Chapter 6: Deception and Destruction
The Great Palace, Nova.
A silver-haired man stepped silently into a darkened room, glancing cautiously around himself. It had been too easy to get in. Far too easy… something was up.
Shaking his head, he pulled out a small tape recorder and turned it on, all while keeping one hand on a sword at his waist.
"Report 5218. I, Grey Terin, have successfully infiltrated the Great Palace on the Dominion capital planet of Nova. From my current position, I am preparing to infiltrate a meeting of Dominion heads… The time here is 1400 hours, on the dot." Grey coughed lightly, and adjusted his steel mask on his face. He then turned the doorknob and looked out into the hallway, his black cloak billowing out behind him silently as he did.
No one. Grey stepped quietly out into the hall and began walking, his boots making no sound on the marble floor. He went up two flights of stairs, managing to avoid a few guards' notice, and came to a room just outside the throne room. Just as he was about to pull it open, a voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Hey! You! Stop right there!!" Grey whirled around in place to see a Dominion soldier flagging him down, rifle in hand. The quiet man cursed his bad luck, and waited for the soldier to reach him, stopping just as he had asked.
"Just WHAT do you think you're doing in the Upper Chambers, guy?! Huh?!" The soldier asked loudly, moving to prod Grey with his rifle. Grey wouldn't have that, though, and a simple look at the soldier stopped the motion.
"I have business here, boy." Grey said, his icy eyes narrowing on the guard.
"I… I…" the soldier stammered, backing up a few steps. Grey cursed again. He would run off if left on his own. He had no choice but to…
Grey pulled his katana from its sheath and brought it up at an angle to the soldier's head, slicing straight through it at the mouth. He then resheathed it, all in one fluid motion. "Idiot." He said. "You should have been quiet."
Muttering curses in all manner of strange languages now, Grey dragged the dead soldier - and his head - into the room he'd sought to enter but moments before. He then glanced at his watch. "That throws the amount of time I can afford to spend here down at least 15 minutes. Looks like I only have 5 or 6 minutes to find out what I need to know."
The Union spy knelt down, and pulled a piece of listening equipment from a pocket of his cloak. He then settled down in behind a low table and put the listening device up against a wall, and hooked the other end into his tape recorder.
"And, for the record, state again what you found upon reaching your assigned location, officer." A voice could now be clearly heard from the next room. Grey pulled another piece of equipment from his cloak, a headset, and put it on over his eyes. He could now see into the next room. There was a huge throne in the center of the room, surrounded on all sides by chairs and chairs of various heads of state. On a dais just before the throne, a man in a soldier's uniform stood, preparing to speak.
"Just as had been formerly conjectured, your Excellency, the lavoid codenamed Grendel had indeed left Zion. However, he left something behind. Sir, we found around two dozen newly-born lavoids on planet near the site where Grendel surfaced."
Various gasps filled the room, but were quickly silenced by a word from the man on the throne, the Emperor of the Sol Dominion. "And just what did you do with these lavoids?"
"They were captured, as instructed by Major Killian, and taken to the outer space testing arena near the fifth destabilizer beacon, the military one no longer in use."
"I know which beacon the fifth is, Captain." The Emperor said harshly. "I have reached my decision. Commence the tests that were created by the science branch immediately, and report the results to me as you get them. Soon, we shall attack the Union, and I want these… spawn to be our main weapon."
The meeting then turned to other matters as the captain left the room, and Grey removed his headset, along with the listening device. He put the tape recorder back to his mouth. "Such fools. Apparently, they wish to test the capabilities of the lavoids at the Norris Facility. The next report shall be given from there." Shaking his head, the mysterious man flipped the tape recorder off, and pulled open a window in the room, looking down out of it. "20 stories or so. Not too bad." He said to himself, and, without another word, leapt from the window, his black cloak flapping in the evening wind as he fell slowly toward the ground.
"Hyaaaaa!!!" Cynewulf grunted as he brought down his TAG on another robot's head, severing it at the neck. He and Meryl now stood over a pile of what could only be termed scrap, the remains of the robots they'd just been fighting.
"Geez." Meryl sighed, leaning up against one of the walls of the power grid. "I guess we're getting closer.
"At least these didn't have those shields." Said Darrell, who was busy examining the remains of their opposers.
"Yeah, and at least you guys proved you can win some fights on your own." Zohar put in unhelpfully. Terra, who was rather fed up with the diminutive alien, rolled her eyes.
"Thankfully, I think we're almost out of the grid, at least." Cynewulf said, pointing to the door that the group of robots had been guarding. The group collectively shrugged, and went over to the door. Indeed, there was a flight of stairs just beyond it, with rays of light shining from a hole at the top.
They proceeded up back into the main complex, and were greeted with the smell of smoke and the sight of around a dozen robots, all heading westward.
"Looks like the diversion's still going on…" Meryl said, squinting off into the distance. As she did, a laser blast whizzed by her head. Sighing loudly, she pulled her sword up in front of her. "You know, these near-death experiences are getting VERY old."
Two robots, each around 5 and a half feet tall, ran up. Each had a gun arm, but their other arms were adorned with smaller versions of TAGs.
Cyne blinked. "Man, they've really been busy since we've been gone, haven't they?"
The burly Seeker brought up his TAG to meet one of the robots, a scowl on his face. The `bot responded with a quick jab of its own blade, which was quickly deflected with a swinging parry on Cyne's part. Cyne then followed up the strike by bringing his TAG down on the robot's sword arm, cleaving it in two. He then reversed the momentum from that strike, and, before the robot could react, he brought it straight down on the thing's head. It was sliced in two.
Meanwhile, Darrell had managed to distract the other one with useless blasts from his pistol, so that Meryl had no trouble getting in behind it. She smirked as she thrust the blade straight into its back, causing a shower of sparks to explode from it as it fell to the ground.
"Ouch." Meryl said, looking around herself for other robots. Finding none, she switched her TAG off. "Looks like we're in good shape for now. The others are taking up a lot of their attention."
"Looks like it, but keep your guard up." Cynewulf said. "We don't have a clue what other weapons they've got out here." With that, the group set off down through the forested area of Seeker HQ, keeping a sharp look-out for the Armory, which was supposedly nearby.
After a few minutes, they came to it, a hulking building of steel and silver, sitting like a goliath in a barren, grassless area. "Oh, this brings back memories…" Cynewulf said, switching on his TAG again.
"I don't see how it could, Cyne." Meryl replied, following suit. "You were banned from it weekly, I think."
"Aw, shut up." Cynewulf said, and sighed. "Anyway, the AI's in that building, so I'd think it's well-defended. Be on your toes, everyone."
The five of them walked up to the front door, surprised at the complete lack of guards. The front doors, two huge hunks of steel roughly hammered onto the building, stood shut before them. Cynewulf stepped up to the door itself, and pulled on the handle. It held firm for a moment, then opened with a groan.
He walked inside to be met with almost total darkness, the others close behind him. Thankfully, his TAG served to shed a bit of light on things, and a large lobby of sorts could be made out in the bluish light.
"Aunt Kyra said that the AI unit was in the east room. That's right over there, so…" she started to walk to a nearby door, only to be pummeled with a hail of iron as that door exploded off of its hinges and splintered. She cursed and held her TAG up in front of her, ready to greet whatever threat had come to them now.
"Human intruders… most intriguing. The attack on the western sector was simply a ruse… a cover for your own ambush." The voice was cold and metallic, and came from just beyond the ruined doorway. The five Seekers collectively tensed up as an eight-foot tall robot, clutching an ornate, wire-laced blade in its hand, lumbered through the door. As it did, it held the blade up before it, revealing a gleaming red `eye' of sorts. The voice that followed came from the blade. "I shall have to keep in mind the tactic of deception for my own future endeavors. It had not processed before this date."
"I'm afraid you won't be having any `future endeavors', buddy." Cynewulf said grimly, taking this to be the AI sword.
"Another intriguing notion, human. Would you presume to stop me? Initial readings suggest that only two of you have energy signatures worth concern, and one of those lies deep-buried. It stands to reason to assume that you yourself will be the one without any future undertakings."
Meryl grimaced. "Great. A robot with a tendency toward arrogance. What's the universe coming to?"
"Well, if you were listening to him," Zohar put in, "not much for you guys. This should be an interesting fight. The power levels coming from that sword are pretty high."
"Well, then, humans. Let us see how my `tendency towards arrogance' serves me in this battle." The robot pulled the AI blade to its head, and the red eye on the blade winked out, only to be replaced as the once-white eyes of the robot began to gleam crimson. The huge `bot then put the sword up before him in an attack position, and the next words came from its voice box. "Have at you!"
It ran so quickly that Meryl, who was still trying to pick bits of steel from her clothing - for they hadn't really moved quickly enough to harm her - had trouble getting her TAG up in front of her for a block. Even so, the surprisingly dense blade nearly succeeded in knocking her to the ground, so powerful was the AI's attack.
Cynewulf rushed in next to her as she struggled to keep standing against a flurry of attacks from the AI, and tried to throw his own sword into the fray. While he did succeed in providinng Meryl with some measure of temporary relief, the robot itself just sped up its attacks, and the blade itself began to take on a dull crimson glow as various engine systems clicked on within it.
Darrell, meanwhile, was trying to get a clear shot at the Robot with his blaster, but it was proving a difficult task. So worried was he over hitting Meryl or Cyne that all of his shots had gone over the bot's head. As it was, he doubted that a single blaster shot could really disable it. "Damn it, I'm SICK of being useless to them!" Darrell yelled, and threw his blaster to the ground. "Terra, I took some of those martial arts classes with you. Let's see if I can still do anything."
Terra's eyebrows shot up. "Are you nuts? What're you going to be able to do to that thing without breaking a hand?"
"I… don't know." Darrell said, shaking his head.
Cynewulf and Meryl, meanwhile, were being driven back inch by inch against a wall. The robot swung the AI blade around like a battleaxe, and with about the same result. Every once in a while it would go for an overhead slash. These attacks were slow, and always missed, but also always resulted in a sizable portion of the marble-tiled floor being ripped away. The huge broadsword itself was glowing with all the intensity of a sun, and looked to be gaining energy rather than losing it from the expenditure.
Cynewulf growled, and thought hard. He had only one chance to do anything to it, and it was a small chance, at that. If only he'd actually payed attention during those training sessions… "Meryl, distract it." Cyne said as he drew in a ragged breath. He then leapt back several feet, leaving Meryl alone against the onslaught of the AI sword, and closed his eyes.
A few seconds passed, and he brought his TAG up in a wide arc, then swang it straight at the far away AI `bot. "Full Moon." He said aloud, then gasped as a wave of red-green energy flew from the tip of the TAG and slammed full-force into the robot. The energy wave served to knock the blade from its hand as well as throwing the robot itself to the ground.
Meryl gaped at Cyne. "You used ether energy? I thought you never displayed any aptitude for it?"
The large man shrugged. "Oh well. No time to worry about that now. It seems our friend here isn't finished yet."
Indeed, though the robot showed no signs of getting up any time soon, the blade had taken on an even more powerful glow, and had lifted off the floor. It floated about 4 feet off the ground now, as though held by some spectral swordsman. The red eye at the crosspiece was lit again, and burned angrily.
"Cheap parlor tricks. Ether usage was not predetermined given initial scans. Deception shall not be tolerated any farther. You will be terminated."
With that, the blade began spinning wildly in the air. As it did, lights came on all through the building, and several dozen small robots in various stages of completion entered the room. However, the lights didn't stabilize, but kept on brightening, and the engines of the robots began whirring faster and faster.
"What the… he's overloading everything!!!" Terra yelled as several of the robots began to smoke.
"Holy… RUN!!!" Cynewulf yelled, and made for the door. As he reached it, it slammed shut in his face, and a surge of electricity could visibly be seen going across its handle.
"There shall be no escape. Only death. Human subjects… human deceivers. This is your ending."
"DAMN IT!!" Cynewulf yelled, and slammed his TAG full force into the door. It did him little good, though, and he scarcely avoided falling onto the electrified door as his blow recoiled.
Darrell's life flashed before his eyes. He thought of all the things he'd done. He thought of all the things he hadn't done. But most of all, he thought of Grendel, floating free through space, preparing to land on some other unsuspecting planet…
Waiting to repeat the atrocity he'd committed on Zion.
`The time is now.' Darrell thought, though something didn't seem right about that thought. `Now… now now now… power… TRANCE… HATRED!!!!!' his eyes narrowed as an image of the destruction of Zion played through his head.
"NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Darrell screamed in a voice that was not his own. Crimson light began to literally radiate off of his body, and he was consumed by it, was completely impossible to see. Zohar, Cynewulf, Meryl and Terra all looked on in confusion, almost forgetting for a moment their predicament. When the light faded, Darrell still stood there, but… he was different. His eyes glittered silver, and his short hair was the color of a raging inferno, a true red. Energy almost visibly oozed from every pore of his body.
Zohar rested his chin in the palm of one diminutive hand. "Trance … how intriguing."
The transformed Darrell stood still for but a moment, then exploded into action, almost literally flying into the electrified door. Black energy began to surround him in waves, and he let it explode outward with but one word. "X-Zone." He said, and his voice was terrible to hear. It held a smooth, sibilant quality, and yet was as frightening as a moonless night.
The dark energy poured over the whole room, engulfing the AI blade and every robot in darkness, yet sparing the humans - and Zohar.
When it cleared, there was nothing left of the lobby, except for a few tiles of marble, and some scraps of metal. The rest was left open and roofless to the rest of the Complex. The robots and the AI blade where nowhere to be found. Darrell, the REAL Darrell; grey-haired green-eyed Darrell, lay unconscious on the ruined floor of the Armory lobby.
"What in the hell just happened?" Cynewulf said, echoing everyone's thoughts.
"Perhaps I can explain some of that." Zohar put in, stepping over to the prostrate Darrell.
"By all means, go right ahead." Meryl said sarcastically after a moment.
Zohar looked up at the dome ceiling. "Have any of you ever heard of Trance? It's an ability similar in nature to the limit break, but it's more total, more… consuming."
"What?" Terra said. "Limit break? Trance? What in the world are you talking about?"
Zohar sighed deeply, and scratched his bulbous head in a decidedly human fashion. "I suppose I'll have to explain this in easy-to-understand terms, then. In short, Darrell just went into a trance. A trance is an ability… that's genetically defined, in short. In order to even have the potential to go into trance, the genes typically associated with a disassociative personality must be present."
"Er… why?" Cynewulf said, crouching down to check on Darrell.
"Because of the very nature of how Trance works. I'm getting there. Basically, in one of every thousand individuals, the potential for limit break exists. …the limit break is an explosion of one's potential energy based on ether, force tech, and several other variable energy sources. However, a person can only limit break in a time of desperation… when it's absolutely necessary to realize his or her full potential. You know, situations like this one."
Zohar started pacing the floor, still thinking. "What Darrell did, though, goes beyond even that. Trance is an extended form of the limit break. In order for it to come about, a completely separate personality, one who is fully aware of the inner potential of energy in a person, must be formed. Typically, this only occurs through trauma, which can lead to schizophrenia in some individuals if the genes for trance are not present. I would guess, given Darrell's past, that he had plenty of room for trauma at a young age, which would allow for another personality to develop within him."
"He's schizophrenic?" Terra asked, looking anxiously down on her unconscious friend.
"No, no. You aren't listening. If it weren't for his trance potential, he would more than likely be schizophrenic. As it is, the second personality, the one that we just saw a moment ago, is a complete necessity in order for him to reach trance."
"Of course," Zohar continued, "not everyone's second personality is all that different from the first, beyond some cosmetic differences - like Darrell's red hair and silvery eyes. However, due to the amount of pain and suffering that the guy's been going through lately, I would guess that his second personality is decidedly different from the first, possibly even in a dangerous way."
Cynewulf grabbed his head, and sat down on the floor. "Woah, woah, slow down. So your saying that Darrell has a very angry and dangerous second personality with the ability to wipe out an entire building with one word?"
"Well…" Zohar said, "I suppose you COULD put it that way."
"Crap. We can't just let him run loose, then, can we?" Cyne continued, thinking. "I mean, just think about what could happen if he got pissed enough!"
"What do you mean `let him' run loose, Cyne?!" Terra cut in. "He doesn't need your permission to do a DAMN thing, and we sure as hell aren't going to lock him up anywhere!!"
The young woman glared at the burly Seeker, who looked at her defiantly. "We have a responsibility to the other people! What if he blew a hole in the Complex here, huh? If it depressurized, all the people here would die, and 40-something years worth of work against the Lavoids would be wasted!"
Zohar sighed. "You petty little stupid humans. Would you stop bickering? There's another solution, just like there always is. Honestly."
"What solution is that, Zohar?" Meryl asked.
"I know someone… who could teach him to control his abilities, at least enough not to endanger anyone."
"Who would know how to do that?" Cynewulf said, still incredulous.
"Lucia Meleraii, the greatest warrior in the Multiverse." Zohar replied.
"A woman?" Cyne returned, raising an eyebrow.
"And just what is THAT supposed to mean?" Terra and Meryl said, almost in unison.
"Nothing, nothing… but okay. Whatever it takes to make sure that Dar' here won't be a threat to us."
Zohar smirked. "You know, Cynewulf, you're even more of a bastard than I am, sometimes."
"I see… if I can obtain a total state of trance…" - Kuja, Final Fantasy IX.
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