flesh, was replaced with the metal fibres of the Infestation. A cybernetic arm.
"You don't know what I've sacrificed. What I gave away to become who I am. Don't go pushing your delusional beliefs on me!"
I rushed in, and Arsanios sliced down. I held out my arm, as the blade cut right into it, causing sparks to fly everywhere.
"You gave away your arm! How unsightly!" Arsanios seethed, as I lunged forward and grabbed him by the throat, squeezing as hard as I could, my body surging with the power of the Licitian Potential.
"I lived my entire life an underdog. I watched everybody succeed, and leave me behind. My whole life. But you know, that isn't so bad. Because no one expects me to win. No one expects me to do anything. I got nothing to lose." I growled, as I tightened, crushing the Lance with my bare hands.
I hurled Arsanios into a building, as I ripped off my coat.
Arsanios stared at me.
"Your body... how much did you modify it?! How did you get it to this level of muscle mass?"
I leapt forward and smashed the Ash Lance through the walls.
"Absolutely nothing. I trained. That was all it was. For someone cursed with bad luck and disfavoured by the world, the only thing I can do...."
I punched Arsanios down several floors as he slammed into the ground.
"IS TRAIN!" I roared, using the rock as leverage as I flew down, summoning Gram and clashing with Arsanios' Guandao, but the sheer force of my strike cutting through, and slicing deep into Arsanios' Lance.
I leaned off of my sword as I fell on the ground, breathing hard.
"I was supposed to be on break. Damn you. I'm gonna get it from Cap now." I muttered.
"Huh?" I spun around.
Arsanios struggled to his feet, resolving out of his Lance, as I heard the sound of something loud above me.
"You've done it. You've done it now, you abomination." Arsanios' voice appeared above me, as I dove out of the way.
Standing before me was another Lance, wielding a spiked chain and sword.
"My dream was to be like Zennen Ful. And to fight like Quorra Lavine. But that doesn't mean I have to fight with only one Lance. After all, I have mastered over thirty five Lances."
"You think you are fast? You don't even wield the speed of Tesla's full power. And Tesla was never a speed focused Lance."
I took a step back, when suddenly, Arsanios disappeared from my view.
"That honour goes to Mach."
Arsanios whispered behind me, as he delivered a powerful slash at my back.
I doubled over and pulled out my machine pistol, firing behind me, but Arsanios had zipped out of the way once more.
I tried aiming and firing, but Arsanios was way too fast.
My sheathe was broken, and my body was smoking from the Licitian Potential. I doubt I could call upon those guys again.
I was in no shape to fight Arsanios. Even if I was at full potential, I stood no chance. Against the full power of someone who had mastered nearly every single Lance.
So this was the power of a high ranking Valian.
It wasn't just technique or skill or power.
They had a Lance for every job.
For every opponent.
Their versatility was limitless.
Mach zipped around with blinding speed and cut me down, as I fell to my knees.
Arsanios zipped in front of me, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
"The Mach Lance. For as long as he is moving, he cannot be stopped. What say you, a mere Terran, to contend with its speed?"
I put my hand on the barrel of my gun, swapping it out and slapping on its alternate shotgun mode.
If single bullet damage couldn't hit him, maybe multiple bullet damage would.
I lifted the gun and fired, as Arsanios zipped out of the way and smashed me into a wall.
The two of us began an exchange, but against Mach's speed, I quickly found myself outmatched.
"Mach Ability Four: Redline"
I was suddenly bombarded with hundreds of slashes as my tank top and jeans were ripped. But I managed to get him into my trap. I grabbed his Lance with both hands.
"You're not going anywhere!" I growled, as he attempted to struggle. I took my shotgun and fired it on the side of his head, but suddenly, the Lance glowed teal. The bastard resolved out of the Lance!
I pushed the Lance out of the way only to be greeted with hundreds of bullets in me.
The Slinger Lance!
I struggled to stay standing, as I leaned against Gram. The pain was too much. My body was enhanced to deliver more endorphins to nullify pain in combat, but I knew it was only because of that I was even still conscious. There was no way I could keep this up.
The more I fought the more damaged and beat up I got.
But all Arsanios had to do was resolve into another Lance. With full health, armour, and ammo.
I closed my eyes.
"Guys. I need your power. Licitas. Grandpas? Grandmas? Can you hear me?"
You cannot sustain our abilities with injuries like that.
A voice boomed in my head. It was female.
"I just need a temporary boost. So I can-"
Defeat the Slinger? And what will you do when that Valian resolves into another Lance? Your plan is foolish, grandchild.
"I will enjoy executing you, Shane Mayen. I will tear you apart for taking my rightful place as a Licita!"
My arms were shaking from stress and pain.
"What am I supposed to do? Err... Granny Licita?"
Don't call me granny.
"But, you're like, my ancestor right? Aren't you super old?"
I could sense a vein pop up in the Licita's head.
You shouldn't say that to a woman.
"Sorry!" I yelped.
I guess this was it. At least I got to talk to a Licita before I died.
"Hey. What's your name?" I asked.
Why do you ask?
"I feel like... I won't get the chance to ask you again." I muttered, as Arsanios lifted a really fancy looking gun to my head. Damn. Even his weapons were more varied than Captain Deka's.
All Licitas end up in the Grand Licitian Convergence. Perhaps you will be able to ask me directly.
"What the hell?! Aren't you supposed to say something that gives me strength?"
Do I look like that degenerate Kien to you?
Come to think of it, you've only ever used Kien's power. I would appreciate it if you treated us and relied on us more equally.
"I would if I knew your damn name!"
The woman was silent.
My name is Tricity Licita. The Streak of the Tora and Altra. Arsani Price's speed with Mach is formidable. But it was I who taught the original.
Well. Good to know. Now that I was dying she tells me there was a way to defeat Arsanios' Mach.
"Nice to meet you Tricity. Do you know of a guy called Shardis Licita? He's used the Licitian Potential too, right?"
Tricity went silent.
"Shane Mayen, you look to be at peace, despite your impending death." Arsanios continued walking from a distance, his finger tightened on the trigger.
I gritted my teeth.
"Damn... it all..."
"This is goodbye."
I closed my eyes as I heard a loud bang from the gun. Then a ping.
"Hey, Shane." A familiar voice said.
My face switched from shock to anger. I knew this voice all too well.
Troy readjusted his holo-shield that was emanating from his own arm-sheathe. It looked even more advanced than the one I had.
"Long time no see! Let's take this guy together!"
He held out his hand as I took it.
"Just so you know, I didn't need your help." I grumbled.
Troy smirked, as I stood by his side, readying Gram. I was still way too injured, but I could feel the cybernetics in me deploying hundreds of nano-drones to temporarily patch me up.
Arsanios dissipated into a bunch of silhouettes.
It was Slinger's Peacemakers.
I dove out of the way to find cover, and was slightly annoyed that Troy had done the same.
I peeked from behind and aimed my Harkanon, but the bullets instantly focused on me. I hid behind again.
"There's no outgunning a Slinger." Troy said.
"Hey. Leave the knowledge to me." I grumbled.
"But you know this too. The Slinger was based off of a famous gunslinger back in the day. Once she's in her ultimate focus mode, anything that even shows up will be detected. Meaning we have to somehow figure out how to limit her range. The longer her focus is active, the smaller her line of sight. So we just need to find a decoy."
It made me mad how he had come up with a plan instantly.
"Fine. I'll be the decoy-" I got up, but Troy pulled me back.
"Are you stupid? You're going to get gunned down in seconds. Here, I'll do it."
Troy closed his eyes, and to my disbelief he began to glow purple, manifesting a clone of himself.
"How?" I asked.
"Quorra lent me a portion of her Void powers. I learned how to do that on my second day."
The clone leapt out of the cover and began shooting. The Slinger returned fire in reflex, as her reticule decreased in size.
"Now!" Troy said, as we both exited our cover and unloaded a barrage of bullets her way.
Arsanios' Slinger Lance became bombarded with bullets, but suddenly, our guns stopped firing.
"Jammed?!" I exclaimed, but Troy didn't look fazed, as he was already running to the Lance with a dagger in hand.
"Slingers have an ability to jam guns. I thought you knew this, Shane, being here for so long!"
I drew Gram and also charged in annoyance, but by the time I got there, Troy had stabbed Arsanios, causing him to resolve into another Lance from above.
"First Ash. Then Slinger. To make me use multiple Lances to defeat mere Terrans is an insult." Arsanios muttered, as he smashed into the ground, the shockwave sending both of us back.
I readied Gram and charged, but the Lance levelled herself and screamed. I could feel myself slowing down as a Tonfa blade came closer and closer to my field of vision.
"Get back!" Troy shouted, but I managed to block it with Gram.
I pushed it back and took out my shotgun, firing at her midsection, but the pellets all bounced off, like she was made of steel.
The Lance grabbed my face and slammed me into the ground. I couldn't react to her attacks in time, like her scream had weakened my muscles.
Troy fired a bunch of blasts of energy from his weapon, but they all bounced off Arsanios harmlessly.
"Against her defences, and her rage, everything is irrelevant." Arsanios said, as he pulled out a shotgun, firing it at me as I deflected it, but was sent skidding backwards.
I slapped Gram against my back and pulled out my Harkanon, retaliating with an explosive shell from its barrel. The shell went in contact with the Lance in an explosion, but once it cleared, Arsanios was gone.
My surroundings darkened, and I realized quickly that it was from a shadow.
It was from his shadow.
"Shane!" Troy shouted, as he took out his sidearm, bombarding the Lance with some kind of liquid.
"What is that stuff?" I said.
"Corrosive. That should weaken her armour! Go for it!"
I fell on my back, and readied my Harkanon, plugging in my own arm in its slot and fusing with it.
"Harkanon Supra: Super Heavy Anti-Aircraft Shells!"
I fired three shells her way, the sounds of the bullets piercing the air with a howl as Arsanios was engulfed with explosions. I leapt out of the way, but due to my injuries, I ended up face planting.
Troy helped me to my feet.
The smoke cleared, and Arsanios emerged from it, unharmed.
"Figured." Troy grumbled.
Troy pointed at the Lance.
"That Lance is Diana, the strongest of the Amazons."
"What? Like Wonder Wom-"
"In that Hysteria state, she can't be harmed."
Diana's claws were glowing with a murderous orange glow. She was the very epitome of rage.
Women sure were scary.
Diana leapt towards our position, but we kept our distance, firing as many blasts at the surroundings to limit her movement, but everything was being sliced up by her frenzy.
We continued firing at Diana as she chased us across the plains of the city.
We knew she was invulnerable, but it did come at a cost. While in that state, she would store damage. Once she exited it, then it would be dealt. The problem was getting in range.
"I know what you are about to do, Terrans. You think by accumulating damage you can finish me."
"Yeah? Then I guess you'll know what's coming." I growled, as I jolted forward, grappling onto Diana.
As I expected, Diana's rage overpowered me, as I began to lose the struggle.
Troy flanked me, firing at Diana's side as the Lance and I tackled each other to the ground.
I got behind her and held her in a lock position.
"Try and escape. I dare you."
Arsanios was silent, as he continued to struggle.
I held her in place, but then her body glowed teal.
Another Lance dropped from the sky, and before I knew it, both Troy and I were bound by chains.
This Lance looked like a priest, he had a dark priest edgy vibe to it, but this time Arsanios didn't say anything.
I watched as the Orbiter descended, picking up all the Lances we had defeated and returned them to the ship.
"The next time we meet, I will have your head. And your Captain's." Arsanios said, as he left, entering his ship and flying off, as I stumbled, exhausted.
"You're gonna leave? Fight isn't over... yet..." I mumbled as I fell face first into something warm.
"Um... Shane?" Troy said, nervously.
"Well now. Aren't you a bit forward there, Mister Mayen." A girl's voice said as I looked up at the face of a Saryn Lance.
Did I just land in her-
"I'm sorry! So sorry!" I yelped, falling to my knees and grovelling like a maniac.
Quorra busted out laughing.
"I always figured the Saryn Lance was a bit busty. I didn't think it would make the likes of you turn into an animal."
Troy helped me to my feet.
"Captain Lavine! We drove back Arsanios Licita. We did it!"
Quorra watched as the Orbiter left.
"He'll be back."
I wiped my face off of blood and glared at her.
"You were watching?! What the hell?!"
"Hey. Just for the record, it was for your benefit that I didn't get involved. If it was me in there, the fight would have ended in less than a minute. I would have ended him the same I ended Dekani."
I clenched my fists.
Quorra resolved out of her Lance. She was wearing a silk shirt and black jeans with brown leather boots. If she wasn't so annoying, she actually looked kind of-
"My, Shane. Are you having second thoughts after seeing me like this?" Quorra teased.
Quorra walked up to Troy and kissed his lips.
"Too bad! I've already chosen Troy to be my man. Better luck next time!"
We followed Quorra to her Landing Craft.
"By the way, I've already talked to Dekani about the situation. For now, you'll be staying with me and Troy, since his crew has gotten in quite a mixup."
"What do you mean, mixup?"
Quorra turned to me. "Oh, just some trouble with some Severens. But nothing to the level of Mom. They'll be gone for a while."
"How long are we talking?"
"Mmmm, several months?"
Quorra's Orbiter was smaller than Deka's. Which made sense. But this Orbiter... was special in its own way.
Hundreds of bobbleheads lined the entire Landing Craft room. And along the lanes of the ship. Ornaments everywhere and posters of a bunch of celebrities in the Star System.
One of the posters had a picture of the Scrava Captain, Luk. Except the picture was heavily edited, with Luk's face completely distorted and a picture of Quorra herself stomping on his head. Figured.
"Welcome to my ship!" Quorra said, happily.
"Thanks for having me-"
I was interrupted, bonking my head against a metal statue.... of a bear.
"Oh, that's Mister Cuddles. Mind your head!"
Why was Mister Cuddles made of metal?!
We sat down in Quorra's personal quarters. There weren't any other rooms in the Orbiter.
"Hey, Shane. How does it feel to be in a girl's room? Do you feel wrong?"
"Oh my god! Shut up! You were the one who brought me here in the first place!"
"Okay, Troy. Thanks for today! Good work out there, you earned a day off."
Quorra pulled him in to a kiss, and dismissed him.
I felt so damn awkward.
"So..." Quorra leaned forward on the table.
"That eye, it's from the Infestation, isn't it?"
I put my hand over the left side of my face.
"Why do you want to know?"
Quorra smiled, but it was mixed with concern. Something that I didn't usually see. She was usually super hyperactive, cheerful, and teasing.
"You know you're destroying your body, right."
"That's none of your concern."
"You're using technology that you know nothing about. Added with the fact that it's our technology. So technically it is our concern."
She always found a way to get on my nerves.
"What do you want?"
Quorra regarded me with her purple eyes, and held out her hand. Instantly, I felt like my body went immobile. The technology inside me creaking.
"Lesson 1: Transference. All Valians can do this. We are able to control our Lances this way. The power of the Void. But it isn't just Lances. Any being of Toron technology falls victim to our powers. Meaning if I wanted to defeat you, I could beat you even before you could do anything."
Quorra loosened her grip as I fell to my knees.
"It hurts my heart to see people resorting to breaking their bodies to do things. It really does. Especially when they're reckless about it."
"What am I supposed to do? These implants were the only way to get me to fight on par with you guys."
"Even so, they have limits. As you are right now, you're no match for Arsanios Licita. Or should I say Arsani Price. And he's only an MR19. Against higher ranking Valian, you stand no chance. And if you're going to be running around attempting to gain vengeance on Mom... well, forget it. Even I couldn't beat her and I'm MR30."
"You had her on the ropes, though."
"She didn't intend to kill me. Since part of her still cares about the Valians. But you on the other hand, she doesn't know you. Meaning she has no problem with eliminating you right off the bat."
Quorra leaned back against her chair.
"You're jealous of Troy's developments, aren't you?"
I said nothing.
"This isn't funny. You have no idea the history I have with that guy."
Quorra sighed, and reached from underneath the cabinet, pulling out a plastic cup with ice cubes and a liquid inside it.
"Iced vanilla latte. It's pretty good, want some?"
She held out the straw in front of me.
"Yeah, right. As if you would share a drink with some dude."
Quorra snickered. "I only ever discovered drinks like this when I warped to the past. You hate this place, don't you? Yet it has so many things worth enjoying."
"Stop pretending like you know me. I know girls like you. Prying and teasing. Being all cheerful and clueless. I see right through you."
"Oh?" Quorra said, inquisitively.
"And so do I. I see completely through your tough guy act. You hate being here, because you think everybody has it better than you. Like you were cursed. Well let me tell you something, Shane Mayen."
Quorra spun in her chair.
"When I was little, my mother was in deep poverty. My father died. I had five sisters. All five of them died from illness. I was forced to go on a ship as a guinea pig, the only person I could rely on was my mother. Then when the Void Incident happened, I watched my mom go insane. She tried to kill me. I never once went to school. I didn't have friends."
Quorra lowered her shirt, revealing a large gash on her right shoulder.
"I was taught to be an instrument of war. Like the other Valians. I never once lived a good life. I never got the chance to experience a childhood."
I slowly sat back in my seat. She had been through so much. I didn't know. But Quorra continued.
"I was a kid back then. But I had to steel myself, and to keep fighting. Fighting and fighting. Leading my comrades even when I myself wanted to curl into a ball and cry. I had to become strong, but at the cost of losing my innocence."
Quorra looked at me, and I nearly gasped. She had tears in her eyes. She quickly wiped them though.
"All the other kids I knew who were not on that ship, got to live happy lives. They would always gossip about boys. And I would never have that chance. Now would you say I was cursed? Maybe."
Quorra pointed her finger in my direction.
"But not once was that enough for me to say that the world needed to burn. Well, actually, me and my comrades burnt it anyway, but for completely different reasons. But my point is, we all have hardships. Now that I've told you my story, you know mine."
"I- I'm sorry." I muttered.
Quorra leaned in closer to me, resting her chin on her hands.
"No more hurting yourself over things you can't control. Kay? As your temporary Captain, I forbid it!"
I stared at her vibrant purple eyes. They reminded me of expensive velvet. Soft and cuddly. I felt my face turn hot.
"Besides, what I did with Troy, can easily be done with you. I'll teach you the true Valian way. Dekani was never much of a teacher anyway, since his knowledge is barely surface level compared to mine."
"You just had to ruin it. You elitist bitch!"
"Ouch! I better also help you learn to talk to girls! The way you are, you'll get beat up in no time!"
Quorra turned to me and gave me a big smile.
"By the way, your negative stance on girls liking a certain "male meta" of guy is messed up. If you were nicer, I'd actually find you kinda cute."
Quorra pushed me out of the room.
"Now get out of my room! You weirdo!"
I stood at the hallway, speechless. I walked to the main hallway to the armoury.
For the next week, I grew accustomed to life as a crew mate of the Lavine Vessel. That was what she called it. (I'm not kidding).
It wasn't really much. Every morning, Quorra would leave the Orbiter and do admin stuff since she was the leader of one of the biggest Valian clans. Neither Troy nor I were allowed out of the Orbiter during this time since we were supposed to not be seen around her.
After lunch, Quorra would partake a bunch of missions, and would bring us along. But neither of us were allowed to fight the tough guys.
"You two take care of the fodder. I will handle the bulk of this mission." Quorra would always say.
Evenings were when Quorra would teach us one on one.
During that week, Quorra helped refine my movements and fighting style.
"I get that guys love to be all showy with big guns and big swords, but still, it's no excuse to be sloppy. In fact, it's an even greater reason to be refined with your form. Greatswords are heavy, and if you swing it with bad form you might just pull something."
Quorra adjusted my stance.
"Come at me."
She said, as she resolved into her Titania Lance, then proceeded to shrink down hundreds of times over.
"How am I supposed to hit you like that?!" I said, as Quorra peppered me with a ton of bullets with her tiny guns.
"If you can hit a tiny fast moving target, you can hit tiny fast vital spots in an enemy." Quorra responded, as she flew in from another sword swing and exited her tiny form, wrapping her legs around my head and knocking me to the ground.
My vision went blurry for a second.
"Not bad! Big improvement!" Quorra said.
"Really?" I asked.
I sat up, face to face with Quorra in her resolved form, fluttering in front of me.
"You know, with a name like Quorra, you'd think your main Lance would be-"
"Wow. And I'm guessing if my name was Diana, my main Lance would be Diana the Berserker? It's bad enough I share the same name pronunciation as that BDSM Lance, the last thing I want is to be seen using her!"
I half expected her training with Troy would be cute and fun and stuff. With tons of innuendo. To my surprise, she was just as strict and hard on him as me.
Troy and I were left battered and bruised after every session, while Quorra didn't even break a sweat. I guess that would make sense, she was in Lance form all the time.
At night, Quorra would spend time with Troy, but never a lot. I learned that despite how popular she was with the other Valians, she really enjoyed having time to herself. Locking herself in her room, or reading a book. She really liked life in the Solar and Star Systems. Going for walks, collecting cool looking stones, shopping for clothes and stuff.
By far one of her favourite hobbies was reading.
"I'm currently reading The Catcher in the Rye. It's a good book. Brings up some really interesting concepts."
Troy and I would nod like we read the book. Neither of us did, but still. To see one of the greatest Valians, ranked 8th in the Council, enjoying herself made me happy.
By the end of the week, I had seen improvement in my style. While I still retained my aggressive style (much to Quorra's disapproval), I became more refined. My movements became more efficient.
That night, I joined Troy on the rooftop of the Orbiter, at the top of Earth. Quorra had stopped by here to hang out with Troy's classmate. "Girl's night out" she called it.
I watched the stars alongside Troy as wind blew in our faces.
"You should get a haircut." Troy joked.
"What is it."
"Do you hate me?"
"Huh?" I turned around, to be greeted with Troy's face. He looked sad.
"I kind of figured, after everything that had happened. It was hard for all of us. And when I saw you again, you always seemed to have a chip on your shoulder."
I sucked in air, attempting to keep my anger down.
"But even without seeing you after all that time, I suspected you didn't like me. And for a while, I wondered why."
I paused, as Troy continued.
"You liked Lily didn't you. It was even before that. It didn't take a genius to see that you were always the guy who had the blunt end in everything."
My fist loosened.
"Shane, ever since I met you, I always noticed. The things that happened, it was like you lived with the worst luck ever. But all that time, you always seemed to laugh it off. So I saw it as a comedic thing to smirk at. I didn't know it hurt that much. I'm sorry for not reaching out.
"When you fought Arsanios, you didn't care about how much damage was in your body. Every time I see those metal things inside you, it makes me uncomfortable to know you care so little about yourself."
"Troy, this is the only way for me to do anything in my life. Because if fate doesn't want me to do well, then I have to force it. That's how it is."
"Even if you'll destroy your body to attain it?"
"Even if I have to kill myself. I will fight. I will fight my enemies and fate itself."
"Even if it means hurting the people who care about you?"
I suddenly remembered Rinne. How every time she had healed me after missions, she was hiding back something. It was pain.
Rinne... I had rescued her from Rinzler because I knew he had abused her. Made her live a life of pain. But what the hell have I been doing? Getting myself hurt and having her live with that fact?
Rinne had wanted to go out in the field. It wasn't just for herself.
It finally dawned on me.
She wanted to do it for me.
I gripped the edge of the railing.
"There's nothing more to say. I'm going to bed. Good night." I said, as I left Troy alone, but before I could close the door, I stopped.
"Troy. What happened to Lily, that day?"
Troy gave me a sigh, and a look of sympathy.
"Just give it to me straight." I said, staring at the ground.
"Lily died trying to run away. She tripped when the first explosion hit and was trampled to death by her classmates. I'm sorry, Shane."
"Figures." I muttered, leaving the balcony and heading to bed.
"I'm headed to a meeting." Quorra said.
"Okay." I replied.
"You and Troy are coming with me."
"Okay. Wait what?"
Quorra smirked. "Turns out I couldn't keep you two a secret. One of the Valian discovered me training with the two of you and now I'm wanted for questioning!"
How could you say that with a grin on your face?!
"Quorra Lavine." A Valian bowed to her. He glanced at Troy and I.
"Who are these?"
I turned to Troy, who blushed. So he was into that kind of relationship.
Quorra smiled at me.
"Remember what we rehearsed. I am your queen. Kay?"
"Yes... my queen..." I grumbled.
I stepped forward and intentionally flexed every muscle in my body.
"I serve Quorra, anyone who wants to get to her must go through me..."
The Valian, who was pretty much a scrawny 16 year old kid paled. No doubt from awkwardness. I felt like I was going to die from embarrassment.
"I... see. Well, make yourself welcome, Lady Lavine."
Quorra straightened her back the moment she heard that. I bet she was enjoying every second of this.
As we made our way to the main concourse, I walked beside Quorra.
"Why did you make us lie like that? Aren't we wanted for questioning?"
"Yfil over there is a Rank 15 Council Member. He's a small potato. Only the higher level Council Members will know what happens in this meeting."
Sitting in the round table once again reminded me of our last meeting. Deka was basically mocked and spit on the whole meeting. Safe to say, my views on these guys weren't too great.
"Umm Quorra? Where do we sit?" Troy asked.
"Oh, just sit next to me."
I looked at the seats next to Quorra. They both had plaques with no doubt, the names of very respected and powerful Valians.
"But... they're for-"
"I'm not letting my subordinates sit on guest seats. If they have a problem with it, they can speak to me."
I sat down, as several Valians began to file in. There weren't nearly as many this time. Right. Since there were only the higher level Council Members present today. I didn't know if this was good or bad news. Especially since Troy and I were literally sitting in seats not reserved for us.
The meeting started, as one of the Valians sat down. I recognized him immediately. It was the same guy who started the meeting last time.
Achel Divinear. Council Rank 2. MR30.
Achel put a binder on the table, and his eyes glowed white, Void energy exiting him as the pages instantly dissipated, into holographic form. His mastery with the Void was incredible.
"Let us begin the meeting." He said, as everybody stood up.
"Today, as many of you already know, we will be discussing the companions of Quorra Lavine. As you know, we recently discovered that Rogue Valian Dekani Price had begun recruiting Terrans and inhabitants of the past to join him in his conquest to defeat the Severens. Unfortunately, Price committed one of the biggest taboos. Teaching a Terran our way."
Achel pointed at me.
"This here is Shane Mayen. A mere Terran, but possesses the cybernetic implants of our technology. Embedded in his body, is a Class Five level Infestation culture that has modified his body to the level of a low tier Lance. Further analysis of his body has revealed that it was modified by a Valian Orbiter Infestation System."
Achel then pointed at Troy.
"In addition, Troy Lucien. Although he does not possess the cybernetic implants seen in Mayen, he possesses a connection to the Void. I find it highly suspicious that these two have been affiliated with one of ours. Quorra Lavine, of all people."
The Valians looked at Quorra, who was silent.
"I have reason to believe Miss Lavine has partook in Valian Taboo. Teaching Troy Lucien the Way of the Valian, and encouraging Shane Mayen continued use of his cybernetic Toron augments."
Chatter rippled in the congress. I didn't know teaching people was all of a sudden illegal. But Quorra didn't seem fazed.
"How could she?" One Valian muttered.
"I'd understand that traitor Price. But Lavine? Our Lavine?"
"If word gets out, her reputation is finished. Like Arsanios."
I clenched my fist. These kids. Who were they to decide it was taboo or not. They were probably the same people who banished Arsanios, who had given his all for them. Just because his real last name was Price. They instantly turned on him.
And now they were going to turn on Quorra? Just because she was kind enough to let two stray humans onto her ship?
I was going to stand up, but suddenly, Quorra's Lance resonated.
I stared at Quorra's Mag. Although it was motionless, seemingly inanimate, it was still a Lance. Meaning I could communicate with it.
"They're going to persecute Quorra! Are we not going to do anything-"
I reluctantly sat back in my seat. I could tell just by glancing at Troy, that he was thinking the same thing.
"It's okay." Quorra responded.
"Shane." Quorra turned to me, and smiled.
I stared at her as she cleared her throat.
Achel held out his hand, and the congress went silent.
"What do you have to say for yourself, Quorra Lavine? Please do remember, that while you are under heavy suspicion and allegations, you are still a highly respected member. Which is why we are giving you a chance to explain yourself. If you tell us that these two are simply tools to your arsenal, then we shall accept-"
"They're not tools." Quorra said.
Several gasps erupted in the audience. Even I was shocked.
"Quorra?" Achel muttered.
"You heard me, Divinear. These are not tools. They are my comrades. In fact, the handsome one, Troy, is currently a guy I'm dating."
What the hell was that indirect roast?
"Quorra Lavine, this is your final warning. I would appreciate it if you stopped with your jokes-"
"Is it a joke?" Quorra asked, as she stood up, walking behind Troy, and putting her arms around his neck.
"How many of us here have built a Necron?"
The assembly went silent.
"Is it not taboo to resort to Old War tactics? Yet we went there anyway."
Quorra held out her hand, summoning a hologram of the Abaddon Supra Lance.
"And how many of us own Abaddon?"
Quorra closed her fist.
"Abaddon. The Dark Lord. For the longest time, we've used Abaddon to harvest resources from the fallen. But do you know what the term for that is called? It's called desecration. Looting the bodies of the dead. Rather than letting them rest, we defiled them more for our benefit. Now what part of that was not taboo?"
Some chatter began to ripple in the audience.
"And we are all sure what the reason for this is. The Severens resorted to finding ways to deactivate our Lances. So we had to use our Necrons. The Scrava and Corpo have defiled our Star System of its resources, so now we've resorted to using Abaddon to loot their corpses. All of these rules broken, and I know you all know why that is."
Quorra let go of Troy, as she ran her hand across her Lance's face.
"We are at war. And if our enemy decides to go underhanded, sometimes, we must too."
Achel breathed in quickly.
"Do you know what you are saying? What you are implying? You are accusing us of-"
"Not accusing. I'm pointing it out. At this point, we've already fallen as Valian. Right now, our priorities are to continue developing our weapons and fighting off the Severens who are stupid enough to attack us. If it means we can get more manpower by hiring these Terrans, is it not enough objectively?"
More chatter. I could sense the tide slowly turning.
Quorra was using her status, and her power and popularity to win everybody over despite initially being at a disadvantage.
"Also, Achel." Quorra sat back in her chair.
"Are you sure you're not just jealous that I'm with another guy?"
Achel's vein surfaced on his head.
"You- I-" He stammered, as the Valians stared at him.
"There is nothing else to discuss. Meeting adjourned. Quorra's suspicions will be cleared following this. But make no mistake, if these Terran pigs so much as do anything unbecoming in my eyes, I won't hesitate to eliminate them instantly. After all, they are mid-tier Valian in terms of skill at most."
The Valians began to get up and leave, as Quorra remained in her seat.
"Say, Troy. You like parfaits, right? Want to go get some? My treat."
"Sure!" Troy said.
I glanced at Quorra's Mag.
"Can you hear me?" I asked.
Mag was silent.
I sighed. I guess if it was Lances that were not Deka's, I would have a harder time communicating. So many of my powers were emotionally linked. I'd have to get Quorra to show me how to control them. But... could she even though? Licita Potential had nothing to do with the Void. And certainly my ability to talk to Lances. That's just strange all on its own.
Suddenly, a voice appeared from the corner.
"The door isn't opening."
I turned around, to see the Valians attempting to open the doors that led to the theatre. One Valian resolved into his Monolith and tried to barge it open, but it remained stuck.
Quorra stood up and resolved into her Lance.
"Heads up, you two. This could be trouble."
I took out Gram and grabbed my Harkanon, setting it to full auto.
To my horror, the lights flickered.
And no transmission.
"Quorra..." I muttered.
Quorra grabbed the two of us and brought us to a corner, which was full of cover.
"This place is where we shield our nobles or political figures. It should keep you two safe."
Troy grabbed Quorra's wrist.
"Where are you going? Let us help you!"
"Right now, the best you two can do is to stay out of the way."
There was no staying out of the way. Because I knew exactly what was going to happen.
The lights flickered again, as a voice resonated across the room. I couldn't even tell where his voice was, it was seemingly everywhere. Meaning... he must have been moving so fast from one spot to another.
"Saying our methods are underhanded is quite a bold claim." A dark, and sinister voice echoed across the chambers.
The Valians readied themselves.
One of the Valians called out to the voice.
"Who are you? Come down and face us!"
Suddenly, the area around us turned to frost, as we were all unable to move. Black ethereal chains pulled us in back to our spots that we had originally been sitting.
And all I could do was watch in horror. I was paralyzed, not from the frost. But from fear.
I watched as a dark ominous figure, far scarier and far more powerful than SHADOW emerged from the shadows of the table, getting to his feet. A black trench coat, with Severen red trim. Long white hair that reached his chest, his face, shrouded with darkness from his mask.
And on his back, was that same great sword that had disarmed both me and Arsanios instantly.
For some reason, I knew what it was. Even though he never once mentioned it.
For some reason, I knew its name.
Ais. The Great Valian Slayer.
The Greatsword wielded by SHADE.
Licita vs. Licita
SHADE traced his sword across the table, creating red sparks.
"You." Achel said, resolving into his Galilean Lance, and launching several grenades at SHADE's location. The whole movement lasted a fraction of a second. Even shorter than the blink of an eye, but SHADE scoffed, swinging his sword and cutting the grenades into four halves in half the time.
"Flynn!" He shouted.
The Valian, Flynn, stepped forward, holding out his hand.
"Mirage Augment: Explosive Legerdemain"
The numerous pieces of Achel's grenades suddenly changed form, and exploded, engulfing SHADE in explosions.
"He's hit! Get him!" Flynn shouted, as Quorra joined her brethren in firing a massive barrage of bullets, energy blasts, and attacks at the Valian killer.
I turned to Troy, and noticed he was gritting his teeth, his hand on his Accelera.
"We should be helping her."
"You heard her, if we go out there, we'll just be in the way."
"But SHADE is pinned down. Look."
I put my hand over my eye, pushing away my bangs and widened my reticule, scanning for SHADE's figure. Underneath all the explosions, I saw SHADE hunched down, Ais covering his back as the numerous attacks were coming in fast.
"It doesn't matter if you adapt to one." One of the Valians said.
"For as long as we all wield a different damage type, you cannot adapt to them all." Another said.
SHADE fell to one knee.
Why would SHADE fight a whole room of high ranking Valian at the same time?
There had to be a reason.
He was way too smart to do something this reckless, there must have been an ulterior motive.
Quorra leapt back, rejoining us as she reloaded her twin pistols.
"You're thinking it too, aren't you?"
Quorra held out her hands, and summoned a magnetic globe alongside two other Valians, as the bullets concentrated around SHADE, piercing him thousands of times over.
"SHADE has always been elusive and precise. He wouldn't do something this stupid."
"You are correct, Quorra Lavine." SHADE said, as he got up.
"Impossible! He shouldn't be taking this much damage!"
SHADE began to trudge through the bullets, walking towards one of the Mags.
"You will repay what you did to our brethren, you monster!" The Valian shouted, taking out her sidearm and aiming it at SHADE, but in one swift motion, SHADE grabbed her wrist.
"Kien Licita - 50%" SHADE said, as I watched him crush the Valian's arm, ripping it out of the Lance.
SHADE went low, and slashed with Ais, severing its legs.
"Sheena!" A Valian shouted, as he rushed in, but SHADE grabbed Sheena's Lance and threw it in his direction.
"This is... not happening." I muttered, my eyes wide in disbelief.
He was fighting against the top ten Valians. And had turned the tide in his favour, despite being outgunned and outnumbered.
Quorra grimaced as she turned to us.
"Whatever happens, I want you both to get out of here."
"But what about you!" Troy shouted.
Quorra put her hand on his lips.
"It's going to be okay. When this is over, we will have as many parfaits as you want." She smiled.
"Quorra!" I shouted, but before I could say anything, a Lance rushed in and grabbed us.
"Let me go!" I growled.
"I cannot do that. This is a command directly from Clan Leader Lavine. You two are her top priority."
I tried to pry myself out of his grip, but the Monolith Lance's strength was unrivalled. I could only watch as SHADE began to kill Valian after Valian. Impaling them with his sword, ripping the children out of their armour, and snapping their necks.
"QUORRA!" Troy and I screamed.
SHADE turned around and was hit in the head by a bullet from Achel.
"Achel Divinear. The Second Strongest Valian. I always wondered what about you was special. Actually, I always wondered what about all of you made you so special. After all, you're all just cowards hiding behind your Lances."
SHADE closed in, but Achel leapt into the air, throwing multiple grenades.
"Galilean Ability Four: Bastille"
SHADE was locked in place as Achel rushed in with his harvester.
"You question my abilities? SHADE? I will show you just how powerful I am." Achel said, but then, everything seemed to stop.
SHADE put his hand over his mask, and took it off. I couldn't see his face, since it was still obstructed by his hair.
But his lips.
I could read it.
And what he said made my blood turn ice cold.
"Lance Upload Protocol: TESLA Discharge - 315%"
Red electricity emanated from his body, as everybody froze, electrified.
Achel struggled to break free, but was unable to, as his Lance armour began to crack, bleeding red light.
"Lance Upload..." I muttered.
The door to the exit was broken open from the chaos of the battle, and the Lance who was carrying us jumped through it, firing behind us and closing the gap as I watched SHADE overcome the Bastille barrier, to Achel's shock.
"No... this is impossible!" Achel cried out, as SHADE walked forward, shoving his hand through the Galilean Lance, and pulling the boy's essence out, throwing him to the ground.
"It isn't impossible. Maybe for you." SHADE said, as he raised Ais.
"Maybe for someone so inferior, the things we do truly do eclipse your realm of understanding. Just as your kind did to me."
The last thing I saw was SHADE plunging his great sword through the boy's chest.
"Let me go!" Troy yelled, before the Valian dropped us both on the ground.
"We're going to leave this place. To our dojo." The Valian officer said.
"Hey." I muttered.
The officer turned to me.
"You are going to be in my custody-"
"Who said that? After all, I'm Deka's first mate. The Valian you guys shunned. So doesn't that mean I'm not considered one of you? I'm a taboo after all. I'm going back in there, you have no authority over me."
The officer put his hand on my shoulder, but I knocked him away.
"I said, leave me alone." I snarled.
The Valian stood up. "Do you know what that is? That is SHADE. The mightiest of the Severens. Killing and slaughtering the mightiest of the Valians with just a sword and his bare hands. If you go in there, you won't last. You are just a bug to him."
The Valian tried to grab me again, but I blasted away in a jolt of speed.
"How did you-"
I drew my Gram.
"To you all, I am just Shane Mayen. A mere human who happened to get his hands on some technology he didn't understand. But to them, I am a Licita. That Severen over there is able to take you guys on because he possesses the Licitian Potential. The only person here who can match him is me."
Lance Upload Protocol.
SHADE and I, we both had similar abilities. The only person who could match him, long enough for the others to escape, had to be me.
"Enough with your delusions. Come with me now-"
Suddenly, a large whack popped behind me. I spun around.
Troy had walloped the Valian over the head with his hammer.
"Shane. I don't know what's going on. I don't know what you mean by being a Licita. But, go. I support you. You're the only one who can hold him off, I believe you. So go Shane. Be a hero. For me, and Quorra."
I made my way back to the theatre, Gram Supra in one hand, Harkanon Supra in the other.
I stepped over the rocks and entered the citadel, as I heard the sounds of fighting get less and less. My heart was wrenching as I made my way into the room.
Valian bodies were everywhere. Severed corpses and destroyed Lances littered the walls and floor, as only three Valians were left standing.
Two Valians, and Quorra Lavine, who's Lance was so damaged, that it was almost unrecognizable.
I took a deep breath.
I was the only one who could have the potential to match this guy.
"SHARDIS LICITA." I shouted at the top of my lungs.
SHADE stopped, mid swing from killing off a Valian. Quorra and the other Valian turned to me.
SHADE dropped the Valian and lowered Ais, then in one swift motion, materialized in front of me.
"Shane!" Quorra cried out, but the Valian grabbed her wrist.
"No, Quorra. This is our chance to escape."
"Let me go, Dajn. We can't leave him to SHADE!"
"And what? We all die together? We must live on. We're all that's going to be left of the Council!"
SHADE turned to the other Valians.
"Yes. You three will be all that's left. This boy is mine."
Quorra continued struggling, but I took a deep breath.
"Quorra." I said.
Quorra resolved out of her Lance and tried to run to me, but her leg was broken, as she fell down.
"You were going out with Troy to get parfaits right?" I said, smiling.
"About my stance with girls. You were partly right. I do find the male meta of being nice unpleasant. But only because I can never be that kind. To a guy or a girl. It's just who I am. But right now"
I slowly took off my mask and coat, as SHADE grinned. His hair still covering most of his face.
"Right now, I feel like being kind to you. Because you deserve it."
SHADE took out Ais, and swung his sword, the air pressure sending the Valians out of the opening of the building and tumbling outside.
"I'm surprised you got this far as to revealing my identity." SHADE complimented.
I readied Gram and my Harkanon.
"Didn't take much. After what you did to Arsanios. I'll never forgive you." I sneered.
"Is that so?" SHADE said, as we circled each other, around the centre of the Maraxus theatre.
"You're able to use the Licitian Potential and Toron Lance abilities. How." I said.
SHADE eyed me.
"Asking questions now? It seems you've finally grown a backbone. I half expected you to cower. After everything that has happened in your life. You still want to play hero?"
I took a deep breath, calming myself down. It was true. I was basically shitting my pants. But right now wasn't the time for that. I needed to stay alive and keep him off of the last few Valians and Troy.
"I'm not afraid of you."
"No. You are truly, very, afraid of me."
SHADE closed in and kicked me in the chest as I soared and slammed into a pillar, crumpling to the ground. I dropped both Gram and my Harkanon.
SHADE materialized in front of me in a shockwave, as dust and wind blasted outward from where he stood. I took out my Hellfire pistol and fired, but SHADE held out his hand, catching all the bullets at hypersonic speed.
"Tricity Licita." He said.
I yelled, as I ran forward and swung my fists, but SHADE dodged them easily.
"Ciel Licita." He smirked.
I went low and launched a leg sweep, but SHADE backflipped, and punched the ground, sending a shockwave that knocked me in the air. I fell on my face.
"Kien Licita." SHADE said.
"What game are you playing?!" I growled, as I rushed forward, grabbing Gram and clashing with SHADE's Ais.
"These are the Licita's you know so far." He said.
SHADE smiled. "You haven't reached the point where you can contribute anything... yet."
SHADE pushed me back as I stumbled, hitting the edge of a railing as I nearly fell down to the bottom floor of the theatre.
"You are nothing. Delusional. Even from the very start."
"Shut up!" I yelled, as I braced myself.
"Lance Upload Protocol: TESLA Superspeed - Continuous 85%"
I blasted and flanked SHADE, but SHADE dodged my sword swing, smiling.
"Lance Upload Protocol: TESLA Superspeed - Continuous 300%"
SHADE dissipated in a bolt of red electricity as he swarmed the entire room, slashing and cutting at me as I tried to protect myself.
"Damn you..." I growled, as I leapt into the air.
"Lance Upload Protocol: ASH Partial Blade Storm"
I manifested a clone to SHADE's location, as I jumped in, but SHADE simply reeled back.
"Lance Upload Protocol: ASH Twelvefold Blade Storm"
Twelve clones manifested next to me, twelve SHADE's all wielding their exalted knives, plunging them into me as I roared in pain.
I fell to the ground, as SHADE approached me, the clones dissipating.
"Ash. Tesla. Everything you have, I have more. You are just an inferior version of me. Nothing more."
SHADE kicked me as I skidded off the side of the railing and falling to the lower level, cracking the concrete.
"What are you getting at." I said, as I struggled to my feet.
"Haven't you figured it out yet?" SHADE asked. "Or are you too afraid to unravel the truth."
I closed my eyes.
Give me your strength.
I blasted forward, but SHADE caught my punch.
"Licitian Potential: Kien Licita - 500%"
SHADE shoved me through four pillars as I felt something in my ribs crack.
I crumpled to the ground, as SHADE put his foot on the back of my head.
"You... your name is Shardis Licita." I muttered.
"Yes. A true born Licita. Just like you."
"But Arsanios said there were no Licita's remaining. No Licitas were supposed to survive. That he only had one brother."
"Yes. Arsanios only had one adopted brother. There was always...
"Just one son to Kirin and Caterena Licita."
My eyes widened.
This can't be.
The Lance Upload Protocol.
What did SHADOW say when I defeated him?
Some things must be kept secret. To avoid it.
"Avoid what?" I had asked.
SHADOW had said one last thing. Before escaping.
I looked at SHADE, as the hair covering his face began to part. Those eyes. Those same eyes. That face.
I knew that face.
Because I saw it every day.
Every day in the mirror.
"I... this can't..." My voice broke.
That memory. It didn't belong to me. But not to the me now. Because it was never my current me to begin with. That vision I had, was his.
It was SHADE's.
There is no Shane Mayen I remembered myself saying.
"The look on your face confirms it. Now you know." SHADE said, as he removed his boot, walking around the theatre.
"No matter what happens, it was always destined to happen like this."
"What you are. Who you are. I wanted to be a hero. We both wanted to be a hero. But that is not the path we will walk. After all, fate never wanted us to pursue happiness. Fate always hated us."
I clutched Gram, realizing that it was wet. Wet with my tears.
"Our hatred for the Valians. Our hatred not just for the world we came from. But all worlds. Because believe it or not, Shane Mayen. Fate isn't limited to just the world or timeline we live in. It follows us. It will never stop messing with you. At some point, you will truly realize it."
I tried to get to my feet and keep fighting, but it was like I lost all the strength in my body.
"I forced myself to be this. I will keep forcing and barging my way through fate."
"HA! Oh, I had forgotten how foolish I was when I said that. And here you are making me relive it. It truly is daunting how one can be tainted with delusion. After all, it was delusion that led us here."
I clenched my sword.
It was delusion.
I was delusional. I wanted to become a hero. If it meant forsaking my studies and career. If it meant leaving and running away from home.
Mom and Dad were heartbroken when they heard about my desire to become a hero. With no direction in life.
I was a hot mess.
And when the Severens came.
"Mom wanted me to keep being a hero." SHADE said, as he plunged Ais into the ground.
"But little did she know, that her little boy was just a fraud. She died believing a lie that I made. A lie that YOU made."
"I finally understand... I finally know why you did it, my dear boy..." Those were the final words of my mom before she died in my arms.
Because I wanted to fight a Severen with my bare hands. I was stupid and thought it would give me some kind of awakening like in those movies.
And my mom and dad had jumped in to protect me, just to have their bodies torn up.
It was my fault that they died.
"Over and over again, it seems. I found a way to forsake everything people did for me. The people who cared about me were always left heartbroken because I would always mess up."
SHADE pointed his finger at me.
"Because that is our true purpose!"
"That is the true purpose of Shardis Licita. Of Shane Mayen. That is why we were created. This is what fate wants us to be. We were created to hurt those who care about us. So it WILL be your destiny."
"NO IT WON'T!" I screamed.
"It WILL. You will become me. You will become SHADE. You will become the most feared being in the entire universe. The strongest Severen!"
"RAAAAAGHHH!!!" I roared, as I rushed forward, grappling onto my future self. Summoning as much power from my Licitian Potential as possible.
"Yes. Let the rage run through. That was all you were. Just a meaningless vessel full of rage and resentment. Full of disappointment and delusion."
"I'm gonna kill you!" I growled.
"Yes. You will. You will kill everybody. For that is what you are destined to be. Not a hero. But a villain!"
SHADE kneed me in the stomach, and then launched a high kick that sent me through the roof of the building. I landed on the tiles as SHADE leapt even higher than me. The thunderstorm crackling and illuminating his sinister figure.
SHADE landed with one foot on my chest.
"But right now, you are still incomplete. Not yet. You still haven't gotten there yet."
"I will never become you!" I yelled, desperately.
"Yes. I remembered saying that." SHADE said, putting a hand on his chin.
"Then I shall commence the next stage."
SHADE snapped his fingers, as several Severens descended from the sky.
"Where are you going?!" I shouted.
"Shardis Licita, before I leave. I want to let you know. That depending on who views it. The actions of a villain can sometimes be heroic. I have never given up on my dream. And neither will you."
I tried to take out my Hellfire machine pistol, but SHADE had already crushed it in our brutal fist exchange.
"Where?! What are you going to do?" I yelled at the sky.
SHADE smiled, evilly.
"I'm going to help you with your progress, Shardis. After all, I wonder how Deka's crew is doing without their precious First Mate!"
My eyes widened in horror.
They were all going to die.
By SHADE's hand.
I closed my eyes, tears leaking down my face as I heard the sound of an Orbiter. Quorra's Orbiter behind me.
They were all going to die by my hand.
I gasped, as I felt a pair of arms embrace me from behind.
"This isn't your fault."
"How could you say that?! That guy. SHADE. He's ME."
"No, I don't care what fate says. What the future holds. But right now, you're more Shane Mayen than Shardis Licita." Quorra said, as she ran her hand across my face.
"Let's find your Captain and stop him. Remember what I said? No more hurting yourself."
Quorra paused, peering at my back.
"What? What is it?"
"Shane, how did you get that sword?"
I slowly felt behind me. Feeling something hard.
I grabbed the hilt and took out the sword that had suddenly appeared on my back.
A crimson blade, with a demonic red glow.
"This is... Ais!"
Quorra stared at the sword.
"It must have been during your clash with SHADE. You somehow got his weapon. A copy of it."
I reached behind me back, and felt Gram, pulling it out until I wielded both Gram and Ais.
"Huh. Toron and Severen in each hand." I said.
Quorra sat down, looking at me.
"All the more."
"What do you mean?"
Quorra pointed at Gram.
"It just shows that no matter how much of SHADE you see in yourself, there's still a bit of Mayen."
A smile appeared on my face.
"Whoa. Shane. You're smiling!" Quorra gasped.
"And you're laughing!"
I put both great swords back in their holsters and grabbed Quorra into a hug.
"Heh?" Quorra yelped.
"Thank you, Quorra. For everything."
Quorra softened in my embrace.
"It's like I said" Quorra pulled away. Her purple velvet eyes greeting mine warmly.
"You're cute when you're nice."
I looked at the sky.
"I'm gonna save my crew. You're coming with me."
"Wow. So dominant. But I guess it is what it is." Quorra joked, as we walked back to the Orbiter with Troy.