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With Torrent and the New Wranploer Legion defeated, Vekaron and his team were left to their own devices for the rest of 2797. However, each of his close associates would come to be bothered by personal matters. It would be up for the Penumbran to aid his teammates in their time of need.
Kamaris: Disorder in the Order
It was nearing the very end of 2797, and Vekaron and his crew were making preparations for the new year. It was late at night on his ship, and most of the crew members were asleep - except for Kamaris, who was, probably without permission, using the ship's display as a method of communication. He was given a message before, to contact other Mahanayans at the home of the Order he belonged to. Three Mahanayans were on the screen, and, in order for Kamaris to keep his conversations secret, he spoke in his native tongue. The tone of the conversation appeared to be sombre, as Kamaris spoke little and sparingly. At this moment, Vekaron entered the room carrying a glass of water, noticing Kamaris and approaching him to see what he was doing. Kamaris, in return had sensed Vekaron approaching, and before Vekaron could get too close, Kamaris had closed the display down and turned to his captain.
- Kamaris - Apologies, Vekaron. I should not have used the display without permission.
- Vekaron - You own me no apologies, Kamaris. What happened? You look distressed.
- Kamaris - ...It is a matter close to home. The order which I belong to, the Colossi, is in need of a reconstitution. I recieved news that the head of my order has passed away. And...well. You could imagine.
- Vekaron - If that's what is bothering you, we could take the ship to the Colossi' headquarters and resolve matters personally. It's not like we have much in our way now that Torrent is gone.
- Kamaris - That is true. I am required to return to the Order by decree, nonetheless. I must stand...a trial of sorts.
- Vekaron - We can head out after everyone wakes up. But if you have a trial to go through then you should rest.
- Kamaris - There will be time for that later. The trial is much like a court. I must stand in front of my superiors and they will decide whether I am suitable to continue my role in the Order. If I am, then I should rest for the forthcoming events.
- Vekaron - ...And if you're not...
- Kamaris - Nothing happens. Except that my position in the Order is granted to someone else. It is rather democratic. You don't think that all Mahanayans are savage, do you?
- Vekaron - I didn't mean to imply anything. You're the only Mahanayan I've ever encountered. I just assumed losing your title would be a big loss.
- Kamaris - Oh, no. It is just that my title in the Order itself is rather sought after. I could think of a few who would wish me not to sit on the higher council...or dead.
- Vekaron - Well, considering all the stuff we've been through since you joined the team, I'm confident you're worthy of your title. We'll look into it tomorrow.
- Kamaris - Thank you. You may wish to set course for planet Mahanaya, then. And...you may want to ready the hazard suits. Mahanaya is...volatile as a planet.
- Vekaron - Very well.
The next morning, the ship had set course for the Mahanayan homeworld. Mahanaya was a desert world, where the residents of the world were densely populated into habitable areas, as much of the planet was desolate and wildly dangerous for many to permanently live in. The Colossi's headquarters was far from civilisation however - far from the eyes of technology as they remained a spiritual order that abstained mostly from using technology for many millennia. Their ship landed not so far from the entrance to the headquarters - which, from a distance, appeared to be vast, scuplted mounds of eroded rock that lay in the side of a cliff face.
- Kamaris - Here we are.
- Kirlisir - How... fancy.
- Kamaris - You needn't bother trying to appeal to my good nature. The temple was built many thousands of years ago.
- Dolgan - Good Vaxal, this planet is suffocating. Were it not for my armor's systems, I'd have fried to death the moment we arrived.
- Kamaris - This is Mahanaya's concept of autumn, as well. The winter months are indeed cooler...at a cost of more dangerous weather.
- Vekaron - We should head to the headquarters now.
- Kirlisir - Yeah. As much as I enjoy the view, there's not too much to look at out here.
- Kamaris - Very well. ...I wish Wragrot was here to see this. I imagine he would like it somewhat.
- Dolgan - He'd probably claim it's too cold for him.
- Kamaris - Possibly. Sixty degrees is somewhat temperate for this time of year.
- Kilchárunya - ...Why are we on Mahanaya? You know what; I don't care...let's just get whatever this is over with.
- Vekaron - Someone didn't pay attention to the debriefing. Again.
- Kirlisir - Hehe, well, Kicath and spiritual agendas do not mix so well. I'm surprised Kil hadn't fallen asleep during debriefing, to be perfectly honest.
- Dolgan - Can we shut up and move before I turn into a water puddle?
Moving towards the gigantic structure not too far ahead of them, the team walked on an eroded tile path, as the winds were blowing strongly to the left. The hazard suits were picking up small disturbances in the atmosphere - the winds were carrying small shards of rock with them. Ascending up the staircase at the entrance, dimmed by a colonnade of sorts, a Mahanayan in similar attire to Kamaris, who was not wearing armour at that point, was surveying them from a distance. Kirlisir eyed the Mahanayan from afar, nodding her head in acknowledgement of its presence and as a gesture to her teammates in case they had not been aware previously.
- Mahanayan - I welcome you home, Natyrazhakamaris. And I welcome your...associates.
- Dolgan - I really hope the insides of the place are cooler than outside.
- Vekaron - Greetings. I am Kamaris' captain.
- Kirlisir - We are here to deliver Kamaris to his... trial.
- Kamaris - Please, let me speak.
The Mahanayan looked somewhat puzzled at the team; the concept of Kamaris having a captain was somewhat odd to him.
- Mahanayan - ...Yes. The court. It will begin momentarily now that you have arrived. I trust your associates will not cause a disturbance in the midst of the session.
- Kamaris - I sincerely hope they will not. Kilchárunya.
- Kilchárunya - What? ...Fine. I'll be on my best behaviour.
Kirlisir glanced upwards towards Kamaris, an eyebrow perked as she had an uncertain expression written across her face.
- Kirlisir - What are you expecting to happen, big guy? How do these things work?
- Kamaris - I will explain along the way. Lead us on.
The Mahanayan nodded, and, turning away to face the large doors of the temple, a gust of wind seeped through the entrance as they walked in. The halls were dimly lit as braziers marked the way through the underground temple, whilst members of the order looked at Kamaris and then the team, somewhat intrigued that foreigners were inside their walls.
- Kamaris - So. How these things work?
- Kirlisir - Yeah. You said it was a "democratic" gathering during debriefing, but... Well, what do you have to do to keep yourself in your position? Prove yourself, kiss an ass or two?
- Kamaris - Perhaps I should have explained better. There are in fact two trials. One is the court session. Where the head of the order has now died, it is necessary to re-shuffle the hierarchy in order to elect a new head, and by doing so, trials in the court are held to determine our...abilities to serve as a leading member. There are eleven overall heads you see - I am one of them.
- Vekaron - In that case we should probably keep silent unless talked to.
- Kamaris - I was about to say that. A foreigner has not entered these halls in centuries.
- Kirlisir - Oh, well, lucky us.
- Kit - So, what is the second trial?
- Kamaris - In my case, should I be deemed eligible to continue my leadership...I may have to contest my eligibility to lead the entire order. As is the way of things.
- Vekaron - Everyone keep quiet now.
Passing various halls, containing items of peculiar and ancient appearance, the team were finally lead into the court. It was massive in size - seven hundred and sixty eight Mahanayans were seated around a semicircular room, whilst there was a table that was in the centre of this hall that had eleven stone thrones. Kamaris' position in the order allowed him some leniency, and thus only three of the ten living heads were present whilst the others sat with the rest of the court. The three Mahanayans - named Syravakazan, Haalthayan and Naamadraal, oversaw the court as Kamaris and the team was brought to the centre of the room before them.
- Syravakazan - The court is now in session. We are here on this day to determine the spirit of Natyrazhakamaris Anthorsovaylato, in light of recent events.
- Kamaris - I would ask to shorten the ceremonies, Syravakazan. I am busy.
- Naamadraal - You may be one of us, Natyrazhakamaris. But we cannot shorten ceremony for the sake of one.
Kirlisir shuffled where she stood, muttering beneath her breath as she folded her arms and whispered to Vekaron.
- Kirlisir - Don't think they quite realise Kamaris isn't alone here.
- Vekaron - We're outsiders. He practically is.
One of the overseers, Haalthayan, looked at the corrale that was Vekaron's crew, as they stood some distance behind Kamaris.
- Haalthayan - Tell me, Natyrazhakamaris, why do you bring foreigners to our court?
- Syravakazan - You know that is...not customary to do so, correct?
- Kamaris - I know so. There is no written rule against it.
Kamaris turned to the team, his face slightly more displeased than usual.
- Kamaris - Apologies, my friends. I have been misleading you somewhat.
- Dolgan - Oh boy. What now.
Kamaris turned back to the overseers to continue his conversation.
- Kamaris - These here are my votaries; they are here to support my eligibility.
The court rabbled slightly, as the overseers looked at each other.
- Haalthayan - It is not becoming of one of us to call upon outsiders for support. You know you should have --
- Kamaris - I have been away from here for three years. Perhaps you should elect your votaries in the space of eight hours and see what you find.
Haalthayan was silenced by Kamaris' remark, his mouth swiftly closed as the overseers looked at each other again.
- Naamadraal - Very well. They must come forward to speak.
Kamaris stepped aside, allowing the team to step where he was. Vekaron stepped forward with apprehension in his face, while Dolgan's eyes narrowed as she glared at the court. Kirlisir's arms unfolded and she let them fall to her sides, eyeing the court with a displeased expression.
- Syravakazan - Speak your names, friends of Natyrazhakamaris. Make yourself known to the court.
- Vekaron - Vekaron Zankho, Penumbran of the Polar Crystal Alliance.
- Dolgan - Dolgan Tuchaki.
- Kilchárunya - Kilchárunya Althārulísi.
- Kit - Kitmnárochoaltánún Atthārutási.
- Kirlisir - Kirlisir.
- Naamadraal - Natyrazhakamaris has brought you here as his votaries. To speak for him in his trial to continue his term as one of the eleven overseers.
- Vekaron - We shall do so.
- Haalthayan - ...Very well. Speak.
- Dolgan - ... You're yet to say what you want us to talk about.
- Haalthayan - Should it not be obvious? Speak of Natyrazhakamaris and his merits.
- Kirlisir - Well, for starters, I would like to see anyone fight and navigate as coherently as any one of us with the absence of sight - or eyeballs at all, for that matter - as Kamaris, perhaps one of our strongest partners, does on the regular.
- Vekaron - Kamaris has been on my ship for three years and has always showed himself to be a great warrior. He was fundamental in the defeat of the Children of Synthesis and the New Wranploer Legion, which as you should be aware, have caused much suffering to the Polar Crystal Alliance.
- Naamadral - A Penumbran, you said?
- Vekaron - Yes. I am the first Penumbran.
- Syravakazan - We have heard of the merits of the Penumbrans and their role in the wars as of late. If Natyrazhakamaris has fought alongside you, then we shall certainly honour the Penumbrans. What else is there to speak of him?
- Dolgan - He's strong. I wouldn't try my luck against him, and he's blind. Could probably snap me in half.
- Kirlisir - ... And what is more important, he has, pardon my words, not lost sight amidst his strength and power. In spite of the strength he wields and the innumerable enemies he has faced, he remains compassionate, kindly, and overall intact with regards to his personal balance and his relationships with others. ... He is more than an ally or partner as of now, having proven himself passive and caring enough to be called a friend as well.
- Dolgan - Yuck. So sentimental.
The overseers nodded in agreement to Kirlisir's words. A small moment of silence passed, before their eyes turned to the Kicath.
- Syravakazan - Anything to say, Kicath?
Kilchárunya simply looked at the councillors, and before long, said nothing, but instead gave what was the Kicathian equivalent of a thumbs up.
- Kit - ...Yes. Kamaris has tought me patience in a chaotic galaxy. I would be a lesser Kicath if it were not for his teachings.
The overseers nodded again, albeit more hesitantly in reaction to Kilchárunya.
- Naamadraal - If there is nothing more to say, then I suggest it is time to pass the vote.
- Kirlisir - ... He also made sure to exact payment against the one who took his sight from him; an augmented and enhanced Sankáryn who worked beneath the NWL who gave even Vekaron and the rest of us strife, where Kamaris sought him out and executed him single-handedly.
- Dolgan - Heh. Fun day that was... well, half of it.
- Kirlisir - I do not believe there is more to say in his defence, your honour.
- Haalthayan - Very well.
The overseers stood from their chairs, as they were to announce the vote.
- Syravakazan - Let it be known in this chamber - who here deems Natyrazhakamaris worthy of his title?
Of the seven hundred and sixty eight Mahanayans that were there, at least half of them present rose their hands in favour of Kamaris to retain his role in the Order. As they lowered their hands, the overseers were obliged to ask the second question.
- Syravakazan - And who here deems Natyrazhakamaris to test his body and blood to lead the Order?
A similar number of hands rose.
- Naamadraal - Then it is decided. You will have your leave and have your fate decided in the ways of old...the court has decreed it to be so.
Kamaris nodded, as his expression was one of both anticipation and dread. Kirlisir tugged on Vekaron's arm as the rest of the team heard the verdict, her eyes locked onto Kamaris from where she was standing, swallowing heavily as her nerves were wracked. The number of Mahanayans present quickly vacated the room, soon leaving only Vekaron and the crew there.
- Dolgan - Well, by his tone, I take we'll have to fight stuff now.
- Kamaris - Yes. The democracy of this order is nonetheless built on the ideals of peace through bloodshed. As is the rest of the universe.
- Vekaron - What happens now?
- Kamaris - We must wait further until the others in the eleven overseers are tried. There can only be one other who is able to contest leadership, and...we will have to fight him.
- Kirlisir - "We"? ... How can one man require a whole team to fight him?
- Kamaris - He will not be alone. The votaries in the court are votaries in battle. His votaries will fight us.
- Dolgan - It's like you forgot Torrent. Or Brakarion. Or me, even.
- Kirlisir - ... Hmph, good. I wanted to wipe their smug grins off of their faces ever since I stepped into this courtroom; how dare they look down to us... Look down to you, even.
- Kamaris - I am afraid political jurisdiction from the Polar Crystal Alliance does not resound as far as the Order of the Colossi. As far as they see it; I lead all of you, and not Vekaron as the captain. We are in a rural part of the universe, here.
- Vekaron - If Wragrot was here, he'd probably have provoked to punch them in their faces. I suppose we'll get a chance to do that to at least one then.
- Kamaris - I doubt we will not face one of those three. They are not warriors in the same sense that I am. Regardless, I suggest that you all return to the ship. I must remain here and oversee a few trials myself. We will know what will happen by sunset.
- Dolgan - God, finally. I'll spend the rest of the day facing the air conditioner if you need me.
- Kamaris - Oh. And do not consider wandering around Mahanaya. There is a reason our cities are shielded in.
- Vekaron - I wasn't really planning to.
- Kirlisir - Kamaris...
Kirlisir approached the Colossus and took one of his hands in her own, placed her right palm on top of his while she faintly smiled; although Kamaris could not see it due to his lack of sight, her smile was concocted of worry and affection simultaneously.
- Kirlisir - ... Thank you for choosing us as your votaries. It's an honour.
- Kamaris - I would have not chosen anyone else.
- Kilchárunya - Well yeah; you're stuck on a ship in the middle of --
Kamaris clenched Kilchárunya's jaws shut with his hand, whilst she yelped and throttled in surprise as the Mahanayan took ahold of her face.
- Kamaris - I appreciate the sentiment, Kilchárunya. But I speak for everyone here. Shut up.
- Dolgan - This is all the hot weather's fault, I tell you. Let's get out of here.
- Kamaris - Indeed. We all must prepare for tomorrow.
Kamaris let go of Kilchárunya, as she held on to her snout with mild growls of pain.
- Kilchárunya - Right, right. I've gotta polish my armour anyway. And my face considering you just crushed it.
- Vekaron - Let's leave Kamaris to his trials. Come on, everyone.
Vekaron nodded to Kamaris before turning to the exit, while Dolgan already ran a distance ahead of them. Kirlisir hesitantly let go of Kamaris' hand and followed after Vekaron, wrapping an arm around his own as she walked beside him, a look of uncertainty written on her face.
Sunrise came over Mahanaya's surface, as the vicious sand dunes in the sky lit up almost like fire in the horizon. Kamaris' trials had gone on into the night, and, instead of returning to the ship, he decided to remain in his own personal quarters inside the building, though he had contacted the crew to meet him there instead of back in the ship. Vekaron arrived with his vibrosword visible, while Dolgan carried her coilgun, eager for combat. Kirlisir had fitted herself with her Gallarade armour, a frown written across her face as she cracked the knuckled in her hands with her fingers. Kilchárunya was wearing her armour as per usual, and was equipped with as much weaponry as she could carry on her person. Kit on the other hand, carried only his blade.
- Kirlisir - I'll teach those horse-faced bastards to look down at us like we're pond-scum.
- Kilchárunya - What's a horse?
- Dolgan - ...Yeah. What's a horse?
As they entered Kamaris' quarters - which was laid out similarly to how his quarters were on Vekaron's ship - except for the vast quantity of written scrolls in a mesmerisingly complicated script hanging from the walls, they found Kamaris sitting down, facing an oddly-shaped shrine as he only wore clothing for the lower part of his body.
- Kilchárunya - Is he asleep?
- Kamaris - I'm quite awake, thank you.
- Dolgan - So when do we get to kill people?
- Kirlisir - How are you feeling, Kamaris? I trust those bureaucrats didn't pull any funny business while we weren't around.
- Kamaris - I am ready. And...well. They did not pull any...'funny business', per se. However I was not expecting my challenge to be like this.
- Vekaron - What's your challenge?
- Kamaris - I learnt that I have to face an overseer named Thoomzakaran. He is a warrior by trade; nothing out of the ordinary. Until I learnt of his votaries.
- Kirlisir - What of them?
- Kamaris - Well...they appear not to be from the Order either. Outsiders.
- Kirlisir - And what do you mean by "outsiders", Kamaris? What are we dealing with here?
- Kamaris - ...I believe there has been some...infringement within the Order...though there is no rule against bringing outsider votaries no matter what they are. Thoomzakaran appears a little different to what I remember; I believe I have deduced why.
- Vekaron - And that is?
- Kamaris - Thoomzakaran appears to look as if he is descended. As in...that particular kind. How the Order have overlooked this, I am not sure. But I am intent on purifying it from that scum.
- Vekaron - That's got to be illegal.
- Dolgan - Hey, at least we'll be doing the universe a favour by killing him.
- Kirlisir - And just when I thought we were done with having to deal with daemons and the like. ... This is just perfect.
- Kamaris - That is not actually the worst of it. Thoomzakaran being descended will prove a hindrance. His votaries...will prove downright dangerous.
- Dolgan - ...More descended?
- Kamaris - Oh yes. The even worse part is that...well. I walked past the chambers not so long ago. I believe he has employed descended Zí-Jittorám. My guess is that he is linked to the Dominion in some cause...I think we should keep him alive for interrogation if we can.
- Dolgan - ...Your Order's superiors are bloody idiots if you don't mind me saying.
- Kirlisir - No, they know exactly what they are doing.
- Kamaris - Kirlisir is right. Though I imagine Thoomzakaran has...psychologically bribed them into silence. No matter. I believe that fighting him and two descended Zí-Jittorám will be within our grasp rather safely. Many others like us have faced similar odds and lived.
- Kirlisir - And many more died.
It was not long before a horn sounded in the distance; bellowing in size. It was to call Kamaris and the team to the temple's courtyard to face the Mahanayan and his own team. Kamaris donned his helm, though remained without his upper clothing - as was the ancient custom of the Order. Having walked to the courtyard, many members of the Order making way for their entry, they stepped through an open gateway of two heavy stone doors, revealing the courtyard itself. It was indoors, as was the rest of the temple, and was of considerable size for a large fight to take place.
There were no spectators present, though there was the Mahanayan known as Thoomzakaran, with two metallic crates, to his left and right. Next to the gate where they entered, was a large rack of Mahanayan weaponry - it was customary for only the Mahanayans to choose whatever they so wished - the others were free to use their own weapons. Kamaris himself chose a blade of similar size to the blade he carried in his travels, which was broad and heavy to the point. The other Mahanayan wielded a lengthy spear-like weapon, pacing the courtyard between the two crates as he eyed up Kamaris and the team.
No longer restricting himself to just melee, Vekaron wielding his vibrosword in one hand and a one-handed submachine gun on the other, while Dolgan kept her sniper coilgun close, waving a hand in front of her face due to the heat, her vibrodaggers visible on her belt as well. Kirlisir wore her armour proudly as he walked next to Vekaron's side, her blades shimmering with an almost supernatural light as she glanced upon the trial with a faint expression of disgust; she had one had clasped upon her hip, analyzing the competition with both her organic and cybernetic eye. Kilchárunya primed her pistol, looking at the Mahanayan through narrowed eyes, whilst Kit unsheathed his blade, somewhat apprehensive himself as he looked at the Mahanayan before them.
- Thoomzakaran - Hmph. A strange team, you have brought with you.
- Kirlisir - You've got nerve.
- Kamaris - At least I do not cheat on sacred ground.
- Dolgan - Being strange is what makes us special... or something like that.
- Thoomzakaran - I would prefer to win this battle than have it play out like it should. I do not have much time for this.
- Dolgan - Good thing we don't care.
- Kirlisir - That's right; you don't. I'd say you should spend your last moments lamenting your life choices, but that'd be boring.
- Thoomzakaran - I would think that you will lament ever accepting Kamaris' offer to fight for him.
The Mahanayan clenched on to his spear, and, on each of the crates, hit them twice with enough force to cause a clamouring noise, awakening the monstrous creatures within them. The boxes burst open, revealing Zí-Jittorám - and, much to Kamaris' chagrin, were much larger than usual. Their skin was black and bulging with luminous reddened masses, and their eyes glowed much in the way of one that was descended. Kirlisir bit her lip as she felt the aura of the daemonic aliens, beginning to sweat somewhat as she was almost overcome with how much potency they held in their capacity.
- Dolgan - If you need to bring abominations to fight for you, then this should be over quickly.
- Vekaron - Keep your guard up. These things are bad enough when they are not demonic.
- Kirlisir - ... Great.
- Kilchárunya - Well, that looks like everything from my nightmares.
- Vekaron - We've been through worse.
- Dolgan - So... any plans?
- Kirlisir - Hit them where they are strong; if you can deprive them of their means to attack then they are defenceless. Arms, legs... and the other appendages they may have.
- Dolgan - You're just telling me to shoot them until they die.
- Kirlisir - Are you saying that is a bad plan?
- Thoomzakaran - The Zí-Jittorám are not the true threat here.
- Vekaron - We have not forgotten you, cheater. Kamaris?
- Kamaris - There is little else to be said now.
- Vekaron - Then let us get this over with. Simply attack with extreme prejudice.
The Zí-Jittorám suddenly sprang into action, charging at the team with their huge and lumbering stature, swinging their arms as they did. Thoomzakaran stepped back, letting the Zí-Jittorám attack as he watched the team engage them. Vekaron kept his ground as he fired his machine gun at them while Dolgan, from a distance, begun firing her coilgun at them, aiming for their eyes with her antimatter-powered ammunation. Kirlisir dashed ahead of the group once Dolgan and Vekaron made the effort to attempt suppressing the gargantuan aliens, utilizing her flexible and agile physiology and dexterous training to dance around the large forms of her opponents while cutting at their joints with her blades and sharp, diamond-resilient fingertips, all the while kinetically amplified by her own psychic essence. The Zí-Jittorám appeared angered by the attacks, and erupted in anger as their tongues burst out of their heads, except now it was a tirade of hellish appendages lashing at them much like fiery whips.
- Kirlisir - Ew! Tentacles!
As the tongues approached, Vekaron swung his blade in an attempt to perhaps cut them off while Dolgan kept firing from a distance. Kirlisir sent forth psychic impulses to knock the tongues away as they would approach her, otherwise throwing herself out of their trajectory or makingan attempt to sever them with her blades. Kilchárunya ignited the daggers on her gauntlets; using her fists to try to sever the tongues also, whilst Kit tried the same with his blade. The Zí-Jittorám's tongues quickly lashed back into their bodies, as their eyes started glowing in intense light.
- Kirlisir - I can see... their powers concentrating! Watch out!
- Dolgan - Stop standing around doing nothing and shoot your biggest guns already! It's like you guys never fought these things before!
- Kilchárunya - Well EXCUSE me, but have you ever seen a descended Zí-Jittorám before?!
- Dolgan - It just means you gotta shoot them harder!
The Zí-Jittorám lunged forward, unleashing a wave of infernal energy upon the team through the eyes upon their chest, screeching as they did. Kirlisir attempted to establish a barrier of essence in order to defend herself against the blasts due to being in the close vicinity of the gigantic, psychotic aliens, yet it broke swiftly and she was thrown backwards with her armour scorched and steaming. Vekaron dodged to the side as he could while Dolgan hid under cover, aiming her gun to continuing firing at the Zí-Jittorám as they were attacking. Kit and Kilchárunya quickly evaded the blast, though even at the intense heat of the Zí-Jittorám's attack, it left their armour charred also.
Kamaris had gone on to face Thoomzakaran himself, using his short blade against the descended Mahanayan's much longer spear. Kamaris was centuries more experienced in combat, and even with the disadvantage, was proving a match for his opponent as they fought each other behind the frenzy. Vekaron attempted to flank the Zí-Jittorám and approach one of them to attack it with his vibrosword, while Dolgan growled in annoyance as they had not yet died to her shots.
- Dolgan - Demon scum! Just die already!
The Zí-Jittorám slowly marched forward, visibly flinching from the gunfire, though it seemed there was little damage taken to them as they approached the team.
- Kirlisir - ... I think I have an idea.
- Vekaron - Whatever it is, do it quickly!
- Kirlisir - We're not doing much damage to them... but I reckon they could do plentiful damage to each other if we could misdirect their attacks.
- Vekaron - It's worth a try.
Kirlisir dashed ahead once more, although this time she did not attempt to launch herself at any single target; instead, she aimed to get between the two titans, her heart racing in her chest as she did so. The Zí-Jittorám aimed for Kirlisir, one of them going in for a headbutt, though they did not run into each other as she wished. Kirlisir leaped as one of them made their move to butt her, slamming the edge of her blade into the back of its neck and resting upon its back, clasping on for dear life as she mounted the beast. She dug her claws into its rear and began to launch blasts of psychokinetic impulses at point blank from her mind. The Zí-Jittorám suddenly went berserk as it roared, its tongue thrashing itself all over the place as its body flickered in fire - its eye glowing in that intense light again. The other Zí-Jittorám looked on at the other, curious as to what was happening to it. Kirlisir used her psychic power in an attempt to influence the movement of the fiendish creature, attempting to drive its berserk, untamed motions towards its accomplice while she felt her armour and hands burning with its blood and its intensifying daemonic aura.
- Kirlisir - B-By the Composer, damnit!
The Zí-Jittorám lost its balance as it fell backwards, though in return, a wave of energy from its eye threw itself forward, blasting the other Zí-Jittorám's head to pieces as it then berserked aimlessly about the room. Dolgan focused her fire on the now-headless Zí-Jittorám while Vekaron went for the Rovegar's aid, plunging his sword into it while it was downed. Kirlisir's armour crumpled under the weight of the Zí-Jittorám as it threw itself backwards, causing her to instinctively roll to her side weakly, her fingers charred and burned while her armour had become blackened and damaged from the battle. She winced in pain, her breaths seething through her teeth. The downed Zí-Jittorám spewed a molten liquid from its body as it was torn open by Vekaron's sword, writhing about on the floor as it bled in copious amounts. The other Zí-Jittorám did the same, though not before running into and against a wall, clawing on to it to remain standing, then tearing the bricks from the wall as it collapsed in heap.
- Dolgan - Hah! Not unlike a headless Varkorus.
Meanwhile, Thoomzakaran looked on at the defeated Zí-Jittorám, allowing Kamaris to deal a barrage of fist strikes onto the Mahanayan's body. It was futile, however; Thoomzakaran's superior endurance only granted him the ability to return those punches, delivering a crushing blow to Kamaris' side as the Colossi cried out in pain before being kicked away, a spatter of blood coming from his mouth. Vekaron took hold of Kirlisir and attempted to help her back on her feet while Dolgan put her coilgun on its sheath and took out her daggers, charging close to Thoomzakaran's position with a somewhat furious expression on her face. Thoomzakaran stretched his spear high into the air, accumulating a similar red energy at its tip as he hammered it against the ground, causing the courtyard's floor to open up in a fissure.
- Kirlisir - K... K-Kamaris! Get out of there!
Kamaris clawed himself off the ground, ducking out of the way of the demonic Mahanayan's attack. He stood up from the ground, clenching on to his chest as it was cracked and broken from his opponent's attack, though he held weakly on to his blade as he moved towards Thoomzakaran with a look of blind rage in his frayed eyes. Kirlisir attempted to move to secure Kamaris' flank and lend her support although she swiftly collapsed onto a knee and had to clasp onto Vekaron for balance, watching the battle unfold with immense worry. The Zoles captain watched as he held Kirlisir, and Dolgan stopped on her tracks as Kamaris got back up, watching to see if he could take care of it himself before she tried to intervene. Thoomzakaran swung the spear around as fast as he could at Kamaris in an attempt to decapitate him, though the Colossi was dodging spear swings as he slowly neared himself. The Mahanayan then thrusted the spear forward, though even at that close a range, Kamaris was still the superior fighter. Taking ahold of the spear in his hand, burning him as it was coursing with demonic energies, Kamaris grabbed the spear off Thoomzakaran, throwing it on the floor as he quickly retorted with a thrust from the blade into the Mahanayan's left shoulder, causing Thoomzakaran to growl and groan as his wound bled a lava-like substance. Kamaris looked at him for a few moments, perhaps considering mercy, though there was little left in the Colossi now. He threw his hand forward, tearing the Mahanayan's throat straight from his neck as Thoomzakaran then clumsily stumbled about in shock, before his motion was completely ceased by Kamaris' fist, severing his jaw from his head and sending his corpse crashing into the ground.
- Vekaron - Oh...
- Dolgan - Niiiice!
- Kilchárunya - And you're the nice one out of us lot?
Kamaris wiped the blood from his mouth, though shortly after, he himself collapsed out of exhaustion and pain, close to where his broken enemy laid.
- Vekaron - We need to take him, and Kirlisir, to the medi-bay at once. We can't have this fight be in vain.
- Kit - Right. Someone give me some help.
- Dolgan - On it, captain.
- Kirlisir - I-I'll be fine... H-Honest.
- Vekaron - It'll take more than just the attitude to endure that one.
Taken back to the medi-bay, Kamaris' and Kirlisir's wounds were tended to by Vyatak. Kamaris was laid down, though leaning back on a propped-up table, looking vacantly onwards as he was resting there, the doctor nearby. Kirlisir was sat up straight, wincing in pain as the wounds, which included largely burns, bruises, and internal fractures, were tended to.
- Kamaris - This is not the first time I have been treated on this table.
- Vyatak - Will not be last. Heavy injuries. Surprising endurance... Been a while since this much treatment required. Kirlisir will be fine though. Just a case of Rovegar fragility.
- Kirlisir - Who are you... c-calling fragile?
- Vyatak - Rovegar race, of course. Common knowledge. Weak muscle strength. Easily harmed... As Wragrot would say, "Could use as toothpick". Regardless. Battle won. Congratulations to Kamaris.
- Kirlisir - Yes... How are you feeling, Kamaris?
- Kamaris - Aside from eight broken ribs, a peforated lung and a bruised jaw...alright.
- Vyatak - Could be worse. Could be dead. Battle won anyway. Enemy dead though, cannot be questioned... Dolgan wanted to cut his eyes off before he died. A shame.
As they were speaking, Syravakazan, one of the Mahanayans present at Kamaris' hearing, entered the room. He looked at the three present, especially Kamaris, who was bearing his teeth at the overseer's entry. Vyatak ignored the arrival of the overseer completely while Kirlisir kept her good eye locked on him as he approached.
- Syravakazan - ...Congratulations on your victory against Thoomzakaran, Natyrazhakamaris.
- Kamaris - A descended warrior and two Zí-Jittorám. How did that get past you? Especially when they were practicing the arts of the Enemy?
- Syravakazan - He kept it rather well concealed. Regardless...we welcome you as head of our order, now.
- Kamaris - ...After that? You were so blind to see that Thoomzakaran was spreading the Dominion's influence in your own walls?
Kamaris took his helmet off, throwing it at Syravakazan with considerable aggression. The overseer dodged the throw, though he was visibly intimidated by Kamaris' wrath.
- Kamaris - Consider that my excommunication.
The overseer stared at Kamaris for a few moments, as Kamaris was looking directly at him, even when blindfolded. A few silent moments passed before Syravakazan exited, taking Kamaris' helm with him, mumbling something in his native tongue as he left.
- Kirlisir - He had what was coming for him... but are you really willing to leave the Colossi?
- Kamaris - I did not enter those walls for years. I was surprised I was even given a concierge when I returned. Hmph. I don't think my skills as a warrior are put to good enough use there, anyway.
- Vyatak - Forget them. Don't need their kind. Have us instead!
Vyatak smiled in a rather forced manner, as it was unusual for him to smile at all, as he attempted to cheer Kamaris up.
- Kamaris - You should not feign emotion, doctor. I have felt more purpose in my life these past years than I ever had in Mahanaya.
- Kirlisir - Yeah, he's not wrong. You'll always have a place in our strange family.
Kirlisir: An Old Friend
Days passed since the incident at Mahanaya, and life resumed as usual at the Shadow's Beginning as the team returned to their usual duties. It was another usual day with Vekaron at the captain's bay of the ship while the crew remained at the main hall when an alert sounded, taking their attention: a distress signal was being sent to them. Having no reason to ignore it, Vekaron played it for them all to listen to. A feminine voice could be heard, her tone panicked.
- ??? - I hope I got it right with these coordinates. Kirlisir, if you can hear me, I need your help! It's your old friend Miraniel! My ship is being attacked by Ganthoreans! Please! I don't have much-
At this point, the transmission was cut out. Kirlisir's head perked up at the sound of the woman's voice and the message she had to convey, her eyes widening briefly while she remained in a momentary state of shock. She felt a cold shiver down her spine and said little, merely staring into space as if she was dazed or in some form of trance.
- Dolgan - Well, that was something.
- Vekaron - Kirlisir?
- Kilchárunya - Ganthoreans? Eh?
- Kirlisir - ... By the Composer... W-Why Miraniel... of all people...
- Vekaron - Who is this person? And what is a Ganthorean?
- Kirlisir - ... The Ganthoreans are an invasive, spacefaring species that work through infesting worlds and ships and bringing their inhabitants under their fold. They're... an ancient nemesis of the Matriarchy. And Miraniel is... an old friend of mine. It... It's difficult to explain.
- Vyatak - Former teammate?
- Kirlisir - Could say that. ... She harboured me while the Matriarchy was looking for me in return for her security. She... She is... was more than a teammate.
- Kilchárunya - ...Eh?
- Kirlisir - You wouldn't understand.
- Vekaron - I'll set course to the distress signal's origin asap. Don't worry, Kirlisir. We'll save your friend.
- Kirlisir - If we aren't too late...
Using the closest Cold Relay, the team travelled to the origin of the signal, at the outskirts of the Geriamias Sector, a region of space none of them save for Kirlisir had been before. They discovered Miraniel's ship, roughly twice the size of Vekaron's own ship, orbiting around a blue giant star, seemingly deactivated, and promptly took the shuttle to board it. Once they entered the vessel itself, the first thing they could see as they boarded it were the corridors of the ship were covered in blood, and the sound of distant hisses and howls could be heard. Kirlisir adorned her Rovegarian armour with her visor down, obscuring her face from view - a gesture that she had swiftly stopped using soon after accompanying the team and had not used until now. Kamaris ran his finger against the wall, scooping some of the blood from it and inspecting it with his sense of smell.
Slumped against a wall was the corpse of a Levarcor, likely a crewmember of the vessel. The team could see what looked like vines coming out of his mouth, ears and nostrils, while not too far away were the corpses of multiple Rovegar, who instead had been torn to pieces by what looked like blades and gunfire. Kirlisir approached the corpses with caution before her eyes turned attentively towards the Levarcor's cadaver, eyeing it with an evident sense of paranoia.
- Kirlisir - ... Did anyone bring anything incendiary?
- Dolgan - Do I look like Kravh Helljaw to you?
- Kilchárunya - Particle beam weaponry. Always fun.
- Kirlisir - Good. ... Stay away from any intact corpses you find.
- Vekaron - Why's that?
- Kirlisir - You don't want to get infected. ... Or ambushed.
Gargling sounds were heard coming from the Levarcor as its eyes suddenly widened, devoid of any pupils as the vines on its throat extended outwards to Kirlisir's direction like a mass of tentacles. Kirlisir screeched as she danced and swung her blades in all directions in an attempt to cut the appendages into mere pieces, all the while gesturing for someone to dispose of the Levarcor from afar.
- Kirlisir - Quickly!
With a disgusted look on her face, Dolgan charged at the Levarcor and begun stomping down on it, crushing its bones under her foot until it, and its vines, stopped moving altogether. Kirlisir jumped back, breathing heavily beneath her visor as she glanced across the stretch of the corridor, a faint, blue aura manifesting around her armour as the team could see she grew visibly worried. Vekaron led them into the interior of the ship, keeping his blade and gun prepared in case of any ambushes. The sound of rattling metal could be heard inside the walls, as well as hissing noises the more they ventured inside the vessel. Eventually, they found themselves in a large hall, littered with the corpses of Rovegar, as well as something else.
It was a large, purple-skinned creature, its back decorated with huge spikes as it did not face the team, isntead feeding on the corpses in the room. By its look, it was evidently part-plant, and it dug its jawless mouth deep into the body of a Rovegar as it devoured her, ripping her apart as it did so. Kirlisir stepped ahead, placing a hand on Vekaron's shoulder and pulling him backwards so as to not get too close to the colossal floral beast as it fed upon the corpses of the crew; she had to resist the urge to cry as she realised she had known and recognised many members of the crew which now lay slain and mutilated in front of her. Vekaron turned to the others and whispered.
- Vekaron - Open fire before it notices us.
- Kirlisir - I suggest not meeting with it... in melee.
- Kilchárunya - Well duh.
Taking out her coilgun, Dolgan aimed at the head of the monster and fired, causing it to be flung forward as its mouth exploded. As it died, its back erupted in a blast of what looked like pollen, which floated around the air for several moments before falling down.
- Kirlisir - Don't breath in. ... That's how they get to you.
- Kamaris - Hm. This is why filtering systems are beneficial.
- Kirlisir - You think Rovegar vessels are not fitted with filters? ... The Ganthoreans are not foolish. I assure you, the air filters are the first components of hardware they attempt to disable upon infiltration.
- Vekaron - Urgh. This reminds me of the Slave Drones of the Alvino Brood.
Venturing inside the room, the team could hear the sound of screaming as from one distant corridor, they could spot another Levarcor, being dragged by the legs by another Ganthorean as a second one watched them, and then closed the door to no longer be seen. At one corner of the room they were presently in was a computer which played what looked like a video log. Kirlisir could identify the Rovegar on the screen as being Miraniel.
- Log - ... And as far as the researchers we have hired have told us, the Ganthorean samples are inert and pose no threat to the ship. It is very rare to come across intact Ganthorean material, and studying it will prove definitely revolutionary to the Matriarchy... not to say the sheer amount of wealth one could gain from it.
Kirlisir approached the computer that played the video log as if the world around her now centralized upon it, becoming somewhat ignorant and oblivious of her companions as she neared the piece of hardware. She ran her fingertips softly through the holo-screen without muttering a word, her eyes captivated with Miraniel's visage and words as the recording spoke them. It would take her until the next loop that she brought herself to speak up.
- Kirlisir - ... We need to keep looking. There could be survivors.
- Vekaron - Which way to the captain's bridge? Chances are she's hiding there.
- Kirlisir - There should be an elevator on this floor that can take us there if the power is still online. Chances are it is given that we still have artificial gravity.
- Vekaron - Lead the way.
Kirlisir nodded and took a moment to analyze the video log before dashing away from it, rushing through the hall towards the far side where a small, cylindrical chamber could be seen embedded into the wall; a communal elevator that was roughly large enough for the entire team to use. Vekaron and several other teammates could note that despite Kirlisir's size, the elevator itself stood three to four meters in height - far taller than Kirlisir. As they approached the elevator, gunfire was heard and projectiles flew past them - looking back, several other Ganthoreans were giving chase, each wielding a Rovegar-made assault rifle, likely stolen from the dead crew. Kirlisir growled and she hurried the group inside of the elevator, throwing psychokinetic blasts in the direction of the Ganthoreans in a brief panic.
- Kirlisir - Damnit! ... Urgh, the sooner we find Miraniel and her women, the sooner we can leave!
Vekaron and Dolgan both fired their guns to keep the Ganthorean wave at bay, and after a few moments, the elevator arrived. As it opened, they were met to the sight of numerous aliens, all of them infested in vines, moaning in agony as they immediately charged at the team. Kirlisir focused her efforts in protecting the flank against the gun-wielding Ganthoreans, launching psychic blasts to launch them off their feet and making an effort to dice and slash at any that got too close to her or the team's flank. Kamaris unleashed heavy bolts of plasma on to the Ganthorean horde, blasting many at a time with his cannon. Vekaron turned to the zombified aliens and cut them down to give the team room to enter the elevator, and once they all got inside, he quickly ordered it to go to the captain's bridge, the doors closing inches before the Ganthoreans could rush inside. Even after they were safe, they still heard the sounds of their claws beating against the doors before the elevator started moving.
- Kirlisir - ... Oh no.
- Dolgan - Geez, these guys really don't take a breath, eh?... What is it now?
- Kirlisir - They... They arrived on the elevator. That means... That means they could have come from the captain's bridge.
- Dolgan - ... Hm. Yeah, I don't think your friend has much of a chance at this point.
- Kilchárunya - Even I know when to shut it.
- Kirlisir - No, no... It's quite alright. ... In truth, I... I didn't expect Miraniel to have survived this long, not without outside aid. I... I'm here because...
- Vekaron - Hey, hey. It's alright. Don't worry.
Moments passed, the ship going silent as the elevator proceeded to its destination, and less than one minute later, the doors opened again to reveal the corridor which led to the captain's bridge. The team was met by what could easily be counted as a graveyard - the bodies of Rovegar and aliens alike littered it, some infested in vines and some simply torn apart violently. The lights of the corridor had been broken and instead it was illuminated by emergency, reddened lights, causing the scene to be even more grim to the eyes. Kirlisir raised a hand to her mouth and spluttered behind her visor, briefly raising it in order to collapse onto her knee and spew a sickening collection of fluids at her feet uncontrollably at the sight of the bloodbath before her. The contents of her stomach were almost transparent as they were concocted with her saliva, and it gave off an ill stench while Kirlisir's face contorted and reddened heavily.
- Kirlisir - ... Eurgh...
- Dolgan - Agh! Ugh! What the hell is wrong with you?!
- Kirlisir - I knew these people... Their faces... I knew their names, their families! And... And they're all dead! ... Hundreds, thousands.... W-We... We need to destroy the ship...
- Dolgan - Puking at us will not get them back. If anything that just makes me want to leave you here.
- Vekaron - Enough. Onward.
Dolgan huffed and quickly walked past the piles of corpses while Vekaron offered a hand to Kirlisir so that she could get back up. Kirlisir took it and swiftly moved ahead, panting as she glanced at each of the quite possibly hundreds of bodies that littered the corridor; no matter how lightly she treaded, her ears were subject to the sickening, chilling sound of her feet pressing onto soft, blood-soaked tissues. After some moments of walking, with Dolgan taking the time to stomp down on vine-infested corpses like she had done to the first Levarcor, the team finally arrived to the captain's bridge. Like the corridor, it was illuminated by red lights as the control systems were damaged and shattered, but they could see they were not alone.
Sitting upon the captain's chair, which faced away from the team and toward the artificial window-like structure which allowed them to see the void of space, was a Rovegar whose breath could be heard. She was still alive.
- Kirlisir - ... M-Miraniel... Miraniel, is that... is that you?
The chair turned itself to them, and Kirlisir could identify the Rovegar as being Miraniel. Her eyes were widened, her expression locked in what looked like terror, though upon taking sight of the team, she appeared to calm down somewhat. Kirlisir was almost brought to tears as she looked upon what remained of her friend, stepping lightly to approach closer to her vicinity, almost forgetting entirely about the Ganthorean infestation that claimed the rest of the ship.
- Miraniel - ... Kirlisir?
- Kirlisir - Miraniel. ... I-It's me. I'm here, j-just... just like you wanted. ... I'm so s-sorry... I d-didn't arrive... sooner...
- Miraniel - Kirlisir... Come here... I need someone I can trust...
Miraniel opened her arms invitingly to Kirlisir, waiting to see how she would respond. Kirlisir took several steps forward before hesitating as she got within a meter of the woman, stopping herself from getting any closer as much as she had wanted to embrace her in that moment.
- Kirlisir - ... I... I can't. Please, f-forgive me...
- Miraniel - But I'm terrified... they are everywhere... I need someone to comfort me... please...
- Kirlisir - ... How... How are you still alive...? ... Where are your soldiers...? Your family...?
Kirlisir approached Miraniel, lightly lifting her arms to come into contact with her, albeit with caution. She placed a hand upon the woman's shoulder, gently sliding it to her back, and another upon her hip and thigh while she brought her body closer. Her voice quivered into a soft whisper, her eyes glimmering as tears ran down the length of her face while looking gently into Miraniel's own. As they were close, Miraniel leaned forward, putting her lips against Kirlisir's before she could have any chance to retaliate. Vekaron reacted to the move with a raised eyebrow, while Dolgan yelled out in disgust, covering her eyes with her hands. Kirlisir returned the kiss gently, her hand brushing down Miraniel's back while the other moved to grope her rear, her eyes half-closed as she glared intently.
- Kirlisir - ... Miraniel...
Kirlisir could feel Miraniel's tongue wrapping around hers... until it grew swollen, tasting like a vine as it begun to penetrate her throat, Miraniel's eyes going blank as an ethereal, psychic voice roared through the minds of the team.
- Miraniel - AND THROUGH YOU, THE MATRIARCH WILL BE MINE.
In moments, Kirlisir brought her teeth down onto the vine as hard as she could, while the hand that had been laid upon the captain's rear swiftly removed itself and drew back; it was in the following moments that Kirlisir ran the length of her blade through Miraniel's abdomen her strength enhanced by her armour, and managed to restrain the entity that had possessed Miraniel's body with the hand upon her back, holding the captain against her body. The infected Rovegar growled like a rabid animal as it continued its attempts to penetrate Kirlisir's throat, almost unfazed by the stab on its torso until Vekaron rushed ahead and delivered a strike of his own, severing Miraniel's head from her shoulders. Her decapitated head fell into the floor, rolling around it and revealing the vines growing on her own insides. Kirlisir stepped backwards, spitting at the ground and glaring at the dismembered head with a concoction of emotions, although she had her teeth, bloodied with green, alien fluids, bared.
- Kirlisir - ... I should never have left you, Miraniel... Maybe... Maybe if I stayed you would not have been... such a fool...
- Dolgan - Vaxal's sake, ew, ugh, now I think I'm the one who's gonna puke!
- Kilchárunya - ...So that's what you mean by 'more than friends'? Either way, we should set this place to self destruction. Purge it.
Raising a hand, Kirlisir channeled her psychic energies through her fingertips and towards the decapitated head, focusing on it for a moment before she softly closed her eyes and composed her breathing; the infested Rovegar's skull and other innards detonated from Kirlisir's channelling, exploding into an irreparable state, before she turned and approached the ship's main console in order to affirm the command for the ship to self-destruct. She remained quiet and did not say anything, although Vekaron could hear her faintly sobbing as she worked the console. The Zoles preferred to remain silent in order to not make the situation any worse, while Dolgan prepared her gun for combat for when they begun their escape.
- Kirlisir - Done. Now... We'd best leave and make sure... w-we go through quarantine. Any trace... of the Ganthorea could lead to a situation. ... Just like this one.
- Vekaron - Get to the elevator and brace yourselves. They will defiitely be waiting for us between here and the shuttle.
Kirlisir waited for the team to turn their backs and head for the elevator in the outside corridor before she stood beside Vekaron and, without saying a word, placed her hand firmly into his. She was biting her lower lip, holding back an onslaught of tears while looking away from the Zoles Penumbran. Kirlisir could feel Vekaron's wing wrapping itself around her in an embrace as they got into the elevator. Silence hit the ship once again until it arrived to the first floor.
As the doors opened, the team was met with the sight of a swarm of hissing, growling and roaring Ganthoreans as well as many zombified aliens who glared at them as they arrived.
- Vekaron - Kill them all!
Gently letting go of Kirlisir's hand, Vekaron then charged at the swarm, cutting through them with his blade to make room for the team to get to the shuttle. Dolgan let out a battlecry as she joined him, stabbing through the plant-like monstrosities with her daggers in a fury. Kilchárunya let out blast after blast from her pistols, whilst Kit fired from his rifle and Kamaris from his cannon. Kirlisir danced through the Ganthorean horde, using her blades to slice the infested creatures apart while utilising her psychic energies in order to either launch or cripple any Ganthorean that she could not close the range with, causing their torsos to explode from pressurizing and assaulting their internal organs.
As the way to the shuttle was open and the team proceeded, Kirlisir could watch as a much larger Ganthorean forced its way through a corridor. It was a Garonthkar, its powerful trunk-like arms bashing and creating dents into the reinforced hull of the ship like it was nothing. The beast roared as it gave chase, trampling over thralls and Ganthoreans alike as its attention was centered on the team. Kirlisir snarled as she dashed towards the colossal parasite, dashing through its underside between its legs until she had managed to flank the beast, proceeding to scale it with her claws burying into its firm hide. She climbed across its back until she grappled ahold of its neck from above and proceeded to release a piercing, shrieking scream into where its ears should have been, all the while pressurizing its head with her psychic powers; it would take moments before the Garonthkar's head exploded into a viscous green mass and twitching muscle tissues from the combined assault, with Kirlisir leaping off of the slumping, lifeless body to rejoin her companions in their escape.
With an impressed look on his face, Vekaron ordered the team inside the shuttle, allowing them to go first before he entered last, closing it before they finally departed. As the shuttle returned to their ship, the team could watch Miraniel's vessel explode, the power of the blast being enough to reduce the spaceship and all the monsters in it to ash. Kirlisir watched the detonation in silence, a blank, indifferent expression on her face before she turned away from the group, sitting aside from them to collect her thoughts it would appear.
- Vekaron - It's over... Kirlisir, I'm... I'm sorry...
- Kirlisir - For what? ... I dragged you into that hellhole. I let my feelings get the best of me... and you all had to suffer along with me for it. ... I just had to be sure; sure that... Miraniel died and... that the ship could not be used by those damned bastards.
- Dolgan - Geez girl, stop whining. We went there because we wanted to, and your friend was put to rest. That should be enough.
- Kirlisir - ... No. The fact that Miraniel's crew came across Ganthorea samples means they're returning... More people are going to find them. There... There will be more cases like that across the galaxy. It's no coincidence that the Ganthorea decided to... to make their move now that the number of threats to their existence has been reduced.
- Dolgan - That's just how war works. We'll just have to wait and fight back when it's time.
- Vekaron - I heard her say she was going to get the Matriarch through you. Any idea what that meant?
- Kirlisir - Hell if I know.
- Kamaris - Whatever that means...I expect it will not end without bloodshed on a galactic scale.
- Kirlisir - ... We cannot allow the Ganthorea to reach the Matriarchy's inner-colonies. Or Hyperborea. ... Could you imagine the chaos if someone brought those samples back to Hyperborea? Trillions, if not quadrillions, of families...
- Vekaron - For now, let's just rest and make sure we are not infected. I've had enough of hostile plant aliens for a while.
Dolgan: Siblings Reunited
It was late at the Shadow's Beginning, and most of the team had already gone to rest. Vekaron remained on the captain's bay for a while longer, drinking on a cup of his people's equivalent of coffee as he browsed the extranet to pass the time. Eventually though, him and the pilots heard the sound of approaching footsteps behind them as Dolgan Tuchaki arrived, carrying a datapad on her hands as she looked somewhat apprehensive. Vekaron spun his chair to face her, taken by surprise by her appearance. It looked like she was trembling in place.
- Vekaron - Dolgan? Are you unwell?
- Dolgan - C-Captain, I'm... I'm here to ask...
- Vekaron - Yes?
- Dolgan - ... Ask if could have your p-permission to... take a ship to Andromeda tomorrow.
It was unusual for Dolgan to be this polite or shy. While she displayed a loyal politeness to Vekaron by default, she was being odd in his eyes at this occasion. The Zoles captain got up from his chair and approached the Borealis Zazane, looking down at her smaller figure with an air of curiosity.
- Vekaron - Andromeda? Why do you want to go there?
- Dolgan - Well, I got a message from Kalcedia this morning and...
- Vekaron - Kalcedia?... I was wondering where she had gone to after she left the ship.
- Dolgan - She's off to Andromeda for some personal business, but... she found one of my brothers, captain...
At this moment, Vekaron was reminded of his team's confrontation with Dolgan months prior, where they learned her past and reason for her misanthropy. The Zoles captain's stance relaxed as he looked down on his subordinate, a warm smile growing on his reptilian face as he took the datapad from her hands in order to read it himself. It had a number of coordinates to a neutral space of Andromeda at the outskirts of the Borealia Kingdom as well as a scheduled time for Dolgan to be there, with Kalcedia's signature at the bottom.
- Dolgan - She arranged a meeting... it's my chance to see one of my brothers after so long... at least I know she was not lying anymore.
- Vekaron - ... Okay, Dolgan. You're free to take a cruiser to Andromeda. We'll be waiting for your return at Hyperborea.
As she heard these words, a gleeful gasp came out of Dolgan as she proceeded to wrap her arms around Vekaron's torso, hugging her captain in her greatest display of affection ever since they had met. The Zoles himself was caught off-guard and stumbled in place for a few moments before he rested his hands on Dolgan's shoulders warmly. The hug lasted for several moments until Dolgan let go of Vekaron, giggling to herself as she proceeded to run off to her own quarters, leaving the captain to his pilots once again.
The next day, provided with a cruiser piloted by a crew of Caretakers and equipped with FTL drives, Dolgan made her way to the Andromeda Galaxy, to the coordinates set at Segmentum Crepusculum. Usually dressed in battle armor, Dolgan instead wore an elegant blue dress which would be more fitting for a noblewoman than a tomboyish warrior like her, though she nonetheless wanted to keep a good appearance. The ship was led to a space station, correctly located at the outskirts of the territory the Borealia Kingdom had claimed as their own, and as she landed on it, she was led to their meeting place: a club for wealthy individuals of some description. As she made her way through the station, the many Borealis Zazane around it found themselves captivated to her well-dressed form, leading to many uninvited stares. The mercenary warrior did the best she could to hide her displeasure as she ignored the hungry eyes of those who took sight of her.
As she arrived to the VIP quarters of the club, her heart raced as she opened the steel doors to reveal her brother was already there, apparently having just arrived before her. Kryptkor Talsar was well dressed as well, wearing his royal ornaments in order for the others to recognize his identity as he opened a bottle of Paa'go. As he noticed Dolgan's arrival, he nodded in acknowledgement and signaled her to sit down in front of him, which the older female promptly did. His face appeared rather non-chalant, as if unaware of why he was there to begin with, although he clearly eyed Dolgan in the same way the strangers outside did. After all, she looked absolutely gorgeous.
- Kryptkor - I assume you are the one who wanted an audience. I would usually not attend to every audience request, but the anonymous source which told me about you seemed rather urgent about it, claiming you had something to say which would "make my day". So, what do you wish to talk about, miss...?
- Dolgan - ... Oh, my dear Kryptkor... You look as youthful as I remember, always with your love for gold noticeable from a distance...
- Kryptkor - ... Excuse me, you caught me a little off-guard here. Have we met?
- Dolgan - Kryptkor... It's been almost 30 years... I thought you were dead for so long... It's me, Tulsarshima.
Currently drinking from his cup, Kryptkor's eyes widened and he proceeded to spit it out, startled as he heard the name of his sisters for the first time since the Zoles killed his father. He was visibly shaken, putting the cup down rather abruptly and clenching his claws against the table as he looked at Dolgan again.
- Kryptkor - W-what?! What did you say?!
- Dolgan - It's me, little brother. Tulsarshima.
- Kryptkor - What trickery is this?! How do you know my sister's name? Is this an assassination attempt?!
- Dolgan - Hey! Calm down!
- Kryptkor - My dear sister rests under the rubble of Kryptka's former capital! She could not be standing here today! I don't know who you are, but I'll make you regret trying to impersonate her!
At this moment, Dolgan sent a hand at Kryptkor, slapping him across the face. The sudden move caused the Ice King to flinch and stop in place, holding on his face with a hand as her slap proved far stronger than he would have imagined.
- Dolgan - Stop! I'm Tulsarshima, and I'm going to prove it! Who was it that visited you at your prison room every day after Tondroskys, our father, declared you a traitor after they discovered you were the criminal called Sheer Cold? It was me. I visited you every night... I hummed our mother's lullaby to help you sleep... I stroke your crest until you faintly snored on my legs...
As she spoke, tears begun forming around Dolgan's eyes, and she looked at Kryptkor to see he was reacting in a similar way. The king of the Borealia Kingdom begun to weep as he remembered his old days at Borealis, reaching his hands to Dolgan and wrapping them around her in a tight embrace, finally no longer being able to resist as he begun to loudly cry on her shoulder. Dolgan replied to the act the same way, tightly holding on her brother, almost squeezing him under her powerful muscles. The hug lasted for a full minute until Kryptkor spoke again, struggling to hold on more tears.
- Kryptkor - W-what about Gelarichon and Nevascar? Did... did they survive as well?
- Dolgan - They didn't. As far as I know, they're both dead...
- Kryptkor - I see... T-Tulsarshima... you cannot believe how happy I feel right now... To think I've thought you dead for nearly 30 years...
- Dolgan - I thought the same... It was our mutual friend who even showed me you were still alive.
- Kryptkor - Who is this person anyway?
- Dolgan - ... It's not important. What's important is that I know you are alive and well again...
- Kryptkor - Tulsarshima... you look so beautiful...
At this moment, Kryptkor ceased the hug as he then held into Dolgan's hands, looking at her eyes with an air of determination.
- Kryptkor - Come to my kingdom! Lead it with me!
- Dolgan - W-what?
- Kryptkor - I lead our people in this galaxy, Tulsarshima, better than our disgrace of a father ever led ours at Borealis. With you on my side, we can lead the Detharango to an era of prosperity!
- Dolgan - Kryptkor... I'm no royal. Not anymore. I'm a warrior now. A soldier under the Polar Crystal Alliance. I'm part of the Penumbra Unit.
- Kryptkor - ... Oh. The Polar Crystal Alliance... Yes, I've heard of them and their feats... I hear they subdued the Wranploer recently.
- Dolgan - Yes, and our people there, if you care so much for them, now live better life under those Merchant loads. I'm sorry but I can't leave my current position, not even for you. I have hated the universe and committed many crimes over these last decades, and I must atone for these sins.
- Kryptkor - ... Okay, Tulsarshima. I understand... But let us keep in touch, at least. You're always free to visit my new capital of Hirasaak whenever you wish.
- Dolgan - You've grown so much... I'm proud of you, my baby brother. Let us at least spend the rest of today together, like family...
Their arms wrapping themselves around each other, more tears were shed as the two strained siblings reunited after so long. Dolgan had hated her existence for so long, yet now, she was glad to be alive. Her heart was filled with happiness unlike she had ever felt before in her life, and she wished this day could never end at all. The same could be said for the younger Kryptkor, who had gone through many hardships in recent times involving the loss of friends and his loved one to war, and now, he had found something dear to keep fighting for.
When it was time for Dolgan to depart back to Borealis, no more tears were shed. Only smiles as they waved at each other one final time as her cruiser departed back to where it came.
Vyatak: Former Colleagues
A few days later, Vekaron and his crew had once again returned to their normal activities. At least, until they could hear the screaming of their team doctor, Vyatak, coming from the medi-bay, followed by him running to the captain's bridge at full speed to find Vekaron, passing by the others in the meeting chamber in the process. Vekaron had little time to turn over as Vyatak collided with him, nearly knocking the taller Zoles off his feet.
- Vekaron - W-what?
- Vyatak - Captain. Emergency. Require aid... Aid of everyone. Immediately.
- Vekaron - Calm down and breath slowly first.
Vyatak proceeded to audibly breath very heavily for all of them to hear. His eyes were widened as he held into a small datapad, with Kirlisir racing towards the two men in a brief sprint in order to attain a better sense of Vyatak's state of emotions and affiliated information she could draw from his aura, while also resting a hand on his shoulder to attempt to calm him. Finally calming down to some extent, the doctor spoke again.
- Vyatak - You aware of past profession. Weapons developer and scientist. Spent many years with colleagues creating weaponry. Since then, went separate ways... But received distress signal. Colleagues in danger... Mercenaries.
- Kirlisir - How can you be sure it was your colleagues who sent you the distress signal and is not just an attempt to lure you? ... Like how the Ganthorea did.
- Kilchárunya - Either way, it sounds like an opportunity for some shooting.
- Vyatak - Mercenaries not capable of body possession. Video log displayed former colleague asking for help. Currently being overrun, new technology in development in danger. Could end up in black market... Could end up being used against the Alliance.
- Kirlisir - What sort of "new technology"?
- Vyatak - Weapons in development. Went separate ways years ago therefore not aware of what they have been up to since then... But dear friends regardless. Must be saved. Mercenaries must be stopped.
- Kirlisir - ... On any average day, this would sound fishy to me. ... But I suppose I have no right to deny your request to go and assist your friends considering what you did for me. ... That and I am not the captain of this ship.
- Kilchárunya - How exactly does a band of mercenaries get a hold on something like that? Guess we're expecting some heavy resistance then.
- Vyatak - Saw logo in video log. Logo in mercenary armor. Worrying.
- Vekaron - Why's that?
- Vyatak - Logo of private military company... Soltako Armed Military's logo.
- Kilchárunya - Come again?
- Kirlisir - One of the largest and most affluent mercenary corporations operating in the galaxy as of present. They are effectively their own state from what I hear; involved in a major percentage of pirate raids and have a heavy hand on the slave and weapons trade. ... I've worked and fought against their kind before. Not nice people by any margin.
- Dolgan - Makes no sense though. I heard the Niaka Special Forces stomped those guys off the map.
- Vekaron - Unless they want to use these new weapons to make a massive comeback.
- Kirlisir - ... Or they wanted us to believe them gone while they were re-organizing themselves.
- Kamaris - The Council should be warned.
- Vyatak - No time. Must go to coordinates now. Weapons may be stolen... Colleagues may die.
- Vekaron - Very well. Prepare yourselves for combat. We're going immediately.
Immediately departing and following the coordinates given on Vyatak's datapad, Vekaron and his crew were taken to a space station located at the outskirts of the Zoles Imperium, near the territory of the Samilinus people. As they took the shuttle and entered the station itself, they were immediately met with gunfire being sent at the shuttle's door. There were already mercenaries awaiting for them on arrival. This time, Vyatak was with them, armed with a submachine gun similar to Vekaron's, which he proceeded to fire at the enemies while using the shuttle as cover.
- Vyatak - Do not stand still and watch! Attack back!
- Kilchárunya - Didn't know you could fire a gun.
- Vyatak - A weapons developer who cannot use weapons? Nonsense.
Kilchárunya ducked out of cover, firing multiple blasts from her pistol at the armed mercenaries, as Kamaris unleashed bolts from his cannon between their position in an aim to cause them to retreat. Kirlisir dashed ahead, throwing her arms forward in order to unleash blasts of psychic impulses so as to disrupt the formation of the assaulting mercenaries, before moving to cut down any that came within range of her dashing attack. The attacks easily decimated the mercenaries, allowing the team to safely leave the shuttle area and proceed. Vekaron grabbed one of the dead enemies by the collar of his armor and inspected the logo on them, indeed showing they were SAM-aligned. At this moment, they could hear the sound of someone cowering under some crates, who proceeded to show themselves.
With his arms up in surrender appeared a Samilinus scientist.
- ??? - ... Vyatak? Is that you? Oh thank Volzara you arrived in time.
- Vekaron - Friendly. One of Vyatak's colleagues, evidently.
- Vyatak - Yes. This is Bodav. Old colleague. Created many guns with him once. Used them against Wranploer Legion... Good times.
- Kamaris - What is he doing out here?
- Bodav - I was hiding from the mercenaries. They're infesting the whole station and got the others hostage. They're looking for our plans and will definitely get to them if you're not fast enough.
- Kirlisir - Where are they?
- Bodav - Forward, up the stairs. That's where the weapons bay is located. Please hurry. If that man gets the weaponry then they'll have an edge against the Imperium.
- Dolgan - What man?
- Bodav - They got a... giant with them. Seems to be the man in charge.
- Vyatak - Will ensure their safety. Will also ensure painful death on Soltako scum.
- Bodav - Heh. It seems like you've not changed a bit, Vyatak.
- Kirlisir - Perhaps we should see this side to you a little more often, Vyatak, hm?
- Vyatak - Dedicated doctor. No reason to go out and fight... unless necessary.
Bodav proceeded to run off to the team's shuttle to take shelter in it while they continued inside the complex. A long corridor led to a set of stairs, though it also held many open rooms where they could hear the mercenaries menacing the station's crew. As they walked into the corridor, one of the mercenaries noted their arrival from one of the doors.
- Mercenary - The cops are here! Gun them down!
- Kilchárunya - Hi.
- Vyatak - Attack with extreme prejudice. Racism optional.
Kirlisir nodded and sent forth a ravaging psychokinetic blast to disrupt the mercenaries before she rushed ahead, preparing to slice her opposition into ribbons. One of the mercenaries approached Kamaris, hitting him across the face with a blunt weapon, though only for Kamaris to return the favour with a deadly glare and kicking the mercenary half way across the hall, taking out a few others along the way. While Vekaron slashed at the closest mercenary, Vyatak took out a number of small capsules which he proceeded to throw at the nearby rooms. Explosions were heard as the mercenaries were seen running around, set on fire and made easy targets for the team's weapons.
- Vyatak - Thought was harmless, didn't you? Worst mistake.
- Kilchárunya - Huh. We really should bring you out on the field more often.
- Vyatak - Prefer medicine over field combat. More... challenging.
- Kirlisir - Easier to take a life than to save one?
- Vyatak - Yes. But would never take a life with medicine. Ever. Would rather gun down. Much simpler. Much fairer.
- Kirlisir - If you want a challenge, you should try a sword.
- Kamaris - Or being a Soltako mercenary fighting a Penumbran and his associates.
- Dolgan - Heheheheheh.
- Vyatak - Survivors are to leave through shuttle bay. Move!
Out of the rooms, the Samilinus scientists followed Vyatak's instructions and left from where they had arrived. As the team arrived to the next floor, they found another of the doctor's colleagues tied up to a chair while a large Loron repeatedly hit him over the head with the butt of his rifle. As he noticed the team's arrival, the Loron proceeded to growl out.
- Loron - GRRRR. GRUMBLE GRUMBLE GRUMBLE
- Kamaris - Your associate mentioned a giant.
- Vyatak - Impossible. Too stupid to lead an army.
- Loron - GRUMBLE GRUMBLE grumble grumble GRUMBLE
- Kilchárunya - We live in a place where psychotic soldiers are given pay-rises and the gods of hell walk among us and eat breakfast. Not impossible.
- Kirlisir - But fairly unlikely. ... Plus, I doubt this many Heeyorians would allow an alien to have that much authority over them. Especially a Loron.
The Loron stopped hitting the Samilinus as he took a comms device out of his pocket.
- Loron - GRUMBLE GRUMBLE GRUMBLE grumble grumble. grumble? GRUMBLE GRUMBLE GRUMBLE!!
With this, he proceeded to hurl his gun at Vekaron, hitting the Zoles over the head and knocking him into the floor before running off into another corridor. Kirlisir crouched and examined Vekaron's injury while gesturing for the team to pursue the Loron, throwing another psychic blast at the Loron in order to knock him off balance although she had missed as he left her view.
- Vekaron - ... Ow. That might be a fracture.
- Kit - That's an especially stupid Loron. You get more sense out of talking to a Zí-Jittorám.
- Vyatak - ... Not the leader. Communicated with them then ran to distract us.
- Kirlisir - Urgh, this is why I despise Soltako. ... Come on, big guy, on your feet. It's only a minor bruise.
- Vekaron - I'm positive my skull was fractured. You've obviously never fought a Loron before.
- Kirlisir' - If you keep complaining, I might not kiss it better for you.
- Kamaris - Even I think that is rather emasculating.
- Dolgan - Go to hell, goddamn.
Vyatak ran over to his colleague, the Samilinus named Gelash, and freed him from his bounds as Vekaron got back up, holding on his head in a mix of pain and confusion over what had happened, while Kirlisir smiled and pecked Vekaron on his bruise as he stood.
- Gelash - Vyatak! You're here just in time! The Soltako CEO has his hands on the data package which describes our advancements on the weapon.
- Vyatak - Knew the Loron could not be the leader. But CEO? Soltako has a new CEO?
- Gelash - I don't know the guy but he's huge. Still, you need to recover the data!
- Dolgan - And what if we can't?
- Gelash - ... If that's the case, destroy it so Soltako can't take it.
- Kilchárunya - But what if I want to --
- Kamaris - No.
- Kirlisir - What were you working on, by chance?
- Gelash - Classified new technology for the Imperium. It's not ready yet but if these bandits take it away, then they'll spread it across the Eastern Arm and make the Alliance's job much more complicated.
- Kirlisir - ... So even the Imperium has shady business.
- Kilchárunya - Hardly shady. The Remnant funds private technology all the time...wait.
- Vekaron - We wouldn't want our weapons to become public before they're actually given to the military. Regardless, we must go.
With Gelash safe, the team proceeded where the Loron had run to. Eventually, they arrived to the main weapons bay, finding it protected by many mercenaries who had their weapons aimed at them as they arrived. In the room was the same Loron, who saluted to the CEO as he looked at the team's direction. Standing before them was an immense Heeyorian, his face locked in a malevolent grin while everything below his neck appeared to be a suit of armor, including his limbs and tail.
- Kilchárunya - What is it with Heeyorians and organised crime?
- Vyatak - ... Impossible. Cannot be him. Should be dead.
- Kamaris - There is only one Heeyorian I know of that could warrant that sort of attention. And he's dead.
- ??? - Well, when Kunni'ghan told me there were Penumbrans on the station, I didn't expect them to be YOU of all people, Vekaron Zankho. And I know exactly who you are talking about, but that ain't me. He is a very good role model, though.
- Vekaron - ... Wait a moment. Are you-
- ??? - Indeed! I am Zoltik Relkhul, at your service! Alive and well, too!
- Kirlisir - ... H-How did you manage to drag yourself out from hell? According to official reports, you were decapitated! ... Dead!
- Kilchárunya - Am I missing some details here? Who is this guy?
- Dolgan - Good Vaxal, did you never hear of news?
- Kilchárunya - Evidently not.
- Zoltik - Why yes, decapitated like a chicken by that cruel sunuvabitch what, two years ago? But my boys here, they like me too much to keep me down. Xerkea took my head, but they took my body and then, grew me a new head! Just like that.
- Kirlisir - By the goddesses, you're a freak!
- Zoltik - Hey, you don't hear me complaining about your people's gross giant heads.
- Kamaris - Undoubtedly, this is going to end violently.
- Zoltik - Obviously! Only the strong can survive in the end of any conflict! And I'm pretty sure I'm stronger than you.
- Kirlisir - ... My people do not have big heads! ... Isn't that right, Vekaron?
- Kilchárunya - Kirlisir...we need to have a talk when we get back.
- Kunni'ghan - GRUMBLE GRUMBLE GRUMBLE!!!
With this, the mercenaries all opened fire at the team at once, hoping to gun them down via their sheer numbers. Kirlisir raised her arms and lifted a psychic bubble around the team, deflecting the onslaught of bullets and energy rounds that were launched in their direction, all the while baring her teeth with a reddened, angered expression on her face.
- Kilchárunya - I didn't mean it! I didn't mean it!
Vyatak narrowed his eyes and took out more capsules from his pouch, and begun throwing them aroudn the room while taking cover behind the entrance. The team could notice he was not aiming for the mercenaries, and instead threw the capsules at the weapons themselves plus all the machinery in the room. Zoltik remained oblivious and laughed out heartily while Kunni'ghan continued grumbling, ordering the mercenaries to fire at the team.
- Vyatak - Continue distraction. Following blast will destroy weapons bay entirely.
- Vekaron - So you're going to destroy the weapon data?
- Vyatak - Less valuable than colleagues' lives. Can be recreated someplace safer. Zoltik however cannot escape.
- Kirlisir - I'd advise against trying to face Zoltik up close. ... If I recall, didn't that one Krektal guy fight him in close-quarters and almost got killed because of it?
- Dolgan - Yeah but Krektal are small and squishy.
- Vyatak - Will have no need for close-quarters combat. Enemy neutralized... now.
At this moment, the capsules all exploded in unison like grenades, launching a flurry of flames across the entire room which blasted through all the equipment and weaponry available as well as the mercenaries, who were either blown to pieces or set on fire. Zoltik himself yelled out in surprise and backed away while his Loron lieutenant rolled around the ground, grumbling angrily as he tried to put the fire out.
- Zoltik - The hell?!... What did you do?!
- Vyatak - No weapon for you, no weapon for anyone. Just like that, hm?
- Zoltik - Hmpf... You got me this time but this is hardly the last you'll hear of ol' Zoltik Relkhul!
- Kirlisir' - We had best move to get out as fast as possible before this entire place goes up. Without the weapons data, the mercenaries have no need for the station anymore.
- Vekaron - Good call. Back to the shuttle!
The team proceeded to retreat, leaving Zoltik behind the wall of fire as they returned to the shuttle. They could hear the station's interior exploding behind them due to the collateral damage caused by Vyatak, though they were now safe within their shuttle, alongside all the survivors.
- Vyatak - Mission accomplished.
- Dolgan - A bit too little space here... Get your hand out of there!
- Vekaron - Man, Xerkea is not going to like this.
- Kirlisir - On the contrary, sweetheart, I think she will be over the moon to hear she now has the chance to kill him again.
- Vekaron - You really don't know Xerkea at all.
- Vyatak - Colleagues safe and saved. Captain... I want to thank you, and everyone else.
- Vekaron - Hey, don't worry about it. That's what friends are for.
- Dolgan - Get me off this junk before I pass out.
- Kirlisir - What's the matter Dolgan? ... A little too friendly for your tastes?
- Dolgan - Yes. Yes exactly.
Kirlisir smirked as she proceeded to adjust her seating position, laying herself across Vekaron's lap with an arm around him, one of her hands placed softly on the Penumbran's chest. She passed a teasing glance towards the Zazane as she gently stroked the Zoles.
- Kirlisir - If you cannot handle the heat...
- Kilchárunya - May I remind you there's a Zazane and two Kicath on board.
- Kamaris - Highly aware of that fact.
- Dolgan - If your intention was to make me even more sick, congratulations you big-headed thing.
- Kirlisir - You would not be saying that if Kalcedia was sitting on your lap. ... And I have not got a big head!
- Vyatak - ... Yes. Friends alright.
13 Years Later
Heroes of the Alliance
Gunfire blazed through a storage facility as space pirates fired at the group who had come to stop their operations. A facility located at the edges of the Polar Crystal Alliance's space, it had been attacked by a Wranploer Remnant who wished to use its resources to gain influence and power in order to better compete with their rivals. What they did not expect, however, was the arrival of Penumbran Vekaron and his associates, ordered by the Polar Crystal Council to take down the pirates's operations and authorized to employ as much lethality as they wanted. The enemies, composed mainly of Wranploer, Levarcor, Varkorus fired their weapons desperately as the veteran Zoles hero charged at them, his vibroblade in one hand and machine gun in the other as he made short work of their lives.
His dearest companion and lover, the rogue Rovegar Kirlisir, closed the distance between the pirates and the Penumbran's team, tearing their enemies to bloodied ribbons with her blades as she suggestively danced in her dexterous, yet volatile way. Marching his way through the battlefield, the Mahanayan warrior Kamaris Vorava mowed down wave upon wave of criminals, flanked by Kilchárunya who picked them off with her precise form of ranged weaponry. The other Kicath, Kit tore his way through the fray with his blades. And giving them suppressive fire with her sniper coilgun was the Borealis Zazane ex-pirate Dolgan Tuchaki, who grinned in a rather malevolent way as she tore the criminals apart. The team's combined firepower was overwhelming, causing the pirates to panic and seek shelter deeper into the complex.
- Dolgan - Bahahaha! Run, you cowards!
- Vekaron - That's what happens when Xeron says we can deal with the problem with "extreme prejudice".
- Kirlisir - I'd almost feel bad for them... if it wasn't so much fun, of course. And it's not like the scoundrels don't deserve it.
- Dolgan - Where's your twerp anyway? I can't see her anywhere.
- Vekaron - Must be ahead. We'll meet up with her soon.
- Kirlisir - Gah, I told her not to stray so far ahead. Even if she can rip pirates to pieces with her bare hands, she still needs rear support.
- Kamaris - We should go find her, then.
- Vekaron - Indeed. Move on ahead.
Vekaron led the team forward, securing any stray workers of the storage and signalling the way to safety as they chased after the pirates. Their commander was surely at the deeper reaches of the complex, but it was nothing they were not already used to. The team eventually found themselves confronted by a new wave of Levarcor and Varkorus as they entered a larger chamber, the pirates taking cover behind numerous containers.
- Varkorus - Reeegh! Kill space police people!
- Kirlisir - ... Is not what a smart man would say.
Raising a hand daintly, the Rovegar's fingers subtley twirled as she garnered Essence in her palm, preparing to unleash a psycho-impulse to disrupt the opposition and utilize their cover against them, although she hesitated for a moment to briefly glance at her surroundings, even taking a swift look towards Vekaron as a smile crossed her lips before she winked to him.
- Dolgan - Stop the gooey affection act, we're in the middle of a job here!
In an instant, Kirlisir launched the containers and other loose debris within the room towards the cowering space pirates, opening up vulnerabilities in their formation while assaulting them with a barrage of the weight and mass of their own improvised cover with her psychic energies and allowing her to disrupt the positioning of the team's enemies. Vekaron prepared to charge forward, but before he had the chance, a new figure leaped over the pirates, a pair of large blades in her arms as she begun spinning in the air.
- ??? - Woohooo!
- Dolgan - Oh, there she is.
The figure, a Rovegar much like Kirlisir but of slightly smaller height, was none other than Gardin, Vekaron's adopted daughter. Meeting her as a mere child, she was now a grown up, or at least a late teenager by her species's standards, and was now wearing a Gallarade armor much like Kirlisir, but coloured in red. She spun until her body was a blur, her blades pointed forward as she attacked the downed pirates like a bladed cyclone, tearing them apart and spilling their blood across all directions. Making short work of their lives, she immediately stomped down on one foot, stopping spinning and posing in front of the team.
- Gardin - Kept you waiting, huh?
- Kirlisir - Bravo, sweetheart! Absolutely gorgeous!
- Vekaron - That seemed a bit... erm...
- Dolgan - Unnecessary? Cocky?
- Vekaron - ... Yeah.
- Gardin - Oh come on, Dolgan! You're cramping my style.
- Kirlisir - Yeah, Auntie. Lighten up on her a little. ... Although I will say, sweetheart, that you shouldn't move so far ahead of the rest of the team. You're good, but nobody is that good to not need rear support.
- Gardin - What's the worse that could happen? They're just lowly pirate scum.
- Kirlisir - Believe me, even if they're just lowly pirate scum, they're still armed with dangerous weapons and each and every one of them can break a Rovegar in two with their bare hands. ... Just keep within range where we can see you next time, sweetheart.
- Gardin - Ngh! Mom! You're embarrassing me!
- Kirlisir - Oh please, I'm not even trying this time!
- Kit - ...Aliens.
At this moment, the sound of blasting was heard as a missile was fired at the team's direction. His eyes widening, Vekaron quickly grabbed Gardin and threw both himself and her into the ground so that it would fly over their heads. Kirlisir gasped as she lifted an arm and swiftly launched a psychic pulse at the projectile, knocking it off of its assigned trajectory and directing it away from the rest of the team, before she glanced towards where the missile had been launched from. Ahead of the team was a tall entity with a rocket for an arm, which then shifted itself into a clawed hand through mechanical mechanisms. It was an automaton built into the likeness of an alien race long gone from Borealis, and one the team was familiar with.
- Kirlisir - ... W-What in the Composer's name... is that thing?
- Vekaron - ... Oh. So that's how it's gonna be.
- Dolgan - What? Another Torrent robot? This is what, the fourth we come across in the last two years!
- Kirlisir - This looks to be a newer, stronger model this time around. ... It captures Torrent's ugly mug much better than the other ones.
- Torrent-Bot - Aaarrrhh! You are the one who killed me! Vekaron Zankhar!
- Vekaron - Zankho.
- Torrent-Bot - Yeah, that. I am back from the dead to lead the Legion again! Starting with this storage!
- Gardin - ... Yeah, it might look better, but it doesn't look smarter.
- Kamaris - That I agree with.
- Kirlisir - Regardless, the Wranploer don't use these things lightly. Get into position!
- Torrent-Bot - Scurvy sea space dog! Where me pirate parrot be?!
The robot's arm morphed into a minigun-like cannon as he then opened fire at the team, forcing Vekaron, Gardin and Dolgan to take cover to not be torn apart immediately. Kirlisir moved to dexterously evade the minigun fire, launching brief pulses of psychic energy at the automaton to capture its attention while she dashed through the room, moving to leap and rush from the walls. Vekaron fired his machine gun from cover, but the robot shrugged its fire with its shields as a grenade launcher morphed itself from its shoulder, which it begun to fire at Kirlisir's direction.
- Torrent-Bot - Torrent's legacy will never die! Today you will be history, Vekaron Zinc!
- Vekaron - It's Zankho, you fifth grade AI!
- Kirlisir - It baffles me how the Wranploer could develop an automaton as dangerous as this yet not be literate enough to program your name into it correctly.
- Dolgan - They don't know our surnames. They only know us as the folks who kick their asses all the time!
- Kilchárunya - For your next version of Torrent-bot, can I suggest a coffee machine? I heard coffee's a good drink.
- Vekaron - That's a human drink, isn't it? I think I heard Hachiman mention it and how he couldn't sleep three nights straight from it.
- Kilchárunya - Cancel that.
- Kirlisir - ... Keep it occupied while I move to flank it. Gardin, lend me a hand!
- Gardin - You're going down, Stink-o-tron!
Leaping from her cover, Gardin ran at high speed around the automaton, which begun firing its minigun at her, but was incapable of keeping up with her speed. Kirlisir utilized the velocity generated by the force of the explosions from the machine's grenades to empower and enhance her movements, leaping towards the ground within the automaton's range while moving as a blur, her eyes glancing upon the outstretched arm that housed the gatling gun. She made a move to engage as soon as she landed, aiming to disarm the Torrent-Bot of its primary ranged weapon. The robot's opticals each focused on a Rovegar at the time, and while it was not the best spokesman of artificial intelligences, it was not defenseless either. Its gatling gun arm morphed into a fist as it read Kirlisir's movements, and the robot launched its now clenched fist at the Rovegar's face as she approached. She barely predicted the attack as she modified her movements from an offensive to an evasive, although she felt a portion of armour become softened and cracked at the force of the impact from Torrent-Bot's heavy, mechanical fist. She somersaulted backwards, before dashing at the automaton once more to keep it occupied.
- Kirlisir - ... Yeah, this is definitely a better model! It's able to keep up with my movements!
- Torrent-Bot - Not just yours.
Rising a foot, the Torrent-Bot then jumped at the direction where Gardin was going to run to, the younger Rovegar's eyes widened as the huge machine fell right in front of her, and she yelled out as it grabbed her by the neck, squeezing it as it raised her for the team to see.
- Torrent-Bot - Bringing a child to fight a warlord? Irresponsible!
- Kirlisir - Sweetheart!
- Vekaron - My baby!
- Torrent-Bot - I will break your bones like how I will break your Alliance. Shatter, destroy, stomp and move on!
- Gardin - Gaaahhh!
- Kilchárunya - Wow. Did they put a ham-module in there?
- Kirlisir - Dolgan! Do something!
Dolgan nodded as she took out her daggers and activated her infiltrator cloak, causing her to go invisible to the naked eye. The Torrent-like robot laughed out mechanically as its chest opened, revealing another gatling gun which it fired at the team somewhat eagerly for an artificial intelligence. Kirlisir raised a psychic barrier around herself in a bubble formation, her eyes never moving from the visage of the mechanical visage of the late warlord with the neck of her surrogate daughter in its cold, soulless grasp as she deflected the bullets of the machine's weapon. After several moments, Dolgan reappeared behind the robot and stabbed her daggers in its back, causing it to flinch in place for several moments. However, it appeared mostly unfazed as its head spun 180 degrees to face Dolgan.
- Torrent-Bot - Your attempts to penetrate my chasis with your inferior-sized knives are insulting, Zazane.
- Dolgan - Yeah yeah, shut up and freeze.
Out of the daggers and the armor worn by Dolgan, a blast of cold hit the automaton, which had no time to react as it was frozen by a solid block of ice, only leaving its arm and Gardin, still being strangled, outside of it. Kirlisir hurriedly detached one of her blades from her Witch Gauntlet and clasped its edge in her fingertips before drawing an arm back in order to launch and throw the diamond-sharp monoblade at the outstretched appendage of the Torrent-Bot, her brow furrowing and her eyes narrowed as she impatiently awaited the result. The blade cut through the robot's arm, causing it to fall down and let go of Gardin, who fell on her rear into the ground, clasping on her neck in pain. Vekaron rose from cover with his weapon aimed at the frozen robot as he signalled at it.
- Vekaron - Now, deploy your heaviest weapons and finish it off!
- Kirlisir - I'll get Gardin to safety in the meantime. Dolgan, get back here so you can fire at it!
Kirlisir dashed ahead to embrace the fallen girl in her arms, giving her a brief, motherly hug before she rushed once again to exit the line of fire that would be established by the rest of the team, all the while cradling her daughter closely. Taking position, Dolgan opened fire with her coilgun, aiming at the head of the robot while Vekaron fired his machine gun at it. At point blank range, Kamaris unleashed bolt after bolt of his gun into the robot, whilst Kit and Kilchárunya attacked at a further distance. The combined gun obliterated the automaton, sending shards of metal and ice across the chamber, its now inactive head rolling until Vekaron picked it up, looking at it in silence for several moments.
- Vekaron - ... That's one more for the collection.
Kirlisir set Gardin down on her feet once she assured that the automaton was defeated, although she became more occupied with firmly assessing the state of the younger Rovegar's health rather than watching the glorious moment the Torrent-Bot found its mechanical body reduced to mere pieces of scrap. The motherly Rovegar mumbled to herself as she checked over Gardin's armour and exposed parts, almost as if she were ignoring her daughter's own words.
- Kirlisir - Still have both arms, still have both feet, can still stand, I need to look for bruising or bleeding, sweetheart open your armour--
- Gardin - Mom, please. I'm okay. I just got a few scratches on my neck.
- Kilchárunya - Bet you can't wait to leave home.
- Kirlisir - Looks like I'm going to have to supply temporary medical attention until we can get you back to the ship.
With a smile, Kirlisir held Gardin tightly in her arms and began to playfully kiss her neck, laughing as she did as she knew she would garner embarassment from her younger ilk from doing so, specifically grappling her in a hold she could barely push or resist from. With the mission done and the storage complex freed from the pirate threat, the team returned to the ship in order to report their success. Now waiting at their typical gathering hall, Vekaron awaited for Councillor Xeron's response while Dolgan browsed through a selection of movies.
- Dolgan - Today is horror night. I suggest we watch this movie I found where there is a flower, everyone comments on about how adorable it is and help it grown, only for it to turn out to be a Zí-Jittorám in disguise.
- Kamaris - I would be surprised if we found something that genuinely frightened us considering our past missions.
- Kirlisir - Have some faith, big guy. I hear that film companies are able to give us special effects that look more gory and frighteningly real than actual reality nowadays. Who'd have thought, eh?
- Dolgan - What do you think this is? The last century? Of course it's gorier! I've seen some pictures and I gotta say, the tongue looks scary enough to make me feel nauseated.
- Kilchárunya - Trust me, whatever's in that film doesn't scare as much as a real Zí-Jittorám.
- Kirlisir - I dunno... Hey, I'm surprised they haven't made a Regnatus or Vorius movie yet. You'd have thought it'd be long enough after the incidents for them to start profiting from them.
- Kit - That would be in bad taste considering they were both genocidal maniacs.
- Vekaron - Yeah. Even speaking Regnatus's name at Hyperborea is considered taboo. And with good reason. Too many lost their lives to both of them for any respectable film company to use that idea.
- Kirlisir - I find it a little ridiculous that they don't make films about major historical tragedies and would rather produce stuff about - and starring - Borealis' biggest slut. What does she even do, anyway?
- Vyatak - Prostitution. Answered own question. Adult industry still at large. Will probably always be.
- Kilchárunya - I would say times with Kalcedia were entertaining, but they really weren't. More scary if anything.
- Gardin - Don't know about you, but I found her very entertaining. I wish she'd visit more often.
- Kirlisir - ... Me and you need to have a chat.
At this moment, a third Rovegar entered the room, a carefree smile on her face. She stood at roughly two thirds of Gardin's size and had hair as blue as Kirlisir's: her and Vekaron's actual blood daughter Karleia.
- Karleia - Can I watch the scary movie too? Please?
- Kirlisir - Daww... Sorry, sweetheart, but scary movies are for adults only. And it will be bedtime for you soon. How about I put a special movie on in your room?
- Dolgan - Vaxal's sake, you're such a bore. Of course the kid can watch it. It'll be a life lesson to her.
- Vekaron - I'd rather not traumatize my daughter with Zí-Jittorám-related content until she's at least old enough to know what they are.
- Kamaris - I somewhat miss childhood innocence.
- Dolgan - Just because it's in HD 3-D and the tongue actually comes off the screen and physically touches you.
- Vekaron - ... Yeah now I'm not watching that either.
- Kirlisir - Eugh, sounds like one of Kalcedia's movies.
- Kilchárunya - I've had a Zí-Jittorám tongue on me before. Trust me, it's one of the most horrible experiences ever...like so many things in this galaxy.
- Karleia - What is Zí-Ji? Can I play with it?
- Gardin - Don't think so, lil' sis. At least not yet.
- Kirlisir - Gardin, be a sweetheart and put on one of Karleia's films for her in her room please? She's a big enough girl to choose, but she needs help putting it on.
- Gardin - Ngh, why me... Fine. Come on, Karleia.
- Karleia - Yay! I wanna watch the one with the little Minchar who could fly!
The two young Rovegar left the hall as Vyatak scratched his head.
- Vyatak - ... This place. Each day passed. Less of a ship. More like a household.
Weeks would pass for Vekaron and his crew, working going as expected following the destruction of the latest Torrent-Bot. They could deal with any problem quickly and efficiently, and were easily one of, if not maybe the best team of the Penumbra Unit. However, there are jobs that a single Penumbran cannot fulfill by themselves. About three weeks after the incident with the space pirates, Vekaron and his crew were called by Councillor Xeron on an urgent matter, and as the crew united itself in the conference room, the Niaka's hologram appeared to them.
- Xeron - Greetings, Vekaron and associates. A matter of urgency has risen, and you are to deal with it.
- Kilchárunya - What's the pay like? ...Wait. How rude of me.
- Kirlisir - Give us a rundown of the situation. If the issue is truly urgent, we must make haste that we see to it as fast as possible.
- Xeron - I believe you are aware of Samil.
- Vekaron - The homeworld of the Samilinus? Of course. It's one of the capitals of the Imperium.
- Xeron - Scientists have been working on some sort of artifact, found deep underground. It's a top secret operation, so the public is not aware of it. It all begun roughly a month ago, but things got dire once the results started been reported to us.
- Kirlisir - A Kormacvar artefact?
- Xeron - Not Kormacvar. Regnatus.
- Kirlisir - ... I thought he was destroyed, especially after the incident with Vorius.
- Kamaris - That being said, galactic terrors always find a way of coming back...
- Vyatak - Samilinus creations of ancient Kormacvar. Would make sense to keep technology at homeworld.
- Xeron - It's some sort of super computer, and it slowly indoctrinated the personnel working on the site. What started worring us is that they appear to have... mutated.
- Kamaris - That would not be a super computer then.
- Xeron - To make matters worse, a pirate band invaded Samil while it was vulnerable and has also entered the site, probably to steal the artifact. Your mission is to recover it and destroy all hostiles.
- Kilchárunya - Well...at least we might have some fun while we're at it. But what in the name of all that is holy makes you think we're going near something Regnatus-ish?
- Xeron - Because these are your orders. And additionally, I have prepared some backup for you. Have any of you heard of Penumbran Aentaeus?
- Kirlisir - Aentaeus? I have only ever heard the name and some stuff regarding his feats. He apparently has quite the reputation among the inner circles.
- Kamaris - That and he is a Paladian. Paladians and Kicath are rather similar...so he should get along with Kilchárunya...granted she doesn't try anything.
At this moment, an alert appeared on the ship's machinery, warning of a request to board it as the sound of a bridge being extended between two space vessels was heard.
- Xeron - Ah, it seems he has arrived. Give him my regards, and report to me once you recover the item.
- Kirlisir - Affirmative, sir. Let's make haste.
The hologram of the Niaka disappeared, and Vekaron led the others to meet up with the new arrival. The doors to the bridge opened to reveal a Paladian adorned in black armor, which blended well with his dark scales. He had his arms wrapped around his back, and the group could easily see one of them being a robotic prosthetic. He eyed them in silence, before relaxing slightly and raising a hand to shake Vekaron's.
- Aentaeus - A pleasure to meet the famous Vekaron in person. I am Aentaeus Silenus, Penumbran number 13.
- Vekaron - Oh, the pleasure is mine. Welcome aboard.
- Gardin - Dang, this guy looks cool!
- Kirlisir - Word of your reputation gets around, Sir Silenus. I have heard many a Garukut speak of you with fear in their voices, and many Paladians regard you as a hero.
- Aentaeus - The words "ruthless" and "merciless" are often thrown at my person... with reason.
- Kilchárunya - Eh. You should fit in just fine then.
Behind Aentaeus appeared a small creature covered in black robes which floated slightly over the floor. Its head was covered by a mask, and heavy breathing sounds came out of it. Kirlisir eyed the small creature curiously and knelt onto a single knee, extending an arm to try and make contact with it.
- Kirlisir - A child? My, how did one manage to stow themselves away on board your vessel, Sir Silenus?
- Aentaeus - Ah. This is Trehikh. Varkorus. Found him abandoned amidst a pirate raid. The kid possesses psychic abilities, as you can tell.
- Kilchárunya - ...I can't tell, actually. Just looks like a hooded thing.
- Kirlisir - You are not an Essence-sensitive, Kicath, so you would be blind to it.
- Kilchárunya - I'll have you know, kasat, that every Kicath is Essence-sensitive. Just not by very much.
- Trehikh - Hisssss... can you not tell... I am floating over the floor...
- Aentaeus - I thought I told you to stay in your room, Trehikh.
- Trehikh - Hisss... felt the power here... wanted to see what it was...
- Kirlisir - My, what an endearing little child. You made a good decision to take him aboard with you, Silenus, as he is a rather... cute specimen.
- Gardin - He's freaking me out, that's what.
- Trehikh - Hisssss... gross giant heads...
- Kirlisir - Gardin! That is no way to talk to new people; I did not bring you up to be so rude towards others, especially children.
- Kamaris - We should not waste further time. If there is a threat pertaining to Regnatus, then we need to end it as quickly as possible.
- Aentaeus - Indeed. I shall make my way back to my ship and will meet you at Samil. Make haste.
Aentaeus turned back and returned to his ship, with Trehikh following behind, with his head still turned to Vekaron's group. Kirlisir simply waved back, smiling pleasantly as if she was ignorant to the rather abnormal vibes given off by the young, psychic Varkorus.
- Kilchárunya - I'm keeping my gun on standby. Something's not right with them two.
- Vyatak - Essence-sensitive Varkorus. A first time for everything, it seems.
- Vekaron - Aentaeus is a Penumbran. Whether he unnerves you or not, he's trusted by the Council and the Warmaster.
- Kirlisir - And that does not mean you can cut either of them open to see what makes them tick, Vyatak.
- Vyatak - Putting words in my mouth. So much for not rude.
- Kilchárunya - Am I the only one who thinks that thing is bad news?
- Vekaron - I've met worse. You could be among them.
- Kirlisir - Heh. So worried for a child with latent ESP yet you do not bat an eye towards whatever the hell Kithworto happens to be.
- Kilchárunya - I can't really complain about a Xi'Arazulha in Kicath skin.
Vekaron and Aentaeus made their way to Samil, homeworld of the Samilinus folk, and landed at the proximity of the base where the experiments with the artifact were being done. It appeared to be a mine of some description, at least superficially. Vekaron and Aentaeus entered ahead, the former carrying his vibro-sword and the latter carrying an energy rifle while they were followed by Gardin, who kept her eyes open for any threats. Kirlisir meanwhile remained some distance from the other Rovegar, her eyes set ahead while her optic enhancement scanned the shaft they ventured through, attempting to discern any potential spots that could be used for a potential ambush and mapping their locale.
- Kamaris - Agh. Wide-open enclosures are not well-suited for my sense of hearing.
- Vekaron - Keep an eye for anything hostile. We're looking for Samilinus scientists and space pirates.
- Kamaris - That joke was in poor taste, captain.
- Vekaron - ... Oh. Sorry.
- Gardin - Heheh!
- Kirlisir - Perhaps Vekaron will speak with a little more... insight next time.
- Kamaris - I may be as calm as a coast-dwelling fruit-eater, but Mahanayans are not.
As they entered the entrance hall of the facility, they came across the first sights of violence. The bodies of scientists could be seen, shot down by weaponry, alongside several other individuals - Borealis Zazane, causing Dolgan to frown and growl in annoyance. Aentaeus moved near the walls, stained in blood, and took out some to inspect it.
- Aentaeus - Fresh. This happened minutes ago. Roughly 20 to 30.
- Kirlisir - That means the pirates could still be within these mines. More than enough time to set up traps as well, at least to stall us from getting to their location.
- Dolgan - Just what we needed. These guys.
- Kit - Considering what is in these mines, I would recommend keeping a low profile.
The two Penumbrans led the rest of the group ahead, moving slowly as to not get unwanted attention as they arrived to the next set of doors, which appeared to have been locked from the inside. Dolgan fired her coilgun at it to take it down in order to reveal the next large room, which was filled with computers of varying size, the largest reaching the ceiling. Like the entrance, this area was stained in blood, but no corpses could be seen.
Vekaron and Aentaeus begun inspecting the area, looking for any clues as to what happened. Dolgan carelessly hit her shoulder against one of the keyboards, causing an audio log to begin playing.
- Log - It is as we feared. It is a Borealis Grox relic. As proven through previous studies, despite... "his" death, his powers over warping the minds of those at his technology's proximity still persist. We have quarantined the relic and surrounded it in EMP fields in order to dampen its malign properties.
- Kirlisir - What the... Hmph. That does not spell good news in the slightest for any of us. Not even the pirate scum.
- Vekaron - Look for another log.
- Log - ... The fields have been damaged? Quarantine the entire zone! Immediately! Whoever is responsible for this, I assure you'll never work in this sector again!
- Kirlisir - Could it have been internal sabotage?
- Aentaeus - That, or these men tried to deal with forces beyond their understanding and were punished for it. Regardless, we must press on.
At this moment, the sound of rattling metal was heard over the group's heads as some sort of black liquid begun dripping from the ceiling. Kirlisir stepped back, pressing her hands on Vekaron and Gardin's chests to push them back from where the substance was dripping in order to ensure they would not be touched by it.
Looking up, they could see its source: it was a Samilinus, but its body was warped almost beyond recognition. Its skin appeared to have been scorched and then adorned in strange blue material, its eyes appeared to be artificial and what looked like wires and tubes of some description came out of its back and connected to various points of its torso. The substance dripping from it appeared to be its saliva as it let out a howl at the group.
- Kilchárunya - ...Well, that's not disturbing in the slightest.
- Gardin - Ew! Ew ew ew ew!!
- Aentaeus - Open fire!
Kirlisir launched a powerful thrust of psychic energy at the creature in order to dislodge it from the ceiling, ensuring to maintain distance from it as they prepared to fight the beast. The creature clumsily fell off the ceiling and hit the floor with an audible crack, its shoulder dislocating from its expected position though it did little to stop it as it tried to get back up. Gardin immediately charged at it and slashed at its head, severing a half of it and sending it flying across the room as the creature then dropped dead, the black saliva-like substance in its body flowing out of its now opened brain. Kirlisir approached the corpse of the Samilinus, examining its bodily fluids from afar with her optical scanner before turning back to the group, a frown on her face.
- Kirlisir - That is not blood, at least not in the traditional sense. It is some form of substance consisting of a range of bio-compounds, possibly from liquidated internal body parts which were deemed redundant, which serves as a form of oil or fuel.
- Aentaeus - It seems it was forcibly robotized, or at least half-robotized. The artifact is to blame. Another reason for it to be contained immediately, lest it begin affecting the surface.
- Kirlisir - If I were you, now would be a good time to wear a mask and make sure none of that stuff gets on you or inside of you.
- Kilchárunya - So why are we recovering this, exactly? We should just blow this entire mine to hell.
- Aentaeus - That would be assuming our weapons can damage Borealis Grox technology, which I highly doubt. It would be much more productive to recover it so that the Alliance can create means to counter-act the effects of indoctrination.
- Kilchárunya - And that would be assuming we've got the tech that can repel indoctrination...ah, to hell with it. Just get this over with.
- Kirlisir - Let us not forget that there are Borealis Zazane pirates here as well. It would be even more productive for us to not let any form of Borealis Grox technology fall into the hands of criminals and rogues.
- Kilchárunya - Well at least blasting criminals into a hellish firestorm of particle beams and plasma will cheer me up a bit.
- Dolgan - Yes, that's the only good part of all this.
Moving ahead, the group eventually arrived to a new area of the facility which took the form of a large platform suspended upon a pit, which they could not see the bottom of, with large crates decorating it, likely supplies. More platforms were also visible at the walls, disconnected from the larger main one and likely to lead to other areas of the mines. By the information visible in signs and terminals, the artifact was being kept at the far end of this platform, in the next room. Kirlisir tapped Vekaron's shoulder as she glanced upwards towards one of the platforms, extending a hand to point towards a rather curious spectacle; a figure dressed in a blend of military-grade armour and ceremonial robes relevant to the old Vaxalite religion of the Zazane as Dolgan would recognize, with a pair of heavily-armed soldiers at his side. All three were of the Borealis Zazane variety, although the central figure's face would not have made it obvious, for amidst heavy cybernetic augmentations and instruments adorning their crest and skull, they appeared to lack the iconic blue and black scaly flesh of the Borealis Zazane, or much flesh at all for that matter, with their artificial eyes glowing a rather intimidating red as he stared at the Penumbrans and their associates with white pupils.
- ??? - ... So the Council sent not only its Penumbrans to come and get us, but its two greatest soldiers at that.
- Vekaron - There's the pirates.
- Dolgan - Good Vaxal, this one is uglier than all the others.
- Kirlisir - Careful, something is off with this one.
- ??? - Hmph. Such a sad sight to see one of our own serving as a Penumbran's lapdog. It is a truly insulting observation, but then, that is why we are all here, isn't it?
- Dolgan - Complain to the barrel of my gun, shithead.
- Aentaeus - Identify yourself.
- ??? - My identity will mean little to you, imperialist. I do not appear on any of your galactic registers; I am a secret to this world being revealed only now, when the time is most dire. But. You can call me... the Anarchist.
- Gardin - This guy is hammier than the Torrent-Bots.
- Aentaeus - Very well. Anarchist, you are under arrest. Surrender peacefully, or have your life come to an end by the hands of the Penumbra Unit.
- Dolgan - Peacefully? What is this, kindergarden?
- Anarchist - What is there for me if I surrender, hm? A lifetime of imprisonment, rehabilitation, being recycled back into the same regime that your... Council sought to end so long before now? I do not think so, slaver. Never again.
- Aentaeus - So be it. Open fire.
- Dolgan - Finally!
Dolgan aimed her coilgun and begun firing at the Anarchist and his men, aiming to take them down via shots to the head. Aentaeus meanwhile fired his rifle, using the supply crates as cover for himself. The Anarchist's blackened fangs and jaws could be seen through his lipless grin as he turned and began to walk away while his soldiers rained down gunfire onto the team, sending a hail of plasma and ballistic fire at their position before one of them launched several grenades at where they had taken cover. The grenade-thrower was shortly disposed of following his attack as Aentaeus' rifle rounds caused him to stagger backwards, not fully penetrating his armour however, and causing him to raise his head, allowing a coilgun bolt to blast his crest and skull apart. As the two groups exchanged fire, the sound of monstrous howling could be heard coming from below, and soon enough, numbers of mutated Samilinus begun climbing their way into the platform. It appeared the noise had attracted them, and while they appeared, some also could be seen trying to climb the walls to reach the Zazane pirates from another direction. The Zazane soon turned and began engulfing the techno-mutants with a storm of bullets and energy blasts, although it was not enough to save them as several of their number resorted to leaping over the railings of whatever platforms they stood on to escape these monstrosities, while those that did not were either overcome or committed themselves to activating the detonation sequence in their armour's hardware systems and going out with explosions fierce and destructive.
- Gardin - They're everywhere!
- Vekaron - Open a path to the artifact!
Vekaron charged out of cover and attacked the monsters coming after them, cutting through them with his vibrosword. Gardin did the same as both were flanked by Aentaeus and Dolgan, who alternated between firing at the creatures and firing at the Zazane pirates. Kirlisir raised her hands and generated a barrier of psychic energy around the group before they could be overwhelmed to attempt keeping the cyber-abominations away from them, while Vekaron and Aentaeus could catch a glimpse of the Anarchist, surrounded by a detachment of heavy Zazane commandos, also making a path towards the artifact despite having been present on a platform many stories upward when they had last seen him.
- Kirlisir - What the-- Stay alert! The Anarchist is pushing for the artifact as well!
- Dolgan - Kill the bastard!
Dolgan begun firing at the Zazane force's direction as they were also quickly caught into the horde of mutants, and it would not take long for both sides to notice Borealis Zazane were starting to join the legion of mutated, half-cyborg Samilinus. The Anarchist began to grow frustrated as he saw the horde fielding almost innumerable assets against them, and the gunfire being aimed at him and his squad of commandos made him began to agitatedly scowl; in a moment which could almost be mistaken for some form of illusion, one of Dolgan's coilgun bolts was flung in another direction as the Anarchist threw his right arm to his side, holding a clenched fist while several of his soldiers began attempting to fire on the Penumbrans' team.
- Anarchist - Don't... interfere.
- Dolgan - What the hell?!
- Kirlisir - I knew something was off with this guy... Dolgan, can you sense it?
- Dolgan - I can only sense my own blood boiling in anger.
- Kirlisir - I'll explain later. Try and take out his men so they can stop firing at us, he might retreat with no one to protect him!
Dolgan growled in frustration as she begun taking shots at the Anarchist's men rather than him, with Aentaeus following suite. As both groups approached the artifact chamber, a thunderous roar could be heard from the other side of the doors separating it from the chamber they were currently on. Loud bashes could be heard from the other side, as if something was trying to get out. The Anarchist's soldiers began dropping from the combined attacks from the team and from the horde of mutants surrounding them, and as the sounds of the incoming calamity filled his ears, the disfigured Zazane huffed before standing upright and clenching his fists to ease his anger; as the team's eyes were drawn to the source of the noise, the Anarchist seemed to vanish into thin air in the blink of an eye. Kirlisir focused into pouring more energy into the barrier protecting them, her eyes drawn towards the doors.
- Kirlisir - Sounds big.
As the Anarchist disappeared, the doors finally came down as a larger monstrosity appeared before them: multiple Samilinus appeared to compose a large mass of flesh and electronics, vaguely shaped like the spaceship body of the late Regnatus. Gardin and Vekaron both stepped back at the sight of the creature, but Aentaeus appeared unfazed as he fired his rifle at what he could assume were its eyes, goring them out and causing the entity to moan out loudly in agony.
- Kirlisir - What... What the hell is that thing? A Dreadnought?
- Vekaron - It's Vorius all over again!
- Dolgan - Kill it! Kill it kill it kill it!
- Kit - Somebody needs to protect our flank or we will get overwhelmed by the horde.
- Kirlisir - Gardin! Kit! You both try and get behind that thing, I'll hold off the mutants!
- Gardin - Ngh...
Gardin maneuvered herself, dancing and slashing the mutants she passed by as she positioned herself behind the lumbering monster. Kit accompanied her, using his Kicathian physiology to move with extreme agility while attempting to cut and slash at the chinks and joints in the abomination's biomechanical armour as he aimed to move to its rear, while Kamaris and Kilchárunya assaulted its front with heavy cannon fire. Kirlisir lowered the barrier and devoted herself to fending off the mutant horde, throwing pulses of psychic energy to generate knockback force at the monstrosities while slashing any with her blades should they have strayed too close. Large chunks of the giant was torn off by the combined fire, and it quickly fell - despite its size, it was clearly not built for combat. The mutant horde begun decreasing in number as the team continued to mow them down, and after several minutes of gunfire, they finally came to a halt.
Dolgan walked over to the corpses of the shot Zazane pirates and crushed their heads with her foot, her expression showing disgust and annoyance as the Anarchist managed to escape. Kirlisir approached Dolgan, looking over the deceased Zazane and kneeling down to examine their armour, all the while thinking about the Anarchist in her mind and how fast he seemed to be.
- Kirlisir - These soldiers... They are wearing armour first produced in the big pirate corporations. The Borealis Consortium Network, the Wranploer Legion, the New Wranploer Legion. Some others are wearing mercenary-grade armour, like that seen among Soltako militants and such. Most of it looks recycled and repainted.
- Aentaeus - A shame their leader managed to escape. I imagine the Special Forces would have the time of their lives with him.
- Kilchárunya - Must be a madman if he thought we were slavers.
- Kirlisir - Dolgan, I will ask you again; could you feel his power?
- Dolgan - Why would I? Do I look like I can feel powers?
- Kirlisir - I feel he may have been, what was the word... Descended?
- Gardin - He did have some energy that made me feel itchy in the back.
- Dolgan - If that's the case, then that's one more reason to stick the smug shit's head up his ass.
- Kamaris - Easier said than done. What matters now, however, is that we did not let him take the artifact.
Vekaron and Aentaeus led the team into the artifact's chamber. Surrounded by protective glass was an oval ornament, as black as the void of space, which they could only assume was the so called artifact. It was smaller than they would imagine, being only about as large as Vekaron's head in size. Near the controls of the room was a dead Samilinus scientist, not mutated like the others but clearly in a state of rotting, and the walls next to him were drenched in his blood. Upon closer examination, it appeared he had cut his own wrists.
And he had left messages on the wall with his own blood. He made me do it, they said. Kirlisir proceeded to lay her hands over Gardin's face, covering her eye from the rather macabre and grim sight that beheld them.
- Kirlisir - Eugh!
- Vekaron - ...Now we know how the protective equipment was turned off. It wasn't good enough.
- Kamaris - Be careful. We do not want to fall victim to indoctrination either, so I suggest not getting too close to the artifact.
Aentaeus walked over to the controls, throwing the body of the scientist away as he begun working on it, and a few moments after, they could hear the sound of the EMP turning on once again. The more Essence-attuned members of the group could feel it affecting them as they felt a slight decrease of their power, which caused Gardin to shake and scratch herself in discomfort.
- Aentaeus - Return to the entrance and assure the elimination of all these mutated individuals, and also ensure there are no more pirates in the facility. I will remain here and secure the artifact.
- Kirlisir - Take caution, Silenus. Even Penumbrans are not above the limitations of regular people. ... Except my Vekaron, because he's such a sweetheart!
- Vekaron - Dear, now it's not the time...
- Aentaeus - I will be reporting to Councillor Xeron once I'm done with the procedures. Do as I asked you and you are free to report back your success to him.
- Vekaron - Are you gonna be okay? I would hate to lose a new friend so quickly.
- Aentaeus - You have no need to worry about me, Vekaron. I am a veteran of many wars. I killed a Dronox Commander and lost only an arm in the process. It is not the first time Regnatus' tech opposes me, and it won't be this time where I will fall to it.
- Kamaris - Do not let your bravado blind you from the threat the artifact poses to us all. If it is not the strike from the front which befalls you, it will be the one from behind, as a wise Mahanayan once proclaimed. ... Take care.
Aentaeus waved to the team with his back still turned as he continued to work on the terminal to secure the artifact. Returning to where they came and scanning the rest of the facility, Vekaron's team found no more evidence of mutant or pirate activity, and they would eventually return to the Shadow's Beginning hours later to report back to Councillor Xeron. The Niaka leader appeared content with them, which was somewhat of a surprise due to his well known grumpy attitude.
- Xeron - Excellent. I have just received the reports from Aentaeus. The artifact has been secured and will be transported to an appropriate location where it won't harm anyone else. You have done well today, Vekaron and associates.
- Kirlisir - Why thank you, Councillor Xeron. We do take pride in our work, although we could not have done it without Penumbran Silenus' assistance.
- Vekaron - Indeed. His reputation has its roots.
- Xeron - We'll be keeping an eye for this "Anarchist". If this pirate knew of this artifact, then he is no mere thug and cannot be treated as one.
- Kamaris - Kirlisir reckons the Anarchist may be a Zazane of the Descended variety. As far as my knowledge on Zazane extends, that is not good news.
- Xeron - Regardless, I leave you to your own devices now. Until next time.
With this, Xeron's hologram disappeared. Gardin yawned as she put her hands over her head.
- Gardin - Well, that was a creepy mission. What do we do now? I wanna try and forget about it before sleep.
- Kirlisir - ... The ship has a swimming pool on the leisure deck if I remember correctly. We could go for a nice swim and exercise before we rest up for tomorrow. I always enjoy seeing Dolgan in her little swimming suit when she does decide to join.
- Dolgan - ... W-what the hell?! Don't make me split your head open like an egg!
- Kirlisir - Mhm, oh relax, I was only pulling your leg. Come on, just a quick dip and dive won't hurt anyone, hm?
- Gardin - Not a bad sight either...
- Dolgan - What'd you say?
- Gardin - Nothing, nothing.