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Pahrak Model ZX

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About Pahrak Model ZX

Year 15
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    Bionicle Writer of the Month

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  1. KARDAS DRAGON isn't sure what you're doing, but continues to watch you carefully. The aura of Oblivion Incarnate, fed by dying existence, grows brighter until it obscures KARDAS DRAGON from view, before settling down to only a subtle shimmer. KARDAS DRAGON's wounds have healed, and it looks stronger than ever! 999 healed! Stats up!
  2. The marshmallow sticks to your hand, ruining the papers you touch! The staff goes to make new copies. KARDAS DRAGON is surprised, but the explosion is swallowed up by its aura! KARDAS DRAGON roars triumphantly, spewing flames into sky! KARDAS DRAGON's aura twists as it absorbs the shockwaves! You've drawn the dragon's attention. KARDAS DRAGON has the high ground! It levels the battlefield with a swipe of its tail, and then flies up to meet the incoming dragons. The paperwork is completed! However, KARDAS DRAGON has used its Corporate Greed ability to bribe the Oblivion office CEO, and the files disappear mysteriously!
  3. 30 damage! KARDAS DRAGON takes the hit, unflinching, and then drives its claws into Onakuzilla's torso! You assist in filling out the paperwork, speeding up the process at least a little! As the boundaries of universes crumble into oblivion, KARDAS DRAGON's aura grows stronger! With a roar, it sends out an energy wave of cataclysmic proportions at the multiversal armada!
  4. KARDAS DRAGON scoffs at Onakuzilla! It releases another shockwave, not hitting every superweapon this time, but enough to be a problem. KARDAS DRAGON's aura grows stronger as swaths of time splinter into oblivion! KARDAS DRAGON flexes its wing. A wave of energy washes over the charging forces! KARDAS DRAGON endures the barrage, turning and throwing a punch. A massive ball of energy flies off from its fist, ready to engulf the Rahkshi! You are given a stack of paperwork to fill out! You sense much red tape along this process. Time begins to slow around the battlefield, making the actions of the combatants look even cooler!
  5. The attack is destroyed by the energy surrounding KARDAS DRAGON! KARDAS DRAGON slowly turns and glares over its shoulder! As the superweapons begin to vanish, KARDAS DRAGON opens it mouth and roars. A shockwave shoots forward, ripping the weapons to shreds just as their portals close!
  6. KARDAS DRAGON avoids a direct hit, but the fringes of the beam still damage it! 100 damage! The blasts envelop KARDAS DRAGON! 100 damage! As the smoke clears, a badly wounded KARDAS DRAGON with armor charred black looks around. Its marshmallow has been destroyed in the assault. Something changes in its eyes... Suddenly, a flaming aura of whitish-yellow energy springs forth from KARDAS DRAGON! It bares its teeth and raises its wings, exuding an incomprehensible force of destruction from every pore! KARDAS DRAGON's OBLIVION INCARNATE has been activated!
  7. KARDAS DRAGON happily hums to Move Along while roasting marshmallows!
  8. After taking a few months trying to focus on Red Joker, I’ve finally completed it! There’s one more step in the Shooting Star Sonia project, but I’m putting that on hold for the time being, due in no small part to the fact that I really, really want to get Right of Law moving. And on that note! Section XVI is live! It’s a little short, mainly because it picks up a couple of loose ends and puts us in position for the next major event, but I’ll do my best to keep the ball rolling and get XVII out soon! There are a couple projects I’ll be working on simultaneously, but Law is my top priority for the near future—the more I think about the things I want to do in this story, the more excited I get, and I want to put that energy to good use!
  9. SECTION XVI Angonce paced back and forth, fathoming just how furious he was with the situation. Yarion sat quietly at their desk, watching the Great Being with a cautious patience, while Kodan trembled nervously in a nearby chair. “I, just…why are we even having this conversation in the first place?!” Angonce finally said. “Both of you ought to know better, especially you, Yarion! For Heremus’s sake, are all my favorite Makuta going to turn on me?” “I have most certainly not turned against you, my lord,” Yarion said. “Oh, most certainly! It’s not like you had someone from Nynrah right here—“ He shook his hands at the floor. “—and just let her go! Wait a second! That’s exactly what you did!” “I questioned her, and verified that she had nothing to add to the Nynrah investigation. The Toa representing her made quite a compelling case that continuing to hold her at that point would breed distrust amongst the people.” “What Toa? Where are they now—I want them brought in immediately!” “I’m afraid he’s gone, sir. He was a recent transfer from Mahri-Nui, and departed with the accused once the matter was concluded.” “So you let two criminals escape, then.” “This Toa was trustworthy, my lord: when I contacted Mahri-Nui, the Makuta himself vouched for him.” “And what of it?! Clearly a Makuta’s word means nothing anymore!” Yarion sighed. “My lord—“ “And you!” Angonce said, whirling on Kodan. “You found Zaekura herself, chatted her up like you were old friends, and then published and circulated her manifesto! How is it possible that at no point in that process did you consider what you were doing treason?!” “I-I-I-I was only doing my j-j-job, Lord A-Angonce,” Kodan stammered. “The p-people need to know w-what’s going on, and w-without Zaekura’s point of view I f-feel our understanding of the issue would b-be left incomplete. W-We’re only trying to understand the t-t-truth.” “Truth?!” Angonce repeated, looming over the Toa. “The only information you need is what the Great Beings provide you! The only perspective you need is ours! ‘Truth’…it’s such a simple thing to grasp! The truth is what we say! Anything that goes against our truth is nothing short of blasphemy!” Kodan could only shiver silently. Angonce turned with a frustrated grunt, taking a few steps away. “Yarion. Find all copies of this interview and have them destroyed.” Slowly rising to their feet, Yarion asked, “M…my lord?” “I know you heard me. See to it that this heresy is eradicated, before it has a chance to spread.” Yarion glanced at Kodan as they thought. “…If I may, my lord—“ “You may not!” Angonce cut them off. Reluctantly, Yarion continued, “What will this accomplish? It is too late to prevent the word from getting out—it will spread. Worse, how will the people react to such an extreme action? Would it not only breed greater distrust, greater fear? Such a retaliation would surely only lead to more people believing the validity of Zaekura’s words!” Angonce glared over his shoulder. “Well. If they decide to act upon that misguided belief, then I suppose their Makuta will have to set them straight.” Yarion’s eyes wandered. They saw their reflection in the wall, realizing just how troubled their expression was. “Th-This…” Yarion and Angonce turned to Kodan as he spoke up. The Toa got to his feet, still shaking but not letting that stop him. “This isn’t right. Hiding the facts, scaring people into submission, attacking anyone who disagrees with you…those aren’t the values Spherus Magna was built on!” “Oh I can assure you,” Angonce said, “they most certainly are. I am the one who built it, after all.” “No. The world you’re talking about isn’t the world that I see, the world I’ve been trying to serve. I still feel that way: that my job is the truth, and not just what anyone says is true. I cannot…I will not give the people what I know are lies! To do so would be to betray who I am!” “Think very carefully about what you’re doing, Toa. Are you going to cooperate, or are you going to continue your treasonous ways?” Kodan swallowed his fear and stood tall, sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was the right thing to do. “I will not cooperate.” Angonce looked past him, nodding once. And then Kodan cried out in pain, falling forward lifelessly. Yarion’s jaw dropped. “What…” they tried to ask, but the words wouldn’t come. A massive gash had appeared in Kodan’s back. Behind the Toa was a strange distortion, and soon Yarion realized it was something imperceptible coming into view: a strange-looking being, nearly as tall as them and clad in gold armor with white speckles spread haphazardly across the surface. Folded wings hung from the being’s arms, which they drew back as they retracted razor-sharp claws into their fingers—on their back were numerous dangerous-looking spines, and behind that, Yarion could see a long reptilian tail swaying back and forth. They wore a Mask of Adaptation, but Yarion could see there was no mouth behind it, and on the back of their head was a second set of eyes, blinking to reveal inner eyelids. I suspected Lord Angonce did not come alone, Yarion thought. But I never expected him to bring Vamprah… Angonce beckoned. Vamprah stepped over the corpse and went to the Great Being’s side, his rear eyes fixed directly upon Yarion as he did. “Makuta Yarion?” Angonce said. “You have your assignment. Get to it.” Yarion could only turn back to Kodan, watching the Toa of Stone’s blood slowly pool around his broken form. “Don’t worry, your staff will clean up the mess while you’re out. Time’s wasting.” Vamprah turned sharply. Angonce turned in response, seeing Yarion with a hand over their face, shaking their head. “This is…cruel,” Yarion said. “How could you? We were to protect the people—how can you ask that we now strike them down at the slightest provocation?! I…I cannot do this, Lord Angonce…I cannot be a part of something so vile!” Angonce rolled his eyes. “Goodness…I’m grown quite exhausted of this nonsense.” The Great Being turned around, and Vamprah took a step forward. Yarion backed up into their desk, realizing just how little room separated them. “You will follow my orders, Yarion,” Angonce said. “And if you will not do so willingly, then I’ll simply have you recalibrated, so that you can return to your job with the right set of priorities in mind.” Yarion’s eyes widened. “B…but…” “Decide quickly, Yarion. My patience is entirely used up.” A heavy silence filled the room. Eventually, Yarion went down on one knee, hanging their head and muttering something. “Speak up,” Angonce said. “I…will obey, Lord Angonce,” Yarion said. “I shall see to the destruction of Kodan’s treason.” Angonce smiled. “Finally, one sees reason. You made the right choice, Yarion. Go on.” Yarion stood, sluggishly walking towards the elevator. “But ah, just to be on the safe side…I think I’ll have Vamprah remain in Civitas Magna for the time being. Just, watch over you for a bit, on the off-chance you find yourself getting cold feet.” Yarion didn’t need eyes in the back of their head to know Vamprah was staring at them. “Best of luck, Makuta Yarion,” Angonce said as the elevator doors closed. “I look forward to some truly impressive results.” *** Rahkshi made their way through the outpost, each taking their own path but nearly all of them winding up just outside the gate. Antroz stood atop the wall, monitoring the congregation as it formed, trying to shake off the anxiety that was weighing down her heart. “Ready to go home?” Antroz sighed as Krika walked up beside her. “This is hardly a homecoming. I’m returning as a conqueror…never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed this to be my future.” “Sounds as though you’ve hosted boring dreams, then. I’ve seen myself win battles far more threatening.” Antroz didn’t answer. “I say that because it is a lower bar than you seem to realize. These are still your people, Antroz: surely they must have some lingering fondness for you that shall stay their hands, regardless of how devout you raised them to be. And that aside, I can attest that builders rarely make the best warriors, especially as they shall be without your guidance.” “They have Emsar’s guidance,” Antroz said. “That alone worries me.” “Emsar? I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the name.” “She’s a Vortixx warrior who operated as my right hand. Her skill in peerless, and her mind is every bit as sharp as her dagger—under her orders, Xia has weathered several attacks where I was unable to defend it myself. We must not underestimate her.” Krika shrugged. “Alright, duly noted. But you know this army well now, Antroz. Taking into account the abilities these Rahkshi possess, not to mention that there will be three Makuta assisting them, do our chances really seem so grim?” “You forget our handicap, Krika. Of course we could level the city if we wanted. But we must win without using lethal force. Emsar surely knows this, and will use it against us.” “My word, you are simply impossible to cheer up.” Antroz became aware of Bitil as he strolled along the inside of the wall. At his side was a handful of Rahkshi who had been chosen to stay behind to guard the outpost, and he babbled nervously as he went over their defenses for the dozenth time. “Well,” Antroz said, “Zaekura’s interview should be available to the public now. I am hopeful that will sway at least a portion of Xia, so long as Makuta Yarion hasn’t snuffed it out before the flame has a chance to spread.” “I’ve told you, they’re not a threat,” Krika said. “I was very clear with the ideas I implanted in their head when I defended Miss Carna, and the fact that she was released is proof enough that they will be sympathetic to our cause.” “…That’s been bothering me. You said you posed as a Toa to defend her, but given how meticulous Yarion’s records are, I don’t understand how you were able to fool them.” “The urgency of the matter played to my favor. I simply said I had recently been transferred to Civitas Magna, and that my bumbling superiors had neglected to send in the paperwork. Yarion didn’t have time to verify.” “Transferred from where? Once Yarion inevitably contacts that place—“ “Not to worry, Antroz. The Makuta himself has spoken on my behalf.” Antroz turned towards him slowly. “…How do you know that?” Producing a small scroll, Krika said, “I received a message from him while we were in Ga-Koro. He informed me that he would play along for now, but he wants to meet soon. But we should focus on Xia at the moment, don’t you think?” “Krika. Where did you say you were from?” He took a very long pause, rolling the scroll between his fingers as he scanned the horizon. “Mahri-Nui.” Antroz’s wings twitched. “Mahri-Nui?!” “I understand your concerns—“ “And now he thinks we owe him…Krika, what have you done?! We cannot work with someone like that!” Krika smirked. “On the contrary, dear Antroz: I believe he’ll make the perfect tool. We’ll have to tread carefully, no doubt, but he knows working with us will be the best way to achieve his ambitions…and, isn’t this better than having him as an enemy?” “I greatly doubt it will be!” “Fine, fine, but can we at least agree it’s best to cross that bridge when we get to it? Our forces have enough on their minds with this upcoming battle. Why burden them any further?” Antroz turned back to the Rahkshi with a grunt. “We must tell Bitil, and Zaekura as well. They need to know what’s coming.” “Oh, very well. Are we to do that now, or…?” Antroz was already moving. With a roll of his eyes, Krika fell into step behind her. They caught up to Bitil as he neared the watchtower, where Zaekura stood talking to Carna, and waited for an opportunity to speak. “Can’t you just command them from here, Zae?” Carna asked. “You don’t have to put yourself in danger!” Zaekura shook her head. “I told you, Mom: if they’re risking themselves for me, I want to risk myself for them. And we’ll be fine! We have insider information, a bucket of tactics to use, more troops than we’re ever likely to need—I’ll be back in no time!” Carna grumbled something as she hugged Zaekura. Regardless, she ultimately went inside, and Zaekura turned to the Makuta. “Are we ready?” “Nearly,” Bitil said. “Erad took their squad out for some last minute target practice, but they should be back momentarily.” “Also,” Antroz said, “there’s something we must discuss before we depart.” “Does it have to with Xia?” Zaekura asked. “Well, no—“ “Then it can wait.” “Zaekura, this is a very serious matter.” Walking past her, Zaekura said, “Then tell me on the way if it’s that urgent. But I gotta say something before we leave, and I don’t need anything psyching me out.” Bitil eyed Krika, but Krika drew his fingers across his lips and followed Zaekura. With a scoff, Bitil did the same, and eventually Antroz went as well. They exited the outpost and went around to the eastern side of the Rahkshi army, finding Charla waiting for them as she tried to keep her siblings organized. “Ah, there you are!” she greeted. “Erad and the others have been spotted—it shouldn’t take them more than a minute or so to join us. We can depart at any time.” “Great,” Zaekura said. She took a deep breath. “…Alright. Everyone, listen up!” The crowd gradually went silent. Zaekura swallowed hard, and then stiffened her spine as she prepared to speak. “It’s time for us to march on Xia! They’re our nearest hostile, and using the extensive intel we’ve got on them, we’re going to capture their city and the resources they’ve got access to, leaving the loyalists without their primary manufacturer of weaponry! Despite this edge, do not take this battle lightly! There are two things you need to remember above all else: don’t kill anyone, and don’t get yourself killed! You’re all gonna remember that, right?” A short but decisive cry of affirmation answered her. “Good! Do that, follow the orders of your squad leaders, and this time tomorrow we’ll be celebrating our victory! This is the first brick we pull from the wall of the Great Beings! Starting today, we give our all to tearing it down! Let’s go!” Cheers echoed as the army moved out. After a while, Zaekura finally released the tension in her body, and turned to Antroz. “Alright, Fangs,” she said, “is that thing important?” Antroz thought for a moment. “…You are certain you would rather wait? I do not wish to withhold information from you.” Zaekura smiled. “I appreciate that, but right now I really do just want to focus on one thing at a time. We’ve already got a lot riding on this.” “Then…it can wait. For now, we will give all our attention to Xia.” “Okay,” Zaekura said with a nod. “…You gonna be able to do that?” Antroz faced forward. “Most certainly. I haven’t been able to think of anything but.” *** Emsar paced back and forth through the bottom floor of Xia’s central tower. Lying on the table was an unrolled parchment, its title drawing her attention again and again no matter how hard she tried to look away: “EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ZAEKURA, SURVIVOR OF NYNRAH INCIDENT.” I truly hoped the rumors were nothing but lies. It would’ve been easier that way. Alarming as the contents of the interview were, talk of them had spread near-instantaneously. While physical copies of the publication had all disappeared before they could be distributed beyond Civitas Magna, a Vortixx living there had smuggled a single copy out just in time, telling Emsar it was something she needed to read. When it rains, it pours…so this is what they mean. Running Xia without Antroz has been difficult enough, especially now that Chirox has tasked us with training those things, but learning just how murky this situation is just as Zaekura advances towards us… Indecision was something Emsar had never experienced. Only now did she fully appreciate that fact. But as she continued to pace, the doors were pushed open, and in walked a very grim-looking Ehrye. “Um…they’ve arrived,” the Toa of Ice said. Emsar gritted her teeth. “Hmph. How close exactly? Have we engaged?” “No. They, uh, they’ve stopped quite a distance away from our gates, actually. Zaekura’s at the front…she…” Growing impatient, Emsar made her way outside and headed for the gate, leaping onto the sides of nearby buildings to gain height as she went, ultimately perching just above the gate itself. Sure enough, around two hundred Rahkshi were positioned across the sands, with Zaekura at the head waving a white flag emblazoned with a wavy vertical line separating two small circles. Emsar sighed. …Well…perhaps this will clear things up for me. She dropped down to the street, nodding to another Vortixx nearby. Hesitantly, they handed her an identical flag, and she held it high above her head as the gate opened to let her through. Seeing this, Zaekura, Antroz, and Bitil slowly walked forward, meeting Emsar halfway as both sides planted their flags in the sand. Emsar crossed her arms and stood there silently. “Emsar,” Antroz said. She didn’t answer, instead staring at Zaekura. “Um…hello,” Zaekura said. “You probably know who I am. And you probably know why we’re here. But, I’d like to settle things peacefully if possible—thank you for at least coming to speak with me.” “You must be confident, giving up the element of surprise in favor of negotiation,” Emsar said. “From what I hear, surprising you is impossible.” Emsar laughed. “And again: I’d rather do this peacefully. We’re here to assume control of Xia, and use it to bolster our forces as we fight to free Spherus Magna from the Great Beings’ control. Is there any way you could be persuaded to turn it over willingly?” Emsar cocked her head. “So you’re really serious about this. You really think you can oust the Great Beings. Even I can’t fathom the gall required for such a declaration, and gall is something I know quite well. Tell me, young Zaekura: why should I stick out my neck when yours will remain on the block regardless?” “Because it is the right thing to do,” Antroz said. “Emsar, please. I know this situation has turned the entire world on its head, but if you fight us here you will be fighting for a cause that is simply unjust. Does that not matter to you?” Emsar considered this a moment. “Hm. I wonder if it does?” Antroz scowled. Before she could say anything, Zaekura said, “Emsar, if you’d rather not join us, then you can still flee to Atero, or Civitas Magna. We will not pursue you. But if you stay and fight, you will lose…and at that point, we will be forced to hold you captive.” Emsar smirked. “Yes, a bottomless reservoir of pure gall. Should you really be so sure you can best me?” Bitil puffed out his chest. “My Rahkshi are more than up to the challenge! You don’t stand a chance!” “And I know Xia’s defenses inside and out,” Antroz said. “You have not had enough time to alter them so severely as to catch us completely off-guard.” “Oh, I don’t know about that,” Emsar said. “You may run into a few things that surprise you, Makuta.” The three of them had nothing more to add, and so simply waited for Emsar to give them an answer. She closed her eyes as she mulled it over one last time. “If I did escape, I’m sure I’d simply be executed,” she said. “And, right or not, joining you sounds just as suicidal. I’ll admit…I have my doubts. But I cannot risk my life upon such uncertain ground.” Antroz stepped forward, saying, “Emsar—“ “That is my answer. Xia will not surrender to you, Zaekura. I don’t suppose you’d be willing to surrender to us?” “Never,” Zaekura said, not missing a beat. “Then it’s to arms. Lovely chatting with you. I do hope we get another chance before you’re sent to the Maze.” Emsar uprooted her flag and returned to Xia. Zaekura and Bitil rejoined the Rahkshi at once, with Antroz lingering a bit before finally following them. As she walked back through the gates, Emsar handed off the flag, and then signaled to a nearby Glatorian. They ran off, and Emsar cast one last look over her shoulder. “To your stations, all of you,” she said. “Xia is under attack.” ADDENDUM: -Well. That took a while. But I’ve finished that other project, so now Right of Law is my top priority! There are a few other things I want to work on simultaneously, but I’m going to be sure to keep Law moving while I do! -At first Angonce was going to bring Gorast along as usual, but I realized I hadn’t introduced Melding Vamprah yet and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. Like Prime Vamprah, he prides himself on being a hunter, and remains silent at all times. His Mask of Adaptation constantly mutates him to give him an edge in various situations—I’m not entirely sure if the mask is supposed to make permanent changes, but I really liked the idea of Vamprah being a grotesque amalgamation of traits similar to Frankenstein’s monster and decided to roll with it. -The reason I’m being a bit secretive about the Makuta of Mahri-Nui is because they’re a canon character who, in the main timeline, was not a Makuta. I know that probably sounds like an odd change to make, and I was a bit hesitant myself, but this character has a lot to contribute thematically, and making them a Makuta was the only way to properly pull it off while staying within the established rules of this world. I understand if you feel this is too big an alteration, but please, give it a chance! I’ll go into more detail once it’s time to bring them into focus. -A white flag seemed the best way to convey what was going on to the readers, but coincidentally that color is also associated with Peace in this universe! What luck! -Our next major battle is finally underway! Hard to say how long this one will take, but I’ll do my best to get the next installment out in a timely fashion! -Reviews to be submitted here
  10. KARDAS DRAGON uses its concussive breath to light the fire! It's staring at the marshmallows...
  11. KARDAS DRAGON flies skyward as the laser is fired, shooting a beam of concussive force from its mouth! The two beams meet, and after a brief struggle, KARDAS DRAGON's attack overpowers the laser and pierces the Death Star!
  12. KARDAS DRAGON eats level 5 disks for breakfast! However, it is not a balanced breakfast, and its poor lifestyle choices are beginning to catch up to it! Stats reduced! The lightning hits! 20 damage! KARDAS DRAGON stares on smugly…until Good Guy appears! It watches its opponents very carefully… KARDAS DRAGON says it’s been a pretty average day, not spectacular but at least it’s on the right side of the dirt. KARDAS DRAGON is annoyed! However, it does not want to be ungrateful for the work that you put into the piece, and manages a polite thank you. KARDAS DRAGON rants about how the fandom as a whole didn’t give G2 a chance! It then writes on its arm a reminder to email its reclusive brother, KARDAS DRAGON (G2).
  13. Chapter 39 Heartless set to work the instant she saw Meteor G burst, fingers blazing across the keys as she accessed the satellite network and began downloading the Noise. The base shook a bit as it was battered, but she wasn’t worried, knowing that the shields were more than capable of handling the disturbance. “S-Someone, come in! We have a problem!” The rocket, however, was not. “Magnes, what’s happening?” Boreal asked. “The Noise eddies are too strong!” the Wizard replied. “We’re being carried away—we’re out of control! I…I-I don’t know if the Noise Wave will reach us here!” Heartless froze for half a second. Then she typed twice as fast. “No!” Boreal said. “Magnes, you’ve got to try to get back on course!” “I’m doing everything I can, but it’s not responding!” “Darn…can Solo go through the wave to get them?” “The opening’s already gone, Chief!” “Oh no…what happened to them?!” The viewscreen flicked on, displaying the Wave Road inside the partially-formed Noise Network. Lying on the center platform, bruised and exhausted but still conscious, were Sonia and Geo. Heartless paused briefly, and then tapped the intercom before getting back to work. “I’ve got them,” Heartless said. “Sonia and Geo, at least. They’re safe in the satellites, so you just focus on evacuating that rocket—I’ll ask them about Kelvin myself.” Boreal stopped to catch his breath. “Alright…good. Thank you, Heartless. We’ll leave that to you.” As Boreal began to give instructions to Magnes, Heartless switched to a different channel, watching Sonia and Geo as they struggled to their feet. “And how are our little champions doing?” she asked. They looked up, Geo asking, “Is that…Heartless?” “Don’t fret, you’re perfectly safe. Since you’re both wearing so much Noise it was easy to include you in my download. Once I’ve finished setting up the network, I’ll be connecting it to AMAKEN, and you’ll be able to get back to Earth that way.” Sonia gave a relieved sigh. “Thanks…I was a little worried there.” “If you don’t mind me asking, where is Kelvin?” Sonia glanced at Geo. The boy swallowed hard, saying, “He…King kicked him out of the server…he’s somewhere in space right now.” Heartless frowned. “He said he’d make it back to Earth. I know he will, somehow.” “Oh, he most certainly will. After investing so many years in this search, I’m a bit tired of waiting. I’ll take the liberty of tracking him down myself.” “Huh? You will? How?” “The orbital base, of course. Once the network is set up I’ll pilot it out until I lock onto Kelvin’s signal. It shouldn’t take long at all.” Geo smiled at first. Then, he turned nervously to Sonia, who stared up with a blank expression. “…So,” Sonia said, “you won’t be back on Earth for a while either?” The clacking of keys answered her. “…Alright. This isn’t over until we get Geo’s dad back, and that’s something I know you can do. I’ll be waiting to hear from you when you get back, aunt…er, no…” Heartless’s fingers slowed just a bit. Leaning towards the microphone, she quietly said, “Ava.” A bright smile crossed Sonia’s face. “…Aunt Ava. Thank you.” “Don’t mention it. And I’m not being coy: I have very good reasons for operating under pseudonyms, as I’m sure you can guess, and if my true name got around it’d be rather catastrophic for my business.” “Oh, okay, I understand.” “Good. I’d best be getting back to work, then. I’ll inform you when the connection is secure.” “Oh, wait!” Geo said. “One last thing...were…were you able to download King as well?” Heartless scanned over the data streaming by in front of her. “Hm, I don’t see anything that resembles King’s data. I think it’s safe to say he didn’t make it out.” Geo nodded solemnly, Sonia looking equally grim. “Just sit tight, now. I’m nearly done.” Heartless cut the feed, smirking to herself as she mumbled, “Serves you right, you senile old . I only regret my own knife didn’t make it to your heart.” She hummed to herself as she continued to work. It was a simple task—mindless, really—and she found her thoughts drifting. “…I helped her out, Rosa. That’s a bonus. Normally I’d charge extra, but…let’s say it’s covered under your family discount.” The last file entered the network, and Heartless then initialized the connection, leaning back in her chair and closing her eyes as she waited for it to form. “She did everything you wanted and more, little sister. I hope you can rest easy now.” *** Clipping the last branch, Pat stepped back to examine his work, wiping his hands on his apron and absent-mindedly adjusting his purple bandana. “Good job, kid,” Wolfe said from nearby. “Why don’t you take care of that one next?” “Oh, yes sir!” Pat glanced across the school roof at Geo: his boyfriend was wearing a new short-sleeved jacket, his usual shade of red with a high collar and white star-shaped designs on the shoulders, with a dark blue shirt beneath, black pants, and red and black gloves over his hands. Geo just smiled at him, and Pat chuckled as he got back to work. “So,” Wolf said, “Corvus is finally dead. Never thought I’d get to say that.” “He was rotten to the end,” Mega said. “Nothing we coulda said to get through his thick skull.” Wolf grunted. “…Kind of a shame, I suppose. Least I can finally put it behind me.” “Right. Now you get to go back to your cushy retirement!” “Hey, I never said I was retired! Quit running your mouth!” Geo glanced to the side. Jack stood on one corner of the roof, happily talking to Tia on a holographic screen. He wore light gray pants and an orange shirt, as well as a black coat that was shorter than his old one, with green lines decorating the front, arms, and shoulder pads. “And before you ask, my history grade has gone way up!” Jack said. “I’m already half-done with the project due at the end of the month! It’s a piece of cake now!” Tia chuckled, smiling at her brother. “I’m glad to hear it, Jack. I’m so proud of you!” Jack grinned, then took on a more wistful expression. “It still feels a little weird without you here, Sis. Still no chance of parole?” “I already told you, I’m not eligible. But they’ve already reduced my sentence considerably, and will allow me to reapply for student teaching immediately—I’m not going to complain.” “Yeah, I guess…” “Once I’m out, we’ll take a vacation somewhere. Won’t that be nice?” “Heh, yeah! Can’t wait!” The elevator doors suddenly opened. First out was Amy, wearing her yellow sundress, followed by Bud, who wore a set of his usual style of coveralls that was a dark shade of orange. Last out was a less-than-thrilled Shepar. “Bud, you know better!” the teacher scolded. “S-Sorry Mr. Shepar, won’t happen again!” Bud said. “That’s exactly what you said last time!” Amy stepped forward, saying, “Um, it was actually my fault this time, Mr. Shepar. Please don’t take it out on Bud!” Libra materialized behind Shepar, saying, “Regardless of whose idea, you were both involved! It’s only fair you take equal share in the blame!” In a puff of flame, Taurus appeared. “Mrrrgh, come on, Libra! Cut us some slack! You sure adjusted to your new authority awful quick!” “Yeah,” Yeti said as he formed, “and Amy doesn’t even go here! There’s nothing you can do!” “Yeti,” Amy said, “don’t taunt him…” Geo chuckled to himself. Jack walked over to him, saying, “What, again? Sometimes he just doesn’t learn.” “Well, it’s kind of nice to know Bud will always be Bud,” Geo said. “Yeah, in a way.” Geo glanced skyward, his enthusiasm rapidly waning. Jack rubbed his neck as he debated asking. “…Uh,” he finally said, “you okay, Geo? I mean, you’re probably still worried, I get that, I just, uh…” Geo shook his head. “Not worried. I know it’ll work out. Just…wishing it would work faster, I guess.” “Oh…yeah.” “But,” Geo said with a shrug, “there’s nothing I can do about that. I should keep my eyes forward.” Pat knelt over a bed of flowers, gently watering them as he whistled to himself. Geo lit up again. “Gotta say,” Jack muttered, “if I were you, I woulda killed that FM-ian who double-crossed him.” “…Have to admit…there’s a part of me that wants to. But Gemini can’t hurt anyone, sealed up the way he is. It’s enough for Pat and Rey, so it’s enough for me.” Jack started to say speak, but he trailed off, staring up at something. Geo turned to see what it was, and jumped in surprise. A ball of blue light was shooting through the sky, plummeting past the clouds and appearing to arc directly towards Vista Point. “G…Geo…” Jack said. “Do you think…?” He turned to see Geo grinning. “Mega!” he shouted. “Come on!” The AM-ian now noticed the light as well, and eagerly returned to Geo’s Hunter. Pausing to Wave Change, they leapt onto the Wave Road and charged off at top speed, laughing every step of the way. *** “…so I don’t think it’s anything to be especially concerned about.” Copper nodded along. Two screens floated in front of him: one showing Alohaha, and the other displaying Whazzap. Strong occupied much of the former screen, though Claude and Kidd were constantly poking around behind him, while the latter showed the Shaman and Condor against the backdrop of a bustling crowd. If Copper squinted, he could see Solo standing off to the edge of that crowd, wearing a Whazzap poncho and, to his surprise, smiling a little. The detective couldn’t help but chuckle at the sight. “We’re doing quite well over here, too,” the Shaman said. “Words cannot express how grateful we are for the assistance WAZA has provided us! I see a new age of prosperity dawning for the people of Whazzap!” “Glad to hear it,” Copper said. “Well, if there’s nothing to report, I’ll be taking my leave. We’ll check in again soon.” The Shaman bowed, and his screen shut off. Claude shoved in front of Strong, saying, “Hey, hey, Mr. Copper! I wanted to ask about that Noise Network! Do you think we could—“ “No.” “Aw, you don’t even know what I was going to say!” “You were going to ask if you and Kidd could test the third-generation Noise Control Programs, right?” “Ack!” From off-screen, Kidd chuckled, saying, “I suspected that would be his answer…” Strong gently guided the young boy aside, and then faced Copper. “If you don’t mind me asking, Detective, how are repairs to WAZA HQ coming?” “We’ve demolished the old building,” Copper said. “Construction should start any day now, but at that altitude the construction crew needs to be very careful about the weather.” “Ah, I see. Well, we shall continue to safeguard your data until the new computer is installed. Take care.” His screen vanished as well, and Copper paused to stretch. Plesio nudged his leg, saying, “Detective…the doctors want you.” “Oh, thanks!” Copper said, patting Plesio’s head. “Let’s go see them, then!” It was a short walk to the lab, where they found Vega and Goodall hard at work on opposite consoles. Goodall noticed them first, saying, “Ah, Detective, there you are! We need some more parts for an experiment we want to run—be a dear and go get them for us!” “Parts? I’d hardly know what I was looking for. Why don’t you send Hyde?” Hyde poked his head out from behind a piece of machinery. “Regrettably, dear Detective, I am otherwise occupied at the moment. Try it now, Lady Vega!” The equipment hummed to life. Vega turned in her seat, saying, “Excellent work! Thank you, Hyde, this should speed up the process immensely!” Hyde chuckled. “Heh, well, I did have some help from my partner.” “Some?” Phantom said. “You’d be completely lost without me!” Hyde just rolled his eyes and got back to work. Copper said, “Alright, guess it’s up to me after all.” His Hunter chimed as it received a mail. Goodall said, “That list has everything we need. For now, at least. Hop to it!” Copper grumbled under his breath as he made his way out of the lab. On his way down to the lobby, he encountered Dubius and Cygnus in a seating area, and slowed down as he approached them. “Really, Tom, you must cease being so modest!” Cygnus said. “The work is brilliant! To not take it to the conference would be a disservice to your field!” “I-I don’t know,” Dubius said. “It definitely has potential, but I worry it’s not quite done yet.” “So what? You’ve begun it! Share what you’ve learned, and perhaps someone there will show you what direction to head next.” “Maybe…” Cygnus turned aside and squawked, then noticing Copper. “Oh, Detective. Can we help you with something?” “Just passing by,” Copper said. “Say, is the Chief still busy?” “I think so,” Dubius said. “Did you want to talk to him?” “It can wait. After all, he’s been waiting years to have this conversation.” The nearby elevator opened up, and out stepped Boreal with a big smile. Spotting his colleagues, he said, “Oh, hey there! How’s everyone doing?” “Aaron!” Dubius said. “Did he leave already?” “Yeah, he wanted to get back home. Can’t say that I blame him!” “Chief,” Copper said, “if you’re done, our newest intern wanted to chat with you about something.” “Oh? Where is he?” “This way.” Boreal nodded to Dubius as he followed Copper downstairs, the two of them eventually coming to another lab at the rear of the facility. Inside, Acid and Magnes floated around checking equipment, while Zack stood at the center in a lab coat, checking things off a holographic screen as they went. “How’s it going, Zack?” Boreal asked. Spinning, the boy said, “Oh, Mr. Boreal! I mean, uh, Chief! Everything’s running smoothly!” “Great to hear. Detective Copper said you wanted to see me?” “Oh, yes, um, well actually Magnes wanted to see you! Right, Magnes?” The Wizard came closer, saying, “Yup! Chief, I was organizing some files and came across plans for an elementary school lecture program. I was wondering…if it’s alright, could I help out with that? It’d be great to visit schools and get to work with kids again! I promise to do a good job!” Boreal nodded. “I can’t make anything official just yet, but I’ll see what I can do. I think you’re a perfect fit!” Magnes turned excitedly to Zack. Boreal then glanced over at Acid, who was still hard at work. “…Acid? How are you doing?” Acid faced him. “All systems normal.” “That’s not really what I mean.” “…I am…alright. I still miss Ace, but I will not allow it to compromise my work.” “Acid, you don’t have to stay so fixated on your work.” “I desire to. You see, I have a certain feeling that if Ace were here, he would wish to continue our work as well; he always stayed focused regardless of what was bothering him, and managed to excel despite the matters that weighed on him. I suppose…I wish to do the same, in memory of him.” “…I see,” Boreal said. “Well, so long as you don’t overdo it.” “You have my word.” Copper’s Hunter chimed. “Ah, I should probably get going. I have to run an errand for the doctors. See you later.” As he left, Zack turned back to Boreal and asked, “Hey, is Geo still here?” “You just missed him.” “Ah, okay. I’ll catch up with him later! He must be on his way back home, finally.” *** Hope turned at the sound of the door opening. Geo came running in, looking happier than she’d seen him in quite a while, saying, “Mom! We’re home!” Mega floated in behind him, looking just as ecstatic. Pausing to wipe her hands, Hope came towards the entryway, saying, “Geo, Mega! What’s got you two in such a good mood?” Hope looked up as someone else came through the doorway. She blinked, unwilling to believe her eyes at first, but he didn’t go anywhere. Kelvin stood before her, grinning broadly, and for a moment Hope thought her heart had stopped. “Kel...vin…?” He took a small step forward. “I’m home, Hope. Sorry it took so long…you wouldn’t believe the traffic!” Hope reached out tentatively, brushing Kelvin’s shoulder. He was real. Tears came to her eyes as she finally realized that, and she threw herself forward to wrap her arms around Kelvin. “Kelvin! Y-You’re really here! I…I…” He held her tightly, starting to cry a little himself. “I’m really sorry, Hope. Thank you for believing in me.” Geo joined in the hug as well. Mega hovered there a moment, until Kelvin suddenly reached out and pulled him in by the neck. The four of them cried and laughed together, overwhelmed with joy that finally, after so long, the Stelar family was truly complete. *** Sonia took a moment to straighten her dress—it was primarily a light shade of blue with many white frills, paired with white boots and a wide, blue and white hat with a large bow on top. Luna walked along next to her, taking a call on her Hunter, dressed in a bluish-black suit with a skirt, black tights and shoes, a plain white dress shirt beneath the jacket, and a long red necktie. “Just get that done, and I’ll see where you’re at on Monday. Good-bye!” Luna sighed as she hung up, and then turned to Sonia. “Sorry.” Sonia shook her head. “I don’t mind! I’m glad to know the Prez is taking time out of her busy schedule to spend with me, hehe!” “Of course! As if I would pass up an opportunity to be with you over something so silly.” Sonia lightly bumped Luna with her shoulder. Luna bumped her back, making Sonia giggle. “So,” Luna said, “did you get to the studio? Give them your answer?” “I did,” Sonia said. “It…didn’t go over great. They’re happy I want to continue the drama, but when I asked for a hiatus they all went white. Luckily, Belle took the chance to propose another project she’s had in the works, and with Ice there for hype she was able to get them on-board easily enough. I’m going to have the time we need.” “Good. I’m already making arrangements to take off as well.” “Only if you—“ “I’m recovering fine! Sure, I’m not completely better yet, but we have some time to prepare still and I’m certain it will be more than enough.” “Rest assured,” Ophiuca said, “I won’t allow her to go unless I am completely sure of her rehabilitation!” “You do have faith in me, don’t you?” Luna asked as she glanced sideways at Sonia. Leaning in, Sonia kissed her. “Of course. It’ll be great to have you with me.” Luna averted her eyes, blushing slightly. “R-Right. Well, considering this last fiasco didn’t go nearly as bad, obviously sending people along with you works, so it’s only natural I see to it we continue the trend! And who better to accompany you than me?” She turned even redder as Sonia clung to her arm. “No one at all.” After a few more steps, Luna stopped. Sonia looked up then, realizing they had arrived. “…Do you mind if I go alone first?” Sonia asked. “No, go ahead.” With some reluctance, Sonia let go of Luna and walked forward, nodding to the Satella Officers on-site as she undid the gate. The graves were lined up in neat rows, and at the very center of the plot was a tall slab of stone with more than a hundred names carved into it; Sonia stopped before the plaque at its foot that read “KILLED IN ACTION”. She slowly scanned up until she found Ace’s name. “…Hey, Ace,” she began. “We took care of Dealer, and Meteor G. King’s gone, Earth is safe, and with the data from the Meteor Server we’re making some great leaps in dealing with Noise. I know you’re wondering, but don’t worry: Jack and Tia are safe. Since Jack’s still a minor he was able to get off with just community service, but…Tia’s going to need to spend a little time in prison. But you know those two. A setback like this will never be enough to stop them!” She managed a short chuckle, then fell silent for a while. “They rebuilt Acid. He misses you. We all miss you, you know. I keep thinking, wondering if there was some other way, but…I’m not sure if there was. And I’m still not exactly sure how I feel about that. Even at the end, you’re still showing me that reality’s more gray than I want it to be…but, I’m not going to hold that against you anymore. I’m sorry that I did. From now on, I’m going to face what’s in front of me without looking away, and try to be more decisive in situations where there aren’t any answers I really like. Thank you for showing me that was something I needed to do.” Sonia removed her hat, looking down to fidget with it for a few moments. “…The truth is, things aren’t entirely over. Corvus and Virgo made me realize something terrible is happening on Planet FM, and after what Blitzar said, I’m even more worried. We’ve tried contacting Cepheus, but we’re still having trouble getting through…so, we’re going to go to Planet FM and see for ourselves what’s happening. Me, Lyra, Geo, Mega, Solo, Laplace, Bud, Taurus, Luna, and Ophiuca. It’ll be awhile before we can leave, though: it’s so far away that a material craft isn’t a practical option, so everyone at AMAKEN is looking into possibly using Noise Waves to get us there. Aunt—er, Heartless’s data showed that they’re capable of bending space in unusual ways, so we can probably cross light years in a fraction of the time. But they’re still in the process of working that out, along with modifications to our Hunters so we don’t pollute Planet FM with Noise while we’re there. I know, if you were still here, you’d want to go with us. You’d jump at the opportunity to help out.” She breathed deeply. “And…Heartless still hasn’t come back. If I’m being honest, I was never really sure she would. But I couldn’t be selfish and ask her to stay, not when Geo’s dad was on the line, so I let her go. I wish I could learn more about my family…but, I already know a lot more than I did. If that’s all I get, then I’ll be content with that. Ah, sorry, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about, huh? Haha…” Sonia felt a raindrop. Looking up, she quickly put her hat back in place. “Guess I should move along. Thanks for everything, Ace. I hope you’re at peace now.” She made her way back towards the gate, moving a little more quickly out of fear of the rain. “Lyra,” she said. “Do you know anything about this ‘Scorpio’ they mentioned?” “I do,” Lyra said. “If he’s leading some sort of counter-movement, then that’s very bad news.” “Hm. And then there’s Blitzar’s ‘colleague’…I have to wonder: do you think there’s any chance they’re connected?” “It’s impossible to say for sure, given how little we know about these XM-ians. I suppose we’ll just have to be prepared for anything.” “I hope Cepheus will be able to hold out until we can get there. With luck, we’ll be able to talk things down before things get too bad.” “I doubt Scorpio will listen…but, I’ve seen you pull off many small miracles since coming here. You have my full support, Sonia. And, thank you for helping my planet.” “Heh, of course! It’s about time I returned the favor!” The rain began to grow stronger just as Sonia made it through the gate, running over to Luna and jumping beneath the umbrella she had opened up. “So, um,” Sonia said, “this time I did forget my own umbrella on purpose. Are you mad?” Luna smiled, murmuring, “We’ll discuss it later…” “Hehehe! So, shall we?” “Um, Sonia...” Trailing off, Luna looked past Sonia, nodding slightly. Curious, Sonia turned around, and spotted someone else standing nearby, wrapped in a black coat and hiding under their own umbrella. Slowly, they lifted the umbrella to reveal their face. Sonia gasped. “…She came back…” she said. A smile crossed her face. “…Hey, Luna? Do you mind waiting a little longer? I want to introduce you to my Aunt Ava.” THE END (Review)
  14. KARDAS DRAGON seems confused, but gives you a thumbs-up in congratulations!
  15. Chapter 38 “Administrator…of the Noise Server?” Sonia repeated. “Former,” Blitzar corrected. “That title currently belongs to Kelvin Stelar.” Geo started. “W—my dad?! How did that happen?” “As I said, I have much to explain. However, due to the threat concerning the Darklight Harvester, I believe it best I conduct my business with Solo first so that he may exit the server.” Reluctantly, Geo nodded. Solo was still in a fighting stance, and said, “Out with it, then. What business do you have with me?” Blitzar held out one hand. His emblem glowed faintly, and then an object appeared in his palm: a large chunk of some sort of metal. Solo’s eyes instantly widened. “I have decided to return the xarium to you. Here.” He offered it to Solo, who carefully reached out and took it. After staring at it a moment more, he turned back to Blitzar, asking, “Why do you have this?” “When Meteor G began heading for Earth, I scouted ahead to examine the planet’s status. I detected the energy readings of the xarium and took it from its shrine, with the intention of studying it.” “You were going to study it?” “Of course. This is the metal your people used to create Le Mu. We were impressed with the machine, but were never able to acquire a sample to learn more about its properties. This seemed to be the final opportunity to do so.” Solo stared at Blitzar as he processed his words, his face shifting ever so slightly as he seemed to reach some sort of epiphany. He then brought the xarium to the Proof of Loneliness on his shoulder, and with a small burst of EM waves, the ingot was absorbed, and the piece of armor took on a brilliant silver sheen. Solo shuddered briefly, and then nodded. “…Thank you for returning it,” he said. “I believe our business is done.” “Indeed,” Blitzar said. He stepped aside and gestured towards the exit. Solo, Jack, and Tia all walked past him, and he then turned to Sonia and Geo. “Alright,” Geo said, “can you please tell me about my dad now? How did he end up here? How did he become Administrator?” “I will explain,” Blitzar said. “Kelvin Stelar, while wandering space as an EM being, encountered Meteor G and was pulled inside the server by accident. I was curious, so I bestowed Noise Immunity upon him. We conversed, and after learning all I needed, I offered to deposit him on the nearest planet. However, he declined: he said that he was not familiar with the area of space and thought it best to travel within Meteor G until he reached a system he recognized. He’s been quite the engaging specimen, always proposing games and wagers to pass the time. I informed him when we drew near Earth, expecting he would wish to leave then, but he reacted with concern upon learning the meteor was approaching the planet. He asked me to alter its course. I did not.” “Why not?” Sonia asked. “Don’t you care if Meteor G destroys the Earth?” “This meteor has destroyed many planets since its construction. Regrettably, I am bound by the parameters of my assignment to merely observe where it was pulled by other Noise in the galaxy. I must not interfere.” “You…you let entire planets die, just because…” She glanced to Geo, ultimately letting go of the rest of her sentence. “As for Kelvin,” Blitzar went on, “when I said I would not alter the course, he proposed a wager. We would play a game, and if he won, he would be named the Administrator of the Meteor Server, so that he could redirect it himself. He lost. He proposed the same wager many times, but I repeatedly beat him. Eventually I grew tired of this and stopped accepting these proposals. However, during the final stretch of the approach, he presented new conditions: if I would accept the game, and if I won, he would never ask for another chance.” He chuckled softly. “…He won. So, I transferred Administrator rights to him and then continued to observe.” “But, I don’t get it,” Geo said. “If Dad’s the Admin, then why is Meteor G still headed towards Earth?” “It was already too late. The excessive Noise on planet Earth has been pulling on the Noise that makes up the Meteor Server, and vice-versa; at such proximity, this attractive force was too great for the meteor to pull away from. Kelvin was able to slow its course, but that was all.” “Dad…” “Well I’ll be ,” Mega said. “Kelvin’s been toughing it out in this inhospitable dump, still finding a way to help save the Earth. That guy never ceases to amaze!” Geo smiled at this, but only for a moment. “Wait. I saw King with him, and that barrier…” “Yes,” Blitzar said, pointing. “King has issued Kelvin a challenge similar to the one Kelvin issued me. They are now in the midst of a game, and the winner will automatically be named Administrator of the Meteor Server. The barrier was erected to prevent outside assistance—it can only be disengaged by the Administrator, and so will stand until the title is bestowed.” His gaze falling, Geo murmured, “So all we can do for now is wait, and hope Dad wins.” “That is all the information I have regarding Kelvin Stelar,” Blitzar said. “If you have any other questions, I will answer, but if not—“ “Hold on, dear,” Lyra said as she materialized. “I still have questions about this Meteor Server: why it was constructed, why it possesses so much FM-ian data, things like that. Care to enlighten me?” Blitzar shifted slightly. “…Of course. The Meteor Server was constructed by Planet XM several years ago as a self-sustaining mobile research lab: I am stationed here to observe where it is drawn, gathering some information about worlds it passes or destroys, as well as run a wide variety of experiments involving Noise in order to perfect our data on the subject. As for the FM-ian data, that is something of a side project.” “Exactly what sort of ‘side project’ requires data on our species’ combat abilities? And perhaps more importantly, where did you obtain such data?” “Obtaining the data was easy. As the server passed worlds that had been attacked or destroyed by Planet FM, leftover EM waves were pulled into its databanks. It did not perfectly integrate into the system—I suspect this is why your Noise Control Programs were able to access the files so easily—but it still provided an excellent opportunity to carry out experiments utilizing the combat data of many FM-ian warriors.” A sickened look crossed Lyra’s face. “…So then…the data we’ve been accessing is the remnants of our past wars? That’s rather unsavory to hear…” “It is simply data,” Blitzar said. “…Hey,” Mega said. “Any chance…you got some data from Planet AM in here?” “No, we do not. The server did not pass through the area of space Planet AM formerly occupied.” “Huh, makes sense…” Blitzar looked at his wrist. “Does this information answer your remaining questions? If so, I must take my leave: I am expected back on Planet XM for a debriefing.” Sonia looked over Lyra and Mega. Facing Blitzar, she said, “I do have some questions, but we’re in a hurry too.” “I see. Perhaps some other time, then. I am certain we shall encounter each other again: a colleague of mine is closely observing Planet FM right now, and I would be surprised if his studies did not eventually lead him here to the species’ ‘second home’ as it were.” Glaring, Lyra asked, “Why are you people so fixated on us? It’s unnerving.” Blitzar gave it some thought, and then shook his head a little. “There is no precise reason, truthfully. I suppose we simply find you fascinating.” “Fascinating? Well, that doesn’t sound condescending in the least.” “It was meant as a compliment. Once we observed what you did with Andromeda, we were very impressed by your ingenuity; Planet FM has been on our radar ever since.” Lyra groaned. “Goodness, this entire conversation is nothing but bad memories, it seems.” “I apologize, but will that be all?” Blitzar said. “I really must be going.” “Alright, go ahead,” Sonia said. “But if we do bump into each other again, there’s a lot more I want to know.” Blitzar nodded. “I understand. Until then.” He vanished in a flash. Sonia turned to Geo, who was already staring up the incline. They started walking. “Everyone alright?” Sonia asked. “That was a lot to take in…” “I’ll be fine once I get Dad back,” Geo said. “Thanks, I’m okay.” “It’ll be nice to spend time with Kelvin again!” Mega said. “I’ve really missed the guy these past few years. Glad to know that hare-brained escape plan of his actually worked out for the best.” Lyra stayed quiet. Sonia was about to ask again, but she said, “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit shaken. It’s distressing to know that the records of our sins were all saved in this place, that they can be called up on demand so easily. That it was all apparently brought about by Andromeda’s reign of terror only mortifies me further.” Sonia gazed out at the Noise flowing by. “It must be painful. I’m sorry. But, you know…remembering a mistake also means remembering how far you’ve come since then. And, because all of those memories are here, we’ve been able to use them as Noise Changes to do some real good. Maybe that doesn’t make up for making those mistakes in the first place, but…it’s already done. All we can do now is decide where we go from here.” There was a moment of silence, and then Lyra laughed. “Always able to find the bright side. Thank you, Sonia. It means a lot to hear that from you.” They reached the top of the incline to be met with a massive wall of Noise. Barely, they could see beyond it: a wide platform extended past the shield, and at the center were King and Kelvin, staring intently at the cards in their hands. “I can’t tell if he’s winning,” Geo mumbled. “He will,” Sonia said. “When it counts, he doesn’t fail, right? That’s the impression I get whenever I hear about him.” Geo tried to smile, his worry unfortunately winning out. As Sonia turned back to the game, she noticed something at the far end of the platform, and squinted to try to make it out. Attached to the Wave Road through a series of cables and pipes was a large sphere that appeared to be made of yellow glass. Sonia stumbled back in disbelief. “W-What?!” Geo asked. “What is it?” “Another one…just like the others!” Sonia said. “Blitzar, he mentioned Andromeda, and Le Mu…and he’s got one powering Meteor G, so…” “Goodness,” Lyra said. “Then all these oddly similar power cores we’ve encountered—they were made by Planet XM?” Movement drew everyone’s attention. Kelvin laid out his cards, and then turned to King and waited. A tense moment passed as King examined his own hand…and then set the cards aside, hanging his head. “…He won?” Geo said. Kelvin got to his feet with a smile. He faced the barrier, beginning to raise an arm, but froze when he saw Geo. Staring at his son, Kelvin waved his hand slowly; the barrier disappeared, and Geo tentatively walked forward. “I…guess it’s been a while,” Geo said. “You might not recognize me, but—“ He was cut off as Kelvin hugged him. “Of course I recognize you, Geo. It’s so good to finally see you again.” Geo was stunned for a moment. Then, returning the embrace, he said, “Yeah…it’s great to see you too, Dad. I missed you so much…” “I’m sorry I was gone for so long. I’m sorry I missed so much of you growing up.” “It’s not your fault—you don’t need to apologize! I just…I just…” Geo started to sob. “Dad…” Sonia glanced over at King. He remained in place, still staring down at his desk. When Geo and Kelvin finally separated, Mega appeared beside them, saying, “So this is where you’ve been hiding out Kelvin! ‘Bout time you made it back!” “Mega!” Kelvin said. “Good to see you too! I really owe you one for helping me escape Planet FM.” “Nah, don’t worry about it. You ended up helping me do the same thing, so far as I’m concerned, we’re even.” “Heh, if you say so. I guess you’ve been living on Earth with Geo and Hope?” Kelvin paused. “…Hope’s alright, isn’t she?” “Mom’s fine!” Geo said. “I mean…she’s been missing you too, but she never stopped believing you’d make it home someday! She’s going to be so happy to see you again!” Kelvin grinned at this. It was now that he noticed Sonia, and asked, “Who’s your friend?” “Oh, right! Dad, this is one of my Brothers, Sonia Strumm!” “What? Rosa’s daughter?” Sonia nodded. “That’s right. Nice to meet you, Mr. Stelar!” “Wow. How’s Rosa doing? I bet she’s ready to give me an earful as soon as I get back, huh?” Sonia averted her eyes. “…Um…” A frown gradually took over Kelvin’s face. “…Oh. Did something happen?” “…Yeah. Mama’s in Heaven now.” Kelvin gave a solemn nod. “Wow. I’m really sorry to hear that. Your mother was an amazing woman, Sonia—it was a privilege to be able to work alongside her.” She smiled a bit. “Thank you. But, right now…” They all turned towards King. He finally looked up, shrugging a bit and saying, “I did the best that I could. You defeated me fair and square, Mr. Stelar.” “That’s right,” Kelvin said. “I’d never lose to someone with intentions like yours! Now, as Administrator of this server, I demand that you leave.” He snapped his fingers. Nothing happened. Kelvin furrowed his brow; a spark then came from the core, and King smirked at him. “But then,” King said, “I’ve rarely been one to play ‘fair and square’. Ho ho ho ho!” King floated over towards the core. Kelvin shouted, “What…what did you do?!” “You’re as simple-minded as they come, Mr. Stelar. So focused on the game in front of your eyes, meanwhile I directed my attention to an alternate strategy. Yes, you were so confident you could win that you agreed to temporarily suspend your Admin privileges…leaving the server completely unprotected.” The core continued to spark as King laughed. Geo and Sonia came forward, the former saying, “Get back, Dad!” “It was child’s play to hack into the server without an Admin to stop me!” King said. “Even if you’ve regained those access rights, you won’t be able to eliminate the backdoor that I’ve created! Full control over Meteor G is mine at last! Ho ho ho ho!” Noise began to build up around King as sparks consumed the core. Sonia shouted, “King! This is your final warning! Give up Meteor G, or—“ “Or what, Harp Note? What have I to fear from the likes of you? Such simple, naïve, well-meaning folks who have but scratched the surface of what Noise is capable of!” Electricity arced out from the core, binding it to King as the Noise continued to swell. “Only the corrupted can master this force of corruption! Now, lay eyes upon the inevitable! Bear witness as Noise brings all of Earth to its knees!” Sonia could just barely make out King being pulled into the core as the great mass of Noise around them began to take shape, sprouting what appeared to be two large wings and a long, serpent-like neck. The pipes that connected to the core had been upheaved, but still remained intact as they jutted out from the creature’s torso like splintered bones. With a bright yellow flash, a layer of Noise at the front of the body was blown away, revealing the core—the wings raised then, as black, scale-like plates of metal coalesced along their upper edges, down the creature’s back, and all around its neck. The erratic waves then formed a draconic head of red metal, with curved, segmented horns and geysers of ghastly blue Noise shooting from its cheeks. The creature roared. That alone had enough force to push its foes back slightly, as well as calling into being two great clawed gauntlets that connected themselves to its body through thick arms of Noise. A shell of reddish-purple light closed around the core, not completely hiding it from view; the monster then lowered its head to the Wave Road, eyeing those gathered to oppose it, and laughed. “Ho ho ho ho ho!” King said through the dragon’s mouth. “Such incredible power! It’s even greater than I dared to dream! This erases all doubt: this body, this Crimson Dragon I have birthed, is undefeatable!” “I’ve heard that before,” Sonia said. “Nothing’s undefeatable, King! And if we have to, we’ll prove it to you!” “Dad,” Geo said, “there’s a Noise Wave back there that leads to a rocket Cyber Core. If you—“ “I’m not going anywhere,” Kelvin said. “I’m still the Administrator! I should be able to reduce this thing’s power, even if only a little! It might just give you the edge you need!” The Dragon raised its head. “Oh no, I really must insist!” It roared again. A portal appeared behind Kelvin, and suddenly his body locked up, wracked with pain as he found himself pulled towards it. “I can’t have you interfering with my victory, Kelvin Stelar! You are no longer welcome within this server!” Geo managed to grab onto Kelvin’s hand, struggling to keep his father in place. Sonia moved to attack the Dragon, but one of its claws disappeared, instantly reappearing above her. She narrowly dodged as it swiped towards her. “Hang on, Dad!” Geo said. “I’ll save you, I promise!” “Rgh…Geo…forget about me!” Kelvin said. “You have to stop King! If he’s really using all the power in the server, you need to focus everything you have on him!” “What? But what about you?!” “I’ll be fine, Geo! Trust me!” Geo shook his head. He pulled harder, but even still, they both slipped closer and closer to the opening. “I…I can’t lose you again, Dad! I just got you back! I still need to bring you home!” Sonia tried to help them, but the Dragon forced her back with its claws. “Now now, Harp Note: your business is with me!” Grinning, Kelvin reached out and set a hand on Geo’s shoulder. “Geo…I’m going to be okay. Once this is over, I’ll find my way back to Earth, and we’ll go see your mother together. That’s well within my ability. But this fight is something only you and Sonia can handle! I know you can win, but not if you waste strength trying to save me! You have to let me go, son…otherwise there won’t be an Earth for us to go home to!” Geo shut his eyes tight, tears leaking out nonetheless. “…I love you, Dad.” “I love you too, son. I’ll see you soon!” It took all the willpower he possessed, but Geo let go of his father’s hand. Kelvin shot through the portal, out into a field of stars, and as it closed before him, he gave one final shout. “Show King your teamwork is stronger than his precious Noise!” Geo put a hand to his face, quietly sobbing into it a few times. Then, taking a deep breath, he turned back around: Sonia was managing to fend off the Dragon’s claw, but the monster seemed more amused at her resistance than anything else. “You gonna be okay, kid?” Mega asked. “…Yeah,” Geo said. “I’ll see him in a little bit.” He flew to Sonia’s side, knocking the claw away with a powerful kick. The Dragon tilted its head as he landed, saying, “Done saying your goodbyes? We don’t have long until Meteor G hits the Earth, you know. Time to go all-in! Ho ho ho ho ho!” “Geo,” Sonia said, “I—“ “We’re going to beat him,” Geo said. He armed his buster, and in his other hand, he created a sword of dark energy that he pointed at the Dragon. “We’re going to stop King, destroy the core, and save the Earth and everyone on it. Right?” Smiling, Sonia readied her guitar. “Right. Maybe it won’t be easy, but we’re not taking him on alone! All of our loved ones are sending their strength to us, cheering us on, because they know we can do this! With their help, we can’t possibly lose! Ready when you are, Geo!” “Let’s rock—“ “—and roll!” Sonia blasted the Dragon’s face with a beam of Noise. While she distracted it, Geo circled the area, peppering its entire body with shots to probe for weak points. Simply shrugging off their attacks, the Crimson Dragon swiped at Sonia, only narrowly missing her, while a small bunch of Noise started to form near its head. The waves shaped into a missile that shot out at Geo—he was a bit surprised, but the speed Black Ace afforded him was more than enough to dodge in time. Charging in, Geo stabbed at the Dragon’s head repeatedly, his attacks unable to pierce its scales, while Sonia loaded a Battle Card into her guitar. When she played, spinning blades came flying towards their enemy, changing direction in midair to avoid the Dragon’s claws, and found their way to the core in its chest. Unfortunately, they broke to bits against the Noise that shielded it. “There’s always a shield,” Sonia grumbled. “Geo, keep your eyes on the core! If I’m right, that’s the key to beating him, but we’re going to have to find a way to make it vulnerable first!” “Ho ho, think you can?” the Dragon said. “I’ll wipe you fools from existence long before you’ll have the chance to finish me!” A spread of missiles flew out from the creature. Geo dodged and fired wide blasts of water, while Sonia instead stood her ground, smacking an incoming missile with her guitar and sending it flying backwards to explode against the Dragon’s shoulder. She punched back a claw that attempted to crush her, and then aimed at the Dragon’s head; it raised both claws in response, and Sonia smirked. With a thud, her two tower speakers appeared on either side of the Dragon, each ejecting strings that wrapped around the nearest claw and held it firmly in place. Sonia then fired strings from her guitar, wrapping the Dragon’s jaw shut, and used the immense strength granted by Red Joker to pull the massive beast’s head down towards the Wave Road. The Dragon struggled to no avail. Geo appeared above it, and with three swift sword strikes, the head was severed, dissipating into Noise that swirled aimlessly around the server. “There!” Sonia shouted—the Noise shielding the core was breaking down as well. “Give it all you’ve got!” Geo assaulted the core with twin Vulcan guns, giving Sonia a chance to charge up power. When he moved out of the way, Sonia fired a particularly intense Noise beam, hitting the core dead-on. She prepared to charge another attack when the shell of waves spontaneously reformed. What? As the Dragon’s neck continued to flail, a geyser of Noise erupted next to its base, quickly solidifying into the form of a second neck. Noise concentrated at the ends of both, and a few seconds later, the Dragon had not only regenerated its head, but now had a second one. It laughed at them. “Did you really think it would be that simple?” it taunted, bashing the speakers over the edge of the road. “The power of this server is vast, more vast than you can ever know! Cut off one head if you like, but more will simply grow in its place!” Both maws opened to expel a raging torrent of Crimson, one sweeping over the platform to batter Sonia while the other filled the space above, tossing Geo about. When Sonia looked up, one head was snapping towards her—she jumped aside, pushed it with a short blast, and then backed away and placed a hand on the side of her helmet. “Geo,” she said into her helmet mic, “can you hear me?” “Loud and clear.” “I figured this would be a safer way for us to coordinate. The core should open up if we can break the heads again, but it looks like we’re only going to have a narrow window to work with.” Geo rolled to the side, narrowly making it past one of the Dragon’s claws. “I wonder…even if it has two heads, it’s still controlled by King, right? Do you think we’ll still be able to split his focus?” “Guess we should feel that out before making any major moves. Okay, I’ll put on a show center stage!” Sonia loaded a Battle Card and started playing. Bombs shot from her guitar, each erupting into an enormous explosion as soon as they made contact with something; the Dragon roared at this, swiping at Sonia fruitlessly. However, Sonia didn’t see the second claw until it was too late. She was knocked down, and the Dragon prepared another breath attack. Geo shot at it from behind, causing both heads to turn, and focused his fire on one as he strafed to the side. The other head returned to Sonia, but its attack was delayed enough that she was able to punch it in the nose and get back up. “It definitely expands his vision,” Geo said, “but I think that’s all. It’s hard to say right now, but if this continues, controlling multiple heads might put more of a strain on him.” Sonia loaded another card, transforming her guitar into a giant axe. “Let’s find out!” She jumped, landing on an incoming missile just long enough to boost herself closer to the Crimson Dragon. Swinging, she cut one head across the cheek, twisting as she fell in order to kick the other as it tried to catch her. When she landed, she immediately raised the weapon to block as they both lunged. Geo swooped in then, hurling two spinning scythes, and chopped off the heads, revealing the core once again. Sonia hopped forward to smash her axe into it, pausing between swings to give Geo openings to launch arrows. They pulled back as soon as the shell returned, watching as the Dragon formed four heads, and watched carefully as their foe roared at them. Something blindsided Geo. As he floundered, Sonia felt something stick her in the back, and turned to see spears made of Noise flying at her. She raised her arms to block, and then faced the Dragon to see more coming at her from that direction. Geo was facing his own swarm of them, two of the lances momentarily pinning his wings to the Wave Road, but once he teleported free he focused on evasion and managed to steer clear of any more. Sonia did her best to ignore the attacks and fired blast after blast, but she began to grow worried about how much damage she was taking. “Sonia,” Geo said as he zipped around the server, “I’m going to set you up! You should be able to wipe them all out temporarily!” Battle Cards orbited the head of Sonia’s guitar as she waited. On Geo’s next pass, he dropped a small round object that fell between the heads—once it hit the Wave Road, it erupted in a large cloud of green, consuming the heads and surrounding the nearby area in grass. The spears stopped, and Sonia swiped a card. A great flamethrower spewed from her instrument, washing over the four heads in an instant, using the grass as fuel to burn even brighter. Geo’s plan worked: the heads were eliminated, and the core unveiled. He reached out with both hands, calling dozens of small electrical orbs to rise up from the edges of the Wave Road, each slowly creeping towards the core as Sonia pulverized it with a continuous beam. The last orb struck just before the shell reformed, and now eight heads greeted them. “Foolish children!” the Dragon said, raining more spears down upon its foes. “Why do you continue to struggle? Noise cannot be stopped! Noise will ravage the Earth, and every other world, until it corrupts this entire universe!” The spears ceased. Sonia cautiously kept her distance, only to see all eight heads reach up and blanket the sky with Crimson breath, leaving Geo nowhere to run. She quickly pivoted to attack—a flash from the core caught her attention, and suddenly a million tiny pinpoints of Noise shot out at her, stinging her entire body. Despite the pain, she still swung her glowing fist in a hook punch; every head recoiled as if struck, cutting off their aerial attack. “You will become one with the Noise soon!” the Dragon said, swiping at Sonia with its claws. “But unlike me, I don’t think you’ll find it a pleasant experience!” Geo shook his head as he found his balance again. Flying around behind the Dragon, his sword crackled with electricity, and with a single swing, he lopped off four of the heads. Bringing his blade back around, he cut off the other four, and then raised the weapon overhead before slashing down, calling a large thunderbolt to strike the core just as it was exposed. Sonia charged power as quickly as she could, flames springing up from her armor as she did. When she finally attacked, an immense, spiraling tongue of flame surged forth from her guitar head, charring the Wave Road and leaving a wreath of smoke that lingered around the now sixteen heads of the Crimson Dragon. “Noise is inescapable as death itself!” they all shouted in unison. “Come, mortals, to meet the reaper’s blade!” “That core is still running?!” Geo exclaimed. “Sonia, are these big enemies always like this?” “No,” Lyra said, “usually they’re mute, and it’s a quality I find myself missing tremendously at the moment.” Spears rained down, complimented by an onslaught of missiles. Geo flew back as far as he could, eventually finding himself out of range of the worst of it, and Mega said, “Even if King’s focus is split between all those heads, it doesn’t matter much with these wide-range attacks of his! If this keeps up, we’re gonna be in serious trouble!” Sonia evaded what she could, saying, “We just have to hang in there! Everyone’s counting on us, and we won’t let them down!” Noise burst from the Dragon’s torso again. Sonia was able to catch some of it on her guitar, but what got around it still stung terribly. The creature said, “Even now you talk of your childish ideals! Powerful as your naiveté may be, even it shall be slowly eroded into nothing by the Noise!” Sonia began to drop stone blocks on the heads, shrugging off the attacks that hit her. “I’m not being naïve! You think I don’t know how hard it is to believe in people? To pursue ideals in a world that seems like it doesn’t have room for them? I’m not naïve…but I’m going to keep believing! Maybe now I know how hard it is, but that just means I’m more prepared for the fight ahead! So I’ll keep fighting! For my sake! For my friends’ sake! For the sake of everyone who’s willing to open their hearts and let themselves grow!” She summoned two new speakers to her side. “You think corruption is inevitable? I know that isn’t true!” An ear-splitting sound pulse rammed straight into the Dragon. Its attacks all came to a halt as the heads wobbled about in a daze, giving Geo a chance to teleport next to Sonia. Both his buster and her guitar began to shine brightly. “Hopefully this’ll end it!” Geo said. “Hah!” They each fired a volley of white energy blasts, tearing apart the heads and then pounding away at the core. As the attack raged on, sparks began to burst from the core, and hope swelled in the two young heroes. Then, Noise exploded out at them, overwhelming them both with stinging pain as thirty two Crimson Dragon heads formed to loom over them. “Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho!” The laughs echoed all throughout the server. “Pretty words—that’s all idealism is in the end! Draw your last breath in defiance if that shall make your passing peaceful! One way or another, your broken waves shall be but another folder in this server as it brings ruin to your world!” The heads reared back in unison. Geo moved forward and threw up his shield just in time, protecting them both as waves and waves of Crimson spilled forth. “Did you see the core?” Geo said. “We’re close! If we can get one more round, I think it should be enough!” Sonia caught her breath. “Alright…one last push.” “Sonia? You alright?” Another deluge of Noise came at them. Geo’s shield held. “I dunno. None of these attacks have been too bad thanks to this armor, but I’ve taken so many of them. I think…I might be nearing my limit.” She readied her guitar, her speakers blaring to life in anticipation. “I can try to charge up all the power I have left. Hopefully I’ll hold out, but if not…” As she trailed off, Geo looked up at the Dragon, seeing it unleash even more Noise. “No, maybe that’s too risky,” Sonia said. “I need to keep moving. We’ll just keep at it, and—“ “It’s alright,” Geo interrupted. “You just charge your attack, Sonia. I’ll protect you until then.” Sonia blinked. “What? Geo, he’s just messing with us right now. Once he sees we’re up to something, he’s going to get serious—attack from all angles, with everything he’s got! You need to focus on keeping yourself safe!” Facing her, Geo said, “Even if we try to play it safe, we might not last through to another opening. We need to pin it all on this one, Sonia, and work together to be sure it’s successful!” “Geo, I don’t want you to get hurt!” “I don’t want you to get hurt either!” Still more Noise battered the shield. “Sonia, I know you’re used to ending things on your own—I know you’d rather do as much as you can by yourself while the rest of us just support you! But I’m your Brother, and I’m here for you! I’m depending on you to deliver that attack, so please, depend on me to keep you safe while you get ready!” Time seemed to slow down as Sonia hesitated. Eventually, she gave a single nod, and raised her guitar. “…Okay. I trust you, Geo! We’ll finish this leaning on each other!” Geo grinned. “You got it, Sonia! I promise: not a single attack will get through!” He rose into the air as Sonia started to play. The Dragon growled, muttering, “Oh, what do we have here? Are you spoiled children ready to meet your end?” “Mega,” Geo said, “we probably won’t have time to react. I know Black Ace’s analysis is complete, but I’ll need you to keep that data flowing.” “Way ahead of you, kid!” Mega said. “Don’t worry about a thing!” The Dragon roared. Missiles flew out, but Geo shot them all down in the blink of an eye. Spears fell towards him, but he teleported aside and up, slicing them apart, before immediately getting above Sonia to slice apart spears that had taken aim at her. His visor flashed—missiles were closing in from all around. He shot down most of them, teleported down to kick a few more out of the way, and simultaneously threw his sword to skewer the last one so that it clattered uselessly against the floor. A new sword was in his hand instantly. Sonia just kept playing, trying not to worry about Geo as he continued to deflect attacks. Her speakers glowed as they transmitted her music, though to her surprise, it seemed a good deal louder than she had expected. “Hope you don’t mind, dear,” Lyra said. “I’m doing a little mixing while you play, increasing the energy output so that we can reach our goal a bit more swiftly. Waiting around didn’t seem the most productive option given the circumstances.” Sonia chuckled. “Thanks, Lyra. With everyone helping out like this, I’m sure we’ll pull through!” She continued to play, and then, somewhat suddenly, recognized exactly what song she was playing. Something had clicked, she realized, and her focus grew sharper as a second wind empowered her. It had taken a long time, taken much struggle, but she finally knew the words to this song. “Here it is,” she said. “Debuting now…Shooting Star!” The Crimson Dragon roared. As Geo cut his way through a barrage of missiles, Sonia began to sing. “I don’t know whether it Might’ve been chance or fate That we met that day And our bond was born I never thought that I would be a part of this fight” Still more missiles came. Geo dashed through the air, firing a wide spray of pellets from his buster to shoot them down. The Dragon’s claws came after him, but he swung his sword expertly, parrying each swipe as he continued to deal with the missiles. A surprise jab forced him to ascend—the claws pressed their advantage, but Geo unleashed a powerful blast that stopped them both cold, before holding both palms out below him. Dozens, if not hundreds of tiny black holes opened, sucking up not only the claws but every last missile that was mid-flight. One additional rocket formed directly behind him. He sliced it apart with a flex of his wing, not even turning to look at it. “But now I look around And see I’m not alone All the ones I love They give me strength Our bonds form A brilliant constellation That lights the night” Next came the spears. The Dragon wasn’t even trying to hit Geo now, instead opting to attack Sonia from multiple angles and ranges in an attempt to outmaneuver Geo. He dashed forward, cutting through the nearest set of spears, and then teleported in front of Sonia just in time to obliterate a few more. Jumping behind her, he blocked a small cluster on his shield before unleashing a trio of fireballs at the projectiles, and then executed a far-reaching slash that felled at least a dozen incoming spears at once. Geo teleported rapidly, using the same type of swing again and again to carve up the advancing wall of attacks on every side. The Dragon increased the ferocity of its attack, so Geo teleported faster, barely visible as he moved from one spot to another to another. “We are the shooting stars Who light the way ahead We have all we need To defend our home From whatever comes” The core flashed as the hail of spears suddenly stopped. Immediately in front of it, Geo put up a barrier just as pinpoints of Noise gushed forth, the protective light lasting mere seconds before he had to replace it. He rapidly chained barrier cards, just barely having long enough each time to hold the barrage at bay. However, he then noticed the Dragon’s many heads rearing back. “Our trust, our love, They’re all the strength We need” Dropping a large chunk of stone in front of the core to be safe, Geo teleported to the middle of the platform as the Dragon’s Crimson breath washed over it. With little time to think, Geo stretched his arms out and began to spin, wind whipping around him to form into a great tornado colored green by the hundreds of leaves that filled it; the Crimson slammed into this cyclone, and slowly, it was all swept up by the powerful air currents, turning the funnel from green to red. “We’ll turn Each others’ pain Into hope” The tornado flew upward and dissipated. Geo was breathing heavily, and took a glance back at Sonia: she was still playing, massive clouds of Noise now enshrouding her speakers. The Crimson Dragon snorted furiously. Geo steeled himself as it snapped forward, but then his eyes shot wide as he saw the Dragon do something he had yet to see it do. The thirty two heads it had amassed were now being launched forward, one-by-one in rapid succession, all weaving in very different paths as they bore down on him and Sonia. Geo abandoned all attempts at thought and simply acted. “I'm not afraid of anything We'll keep lighting up the sky For all to see” A yellowish glow cloaked Geo. Oversized shots poured from his buster at breakneck speeds—he could track the heads well enough, but it took far too many shots to destroy each one. One hit him directly, going up in an explosion of Noise, but he simply ignored the pain and dove, skewering a head that had nearly slipped past him. Geo hurled bladed wheels at the heads, breaking some and only diverting others. He buried his sword in one, raising his hand to call down a brief shower of meteors, while firing a stream of rockets from his buster, leaving only a handful of heads remaining. Summoning another blade, he slashed through as many as he could, but one got around him; he threw himself backwards, taking the detonation himself, and landed on the platform with a crash. His body sprang back up, and before he even had time to process it, he was flying towards the space right above Sonia. He thrust as one final head came into view, catching it just before it made contact with Sonia and carrying it far enough away that its explosion didn’t reach her. “Because I’ll always know No matter what You’ll all be with me” As she played the penultimate note, each speaker fired a beam containing untold quantities of Noise, compressed into a precise attack that ripped away the shell protecting the core. Sonia then pointed her guitar forward, and with one final note, she fired an even deadlier beam, converging with the others as they all mercilessly attacked the core. The energy generated began to expand, but only for a moment: a distortion slowly enveloped the core, bending and twisting into something like a black hole as Geo descended into view. He and Sonia nodded to each other. Drawing his sword, Geo shot forward, cutting past his encapsulated target faster than Sonia could see. A gash appeared through the black hole. And then all the energy stored within the distortion erupted in one brilliant display, leaving behind a badly damaged core surrounded by disconnected clusters of Noise. “No…” came King’s voice, though from where no one was sure. “No…no! I cannot fail…Noise CANNOT be beaten!” Geo charged his buster. Sonia ran forward. “I’m…not…done! I wield the power…of Meteor G! I will kill EVERYONE!” Just as Sonia leapt at the core, Geo took aim. “This can’t be…!” A punch and an energy blast struck the core at the exact same time. Caught between such powerful forces, it finally gave out, crumbling into dust. A powerful shockwave rippled out from it as it went. And then, with its core gone, the Meteor Server collapsed. (Review)
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