Vorcium: Chapter 4: Overworld (First Half)

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Vorcium: Chapter 4: Overworld (First Half)

Post by DEWM NINJA on Mon Nov 20, 2017 8:07 pm

VORCIUM
CHAPTER FOUR: OVERWORLD

RISE OF THE MACHINES
>RESETTING THREAD
>Booting…
>VISUAL RECEPTORS ONLINE

A couple blinks put all the pixels back together as Scar looked around a room. She groaned as she began to piece everything back together, like waking up after oversleeping. She heard a voice behind her, “Another successful refresh, ma’am. Your battery power has been recharged to 100% and should last another week until another recharge is required.” The voice said, clearly a utility robot. “Refresh?! I-... Oh, yeah. It’s all coming back to me.” Scar said. “If I may, ma’am, it appears that your AI chip is… too advanced for such a simple body. I’m afraid I haven’t seen anything like it.” The robot said. “And?” Scar asked. “Well, it’s simply strange. Have you seen it? It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s, hexagonal, and rather than plugging into your head, it seems to… clip into a slot. I mean no disrespect, but, are there records of your AI chip’s creation?” The robot asked. “Are you implying that my AI chip wasn’t made by the Order of Technology?” Scar asked. “I’m implying that your AI chip might not be made by humans.” The robot said. “What? That’s absurd! How can I speak english, how could I comprehend things like humans do, the calculation towards me being made by extraterrestrials is only a 3% chance!” Scar said. “Of course, ma’am. I was simply speaking my mind, I apologize.” The robot said. “There’s no need for the apology, I just… I’m not sure. I can’t see it for myself of course. Unless you were to take a picture, but then you’d have to unhook me and… no thanks. Maybe we’ll try that out next time.” Scar said. “As you wish, ma’am.” The robot said. “So what’s THESEUS at?” Scar asked. “THESEUS is at 67% completion. Expected to finished in 4 months if resource accumulation continues as expected.” The robot said. “Right. Where’s Vanguard?” Scar asked. “Getting repairs. He sustained… 1% hull damage, from simply being in the desert. He seems to be very protective of his armor plating.” The robot said. “And what’s going on with Mac?” Scar asked. “I cannot tell you, I don’t-” The robot was cut off. “I mean, not Mac. Sorry… CPU Spike, maybe… I meant the Knights.” Scar said. “The faction itself? Mass recall. They are preparing a special army to be assigned to LANTIS IV’s security.” The robot said. Scar sighed. “They need to realize they aren’t the dominant military here. We can protect ourselves just fine.” Scar said. “Of course, ma’am. As for the High Generals, I believe they are getting a special strike force team. High level stuff. As for what, I am unsure.” The robot said. “Alright, I think that’ll be all. Keep the scouts busy as always. Try and focus production on THESEUS, of course.” Scar said. “Yes, ma’am.” The robot said. Scar got up out of a chair and walked for the exit door, before she turned to face the robot. “One last thing. Make damned sure that THESEUS isn’t sabotaged like the last version. I want five sweeps of the machine before we fire it off. No risks. We can’t afford for it to be destroyed. And us with it.” Scar said. “As you wish, ma’am.” The robot responded.

SKELETON CREW
Maximus, Yuri and Mac walked down a hallway into a small armory, where three people were suiting up, one of them was Seras Vyrian. The three people saluted the High Generals. One wore Paladin’s armor, with a hint of blue on some parts of the armor. The other wore Cleanser’s armor, though had a sledgehammer strapped to his back. “At ease you three.” Yuri said, and the three complied, all going back to what they were doing before, though the one wearing the paladin’s armor raised his hand. “Hypox?” Maximus asked. “Any idea when our next assignment is gonna be?” Hypox asked. “You three are being put on the LANTIS IV, you’ll be the security chiefs for the Knights on board the ship. When we reach Earth, we’re going to talk to the man in charge, and you’ll be our… enforcers, in case things don’t go well. We’ve got faith in you.” Mac said. “Heh. Faith. You don’t need faith in me, because I just get it done in the first place.” The Cleanser said, silently. “You got something to share, Knuse?” Mac asked. “I said you can count on us.” Knuse said. “Good. Because we really are gonna need you. You have to keep in mind that the Crylo Republic really likes its freedom, its wants to be our allies, but otherwise, it doesn’t want to be connected. If that makes sense. Just try to make sure nothing bad happens between our Knights and their robots, and I’m sure we’ll all be fine.” Maximus said. “Question.” Seras said. “Yeah?” Maximus asked. “Can I talk to you when we’re through here?” Seras asked. “Ooooooooh. Juicy.” Mac said, before Maximus hit him on the shoulder. “Sure, I guess.” Maximus said. “Is there anything else?” Yuri asked. The three were silent. “Alright. Mac, shall we?” Yuri asked. “Feel free to eavesdrop!” Mac said to Knuse and Hypox as the two walked away. Maximus walked up to Seras, and the two walked to the corner of the room. “Listen. I heard what happened between you and Camila.” Seras said. “Oh, great, because I want to be reminded of being a prisoner of war again.” Maximus said. “No, look hear me out. I know nothing good has come of the last couple of women you loved, but, if you need emotional support away from men, I’m here for you.” Seras said. “How do you figure?” Maximus asked. “We can talk.” Seras said. “Oh, and that’s it?” Maximus asked. “Oh, c’mon, what happened to the whole ‘prisoner of war’ thing?” Seras asked. “Look, what happened between me and Camila… I’m over it. I’ve accepted it. I’m a tough one to break, and I’m not ready to spend the rest of my life sad about it. War’s about losses, and I’m talking more than statistics. So… I’m pretty confident I’ve come to terms with it.” Maximus said. “Well. I guess we could do more than just talk. After all, you are the High General.” Seras said. “Yeah… alright. But promise me something?” Maximus asked. “Yeah?” Seras asked. “If you’re secretly the bride of the leader of an assassin cult who’s looking to deceive me, tell me first.” Maximus said. Seras let out a light laugh. “No promises.” Seras said. “Well. I think I’ll leave you to it. I’ve got lots of fun numbers to look at, yay.” Maximus said, unenthusiastically, before he walked away. As he walked through the doorway, he was stopped by Mac. “Dude, you gotta teach me your game.” Mac said. “What the-, you fucking-... If it was in my power you would not be a High General anymore.” Maximus said. He looked to the other side of the doorway, where Yuri sat, arms crossed. “Don’t look at me, he was the one who convinced me, he’s the source of the problem.” Yuri said. “Hey don’t sell me out, you were curious enough to let us both stay!” Mac said. “Shut up! Let’s just go, alright?” Maximus asked. “I’m all for that.” Yuri said.

AGGRESSIVE NEGOTIATIONS
Mac set down a personal KTTS outside a small bunker-like structure in a light forest, and got out, approaching the structure. He knocked the door a couple times, before two sentry robots unlocked the door, and it slid open. Mac stepped in, and the two robots communicated in their morse code system, “Identity confirmed, hold fire.” Mac looked at one of the robots. “I need to speak with Scar.” Mac said. “Do you have an appointment?” The robot asked. Mac pushed past the robot, mumbling swears, before he opened up a hidden hatch, and began climbing down a ladder. The robot from before pressed a button on the side of its head, and its eyes flashed between red and green, before he let go, and his eyes returned to their original light blue color. As Mac reached the bottom of the ladder, an entire facility stretched before him. A robot in front of him flashed its eyes green and red, before returning to blue shortly after. “I’m sorry, Mac, I must stop you here.” The robot said, before it equipped a rifle. “If I can make time for Scar, she can make time for me, just let me through.” Mac said. “Not happening.” The robot responded. “Goddammit, the Demons are less stubborn than you.” Mac said, before pulling out Pinaka. “Put your weapon down and turn around, or else I will kill you.” The robot said. “Like hell you are.” Mac said, before grabbing the robot’s outstretched arm and smashing them against the wall, pinning them. It flashed its eyes similarly as it did before, causing all robots nearby to equip their weapons and move in towards Mac. Mac switched hands with Pinaka, keeping the other robot against the wall, while Pinaka aimed its barrel towards one robot after the other, firing one shot after another, before the main hall of the facility echoed with tens of robots falling to the ground. Mac turned around to see the two robots from earlier jump down the hatch and aim their weapons. They began firing, though Mac through the pinned robot at them as they fired, causing all of the bullets to only hit the robot, killing it. One robot jumped out of the way of the projectile, and grabbed onto the ceiling with all fours, moving in a spider-like fashion as it hung from the ceiling, two small cannons sprouted from the sides of its head, and fired very small laser projectiles rapidly at Mac, who absorbed them. They only hurt like bee-stings, but they burned for a lot longer. Mac grabbed a pipe in the wall, and tugged it out, before jabbing the broken end into the robot’s head, nailing it to the wall, where its limbs released from the ceiling and hung limp. Mac pocketed Pinaka, and moved forwards, on the way picking up a rifle sitting on the ground. He walked to the end of the main hall, and knocked on a door. “Pizza guy!” Mac yelled. The door was actually a disguise, as the entire wall opened up, and behind it roared a Crasher. “Hey, it’s been a while.” Mac said, before the crasher attempted to smash Mac in a single step, though Mac rolled out of the way, before firing both Pinaka and the rifle into one of the crasher’s shoulder-mounted sensors, damaging it slightly, before Pinaka overheated, and the rifle ran out of ammo. Mac threw the rifle at the sensor, further damaging it, as he rolled out of the way of another attempted stomp by the crasher. Mac put Pinaka away, letting it cycle out the heat, as he grabbed two grenades handing off his belt and pulled their pins, before throwing them at the crasher’s sensors, completely blasting the already damaged one off and exposing hidden wires to the other one. Mac picked another rifle off the ground, and unloaded into the exposed wires, severing them all. A warning beep went off as the crasher started making a deep humming noise that began to get louder and louder. Mac began stepping backwards, before he stepped on a robot’s body. He ripped its arm off, and reached into its wrist, pulling out another part. Mac pressed a button, and the device projected a shield, just before the crasher exploded, causing the shield to overload afterwards. Mac threw it aside as he continued on his path, to find Scar pressing buttons on a computer. “I’d say the test went well, though I feel like we should give the crasher some ranged abilities, and enhance its hydraulics to make it a little faster. Of course we also have to subtract from Mac’s experience with fighting Crashers and his enhanced combat abilities.” Scar said to a nearby robotic servant. “Yeah, it’s real nice to see you, too.” Mac said, sarcastically. “So, I’m assuming you’re here to talk about LANTIS, and its security crew.” Scar said. “Yeah, actually.” Mac said. “We don’t need your security. Does that conclude everything?” Scar asked. “No, c’mon, your bots didn’t stand a chance against just me. I know I’ve got “enhanced combat abilities” and whatnot, but who’s to say that the rest of humanity won’t pose a threat to you and their technology is far more advanced than ours, who’s to say there still even is a humanity left, but instead a race of genocidal, religious aliens?” Mac asked. “We’re taking our chances, we’ve run things through some statistical analyzers, there’s a very small chance that anything bad can happen to this mission.” Scar said. “Well your probability doesn’t stand a chance against the old bad feeling. And let me tell you, I’ve got a really bad feeling about this.” Mac said. “Bad feelings can’t be compared to actual predicted statistics.” Scar said. “No matter how advanced you get, sometimes instincts will take first prize.” Mac said. “Look, we’re not letting you put an army on our ship, we have everything under control!” Scar said. “Who said I wanted to put an army on your ship?” Mac asked. There was a silence in the room, before Scar sighed. “I’ll hear you out. No promises.” Scar said. “Me and Max on the ship, Yuri stays here.  We’re also bringing along another three, special picks that can make the difference of entire battles.” Mac said. “... Five hundred dollars.” Scar said. “What?” Mac asked. “You’re bringing five people, for the price of a one-way trip to Earth. One hundred dollars per passenger.” Scar said. Mac shook his head, before he reached into a pouch and pulled out a small circular device about the size of his palm. He hovered it above the desk, before it flashed out a stack of holographic bills. Scar used a similar device that absorbed the hologram. “I was saving that. There better be some good fucking room service on this ship.” Mac said, before he turned around to walk away, seeing many service robots cleaning up the mess he made.

I BURN, THEREFORE I AM
Knuse lifted a pair of goggles mounted on his mask up off his eyes. “Aye, we’ve got the misties.”  Knuse said, looking to his left at Yuri. “Think we should go back for a squad?” Yuri asked. “Nah, we’ve got this one.” Knuse said, before he got up and slid down a rock formation, using a blade at the end of his hammer’s hilt to slow his descent. Yuri watched Knuse slide downwards, before returning to a prone position, he inspected his flamethrower, “Plamyabushevat” was printed on the side. He pressed a button on the flamethrower, and the barrel retracted into the body of the weapon, before a new barrel sprouted out of the end, missing a burner torch. Yuri placed a scope on top of the weapon, before aiming down the scope. Yuri switched between several modes before the sight switched to thermal, and he could see Knuse throw a Malebranche into a wall, before smashing his hammer into its head. He turned around to swing the hammer into an oncoming malebranche’s legs, almost breaking them off from the force, before finishing the creature off with the hammer. “Where’s that support?” Knuse said into a mic, before Yuri fired his weapon, and a constant beam of flames instantly cut through the thick mist and pierced a Malebranche’s skull. Yuri turned the weapon to move the beam around into a group of Malebranche, cutting them into halves. Yuri’s weapon shorted out afterwards, and he pressed a button to eject the empty fuel canister from his flamethrower, and loaded another in. Knuse crushed another Malebranche, though was cut off from hitting another as a heavily armored Malebranche-like creature hit Knuse in the face with a single punch, knocking him down. Knuse got a good look at the creature, identifying it as a Mist unit. It stood silently, holding its strange device that emitted the toxic mist around them. Knuse got back up, and swung his hammer at the unit, though it dashed out of the way at a nearly inhuman pace, and Knuse swung his hammer into the ground, leaving him open for the unit to smash its weapon into Knuse’s chest, causing him to back up against the wall of a nearby building. Knuse stood, collecting himself, as he saw another group of malebranche get cut apart by Yuri. Knuse swung his sledgehammer around onto his back as he equipped his flamethrower, firing it at the unit, which put up a shield to block the flames. “Damn it!” Knuse yelled as he rushed the unit, flanking around its shield and hitting it in the face with the flamethrower several times, before it parried one of the blows, causing the flamethrower to go flying away from the two. Knuse immediately prepared to strike again with his sledgehammer, pulling it out to a swing, though the unit grabbed the hammer before it could land, and it kicked Knuse in the stomach, causing him to let go of his grip on the hammer. The Mist unit swung the hammer around in one hand, still keeping its device in the other, as it prepared to jab the bladed end into a defenseless Knuse. Yuri fired a beam into the creature’s head, not completely killing it, but disorienting it as the beam burned halfway into its head. It dropped the hammer, giving Knuse enough time to get up and swing the hammer into the creature’s head, knocking it down. Knuse smashed the hammer into it again, and again, until it had little left in place of its head. Knuse fell to his knees, almost completely drained of stamina, before looking around to see the mist almost immediately begin to clear up. “I think we’re clear.” Knuse said. “I don’t see anything here, either.” Yuri said. “Alright, then back to base?” Knuse asked. “Yeah, think you can get back up here, though?” Yuri asked, as the mist slowly began to clear up to reveal the two in a large quarry, with an abandoned oil drilling facility at the bottom. “I think I’ll figure it out.” Knuse said.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
Yuri walked into a bunker, placing his flamethrower on the ground as he entered, with Knuse following behind him, who took off his mask to wipe sweat off of his face. Inside the bunker was Maximus and Mac, who both sat at a table, while Vanguard crouched to stand in the room smaller than him. Maximus took off his helmet and began to light a cigar. “Wait, you smoke now?” Mac asked, as Maximus breathed out smoke. “Yeah, you understand what it’s like to be a High General, I’m amazed you don’t smoke, either.” Maximus said. “Smoking’s not my thing. I will never smoke.” Mac said. “Fine by me.” Maximus said. “So, what’s the whole deal with this, why aren’t we meeting at the Command Center?” Yuri asked. “Scar has some bullshit to tell us. It wouldn’t surprise me if she found out how to make robot toilets and considered it a breakthrough.” Mac said. “You two used to be good friends. What happened?” Yuri asked. “She’s changed a little. Getting more CPU spikes or whatnot, I’m not sure. There’s something about her… Regardless every day she gets bitchier and bitchier. Right, Vanguard?” Mac asked. Vanguard was silent for a moment. “No...” Vanguard reluctantly said. Scar rushed into the room, and immediately rested her hands on the table the group was around. “It’s finished, it’s done!” Scar said. The room was silent for a moment. “THESEUS. We completed it.” Scar said. “Wait, wait, wasn’t that supposed to take months?” Maximus asked. “It was, until we found out that the Demons are taking a territorial shift. Most of their old bases and bunkers are abandoned, they didn’t even take the time to pack the stuff up, we found that most of their bases were holding some experimental technology from whatever OOT bases they found, but they never really tampered with it. We took most of it, reapplied it to work with THESUES, and completed it. The only problem is that it’s going to need one hell of a power source.” Scar said. “How much?” Mac asked. “It’d give New Aberdeen a blackout for weeks if it drew from your generators.” Scar said. Mac whistled. “Damn.” Mac said. “The Exclusion Zone...” Yuri whispered. “What was that?” Scar asked. “The Exclusion Zone. Back when I was a recruit I served as a Firefly, basically a Cleanser before the Malebranche were created. There was a battle in the Exclusion Zone, back then it was known as New Yerema, a Russian city I lived nearby to, they used nuclear reactors to power it all. The people were massacred by a bandit gang known as the Dread Lords, so the Knights retaliated. We stood in the back of the battle, attempting to flank the enemy, when the Dread Lords used a nuclear reactor in the city to release a mass of radiation in a wide radius. Out of everyone, only my squad survived, since we were equipped with armored hazmat suits. It’s blocked off now, anybody that would enter it would just… melt. Unless they had the proper gear to go in. But there still has to be something there to help.” Yuri said. “Well goddamn. What are we waiting for?” Maximus asked. “I’ll get a squad of Cleansers ready to inspect and secure the place, shouldn’t be anything alive in there… but I suppose it would help to be prepared.” Yuri said.

BORN FOR DYING
Yuri and a group of Cleansers, including Knuse, walked up to a massive concrete wall. Yuri attempted to open a hatch door, though it was rusted shut. Yuri looked at Knuse, and nodded at him. Knuse approached the door, and smashed his sledgehammer into a rusted chunk on the side, breaking it apart, before jabbing the bladed end between the door and its frame, and pulling the hammer to the side to force it open, revealing the inside of the walls to be filled with bipedal human-sized crustacean-like creatures, each of them with four arms that ended in sharp pincers, and a tail similar to a scorpion’s. They snapped their claws in an attempt to intimidate the Cleansers, who were silent in confusion. “What are these things?” One of the Cleansers asked. “Likely irradiated creatures, that feed off of the dark, damp abandonment of the Exclusion Zone. Regardless we’re going to have to get through them, save the flamethrowers, they’re probably not going to be effective.” Yuri said, as he, and his Cleansers, mounted their flamethrowers onto their backs, and equipped their secondary weapons, firing upon the creatures, all of which attempted to retaliate by moving in towards the Cleansers. All of them fell before they could get a chance to attack, except for one, that jabbed its scorpion tail into a Cleanser’s head, nearby lobotomizing and killing them. The Cleansers finished the final creature off, before Yuri looked at the corpse of the Cleanser. “We’ll come back for them when we’re finished here. Does anyone have something to protect him from wildlife?” Yuri asked. “Here.” A Cleanser sat, before placing a sheet above the corpse. “It will, at the very least, keep him hidden.” Knuse said. Yuri, followed by the rest of the Cleansers, walked forwards, through the hatch that led into the inner workings of the wall. They walked through the decrepit facility, before finding another hatch door. Knuse pried it open again in a similar manner, and opened the door to find a skeletal corpse wearing Demon armor to be swung alongside the door, its hands irradiated into the door handle. Three other similarly deceased Demon soldiers laid nearby the door. “Looks like our friends here tried to explore a little bit too carelessly.” Knuse said. “Be alert. They might’ve learned from their mistakes if the rest of them were any more persistent.” Yuri said. The Cleansers moved through into the outside, a fairly normal town save for the many corpses on the ground. Even the skeletons struggled to remain whole, most were melded into the pavement. The Cleansers continued walked towards the center of the Exclusion Zone, the further they got, the more destroyed everything seemed, the corpses simply stopped at some point, and buildings were caved completely in. Knuse looked around, cautious, before he quickly turned to his right and fired a pistol, hitting a figure square in the head, as they fell limply out of cover. The other Cleansers turned to see the figure, a Demon soldier with slightly modified armor for survival in the area. “Well that settles it.” Yuri said, as he equipped his flamethrower, and the other Cleansers followed suite. A Demon soldier sprinted out of cover, laying down suppressive fire to move into a better position, though didn’t hit anything. Yuri turned to fire his flamethrower at them, catching onto them and burning through their suit, causing them to scream in pain and begin to bubble as the flames and radiation quickly melted him. Yuri switched modes with his flamethrower, while another Cleanser rushed a Demon soldier in cover, spraying them down with flames. Yuri aimed down his scope and looked around, before spotting a Demon soldier from afar, watching the Cleansers. Yuri fired a single blast into soldier, knocking him back and killing him. The Cleansers searched around, though found no more Demons. “It seems clear, let’s keep moving.” Yuri said.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
Nikola stood at the top floor of the radio tower in Radio City, watching out the window as armies of Demon soldiers marched, prepared for battle. The elevator made a dinging sound behind him, and two men stepped out, one wearing armor akin to an executioner’s suit, the other, a barely human man whose body was half life support, filled with skeletal robotic joins and wires, the only human parts left were his left arm, his upper torso and most of his head. They both knelt before Nikola. “Stand up, you fools.” Nikola said, still not turning around to face them. The room was silent for a moment. “Something is about to change. Can you feel it?” Nikola asked. “No.” The cyborg said in a robotic voice. “That’s because you’re blind. Leave at once.” Nikola said. “But-” The cyborg was cut off as two Hellwalkers drew bladed staffs, prepared to attack him. “Very well, sir.” The man said, before returning to the elevator. “And what of you, Astaroth?” Nikola asked to the other. “The Knights, and their new allies. They’re building something. You’re right. Something will change. And probably sooner than either of us will expect.” Astaroth said. “I like you. You’re not stupid like the others. Come, sit down.” Nikola said, as he turned to face Astaroth, and sat down in a nearby seat, with another empty one across from Nikola. Astaroth looked Nikola directly in the eyes. “... Yes, sir.” Astaroth said, reluctantly.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECT
Yuri aimed down his sight, switching to a night vision mode, to look around, before spotting two squads of Demon soldiers inside the Nuclear Plant. He saw two men wearing hazmat suits searching through an ocean of beakers and containers of different liquids. “Something tells me they’ve been comfortable here for a while.” Yuri said. “So when are we attacking?” Knuse asked. “Right about now, half of you take a right flank, the other a left. I’ll stay here.” Yuri said. Knuse nodded, and waved for two Cleansers to follow him, while another brought two others with him in the opposite direction. Yuri looked around further, before turning on his radio. “Knuse, there are some of those hazmat-wearers in the room ahead, they might not be soldiers, so try to get them to stand down, and ask them what their operation is here.” Yuri said. “Alright.” Knuse responded, before pushing into a room where five men wearing hazmat suits looked over and raised their hands. “Everyone stand down, cooperate and we will not hurt you.” Knuse said, before shutting the door behind him. “What are you all doing here?” Knuse asked. “What do you mean?” One of the men asked. “What is this operation, what do you do here?” Knuse asked. “We work for the Demons. If you want to call it work… they just keep us here without pay. They bring in vials of… some kind of liquid, and we’re supposed to modify it somehow. They take the experiments, and either pat us on the back or tell us we did something wrong… there isn’t exactly a rhyme or reason to it all.” The man responded. “Alright. How many Demons are here?” Knuse asked. “All the ones in the facility should really be nearby… there’s eleven of them. Sometimes another group shows up to give us what we’re supposed to work on, but they leave directly afterwards.” The man said. “Alright, you did good… we’re gonna make sure you all get out of here.” Knuse said. The men were quiet. Knuse activated his radio. “Yuri, these men work for the Demons, they’re closer to slaves, but that’s not the point. They work on some kind of formula the Demons bring in, and afterwards, when they’re done tampering with it, it’s taken back out. If I were to guess they’re either developing a biological weapon, or it has something to do with the Malebranche.” Knuse said. “Keep your eyes out for anything.” Yuri said, before he heard gunfire coming from the other direction. A couple of Demons left the room on fire, before being melted from the radiation. The rest of the Demon soldiers ran into the room, where Yuri lost sight of them all, though the sounds of battle continued on. Afterwards, four Demon soldiers held one of the Cleansers as they escorted him towards a vat, and prepared to throw him in, before Yuri carefully fired his weapon, killing two of the Demon soldiers, before the Cleanser retaliated, kicking one of the Demons off of him while he tossed the other downwards into the vat, screaming on the way down. The other Demon put his hands up, backing away, while the Cleanser picked up a rifle lying on the ground, and aimed it at the surrendering Demon. Knuse and his Cleansers walked in to secure the situation. “What happened to the other two?” Knuse asked. “Gone.” The Cleanser responded. Knuse looked at the surrendering Demon. “What the hell is all this? Speak up!” Knuse said. “I’m not going to say an-” The Demon was cut off as Knuse grabbed him by the throat and suspended him over the vat. “Wrong answer. Try again for extra credit.” Knuse said. “The Malebranche… we bring the formula here, and the scientists are tasked with modifying it to produce new versions of the Malebranche!” The Demon said, franticly. “Alright. Then how do we destroy it?” Knuse asked. “W-what?!” The Demon asked. “How do we permanently stop everything you’re doing here?” Knuse asked. “Delete everything on the computers, and dispose of all the vials, it won’t kill off the Malebranche but it’ll remove all the progress we made for the Mist Units and anything else we have cataloged!” The Demon exclaimed. Knuse set him back down to safety, where he dropped down onto his knees, breathing heavily. “Yuri, this place is home to all kinds of Malebranche experiments. If we’re going to strike back against the Malebranche, now’s our chance.” Knuse said. “Then get to it, the other Cleansers and I will work on clearing out the rest of the Demons here.” Yuri said. “The hazmats said there were eleven, I count seven dead plus the surrendering one, meaning there are only three-” Knuse was cut off as he turned a corner to find a Demon rushing him with a swords, though he parried the attack with his hammer and immediately swung the hammer across the Demon’s helmet, smashing his head open. “Two left.” Knuse continued. Yuri got out of his cover to look around, before noticing a Demon directly behind him. The Demon aimed a pistol at Yuri, and fired into his stomach twice, causing an incredibly painful burning sensation in the wounds as radiation began to infest itself. He immediately covered the wounds with his arm, stopping the incoming radiation, while he loosely aimed his flamethrower with one hand, and fired a beam around, missing most of the time, but still managing to slice the Demon’s legs off. The Demon screamed in pain as the rest of his legs, and afterwards his body, melted before his eyes. “One left… I’m wounded.” Yuri said, into the mic. Two Cleansers immediately ran towards him, one knelt down to Yuri who slumped down against his cover, while the Cleanser covered the wounds quickly with bandaging, the other Cleanser stood guard. Yuri’s radio turned on, “Knuse here, I killed the supposed last Demon. The other Cleansers and I will search around a little, how are you holding up?” Knuse asked. “I’m fine, now. Just a couple bullets and no time to take them out. I need to get out of here as soon as possible to get proper medical assistance, make sure the place is clear, destroy anything Malebranche-related, and afterwards, inform Scar that she’s clear to send someone in to start routing the power to THESUES.” Yuri said, as he got up with the assistance of one of the Cleansers, and the two began to walk out. “Roger, stay safe, Yuri.” Knuse responded over the radio.

SPECTACLE ENVY
A Paladin wrapped some bandaging around Yuri’s stomach, before nodding to him, and Yuri slipped a jacket on as he walked away, into the bunker. “How much longer?!” Mac yelled anxiously. “As I said, it shouldn’t be much longer, they just have to calibrate everything and hook it all up.” Scar said. “Y’know, I’m starting to think I’m getting too old for this.” Yuri said, as he sat down. “Why’s that?” Mac asked. “I’m fifty eight years old.” Yuri said. “What are you going to do, retire?” Mac asked. “It’s not like that’s not an option, Mac.” Maximus responded. “I know all the other High Generals died in battle, but there’s gotta be a first retirer at some point… and even then, who’s to say my time won’t come soon?” Yuri asked. “Don’t think like that.” Maximus said. “I’ve come to terms with it… We all die at some point.” Yuri said. The room was silent. “Who wants to watch the Shield blow up?” Scar asked. Mac jumped out of his chair. “Finally, good god, let’s go!” Mac said in easily the most enthusiastic tone he had ever been in. Yuri, Maximus, Mac, Scar and Vanguard exited the bunker, the last having a hard time exiting. They all looked upwards, while Scar pressed a button. “I’d suggest getting some sunglasses. Considering seeing such a vast amount of light for the first time ever can burn your eyes out of your sockets.” Maximus and Mac both pressed buttons on the sides of their visors, causing them to turn to black, while Yuri took his mask off and inspected it, angered that he didn’t have such a button, before pulled a pair of sunglasses out from his jacket’s pocket. From a few miles in a given direction, an almost unnoticeable blue beam fired upwards, before releasing a colossally wide burst of energy outwards, crackling like electricity, before the center of it detonated, and the radius of the explosion widened almost completely across the sky, truly making it look as though the sky was falling. The explosion faded into thick, black smoke. “It’ll take about half an hour for the smoke to fade, but be sure to keep the eye protection on, it may not look bright right now, but the sun can still have an effect.” Scar said. “Hmph. Well it looks like I’m not going back to work again today under those circumstances.” Yuri said, noting to his forced use of glasses. “I’m going back to New Aberdeen. Maybe get some sleep for once.” Yuri said. “Remember that you’re going to be the only High General down here on the surface. Mac and I have diplomatic stuff to discuss. If everything goes according to plan, that is.” Maximus said. “Yeah. I know.” Yuri said, before turning around, and walking away. “I’ll get the LANTIS ready, we’ll get all the passengers ready in about five hours.” Scar said, before walking away, rounding up several robots on her way into the bunker. Maximus turned to look at Mac. “So, who exactly are these passengers?” Maximus asked. “Anyone with a hundred bucks and can legally leave the planet. Mostly civilians who want to see Earth and her colonies for the first time.” Mac said. “Hm. So none of our people but the few we’ve selected, huh?” Maximus asked. “Exactly.” Mac said, before walking away.

BLINDED BY NEW SIGHTS
“... And that is why they were manufactured like that. Most people don’t know. Now you do. It isn’t top secret either. Tell anyone you want. Except for the Knights of course. That’d spoil the surprise.”  Nikola said. Astaroth was silent in his seat, before the THESEUS explosion happened outside the window. The two guards dropped their weapons and covered their eyes, screaming from the sudden burst of light, Astaroth showed minor pain as well, as he put his arm in front of his eyes. Nikola simply look outside of the window, showing no pain as he watched the display, before it ended. “Pity. I expected it to be more exciting.” Nikola said. The guards slowly recovered, as did Astaroth, while Nikola stood up. “Gentlemen, it has been fancy being here, but I have an appointment. I shall see you all soon. Be sure all our men are ready.” Nikola said, the last part being directed towards one of the guards, who saluted in response. Nikola walked into the elevator, and pressed a button, closing the doors, while Astaroth got up out of his seat, and sighed.

LIFTOFF
Mac was fitting on his armor, specifically one of the gloves, when Maximus walked in. “Hey, new suit, not sure if you noticed.” Mac said. “I didn’t, because it looks exactly the same.” Maximus said, before retrieving his helmet. “Yeah, it’s designed for zero-g. Figured it’d be useful. Plus, it can go airtight for maximum comfortability and efficiency.” Mac said, before pressing a button on his gauntlet, and his armor instantly pushed out air as it shrinked inwards several inches. “Ooh, alright, this does not feel comfortable.” Mac said. “What the hell does airtight have to do with zero gravity? As long as there’s no gaps in the armor you’re fine.” Maximus said, fitting his helmet on. Mac pressed the same button, letting his armor stretch back out. “I dunno, Scar’s people made it, said it’d be like that. I guess they forgot they can’t feel in the first place.” Mac said, before getting up, pocketing Pinaka, and grabbing a rifle from a shelf, fitting it onto his back. “I wouldn’t trust most things Crylo produces. Besides, ballistic weaponry will never go out of style.” Maximus said, before grabbing his own selection of weapons and walking out of the room with Mac. “I think the only reliable weapon is one truly unique, like that damned fantasy blade of legend you’ve got.” Mac said. “Amen. I guess...” Maximus said. The two walked down a long hallway, before stepping into an elevator. “So what are the luxurious features behind the glorious LANTIS?” Maximus asked. “Well the main selling point is getting off this damn planet, which is a pretty good selling point if you ask me.” Mac said. “And… ?” Maximus asked for Mac to continue. “I think we can get pizza delivered to our rooms.” Mac said. “Did we get the villa?” Maximus asked. “No, I got all five of us the cheap as shit rooms, this isn’t a luxury ride for us, and I paid for your ticket anyway. All the extra stuff, you’re paying for.” Mac said, before the elevator reached the top floor, and the two stepped out into the bunker, and walked out of the bunker, only to uncomfortably shield their eyes from the sun. “I will never get used to that.” Maximus said. The two boarded a KTTS, which Mac piloted. It was a rather short flight until the LANTIS came into view, in what was essentially an entire airport, but with only one plane. The KTSS landed outside of the airport, where Hypox, Knuse and Seras were all waiting. Maximus and Mac walked up to them. “You’re late.” Hypox said. “I didn’t know we were on a timer.” Mac said. The two High Generals continued walking, with the three soldiers walking with them. They walked through a dense crowd of people, most of them begging others for their tickets, or at times there would be a fight, that was interrupted by Crylo robots before the group had any time to intervene themselves. They pushed through to a doorway guarded by an entire squad of Crylo sentries, that halted Mac and asked for tickets. Mac sighed, and handed his tickets to the robot, who scanned and redeemed it, the other four followed suit, before walking through the doorway, which led to a hallway into the LANTIS. Once inside the cruiser, the chaos of the crowd was instantly washed away. The entire ship was sparkling clean with white everywhere, and the occasional black tertiary color that displayed signs or some intricate pattern. The group walked further into the ship, before entering a very long, glass hallway designed to show the outside area of space, if the ship were in space at the time. They walked some distance before walking up to a door, which Mac opened, revealing a small room which led to five different doors. “Alright, these are our accommodations. They’re all exactly the same, so pick one now and fall in later.” Mac said. Maximus walked directly forwards to a door labeled C3, and opened it, revealing a fairly sized room with a bed, some cabinets, a wardrobe and a television, as well as another door that was likely the bathroom. “It’ll do.” Maximus said. Each of them picked their own rooms, inspecting them, before walking back out shortly afterwards. “This is gonna be our home for the next few days, anyone excited to finally see Earth?” Maximus asked. No one responded. “What a lovely crew we have.” Maximus said, before walking back into his room. “We should be lifting off very soon, about five minutes I think.” Mac said. Knuse grunted in affirmation, and returned to his room, as did Hypox. Mac stood silent for a while with Seras, before he too went back to his room. Seras turned to look at the door marked C3, and she walked up to it, knocking on the door. Maximus opened it, and looked at Seras, the two were silent for a moment. “How about that therapy?” Seras asked. Maximus chuckled a little, before moving aside to let Seras in. “I can hardly believe that the Shield is... Mostly gone. And that we’re already about to leave for Earth.” Scar said, sitting down on the nearby bed. “I’ve stopped not believing a long time ago, and just going with whatever works out. It’s kinda peaceful.” Maximus said. “Teach me.” Seras said. “Teach you what?” Maximus asked. “Teach me how you find peace, in this chaotic job you have.” Seras said. “It’s quite simple, really,” Maximus started, as he sat down next to Seras. “Just don’t think too hard about it, and watch.” Maximus said, before the ship’s intercom turned on. “Attention all passengers: The LANTIS IV is preparing liftoff, please find a seat while we start the countdown.” Scar said, before a robotic voice took over for her. “Ten… nine… eight… seven… six… five… four… three… two… one. Engaging thrusters.” The LANTIS lifted upwards, and rapidly accelerated towards the sky above, breaching its atmosphere, before slowing down. “Attention all passengers: we have successfully passed the exosphere. You may now get up from your seat and enjoy the luxuries of the LANTIS as we cruise towards the moon.” Scar said over the intercom. Seras tore her eyes away from space outside and to Maximus, who continued watching outside the window, arms crossed. “I guess I can’t say that wasn’t effective.” Seras said, getting Maximus’ attention. “So, where were we?” Maximus asked. “The boring part… I wish we could skip it.” Seras said. “Who said we can’t?” Maximus asked, before Seras smiled, and leaned in closer to Maximus, before the intercom snapped back on. “All passengers: We have incoming enemy fighters. Do not expect this to cause harm to the ship, we are perfectly shielded and should not have to worry momentarily. Just don’t be alarmed.” Scar said, causing Maximus and Seras to look out the window to see a swarm of red dots far into the distance.
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DEWM NINJA

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