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PeabodySam

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About PeabodySam

Year 17
  • Rank
    Lightning Voyager
  • Birthday 04/14/1994

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    he/him/his
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    In front of my computer
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    Who am I? Well, some people think I'm the pie maker. That is an unfortunately common misconception. I do not make pies, I mock peas. Even worse is when people think I am the pie makah. If there's one thing to know about me, it's DO NOT call me the pie makah!

    "PeabodySam" has its derivatives. "Peabody" is, in fact, an old family joke that takes too long to explain. "Sam" is the main character of Quantum Leap, an old TV show that I used to watch back in 1994. I loved that show, but haven't seen it in years... one of these days, I should find time to watch some old episodes again.

    So, now that you know who I am, what about my interests? Well, obviously I am a LEGO fan, otherwise I would never have found this website. I'd say my top three favorite LEGO themes are Rock Raiders, Adventurers, and Alpha Team. BIONICLE, Pirates, and Space also rank rather highly.

    I also enjoy videogames. I do not consider myself a hardcore gamer in any way; I just play for fun. Two of my favorite game series are Mario and Half-Life (including Portal). Naturally, I also enjoy LEGO games, though I dislike that most games since 2005 are repackaged versions of LEGO Star Wars.

    I am very into art and music. I find that both help me express my feelings very well. I am interested in most forms of art, and in music, I love mostly anything orchestral. I play both the piano and clarinet. One more thing... music is a lot like candy. It's much better when you throw away the rappers.

    Literature is another favorite subject of mine. I love to read, and when I'm not reading, I'm usually writing, be it for a story (such as The Story of Frosam Trilogy) or for a text-based RPG (such as Dino Attack RPG). I've written many stories here on BZPower, and my Dino Attack RPG has been praised for its well-written plot.

    I am also interested in science. Personally, I find geology, astronomy, and biology to be the most intriguing subjects of science, yet I am also good at chemistry because somehow I'm excellent at math.

    I do not watch a whole lot of television. Most TV shows nowadays are rather bad; back in the days of Monty Python, it was great, but nowadays it is sadly not so. Too many lousy reality TV shows on the air. However, two recent TV shows that I absolutely love are Pushing Daisies and Fringe.

    Unfortunately, in recent times I've found myself increasingly busy. TakunuvaC01 has diagnosed this as "PeabodySam's Disease". Due to this disease, it's becoming harder and harder for me to find time for my interests. Usually, the symptoms recede during the summer, only to return in the fall.

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  1. Chapter 75: Denouement ---- Dr. Cyborg called Kara up. "Hey, Kara. I need your help. Zach, Minerva, Vinyaya, and Zelda went after Darkling. I don't know if they are done fighting or yet, but I need you to go pick them up. Track their PDA GPS signals to find them." "Okay. Hey, I need to tell you something later. In-person, though. Can we meet after this extraction?" "Sure. Call me when you're done, and I'll meet you at the UlTech office tower here in LEGO City. Good luck," Dr. Cyborg said. He signed off and called the Titanium Predator to him. He flew up about 30 feet and broadcast a message to all the XERRD members. "Attention, XERRD! As you probably know by now, the war is over! Dr. Rex has fallen, and Baron Typhonus has been banished from the LEGO Planet for real this time. No Maelstrom remains on this world except for in those of us who have chosen for it to remain in our bodies, such as myself. I have a new assignment for all of you. Most Mutant Dinos have been destroyed, except for our allies. However, a few were out of range. I need you to utilize the tracking implants in all the Mutant Dinos to track down the runners. They are most likely within a few miles of LEGO City, so that should not be a problem. Capture is the priority, but failing that, exterminate them. I also need some to meet me at the UlTech Tower. I have decided that XERRD should most likely begin working with Nexus Force again, using the valuable knowledge gained from this conflict. I need to consort with the higher ranks to decide our final course. Solomon, if you are hearing this, you need to be at this meeting. That is all, Dr. Cyborg out." ***** "Any sign of Blaire?" Rotor asked. "Not yet" replied Cabin. "They ran off down the street in that Fire Hammer." "Cortana, start scanning for Zach's PDA signal," Kara said over the radio. "We need to pick them up." "Hang on. I think I see it!" exclaimed Cabin. Cabin carefully brought the T-1 Typhoon to the ground near a battered and beaten old Fire Hammer. Down the street, the remnants of a rough skirmish could be seen, and they saw a small group of survivors remained, standing in a graveyard. One of them, the woman with the purple streak in her hair, seemed to be in pain. They landed, and Lance climbed out of the chopper quickly, rifle in hand, and looked around carefully to make sure Blaire wasn't waiting to take him by surprise. Slowly, he worked his way over to the survivors. Keeping his rifle in hand, he walked over toward the wounded Zelda and tried to put an arm around her shoulder. She simply brushed him off. "I can handle this," she said. Slowly, they worked their way back to the chopper. Zelda was insistent on walking on her own, and was subsequently the last to get into the chopper. Cabin started up the engines and the chopper took for the skies once more, flying toward the Iron Hammer to be checked for injuries. ***** Kara watched as Rotor's T-1 Typhoon took off from the pickup. She had tried to race herself there, but Rotor had still beaten her. He must have been closer, she thought. "Cortana, is there anything else on the docket as for transport?" she asked her A.I. "Well, there are some requests from XERRD operatives to be taken to the UlTech tower. Catless has called, asking for the same thing. A cargo ship has arrived at the docks with medical supplies. Take your pick. We've got plenty to do," Cortana replied. "First off, let's get the medical supplies to the Iron Hammer. I expect they need them badly there." "Right." Kara tilted the stick to the right and veered off to the harbor. She hovered above the ship and used the grav-beams to start loading crates of supplies into the cargo hold. When the hold was full, she flew towards the Iron Hammer airship in front of Dino Attack Headquarters. Kara landed to allow full access to the cargo bay by the Alpha Team agents so they could unload. ---- Commander Pharisee was irate. He marched back and forth by the T-1 Typhoon that contained agent Firecracker and the fugitive Snake. At least, it did… until Snake somehow slipped past Mallory. Apparently, there had been some growing concerns after numerous witnesses reported agent Demoman in the scene, apparently promising to break Firecracker out of prison. Pharisee's responsibilities included monitoring dangerous drunkards like Demoman. Up to this point, the demolitions expert had been more along the lines of a blunt instrument directed at the enemy. He certainly was dangerous, but it would be incredibly out-of-character for him to kill his own teammates to partake in a prison break; Pharisee highly doubted that Demoman would do such a thing, even for a friend like Firecracker. But one psychotic demolitionist was not enough. Since Firecracker's arrest, reports had come in that eight people had died in his attempted destruction of the base. Three had been refugees seeking shelter from the war, one had been a doctor, another an Agents ally, and a sixth was mangled beyond identification. Their deaths made Firecracker's miscalculation all the more serious. Even with him now in handcuffs, Pharisee feared he would cause even more destruction if he broke out of prison and went on the loose again. He had held back before, but he was now willing to use lethal force. The recent deaths of the Dino Attack soldiers at Blaire Darkling's hands were an embarrassment. It was sickening that men who had survived the war would live long enough to be struck down by an enemy-turned-ally-turned-enemy-again in a senseless act of violence. In part, Pharisee blamed himself; it was his responsibility to prevent such an obvious betrayal by Darkling, and yet more agents had died on his watch. Although he would never admit it, managing Internal Affairs was too big of a job for a single man. While Pharisee dedicated his entire existence to his sacred mission, men like Darkling would always slip through his fingers. He would accept help, but he had yet to find a man who fit his standards. It was truly disheartening. These men had been through so much and, at the moment of celebration, more tragedy had struck. Now, Pharisee was angry and he vowed punishment - be it in this life or the next. "Excuse me," said a voice from behind Pharisee as he stepped around the helicopter. He turned and looked as a middle-aged man with round glasses approached him. "My name is agent Scott. I represent the Brick Street Journal. I understand you're head of internal affairs, and I was wondering if you'd be willing to say a few things for the press in Antarctica." Before Pharisee could respond, another uniformed man approached. "My name is agent Hauk," he said as he stuck his hands in his pockets. "I represent Antarctic affairs. What happened here? Looks like there was an explosion." "This plaza is filled with the result of many explosions," responded Pharisee coldly. "What makes you think this particular crater is of significance?" "Dunno," Hauk said with a shrug. "I'm just making small talk, really. The fact that you're pacing around madly somewhat drew my attention." "Do you have something to say?" growled the commander. "I have work do." Hauk nodded his head and moved to face the commander. "I'm a marshal in charge of the man by the name of Snake. I was overseeing a project in which we offered pardons to criminals in exchange for services in the team, one of them being agent Snake. I'd like to ask you some questions in regards to his... service. Can you tell me about his performance on this team?" The reference to the felon piqued Pharisee's interested. He suddenly looked up and pulled Hauk close. "I can tell you many things about Snake. I can tell you that, during his time here, he brutally attacked a fellow agent Plastic Serpent. While I was unable to apprehend him immediately thereafter, he deserted on the eve of battle with a brutal murderer and lowlife named Trigger. Once again, Snake eluded me and he escaped to attack agent Plastic Serpent again. Not until after the battle was I finally able to subdue him and incarcerate him for his crimes. He is an unrighteous son of a 4+ Figure, Mr. Hauk; now that I have finally brought justice down upon him, he escapes to once again reap misery on this Earth." Hauk was slightly taken aback by the lengthiness of Pharisee's answer. "What makes you qualified to make this claim?" "I head the Internal Affairs department in the Dino Attack," responded Pharisee. "Due to Snake's tendency to create disturbance in his wake, I have grown to have close knowledge of the man. I assure you, Mr. Hauk, that Snake is by no means rehabilitated; he is still the lowly pathetic imbecile he always was. At this moment, he is once again loose and I must go retrieve him. He escaped as a result of a few foolish souls and he will create more misery if he is not soon captured." Hauk whistled slowly. "So you really think he's that bad, huh? You say he escaped after the arrest? Perhaps using the explosion as cover to make his move?" "Indeed," said the commander. "While he is hardly the worst convict I have pursued, he is certainly unpleasant. His repeated attack on a fellow agent is disparaging. Thus far I have witnessed no heroics of any sort come from the man, so if you thought he would leave this war changed, you are sadly mistaken. He has abandoned us before; he is likely halfway across the city by now." "Au contraire," said Hauk, gesturing to the T-1 Typhoon. "I met him in here, only less than an hour ago-" Pharisee suddenly grabbed hold of Hauk and pushed him against the T-1 Typhoon. Getting close enough that their noises touched, he spoke with a ferocious authority: "And you let him escape? Where is he now?!" "He was in handcuffs last I saw, I-I swear!" stammered Hauk in surprise. "I said he could be a free man. I left him to go interview some agents on his performance!" The commander growled and pushed him harder into the helicopter before releasing him. "Fool! Snake is probably long gone by now! Congratulations, Mr. Hauk; because of your incompetence, I still have jurisdiction over Snake. Perhaps you could learn how to deal with men like him." "What's your plan?" said Hauk nervously. "Snake is dangerous," Pharisee said as he started to walk away from the helicopter. "When last seen, he was in the company of an insane man. They have all caused harm to Dino Attack agents. It is my sacred duty to apprehend him before he causes more harm." He turned back to Hauk. "I will lead you to him, Mr. Hauk. I will show you how justice is done. This is the law, Mr. Hauk; the law is not enforced by your bureaucracy, but by my knowledge of good and evil. This is the only way to judge right and wrong: through action and example." Hauk was visibly concerned and Pharisee knew it. "It is better to be feared than loved," said Pharisee. "It may not be civil and it may not popular, but it is the only effective way to bring about true justice. Something, Mr. Hauk, that you will soon learn." ---- Rotor and Cabin quickly climbed out of the T-1 Typhoon as it descended. The rotors came to a gradual stop as the occupants got out. Mac quickly grabbed Zelda, put her arm around his shoulder, and started to lead her off. He brought her toward the nearby Iron Hammer and carried her through the door. Inside, he worked his way past a few empty beds. He saw two paramedics who were busy performing a strange surgical process on one man. A young female doctor with a cross around her neck lay fast asleep on the bed right next to them. He worked his way down the corridor. A few other patients were present before he finally ran into one man that he recognized from Outpost 4. "Copper!" Mac shouted. The old doctor turned toward him. "Mac, what are you doing here?" "I got a patient," replied Mac. "She's hurt real bad. You might want to give her a hand." Copper looked at him for a moment. "We have an empty bed over here. Why don't you put her down?" Mac complied and walked over toward the empty bed Copper gestured toward, and lay the wounded girl down. Copper walked over to her. "What the Znap happened to you?" he asked as he looked at her wound. "Blaire..." Zelda muttered. "Blair?" Copper asked. "That biologist we worked with back in Antarctica?" "No," replied Mac. "Different Blaire. This guy was with XERRD, some kind of assassin or something." "Oh dear," murmured Copper. "It's alright, I'll take care of her." Mac turned back for the exit. ---- Stepping out of the T-1 Typhoon, Angel Eyes was rather surprised by two agents he noticed, one of whom he recognized: a tall man with a thin mustache and a receding hairline. Slowly, he walked up to the man. "Hauk?" Angel Eyes asked as he approached. The man turned in surprise. "Well, well, well," said Hauk as he turned in surprise. "Van Cleef. I wasn't expecting to see you out here." "Well, it beats Antarctica," Angel Eyes remarked as he placed his pipe in his mouth and took a moment to light it. "You know this man?" Pharisee asked. "Yes," replied Hauk. "He's actually my cousin, if you can believe it." Angel Eyes smiled. ***** Snake was rather surprised as the familiar faces of agents Hauk and Pharisee approached him. "Agent Snake," Hauk said. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to put you under arrest." Snake looked at him for a moment, and ran around a nearby T-1 Typhoon, only to have a pistol cocked in his face. He looked up and saw the gunslinger Angel Eyes staring right at him. "My cousin," Hauk remarked as he approached. ---- Hotwire slept like a log in the infirmary of the Iron Hammer. According the medics, the only thing he was suffering from was exhaustion. Kat wasn't particularly surprised. As far as she could tell, the only rest he'd had in the past three days was a few hours' fitful dozing on a T-1 Typhoon and several fainting spells; while plenty of other agents were doing just fine with similar experiences, the loss of his leg had undoubtedly exacerbated Hotwire's condition. It was due to those concerns that the medics had decided to keep him here for the time being. Leaving him to his hibernation, Kat picked herself up off the chair by Hotwire's bed and headed for the exit. She stopped when she spotted a familiar figure seated by one of the beds. Wright looked up as Kat walked over and sat down. Her eyes were bleary from fatigue -- or possibly tears; it was hard to tell; perhaps it was both -- but her expression was calm and somewhat hopeful. On the bed, Shiller would have appeared to be sleeping peacefully but for the heart monitor and oxygen tube. "They're saying he'll be fine, thank goodness," she said. "What about you, though?" Kat asked. "You look you got a bit knocked around. Have you let the medics check you over?" Wright paused. "I hadn't really given that much thought." Kat smirked "Too busy worrying about your boyfri--" Wright cut her off with a glare that could have frozen magma. Kat faltered and reconsidered her choice of words. "I guess that was a bit insensitive." "A bit?" "I'm sorry," Kat said, hanging her head slightly. "I've just kinda lost touch with that whole... area of human experience." "You don't say?" inquired Wright, anger replaced by curiosity. "Hotwire says he's the same way." "Not entirely," said Kat. "He and I have talked about that too, and he's never been in touch. My case is a bit odd, though -- Katerina was married, so I'm guessing I'd be able to feel that range of emotion, at least hypothetically; I simply haven't." "But you're different people, right?" "Separate? Yes. But different? Less so than you'd think." "Regardless, you and Hotwire make quite the pair," said Wright with a shrug. "If you can call us a pair," Kat replied. She stood and gave Wright an encouraging pat on the shoulder. "Best of health to the both of you, and don't ever forget how lucky you are," she said with a slight smile as she turned to leave. "Because sometimes, romantic love is the least complicated kind." ---- "For he was a jolly good fellow, for he was a jolly good fellow..." "This is Rotor. Blaire Darkling is dead, and we've picked up Zach's team and returned them to the Iron Hammer for injury overview." "80 percent of teens have moved on to rap. If you're among the 20 percent of real music fans like Rotor, put this message in your Dino Attack description." "Well, that should take care of all loose ends." "What about Señor Palomar?" "I'm sure Sam Sinister will take care of him. Chase him off into the sunset or something." "Hey guys, I'm hearing rumors that Trouble, Rex's old pet Mutant Lizard, was found dead by Dr. Glados!" "Really?! Man, no wonder he sacrificed himself! He didn't have anything left." "Man, we really fried the coke in that battle, huh guys?" ".....what was that?" "I WAS FROZEN TODAY!" "Anybody got change?" "And the Darkitect?" "That's Nexus Force's problem." "But didn't Trouble have a mate or something? That's what the database said." "Guess somebody should find them and break the news, then." "...WHICH NOBODY CAN DENY!!" "If they survived." "Man, this chatter went to Rock Bottom pretty quickly after the battle ended." "You mean it hadn't already?" "...I hope he will never stop, or else I will be nostalgic..." "SHUT UP!" Andrew snickered as he turned off the radio. They had been trying to track Blaire's trail, avoiding wreckage and the odd wandering group of non-hostile Mutant Dinos for the past several minutes. Now he was given a relief of concern. "Well, enough of that," he said. "Let's head on over to the Iron Hammer and meet up with them. I'm sure you guys would want to be dropped off too." The other riders in the Fire Hammer - Solomon, Bluetooth, and Dr. Cyborg - nodded. Laxus and Pterisa, the latter of which had caught up with them after the split from Zach's crew, gave their agreement from the Xenon communicator. Without more debate, Andrew began steering off to Dino Attack HQ, following the PDA GPS back "home". The LEGO Islander breathed a sigh of relief. "So that's it," he said. "The conflict's finally over. It'll be good to be able to go ahead and kick back." "You mean like that LEGO Island party the chatter's been all over about?" Bluetooth asked. "Yep. You should try and come too, Bluetooth. I bet a good dance to 'Brick by Brick' should help you with Vinyaya." The technician smirked sarcastically. "Yeah, but I don't trust my dancing skills. Not by a long shot." There were snickers from within the cab. Then Laxus came in through the connection to the Xenon launcher. "So Andrew, about what we talked about regarding the future…" "Oh, yeah, that!" Andrew exclaimed. "You serious there, bud? I didn't think one could simply go into space." "Hey, all you had to do was ask," Laxus remarked. "I can easily arrange a trip, maybe even another place if you're interested." "Oh yeah, that does sound good. We'll need to talk more over that once the party shenanigans are over with." "That sounds well to me too," added Bluetooth. "Could make it much easier for us to keep in touch. I intend to get back to Futuron as soon as possible, and exempting helping to rebuild the space ports, I doubt I'll have many assignments back on Earth." "Don't you mean the LEGO Planet?" Pterisa asked. "Us non-Earthlings don't actually call it that," Laxus explained. "We prefer the more specific names, since, you know, there's LEGO on all planets, and most of them have a moon, so using proper names is preferable for them." "Indeed," Bluetooth added. "In terms of moon names, I like Luna." "Interesting..." Pterisa muttered. As Andrew smirked, he glanced out his door window at the exterior side-mirror, which had somehow miraculously survived their ordeals. He could see Pterisa clinging on with Laxus on the Xenon cannon. The thought did make him think about how his future would pan out. He had talked of liking space much in his time, and the thought of going out to see the galaxy did still appeal to him. But as he thought about living out there on another planet, like Mars or something else, the thought of Pterisa did make him a bit hesitant for some reason. It was odd, and for a few moments, he couldn't quite place it. Then he remembered how much he and the Hybrid had bonded over the past two days. He realized that what he was feeling was a hesitation to want to part with her. He didn't want to leave her, though he knew that their experiences had likely strengthened her social skills, and would make it easier to get along with Minifigkind. Still, he hoped he hadn't made her too dependent on him, such an element didn't work well for some relationships (such as Rex and Amanda; the LEGO Islander could make a good guess for her death being a sizable factor in Rex's willingness to make his sacrifice). Andrew shook his head to clear it up. He sorted the matter to the back of his mind and resolved to finish it later. Right now, there was people to meet up with, and a party to prepare for. ---- "I'll see you two later, I suppose," Vinyaya said with a smile to Zach and Minerva. "We'll still have to work out a funeral for Nazareno, and then there are all the celebrations..." "We're counting on it," Minerva said, clasping Vinyaya on the back. Dr. Martinet stood behind her with a tired smile underneath his mustache. "Still working, Martinet? I mean, you were out in the battlefield," "Aye, and now all-a the injured in one place," Martinet said, his eye continually glancing down at the clipboard in his hands. "Once most everyone is taken care of, maybe I'll take a nap, eh?" "Thanks for that, by the way," Vinyaya added. "After the last experience with the medics, I'd rather have you checking out my scars and wounds than the other medics." Martinet chuckled before gesturing for the group to follow him into the designated medical wing of the Iron Hammer. "Alright!" Martinet yelled out. "I'm going to need someone or someones to do a quick checkup of two agents!" Dr. Pierce shushed Martinet irritably. Martinet nodded apologetically. "Righto, this is a hospital after all." Zach, Minerva, and Vinyaya chuckled quietly as they continued through. It wasn't a pleasant sight to see the injured agents with scars, wounds, or lacking limbs or eyes. There was other those who didn't show any serious wounds but had still suffered, such as when they passed by Hertz being operated on by Enter and Return. Zach smiled as he knew that in probably a good few hours' time, Hertz would have his hearing back and be with Naomi Carver again. "Sorry about your friend Nazareno," Martinet said as he continued. "He was quite the man and we could've used his help here with so many people suddenly without an arm or leg. We'll be able to-a replace them, naturally. It'll probably just take a bit longer." Zach acknowledged Martinet faintly as he glanced around at the patients. Even in the morbid setting of a war hospital, many seemed to be taking their wounds in stride and were laughing with friends and family, knowing that the world would continue on. "Hey!" Minerva said in loud whisper. Zach turned his head to see Zelda sitting in a bed, waving to them as she spoke to a doctor Zach didn't recognize. With a shrug, Zach, Minerva, Vinyaya, and Martinet moved toward her. As they reached her, Zach noticed her jacket sleeves were empty and her arms were tucked inside it. "Can I speak with them a bit, Copper?" Zelda asked. "Come on. It's not like I'm about to die." Copper seemed uncertain, but let them converse. "We did it," Zelda said, with a faint, bitter grin. That was all she needed to say. Zach, Minerva, and Vinyaya simply smiled and nodded. Vinyaya went to pat Zelda on the back when she winced and shook her head, causing Vinyaya to pull back. "Blaire left his mark, though." She stood up and pushed her jacket onto the bed, revealing a white tanktop stained with sweat. She turned around, revealing the back of the shirt was stained with blood. She lifted the shirt up halfway up her back so they could see half of the dark red, jagged cut Blaire Darkling had left on her back. "Not as bad as yours, Holly," Zelda said as she slid her shirt back down and turned back to the group. "More like Minerva's on her cheek. Somewhat of a reminder of what could've been before Blaire took it away." She paused for a moment, then added, "We all seemed to be gaining scars from this battle. What about you, Zach?" "Willa the Witch used some spell to create a gash across my body," Zach said with a shrug. "I managed to heal it with the Maelstrom, but it left a purple and black scar." "You can compare scars later," Copper interrupted irritably. "I have a patient to deal with." "Indeed," Martinet said. "While your injuries are-a no laughing message, Commander Vinyaya, you're rather low priority to compared to some others. I want to check you and get you out of here so we can deal with more urgent matters." "Yes, of course," Vinyaya said. "I suppose my 'goodbye' earlier was rather pointless. See you later, Zach, Minerva, Zelda." With that, she followed Dr. Martinet to another area of the infirmary. Zach and Minerva turned to leave when they bumped into Dr. Naomi Hale and a male doctor he didn't recognize. "Martinet said you two need a checkup?" Hale asked somewhat impatiently. "Uh, yeah," Minerva said. "Probably some proper medical-" "Good enough. Bones, you deal with him. I'll handle her." The dark-haired man pulled Zach to the side. "Name's DeForest McCoy. Feel free to call me Bones. So, you're not severely injured, right?" "Yeah," Zach said. "A quick check to make sure everything's in working order. Probably clean up some wounds Blaire Darkling created." "Already on it." While Bones began to look over Zach, the latter turned his head to Minerva. Dr. Hale was removing the self-applied bandage Minerva had placed over arm. "What caused this?" Dr. Hale asked, looking at the wound closely. "A bullet grazed my arm," Minerva stated simply. Dr. Hale simply nodded and began to clean up the wound. Minerva flinched as Hale dabbed something into the wound before looking at Zach and grinning. "I think we're done fighting now." "We'll probably get sent to help round up the remaining dinos across the planet. Exterminate the wild ones and capture the rest for science," Zach said as Bones rolled up Zach's sleeve and looked at his arms. "Yeah, but that's nothing. The real fighting's over. Time to celebrate and have a good time." "There's still Athena and Nazareno," Zach pointed out. Minerva's features only saddened briefly. "Yeah, I suppose. But I doubt they want us to be moping over their deaths. Wherever Mom is, she'll finally be able to be together with Dad, Tod, and Oswald again while I move on and restart my life for the better. Nazareno's death was avenged and all of his friends and his lover are still alive from the encounter. I'm pretty sure they'd want us to celebrate." Zach smiled faintly at her. "You're probably right on that one. Time to sing carols and songs of victory. To eat as much Brickolini's pizza as you can stomach." "To laugh and rejoice in the survival of an entire race," Minerva added with a mock-dreaminess in her voice. "To dance until your feet fall off, right?" "That can be taken literally on LEGO Island, you know. It will probably happen at some point." The two laughed until they were hushed by Dr. Hale irritably. Zach looked away from Minerva as Bones wrapped up a wound on his arm in a bandage. "Anything else I missed?" Hale asked Minerva, straightening. "I got a cut on my stomach. I suppose you could look at that," Minerva said with a shrug. Dr. Hale's eyes narrowed and looked at Bones and Zach with a look of distaste. "Come with me, please," Hale said irritably. "You can hang out with your boyfriend in a bit." Hale pushed past Zach and Bones. Minerva smiled awkwardly at Zach as she followed the doctor. Zach chuckled sheepishly as she passed. Bones seemed to ignore the passing conversation. He lifted Zach's shirt and ran a cautious finger down the purple and black scar on his stomach. "Is there anything I can do about this?" Bones asked curiously. "No. I healed that myself. That's why it looks like that," replied Zach. Bones stared at Zach. Zach simply shook his head. "Best not ask. There's nothing wrong with it." Bones shrugged and stood up. "Then I'm done with you. You'll live and won't get any infections. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more critical patients to take care of." Zach simply nodded and stepped out of the way as Bones went to help someone else. Zach shuffled through the hallway in silence, hoping Hale would let Minerva go soon. After several minutes of waiting near the exit, Minerva finally appeared in his vision. "There you are!" she said, grinning apologetically. "Sorry about that." "Not to worry," Zach said as they began to exit the Iron Hammer. "Enough dreary medical-death-bad stuff. Time to see what sort of celebrations are happening outside." Minerva smirked. "Sounds like a plan." ***** Shaw slowly moaned as she shifted. She half-opened her eyes and somewhat sleepily sat up. She looked over to the bed next to her, and remembered suddenly that she had been tasked with watching Enter and Return. She felt somewhat embarrassed, realizing she'd fallen asleep on the job, but then she noticed something surprising. Enter and Return were busy cleaning up, moving all their questionable tools outside. Hertz lay there, conscious. Quickly, she got up and looked at the patient. He seemed to notice her. "You alright?" she asked. Shaw yawned slightly as she sat down on the bed next to Hertz, who looked at her with some confusion. She knew his face, and she remembered him well, but she knew he probably didn't recognize her. "I don't suppose we've met," Shaw said to the patient, not sure if he could hear her or not. "At least not properly-" "Excuse me," said a gruff voice from behind, Shaw turned in surprise to see a middle-aged man with short dark hair. "Who are you?" Shaw asked. "I'm Dr. McCoy," replied the man. "You can call me Bones if you like, Dr..." "Shaw." "Shaw, right. I'm just checking on patients here. What's up with this one?" "He's not mine, actually," Shaw said. "He was being treated by Enter and Return. I just wanted to make sure they actually helped him." "Ah, yes," McCoy said casually. "They do get the job done, don't they?" "Maybe," replied Shaw. "But given their questionable methods, a quick checkup can't hurt." "Of course," agreed McCoy. "Excuse me," said Crusher from behind. McCoy turned in surprise to see the red-headed female doctor looking at him. "I don't think I've seen you around here befo-" "McCoy. And you are...?" "Dr. Crusher." "Pleasure," replied McCoy, extending a hand. "I'm just here to lend a hand." "That's good," said Crusher. "There's one patient with a chest tube and a collapsed lung. His girlfriend hasn't left his side since. I was just going to go check on him. You want to give me a hand?" "Alright," replied McCoy, as he turned and followed Crusher. Shaw watched them leave before turning back to the patient. Shaw looked at Hertz, who stared at her, apparently uncertain of what to say. From his actions, it was hard to tell whether he could actually hear her. He could just as easily have been somewhat shocked to have his hearing back, something that would pass once he had time to readjust to it. Then again, Enter and Return may have bungled up the job. "I'm sorry Carver isn't here to see you," Shaw said anxiously. "I know that would have felt good: wake up with your hearing and first speak to the woman you love. But unfortunately, she isn't. I just wanted to make sure you were alright." ***** Kara saw Zach and Minerva exit the Iron Hammer. She ran over to them. "Hey, how'd the fight go?" she asked. "We beat Darkling, but we all took a beating for it," Zach said. "I'm glad he's dead, but I'm sorry you guys got hurt for it. Hey, I've been hearing you, Andrew, Laxus, and others talk about a party on LEGO Island. When is it, and am I invited?" she asked. "New Year's, and yes, of course you are. Everybody is," Zach said as they walked off. Kara ran back to the dropship and found it unloaded. Catless was standing by the ramp in the back. She walked towards Kara when she saw her. "You got my message?" she asked. "Yes I did. Why do you want to go to the UlTech building?" Kara asked. "I heard Dr. Cyborg was going to be there, and I need to speak to him about something," Catless said. As she was saying that, a group of XERRD members walked up, asking to be taken to the UlTech tower. Kara agreed, and all the passengers loaded the Reclaimer. "Man," Kara muttered as she took off and flew towards the building. "Everyone wants to speak to Dr. Cyborg." ---- Zach and Minerva walked through the battlefield. With no street lights, the only light in the dark came from the high beams of the Iron Hammer and the multiple bonfires created from the wrecks of vehicles and corpses of Mutant Dinos. The crowd of Minifigs on the streets grew rapidly. They passed by Dino Attack, Alpha Team, Agents, Rogue Knights, Chinese Soldiers, and Ogel Drones. United in battle, the many opposing forces of the LEGO Planet were now united in celebration over the defeat of their common enemy. "Too bad it won't last," Minerva noted wistfully. "Yeah," Zach agreed as they shuffled past a group of Alpha Team and Ogel Drones celebrating together. "The Brickster will be captured, but villains like Ogel and Vladek will retreat to their headquarters and kingdoms, rebuild their forces, and be back to causing trouble." "Such is life on the LEGO Planet," Minerva said with a faint grin. "One year gives us an almost-apocalyptic invasion of square-headed robots who held the mayor hostage. Two years later we have a mad scientist and his lackeys causing trouble and destroying stuff with a big robot. A year later, mutated dinosaurs show up. With those 'alien fleet' warnings I heard about from Bluetooth and Holly, we can probably bet on some kind of alien invasion next year." "The planet's never going to get a break, is it?" Zach chuckled. "But seeing as we have a forewarning of this alien fleet, if they prove hostile, we should be able to stop them before they cause too much damage." Zach wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her tight against his side. "Now, as tired as I am and the likelihood of me collapsing on a street to take a nap grows higher with every moment, I'm feeling up for visiting one of these little celebrations here." Minerva yawned and nodded. "Might as well." The two approached a large crowd surrounding the fiery corpse of a Mutant Dino. People were talking, laughing, and singing a variety of songs: primarily holiday carols, but with a mixture of songs expressing victory. One man had an acoustic guitar in his grip and a woman had a drum in front of her. Both had a crowd of people around them as they sang and played a variety of tunes. Zach and Minerva leaned against a Fire Hammer on the outer edge of the circle listened as the two musicians grew louder, tempting a few people into heading into the crowd and begin to dance. Zach and Minerva smiled and clapped their hands to the music before Zach was tapped on the shoulder by a familiar face. "Good to see you in one piece, Virchaus," Raine Dashworthy said, gripping his shoulder. Zach smirked and pulled Dashworthy into a brief hug. Her eyes managed to locate his metallic right hand. "I guess that need to fix you up a little bit." "A little bit," Zach repeated. "That's only the most visible thing wrong with me. Good to see you still kicking, Raine. This is Minerva Fabello. Minerva, Raine's another one of those Agents I worked with early on in the war. Less than Thad, but still up there." Minerva smiled nervously and shook Raine's hand. Raine smiled politely at Minerva before turning to Zach. "Speaking of Thad," Raine said in a low voice. "Did I hear right? You got the guy that killed him? That Matt Wherestorm or whatever?" Zach nodded. "We got him. Me, Minerva, and two others. We all had a bit of a... bone to pick with him. Thad was only one wrong Dark...er, Vhere... - whatever we're going to call him - committed not only today, but for apparently years." "Good on you, then," Raine said, slapping Zach hard in the back, causing him to grimace. "Since there won't be much of a use for the Dino Attack now, I hope you consider rejoining the Agents. We could use someone like you." Zach merely smiled. "I'll think about it." Raine clasped his shoulder one last time before jumping into the center of the circle and start to dance with a black-haired Alpha Team wearing a brown fedora. "Are you going to rejoin the Agents?" Minerva asked curiously as she glanced at Raine. Zach shrugged. "I have all sorts of ideas of what to do. Right now, I'm not really concerned about it." Minerva shrugged and they both watched a man with a fiddle join the group of musicians. The newly formed group spoke in hushed tones before starting off into a fast-paced piece that got multiple people off into dancing with a partner or significant other. Those who didn't clapped along from the sidelines. "I'm half-tempted to jump in," Zach noted. "Feel free," Minerva said. Zach glanced at her curiously. She rolled her eyes. "I'm not going in there! I've never danced in my life!" "Fine," said Zach. "Then when we go to LEGO Island and go to the party there, you can make a fool of yourself there instead of here." Minerva's eyes narrowed. He punched her shoulder playfully. "Speaking of LEGO Island, you're still moving over there now, right?" "Yep," Minerva said with certainty. Zach smiled at this. He had not failed notice Minerva's uncertainty about going to LEGO Island with him after the war when discussing it briefly a day before. "I have nothing left here and, personally, I don't want to stay here anymore. I'm interested in restarting, and LEGO Island sounds like the place to do it. Not sure how I'm going to it or what I'm actually going to do, but I'm sure something good will come out of living on LEGO Island." Zach chuckled faintly. "At least you're optimistic. Everyone on the island, especially Andrew and I, will make an effort to help you whenever you need it." Minerva smiled in silence before pulling Zach close to her as they watched their friends and allies celebrate their triumph. ---- "Titan," Stranger said to his fellow agent as he encountered him in the crowding of agents around the Alpha Team craft site. "Glad to see you lived this long." "Same to you, Stranger," Titan said with amusement, clasping hands in a hard handshake. "I've been hearing rumors from the database geeks. Never thought you of all people would follow in Rex's footsteps." "Depending on who you ask, the hat would make some think otherwise," Stranger remarked. "But frankly, my relationship with Buddy is more of a semi-large friendship. I might keep in touch, but I doubt we'll be in much of close contact as time goes on." "So you're leaving him to roam?" asked Titan. "He seems okay with that. In fact, he went off on his own after we won and everything and I told him what I heard happened over the comms. I suppose Buddy needed a moment or something, he seemed broken up over Rex dying." "What a shame." With his interest in the subject leaving, Titan started talking again. "So did you finally get any good trophies?" "That was what I was wanting to discuss, actually. You got a machete on you?" Titan pulled such a blade out of a holder on his belt. "Finally got the old thing sent over to LEGO Island just before the whole final battle announcements came in. A waste of shipping, but I was glad to get off the island. The people were re-inhabiting it already, and they were a little too zany for my taste." "They're like that," Stranger remarked. "You should see those two guys who got elite rank. Anyways, we managed to kill a T-Rex while holding out in this bar (though we didn't kill it per se, that Dr. Cyborg guy dropped in and stole the kill… a bit cheap, if you ask me), and I got the short straw for getting the head." "Can see why you need a machete with skin that thick. Well then, let's decapitate that thing." ---- Bluetooth found himself wandering through the crowd of agents around the Iron Hammer shortly after Andrew arrived back there. He was hoping to try and find Holly and see to it that she was okay, but found himself distracted as he ran into a few old friends, such as Rockford. "Bluetooth!" Rockford said when they met. "Happy to see you made it out of this mess alright!... And my condolences for Semick, I knew you two were close friends." "We were more like close colleagues," Bluetooth explained, "but thanks. It is getting easier for me, though. I've met someone I've been particularly fond of, someone female, and I think we can... work out something." "Ah, good to see love is still in the air after all that's happened," Rockford said as he patted the technician on the shoulder. "Good man. Reminds me that I have to talk to my wife soon. Ole knows she must be worried sick after I decided to leave Adventurers' Island so abruptly." The two smirked in amusement. "Glad to see you around, Rockford. Your perspective has always been insightful. I've missed you during all the little incidents we had here at HQ yesterday." "I heard about that," Rockford said as they started walking towards the Iron Hammer out of habit. "A shame I wasn't around for the traitor debacle. I'm sure I could've helped in some way to find the culprit before nearly all the Second Headquarters Squad was lost. And I was always wanting to confront French Fries after I heard he got off scot-free for what he did with the Antarctica mission intel. Though, I will say-" "I do hope you don't mean along the lines of what Rex did to that imbecile," said a voice. Rockford and Bluetooth turned to see Commander Pharisee himself passing by. "Though, judging by what I know about you, I do think that physical assault is extremely out of character for you." "Indeed." Rockford pulled on his shirt collar and, to Bluetooth, it seemed that the man was firming up in a manner similar to how he had been with regards to the like of Dust and Lutsky. "I do prefer seeing the best in people and trying to make them see the right of way, though I will admit French Fries was a bit beyond the normal reaches." "A respectable trait in a fellow part of the justice system," Pharisee said, reaching out a hand to shake. Rockford took it stiffly and shook it only once. "Interesting for you to say that, out of all people." Pharisee's face hardened a bit. "Some people are beyond talk and have to be dealt with. Especially after repeat offenses. I'll be frank: if I was you, Rockford, Mr. Thutmose would've been off that island the moment you uncovered his lies about his background. And he wouldn't have gotten away so many times as easily as he did." Rockford's eye twitched. "I suppose we just all have certain ways of doing things. Let's agree to disagree." "Very well." As Pharisee and Rockford let go of each other's hands, Bluetooth saw Holly come up to them. "Told you I'd be alright, Ryan," she said as Bluetooth came to her side. She looked at his current companions. "Rockford. Commander Pharisee. Good to see you're here and in once piece." "The feeling's mutual," said Rockford. "I heard about your confrontation with Mr. Vherestorm. Rather reckless, in my opinion, but well done. I doubt he could've been captured anyways." "No doubt," said Pharisee, "judging from what some of the Unitron people have told me. Very brave of you, Commander Vinyaya, especially after you decided to limit your group to four." "It couldn't be avoided," said Holly. "The man was mad, and desperate to get away. We couldn't hold him off long enough to have everyone in to get a good shot." "He sure wasn't like that ape tha-" Bluetooth started, but stopped himself, remembering how Rockford felt about Mur. The former lawyer tensed up at the word "ape," but quickly relaxed with a press of the shoulder by Pharisee. "This conversation's been nice," said the Internal Affairs operator, "but I best be going. I still have some careless renegades to track down. See you in the courts, Rockford." As he walked away, Rockford relaxed notably. "He's nice under the right circumstances," he muttered to Bluetooth and Holly, "but bust my bricks if I don't like his attitude on justice. It's like some bad comic book's tackle of the subject. And geez, where the heck does he work out to get that large?" "You'll always have those kinds of people in any kind of law enforcement department," said Holly. "Trust me, you learn to deal with it." "I suppose so. Well, the best of luck to you two." Rockford tipped his helmet and walked off. "So then..." Bluetooth said, turning to his current companion. "Darkling's dead, and... we're still alright. What now?" "How about we check out the celebrations?" Vinyaya said, pointing to over where much celebrations and musical instruments were going on. "Maybe we can start discussing things in better circumstances." ---- "Ladies and gentlemen, it is I! The lord of the bricks! The king of the bricks! The this of that! The brick of brack!" Frozeen glanced upward at the sound of a familiar nasally laugh. Descending upon the torn-up road was a famous criminal who was being carried by a pair of his robotic henchmen, flying around on their jetpacks. "Long live the Brickster!" he declared triumphantly. "Hello, again," Frozeen said as he rolled his eyes, then tried his best to look away. "Hey, what's the matter?" The Brickster raised an eyebrow. "Embarrassed to be around your infamous big brother? I'd think that after what happened last night, you'd be proud to call me 'brother'!" Frozeen sighed. "Yeah, actually. What you did out there... flying that T-1 Typhoon into battle and blasting that music... taking on Dr. Rex himself... I've got to admit it, you did good out there. Real good. And not to mention what I heard about your exploits at Dinosaur Island." He looked the Brickster in the eyes and smiled, patting him on the back. "You made me proud, for once." "Yeah, yeah, yeah," said the Brickster, shrugging. "Let's cut the Znap. Now, a little less of the mushy stuff, and on to the glory! Ya know, before this whole apocalypse stuff happened, if I so much as stepped out of line, they were gonna hang me and my laundry out to dry. Now, I'm thinkin' they'll probably grant me a full pardon!" "Keep dreaming," said Frozeen, smirking. "You and I both know you're not going straight." "We'll see about that," jeered the Brickster. "I heard some of them talkin' about this guy they hired and they were going to pardon him if they fought for us. Well, turns out he was an idiotic coward and ditched us on the battlefield, and it sounds like they're revokin' the pardon and lockin' him back up. Meanwhile, I single-handedly destroyed that laboratory and wreaked more havoc and destruction upon the Mutant Dinos and XERRD before taking on Dr. Rex himself! They'd be ungrateful not to give me some kinda reward! I mean, if all they're gonna do is give me the chair after this, they might as well throw in a lovely matching table for good behavior!" "You know, you're quite lucky," murmured Frozeen. "You met Dr. Rex face-to-face and lived to tell the tale, and then you fought against him and you're still standing here today. So many others... didn't make it." "Ah, yes," remarked the Brickster. "I heard about General Evil... Meh, I ain't too fond of the guy, myself. He was an obstruction to me proving my worth to Evil Ogel. Maybe now that General Evil's gone, Ogel will need a new general followin' him around. I ain't got no fancy grasshopper cybernetic suit, but hey, he can call me 'Thumper' and we'll call it a day." Just then, a Fire Hammer passed them, blasting a loud, triumphant victory march. The two Brickster-Bots standing on either side of the Brickster started dancing. The Brickster scowled. "Stop that dancing!" he ordered them. "Don't ya know what happens when you don't stop dancing? One of these days, you're gonna die dancing!" As soon as the Fire Hammer was out of earshot and the Brickster-Bots stopped dancing, the Brickster turned to Frozeen. "Well, kid, it's been nice knowin' ya," he said. "I don't think things are ever gonna be the same now that we've spent some quality time together, workin' for the same side for once. Maybe in some alternate 'what-if?' universe, we coulda been great partners in crime: Brickster and Brickthief." "Perhaps," agreed Frozeen, "but in this timeline, circumstances and fate allowed it be so that a law-enforcer and a deranged criminal could work together for the greater good. It's been good working with you, Brickster." Frozeen extended a hand, and the Brickster was honestly too stunned to do anything for a moment. Then, with some hesitation, the Brickster shook Frozeen's hand, both of them feeling as though this would be the last time they would ever do so. ---- "Dr. Shaw," a voice said from behind. Shaw turned in surprise as Pierce approached her. "I... um... have a job for you. Would you mind if I talk to you in private?" Shaw looked at Hertz, who seemed stare at her with a look of "go on." Reluctantly, Shaw stood up and walked with Pierce toward an isolated part of the Iron Hammer. There, she saw a middle-aged woman she recognized: Sarah Bishop, her teenage daughter lying asleep on the floor. Shaw remembered Sarah quickly, from the basement. Pierce had asked her to marry him. "Listen, Shaw," Pierce said. "We've got most of the wounded under control, and the others insisted I take a break. To be honest, they're probably right. Since you didn't seem too busy, I was wondering if you could do something for me." "What?" "You believe in faith, don't you?" Pierce asked. Shaw nodded. "You're the closest person we have then," Pierce said. "Shaw... this is going to sound crazy, but I'd like you to marry us." Shaw looked at him in surprise. "Me?" she asked. Pierce nodded. "I don't know what to say!" "Don't worry," assured Pierce. "Just give us a few minutes to get ready." "Okay," Shaw replied nervously, with a hint of excitement. "I've never done this before." ---- The streets were almost pitch-black without streetlights, so Helm and Giles jumped in surprise when a massive figure loomed suddenly in the glow of their Fire Hammer's headlights. Helm stomped on the brakes and reached for the communicator as Giles jumped down from the cab. "Good Builder, Winston, what happened to you?" he asked. The huge Agent was stumbling, blood soaking his uniform's right shoulder and left side. The body of his brother was slung over his uninjured shoulder. Epic Winston grunted. "Caught... in the crossfire between Darkling... and Virchaus and his friends. When I awoke, Darkling had vanished, so I found Matthias. I'd meant to give him the rites of our ancestors... but now... someone else may soon need to perform them for me as well." "Nonsense," said Giles, leading him back towards the Fire Hammer. "You're gonna make it. You'll be fine." The giant's only response was something between a smile and a grimace. ***** "Hey guys, HQ mess hall or Iron Hammer mess hall?" "Osprey? This is Helm. We found him." "Seriously? There's no way I'm eating Alpha Team rations again. Not even for old time's sake." "Okay, can someone PLEASE tell me whether or not Hotwire and Kat are an item?" "Affirmative, Helm. Thanks. We've recovered his sword. I imagine he'll be wanting that." "That's a false dichotomy. Also, define 'item.' " "I'm actually heading out for LEGO Island right now, if anyone wants to join me." ---- Shaw sat nervously in the corner, with a notebook containing a short passage she'd quickly written. Pierce emerged, dressed up as much as he could with what was available; he'd cleaned himself up somewhat and took off the labcoat, but as cool as they are, he couldn't exactly get a bowtie. Kate was nearby, waiting for this with a mix of excitement and uncertainty. One some level, she felt happy for her parents, but she knew it would be different, now having a real father. Sarah emerged soon after, cleaned up as much as she could. Shaw stood up shyly and approached them. "Should we begin?" She asked. Pierce nodded, putting his arm around Sarah's shoulder. Shaw took a deep breath and began. "Dearly Beloved," she said. "We are gathered here to-" "A-what do you think you're doing?" asked a voice from behind, Pierce turned to see the familiar mustached face of Martinet. "I'm on my break," Pierce said. "Shouldn't you be?" "I'm-a-not-a resting until all-a-the patients are recovered." "Well, the others were pretty insistent that I take a break. I'll be back in a few minutes." Martinet turned back to the infirmary as Shaw continued, holding the small notebook and nervously flipping the pages. "Uh... we are gathered here to celebrate the marriage of Dr. Alan Pierce and..." "Sarah Bishop." "Sarah Bishop," continued Shaw, clearly nervous. "Do you, Alan Pierce, take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife?" "I do." "And you, Sarah Bishop?" "I do." "Then by the power vested in me, I hereby pronounce you man and wife... proceed with the execution... HEY, WHO WROTE THAT?" Kate smiled slightly. Shaw took a moment to regain her composure. "Okay, you may kiss the bride." Pierce smiled and wrapped his arms around Sarah. They soon squeezed their lips together tightly. Shaw watched with a look of relief. ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  2. Chapter 74: One Last Battle ---- Epic Winston darted to the side as soon as he saw Blaire Darkling raise the handgun. The bullet still struck him in the shoulder, and he hit the ground with a grunt. He began to rise, but his opponent rammed a boot down on Winston's chest and pointed the gun at his face. A faint smile flickered across his face as he placed his finger on the trigger. Winston abruptly reached up and grabbed Blaire's arm with both hands and jerked him forward. Blaire went over face-first and landed heavily on his back as Winston sprang up. His attacker was between him and his sword, but the dead Space Marauder was laying right at his feet. Blaire rose from the ground, brushing mud from his coat, and turned to see Epic Winston pointing a rocket launcher directly at him. Blaire swung his gun up and aimed it square with Winston's forehead. The Agent snarled, and the rocket launcher made a faint clicking sound. It was armed and prepared to fire. Great, Blaire thought irritably, his mouth twitching slightly. This was not going as planned. It was extremely likely that he would have to flee before getting a crack at those who had wronged him. Light was disappearing quickly. He was not interested in staying in this city swarming with Agents, Alpha Team, and Dino Attack agents. Kill those few agents that had wronged him and get out. It was supposed to be simple. And yet here he was, facing against an Agent that would not die. Half of Blaire admired his skill and his ability with the blade. Particularly since he used that massive blade with one hand. He probably didn't deserve a lackluster death like being shot in the head. Blaire shrugged off that thought, not willing to let his humanity get in the way of his goal. Blaire blinked once, thankful his sunglasses could hide that action. Perhaps... Nazareno was right. Perhaps Matthew Vherestorm was still alive. Perhaps he was taking control now as the situation demanded. Blaire gritted his teeth together angrily. No! He is no longer alive. His ghost faded with Nazareno. He should be no more, and yet they continue to bring him back up! Blaire felt like cursing. It was them. All of them. Nazareno, Frodongan, Fabello, Vinyaya, Bluetooth, and more. They would not let Vherestorm die while Darkling lives. They needed to be destroyed. Once and for all. "Leave," Blaire spoke, his old level of cold politeness in his voice. He no longer cared about this Agent at all. He was insignificant. Winston raised an eyebrow in shock. "What?" the Agent demanded, his voice hoarse. "I am sparing your life," Blaire snarled. Despite this, he never lowered the gun. He was not a fool. "I am done with this random violence. I'm finished with you. Unless your life truly has no meaning that this fight is an opportunity to escape or something." Winston stared in surprise, but the rocket launcher didn't lower. Blaire rolled his eyes irritably. Everyone just seemed MegaBlokland-bent on making things more difficult than they needed to be. Even if Blaire liked to play up the drama, he knew where to draw the line. Now he was trapped in a standoff with only one way out. Blaire whipped a katana out with his left hand and knocked the rocket launcher out of Epic Winston's hands. A sharp kick sent Epic Winston tumbling back. As Blaire sheathed both the katana and handgun, he reached down for the rocket launcher. "Nothing personal," he said. "You just happened to be caught in the crossfire." And then he fired. ***** "Hey Rotor," Mac said as he approached the pilot. "I hate to interrupt the moment, but weren't we looking for someone?" "Yeah," replied Cabin. "We were trying to find that one guy, Blaire, before we were called to defend the base." Rotor quickly remembered. "Blaire, of course. Anyone know who this guy is?" "Probably just some crazy biologist," Mac said sarcastically. Rotor was about to get into the pilot's seat when Cabin stopped him. He turned toward her, quickly cluing in to what she had in mind. "Oh, I do love you," Rotor said with a grin as he moved to the co-pilot's seat instead. Cabin took the controls. Mac got into the back. Lance was soon taking up his place as the gunner. Shotgun and Scope were on board as well, sniper rifles at the ready; after all, those might just come in handy. The T-1 Typhoon crew was joined on board with a handful of other people: the two gunslingers Clint and Angel Eyes, Maria holding hands with Andrea (the colour was starting to return to her almost-gray skin), and the real agent Pyro in a gas mask with a flamethrower whose every word was unintelligible. Soon, the chopper was in the air, and Rotor played back the recording he'd made over its speakers, calling out to Blaire Darkling wherever he was. As the T-1 Typhoon took to the air, Mac took over the radio. "Blaire Darkling, we have orders for your arrest. If you cooperate, you won't be harmed. Surrender now and turn yourself in, and no harm shall come to you. If you don't, we will open fire. I repeat, surrender now or we will open fire." ***** Andrew weighted his options. Zach and he were good friends, and he was always ready to back him up, and with this Blaire Darkling fellow, he had to admit, the guy could use all the help he could get. But he had to admit, he was tiring a bit of battle. Having achieved victory was the end of the war, officially. While he would likely be wanted a few times for clean-up jobs in case Mutant Dinos still wanted to play hostile, there was really not much left to do. And with the prospect of rest and relaxation and fun at home, he was fully ready to hang up the helmet and start kicking back. Not to mention that he did have a bit of fear about their chances of survival. From what he could tell, Blaire Darkling was highly skilled in battle. He would not go down easily, and it was very possible that at least one of them could fall to one of his weapons. After all they went through, all they survived, after seeing the demise of Dr. Rex himself, Andrew didn't want to see any more death. But he knew Zach. He had been as close to Nazareno as he was to Andrew. Not only had Darkling murdered him, but also a friend with the Agents, along with nearly killing Zach himself had Mutant Dinos not intervened. He was going to see justice done, undoubtedly. This was getting tough. He couldn't make this decision alone. He motioned for Laxus and Pterisa to come close to him to confer in relative privacy. "I don't know about this," the LEGO Islander said quietly. "Darkling doesn't seem like a guy we can stop without paying a price. And I've already seen enough allies leave us with only memories. What do you guys think?" Laxus blinked in slight amazement. "Andrew, I'm surprised. I'd figured you jump at the chance to support Zach whenever you could." "Yes, well, Zach's not being threatened here, at least not right now. He's simply going after someone's he has a grudge with. A highly dangerous someone. I just don't think this might be the best case of action." "Well, I doubt he's gonna stop just because you said no. And if that's the case, he's going to need all the help we can get." Pterisa leaned in close. "Andrew, if there's anything I've learned the most since Adventurers' Island," she said with a hint of the attitude she had back as the anonymous samurai in the Maelstrom Temple, "it's the power that friendship can bring you in tough circumstances. It's something you don't back out of once you've experienced. Blaire might be tough and be some infamously skilled assassin, but my accounts show he has his weaknesses. If we all work together with Zach's group to defeat him, he won't stand a chance." The words circulated through Andrew's mind, and within moments, his own argument fell apart. "...You're right. Indeed, it is just one man. We team up and do this right, this can all be finished quickly and we can go home happy." Andrew looked up and approached Zach. "You can count on us, buddy. We're with you." Zach clapped his friend on the back, smiling. "Good to hear." After seeing a level of apprehension in Andrew's face, Zach added reassuringly. "Just one more battle and then I can wrap a few (non-violent) loose ends here and we can head to LEGO Island for that party. I assume Laxus and Pterisa will be heading to that party as well?" Laxus and Pterisa nodded in agreement, smiling. "Good. Oh, and you have a Fire Hammer, right?" "Yep. It's a bit beat-up, but it can probably make it through one guy. As long as he doesn't have any explosives," Laxus said. "Good. You go find that and bring it over here. Even if it is one guy, I'm not taking any chances. Two Fire Hammers are better than one. And having you in the air will also probably make this whole deal a lot easier, Pterisa." She nodded agreement. As Laxus and Andrew turned to go get the Fire Hammer, Minerva, Zelda, and Dr. Cyborg were returning with two crates of ammunition for Xenon Multi-Mode Launchers and Cosmotronic Rays. As Minerva set the crate next to the Fire Hammer, she turned to Andrew, Laxus, and Pterisa, smiling. "Good to see you again, you guys." She tugged both Laxus and Andrew into a quick hug before pulling Pterisa into an embrace of her own. Pterisa smiled and returned the hug quickly before Minerva pulled away. It was at this point Andrew realized how far Pterisa had integrated into the Dino Attack Team. Joining society (perhaps one similar to LEGO Island) would be a cinch for her. "Got the ammo," Minerva said. She then reached down to her belt. "I also found something of yours." She held out the knife he had been forced to leave behind when they had been forced out of the headquarters at gunpoint. Zach smirked as he accepted the bloodstained knife. Minerva eyed it with a brief gleam of disdain that soon faded away. "Think I could fight Mr. Darkling with just a knife?" Zach asked, already knowing the answer. "You probably could," Minerva said, the barest hint of a smile on her face. "I don't know if I would." "I'm thinking we blast him up a bit and leave it at that," Zach said with a shrug. He then turned to Vinyaya and Bluetooth. "Anything worth knowing?" A deep scowl was on Vinyaya's face. "Not really. I wouldn't put it past Darkling to have tampered with his file at one point, because it's barer than it should be. But what it does say is something I could summarize in a few sentences: He's largely unpredictable. He'll repeat a few maneuvers for drama, but mostly likes to keep his enemies on their toes. He's a complete sociopath and has little issue with violence, murder, arson, destruction, chaos, and punting kittens out of airlocks." Zelda blinked. "'Punting a kitten out of an airlock'? Seriously? How it that noteworthy?" Vinyaya rolled her eyes. "It was a big deal with some humane societies. Demanded that we do more to stop him. I get that kicking a cat out into space is bad, but they apparently didn't realize who Vherestorm was and what else he did." "So we got nothing," Minerva said, clapping her hands together with a shrug. "Guess we'll have to work by the seat of our pants." "Not sure it particularly matters, considering this team's track record of planning," Zach said. "We plan, we get there, and all heck breaks loose," Andrew added. A wave of snorts and chuckles erupted through the group. "So we'll be getting that Fire Hammer. Lead the way, Laxus, Pterisa." The Martian, the Hybrid, and the LEGO Islander turned and started for their Fire Hammer. Zach watched them leave and strapped the knife to his torn uniform. He then turned to look from Minerva, to Vinyaya, to Bluetooth, to Dr. Cyborg, and finally to Zelda. He then barely wondered if this was the right thing to do. Blaire was dangerous and held a grudge; he had escaped a fiery explosion and trekked halfway across the battlefield just to kill him. Even if with the ten of them, if Blaire somehow could stop their Xenon Launchers or get them out of the Fire Hammers, he would be a tricky enemy to fight. He stepped over to Zelda. There was a look of grim determination on her face. Through her, he saw the mask of Nazareno and face of Thaddeus Brickhouse, just two of Blaire Darkling's victims. He has probably killed hundreds as a Matthew Vherestorm and could be killing more people now. One thing was for certain: Blaire Darkling needed to be defeated. "We're going to find him, Zelda," he said quietly. She didn't respond, only turning her stare to him. It was at this point that he also realized that this was the first time he was really interacting with Zelda since they were both Stromlings. "I know you... loved him," Zach continued. "I just don't want losing him to cause you to do something... rash, so to speak. Uh... catch my drift?" Zelda smiled weakly at him. "It... was kind of a shock. Like hearing what happened to my birth parents or when my adoptive sister died earlier this year. All of their deaths have been avenged. Nazareno... Kareem needs to be avenged. His... mission needs to be completed. Blaire needs to be stopped." Zach then noticed the katanas strapped to her back were Nazareno's. Zelda noticed where his eyes were and gave him a faint nod. Zach immediately understood her silent request. He smiled. "I'll see what I can do," was all he said. Zelda smiled, thankful for Zach's understanding. She then punched him in the shoulder - hard. "Besides," Zelda said, smirking as Zach rubbed his shoulder. "I still got to be that big sister you never wanted, right?" Zach nodded, happy that Zelda wasn't letting what happen change her. She then looked past him. "Oh, hello Solomon." Zach turned to see an older gentleman behind him. "Oh, this is Solomon Koplowitz, guys. He was with me, Nazareno, and Blaire before the latter two got separated from us." "Well," Zach said, stepping forward and shaking Solomon's hand. "Good to meet you, Solomon." "The same to you," Solomon said, bowing his head slightly. "Now, I believe a heard something about hunting down a certain Blaire Darkling..." ***** "Eyes sharp, men. This guy is ruthless. I'm getting reports from other squads that he's taken down at least a dozen men already." The battle had ended hours ago. The storm that had raged throughout the day had finally diminished to a simple light drizzle. Night had fallen and most of the search parties had returned to the Dino Attack Headquarters to celebrate the end of the year-long war against the mutated dinosaurs that had wreaked havoc on the world. Unfortunately for these men and women, one job still remained. "Commander! Up ahead!" one voice yelled out. "Oh man. We got multiple men down!" The search party, a mix of Dino Attack, Alpha Team, and Agents operatives, quickly moved through the darkened streets of LEGO City. Their flashlights scanned the area and quickly found the bodies of several XERRD Space Marauders and Dino Attack agents, each with different stabbing wounds. "Sheesh," one Agent said, scratching his head as he knelt down by a fallen Dino Attack agent and checked his pulse. "Gone. This guy works fast." "Builder Znap it," Dino Attack Commander Morrison muttered. "Get a crew down here to pick these guys up. Check the others and prep them for pickup." As the commander's team went about following his orders. Morrison stepped away from the scene briefly and raised his radio. "He was here, sir. Looks recent, too." "Where are you?" Elite Agent Rotor asked over the radio. "I want this man's head! If he was there recently, he is almost certainly still in the area. Over." Morrison relayed his location, then added: "He can't have gotten far on foot. Not to mention he is almost certainly injured and exhausted, as we all are. Over." "I'll have the T-1s create a perimeter around your location to watch the streets and send the other search parties to your area," Rotor said. "If these stories I'm hearing are true, then Blaire Darkling can't be allowed to escape." "I am aware, sir. But our options are limited. It's getting dark, we're exhausted, and if those stories and rumors I'm hearing are in fact true, Darkling is going to pick us apart out here." Rotor audibly scoffed on the radio. "This man is a mass-murdering traitor! He must be brought in-" "I agree, sir," Morrison sighed. "I'm just saying he has the advantage over us in the dark, even if it's just him against a hundred agents." Morrison lowered his voice. "And I'm not sure how much more fight my men have left in them. The war is over, Rotor. They want to go home." There was a brief silence over the radio, then Rotor's stern voice returned. "Keep me posted, Commander. Anything suspicious, you relay it to me." Morrison sighed again. "Yes, sir." He pocketed the radio and turned back to his men. Fire Hammers that had be converted into makeshift ambulances had quickly arrived to pick up the fallen Minifigs, as well as the wounded Agent. "Alright, I have discussed the situation with Elite Agent Rotor. The search T-1 Typhoons are forming a perimeter around this area. We are certain Blaire Darkling hasn't gotten far. In the meantime, split up into four-man squads, and search the surrounding buildings. One squad per building. You see anything unusual, reach out immediately. This man is armed and extremely dangerous, and I don't want to lose any more men." There was a muttering of "Yes, sir" among the agents before they dispersed into the streets to locate the ex-XERRD leader. "Don't know why we're still bothering with this," Dino Attack agent Vuorinen muttered to his fellow Finn and close friend Nevalainen in their native tongue. "It's dark, wet, and rainy, and I think I'd rather be spending the night toasting with our brothers and sisters that the monsters are finally gone!" Nevalainen rolled his eyes. "Aye, but people are dead, man." "I know, I know! No disrespect to the dead, but I heard the commander talkin' to Rotor. This Darkling guy is insane! And I heard that he's some kinda ninja too! Even if we find him, he's gonna kill us all in an instant!" "Hey!" tutted fellow agent Olzon. "Can you two speak in English? You know I can't understand a word of that." Vuorinen laughed. "Sorry. We're were just discussing how foolish this mission is." "I agree," Alpha Team agent Markkanen grunted behind the three Dino Attack Agents. "We are at a severe disadvantage against Vherestorm at this point and time. Waiting until tomorrow to find him isn't ideal, but-" "Vherestorm?" Vuorinen blurted out. "What kind of name is that?" The two other Dino Attack agents laughed in agreement. Markkanen shushed them quickly as they approached a destroyed storefront. "Quiet!" he whispered. "We do not want to give ourselves away to him, and we need to be aware of any sound he may make." Vuorinen rolled his eyes and muttered to Nevalainen in Finnish: "Fat chance this guy is even in here." But, heeding the Alpha Team agent's words, they entered the abandoned store quietly. The store had either never been fixed in the months in-between the initial Dino Attack and the final battle, or it had been recently ransacked by the Mutant Dino invasion led by Dr. Rex earlier in the day. Regardless of the cause, the store was in complete disarray. Shelves were tipped over and old, dusty products laid strewn across the floor. It must have been a grocery store at one point, because torn-up food products with noticeable Mutant Lizard bites were included in the mess. "The Alpha Team has dealt with this man before," Markkanen whispered as he scanned the mess for signs of life. He took up the rear of the squad to watch their backs while Vuorinen and Nevalainen led the way. "Almost half a decade ago, he went by the alias of Matthew Vherestorm. He had many titles. Terrorist, mercenary, bounty hunter. I think he was even a revolutionary fighter, if I'm remembering his file right." "What a lame name," Olzon muttered. "Matthew Vherestorm, ha. Not that 'Blaire Darkling' is much better, to be honest." "I have never heard of this guy," Nevalainen said. "Where is he from?" "No idea," Markkanen continued. "Most of his actions occurred off-planet. He was tactical and ruthless. He almost never backed down from a job, no matter how big or small. He was the Space Police's biggest headache for years until the Black Hole Gang came into prominence. Never really did anything here on the LEGO Planet except for one stretch a few years ago. It was a nightmare few months for us." "What did he do?" Olzon asked. "What didn't he do? He was all over the world, pulling off crimes, high-profile terror events, and so on. We think he even worked with Silencia Venomosa at one point, but we could never confirm it." There were some small gasps at this remark. While Matthew Vherestorm had been a mystery, Silencia Venomosa's high-profile assassinations had captivated the world. "All the chaos he caused brought that space ninja here for a while. He was an uptight guy, didn't really play well with Alpha Team while he was here. What was clear to me was that he was obsessed with Vherestorm, and Vherestorm the same with him. It was like one, long, intergalactic cat-and-mouse. I was thankful when they finally took their fight back into space." "And… Vherestorm was never caught?" Nevalainen asked. They were all engrossed in the Alpha Team agent's stories. "No. He was last seen in Galaxy City, I think." Markkanen paused to let out a short breath. "What he did in Galaxy City was–" Markkanen's sentence was interrupted by the sound of something sharp quickly cutting through skin. The three agents whipped around to see a silver blade sticking out of Markkanen's chest. His eyes were wide with fear, and his mouth open as a pained grunt escaped his lips before he was pushed off the sword onto the ground into a small pool of his own blood. Standing over the Alpha Team agent was giant man with shaggy, pure-white hair and a tan-colored trenchcoat caked in dirt and blood. His dark, reflective sunglasses reflected the agents' flashlight beams, giving him a supernatural aura. Blaire Darkling was quick. Before the Dino Attack agents could react, he lunged forward and stabbed his bloody katana into Olzon's midsection. She attempted to scream, only to have Blaire's gloved hand muffle her sounds. Blaire released his grip on his sword and let it and Olzon collapsed to the floor as Blaire marched toward the two remaining agents. By this time, Nevalainen and Vuorinen were ready. Both pulled their handguns from their belts and prepared to fire. In an instant, Blaire punched the weapon out of Vuorinen's hand and swung a fist into his cheek, knocking him to the floor. Blaire considered himself lucky as he turned around to find Nevalainen fumbling with his weapon in a panic. He raised his foot and buried into the Finnish agent's stomach, sending him across the store aisle they were in. Blaire clenched his fists. He needed to act quickly before these two idiots gave away his position. He turned back to Vuorinen, who was on his hand and knees struggling to rise. Blaire brought his heel down hard onto the Dino Attack agent's back. He heard a distinct cracking sound as the agent fell back on to the floor. Thankfully, the concrete floor muffled the agent's pained screams. With one agent surely dealt with, Blaire turned his focus back to Nevalainen, who had risen to his feet and took off running toward Blaire, his fist raised. He landed one, hard punch on Blaire's left cheek, sending his sunglasses flying into the dark. Nevalainen stumbled backwards and gasped in shock. There was no longer light shining on Blaire's figure, so all he saw was Blaire's black silhouette. What scared him was Blaire's eyes, which were bright red and seemed to glow with fiery anger. Paralyzed with fear at the monster that stood before him, Nevalainen did nothing as Blaire marched toward him and wrapped his hand around Nevalainen's throat. Blaire raised the poor fool into the air and then slammed him down on to the floor. Before Nevalainen could scream for help, Blaire stomped his boot onto his neck with all his power, silencing the Dino Attack agent permanently. With the hostiles taken care of, Blaire allowed himself a brief sigh of relief and wiped the sweat and water from his forehead. Squinting toward the floor, he carefully stepped over the store ruins toward one of the dropped flashlights. He then turned back toward Nevalainen's corpse, searching the area around him until he managed to catch the reflection of the light off his sunglasses on the floor. Thank Builder. And thank you, Dr. Provencal, for improving their durability. Blaire carefully walked back to Nevalainen and scooped up his glasses and placed them back on his head. He blinked once or twice to readjust his eyes to his light-adjusting glasses before he shut off the flashlight again, leaving him and Vuorinen in darkness. He made his way toward Olzon's body and knelt down. He carefully pulled his katana out of her body and wiped away the blood before sheathing it in his trenchcoat. He then searched her body briefly for anything valuable. He looted her firearm and ammunition from her person. He was about to rise when something on her belt caught his eye. A brown, rectangular pouch attached to her belt. Blaire opened the pouch slowly and pulled out a small computer device. A Dino Attack-issue PDA. Blaire's eyes lit up. This could be useful. Blaire's thoughts were interrupted as he heard a groan behind him. Blaire rose and moved toward Vuorinen. He carefully rotated the poor Dino Attack agent on to his back, covering his mouth to prevent his loud moans of pain from attracting attention. With the agent turned over, Blaire leaned in close and put his finger to his lips. The agent weakly nodded in understanding. Blaire gave a brief nod back and leaned back against a nearby column and slid to the ground. There was a brief silence. Then: "What the MegaBlokland do you want?" Vuorinen hissed through gritted teeth Blaire raised an eyebrow. "What?" "What do you want?" repeated Vuorinen softly. "Markkanen told us the deal. You wanted that space ninja, you got him." Vuorinen coughed and winced in pain. "Why are you still here? You got what you wanted. Just Znapping leave." Blaire remained silent. Vuorinen let out something comparable to a scoff and cough mixed together before muttering several curses in Finnish. "You think we wanna be out here hunting for you? We just won this Znapping war that you started. I wanna be with my friends back at headquarters toasting to victory and to the fallen. Instead, I'm gonna die here with my friends for your Znapping grudge." Vuorinen weakly raised his head in Blaire's direction and, with all the strength he could muster, spat at him. Blaire remained silent. Now that he had time to finally think, he couldn't help but feel so… empty. The euphoria from killing Kareem Nazareno seemed to have finally faded away. It had fueled him. Kept him alive as fought his way through wave after wave of Dino Attack agent. It was probably the only reason he survived that close encounter with the giant, bearded Agent with a sword. He closed his eyes, trying to remember and cling on to that feeling. It had been like burning fire that illuminated his Creative Spark. Higher than the highest high he had ever felt on the job as Matthew Vherestorm. So it only made sense now for the crash to hit harder. Even someone as strong and durable as Blaire Darkling had their limits. He was cut, beaten, bruised, shot, and exhausted. He had been able to shrug it off in the heat of the battle, but now his entire body ached in pain. Now that he had cooled down, he wasn't certain he could muster the strength to fight anymore. Not without some immediate first aid. Blaire knew this was best opportunity to escape. It was dark in city ransacked by the day's battle. With his Shinobi skills and abilities he learned as a mercenary, it would be all too easy. He could be out of the city before dawn. He could be off-planet in a day. And yet… His soul felt incomplete. It terrified him. He had spent close to a decade squaring off with Kareem Nazareno. Their conflict had spanned across the galaxy, in numerous circumstances with hundreds of casualties. Nazareno had been the one foe he had been unable to defeat. It kept him awake at night. It almost became his entire purpose as Matthew Vherestorm. He finally defeated him and he felt no better off. "Well?" coughed Vuorinen, irritated at Blaire's silence. Blaire paused his thoughts briefly, then said plainly, "Revenge." He could at least determine part of the reason of his emptiness. His reformation as Blaire Darkling had come to swift end. Three years of working as a Paradox Shinobi and later a high-ranking enforcer of XERRD. He believed he had turned a page and had escaped his toxic existence as Matthew Vherestorm. Only to realize in the last few days he had been deceived. He was still bad guy. Arguably worse than Vherestorm ever was. He had been a part of a plan to exterminate the Minifig race from the planet. Blaire gritted his teeth together. He had tried his best, given the circumstances. He formed a truce with the Dino Attack Team. He made a Dino Attack agent his second-in-command to ensure XERRD would continue to reform its image in the case he couldn't remain leader. He fought against Mutant Dinos, Fright Knights, Inferno Agents, even a Maelstrom Dragon. But Nazareno… he couldn't resist. It might've been his only opportunity. He succeeded, but he was unable to stop Nazareno's friends, witnesses to his death, from outing Blaire's crime and his former identity, setting off a city-wide manhunt. "What? Revenge for what?" Vuorinen asked. Blaire slowly rose to his feet. He had succumbed weakness and cost himself everything. He wasn't sure of the future beyond LEGO City, but the least he could do was pay back those that had wronged him. One last job as Blaire Darkling. "If you know what is good for you, you'll tell your commanding officers to pull back the search parties," Blaire said as he pulled Vuorinen's PDA from his belt and booted it up. "Wait! What?" Vuorinen started to panic. "What are you doing with my PDA?" "You're right, agent. This isn't your fight." Blaire searched through the PDA's functions until he found what he was looking for; a proximity beacon. "Tell them to retreat. I'll make sure to… pass the message on to your other superiors." "Wait-!" Vuorinen was cut off as Blaire punched the agent in the jaw, knocking him out cold. Blaire brushed off the dirt and blood from his coat and tossed the PDA onto the agent's chest, the beacon activated. He headed for the building's second floor to make his escape before the agent's teammates arrived. Virchaus, Frodongan, Bluetooth, Fabello, Vinyaya. They would all pay for what they had done. Nobody would stand in his way. ***** "Let me see," Pepper Roni said as he dropped to a knee. He turned on his hat's flashlight as he began rummaging through his green backpack. The famous "Dude with the Food" looked well for flying out of a shoddily-built T-1 Typhoon on a skateboard and helping take on an army of Mutant Dinosaurs. His clothes were scuffed and dirty, with one of his blue sleeves torn at the elbow. Despite this, he could not be chipper. "Have some granola bars, bottled water, assorted nuts," Pepper said, digging the items out of his backpack and handing them to his old neighbors, Dino Attack agents Andrew Anderson and Zachary Virchaus. "I think I have a can of soup or two?" Pepper continued, with a small chuckle. "The dudes distributing whatever's left from your tower didn't give me a lot of choices." Andrew laughed. "I think we'll be fine. Thanks, Pepper." "Wait, I have something else!" Pepper said as he slid out two white, rectangular boxes. "Papa made these special for you guys. I told him you guys probably wouldn't want pizza before heading out on another mission, but he and Mama insisted." Zach smiled and took the pizzas into his arms, careful to keep a grip on his lantern. "Well, I can't say no to Papa's famous pizzas." In the dark and cold, the warmth from the pizza boxes on to his arms was a welcome sensation. "Tell Mama and Papa thanks!" "Will do, dudes!" Pepper said with a salute as he slung his backpack back over his shoulder. "Good luck! Wouldn't want you guys to miss the celebration when we get back to the island." "I agree," Andrew said with a nod. "We'll make it back, Pepper." "Totally!" Pepper said, placing a foot on his signature yellow skateboard. "See you around!" He started to skate back into the crowd surrounding the remains of the Dino Attack Headquarters before turning back briefly. "And thanks for all the good work, dudes." The two Dino Attack agents waved as Pepper sped back into the crowd before turning to walk back to their friends. "Man, am I ready to head home," Zach said, taking in a deep whiff of the pizza. "I haven't been back since it all started." "I hear that," Andrew said in agreement. "Last time I was there, the island broke up into 1x1s and floated up into the sky." "Oh shoot, that's right!" Zach exclaimed, remembering the shock that had traveled through his body when he had found out his home had suddenly disappeared into the sky. "I almost forgot that happened. Feels like it was decades ago. I transferred from the Agents to the Dino Attack around that time. I remember pleading with my COs to send me back to LEGO Island, but they had another plan for me and sent me elsewhere." Andrew raised an eyebrow, curious. "Antarctica?" "No, but I did end up there later, during the riots." The two finally came upon the tent where their friends had set up operations. "I'll tell you about it later." The two stepped out of the cold drizzle and into the warm tent. At the center of the tent was a table with a map of LEGO City laid out, along with a few lanterns and radios that occasionally buzzed with new info. Standing around the table was Holly Vinyaya, Ryan "Bluetooth" Radcliff, and Zelda Frodongan. Each of them had a focused look on their faces as they scanned the map and muttered amongst themselves. They looked up from their work and smiled momentarily as Zach and Andrew entered the tent. "What were you able to dig up?" Vinyaya asked, crossing her arms and squinting her one good eye in Zach's direction. "We met up with an old friend from LEGO Island," Zach said as he and Andrew moved toward the table. Bluetooth pulled the map away as the pizzas, water, and other foods were placed down. "Grabbed us some food for energy. Mama and Papa also whipped together some pizzas for us." Vinyaya rolled her eye. "I love pizza as much as the next guy, but really? We need to stay sharp if we're gonna take down Darkling." "You're preaching to the choir here, Commander," Zach said with an amused scoff. "We didn't ask for it, Commander Vinyaya," Andrew said with a smirk. "I don't think one slice will hurt, right?" "I suppose so," Vinyaya said, grabbing a water and granola bar. "Come on everyone. Get something to eat before we go." With that, the other Dino Attack agents and allies stepped out of the shadows and started to grab a bite to eat. It had been only a few hours since the Dino Attack Team had triumphed over Dr. Rex and the Mutant Dino army in LEGO City. In the shadows of the Dino Attack Headquarters, a building that still stood tall despite the beating it took from Mutant Dinos, witches, and rogue Dino Attack agents, the remaining allied forces gathered to treat their wounded and celebrate the end of the eight-month-long war in a makeshift village of tents, broken vehicles, joyous bonfires, and an Alpha Team airship acting as a temporary HQ and infirmary for the wounded. It should be a time to relax and celebrate. However, the time to celebrate would have to wait for this group of Dino Attack agents and allies. Darkling had murdered Nazareno and fled into the desolate streets of LEGO City as Dr. Rex was defeated atop the Dino Attack Headquarters. In the hours since, Nazareno's closest friends and allies began assembling a team to hunt down Darkling and bring him to justice for his hundreds of crimes. The team consisted of a group of some of the Dino Attack's best agents and allies. Elite Agents Zachary, Andrew, Fabello, and Dr. Cyborg led the team. They were accompanied by Laxus, Pterisa, Dr. Solomon Koplowitz, Commander Vinyaya, Bluetooth, and Zelda Frodongan. All had a bone to pick with Blaire Darkling and all were willing to put it all on the line to see Darkling defeated once and for all. Zach munched on a slice of pepperoni pizza as he looked at the map. The location of Dino Attack Headquarters was circled, and lines drawn out from it, indicating the search teams that had been sent out to find Blaire. There were a few x's dotted along the search paths, almost certainly indicating where victims of Blaire's rampage were found. Zach felt his face growing hot with anger. Too many good friends had died today for more to die needlessly in the aftermath. He thought about Nazareno and his commanding officer and mentor while he was with the Agents, Thaddeus Brickhouse. Just two of dozens who were murdered by Blaire Darkling today. He glanced across the table to Zelda, who was absently teething on her granola bar as she stared at the map, occasionally glancing toward the radio next to her. Zelda had certainly taken Nazareno's death the hardest. While she had been somewhat optimistic and determined earlier in the evening after the battle was won, that demeanor had faded as the group was continually delayed from leaving the camp due to the chaos from the post-war celebrations. Zelda was easily the person Zach knew least out of the group of Minerva, Vinyaya, Nazareno, her, and himself, despite her being the only one to share the experience of being corrupted into a Stromling back on Adventurers' Island. Luckily for her, she seemed to come out of it without any long-lasting effects outside of a hair-color change unlike Zach, who found himself to almost be a completely different person sometimes. Zach prepared to lean over and talk to her when Vinyaya grabbed his shoulder and leaned in toward his ear. "Outside, now. We need to talk." Zach rolled his eyes. "Sure thing." Zelda looked up at him for a moment. He gave a brief, reassuring smile before grabbing a lantern and walking back out into the cold to find fellow Elite Agents Andrew, Dr. Cyborg, and Minerva Fabello standing in a circle with Vinyaya. "Hey there," Minerva said with a smile, punching him in the arm quickly before tucking her arms back in. "Hey," Zach said, returning the smile. "You and Doc find everything okay?" "Yes, finally," Minerva said with a sigh. "The Fire Hammers are gassed up and reloaded." "And we secured weapons and ammunition," Dr. Cyborg added. "Good to hear," Andrew said before turning to Vinyaya. "What do you want to talk about, Commander?" "This," Vinyaya said with a sigh, closing her eye. "I'm not sure we should head out tonight." The four Elite Agents traded glances. "What are you talking about?" Zach asked, incredulous. He could not believe what he was hearing. "Of course, we're gonna go get this Znaphead! You can't seriously be backing down from this. That son of a MegaBlok killed Nazareno! Our friend! We-" "Save it, Virchaus," Vinyaya snapped. "Look around! It's dark, it's cold, we've been fighting all day. We're in no shape to run back out there." "Are you serious?" Zach said, growing angrier. "We've dealt with much worse! We outnumber him ten to one. We can-" "We have no idea where he is!" Vinyaya exclaimed. "Every update we get from Rotor and the search parties indicate we are two steps behind. We outnumber Darkling, but he has every other advantage. He's out there in the dark, picking apart search parties one by one. Pterisa might be able see him in the dark but the rest of us can't. I've worked a ton of Vherestorm cases! I've talked to Dr. Cyborg and Dr. Koplowitz! I am certain trying to find him now would be a mistake." "What?" Zach shot a glare toward Dr. Cyborg. "What does she mean?" Dr. Cyborg raised his hands defensively. "Solomon and I simply reminded Commander Vinyaya of the fact that Darkling is a former Paradox Shinobi, not to mention all that 'Vherestorm' stuff. He knows how to use the shadows to his advantage." Zach scowled, leading Dr. Cyborg to sigh. "Look, I want to go out there and bring him to justice just as much as you. I've devoted tons of XERRD resources to trying to find him but we're no closer than the other search parties. It might be a good idea to stay here until morning. Get some sleep, a change of clothes for all of you, and refresh ourselves because Darkling shouldn't be underestimated." "What?!" a voice exclaimed in surprise behind Zach. He turned around to see Zelda standing behind, her expression a mix of surprise and rage. "We're not going out? What are you talking about, Holly?" Vinyaya sighed. "Look, going out just plays into Darkling's hands. I've been thinking It over- " "Holly, Nazareno is dead," Zelda said flatly. "We can just sit here and let his killer escape." "That's not what I'm saying! I'm saying- " "You're saying," Zach said, joining in with Zelda, "we should sit on our hands while a traitor escapes! If he gets away, we'll never find him again; you understand that, Holly?" "Enough, Zach," Minerva snapped, squeezing his wrist. Zach scoffed quietly but didn't continue. "No, Minerva. Zach's right," Zelda said coldly, marching up to Vinyaya. "Holly is willing to let Nazareno's murderer get away because she's afraid of what? The dark? He killed Zach's agent friend. He helped your brother murder your mom…" The group grew quiet as Minerva's expression darkened considerably. Zach shot a look at Zelda and prepared to say something to her before Minerva squeezed his wrist even tighter. "I am aware of what Darkling has done," Minerva said slowly, remaining stoic. Zelda's own expression seemed to soften as she realized she touched a nerve. "Holly cares just as much as the rest of us. You both," she said with emphasis, shaking Zach's arm, "know this. I just think we should hear out what she has to say." "I agree," Andrew suddenly said, all eyes turning to him. "We all want to bring Darkling in, but we need to think it through. We just won a war a few hours ago. It's been a long day and I can't help but think we need to reset ourselves a bit. Soak in the win a bit, you know?" "We all want to celebrate, Andrew," Zelda said, her eyes narrowing. "There's still work to be done, though." "I don't think Andrew is saying we need to start blowing everything off," Dr. Cyborg interjected. "I think he's saying that there are enough dead heroes for today. Might be a good idea to try to and minimize any potential casualties the best we can." "Right," Zach said. "But why are we just going to put our faith in Darkling not immediately fleeing the city?" "Because it doesn't fit his MO," Vinyaya said. "Like I said, I'm well-versed in the Vherestorm cases. The guy has shown obsessive personality traits for years. After meeting Nazareno for the first time, he started going to extreme measures just so he could run into Nazareno and finally defeat him. Leaking his own jobs out to draw Nazareno into confrontations. Risking everything just to get a crack at him. We even got intel that Vherestorm took the feud to the old Space Ninja homeworld. He was deeply obsessed." "So?" Zelda asked impatiently. "So if my hunch is correct, he'll hang around." Vinyaya gestured to Dr. Cyborg. "I'm not sure how much he has changed since becoming Blaire Darkling, but if he's still anything like Vherestorm, that obsessive streak remains." "Even without Nazareno?" Andrew asked. "I would think so. I'm no psychologist, but I would think he would turn his obsessive nature toward us. He killed his target, but at a cost of us outing him as Vherestorm, ruining his life. I think he'll want revenge. The intel we've gotten back from the search parties seem to indicate-" "Commander!" called Laxus. Vinyaya paused as the Martian ran up behind Zelda. "Uh, everyone else. We've got an update from Rotor and Morrison. I think you'll want to hear it." Everyone quickly shuffled into the tent and joined Pterisa, Bluetooth, and Solomon Koplowitz at the map table. Bluetooth turned to the bulky radio sitting on the table and picked up the microphone. "Go ahead, we're ready." "This is Commander Cody Morrison!" a voice crackled over the radio. "We've potentially hit a breakthrough in our search. Darkling left someone alive." "Alive?" Vinyaya asked. "Intentionally?" "So it would seem. We responded to a proximity beacon issued from a PDA and found one of my search parties. Two Dino Attack and one Alpha Team casualty. We found one Dino Attack agent still alive, but wounded and unconscious. We just got him to come to and he had a message from Darkling: Call off the search parties." "What?" Zelda said. "Exactly!" snapped the familiar voice of Elite Agent Rotor, who was helping lead search with his T-1 Typhoon. "This guy is off his brick if he thinks we'll let him just walk away from this." "Was anything else... off... about the crime scene?" Zach asked, shooting a glance toward Vinyaya, who seemed confused that her theory about Darkling was seemingly proved wrong. She returned the glance and shrugged in confusion. "Yeah," Morrison continued. "There seems to be a missing PDA from Dino Attack agent Olzon. I wonder if-" There were suddenly several loud buzzes emitting from every corner of the table. Everyone traded surprised glances. "Convenient timing," Pterisa mused. Everyone quickly pulled out their PDAs and laid them on the table. It was quickly determined that the only people to receive a message were Zach, Minerva, Zelda, Vinyaya, and Bluetooth. "Well, there you go," Zach said sarcastically. It seemed like Vinyaya may have been right after all. "What's happening?" Rotor asked. "Looks like we got a message," Zach said, clicking through the PDA. "From Dino Attack agent Olzon." "Who's 'we'?" Morrison asked. "Standard Agents Vinyaya, Bluetooth, Frodongan and Elite Agents Fabello and Zachary." "Well, what does it say?" Zach opened up the message and began to read aloud. To Bluetooth, Fabello, Frodongan, Vinyaya, Virchaus: To start, I would like to congratulate you all and your team for defeating Dr. Rex and the Mutant Dinosaurs. I was able to watch the battle from afar and it was truly a sight to behold. I wish I had been able to do more, but the obvious circumstances prevented me from doing so. Again, I would like to apologize on behalf of myself and the rest of XERRD for causing this disaster. We wanted to save the world and we nearly destroyed it. Now comes the difficult problem of dealing with what comes after the dust settles. We all have grudges with each other that I'm sure you're as eager to settle as I am. You revealed my secret and in turn have sent waves of your allies to get me. Your blind need for revenge has cost the lives of dozens of men and women who thought their troubles were done now that Dr. Rex is dead. It's frankly disappointing. So I passed on a message to one I decided to show mercy and I will pass it on to you now: Call off the search parties or there will be more blood on your hands. To show you just how mercifully I've become since my more unsavory days, I am offering a simple truce. Take the night off and celebrate your well-earned victory. Mourn the fallen. Mourn our mutual friend Nazareno. Come tomorrow morning, I will reveal my location to you so we can settle this once and for all. Just one condition: I will only deal with you five. Anyone else shows up and you will never see me again. Prepare yourselves. I will see you at dawn and we will settle this once and for all. The assembled group stared at each other for a few seconds in silence after Zach finished reading the message. "You're out of your minds if you take that truce," Rotor said. "I don't know how you can trust this guy at all." "I'm not sure we have a choice," Minerva said. "I think Commander Vinyaya has it right. We're not gonna find him and if we go out there, he'll pick us off from the shadows." "You're not just going to let him get away, right?" Elite Agent Cabin, also flying with Rotor, said skeptically. "The commander has laid out the facts to the Elite Agents here," Dr. Cyborg said. "The message fits how Blaire Darkling has acted in the past. Obsessive and not taking the rational option. "I will vouch for Commander Vinyaya as well," Solomon added. "I worked closely with Darkling as a fellow shinobi with XERRD. Although not a scientist, he showed an extreme dedication to his work as an infiltrator and strategist. I can attest to the Space Police's assessment of him being driven and objective-focused to an unnatural degree and that he is extremely dangerous, both face to face and from the shadows." "Okay but you five aren't going to seriously take him on your own, right?" Morrison asked. "I've stumbled upon similar parties of agents that went up against him and they didn't turn out great, to be frank." "I think... we have to appear to play by Blaire's rules," Bluetooth said. "At least to start." "Right," Minerva added on. "Bait him and spring the trap. So he can't escape." "If he's found somewhere to hide, then he has to be planning out an escape. We don't even know where he'll be or what you'll be walking into," Rotor said. "Well, we'll figure it out then," Zelda said, slamming his hands on the table. "We can at least plot out some strategies. You know, based on where he might be, like... like a skyscraper, a park, near the ocean, uh…" Zelda looked around desperately for someone to continue. Zach grimaced. He wasn't sure what they could really do without knowing where Blaire could be hiding except hope for the best. "Oh, wait!" Minerva said excitedly, shaking Zach's arm. "Didn't you hack into some XERRD mainframe in the fortress on Adventurers' Island?" Zach gave a confused smile. "Yeah, I think so. What would make you think of that?" "I think I saved you after you got caught and after that I think we ran into my brother…" She drifted off. "But Commander Morrison, you said you found those agents because Darkling activated a beacon. What if we could activate the beacon on the PDA he stole? Then we could figure out where he is and figure out a plan." Zach thought it over and nodded. "Not a bad idea." "I agree," Vinyaya said. "Good thinking, Minerva. Zach, can you break into that PDA and activate the beacon? Or figure out what else Darkling might have put on it." "I think I could, particularly if there is any documentation for these things around here somewhere," Zach said. "Well, if we can't find any," Dr. Cyborg added, "perhaps I could help." "Ah!" Zach said, shooting Dr. Cyborg with a pair of finger guns. "Almost forgot you're... well, a cyborg, Doc." Dr. Cyborg smiled in amusement. Zach turned back to Vinyaya. "Dr. Cyborg can interface with the PDA and we can find Darkling. I personally guarantee it." "Well, I'll hold you to it, Virchaus," Vinyaya said, smirking slightly. "You two go and get it done. The rest of us will start strategizing based on Darkling's old antics. Rotor, Morrison…" She looked to each of the Elite Agents around her. "I think all agree to give into Darkling's demands here for now. Get those search parties back here." "Agreed," Morrison said. "I suppose so," Rotor said with a hint of exasperation. "Keeping in the loop with your plans. My squad and I are willing to provide help where we can." "Glad to hear it," Vinyaya said. She leaned over the table and looked around at everyone. "We're going to get this son of a MegaBlok, one way or another. Let's get to work. The clock is ticking." Several minutes later, Andrew and Laxus's Fire Hammer rolled up to the other Fire Hammer. After quickly reloading the Xenon Launcher, Dr. Cyborg and Solomon jumped into their ride while Vinyaya took the wheel of the Fire Hammer manned by Zach, Minerva, Zelda, and Bluetooth. Pterisa jumped from the cab of Andrew's Fire Hammer and into the darkening sky, almost disappearing from sight. "Alright!" Vinyaya said into the radio, slipping the jeep into drive. "Let's catch us a certain intergalactic baddie!" The Fire Hammer started to roll into the ruined city, illuminated by the dim purple and orange flames of the previous battle. Andrew's Fire Hammer followed close behind. Zach stared at the window, his face hardening. There was one last battle on the horizon. ***** Solomon had taken the wheel and was driving Andrew's Fire Hammer, while Dr. Cyborg was manning the Xenon Multi-Mode launcher. Dr. Cyborg was a little depressed. He had survived the battle with nobody he was very close to dying, although plenty of friends had died. In the midst of victory, he found out his little sister, whom he didn't even know was in the battle, whom he had last left under less-than-friendly circumstances, had died. He suddenly had an idea of how to beat Darkling and take out some of this anger. "Hey, Solomon, can you call the others on the radio?" Dr. Cyborg said. "Yeah, sure, here you go," Solomon said as he complied. "Hey everyone, I had an idea," Dr. Cyborg said. "What is it?" Andrew asked. "If we attack Blaire Darkling from range, he'll just run up at us and start slicing." "Yeah, so what's your idea?" Vinyaya asked from the other Fire Hammer. "What if one of us fights him with melee weapons while the other use the ranged weapons?" Dr. Cyborg suggested. "I want to fight him melee!" Zelda called over the radio. "I understand your reasoning, Zelda, but listen to mine. Everybody here but me is flesh and blood. It would be pretty easy to incapacitate you. I am not so easy to stop; my systems have many redundancies built in. Plus, my reflexes are somewhat faster than the average Minifig's. Also, I have a sword that can stand up to his swords, plus a deployable energy shield. Finally, my self-repair systems work faster than a Minifig can heal. What I'm saying is: what if you attack with the guns while I distract him in a duel of sorts. What do you say?" he finished. ***** Holly Vinyaya looked back at Zach briefly. He shrugged and gestured Vinyaya to keep driving. He then turned and began to speak to Minerva in hushed tones. Vinyaya turned back to the radio to address Dr. Cyborg's idea. "We could try it, but I don't know how successful it could be. We don't know what Blaire is planning or what sort of advantage he might have. Like I said earlier, we can predict that he'll be unpredictable with his actions. But if we get the opportunity, go for it." "Alright," Dr. Cyborg said. Vinyaya returned her eye to the ruined city ahead of her. She momentarily caught a flash of Pterisa flying ahead of them. She was scouting ahead to hopefully give them a chance of seeing Blaire before Blaire saw them. Vinyaya dimly remembered her initial distrust of Pterisa in the Maelstrom Temple so many hours before. Now, she was beyond caring. Pterisa was an ally and that was all that needed to be said on the matter. Bluetooth, who was sitting beside her in the front passenger seat, yawned briefly. Vinyaya smiled faintly. "I suppose we're all going to need a little shut-eye once we've got Darkling," she said. Bluetooth nodded in agreement and smiled, pushing his glasses up his nose. "Catching up on our sleep will be one of those pleasures we get back now that this war is over. No simply lying in bed, trying to sleep but unconsciously waiting for the moment an army of Mutant Dinos to attack." Vinyaya chuckled. Indeed, the sleep Vinyaya caught on the way back from Adventurers' Island was losing its effect. Even after training that fought against weakness like this, fatigue was catching up quickly. Her police instincts to catch Darkling were the only thing really stopping her from falling asleep right here and now. That and her fierce protectiveness over the people in both Fire Hammers. Vinyaya turned her eye briefly to Bluetooth. He glanced at her and smiled nervously. Vinyaya smiled back. She had decided to give Bluetooth a chance with a potential relationship. She was, admittedly, surprised with her choice. She had her romantic fun when she was younger. She began to focus on her career once she became an officer. She hadn't been willing to develop too many close relationships in that line of work; casualties didn't come in by the truckload, but they came in enough that she hadn't been willing to go through the pain of losing someone close. And now here, having fought for her home planet, she was suddenly disregarding her old way of operating. Perhaps the situation had been such a radical shock, she didn't really know. But since landing on this planet, Vinyaya had a brief relationship with a disgruntled dinosaur hunter and had become close friends with a space ninja, a girl with a troubled past, a sarcastic LEGO Islander, and a pirate-turned-ninja. She had experienced those feelings of loss that she so desperately tried to prevent. Those feelings of loss, however, ended up giving her feelings of trust and closeness toward people she had hardly known for a week that she reserved for officer friends. Admittedly, Bluetooth was a heavy contrast to Scratch. The latter had a dark sense of humor, extremist views, and emotionally driven in his life. The former was calmer, more level-headed, and not much of fighter as far as Vinyaya knew. Despite this, Vinyaya felt herself enjoying Bluetooth's presence a lot more than she had with Scratch's. Vinyaya knew Bluetooth truly cared for her while she will never know if Scratch truly held feelings toward her or was simply manipulating her. Vinyaya glanced at Ryan Radcliff one last time. He was looking out the window, most likely keeping an eye out for Blaire Darkling. A small smile formed on her face. She found herself increasingly looking forward to getting to know him better. "So the cut..." Zach said, drifting off and pointing to the light red gash across Minerva's cheek. Minerva sighed, just the barest hint of sadness in her breath. "It was Oswald, right?" She nodded once. "And he's..." "He's dead. I killed him," Minerva said bluntly. Zach grimaced. "He also cut my stomach." She gestured to the tear in her Dino Attack uniform. "Nothing too bad," she continued with a shrug. Zach stared. She was being eerily calm about losing her family. Not so much from apathy toward the situation. More like... grim acceptance. "Uh..." Minerva silenced him with a wave of her hand. "Once this is done, I'll tell you what happened." Minerva chuckled softly. "I might not be this calm when I tell you, though. I've been sort of... holding it back. When I tell you, all the emotions that came with it will be released like a giant blob of sad, tears, and mad." Zach shrugged, smirking faintly, "I expected about as much." He tugged Minerva into a quick one-arm hug. "What are we going to do with... her?" Minerva lifted Zach's arm off of her. "Hopefully, we'll be able to contact someone in Antarctica who can make a new tombstone really quick. We'll have a short little ceremony-type thing with you and me, and then we'll head off to LEGO Island." "And Nazareno?" "We still have his body. We briefly talked about doing something for him. You, Zelda, Holly, and myself, at least. I think we'll have a more coherent idea once this is done and we get some sleep. But I think we'll try to deal with Nazareno before we take care of Mom." "Sounds like a plan," Zach said. At that moment, the radio blared to life with a message from Rotor: "We just got a report from someone who witnessed Blaire Darkling near the city park. He had been fighting 'a hairy man in a blue uniform', almost certainly an Agent, described as 'large and imposing with a large broadsword'." "Is that a Grendelwulf brother?" Zach questioned. "That's Epic Winston," Zelda whispered, as she was controlling the Xenon Launcher. Epic Winston Grendelwulf. Zach never actually met him or his brother during his work with the Agents, but they were notably enough that it was surprising if you haven't heard of them. "It doesn't sound like it ended well for the Agent," added Rotor. ***** As the windshield wipers slid rhythmically back and forth across the windshield, Solomon looked around the cabin at the other occupants. Andrew, Laxus, and Doctor Cyborg looked stoically gazed out the window without saying a word. Everyone was tired; Solomon was sick of the bloodshed and was not excited to jump into yet another fight. Although he had grown to respect Nazareno over the course of the battle, he had not joined the company to avenge his death. Revenge was something the philosopher had long since grown out of; he had joined the team to make sure the others did nothing they would regret. Blaire Darkling was a monster, and most of the occupants of the other Fire Hammer wanted retribution. While Solomon agreed that he needed to be stopped, angry determination was not the answer. He had worked closely with Darkling during his time at XERRD; on several occasions, they had been partners on missions that have provided a unique look into the man's psyche. Solomon knew what Blaire was capable of. Although he did not think he was beyond redemption, he was pretty sure it would not happen. Darkling was incredibly dangerous, and he needed to be stopped before more good men were killed. But he sensed that was not the consensus of the group. Although they did a fine job hiding it, he believed that Zach and Zelda were seething with a barely controlled rage. Anger was a poor ally in a fight, and the last thing he wanted was to have someone else die because of their rash assaults. The Fire Hammer navigated its way around a dead Tyrannosaurus Rex and turned onto a side street. Their search method was relatively random. They were depending on Pterisa's relaying of coordinates in their hunt. He was skeptical whether or not they would find Blaire using this method but, in the event that they did, there were some things that Zachary and Zelda needed to know. He adjusted the microphone in his helmet and set it to the speaker in Vinyaya's Fire Hammer. Taking a breath, he spoke a message that all could hear. "Listen, before we do this, there are some things you should know," he began, "You don't know Blaire Darkling the way I do. I can understand that you are angry and want blood, but that is a very dangerous way to go into this. Trust me when I tell you this, Darkling is cunning and manipulative, he knows how to pull your strings and make you unbalanced. Charging in there, angrily slicing away, is a good way to get yourself killed. Speaking from my experience, Blaire may be a better swordsman then many of us here…" "That's why I should go at him," interrupted Dr. Cyborg. "I can take more punishment than all of you." Solomon frowned. "Dr. Cyrista, since I've worked with you, your fatal flaw has always been overconfidence. Since your accident, your overreliance on your technological implants has only increased. Darkling is a powerful adversary, Matthew; even with your advantages, you cannot account for his unpredictability." "I still want to fight him," said Zelda darkly over the radio. "That son of a 4+ Figure is going to pay." "That's exactly what Blaire would want," responded Solomon. "He knows how to get you mad. Despite his thuggish appearance, he is calculating. Engaging him in a direct fight would be most unwise; it would provide him with an opportunity to find your weaknesses and exploit them." The silence over the radio told Solomon that Zelda was not pleased with his response. After several minutes of an awkward quiet, Commander Vinyaya spoke up: "You seem to know Blaire pretty well. How would you recommend we approach him?" "If you want my opinion, we don't give him any chances," said the philosopher "Engage him at range and stay out of reach. Don't make it any more complicated than it needs to be. Swords should not be necessary. Shoot him and get it over with before he has a chance to speak and engage your emotions. This is not the time to let lust for revenge take over." The Fire Hammers turned another corner and arrived at a roundabout near the city park. Of course, many of the trees had long since died and the grass was either lifeless or overgrown. A large gothic sculpture dominated the area surrounded by a dead fountain. "Blaire's got a bulletproof vest," Bluetooth said from Vinyaya's Humvee. "Shooting him might not be so simple." Solomon nodded. "We're still far better than if we try and attack him with swords. As uncivilized as this may be, it will probably be the safest-" The radio up front began to crackle, interrupting Solomon. "I think I see him," Pterisa said. "He's currently engaged in a battle with a XERRD Space Marauder." ***** A few seconds later, Pterisa appeared in front of the two Fire Hammers and began to lead them in the direction of Blaire Darkling. The Fire Hammers changed course and drove over the curve onto the park grass. Cutting across the field of unkempt vegetation, they advanced across the remains of the city's botanical gardens to the position Pterisa had relayed. As they drew closer, Zach could see fresh Minifig corpses scattered around: all victims of Blaire Darkling's rage, no doubt. Just inside the park's wrought iron gate, the Fire Hammers' lights shined upon two figures facing each other in the rain. Both were of incredible statue and appeared to be engaged in a standoff, with guns trained on each other. One was Blaire Darkling and his handgun. The other was most certainly a XERRD Space Marauder, a rocket launcher in her hand. Both Blaire and the Space Marauder looked as the two Fire Hammers approached. "You should get out there if you're going to do it, Doc." He wanted Zelda's plan to go through, but he was mostly fighting for simplicity. Kill Darkling and get out of here. A sinister smirk formed on Blaire's face as he seemed to recognize the occupants of Zach's Fire Hammer. Taking advantage of the distraction, he whipped a katana out with his left hand and slew the Space Marauder, dispatching her with several quick slashes. As she fell, Blaire took out his own rocket launcher. Zach saw the color drain from Vinyaya's face. "Fire!" she snapped. Blaire chuckled quietly and, taking a second to aim, pointed the rocket launcher at her Fire Hammer. "Get out! Move!" Grabbing her Cosmotronic Ray, Vinyaya kicked open her door and dived out. Bluetooth did the same. Grabbing a Sonic Screamer and a Cosmotronic Ray respectively, Minerva and Zach jumped out of the vehicle and started to run. Out of the corner of his eye, Zelda stuck the trigger of the Xenon Launcher so it would fire without human manipulation. She then backflipped off and ran as a rocket fired from Blaire's launcher. A loud explosion echoed through the quiet city as the jeep was engulfed in orange flames. Another explosion sounded off as the Xenon supply exploded as well, causing green flames to join the orange flames briefly. Zach scowled and started firing his Cosmotronic Ray at Darkling, who dodged the blasts. They were now on foot. What was supposed to be a semi-easy mission had turned bad quickly. Good thing we didn't have any real plans from the start, or this would be a lot worse than it already is. ***** Solomon recognized Blaire immediately when he turned to look at the two vehicles. Then, when the XERRD security chief smiled and defeated the Space Marauder, Solomon realized it might not be so simple. The explosion rocked the park and bits of debris rained on Solomon's windshield. He spun the wheel to avoid the wreckage of the burning Fire Hammer and skidded across the wet grass of the park to face the assassin. It figured. The best laid, admittedly vaguely-formed, plans always seemed to go to waste when someone had a rocket launcher. Solomon was already pulling out of view, likely counting on Darkling having his attention most diverted by Zach's crew. And not too soon either, as another rocket whizzed by, only just missing them by a well-guessed turn backwards to the right. The rocket hit and obliterated the gothic sculpture in the center of the park. "How many rockets does he have?" asked Laxus. "I was under the impression that they did not have bottomless magazines." "Probably only a handful," responded Dr. Cyborg as Solomon brought the vehicle to a hard left and nearly hit a tree. "He's bound to run out of rockets sometime." "Let's hope so," muttered Andrew, the elite agent checked to make sure the occupants of Zach's fire Hammer had survived before jumping over the passenger seat beside Solomon. He flinched as the Fire Hammer shot over a park bench and demolished a nearby fruit stand. "What's that fruit stand doing here?!" yelled Andrew. "Yes, it's strange that fruit would be in session during December," noted Laxus. "Yes, that's why it's strange," muttered Andrew sarcastically as he considered the war that had just transpired in the city. Blaire fired another rocket that shot past the front of the vehicle. Laxus, Solomon, Andrew, and Dr. Cyborg all ducked when the projectile exploded above their head. "Solomon, I get the wheel here," said Andrew, leaning in from the front passenger seat. "I'm a bit better at keeping my vehicles in one piece." "You think you can avoid rocket fire?" the XERRD scientist asked incredulously. "I've raced on LEGO Island tracks; I think I can handle a few rocket-propelled grenades." "Probably a good idea," Solomon quickly relented as he relinquished the wheel. He slid past the elite agent and shifted to the passenger seat to let Andrew have control again. As he got comfortable, he drove forward, driving past and around a building to come in from another angle. With the attacks Zach's group was likely sending towards Blaire's way, plus the slight mist from the rain and the slowly-but-surely decreasing light as night descended upon them, they were hardly noticeable as they made their maneuver. "Dr. Cyborg," Andrew said through the Xenon cannon radio, "If you want to try out your plan, do it quickly. Don't worry, Solomon and Laxus can take over the launcher for you." The Fire Hammer was pulled around the other side of the building and directed back towards the battle, giving them a bit of time of surprise as Andrew's crew prepared their next attack. If this worked right, it would be as simple as fighting Willa, except with less unpredictable power and more unpredictable athletics. ***** Bluetooth was fatigued, but he wasn't tired yet. Having vehicles being exploded behind you had a habit of keeping oneself on their toes. He wasn't just using a pistol anymore. He had a Z-1 Kinetic Launcher in his hands now. While not lethal, it was sufficient to stun a target enough to let other attacks have an opening. And unless Darkling had a shield on him, he doubted he would be able to withstand it. That is, if he would let anyone hit him. Watching Blaire Darkling move was like watching The Matrix fight scenes ten times over. He was rather good at dodging bullets, and he was slowly trying to make his way to his assailants to get in melee range, which is where things would likely get the messiest. But therein, as Bluetooth saw it in terms of the way he had watched PLARXX signals, lay a problem. Blaire was outnumbered 11-to-1 (and counting, if Rotor's transmissions meant his T-1 Typhoon was on their trail). Sure, he had taken out countless people already so far, but they hadn't fully known what they were dealing with. And he wasn't unstoppable; Pterisa's story about him backing away from her brethren made that clear. And that rocket launcher of his didn't have infinite ammo, he couldn't use it forever. The Futuron agent would've preferred to tell everybody to spread out, but that would mean letting Darkling know what they were doing. So he darted out on his own, avoiding methods of alerting others to his presence until just the right moment... "Remember me, Darkling?" Bluetooth cried out as he got clear to the man's right. Blaire turned, and a disturbing mix of delight and fury appeared on his face. He began moving away from Zach as he started closing in on the technician. "You shouldn't have done that," Blaire called out, distracting Zach's crew by firing another rocket at them. "You never should've exposed me..." "Yeah, well, you never should've told a techie with a communicator that you were killing him for knowing a secret of yours!" Bluetooth said, raising his Z-1 launcher, knowing that any shots would likely be ducked or sidestepped, possibly into Fabello's chest just to make him feel bad. "People like me do not forgive and do not forget!" Blaire ignored the taunts. "I shall make your death as agonizing as possible..." "Good luck with that when you've got ten others simultaneously gunning on you." Bluetooth shot his launcher, which, as expected, Blaire easily sidestepped. He rushed up to Bluetooth's face, knocked away the launcher, and was about to grab his neck when he was struck by a bolt of lightning. He grunted as he was knocked to the ground, the Space Marauder rocket launcher flying out of his hand. Bluetooth glanced briefly to see Pterisa swooping just out of view. Then he grabbed his Z-1 and the rocket launcher and started running off. Blaire recovered quickly, getting back on his feet and drawing his pistol. He was aiming at Bluetooth's fleeing figure when Andrew's Fire Hammer suddenly pulled back into view. The Xenon launcher revved up and fired away at the assassin. ***** "See anything yet?" Mac asked. "Not a thing," replied Rotor. "Give me that radio." He quickly reached for his own radio and began speaking into it. "Blaire Darkling, you have thirty seconds to surrender or else we will open fire." Quickly changing frequencies, Rotor picked up the microphone once more. "I want Blaire Darkling's most probably location right now. Over." In the back, Maria held Andrea Jackson Orange's hand tightly. Andrea was still reluctant to admit to their newfound relationship, especially her father, who was sitting nearby (then again, it was crowded). "You think we'll find him?" Andrea asked. "I don't know," replied Maria. "This Blaire Darkling sounds like one mighty tough fella. Mah Daddy wouldn't had too much trouble with him, though. He were a lawman, ya see." Andrea smiled. "My dad kicked me out of the house," she said. "I had an affair with Samantha, and he didn't entirely approve of. He didn't know the full truth, but he knew there was something strange about it." ***** Andrew brought the Fire Hammer around a sharp corner and around the block. Laxus climbed out the back window and opened fire with the launcher when the vehicle once again turned to face Blaire. Not even Blaire could stay on his feet when confronted with a volley from the Xenon cannon. The explosive shells slammed into the ground around him and sent the assassin flying across the park. Out of the corner of his eye, Solomon spotted Cyborg draw his blade. The doctor seemed prepared to jump from the vehicle as it rushed past Darkling, but Solomon grabbed his shoulder. "We have superior firepower in the jeep, Dr. Cyrista," the philosopher said sternly. "It's best if we keep this simple and attack him with our heavy weaponry. Swordsmanship is where Blaire Darkling excels, I understand you think you can take him, but I assure you that you underestimate his abilities. If we provide cover fire with the jeep, we can keep him unbalanced and avoid a more unpredictable face to face confrontation." "What about his rocket launcher?" Laxus said skeptically over the radio. "We won't fair very well if we get hit with one of them!" "Let's just not give him a chance to fire it," responded Solomon. "Let's just shoot him and get it over with. I think it's safe to say we all just want this to be over." Andrew nodded and spun around again to face the assassin. Laxus unleashed another assault with the Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher that prevented Blaire from rising. Surrounded by explosions, the man was once again thrown backwards to role across the green. Andrew brought the vehicle to bear and directed it at the downed assassin. Solomon said. "Floor it." And the Fire Hammer rushed forward at Darkling. ***** The Fire Hammers came to a stop somewhere in the streets below. Rotor sat in the cockpit and watched carefully, taking a sip of coffee form a nearby mug. "Get us lower!" Rotor shouted. Cabin quickly complied. Rotor picked up the microphone. "Blaire Darkling, you have fifteen seconds to surrender or we will open fire on you. I repeat, you have fifteen seconds!" Rotor quickly took his hand off the button. "Lance!" he shouted. "Prepare to fire!" Quickly, Lance placed some extra ammunition into the gun turret in which he sat. As the T-1 Typhoon hovered there, Scope came to the edge with her rifle. Her boyfriend watched through a pair of binoculars. "He's engaged them!" Lance said. Rotor grinned. "Just as I hoped. OPEN FIRE!" Scope carefully aimed her rifle out of the chopper toward the mysterious Blaire Darkling as a Fire Hammer drove toward him. She aimed right for his chest, and pulled the trigger. At that moment, as the T-1 Typhoon got closer, Lance started to fire. ***** Zach watched as Blaire rolled to the side as T-1 Typhoon fire from above rained upon him. He nodded quickly to Minerva, and the two began firing everything they could at Darkling. Blaire took a few shots with his pistol at them before taking cover behind a jungle gym with various prehistoric vegetation growing on. "Light it up!" Zach yelled. The T-1 Typhoon fired several rockets at the playground, blowing it to bits. Zach wasn't willing to bet on Blaire being dead, however. Not until he saw the corpse himself. "Here!" Vinyaya suddenly yelled. Zach turned his head and saw Vinyaya firing several blasts at Blaire, who was rushing at her. She swung the Cosmotronic Ray fiercely. Blaire snapped it in his hand and tossed it aside before throwing a punch. Vinyaya caught the fist and swung her now-free hand out to punch Blaire, only for him to swing his arm out to redirect it away from him. "You know, I have yet to catch your name," Blaire said. Vinyaya shoved him away and raised her fists, a cold frown on her face. Blaire stepped forward and began throwing rapid fire punches at Vinyaya. The Space Police commando raised her arms and knocked away each punch that came. Blaire suddenly began to move slowly around Vinyaya as he attacked, forcing Vinyaya to adjust herself so she could attack and defend. "He's using her as a shield," Zach muttered to Minerva. Blaire positioned Vinyaya in front of him so they couldn't shoot him if they didn't want to kill Vinyaya as well. "We still have Pterisa and Rotor up there," Minerva said. Then, "I've shot Holly with a Sonic Screamer before, when you were a Stromling. It won't kill her. Then we can knock out Blaire." "Or he'll just finish her off while she unconscious," Zach pointed out. "Or forcibly use her body as a shield." "Right, bad idea. And thinking about it now, having Rotor taking them out from the sky at the moment doesn't seem bright." That was also true. The heavy weapons on the T-1 Typhoon would kill both Blaire and Vinyaya. Which was why Andrew's Fire Hammer, which was nearby, had held off its charge and its Xenon Launcher wasn't firing. Zach grimaced as he saw the weapons on Rotor's helicopter began to rotate. "I swear to Builder," Bluetooth muttered darkly as he approached the group, now holding Blaire's rocket launcher with his Z-1 Kinetic Launcher. "If he does something stupid to kill him and hurts Holly..." Zach and Minerva didn't say anything, but were silently agreeing to Bluetooth's ominous threat. It seemed someone talked some sense into Rotor, because the weapons stopped rotating. Instead, the piercing sound of a sniper fire shattered through the air. The bullet struck near Vinyaya and Blaire's feet; a little too close for comfort. "Right now," Minerva said as she glanced upward. "Rotor should leave the air assault to Pterisa." The Hybrid soared above them and rose high into the air, above Vinyaya and Blaire. A bright blue spark shot from her hands and struck Blaire's back. Instead of falling, he merely stumbled. He swung his arm into Vinyaya's chest, knocking her back as he pulled his gun out and pointed it at Pterisa. "Ah!" Blaire snarled. "The Quasifigus pterisa! It has been a while. I knew better to take on three extremely angry Hybrids rejects at once, but now…" He gestured to the agents surrounding him. "Seeing as the odds are decreasing rapidly in success, I think I'll finish the job that 'Wallace Bishop' would not!" His pistol lit up as he opened fire on the Hybrid. Pterisa performed numerous, spectacular aerobatics in the sky while firing streaks of lightning at her attacker. Zach though he saw Blaire's smirk widen briefly before Vinyaya was suddenly back on her feet and wrapped Blaire up in a football tackle. As they watched the struggle, Pterisa suddenly landed near them, clutching her right shoulder. Minerva gasped as she saw the barest hint of blood seeping down her armor. "Pterisa! Are you-" "I'm fine," Pterisa grunted as she grimaced in pain. "I think I'll live. But Mr. Darkling over here won't, soon enough." They turned their attention back to the fight as Vinyaya punched Blaire hard in the face. Frowning as a parent would to a disobedient child, Blaire grabbed Vinyaya's arm and twisted it behind her back. Vinyaya gasped and grimaced as Blaire scoffed. "How about that name now?" Blaire snarled, twisting Vinyaya's arm harder. She grimaced and sharply kicked him in the stomach. He responded by swinging his fist into the left side of her face. "Vinyaya..." she gasped, a deep scowl on her face. "Holly Vinyaya." "Well then, Commander Vinyaya, I've noticed these scars on your face. Acidic right? Rather recent, would you say?" Zach saw a flash of fear in Vinyaya's eye. "So I imagine this would hurt, correct?" With that, Blaire swung his fist into Vinyaya's right cheek. She flinched, her lip shaking as her left eye began to water. Blaire made a tsk sound, clearly disappointed. "Let me try that again." With that, he slammed his fist into her scars again. A barely audible gasp of pain escaped Vinyaya's lips. "Admittedly," Blaire said with a shrug. "I expected this to hurt a lot more." "Imagination fallout," Vinyaya snarled, her voice somewhat weak. "Dimmed the pain." "Of course," Blaire said darkly. "I'll just hit harder, then." At that point, Bluetooth was running at Blaire with a furious look on his face. He fired one blast from his Z-1 that soared over the assassin's head. Without tilting his head away from Vinyaya, Blaire punched Bluetooth in the stomach, causing him to double over, dropping both weapons. Blaire then wrapped his hand underneath Bluetooth's chin and lifted him into the air. Blaire glanced from Vinyaya to Bluetooth, an amused grin dancing across his face. "How amusing," Blaire said. "I disagreed with Michelle Glados with many a thing, but there was one thing I could agree on: these emotions and attachments to other Minifigs are weak and foolish. I abandoned all my past connections so nothing could be used against me." He slammed Bluetooth's head hard against the wet grass of the park. Vinyaya gasped again, a mixture of fear and anger on her face. "It is only something to be used to break your morale and spirit." Bluetooth's head slammed against the ground again and Blaire released him, only to stomp on his chest. Bluetooth groaned and glared at Blaire with hatred. "Now," Blaire said, pulling Vinyaya close to him and pulling his gun on Bluetooth. "Who would be broken more if I killed the other, hmm?" Pterisa quickly jumped into the air and fired a bolt of lightning at the ground near Blaire. He flinched, allowing Vinyaya to swing her arm into Blaire's face. He dropped Vinyaya and started firing at Pterisa again. As Vinyaya helped Bluetooth to his feet and stepped back, Zach, Minerva, Andrew's Fire Hammer, and Rotor's T-1 Typhoon opened fire on Darkling. Blaire roared in anger and snapped up the Space Marauder rocket launcher that Bluetooth had dropped. As he ran and dodged the firepower, he fired one rocket upward at the T-1 Typhoon and another at the Fire Hammer. Zach didn't bother seeing if the rockets met their mark. ***** "Darnit, why didn't Bluetooth keep that rocket launcher away from him?!" Andrew only just managed to avoid being hit by the rocket fire, steering sharply backwards to the right to avoid the shot. By now, he was getting peeved. He was not feeling up to being taken down so easily by some madman thought he could just kill everything and solve all his problems. "How much ammo does that thing even have?!" Laxus asked. "To make a long explanation short," Solomon said, "Paradox guns uses a lot of experimental TRDS Load Compression fields to contain large amounts of ammo in their handful of conventional weaponry. Don't ask me how it works, it'd take hours to explain." "Whatever," muttered Andrew. Dr. Cyborg jumped off the Fire Hammer, which soon continued to fire at Darkling as someone took over the Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher. He pulled behind a fruit stand and stood still. He needed to concentrate to try this new trick. He concentrated on shifting only his left hand into combat mode. After two or three tries, he finally got the shield generator out and active. He activated the shield, but not in the standard rectangle. On a whim, he made it more diamond shaped, with the two side points higher up on the shield. After some thought, he made the hard light that it was made out of different colors. The base of the shield was blue, and the rim was silver. He added some decoration to it in the form of a red bird, and a yellow triangle made of three other triangles above the bird. He pulled out his energy sword hilt, which had been stained purple from the Maelstrom corruption it once endured. To make it match his shield in the same joke, he shaped the energy near the base into wings that appeared to be part of the hilt, and made them purple. He added a yellow gem in the middle. He made the blade a simple silver, but added the same triangle near the hilt. From a distance, the sword and shield would appear to be made of metal, but close examination would reveal them to be hard light. He heard Blaire's rocket launcher stop firing for a second, and jumped out from behind the fruit stand. "Hey, Blaire!" he yelled. "How about fighting with swords?" ***** As Blaire ran, he suddenly paused and jolted in surprise as a new gunshot echoed through the air. Everyone seized fire briefly as Blaire turned his head. Zelda Frodongan stood next to Zach, a smoking pistol in her hands and a dark scowl on her face. That smirk appeared on Blaire's face again. "Tsk tsk, Miss Frodongan. Bulletproof vest, remember? You're going to have to get closer and do better than that." Zach took this opportunity to drop his Cosmotronic Ray and fire a Maelstrom fireball at Darkling. He flinched as Maelstrom slammed into his person. "Ah, Mr. Virchaus. I could guess you would be a part of this party. I suppose we do have loose ends to tie up from earlier." Blaire fired his gun twice at Zach, who blocked each bullet with a Maelstrom shield. He then tossed several more fireballs at Blaire. The former assassin dodged the blasts with ease. As the last one came at him, he extended his hand and caught the fireball. Blaire chuckled as he choked the fire out in his glove. "Disappointing, Mr. Virchaus. Hiding behind the Maelstrom?" Zach scowled, growing angrier as he sent another fireball at Darkling. He choked that one out as well. Blaire shook his head, smiling arrogantly as he fired another shot at Zach. Zach closed his eyes and watched as purple electricity shot from his fingers and struck Blaire's face. Blaire screamed in pain and fell forward to his knees. As he fell, his sunglasses fell into the grass with a soft thump in two pieces. Everyone stared for a few seconds as Blaire began to rise to his feet. Zach gasped audibly as he looked upon Blaire Darkling's eyes. There was little white around his irises. They were a light tint of red and had dark red veins with flecks of purple traveling from the corners of his eyes to his sickly pale-yellow irises that also showed the barest hint of purple. In those sickly Maelstrom-infected eyes, Zach saw nothing but pure hatred. Blaire bared his teeth, his grotesque eyes never leaving Zach's. "Imagine the pain I felt," Darkling hissed, "when the Maelstrom Temple was created almost a year ago. When the Maelstrom Crystal and the Imagination reacted... negatively. Bolts of Maelstrom energy went directly into my eyes. It was... agonizing. If not for the work of the nearby scientists, I would've gone blind from that attack. The sunglasses saved you from seeing them. Since you were so kind to destroy the sunglasses, I suppose you'll have to die with my eyes being the last thing you see." And with that ultimatum, Blaire Darkling rushed forward to attack. ***** As Andrew thought over what the next strategy might be and watched as Zach and Blaire got into a Maelstrom scuffle, he asked "So what's our plans for life after all this? Once things are cleaned up with the Mutant Dinos and everything." "Think I might return to business working with the aero tubes manufactures I work with back home," Laxus said over the radio to the Xenon launcher. "I bet with all the things needing reconstruction, corporations should be more able to install new transportation systems." "You mentioned that once, I think, yeah. Would be interesting to see those tubes cojoining the subways for quick transportation. As for me..." Andrew's thoughts drifted, not really thinking of much at first, but then he remembered one of the earliest conversations he had had with the likes of Bluetooth. "Hmm… don't really know, I'd like to travel a bit through the stars, actually. Settle on another planet, see new planets and all." "Really? Hmmm... you know, I bet I could help make that happen." "Really?!" Andrew's heart took a slight leap. He knew Laxus had friends with people up in space to be able to be on Earth when the Dino Attack, but being willing to do that... he had considered, it but thinking that Laxus would offer it first hadn't crossed him, even after all their time bonding. The cry Blaire gave while charging at Zach interrupted Andrew's moment. "Eh, yeah," said Laxus, "but let's finish that conversation later, we have other matters to worry about." ***** Scope fired another round, which seemed to hit, but did no damage. "He's got a bulletproof vest!" she said. Barry Jackson lowered his binoculars. "Try aiming for the head?" he suggested. "You think you can do that?" Scope nodded and looked back through her scope toward Blaire. Another shot was fired by Scope and missed. "Can't we just blast him with the rockets?" Cabin asked. "I'm afraid we can't," replied Rotor. "If we do that, we run the risk of hitting our own!" "I could take him!" Angel Eyes said. "There's a few of us who could get him if we can get down on the ground!" Sure enough, the helicopter came down, and a small group of people climbed out and split up. The noise of spurs echoed through the street as Blaire aimed his rocket launcher, only to get an unexpected surprise when a bullet flew right through it. He lowered the gun to see Clint Wayne with a revolver pointed right at him. Suddenly, a gun cocked behind Blaire, and he turned to see Angel Eyes, armed with a rifle. "Drop the gun," he said. Blaire's red eyes narrowed curtly as he stared at the barrel of the gun Angel Eyes' held in his hands. Zach let out slow sigh as he released the grip on the knife he was about to pull from his uniform to attack Blaire with. "As you wish," Blaire snarled. He swung the rocket launcher up, knocking the rifle away and then swung the rocket launcher into Angel Eyes' leg, bringing him down. Discarding the rocket launcher, Blaire ducked quickly as Clint Wayne fired a bullet at his head. Blaire swept his leg across the ground, tripping the gunslinger. Blaire casually stood up and kicked the revolver away from Clint Wayne. "Please," Blaire scoffed, arrogantly brushing dirt off his trenchcoat. "Like I haven't been in a situation like that before." Blaire then stepped over Wayne as several bullets from the surrounding group shot toward him. Blaire took a few careless shots with his pistol before pulling his katana out and charging at Zach again. "Shoot," Zach muttered, ripping the knife from his uniform. The smaller blade collided hard against Blaire's katana. The former leader of XERRD's piercing eyes widened and a grin of sick amusement formed on his face. "A knife will do little to help you, Virchaus," Blaire spat. He brought the katana back and swung again. Zach staggered as the blade collided with the knife. He brought the sword back to stab when Minerva suddenly burst forward and slammed her shoulder into Blaire's. Despite her small size, Blaire was unprepared for the attack and stumbled. Blaire turned and swung the katana upward in a wide arc, knocking away Minerva's Sonic Screamer. "Miss Fabello," he said politely. "So it seems the death of your mother and presumably your brother have not entirely hindered you. I admire that. To an extent." "Shut up," Minerva said shortly, her fists raised. "You're just as much to blame for her death as Oswald. You helped him break her out of Napoleon XIV. You brought her here." Darkling shrugged. "I suppose I did, didn't I? I was pitying him mostly. His insanity was rather... evident at that point." He jabbed his sword forward. Minerva quickly jerked her body to the side and swung a hard punch into Blaire's face. Unamused, Blaire swung his arm in the side of her face and prepared to stab the sword down. Minerva kicked her legs up, hitting underneath his chin. Blaire grunted in pain and brought his foot up. Minerva rolled out of the way as Blaire's boot slammed into the ground. Blaire turned to pursue her when he saw Dr. Cyborg standing before him, an energy shield and sword in his hands. Blaire scoffed coldly. His eyes seemed to brighten. "Dr. Cyrista. You never crossed me as one for swordplay." Blaire frowned. "You know, I made you second-in-command of XERRD for the very purpose that, when I killed Nazareno, you would continue to reform XERRD. Having me kill you here kinda makes the promotion redundant." Blaire swung his katana at Dr. Cyborg, who blocked it with the shield. Blaire smirked and pulled off a series of complicated attacks at Dr. Cyborg. The cyborg Dino Attack agent was apparently caught off guard by Blaire's attack and was being forced back by Darkling. Minerva shook Zach's shoulders, snapping him out of stupor. She had her Sonic Screamer in hand again. "Remember Dr. Cyborg's plan?" Zach nodded and picked his Cosmotronic Ray back up. He saw Vinyaya and Bluetooth point their Cosmotronic Ray and Z-1 Kinetic Launcher at Blaire. The plan seems to have been passed on to Clint Wayne and Angel Eyes, who both pointed their weapons at Darkling as well. "Excellent plan," Blaire said arrogantly. Dr. Cyborg recovered at that moment and launched a quick attack against Blaire. His reflexes were certainly fast thanks to his half-machineself, but compared to Blaire's, they were shockingly on par. A sinking feeling formed in Zach's stomach as Blaire blocked the blurry attacks with ease, a bored look on his face. He was naturally that quick. Blaire was also moving around Dr. Cyborg as he attacked. "Yes, have Dr. Cyrista distract me while you all shoot. How ingenious." Blaire slammed his sword into Dr. Cyborg's and brought his person closer to his enemy. With a smirk, Blaire slammed his gloved fist into Dr. Cyborg's helmet visor, cracking it. He swung his fist again, finally shattering. The organic side of Dr. Cyborg's face expressed surprise. Dr. Cyborg swung his shield against Blaire's chest, causing him to stumble back. Dr. Cyborg ran forward to attack. Blaire spun around the doctor with ease and swung his sword down. Dr. Cyborg barely turned himself around in time to stop the attack. Zach was trying to get a good shot on Blaire, but he was moving around enough to put both Dr. Cyborg and other attackers surrounding Blaire in danger. Clint Wayne squeezed off two shots, one barely missing Dr. Cyborg while the other grazed Blaire's shoulder. It didn't stop that latter, however. Blaire slammed his katana against Dr. Cyborg's sword. Blaire twisted his body and swung an elbow into Dr. Cyborg's organic side of his face. Dr. Cyborg grimaced, allowing Blaire to swing his foot into Dr. Cyborg's stomach, forcing him back. With a bored smirk, Blaire stabbed his katana forward, intending to inflict the killing blow. Only he didn't. His sword was redirected into the ground by a golden blade. Blaire's eyes widened, almost as if the ghost of Nazareno himself had stopped his attack. Traveling up the blade, Blaire's eyes rested upon Zelda Frodongan, a look of barely contained anger in her eye. A wide smirk formed on Blaire's face as he brought his sword back and pointed it at Zelda. Zelda merely reached for her second sword and pointed both blades at Darkling. "Let's finish this," she said darkly before lunging in to attack. Dr. Cyborg was the least little bit surprised. He had found a natural equal! Okay, maybe Solomon had a point. He stood slouched for a second, recovering his breath, when Zelda jumped in front of him. He squinted his eye, unused to the bright light. Having his natural face always hidden under a dark HUD visor had made his face pale and weakened his eye. When he had fully recovered a second later, he stood up beside Zelda, who was about to start round 3. "News flashes, Darkling: I don't intend to die, and I am Dr. Cyborg!" he said defiantly. ***** "Didn't quite work?" Maria said. "Time for plan B!" "What's that?" Andrea asked turning toward her. Maria smiled and turned toward Pyro, who displayed a menacing grin. Putting on his mask, and helmet, Pyro jumped out of the helicopter and started spreading his flamethrower everywhere. Maria reached for her belt and grabbed a revolver as her girlfriend's father charged blindly toward the action, shouting an incomprehensible battle cry. "You should have seen him in the fire department," Andrea remarked with a slight smirk. "He always wore those gas masks at the scene of a fire, regardless of how serious it was. I have no idea how his co-workers understood a word he was saying." "How'd he end up like that?" Maria asked. "I don't know," replied Andrea. "What do you say we get out there and give 'em boys a hand?" Andrea smiled as Maria stepped jumped out of the T-1 Typhoon and aimed her revolver toward Blaire. In all the chaos, sneaking up on Blair wasn't too hard; he was one man surrounded by several people. The real challenge was getting a hit. Andrea was climbing out of the chopper moments later with an unusual weapon, and when Blaire's back was turned, she charged toward him, holding a large red fire axe. The level of distaste in Blaire's eye seemed to grow as Pyro, Andrea, and Maria joined the fight below. "Really?" Blaire said irritably. Everyone began to approach Blaire. There was no holding back now. There may be a few injuries, but Blaire was so handily outnumbered, they had to take this opportunity to strike. "Hey!" an unrecognizable feminine voice called out. Everyone turned to see a new Fire Hammer had arrived. A woman was sitting in the driver seat with another Dino Attack agent on the Xenon Launcher. "Is it too late to join the hunt down a Blaire Darkling - oh, Builder! What's wrong with eyes?!" Blaire shot a quick glance at Zelda and Dr. Cyborg before pulling his pistol and shooting the agent on the turret dead. "You're just in time. I know my limits. We're done here." He started running toward the Fire Hammer. "Shoot him!" Minerva barked. Everyone quickly trained their guns on the Fire Hammer and Blaire and opened fire. Several shots struck Blaire in the back, but thanks to his vest, ignored the pain and swung open the Fire Hammer and shot the female agent in the chin. Climbing into the Fire Hammer, Blaire put the vehicle in drive and headed off. The reaction was quick. Pyro, Andrea, Maria, Angel Eyes, and Clint Wayne climbed back into the T-1 Typhoon while Bluetooth, Dr. Cyborg, and Zelda climbed into Andrew's Fire Hammer and Zach, Minerva, and Vinyaya clung to the Fire Hammer cab from the back with Laxus. Andrew's Fire Hammer turned sharply on its wheels and drove out of the park in pursuit of Blaire's Fire Hammer. Laxus fired the Xenon Launcher at Blaire's Fire Hammer while Zach, Minerva, and Vinyaya hung on to the Fire Hammer while firing their own weapons. Above them, Rotor's T-1 Typhoon was mercilessly firing everything it had. Zach grinned as the Xenon Launcher on the back of Blaire's Fire Hammer exploded. "We almost got him," Vinyaya muttered. Suddenly, Blaire's Fire Hammer slowed down dramatically and swung around right, allowing Andrew's Fire Hammer to shoot past him. Zach turned his head and saw Blaire's Fire Hammer continue in the opposite direction. Zach swore loudly. "What is she doing?!" Solomon yelled out, sounding irritated. Examining closer, Zach could see Zelda clinging to the side of Blaire's Fire Hammer. She must have anticipated his move and jumped out as they passed. "Andrew says to hold on," Laxus grunted. Andrew's Fire Hammer turned sharply around and sped up rapidly. Over their heads, Rotor's T-1 Typhoon, being as slow and clumsy as the large helicopters were, was still recovering from Blaire's maneuver. Laxus was more hesitant about opening fire when Zelda was clinging on to the side. "Bring the Fire Hammer over to his," a pained grunt belonging to Zelda said into Laxus's radio. With a shrug, Laxus passed on the command to Andrew. With a heavy jolt, the Fire Hammer blasted forward. Thanks to Andrew's driving skill, that managed to move to the right side of Blaire's Fire Hammer. Almost immediately after establishing their position, the cab of Blaire's Fire Hammer lit up as he opened fire on the other Fire Hammer. Dr. Cyborg and Bluetooth fired their own weapons at Blaire. Zach heard Zelda audibly swear as she pulled herself on to the cab of the Fire Hammer. "What in blue bricks are you doing?!" Zach snapped. "I'm taking on Blaire," Zelda yelled back, struggling to stay on her feet. "And if you had half a brain, you'd jump over and join me!" "Are you crazy?!" Zach yelled. "He's mad! He'll kill us all! You need backup!" "Yeah, you three! We all want of piece of him, don't deny it! Just decide, and decide quickly!" Zach shot a glance at Minerva. She gave a half shrug before giving Zelda a thumbs up sigh. Crouching down, Zelda extended her hands. Taking a deep breath and strapping her Sonic Screamer to her back, Minerva jumped. Their hands collided and Zelda pulled Minerva over into the bed of the Fire Hammer. Vinyaya carefully moved herself to Zach. With a curt nod, she jumped over as well. Zelda struggled more with Vinyaya's heavy armor as she pulled the commander over to Minerva's location. Zelda turned back to Zach and gave him a meaningful look. Zach sighed, dropped his Cosmotronic Ray, and turned to Laxus. "You know I have to, right?" Laxus smirked. "I'm not going to lie, it's not particularly smart after watching him fight. But I suppose it's rather important to you." "Yeah. Seeing as Blaire will probably break away soon, tell Andrew we'll make it back, I make that I promise." "Good luck," Laxus said. They clasped hands together briefly before Zach turned to Zelda and nodded. Zach then leaped. As he wrapped one hand around Zelda's, Blaire suddenly jerked to left. Zelda gasped as she was brought to her knees. Zelda grabbed Zach's hand with both of hers and clung to him desperately. Another jerking turn almost caused Zelda to lose her grip on him again. Swinging madly, Zach lunged out for the side of the jeep bed. He felt his fingers grab it, only to begin to slip. Minerva grabbed his hand tightly. Another jerking turn later, Zelda joined the group on the bed of the vehicle and helped pull Zach on board. "You always make things so complicated, Virchaus," Vinyaya said, though Zach could hear the relief in her voice. Zach looked around and saw no sign of Andrew's Fire Hammer or Rotor's T-1 Typhoon. "So we're really on our own." Minerva nodded and looked ahead, a panicked look on her face. "Get down!" Everyone quickly crouched down and covered their heads as Blaire went through a wrecked building with his vehicle. Bricks were being thrown down at them rapidly and evidence of office chairs and supplies smacked against their hands. Blaire shot out of the building and turned hard right, knocking everyone down. "Alright, Darkling," Vinyaya muttered irritably. "You lost them. Enough with the turns." "So now what?" Zach said to Zelda. "Since you've got us all on board." Zelda began to wrap her arms around the cab. "We go for Blaire. Holly, can you get the other side?" "Already on it," Vinyaya said as she moved to the opposite. "Good. Zach, Minerva, you get ready to shoot." Zach and Minerva nodded and ducked down. Minerva pulled her Sonic Screamer out and Zach prepared to fire a burst of Maelstrom energy. Even if it didn't do much to actually harm him, it could still stun him. Vinyaya and Zelda began to move slowly from the bed to the front door, ready to ambush Blaire. Unfortunately, he seemed to be anticipating this attack, as he veered the vehicle onto the sidewalk. "Zelda, get back!" Vinyaya yelled. Zelda flipped herself onto the roof as the side of the Fire Hammer ground against the building. The cab lit up as Blaire opened fire on Vinyaya. Blaire pulled away from the buildings and started to head for the opposite side of the street when a Mutant T-Rex suddenly burst from the intersection. Blaire slammed on the brakes, but still managed to clip the leg of the massive beast. The vehicle's tires screeched in agony as it begun to spin out of control. It burst through a steel fence and began to rattle and bounce as it traveled through a grassy area. "Get off!" Zach yelled to Minerva. They both turned away from each other and jumped from the bed of jeep. Zach rolled against the damp grass and collided with an old stone, bruising his spine. Groaning and swearing, Zach climbed to his feet and watched Vinyaya leap from the out-of-controlled Fire Hammer briefly before getting a better look at his new surroundings. It was small, contained area filled with stones. A graveyard. How morbid. Zach quickly reunited with Minerva, Vinyaya, and Zelda and they all turned and watched the Fire Hammer, whose tires were absolutely destroyed by all the gravestones, collide with a massive grave in the center of the area. Not saying a word, the four slowly approached the crumpled and burning Fire Hammer. As they reached the left side of the Fire Hammer, the front door suddenly flew three yards away and slammed into a gravestone. Blaire climbed out of the cab slowly and his red eyes scanned the group in silence, a deep scowl on his face. He then glanced around briefly before a smirk formed on his face. "So you were the ones to hitch a ride," Blaire snarled, his generally calm voice thinly veiled with anger. He shrugged. "I like it this way, personally. You all have a bone to pick with me and I have a few issues to settle with you." It briefly crossed Zach's mind to at least hold off and weaken Blaire for the cavalry to find them eventually. Then he looked at the three women he had become friends with in the last few weeks. They each held cold frowns on their faces and their eyes showed little mercy as Minerva and Vinyaya pointed their guns at him and Zelda held her swords out. Zach realized they weren't aiming to hold him off. They would kill him for all the lives he had taken. All the damage he had cause and all the pain he had created. Even Vinyaya, the police officer, wasn't offering him a chance to surrender. It was all or nothing. Zach nodded faintly as he pulled out his knife and extended his left hand. He didn't care anymore. They would kill Blaire Darkling. One way or another. Zach and Zelda spread out as Minerva and Vinyaya opened on Blaire. He rolled forward and kicked the Sonic Screamer out of Minerva's hand. Gripping her arm, Blaire then turned, grabbed the barrel of Vinyaya's Cosmotronic Ray and ripped it out of her hands and tossed it like a disc at a gravestone. Blaire turned to punch Vinyaya when Minerva twisted the arm holding her, following by kneeing him in the stomach. Blaire doubled over, groaning before he slammed his heavy forearm into Minerva's stomach. He shoved her away and swung a punch into Vinyaya, who caught the fist in her hand. Blaire held the position while he pulled out his katana to guard from a side attack by Zelda. Blaire then kicked Vinyaya and swung his katana at Zelda so he could move away from a knife stab by Zach. Blaire backed away from the group, his katana held in front of him. Zach fired a blast of Maelstrom that Blaire quickly dodged, destroying the gravestone. Zach snarled and fired another blast. Blaire stepped to the side, cold smirk on his face. He pulled his pistol out and opened fire on the group. The group quickly retreated behind the various gravestones. "We need to get the gun out of the equation!" Zelda shouted to Zach; they were separated by two graves. Zach nodded and turned to see Vinyaya a gravestone away from him. "Where's Minerva?" Zach called out in a loud whisper to her as Blaire quickly reloading his gun and waited for the first of his opponents to reveal himself. Vinyaya shrugged and turned to glance out from behind her stone when Blaire suddenly started firing again. Zach peeked over the stone and saw a dark red door of a Fire Hammer charging at Blaire while he shot at it. The door slammed into Blaire and fell with him to the ground. Minerva Fabello lifted herself from the door and grinned at Zach goofily. Zach smirked back and he, Vinyaya, and Zelda approached her and Blaire quickly. "Kill him now," Zach said quietly to Zelda. She nodded and gestured to the group to get ready. Vinyaya and Zach got around the door and lifted it slightly so Zelda could deliver the final blow. The door suddenly shot upward out of their hands thanks to a powerful kick from Blaire. He swept through Zach's ankles, causing him to collapse. Blaire rolled out of the way as Zelda brought her katana down in the area where his head was. He jumped to his feet, punched Vinyaya in the chest, and pulled out his katana and pointed it at Zelda. Zelda pulled out both of her katanas and swung violently and rapidly at Blaire. An amused smirk was on Darkling's face as he blocked both katanas with relative ease. "You're going need a little more skill to have an advantage over me," Blaire scoffed. As they fought, Zach began to move behind Blaire, his knife raised. A low blow to be sure, but at this point, Zach was beyond caring. Suddenly, Blaire kicked upward, knocking a katana out of Zelda's hand. Grabbing the katana in midair with his left hand, Blaire turned forty-five degrees and swung both katanas out, blocking attacks from Zelda and Zach. Blaire grinned at the both of them. As enraged as he was, it was clear he was enjoying taunting them. Minerva jumped onto his back and wrapped her arms around his throat. Blaire gasped angrily and tried to wrestle her off while holding off attacks from both Zach and Zelda. Minerva released herself and stepped back as Vinyaya lunged forward at Blaire's ankles. Stumbling, Blaire fell backwards on the ground hard. Blaire roared in anger and kicked Vinyaya in the chin, stunning her for several seconds. He blocked repeated blows from Zelda and Zach as he slowly climbed to his feet. Minerva ran at him again, only for him to elbow her in the face. Minerva grunted in pain as she fell back, clutching her face. Growing angrier by the second, Zach began to move around Blaire. Unamused, Blaire slammed his katana in Zelda's as hard as he could while sharply kicking her in the stomach. Blaire quickly turned and blocked a stab from Zach. With Blaire's attention entirely focused on him, Zach backed up as long, sharp katana blades lashed out at him. As Blaire spun out Nazareno's katana at him, Zach hit the deck, allowing Vinyaya and Minerva, recovered from Blaire's attacks, to step forward and grab Blaire's arms. As Zach crawled away, Zach could see Vinyaya and Minerva dig their boots into ground as Blaire tried to pull away from them. Vinyaya wrapped one hand around the golden katana and yanked the sword out of his hands and threw it away from him. Now furious, Blaire swung his free arm across Vinyaya's cheek, causing her to gasp in pain as he struck her scars. Blaire then swung his fist at Minerva, who brought one hand up to stop the attack. Blaire chuckled and twisted himself so his forearm could pound Minerva in the stomach. Coughing in pain, Minerva doubled over, allow Blaire to break free and pull his sword back to deliver a killing blow. His sword was soon knocked down by Zelda, who gave him a deathly glare. Zach went up to Minerva and pulled her away from the fight to Vinyaya, whose eye was watering painfully. Minerva coughed again, this time much harder, and stared at Blaire hatefully. Gripping his knife tightly, Zach moved toward Blaire quickly as he kicked Zelda in the shin, bring her to her knees. A scowl forming on his face, Zach raised his hand, summoned all the energy he could, and fired a blast of Maelstrom. It slammed into Blaire's back like a truck. He stumbled forward, grunting in pain. Stomping his foot into Zelda's stomach for good measure, Blaire started walking toward Zach, a fierce scowl on his face. Zach fired two more weaker blasts before he found himself panting. Blaire let each one strike his chest. He barely broke his pace while he swung his left fist into the side of Zach's face, knocking him to the ground. "Admittedly, you're all holding rather well," Blaire said, his eyes narrowing as he stared at Zach. "But I can see it; you're all breaking. It's becoming too much." Blaire raised his foot and stomped it on Zach's chest. His eyes bulged out of his head and he gasped for air as Blaire applied more pressure to his chest. Blaire chuckled darkly before swinging his foot under Zach's chin, knocking him back. He heard the sharp clang of metal and realized this was his chance to back away and regroup. He slowly crawled back as Zelda and Blaire exchanged blows once again. "I got you," Minerva whispered gently in his ear. She wrapped her arms around his torso and helped him climb to his feet. Zach nodded his thanks and, with Minerva's help, guided him to Vinyaya. Zelda and Blaire circled each other, staring hatefully at each other. Zelda's breathing was ragged and she seemed to stumble with every other step. "It's over, Miss Frodongan," Blaire stated simply. "You shouldn't have come after me. If it's any consolation, you will be joining Kareem very soon." "No!" Zelda spat angrily, swinging her katana in front of her. "You aren't taking... any more lives! I'll... see to it myself!" Blaire laughed coldly. "Look at you. All of you. You can barely stand there and talk to me! You think you can defeat me?" Zelda stopped moving, but didn't respond. Blaire stopped his circling as well, grinning coldly. "It appears you lack common sense, Frodongan. You will pay first. Then we'll see to Fabello, Virchaus, and Vinyaya." Zelda looked to the friends she had made in the last several days before turning back to Blaire. With an ugly frown, she lunged forward and initiated the final showdown. Zelda's katana slammed into Blaire's katana, showering the ground with orange sparks. Zelda was fatigued from the battle that ended barely an hour ago. With added battle against Blaire Darkling that was physically demanding in itself, Zelda felt as though she could collapse right now. But she wouldn't. Not until Blaire was defeated. Not until her friends were safe. Not until Nazareno was avenged and his long-time mission completed. She needed to improve her form, that much was certain. As fatigued Blaire probably was, he still had defeated Zelda twice before with relative ease. Blaire was a million times more skilled in sword combat than her, even with lessons prior to the Dino Attack and with Nazareno. Zelda swung upward for Blaire's head, an attack he blocked with ease. His brilliant red eyes expressed bored amusement as he fought her. This was hardly a challenge for him. He could probably kill her right now if he so wished. She swung the sword in her hand and delivered three quick attacks to Blaire before lashing out with a kick. Blaire smirked as he grabbed Zelda's foot in midair. "Really?" Blaire scoffed. "If you did train under Nazareno, I expected a little better." Zelda scowled before kicking herself other leg upward. It swung up in a wide arc and slammed Blaire in the cheek. He released his grip and groaned in pain, allowing her to land on both feet. Seeing her opportunity, she swept her foot across his ankles. Blaire anticipated this movement and swung his katana at her, forcing her to roll away and recover. "Fine," Blaire snarled, holding his katana in an attack position. "I'll kill you now." Blaire rushed forward, slashing his katana. Zelda's katana was quick in meeting each of Blaire's attack, but she was becoming slower and slower as he attacked. Her jacket was being slashed and torn as Zelda became slower. Seeing that she was in a bad position, she backflipped away from him. This gave him the opportunity to slice down her back. Zelda gasped in pain and backed away as Blaire came closer. Her back was searing with pain and the pain made her dizzy. Regardless, she fought past the pain. Zelda glanced back at Zach, Minerva, and Vinyaya, who were watching her with concern. "Stay back!" she hissed through clenched teeth as she blocked a horizontal sweep to her chest. "Zelda," Vinyaya snapped, her voice hoarse. "You can't take him alone. I've seen what he's done to scores of officers. You're powerful, but you're tired. With the four of us, we could-" "No," Zelda gasped as she pivoted her body to avoid a blow from Blaire. "I-" "We know you want to get him because of what he did to Nazareno," Minerva said. "We all do. We can help. Together, we can beat him." Zelda mulled over her options quickly. Blaire smirked in faint amusement. "Stay back," Zelda said finally, turning back to the group. They examined her quietly and saw the hardened features in her face lighten. Zach finally nodded sadly, an understanding glint in her eye. Zelda smiled briefly, glad they understood her message. Her smile quickly faded as Blaire's katana collided with hers. His face was barely a foot away from hers. Zelda flinched as his hateful eyes stared into hers. "It doesn't really matter," Blaire boasted. "They will all die soon enough." Zelda, unamused, resolved to spit in his face. Blaire snarled, allowing Zelda to push him back and strike back. She swung her sword upward and cut through his trenchcoat and black shirt. Zelda swung her foot extremely high and kicked Blaire underneath his chin, causing him to stumble back. Blaire wiped the saliva away from his face and roared in anger as he attacked again. This time, Zelda was ready and blocked the attack with ease. They exchanged quick, deadly blows at all angles. Blaire swung up, down, and across at Zelda, who met each attack with equal ferocity. Zelda spun on her heel and stabbed at Blaire, who barely blocked the attack. Blaire gave her a hateful look. "Why... do you... persist... with this?" he hissed. Zelda refused to respond and knocked back Blaire's katana and swung for his neck. Blaire ducked his head swung his head down and swung a fist into Zelda's chest, causing her to gasp for air. She moved to the side as Blaire stabbed his katana forward. Zelda tapped it down and cut Blaire's right arm before he could pull away. Blaire grimaced and swung with controlled, albeit angry, precision that creating a bleeding wound on her knees and thighs. She closed her eyes for a second as the stinging pain all over her body threatened to consume her. She opened her eyes quickly to see Blaire smiling maliciously as he stabbed forward again. Instinctively, Zelda fell to her back. Zelda gasped as the wound on her back screamed in protest from her action. The sword hovered over her for a second. She swung both feet up and wrapped them around the blade. Too stunned to react, Blaire's sword was ripped from his hands and flew into the air. Zelda rose to catch it, only to feel an elbow jabbed her cheek. Blaire jumped up and caught the sword and charged at Zelda. She stood there, her sword ready to attack. As Blaire reached her, she swung the blade into his hand. Blaire roared as her katana sliced into his gloved hand. Zelda swung her foot upward and kicked the sword out of his hand before Blaire barreled into her, knocking her to the side. She followed Blaire's katana as it buried itself into the ground behind her. She smirked slightly before Blaire charged at her again. Zelda flew back as Blaire's shoulder slammed into her chest. She rose quickly. This was her chance to finish him off. She ran at him, sword raised. Blaire stepped to the side and twisted her sword arm. Zelda suppressed a groan of pain and elbowed him in the face twice, forcing him to step back. Zelda swung her sword in a wide arc behind her, but Blaire jumped back before he could be hit. Zelda continued to swing at him, becoming fiercer as Blaire dodged his attacks, though he seemed to be slowing and becoming sloppier as Zelda landed a few slashes on him. She slashed her sword downward. Blaire stepped back and caught the blade between his palms. "You will not win!" Blaire barked, holding the blade tightly. Zelda tried to push the blade into his stomach, but he held it back with all of his strength. He grinned madly at her as he suddenly ripped the blade from her grip and turned it back at her. Before memories of Nazareno's demise could swamp through her, she stepped to the side as Blaire began to attack again. She turned to get Blaire's blade when he slashed through her wrist. Zelda's face twisted in pain as Blaire circled around her, blocking the path to his katana. ***** "Have you found it?" Zach hissed to Vinyaya as she scoured the graves surrounding Blaire and Zelda. "No," Vinyaya muttered irritably. She shot a glance at Zelda and Blaire, the former now without a katana. "We need to hurry." Zach nodded quickly. Zelda had said not to help her, but her eyes and face were clearing asking that he, Vinyaya, and Minerva do something to distract him long enough so he could be defeated. Right now, they were search for the Cosmotronic Ray and Sonic Screamer used by Vinyaya and Minerva respectively, though it was difficult due to reaching the point where the fire from the Fire Hammer being the only source of light. Zach himself was searching as well when he heard a frantic whisper from Minerva. "I found one of Nazareno's katanas!" she gasped excitedly. Vinyaya and Zach ran over to her. Indeed, the bright gold katana rested in her hands. "Alright," Zach said, glancing back at the duel. "I think Zelda has him distracted enough that we can slip in and kill him." Vinyaya and Minerva nodded curtly. Taking the sword from Minerva, Zach stepped toward Darkling, Minerva by his side. Vinyaya was silently moving around to Zelda's side. He cautiously watched Darkling launch after Zelda. Much of his composure was gone and seemed to be descending ever closer to insanity as he fought. Zelda shot him a brief glance as she danced away from Blaire's attack: a fatal mistake. Blaire turned around and grabbed the sword Zach was about to plunge into his back. "Oh, no, you don't!" At that point, Zelda kicked her sword out of Blaire's hand and stabbed it at him. Blaire's hand shot out and wrapped his hand around her blade as well. There was evidence of blood seeping from his palms as he held back the sharp blades. His arms shook with pain and his face twisted into his signature hideous smirk. "Why won't you die?!" Zach groaned as he pushed against the blade harder against the force Blaire was applying. No man should be able to last this long. It was almost... demonic. Blaire laughed coldly, his eyes constantly shooting from Zelda to Zach. "You are nothing compared to me! Not even the great Nazareno could stop me! I... I am Matthew Vherestorm!" Blaire's face seemed to become consumed in darkness with only his bright red eyes shining through. Vherestorm had become the mask that was Blaire Darkling, only to finally remove that mask in frustrated (and possibly insane) anger. "No," Zelda stated plainly. Zach glanced over to her and saw Vinyaya by her side, her hands wrapped around the hilt of the katana as well. At that point, Minerva also moved next to Zach and gripped her hands around the sword. Blaire stared in shock and horror. "You're dead." With all of their strength combined, the two katanas shot past through Blaire's hands and sunk into his body and out through his back, forming a gold-and-red X in his body. The light returned to his face. Blaire stared at the katanas sticking in shock. "I-I-I..." He was finally at a loss for words. The color drained from his face dramatically. His red eyes almost seemed to become stone gray. He stared from Minerva and Zach to Zelda and Vinyaya, who merely looked back with looks of pity and hatred. Suddenly, Blaire began to laugh. "These... these are his katanas, are they not?" he said, his voice becoming strangely calm. "He... always said I would fall by his blades. Even in death, his prediction came true. How... poetic." Blaire chuckled faintly. Zach and Zelda pulled the katanas from Blaire's body. Without their support, Blaire Darkling's body slumped forward and did not move. Zach swallowed calmly and looked at Minerva, Vinyaya, and Zelda. They stared at Blaire's body in silence. Fatigue and grim satisfaction were etched on their faces. They had done it. Blaire... Matthew Vherestorm... was dead. All the lives he had taken, including Thaddeus Brickhouse and Kareem Nazareno, were avenged. In the latter's case, he was probably somewhere smirking in approval and in relief that his friends and lover/apprentice had survived the encounter and had defeated a great menace. "Well, folks," Zach said finally, throwing the katana to Zelda. "Show's over. Time to head home." Vinyaya nodded and glanced around before running over and picking up Minerva's Sonic Screamer. Tapping a few buttons, a bright light suddenly flashed into existence from the attachment on the weapon. Nodding curtly, Vinyaya started to walk toward the graveyard exit. After one last glance at Blaire, Zelda followed. Minerva smiled weakly at Zach before the two joined the other two. ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  3. Act 9: Epilogue Chapter 73: Dawn of a Newsday ---- "He's dead! That son of a 4+ Figure is dead!" "The dinos are all gone! Well, except for the ones on our side, and a handful of stranglers, but regardless..." "YES! YES!" "We did it! We did it!" "I knew we'd win this, I knew it!" "WOOOOOOO-HOOOOOOO!" "Well, that's the end of that." "Somebody kiss me!" "Okay!" "Yay, it only took the losses of nearly two-fifths of our ranks!" "Oh, don't ruin the moment." "HUG ME, BROTHER!" "Group hug!" "Hugs for everyone!" "Hey, you know what this calls for? A PARTY!" "Only if there's Brickolini pizza!" "And movies to riff!" "You want a party like that? Everyone come to LEGO Island, the Infomaniac and I are making plans for a Christmas/New Year's/End-of-War extravaganza! I'll let you know what day it is later tomorrow. You've got Pepper Roni's word!" ***** A cheer went up, echoing off the buildings. Not one throat remained closed. Onboard Rotor's T-1 Typhoon, Helm let out a whoop and Giles pumped his fist in the air. Kat heard Katerina's voice inside her head. Good riddance to bad rubbish. "Oh, shut up, you," said Kat, laughing to herself. There was excitement and relief in the air as Cabin and Rotor quickly hugged each other and kissed for a second. Over the radio, one man, probably a former journalist, could be heard. "Antarctica, reception clear. Over." "Are there any newsmen waiting? Over." "Place is full of them. Over." "Alright fellas, here's your story. LEGO City, December 21, Agent Scott reporting. One of the greatest battles was fought and won today by the minifig race. Here, in one of our greatest cities, the agents faced what we hope is the final invasion by mutated dinosaurs. A man named Noah once saved the minifig race with an arc of wood. Here, in LEGO City, a few men performed a similar service with an arc of Imagination. The man responsible for the Dino Attack and many of his followers have been destroyed, but not without casualties among our own meager forces. I would like to bring some of the people responsible for our success, but at the moment our leader agent Specs is attending to demands over and above the call of duty. And now, before giving you the details of the battle, I bring you a warning. Every one of you listening to my voice, tell this to anybody wherever they are! Watch the horizon - everywhere - keep looking - keep looking. Keep watching for anything!" ***** On Zenna's T-1 Typhoon, Hotwire high-fived Andrew, Dr. Cyborg, Hertz, and Zach as well, before collapsing to the deck, sound asleep and still grinning to himself. Zenna's T-1 Typhoon moved down to land right around the area where the Iron Predator defense line had been, which was still slightly smoldering from Dr. Rex's fire attacks. The site was a grim reminder of what the battle had cost, but as of now, when victory had just been achieved and the Minifigs of Dino Attack and their allies were still celebrating, the time for mourning would be put off for quite a while. Now was a time for joy. After moving Hotwire's sleeping form aside to rest near the TALON-9 console, Specs and Reptile worked quickly to open the door and lower a rope ladder. After congratulating each other once more, the agents inside quickly began to disembark at their own pace, moving quickly to meet with the rest of the team and see if old friends were still okay. "Pepper's got the right idea," Andrew said to Zach as they touched down on the ground. "As soon as we can, I say we get all our companions together, get home and party like it's 1997!" Zach snickered. "Well, there's things I need to attend to, but I wouldn't miss an occasion like that for anything. I'm going to go look for Minerva. You gonna meet up with Laxus, I take it?" "Yep. After that, I suppose we'll need to follow Hotwire's example and get some rest and nutrition. That Imagination blast was energizing, but I suppose we'll need some sleep soon enough." "Agreed," said Zach, offering Andrew a brofist gesture. "Catch you later." Andrew nodded and completed the gesture. Then he headed through the crowd of Dino Attack agents and vehicles that were gathering back at the front area of the building. The Elite Agent passed by several agents who gave congratulations and patted him on the shoulder, and at least one person threw a bit of his water canteen over him. He passed by people he knew semi-well, like Kat, B, and Rockford, greeting them and congratulating them as he went by. Finally, he managed to glimpse turquoise skin moving through the crowd, and made his way over to intersect where his friend was going. "Laxus, glad to see you made it!" he said. "The feeling's mutual, friend!" the Martian said in return, the two of them patting each other on the back. "That was incredible, what happened over there! The finale of the Crystalien Conflict doesn't even compare in the same regard!" "Good to hear," Andrew said. "How are the others?" "Catless went off to meet up with some of her allies, but she might be back, Pterisa and her seem to have bonded a bit. Speaking of which-" "Andrew, you're okay!" Pterisa cried as she suddenly swooped in and hugged the Elite Agent, holding him in the air a bit as she did so. "Woah!" Andrew blurted out in surprise, while returning the hug in the midst of his joy rush. "Heh, yeah, glad to see you are too! I see Dr. Cyborg ensured your survival in the Imagination blast." "Yes, yes he did," Pterisa said while lowering down to the ground. "Though even if there's still Maelstrom in my body, I feel the blast has empowered my Creative Spark enough to completely resist it. I doubt I need to worry about the Darkitect's influence now." "Fantastic," Andrew said as they let go of each other. "So how'd you do it?" Laxus asked. "How did the device get empowered and working without a source of Imagination? Did someone..." The three individuals' looks turned somber at this. Andrew didn't hesitate to explain. "Yes. It was Rex. He's made the history books again, this time with the biggest accomplishment yet. Let's hope he's doing a sweet, slow dance with Amanda Claw, wherever they are." There was several more moments before Pterisa spoke up again: "Rex was one of the first people to help me feel accepted among you. I'm grateful for that, and I'm grateful he was able to pay the ultimate price to help all of us." "Indeed, we are," said Laxus. "But I don't think we should be lost in mourning for him. He's done a lot of great things for us, and the team definitely has fond memories for him." "Yes," said Andrew. "I think it's for the best that we remember the good times we had with him. His memory should be celebrated along with the victory won today by us." The mood now getting brighter, Andrew gestured towards HQ. "C'mon, let's see who else is still here for us to celebrate this occasion with." ***** The concrete sealing the sub-basements of the Dino Attack HQ could not block the ripple of Imagination. Wright, sitting with her head in her hands, suddenly felt invigorated. She looked up as Shiller gasped, and then began breathing with greater strength and steadiness than he had been earlier. Wright squeezed Shiller's hand as the medics celebrated. "We won," she whispered. Shaw's prayers were silenced when Pierce suddenly looked up. "What?" Shaw asked nervously. "It's quiet," replied Pierce. "A moment ago, there was something maddening, insane… we could hear that thing smashing into the ground… but it's quiet." "What do we do?" Shaw asked. "There's a radio in here, still. I didn't expect us to need it but we can still get an update on the battle." Pierce ran over to the radio and sat down, set the frequency, and put on his headphones. "This is Doctor Alan Pierce. Requesting update on combat situation. Over." A voice on the other end was somewhat garbled in static: "Dr... bee... dead… I repeat... octor Rex... dead." Pierce smiled. "If you just said what I think you said, you might want to get a couple of sledgehammers down to the basement quickly. Over and out." Pierce took off his headphones as his grin grew. He quickly stood up and hugged Shaw. "They did it!" he shouted. "This war's over!" Now, Shaw was smiling, too. Crusher and Copper, having overheard, ran toward him out of curiosity. On the other end of the room, Sarah Bishop smiled as well. She just hoped Kate was alright. Maybe they could be together after all. Pierce broke free of the excitement as the other doctors celebrated. He walked up to Sarah Bishop, who slowly approached him. "Sarah," Pierce asked, somewhat nervously. "Listen, Sarah, will you marry me?" Sarah's smile grew. She nodded. "Yes, Alan," she said, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and kissing him tight on the lips. Elsewhere, Montoya stroked Carrie Enderson slightly as she lay on her bed. "What do I do now?" Carrie asked quietly. "What do you mean?" said Montoya. "I was his confidant for eight years," she replied. "They still think I'm innocent, but I don't even feel bad about it. There was something about him I liked." "Why don't you just stick to tending bar?" Montoya suggested. "You're a good cook, aren't you?" "Yeah," said Carrie. "You had a brother, didn't you?" continued Montoya. "The one who ran that bar we hid in." "Yes," replied Carrie. "He's in Antarctica." "He's good at his job? You should meet with him," proposed Montoya. "You two should start a brother-sister joint together." Carrie smiled. "Wouldn't that be something?" "Yeah," Montoya said with a grin. "Me and my wife will come visit." "She beautiful?" Carrie asked. "Oh yes," replied Montoya. "She is." The sounds of hammers smashing against the wall were clearly audible. Bit by bit, parts of the door started to come down, and when it collapsed, a couple of workmen with sledgehammers stepped down the stairs. Pierce looked up in surprise at the men. Shaw smiled in the back, releasing her grip on her cross. ***** Osprey and Desdemona hauled themselves out of the damaged Aerial Defense Unit, shaken by the rough landing and the Pterosaurs' lighting attacks. To Osprey's surprise, Desdemona hugged him suddenly, and they joined in the cheer. ***** Inside the swaying Dino Attack HQ, Mort heard a cough in the stairwell. He peered into the shadows and saw a form move. A step closer revealed it to be a Dino Attack agent. "Need a hand?" he offered. The agent nodded, and Mort hauled him up. "Alpha Team agent Mort. And you are?" The man coughed again, leaning on Mort for support. "Dino Attack agent Larson. Thanks for the hand." ***** It was over. Nearly a year of total, global war against an apparently unstoppable menace, ended in a single stroke. No, not a single stroke - a long, hard, protracted battle that had culminated into a single sacrifice. Somehow, the Iron Hammer had survived the battle. It was badly damaged, and Magma suspected many of the Alpha Team agents who had volunteered for this mission were wounded. They were just managing to maintain position. But they had won, despite the ridiculously stacked odds arrayed against them. Or had they? Magma stared down at the ruins of LEGO City. The corpses of thousands of Mutant Dinos. The wreckage of hundreds of vehicles, which he was sure contained hundreds of Minifig bodies. He looked at the smiling faces of the other Alpha Team agents on the bridge crew. Even Cee Dee was expressing as much happiness as his programming allowed. His brother had thrown away his life to achieve this moment, as had so many others. And he had been glad to see it achieved, but now, he realized for the first time that it would take years to clean up the mess Dr. Rex's madness had left on the world. He sighed, and stood up. I must be getting melancholy in my old age, he thought. Can't I enjoy a huge victory anymore? "Gentlemen, we have won the day, but there's still much work to be done. Sting, find a relatively unoccupied piece of ground and... take us down," Magma ordered. He pressed a key. "Magma to all Alpha Team forces! I'm sure you all already know this now, but I'm proud to be able to announce that we've won!" The volume of cheering that came back from this announcement nearly overloaded the damaged speaker system on the bridge. Magma laughed despite himself. "We've won... but there's a lot left to do today. I'm bringing this airship down to the ground to establish a temporary auxiliary HQ. I'm all for letting you all enjoy yourself after this day, but it might be nice if we could make sure Dino Attack HQ doesn't fall over before we do. Magma out!" He turned to his friends, Alpha Team agents he had been fighting alongside for years now. He thought about his brother's sacrifice again. And he reached a decision. He smiled, and for the first time in a long time, it was a real smile, not simply a facial expression suggesting that nasty things were about to happen to someone. And he said, "But once that's done, we're going to enjoy ourselves as much as everyone else out there!" Shark and Sting looked at him, quite surprised at this sudden shift in Magma's personality. But then they grinned too, and set about landing the airship with renewed enthusiasm. ***** It was the greatest feeling in the world. Zach could practically hear "Victory Celebrations" by John Williams playing in his head as he ran through the battlefield trying to find Minerva. At long last, it was over. The battle had been won. Baron Typhonus had been defeated and Dr. Rex was dead. The LEGO Planet and the Minifig species would see the dawn of a new day. The sacrifices to this war were not in vain. J.D., Tracer, Mur, Semick, Raider, Claw, Nazareno, Frank Einstein, General, Rex and many more would be smiling from beyond at their success. Zach could even see Scratch and Oswald Fabello celebrating their triumph over the Mutant Dinos, despite their lack of morals and insanity (in the latter's case especially). The only thing that could make a happy moment happier was finding Minerva and seeing her alive and well. ***** Minerva laughed happily as she jumped from Xenon Launcher on the back of the Fire Hammer and landed on the ground. They did it. They had won! Minerva ran over to Zelda, who was laughing as well, her cheeks wet with tears. They embraced tightly in a celebratory hug. As the Imagination fallout from the Einstein Device washed over them, they entered a state of giddy euphoria. For a moment, Minerva forgot that Athena, Oswald, and Nazareno were gone. All the mattered now that was this war was finally over. Minerva pulled away from Zelda and turned toward the Fire Hammer. She saw Vinyaya and Bluetooth embracing happily inside before climbing out to join Minerva and Zelda. Minerva high-fived Bluetooth and patted him on the back happily before Holly pulled Minerva into a tight embrace. Minerva smiled and returned the hug, feeling tears of joy form on her face. The end of this war marked a new beginning for her. She would leave this city and her past behind once and for all and go to LEGO Island with Zach and Andrew to start anew. Everything would be alright after all. Holly separated from Minerva, just a flash of concern appearing on her face. "Are you alright?" she asked with sincerity. Minerva knew she was referring to the emotional instability following the death of her brother. Minerva gave Holly a curious look. "Why have you been so worried about me? I'm... well, I'm not totally fine, but..." Minerva drifted off, managing to make her point as Vinyaya blushed slightly. "Oh," Vinyaya rubbed the back of neck apologetically. "Well... we're friends, right? And you had lost your mother and brother, who, from what I understand, was a parental figure to you. I figured you just needed a little support..." Vinyaya shrugged. "Sorry if it was a little... intrusive, I guess." Minerva blinked once. "No, it's alright. It's just..." She soon realized how close she held the friends that she had made during these last few weeks. She thought of Zach, Vinyaya, Zelda, and Nazareno. Not until now did she fully become aware that they had become family to her in the same vein that her two brothers had always been to her. Minerva smiled contently at Holly. "I'm fine. I feel better than ever." She pulled Vinyaya into her own tight hug. The two laughed thankful to have made it through the war's end. "I think," Vinyaya said with a sly grin. "Someone wants to see you." Minerva released Vinyaya and turned to see Zachary Virchaus running toward her, grinning as wide as he could. Minerva smirked kindly and extended her arms to accept Zach's powerful embrace, lifting her off her feet for half a second. She laughed again as she wrapped her arms around him. "We did it," Minerva whispered, a goofy grin on her face. Zach smiled happily. "We sure did." He then leaned his head toward Minerva's and placed his lips on him. Minerva suppressed another euphoric laugh and kissed him back, allowing herself to get lost in moment of victory. Everything was going to be alright. ***** As Rotor's T-1 Typhoon landed on the ground, he and his crew were surprised to be approached by a middle-aged man with thin round glasses holding a large camera, accompanied by a radio operator. "Excuse me, sir," he said. "My name is agent Scott. I'm a journalist for the Brick Street Journal." "A journalist?" Rotor asked as he stepped out, holding Cabin's hand. "Look, we don't have a lot of time. We just got to refuel and then go find this Blaire Darkling guy-" "It'll only take a moment," insisted Scott. "I do believe many of the people in Antarctica would be interested in hearing what you have to say." Rotor stared at the journalist as his partner held the microphone out toward him. "I found love," he said with a slight chuckle. Cabin smiled, her arm wrapped around his. "I'm sorry, what's your name?" "Rotor. This is my... uh... partner, agent Cabin!" "Would you hold still for a moment, Rotor?" Scott asked. He picked up his camera, put it in front of his face, and for a moment a bright flash obscured their vision. "Do you really think this is the end?" "It certainly looks like it," replied Cabin. "Now, it is my understanding that this victory was a group effort. Would you mind telling everybody back in Antarctica what happened?" "Well, I can't go into the technical stuff," said Rotor. "But a couple of the boys came up with this device - the Einstein Device, I think." "And what does this Einstein Device do, exactly? From what we saw, it took a lot of Imagination." "It certainly was," replied Rotor. "I don't know how they got all that." "Now that this war is over, what exactly is it you plan to do?" Cabin smiled. "I honestly never gave it much thought," answered Rotor. "I got so dang used to fighting. Maybe I'll get into the airforce. They could use good pilots like us. Or maybe we can get back into Alpha Team." "I quite like the sound of that," said Cabin. "Thank you very much, agent Rotor," Scott said. "That'll be all for now. If I have any more questions, I'll come ask you later." ***** Catless hopped out of the Fire Hammer Laxus had parked outside of the HQ. She saw Pterisa and Laxus go over to someone, and she followed them. She recognized the fellow Dino Attack agent as Andrew. Seeing the way that Pterisa hugged him, she could tell that he made quite the impression on the Hybrid. "Hey, you wouldn't happen to know where Dr. Cyborg is, would you?" Catless asked. "Yes, last I saw him, he was disembarking from that helicopter over there." Andrew gestured toward a T-1 Typhoon. "Why do you ask?" "I've got to tell him his sister died," Catless replied solemnly. "Oh, tell him I sympathize with him," Andrew told her. "Right. Thanks." Catless turned and left. ***** Dr. Cyborg was standing in the middle of a crowd, thinking. For a time before it was loaded into the Einstein Device, he had housed Rex's Creative Spark in his own body. It was a unique experience, housing two Creative Sparks in one body, one that does not end without changing the host. Simply put, thanks to his hybrid mechiology, Rex's Creative Spark had left a record, an imprint if you will, on Dr. Cyborg. Dr. Cyborg thought, realizing with this he could possibly memorialize Rex in the best way he could: take the record of Rex's thought patterns, and create an A.I. out of it. Even if it was a long shot, he hoped it could be possible. "Dr. Cyborg!" He heard a voice calling. He turned, and he saw X1 running towards him. He smiled and hugged her as she drew near. "It's good to see you alive!" Dr. Cyborg said. "I thought you were dead when Cyrista's Bane hit you." "Nope, just self-repairing. In fact, Bane brought me back here!" She pointed out the cyborg dinosaur that most agents were uneasily looking at. One or two were even brave enough to strike up a conversation with him. "He also brought back Dr. Inferno," she said, pointing to X2, who was escorting a cuffed Inferno. "Well, well," Dr. Cyborg said. He opened a comm to Specs's PDA. "Hello, Specs here. How may I help you, Dr. Cyborg?" Specs said. "My Infiltrators and Bane have brought back Dr. Inferno. What should they do with them?" "Have them bring him to me. I can work out what to do with him from there." "Right. Dr. Cyborg out." He turned to X1 again. "He wants you to bring Inferno to him. Follow his homing signal." "Right away, Doctor," X1 said as she walked back to X2 and the two of them walked away. He looked back at Bane, who appeared to be in the middle of an interview with an apprehensive journalist. He grinned at the thought of an interview with a cyborg T-Rex appearing in a magazine. He saw Zach, Minerva, Vinyaya, Zelda and Bluetooth in a group and walked over to them, unaware of Catless following him, yelling at him to get his attention. ***** "Okay," Vinyaya snapped with a hint of amusement. "We get it, you two are happy to be with each other." Zach pulled himself away from Minerva, both grinning happily. Zach could hear several snickers from Vinyaya, Zelda, and Bluetooth. Zach did a double-take, glancing from Bluetooth and Vinyaya, who were standing next to each other. The message the former sent to the latter flashed across his mind. "Time to keep my promise," he said with a smirk. Minerva suddenly patted him on the shoulder, an apologetic smile on her face. Vinyaya rolled her eye, her lips curled into a smile. "You're too late, Virchaus," Vinyaya said, crossing her arms. "Miss Fabello saw fit to try and get us together before the battle ended." Bluetooth gave off somewhat of an exasperated look at this statement, but smiled good-heartedly. Zach shrugged. "Whatever. So, are you two together or what?" Vinyaya scowled. "I really don't need you regulating my love life, Zachary." Zach raised an eyebrow, silently demanding a better response. Vinyaya stamped her foot in irritation. "We're talking, alright? These things take time, you know." Zach smirked. Talking was good enough. "Anyway," Zach said as he walked over to Bluetooth and clapped his friend on the back, "good to see you all made it through." He glanced from Minerva to Vinyaya to Zelda. Bluetooth wrapped his arm around Zach and shook him gently, grinning. "The same to you. Glad to see that you and the other elites managed to get that Einstein Device working." "Yeah. There's a bit of story as to how fixing that thing went about, but first…" Zach's tone grew somewhat morbid. "How did the whole... thing... with Nazareno happen? You were there, based on the PDA message." A shadow seemed to be cast over the group upon his mentioning of Nazareno. Zach blinked once. "Were... the rest of you there, too?" Minerva and Vinyaya nodded grimly. Zelda didn't respond, merely looking at the ground with a hard stare. Remember that Zelda had a crush on Nazareno, Zach imagined she wasn't taking his death particularly well. She then looked up to Zach, her eyes shimmering. "I suppose I'll start out," she said with a sad shrug. Then she began to recount Nazareno's final moments. ***** The agent interviewing Cyrista's Bane had left, and the cyborg T-Rex was now trying to find any rubble blocking important roads. Dino Attack agents in Iron Predators were assisting him in the work. In the middle of pushing a larger chunk of brick and masonry, he heard: "BAAANNNEEEE!" He looked up and saw Screech diving towards him, her wings pulled to her sides. He ran a quick calculation in his mind, and tried to put his left foot behind him to brace himself, but it was too late. Screech impacted his head, hugging him with her wings. However, the sudden impact threw Bane off balance, and he fell backwards, causing a cloud of dust to fly up. "Sorry," Screech said. Bane glared at her good-naturedly, and pushed himself up of the ground. "Why in the world did you find it necessary to do that?" he asked. "Um, because I'm glad you didn't die at the end of the battle?" "That much is obvious. Why are you so glad to see me?" At that question, Screech did what could only be described as a blush, or at least the Mutant Pterosaur equivalent. "Um, would you take 'I plead the Fifth' as an answer?" she asked. Bane was bemused, wondering how the pterosaur would know about the Fifth Amendment. "No. Now, spill." "Um, you're my friend?" "Yes, we've covered that. Now, answer my question." Screech coughed awkwardly, wondering how exactly to phrase it... ***** Dr. Cyborg saw Zach and Minerva hugging, so he hung back for a little bit to wait for an appropriate moment to come up. He continued to think over his idea of a Rex A.I. but, considering that he would be creating an A.I. recreation of someone who was ready to die, came to the conclusion that it would be a wiser choice to just let Rex rest in peace. "Ah, well, it would have been a challenge anyways," he murmured. Just after he said that, a voice came up behind him: "Excuse me." A middle-aged man with a camera accompanied by a radio operator approached him. Dr. Cyborg recognized him as the one who interviewed Cyrista's Bane. "Are you the one they call Dr. Cyborg?" "Yes," replied Dr. Cyborg. "My name is agent Scott, I'm from the Brick Street Journal. I was just wondering if you'd mind answering a few questions." "Not at all, ask away." "First off, why did you join the Dino Attack Team?" Scott asked. "Well, that is a long and convoluted answer. The shortest thing is: to make up for my past, though at the time I joined, I didn't know my past." "What do you mean?" Scott came back with. "Well, I am Matthew Cyrista, the president and founder of UlTech Industries. I was also invited to join XERRD by Dr. Rex when it was moved here. At the time, I didn't know what his, or should I say, Baron Typhonus's, plan was. When we did start creating Mutant Dinosaurs, for a time, I just ignored my conscience. Eventually, I did realize what we were doing was wrong, so I left. Dr. Rex did not like my choice, so he gave me a chance to come back. When I refused, he sent a pack of Mutant Raptors after me. I remember being overwhelmed, and then the next thing I know, I woke up in a mysterious lab in this city, only a few blocks away, about a week or two ago, although it feels like it was between one or two years ago. Anyways, I had this new look, so nobody recognized me, although elite agent Rex had battled me at the XERRD Dino Island base when they invaded. I signed up under a codename, Dr. Cyborg, because I had no memory at that point. Over the course of the mission, I eventually regained most of my memories, and got the rest back just a few hours ago. I am now truly Dr. Cyrista again, although I think I will continue to go by Dr. Cyborg. I kind of like it." "What are you going to do now?" Scott continued. "I don't really know. I have a company to run, although I can delegate that out to others. I have become the leader of XERRD, and need to help it reform. But I kinda want to rejoin Nexus Force, as Paradox and not Assembly now." "Why do you want to become Paradox and not Assembly?" "Well, I am actually immune to the Maelstrom in this body. I imagine that would be a lot of help. I also have Maelstrom inside my body, and can weaponize it in my combat mode. That might be useful to the Paradox. If I join, I'm also gonna try to convince Zach to come with me. He'd be useful as well, but I'll let him tell you why." "Do you have any family in Antarctica?" Dr. Cyborg smiled. "Yes, my parents are in Antarctica, as well as my little sister. Although, since she joined the Dino Attack team, she might be out here. I hope she is fine. If you meet someone under the codename Contest, tell her I'm alright, please." "I will," promised Scott. "So, what was your role in the defeat of Dr. Rex?" "I made some final adjustments to the Einstein Device. I also disarmed it so that is didn't go off prematurely and kill us all. I ensured that our Maelstrom-infected allies, such as myself, Zach, Pterisa, Cyrista's Bane, and Buddy didn't die." "Before you continue, who is Cyrista's Bane, and why is he named after you?" "Bane is the cyborg T-Rex you were interviewing earlier. He is named for me because I had made up the plans for him, but never made him before I left. Dr. Rex completed him and used him in the final battle. I beat him, and he joined us. As to the exact specifics, ask the Darkitect if you ever meet him, which you don't want to do." Scott gave a puzzled look, but decided not to press further. "Ah. Continue with your previous story." "The most important thing I did in relation to the Einstein Device was to extract Rex's Creative Spark." "What?" "That's where we got the imagination to defeat all the Mutant Dinos: I extracted Rex's Creative Spark and deposited it in the Einstein Device. I'll let others tell you more about what happened up there." "Why was Rex chosen?" inquired Scott. "Why not you, or Hertz, or Andrew, or any of the other Elite Agents? Why Rex?" "Rex was dying in the first place," explained Dr. Cyborg. "He also was confined to a wheelchair, which only reinforced his decision. All in all, he just was the best one to pull a heroic sacrifice." "Ah, I understand. I might come back and ask you a few more questions later, to possibly get your side of some events others might mention, but for now that is all. Do you have any recommendation on who to interview next?" Scott asked. "Yes, I would recommend talking to Pterisa, Hertz, Andrew, Greybeard, Reptile, Hotwire, or Zach. All but Pterisa were up in the lab with me, so you could talk to them and find out more about what happened." "I will, thank you." Scott turned and left. Dr. Cyborg heard Zelda telling about Nazareno's death, and he decided to listen to her as well. He didn't know the ninja as well as others, but he was still friendly with him. ***** Doctor O'Brien of XERRD snarled angrily as he fired his hi-tech Space Marauder blaster at a rapidly-approaching Blaire Darkling. Beside him, Doctors Syme and Parsons and three Dino Attack agents named Artemis, Loki, and Mercury also attempted to down XERRD's former leader. It was pathetic, really. All they could do was shoot until they realized that they were doomed. Blaire slammed his katana into Artemis's chest with a grim scowl on his face. As she gasped for air, Blaire had his handgun out and shot down Mercury with painful ease. Kicking Artemis from his sword and placing it in his trenchcoat, Blaire began to run toward the XERRD scientists shooting at him. Blaire dodged each shot with surprising speed and grace for his build. As he passed Loki, he grabbed the Dino Attack agent's collar and pulled him in front of Blaire, taking a shot from Parsons to the head. A few more shots blasted Loki before Blaire dully shot Syme in the chest. Putting his gun away, Blaire hosted Loki into the air and swung him at Parsons, pinning the Space Marauder to the ground. Blaire quickly ran over to Parson, ripped off his helmet, and threw it at O'Brien, knocking the gun out of his hands. As he scrambled to find his rocket launcher. Blaire slammed his foot as hard as he could into Parson's face. It wasn't a pretty sight. He tugged his katana out of his trenchcoat and walked toward O'Brien, who had the rocket launcher in his hand. He adjusted his glasses, refusing to show any fear. "I can't say I expected this turn," O'Brien said. "I knew you were powerful, Darkling - that's why you were in charge of security in our facilities - but I'd never expect this." "I'm glad you're impressed, O'Brien," Blaire said with a bored shrug, holding the katana in a defensive position. "You're done, Darkling. Heh. I'll be the guy who finally finished off Matthew Vhere-" O'Brien jolted in shock as Blaire sank his katana through the Space Marauder armor into his chest. O'Brien stared in shock before his eyes rolled back. Unamused, Blaire kicked the corpse from his sword. "How terrible," Blaire snarled O'Brien's corpse. "To survive this whole wretched battle, only to be killed in the aftermath." He looked back it his carnage. He had kept to his word. Anybody that crossed his path was dead. He turned his head to the central tower of Dino Attack Headquarters, where the Dino Attack Team had finally defeated Baron Typhonus and Dr. Rex. Blaire was relieved to see that this planet would last another day, even if he was viciously murdering the people that had helped make victory happen, but he was truly beyond caring. In a short time, the Galactic Council would end the quarantine on the planet. He could escape into space and reinvent himself once again. In fact, he was hardly even obligated to stay in this city now that the war was over. Yet he stayed. His momentary loss of temper had passed. Blaire's level head returned, and he began formulating a plan. Nazareno was dead and his secret was revealed. There was nothing he could do the salvage the identity of Blaire Darkling. It would be best to lay low at this point or flee. Instead, he was making his massacre very clear. He hoped that his actions would goad a few... select... individuals out into finding him. They were the true target of this rampage of revenge now. Find them, kill them, and then leave. Perhaps, Blaire scowled as he saw a few T-1 Typhoons pass over his head. I need to make my message clearer. ***** Walking through the area of assembled agents, Andrew's group was looking to see if Zach had met up with his friends when they were stopped by someone coming the other way. "Excuse me?" said an agent carrying around a camera, being followed closely by another man with a radio and a microphone. "I take it you're Andrew, given your most noticeable companions here?" Andrew snickered. "Yeah, I seem to have a habit of meeting people like that. What do you need?" "Well, I'm agent Scott, journalist for the Brick Street Journal. Been giving the odd report here and there straight from the field. My friend here and I have been working quite well on and off this battle." "Hmph, wow," remarked the guy with the mic. "That pterosaur girl, Pterisa, right? Nice look you got there." "You really think so?" Pterisa blurted out, partly out of surprise and partly out of flattery. "See? Even some people like themselves a Minifig/Mutant Pterosaur Hybrid," Andrew remarked to her before turning back to Scott. "Be sure to put a good word in for her in the paper. Given how people might treat Mutant Dinos in post-wartime, she could definitely use the good publicity." "You have my word," said the reporter, making a saluting gesture. "So how about you answer a few questions about what you did during the battle for the benefit of our followers in Antarctica?" "Sure, why not?" Andrew asked, a bit giddy at the idea of being interviewed for a news story for the first time outside L.E.G.O. Radio. "We do have plenty of time, pardoning how long your equipment can last in the rain." Scott snickered. "Don't worry, I have that covered. Now, Mr. Cyrista told us much about what happened during the battle, in regards to the Einstein Device assembly process. What was your role in that?" "Oh, not much, I mostly helped with gathering parts from the Teleport Pad we had up there, along with rebuilding the launcher we used. And Hertz and Zach were of good help with that. You can talk to them to learn more, though Hertz went deaf during the earlier attacks, as you might've heard, so you might need someone with a notebook or something." "Interesting... anything else?" "Well, I did help Dr. Cyborg, Viper, Digger, and Shadow save Zach from and detain Willa the Witch. That was pretty epic, all of us ganging up on her, breaking her stuff (I shot her hat off!). Oh, and before Rex... you know, sacrificed himself, I gave him a good speech about all he's done for us and how we'll miss him. I think it did pretty well to help him accept his fate, in the end." "Sounds like quite the story," said Scott, looking impressed a bit. "We should talk later about that in better interview conditions once I finish my on-the-site ones. As for you," he said to Pterisa, "I think I could also arrange for an extended talk with you. Could definitely help to let the public know you're not like the other Hybrids." "That doesn't sound like a bad idea," Pterisa replied. "Good to hear. See you tomorrow, perhaps. Or something, I'll message you and let you know." Scott and the mic guy then wandered off in another direction, looking for more people to talk to. "And I get ignored again," Laxus remarked sarcastically. "Heh. Ten years ago, you Earthlings couldn't get enough of Martians. Now, we're as normal as cable." Andrew smirked. "You're still important around us, Laxus, and that's all that matters. C'mon, let's go see if we can find Zach." ***** As soon as Mac had placed the remaining cans of kerosene into the chopper's tanks, Rotor was just about to climb into the pilot's seat when Cabin pushed him aside. It took a moment before he got the hint, and smiled. "I do love you," Rotor remarked as Cabin climbed into the pilot's seat, Rotor quickly got into the co-pilot's seat. Cabin only took a moment to start up the engines before she brought the chopper into the air. "We got to find that Blaire Darkling," Rotor said. "He's probably taken advantage of recent circumstances. Cabin, I'll need you to broadcast that message I recorded. Whoever it was back there that knew about this guy, I want you to tell me everything you know!" ***** "Now it's all well and good to talk about the boys on the battlefield, but there's a lot more that went into this team than that. After all, this is a war, people will no doubt get hurt, and without someone to patch up their wounds they don't fare too well. With me at the microphone is some of the medical staff who participated in the final battle, starting with the head doctor Alan Pierce." "Hello," Pierce said casually. "Dr. Pierce," Scott said, "how long have you been in this profession?" "A good twenty or thirty years now," replied Pierce. "You worked in medicine before the war?" "Yes," answered Pierce. "I worked in LEGO City." "If I'm not mistaken, there was a controversy just before this war. You appeared for the prosecution toward another doctor. According to the reports, you were a strong supporter of his medical license being revoked." Pierce rolled his eyes. "He took unnecessary risks in what was meant to be a simple procedure and practically removed a man's entire skeleton," he said. "Does that sound like the kind of guy you want in your hospital? He's dead now, though, so he'll at least he won't cause any further trouble." "Was he the only medical casualty?" "No," responded Pierce. "There was at least one other man - Dr. J.D. back on Adventurers' Island." "I'd like to bring to the microphone some of the other doctors who helped. Is this everybody, Dr. Pierce?" "No," replied Pierce. "Two of them are out in the field. Another one, Dr. Carver, took the portal to Antarctica." "Alright then," said Scott. "I'd like to introduce you to some of the doctors here who helped one at a time, Dr. Naomi Hale, Dr.... Noomi Shaw, is that right? Good. Dr. Richard Copper, and Dr. Gates Crusher. Hopefully, later we'll get to meet the two in the field." ***** While the rain still drizzled down like a torrent of cold gloom, the mood of the team was anything but somber. The thunder that had once sounded like the gloomy toll of church bells now seemed to echo the sound of jubilant drums and fireworks. Although the ground still was littered with bodies and burning wreckage, the screams of despair and anguish slowly transformed into shouts of celebration. Although Hertz could hear neither the sound of thunder nor the screams of ecstatic glee, he felt the worm aura of bright emotion flowing across the field of battle. He let out a euphoric shoot of elation as he jumped from the deck of the T-1 Typhoon and onto the pavement of the headquarters' plaza. He slipped on the bloody water gathering in the puddles below and tumbled down with a splash. In most cases, he would have cursed his clumsiness, but at this moment he was too filled with joy. While the people around him danced and sang songs of celebration, Hertz seemed to watch from the sidelines. As if he dwelled on his own plane of existence, he walked among the fray of cavorting agents. While the focus seemed to be the noise and shoots of victory, Hertz felt it, he saw it, he experienced it. The bodies littering the ground seemed to be forgotten. They were everywhere; their dark shadowy forms seemed to litter the plaza in all directions. No one seemed to notice the fires still burning and the blood-stained streets they danced on. The agents were lost in their euphoria, and the cost of victory seemed to be forgotten. Hertz envied them; they could experience the joy in ways he could not. He was forced to be observant and, as a result, he noticed things they did not. While others turning their gaze to the heavens, Hertz's eyes were cast to the ground as he navigated his way among the wreckage. He wished he could be distracted by the songs being sung. He wished his attention could be pulled away from the horrors at his feet. He had no intention to ruin the moment, he was as happy as the next agent; the difference was he felt the costs in different ways than them. A woman in a business haircut and red blazer navigated her way toward him and held out a microphone. Her lips moved as she phrased her intrepid question, but all Hertz could do to respond was shake his head. The reporter apparently decided interviewing a deaf man was not worth her time, and she scurried away among the crowd. Not far away, Rotor's clown-car helicopter unloaded its occupants into the rain. Cabin, Snake, Mac, Lance, Solomon, Giles, Kat, Helm, Winston, Firecracker, Andrea, Maria, Clint Wayne, Angle Eyes, Elizabeth, Maynard, Pyro, Shotgun, and Scope all disembarked to join in the festivities below. Hertz found Solomon among them and shook his hand warmly. The battle had taken a toll on both men. Solomon's shoulders moved awkwardly to accommodate for the gunshots and burns he received. Hertz himself still wore the tattered cast that had been with him since the Temple of Creation. Despite the pain of fighting with a broken arm, it had not stopped him from wielding a pair of Sonic Screamers when fighting Dr. Rex. The top four floors of the base were miraculously still standing. Obviously, being stood upon by a giant Mutant Tyrannosaurs Rex would cause some collapse, and the fires had certainly damaged its structural integrity, but agents above had still been able to walk among the charbroiled remains. The roof, teleportation lab, and most of the elite agents' bedrooms had been destroyed in Dr. Rex's rampage. His armor still remained atop the monolith surrounded by the ash of his fires. Before the helicopter had landed on the ground, Hertz had seen rain wash over the final battleground and cascade over the sides of the ruined building. The rain felt good. It no longer felt cold and foreboding, but rejuvenating. It was a life-giving water and, although it smelled like smoke and sulfur, the wet liquid tasted sweet as he let it trickle down his throat. As if to mirror the feelings of the agents below, the moonlight started to shine through the dark clouds covering the city. Although the rain continued to fail in waves, it was more similar to a spring shower than a vicious storm. Despite the gasoline fires still burning in the streets, a chill now started to nip the air. It was getting cold, which was a welcome change from the tropical island where Solomon had spent the last few months. Although Hanukkah ended four days ago, Dr. Koplowitz acknowledged that Christmas was only four days away. Ordinarily, by this time of year, snow would be covering the ground, and holiday lights would be strung across the street. Despite the lack of festivities, the mood among the team was no less merry. From his position in Rotor's helicopter, Solomon had witnessed the fall of a tyrant. The T-Rex king was a mad monster, and his presence would not be missed. Although Solomon believed in redemption, he never expected it from his former boss. No one would grieve the death of Dr. Rex. He could not blame them; he knew he would not. Despite the coldness of his sentiment, he did not feel ashamed to metaphorically dance on Dr. Rex's grave. It was remarkable to consider how much he changed over the span of his life. He had been an idealist once, someone who believed that people were inherently good, but despite the opportunities to do right, people would almost always choose wrong. He still thought of himself as something of an Idealist but he viewed it realistically. People probably were good, but they certainly could not be trusted to make the right choices. Solomon probably bid Hertz farewell as he walked away to find Dr. Cyborg. The elite agent had little knowledge of the philosopher's exploits over the last few hours, but he had received news of Nazareno's death and Cyborg's inheritance of the XERRD organization. Blaire Darkling apparently had been in control for most of the battle but, after he had murdered Nazareno, command had fallen to Dr. Cyborg. Hertz did not know Nazareno well, but he had heard that Solomon had fought closely with him during the battle. His death needed to be avenged, and the former XERRD scientist probably had much to say to Dr. Cyborg and Zelda. Across the field, he spotted the T-2 Typhoon that had carried Pharisee and Grimton. The craft had been outfitted with salvaged components of the Renaissance and it carried all the grandeur of the helicopter he had ridden on Adventurers' Island. But it lacked something special, something that made the craft unique. It and the helicopter flown by Zenna deserved to be remembered and immortalized in history. The typhoons would go down in history as the crafts that defeated Dr. Rex and carried the Einstein Device. Somehow, T-1 9122 and T-2 8950 hardly seemed fitting. He withdrew the orange spray-paint from his utility vest and shook the can vigorously. Although the sides of the T-2 Typhoon were wet from the rain, he sprayed a word along its side. Rex He then moved over to the vehicle he had ridden on. The craft flown by Zenna that the Einstein Device had been fired from sat amongst the wreckage of the battlefield. At its wheels lay the sleeping form of Hotwire. The windshield wipers slid back and forth across the cockpits, and the cabin lights seemed to form a halo around the craft. This was the vehicle that had killed Dr. Rex. On this vehicle, Rex had sacrificed his Creative Spark for the sake of all humanity. He had allowed himself to die because he had nothing left; in an act of selflessness, he had volunteered because the others still had things to live for. The rapid aging of the man had disturbed Hertz, it was a painful way to remember him, and the memory of his sacrifice would always be remembered. It was important to remember why Rex had done what he did. His inspiration could never be forgotten. Hertz wanted the world to remember who he was. It was not right to remember him as some force of nature or infallible entity. Rex was man, a great man, one someone could aspire to be. He nodded his head and wrote the word that meant the most to Rex. Amanda Pharisee stepped out of the Rex and onto the pavement below him. He had grown to really hate the rain over the last few hours but, at this moment, he could tolerate it. He felt that a great evil had been banished from the planet and his soul felt uplifted as a result. Dr. Rex was dead - an entity so evil that it was beyond even Pharisee's comprehension. The commander had witnessed much wickedness in his career and, although some of it came close to Dr. Rex's malevolence, the maliciousness of the scientist-lizard's crimes was greater than Pharisee had before experienced. Justice had been done tonight. The lizard king was dead, but at the cost of good and righteous men. Rex needed to be remembered, as did General. Once again, the commander found himself conflicted. Twice today, he had met men whom he could not categorize as simply good or simply evil. General, in many regards, was no better than his brother Ogel; he was a villain and had admitted it for much of his diabolical life. Pharisee had only tolerated the involvement of the cyborg in admittance to Spec's wishes. If it had been the commander's call, General would have been locked away to rot inside his metal shell. But his sacrifice created own more patch of grey in Pharisee's world. His theology has never before wavered, but on this day, he found himself questioning his ideals. As he walked among the jubilant agents, he spotted two individuals among Rotor and Cabin's coterie. His conflict was forgotten as he strode across the puddles of rain and blood to the men he spotted. Calibration aside, he still had a job to do. ***** For a brief moment, the cries of celebration were deafening to Shaw as she stepped out of the base, helping Pierce with a stretcher. Copper and Hale were working with another wounded agent. Behind them, Montoya helped Carrie Enderson out the door; the latter was limping heavily, and her arm was wrapped around the former's shoulder. As soon as the doctors were out, Sarah Bishop walked out of the base and looked around among the crowd of agents, before she finally spotted her daughter stepping out of a T-1 Typhoon. "Kate!" Sarah shouted as she approached. "Mom!" Kate said, startled as she ran up to Sarah. The two of them quickly hugged. "The wounded patients have just been brought aboard this vehicle," Scott was saying over the radio. "The doctors here do anything and everything they can to help their patients. Even a little faith can help sometimes, as shown by one doctor who has agreed to speak to you all, but she has asked to be left anonymous. Doctor, here you go." "Thank you," Dr. Shaw said nervously. "Doctor, how long have you been working here?" "Only this particular battle," replied Shaw. "I was in Antarctica before this." "And I understand you believe in faith?" "Yes," answered Shaw. "Any particular kind?" "Not really," replied Shaw. "I just find that praying gives me comfort." "I see," said Scott. "Would you say that it has worked?" "Well, we're not trapped in a basement anymore." "That's true," noted Scott. "Thank you very much for your time." ***** Firecracker looked around skittishly as withdrew his stick of dynamite. He liked dynamite; unlike plastic explosives like C-4, dynamite had a much more bass sound. Compared to the pop of C-4, dynamite created a beautiful guttural boom. Dynamite was also considerably unstable and could detonate through impact alone. When heated, it sweated nitroglycerin - which was always fun. Ordinarily, he would have struck the wick on ground, but the wet pavement prevented such a reaction. Instead, he pulled the cigarette from Clint's mouth and promptly lit the stick. Now, all he needed was a target; seeing no apparent object for annihilation, he decided to simply throw the explosive to his left. As Firecracker raised his arm to cast the dynamite in the northerly direction, a powerful hand grabbed his wrist. Still holding onto the lit dynamite, his aggressor spun around to face him, and the explosive maniac was confronted with a fearsome sight. The massive man stared down at him like some unearthly entity. Despite the dark night, he wore sunglasses that seemed to hide any hint of a soul. Holding onto Firecracker's wrist tightly, he glanced at the dynamite as the fuse slowly moved closer to the bomb. Firecracker shifted uncomfortably as his explosive moved closer and closer to detonation; he struggled to unhand the bomb, but Pharisee was unyielding. "As for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." The black pits of Pharisee's sunglasses burned deep into Firecracker's mind. The fuse burned closer and closer to the stick, and sparks burned more vividly with every passing moment. Pharisee spoke softly but with authority. "You are an imbecile, Firecracker, a man devoid of foresight and simple knowledge. Your idiocy resulted in the near destruction of the base and possibly the death of innocents residing within the premises. I do not tolerate foolishness, I do not tolerate your lack of insight or rapport, I do not tolerate you!" Firecracker watched as the sparks moved further down the wick. He shifted uncomfortably and attempted harder to escape, but Pharisee's grip only tightened. "Standard Agent Firecracker, you are under arrest for gross negligence, carelessness, and the attempted destruction of the Dino Attack HQ in addition to the attempted manslaughter of agents inside," said Pharisee. "May the Creator have mercy on your soul." The fuse was now inches from the dynamite, and Firecracker squeezed his eyes shut. Pharisee casually blew out the fuse and twisted the wrist of Firecracker until it was on the verge of breaking. Firecracker apparently was too surprised about being alive to resist, but it did not stop him from wincing in pain as it was twisted behind his back and handcuffed. ***** Hotwire was shaken awake. Momentarily disoriented, he looked up to find himself sitting at a TALON-9 console. Kat was standing next to him. "Wake up, you lump," she said. "There's mopping up to be done and fun to be had later." She handed him a crutch and pulled him up from the seat. He gaped momentarily. "They told me what happened... I was afraid you were dead." Kat snorted and shot him a good-natured smirk. "You should know by now how hard it is to get rid of me. Now c'mon. We--" She paused as Hotwire swayed dizzily for a moment. "Scratch that, new plan. We're headed for the Iron Hammer. They're setting up a fresh infirmary in there, and you don't look so good." Hotwire merely nodded and yawned as Kat helped him down from the deck to the ground. Leaning on her shoulder for support in the event of another dizzy spell, he allowed himself to be led towards the Alpha Team airship, sitting majestically amidst the urban wreckage. "Excuse me," said a voice from behind. Hotwire turned around in shock. "My name is Scott, I'm a reporter for the Brick Street Journal. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about the battle for our listeners in Antarctica?" "What?" said Hotwire. "Oh, yeah, I guess so." "Excellent," said Scott. "Your name is...?" "Hotwire. Er, that is, Dave O'Neal. Um. Elite agent Hotwire. Yeah." Kat snickered. "This isn't live, is it?" she asked. Scott glanced at her. "And who would you be?" he asked. "The answer to that is too complex for a soundbite." Scott rolled his eyes and returned his attention to Hotwire. "So how long have you been with the Dino Attack Team?" "Um, pretty much since the beginning, really," Hotwire responded. The reporter nodded. "Is that when you lost your leg?" he asked, gesturing towards the prosthetic attached to Hotwire's left knee. "No, that actually was just a few days ago--" "Which is why we have to be going now," Kat interrupted. "All that seems to be catching up with him, so we're headed to the infirmary in the Iron Hammer." She began to guide Hotwire away. "Well, congratulations on the victory and best of luck for your recovery," said Scott with a nod. "Thanks for your time." ***** Elsewhere in the battlefield, Snake navigated his way through the debris and bodies to a nearby Urban Avenger. As he turned the corner to get to the vehicle, he was clotheslined by a powerful arm. Snake splashed down in the puddle and looked up in surprise at his attacker. He drew his gun and pointed in at the muscled, black, trench-coated man bearing down on him. It was kicked aside and slid across the cement. The black boot of the commander slammed down on his wrist as he reached for the weapon and he yelled in anger. Reaching down and grabbing him by the collar, he pulled Snake to his feet and looked him in the eyes. "Snake, you were sent here for a chance to reform," said Pharisee darkly. "Now, I ask you truly, have you learned anything?" Before Snake could respond, Pharisee's fist hit his face. ***** "... and... they kissed," Vinyaya said with little emotion to Zach. He turned to Zelda, who was back to looking at the ground in silence. "That was it. He died shortly after that." Zach swallowed painfully. They had recounted their finding of Nazareno in the headquarters fighting against Blaire, how Bluetooth and Zelda had attempted to help, and Nazareno ultimately receiving his fatal wound. Knowing that any potentially close relationship between him and Zelda had been cut short because of a petty grudge sickened Zach. "I'm... sorry, Zelda," he said shortly, unsure what to think. Zelda didn't say anything, merely sighing sadly. Zach could've seen himself in the same position not long ago when Minerva went after Oswald. He thought of Rex and what had happened to him after Claw had died. The Maelstrom hardly had a sway over his emotions at this point, but undeniable anger was boiling over in his head. "Before we talk about what to do with Darkling," Bluetooth interjected, detecting Zach's anger, "what happened in the tower?" Zach let his anger die down for a moment. "We (the Elite agents) pooled together our talents and disarmed the prematurely activated Einstein Device and made necessary modifications to it so it would only destroy enemy Mutant Dinos, not our allies with the Maelstrom in their system. We also took apart the Teleport Pad and built a new launcher out of it." "We need Imagination to destroy the Maelstrom," Minerva stated. "Where did you get that?" Zach sighed. "Rex, who was apparently dying from Maelstrom poisoning anyway, volunteered his Creative Spark. Doc Cyborg and I used our powers (and Greybeard his pistol) to get the spirit out. Rex's body sort of... withered away to dust after losing the spirit. Like an action-adventure movie I watched one time." A stunned look appeared on each of their faces at this revelation. Then Bluetooth spoke up. "His sacrifice saved us all." "His passing deserves to be honored," Vinyaya said with certainly, wrapping her arm around Bluetooth. "Without him, we might not have learned of XERRD's existence before it was too late." Minerva and Zelda merely nodded in agreement. Despite Rex believing he had done nothing significant, Zach was more certain that ever that without him, this war might have gone on several more years or ended even worse. "Now," Minerva said, a cold gleam appearing in her eye. For the first time, Zach noticed a cut running across her left cheek. He would inquire about it later. "About Darkling." "We're going after him," Zelda and Zach said simultaneously. Zach continued off the statement. "I made it clear earlier up in the thirteenth floor that I was going to make sure he is defeated once and for all. I was imagining you three going along for the ride." He gestured to Minerva, Vinyaya, and Zelda, who each nodded curtly. "And you wanted in as well, Doc?" Zach gestured to Dr. Cyborg, who had joined the party silently. He nodded as well. Pausing, he then turned to Bluetooth. "Willing to come along for the ride, Bluetooth? If this guy's reputation is as accurate as it would seem-" Surprisingly, both Bluetooth and Vinyaya nodded in confirmation. Then Zach remembered that Bluetooth, as a Futuron technician, had most likely heard of Matthew Vherestorm in comparison to most Earthlings. "Since his reputation is as accurate to what Nazareno has probably said," Vinyaya continued, pulling her arm away from Bluetooth. "We can use all the help we can get in defeating him. So will you help us Ry-er, Bluetooth?" Bluetooth was considering his options. He definitely wasn't a fighter, even after all he'd gone through this war. But he had personal investment in this, and though he knew Holly was more able at protecting herself than he was, he still didn't want to let her go into such a risky fight alone. And besides, he had proven that there was more to defeating a foe than simple weaponry. "He might have a grudge for what I did to him," he said finally, "so I'm sure he'll want to get a chance at me. But who knows, maybe we can take advantage of that... one thing's for sure, I'll gladly join your party." ***** Epic Winston plodded through the broken streets of LEGO City, attempting to retrace his movements to the place where his brother Matthias had fallen. His attention was diverted by the sounds of a disturbance around a corner. He crept forward, unslinging his sword, and peered down the street just in time to see a white-haired man in a pale trenchcoat run a katana through the chest of a Space Marauder. The fresh corpses of three Dino Attack agents and two other Space Marauders lay behind him. The man stepped back and glanced around as a pair of T-1 Typhoons passed overhead. Enraged, Winston charged at Blaire Darkling, who turned at the sound of quick footsteps. Momentarily startled by the giant Agent bearing down on him, the man regained his composure and raised his katana. With a hoarse, primal howl, Epic Winston struck. Blaire brought his katana up as fast as he could to block the massive sword coming down at him. Blaire felt his entire body vibrate as Winston's sword collided with his own. Kicking the bearded Agent away, Blaire stepped back and quickly examined his newer, clearly powerful opponent. He was bulkier than Blaire was by a small margin and had a wild, angry look in his eyes. Blaire continued to back away as Winston regained his composure and sliced the air with his massive sword as he approached XERRD's former leader. He glanced briefly at his own katana. Even if it was stronger than the generic katana, another strike like that would damage it heavily. He would have to change his tactics. Blaire ran at the massive brute and ducked underneath a sweeping blow that would have split his torso in two had it connected. He fell to his knees and slid across the wet pavement as the Agent stabbed his sword downward, narrowly missing him. Blaire swung his katana out, striking the Agent's leg. Winston snarled and kicked Blaire as hard as he could in the back. Blaire fell flat on his stomach, but quickly rolled back on his feet. It would not benefit him to slow down for a second. Blaire then sheathed his katana and gestured for the Agent to attack. Howling in anger, Winston charged. Blaire stepped to the side of the sword and grabbed the sword arm. Unfortunately, the wall of a man collided with him, sending him sliding slightly on the bottoms of his feet. Ignoring the pain in his shoulders, Blaire slammed his fist in the hairy man's face and pulled the sword from his grip and threw it to the side. Winston swung his forearm into Blaire's face, knocking him to the side and tilting the sunglasses on his face. Quickly straightening his spectacles, Blaire ran at the Agent and tackled him to the ground. Blaire threw punch after punch into the man's face before an uppercut sent Blaire flying back. Blaire quickly rose to his feet and saw Winston continue for his massive sword. Blaire rolled his eyes behind his tinted sunglasses and had his katana back out as the Agent charged at him again, sword raised. Blaire simply wasn't willing to let that sword land too many blows on his katana. So, as Winston's broadsword reached out toward him, Blaire decided to simply duck or jump back, which was a challenge on its own due to the Agent's sword length. The XERRD armband was sliced off, and several more tears were created in his trenchcoat and cuts in his skin as a result of this tactic. But Blaire wasn't without his own attacks. When Winston relented briefly enough, Blaire would launch his own furious attack on the agent, managing to cut up part of his uniform as well. Winston jabbed his sword out at Blaire. He quickly swung himself to the side and elbowed the Agent in the face. Blaire spun his katana in his hand and prepared to slam into the Agent's chest when a fist slammed into his spine. Muffling the pain with a mere groan, Blaire swept his foot out, causing the Agent to stumble. Blaire quickly spun around and planted a foot in Winston's stomach, knocking him to the concrete. Blaire brought the katana down as quickly as he could when the Agent brought his broadsword back up, knocking the attack away. Scowling irritably, Blaire stabbed for the Agent's head, each attack being blocked by the broadsword. Roaring in anger, Blaire kicked the sword out of Winston's hand. He responded with his ankles being attacked with a sharp hit, sending him tumbling to the ground. Winston delivered a quick kick to Blaire's chin. Blaire raised his sword and thrust it toward the Agent, who rolled away to recover his own sword. Blaire rose to his feet and sheathed the katana. "I am always one for playing out the drama of a situation, but I'm running out of time," Blaire muttered as he reached for his handgun. "I'm not taking any chances with this one." He pointed it square at the Agent's shaggy head. Never the torso. Instinctively, Blaire reached into his trenchcoat and plucked out the bullet fired by the Dino Attack agent he believed was named Bluetooth and tossed it to the ground. With that, he cocked the gun and fired. ***** Firecracker was quickly tossed into one of the helicopters alongside Snake. With the base in its current state, Pharisee really had nowhere to put them, so he simply posted a guard named Mallory outside the T-1 Typhoon to watch them until they could be disposed of properly. Snake reached into his pocket and drew a cigarette, placing it into his mouth. Mallory smiled. At that moment, the shouting of a nearby person was heard. "KA-BOOM!" Firecracker and Snake glanced out of the helicopter and watched Demoman riding by on the back of See the Mutant Raptor. "Off t' a maximum-security prison, eh?" called Demoman. "Aye, I doubt that'll hold yeh long, Firecracker!" "Maybe, maybe not," replied Mallory. "But we're not letting them off so easily. That's not how this story goes." Firecracker smiled and tipped his fedora. "So long, partner," he said. "I'll see you again one day, no doubt." "I'll be waitin' fer yeh with a whiff of the ol' brimstone!" promised Demoman, saluting Firecracker with one hand and taking a swig of some alcoholic beverage with the other hand. See gave an enthusiastic roar, proudly grinning with his sharp teeth. Then the Dino Attack demolitions expert and his Mutant Raptor steed rode off into the figurative sunset as the T-1 Typhoon crew prepared to depart for prison. "Agent Snake," a familiar voice said from behind. Snake turned around to see a familiar face leaning against a nearby T-1 Typhoon, and a helicopter nearby that had just landed. The tall, older man was clad in black, and had a receding hairline and a thick mustache. "Hauk," Snake muttered. "That's me." "You going to release me?" "That depends," replied Hauk. "The paperwork is ready to go; I just need to check with your superiors. You did your job, as I hope you did, you're a free man. If not, well, we'll see." And with that, Hauk turned and left the helicopter. Snake turned and, not wanting to wait around to find out the answer, looked for a way out of his handcuffs without Mallory noticing. ***** Reptile waved away the agent warning him not to enter the remains of their HQ and headed straight for his laboratory. He had joined Greybeard and the others who had been with them in that final moment for an initial celebration. He would then have joined his friends, but Tail had teleported to Antarctica and Coral was dead... so he decided it would be best to see what remained of his research here before joining any more post-battle celebrations. Once he got there, he was pleased to find that the reinforced walls had apparently done their job in, well, reinforcing the walls. He keyed himself into the room and looked around. Much equipment was damaged, but as he tapped the computer keys and began downloading a backup of all his data, he could see himself returning to work here in a few weeks or months. Dino Attack still had a purpose, after all: keeping tabs on the lesser Mutant Dinos, doing some research and publishing some of all the information they'd gathered on the Maelstrom, Creation Energy, Mutant Goo, indestructible metals, vehicle designs... and, well, with the death of Rex, Reptile was one of the more senior Elite Agents they had left. On the other hand... while once he had been interested in herpetology and studying the properties of these Mutant Dinos (in fact, this interest is what had led him to sign up), he was now a lot more interested in some of the exotic high energy physics Dino Attack had been messing with lately. He couldn't help but wonder if maybe they would have been able to develop an alternative power source for the Einstein Device, had they had more time. Had he been more versed in the physics of the project. He had thrown himself into the role of tactician and battlefield commander, which was simply not who he was. He was a man who wanted to find out more about the universe he lived in. He decided he'd stay with Dino Attack for now. But maybe in a couple months' time, he would return to the lab of his mentor, Dr. Formula. Maybe. For now, Reptile decided, he'd take life as it came. He exited the ruins of Dino Attack Headquarters and looked around for where he might be needed. "Excuse me," said a voice from behind as Reptile stepped out of the headquarters. "I'm agent Scott. I represent the Brick Street Journal. I was wondering if you'd mind me asking a few questions about the battle for our listeners in Antarctica." Reptile blinked owlishly at the reporter, and then nodded firmly. "Certainly, what would you like to know?" he asked Scott. "Well, let's see… our reports say you led the aerial defense of HQ during the opening stages of the battle. How did you feel about that, and the ultimate outcome of the battle?" Reptile blinked again. "I felt like I had to pay attention to everything at once to keep our T-1 lines from crumbling. And ultimately, my leadership, and the leadership of the other Elite Agents who I was working with, wasn't enough to keep our T-1s in place… at the time, I was afraid we were finished. Now, I'm just relieved we survived." "You are a well-regarded scientist by training, not a soldier or special agent. Why did you join the Dino Attack Team, and end up commanding wings of T-1 Typhoons in combat operations?" "I joined… because I wanted to know about these Mutant Dinos. I wondered where they came from, I wondered what technological or biological cause resulted in their presence on our world. I wanted to know more. I think I found out more about violence and combat and war than I'd ever have wanted to know - and I found that I was a pretty good leader of warriors - but the science is why I stuck around." "What are your plans now that the invasion is over? Will you stick with the Dino Attack Team or go back to your lab?" Reptile sighed. "As you said, I'm a scientist, not a soldier. I think I'm going to work on some of my long-neglected research. Probably for whatever the Dino Attack Team has become at least for a time, but in the not-so-distant future I'll probably retire back to the lab of my mentor, Dr. Formula." "But surely you have some thoughts about the future of the Dino Attack Team, and the future of the LEGO Planet now that this invasion is over?" Reptile sighed again. Politics was never a favorite subject of his, but he thought he may as well make his views known. "Over there," he said, pointing to the Iron Hammer, "is an Alpha Team craft. Groups like Alpha Team and the Agents have been, and continue to be, the first lines of defense for our world against villains, tyrants, demons, otherworldly invaders, dark armadas and evil armies - and they've served us pretty well. "Now, we were a special task force forged to deal with the unique threat of the Dino Attack. But now the Dino Attack is over, and I don't see any reason we should complicate the politics of the world further. There's some mop-up work to be done, of course. "Though… who knows? Perhaps I'm wrong, and there is a role for us to play alongside Alpha Team, as a more scientifically-minded and perhaps more idealistic organization. But if you want to know about that, talk to someone like Specs, or Viper - or Magma or some other senior Alpha Team agent." For as he was talking, Reptile saw Magma walking out of the Iron Predator. He waved over at the Alpha Team agent, but a distracted Magma did not wave back. Scott nodded. Reptile couldn't tell if he'd annoyed the reporter or not, but he suspected reporters like this man did not get annoyed very easily. Or were just very good at hiding their feelings. "Well, thank you, Elite Agent Reptile. Best of luck to you in your future research or other pursuits," the reporter said. Scott turned away and began saying something else into the camera, but Reptile didn't bother to listen to it. He was already thinking about the contents of the next paper he was going to publish as soon as he got home on the DNA Device - he'd had a most interesting idea just now about how they might be able to reverse engineer some of the technology. He couldn't wait to get started. ***** Magma had left the Alpha Team operation under the command of his friends, made his report to Specs, and then quickly left the ship for an urgent conversation. He needed to do this now, before it became much too late to do it. He'd been meaning to have this conversation for a few months now - but somehow it had never worked. He knew where his target would be: she would be with the Agents forces, who had set up a small command post in the shadow of the Iron Predator and Dino Attack HQ. Most of the tension between the Agents and Dino Attack had dissipated over the past few months, but there was still some residual pride left. So while the Agents forces would happily join the Dino Attack and Alpha Team troops in the airship, it would simply not be proper for them to not have established some visible presence on the battlefield. And it would take a high-ranking Agents officer to man such a facility. It was true that the Agents had many high-ranking officers. But Magma had cheated and, after deducing all this, had run a scan from his ship to determine that his target was actually here. He entered the command post and, for the first time in dealing with Agents for a long time, did not immediately find a gun pointed at his face. Instead, he found Colonel Covert of Agents Intelligence casually sitting in a commandeered desk chair, watching data on a computer terminal and, of all things, playing with her black hair. The rest of the room was empty - from looking at it alone, one would see no signs that a war had just gone on outside. "I thought I might find you here," Magma said. Covert didn't even look up, and merely replied, "I thought you might think you might find me here." She sounded amused. "We've beaten Dr. Rex," Magma said. "Our two organizations helped make this happen, in the end. We can agree, I think, that when the Agents first showed an interest in the Dino Attack Team, things did not turn out well." "That would be one way to put it, yes," said Covert. She still was not looking at Magma. "However, once… shall we say, certain Agents and Alpha Team personnel set their personal differences aside and realized what kind of a threat they were facing, they began working together much more smoothly and in a much friendlier kind of rivalry. Would you not agree again?" "I think I would," Covert said. "So," Magma said, and hesitated. "I owe you an apology. I still think your initial… ah, attempt to arrest me was arrogant and ridiculous and deserved some kind of retaliation. But I think after two years crusading against your interests, we're even, don't you? So… I'm… sorry for my initial overreaction." "Apology accepted," Covert said softly. She was staring at her computer screen now. "Before we get on to the next piece of business, I have to ask. Didn't you realize that by… ah, attempting to thwart me at every turn, I'd just make things worse between our respective organizations?" Magma asked sharply. Covert looked up and met his stare. She then laughed. "Because it was fun?" She smiled. "But even though it was… because I thought, maybe, if I could beat you, I could gain your respect - if I could show you I was as good as you, if not better than you, you'd respect my organization and my own abilities?" "My… you wanted my respect?" Magma said slowly. "When I tried to arrest you, you humiliated my team and almost killed several of my men. You made us look like clowns, and… well, Magma - you, Zed, Dash, Subzero, Databoard, Frozeen - you're all considered heroes in this business. We - I - may consider Alpha Team unprofessional and sloppy, but I know you have some extremely talented people. And you're among them. So if I was trying to show you up and establish some basis for mutual self-respect between our intelligence forces… maybe you can understand why?" Magma stood there, stunned. He had always assumed Covert must have hated him specifically for some reason, but… what was she saying? A terrible thought entered his head - a thought that he quickly tried to dismiss. As is the nature of such thoughts, this attempt failed, and instead sparked a few more. The first thought was: Love and hate are the same sides of a coin. The second thought was: The only reason I'd hated her was because I thought she had hated me. The third thought was: Now that I come to actually think about it, she is rather pretty. The fourth thought was: Maybe I should stop trying to dismiss these kinds of thoughts. He shook his head, irritated. First things first. "Uh…" he stammered. Covert waited, smiling slightly. "Uh, well, in that case, I guess that makes this offer a lot easier. I'd like to propose an actual alliance between our two organizations," Magma said, regaining a bit of professional dignity. "Specifically between our intelligence groups, that is." "What would the nature of this alliance be?" Covert asked. "Well, for one, the two of us would no longer attempt to actually sabotage each other's projects. For another, we'd share data and collaborate on covert operations and work together in fighting enemies rather than separately. We'd also work on locating the movements of villains, like Ogel, whose absence should really be investigated." "I suppose one goal of this would be to avoid a situation in which one lone black ops agent is ambushed by a hit squad from the other side when both are attempting to eliminate some high priority target, and end up fighting each other instead of the target?" Covert asked innocently. "Yes, exactly like that," Magma said, eyes narrowing at this reference to how the two had first met in 2008 when attempting to stop Dr. Inferno. He glared for a few seconds, and the Agents colonel continued to look innocent. Then they both chuckled for a few minutes. "But yes, that's the goal. So, what say you?" "A question: are your superiors aware of this proposal?" she asked him. "Not yet," said Magma. Covert hesitated, and then nodded. "Well, they will be soon - as I accept. Let's finalize the details and then inform our respective superiors of our, ah, decisions." Magma nodded as well, and the two quickly got to work. ***** Pierce turned in surprise as Sarah Bishop walked into the Iron Hammer, accompanied by her daughter. Kate seemed unsure of what to be thinking. There was a mix of things: fear, relief, sadness, and she certainly had a right to it. Anyone would have been scared by what had just gone down. PTSD was no doubt going to emerge in a few of the agents, and someone like Nicholas Saran might have to help. She had learned some unpleasant truths about her family, and she had the right to be upset about that too, but there was some relief in the thought that it was all over, and maybe, just maybe, things could get better. Pierce smiled as he wiped his hands. Kate quickly ran up to him and embraced him. He could not help putting his own hands around her before they finally let go. Sarah walked up to the two of them. Pierce could not help but feel a certain rush of joy. After all these years, he had finally met his own daughter, and now they were going to be together. "I see you've already met your father," Sarah remarked, casually. Kate looked at her, somewhat surprised, but knowing what she meant. "Oh yes," replied Pierce. "She was with us on Adventurers' Island. She was a real badbrick. You know, she once constructed a bomb just to scare off a Pterosaur attack using only items on a T-1 Typhoon." Sarah looked at him. "Really?" she asked sarcastically. "Yes," Pierce said with full seriousness. Sarah looked at him blankly, but just went with it. Pierce looked at Kate eagerly. "We made it through," he said. Kate looked at him uncertainly. "I don't know," she said. "I don't even know what I want to do with my life." "We'll figure it out," assured Pierce. "I promise you I'm going to get you into college, and you will find something, sooner or later." ***** "Alrighty then," Zach said, rubbing his hands together. "We'll make some preparations, have a bite to eat maybe, and we'll head out in a half-hour or so." "You sure we shouldn't leave now?" Vinyaya asked, crossing her arms. "He probably knows he's wanted now. I'm sure he knows he can't salvage his identity as well. In fact, he might have already fled." "He isn't leaving," Zelda stated simply. Everyone looked at her. "I have a feeling... he might be looking for us. Knowing his habits, he'll want revenge on all us for ratting him out. He'll at least try to kill us before leaving." "Even with the Imagination boost from the Einstein Device," Minerva said, "it would probably a good idea to get some food or rest a bit. And as much as I love to operate and come up with a plan simultaneously, we should probably work out some sort of plan against Darkling." "But I don't think we should wait too long," Dr. Cyborg said, gesturing to the sky. Whatever natural light that was breaking through the clouds that were shrouded over the city was fading rapidly. If they waited any longer, they would be forced to find Darkling in the dark. Bluetooth grimaced. "We don't have much time at all, really. Once it goes dark, we can probably bet Darkling will flee. This is our best chance to stop Vherestorm/Darkling once and for all." Zach nodded in agreement. "So I'd say we find some ammunition and reload our weapons and the Xenon Launcher and head out. As much as a bite to eat sounds good, we have to act now." "Dr. Cyborg, Zelda, and I will get the ammunition," Minerva said, stepping forward and gesturing to Zelda and Dr. Cyborg. "You guys come up with a plan. We won't be long." As she passed by Zach, she smiled at him and patted his shoulder. Before they got too far away to get ammunition for the Darkling hunt, Dr. Cyborg was approached by Catless. "Dr. Cyborg, I've got something to tell you," she said. "Okay. Zelda, Minerva, go on ahead, I'll catch up with you later." Dr. Cyborg gestured for Zelda and Minerva to continue while he talked to Catless. Deciding not eavesdrop, Zach turned back to Vinyaya and Bluetooth. Vinyaya pulled out her PDA. "This gets an internet connection, correct?" "I imagine it does to get messages to other PDAs," Zach said sarcastically. Vinyaya frowned at him. "I don't need your lip, Virchaus," Vinyaya snapped. "The point is we can use my authorization to get into the Space Police database to peek into Vherestorm's file. There should be an analysis of his tactics that we can use to come up with a plan to fight him." She walked over to the Fire Hammer, the tiny light of the PDA illuminating her scarred face as sat down next the tire, crossed her legs, and began to quick press her hands across buttons. Zach glanced at Bluetooth, an amused grin on his face. Bluetooth shrugged and went over and sat by Vinyaya. Zach smirked in amusement and was prepared to say something when someone calling his name caught his attention. Turning, he saw Andrew, Laxus, and Pterisa walking toward him. "Hey!" Zach said happily. "Glad to see you two make it!" He gave Laxus a high-five and extended a fist toward Pterisa, who responded with her own. "The same to you," Pterisa said, smiling. Laxus nodded to Zach before glancing over his shoulder. "Good to see you as well, Bluetooth!" Bluetooth acknowledged Laxus, Andrew, and Pterisa with a wave and smile before looking back down at Vinyaya's PDA. They were talking in hushed tones, both occasionally cracking a grin and laughing quietly. Andrew smirked, quickly interpreting the situation between Vinyaya and Bluetooth. "What are they doing, exactly?" "Hopefully finding some info we can use to hunt down Blaire Darkling," Zach explained, turning back to the group. "Yeah, we heard about him and Nazareno," Laxus said, looking apologetic. "Sorry." "What matters is that we complete Nazareno's goal and beat this guy once and for all." Zach then turned to Pterisa. "Have you ever encountered Blaire Darkling? White hair, sunglasses, trenchcoat? Maybe a katana?" Pterisa paused to think. Then her wings flinched in remembrance. "Ah. I believe I saw him when Tyrannus, Velosis, and myself were attacking XERRD operatives in their lab. He was sending guards after us and trying to kill us. He never directly approached us, preferring to stay back and shoot at us from afar." "I would say he was cowardly, but I'm thinking he decided he couldn't take on three Hybrids with the powers of Mutant Raptors, Pterosaurs, and T-Rexes alone with only mooks," Zach said with a shrug. "That's how he operates, as far as I can tell. Back away from situations out of his control. That's how he's survived so long, in addition to his skill. If we weren't thinking he wanted to kill us, he might have left already, knowing how in-over-his-head he is now." Zach then looked at his three friends that stood before him. He shrugged. "Why not? You guys want to come along and capture a terrorist? One last exciting, dramatic bit in our lives before finally getting to relax?" ***** Samuel Race surveyed the damage. Luckily, his years in training as a helicopter pilot allowed him to make the crash-landing of the Joseph's Heir as smooth as possible. The tail rotor was all but completely melted away, and the T-1 Typhoon's armor was scorched and charred from battle amongst the flames. It had suffered some other damage between the fight with Dr. Rex and the crash-landing. However, overall, the Joseph's Heir looked like it could be repaired with ease and, one day, fly again. "I'll make you proud, Dad," promised Race as he looked over the helicopter. "Hello again to all our listeners in Antarctica!" Sam Race raised an eyebrow and turned around, and he was surprised to see a man approaching him with all sorts of equipment for broadcasting radio signals, and he was speaking into a microphone. "You're tuned in to WDNO - Dino Radio, and I'm J. Theano, reporting live from the battlefield of Dino Attack Team's final battle, bringing you interviews with some of Dino Attack Team's greatest agents who worked together in achieving the greatest victory LEGO Planet has ever known! With us today is one of Dino Attack Team's elite agents, who flew a T-1 Typhoon straight into battle against the evil Dr. Rex and lived to tell the tale!" Sam Race grinned sheepishly. "Actually, I'm not an elite agent. I just work with the team; I'm not actually an official member." J. Theano did not break his stride as he was corrected by Race. "I hope you all heard that, because you don't have to be a Dino Attack agent to be a hero. This is Prince Samuel Race of the Space Knights, hailing from Castle Cove and a champion of numerous LEGO Racers championships! So then, Prince Race, to all our listeners in Antarctica, tell us... what was it like to take on the evil-" Before Theano could complete his question, they were approached by a middle-aged man with thin round glasses holding a large camera, accompanied by a radio operator. "Excuse me," said the man, "my name is agent Scott, and I'm a journalist working for the Brick Street Journal. I hope you don't mind if I ask you a-" "Sir, you'll have to wait a moment," said Theano, frowning. "I'm conducting an interview here for WDNO - Dino Radio, and all our listeners in Antarctica are surely eager to hear what Prince Race has to-" "Um, who are you again?" Scott raised an eyebrow. "I joined this team because there weren't any journalists up north reporting on the action." J. Theano was aghast at this statement. "Now, see here, Mr. Scott! I've been following Dino Attack Team for months and providing all the news for everyone down south! I saw them fight off a herd of T-Rexes trying to destroy a small power station, and I was there when the new Iron Predator stopped a raptor rampage in its tracks! And you just show up out of nowhere, and-" "Welcome back! Seymour Brickstein here, reporting live for the LEGO City News!" J. Theano and Scott both turned around to see another news crew approach the crash site of the Joseph's Heir, this time lead by a Minifig in a beige trenchcoat and wearing a brown fedora. "Here we are at Ground Zero, mere minutes after the defeat of the Mutant Dinos, and with us today is a Dino Attack elite agent-" "Who are you?" interrupted Scott. "I'm Seymour Brickstein," the reporter introduced himself. "Haven't you heard of me? I've been doing the LEGO City news for years, and I've always known where to find a good story!" "Oh right," said Sam Race, nodding in remembrance. "Yeah, you were that guy who covered the Robot Chronicles last year." "But LEGO City was evacuated just before the battle," noted J. Theano, frowning. "You shouldn't be here; this is a classified area." "You're one to talk," scoffed Scott. "At least I officially signed up for this team." "You're just jealous because I just got back from interviewing all four founding members," proudly boasted Theano. "Yes, even Specs! Good luck finding a better news story than that!" Scott furrowed his brow. "Now, wait just a second, I'm giving attention to the unsung-" "Hi, this is your reporter, Lotta Brix, and we are reporting live from downtown, where the Dino Attack Team has just emerged victorious in an epic struggle against the Mutant Dinos!" Yet another news crew approached the scene, this time lead by a female reporter in a red jacket with black-rimmed glasses. "Where are all these news crews coming from?" gasped Scott. J. Theano threw his arms up into the air. "Ladies and gentlemen," he announced, "the Mutant Dino invasion is over. Bunker down, though, because the news reporter invasion has just begun!" "I'm more qualified at delivering this story than all of you combined," declared Brix. "While you're all bickering, I'll get right to the heart of the story and be there to deliver the news to all our viewers! I would have come a little earlier, too, but my news crew refused to follow me into the battle." "With good reason," said Brickstein, shrugging. "That sort of thinking will get you abducted if you're reporting on an alien invasion!" "You're one to talk," retorted Theano. "You're the one who nearly got run over by a racecar, got your news van towed during a report, and almost got stomped on by Dr. Inferno's robot mech!" "Theano," sighed Brix, "please keep your oversized chin out of this." As J. Theano, agent Scott, Seymour Brickstein, and Lotta Brix argued, bickered, and debated over who would get to broadcast the news story, Sam Race leaned against the hull of the Joseph's Heir and watched the scene with increasing amusement. They had forgotten about him, and the champion LEGO Racer inside of him enjoyed seeing the competition between all the reporters. ***** Strangebrick handed a test tube to his daughter, now cleaned up and wearing a gleaming white labcoat. The bruises were still visible on Jenny's face, but she seemed in better spirits. Dr. Joel Fuchs stood across from him holding a notebook, writing in everything he could as Strangebrick combined chemicals. Fuchs had been relocated to Antarctica for a reason: his own protection. He had taken what little information was left by J.D. and created a working cure to the Maelstrom. Under the circumstances, it was important that this be perfected, lest the Maelstrom should ever become a threat again. A few other scientists were helping out, using the notes Fuchs had made back on Adventurers' Island and the binders from Adventurers' Island, the ones Kate had stolen earlier. At that moment, fellow scientist Dr. Lowell stepped into the room. "Guys!" he shouted. "I got good news." "What?" Fuchs asked, looking up from his work and adjusting his glasses. "Come on!" Fuchs quickly put down his notebook and stepped outside, following Lowell into the next room where a television was playing. A headline read: "New reporters get into fight over interviewee". A number of people were seen arguing with each other as a newsreader commentated. "That wasn't it," Lowell said. "They were saying the war is over." At that moment, Strangebrick stepped into the room, his young daughter following. "What's going on?" Jenny asked, nervously. "War's over," replied Lowell. "Only a matter of time before we can get out of here." ***** "... an' sore I be t' hoist me colours on th' likes o' that, so instead I take me hearty into th' pub, but between th' squall an' me dead deadlight, settin' a course fer th' tavern be not quite as easy as ye think, savvy? So thar, we waited, fer nei'er o' us be willin' t' dance a fine dance out in th' rain quite yet, fer dead men tell no tales. Avast all o' them blaggards! Aye, we sent them all down t' Davy Jones's locker, but I be gettin' ahead o' meself. An' once me mateys arrived, aye, that be when me an' me shipmates scuttl'd th' ol' cockroach. An' I suppose th' poop deck must have been scrubb'd very recently, says I, fer then like a ship at sea on a stormy night, I find meself a man o'erboard. But before th' scurvy scum could shiver me timbers-" "Okay, okay, okay," Scott said, shaking his head. "I think that's enough; I'm afraid we're all out of time for this interview. Thank you, Mister... err... Pirata." He then muttered to J. Theano: "I've had enough; you interview him!" Greybeard laughed as the reporter scurried off. Clearly, his pirate accent was far too much for the reporter to handle. Greybeard limped over to the crash site of the Joseph's Heir. There, he found Prince Samuel Race, helped by Bill Ding and a few other mechanics, in repairing the damage caused to the T-1 Typhoon during the final battle. The old pirate was relieved to see that Sam was doing better since the untimely death of his father. He gently tapped Sam on the shoulder, and the LEGO Racer flinched in response. Upon seeing Greybeard, he caught his breath and shook his head. "Oh, come now, Greybeard! Don't sneak up on me like that!" "Sorry, matey," Greybeard said with a shrug. "I just want'd t' check up on ye. Ye be a brave man, flyin' that ship into th' flames o' Dr. Rex himself! Yer father would be proud t' see 'ow much ye grew up, says I." "Thanks for your kind words," Sam said. He smiled and nodded, but his eyes had a very sad look. Greybeard noticed that Sam Race was wearing earbuds connected to one of those fancy new gizmos for listening to music that Greybeard had occasionally seen during his time working with Dino Attack Team. Gesturing to the iPod, the old pirate inquired, "So, what be ye listenin' t'? Some sort o' victory music? A lot o' 'em Dino Attack agents, such as Williams an' Zimmer, be playin' loud an' triumphant victory songs." Sam sighed and shook his head. "Right now? 'Soldier Side' by System of a Play." "System o' a Play?" repeated Greybeard, with the raise of an eyebrow. Sam Race chuckled. "I know, it doesn't really seem like the sort of music I would listen to. Sam Throramebi is fonder of the band than I am; he's more into that style of music, I guess. I'm not a huge fan of System of a Play, but compared to most bands of that genre, I daresay, I personally think System of a Play is actually pretty tolerable. The singers don't always scream, and instead of just thrashing their instruments as loudly as they can, they actually play distinct and, sometimes, even pretty melodies." "Avast," snorted Greybeard. "Ye can keep yer System o' a Play. I be listenin' t' me Beatles, Eric Clapton, an' Yes." Sam Race laughed. "Yeah, those are some pretty awesome bands." Then, the laughter and smile disappeared as Sam looked down at his iPod and sighed solemnly. "You know, the thing about 'Soldier Side'... I never truly understood what it was about. Then again, I'm not sure what most System of a Play songs are about, anyway. But now... after the final battle... I feel like I truly understand what 'Soldier Side' means. When you go to war, you don't come back... because even if you survive, what you have seen has changed you forever." "An' ye?" Greybeard bit his lip, concerned. "Ye feel that way?" Sam nodded grimly. "I'll never be the same. Not after seeing my father die in war. I've always enjoyed competition, and I just thought of the Dino Attack war as just another competition. But now... now, I can understand why my father did all in his power to keep the Space Knights out of the many wars that have taken place in Castle Cove. War is MegaBlokland. Sons go to war, never to return. Families wait for their loved ones, never coming home. And even after I finish my scheduled sessions with Dr. Saran... I'll never be the same again. I'm done, Greybeard. I'm done." "So what be ye goin' t' do?" inquired Greybeard. "What if thar be 'nother Dino Attack? What if Castle Cove be in danger?" Glancing up at the night sky, Sam murmured, "I think... perhaps the best thing to do is to leave Castle Cove and LEGO Planet forever. We Space Knights certainly have the technology to form our own satellite colony off of LEGO Planet. There, we'll be out of the way. We won't have to worry about the wars in Castle Cove. We won't find ourselves in danger of another Dino Attack. It might sound extreme... but I don't want anyone in my kingdom to know firsthand what I know now." Shrugging, Sam Race added: "I might pop in once in a while for a LEGO Racers Championship or something, but... I think this is the last time in the foreseeable future that we might be able to hang out together, Greybeard." "If that be what ye think be best fer yer kingdom," said Greybeard, "then fair winds, me hearty." Greybeard and Sam Race embraced one another, and Greybeard whispered in his ear: "No matter what ye do, I know yer father be proud o' ye. Dinnae forget that." "I won't," promised Sam Race. ***** "As you know," Catless told Dr. Cyborg, "I was on a Fire Hammer with Laxus and Pterisa during the final battle. We had stopped to fix the Fire Hammer, which was coming apart. I had heard something, a cry of pain. I followed the noise, and I found someone, a woman. She had been injured fatally by a pack of Dinos, and she died after telling me something." Dr. Cyborg's eyes widened. "No, no, you're wrong. You can't be talking about who I think you are, you can't be!" Dr. Cyborg exclaimed. "I'm afraid I am. Dr. Cyborg, I saw your sister Elizabeth die," Catless finished sadly. "No!" shouted Dr. Cyborg. "I thought I had escaped the battle with almost nobody close to me dying! And now, in the midst of victory, I find I'm wrong! I can't use this anger on Dr. Rex, but I can channel it into hunting Darkling." Dr. Cyborg stormed off, catching up to Zelda and Minerva. Catless turned away, sad she had to break the news. She walked back over to the main group, almost as down as Dr. Cyborg, since retelling the story brought on a fresh wave of sadness over her friend's death. Pterisa walked over to her and gave her a sisterly hug. "You alright?" she asked Catless. "Yeah, I'll be fine. Thanks for the comfort." ***** Wade turned toward Marco Martinet. They were sitting in their ambulance, the vehicle having come to a stop on the side of a road. "We did it," Wade said, with a slight grin. "We made it through. You know, I gotta say that I met a few combat medics back in the army. You might well be one of the best I've seen in action." They started the converted Fire Hammer up again and drove throughout the city, hearing the cheers and celebrations of their teammates, until Marco Martinet slowly pulled the ambulance to a stop near HQ. He and Wade climbed out to see a group of reporters, one of whom, a tall, thin middle-aged man with glasses and holding a large camera approached them. "Excuse me," the man said. "My name is Agent Scott, I represent the Brick Street Journal. I was wondering if you'd mind answering a few questions." "Sure," replied Wade. "Excellent," said Scott. "Let's get this to the boys in Antarctica before the others get here. I mean, there's that one guy whose boasting about meeting all the Elite Agents - he probably hasn't given much thought to anyone else, and of course he's arguing with all the other reporter s- and you mind if I get a photograph?" Wade and Martinet posed slightly as Scott held up his camera and took a quick shot. "Thank you. Now from the looks of it I take it you two are doctors?" "A-yes," replied Martinet. "I think one of your colleagues might have talked about you two. You're the ones who went on the field, right?" "Yes," affirmed Wade. "Fascinating, tell me, um..." "Wade." "Wade, what exactly motivated you to take such a risk?" "Well," explained Wade, "I was in the army, you see. I used to work as a field doctor. I figured with my experience there it was only fitting I help out here." ***** The massive Iron Hammer airship dominated the Dino Attack Headquarters' plaza. At its base were the wreckages of several Dino Attack vehicles and the carcasses of many Mutant Dinosaurs. The shadow of the ship fell over the carnage and created a strange dissonance with the surroundings. As if someone had casually tossed their toy among the landscape, the colossal Iron Hammer seemed out of place among the distraction surrounding it. This was not to say the craft shown no sign of battle; burns and bullet holes peppered the fuselage of the ship, and scarring was certainly evident. Although the armored ship had fared better than other craft, it was far from spotless. Hertz stepped over a dead dragon that had once carried a Fright Knight Windship and around the scattered remains of smaller Flying Machines. He had received word that medical care was being provided in the bowels of the Iron Hammer, and he figured a checkup would be nice. What had begun as a hairline fracture in his left arm had worsened to a complete break. Hertz figured it would need to be set before he permanently lost its function. He no longer felt any pain; the stinging sensation had ceased about two hours ago, and this was probably a bad sign. Hertz was no doctor, but he guessed he probably had nerve damage. In retrospect, wielding a duct-taped pair of heavy Sonic Screamers with a broken arm had probably been a poor choice. It had helped to bring down Dr. Rex, but he knew he would certainly hurt in the morning. The strange echoless void he no lived in was evolving into a high-pitched moan. His ears rang with phantom sounds, and he nodded his head in acknowledgment to every agent he passed. Odds are they were congratulating him on being alive, but he could return no such tidings. Instead, he walked awkwardly among the bodies at his feet. The rain was chilling. For moments, he swore he felt something harder than water plop on the back of his neck. The cold December weather was freezing the water to ice. Soon, snow would fall from the sky and finally cast the city into its long overdue holiday life. As the winter clouds gathered above, Hertz reflected on the nature festive spirit thieving among the agents. He could not hear the inevitable Christmas Carols or the sound of sleigh bells. Although no snow was on the ground, the feeling of winter plus the defeat of Dr. Rex could only result in childish happiness. Hertz would miss out on the sounds of the season, but the days were no less sweet. He located the polished boarding ramp of Iron Hammer and made his way up the incline into the ship. The interior of the Iron Hammer was drab and bellicose. The designers had not wasted time making the ship comfortable; instead, they had developed it with practical precision. Stepping under the white lights, he passed the exposed bulk heads and industrial piping. The stark, narrow hallways of the ship were slightly difficult to navigate, so he relied on the hastily stuck on directions to find the medical bay. Following a wet trail of rain water and blood, he stepped down a flight of steps into the area of the ship that had been converted into a hospital. It was disorienting not hearing the clank of his feet on the riveted steps or echoes of voices on the iron walls. People's faces were contorted in pain from their injuries, but the milieu was far less off-putting then the grime of the basement. Unlike the previous medical ward, the infirmary was sterile and organized. Although there were dozens of beds, they were arranged in neat rows that allowed plenty of space for the doctors to work. A doctor called to Hertz, but he was only able to recognize him when he waved the elite agent over. Once he stepped off the catwalk and onto the sanatorium, he quickly identified him as Dr. Pierce. The chief physician of Dino Attack Team appeared to have suffered his own injuries. He was covered in grime and sweat and appeared to have several gashes on his forehead. Despite his injuries, he walked with a cool determination. The doctor sighed and reached for the pocket containing Hertz's notepad. The techie shook his head and indicated he had lost it in battle. Shrugging, Pierce slinked over to a clipboard and pulled a pen from behind his ear. What brings you down here, Hertz? he wrote. Hertz felt he was starting to get the hang of speaking in an acceptable volume. "THE WAR IS OVER, YOU SAID YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO HELP WITH MY HEARING." "The fighting might be over," muttered Pierce. "But the wounded are certainly still here." In contrast with his normal polite persona, Dr. Pierce was acting rather grim. He was clearly getting sick of all the wounded and, for all intents and purposes, the war was still going on for him. Kate and Sarah had probably increased his mood. The two women were visible standing on catwalk overlooking the medical bay. Hertz could understand how they improved his attitude, but he had yet to see the spring in the doctor's step he had witnessed before the battle. It was unlikely he would see that until the last remnants of the war were gone. Hertz raised his eyebrow as the doctor continued to mutter. Seeming to realize his impoliteness, Pierce wrote down another message on his paper: I can have someone help with the arm but you'll have to wait longer for the implants. He paused. Sorry. Hertz frowned; it was all he could expect. The odds of having appropriate cochlear implants were extremely slim and, since the surgery was anywhere between 1½ to 5 hours, chances are the doctors had better ways to spend their time. It was a sacrifice Hertz was willing to make for the sake of those in greater need than he. He was escorted to a vacant bunk by Doctor Giovanni Wade. For the third time in the last week, his arm was recast. The skin beneath was red and swollen, but apparently was not beyond repair. Doctor Wade assured him that it would not need to be amputated, but it would certainly need time to heal. Hertz promised that he had no intention of getting involved in any more action after today. As fresh wrappings were applied, he spotted two doctors in spotless white uniforms carrying a large shrubbery across the medical word. Apparently satisfied with it, the placed the bush in the center of the medical infirmary and disappeared down a hall to find another random object. He could not help but smile when Enter and Return returned with a live shark. Clearly, the fish objected to being carried, and it flopped around madly and attempted to eat Return's head. Enter apparently realized their predicament and went to fetch a kitty-pool. It was incredible that the two doctors still had their medical license. Considering the two were harmless, he really saw no reason to revoke it. Thus far, their success rate was spectacular, and they had yet to kill a patent from repeatedly beating them with a shark. As remarkable as this was, Hertz was in no hurry to be treated by the two. Enter returned to the medical bay carrying a mailbox. He set in beside the tree and withdrew a small brown package. Hertz could not help think that it was a good thing they brought that mailbox. Now, if the need presented itself, they could mail a letter. He truly never got tired of Enter and Return's whimsy. Return shook the package excitedly as Enter held his breath in anticipation. Finally undoing the ribbon Return tore open the package. Enter jumped up and down with glee in anticipation of his brother's reaction. By this stage Hertz had deducted that Enter had brought the mailbox so his brother would receive his Christmas present. It was certainly considerate of Enter to mail the package to the mailbox they brought with them. Return opened the box and his countenance lit up with delight. Apparently, it was just what he wanted, and he happily withdrew the Cochlear implants from their case. Hertz jumped from his bed and tripped on the bedsheets. He tumbled forward and knocked over a nearby table and Doctor Wade. By the time he undid himself from the mess, he spotted Enter and Return attempting to apply the implants to the shark. Followed closely by Doctor Wade, Hertz crawled over excitedly and grabbed hold of Return. Careful to avoid the snapping and thrashing shark, he yelled enthusiastically. Apparently, his jubilant babbling was incoherent to the two eccentric doctors. Enter and Return looked at Hertz with a look of perplexity, but were distracted enough to cease their current endeavor of operating on a deaf shark. Hertz looked over at Doctor Wade. He raised his eyebrow and his lips moved utter some pithy remark. After a moment of brief consideration, Enter and Return stared down at Hertz and smiled. Ordinarily when one is stared at by Enter and Return, one has reason to be concerned. But considering the current state of things, Hertz would take anything he could get. Hertz lay down in the operating room of the Iron Hammer. Return stepped into the behind him, carrying the implants and a megaphone. The doctor flicked on the operating light filling the room with a white ambiance. Giovanni Wade had his own priorities. He had offered to do the operation himself when his work was done, but Hertz was impatient. He wanted to hear again as soon as possible and, in a rash decision, he had allowed Enter and Return to do the operation. Enter nodded to Hertz and wrote a word on a nearby whiteboard. Anastasia Anastasia? thought Hertz. Anesthesia, perhaps? Not enough to regret this decision but enough to make me concerned. Enter walked around the head of Hertz's table and withdrew a red and white umbrella. He caught a brief view of the parasol being opened before Return shoved a mask on his face. His vision clouded over and the world became blurry as the anesthesia set in. Not knowing how Enter and Return worked was probably for the best. Hertz really had no idea what Return was planning to do with the parasol and the megaphone, and he really had no desire to find out. He had taken a lot of risks in the last few hours; he could probably afford to take one more. His eyes started to roll back to slumber. The rest would be nice; he had not had a good night's sleep in days. Whether it was the drug or fatigue, Hertz truly felt tired. Even the anticipation of regaining his sense could not hold back his heavy eyelids. How remarkable it was that he had only lost his hearing mere hours ago. It felt like ages of torment. When he awoke, he would hear. He would join in the celebration, he would call Naomi, and he could take part in the songs of the season. He would wake up with a new life, a fresh outlook, a fresh beginning. He had reassessed his values in life and, when he awoke, he would be hearing things and voices he had never appreciated before. He finally tumbled into blackness with smug grin on his face. Stepping through the rows of wounded patients, an exhausted and still somewhat unsettled Shaw was surprised to notice Wade picking up some dropped equipment. Quickly she got to the ground and helped him put the syringes and scalpels back on the table. What surprised her was what she saw on the next bed over. Enter and Return, the two twin paramedics she only vaguely recognized from the medical wing, were operating in a most unusual manner that involved putting a shark over the patient's head. "What's up with that?" Shaw asked. "They're a bit crazy," replied Wade. "Actually, if you're not too busy, could you keep an eye on them? Just to make sure they don't accidentally murder him." Shaw nodded as Wade walked away. She took a seat next to the bed and watched the strange procedure. The process was something she could not describe, but it involved a megaphone, a pineapple, a DVD copy of The Hurt Locker, a basketball, two lumps of sugar, a steering wheel, a baseball bat, a film camera, a mailbox, a pine tree, a shrubbery, a herring, 16 tons of TNT, a frying pan, a model train, a bicycle wheel, a single dollar, a map of LEGO Island, a book on aeronautics, a toy car, a lunchbox, a suitcase, a spoonful of honey, a banana, a pointed stick, a fedora, running into each other and then arguing over whose clothes were whose, a sandwich, a copy of the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft, a bag of nitroglycerin, a rolled up magazine, a few raspberries, a chicken leg, a turkey dinner, another bush, a brick, a can of soda, a wafer-thin mint, a slip of paper, and a Jolly Roger. At least, that was as much as Shaw could make of the whole thing, being too tired to really pay much attention; sitting terrified in a basement for as long as she did, not knowing when or if you'll come out, can do things to a person. She clutched her cross and muttered a silent prayer for the man who lay there. Once or twice, the shark tipped slightly, and she could vaguely see his face - Hertz, the man from the fire, the one who Naomi Carver left with, and who convinced her to leave for Antarctica. But she was much too tired to think of much of it. Her eyes grew heavy, and she tried to stay awake, but after some time of watching Enter and Return, she soon found herself lying on the bed and falling asleep. "Anything new?" Pierce asked as Wade walked up to him. "No," replied Wade. "Enter and Return are looking after one patient, using some strange methods, but Shaw's watching them." "Good," said Pierce. "Look, we're all very tired. You and Martinet actually went out and endured the worst of it; why don't you to get some rest in the back?" "You sure?" Wade asked. "Yes," replied Pierce. "Crusher, Copper, and I can take care of the rest of them for a while. Shaw's busy watching Enter and Return. Get a couple hours' rest, and then you can relieve Copper and Crusher." "What about you?" Wade inquired. "I'll be fine," promised Pierce. Wade nodded and turned toward the back of the Iron Hammer. He tapped Martinet on the shoulder. The mustached doctor looked up from the clipboard. "A-what is it?" he asked. "Pierce says he wants us to get some sleep," Wade said. "There's some space in the back." Wade turned and left for the back of the vehicle to find a good spot to lie down. ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  4. Chapter 72: At War's End ---- Through the purple mist clouding his vision, and the agonizing pain and unbearable suffering that shook his entire form, Dr. Rex looked upon Dino Attack Headquarters. Despite the valiant efforts of Dino Attack Team, Alpha Team, Agents, and other factions, the base was now infested with Mutant Lizards, stalked by Mutant Raptors, bombed by Mutant Pterosaurs, and even now the Mutant T-Rexes had reached the building. The sight both pained him and pleased him. Dr. Rex still felt horrible that everything... everything he had ever worked for... all his dreams and wishes... were nothing more than a lie, and this was all the doing of Baron Typhonus. But he had already resigned himself to his fate, for there was nothing worth fighting for any more. Talia rejected him... Catherine renounced him... XERRD abandoned him... now, Dr. Rex's only hope was that the Darkitect would be merciful enough to grant him a swift death. And the last thing that stood between him and that escape he so desired was this insufferable team and their pathetic headquarters. The sun sets, Ronald. They continue to fight, despite all that they have lost so far. But now... it is time. Dino Attack Headquarters shall fall. Kill them all. Dr. Rex barely had the strength to nod. "Let us end this," he agreed, the sound of his voice scarcely more than a guttural growl from the back of his throat. With that, he slowly mustered the strength to take one step towards Dino Attack Headquarters, then another, then another. The sounds of his footsteps, complemented by the echoes of thunder as lightning streaked across the sky, served as the very song of impending doom. ***** Rex stared out a window, looking out at the battlefield below. Despite the Mutant Dinos that were infiltrating the building, T-1 Typhoons, Iron Predators, and other vehicles led by Shadow, Digger, Viper, Rotor, and other elite agents kept the Mutant T-Rexes at bay. Rex could even tell which one was driven by Digger, since its weapons would never fire until at the last possible second, and Viper's vehicle was undoubtedly the one that was moving the fastest, challenged only by another T-1 Typhoon piloted by Sam Race. Alpha Team and Agents provided back-up, and the Brickster's T-1 Typhoon was certainly doing damage... Behind him, Rex knew that Specs, Reptile, Hotwire, Zenna, Andrew, Zachary, Hertz, Kate, and Shannon continued to work frantically on the Einstein Device. They were close to completion, and thanks to Dr. Cyborg, they needn't worry about the device going off prematurely and killing everyone. Frozeen and Greybeard both volunteered to guard the stairwell, and as it turned out, their assistance was very much needed due to the Mutant Lizards that were trying to access the thirteenth floor. But Rex saw the ruins of the battle-scarred city, with some buildings engulfed entirely in flames that reached high into the sky like the fires of MegaBlokland. The devastation of this battle made the initial Dino Attack pale in comparison. Rex swallowed hard as he saw three Mutant T-Rexes tear apart an Iron Predator while an Agents Aerial Defense Unit, in its attempt to help, was shot out of the sky by a flock of Mutant Pterosaurs. Down there, Dino Attack, Alpha Team, Agents, XERRD, Rogue Knights, and Skeleton Drones were dying. They held their ground, but were inevitably being pushed back by the overwhelming number of Mutant Dinos. There was no way Dino Attack Headquarters was going to stand much longer... not against this. It wouldn't be enough. And then Rex saw him. Through the darkness and the heavy rain, Rex could still see him, as his body was illuminated by the fires of war and the flashes of lightning; in the shadow, only his red eyes could be seen. Dr. Rex was marching towards Dino Attack Headquarters. And there was no stopping him now. Rex clutched his chest in pain. It was agonizing, as though a claw was ripping through his torso. His heart pains were worse than ever, and Rex had no doubt that the Maelstrom in his body had to do with it. He knew that everything was about to come to an end. Everything. "We're running out of time," Rex whispered. When the chest pains subsided, Rex repeated his words in a louder voice so that the others could hear. "According to my watch," murmured Specs, "it is now 5:36 PM. Sunset." "Remember Dr. Rex's declaration?" said Shannon, frowning. "He said that Dino Attack Headquarters will fall when the sun sets." "That was a short day," remarked Hotwire. "I mean, this battle does feel like it's been going on for weeks, but sunset already?" "It is the winter solstice, after all," Andrew pointed out. "Although it may not look it, considering that it's a thunderstorm. I wonder if maybe XERRD got ahold of Evil Ogel's old weather-manipulating pipe organ and used it to raise the temperature high enough for the Mutant Dinos to fight in." "Whatever the reason or cause," muttered Reptile, "it is clear that we have to finish the Einstein Device now or never. We may never again have another chance to strike at Dr. Rex." "But wait!" exclaimed Dr. Cyborg. "We still don't have the Imagination! Sure, we managed to fix up the weapon so that it won't obliterate every Creative Spark in the blast radius, but that means that it still needs Imagination to counter the Maelstrom... and I don't think we really have any Imagination stored in this building, do we?" "I don't believe so," Reptile said, shaking his head. "Even when we had Dr. Einstein working with us, we never were able to keep an ample storage of Imagination. And even if we did, where could we find it? You cannot just smash a LEGO model and expect orbs of Imagination to just fall out; this isn't Nimbus System, where Imagination is far more bountiful from what I hear." "IF EINSTEIN HAD DESIGNED THIS THING TO OPERATE ON RADIO WAVES," Hertz spoke in an unintentionally loud voice, "IT WOULD BE FAR EASIER TO FIGURE OUT-" "Well, I don't think we're up for a last-minute reprogramming," said Hotwire, shrugging. "I'll do it," decided Rex. Hotwire raised an eyebrow, slightly bemused. "Come on, Rex. I appreciate the offer, but I don't think you're exactly the most qualified for reprogramming the Einstein Device to-" Rex shook his head. "No. I'll do it. I'll power the Einstein Device." The realization of what Rex meant washed over the Dino Attack agents as they fell silent. Rex sighed. He knew that the Einstein Device might very well be their salvation, and Reptile was right: it was now, or never. They could not afford to waste time considering the options; they had to act. "You... you cannot be serious," Andrew said as he shook his head. "Rex, like it or not, you're a little too valuable to this team to-" "To sit around in a wheelchair and do nothing while everyone else is dying out there?" retorted Rex. "But you're like a hero!" said Dr. Cyborg. "Everyone looks up to you, and-" "And what good am I?" snapped Rex. "PBB, Aster Oid, Adventure... Amanda... even Trouble... they've all died because of me. Me. A so-called 'ropes expert' who can't do anything without endangering the lives of others and relying on deus ex machina to save the day if the cavalry doesn't arrive in time. And in our darkest hour, when you need a hero the most, where was I? Giving in to the very madness and lust for death that Dr. Rex and Baron Typhonus live for. I failed you. I've failed you far too many times." "Get ahold of yourself, Rex," said Reptile, frowning. "There must be another way that does not require an unneeded sacrifice." "And how many more deaths shall it take?" Rex raised an eyebrow. "How many more friends shall perish on the battlefield? How many more family members in Antarctica will be waiting for their beloved to return home, only to see a pair of Dino Attack agents forced to solemnly deliver the tragic news?" "What be all this?" Greybeard barked as he and Frozeen approached Rex. "I'm ready, Greybeard," declared Rex. "I'm ready to die." "You're going to sacrifice your Creative Spark to empower the Einstein Device?" said Frozeen, blinking. "Rex, you know... if you do that... there's no going back. I'm still confused about the circumstances that followed after Dr. Rex killed me, but I think it's because my Creative Spark was still alive that I was able to be reborn. Without a Creative Spark, you will... cease to be. There's no return." Rex sighed solemnly. Slowly, he shook his head. "Return was never an option, and I hope we all knew that when we signed up for this team." "Belay that!" declared Greybeard. "Rex, listen t' me! Dinnae be foolish, an' think this through! Ye be young, an' e'en if ye think yer world be o'er after th' death o' Amanda, thar be much more t' live fer. I be old; I liv'd me life! I be... alone." Grimly, Greybeard stared at the Einstein Device. "It should be me. I be th' one whose Creative Spark should be sacrificed, not yers." Rex locked eyes with Greybeard. "I have thought this through. It's the first time that I've been able to think clearly since my ill-fated marriage earlier today. With my Maelstrom infection, I do not have much longer to live, and even if I do survive this battle, what little life I have left will be full of pain and suffering and, in the end, benefit no one. But what if I can be useful? What if I can use what I have left to do something good? What if I have the chance to make a difference? What if I can do something meaningful and save everyone, rather than continue to bring pain and death upon all those whom I love dearly as my comrades, my family? Well, Greybeard, I have that chance. I can be useful. Just as Trouble used his dying breaths to kill Michelle Glados and save countless from her deranged ideas... just as J.D., Tracer, and Einstein sacrificed their Creative Sparks for the greater good... I shall not let my death have little consequence. I can do good; I can do the right thing... and if I must die a few weeks early, then I shall accept the bell's toll." Resting a hand on Greybeard's shoulder, Rex whispered: "And you're not alone, Greybeard. There is someone down in Antarctica who is, right now, praying that her dear granddaddy, the one thing she has left, will come home safely." "Mary Rose," said Greybeard. Rex nodded. "You still have family. As for me... this is my destiny." "I should 'ave known," whispered Greybeard. "Them dreams I had... they be about this moment." Greybeard swallowed hard. "Rex, me hearty... adios." After a short pause, Rex noticed: "You're crying." Shaking his head, Greybeard declared: "Shiver me timbers, I be not cryin'! It just be... th' rain. Thar be... err... a leak in th' roof, if ye... 'aven't... noticed." Still, the old pirate was clearly choking something back, and everyone was able to call his bluff. Frozeen patted Rex on the shoulder, but was at a complete loss for words, for try as he may, the Alpha Team agent just could not think of anything he could say. He settled for a handshake, and as Rex and Frozeen clasped hands, Rex murmured: "Thank you, Frozeen, for so much. Tell Chompy... tell Chompy that I said 'goodbye'." "I will," promised Frozeen, nodding. The sound of Mutant Lizard screeches came from the stairwell, so Frozeen and Greybeard were forced to depart and return to their duty. Rex turned to face the other Dino Attack agents... Specs, Reptile, Hotwire, Zenna, Andrew, Zachary, Hertz, Kate, and Shannon. "Together," announced Rex, "we have fought through this war and lived through so much. It's... truly been an honor to have known all of you. Now, we are at war's end, but it is up to us to decide how it ends. As for me... I've made my choice. "Reptile, Hotwire, Andrew, Hertz, and Grimton, ready the Einstein Device to load Imagination. Zachary, I hope your Maelstrom powers can come in handy for this... I'm going to need you to just keep the Maelstrom in my body at bay while Dr. Cyborg extracts my Creative Spark. Specs... if you wish, I would suggest calling Viper and letting him know that, if he wants his dream to come true, he better come here soon." Glancing out at the looming shape of Dr. Rex in the distance, Rex whispered under his breath: "I'm ready. Let's end this." ***** It was a standoff. Cyrista's Bane had collared Dr. Inferno's mech, but Inferno had returned the favor. The flamethrower arm of the mech came up to Bane's head, starting to glow. With a whoosh, it ignited and sprayed liquid flame all over the metal side of Bane's face. With a roar, Bane turned his head and bit the flamethrower, melting it with his internal furnace. "Hey, Dr. Inferno, don't fight fire with fire. It usually doesn't work," Bane said. "It does for me!" Inferno replied. At that moment, he got a transmission from Dr. Cyborg. "Hey Screech," Bane said, "the doctor wants your help back at HQ." "Right, I'm on way," Screech replied as she turned and left. Bane kicked out, tearing the legs from the Inferno Mech. It finally let go of Bane, and Bane pulled Dr. Inferno out of the cockpit, keeping him prisoner as he walked back to HQ, his current mission done. ***** "Well, that was anticlimactic." "Yeah, but it was still totally awesome." "So, the mech is gone, and the cyborg is on our side. All the distractions are just about over!" "Hey kid, don't get cocky!" "It feels like it's been months since the Maelstrom Temple. It's only been a few days, how amazing is that?" ***** Kate turned to where her mother was standing. "Look, Mom," she said. "I'm eighteen, I don't need you watching me every minute. I know you love me, and I appreciate that you don't want to see me hurt, but I can take care of myself now." "Kate," Sarah said, a few tears swelling in her eyes. "I don't want to lose you!" "You won't," promised Kate. "Listen, Kate. Don't try to be a hero, okay?" "Mom," said Kate, "this is a chance for me to do something with my life. You can be helpful elsewhere. Go on!" Sarah looked at her daughter tearfully. "Go help Dad," Kate said. "Get down to the medical bay and give him a hand." Sarah nodded. "You love him too, don't you?" Kate asked. Sarah nodded again. "Well then, help him too. When we're done here, we'll be together again. Tell Pierce I said 'hi'." Sarah smiled and turned toward the door. Kate watched her mother leave with a look of uncertainty before turning back to her work. "Dad?" Zenna repeated. "Yeah," replied Kate. "Turns out Pierce was my dad this whole time." ***** Rotor turned toward Zelda, who was busy talking to Helm. "Look," Rotor shouted, "I hate to interrupt this reunion but we got more important things to be worrying about right now!" Zelda turned toward Rotor, pulling her bandana back over her mouth. "Well, excuse me!" Zelda snapped, crossing her arms. Rotor's face started to turn red with anger. "I'm trying to tie up a loose end here. I am fully aware of what's going on. I just rather go to my grave with amends made." She then turned back to Helm. "Well, will you help defeat the psycho half-god controlling the Mutant T-Rex in silver armor?" Helm wiped his eyes and nodded grimly. Zelda clasped him on the shoulder reassuringly before backing away. Kat clapped her hands together. "Alright," she said, giving Zelda a brief, curious look. "Let's keep this fight up, shall we?" "Indeed!" Solomon muttered loudly as he sliced through a Mutant Lizard's head, clearly back to focusing on the battle. Epic Winston nodded in agreement and joined him. Just before everyone was about to continue fighting, Lance Williams the surfer suddenly spoke up, having returned from the T-1 Typhoon he had been riding in. "Elite Agent Fabello's given the order for all ground forces to pull back to the headquarters for the final defense. They're all to hold back the Mutant Dinos so the superweapon-thing can be completed." Kara Wise looked up to the sky grimly. Mutant Pterosaurs were divebombing Dino Attack Headquarters. "I think it's best we get back into the sky, Rotor, Cabin. Try to hold off those Pterosaurs." Zelda nodded faintly, a sick knot forming in her stomach. If this "Einstein Device" she was hearing about was completed soon, they were finished. "Let's get going." With that, she and the rest of the group began to retreat back to the headquarters. As she ran towards the helicopter, her thoughts drifted back to Nazareno and Blaire. They still haven't returned, she realized, growing worried. ***** "Everything ready?" Pierce asked. "I think so," replied Copper. "Now it's just a matter of what happens above us." Shaw sat in the back of the room in fear. She held her cross tightly in her arms and prayed - only this time, she said it aloud, she wasn't embarrassed to be doing so, and at this point it seemed they needed all they could get. A little faith couldn't do much harm under the circumstances. Pierce was surprised when a familiar face stepped inside: a woman in her forties with long brown hair, equipped with a shotgun/flamethrower. He smiled. "Sarah!" Pierce ran up to her and hugged her tightly, Sarah dropping her weapon on the ground. "Your daughter say hi," she said. "How's Kate doing?" Pierce asked. "Fine," replied Sarah. "She told me to come down here, figured maybe I could help you." "Well," said Pierce, "at this point, we're starting to think about sealing this place off. Our only option right now is to take our chances down here." "You didn't want to take the teleporter upstairs before it was dismantled?" "With the base the way it's in now," Copper said, "we weren't taking any chances." "We have the equipment in the back," Crusher explained. "Maybe you and Montoya could give us a hand with the sealing process." "What about Kate?" "If they fail here," replied Pierce, "she'll get brought back to Antarctica where she'll be safe. When this is done, we'll be together again." "That's what she said to me," said Sarah. Pierce smiled. "Looks like we'll have to ride this one out down here," Wright murmured to Shiller's still-unconscious form. The elevator was naturally not working, and there was no way Shiller could be carried up the stairs, so all that could be done was keep him within the infirmary as Pierce and the others sealed them in. Sarah Bishop slowly worked her way up the stairs with a bucket of cement, Montoya behind her. The door was shut, and it was time to make sure it stayed that way. She dipped her brush into the bucket and started to run it along the edges. The hope was that it would keep the worst of things out; air could still be provided through the vents, but until they ran short of supplies, they'd have to hope that Mutant Dinos were unlikely to break in. ***** Hotwire drew a careful breath. This would be the third time in the past week that he would see a Creative Spark ripped from its owner and used for some other purpose. He tried to force the thought from his mind and concentrate on the Einstein Device, as Zach and Dr. Cyborg busily tried to figure out how to target it to Dr. Rex specifically. There is nothing I can do, I suppose, Andrew thought, in regards to Rex. He's made his choice. Guess I can only do what I can to make this easier. It was horrible to think about the sacrifices that had to be made for this battle, and the battle itself at this time certainly wasn't helping. Still, Andrew understood how necessary it was, and had been. Mur and Einstein during the last mission had made that clear. And despite all Andrew could think of to say Rex still had to live for, he understood that he wasn't merely throwing his life away. He was doing what he could to stick it to Dr. Rex and the Darkitect for good. The team in the lab began gathering together around the Einstein Device. Zach and Hertz were carrying their modified launcher, along with a boxful of parts they might need for the device proper. As they began the work they needed to do, Andrew tapped Zach on the shoulder. "Looks like it's almost over," he said to his battle-bonded friend and neighbor. Zach sighed. "Yeah. I just hope it's all worth it in the end." "It will be, it will be. Remember what I said during our little scuffle at camp? There's still a party waiting for us back home." "Heh, yeah," Zach said with a smirk. "If there isn't, I'm going to send whoever dictates our near-future a strongly-worded letter about his angsty-art obsession." ***** Semick's mind was in overdrive. The battle was growing harsher and harsher, and Semick, Attack, and Defend were nearly overloading their weapons. The Mutant Dinos were hitting hard now, and weren't taking any easy effort to stop. They were slowly overwhelming the ranks. He checked in with their allies over radio. "Osprey! How's your forces?!" The voice that came back was strong, but resigned. "Most of my men are gone. Dashworthy and most of her squad were downed, and Brickhouse got shot by a sniper earlier. We're on our last legs." He switched over to the Iron Hammer's frequency. "Magma! What about you?" "Our fighters are still numerous," said the Alpha Team agent, "but there's just too many of them. I'm afraid it's near the end for us." Semick was tired of pessimism. "Don't say that! We can win this! Specs and the others will have the Einstein Device ready; we just need to give them more time!" "Tell yourself what you have to, Semick," Swerve said over the Elite Agent frequency. "We need all the motivation we need right now." "Listen to the comm, the men clearly have it." "They're acknowledging that they're likely about to die." "Exactly." A chilling silence of voices came over the intercom and Semick's T-1 Typhoon. The Elite Agent turned to look at his crew. "Euh... Semick?" Bluetooth asked from the TALON-9 system. Semick had been thinking about it quietly ever since he had spoken with Andrew about possible ways to beat Dr. Rex. He had thought long and hard. About all he had done with the Power Miners and his foreman job (much, but he could've done more). About all he had done as a Dino Attack leader (plenty, but nothing that didn't qualify much until LEGO Island). About his role in life and desires for the future (not much, only jobs and bills and a handful of not-very-close friends). And finally, he had considered what his men had done, and why. Pointman stuck out in particular. His only problem was that his timing was off, Semick thought. He was too early; the stakes weren't properly high enough for it. Now, however... "Crew, if you don't want to be a part of this," the former Power Miner said as he lowered the T-1 Typhoon, "go right ahead. There's parachutes close to the door." Bluetooth simply stared. Attack and Defend, after looking at each other, quickly decided to get up and get their parachutes. "Uh, yeah," said Defend. "You're a good leader, Semick, and we've had fun, but I'm not sure we want to pull off such an act." "Agreed," said Attack. "I fully understand," Semick said to his gunners. "You have my wishes for the best." The men nodded and jumped out. Bluetooth still hesitated. "Well, Bluetooth?" Semick asked. The technician was muttering about something. Something about a message and Commander Vinyaya. "Er... yeah, I feel I should go, too," he said while grabbing the last parachute. "I know someone I don't want to leave." Semick nodded. "The world has too many widows and widowers. Go out there and be a family man." "I will." With a smirk, Bluetooth jumped out as well. Semick closed the door behind him. Then returning his attention to the radio, he prepared to give one last radio speech. ***** "Stay strong, men! If we have to give it all up to give us our chance, so be it!" "You heard the woman, stay strong!" "Ach! Darnit, Duke! Why'd you have to fail so bad?!" "They're pushing hard! I don-*KTZZZZZ* "That's it! No more 'Mr. Nice Guy'!" "Give it all you got! This is the end!" "About time." "I'm ready to die, dinos. Just try and scare me." "Come get some." Dino Attack team was in its final standoff. Willa the Witch was captured, Dr. Inferno was down for the count, and XERRD had called a truce, but the Mutant Dinos pushed on. Nearly two-thirds of their numbers had been killed since the start of the battle about ten hours ago, but still they were not giving up. Nor was Dino Attack. United with what was left of Alpha Team, Agents, and XERRD's attack forces, they were continuing to fire all they had at the charging mutant overgrown reptiles. They were dying by the half-dozen, true, but it only strengthened their resolve by now. Gone was the fear they had felt when they had first met the massive enemy force across the river. They knew that if they gave up now, all they knew would be lost. There was no other option that would leave any Minifig's Creative Spark free of guilt. It was do or die. The final countdown. The eleventh hour. They had their weapon. Up above, in the creaking remains of the besieged Dino Attack Headquarters, the bulk of the Elite Agents were finishing their efforts to finally take out the Mutant Dinos' current ringleader. They were almost there now, just a little bit longer. Just a little bit longer. "Bye-bye, Babylon." "You magnificent friend, I read your book!" "We're not going to die! We're going to live, rebuild everything into a golden age of peace, have grandkids, and Ole knows what else! We're not going to die!" "I'm going to see Atlantis with my own eyes if it's the last thing I do!" "Live or die. It doesn't matter now. Nobody's a redshirt. We're all heroes." "I don't even care about references anymore. 'Yippie-ki-yay, motherZnappers!'" "That's the attitude we need! C'mon, this is just a game to us! Let's show these cocky evildoers that heroes really do always win!" Out there, in the front side of Dino Attack HQ and the remains of the blocks of LEGO City around it, every agent made their final stand. Laxus continued to drive his team's Fire Hammer through the ranks, ramming Mutant Lizards and Raptors by the dozen. The front side was a banged-up wreck, but he charged on. The more these creatures went down, the better for him to survive and help ensure there was a world for him to continue the work he had started as a young Martian on Mars so long ago. On the Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher, Catless and Pterisa continued to man the cannon with extreme devotion. Catless had lost a very dear friend today, and she was not going to let that death be in vain. Pterisa was determined as ever to survive and begin a good life with Minifigkind, to make clear that her kind was not pure chaos. They were united in their task, and they weren't backing down now. Running hard through the hordes armed with only a pistol, Bluetooth joined the ranks of agents literally on their last legs. He ran through, handgun blazing in one hand while PDA beeping in the other, as he strove to avoid death. Finally, a Fire Hammer pulled up and let him in, and the Futuron technician hopped in to meet up with Holly Vinyaya and Minerva Fabello in their own standoff against the hordes. Together, Bluetooth felt his future chances brighten quite a bit. In the ruins of the Enderson's pub where Pharisee, Trigger, and Amanda Claw's stories had intersected to their climax point, Stranger and countless other Dino Attack snipers thinned the ranks with each shot. They were sending dozens of Mutant Lizards and Raptors to the floor, but still they came at the main forces. Their activity was soon to lose its privacy though, as a Mutant T-Rex had caught sight of them and was wandering towards them. But for individuals like Stranger, who was having the time of his life and was hoping for that one perfect trophy for his new living room wall, and Buddy, who was ready to do what he needed to make clear that his kind could live through this with some hope for the future, it was just another obstacle to jump. Driving the mysterious black-and-teal Urban Avenger, Sherlock sent Mutant Dino after Mutant Dino flying. He was redeeming himself from his folly during the schism with each passing shot, and the vehicle he drove gave him a sense of focus on fighting the monsters all around him, metaphorically and literally. There was no stopping him now. Up above in one of the T-1 Typhoons that had come to reinforce the team earlier, bringing back Zenna and Rosalie Mercedes with them, was another old ally. Titan had returned with them from guard duty at LEGO Island to join the reinforcements for the final battle. He was stern and near-unemotional as ever, but he knew perfectly well what was going on, and if his future meant being hit by a lightning bolt as his world came to a crashing halt, so be it. He would do his part. Also in the air was the rising former lawyer who was about to meet his grandest case yet. Rockford had understood the gravity of the situation, and had joined the ranks of those coming back home to support the team. He was still not a fighter, but he knew where his place was when the call came, and where the leaders were expected to be. He was ready to face the final battle, and all the darkness he might encounter for joining. In a two-seated Urban Avenger, three men fought with guns blazing through the ranks of enemies. One, agent Walker, was in near-psychotic rage as he fired his pistol into his crowd of Mutant Raptors, screaming about something to do with a credit card. The other, agent Lovhaug, used a unique kind of laser pistol that had the body of a pirate flintlock, and occasionally punched Mutant Lizards in the gun while screaming about his manhood. Supporting them was a cackling mad XERRD scientist by the name of Dr. Insano, who was clinging to their rollbars while pointing strange scientific devices at the hordes, decimating them in the process. Together, they seemed quite humorous, but they were undeniably doing much damage in their final stand. They were all united in one task: Fighting to finish off the Mutant Dinos' attacks for good. "This is for all the friends you've killed!" "This is for the Second Headquarters Squad! Give 'em MegaBlokland, boys!" "This is for Condr, Sereve, Rev, Claw, Redshirt, Mur, Louis 'Dryptosaurus', and every other agent you monsters have led to the loss of!" "This is for all the damage you've done to our world!" "This is for how stupid your designs all are!" "This is for ruining my family reunion!" "This is for all the misery you've wrought for the past year!" "This is for LEGO Island!" "This is for the Goo Caverns!" "This is for Fort Legoredo!" "This is for World City!" "This is for LEGO Studios!" "This is for Antarctica!" "This is for Adventurers' Island!" "This is for Mount Bricklake!" "This is for the rest of the world!" "This is for the LEGO Planet!" "THIS IS FOR EVERYTHING!" "This is Elite Agent Semick. Men, women, persons of indeterminable gender, I want you to know how proud I have been to serve you in this war. You've all done good, and I couldn't be more grateful for how well we've fought. I want to take this moment simply to say goodbye, and to not grieve with my departure, merely know that I fight to prolong our final stand, and to ensure you can keep fighting in my name and memory. So long, and thanks for all the fun." ***** Now alone in his T-1 Typhoon, Semick could see the closing-in figure of Dr. Rex, finally coming in to finish the job at last. The former smiled a grim smile. Now was the time. He fired his XL-4 Voltaic Launcher cannon, doing nothing but cause slight bother. But it was enough. The beast's attention was caught. It charged at the T-1 Typhoon, but Semick flew up, narrowly avoiding the Maelstrom's tendrils. The monster seemed to want to just ignore it and moved back to face HQ. Semick responded with another barrage of firepower to the creature's head. "YOUR FIGHT IS WITH ME!" Semick cried. "C'MON, GET YOUR REVENGE FOR WHAT I DID TO YOUR SUBWAY SURPRISE!" The creature was definitely focusing his rage on him now. Semick turned around and flew back out towards said ruined subway exits where the beast had arrived hours earlier. The Mutant T-Rex followed close behind, roaring as it slowly caught up. Five tense seconds passed. He was ten yards from the T-1 Typhoon's tail. Five more seconds. Dr. Rex began closing his maw on it. Semick hit the reverse and threw his T-1 Typhoon backwards into the dinosaur's maw. The vehicle wedged its back right in Dr. Rex's mouth, and for several seconds, managed to choke the beast out of surprise and mouth pains. But it didn't last long. The Maelstrom furnace of his mouth began making quick work of the T-1 Typhoon, and the teeth quickly clamped down on it, quickening the process. From the cockpit, Semick looked back to see the hot furnace enveloping his T-1 Typhoon, and the Maelstrom tendrils sweeping upwards towards him. For a brief moment, he flashed through his decently long life. His school years. His time playing in sandboxes. Watching the Space Race in action. Starting his work in the mines. Saving Josh Burke's life in the cave-in. Becoming a foreman. Learning of the Rock Raiders. The earthquakes that brought him to the Power Miners. The Mutant Dino attacks. Joining the team. His encounter with Zero. Becoming an Elite Agent. Serving on Adventurers' Island. The final battle. Randal "Semick" Tennoly smiled and leaned back in his chair, and looked out his cockpit window as the Maelstrom tendrils wrapped around the view. "It's been a good life," the veteran man said happily. A shroud of purple-black and what felt like eons of pain later, he was gone. ***** Nazareno was climbing the stairwell to the second floor of Dino Attack Headquarters, clashing swords with Blaire. Even with one sword, Blaire was not giving away anything. Nazareno felt sweat drip down his cheek. Their duel only stopped to cut away Mutant Lizards that came to close to their proximity; even if they were rivals, their goal of saving this planet remained. Blaire stepped onto the second floor carefully. "Time is running out, Kareem," Blaire said irritably as he blocked Nazareno's katanas with relative ease. "We need to wrap this up. This is the final stand." Nazareno swung hard at Blaire's neck. The former assassin brought his blade upward and held back Nazareno's blow. Nazareno was already swinging his other sword when Blaire lashed out and grabbed Nazareno's arm. A sharp kick to the stomach later, Nazareno's left sword was sent spiraling down a hole back to the first floor. "More evened odds, wouldn't you agree?" Blaire hissed with relish, his smirk. Nazareno adjusted his style quickly and continued the fight. They exchanged rapid blows, showering sparks everywhere. Purple fire reflected off of Blaire's sunglasses. He wouldn't give anything. Blaire wanted to finally kill the great Kareem Nazareno while Nazareno wanted to final end the terror of Blaire "Matthew Vherestorm" Darkling. "You claim to have changed your ways," Nazareno snarled, smacking Blaire's katana upward. "But you truly haven't. Matthew Vherestorm is in control, not you." Blaire's face twisted into an ugly frown. "If you truly wanted to do good, you would stop this petty fight and be back out there holding the line!" "I am not Vherestorm!" Blaire roared, swinging his sword hard. Nazareno responded with his own swing. The swords collided with an ear-ringing clang and were sent flying in different directions. The two combatants clutched their hands in pain. "He is dead!" Blaire snapped. "The man I see before me is most certainly Matthew Vherestorm," Nazareno said, clipping the side of Blaire's fist with a punch, sending him tumbling into a ruined wall. "Let go of this, Darkling. Once you do, Matthew Vherestorm will truly be dead." Nazareno wasn't sure what he was doing. Perhaps he could see that there was good in Blaire Darkling, but it was being overshadowed by an old persona threatening to rise back in control. As much as he hated the man, he would give him the chance to redeem himself. Blaire rose quickly and sent two punches toward Nazareno. The space ninja swung his arm upward and blocked one, but his cheek was hit hard by Blaire's other punch. Blaire then gripped his shoulders and slapped his forehead into Nazareno's. Nazareno stumbled back, surprised by the sudden ferocity of Blaire's attack. "I am in control," Blaire snarled, gripping Nazareno's forehead tightly. Nazareno sent a punch straight to Blaire's midsection, knocking the wind out of him. Nazareno kicked his lower chin, sending XERRD's leader back. Blaire quickly recovered and wrapped his hand around Nazareno's throat before slamming him against a wall. "You are a fool, Kareem Nazareno. I will take great pleasure in finally ending your life. But first..." Blaire was cut off as Nazareno wrapped his hands around Blaire's throat and squeezed hard. Blaire retched and swung his forearm into Nazareno's head. Before the space ninja could rise, Blaire curb-stomped his back, sending him smashing into the ground. With one foot on his back, Blaire lifted Nazareno's head upward by the neck. "It's time to see the face of my greatest opponent," Blaire snarled. He quickly tightened his grip around the top of Nazareno's ninja cowl and, before Nazareno could throw him off, yanked it off of his head. Nazareno jerked his body abruptly, causing Blaire's foot to slip. Nazareno flipped himself over and, with little mercy, gripped Blaire's boot and shoved it away. Blaire flew back and went crashing through a wooden desk. Nazareno rose to his feet and glared at his fallen opponent. Blaire was soon back on his feet. A smirk formed on his face as he threw Nazareno's cowl to the side. "Well, I'm not sure what I was expecting." Nazareno's head was wet, not from rain, but from sweat. He was completely bald and cleanly shaven; not a hair was on his head except for his lightly-colored eyebrows. He had small, piercing black eyes and numerous creases around on his cheeks and around his mouth. Despite being in his early thirties and being extremely flexible and athletic, Nazareno's face gave off the impression of someone much older. He wasn't really attractive, but he was hardly ugly either. Nazareno wiped sweat away from his mouth, which was quickly forming into hateful, venomous stare as anger began to boil inside him. The only time his mask was ever removed was when he was in medical care. And to have it removed by his rival made the action even more insulting. "Maybe I was expecting some handsome badbrick with long flowing blond hair?" Blaire said with a shrug. "A bit lackluster appearance, Kareem. Anticlimactic, if you will." Blaire smirk began to fade away as he could finally see how visibly angry Nazareno was. Before he could make a comment, a fist that felt like a ton of brick was thrown at his head, sending him smashing into another wall. ***** "Mac, you want to take over flying this thing?" Rotor asked as he jumped back into the helicopter. "Sure thing," replied Mac. "I haven't flown one of these things in three days." "Alright then," said Rotor as Mac climbed into the cockpit. "What do we do?" Cabin asked. "You and I stay back here. I think we'll get a better view of the battle here and it'll be a lot easier to give orders. Besides, it's practicality. I figure you and I could use a short break from flying, Mac here hasn't gotten a chance in the cockpit at all." Snake was thrown against the back. "You, with the purple hair!" Rotor shouted. "What's your name again?" "Zelda." "Zelda, right," said Rotor, then pointed to Snake. "Watch him close. I don't want him causing any trouble." As Kara Wise climbed into the copilot's seat of the T-1 Typhoon, Mac brought it into the air. "Get us toward HQ," Rotor said. "Yes sir," replied Mac. There was a moment of silence before Cabin spoke up. "Aren't we forgetting something?" she asked. "What?" asked Rotor. "The music?" "Music?" repeated Rotor. "Of course! Mac, take a look through that radio's library. See if you can find me some Wagner." "I got a bunch of things here," replied Mac. "Get me 'Ride of the Valkyries'," ordered Rotor. "Scares the MegaBloks out of everybody." "Coming right up," said Mac. He hit a switch, and a moment later those opening notes played, and within seconds, the iconic tune of "Ride of the Valkyries" echoed through the city. ***** As Semick's T-1 Typhoon erupted in a ball of flame, Swerve yelled over the comms. "Now, while he's busy! If you're in range, hit him with everything you've got!" Volley after volley from the Cryothermic Cannons and Xenon Multi-Mode Launchers struck Dr. Rex, but the shots hardly affected the monstrosity. ***** Dr. Cyborg shot the window out. Normally this would seem insane, but when there is a Mutant Pterosaur right under the window helping you, it's sane. He hopped right onto Screech's back and soared away. He saw Cyrista's Bane running towards headquarters with Dr. Inferno in his claw. He jumped off Screech and landed on Bane's head. "Don't mind me Bane, just getting a Maelstrom sample. Nice job capturing Dr. Inferno, though," Dr. Cyborg said. "Thank you, Dr. Cyborg," Bane said as Screech picked up Dr. Cyborg and they left. Screech and Dr. Cyborg flew over the battle, looking for the other Maelstrom-corrupted parts of the team. They saw Enderson's bar being attacked by a Mutant Dino, but Dr. Cyborg could sense a Mutant Lizard inside. He dropped down onto the enemy Mutant T-Rex, since the bar was filled with snipers who were ineffective in close combat. He switched over to Hypermode and shot the T-Rex in the head, instantly killing it. He ran up to the bar. Stranger thanked him, but he waved it off and ran up to Buddy. He touched the Mutant Lizard's back, extracting a small sample of Maelstrom from him. He ran back out, jumped on Screech and flew out of the area. He saw a Fire Hammer driving towards HQ with Pterisa and Catless on the back. He flew alongside them. "Pterisa, I need you to fly alongside me for a moment. I need to take a sample of your Maelstrom," Dr. Cyborg said. "Okay, Dr. Cyborg," Pterisa said as she jumped out of the Fire Hammer and glided. Dr. Cyborg reached over to her hand, and extracted a small bit of Maelstrom. "Thank you!" he said as he flew away back to the headquarters. However, on a whim, he jumped off of Screech onto the back of Dr. Rex! Dr. Rex roared and tried to throw him off, but not before he pulled some Maelstrom off of his back. He ran up Dr. Rex's back and onto his head, and just as Dr. Rex reared back and roared, he jumped off. Screech picked him up in midair, and he steered her towards the lab. He jumped back in the window of the lab. He discharged the Maelstrom samples into holding tanks in the Einstein Device and hooked up sensors to distinguish the signatures. He put the panel back on, sealed it up, and put it back on the table. "The Einstein Device is ready!" he announced. The Elite team was hard at work now. Specs, Reptile, Hotwire, Zenna, and Kate were working hard now on the final mechanical and programming tinkers with the device to make sure it was completely and utterly ready. Zach was in a meditative-like stance, focusing his energies for what he would need to do with his Maelstrom abilities. Hertz and Andrew were making the final adjustments to the launcher, improving the barrel and trigger to ensure a better launch of the Device. Dr. Cyborg was preparing his tools for the finer integration of the Maelstrom and Rex's Creative Spark into the device, including preparing a device to acquire the latter. Rex himself stood aside with Frozeen and Greybeard, a somber look on their faces. Looking at them, Andrew figured that they were taking in what time they had left together to the best of their abilities, considering the latter two were still busy guarding the entrance from the intruding Mutant Lizards. Frozeen was perhaps Rex's last friend from the beginnings of his tour of duty that was still alive or active, and Greybeard perhaps knew the Elite Agent better than Rex knew himself, considering how alike they seemed at times. He probably preferred to keep to himself for now, but if Andrew was good at one thing besides building, pop-culture references, and being a walking encyclopedia, it was talking to people and trying to help out with their problems. And now was as good a time as ever. There would not be another chance soon. Andrew scrawled a note on Hertz's notepad, saying: You can handle this for a bit, right? There's something I need to do. He gave it to him, and his deaf comrade nodded in acknowledgment. Taking hold of the Einstein Device proper and starting to go through the parts, Hertz took over the device while Andrew walked over near the exit to the lab. "Hey, uh, Rex?" Andrew asked. "Hmmph?" the Elite Agent said, looking up from his chest. "Something wrong with the launcher?" "No, it's going well. I just... I need to talk to you about something." "Don't bother trying to change my mind," Rex said dismissively. "I've made it up, I'm going through with this." "I know, I know, it's not about that." "Oh?" Rex said, his eyebrow raised. "What is it then?" Andrew took in a deep breath. "Rex, before you go do... you know, follow in Dr. Einstein's footsteps and all, let me just say how much I hold in respect to you. "You've left a bigger impact on this team like no one else. You were one of the first to join the team and become an Elite Agent. You were the one who intervened the most during the early days' biggest events, like Kotua's bout of crazy and... every other crazy thing. You gave strength to the idealist goals of taming Mutant Dinos and bringing out their good side. You got the attention of everyone in this team when your status as a T-Rex in a Minifig disguise was revealed. You and your brother were the ones who uncovered at last the mystery behind who caused this whole attack. Your return and participation in the power station crisis was a sign of hope and rallying when people like Databoard, Zero, and Kotua had disappeared or been let go. "By the time of the Goo Caverns, your name and quotes were in the recruitment pamphlets they handed out in Antarctica. You may think you've really done nothing for us in terms of real value, that your actions have only led to the death of others, but trust me, that isn't true. Your name still brings up feelings of respect among the team gossip. You're among the few agents that people can name off the top of their head beyond the Founding Members. There's a song circulating around the refugee camps about how much of an awesome man you are. You've been valuable to the war effort in more ways than we know. And we love you for it. "I know you haven't gotten to know many of us personally. At most, we're comrades, or just battle-bonded friends. But we know you, respect you, and treat you nicely not just because of what you've done, but for who you are. You've been accommodating and resilient throughout all we've faced. Learning you were meant to be a tool to sabotage us from the inside, surviving on your own with Amanda as Mutant T-Rexes, surviving and escaping Dr. Rex himself, being captured, constantly escaping battle without a hair out of place, losing your leg control, and now everything that this battle has thrown at you. That you're here now, that you're doing this. You've stayed strong, and while your personality may've changed, your idealism thrown down to earth and stomped on for good measure, you're still the same man we've known for the past few months. "We will never forget what you've done. I swear, if no one else does it, I will make sure your name is known. We'll have statues of you, books about your story, documentaries featuring your accounts high alongside others, and places will be named after you in eternal memorial. King Jayko, Artimus Rhodes, Johnny Thunder, the Infomaniac, the LEGO Maniac, Pepper Roni... Rex. You're going to go down in legend, I just know it. "All I can say now, I suppose, is this. Thank you. Thank you for everything you've done, and know that you and all you cared for will not be forgotten. And when you do what has to be done by you and help your comrades to defeat the enemies, do it knowing that we all will miss you." Andrew stopped for a moment to catch his breath and catch a reaction. From the looks of it, Rex didn't look too moved, but he had a slight, almost sad smile to his face. "Thanks for the kind words, Andrew," he said. "You're welcome. Oh, and if you see Baron Typhonus, tell him I said 'F-'" "ANDREW, WHERE DOES THIS PART GO?" The LEGO Islander turned back, long used to Hertz's inability to have an indoor voice now. The communications expert was holding up one of several near-identical 1x1 studs with a look of confusion. Andrew couldn't blame him. So many parts used that shape in near-identical form it was hard to tell what they were often meant to be. "Heh, guess I'm needed again," Andrew remarked. "And I know you'll be needed too, Rex. Good luck out there." "You too," said the veteran Dino Attack agent. They had both used different meanings of the term "out there" - Rex referring basically to outside and the rest of the world and the young man's life, and Andrew referring to whatever awaited the T-Rex-turned-Minifig beyond the mortal realm. With a nod of farewell, Andrew jogged back to Hertz's side. ***** "We're coming in close," Mac said. "Rotor, what's your plan?" "Get us on the ground," instructed Rotor. "Obviously, some of our guys here would be better down there." Mac brought the helicopter into a small empty road about a block away from the front of the Dino Attack Headquarters. Zelda, Helm, Solomon, and the rest climbed out of the chopper. Quickly, Rotor grabbed Snake and pulled him to his feet before throwing him out. "Why don't you take him with you?" Rotor shouted. "Put him to use." Snake groaned slightly as he got up. There was suddenly a slight hissing noise coming from nearby: a Mutant Lizard, which started to approach before it suddenly exploded. Rotor looked up, at the top of a nearby building. There was a rough-looking one-eyed man riding a scarf-wearing Mutant Raptor. "KA-BOOM!" he shouted. Out of the smoke stepped another man, a man with a long white trench coat and a gray mustache. He was chuckling wildly. "Don't look now, but I think we've just got reinforcements," Rotor remarked. Amid the smoke, a group of other figures emerged. Among them were two gunslingers: one a tall man with a thin beard and a brown hat, the other clad in black with a thick dark mustache. There were three women: one was a pirate accompanied by a naval officer, another looking like a gunslinger, and a pale-skinned accompanied by an older man wearing a firefighter's helmet and carrying a flamethrower. "Y'all will have to forgive Firecracker here," Maria said. "That there man loves to make an entrance." Firecracker smiled. Angel Eyes stuck his pipe into his mouth and lit it. "Indeed," replied Angel Eyes. "They call me Angel Eyes. This is my partner, codenamed Blondie." Clint Wayne stared at the others, only moving to spit for a second. "I know you," Clint said as he bit down on a cigar, staring straight at Rotor. "I thought we dealt with you already." Snake slowly got to his feet and started to run. Clint drew his revolver and fired, and quickly the man stumbled to the ground. He walked up to him slowly, his spurs echoing in the empty street. As Snake started to get up, Clint turned him around and grabbed him by the collar. "Snake? I thought you were dead," Clint remarked. "I'm agent Rotor," the elite agent introduced himself to the Third Headquarters Squad. "This is my second-in-command Cabin, fellow pilot Mac, gunner Lance Williams-" "Lance Williams?" Angel Eyes asked. "The surfer?" ***** Zach rubbed his wrists gently as Dr. Cyborg finished the final preparations. Things had suddenly become extremely morbid. Word came over the radio in the lab that Semick had been killed by Dr. Rex. Everyone was more determined than ever to finally defeat Dr. Rex and the Darkitect. From the radio, Zach was happy to hear Minerva's voice. There was sense of reclusiveness in her voice as she commanded the agents to pull back and defend the direct perimeter of the headquarters. She made no mention of any of her ordeals. He could only assume that Oswald was dead. He felt a shred of remorse for the older Fabello's death, knowing how much the Dino Attack truly broke him. He turned his stare to Rex, who was talking to Andrew. Zach swallowed hard. First Semick, and now Rex would die. Andrew would have something good to say. He usually did. Nothing he could say would stop Rex from surrendering his Creative Spirit to the Einstein Device, but he doubted that was Andrew's intention. His one last blow to the Darkitect would save the entire planet. Zach thought to people like J.D. and Tracer, who had given their Creative Sparks to save the likes of him and Zelda. Rex was saving the entire Minifig race with his sacrifice. He was almost tempted to say something to Rex, but couldn't find anything really uplifting to say that wasn't already probably being said by Andrew. He cracked his knuckles. The Maelstrom in Rex's body would try to prevent his Creative Spark from leaving. He would do everything in his power to hold it back so that spark could be extracted. You're finished, Darkitect. Zach thought with determination. ***** B ran. He saw the jeep outside LEGOLAND Special Forces HQ. Right past the men and women fighting for their lives. Tempest ran into the building. B followed. He bashed his way through the front door and caught a glimpse of a body heading up the stairs. He followed his adversary. "Time to pay the price, Tempest," said B. B sprinted, his energy seemingly limitless. He knew that he was killing himself, but he had one single objective. One last mission. Ironic that my last mission is the first one that I really ever got. The stairs seemed endless. He could hear Tempest, maybe a flight ahead of him, clearly getting tired. A door slammed above him. The end was near. B opened the door. "Déjà vu. Right, Tempest?" he said. "Exactly, Benton. Except for one thing." Tempest drew his sidearm, and in one swift motion, cocked it, and shot B in the chest. And suddenly, sense returned to B's body. It was like being slammed repeatedly into the ground by a person twice your strength. It pulsed, like his heart, struggling to keep up. And he fell. ***** Chris had lost track of how many Lizards he had slashed and sliced with his sword. He looked back and surprised, saw B running towards the LEGOLAND Special Forces HQ. He turned away from the battle and ran. The other members of his squad noticed as well, and they followed. Dino Attack agents yelled at them, incredulous, but they took no notice. As they entered the HQ, they noticed something. "Blood," whispered Chris. Ezekiel was the first to act. He ran, sprinting up the stairs, following the irregularly shaped patches of blood. The rest of the squad followed, trying to keep up. Ezekiel managed to outdistance the rest of them, and reached the roof. A minifig stood on the edge of the roof. "Hello, Ezekiel," said Tempest. "Peter," replied Ezekiel. "Interesting to see you again. You certainly managed to keep busy since we last saw each other. Interesting that your name is what it is." "What, Tempest?" asked Tempest. Ezekiel shook his head. "No, Peter. Your actual name. Three betrayals, Peter. First, you betrayed Ogel more than ten years ago. Then, you betrayed Spec Ops. And finally, you betrayed me." "How?" said Tempest, but then he paused as he remembered. "Oh, right. You had a thing going where you were trying to kill this guy! You're mad that I stole your kill, right? Well, he's not dead yet, so you can shoot him if you want." He gestured towards B's unmoving body. Ezekiel locked eyes with Tempest. "Peter, did we ever learn each other's last names?" "No, we didn't. Just first names," replied Tempest. "Well, then let me introduce myself properly. I am Ezekiel Kabrinsky, and this agent is under my protection." Tempest looked at Ezekiel with a look of true fear in his eyes. Ezekiel ran and tackled Tempest. They fell. As the ground came closer and closer, Tempest chuckled. "Well played, old friend." "Oh, it was my pleasure, Peter," replied Ezekiel. "You always did like the bits of my plans that you didn't see coming, right?" "Absolutely correct." Impact. ***** Minerva smiled faintly as Bluetooth climbed into Fire Hammer. They had responded to his message rather quickly. "Good to see you alive, Bluetooth," she said. "To you two as well," Bluetooth said. Minerva nodded and continued to work. She was surprised to see everyone pulling back to guard the headquarters under her orders. They needed it now more than ever, as the Darkitect decided to stop waiting and sent Dr. Rex lumbering toward the headquarters. Semick had already perished from the beast and, although being peppered with fire, Dr. Rex continued toward the headquarters mostly unfazed. Minerva fired at a group of Mutant Lizards swarming a medical Fire Hammer. Near the side of the jeep was Doctor Marco Martinet and Elite Agent Rosalie Mercedes, both fighting fiercely against the oncoming waves of Mutant Dinos. They stayed extremely close to each other as Marco swung his hammer into a Raptor's skull and Rosalie paralyzed another with her Sonic Screamer. Not far from them, a rainbow-haired woman who Minerva realized was Raine Dashworthy, another Agents friend of Zach's, was fighting against her own pack of Mutant Dinos with a group of Dino Attack, Agents, Alpha Team, and XERRD members. Minerva turned her head briefly to Vinyaya. Even with the light of the world fading into night, she could see the Space Police Commando blushing. She clearly wasn't prepared to talk with Bluetooth. Minerva remembered Zach's sentiment about getting Vinyaya and Bluetooth together after this battle. Now's the best time, she thought with a smirk. "Hey Bluetooth," Minerva said as she turned around in her seat. "Why don't you take control of Xenon Launcher from here while I go back and use a Cosmotronic Ray? I've become rather skilled at using them." Vinyaya shot Minerva a look of incredulousness. Minerva merely smirked. "Uh, sure," Bluetooth said. Minerva nodded and climbed into the back while Bluetooth shifted to the front seat. Minerva picked up a Cosmotronic Ray and started aiming at Mutant Raptors while Bluetooth took control of the Xenon Launcher controls up front. "So, Commander," Bluetooth said, just the barest hint of uncertainty in his voice. "How's your... ah..." He gestured to the right side of his face. Minerva suppressed a chuckle as she saw Vinyaya's cheeks turn an even brighter red. For all her combat skills, Vinyaya seemed very insecure of herself, romance-wise. "Oh, it's fine," Vinyaya said, retaining an air of calmness in her voice. "I just took a few more pills that suppress the pain in the scars. Trying to adjust with shooting primarily with my left hand, but I still find myself using the right." Vinyaya chuckled quietly. "Should you really be driving?" Bluetooth asked curiously. Vinyaya scoffed slightly. "They didn't want me out here in the first place. I'm sure the doctor that wanted me to stay behind would split a brick if he saw me driving a jeep around." They two laughed at this statement. Minerva allowed a small smile to form on her face. They were talking with no awkward stammering or anything. The weird tension was lowering. "So, about your message you sent earlier..." Vinyaya began, finally touching on the subject that was ultimately making her somewhat on the edge. "Yeah, you saw that?" Bluetooth responded, scratching the back of his head with one hand as he fired upon a group of Mutant Lizards. He seemed somewhat embarrassed, probably stemming from that he wrote that message when he believed he was about to die. Vinyaya smiled faintly. "Yeah, I saw it. And so did Miss Matchmaker back there and her partner." She jerked her thumb back at Minerva, who smiled apologetically at Bluetooth. "It-it's alright if you're not up for it," Bluetooth said hurriedly. "I-I mean like I said in the message... we're probably just better as friends, commander. We-" He sort of drifted off as he saw Vinyaya laughing quietly. "First," she said, "you can call me Holly, if you'd like." "Uh, okay, Com - I mean, Holly." "Now," Vinyaya continued, becoming more reserved once again. "Bluetooth... Ryan... I never said I was opposed to..." She shrugged. "Trying something, so to speak. Getting to know you better as a person instead of a technician-turned-Dino Attack agent who happens to be a part of a group that I lived with as a teenager." Vinyaya's features turned hard and took a quick look back at Minerva, who was smugly watching her. "After we send Dr. Rex to MegaBlokland, we'll talk more about this, I promise." Bluetooth smiled weakly. "I... I think that will work." All three of them suddenly jumped as something landed on the hood of the vehicle. It was the body of a Fright Knight dressed in a coat of armor. Another body quickly landed on the hood and kicked the body off. Vinyaya's face twisted into a scowl. "What are you doing?!" she yelled out the window, rain smacking her in the face. The figure suddenly ducked down, revealing the face of Zelda Frodongan. Vinyaya raised an eyebrow, but stopped the vehicle so Zelda could climb in. "I'm glad I found you guys!" Zelda said as she closed the door quickly. "Zach's up in the headquarters?" "Yeah," Minerva said, surprised by the woman's sudden appearance. "What's going on? Where's Nazareno?" "I just got a lift over here. I was hoping to find you because..." She stopped, her features becoming more serious. "I think Nazareno's in trouble. I think Darkling's betrayed us." ***** The joy of seeing Zenna again quickly disappeared as soon as what Rex said dawned on Hertz. The elite agent had not been able to hear what Rex had said but the heartbreaking truth dawned on him when he felt the elation of seeing an old friend shift to a somber mood. Hertz did not want to say anything. He did not want to acknowledge that Rex would be willing to sacrifice himself; while he had never been close to Rex, he respected him deeply. It pained him to watch the icon of the Dino Attack Team fall into depression. The details were a mystery; he understood that Amanda was gone and his heart went out to him, but no one had yet told Hertz about Rex's few weeks to live. That crucial detail was still lacking in the techie's mind, and he found himself pondering why no one else could make the sacrifice. Rex was a hero to the team and, if he died, victory would feel far less sweet. Hertz had not made many friends since joining the Dino Attack Team. He had yet to experience the loss of someone he cared about. Raider and Mur had only been acquaintances. He had worked with Zenna briefly and, although her near-death was horrible, he always gave himself comfort that she was alive. Now elite agent Zenna was back, and Rex would be the first person Hertz truly knew to die. Followed by the other elite agents, Zach and Hertz lifted the Einstein Device from the table and over to the last remaining flight of stairs. Reptile and Doctor Cyborg followed them, carrying a box of extra parts that might be needed if the weapon failed. The plan was to take the device aboard a T-1 Typhoon when they could have a clear shot at Dr. Rex and the battle below. Viper was expected to meet them there so he could have the honors of pulling the trigger. As Hertz waited for Hotwire and Kate to lift Rex's wheelchair up the flight of stairs, he nodded to Zenna. "GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK, ZENNA," he said. Ha! Nailed the voice volume! Elite agent Zenna smiled but raised her eyebrow at Hertz's speech. "Why are you talking so loud? What happened to your arm?" Hertz shook his head. "WHAT?" "What happened to your arm?" Zenna asked again. Andrew tapped Zenna on the shoulder. "He can't hear you Zenna," he said. "He's deaf as a doornail. There was an explosion earlier today and he lost his hearing. The arm's a long story." Andrew paused. "For the record, Zenna, it is good to have you back. We thought you were finished at the fortress. It was hard for all of us, seeing you hooked up to those machines." Zenna shrugged. "Geez, I was only out for four days." She playfully elbowed Andrew's arm. "But thanks for caring." The exchange between Andrew and Zenna was enigmatic to Hertz. He was getting used to being left out of conversations. He had been for a lot of his life. The only difference now was that he could no longer eavesdrop. Hotwire and Kate had taken Rex's wheelchair up the flight of stairs and were opening the door to the roof of the building. Hertz felt the cold rain rush in and drench the occupants of the stairwell. Thankfully, the Einstein Device was waterproof. Dr. Cyborg had taken the liberty of adding extra plates to protect it from the leaky roof. Hertz felt a helicopter pass by overhead. Most agents heard it, but Hertz felt the change in wind direction when its rotors spun above him. Looking past the agents in front of him, he spied the craft hover near the landing pad that was currently occupied by Zenna's T-1 Typhoon. The pilot, apparently annoyed by the lack of a parking space instructed the occupant to disembark from the craft and land on the wet roof. He tightened his black trench coat and ran across the storm to the cover of the stairwell. "Some fool parked their helicopter on the pad," muttered Pharisee. "I would have preferred to land my Typhoon but someone took my place. Oh, hello Zenna." "What brings you up here, Commander?" inquired Specs flatly. "I thought you were out gallivanting across the city on your own personal mission." "My job has been fulfilled," said Pharisee stone-faced. "Trigger is dead, there is one less unrighteous soul on this planet. Only one more great evil remains to be struck down this day. I would have come sooner, but understandably the battle was somewhat of a distraction when bringing my helicopter." Hertz saw Specs roll his eyes through his balaclava. "We don't have time for your self-righteous sermons, Commander. If you actually want to contribute something worthwhile to this day, go and help clear the base of mutants. Graybeard and Frozeen are buying us time; go find them and clear these halls as best you can when we activate the device." Pharisee nodded and brushed his muscled form past the agents on the stairwell. "It is my duty to protect the sanctity of this organization, Specs. I live to protect the righteous from the forces of darkness beseeching them. My duty is to minifigkind, and I serve minifigkind today by striking down those who wish to destroy it." The commander pulled his ridiculously oversized handgun from beneath his coat and walked purposefully down the stairs. "You are all good men and women; it is for the likes of you that I commit the sins I do. I will do what is necessary to ensure your futures." The commander disappeared down the flight of stairs. Spec's muttered something incomprehensible about pious sons of 4+ Figures before stepping on to the roof of the outpost. Hertz was vaguely aware of the lightning flashing above them when they moved closer to the edge of the building. The battle was in full swing below them as the ground burned with one-thousand fires. Hertz smelled the smoke billowing from below, and the hairs on his arms stood on end when he came in contact with the Maelstrom-rich air. Everything was so surreal, almost dreamlike. The death and misery below him had yet to sink in. He did not know the names of many of the agents dying, and he expected he never would. It would be days until a full list of casualties could be made. Even then, everyone below would still be just a number to Hertz. He regretted not knowing their names. Even the Fright Knights and Inferno agents had an identity that Hertz could never comprehend. He had killed today, but it all felt so unreal, as if it were some sick video game. Only the smells and taste of the air anchored the elite agent to reality. He nodded to Andrew and Zach, and the three knelt by the railing to position the device. Hotwire was probably on the radio with Viper, although Hertz could not hear the conversation. Thirteen stories below, Hertz watched the helicopters twist and spin like leaves in a tempest. A T-1 Typhoon veered from its course and was obliterated by Raptors below. Hertz barley flinched; how much had he grown desensitized to violence? In the last few weeks, Hertz had seen so much death, now it all felt so normal. Had the war made him more mature or more apathetic? Would he ever be able to watch an action movie and experience the excitement of an explosion, or would he forever be desensitized to the horror? The war had changed everyone. Hertz knew that he had been transformed in the last few days, but he wondered into what. Had he matured and become a man, or was he as stuck in the world of casual violence as ever? Would he end this day as a better man, only to realize it had changed his life for the worse? Hertz's face remained flat and emotionless as he surveyed the scene below. At some point, Doctor Nicholas Saran had joined them on the roof and was observing the events transpiring around them. Everyone present would be hailed as a hero. Rex would be a martyr. While Hertz had stayed because he wanted adventure and be hailed a hero, he was no longer sure he wanted that title. Sure, the Einstein Device would not kill minifigs, but causing so much devastation at the push of a button hardly felt heroic. But it's not about me, thought Hertz, It's not about any of us. It's for the planet, the universe, for those we love. He thought about Naomi. This is for peace; it's for creating a world where we can live together without the fear of chaos and death. We may have made mistakes, we may even have lost that quality that mad gave us our humanity, but for the sack of the minifigs everywhere and those fighting blow us, I would do it all again. A mutilated helicopter flew overhead, followed by a swarm of Pterosaurs. Lightning flashed and rain continued to fall in the tempest around them. Agents fought and died, and Hertz felt something he had rarely felt before. Hope. ***** Sam Kabrinsky was the first one to reach the roof after Ezekiel. He ran out of the stairwell to see them fall. He then turned his gaze to the body of his brother, which was lying just to his side. Swearing profusely, he grabbed bandages and attempted to treat the wounds. As the other three arrived, Sam motioned to Kevin to help him. "There should be some needles of painkillers in my bag," said Sam. "How much?" asked Kevin. "All of them!" snapped Sam. "Are you sure you made it out of med school?" asked Rob, attempting to lighten the mood. Sam was unamused. "Look, he probably won't make it. I just want him to not hurt at the end. There, the wound's patched up as best as I can do it. Kev, looks like a good job with the painkillers. Now, I think all we can do is wait." ***** "We're done here," Montoya said as he stepped back into the infirmary. "The basement's sealed off. Nobody's getting in or out for a long time." "So we're just going to stay down here?" Sarah asked. "I'm afraid so," replied Pierce. "Now we're going to need to start thinking about rations. We got to conserve our supply to last as long as possible. Sooner or later, we'll run out and we'll have to break out onto the surface. I don't know about you, but I'd rather that didn't happen in the middle of a rampage." Shaw was close to tears in the back as she shouted her prayers loudly, her eyes closed tight. None of the other doctors even bothered questioning it now; they all could use the comfort of her faith. "For now, we'll sleep in shifts," Pierce said. "Until we can get things worked out. Shaw and I will stay on duty now and look after the patients. Copper, Crusher, why don't you two get some sleep? I'll come wake you in a few hours and you can take over." Reluctantly, Crusher turned and left the room, Copper following behind. "What about Kate?" Sarah asked. "I don't know," replied Pierce. "There's nothing we can do. I love you, Sarah, I always have, but you can't have her depending on you all the time." Slowly, Pierce hugged Sarah. That hug quickly changed as their arms tightened and their lips joined tightly. When they were through, Pierce turned toward his panicked and frightened colleague, sitting down next to her and slowly putting an arm over her shoulder. ***** The Fire Hammer tore through the ruined streets, splashing up mud and water everywhere as it shot toward Dino Attack Headquarters. "Are you sure they're in the HQ?" Vinyaya asked, a sense of urgency in her voice. "From what I could hear through the mic in Nazareno's mask, it sounds like Blaire's trying to wrap up the fight so he can get back on the battlefield," Zelda explained. "Except... everything sounded distant. Like he lost the mic. Or..." It was a strange thought, trying to imagine Nazareno without a mask. The Fire Hammer blasted through a pack of Mutant Lizards and turned sharply so the passenger doors faced the gaping hole in the front of the headquarters. Minerva, Zelda, Vinyaya, and Bluetooth quickly filed out of the jeep armed and headed into the building, blasting Mutant Lizards and Raptors. Minerva felt somewhat bad about abandoning the battle for one person, but she wasn't willing to lose another person close to him. "Sorry about this," Vinyaya muttered to Bluetooth. "This just isn't something I'm willing to let sit down." "No problem. Is there some sort of feud between Nazareno and this 'Darkling'?" "Yeah. Darkling used go by the name of Matthew Vherestorm." Bluetooth's eyes widened in realization. "Him? Didn't he go missing a few years ago?" "Turns out he's been with the Nexus Force, reforming. Though the truthfulness of that statement is in doubt. Which reminds me," Vinyaya redirected her attention to Zelda. "Did Nazareno tell you?" "Tell me what?" Zelda asked, raising an eyebrow of confusion as she cut away a passing Mutant Lizard. "That he-" She was cut off by the sound of two people fighting a floor above them. They could easily recognize one set of grunts as Nazareno's. "Hurry!" Vinyaya commanded, running to the stairwell. Bluetooth and Minerva followed until the latter noticed Zelda stop. "What's wrong?" Minerva asked, concerned. Zelda lifted a golden katana up from the ground: one of Nazareno's. Minerva swallowed uncomfortably. "Come on. There's no use standing here." Zelda nodded slowly and they both picked up their pace up to a run to keep up with Vinyaya and Bluetooth. They climbed the stairs quickly. The sounds of Nazareno's and Blaire's fight grew louder and fiercer. The group reached the second floor at the same time and could clearly see what was happening. Blaire stood over an unmasked Nazareno, one of his gray katanas in hand. A cold, malicious smirk was plastered on his face. He raised the katana to deliver the final blow. At the same time, Bluetooth raised his pistol and fired. The bullet struck Blaire Darkling in the chest. He grunted in pain and stared at the newly formed hole in his shirt. Nazareno took this opportunity to kick Blaire's chin and to sweep his foot across Blaire's ankles, knocking him to the floor. Nazareno climbed to his feet and turned to the group, wiping sweat from his bald head. There was a look of surprise on his face. "How did you know I was up here?" Nazareno asked. "Your mic in your mask," Zelda said. "I heard the fight." "Call in reinforcements?" Blaire snarled, rising to feet and backing away from assembled group, his katana at the ready. "How disappointing, Nazareno. I expected better." "You just got shot!" Minerva snapped. "Why-" She was interrupted by a cold laugh. "Please, Miss Fabello. When you've been in my line of work long enough, you wear a bulletproof vest. Always." "He's unmasked," Zelda muttered, staring at Nazareno's head in surprise. "Indeed," Nazareno said, his face twisting into a scowl. "Darkling doesn't wish me to remove his sunglasses, however. How hypocritical." Blaire dodged the statement. "I do thank you for coming, Miss Fabello, Miss Frodongan, and Commander. I was afraid I'd have to go and search for you myself. I can't let you get my secret out. That won't do." Blaire turned his head toward Bluetooth. "And of course, he probably knows my secret now as well. So he will have to be disposed of as well." "You will not harm anyone else, Vherestorm," Nazareno hissed. "I AM NOT VHERESTORM" Blaire bellowed, charging at Nazareno. Nazareno rolled out the way of the attack. Instead of stopping, he continued his charge toward Vinyaya, Minerva, Zelda, and Bluetooth. Zelda stepped forward and raised Nazareno's sword to knock away the blow. Blaire's katana slammed into Zelda's weapon hard and, with an elegant spin, had the sword fly from her hand. "You can't even hope to match my talent," Blaire snarled. He raised his sword to attack when Minerva, Vinyaya, and Bluetooth opened fire on him. Blaire spun out of the way as bullets shot through his trenchcoat and fled across the ruins of the second floor. Blaire turned back, his own handgun out of his pocket and fired his own round upon the group, causing them to spread out. Minerva, Vinyaya, and Bluetooth ducked behind several overturned desks as Zelda ran at Blaire, her katanas in hand. Nazareno had picked up the sword Zelda had brought up and charged at Darkling as well. Zelda and Nazareno swung their three katanas at Darkling quickly. Blaire spun and brought his lone sword down on theirs, knocking the blades to the floor. "Get back!" Nazareno commanded to Zelda as he began to force Blaire's sword back. "He's too powerful!" "I can help!" Zelda said with assurance, aiding Nazareno. Together, they threw Blaire's sword upward with such force that he needed to step back. "I admire your courage, Frodongan," Blaire scoffed. "But dear Kareem is correct." Blaire elbowed Nazareno in the face and slapped his sword upon one of Zelda's. To her shock, the katana, weaker than Blaire's or Nazareno's, shattered from the collision. Blaire kicked away her other katana and then wrapped his hand around her throat, choking her. "You should not be messing with me. A shame, really. So much potential, and now you have to die." Blaire pulled the sword back and prepared to lodge it in her chest when Nazareno knocked the blade on the ground hard. Nazareno then swung a punch into the side of Blaire's face, forcing him to drop Zelda. She slumped to the floor and backed away as Nazareno swung at Blaire's shoulder. Darkling was quick in blocking the attack. "You will not harm her," Nazareno stated coolly, icy hate dripping from his words. Blaire smirked again as he looked from Nazareno to Zelda, the latter being covered by Vinyaya, Bluetooth, and Minerva. "I see what this is." Blaire laughed coldly. "The great Nazareno... never expected... you have changed, old friend. The Nazareno I knew never would have such attachments." Blaire pushed back Nazareno's sword and launched a sweeping attack against the space ninja, forcing him to step back. "It is weak. Merely leverage to use against you. I'm sure those other three and Mr. Virchaus up above are close as well?" Blaire tutted in disappoint and shook his head as he stabbed his sword forward, leading Nazareno to step to the side. "You have changed." "For the better," Nazareno snarled. "Your 'change' is merely a ruse created by Vherestorm. Do not deny it." Blaire bared his teeth, but didn't say anything as he launched a frenzy of attacks against Nazareno that the space ninja blocked with relative ease. "This is a waste of time and detrimental to saving the planet!" "The only thing I care about at the moment is finally killing you!" Blaire snarled. He kicked Nazareno in the stomach and wrapped his foot around Nazareno's ankles, tripping him. "After many long years, this stalemate will end!" Nazareno rolled to the side as Blaire slammed his sword down. Blaire howled as the force of his attack rebounding into his arms. Nazareno jumped to his feet and attacked. Minerva watched the battle with a mixture of shock and awe. Nazareno's battle with Stromling!Zach and spars with Zelda were nothing compared to what she was watching. Both katanas were almost like blurs. Sparks surrounded the group. Shooting Darkling while he was distracted was out of the question; he and Nazareno were moving fast enough that a shot could easily hit Nazareno instead. Nazareno's blade crossed with Blaire's. Nazareno's other hand suddenly launched out at Blaire's sword arm and twisted it. Blaire roared with anger and pain and begun to back away as Nazareno's sword cut his chin. Blaire wiped away the blood casually and charged at Nazareno. The space ninja's hand grabbed Blaire's forehead and, with all the force in his being, slammed Blaire down on the ground. Nazareno slammed his foot into the side of Blaire's head. "This ends!" Nazareno barked, cold anger etched in his face. As he brought the sword down, Blaire's foot suddenly shot upward, knocking the sword upward. Blaire rolled up to his feet and quickly picked up his sword. "This guy will not give up," Zelda grumbled. Indeed, Darkling seemed MegaBlokland-bent on destroying Nazareno. Both combatants were panting heavily. Fatigue was setting in. Nazareno twirled his sword in his hand and knocked Blaire's katana away with ease. Without a word, Nazareno thrust his sword forward. Blaire jerked his body to the side, but much of his right hip was cut by the attack. Blood began to stain his light-colored trenchcoat. Blaire groaned and his knees wobbled, but he did not fall. Nazareno glared at XERRD's leader, never letting his guard down. He began to pull the sword away to deliver the final blow. Blaire's right hand shot out toward the katana's hilt while the left, with half of the strength left in his body, punched Nazareno in the cheek, loosening his grip on the katana. Blaire yanked the sword from Nazareno's grip and spun it one hundred and eighty degrees. Nazareno's hands hovered above his chest and halted the blade from reaching his body. "Not this time, Nazareno," Blaire hissed. With the final half of strength still in his being, Blaire broke Nazareno's barrier and plunged the sword into his chest. Time slowed down. Minerva could faintly hear Zelda screaming while Vinyaya and Bluetooth could only stand there in shock. Blaire and Nazareno were barely three inches apart, separated only by the hilt of the sword that had buried itself into Nazareno's chest and shot out the back. "I win," Blaire muttered, panting heavily. He drew the katana, dripping in its owner's blood, from Nazareno's body and flung it to the floor. Blaire patted Nazareno's bald head in an almost comforting matter, the sick, twisted smirk never leaving his face. Nazareno could only stare on in shock. With one last pat, Blaire forcibly shoved Nazareno to the floor. Minerva, Vinyaya, and Bluetooth reacted at the same time. Each raised their weapons and opened fire. Two bullets clipped Blaire's shoulder, but he ignored the pain. Clutching his bleeding hip, Blaire picked up his katana and fled down the ruined hallways until he disappeared in a shroud of purple flames. Nobody bothered chasing after him. All four agents ran up to the fallen form of Nazareno. Zelda dropped to her knees and lifted Nazareno's back up while trying to cover up the bleeding wound with her hand. Nazareno coughed hoarsely, staring at his wound with bemused shock. Minerva bit her quivering lip. For the first time since her mother's death, tears were forming in her eyes. They were nothing they could do. Unlike when Zach shot him what seems so many years back, Blaire had made sure to make the wound fatal. "Nazareno... no..." Zelda whispered, tears streaming down her face as she cradled Nazareno's head in her arms. Out of the corner of her eye, Minerva saw Vinyaya grip Bluetooth's hand tightly as a single tear form in her left eye. "Nonono. You... can't..." Nazareno coughed again, sounding more pained than ever. "Holly... Minerva... I..." He couldn't seem to find the words to say to them. Vinyaya merely nodded, suppressing a sob. "Thank you," Minerva managed to mutter, her voice shaking all the while. "For everything." He had been one of her closest friends during Zach's Maelstrom issues. To lose him was more than she could bear. Zelda was sobbing quietly. Nazareno turned his weak stare directly to her. "I'm sorry... Zelda... for what I did... what I said..." Zelda looked at him, her eyes shimmering with tears. "I wish... I could've told you sooner... I... I love you." Zelda wrapped her hand around Nazareno's. "I love you, too," she said, barely above a whisper. She leaned forward slowly and pressed her lips against his. Nazareno jolted in the surprise, but returned the kiss weakly. They held the position for the longest time. Vinyaya was sobbing openly now while Bluetooth attempted to comfort her. Minerva was doing everything in her power to hold back her emotions, but tears and sobs still managed to break through her. Nazareno and Zelda's lips parted slowly. Nazareno sighed weakly. Zelda held him tight, never wanting to let go. Nazareno gazed into Zelda's face as tears dropped slowly from her cheeks to his. His breathing was becoming more ragged and strained. With one final, painful sigh, his chest suddenly became still. Kareem Nazareno was dead. ***** Awareness. B now knew he was awake, and surprisingly, feeling nothing. He looked up and saw his brother's face. "Ow. How long was I out for?" groaned B. "About two minutes," replied Sam. You're really drugged up right now, and I don't know if you can make it." The numbness was back. B's head was clear again. "Alright, now what's the plan?" "We get you to wherever you're safe," said Sam. "No," insisted B. "We said that if any of us died, we would be KIA. I will not die in a bed when I could go and get myself killed fighting for a cause I believe in. Besides, I can last long enough to get to the fight, as long as the painkillers last." B got up on his feet. He looked and saw neither his uncle Ezekiel, nor Tempest. He looked quizzically at his brother. "They're both gone. They fell," Sam said. B sighed solemnly. "When we left Spec Ops, we promised each other that we would find him and kill him. Now that the mission has been completed, we need a new pact." "We fight," said Kevin. "For Dad," said Sam "For Ezekiel," said Chris. "For family," said Rob. "For us," finished B. And with that, they followed B down the stairs to rejoin the final battle. ***** The scene of Zelda and Nazareno's final seconds together made Bluetooth cringe, and reminded him horribly about what Semick has said just before he had left the Elite Agent: "The world has too many widows and widowers." While technically, the two fighters had likely never married (or even proclaimed their love for one another until now) before their separation, unlike poor Rex and Claw, the point still stood. Here was yet another example of a blooming relationship cut short by a lethal injury. Another notable casualty for the list. Bluetooth glanced at Vinyay - no, Holly - as she let her grief out, with his arms around her for support, and thought about how they had been nearly in the same situation, except with even more words left unsaid. Bluetooth figured Semick wouldn't have given him the chance to choose to die, but the late man once again surprised him, had given him this chance that he had wanted. And now they were fighting together, with the promise to try and sort things out after the battle... if they made it. But things like the dead space-ninja in front of them was not helping the hopes for a bright future. After several more moments of silence, as everyone took their time calming down from Nazareno's passing, Holly sniffled and motioned aside Bluetooth's arms. "Well..." she said, grief still at the back of her tone, "we best leave his body to the medics' care in the basement." "Assuming they haven't bunkered up yet," Bluetooth muttered. "I heard them alerting everyone to them taking their chances by sealing up and preparing for the worse. If that's what happened, we won't get to them without a whole bunch of power tools." "Well, whatever we do," said Fabello, "we'd best return to the battle soon. I don't want this building collapsing on our heads. We're almost at the end here." "...There's also a bigger problem," said Zelda, getting up from over Nazareno's body. "We've let Darkling get away. He seems to be shaking off the injuries we've dealt him. He's still the leader of XERRD. And he seems intent on killing everyone who knows he was Matthew Vherestorm, including us. And..." She glanced at her master and lover's body. "...I doubt even a bunch of us are a match for him." The mention of this suddenly stirred a strong emotion in Bluetooth. An emotion that he had not too long ago felt when he had encountered the idiocy of ex-Elite Agent French Fries. It was hate. Hate for the senseless disproportionate retribution on individuals for petty and contrived reasons. Sentencing a man to death for unreasonable or irrelevant cause. Punishment for disobeying orders that put allies at risk was one thing. Punishment for questionable or outright monstrous ethics that one has since tried to make amends for was another, but for merely possibly knowing the two identities of a man who they may or may not be familiar with (despite his notoriety, not everyone knew who Matthew Vherestorm was, especially Earth citizens) was an outright horrible act that the Futuron technician was angered by. Bleutooth could imagine someone like Andrew, coming home one day from a long day of work, years after the end of the Dino Attack, ready to relax with family or friends, only to be surprise by a figure in the shadows that, before he can react, has swung his sword and sliced his head clean off, his last thoughts being of surprise, confusion, and horror, likely not immediately remembering the man who had been, for a time, XERRD's leader and had revealed to also have been a notorious murderer. And then Bluetooth thought of it happening to Fabello or Zach. Or himself. Or Holly. This. Could. Not. Happen. "No," Bluetooth muttered. Anger and a need to do something rose in him. He reached into his pocket and retrieved his PDA, selected the "Messages" option, and started typing. "What are you doing?" Holly asked. She and the rest of the agents present were staring at him with a bit of confusion. "Blaire Darkling thinks he can cover his past with just a few silenced voices," said the technician, a stern tone in his voice, as his digits moved quickly and swiftly, "but the thing is that he assumes that people won't talk about it. If he had kept silent about his plans, maybe, but since he told me right in my face that he wants to kill me, you, and everyone else that knows his secret... Heh. Well, you know what they said in wartime about loose lips." He held up his PDA for everyone to see. "I've just prepared a message. It's an All Agents Bulletin, meaning every Dino Attack PDA will get it, along with the main database, and all the outpost databases, including the one in the Antarctica refugee, which Alpha Team keeps a close look at. Basically, everyone's going to get this message." "Yes, but how can that-" Fabello suddenly stopped, and slowly smiled. "Ooooh. Clever, Bluetooth, clever." "And SENDING!" Bluetooth cried has he pushed hard on the Send button. In three seconds, the indicator came up on the screen saying "Message Successfully Sent," and to confirm the point, Fabello and Zelda's PDA's chirped, signaling their reception of the message. The former quickly checked hers, and held it out for the others to see as well. "Yep, looks like it worked." The message read: Attention all Dino Attack Agents! The current leader of XERRD, Blaire Darkling, who has been exposed to have been the notorious intergalactic assassin Matthew Vherestorm, has just killed our Space Ninja ally Kareem Nazareno! There is no word yet on whether or not he will continue to serve as XERRD's leader, or if he intends to turn on any Dino Attack personal other than those that know his identity as Matthew Vherestorm, but as of yet, agents are to remain on alert! Agents are advised to apprehend Blaire Darkling/Matthew Vherestorm, on sight! Be wary, as he is extremely adept at evading death and assassination, and will not be stopped easily! As well, hostilities are not permitted against XERRD personnel in light of this event! What Blaire Darkling/Matthew Vherestorm has done and said does not reflect the intents of XERRD as a whole! XERRD personnel are advised to redirect command recognition to Elite Dino Attack Agent Dr. Cyborg, or Dr. Matthew Cyrista. -Standard Agent Bluetooth "This is why you don't mess with a man with a communicator," Bluetooth remarked with a grin. ***** "Where'd that purple-haired girl go?" Rotor asked, suddenly looking around. "I don't know," replied Helm. "She seems to have run off somewhere. Should we go find her?" "Not much time for that," replied Rotor. "I think we got other things to worry about right now! What was your name again?" "Helm. I think I just got something on my PDA," Helm said, reaching into his baggy pants and pulling his electronic device. He quickly passed it to Rotor, who only took a moment to read it. "Blaire Darkling, huh?" Rotor asked. "Matthew Vherestorm. Anybody heard of him?" "Yeah," Snake replied as he reached into his pocket and removed a cigarette. "Who is he?" Cabin asked. "What makes you think I'm going to tell you?" Snake said with a slight smirk. Rotor quickly pulled the man to his feet and threw him into the chopper. "Everyone, get on board," Rotor said. "Kara, Mac, you two still able to fly?" "Yeah," replied Mac as he started up the engines. The rotors on the helicopter started to come to life. Quickly, Rotor got in, followed by the new arrivals, Cabin stepped in after him, Lance in the gunner's seat, with Elizabeth, Maynard, Firecracker, Helm, and the others climbing in. Arriving moments later were two snipers, one of whom Rotor recognized quickly. "Shotgun!" Rotor shouted. "Yeah," replied Barry Jackson. He motioned toward his female companion, also in camo. "Let me introduce you to agent Scope." "Pleasure," said Rotor. "We've got to catch a dangerous man. We might just need a few snipers on this one. MAC! GET US IN THE AIR!" The chopper slowly started to lift off the ground and into the sky. "Any idea where to find this Blaire Darkling?" Mac asked. "Not yet," replied Rotor. "Unless someone can get Snake to talk - that's him in the back there, with the eyepatch." Snake grinned as he inhaled on his cigarette. Quickly, Rotor worked his way over to the microphone, and set it so it would project his voice outside. "We might as well start out simple," he said before he put the microphone to his mouth and hit the button. "Blaire Darkling, this is Elite Agent Rotor. I have orders to take you in by any means necessary. I suggest you do not attempt to resist or there will be serious consequences. I repeat do not resist or else we will open fire." He waited a moment, then set the machine to broadcast the recorded message repeatedly. "No sign of this Blaire Darkling yet," Rotor remarked. "Snake said anything back there?" There was a moment of silence before one man approached Rotor. "I think I might be able to help you," he said. "I know the guy far better than he ever did." "Is that so?!" Rotor shouted. "Well, why the Znap didn't you say so? We could have caught him by now!" ***** Minerva smiled shakily at Bluetooth. "Good thinking, Bluetooth. Darkling's being pushed into a corner." She was still trying to keep all her emotions under wrap under a somewhat optimistic face. Just a little longer. She told herself repeatedly. She could breakdown later. Her mom, her brother, and now Nazareno. Who else was going to die in these last moments? Minerva looked toward Vinyaya, who was looking back at her. Vinyaya could see she was on the edge and had the same glint of concern in her eye like she had before. Minerva's lips curled into a weak smile to try reassure the Space Police commando before gesturing her head weakly to Zelda, who stared at Nazareno's body in silence. Minerva motioned toward her. "Zelda?" Minerva said quietly to her. She resonating greatly with the mixed feelings radiating from Zelda's person. Lost, sadness, shock. Minerva had like this and more all day and whatever deity out there seemed MegaBlokland-bent on having her watch her loved ones die. "I'm okay," Zelda said, sadness in her voice. Tears streamed freely down her face. "I can't believe it..." "None of us can," Vinyaya said as she and Bluetooth joined them. "You... we can't let this stop us. We need to get back out there. Finish this fight." Zelda nodded slowly. She then slowly bowed down to close Nazareno's blank eyes. "When this is done," Minerva said with certainty. "We're going to finish what Nazareno started: hunting down and stopping Darkling." "He has nowhere to hide and no one to hide him," Bluetooth added. "He'll be found and will finally pay for his crimes." Zelda bit her lip and nodded again. Finally, she moved away the body and picked up Nazareno's sword that he had been killed with. She looked at it with cold, malicious eyes before wiping the blood of the blade with her jacket. After a quick search around the floor, she found Nazareno's other katana. Dropping her silver sword to the floor, Zelda put both swords in the sheaths on her back. "I think..." Zelda said, her voice growing stronger. "He would want Blaire to fall by his own blades." Minerva, Vinyaya, and Bluetooth nodded in silence. Zelda then turned to Nazareno one last time. A sob was choked back in her throat. She then wrapped her arms around his and begun to drag him to the side. Minerva and Holly soon ran up to her and helped her carry Nazareno to the side, where they placed boards of wood over his body to conceal him. "If the building still stands after this," Zelda said as she turned away, wiping a tear from her cheek. "I want his body to be safe." Minerva nodded in agreement. Hopefully, he would be ignored by the increasing number of Mutant Dinos entering the building. Hopefully, he wouldn't be turned into a snack for some lizard. "Now," Zelda said, her voice growing stronger. "Let's get back out there." ***** Zach stared at the PDA in shock. No. That's... impossible. Kareem Nazareno couldn't be dead. That would be absurd. And yet, here it was in a message from Bluetooth. Nazareno was dead. Slayed by the only one who could truly match him in sword combat. His longtime rival. "Motherznapping 4+ MegaBloking MegaBloker!" Zach muttered, curses directed at Blaire Darkling. Grief was being overshadowed by an undeniable rage. He had killed Thaddeus Brickhouse and now Kareem Nazareno, one of the closest friends he made in the Builder-forsaken war. Zach looked at his right hand. The gold sheen seemed to have dimmed with passing of its creator. He was just going to hold back because of the alliance between the Dino Attack and XERRD. Not anymore. Blaire would pay for the lives he's taken today, Zach was certain. "Doc Cyborg!" Zach snapped, sounding much harsher than he had intended. Dr. Cyborg turned to him, a definite look of sadness on his face as he learned of Nazareno's death. "You need to take control of XERRD. Now." "That was my intention," Dr. Cyborg said, cracking his knuckles. Under his breath, Zach thought he heard Dr. Cyborg mutter. "So that's what he meant by something 'regrettable'." Zach ignored it. "With XERRD reforming, hopefully they'll take your command without question." Zach paused to consider the next move. "Tell them that, should they come across the Blaire, they lead him on into thinking he's still leader. Contact me if they find him." "What are you going to do?" Dr. Cyborg asked. "Gather up a couple of friends." Off the top of his head, Minerva, Vinyaya, and Zelda came to mind. "We're going to teach Blaire a lesson for killing our friends and betraying out trust." Dr. Cyborg nodded grimly. "I'll see to it. Just one thing," Dr. Cyborg said before Zach walked away. "I want in as well." "I'll think about it," Zach replied. Dr. Cyborg turned to the window. He looked outside and climbed up to the roof, as the stairs were blocked. He grabbed a wire attached to the radio mast and split his normal hand into wires, leaving his cannon active. He put the wires with the radio wire and sent a voice and text message across the city to XERRD, although Dino Attack could also receive it. "Attention all XERRD members! As you may or may not know, Blaire Darkling has shown his true colors as Matthew Vherestorm, dangerous assassin! All XERRD personnel are ordered to disregard any orders he gives you! His authority and command code have and will be terminated! I am XERRD's full leader now! I will choose a second later. Right now, I need all XERRD members to come to the front of the Dino Attack HQ! I have one final mission of the war! Hold back Dr. Rex as long as possible! To the ones who will die in this, I thank you for your service! Dr. Cyborg out." He let go of the wire and reformed his hand. He climbed back into the lab, where he grabbed a toolkit. He pulled out a small screwdriver and opened up an access hatch on his cannon. He then started reconfiguring its hardware and software to extract a Creative Spark and hold it for a few minutes. Zach nodded appreciatively and turned away, placing his hand firmly over his head, letting out a long sigh as his eyes began to water. A different kind of fatigue was setting in. He was tired of this. The death. The destruction. Not knowing if your friends will live through the day or not. It was draining. They were moments from firing the Einstein Device and stopping Dr. Rex. Fate seemed to decide that, in these last moments, to start picking off people close to him at this moment. Semick and Nazareno could just be the first. Who was to say Zach didn't lose the friends he had made during this war in the last minutes? "Are you okay, Zach?" Andrew said suddenly, moving in close to Zach. Zach removed the hand from his face and looked at Andrew. He could see that his fellow LEGO Islander's features suggested sadness as well. He had also lost a friend in Semick and, while he didn't know Nazareno particularly well, grieved the loss of the space ninja as well. "I'll pull through," Zach said, lifting up his glasses up to wipe the tears out from under his eyes. "I'm just ready for that party you mentioned." Andrew smiled faintly. "When we don't have worry about whether or not we'll see our friends again." "I was thinking about joining the Nexus Force after this all was done," Zach said wistfully. "Seeing as how deeply involved I've sort of become with this. Now... settling down for a little while sounds a heckuva lot better at this point. Take a break, so to speak." Andrew nodded. They both stared at into the battlefield in silence, watching as Dr. Rex moved closer and closer. "I suppose you should get ready to help with Rex." "Yeah," Zach said, stretching his arms. Most of his energy from his fight with Willa had been restored. He was ready. All that mattered now was getting that Creative Spark out of Rex. It wouldn't be pleasant, but it was necessary. One quick procedure, then the Einstein Device would be ready. The end would finally be here. "That Einstein Device ready yet?" Hotwire looked up as the voice burst from the radio. It was Swerve. He glanced at Hertz and Dr. Cyborg, and said, "Another minute, at best?" They nodded in agreement. "Not sure you've got that long. Dr. Rex shook off Semick's kamikaze maneuver in no time flat, and it looks like Doc Cyborg's little stunt made him even madder." There was a pause. "Tell Frozeen it's been great knowing him, and Rex... well, that's nothing short of an honor. Oh, and Hotwire?" "Yes?" "You did good, kid. You did real good." ***** Swerve turned to Mort. "Get out of here." The pale man's brow furrowed. "Excuse me?" "Get out," Swerve repeated. "You're too smart to die here. Get to HQ." "The headquarters is hardly safer than this. Dr. Rex is likely to raze the place." "Not if the guys on the roof have the time they need!" Swerve cried. "And that's what I'm gonna get them." "You'll die." "Already dead. Or something. Y'know, all these years we've been fightin' 'em, and I still dunno how that works for drones." Swerve chuckled. "Guess I'll find out. Now GO!" For the first time almost any living mind could remember, Mort's face showed emotion. Grudgingly, he climbed down from the turret. He looked back at the man who, he had to admit, was his only true friend. Swerve was fiddling with the maintenance panels at the base of the cannon. Mort dropped to the ground. Sappy lines like "I'll never forget you" did not occur to him, as words would have been rather trivial. He hurried towards the base behind another group of agents, including a giant swordsman in an Agents uniform. As they reached the doors of Dino Attack HQ, Mort stopped and glanced back again. For the first and only time, Swerve's Iron Predator broke from the defensive line and shot towards Dr. Rex. The armored beast was closing in quickly, blowing clouds of purple flame to clear his path. It was little more than a second before the tank-like vehicle struck him in the legs. Dr. Rex, too startled to dodge, stumbled, but before he could hit the ground, the Iron Predator exploded. It was larger than expected for such a vehicle. If he had to guess, Mort would say Swerve had plugged the power cells for the Cryothermic Cannon into themselves, creating a massive short circuit. Dr. Rex's Maelstrom flames could only have exacerbated the reaction. He spared a small smile. Dr. Rex himself had been knocked back nearly twenty feet, and was struggling to rise. The Maelstrom bands around his body seemed to squeeze tighter yet, and hauled the T-Rex upward. Wobbling slightly, he charged once again. Not willing to wait any longer, Mort ducked inside. "Well, you've got your minute," he muttered, glancing upwards. "I certainly hope it's enough." ***** Blaire Darkling gnashed his teeth together as he cleaned up the wound on his hip and applied a bandage to it. All he had to do was find some downed Fire Hammer in this Builder-forsaken battlefield. Naturally, there had been a first-aid kit inside. Even though his side stung, Blaire allowed himself to grin. He's had won. A battle that had lasted the better part of a decade was over. Kareem Nazareno was dead. He would congratulate himself on tying up that loose end from his past except... Minerva Fabello, Zelda Frodongan, Zachary Virchaus, the Space Police officer, and the other agent knew he was Matthew Vherestorm. And with Nazareno's demise, they would certainly spread the fact. Blaire had been relying on them focusing on winning the battle, but they would certainly reveal him now. He jumped down from the Fire Hammer and made sure his lone Shinobi katana was placed neatly in his trenchcoat. He could work around this. As Matthew Vherestorm, he had navigated past unforeseen obstacles before. He could do it again. Somehow. Blaire had to admit things were looking grim for him. As he flipped his wet hair out from in front of in sunglasses, Blaire saw several Space Marauders suddenly run at them, their guns and rockets pointed at him. Blaire raised an eyebrow. "What is the meaning of this?" he demanded. "Save it," the voice of Gary Oak snarled. "You're finished, Darkling. Or should I say, Matthew Vherestorm?" Blaire held back his surprise with a curt laugh. "What are you talking about, Oak?" Blaire snapped, crossing his arms. "Who is Matthew Vherestorm?" "We got the message from Dr. Cyrista," another Space Marauder hissed, a rocket pointed directly at Blaire's chest. "And there's another message from some Dino Attack agent named Bluetooth. You betrayed the alliance you helped create!" Blaire didn't say anything. "Don't worry, Blaire," Gary said. "XERRD will keep reforming, just like you intended. Without you. Now drop any weapons you may have." Blaire gave Gary a curious smile that hid an undeniable anger. Not that his leadership from XERRD had been revoked. He couldn't care less about that. In the background, he could hear a voice emitting from a helicopter. "Blaire Darkling, this is Elite Agent Rotor. I have orders to take you in by any means necessary. I suggest you do not attempt to resist or there will be serious consequences. I repeat do not resist or else we will open fire." His cover had been blown. After three years, everything was suddenly coming out. He had resolved to kill the five people that knew earlier. Now, hundreds knew who Blaire Darkling had been. And they wanted his head. Blaire's body straightened up. "You do make reformation so difficult." Blaire said with a half-sigh. "What are you-erk!" Gary was cut off as the blade of Blaire's katana sunk into his chest. Before they could react, Blaire had his handgun out and shot down the Space Marauders one by one, feeling no remorse as they dropped. He then ran at the remaining three. One Space Marauder managed to avoid his fire and launched a rocket at him. Blaire rolled out of the way and fired again, clipping his arm. The Space Marauder howled in pain and clutched his arm, dropping his weapons. Blaire walked casually over to the Space Marauder and shot him dead with his own weapon before returning to Gary. The Space Marauder stared at the katana jutting out of his chest. "How-" he gasped. Blaire shook his head in pity. "You are a fool, Gary Oak. And you've paid for it. But... I'm feeling merciful." Blaire's hands wrapped around Gary's head and sharply turned it. There was sharp crack before Gary's eyes rolled back. Blaire pulled the katana out the Space Marauder's body as he collapsed to the ground. Wiping the blade clean of Gary's blood, Blaire looked on to the battlefield. He had tried to reform. He tried to go good. It seemed fate itself was against the very prospect. Blaire shrugged and began to walk out into the battlefield. Matthew Cyrista and Bluetooth had made the worst mistakes of their lives. Everyone knew his secret. Everyone was a target. He would escape later. A new identity could be formed and his secret could be hidden again. Blaire Darkling would be no more in a matter of hours. It was his last hurrah. He would slaughter everything that crossed his path. XERRD, Dino Attack, Alpha Team, Agents, Mutant Dinos. They would all die should they cross him. There was a reason why Matthew Vherestorm's priority level to the Space Police only dropped after the Black Hole Gang rose to power, two years after he disappeared; he was a one-man army. Without Nazareno to challenge him, he wouldn't be stopped. He would kill until he grew tired of it. And the best part? He would feel no sympathy. ***** "My T-1 is in position. You ready, Voltage?" "Roger that, Cobra. We've got to stop this incoming horde of Mutant Pterosaurs from reaching the base. HQ needs all the air support they can get in this final hour." "Hey, don't count me out! Just because I wasn't originally in At War's End doesn't mean I'll be missing the Director's Cut!" "Uh… right. Glad to have your company, Slash. Have you heard back from Kotua?" "Seems he was feeling a little nostalgic for his old Urban Avenger and decided to give it a spin." "For old time's sake." "Let's see if we can get the whole crew back together. Hyrode, Kai, Snake of Spades, you there?" "Agent X here, sorry for being late. I was having… computer problems." "Give them everything we've got! It's all or nothing at this point! This is it!" "Things are really heating up out here, that's for sure." "Voltage, watch out! That Mutant Brontosaurus is charging its EMP! Get out of there before you go down!" "I'm trying, but the Pterosaurs have my T-1 surrounded! Our exit is blocked off!" "Well, boys, it's been a fun run. At least we'll go out with a bang. See you all on the other side." "Wait, looks like we have backup…" "What's going on up there, Cobra? I can't see from street level! Wait, I wonder if my Cyber Matrix comes with binoculars…" "Another T-1 just swooped down from the sky, guns blazing. Took down the Bronto and helped clear away the Pterosaur flock." "A bit over-the-top, perhaps, but suitably dramatic." "Huh. Who could it be?" "Coming back for one last run. This is elite agent Databoard, reporting in!" ***** The end had come. Dr. Rex lumbered towards Dino Attack Headquarters, his pace quickening with every step as he was more determined than ever to raze it to the ground. Down below, a Dino 4WD Trapper driven by agent Anubis struggled to catch up to Dr. Rex while avoiding the tendrils of destructive Maelstrom energy. The idealist hailing from Egypt might not have been one of the team's most famous members, but he had seen a lot during his time in the war, from what he perceived as the ghost of Rev Raptor to elite agent Zero giving in to madness; from the last stand of Atukam to a Maelstrom-infected brick in Digger's office. Anubis had seen Semick's grand sacrifice and Swerve's kamikaze maneuver, and knew that no matter what happened in the end, even a moment's delay could help buy the headquarters just enough time. All he needed to do was to create that delay. In a valiant effort, Anubis unleashed the hook and cable of the jeep in one last attempt to replicate the strategy he had developed with the LEGO Racers. After hooking it on Dr. Rex's foot, Anubis drove in a tight circle around Dr. Rex, hoping that the rope would trip the Mutant T-Rex and stall him just long enough. He knew it would not work, but Anubis was determined not to go down without a fight. As Dr. Rex faintly felt the cable tugging against his shin armor, Anubis's plan was given away. Growling, Dr. Rex raised one foot, snapping the cable as he did so, and slammed it down upon the hood of the Dino 4WD Trapper. Then, he opened his maw and engulfed the vehicle and its driver in a jet of purple-tinged flames. Anubis forever departed from this world. His chains pulled by Baron Typhonus to make sure that he kept going, Dr. Rex unrelentingly closed the distance between himself and Dino Attack Headquarters. A group of Iron Predators gathered at the base of the building to defend it from the Mutant T-Rexes. Dr. Rex clawed his way through his fellow Mutant Dinos to get close enough, then paused as a dozen Cryothermic Cannons pointed at him. In a single blast of his fire breath, he incinerated the Iron Predator defense around the base of the building. There were no survivors. A flash of lightning illuminated the area, and thunder rumbled from the heavens. Up above, the clouds began to swirl into a vortex-like shape. Staring up at the center of the vortex, Dr. Rex bared his teeth and then delivered an inhuman roar. He was not sure what drove him to do so, but he felt compelled to climb up towards the heavens. He buried his claws into the wall of Dino Attack Headquarters, and the tendrils of Maelstrom energy began to cling onto the building's side to give him even greater grip. Then, placing claw over claw, foot over foot, and tendril over tendril, Dr. Rex began to scale Dino Attack Headquarters. ***** The end had come. Rex had made peace with his fate, and nothing could sway his decision. He was ready to meet his destiny. Still, the knowledge that this was it… everything had been building up to this moment… everyone who had lived and died fighting this war was fighting for now… and it was all about to come to an end at last… With this knowledge in mind, Rex could not help but feel tears forming at the base of his eyes. It had only been eight months, but it felt like nearly eight years to Rex as he reflected upon all that had happened during the Dino Attack. He had learned of his unique origins on Adventurers' Island. He discovered that he was part of a XERRD gambit to destroy the Dino Attack Team. He had tamed Mutant Dinos, starting with his dear friend Trouble. He worked with close comrades such as Frozeen, PBB, and Chompy. He fought against a mind-controlled Kotua and saved Dino Attack agents in peril such as Databoard, Turahk-Kal, and Glide. He went on adventures with Zero and Phantom. He met, fell in love, and ultimately married Amanda Claw. He battled some of the most famous villains and later allied with them. He discovered the Dino Island Laboratory and altered the very premise of the war. He teamed up with Reptile, Hotwire, Zenna, Greybeard, and Fullmetal in the Goo Caverns mission. He fought alongside Coral and Semick for the fate of LEGO Island. He met Andrew, Dust, Zachary Virchaus, Dr. Cyborg, and Hertz in the battle for Adventurers' Island. He looked into the eye of the Maelstrom and challenged the Darkitect himself. Everything he had experienced was building up to this moment. And then, after so long, it would finally end. Andrew's words had truly moved him. Although Rex was aware that he had gained quite a bit of reputation among the team, after enduring so much pain, feeling so much darkness, and seeing so much death, Rex's heart was warmed by Andrew's praise. It made it just that much easier to accept his fate, with the knowledge that his life really meant something. Thunder rumbled, and Dino Attack Headquarters shook with the force of impending doom scaling its wall. The battle was longer than Dino Attack Team could normally endure, so many had died, and those that were still alive were weary. It seemed as though they did not stand a chance, but Rex knew that as long as Dino Attack Team carried the heart and courage that it had shown these past twenty-four hours, they would keep on fighting to the end. It was all so very powerful to Rex. Rex thought of everyone who had fought for the Dino Attack. The founding members: Specs, Shadow, Digger, and Viper. Those that had disappeared, such as Kotua, Databoard, Zero, and Fullmetal. Those that had perished, such as Amanda, Adventure, Semick, Nazareno, and Swerve. And those that were still fighting today: Reptile, Hotwire, Rotor, Zenna, B, Andrew, Hertz, Zachary, Dr. Cyborg, Frozeen, and Greybeard. The greatest people anyone could have ever known. "Thank you," whispered Rex as tears welled up in his eyes. "Thank you all." Rex turned to see Zachary Virchaus and Dr. Cyborg staring tentatively at him. Rex noticed that the latter had reconfigured his arm cannon to resemble a XERRD injection saw, presumably for the extraction and containment of his Creative Spark. "Are you ready?" inquired Zachary. Rex quickly surveyed the area around him, locking eyes with everyone present, starting with Reptile and Hotwire, and ending with Frozeen and Greybeard. It was a mutually understood communication; an unspoken but heartfelt goodbye. Then, turning his attention back to Zachary and Cyborg, Rex nodded slowly. "Remember, Zach. If I'm right, the Maelstrom will do everything in its power to prevent my Creative Spark from being extracted." "I'll hold it back," promised Zachary. After a brief pause, he noted: "I… think that might have been the first time you called me 'Zach'." Rex smiled, sadly. "Goodbye." Then, at peace, he slowly shut his eyelids and raised his arms to a T-position, allowing Zachary and Dr. Cyborg to do their work. As Reptile, Hotwire, Zenna, Hertz, Specs, and Grimton prepared the Einstein Device to receive its payload, Dr. Cyborg and Zachary nodded towards each other, and then Zachary made his move. Zachary concentrated upon the Maelstrom energies in Rex's body. He could feel their presence, and they had taken up root so deeply in his body that they could never be extracted. However, Zachary could also sense a source of pure Imagination: Rex's Creative Spark. The Maelstrom could not bear to be too close to the Imagination, but while it was kept at bay, it licked at the Imagination like fire biting at dust in the air, and almost seemed to be attempting to constrict it. Pooling his energies, Zachary focused in prying the Maelstrom energy away from the Creative Spark. It was a slow process, like attempting to remove boulders from an avalanche without triggering another rockslide; if he moved too quickly, Zachary knew the Maelstrom would retaliate. Rex was still alive, after all, and his features hardened ever-so-slightly as he felt the Maelstrom in his body shifting around. Slowly, the Maelstrom gave way, clearing a path to Rex's Creative Spark. "Now…!" whispered Zachary in a strained voice. Without hesitation, Dr. Cyborg made his move. He planted his reconfigured arm cannon into Rex's torso. Rex's body stiffened and he made a muted grunt, but he relaxed his form. Dr. Cyborg began to extract the Creative Spark, and the injection-cannon began to glow a brilliant blue as it was filled with Imagination. Just as Dr. Cyborg completed the process, the Maelstrom retaliated. Tendrils of Maelstrom energy, much like the ones constricting Dr. Rex, sprung out from Rex's body, and Dr. Cyborg jumped back just in the nick of time before they could grab him. Rex's eyes suddenly shot open, but they were completely blank and lifeless. He opened his mouth and produced a bloodcurdling laugh. "It is too late! This is the end! And now… you will die!" The other Dino Attack agents gasped and looked upon Rex with horror. Maelstrom energy swirled around Rex as more tendrils burst out of his body. He set his cold, dead eyes upon Zachary and Dr. Cyborg, and shambled towards them. The Maelstrom tendrils stretched and, before Dr. Cyborg could react, wrapped around him and began to constrict his form. Stop him! whispered a voice, just barely audible enough to be heard. Greybeard snapped out of his stupor first. He fired his flintlock pistol at Rex, who stumbled and let go of Dr. Cyborg, dropping the scientist to the floor. This bought Zachary just enough time to control the destructive powers of the Maelstrom energy and turn it against itself. Before their very eyes, Rex's body aged at a horrifyingly rapid pace. His hair turned white, his body turned frail, and his face was covered with wrinkles. In only a second, he appeared eighty years old, the true age of Dr. Rex. Even then, Rex continued to age and wither, and his Dino Attack uniform disintegrated as his skin decayed. A mere second later, Rex was little more than a skeleton, and then that too crumbled into dust. Only then did the Maelstrom energies collapse upon themselves and vanish for good. For a moment, everyone was only able to stare at the space where Rex had once stood. If seeing Rex forever crippled, watching him give in to madness, and learning that he was about to die were not disturbing enough, what had just transpired left everyone shaken. At last, Andrew found his voice. "It… wasn't Rex. Without his Creative Spark, the Maelstrom just turned his body into another puppet for the Darkitect." "That's right," said Kate Bishop, nodding. "Rex is in there." She gestured towards Dr. Cyborg's right arm. Dr. Cyborg looked down upon his arm cannon. He furrowed his brow and bit his lip. With Rex's Creative Spark contained in his body, Dr. Cyborg suspected that any of Rex's last words or thoughts would be projected through him. And yet, while his HUD confirmed that there was indeed Imagination stored in his system, it was silent. There was no turning back now; Rex was dead, his essence contained inside the injection-cannon, and his body turned to dust after becoming a tool of the Maelstrom. Still, Andrew and Kate's words brought some sort of comfort to the Dino Attack agents, as they knew that Rex's Creative Spark was still pure enough to do the trick. Hotwire and Hertz finished preparing the Einstein Device as Dr. Cyborg approached Reptile. Working together, the pair of scientists loaded the Imagination into the Einstein Device, and then Specs, Hotwire, and Hertz sealed the device. Andrew, Zenna, and Zachary held up the newly-reconstructed launcher, while Specs took the completed Einstein Device and looked it over. "We are ready," Specs said as he nodded firmly. ***** As Dr. Rex scaled the side of Dino Attack Headquarters, placing claw over claw and tendril over tendril, he was constantly harassed by T-1 Typhoons. The Dino Attack helicopters had kept the Mutant Dinos at bay long enough; now that Dr. Rex himself had arrived on the scene, it was time to slow him down by any means necessary. "Ride of the Valkyries" and "Brixter Boss" blasted through the air as Rotor and the Brickster opened fire upon Dr. Rex with everything they had. Shadow and Digger blasted Dr. Rex with XL-4 Voltaic Launchers and Quintronic Sonic Beam Emitters. Sam Race's T-1 Typhoon darted around too quickly for Dr. Rex to react in his numbed state, which was not helped by the combination of sonics and loud music ringing through his ears. Although the sonic attacks rattled his brain and the high-powered compressive power cells of the Voltaic Launchers were powerful enough to nearly cause him to lose his grip, he kept going. Even if the Maelstrom possessing his body did not force Dr. Rex to keep climbing, his anger, his hatred, and his determination pushed any thought of defeat out of his mind. After all, his silge armor protected him from most of the attacks, so in the end, the T-1 Typhoons could only slow him down… they could never stop him. Still, annoyed by the efforts of the T-1 Typhoons, a jet of fire erupted from Dr. Rex mouth, consuming the ninth floor of Dino Attack Headquarters in flames. Thanks to the high specific heat of silge and the mind-numbing pain he was already suffering, the fire barely affected him, but it would spread quickly, destroying all in its path like a wildfire. Dr. Rex continued his unrelenting ascension of the burning building. Nothing could stop him. ***** Fire and smoke were not the only things that were rising to the thirteenth floor of Dino Attack Headquarters. Right on cue, a T-1 Typhoon arrived at the scene, and Viper could be seen hanging out of the cabin. Again, since Zenna's T-1 Typhoon was occupying the helicopter landing pad, Viper had to jump down to the floor. Balling his hands into fists, Viper shouted: "Alright! Are we ready to show these scales who's boss or what?" Hertz could not hear anything, but he could feel Dino Attack Headquarters shaking beneath his feet and was starting to become uncomfortably hot. He glanced through a broken window and noticed the smoke rising. Peeking out, he saw that the lower floors were on fire, and Dr. Rex was still climbing; even with the T-1 Typhoons slowing him down, he was unrelenting. Trying to control the volume of his voice while retaining the necessary tone of urgency, Hertz screamed: "LOOK, GUYS, THIS BUILDING ISN'T GOING TO STAND MUCH LONGER ONCE DR. REX GETS UP HERE. IF WE'RE GOING TO FIRE THAT THING, WE'D BETTER DO SO FROM A T-1 TYPHOON IN FLIGHT, JUST TO BE SAFE." "Don't worry," Specs said reassuringly as he shook his head, "we've got a perfectly qualified pilot right here… if you're up to the job, agent Zenna." Astounded, Zenna was at a loss for words, but was able to nod her head once she regained control of her body. "Just remember," Viper told Zenna, "you've got to fly the Typhoon so I can get a clear shot at that big bad beast. It all does kind of depend on you… but hey, no pressure!" "Don't worry," Andrew said with a grin. "She's an ace pilot. She can handle this easily." He patted Zenna on the back, hoping that would give her a good confidence boost. Not that she needed it, since she was always plucky and ready to go. As Frozeen and Greybeard called for assistance, Andrew, Zachary, and Hertz finished dismantling the Super Teleport Pad in order to scavenge for bricks. They quickly assembled a blockade to keep the Mutant Lizards at bay; even though it would not hold for long, it might just be long enough. While it concerned him that this left everyone trapped in LEGO City, Specs knew that it was necessary to destroy the Super Teleport Pad before any Mutant Dinos could use it to travel to Antarctica, or else all would be lost. Zenna sat in the pilot's seat and reacquainted herself with the T-1 Typhoon controls. One by one, everyone started climbing aboard the T-1 Typhoon. With so many elite agents, the helicopter cabin quickly grew crowded, so a T-2 Typhoon was quickly summoned to carry those that could not make it aboard the first one, such as Pharisee, Kate, Saran, and Shannon. As Frozeen was helping Shannon load her wheelchair into the helicopter, the makeshift barricade exploded as fire, Mutant Lizards, and Mutant Raptors poured out. Although Greybeard unsheathed his cutlass, General shook his head. "Did you forget about me? I've got the G.E. Body exosuit, and unless one of these mutants is carrying a Panrahk XP, I'll make it through. Leave this to me." Frozeen knew that General was right, as he once knew the perks of the G.E. Body. "We'll provide air support," said Frozeen. "Come on, Greybeard." With that, the Alpha Team agent helped the old pirate step into the T-2 Typhoon before climbing aboard himself. No sooner had the T-1 Typhoon taken off and the T-2 Typhoon pull away from the building that the entire thirteenth floor became engulfed in the fire. General struggled to see through the fires, but as he turned away from the helicopters and faced the Mutant Dinos, he grinned and eagerly murmured: "I always wanted to use these." He pulled out four Space Knights laser sabers, a gift from King Joseph Race during their time working together in the Portal Operations Team. Igniting the futuristic swords, General battled in the flames against the Mutant Dinos, with movements more like a graceful dance than a fight to the death. Mutant Lizards, Mutant Raptors… it did not matter, for a few quick strikes with his laser sabers would incapacitate any of General's foes. Still, he appreciated the aid of the T-1 and T-2 Typhoons, which circled around the rooftop and provided cover by firing at the Mutant Dinos. From the T-2 Typhoon's cabin, Frozeen watched the battle and nodded approvingly. After so many years of being General's archnemesis, it was immensely satisfying to see him fighting on the same side. "Come on, General," he whispered. There was a flash of lightning immediately followed by a great thunderclap, but General could barely hear it over the terrifying sound of a bloodcurdling roar. Narrowing his eyes, General saw a great figure rise up from the flames and loom over him. In the darkness and through the flames, all General could see was a great shadow with a pair of glowing eyes, but he knew who it was. "Dr. Rex," General narrowed his eyes. Dr. Rex looked down upon General and bared its teeth. "You…" he growled. "You were the one… who turned Talia… against me!" Seething with fury, Dr. Rex opened his mouth and poured out a jet of fire. General jumped out of the way in the nick of time, his agility never failing him. However, in the process, he dropped three of his laser sabers, and they were swallowed by the flames. "That's right!" said General. "Your fight is with me! Now, let's end this!" Dr. Rex roared and charged towards General like a bull, shaking off the combined firepower of the two Typhoons, which were now joined by a third belonging to Rotor. General leapt to the right, but Dr. Rex was surprisingly quick to react, swinging his tail low and knocking General to the floor. As soon as General was back on his feet, Dr. Rex swung his tail again. This time, General was ready and grabbed Dr. Rex's tail. General climbed up onto Dr. Rex's back and ran along his spine whilst dodging the tendrils of Maelstrom energy, laser saber at the ready. Upon reaching the base of Dr. Rex's neck, General found a schism in Dr. Rex's armor where the helmet and neck met, and tried to pry it open with the laser saber. Although he successfully loosened the helmet, General was unable to pull it off before Dr. Rex reacted by shaking his entire form. In his attempt to dodge a lashing tendril of Maelstrom energy, General lost his balance and fell off. In mid-fall, General threw his laser saber like a javelin aimed at Dr. Rex's exposed eye, but the weapon was swallowed in the Maelstrom energy and disintegrated. No sooner had General hit the floor did Dr. Rex slam his foot down upon General's form, as though he was crushing an insect beneath his heel. He watched with surprise as General, struggling but still capable, slowly pushed the great weight of an armored T-Rex foot off of himself. Like the myth of Atlas, General managed to stand, lifting Dr. Rex's foot above him with all four of his hands. Out of the corner of his eye, General noticed that Viper and Specs, aboard the T-1 Typhoon, were now loading the Einstein Device into its launcher. "Well, here we are," muttered General, hoping to buy some time for Viper. "Two enemies, immortalized by our impenetrable armor, locked in epic battle until judgment day." "Perhaps," snarled Dr. Rex, "but when Ogel… designed you that… cheap suit… he should have… made sure… nothing… was exposed!" Tendrils of Maelstrom energy snaked down Dr. Rex's leg. General realized what was about to happen, but was too late to do anything about it. The Maelstrom shot into the eyeholes of his helmet, the only exposed part of his form, giving the tendrils access to his weak and vulnerable body within. As Maelstrom energy poured into his G.E. Body, General could only scream as he suffered impossible pain. Despite all the firepower of the two T-1 Typhoons and the T-2 Typhoon, nothing could move Dr. Rex as General's legs buckled and he collapsed under the weight of the foot. "No!" cried Frozeen, staring in horror at where General once stood. "General!" Rotor's T-1 Typhoon circled around Dr. Rex, blasting everything the helicopter had. As Dr. Rex tried to focus upon the helicopter, the Brickster's own T-1 Typhoon arrived at the scene and rained MegaBlokland upon Dr. Rex, with so much explosive firepower that even Dr. Rex was knocked back. As a swarm of Mutant Pterosaurs divebombed the Brickster's Typhoon, the T-2 Typhoon provided cover and shot the pterosaurs out of the sky. Sam Race's T-1 Typhoon flew past Dr. Rex so quickly, the mutant tyrant lizard king barely had enough time to react as Rotor went in for another round. This time, Rotor ordered his gunners to fire at where General had loosened Dr. Rex's armor. A volley of XL-4 Voltaic blasts rained down upon Dr. Rex, and his helmet went flying into the air and disappeared as it fell off the roof of Dino Attack Headquarters. "Now's our chance!" Hotwire shouted. "Zenna, take us in so we can fire at his exposed head!" However, having a weak point revealed only made Dr. Rex even more dangerous. Roaring furiously, he tore a chunk out of the Brickster's already-damaged T-1 Typhoon. The T-1 Typhoon was engulfed in flames as it flew through the fires of Dino Attack Headquarters. However, as the burning wreckage fell down to the streets below, Frozeen was relieved to see the Brickster jump out in time, escorted by two Brickster-Bots with jetpacks. Zenna attempted to fly in the T-1 Typhoon close to Dr. Rex to give Viper a better shot, but the helicopter was bombarded by a flock of Mutant Pterosaurs. Reptile and Hotwire fired their weapons at the Mutant Pterosaurs, but they were too many in number. When the T-2 Typhoon attempted to provide cover, it was struck by Dr. Rex's eye beams. While it remained in flight, it temporarily spun out of control. Hertz grabbed a pair of Sonic Screamers in the ship's cargo, duct-taped them together, and released a combined sonic pulse that knocked more of the Mutant Pterosaurs out of the air. Rotor's T-1 Typhoon went in for another attack, and only some quick maneuvering skills by Sam Race's T-1 Typhoon kept Dr. Rex from tearing both helicopters out of the sky. Sam Race went in for another pass, but flew a little too close and ended up with his tail rotor on fire. By the time the Mutant Pterosaurs were cleared, the T-2 Typhoon was back in control of its own flight, but Rotor was having problems against Dr. Rex. The Mutant T-Rex tore off Rotor's XL-4 Voltaic Launcher and disabled one of the Quintronic Sonic Emitters with his laser vision. An Alpha Team Helicopter and Agents Aerial Defense Unit tried to provide cover, but a bolt of lightning knocked the latter out of the skies while the former was consumed by Dr. Rex's fires. Zenna circled her T-1 Typhoon around the roof of Dino Attack Headquarters. Sam Race knew that his burning T-1 Typhoon would not remain in flight for much longer, and so he recklessly decided to go in for one last pass. He served as a distraction to Dr. Rex while Rotor's T-1 Typhoon unleashed another volley of attacks. While Sam Race looked for a safe place to crash-land the helicopter, another T-1 Typhoon arrived, piloted by Shadow. Even as a Mutant Pterosaur attacked the helicopter, Digger was lowered by the cable and fired a handheld PLARXX Radar Ray at the last possible second, scrambling the Mutant Pterosaur's senses and knocking it out of the sky. The newcomer T-1 Typhoon flew towards the roof of Dino Attack Headquarters and opened fire on Dr. Rex. The T-2 Typhoon joined Rotor and Shadow's T-1 Typhoons in a joint attack upon Dr. Rex. It was a valiant effort, but Dr. Rex was growing tired of the ordeal. He breathed fire at Rotor's T-1 Typhoon, fired laser vision at Shadow's T-1 Typhoon, and then slammed the bulk of his mass against the hull of the T-2 Typhoon. Greybeard stumbled and fell out of the T-2 Typhoon's cabin. Frozeen acted quickly, grabbing the old pirate's hand and saving him from a fiery fate, but their combined weight threatened to throw them both out of the helicopter. Kate wrapped her arms around Frozeen's waist and Dr. Saran did likewise with Kate, but their combined weight was not enough, as they began to slide out of the cabin. It was not until Pharisee grabbed Saran's shoulders with his great, strong hands that they were stopped from falling out. But before Pharisee could lift the others back into the helicopter, Dr. Rex raised his head to the T-2 Typhoon and opened his maw. His teeth were mere inches from Greybeard's position, and the old pirate felt his hand slipping out of Frozeen's grip. Feeling Dr. Rex's hot breath, Greybeard locked eyes with Frozeen. "If I let go…" he whispered, "ye can make it…" "Don't let go!" cried Frozeen, even as Mutant Pterosaurs circled overhead, waiting for the kill like a wake of vultures. "The war ends…" hissed Dr. Rex, as another jet of fire was about to erupt from his maw and consume the T-2 Typhoon. "Now!" shouted Reptile from Zenna's T-1 Typhoon. Specs and Viper traded glances, then locked eyes upon Dr. Rex. Zenna's reputed piloting abilities had proven themselves, for they were now at the perfect angle to get a clear shot at Dr. Rex's exposed head while he was distracted by the T-2 Typhoon. "The Mutant Tyrant Lizard King…" announced Specs. "… now extinct!" declared Viper, grinning as he pulled the trigger. Time seemed to slow as the Einstein Device was fired from its launcher. Flashing lights on the device appeared to leave a trail of blue light in their wake. The projectile flew through the flames and the debris of the wrecked thirteenth floor. Viper's aim was true, and nothing could block its path. Out of the corner of his eye, Dr. Rex saw the incoming Einstein Device. He felt the Maelstrom tendrils tugging on his armor like chains, yanking him with full force, struggling to pull him out of the way before it was too late. He heard Baron Typhonus screaming in his mind, a voice full of rage and panic, ordering him to destroy the Einstein Device as it came closer and closer. No, Dr. Rex decided as his final act of free will. I shall not move. He knew that it was moving too fast and already too close to dodge. Instead, Dr. Rex slowly took in a deep breath that he knew would be his last. This was it. This was the end. Everything he had worked for was over. But despite this knowledge, Dr. Rex felt a strange sense of relief in his final moments. It was over. He knew not what lied beyond the grave, but no matter what waited for him after death, he would finally be able to escape his cruel life. He would finally be freed from Baron Typhonus's control. No one would have to suffer anymore. It would all… end. Thank you, thought Dr. Rex, with sincere gratitude. When the Einstein Device hit, it detonated, releasing its payload. A great wave of Imagination, magnified in volume by the programming of the device, exploded outward, consuming Dino Attack Headquarters in an aura of blue light. It was too bright for anyone to look at, forcing many to avert their eyes or squint. The sound was also deafening, like a mixture of a whirlwind, an earthquake, an explosion, and a tidal wave all mixed into one. Faintly, one could hear the cries of thousands of Mutant Dinos caught in the blast radius. The effect of the Einstein Device upon these creatures was that of a mercy kill. The Maelstrom in their bodies was simply too much, and by destroying the dark energies, their Creative Sparks were extinguished in the process. As the T-2 Typhoon raised its altitude, the Minifigs caught in the blast radius were unharmed. Rather, they were filled with rejuvenated energy and life, and with ease, Greybeard was pulled back aboard the helicopter. Rex, the one whose Creative Spark powered the Einstein Device, was only dimly aware of his surroundings. When the Einstein Device detonated, he knew that he would cease to exist, since his essence would be spread so far that it could never possibly come back together. But he did not regret his choice. Instead, as he reflected upon his life and thought of all the lives he would be saving… Reptile, Hotwire, Zenna, Rotor, B, Andrew, Hertz, Zachary, Dr. Cyborg… he felt at peace. For everyone. And so, when everything Rex knew became a white void and he heard a mysterious voice proclaim, "It is time," Rex was ready to accept his fate. It was, indeed, time. I'm coming… Amanda… And then, Rex was gone. ***** It was over. When the light faded away, all that remained of Dr. Rex was his armor, cast about the debris like a broken toy. The storm had subsided; while it was still raining, it had calmed to a light drizzle, and there was no longer any lightning. Dino Attack Headquarters still stood. It had taken more damage than one thought it could bear, between Firecracker's explosives, the destructive Mutant Dinos, and the wild fires of Dr. Rex, but as though it were a symbol of Minifigures' ability to persevere, it still stood as a monument to Dino Attack's triumph. Most of the Mutant Dinosaurs, which were invading Dino Attack Headquarters at the time, were caught in the blast radius of the Einstein Device. Those that remained, scattered around the torn-up streets and wrecked buildings, were now masterless as Dr. Rex had perished and, through him, Baron Typhonus had been banished for good. They were left confused and aimless as they tasted freedom for the first time, and as such no longer seemed to pose a threat to the remaining allied forces. Similarly, with their leaders captured during the battle, the Fright Knights and the Inferno henchmen quickly surrendered. Specs breathed a sigh of relief. "It's over, at last." "No," Reptile said, shaking his head. "This isn't the end. This… is a new beginning." The cabin of the T-1 Typhoon exploded in triumph. Andrew and Zachary laughed and patted each other on the backs; Hotwire gave Reptile a high-five; Dr. Cyborg nudged Hertz, grinned, and gave a thumbs-up. The radio was abuzz with cries of victory and a number of famous movie quotes. Specs and Viper nodded to each other. Everyone knew that they could never have done it without each other. Only by working as a team could they prepare the Einstein Device and win the battle. On the T-2 Typhoon, the passengers were celebrating their own victory. Greybeard had already proclaimed, "Drinks all around!" Dr. Saran was recalling some sort of amusing anecdote to Shannon and Kate. They received confirmation via radio that Rotor and Sam Race both survived the battle, and as they passed Shadow's T-1 Typhoon, they caught a glimpse of Digger, still swinging on the cable, whooping excitedly. Frozeen stood apart from the rest of the celebration in his cabin. As the fires were already dying down, he jumped down from the helicopter and landed back on the thirteenth floor. He ran through the wreckage and the debris until he found what might have once been Specs's office. There laid General, half-covered by a large piece of debris. Grunting, Frozeen pushed the rubble off of General's form, who cried out in pain. "Oh my Builder," whispered Frozeen as he surveyed the damage. Even if G.E. Metal could withstand so much, General looked to be in terrible shape. "Frozeen…" he whispered. "Please remove… my helmet… Cannot… breathe…" Nodding, Frozeen pulled the G.E. Body's helmet off of General's head, exposing his face for the first time in a decade. His skin, which was already wrinkled with age and scarred by burns, was now blackened and charred after what the Maelstrom did to him. General took in several deep breaths. "Ah… to breathe again…" he murmured, "for the first time so long… without a filter… to feel the rain… against my face…" Sighing, General locked eyes with Frozeen. "I'm not going to make it… will I? Tell Talia… I love her… and I'm sorry." "You did good," said Frozeen, nodding. "You did real good." General chuckled, and they clasped hands. Then, General lightly brushed one hand against Frozeen's cheek. "Your father… would be proud…" General whispered, a smile crossing his dry and broken lips. Frozeen took his hand, even as he felt it grow limp in his grip. General sighed one last time as he stared off into nothingness, passing away. Greybeard approached Frozeen from behind and gently laid a hand on the Alpha Team agent's shoulder. "He be dead, but not in vain," murmured Greybeard. "Much like Rex, he be gone… but ascended t' a higher plane o' existence. They now live on in all o' us now." Frozeen nodded his head solemnly. After seeing so many die in the past twenty-four hours alone, Frozeen felt no sadness or grief over the death of General… only grim acceptance. The deaths of Rex, General, and so many more were not to be mourned, but to be celebrated, for they gave their lives to save others, Frozeen realized. The Alpha Team agent stood as he gave one final goodbye to the brother and general of Evil Ogel. It was over. At last. ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  5. Chapter 71: Working In Unison ---- "Well, if we need more bricks, you can count on me," said Andrew to his fellow Elite agents. "Even in this environment, I'm sure we can find all the necessary parts. Though I think we may need to sacrifice the Teleport Pad at some point for some of the parts..." "We'll cross that bridge when we get there," said Reptile. "Now once Zach gets up here-" "Znap!" Viper suddenly cried out. Everyone turned to see him talking into a radio in the room with concern. "How is he?!... Drat, as if Dr. Rex wasn't bad enough... Yes, we'll take care of it." "What was that?" Shadow asked as Viper put the radio down. "You know that witch that showed up? Willa, I believe? She apparently destroyed Zach's Dino Air Tracker, but he managed to get off. Now the two are fighting their way up in this direction, both of them throwing Maelstrom energy all through the base." "Even with his knack for survival, I doubt he'll be able to handle it well alone," Specs muttered. "Them tearing up this area of the building isn't exactly a good thing either. We need to get him some bac-" The thirteenth floor rumbled from several loud blasts, while from somewhere near the area of the stairways, purple energies were glowing visibly in and out. "Save your breath, Specs, we'll get on it," said Shadow. "Digger, Viper, grab a weapon. We're going to show that witch that 'muggles' aren't as inferior to her as she thinks." As the commanding agents grabbed various weapons from a side wall and headed out, Shadow turned to the gathered agents and announced: "And if any of you want to lend a hand, come follow us, though we won't wait for you." "I'm in," said Andrew, drawing his laser rifle. "I'm always ready to come to Zach's defense." "So I've heard," Shadow said with a smirk. "Anyone else?" "I'm in," Dr. Cyborg said. ***** B ran up the stairs, jumping over bits of rubble as he neared the roof of the building. His mind was focused. His plan was terrible. And, with the exception of the one mission in his mind, he felt a large amount of apathy towards everything else around him. It was a technique he had learned back in special forces: block out the rest of the world to do your job better. Well, thought B, this isn't even my job right now. This could be counted as desertion, or whatever. I have one shot at this. Tempest, for all I know, might not even go for it. He might not do it. The one variable in a mission, and it's the one that guarantees success. Unacceptable, that's what he'd say. B reached the top of the stairs, and cautiously walked onto the roof. A minifig by the edge of the roof turned and faced him. They regarded each other warily, neither daring to move any more. "So," said Tempest, "you've certainly gotten better at avoiding sniper fire." "If you'll recall," said B, "that's one of the things I was actually good at. Either that, or you just suck at aiming. I mean, how did you manage to hit perfectly between my feet? That takes some serious skill. Either that, or you just were trying to get my attention." Tempest nodded. "You pick up quick, Kabrinsky." "Ooh," scoffed B, "referring to me by my last name! I'm in trouble now!" "Now, what do you want, B?" asked Tempest. "Well," said B, "you were the one who invited me here." "Incorrect," replied Tempest. "I invited you to the diner, where I planned on ambushing and killing you. You must have a reason for coming all the way up here." B shrugged. "Well, the fact that you were trying to kill me does put a damper on my actual plan, Tempest." "And what's your actual plan, B?" pressed Tempest. "Well, you always said to give up when you lose," said B. "I thought I might as well give up. You said that if I ever 'straightened out my ideology', you could have a job for me." Tempest blinked in surprise. "You... You're serious." "Dead serious," said B. "In fact, here's a piece of tech that just came in from our R&D. Rob said to check it out, and I think you might be interested. Here, catch!" B tossed the remote at Tempest. As it flew through the air, time seemed to slow, and then Tempest caught it, and placed a firm grip on it, pushing the button. B grinned. "Four words, Tempest: Znap off and die." ***** Cortana could tell that Kara was listening to something as she flew the ship, shooting down Mutant Pterosaurs as she went. "What are you listening to?" she asked Kara. "A motivational speech called 'Get mad! Fight back!' that was recorded back in the eighties. It's quite good. You know, it might help morale to hear it. Cortana, change radio frequency to team-wide and broadcast audio file P2," Kara said. "Yes ma'am," Cortana said as she complied. "When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade! Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! Fight back! I don't want your Znapping lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?! Demand to see life's manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give me lemons! Do you know who I am?! I am the man who is going to burn your house down! With lemons! I am going to get my scientists to invent a combustible lemon, and burn your house down with it!" "Yeah! Yeah! Burn his house down! I like this guy! He says what we're all thinking!" "Hey, what did I say about not using the comms for references?" "How dare you! 'Get mad! Fight back!' is so much more than a reference! Hundreds of MP3s of it are sold every day! The entire team's morale will increase from hearing it!" "Fine, no references over the comms except 'Get mad! Fight back!'" ***** The Inferno Mech was a tough opponent. Luckily, Cyrista's Bane had not been injured as of yet. For that, Screech was thankful. If he had, she would have been worried for the battle. Definitely the battle. Not for Bane any more than a friend. So far, Cyrista's Bane and the Inferno Mech had an inventive way to fight: they had torn tall light poles out of the road and used them as swords! Bane had the advantage in speed and agility, but the Inferno Mech had greater power and could take more hits. The Mech swung its "sword" at Bane's head. Screech gasped, or at least as much as a Mutant Pterosaur can gasp, and started to divebomb the mech to distract Dr. Inferno. Luckily, Bane blocked the swing with his own "sword". However, the Mech's "sword" bent around the other due to the force, so they were both useless. Instead of pulling out new ones, they simply changed to hand-to-hand combat. The Inferno Mech ran at Bane, intending to punch him with its claw. When the claw was a few feet away from his head, Bane grabbed the wrist joint and started to twist the Mech's arm around. When he had twisted it upside down, Bane grabbed the wrist with his other arm, and tossed the Inferno Mech down the street. The Mech slid up against the building and got back up. Bane fired his grappler at the cockpit, intending to break the glass and grab the pilot. At the last moment, the Mech leaned to the right. Bane's grappler slammed into the side of the building, embedding itself into the wall. The Mech pulled it out, and Bane reeled in the slack without thinking. With the chain taut, the Mech was able to use it to sling Bane over an office tower into the next street. As the Mech ran around the building, intending to finish off his prey, Bane was able to get up and recover. Using his arms and grappler, he was able to scale the office building he flew over not too long ago. When the Mech got to the side Dr. Inferno was expecting to see Bane on, Bane jumped off of the building and onto the torso of the robot. Using his internal furnace, he melted the glass over the cockpit. However, he was thrown off at that moment. He got up and fired his grappler at the pilot, where it got a hold on his neck. Unfortunately, Dr. Inferno was able to use that moment to grab Bane's neck using the mech's claw. It was a standoff. ***** Suddenly, the blast of Maelstrom shrank away back to Willa the Witch. Zach fell to his knees, panting. He looked up to the witch, who was gasping and holding her wand in shock as she floated on her broomstick. He could see a slight crack on the starhead of the weapon. Much the structure in the floor had been heavily damaged by the Maelstrom. "How?" Willa gasped, looking from her wand to Zach. "How can you match my power?!" Zach rose to his feet, dizzy and winded. "I know how to use it. And if you do that again, you are going to kill us all, you moron!" Zach struggled to scream out the end of sentence. Willa the Witch scowled and fired another blast at him. Zach reached out and absorbed the blast in his hand. "Would you quit it?!" Zach said, leaning a metal beam for support. The witch responded with several more blasts of Maelstrom energy, each absorbed by Zach. He felt a painful knot form in his stomach. Too much. He wondered if he absorbed enough, he would be corrupted again. Not willing to bet on it, Zach turned and fired several Maelstrom fireballs out of his hand through the wall in the building and into the rainy sky. The knot faded slightly, allowing Zach to turn around and have the witch fire an electrical streak of energy at him. Zach quickly knocked the blast down and fired another fireball that Willa the Witch tossed through the entire floor of the building, causing the building to shudder and groan in agony as more of its supports were destroyed. Zach growled, growing angrier. The witch cackled madly at his visible frustration and prepared to fire another blast at him. At that moment, several laser blasts struck near Willa the Witch. She gasped and formed a protective shield around her, deflecting the rest of the fire. At that point, Zach could see at least Shadow, Viper, Digger, Andrew, and Dr. Cyborg jump down to the floor, weapons raised at the Fright Knight witch. "More agents?" The witch sneered, rising higher into the air to the tip of her hair almost brushed against the ceiling. "So be it!" Willa the Witch spun in the air, waving her wand. A circle of Maelstrom energy shot out from around her and struck ever agent present and caused even more damage. Zach laid on the ground, his head spinning and throbbing dully against his skull. As he pulled himself to his feet, he could see the other agents doing the same. The witch was screaming in anger as she looked at her wand. "Why aren't you dead?" Willa complained angrily, almost like a child. "That blast should have killed you all! You should be dead! Why aren't you dead!" Zach looked at the witch's wand again. The crack on her wand had a weak glow to it and it seemed to growing. The wall of Maelstrom energy Willa had thrown at him that he had reflected earlier had severely damaged her wand. Her power was weakening. Zach cracked his knuckles. He had back up now and the witch's power was weakened severely. He smirked coldly. The odds had been evened. "Euh, that's why I hated working in Castle Cove," Digger muttered quietly as he recovered from Willa's blast. "Too unpredictable." "Well, they may know a lot about magic," Andrew replied, "but I'm betting that they couldn't handle combat especially in a state of mind like hers. She seems to be losing it." "Her wand seems busted from the blast I threw back at her," Zach added. "I'd say the odds are more even for us now." "That would make her nothing more than a particularly strong pest that needs exterminating," said Shadow. "Spread out, we'll overwhelm her with numbers." The stairway walls, along with several other walls on the tenth floor, were extremely blown out by the fight, making it easy for Andrew and the rest of his Dino Attack colleagues to split up and take cover. Screeching mad, Willa took after them. Andrew took cover behind an only-just stable column and took a look at what the witch did. She first went after Dr. Cyborg, appearing to be acting on the instinctual "Magic vs. Science" grudge. The scientist was resisting most of her weaker Maelstrom blasts thanks to his cybernetic build, and was throwing EMP Sonic Screamer shots at her when she was leaving herself open. Resisting the blasts and focusing her attention on the cyborg robbed her awareness long enough for Andrew to take a shot at her with his laser rifle, barely missing her but at least taking her hat off. "You dare take off my hat?!" Willa cried. "YOU MUST DIE!" She threw a fireball at him, which Andrew jumped out of the way of. The blast hit the column he was behind, putting a dent and scorch mark in it, but not leaving it destroyed or on fire. The weakening of her wand and good fireproofing could be thanks for that. In a rage, Willa flew at Andrew, but was knocked to the side as a Z-1 Kinetic Launcher shot was made at her, and the witch barely held onto her broom. Viper stepped closer from behind a desk of a ruined dormitory room and took another shot. Willa was ready for this one, and managed to make another protective shield as she got back on her broom. Andrew noted that she was knocked back slightly even with the shield, the blast managing to pierce it slightly. "Hey, remember me?" Zach cried out to Willa near the stairway. She turned and screamed again as she fired several Maelstrom blasts at him. In the moment Zach deflected them out the hole in the stairway roof, a Cosmotronic Ray hit Willa squarely in the chest, stunning her long enough for Viper to hit her again and knock the witch right off her broom. The enchanted cleaning tool floated for only a moment before it fell to the floor. "I never miss!" Digger cried out as he came charging for the broom. Willa reacted quickly, hitting him with a fireball he only barely managed to jump under. The only damage was fire catching on the back of his uniform, which he made a quick effort to roll over to smother. However, this left him vulnerable to a Maelstrom blast that knocked him several feet away. Willa cackled again and turned to grab her broom, only to be hit by Andrew's laser rifle fire, Shadow's Sonic Screamer, Dr. Cyborg's EMP Screamer, and Viper's Z-1 Kinetic Launcher. With a cry of pain, she was knocked to the ground again, though her hand still had a tight grip on her wand, in spite of its weakened state. Shadow approached her broom and grabbed it. As the witch got up, she barely noticed the other agents having her guns drawn on her as she watched the Founding Member glare at her and split the broom in two on his knee. "Welcome back down to Earth, witch," said Shadow. ***** Magma glared at the battle before him, as if by observing it intently enough he would be able to change it. Unfortunately, the observer effect didn't actually work like that, but at this point Magma would be willing to try pretty much anything. Specs's order had just come over the comm line. They had lost. Dino Attack was giving up… or was it? They were evacuating everyone and preparing some sort of superweapon in what little was left of Dino Attack HQ. The Iron Hammer had fought well, and accounted for many a Mutant Dino, but it simply had not been enough. Maybe if they had finished work on the hangar bays, if they had had a few more of these ships, if the Voltage had been there… maybe then, but as it stood, they simply did not have enough firepower. A handful of T-1 Typhoons had formed up around the airship, seeking shelter. Certainly, every Dino in range was much more likely to attack the massive, deadly airship than much smaller helicopters. The rest of the vehicles were either clustering around HQ, buying time, or were fleeing. Then, Magma spotted a lone T-1 Typhoon emerge from the cloud of vehicles still around HQ and dive into the enemy swarms. Just when he was sure it would be destroyed, it dove back out of the Pterosaur swarms, cutting a path through them with radar rays. It circled back to the tower, and then emerged again for another potentially suicidal attack. He thought he recognized something in that maneuver, something... well, he barely dared to hope. But before he could open a channel to the pilot, his attention was abruptly occupied by a large Pterosaur swarm attempting to knock the airship out of the sky. ***** Coral - Glacier - cursed his bravado. Once upon a time, he would have retreated, left the battle, and joined the winning faction. Once upon a time, he would have lived to fight another day. Why had he decided to throw his life away? It wasn't as if one T-1 Typhoon would do much good against the enemy they now faced, and even if it did, there was no guarantee Specs, Reptile, and the rest would actually be able to do anything. He had done it, he realized, because if the Mutant Dinos won there would not be another day to live for. It would be the beginning of the end of all life on the LEGO Planet. But there was more to it than that… after dozens of years of essentially being on the run, of not knowing who he truly was, of living an… empty life, he was tired. He hadn't accomplished much. He had done a few minor deeds for Alpha Team back in the day, but what had that actually accomplished, in the great war on Ogel? Probably not much. And as for the Pirates? Well, there, he had done a bit more, yes. But for what? They had saved the LEGO Planet from Skeleton Pirates so it could be destroyed by Mutant Dinos. And in the process, he had had some fun, some nice adventures… but it all seemed so meaningless in retrospect. So Glacier had decided to stay, to fight, to buy Reptile and the others precious time to get the Einstein Device online. Suddenly, as he dove back into the enemy for the third time, a panel sparked. Alarms went off in the cockpit. He glanced at the control panel. It looked like a T-Rex strike had destroyed his PLARXX Radar Ray control. Which meant… He realized exactly what it meant as a dozen Pterosaurs divebombed his T-1 Typhoon. The vehicle was simply not maneuverable enough to survive that kind of an assault. To his credit, Glacier managed to bring the vehicle to the relative safety of Dino Attack HQ, where a few others targeted and wiped out the Pterosaurs behind him. But he couldn't prevent the crash, and that, in the end, was what did it. ***** Magma stared grimly as the T-1 Typhoon that he had been watching dropped to the ground. "Open a channel to that downed vehicle, now!" he ordered in a tone even harsher than usual. Cee-Dee, fortunately, obeyed without question. "This is Alpha Team Special Agent Magma…. Are you… are you alive?" he asked, hesitantly. A grim chortle that turned into a cough came back over the line. "Not for long, Magma." "So it is you," he breathed. "Glacier…" "Yes, you finally found me, didn't you," his brother replied over the line. "And now you'll lose me yet again." "We can send people to get you out of there, we can use the teleportation systems…" "No," Glacier said quietly but firmly. "Don't waste the time trying to save me - I don't want to be saved! Besides… personal's not the same as important… you have to win, don't lose because you pulled out to... 'rescue' me." Magma blinked rapidly. "Then, then… please, Glacier, you are forgiven. You are forgiven… be at peace." There was a soft noise, then nothing but silence for a few minutes, after which Cee Dee respectfully closed the channel. The tears that had begun to form in Magma's eyes were outpaced by sudden fury. His brother was dead. His brother, a rogue who, once upon a time, he had spent years hunting, was now dead - Magma's last link to his life before Alpha Team, one of the last people who had known who Magma really was, underneath the hardened Alpha Team agent - dead. Dead, at the hands of some oversized lizard and failed genetics experiment. Dead, before Magma could have tried to reconcile with him. He'd known Coral was serving with the Dino Attack Team, and he was pretty sure that Coral and his brother were one and the same. But he had been far too busy coordinating Alpha Team's role in various Dino Attack-related operations to approach him... and now, it was too late. Several minutes passed before Magma next spoke, and when he did, he sounded eerily emotionless. "We're going to Dino Attack HQ, and we are going to buy the Dino Attack Team time to activate their device. I don't care if we have to single-handedly fight every single thing on the planet to make it happen - we're going to make it happen." The crew did not object to his orders, instead getting right to work as they steered the Iron Hammer towards the base. "They are going to pay for this," Magma added quietly. And this was much worse than the normal way in which he simply shouted at people angrily. Much, much worse. ***** Willa the Witch was surrounded. Any sane person would surrender. However, when one is influenced by the Darkitect, "sane" is not an accurate adjective for said one. Before the witch died, she wanted to kill someone. Anyone. Acting again upon the aforementioned "Magic vs. Science" grudge, that someone turned out to be Dr. Cyborg. She quickly raised her arm and shot a larger-than-normal Maelstrom fireball at Dr. Cyborg. Given that there were a few yards between Willa and everybody else, he had time to react. He dropped his EMP Sonic Screamer and caught the sphere of Maelstrom. Normally, when the Maelstrom touched his hand, it would have been absorbed into his body. But, acting on a theory he thought of in the Maelstrom Temple but was never able to test, he activated his shield generator. He directed the field to the palm of his hand, and used it to suspend the Maelstrom above his palm. He swung his arm back around and threw it at Willa. She tried to absorb it into her wand, but it was too much. With a snap, the crack in her wand began to grow... ***** Minerva Fabello and Holly Vinyaya were driving at the wrecked vehicle that Oswald Fabello was hiding behind at a fast pace. The Fire Hammer easily tossed away the vehicle as they collided, causing little damage to the jeep itself. Unfortunately, Oswald was nowhere to be found. Minerva quickly turned her head and saw her brother rising from the ruins of a building, his weapon raised. "Duck!" Minerva yelled. They hadn't rolled up the passenger side window, so bullets began to fly through the cab and over their heads. Vinyaya swore irritably and blindly drove out Oswald's firing range. As Minerva raised her head, she saw Oswald screaming in anger in the side mirrors. He fired his gun, striking an agent driving a Steel Sprinter. Oswald jumped onto the ATV and started to chase after the Fire Hammer. There was no real doubt. He wouldn't stop until he killed Minerva. She herself had no idea what was driving her to face him, but she knew she had to. Her arm stung from where one of Oswald's bullets grazed her. She still didn't know if she had the nerve to kill him, but she would at least incapacitate him. Holding a Sonic Screamer she found in the Fire Hammer, Minerva pointed it out the window behind her and fired several shots. Oswald swerved out of the way of the sonic blasts and fired several rounds at Minerva's door as he continued to gain on her. "Use the Xenon Launcher!" Vinyaya barked, turning sharply. The Fire Hammer skidded hard before it stopped, facing Oswald. Minerva turned to the Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher and began firing at Oswald, intending only to destroy his vehicle. Oswald screamed again and drove around the blasts with ease. He fired his machine gun at the windshield, causing sufficient enough cracks to blind Vinyaya. "MegaBloking MegaBloks!" Vinyaya growled. She slammed the gas pedal and started to drive toward Oswald. Minerva saw what Oswald would do and came up with her own idea to counter it. Gripping the Sonic Screamer tightly, Minerva pulled the door handle, loosening it. "Fabello!" Vinyaya snapped. "What are you doing?" Oswald drove to the ride side, passing by Minerva's door. She threw the door open and dove at her brother. They both flew from the Steel Sprinter and hit the hard pavement. Minerva was quickly on her feet, ignoring the pain emitting from her body and began firing the Sonic Screamer at her brother. Oswald rolled away and fired his much more lethal weapon at her. Minerva dove behind a mailbox to use as cover and began to fire several retaliating shots. One shot found its mark, striking Oswald in the chest. Oswald screamed in pain, dropping the weapon to clutch his ears. As he fell to his knees, Minerva began to slowly approach him, never lowering her weapon. When she was a yard away from him, she whispered gently, "Oswald?" She was stepping back as soon as she said the words. Oswald's arm swung at her as he rose to his feet. His face showed he was very clearly in pain from the sonics, but was ignoring the urge to fall into unconsciousness to attack Minerva. She clutched her stomach with one hand as Oswald spun his knife in his palm. He had sliced at her stomach and had torn her uniform. Minerva could feel the skin underneath. Looking at her hand, she saw small traces of fresh blood on it. She looked back to the knife, an undeniable rage growing in her stomach. She hated that weapon. Excluding her mother, everyone in her family had fallen because of a blade. Now, Oswald intended to have her join Isaac and Tod, but she wouldn't have it. She ran toward him. Knocking his knife arm away, Minerva punched him hard in the face. Oswald stumbled back and gave Minerva shock looked before charging at her as well. Minerva slammed her Sonic Screamer into Oswald's arm, but not before he delivered his own punch into her cheek. Her mouth became numb quickly. She stared at Oswald, her eyes growing wide. She knew he was trying to kill her, but being physically attacked by him had still shocked her. Minerva swung her Sonic Screamer into his head. Oswald ducked and kicked Minerva's shins. She winced in pain, fighting back tears. She kicked Oswald in the stomach and fired another Sonic Screamer blast at him. Oswald howled in agony like a wild animal. His eyes were practically bulging out of his head. He lunged at Minerva's neck and gripped it tight. He brought the knife close to her throat. "There's no hope," Oswald, his glare piercing Minerva. "We're all going to die. Nobody is safe. We're doomed." Minerva spat into his face and kicked him hard in the gut. Oswald roared again as he released his grip upon Minerva. He swung a foot at her ankles, knocking her to the ground. As she rose, she saw him fleeing into a ruined, tan-colored building. Minerva blinked in shock. She recognized the building. It was their old apartment they had lived in after they could no longer support living in their house thanks to Athena's insanity. She and Oswald had hidden out there for a week after the Dino Attack began, when their only concern was to survive. Minerva felt herself running toward the building. She could hear Vinyaya yelling her name, but she ignored the Space Police officer. Her conflict with Oswald was about to come to an end. In the very building where she lived through the first week of the Dino Attack. Gripping the Sonic Screamer tightly, Minerva began to ascend the steps to the front door. ***** "Well played, B," conceded Tempest. "Well played. It seems, now, that you win. Goodbye." With that, the octanitrocubane in the duffel bag exploded. Both B and Tempest were launched into the air by the force of the explosion, and the building crumbled. Gee, thought B, maybe I used too much. Aw, MegaBlok. B pushed a button on his robotic arm, and a hook and cable shot out of it, aiming at one of the taller buildings across the street that hadn't been damaged by the explosion. It caught, and B started swinging towards the building. Out of the frying pan, and into the... brick wall. Znap it all. And with that, B smashed through a brick wall and slid across the floor of the second story of the building next to the diner. B lay still for a few seconds, and then sat up. Morpheus, what the Znap did I do to you? Why am I still conscious? And... I'm not feeling anything. At all. That would be why. Let's see. Concussion: almost certainly, no broken bones? This armor saved me in that respect, but it probably crushed and bruised a lot of my internal parts. Look at this anomaly: I'm not even bleeding. I just hate to think what's going to happen when my nervous system wakes up. I better get back to base before that happens, and this time Yena won't be there to save my MegaBloking butt. Let's get up... There we go. Steady? Steady. Let's move. B got up, and made his way to the stairwell, and then walked to the entrance of the building. He walked outside, to see a jeep drive away. The minifig inside it turned and made a rude gesture as he drove away towards the Dino Attack HQ. "Well, this is just getting ridiculous," muttered B. And despite what B knew he was doing to his body, he ran. ***** Shaw stepped forward in the lab. "Do you think we should get the wounded up here?" She asked. Hale looked at her irritably. "No, Shaw," she said. "It's too dangerous. We're not transporting the patients up thirteen floors of an unstable building, and I got a feeling Pierce will agree that it'll be safer for them where they are." "Supposing we lose here…" said Shaw. "They seal themselves in," replied Hale. "Take their chances underground, wait for things to cool off. When we're low on supplies, we'll come out, and start over, turn our former patients into fighting men, and this team will be reborn! At least there'll be some way to carry on our race." ***** Willa the Witch screeched in anger. Her hat was gone, Shadow had broken her broomstick, and her wand was splitting from the Maelstrom's power. Once the wand was gone, Willa would just be a frail, powerless, old crone. "NYAAAAH!" Willa roared, waving her wand. The sound of cracking whips filled the air as sharp, lightning strikes of Maelstrom energy blasted Andrew, Zach, and Digger across the story. Shadow snarled and fired his weapon rapidly. Willa disintegrated each blast, allow Dr. Cyborg and Viper to step forward and blast the witch with the EMP Sonic Screamer and Z-1 Kinetic Launcher. The witch screeched in agony as the sonics collided with her and she was thrown across the room. She spun around wildly and unleashed another massive wave of energy that threw the Elite agent and founding member to the side. As she began to walk toward them, Digger stepped up behind her. Digger fired several Cosmotronic Ray shots at Willa the Witch. She gasped as the first shot struck her back and quickly turned and blocked the rest. She was forced to step back as the rest of the shots slammed into her shield. Scowling, Willa swung her wand at Digger. A fiery blast shot toward the Founding Member, who quickly dodged it. Willa fired another blast as he was recovering. Zach rose to his feet and saw what was happening. Reaching his hand out, a blob of Maelstrom shot out of his hand and formed a barrier in front of Digger. Willa's Maelstrom collided with the barrier was absorbed into it. Willa's head turned sharply toward Zach. "You!" she snarled. "I'm getting rid of you!" She waved her wand rapidly, shooting small, electric blasts of Maelstrom at Zach. He absorbed each blast with ease, raising an eyebrow all the while. Willa cackled madly and then waved her wand diagonally in front of her. Zach formed a Maelstrom shield around him. However, he was too late. Zach grunted in pain and threw the Maelstrom barrier at the witch in anger. She flew back, screaming. Zach leaned up against a wall, clutching his stomach. He glanced down and saw a large, diagonal tear in his uniform. Placing his right hand slowly into the cut, Zach winced in pain as saw his golden hand become stained with red. "Ow," he murmured. He looked up and saw the Willa glaring at him. She laughed again and pointed her wand at Zach, only to be tackled by Shadow. In that time, Andrew ran up to Zach. "Are you okay?" he asked, his rifle trained on the brawl between Willa and Shadow. "I think I'll be fine," Zach grumbled. "If I had been less than a second slower in pulling up that shield, I think I'd be a lot more critical at the moment. I think a visit with a medic is in my future. Again." "Considering how mad the witch is looking, both emotionally and mentally, she can't last much longer," Andrew said as he and Zach began to walk toward the brawl, where Dr. Cyborg, Viper, and Digger were already surrounding the fight. Zach kept his left hand over the middle of his torso. He could feel warm blood touch his hand. They both reached the fight. Shadow was easily overpowering Willa, who was firing Maelstrom fireballs everywhere trying to strike him. "Squishy witch," Zach and Andrew said simultaneously, before smirking at each other. Then Willa kicked Shadow in the gut and threw him off of her. As she stood back up, Willa stamped her foot on the ground irritably. "You can't defeat me!" she screamed in anger. "Impossible!" Zach could see the crack on her wand growing larger. "Nowhere to run, witch," Digger hissed, his Cosmotronic Ray point at the witch's head as helped Shadow back to his feet. The witch cackled madly and spun her wand in the air. Then, she slammed it into the ground, creating a massive shockwave that threw everyone off of their feet. She then began to spin her wand around herself, forming a small tornado around her. "She's trying to escape!" Viper realized, firing his weapon. It had no effect on the witch. Zach grimaced. The witch was trying to teleport out of the battle. Zach shot a blast of Maelstrom lightning at Willa. The lightning joined the tornado and began to unravel it. Willa the Witch howled in anger and redirected her Maelstrom at Zach, intending to kill him once at for all. They held the position for a while. No wall of Maelstrom, just one concentrated streak that bounced between them. Between that and getting cut up by her spell, Zach was beginning to drift into unconsciousness. Then the sound of several blasts filled the room. Willa screamed again as the Dino Attack agents began to fire at her with everything they had. As he continued to hold the blast, he saw Dr. Cyborg gesturing to him. Zach nodded in realization. Zach turned his hand slightly and directed the blast in Dr. Cyborg's direction, who began to absorb the blast. Willa the Witch gasped as she cancelled the strike. With the Maelstrom energy in tow, Dr. Cyborg fired one large fireball at the witch. Zach threw his own Maelstrom fireball. The two fireballs, plus the firepower from surrounding Dino Attack agents charged at the witch Willa the Witch attempted to form a shield to block the fireballs. However, Dr. Cyborg and Zach's attacks were clearly too much. There was an audible crack, then a fiery purple ball surrounded Willa the Witch. As the smoke cleared, the Dino Attack agents saw Willa Hylia Izralda lying in a heap next to a wall, her wand completely shattered. Digger approached the hag and examined her quickly. "She's still alive. Guess she has enough magic to keep her alive from that. But unconscious. I don't think she'll be much of a problem anymore." Zach breathed a sigh of relief. He was extremely disorientated from the whole experience and was still bleeding, but that could be dealt with. "Good," Shadow grumbled, lifted the unconscious witch on to his shoulders. "Now, how about getting back to work on that Einstein Device, eh?" "Sure, but I'd better get some stairs built," said Andrew, making sure Zach was alright as he moved off to collect a loose 2x4 brick from the rubble. "Willa sure did a number with the old ones." With some help from Digger and Dr. Cyborg for gathering parts, Andrew managed to quickly build the group a simple 2X6-stud stairway back up to the thirteenth floor. The brick size made the steps a little bit tall and hard to walk up, but the team was able to manage. Within a few minutes, they had returned to the lab. "Zach!" Hotwire said when they arrived. "Glad to see you managed to get out of-oh!" "It's nothing," said the LEGO Islander. "I just need..." He wobbled a bit from the strain the loss of blood was giving him. He had only a makeshift bandage from a piece of Willa's skirt Shadow had torn off for him. "... I just need a bit of medical help." "I'm on it," said Shaw, quickly coming to Zach's side and guiding him away to some First Aid supplies. "Finally, I have something to do." "Well done helping him out, agents," said Specs to the returned arrivals. He moved to a table under a makeshift tarp, shielding it from the rain coming in from the open roof, and gently placing the Einstein Device upon the table. "Zach, I want you to listen while Shaw's treating you; this is very, very important." "I'm all ears, I haven't lost one of those yet," Zach remarked as Shaw was applying treatment to his wound. "Very well." Specs began talking in a low and serious voice, and, in a bit of forethought, had Dr. Cyborg project his words on a side of the table for Hertz to read. "Agents, you've all fought long and hard these past few months, and I understand how some of you may not be taking well to the news that we are close to defeat. I know people like Semick are preferring to risk it all to keep most of the Mutant Dinos at bay for the time being. I wish him, and all our agents and allies, the best of luck in that, though I doubt we have much left." Specs gestured to the device. "As you might've heard or deducted, this is indeed the Einstein Device, renamed from the Doctor Device after the sacrifice of our dear friend Frank. We've worked on it for months now, as a last resort to try and stop the Mutant Dinos. We've designed it to strike the creatures via the Maelstrom in the body, to eliminate it and effectively nullify the threat they pose. However... in spite of all our work, we still haven't managed to completely negate a risk that could result in the elimination of all the Creative Sparks within the bodies of everyone within a mile of the area. "It's not perfect, but with Mutant Dinos intruding our base, Dr. Rex made nigh-invincible by the Darkitect, and our building a shell of its former glory, we have no other choice. Furthermore, one of us…" Specs didn't look at anyone, but Andrew noticed Viper twitch uncomfortably. "… accidentally armed it in a premature attempt to hit the enemy. So we have three time limits on us: How long the base can stand, when the Mutant Dinos reach us, and when the device detonates. "This is where you all come in. Neither I, nor many of us Founding Members, have worked closely with you to a major extent during this war. And we've sometimes done things in the team's best interests that have been quite hurtful for some of you." Andrew noticed Rex and Reptile shift uncomfortably. "But that doesn't change the fact that we know you're the best our team has to offer, and that you've contributed much to our effort against the Mutant Dinos. Be it simply helping your teammates in times of need, keeping each other informed and connected, being a fantastic leader, helping us uncover our true enemies in the war themselves, or simply surviving and contributing to countless missions, you've earned every single bit of praise and notoriety you have among us, and the rest of the world." An inhuman roar came from somewhere in the battlefield outside. "Now let's speed this up," Specs said as he moved over to a workbench to grab a box of instruments and tools. "Elite Agents, comrades, friends, this is our final challenge. I want you all to help us tweak, fix, perfect, and prepare the Einstein Device for use against the Mutant Dino army, or at least Dr. Rex. With all of your own skills and styles, I believe we can make it work better than what our scientists could do on their own." "As well as work out a way to be able to actually take it to him without interference," said Viper. "Though I'd suggest you remember that we're going to be involved with it as much as you are. After all, I'll never get a shot like this again..." "And besides, it's now or never," Shadow added. "So do you think you're ready for this?" Andrew gulped. This was indeed a great burden being placed upon them. Perhaps the greatest one they would ever have. After a second's hesitation though, he nodded. And his fellow agents quickly followed suit. "Good," said Specs, with a hint of a smile showing in his balaclava. "Now let's get to work. Come over and look at this Device, and see what you make of it." ***** Carrie Enderson winced slightly as a needle poked through her skin. "Calm down," Copper said as he proceeded. "It'll hurt like MegaBlokland for a while, but you'll live. No serious tissue damage." Finally, the thread was cut, and Copper stepped away. "Try not to walk too hard on that leg. Maybe get some rest here." Carrie nodded. She was surprised to see Pierce approach them. "How's she doing?" he asked. "Some minor tissue damage," reported Copper. "Could have been worse. Some minor scarring, but she'll be alright. What about the other one, Montgonel?" "He'll live," replied Pierce. "If they'd waited any longer, he wouldn't have made it this far. We've stabilized him and stopped the bleeding. All we can do is wait and keep an eye on him, which Crusher's doing right now. That reminds me: you haven't seen Shaw, Carver, or Hale, have you?" "Not since they left to check for wounded," said Copper. Pierce paused for a moment and sighed. "Great," he muttered. "Where the heck did they get to now? Do we have a radio in here?" "There's one over there," replied Copper, pointing toward some equipment in the back of the room. "I don't know if you can make it work down here, but you can try it." As instructed by Copper, Pierce sat down at the radio, remembering a bit of his last time using one on Adventurers' Island. He fiddled around with the knobs while speaking into the microphone. "This is Doctor Alan Pierce, calling from our relocated hospital. We are missing three of our staff: Doctors Crusher, Shaw, and Carver. Has anyone seen any of them? Over." ***** Shaw silently mouthed something as Zach lay on the floor. There wasn't much she could do with what little she had - mainly, just trying to stop the bleeding and bandage up the wound. "There's not much more I can do," she said. "You sure you don't want to go to the sickbay and get assistance?" Zach simply nodded. Shaw slowly got to her feet and stepped back. Slowly she walked up to the table where everyone was working on the device. Hale was by the door, clearly frustrated by the distraction. Among the crowd, Shaw quickly noticed the familiar face of Carver. They exchanged glances for a moment, but the situation at hand kept them from any real conversation Kate, meanwhile, looked at the Einstein Device in awe. "So small," she said to herself. "And yet it's the most powerful weapon here," Dr. Cyborg said comfortingly to Kate. "It's proof that even the smallest thing can be important and make a difference." Kate agreed, and started to look more encouraged. She started smiling slightly. Just as everyone was congregating around the Einstein Device, the door sizzled and was broken through. A medium group of Mutant Lizards came into the room. As most people were starting to draw their weapons, Dr. Cyborg said, "I've got this. Keep working on the Einstein Device." He walked towards the Lizards. His visor slid down and locked into place. Purple lines started glowing on his skin and arm cannon where his power conduits were, and his visor glowed purple as well. He raised his cannon, yelled "Hypermode!" and started shooting. Every hit killed a Lizard, even hits in the arms, legs, or tail. His shots had a distinct purple cast to them. "Oh, clever," Zach murmured to Specs, who was also watching the fight. "What's clever?" Specs asked. "Earlier, when we were fighting Willa the Witch, I deflected a Maelstrom blast at him. He absorbed it, reformed it, and shot it at Willa. However, he apparently kept some in his body and sealed it off with Imagination. He allows it to regenerate at a fixed rate. He takes some, metabolizes it into a different form, and powers his weaponry with it. Like I said, this 'Hypermode' idea of his is clever." The last of the Mutant Lizards were dead. Dr. Cyborg went to the door. He shot the stairs out. The purple light faded from him, and he shifted out of combat mode. "Let's get to work," he said. "So what is the plan, then?" Kate asked. "We'll need a few of you to go back into the field," replied Specs. "Keep the dinosaurs at bay. Shaw, since you're here, you might as well help, or perhaps you can get back into the basement and start moving the patients up." "That's going to be risky," Shaw said. "I don't think Pierce will allow it." ***** The Maelstrom Dragon howled in pain as Kareem Nazareno dug one of his katanas into its hide. Hanging on to the golden weapon, Nazareno flipped himself upward onto the back of the dragon and pulled his sword from the dragon. From this vantage point, he could see how the other three were fairing. Solomon Koplowitz and Zelda Frodongan were spread out, striking against waves of Mutant Dinos that threatened to overwhelm them and continue their charge for Dino Attack Headquarters. One Mutant T-Rex lay dead from the combined prowess of Koplowitz, Frodongan, Darkling, and Nazareno. Zelda cut through the throat of a Mutant Raptor before turning to join Solomon in taking on the last Mutant T-Rex. Nazareno then turned his head and saw Blaire Darkling facing the other Maelstrom Dragon. Despite being a rather bulky man, Darkling was quick, dodging the dragon's short blasts of purple flames while managing to get close enough to cut up its legs with his Paradox Shinobi katanas. Nazareno looked away from Blaire and grabbed onto one of the dragon's scales as it began to thrash around, attempting to throw the space ninja away. He scowled and ran along the massive, fire-breathing lizard's neck, making deep cuts as he went. The dragon bellowed in anger before bowing down and leaping into the air, its mighty wings flapping. Nazareno flinched and swung both his katanas into the dragon's back and clung on tight. Out of his peripheral vision, he could see the same Blaire being lifted into the air by the dragon. The space ninja jerked his katanas to the left. The dragon bellowed in agony, turned toward its partner, and fired a stream of purple flames. The other dragon roared and released Blaire. Throwing one sword to the ground, Blaire used a free hand to grab the dragon's talons and hoist himself on to its body. "Thank you, Nazareno," Blaire called out, his polite atmosphere not hiding his irritation. "For trying to get me roasted alive." "Shut up and cut their wings!" Nazareno snapped. Pulling his katanas from the dragon's back, Nazareno edge slowly toward the right wing, which was blowing gusts of air at him. Using a katana as an anchor again, Nazareno used the other to tear a hole into the wing. The dragon screamed and began to spin in air. Nazareno stabbed his other sword into the dragon as spun. To his luck, the katanas didn't slide out of the dragon's skin as Nazareno bumped against the dragon's back as he spun. Finally, the Maelstrom Dragon straightened back out, with its right wing flapping more frantically. "Excellent work, Nazareno," Blaire called from his dragon. "You taught a dragon how to do a barrel roll. Unfortunately, I'm not really up for teaching that to my dragon." "It's the only way we're going to get back to the ground in one piece! Now do it!" Blaire shrugged and began to swing his katana through the dragon's wings with wide, sweeping motions. Nazareno did the same. Despite the wing speeding up, the dragon began to descend rapidly. Nazareno nodded curtly to Blaire and both leaped from their respective dragon's backs. Nazareno rolled on to the ground as the Maelstrom Dragons crashed into several buildings, leveling them completely. Nazareno then ran toward the downed dragons and quickly killed them with several well-placed strokes. As he leapt from a dragon's head, he saw Blaire walking toward him, adjusting his trenchcoat and flipping his wet hair out of his eyes, a smirk on his face. None of his katanas were in sight. "Excellent work, Nazareno," Blaire noted, looking to the two dragons. "Perhaps you should consider joining the Nexus Force? Or should I say, should've." It was quickly apparent as to what Blaire was speaking about to Nazareno. And he was talking about there being no hope in winning the battle. Pointing both katanas at Blaire, Nazareno's eyes narrowed. "I knew you wouldn't let me go." Blaire laughed coldly, crossing his arms behind his back as he flipped his hair again. "You haven't lost your touch, Kareem. I'm glad you knew I was going to finish our little grudge." Nazareno's swords didn't lower. "I had expected you to make some level of change in these past three years, but I've personally been waiting for this moment for a long time." "Let me assure you, Nazareno. I have changed. I aligned XERRD with the Dino Attack Team, have I not? My second-in-command is one of your elite agents. I do want to save this planet, but..." Blaire shuddered involuntarily as he and Nazareno began to circle each other, the latter never averting his eyes. "Matthew Vherestorm wants one last crack at his old adversary. One last loose end, and he will finally be laid to rest." Blaire shrugged. "Truthfully, you brought this upon yourself by showing your... ah... mask to me." "Let me assure you, Darkling," Nazareno hissed, "you'll never get that opportunity to truly discard Vherestorm if you decide to fight. I will see to it that you will never roam this universe again. Even if you kill me and escape, you will be hunted to the end of the world." Blaire laughed again. "Really, Nazareno? So confident that, if you die, they'll immediately pin it on me? Fortunately, I have already anticipated this. Let's see...you, Virchaus, Fabello, Frodongan, the space cop, and a few more agents. All can be easily dispatched after I've finished you. Make it look like the Mutant Dinos got to them. Maybe one got stabbed by a Fright Knight. Another shot by an Inferno agent. I don't really care. I'll deal with XERRD's crimes. Vherestorm's crimes were always meant to be buried." Nazareno stared at his former rival coldly. "From what I'm hearing, Matthew Vherestorm is still in power and using Blaire Darkling as a mask," he countered. Blaire's posture shifted dramatically. He placed his gloved hands inside of his trenchcoat. Other than his small frown, he gave nothing away of his emotions. "Believe whatever you wish, Kareem. It won't matter in a few moments." In that instant, the two Shinobi swords shot out of Blaire's trenchcoat and landed in his hands. He placed the bottom of each hilt together, cause a small click. Spinning the double-bladed katana is his hand, Blaire made one step toward Nazareno. "I've made a few upgrades to Paradox's technology, if you can't already tell. Now, let's finish our little rivalry, once and for all." Nazareno nodded before lunging forward, his katanas raised, finally ready to defeat his most powerful opponent. ***** After Dr. Cyborg dispatched the Mutant Lizards, Rex overheard Specs whispering to Digger while rubbing his forehead: "To be honest, I'll be glad once this war is over to return to a normal life. At heart, after all, I am only a scientist. Hopefully, once the war ends, I'll be able to conduct even greater studies of the remaining Mutant Dinos rather than having to worry about the entire team resting on my shoulders." "We do have an impressive team," murmured Shadow, as he glanced out at the battlefield. "They do me proud," said Specs, nodding. "I was hoping to reduce the casualties of this battle and increase their chances of survival, which is why I ordered the rookies and suggested that the standards evacuate immediately. Instead, they have shown only the greatest bravery and dedication to our cause. It may be a foolish choice, and it may be the last decision they ever make... but I cannot help but feel proud of them." Clearing his throat, Specs raised his voice to a more audible level as he announced that, due to his technological engineering background, he would assist the other elite agents in helping to design the Einstein Device in any way that he could. However, Shadow, Viper, and Digger (who, although he was a paleontologist, was not a technician and enjoyed the thrill and excitement of battle) would assist other elite agents such as Rotor in defending Dino Attack Headquarters. Rex sighed. "I'm neither a scientist nor a technician," he declared, "and so I am of no use to anyone here if I'm sitting here wasting my time while the rest of you are working on the Einstein Device. With all due respect, I believe it would be best if I rejoined the battlefield. We need every hand we can get to destroy those abominations." The other Dino Attack agents traded glances. Many of them were put off by Rex's sudden change in character, and it worried them to see a respected elite agent in this state. Then, Dr. Cyborg stepped forward, with a concerned expression on the organic half of his face. His robotic eye scanned Rex's body, and Dr. Cyborg frowned. "Rex," he said, "there's a dangerous level of Maelstrom energy in your body. It's... not enough to infect you or anything, but it's potentially lethal to your system." Digger coughed, a little nervously. Specs took notice and narrowed his eyes, while others raised their eyebrows in surprise at Dr. Cyborg's revelation. "I don't believe that this is the work of Attila Huntsman?" Digger inquired. Rex shook his head as he clenched his teeth. "No, it's not. For once, that cowardly traitor did not have a hand in this. You know whose fault this is? This is the fault of that armored abomination who is now leading an army of monsters to kill us all. And where has this foolish experiment of his gotten him? Possessed by the MegaBloking Darkitect! It's his fault, and he's going to pay for it!" "Why didn't you tell anyone?" Dr. Cyborg raised an eyebrow. "I fear it might be too late for even me to extract it. Maybe with Zachary's help..." Zachary looked down at the bandages on his stomach. His battle against Willa the Witch had weakened him, and he did not know if he could extract the Maelstrom energy from Rex's body. Still, now that Dr. Cyborg had pinpointed its source, he could feel its presence. "I don't need your help," snorted Rex. "That's all everyone ever wants to do - help someone because they pity them. Well, I don't need anyone's pity right now! Pity is not going to slay every last one of those Mutant Dinos! Get back to work and focus on that Einstein Device!" "Rex," Zachary said in an attempt to rationalize Rex's behavior, "this isn't you talking. The Darkitect is trying to stir your irrational emotions-" "Listen to me, Rex!" insisted Dr. Cyborg. "This is dangerous! If we cannot get that Maelstrom out of your body, then you... then you might die!" "Then so be it!" snapped Rex. "Let me die!" Rex began to wheel himself towards the exit of the lab, but Greybeard stepped in the way and blocked his path. "Belay that!" barked the old pirate. "Ye be stayin' 'ere!" Although his tone was harsh, Greybeard masked empathy towards Rex. To be young and think yer life be over with the death of yer dearly beloved, thought Greybeard. It feels like only yesterday. "Looks like we're headin' back in the field, then," Rotor said. "No problem boys. I'll take anyone who can still walk and shoot straight. Cabin, you coming with me?" Cabin nodded. "I'll fly with you." Rotor smiled. "You know what you're getting into." "Yes," replied Cabin. "The same thing we've been doing for months. I kept your back on Adventurers' Island, you think I'm going to ditch you now?" Rotor put his arms around her shoulders. Quickly they put their arms around each other and pulled themselves tightly, their lips interlocking in a powerful kiss. She soon pulled herself away, though. "We got a job to do," she said. "Indeed, we do," agreed Rotor. "I'll go with you," Mac said from nearby. "Same here," added Lance. "You're going to need a gunner out there." "Very good," replied Rotor. "Specs, I just need you to tell us what to do and we'll get the job done for you!" ***** Minerva entered the lobby of her old apartment. It looked the same as it did when the Dino Attack first began. Overturned chairs, gaping holes in the walls, and rubble everywhere. She slowly walked through, her Sonic Screamer raised. Oswald was hiding somewhere. He was here, waiting and watching for her. An angry yell echoed through the lobby as Oswald Fabello jumped from behind the front desk, his knife raised. Minerva quickly stepped out of the way as Oswald dug his knife into the floor. Standing up and pocketing the knife, Oswald pulled a small handgun from his Dino Attack uniform. Minerva flinched and ran out into the hallway as Oswald fired several bullets in her direction. She launched her own sonic attacks in his direction, but once again, he ignored the pain. What does he hope to achieve by killing me if he thinks we're all going to die anyway? Oswald was clearly unable to rationally think anymore. Minerva ducked into a room as more bullets whizzed past her head. She slowed her breathing and waited for Oswald to arrive. She didn't wait long. Oswald burst into the room and swung his knife at Minerva. She backed away and kicked his stomach. Oswald howled and tackled her to the ground. "It's over, Minnie!" Oswald growled, the knife shaking in his hand as he pinned Minerva to the ground. "We're all going to die anyway, might as well just accept it." Minerva felt the same pit of boiling anger rise in her again. "Don't you-" Minerva threw her brother off of her. "-ever call me-" Minerva punched Oswald square in the nose before wrapping his head into her arms. "-that Znapping name again!" Minerva punched him hard in the stomach before throwing him against a wall. Oswald went through sheetrock and fell into the next room. Picking up her Sonic Screamer, Minerva stepped into the next room, only to get punched in the cheek by Oswald. He grabbed the collar of her Dino Attack uniform and slammed her against a wall. He then gripped Minerva's forehead and slammed it against the wall multiple times. Disorientated, Minerva suddenly found herself in a flashback. A small, dark-haired toddler was wrestling with her much older, blond-haired brother. They were rolling on the floor, laughing as they tried to overtake one another. In the background was a blonde-haired woman, who was making sure nobody got hurt. She was smiling and laughing as she watched her children play. Snapping back to reality, Minerva punched Oswald in the chest, sending him stumbling back. They were fighting, but unlike when they were both children, Athena Fabello was dead and Oswald was trying to kill Minerva. Minerva picked up her Sonic Screamer and blasted Oswald again before retreating out of the room to the stairwell. Oswald's angry screams echoed throughout the entire building as Minerva shuffled past rubble and other debris as she reached the second floor; the floor where Oswald and Minerva had lived. Minerva could hear Oswald stomping up the stairs. Minerva continued to run until she found it: their apartment. Minerva ducked into their old living space. It was torn up and in ruins, like any other building. Minerva could vaguely see an old, dusty photograph of herself, Oswald, and Tod as she passed into the kitchen. Oswald unleashed another roar, followed by the sound of three gunshots as he ran through the hallway. Minerva shuffled through old cooking materials. Her Sonic Screamer wasn't going to knock him out, so she would have to work with something else. As she threw open cupboards that were barely on their hinges, Minerva saw a frying pan. A bit clichéd. Probably somewhat sexist, but she didn't care. She picked it up and turned to confront Oswald when she saw him standing in the kitchen his knife raised. Minerva swung the frying pan as hard as she could at Oswald. He bellowed in pain as her pan collided with his knife hand, throwing the knife back into the living room. She was about to swing into his head when his other hand shot out and grabbed the frying pan and threw it away from the both of them. Oswald's fist then connected with the side of Minerva's head. Minerva fell to her knees. Her entire world was spinning from both Oswald's blows and the blood loss from cut he had made across Minerva's stomach earlier. Minerva grunted as Oswald's foot collided with her stomach. She fell to the ground, breathing heavy. Oswald flipped her over on to her back with his foot. Oswald glared at her, his eyes practically bulging out of his head. "It's over," he hissed, stomping his foot across her chest. Minerva gasped in pain again. She looked up at him again. She could see his gun clipped to his belt, just waiting to be pulled out and used on Minerva. This gave her an idea. Minerva kicked Oswald in stomach with both feet. He groaned and doubled over, allowing Minerva to kick his chin sharply with her boots. With Oswald stunned, Minerva climbed back to her feet and shoved Oswald back into the living room. She hit his chest before nailing his stomach, her free hand brushing his hip briefly. Her attacks were cut short as Oswald grabbed her hair. Screaming, Minerva felt her head get pulled up to Oswald's level. Scowling darkly, Oswald then punched Minerva underneath her chin twice before punching her cheek. He then threw her against a ruined couch. Thankful for the soft landing, Minerva climbed back to her feet and faced Oswald, only to stop to cough out large globs of blood. Wiping her mouth, she raised her fists at Oswald. "No more fighting," Oswald snarled. His hand reached for his belt. "You're just going to die…" He drifted off. Looking down, he saw that his gun was missing. "Where-!" He looked to Minerva. She held the gun in her hand. She pulled out the magazine and spilled the remaining bullets on the floor before throwing the gun into the kitchen. "YOU!" Oswald screamed, pointing a shaking finger as his sister. "YOU LITTLE THIEF! I GUESS SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE, DO THEY?" Minerva was absolutely silent. She had stolen, let alone pick-pocket someone, in a long time. Unlike long before, she felt no euphoria at how easy it had been to swipe the gun. Only a sick knot in her stomach as her brother screamed at her. "I don't why I even bothered trying to save you. I should have killed you both right there. You and Mom." Minerva scowled. "Shut up about her! You don't know anything about her!" And with that, Minerva tackled her brother to the ground and continued the fight, growing more and more willing to end her brother's life. ***** Montoya sat down next to Carrie Enderson. Pharisee stood silently and solemnly in the back of the room. Montongel was semi-consciously lying on one of the beds. "What happened to him?" Carrie asked as soon as Copper was out of earshot. "He ran off and then-" "He's gone," replied Montoya. "They shot him." Carrie slowly started to cry, trying to suppress her tears, but clearly unable to control them. "I can't believe it," she muttered. "He tried to use you as a hostage," Montoya said. "Isn't that right?" "No," replied Carrie, a smile briefly breaking through the tears. "It was all fake. The gun was loaded with blanks." Montoya looked at her curiously. "He said he loved me," Carrie continued. "I've known him for eight years, and now he's gone. I used to be his confidant. I collected information, set up meetings for him, helped him get out of jams and I still don't regret a single moment of it." ***** As Shadow discussed their methods of attack with Rotor while Specs assisted Reptile, Dr. Cyborg, Grimton, and the others in working on the Einstein Device, Rex skulked to himself in his wheelchair. It irritated him that Dr. Cyborg was so concerned about the Maelstrom in his body that he was ignoring the hordes of Mutant Dinos, each one with Maelstrom in its body, at their doorstep. That, and the fact that Dr. Cyborg had so carelessly revealed that which Rex was trying to keep secret during Dino Attack Team's darkest hour did not improve the situation, for every now and then one of Rex's teammates would look upon him with worry, concern, or - worst of all - pity. Greybeard had no intention of letting Rex go just yet, and Rex had a feeling that Rotor would be too stubborn to recruit a wheelchair-bound individual such as himself. Crossing his arms, Rex sat back in his wheelchair and stared off into space. That was when he noticed someone familiar standing in the darkness, with a sneer plastered on his features, and the madness in his eyes showing through the shadow cast by the wide rim of his top hat. Rex seethed at the sight of him. Feeling his heart pounding, Rex pointed a finger at the figure and shouted: "This is all your fault! How dare you, wretched monster! You are out to make my life as miserable as in your power! Well, you've succeeded! I hope you're happy now, because it will be the last time you shall ever feel happy as long as I am alive!" Baron Typhonus laughed in response. "Tick, tock," he echoed. "Tick, tock." "Uh, Rex?" Rex noticed that the others were staring at him in confusion. "Who are you talking to?" Frozeen inquired as he raised an eyebrow. "Are you all blind?" snapped Rex. "He's right there, in the shadows! Baron Typhonus, the Darkitect himself, has come here to mock me!" "There's... no one there," said Reptile, frowning. Dr. Cyborg looked at the shadows where Baron Typhonus stood and proceeded to scan the area with his robotic eye. "I'm not detecting any signs of any living lifeforms," he reported, "nor do I see any Maelstrom levels here. Zachary, do you feel anything?" Zachary Virchaus shook his head in response. After one last worried glance at Rex, everyone went back to what they were doing, completely ignoring Baron Typhonus as the Darkitect gloated at Rex from the shadows. "I'm not mad!" insisted Rex. "He's there! The sick 4+ Figure is standing there, and he's mocking me! He's been out to get me this entire time! He revived Dr. Rex! He killed Amanda! He killed..." "Belay that, Rex," muttered Greybeard. "Thar be no one, an' I be not needin' both o' me deadlights t' see that much." "But..." Rex trailed off, as he stared at Baron Typhonus. Was it possible that the Darkitect was not truly there? No, of course it wasn't! He could see Typhonus as clear as day! But... was it as clear as it seemed? Was it true? Frank Einstein's words echoed in Rex's mind: "Sometimes, he would tell me that he saw a dark figure wearing a top hat in the same room as him. Sometimes, he would make such a claim while I was in the same room and could plainly see that there was no such person." Rex's heart raced, and he clutched his chest due to the pains. But what had occurred to Rex was far worse than the physical pain. The Darkitect was there, but not actually there... rather, only in his mind. Rex was seeing things that did not truly exist, and these things were the very same things that Dr. Rex, who feel deeply into insanity after his little Maelstrom experiment, had seen. I'm becoming more and more like Dr. Rex. Rex continued to clutch his chest, but practically shivered as the cold realization washed over him. The anger and lust for revenge cleared from his mind as Rex whispered in terror: "Oh my Builder... I've finally gone mad." Andrew stared at Rex with concern, but managed to shift his focus for a moment back with the group hovering over the Einstein Device. Currently they were discussing the idea around how to ensure the safety of the effects of the device's detonation. "Perhaps giving it so much of a range is too much of a problem," said Dr. Cyborg. "Perhaps we could narrow it down, even make it only target Dr. Rex somehow?" "There's still the issue of the countless Mutant Dinos still out there," said Reptile. "They're not all going to stop when their 'leader' falls." "Well, we do have to consider the effects it could have on some of our allies," Andrew added. "I mean, Zachary has Maelstrom in his system, and we still have several tamed Mutant Dinos tracked and untracked out there that've resisted the Maelstrom's influence. And there's Pterisa's situation, as well. Who knows if she and others like her can survive if the Maelstrom is suddenly purged from their system?" "Hmm... fair point," said Specs. "I'll admit, from what I've heard from the radio, we've might've taken out a significant number of the Dinos they had to start with, and with Dr. Rex, Willa, and Inferno down, we could pretty swiftly cover the rest of the forces with the help of our allied organizations. It's risky, but if we can't make the device tell the difference between Maelstrom and Creative Spark essence, it might be in our best interest to just make its radius large enough to target one individual. One very large individual." "The question is though," said Hotwire, "how can we do that? One does not simply wire or program a device to affect one target. It'd have to be a part of whatever energy source we're using to stop him." "I suppose directly injecting some Maelstrom energy could make it recognize its target," said Zach, "and then we could program it like a heat-seeking missile. Only with Maelstrom, of course." "I've done some hacking into Paradox files when I was a part of XERRD," Dr. Cyborg said. "I think it is possible to encode information into Imagination and Maelstrom. We might be able to use that to help specify which targets to affect." "That sounds reasonable," said Andrew. "But I'm a builder, not a scientist, so what do I know? Regardless, I suppose one thing on my mind is how this bomb's going to disrupt the Maelstrom within Dr. Rex, exactly." "From what I've gotten," said Specs, "the device should counteract with the Maelstrom in a molecular/plastic level. Very complicated with a lot of chemical, electrical, and a hint of atomic reactions. It's the best we could do without any samples of Imagination." "Couldn't that Maelstrom cure formula I managed to pass on to the medical/science teams help?" offered Zach. "I don't know. I don't think the scientists working on it had time to integrate it with all the plans we've been making with Dr. Einstein." "We did work on that," Carver remarked on hearing the mention of the Maelstrom cure. "Crusher and another guy, Fuchs, managed to create a crude replication and we got it to work on Zelda." Shaw turned toward Carver in confusion. "It was on Adventurers' Island," Carver explained. "Maybe if it would help we could get Crusher up here! She could give you guys a hand." "You mentioned research on the Maelstrom?" Shaw asked Carver. "Yes," replied Carver. "It was a scientist named Fuchs. He's not here right now though." "You think there's any record?" Shaw asked. "He must have something, notes, files, something containing everything he found." "Though as you mention that," said Grimton, "I do wonder if it would work best if we could somehow get a sample of Imagination into it." "I think it would be of a great help," said Reptile. "But where do you suppose we get it from?" Grimton patted her chest. "Dr. Einstein showed us a way," she said grimly. The conversation turned silent. Everyone knew what he meant. But no one seemed to want to speak of it further, or even think of finding a volunteer for such a solution. "... Well," Andrew said at last, "Whatever we do with it, I suppose we might want to getting the device ready for modification. And I think we might want to start, Andrew pointed at one of the flashing lights on the device, "with perhaps disarming this thing before it goes off prematurely?" ***** Kat hit the ground and rolled as a fireball sizzled through the space she had occupied less than a second before. She popped up into a kneeling position and battered the Mutant Lizard responsible for the incendiary assault with shots from a Sonic Screamer, retrieved from the wreck of Tracer's Vindication. Beside her, Giles whipped one of his scarves around another Lizard's neck. It slipped out of the loop and charged. Giles interrupted its advancement with a sudden kick to the face. As the beast's neck jerked back, he dropped into a crouch with the scarf stretched out above his head. The unfortunate dinosaur brought its head back down onto the length of lethal knitting, and with one quick motion Giles slit its throat. Helm and Epic Winston were nearby. The latter had pulled the Fire Hammer's heavy-duty Cosmotronic Ray from the wreck, and was wielding it as a handheld weapon, despite the fact that the barrel was over six feet long and nearly a foot in diameter. With his sword in his other hand, and Helm at his back with a normal-sized Cosmotronic Ray, the two were busy incapacitating Mutant Raptors. Soon, the four of them made their way back together. "I'd suggest we make our way back to HQ," said Kat. "Though it's not looking so great right now, it's probably one of the safer spots around here at the moment." "I don't know about that," Giles put in. "They're looking pretty safe right now." He gestured down the street at two katana-wielding agents carving their way through dinosaurs and Fright Knights alike. ***** "You can count on us," Rotor said eagerly in response to Shadow's instructions. "That son of a 4+ Figure Dr. Rex is going down!" "We should get a move on," Mac said. He turned toward the door. Rotor followed, accompanied by Lance and Cabin. They worked their way up to the rooftop. One T-1 Typhoon was still there, and they climbed inside, Rotor taking the pilot's seat with Cabin taking her place as his co-pilot. They started up the engines and began to take off. Flying away from the base, they kept watch for anything, any agents in action; after all, that's where they'd find the mutant dinosaurs they needed to destroy. "I think I got something," Mac said from in the back of the T-1 Typhoon. "A couple agents below us. Looks like some of them are wielding katanas or something." "Right," replied Rotor. "Lance, open fire on the mutant dinosaurs. I'll try and get us closer!" ***** "How long have they been gone?" Pierce asked. "An hour, maybe," replied Copper. "What's going on?" Crusher asked as she approached the doctors. "Shaw, Carver, and Hale," said Copper. "They've been gone for a full hour now." "What?" asked Crusher. "You sure they're not just delayed or maybe had to take care of a patient or som-" "If they needed to take care of someone, one of them would at least come back to tell us," replied Pierce. "Get some assistance, a stretcher, or something." "Well, what do we do, Pierce?" asked Copper. "We can't just leave the patients already here." "He's right," agreed Crusher. "But we got to find them." "We'll have to split up again," decided Pierce. "Crusher, you come with me. Copper, you and Clickitt wait here with the patients. If there's anything at all, we'll find a way to let you know!" Quickly, Pierce turned and left the infirmary, Crusher tailing him. ***** Nazareno swung his swords fast, knocking back and countering each of Blaire Darkling's swings. Nazareno had never encountered the former terrorist use a doubled-bladed weapon such as the one he was using now, so he was forced to adapt his style so he could hope to challenge Blaire. Blaire was easily the most accomplished and skilled opponent that Nazareno had ever faced. Darkling worked around his larger build. His athleticism didn't match Nazareno's, but he made up for it in surprising speed and brute strength. Blaire was focusing on defend himself while Nazareno launched attack after attack. "Just like old times, eh, Nazareno?" Blaire mocked. He spun his weapon in front of him fast enough to turn it into a dark circle with a thin purple line running through the center. It scraped the ground occasionally, showering the two combatants in orange sparks. "Except that, in the end, you're not escaping," Nazareno said coldly. With that, he sent both his swords forward in an upward arc into Blaire's spinning weapon. Both men jerked as Nazareno held the blades' spinning with his own. He could practically see the old spark of amusement in Blaire's eyes through his reflective sunglasses as he smirked. I suppose Paradox makes these blades stronger than a standard blade. "Believe whatever you wish, Nazareno," Blaire boasted. With that, Blaire disconnected his two katanas and continued the fight. Nazareno knocked away one swing to the head and another to his hips. He then launched his own rapid assault against Blaire. XERRD's leader blocked each blow with relative ease, but the furiously of the attack was forcing him to step back. As Blaire parried a blow to the stomach, Nazareno launched himself into the air over Blaire. As he landed, he swung his katana at Blaire's neck. The brute turned sharply on his boat and brought one of his swords upward. His blade held Nazareno's away from his neck about an inch. "Once again," Blaire said as he swung his other katana in a sweep motion toward Nazareno. The space ninja brought his free sword down and blocked the attack. "I'm glad to see you still have that old fire, Kareem. I would hate for this battle to be easy." "The same to you, Blaire," Nazareno grunted before bringing his foot up sharply, connected with Blaire's stomach. Darkling gasped and shoved Nazareno's swords before taking a step back. Sloppy, Nazareno mused as he put his katanas in a defensive position. A kick? Blaire reconnected his katanas and held it out in front of him, gesturing Nazareno to continue. He obliged naturally. As they fought, Nazareno made his attacks quicker and harder to dodge. He felt deep satisfaction in the brief look of frustration appear on Blaire's mouth. He couldn't let the XERRD leader win. Partly because of wanting to finally beat Darkling. Partly because of Blaire's threat he had made earlier. At least Andrew, Laxus, Zachary, Minerva, Holly, and Zelda knew that Blaire was Matthew Vherestorm. Darkling wanted to keep his past a secret and would murder anyone who knew. If Nazareno failed, more people would be killed. A pang of worry traveled through his body as he thought of Zelda. Now that he acknowledged his feelings for her, he couldn't let her fall victim to Blaire's attempt to cover up part of his crimes. Blaire Darkling would be defeated, one way or another. Their swords smashed together. Blaire was holding both of Nazareno's blades back from slicing through his shoulders. Out of the corner of his eye, Nazareno saw a Fire Hammer drive by. Blaire smirked again as if to tell he saw it too. Blaire threw Nazareno's swords back and disconnected his katanas before making a wide, sweeping arc around him. Nazareno backflipped to dodge the blow, giving Blaire enough time turn and jump on to the back of passing Fire Hammer. Nazareno swore silently and began to run after the jeep. Blaire climbed on top of the Fire Hammer's cab and swung his dark blades against the edge of roof, creating a storm of sparks. The Dino Attack agent in the Xenon Launcher was yelling to both the driver and Blaire. The Fire Hammer began to slow down, allowing Nazareno to jump on to the back. "What are you two doing?!" the gunner demanded, glancing from Blaire to Nazareno. "Never mind us," Nazareno commanded, making his voice powerful. "Just keep fighting. I'll deal with him." The agent shrugged and continued to shoot at nearby Mutant Dinos as Nazareno climbed onto the cab. Both he and Darkling swayed as the Fire Hammer drove over rubble and dino carcasses. Nazareno rolled his eyes. "You were always one for the theatrics." Blaire chuckled. "I want to keep the both of us on our toes. And besides, if this is so theatrical, this will keep the audience on the edge of their seats!" Breaking apart his katanas, Blaire swung his blades out to attack, only to stumble as the Fire Hammer hit a bump. Nazareno swung one golden sword outward, managing to make a small cut across Blaire's chest before he recovered. Blaire snarled and wiped away a small amount of blood before delivering another attack that Nazareno accepted with his katanas. ***** Zelda Frodongan grinned in relief as the final Mutant T-Rex of the group that had attacked her, Solomon, Nazareno, and Blaire fell. She wiped the sweat from her brow briefly before joining Solomon in fighting the rest of the dinos. Nazareno and Blaire were both dealing the Maelstrom Dragons. She had seen the two send the mystical creatures crashing into the ground a distance away and were hopefully trekking back. She bit her lip. She didn't trust Blaire Darkling at all. He spoke of "redeeming" himself, and that may be true, but his "obsession" (as Nazareno had put it) with the space ninja may hinder that process. The former rivals were alone. They might as well be fighting to the death to settle their grudge. She cut away a Fright Knight with ease. She was still somewhat upset with how things had gone with Nazareno, but it was probably for the best, right? He was older and wiser than her. He knew a relationship wouldn't work between them. It was kind of stupid to assume he would share my feelings if I told him, Zelda reasoned. It was worth a shot, I suppose. She shrugged half-heartedly as she sliced through a Mutant Lizard's neck. She knew that being rejected wouldn't change how she felt. Zelda turned on her heel and got into a short duel with a Fright Knight. She was faster than the knight and easily plunged her sword into his chest. He gasped in shock. Zelda pulled the katana out of his body and examined it as he fell. It was riddled with scratches. Nazareno had been correct. These were, for the most part, generic katanas. They would break before long, which was why she had two daggers and a small firearm on her person in the case of that incident. She ran up the tail of a Mutant Brontosaurus and cut up its back. Zelda stabbed one katana into its spine. It collapsed instantly, and several Mutant Lizards ran up to overwhelm her. Zelda lifted herself up with one hand on the katana and begun to rotate her hand rapidly. She extended her other katana and turned herself into a spinning weapon of death, cut any Lizard that got too close to her. One Mutant Lizard spat a stream of fire, catching her sleeve on fire. Zelda jumped from the katana and landed hard on the Lizard's head, shattering its skull. She quickly patted out the flames and defeated the remaining Lizards. "Take that, ya' scurvy bilge rats," Zelda muttered under her breath as she pulled her other katana from the Mutant Raptor. She gasped and covered her mouth in surprise. "Scurvy bilge rats"? Heh. I haven't talked like a pirate in long time. As she ran back to join Solomon, she briefly remembered her old dreams to follow in her deceased parents' footsteps and become a pirate. Doesn't sound extremely flattering now, being a pirate. Though... She grinned. With skills like mine, I could easily be one of the best pirates ever. A ninja pirate. Or pirate ninja. How did it go? She paused to recall some old pirate history. A pirate ninja is a pirate that dresses and uses ninja tactics, but is most definitely a pirate. A ninja pirate is a ninja that dresses as a pirate. Neither are well-liked by the pirate community due to the 'ninja' bit. I think I'd fall under the 'pirate ninja' category. Zelda shook her head as she slammed her elbow into the side of an Inferno agent's head. None of that really matters if I die here. Focus! She quickly reunited with Solomon Koplowitz, who was defeating foes with relative ease. A T-1 Typhoon had flown over them and was helping them defeat Mutant Dinos. As they continued to fight, they suddenly joined by four Minifigs; a brown-haired woman with a Sonic Screamer, a large, bearded Agent wielding a sword and a massive Cosmotronic Ray, a Dino Attack agent with several knitted scarves around his neck, and another Dino Attack agent wearing a beanie cap had a black mustache and was holding a Cosmotronic Ray. "Care we join you?" the brown-haired woman asked. "I don't think it will be a problem," Zelda replied, smiling. "Good. The name's Kat." She pointed to the Agent, the scarf-wearing Dino Attack agent, and then mustachioed Dino Attack agent. "That's Epic Winston, Giles, and Helm." Zelda nodded to each. The big one, Epic Winston, looked like someone not be messed with. I could probably take him, though. Somehow. Giles seemed like a strange character with his scarves, but since he had lasted this long, she reasoned he could probably take care of himself. She didn't notice anything too strange about Kat or Helm, however. "Pleasure to meet all of you," Solomon said curtly before turning back to the battle. "My name in Solomon Koplowitz." "And I'm Zelda Frodongan," Zelda said. She suddenly saw something change in Helm's face. His eyes widened and he stared at Zelda, surprise clearly etched in his face. Zelda, not really anxious to beat around the bush after the thing with Nazareno, cleared her throat. "Is there a problem, Helm?" ***** Hertz watched the other agent's lips move as they brainstormed how best to fix the device. He watched Rex have an outburst and he watched Doctor Cyborg kill some Mutant Lizards. He watched Naomi and Noomi treat a wounded Zachary and he watched as the faces of the technical team paled when Grimton made a grim proposal. He had no idea what was said but he understood how dire the situation was. Every second they deliberated, the closer the Maelstrom came to overwhelming their forces. All he could do was watch. He had received several odd glances from other agents indicating that he should just leave. If he went to Antarctica, he would get his hearing repaired and he would not have to worry about dying in the battle. It seemed like a no-brainer, many agents were probably seeking excuses to leave, but Hertz refused to run away. He had joined Dino Attack Team to make a contribution; even if they failed, Hertz was determined to go down believing he did everything within his power to help. The think tank was relatively useless to Hertz, however. Zach, Hotwire, Reptile, Andrew, Shannon, Specs, and Doctor Cyborg continued to make conversation on how best to fix the device, but he was deaf to all ideas that flowed among them. From what Hertz could determine, the team was having difficulty isolating the enemy Maelstrom forces from Rex and Zachary. When the Einstein device was activated, it would put the Dino Attack Team's allies at risk. Hertz took this opportunity to ask a question. It was probably an awkward place to say it but, considering he had no understanding of the current subject, he really could not wait until it was his turn. In what he hoped was a normal speaking voice, he issued his query: "HOW DOES THE EINSTEIN DEVICE WORK? IS IT SOME FORM OF WAVE EMITTER OR DOES IT UNLEASH A CHARGE? IF THE TECH IS BASED ON SOUND OR ELECTROMAGNETIC WAVES, I MIGHT BE ABLE TO ISOLATE ITS RANGE TO SOMETHING ONLY IN A MUTANT'S HEARING RANGE." The assembled agents cringed in response to Hertz's unintentional volume. "How do you expect to do that?" asked Reptile. "You can't tone the frequency of the device if you can't hear. Wait, why am I saying this to you?" Hertz looked at Reptile with dismay. He tapped his ears and shrugged. "THE HEARING RANGE OF A REPTILE IS LOWER THAN A MINIFIG. THEY CAN HEAR NOISES AT A MUCH LOWER LEVEL THAN WE CAN. A LIZARD, FOR EXAMPLE, CAN HEAR A SOUND WITH A REGISTRY OF 34HZ. MINIFIGS CAN'T HEAR ANYTHING BELOW 20." "I appreciate the effort," said Shannon, more to the group than to Hertz. "But the Einstein device does not function on sound waves. It unleashes an electromagnetic pulse. I'm afraid it working on sound waves would be far too convenient." Shannon was having a hard time seeing Hertz again. In a way, he had saved her life when he asked her to leave the communication room. If he had allowed her to stay behind, she too might have lost her hearing in the blast, or worse. She owed him her life, and she felt a degree of survivor's guilt. Doctor Cyborg was able to relay the information to Hertz, and he nodded his head. "E.M. RADIATION STILL EXHIBITS WAVE-LIKE BEHAVIOR," responded Hertz. "I MIGHT BE ABLE TO CALIBRATE IT SO IT WON'T HARM US. I CAN'T HEAR, BUT I KNOW WHAT LEVEL WE WOULD NEED." Specs was not amused. He motioned that Dr. Cyborg projected his words on the wall and he dictated his response. "No offense to your skill, Hertz, but you're the only one here who knows the subtleties of this kind of stuff. If you can't set the EM radiation correctly, we'll have no way to know if you're wrong. I'm afraid I don't trust the Einstein Device being calibrated by a deaf man." Hertz frowned. The founding member was probably right. ***** Minerva slammed Oswald's head into the ground, hard. She pushed his chin back with one hand and punched him repeatedly in the chest with the other hand. Oswald snarled and desperately waved his hands at Minerva, trying to grab her. He finally found her arm. With a sharp twist, Minerva ended up on the floor, wincing in pain. Oswald rose to his feet. He had found his knife. She acted quickly. Her foot shot upward into Oswald's chest, knocking the wind out of him. Rising to her knees, Minerva knocked the knife out of his hands, shoved his chest back to the floor, and punched him hard in the face. "What's wrong with you?!" she barked, her voice shaking. Oswald chuckled coldly, his eyes never leaving hers. Minerva yelled in anger and slammed his head repeatedly against the ground. Oswald continued to laugh. "You've become just like Mom," Oswald whispered. "An evil, stupid bi-" "SHUT UP!" Minerva screamed, breaking Oswald's nose with one, swift punch. "You think you can compare my actions to hers? I think you have become the very person you hate. No. Mom killing Tod was an accident. You've become even worse than Mom." Oswald bellowed multiple profanities before using his strength to throw Minerva off of him. They both climbed to their feet as Oswald swung a punch into Minerva's cheek as hard as he could. She stumbled and slammed her back against a wall. Flipping her hair out of her face, Minerva caught Oswald as he charged at her and grabbed his Dino Attack uniform. She turned and threw him against a wall, shattering it as he stumbled through. Minerva ran up to the hole in the wall to continue her attack. Oswald suddenly shot out of the hole and grabbed her throat. Minerva yelped before grabbing Oswald's as well. They glared at each with pure hatred, but while Oswald's was real, Minerva's was still uncertain if she truly despised him. "Suddenly, she's the good guy now that she's dead?" Oswald hissed as Minerva's squeezed his throat. "After all she's done to us? What she did to Tod?" "I talked to her, Oz," Minerva choked, her brother tightening his grip. "She wasn't hiding behind any memories. Wasn't pretending that everything was okay. She knew what she did. To all of us." Oswald's eyes widened. Minerva could feel his grip slacken slightly. "She..." he muttered. "Mom?" Minerva managed a short nod. "What did she say?!" he demanded, shaking her violently. "She was sorry!" Minerva gasped. "She regretted everything she did to us. She was sorry for everything." Thinking about Athena Fabello's last moments cause a lump to form in Minerva's throat, and her eyes started to become wet. "She... she wished she hadn't given up." Oswald stared, trying to comprehend what Minerva was saying. She remembered Athena's last request. "Mom still loved you, Oz. S-s-she wanted you to know that. Even after what you did to her... she still loved you..." An ugly look appeared on Oswald's blue face. "Does she think that, just because she loves me, I will forgive her?! Guess what, Minnie? We hardly went a day when she was living with us after Dad's death where she didn't make a note about how much she loved us. And as foolish as you are, you probably didn't forgive her, didn't you?!" Minerva stared. She was half-tempted to lie to save herself from a verbal lashing. It was always easier that way in dealing with Oswald. Instead, her features hardened. "I did forgive her. For everything." Minerva was met with a hard smack to the face that sent her staggering into a chair that she flipped over. Stunned and blinded by her hair, she was forced to listen as Oswald yelled. "THEN YOU ARE WEAK!" he bellowed. Minerva shook the hair and stars out of her eyes and slid out of the tipped-over chair. "You think just because you can get into a few fights and swipe a box of spaghetti from a store shelf makes you stronger than me! You could never have made it this far without me! Instead of telling her off while she could actually listen, you forgave her. This is why you have been weak, are weak, and always will be weak!" Minerva was back on her feet, only to get smacked again by Oswald. "Welcome to the real world, hon!" Oswald prepared to smack her again when Minerva caught his arm and twisted it sharply. "I think you're the one who's weak," Minerva snarled, moving her face close to Oswald's. His face was scrunched in pain, but his hateful glare never wavered. "I know what you did for me, Oz. You gave up everything to take care of me. You could've dumped me off at Aunt Ginny's or even at some home, but you kept me. You... you were the closest thing I had to a parent. The closest father figure I had." Minerva voice shook near the end of her sentence as Oswald's eyes widened. She had never acknowledged him as any more than a brother, but she knew she truly saw him as a second father as well. "Do you know how it felt to see you strapped to that chair on Adventurers' Island? Not only were you alive, but you had joined an organization bent on killing us all. Do you know how it felt when Carolyne Provencal told me that you joined XERRD because they convinced you I was the cause of all your problems and you believed it? Do you know how I felt when I watched my smarter, stronger, older brother who basically raised me suddenly shoot my mother? "You think I think I'm stronger than you because I was a thief and got into fights?" Minerva laughed bitterly. "Look at yourself, Oswald. You're broken. You've lost your faith in everything, and you think killing me will compensate? You've given up, just like Mom. You are weak. I never had a clue that I'd become so much stronger than you. Ever since this war started, I've needed you less and less every day. I haven't given up and I won't. When this war is over, I'm going to make things better for myself. Without you." Minerva threw him against the wall. Oswald grunted in pain, but didn't make a move. "I forgave her," Minerva hissed. "That doesn't change what she's done to me. To us. I may have forgiven her, but I'll never forget what she did to us. There no point in it anymore. I've made peace with her. My ability to let the past go is also why I'm stronger than you." Oswald glared for several silent seconds, trying to figure out an adequate response to Minerva's speech. His lips curled into a hideous frown. There was wild, feral look in his eyes. "You think you can lecture me how you're better than me after all this? You took everything from me!" Oswald charged at Minerva and tackled her to the ground and punched her face multiple times. Minerva kneed Oswald hard in the stomach and threw him off of her. She got up to her knees before Oswald socked her in the face again. She managed to return the punch before she collapsed in exhaustion. She lifted her head and blew the hair out from in front of her face. Oswald was crawling toward her, his teeth bared. Minerva slowly crawled toward him to confront him. As they collided, they lifted each other up long enough to each deliver a punch. As Oswald fell back, Minerva fell on top of him. Lifting herself, she then slammed a fist into Oswald's chest, causing him to gasp. He responded with a backhanded slap to Minerva's face, jerking her head to the right. As she turned to face him again, she saw something flash to her on the ground. She blinked once as an idea formed in her head. "I don't want to kill you, Oswald," Minerva whispered coldly, lashing her hand out at Oswald's throat to pin him to the ground. He bellowed in rage and hit Minerva several more times. She ignored the pain, keeping her eyes trained on Oswald. "I can hardly stand to look at you, but I never wanted to kill you. You were brother. My father. But..." Minerva slammed Oswald's head on the floor. "I've been thinking about it. If I just knock you out and arrest you, you'll just be detained until this battle is over. In the end, I thought you would simply just go to jail. Seeing you now… seeing what you've become... I know they wouldn't take you to a jail. They would take you to an asylum. A mental institution. Perhaps even Napoleon XIV. You would live the rest of your life in an institution, like Mom was supposed to." Oswald's eyes widened in horror as he registered each of Minerva's words. Minerva reached her right hand to the side as she kept one hand on Oswald's throat. "I-I know the irony would destroy you. Being locked in the very same place Mom was. The person you hated most. You want nothing to do with me. Y-y-y-you have nothing left to live for. You believe there is nothing left for you. So..." Minerva felt her hand wrap around the object she saw. She had to do it. She couldn't back down. She needed to do it. For Oswald's sake. She- Oswald gasped in surprise. His knife was planted firmly in his chest, just below his heart. Minerva's right hand was wrapped tightly around the hilt of the weapon. She stared from the weapon she despised to Oswald, whose face was deathly white. "It's... for the best, Oz," Minerva whispered, not willing to believe what she just did. "Thank you... for everything. I'm sorry I made it so hard. I love you, Oswald. You were the greatest friend I ever had." She slowly removed her hand from the knife, but left it in his chest. Oswald scowled and pulled the knife from his chest. He then swung it at Minerva's face. She flinched as she jerked her head away. The knife had run across the left side of her cheek. She felt blood began to seep out of the wound. Oswald groaned and dropped the knife. His Dino Attack uniform began to turn dark red. He lifted his head briefly. He looked from his fatal wound to his sister, whose lip was trembling. All the pain and hatred seemed to fade away from his eyes. The only thing that remained was blissful relief. "T-thank you..." he managed to stammer. He looked at Minerva another thirty seconds before his head fell back and he became still. Minerva rose shakily to her feet and stared at Oswald Fabello's body. He was gone. He was dead. Her entire family was dead. Isaac, Tod, Athena, and now Oswald. All of them were dead. Minerva was the only one left. She had survived her confrontation with Oswald, but she had lost so much in the progress. She couldn't even make herself cry at this point. She simply stared at her brother, never feeling more alone in her entire life. ***** While the others were either working with Specs on the Einstein Device or leaving with Shadow, Digger, and Viper to battle the Mutant Dinos and protect the lab from the ever-increasing number of invaders, Rex sat in his wheelchair, staring at the palms of his hands. He was not suffering another emotional breakdown, but the cold realization from his reality check forced him to face the fact that he was going mad... and becoming more and more like his nemesis, Dr. Rex. "What's it like?" Rex dared to inquire. "To be... mad?" Frozeen chuckled softly in response. "For every person, madness is different. Some people may grasp very little of reality. Some never know what time and place they are in. Some people are... err... convinced that everyone is a leprechaun out to steal their gold." His voice turned serious as he continued: "But you, Rex... I fear your madness appears to be a more violent case. Unfortunately, I'm no psychiatrist and... well, I've never been good at reading people, so I can't tell you anything for certain. But... look... if there's anything you need, I'll try to help as best as I can." As Rex and Frozeen conversed, Greybeard saw an elderly man in a black suit enter the lab. Greybeard immediately recognized him as the strange person who clotheslined Ata during the traitor's attempted escape, giving the old pirate the opportunity to catch up and execute the cowardly shinobi. Greybeard approached the elderly man and offered him his only hand. "I apologize, me hearty, fer I dinnae git a chance t' thank ye properly fer what ye did back thar." The old man looked into Greybeard's eyes and smiled warmly. "You're welcome. I figured that you could use a hand, Greybeard." Greybeard faltered. "How did ye know..." The old pirate trailed off as he realized why he thought that the elderly gentleman looked familiar in the first place. "Blow me down," Greybeard whispered as he broke out into a wide grin, "it be Ben Gunn!" "I'm glad we could meet again one last time," said Ben Gunn. Glancing up at the collapsed ceiling and catching a glimpse of the dogfight up above, he added: "Even if it is in such... dire times. However, I'm afraid I must go for now. I imagine that elite agent Rex over there is occupied, so if you could kindly escort me to this Teleport Pad I've been hearing about...?" Greybeard furrowed his brow. "Why? Be ye not goin' t' stay an' fight? Ben Gunn, back in th' Goo Caverns, ye killed Mutant Lizards wi' yer bare 'ands! An' then proceeded t' eat them limbs like th' drumstick o' a chicken! If that dinnae make ye what some o' th' younger folk call a 'badbrick', I be not sure what does!" "Alas," sighed Ben Gunn, "those circumstances were... different. You see, the Goo Caverns were my... home. My territory, you could call it. I knew every last square inch of those tunnels like the back of my hand, and when Mutant Dinos invaded, I had the high ground. I knew how to use my territory to my advantage. Out here... I am a fish out of water. And while I still have enough of a fighter's spirit in me that I could take down the mole... I'm old, Greybeard. I don't think it's in my power to put up a good fight any longer against these creatures. Therefore, I'm afraid I must resort to the final option." Before Greybeard could reply, Ben Gunn's eyes drifted to the Einstein Device and the Dino Attack agents working on it. "Hmm," murmured Ben. "That looks like something that Frank would have made. Hold on..." He approached the device, studied it for a moment, then took it from Specs, made a few quick adjustments, and handed back. "There you go. I doubt that fixed it, but I'm sure that it would help." The others stared at Ben Gunn with incredulity as he returned to Greybeard's side. "Okay, I'm ready to go now." "Aye, then," said Greybeard, nodding. He led Ben Gunn to the Super Teleport Pad, where General was still operating the controls. Frowning, Ben Gunn whispered to Greybeard, "I'd... feel better if he wasn't the one who teleported me." Greybeard raised an eyebrow, but dismissed it as just another one of Ben Gunn's many idiosyncrasies. While Ben Gunn got into position, Greybeard went up to General and asked him how the Teleport Pad worked. General quickly explained that the coordinates were all set up, and all that needed to be done to teleport someone was a push of this one button. Then, after distracting General, Greybeard pushed the button while Ben Gunn was standing on the Teleport Pad. With that, the elderly man vanished in a beam of blue light. "Wait a second!" Greybeard blinked in surprise and turned to see Frozeen running up to the Teleport Pad, with Rex following in his wheelchair. The Alpha Team agent looked as though he had seen a ghost. The commotion had caught Genera's attention. "Who was that?" Frozeen demanded to know. "That man who just teleported?" "Arr, that be just Ben Gunn," explained Greybeard. With a start, he added, "Oh, Rex! That be him! Remember th' old man who stopped Ata? That-" "Yes, I know," said Rex, nodding. "I'm glad to hear that he got out alright after all the explosions and the Mutant Dino invasion." "Who's Ben Gunn?" General inquired as he raised an eyebrow. "Just some crazy ol' hermit who be livin' in yer Goo Caverns fer years wi'out ye or Ogel knowin'," said Greybeard, shrugging. "What's the matter, Frozeen?" inquired Rex, concerned. "You look like you've just seen a ghost, and I know what you look like when you see one of those. Who did you think it was?" Staring at the now-empty Teleport Pad, Frozeen shook his head sadly. "Just... someone I thought I knew." ***** "What do you see down there?" Rotor asked from the cockpit. "I'm counting at least five people," replied Mac. "Four Dino Attack agents, maybe: three male, one female. One Agent, and one person I can't quite identify." "We're getting in low, then," said Rotor. "Lance, give me some cover fire! Try and clear a landing space." "Righto," replied Lance eagerly. He quickly opened fire as the chopper came down. There was a small cloud of dust as the vehicle slowly touched the ground. Hastily, Lance climbed out of the gunner's seat, grabbed a rifle, and started to fire at the dinosaurs. Lance jumped out of the helicopter and approached the agents. Zelda turned toward him. "Agent Lance Williams," he introduced himself, "we were flying ov-" "Lance Williams?" Helm asked. "The surfer?" Lance smiled and nodded. "That's me," he said. "What are you guys all doing out here?" Giles asked. "I'm not quite sure," replied Lance. "Rescue mission or reinforcements. I just shoot where they tell me! And you're going to need someone with a gun. I mean, look at you guys. Those cutlasses, man! They're nothing compared to a good rifle!" Zelda showed a look of sheer frustration. "That's enough Lance," Rotor said as he approached. "You don't need to talk down on anyone we run into; that's my job." "How'd you end up with him?" Zelda asked. "We ran into him on Adventurers' Island," Rotor replied. "I was quite excited myself. I'm a big fan of his, you see." "Would you mind telling me what you guys are doing here?" Giles asked. "That depends," replied Rotor. "You guys looking for a rescue team or reinforcements? All we were told to do was get back on the front and keep the dinos at bay." At this point, Mac and Cabin had caught up. Down the street, something caught Rotor's eye: a figure taking advantage of the commotion and darting across the road. "Mac," ordered Rotor, "catch up to that man and stop him. I want to know who he is and what he's doing here!" "He could be one of ours!" pointed out Mac. "If he were one of ours," retorted Rotor, "he wouldn't be darting across the street. He'd be running up to join us." Quickly, Mac ran down the road as fast as he could, turning at the intersection where they saw the figure running. He could see the man dart into the ruins of an old shop, and quickly Mac followed. Stepping inside, Mac looked around nervously. The building was a mess; structurally, it was technically still standing, but rubble was everywhere, so many places to hide. That was what kept him from expecting what happened next. The man jumped out and grabbed him from behind. He had a piece of wood, which he pulled against Mac's neck. Mac could feel the wood in his beard, and it was not comfortable. Quickly, he elbowed the man in the chest, who flinched in pain. He turned around and punched the assailant in the face, finally giving him the chance to see the mysterious attacker: a rough-looking man with long hair and eye patch, clad in a black tank top. "Who the Znap are you?" Mac asked. The one-eyed man looked at him ruthlessly. Mac quickly threw another punch to the man's face and grabbed him, doing his best to restrain the man. He escorted him outside. "Who's this?" Rotor asked as a bruised Mac showed up, escorting a beaten and somewhat exhausted man with an eyepatch. "I don't know," replied Mac. "But I'd like to find out." Rotor took the man by his shirt and promptly tossed him to the ground. "Alright, now we can do this the easy way or the hard way. I'd rather do it the hard way, but I think it would work out a lot better for you if you just cooperate." "Motherznapper," the one-eyed man muttered. He promptly received a kick in the stomach from Rotor's boot. "You got a name?" Rotor asked. The man looked at him. "Call me Snake," he said. "Hold it," Cabin said. Rotor stepped back from the prisoner. "Snake?" Snake looked up at her. "Cabin..." he muttered. "You know him?" Rotor asked. "We were on Adventurers' Island together," explained Cabin. "He's one of ours, then?" Rotor inquired. "Yes," replied Cabin. "Then why was he trying to run away?" Snake smiled and chuckled slightly. "You think I give a Znap about your war? I only joined this dang team because some guy offered me a pardon." "We're pardoning criminals now?" Rotor grumbled. "This is mad. Who in their right mind would let a guilty unrepentant man like you be pardoned in exchange for fighting mutan-" Cabin shot him a glance. Rotor quickly cut himself off. ***** "Guys, really," Andrew was saying, "I don't think it's that hard to diffuse this thing. Dr. Cyborg, Hotwire? You guys have expertise in this kind of thing, why not try it out?" "Andrew, calm down," Specs was saying. "You have a point, but you don't have to be loud with it. Hotwire, Dr. Cyborg, do see what you can do about defusing this thing while the rest of us keep talking about how we can get this thing to work. Andrew, feel free to start dismantling some of the cover pieces on the teleport pad. Seems like evacuees are winding down, so we could be close to having the chance to dissect it for parts." "On it." Suddenly the door burst open and Pierce stepped into the lab, accompanied by Crusher. "What's going on in here?" Crusher asked. "We're trying to figure out a device," replied Shaw. "The Einstein device or s-" "There you are, Shaw," interrupted Pierce. "What are you doing up here? We were worried sick about you." "Carver and Hale?" Crusher asked. "I'm right here," replied Hale. "I tried to tell Pierce, but he wouldn't listen." ***** As Kara was flying around shooting stuff, she saw a group including Rotor and some others. "Hey, Cortana, I want to make a good entrance. Hover about 15 feet up," she said. Yes ma'am, Cortana replied. Kara popped the cockpit open and hopped out, sticking a three-point landing with the assistance of her special flight suit. "Hello, everyone. Mind if I join the party? Hello, Rotor." She nodded a greeting to the pilot. "Hey, ever been told you'd make a good ninja?" Zelda asked. "You look pretty agile." "No, I don't believe so," Kara replied. As the newcomers joined the group, Zelda turned back towards Helm. The concern on her face was immediately replaced with shock -- Helm, hand shaking and face pale, had his Cosmotronic Ray pointed right at her. "Wha--?" Helm grimaced and tried to steady his arm. "Jason Helmutson -- Tracer -- was my son," he said simply. Zelda's eyes widened. "I... suppose I don't think less of you for wanting to kill me, then." Kara cut in. "No, stop. She wasn't in control of her actions!" "We've all lost people close to us," Epic Winston added. "That's easy enough for you to say!" Helm burst out at the bearded Agent. "At least you got your vengeance! But Kara's right. And I can't kill another human minifig, let alone a fellow Dino Attack agent." He wiped tears from his eyes with the back of his glove, and raised and lowered the weapon several times, torn apart by the conflict inside him. Kat stepped forward, about to say something, when her features suddenly twitched slightly. "Listen to me, Bartholomew Helmutson. I was married in 1968. The man in question was an astronaut, as it happens. In the nineties, he was sent to Nimbus Station, and he got word to me that there was a grave matter that I should know of, but insisted upon telling me in person. In 1999, he came back to me… as a Stromling. I was forced to kill him myself, and that is how I learned of the Maelstrom. Never forget... it could be worse." Katerina stepped back and her face twitched again. She blinked and shook her head. "Plague and ruin on that wretched hag!" Kat muttered. Helm faltered, uncertain. Zelda finally spoke up again. "For whatever it's worth, your son is the reason I'm still here. It was his Creative Spark that they used to cure me. Do you think he'd want you to kill me after that?" Helm dropped the Cosmotronic Ray onto the wet pavement and stifled a sob, shaking his head in agreement. ***** Zachary Virchaus rubbed his glasses against his uniform, attempting to clean them up a bit from bits of dirt and rain. He examined them briefly and decided they were clean enough before placing them back on his head. He was somewhat on the edge, with the fate of the planet deciding on this weapon and the fact it was already armed. His face, however, showed a calmer, more collected demeanor. He was doing everything he could to help to finish the Einstein Device so they could finally defeat Dr. Rex and Baron Typhonus. He didn't express it, but he was very eager in striking a blow against the latter. After everything the mad baron had put him through, Zach would relish putting an end to the Darkitect's chaos on this planet. Elsewhere was another matter that could be dealt with later. He glanced at Rex, who was speaking with Frozeen. He was apparently seeing hallucinations of the Darkitect in the room. Zach could feel the Maelstrom faintly inside the elite agent's body. He didn't want him to die, but he was certainly thankful that he didn't want any help from Zach or Dr. Cyborg. In all honesty, Zach was apprehensive on trying to use the Maelstrom on anybody for good. Healing, extraction. He might make things worse, for all he knew. Zach glanced down at his bandaged wound. Meh. Why not? He hovered his hand of the wound and concentrated. Thin streams of Maelstrom seeped out of his fingers and through the bandages. The wound glowed for three seconds before returning to normal. Zach felt an unnatural and unnerving chill travel through his body, causing his body to shudder involuntarily. That... felt weird. Despite that, his stomach felt a million times better. He slowly removed the bandage. All that remained was a dark violet scar across his torso. I guess I can heal. At least myself. Not sure if I want to use the Maelstrom to heal someone whose immune system isn't resist to the Maelstrom like mine. That might end badly. Maybe it felt weird because I was using power contrary to its primary purpose: destruction. Regardless, it was back to work. There was plenty he could do. The one time where some of us can finally use our talents that we listed when signing up. Indeed. Unless your skill set had any sort of "fighting" notation or even a "driving" or "piloting" note, you rarely used said talents. As such, the only real times he had used his "building" talent was when constructed his Steel Sprinter, Urban Avenger (which he never actually used, ironically), and one of Rex's numerous wheelchairs. He only used to his "technology" skills was to hack into the XERRD Fortress mainframe. I did end up using "sharpshooting" a lot though. Generic fighting as well. Other that, one would assume that all those skills people put down when signing up (other than combat orientated skills) are informed abilities. And of course, his newfound, in-depth of the knowledge of the Maelstrom and the ability to manipulate were also skills that he ended up using a bit. He glanced toward the Einstein Device, whose blue lights were flashing dully. Zach noted Dr. Cyborg, Hotwire, and Reptile hovering over the device, trying to disarm it to give them maybe a few minutes more time to work on the device. Of course, there is still the Mutant Dino army and invincible Mutant T-Rex that's on our doorstep. He was half-tempted to join the three in finding a solution. He turned his head to Andrew, who was looking over the Teleport Pad. Shrugging, Zach walked over to him. "Mind if I lend a hand for a bit?" Zach asked as he approached his fellow LEGO Islander and friend. "Shouldn't be too much of problem," Andrew said, briefly looking at Zach before turning back to the Teleport Pad. As he began to disconnect parts of the pad, Zach suddenly thought of Minerva. A fearful chill washed over him. She was still out in the battlefield, probably fighting Oswald. He had basically asked Vinyaya to watch over her, but he knew Minerva would somehow slip away from Vinyaya to face her brother alone. Her murderous, insane, psychopathic brother. Zach swallowed painfully. He sorely hoped that last kiss in the Fire Hammer wouldn't be that last time he saw her alive. Or even in one piece. He glanced briefly at his golden, metal hand, remembering how he left Minerva, only to return with one less hand. We really need to stop leaving each other like this. Hertz rubbed his unshaven chin. The silence was infuriating to the deaf elite agent. Since he was a child, he had learned to expect a boom of thunder after every lightning flash, so it was unnerving when the thirteenth floor was illuminated by a white light, nothing followed but a dead silence. The waterfall forming in the center of the test center made no noise as well. When he looked through the viewing window at the teleportation lab beyond, he expected to hear the sound of water pouring through the hole and onto the teleportation platform below. All he experienced was a maddening quiet. He felt the mist of the water leaking through the ceiling and smelled the acidic aroma of chemicals. The Einstein Device flickered on the table before him as Doctor Cyborg and Reptile tinkered with the technology. A passionate debate of science and math was transpiring between the two scientists and, as much as Hertz would've loved to participate, he knew he could not. He felt incredibly alone and isolated. Agents were ignoring him and seemed to look right through him. Although many had the skills to use Morse code or sign language, it seemed that spending the energy to communicate with Hertz was no worth their time. Hertz walked away from the table where the engineers were working and made the short trip across the skyway to where Naomi and the doctors were working. The massive industrial fan slowly rotated behind them, casting shadows upon the wounded below. Naomi spotted Hertz and rose to greet him. Behind her, Dr. Pierce gave the elite agent a short apologetic glance before looking back down at his patient. What is it? Naomi's eyes seemed to say. She placed her hand on Hertz's cheek, and he put his arm around her. "I WANT YOU TO GO," said Hertz. He winced at the inelegance of his words and bit his tongue in embarrassment. Naomi reached into Hertz's pocket and lightly withdrew the notebook he carried. The nurse pulled a pen from behind her ear. Stop being foolish Leave for Antarctica We can go together They can fix your arm and ears The elite agent shook his head and took the pad from Naomi. He flipped the page and wrote his response: I can't do that, I can't leave these people; you'll be safe in Antarctica. They are taking apart the teleporter. You have to go now. Hertz paused and wrote the word please at the end. He looked into Naomi's eyes and tried to pull her down the skywalk and to the lab where the agents were working. The nurse did not resist but she still maintained her face of concern. Hertz could tell Naomi did not want to leave, but he was worried for her safety if she remained. He could feel the trembles when the base shook, and he saw the battle outside. Despite the valor of the agents fighting, Hertz was starting to have doubts about victory. They might certainly defeat Dr. Rex and the Maelstrom, but at what cost? How many agents had already met their fate below? With the recent attack by the Mutant Lizards and Willa the Witch, not even the thirteenth floor was safe. There was nowhere Naomi could go where she would not be at risk. Hertz could not relax until she had reached safety. By staying behind, Hertz knew he would put himself at risk. The odds of surviving were rapidly decreasing, and he understood he might die. If Naomi made it to Antarctica and he stayed behind to fight, they might never see each other again. At least she would be safe. With every step they took, Naomi grew more and more frustrated. As they walked into the teleportation room, she pushed him away and put her hands on her hips. The nearby agents turned their heads at the scene and watched when Naomi pulled the notepad away from Hertz. She scribbled out a message. For Builder's sake, swallow your pride! You can't do any good here, Hertz! You can't hear! Go to Antarctica! Help yourself! Hertz was once again confused. For the last few hours, he was sure he and Naomi were getting along well. Where had this come from? Why this sudden outburst? I can't leave these people, Hertz wrote in response. I'll take the risk and stay behind. I can help! Naomi yanked the pad away and huffed. And I can't make that choice too? I can actually help these people! I'm willing to risk my life just as much as you are! I have a good reason to stay! You have a good reason to go! The elite agent was utterly bewildered. Once again, his ability to read social cues had failed him. He had had no idea that Naomi felt as much of a responsibility as he did. He did everything within his power to not pull a facepalm. At least the others could not eavesdrop on them. He took the pad away from her and ripped off the sheet to write his response. You can go and help the wounded when they come. I can stay and fight. Naomi rolled her eyes. It was an expression of submission. Her tolerance was wavering, and she had no desire to continue the argument. She stepped back and paced the floor between Hertz and the teleport pad. She stomped back to Hertz and looked like she was about to slap him before changing her mind. She felt incredibly conflicted. She was angry at Hertz for not believing she could make her own decisions, but she was touched by how concerned about her he was. Hertz threw aside the notepad and suddenly took her in his arms. Before she could remind him how annoyed she was, he leaned over and kissed her. She glared at him but could not resist returning the embrace. For that moment, she forgot about his social awkwardness or romantic bluntness. She forgot about their quarrels and the battle going on around them. For that moment, she understood how much he cared about her and remembered why she had fallen in love with him. As they kissed and felt the eyes of the agents around them, Naomi realized how fetching he was. For a nerd, Hertz had a rugged handsomeness and was developing strong muscles. His scars and bruises were strangely attractive, and he was a very good kisser. She pulled away, and Hertz blushed. Most of the agents had witnessed the encounter and had wide grins on their face. He smiled. "PLEASE?" Naomi rolled her eyes and motioned to the pad: Fine. Andrew and Zach stood aside while Hertz had guided Naomi over to the Teleport Pad. They hadn't gotten far from dismantling it, so it still worked for now. Though given the circumstances, it was not likely to stay together forever. Hertz escorted Naomi to the Teleport Pad and under the waterfall of pouring rain. The water made her afro and medical scrubs cling to her body, and her wet figure was incredibly striking. Hertz thought how incredibly lucky he was to be with such a beautiful woman. "ARE YOU READY?" he asked. Naomi nodded and mouthed the words: I had better see you again when this is over. Hertz understood perfectly. "I PROMISE." Then she was gone. Shaw could not help but be somewhat distracted by the noise of a teleporter in the next room. "Carver?" she asked nervously, getting to her feet. She walked over toward the door as Hertz approached. "Where's Carver?" she asked. Hertz just stared at her in confusion. As Shaw repeated herself, he held out a whiteboard and marker. Shaw quickly took it and wrote down the question. "NAOMI'S GONE!" he replied. "SHE'S SAFE! I'D SUGGEST THE REST OF YOU DO THE SAME!" Shaw turned toward the other doctors. "That fool," Hale muttered to herself. "Ditching her patients like that." "Maybe we should start thinking about it," Shaw said. "Getting out of here." The others looked at her in silence for a moment. "We can't," replied Pierce. "We have too many patients. And I don't know about you, but I don't want to take a risk carrying them through this building." "He's right," agreed Crusher. "At this point, our best bet might be just to gather what supplies we can and, if things get bad, we may have to seal off the basement and hope for the best. We'd better get down there now. Copper's waiting for us." Realizing she was right, Shaw, Hale, and Pierce followed Crusher out of the lab. They worked their way back down the stairs, and finally reached the basement. "Where the MegaBlokland were you?" Copper said as Shaw entered. "We found her upstairs," replied Pierce. "She and Hale were helping with some kind of teleporter or something." "What about Carver?" "She's gone," replied Hale. "Teleported off to Antarctica." Copper grumbled slightly. "We're one nurse short now," he said. "And the casualties keep mounting!" "I'm not sure if we can move the wounded," Pierce continued. "If things get rough, we may have to seal this place off. Crusher and I'll take over here. Copper, you go with Hale, see if you can recover supplies of any kind: food, water, medical supplies, and anything else." "This place got bombed once before, didn't it?" Crusher asked. "It did," replied Pierce. "There's probably some canned food stored down here already as a precaution. Shaw, see if you can find any!" The young doctor nodded and turned toward the exit. ***** "Hertz definitely must be feeling useless right about now," said Andrew. "A shame that he wants his girlfriend to stay safe. She could've been some good moral support." "Not to mention a savior in your darkest hour," Zach said with a smirk. "You think he can help us somehow?" "Hey, being deaf never stopped people in history before. You get back to work on dismantling that, I'll go talk to him." Zach nodded and walked back to the Teleport Pad, now humming down from its last use. Andrew walked over to a side wall where Hertz had thrown aside the notebook he had been using to talk with Naomi. As he fished his many uniform pockets for a writing utensil, he noted how the agents around the Einstein Device were down to just Specs, Hotwire, Dr. Cyborg, and Reptile now. The device still wasn't defused, but it seemed they were working on how to do that just now. Hope we do get this done right, the LEGO Islander thought. The lab was a bit quieter right now. Rotor had gone to help out the rest of the team hold up long enough, and Shadow, Digger, and Viper were preparing their own plans on how to help coordinate the defenses as long as possible. Rex was still in quiet talks with Greybeard and Frozeen, hopefully sorting out his issues regarding his mental state. Andrew made a note to try and talk to him later. Right now, though, others demanded his attention. Finally finding a dusty pencil within a pants pocket, he opened the notebook and wrote a message. Then he walked over to Hertz, still hovering around the controls of the Teleport Pad, and tapped him on the shoulder. The communications expert looked at him, quite a bit surprised (to be expected, since losing one important sense seemed to always heighten the sensitivity of the others), and took a look at what Andrew had written. Don't worry, you can still lend a hand. Care to help Zach and me dismantle the Teleport Pad for parts? Andrew pushed the notebook and pencil forward. Hertz hesitated for a moment, then took it and wrote his own message. I suppose, but it's not much of a use of my abilities. Andrew made a quick response. Oh, don't worry about it. I don't care what Specs says, I'm sure your skills are still helpful. I'll fight tooth and nail to get you to do something if I have to. Hertz snickered a bit when he read the comment. He then nodded, and followed Andrew to the teleportation device, which Zach was now carefully pulling panel plates off of around the pad (which he had been wise enough to unplug first). Wouldn't want a silly accident that leaves him thousands of miles away, Andrew thought. As Dr. Cyborg and Reptile were removing a plate from the Einstein Device to get inside it, Dr. Cyborg found something. "Well, so that's how it's armed," he said. "What?" Reptile asked. "This golden square here. It's a magnetic switch. When you insert the Device into its launcher, a magnet of some kind activates it, and the Device is armed. Normally, when you turn off the electromagnet, the Device will automatically disarm unless you remove it from the launcher without disarming the magnetic switch. It might be possible to just disconnect the switch right now, but I'm not sure if that will set it off or disarm it." Turning his head toward the Teleport Pad, Dr. Cyborg called: "Hey, Andrew, Zach, Hertz! Can you build me some wire cutters, needlenose pliers, and three screwdrivers? I need a Phillips head, flathead, and tri-wing screwdriver." "We'll try!" Andrew yelled back, tapping Hertz on the shoulder to draw his attention to a notebook in Andrew's hand. "But you know," Andrew added, "It's kind of hard just to build tools like that from parts like these unless you want them to be massive-sized. There's a few toolboxes sitting around here, we can check those." "Here's one," said Kate, grabbing one from a nearby desk and bringing it to the table where the Einstein Device was. "Let's see what's in it." As the group around the device started looking through the box, Andrew turned to Zach, who was pulling out a few tubes from around the sides of the Teleport Pad. "You think I can just send the Maelstrom through here like a fuel line?" Zach said, snickering. "Possibly," Andrew replied. "I've seen that part used for that purpose before. Though around here, hoses seem to always work better." "Heh. Ah, the ability to use parts for multiple purposes in a world like ours. Megaphones become Star Wars blasters, a laptop monitor becomes a satellite panel, and a building column becomes part of a cannon." "Indeed. But I wouldn't have it any other way." Zach flexed the tube in his hands before setting it off to the side. He continued to aid in pulling apart the Teleport Pad with Andrew and Hertz. The tube briefly gave him the idea of a weapon that could fire blasts of Maelstrom, but decided against it, considering their enemy was the Maelstrom. Chaos versus chaos wouldn't end well, I'm sure. As the Super Teleport Pad became a mere skeleton of its former-self, a new idea began to form in his head. Zach looked back at the work table. With Dr. Cyborg deducing the reason for the Einstein Device's arming, he, Reptile, Specs, and Hotwire now had an idea on how to deactivate it. Not far from their work area, a bazooka-type weapon laid, somewhat dented and bruised. Curious, Zach walked over to it. "Is this what the device is supposed to be fired from?" Zach asked, lifting the weapon into his hands. "Yes," Specs said, turning away from the Einstein Device briefly. "Its damage is a bit more substantial than I'd like to admit. The tools we have here could fix it, but we need more complex equipment to fixing it up in time to stop Dr. Rex." Zach cradled the weapon as he looked back at the Teleport Pad. "Perhaps we should disassemble this as well and build a new launcher out of the Teleport Pad and undamaged bricks around here. As Andrew and I were saying, our building material is rather flexible in terms of its application. We can take this apart and use the magnet inside to activate it when we're ready." Andrew took the notepad from Hertz and repeated his message: "'We could also gather together some of the computers and technology around here. With the talent around here, we could probably scrap together a more precise arming and disarming system.'" Specs crossed his arms, the barest hint of a smile underneath his balaclava. "Sounds like we have real plan forming." "It's a bit complicated," Reptile noted. Hotwire smirked. "Come on, it's us. We can definitely pull it off." Zach grinned in agreement. Andrew clapped his hands. "Alright. You guys finish fixing the Einstein Device and then you could look for computer bits. Zach, Hertz, and I will keep breaking the pad up and start designing our launcher." Nodding in agreement, everyone went back to work. Zach returned to Hertz and Andrew. "Back to work, I suppose." He rubbed his hands together and smiled at Andrew. "With us building this thing, Dr. Rex and Typhonus better watch out." Andrew smirked. "Well then, back to work." ***** Zelda grimaced as she looked at Helm. Those same feelings of guilt when she looked at Hotwire in the mess hall what seemed months ago suddenly came back up. Except it was about a million times worse facing Tracer's father. The look in his eyes caused her lip to tremble slightly, though no one saw it underneath her bandana over her mouth. She hadn't been nearly as active as Zachary when she was a Stromling. Fearsome, unforgiving, and somewhat playful, Zach had slaughtered multiple agents over the course of his corruption. He had his own guilt spread out to multiple people. She only murdered one person as a Stromling and it somehow stung more than killing Minifigs in droves. She walked toward Helm slowly, ignoring the curious stares of those around her. She sheathed one of her katanas and reached down to pick up his Cosmotronic Ray. He looked at her curiously as she handed it back to him. Zelda sighed painfully as she looked at him. Through him, she could see Tracer, the shocked look in his eyes when the bullets had buried themselves into his stomach, and her dark, apathetic laughter as she watched the Dino Attack agent fall. She shuddered visibly. "Listen," she muttered quietly so only Helm could hear her, lowering the bandana so he could see her lips moving. "I am really sorry... for what I did. The person who killed Tracer was just a monster using my body. If I could, I'd take it back..." She paused. Helm sobbed quietly. The death of his son had hurt him far worse than Zelda liked. An idea formed in her head briefly. "I know you want vengeance," she continued, her voice growing somewhat stronger. "As stated earlier, I wasn't in control of my actions. A certain man named Typhonus was." An angry roar pierced the sky. Zelda, Helm, and the other turned and saw Dr. Rex stomping toward a tan-colored apartment building, destroying everything in his path. Zelda turned back to Helm, her features growing hard. "Typhonus is just as if not more responsible for Jason's death," Zelda said. "You want vengeance? Then we need to do everything in our power to stop him and his puppet from getting to Dino Attack Headquarters so we can defeat him. Stopping Typhonus from killing the rest of us will be about as close to vengeance you can get." She paused and let her words sink into Helm's brain. ***** "You need any help, Doc?" a voice asked from behind. Startled, Pierce turned towards Montoya. "What are you doing here?" Pierce asked. "Shouldn't you be out in the-" "I'm not with the team," replied Montoya. "It's a long story, but I'm stuck here now I might as well help." Pierce sighed. "You got a name?" "Montoya." At that moment, Shaw ran back into the room. "There's a storage room down the hall," she said. "There's enough canned food that it should last us at least a few months." "Good," said Pierce. "Who's he?" Shaw asked. "A civilian," replied Pierce. "Shouldn't we get him upstai-" "I'm stuck out here, I might as well do something," Montoya replied. "Besides, I got a friend who's hurt." He turned toward Carrie, who lay on a bed, with visible stitches in her legs. "Go upstairs and find Copper," instructed Pierce. "He's an old man, you shouldn't have trouble spotting him and Crusher. Help him carry anything." Montoya nodded and ran outside. Soon after, Montoya and Copper quickly ran back into the room. "We weren't able to find much," Copper said. "That dang base got blown up from the inside; there's nothing left!" "Alright," replied Pierce. "They've already started taking apart the teleporter," reported Crusher. "By this point, travelling back to Antarctica is out of the question." "I don't want to do anything stupid, though," said Pierce. "We should be ready to seal this place if necessary, but we're going to wait until the last possible second to do so. Crusher, get on that radio, I want constant updates on the battle." ***** They're gone. They're all dead. He's dead. I killed him. My family is gone. Mom is dead. Oswald is dead. I murdered him. Minerva Fabello stared at Oswald's unmoving body, trying to comprehend what had happened, only for her brain to refute it each time. She didn't know how long it had been since Oswald stopped breathing. Minutes, hours... it didn't really mean anything. All she knew was that her family was absolutely and truly gone. An act more than 14 years in the making. She was absolutely alone. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the knife, stained with both her and Oswald's blood. Minerva could hear a sick, distorted laugh rattling her head. It - the knife - was laughing at her. At her pain and misery. Knowing that, despite all her assurance to her brother that she would pull through, had finally been broken. How could you? a voice asked. Murder your own brother? I hardly think that makes you better than him killing your mother. It... is better this way... Minerva thought back weakly. She repeated that phrase multiple times in her head, trying to convince the other voice (and herself) that she was right. The voice laughed harshly. You don't truly believe that, do you? You killed him. You were the one that destroyed your family. You can barely live with yourself. Why not complete the deed and finish yourself off? Minerva's eyes shot back to the knife. It was beckoning to her. It seemed to be telling her that everything would be alright if she took the knife. She would see her family again, completely reunited. Everything would be alright. She began to unconsciously move toward the knife. "Minerva!" Minerva stopped herself. There was a vaguely feminine voice calling her name. She wasn't sure if it was in her head or somewhere in this apartment. Become more acutely aware of her surroundings, she felt the entire building rumble. Very weakly at first, but growing stronger. Bits of dust were falling from the ceiling. "Minerva! Where are you?!" Minerva closed her eyes. The voice was familiar, but her mind was in such a whirl that she couldn't pinpoint it. In addition to the rumblings, she heard someone moving through the lower floor of the building and making their way to the stairs. She barely opened her eyes and leaned down to pick up the knife. She stared at it with cold, dead eyes. The knife was begging for her to do it. It would be okay once she did. "Minerva!" the voice snapped. Minerva jumped, dropping the knife. She turned her head slowly and saw Holly Vinyaya approaching her, a look of concern on her face. "Are you - oh!" Vinyaya reached Minerva and wiped away the blood from the cut on her cheek. "Where's..." Vinyaya's eyes turned to Oswald's body. "I'm... sorry, Minerva," she muttered. The building rumbled more violently than before, and an inhuman roar echoed throughout the entire building. "Minerva," Vinyaya said, her voice becoming more urgent and serious. "We need to leave. He's coming this way. We'll be killed if we stay any longer." Minerva turned back to her brother. She didn't want to leave him here. He couldn't be left here. He- The building rattled again, causing Minerva and Vinyaya to stumble and any objects still standing to fall. Vinyaya grabbed Minerva's injured arm. She turned to the Space Police officer and gave her a weak, monotonous look. To her surprise, Vinyaya's features had soften considerably. "Minerva," Vinyaya said, her voice surprisingly calm and soothing. "There's... there's nothing left here. Please, we need to go." Minerva swallowed and nodded to Vinyaya. Gripping Minerva's arm tightly, Vinyaya began to lead the way out of the room and to the stairwell. Minerva felt like she was simply floating behind, not in control of her own actions. They soon burst out of the apartment into the rain. Vinyaya picked her pace up as she ran to their Fire Hammer. Minerva stumbled at her new burst of speed and tripped. Vinyaya gasped and spun around to help Minerva back open, only to stare upward in awe. Minerva climbed slowly to her feet and turned to see what she was looking at. It was one thing to see him stomping around the city a hundred yards away, but being basically right under Dr. Rex was another thing. He was a silver monstrosity with several constricting bands of Maelstrom energy surrounding his body. Despite being an intelligent (if mad) scientist, Dr. Rex's eyes showed nothing more than wild, animal-like ferocity. Eyes of a mad, feral beast that wanted to destroy everything. Dr. Rex bellowed in pain as the Maelstrom-bands tightened around his body and swung his tale around through the apartment building. Minerva and Vinyaya covered their heads as the top floors of the apartment building went flying toward them. Minerva flinched as large chunks of walls landed nearby. Small pieces bounced against her hands guarding her head and her back. Several bruises formed on her body from the chunks of rubble, but for the most part, she was unharmed. She looked up at saw Dr. Rex looking down into the apartment. Namely, the second floor. A deep, menacing chuckle echoed across the street. A laugh Minerva recognized instantly. Then, Dr. Rex opened his mouth and a large stream of purple flames shot out, torching Oswald Fabello's body and anything else that was on the floor. Minerva's body shook involuntarily. Nothing would be left of her old apartment. Any family memorabilia that survived the initial Dino Attack was toasted. Her brother's body would be nothing but ashes. Dr. Rex looked up and focused his eyes upon Minerva, Vinyaya, and their Fire Hammer. Bellowing angrily, Dr. Rex burst through the burning apartment, reducing it to a pile of rubble. He opened his maw to breathe purple flames upon. Vinyaya was calling Minerva's name, but she just stood there, staring at the massive Mutant T-Rex. The purple bands around Dr. Rex's body suddenly brightened and constricted Dr. Rex tighter, choking out the flame growing in his throat. Minerva stared. Why couldn't he kill her? Dr. Rex closed his maw and shook his head, his eyes growing wide in pain. Then his maw opened and, to Minerva's surprise, a voice came out of it. "Just a second, Ronald. There is someone I'd like to speak with." Minerva's mind was in a whirl once again. She knew that voice. The voice that had spoken to her in the dark corridors of the Temple of Hotep III that wanted her to betray her friend. "It is excellent to see you again, Minerva Fabello and Holly Vinyaya," Baron Typhonus said, using Dr. Rex as a mouth. Dr. Rex's eyes widened and he looked down upon the brown-and-white haired Dino Attack agent that stood beneath him. "Fabello..." Dr. Rex managed to mutter faintly, recognizing the name before choking as Baron Typhonus silenced him. "Do be quiet, Ronald," Baron Typhonus snapped. Despite his irritation, there was no hiding the smugness in the Maelstrom's voice. His tone carried the aura of someone who knew nothing could stop him. He continued to speak to the Dino Attack agents, namely Minerva. "I'm impressed, Miss Fabello. It seems that you are in the running for having your fears in the Maelstrom Temple come closest to coming true in the Maelstrom Temple." "Minerva," Vinyaya whispered, keeping her glare on Dr. Rex. "What-" "Silence, space cop!" Typhonus jeered. "Indeed. As far as I know, both you and Rex have been forced to live through their fears in this battle. How interesting. Like cruel foreshadowing, wasn't it? There was no doubt; you feared of truly losing your family. Even before you killed Oswald in that building back there, you knew that he was already gone. You are alone." Minerva's stare didn't waver. Her posture was changing. Unresponsive, mute sadness was fading into anger as Typhonus spoke about her brother. "It was obviously too much for him, knowing about me," Typhonus said, his voice growing increasingly arrogant and snide. Minerva could practically see him smirking. "Know that he was nothing but a pawn. Sounds like a T-Rex I know of." Typhonus's laugh sounded out through the street again. Minerva gritted her teeth. She hated that laugh. "Isn't that right, Ronald?" Dr. Rex seemed on the verge of speaking, only to have his words destroyed as the Darkitect choked him once again with the Maelstrom. "Learning that he was - is - a puppet didn't do much for him either. Unfortunately, Ronald will not get death like dear Oswald. He will destroy until nothing is left. Then... well, a puppet that can no longer be used is mere garbage. This puppet's role will end soon enough." Minerva was shaking. Not out of fear or sadness, but of pure anger. "Not only did you fear of losing your family come true," the Darkitect continued. "But in the end, you made the final blow that sealed its destruction. It couldn't have gone more-" "SHUT UP!" Minerva screamed, her voice hoarse and scratchy, cutting off the rest of the Darkitect's words. "YOU DID THIS! BOTH OF YOU DID THIS! BECAUSE OF YOU, MY MOM AND BROTHER ARE DEAD!" Typhonus laughed again. "I suppose you could consider it retribution for taking one of my best subordinates. Which reminds me, I still have a score to settle with our good friend Mr. Virchaus. I'm half-tempted to keep you alive long enough so you can witness me finally destroy him." Typhonus's words sank into Minerva's like a rock. Zach was in Dino Attack Headquarters right now, working to help save the world. He was her best and closest friend. The past day with him in the Dino Attack Headquarters was the first time in a long time she truly felt content. She wouldn't let the Darkitect take him or any more of her friends like he had taken Oswald and Athena. "I can see the gears turning in your head," Typhonus said, amusement in his voice. "Good. Despite what you think, you haven't been broken yet. I want you to keep fighting. Thinking you can hold Ronald and myself back. Think there is a chance for the other elite agents of your team to finish their weapon to defeat us. I want know that, when their plan fails and you lose everyone, you are completely and utterly broken before you die as well." Minerva spat angrily. "You won't win. Dr. Rex is going to get the death he deserves, I will see to it. For all the lives he took and helped corrupt." Speaking directly to Dr. Rex, Minerva continued, "You did this, Dr. Rex! You moron! You turned my brother against me!" "Brave words when speaking to an invincible Tyrannosaurs rex," Baron Typhonus muttered, clearly amused. Dr. Rex snarled, ignoring the puppetmaster's words. "Your... team turned... my sister... against me! Because of... your team... I've lost everything! Consider... losing Oswald Fabello... my payback!" With a growl, Dr. Rex opened his mouth and shot his head toward Minerva. She rolled of the way as Dr. Rex's jaws shoveled out a chunk of concrete. As it disintegrated in his mouth, the Maelstrom tightened against Dr. Rex's body. He howled in agony as Baron Typhonus laughed again. "I... I shall consume!" Dr. Rex screamed to the heavens as the Darkitect's sinister laughter grew louder. "Consume... consume everything!" At this point, Minerva had run to the Fire Hammer, dented slightly from Dr. Rex destroying the building, and jumped into the passenger side. Vinyaya put the vehicle into drive and slammed the gas, sending the Fire Hammer tearing through the ruined city. Dr. Rex unleashed one more agonizing scream running after the Fire Hammer, destroying everything in his path. ***** Dr. Cyborg pulled the soldering iron out of the stand. "Now, Kate, when I say to, pull the green wire out of the scolded. Okay?" he asked. Kate nodded, and Dr. Cyborg started desoldering the wire. When the solder was liquefied, Dr. Cyborg said, "Now!" and Kate pulled the wire out. "There," Dr. Cyborg said, "The last of the power and control wires are out. The Einstein Device is disarmed!" Cheers were heard around the room, as nobody was in danger of blowing up anymore. "If you'll excuse me, I need to go do something," Dr. Cyborg said as he left the table. He went downstairs for a few minutes, then came back up. He then knelt by a few of the Mutant Lizard carcasses. "Hey, Zach," he said. "Would you come here for a moment? I need your help with something." Zach walked over. "What do you need?" he asked Dr. Cyborg. "First, I need one of your Maelstrom fireballs. Then, I am going to project a few samples of Maelstrom. I want you to touch them, and say the first name that comes to mind. Alright?" Dr. Cyborg asked. Zach agreed, and they began. Dr. Cyborg summoned the first sample. "Acid Mutant Lizard," Zach said. Dr. Cyborg began to summon other samples and have them tested. "Chameleon Mutant Lizard. Willa the Witch. Darkness Mutant Lizard. Me. You," Zach said. "What is so important about that?" "You correctly identified by name the host of every sample of Maelstrom. The samples from the Mutant Lizards. The residue from Willa's attack. Your Maelstrom and mine. From the Maelstrom itself, you identified all of the previous hosts of the samples. Do you understand what I am getting at?" As they worked to dismantle the Teleport Pad, they were rather surprised to see that something was happening. A T-1 Typhoon, designated with the ID T-1 9122, came in over the tower and a group of agents stepped out of the helicopter. One agent, a young woman, worked her way down to the lab and stepped inside. The others hastily turned toward her, and they were rather shocked to see her face. "Zenna?" Andrew asked, somewhat confused. Zenna smiled. "Did I miss anything interesting?" Andrew put down the part of the Einstein Device launcher he was holding and jogged over to the newly-arrived Zenna. "Zenna! Oh man, it's great to see you back in good shape!" "It is indeed," said Specs from the Einstein Device table. "Glad to see we haven't lost all of some of our former agents." "Yeah," said Hotwire. "Great to have you back." Zenna smirked. "Glad to be back." "Feeling's more than mutual," said Andrew, shaking her hand gratefully. The last time he had seen her was in the last team meeting in the camp they had set up by the XERRD Fortress ruins in Adventurers' Island. She had taken major injuries and had been left for dead early on, only just recovered, then got hurt to the point of comatose during the camp ambush. It was hard to believe she would make it and come back to the team, yet here she was. "I tell ya, it's good to have more of us around here. We've lost too many in this battle." Andrew then glanced and said to the new arrival in a low voice: "In fact, Claw got killed earlier. Rex hasn't taken it well." Zenna's eyes widened. "Wow. My condolences to him." "Be sure to give them later, then." "I will." They then stopped whispering. "So what's going on here?" "To put it briefly," said Specs, "we're working on fine-tuning a device here to be able to defeat the Mutant Dinos once and for all, or at least Dr. Rex himself. You probably saw him when you came in, he was covered in armor and Maelstrom tendrils." "I did notice," said Zenna, once again speaking in that tone of modest reaction that people like Andrew knew her well for. "Geeze, I thought we left the Maelstrom behind at Adventurers' Island." "It's being stubborn in its departure," remarked Zach, pointing to himself and Dr. Cyborg. The fellow LEGO Islander spoke in a witty and upbeat tone, but Andrew did notice that his friend was trying to avoid eyeing her. She was likely bringing up some of his guilt from his time as a Stromling, which had included the attack that had left her in a critical state to begin with. "Indeed, it is," said Specs. "But today we're going to try and push it out for good. I know you're more of a pilot and medic, but there's plenty to do with helping us out here. Reptile, Hotwire, Kate, Dr. Cyborg and I could use any help available with getting this device together, and Andrew, Hertz, and Zach could definitely use a hand with their building processes." "You got it," replied Zenna, walking into the lab with a slight limp and an obvious sting in her shoulder. "Just tell me what to do." Slowly she worked her way to one of the tables and started picking up parts. Kate looked up in surprise from one of her tables. She was with another older woman Zenna didn't immediately recognize. "Who's she?" asked Zenna. Sarah Bishop looked up at Zenna. "I'm her mother," she said. The sudden revelation was startling, as Zenna wondered how Kate's mother ended up here, but she remained quiet. Zach smiled as Zenna got reacquainted with the group. He was happy to see that she was alright. However, guilt was gnawing at his insides. She was sent to Antarctica because of him and his Mutant Dinos. He knew he would have to apologize sooner or later. "Zach?" Dr. Cyborg said, snapping him back to attention. "Do you see what I'm getting at?" Zach turned back to the cyborg Dino Attack agent. Zach had identified numerous Maelstrom samples that Dr. Cyborg had presented toward him, seemingly for some part of the tweaks that were still being added to the Einstein Device. He scratched his chin briefly. "Shot in the dark," Zach said, raising both hands. "We can gather samples of Mutant Lizards, Mutant Raptors, Mutant Pterosaurs, Mutant T-Rexes, Minifig/Mutant Lizard Hybrids, and (maybe for good measure) Maelstrom Dragons so we focus the Einstein Device's energy only on stopping the Mutant Dinos, not you, me, Rex, or Pterisa?" "Well, that's not how I would put it, but that's the basics of it!" Dr. Cyborg told Zach. "There's still the issue of Mutant Dinos that have broken away from the Darkitect's hold," Zach said, crossing his arms. "Like..." He glanced at Rex, then said in a low voice. "Trouble, Buddy, or your Cyrista's Bane. They would still be susceptible to the Einstein Device's effects." "That's why I was thinking more along the lines of collecting samples from those to exclude, and tune the Device to affect all but those. It's a whole lot easier than getting a sample from every Mutant Dino to affect," Dr. Cyborg said. ***** Nazareno swayed to the side as the Fire Hammer ran over another bump. Quickly regaining his footing, Nazareno swung a katana at Blaire. Blaire quickly blocked the sword and jabbed his other katana at Nazareno. The space ninja carefully stepped to the side and knocked the sword down on to the roof of the cab, causing sparks to dance. Lightning brightened the sky and illuminated hauntingly across Blaire's sunglasses. Thunder echoed through the city. Blaire flipped back his wet hair and suddenly forced his sword through the roof of the cab. He then slammed his forearm into Nazareno's head. He stumbled back in surprise and soon found himself hanging on vehicles roof as it sped by. "You lose, Nazareno," Blaire snarled, slamming his boot into Nazareno's fingers. Nazareno felt tears form in his eyes from the pain, but ignored Blaire's snide remarks. He turned his head and saw a wave of Mutant Lizards rushing past the Fire Hammer. Smirking to himself, Nazareno brought his feet to side of the Fire Hammer and kicked himself away from the vehicle. He landed hard on the back of a Mutant Lizard, causing it to collapse. Mutant Lizards were stampeding in his direction. Nazareno jumped lightly onto the next Mutant Lizard with one foot and seemed to run across the Lizards as if they were a conveyor belt going the wrong way. Nazareno kept the Fire Hammer in his peripheral vision. Another flash of lightning and boom of thunder. Nazareno saw Blaire's features clearly in that brief span of light. There was surprise, yet amusement on his old rival's face. Nazareno moved closer to the Fire Hammer and made one final hop that took him back on to the Fire Hammer's cab. Blaire clapped mockingly as his trenchcoat whipped behind. "Impressive, Nazareno. Impressive." Nazareno kicked up his sword that he had dropped on the roof and lunged at Darkling. His opponent yanked his own Shinobi katana out of the roof and blocked Nazareno's attack. "Come on Nazareno, you've got to do more than silly tricks to defeat me." "Have it your way," Nazareno stated simply. With that, Nazareno brought his foot upward in Blaire's stomach. XERRD's leader grimaced, allowing Nazareno punch him hard in the face. Blaire stumbled back and slipped off the Fire Hammer, leaving behind one gray katana. Scowling, Nazareno kicked the katana off the Fire Hammer and gave himself a running start and jumped from the Fire Hammer. Blaire had rose to his feet rather quickly. His trenchcoat was stained with mud. He cracked his neck ominously. "Still have that old charm," Blaire grumbled. Extending his hands, his familiar smirk returned to his face. "Look where we have arrived, old friend." Nazareno merely nodded before running at Blaire again. They were standing outside the front doors of Dino Attack Headquarters. Broken glass, ruble, fire, and corpses surrounding the building. Blaire still managed to block both swords with his lone katana. Clutching the sword with two hands, he executed several wide, complicated sweeps at Nazareno before letting one hand go free so it could punch Nazareno. The fist clipped Nazareno's chin. He took a brief step back before launching send several quick attacks back at Blaire. Whatever he couldn't knock away with his sword, he quickly moved his body out of the way. Blaire then swung his fist behind him, shattering what remained of the glass on the front doors. Shaking his hand free of any glass shards, Blaire stepped through the broken door and gestured Nazareno to join him. Nazareno rolled his eyes and stabbed his swords through hole in the door. Blaire jumped back quickly and began to step farther into the headquarters lobby, Nazareno close behind. ***** Minerva didn't both taking shots at Dr. Rex; it would've been a waste, really. She aimed the Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher at the Mutant Dinos ahead of her and Vinyaya's Fire Hammer, clearing a path. Minerva looked in the side mirror and saw the Mutant T-Rex king approaching fast, vaguely reminding her of Jurassic Park. Vaguely. Minerva looked up out the window and saw the three Agents jets fly overhead and fire several missiles into Dr. Rex. They exploded as they collided with his Silge armor, but Dr. Rex was mostly unharmed. Ignoring the Fire Hammer he had been chasing earlier, Dr. Rex blasted the three jets out of the sky with a combination of lasers and fire breath. Go ahead and run, Miss Fabello, the Darkitect jeered in her head, his pitch-black skull smirking in her head. You won't last long either way. A scowl quickly formed on Minerva's face. She wouldn't let the Darkitect win. "He's going after other agents, so we're safe for now," Vinyaya said with a sigh of relief. She then turned her only eye briefly on Minerva as she drove. "We'll get you back to the headquarters-" "Why?" Minerva snapped as she began to train the Xenon Launcher on passing Mutant Dinos. Vinyaya seemed surprised with Minerva's harsh tone, but responded with her own iciness. "You've been emotionally compromised, Minerva. You didn't say a word until the Darkitect spoke to you. You're in shock. You don't belong out here-" "I belong out as much as you do, Vinyaya," Minerva snapped again. "I doubt someone who just lost an eye should be out here." Vinyaya didn't respond to this quip. "I can't... I won't let him take anyone else close to me. I can't lose you or Zach, or anyone else too. It..." She drifted off. Vinyaya stopped the jeep briefly and looked at Minerva intently with her lone eye. Her scarred face softened again like it did when she had convinced Minerva to leave her brother behind. It was a look of true concern for her wellbeing. "Are you sure you can keep going?" Vinyaya asked quietly. Minerva's lip quivered briefly. It would so much simpler to finally break down and cry on Vinyaya's shoulder. But there was a job to do. A battle to be won. Minerva was toeing the edge of an emotional breakdown. But she would hold it all in until they won. It wasn't healthy, but necessary. She could keep fighting. Win this battle for everyone that she lost because of this war. Minerva nodded slowly to Vinyaya. Patting Minerva on the shoulder in an encouraging matter, Vinyaya put the jeep back into drive and started back up again. "Is there anything you can contribute to this... Einstein Device?" Vinyaya asked. "Just out of curiosity. I figure you'll still be out here, regardless." "Unless a couple of high school AP classes qualify someone to mess with something like it, no," Minerva continued to fire the Xenon Launcher. "I could probably help do something, but my talents are better used out here." Vinyaya shrugged without looking away from the road ahead of her. "So, what's the status of things? I've been sort of out of it." "Elite Agents Semick and Mercedes remained on the battlefield, but the latter was knocked out of the sky by Willa the Witch. Dr. Martinet is heading out to the crash site to see if she's alright. Rotor and Cabin have just returned from the thirteenth floor and have rejoined the fight in the air. Leadership roles have mostly fallen to the agents in the air, most notably Semick, who split the forces up to deal with varying threats. Though now, based on reports from I heard from Iron Predators still holding up at the headquarters, we need to organize a gauntlet of vehicles around the headquarters. Dinos are swarming the headquarters and, while the Iron Predators are taking care of the bigger threats, Mutant Lizards are slipping through and entering the headquarters. Pulling everyone together to guard the headquarters from the dinos and at least hold back Dr. Rex a bit so the Einstein Device can be finished is the best idea I have at the moment." Minerva was extremely relieved to have a friend in a commander who had experiences with ordeals like this. Leadership was definitely not a strong suit of hers in any way, shape, or form. And having at least Semick, Rotor, and Cabin out in the field with her improved her spirits greatly. And she hoped that her being out with the infantry, despite all the MegaBlokland she had been going through, would raise morale. Dr. Rex unleashed another inhuman scream. Minerva turned her head and saw him destroy a T-1 Typhoon and Iron Predator group with a combination of breath flames and laser bursts. She noted how easy it would be for Dr. Rex to run at Dino Attack Headquarters and topple it. So easy that she wondered briefly why he didn't. Then she realized the Darkitect was probably holding Dr. Rex back. Taking his time in reaching the headquarters. He wanted the Dino Attack Team and its allies to believe they still had a chance in defeating him. Just so that when he finally had Dr. Rex storm the building, he could savor the moment as the Minifig race lost all hope as the building, and their last hope, came crumbling around them. Flashes of her mother and brother suddenly appeared in her head. Victims of the Darkitect's work. Minerva gritted her teeth together angrily and turned to Vinyaya. "Reforming the defenses around the headquarters sound like a solid idea, but that won't matter once the Darkitect uses Dr. Rex to his full abilities." Vinyaya nodded grimly. "I've noticed that. There's nothing we can really do about that, unfortunately. However, since the Darkitect firmly believes that Einstein Device will not defeat him, he will hold back until he decides he's done toying with us or he believes the Einstein Device is a threat. If he decided to attack and the device isn't finished, we're done for. In the meantime, the Mutant Dinos, Dr. Inferno, and the Fright Knights continue to attack. If we don't organize defenses, a little more than a few lizards will be breaking into the HQ. Think the battle of the Power Station earlier this year, only a zillion times worse." Minerva nodded, unable to come up with a good argument against this. "You should probably suggest this to Semick or someone." "No, you should just take control and form the defenses yourself, Elite Agent Fabello." Vinyaya smiled apologetically at a frustrated Minerva. "You think it's a good idea, go for it. Your words will resonate with the team far more than mine would." Vinyaya turned her head briefly to Minerva. "From the way you look, commanding isn't really your thing. Just know that you aren't alone. I'll help you along the way." Minerva scowled briefly, but smiled appreciatively at the Space Police commando. She picked up the radio and stared at it momentarily. This was the best way to hold the line long enough for the device to be completed. The Darkitect must be stopped. Oswald and Athena appeared in her head again. She took a deep breath and began to speaking to every agent her radio's signal could reach. ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  6. Chapter 70: Fight or Flight ---- Dr. Cyborg turned the frequency of the radio in the Titanium Predator. He had just agreed to serve as XERRD's second-in-command, so that should help the transition. "Hello, all Elite Agents, this is Dr. Cyborg calling in. I am fine, I had a small tussle with a Mutant T-Rex, but I escaped. I have worked out an agreement with Blaire Darkling to serve as XERRD's second-in-command. I have sent Bane and Screech to assist Rotor." A speaker started chirping, indicating there was someone else trying to contact him. "Hold on, I have a message coming in," he said as he ended the all-agents bulletin. Then, on the more private line, he asked: "This is Dr. Cyborg, may I ask who's calling?" "Yes, this is a loyal member of XERRD calling to tell you that you've been exposed. Everybody in XERRD knows 'you' died when Dr. Rex sent the Raptor pack after you. They confirmed the kill. So, you may have convinced our 'leader' that you are Dr. Cyrista, but we know the truth, and the truth has set us free. We will not submit to your leadership, nor will any loyal XERRD member. So, all in all, you've been found out. You might want to leave before we kill you." Cheers were heard over the radio as other XERRD members cheered their spokesman on. "Oh, is that how you feel?" mused Dr. Cyborg. "That I am an imposter? How shall I prove I am who I say I am? Hmmm...." And then, he remembered three words. To most, these words would seem unimportant, but they meant much to XERRD members. In his old authoritative voice he used with XERRD members up until a couple of weeks ago, he roared into the radio: "Identity code: Cyborg!" The voice signed off. And, even better, in uttering those words, Dr. Cyborg remembered everything. Without exception. The extent of his time with XERRD, his family, his other friends, everything. Dr. Cyborg contacted Cortana(1). "I need you to bring the Reclaimer to wherever Bane and Screech are," he ordered. "You need to ferry two Typhoon crews out." "Will do. Oh, and by the way, Kara is mysteriously awake." "Good for her. Dr. Cyborg signing off." ***** Lance continued to fire on the new arrival, emptying everything he had out of his gun as Rotor stepped in. "What's going on?" he asked. "Mutant Pterosaur," replied Lance. "It seems to be circling us. I'm trying to get a clear shot!" Rotor looked out the window and saw it. "Hold your fire!" Rotor shouted. Lance kept firing. Rotor had to pull the gun out of his hands. "It's on our side!" "What?" exclaimed Lance. "Impossible! Give me that!" "I don't know how, either," replied Rotor. "But word is that a Pterosaur and that Cyrista's Bane were sent to give us backup!" Lance looked at him confusedly. As Spike continued to punch and hold off the Mutant Raptors, with a little assistance from Buffy, the other agents inside were busy giving cover fire. Cabin's eyes were momentarily drawn toward the sky, during which time she saw a large aircraft... ***** The smoke and fire issuing form the battlefield could be seen miles away. Even with the continual downpour, the fires of a hundred wrecks and laser blasts burned brightly in the dark morning sky. A sulfuric smell reached the nostrils of Commander Pharisee and then he cringed his nose at the harsh odor of burning gasoline and dinosaur flesh. The commander could see that the tower of Dino Attack Headquarters was riddled with holes and crumbling concrete. The attacks from Mutants and Inferno agents had done a number on the structure, and it now bore the numerous scars of war. Some of the once-tan paint had chipped away to reveal the bland gray underlayer, and smoke from the fires below blackened the tower. Pharisee was aware of teleportation pad that had been constructed on the thirteenth floor of the tower. A hole had been blown in the roof, so vehicles and agents were able to be directly lowered to the pad. The commander found it strange that while Semick had recommended vacating the tower due to its structural instability, the likes of General and Specs had opted to build the device in a place that was most likely to fall. The building had suffered greatly from the attacks of Dr. Inferno and Firecracker. Dr. Rex himself was still madly wandering about the field of battle but, despite his lack of focus, the damage he was causing was substantial. Pharisee instructed the pilot to position the helicopter above the opening to the teleportation pad. The commander planned to dispose of Montoya and Carrie Enderson before he entered the battle. He did not want distractions in the fight, and Carrie needed to get medical attention immediately. Once he landed the helicopter on the roof, the commander would rush them to the teleportation pad get them away from battle and proper care in Antarctica. "No." Pharisee turned around in surprise as Montgonel wheezed the word through his oxygen mask. He did not think the man would be awake, let alone strong enough to speak. The agent coughed and held his respirator with feeble hands. The bandages on his chest were stained with blood and his breathing was shallow. "Don't send me away… don't… don't send me to… Antarctica." He coughed more and he shook his head as the helicopter hovered above the hole in the roof. Rain continued to fall hard and the sweat on his face was washed away. "I want to go to see a m…m…medic… here," wheezed Montgonel. "I want to go down." Pharisee glanced over at Carrie Enderson. Tears were still streaming down her face from her own gunshot wound, and it was apparent she wanted to get away from the misery of violence as soon as possible. Montoya simply looked lost; his eyes were tired of the conflict and weary of the war. He wanted to get away too, and Pharisee's word had been to let him go. The commander often tried to do well on his word, but he owed Montgonel. It was his fault that Montgonel was shot and, although he owed Carrie, he would always put his men first. "Change course," ordered the commander, He ignored the pain in Carrie's eyes and instructed the pilot to bring the vehicle down to the front door instead of land on the roof. The pilot complied, and the T-1 Typhoon spun around and descended past thirteen floors to touch down softly on the wet and bloody cement. Pharisee cleared aside some Mutant Lizards and Fright Knights with his handgun and splashed down on ground. The water reflected the fires burning all across the battlefield, and the blaze seemed to dance at his feet with every step the commander took. Nearby, a Mutant Steogsaurus made an advance behind him but the helicopter's gunners dispatched it with their Sonic Screamers. Holding Carrie Enderson in his massive arms, he kicked aside the broken doors and rushed through the damaged lobby. It looked like a bomb had gone off, and dust and burns covered every surface. Stepping over a Mutant Lizard, he passed the body of Elizabeth Wilma, who was slumped over her desk surrounded by a pool of blood. Her eyes were open and showed the terror of her last moments. As Pierce and Crusher worked their way through the HQ, they were startled by the arrival of the Internal Affairs agents. Pierce rushed over and observed the two injured people Pharisee had brought in. "What's going on here?" Pierce asked. "There was a shootout," replied Whitmore. "We got two dead, three hurt. We also got two civilians!" "Get them down to the infirmary!" shouted Crusher. "Come on!" "What the heck happened in here?" Pharisee demanded, looking at the rubble and ruin all around them. "I don't know," replied Pierce. "Some guy tried to blow it up." Hastily, Pierce and Crusher led the group of Internal Affairs agents into the basement and back to where they kept their makeshift hospital. Followed by stretcher bearers carrying Montgonel, Pharisee descended the staircase leading to the basement. The concrete steps were cracked after the recent explosions and treacherous to navigate. Smoke detectors blared in his ears and filth clouded his vision. Down the hall, he heard the murmur of voices, and soon he found himself in the crowded medical bay. "We don't have much space down here," said Pierce. He appeared quite disheveled, and people behind him continuously called his name. "Much of our staff is already up on 13, and we're in the process of evacuating. I'm afraid I may not be able to tend to these patients adequately." "Doctor Pierce, I presume," Pharisee said as he walked past him and cleared out a nearby bed of its deceased occupant. "Montgonel here insisted he go to basement for reasons I can't fathom. They both have gunshot wounds, and it's very serious. I would prefer they go to Antarctica for treatment, but I respect my men's wishes." "But we don't have the space!" protested Pierce. "I only have a handful of doctors down here, and we each have over 20 patents we're working on! We can't take any more." Pharisee growled and rushed forward to pin Pierce to the wall. "These two had better live, doctor. I don't care how you do it, but if they die, you will have to deal with me! I assure you that being on my bad side is most unwise!" Dr. Pierce nodded his head quickly, and the commander released him. "We got a serious emergency!" Pierce shouted to the other doctors. Copper turned toward him. The agents put the two patients on the table. Pierce looked at Carrie Enderson. "She's been hit in the leg," he observed. Turning towards Montgonel, he said: "This other guy here's been hit in the stomach. He takes priority!" Pharisee whipped the filth from his trenchcoat and beckoned to the other Internal Affairs agents who had followed him down. They trailed after him as he left the medical bay and ascended the steps out of the basement to the waiting helicopter. "We're going to the roof, agents. I believe we still much to do." ***** As they made their way through the twelfth floor of Dino Attack Headquarters, Rex glanced out a shattered window. Outside Dino Attack Headquarters, the T-1 Typhoons and Fright Knight Windships engaged each other in dogfights; Emperor Chang Wu's fleet patrolled the river to ward off any more Inferno Super Airboats, only to suddenly find themselves in disarray after a Mutant Mosasaur ambush; and united groups of Dino Attack, Alpha Team, Agents, Rogue Knights, Evil OGEL Empire, and even XERRD worked together in an effort to bring down Dr. Inferno's attacking robot mech. That was all outside. Inside Dino Attack Headquarters itself, which was still filled with fire and smoke after that massive explosion, Rex traveled with his comrades to the thirteenth floor, where the Portal Operations Team's Teleport Pad was located. They were rushing to get there before the next wave of Mutant Dinos, or any that survived the explosions, caught up to them. It was a difficult journey due to the fire and rubble blocking their paths, not to mention the destroyed stairwells. The thirteenth floor was in the worst shape. The roof had caved in, creating even more destruction and ruin, and now the rain was pouring down. Rex was reminded of the wrecked laboratory where he met Frank Einstein for the first time, and realized that it pained him to see Dino Attack Headquarters, a symbol of LEGO Planet's last hope, in such ruin... without even bringing down a fraction of the Mutant Dino army that was still invading the building. Dino Attack Headquarters shook as thunder echoed in the heavens. A Windship drew close to Dino Attack Headquarters, but was subsequently shot down by an Alpha Team Blue Eagle and an Agents Aerial Defense Unit. A flock of Mutant Pterosaurs dive-bombed towards the building, but then were knocked out of the sky by a pair of T-1 Typhoons. When they found the Portal Operations Team and the Teleport Pad, Rex noticed that the Teleport Pad was much larger than the one originally built several months ago. This one was large enough to teleport an entire Fire Hammer, and with good reason; as they approached the Super Teleport Pad, a Dino Air Tracker lowered a wrecked Fire Hammer with a pair of badly-wounded agents inside, treated by a medic that Rex recognized as Dr. Samuel "Lay" Go. Nodding grimly, General pushed a button, and the Fire Hammer, wounded agents, and Dr. Go all disappeared in a flash of blue light. The Dino Air Tracker departed to find someone else who needed evacuation. General, Shock, and Sam Throramebi turned to face Rex, his comrades, and the founding members as they approached. The three of them were all dripping wet and covered with dirt, and Rex noticed that Throramebi's prosthetic mechanical arm was missing, forcing the Rock Raider to work with only one hand. General nodded his head towards Specs. "Just as you ordered," he said, "we have built a Super Teleport Pad to Antarctica." Specs nodded grimly. Looking down at the Einstein Device in his hands, whose lights were still flashing blue, the team leader sighed. "Unfortunately, I believe that we may need to evacuate far more than I originally hoped, and even this Super Teleport Pad might not be enough. I've tried to repair the launcher, but I haven't got the tools. And with the Einstein Device armed and possibly unfinished, there's no telling how much time we have or how much damage it will cause." The Portal Operations Team traded glances. "What do you propose, then?" inquired Shock. "Please hand me your radio," Specs held out his hand. Shock obeyed and gave him her radio. With Grimton's help, since she learned a thing or two from Hertz, Specs was able to broadcast the message to the entire Dino Attack Team and its allies. Before he spoke, Specs closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead, and Rex felt a shiver down his spine as he witnessed what he believed to be Specs feeling defeated for the first time in his life. "My fellow Dino Attack agents and allies, we are now in our darkest hour of greatest peril. Dino Attack Headquarters has suffered great structural damage already, and still Mutant Dinos are breaking in with the intention of bringing down what is left. I will not lie to you; if Dino Attack Headquarters falls, then I believe that this battle is lost. I fear I have no choice but to prepare you for defeat. "All rookie agents are ordered to leave the city, either by means of your own transportation or by being airlifted by a Dino Air Tracker to the Teleport Pad on Dino Attack Headquarters' top floor; it is too dangerous for you. Standard agents are advised to do likewise, but encouraged to keep fighting if you have the courage. All elite agents must report to Dino Attack Headquarters to protect this building and hold off Dr. Rex's forces for just a little longer. We also have a... device that some of you elite agents may help repair; come to the thirteenth floor for further details. "Teammates, comrades, allies... friends... this is the end, and it will end one way or another, but it is up to us to decide how it will end. Make me proud." With that, Specs ended the message and walked towards a shattered window to survey the battlefield below. After a moment of silence, he handed the radio back to Shock and nodded grimly. "Thank you. You are now dismissed. For your own safety, I advise that you go to Antarctica now." "Excuse me?" exclaimed Shock, who frowned and blinked in surprise. "I joined this team to get revenge on Dr. Rex. I'm not leaving until I get the opportunity to give him what's coming to him! Let me at least talk to him; maybe I can confuse his emotions long enough to-" Frozeen bit his lip and shook his head. "Shock, listen to me... Kat already tried to pull off that stunt and... simply put, it didn't work. In fact, it only made things worse." "Kat?" repeated Rex. "As in, Katerina Schattenberg?" He remembered what Hotwire had told him just before the Adventurers' Island mission, that Katerina Schattenberg was actually Dr. Rex's long-lost sister. Dr. Rex already knew that Talia Kaahs had turned against him; Rex knew that all too well, judging from the end of the Goo Caverns mission. But if Katerina, his own sister, tried to talk to him and only made things worse... "Everything we throw at this guy that doesn't kill him only makes him stronger," Rex muttered. "We're going to have to kill him in one swift blow." General gently laid a hand on Shock's shoulder. "You must evacuate to safety," he said to her. "It's for your own good." "No!" shouted Shock, brushing off General's hand. "I won't go!" To everyone's surprise, she rushed towards the Einstein Device, pushing aside her fellow agents in the way. She desperately struggled to load the device into its damaged launcher, to no avail. "That… that… 4+ Figure took everything from me! My family… my life… my future! He'll pay! I have… I have to make him pay… I have to… I…" Tears were streaming down her cheeks, running along the scars disfiguring her face. Her hands were trembling as she handled the Einstein Device; as much as she tried, she could not load it without risking its premature detonation. It finally dawned on her that she would ultimately be denied her revenge, and there was nothing more she could do about it. At last, she fell to her knees as she broke down sobbing as everyone watched in pity. General solemnly knelt down before her, tenderly caressing her with one hand. "He hasn't taken everything, my dear," he whispered. "And he never will. Please, go. I'm old; I've lived my life, even if it is a life full of regret. You, at least, are still young... please, be safe. Too many have died already, and seeing as you've only just convinced me that I still have a heart... don't break it." Through her tears, Shock and General locked eyes for a moment, and then they embraced for what may be the last time. It pained Rex to recognize the same feelings that he shared with Amanda, and he clutched his chest again... not due to chest pains, but due to heartache. "We'll see to it that he pays for his crimes. I swear to it," he promised. "Take Mary Rose wi' ye," added Greybeard. Kneeling down, Greybeard looked Mary Rose in the eyes. "Be safe," murmured the old pirate, "me granddaughter." Mary wrapped her arms around Greybeard's torso, pressing her head against his chest. Greybeard was taken by surprise for a moment, but then relaxed and returned the embrace. Patting Sam Throramebi on the back, Frozeen smiled grimly. "Well, old friend, I don't think one arm's going to do you any good out here." "Agreed," said Sam, glancing at the hole in the socket where the mechanical arm used to be attached. "And I don't think any of you want to hear my high-pitched girly scream." "You still say 'Eep!' when you're scared?" Frozeen chuckled softly, recalling all the good memories that he spent with his old Rock Raider friend. Despite the current mood, Sam Throramebi laughed one last time. "Yep. 'Eep!' That's still my line." They shook hands, neither wishing to acknowledge that they might never see each other again. "Rex, are you going or staying?" inquired Shannon. "I might just think that it's... you know, a little safer for you. That wheelchair, unfortunately, doesn't come packed with all the weaponry that this one does." Rex shook his head. "Like it or not, I'm staying. And I'm not leaving until Dr. Rex is dead." That settled it. Shock, Sam Throramebi, and Mary Rose stood in the Super Teleport Pad, saying their final goodbyes. General pushed a button, and the three Minifigs vanished in a flash of blue light. And then, they were gone, safe in Antarctica. Rex frowned as he stared at the Teleport Pad. "Wait a second," he murmured. "What if Dr. Rex's intent is not simply to destroy Dino Attack Headquarters? What if he also wants to teleport Mutant Dinos down to Antarctica to wipe out the refugee facilities?" After that, thunder rang like a church bell, shaking Dino Attack Headquarters like an earthquake. Looking out at the battlefield, Rex knew that Specs was right. This was the end. It was time for a penultimate ultimatum to determine how this story would end. ***** "All rookie agents are ordered to leave the city, either by means of your own transportation or by being airlifted by a Dino Air Tracker to the Teleport Pad on Dino Attack Headquarters' top floor; it is too dangerous for you. Standard agents are advised to do likewise, but encouraged to keep fighting if you have the courage. All elite agents must report to Dino Attack Headquarters to protect this building and hold off Dr. Rex's forces for just a little longer. We also have a... device that some of you elite agents may help repair; come to the thirteenth floor for further details." Sarah stroked Kate softly as the announcement played over the P.A. system. "I think we ought to be going," she said. "Dr. Saran, much as I appreciate your help, I think we might want to get out of here while we still can." Saran looked at her nervously, clearly thinking for a moment. "I don't think Kate will ever be psychologically fit to fight in this team," he said. Sarah Bishop slowly opened the door to the closet, and took Kate's hand. Carefully, she led her toward the stairway, hoping to get her daughter out of there. ***** Shaw coughed as she, Hale, and Carver stepped through the HQ. There was smoke everywhere, but no sign of wounded yet. The three women coughed as they proceeded through a smoke-filled room. Here and there were a few corpses, but nobody worth helping yet. All Shaw could do was say a prayer in her head for them before moving on. Her eyes were swelling up with tears, though not so much out of any sense of depression as it was the fact that smoke was everywhere. Once or twice they heard explosions in a nearby room, or they'd see Mutant Lizards waiting in the next room and had to make a run for it. By this point, they'd gotten to the second level, and it was a complete mess. Everywhere was debris, and once or twice the floor nearly gave way. ***** "...Well, that's a buzzkiller." "No way. He can't be serious." "I knew we had no chances all along." "Mm, whacha say? I didn't quite hear." "How could this happen to me? I don't understand..." "Maybe we better retreat. Allow us to at least say our goodbyes to our families." "Man, if I find the idiot responsible for setting off those explosives, French Fries will consider himself lucky." "We're doomed? We still have a giant Alpha Team cruiser in the air!" Semick felt chilled to his core like nothing else had over the course of this war. Specs himself... admitting defeat? Advising most agents to retreat, while saying that nearly all hope was lost? It was unbelievable. Their leader himself was losing hope in their chances... Shock quickly turned to fear... fear of defeat. And Semick was reminded of his departure from the Power Miners. He knew that he hadn't left out of fear, but he did know that some others had, following in the tracks of one man who just happened to think his time was done. No, Semick thought. No... no, that will not happen. The fear quickly turned to a fiery anger of determination. The Elite Agent's mind quickly went abuzz with plans and words, and in only a few moments, he had grabbed his radio mic, and flipped his frequency to a signal every agent would hear. "This is Elite Agent Semick. As you know, Specs has just sent out a message telling us he is afraid we are close to defeat. He has advised the Rookies and most Standard agents to retreat, while advising the Elite Agents to return to HQ to help with a device that may prove the key to victory. "I, however, still hold quite a bit of optimism, however unhealthy that may be. Look around you. We have fought long and hard today. The Mutant Dinos are still coming hard, but we have taken many of their numbers out as of now, and they cannot last forever. Furthermore, even if they have allies with the Fright Knights and Inferno agents, we do have allies of our own. Alpha Team, Agents, the LEGO Villains, even XERRD themselves have come to our aid. We are hurt, I will not lie, but we are not incapacitated. "We have hit darkest hours before, and we have survived them to continue fighting. We've had our first HQ decimated by mutiny. We've nearly lost our power station to an all-out attack. We were nearly quashed by an ambush in the Goo Caverns. We were cut off on our own in LEGO Island's Torn World. We were split between ourselves like no other occasion with the exposure of the Antarctica mission. We were caught by surprise by deception and forced to face our worst fears at the Maelstrom temple. And only recently our integrity and strength were nearly blown away by the actions of the traitor Ata. "Because of this, I am not backing down. I am continuing the fight, and if you're likeminded, I want you all, from the newest rookie to the most veteran elite, to stand by me, and continue fighting off these monsters! This is not over, we have faced and overcome horrifying odds before and we WILL do so again! We are not beaten, we are not on our last legs, we are a untied team with strong allies and only a few flesh wounds! "However, I will let my fellow Elite Agents know that they may feel free to report to Specs. What his group is doing is important, I am sure, and you are all skilled in ways I am sure can assist with their work. I am just letting you all know that I am continuing to remain on duty here in the battlefield, with the rest of our forces, ready to defend our team to the end. Even if Dino Attack Headquarters falls, the Dino Attack team will not die! We will overcome the odds, just like we have countless times before! And no true agent is going to retreat in this time of greatest need! "We shall stand together, and we will show these minions of darkness and chaos just what the strength of the creative, strong and determined agents of Dino Attack is capable of! Are you with me?!" There was silence on the radio. For ten seconds. Semick briefly began feeling a sense of disappointment, and his hope started to drain. Then, he heard a noise over the radio. It started with one "Yeah!", then a "I'm with you!", then several more, then several dozen more, until his radio crackled with cries of support. Perhaps half or five-sixths of the team was replying at once over the radio. Semick grinned. Grinned with relief, joy, and readiness. "Alright then! Iron Predators, split up and set yourselves away from Dr. Rex and the giant robot, and began aiming at the latter! Fire Hammers, Urban Avengers, start attacking those Mutant Dinos headed for HQ! Their charge should make them more easy pickings! T-1 Typhoons, keep together with your PLARXX rays on and stick together in groups of six, and go for the Mutant Pterosaurs and witchcraft ships and their Maelstrom dragons! Agents, Alpha Team, XERRD, help out however you can, but focus mainly on Inferno's forces and the witches! Stick together, and stay strong in your fights! We're not done yet!" ***** Stranger hadn't had this much fun since the start of this whole war. Firing away with his laser sniper rifle from the ruins of a bar that had been attacked earlier, he was scoring a kill or two every time he fired his rifle. With Buddy keeping watch over the area, and misdirecting Mutant Dinos wandering over, he was doing perfectly well in terms of battle survival. Semick is right, the agent though. We're far from finished. Though it is getting a little bit boring around here... Grabbing his PDA, he switched it to the comm frequency and sent out a message. "Hey! To any snipers misplaced during the HQ assault, feel free to hit the dismantled bar those Mutant Dinos trashed earlier. It's ripe for sniping!" ***** "We got a very serious emergency!" "What's wrong?" "I can't get the engine started! And now I somehow nailed my finger to a birdhouse accidentally!" "Do you have some bacon?" "What?" "Bacon." "Yeah! I think we got some in our rations!" "Rub some bacon on it!" "What?" "On your hand, just do it!" "Okay... hey it worked! Now what about the engine?" "Rub some bacon on it." "Oh no, we're being attacked by a mutant T-Rex! We're low on ammunition!" "Rub some bacon on it!" "Hey, what do you know? That actually worked. The T-Rex just spontaneously decided to take a nap! Now for the engine?" "Rub some bacon on it!" "The engine's working! Let's go!" ***** Kara landed by the building Rotor was in. "Alright, everyone in!" she yelled as they boarded. While flying back to HQ to evacuate all they needed to, she asked Rotor, "Would you be able to fly one of these things equipped as a gunship with a super-smart A.I. to help?" "I don't think so," replied Rotor. "You put me in a T-1, I'll lead you, but I don't think I could fly one of these!" The UlTech Dropship came to a stop outside of Dino Attack HQ, and quickly the T-1 Typhoon crews got off. "What the heck happened in here?" Spike asked as he stepped into the base. "Looks like somebody tried to blow up this base," replied Buffy. "We got instructions for all Elite Agents to meet on the 13th Floor," Rotor explained, looking at his PDA. "Cabin, Mac, you two come with me, the rest of you can come if you like but I won't force you." With that, Rotor started to work his way up the stairs, followed by Cabin and Mac. ***** "I admit, I know nothing about the kind of sciency technology that we seem to use a lot," Andrew explained to his crew as he drove to HQ, "but I do know building, and if there's a role I can play in gathering parts or designing how this device works or whatever, I'm sure I can do something." "Alright, alright," said Laxus. "I'll just do my best driving this thing while Catless and Pterisa remain on top with the turret. If you need our help again, just call us." "Will do." Avoiding the charge of Mutant Dinos hitting around the main entrance, Andrew stopped near the hangar area, which was having less Mutant Dinos enter through it due to a lack of targets. For now, anyways. "Are you sure you don't want our help getting up there?" Laxus asked again as Andrew grabbed his laser rifle and opened the door. "You're going to be needed out there like everyone else," Andrew replied. "I just need to get inside and up to the thirteenth floor. The Mutant Dinos are likely going to remain busy around the science labs and lower floors. I just need to reach a catwalk, find a door to the upper floors from there, and reach a stairway. It'll be simple enough after that." "Well, good luck up there," Laxus said as Andrew hopped out. "But just in case of... well, you know, I'd just like to let you know it's been a great pleasure fighting and joking alongside you, Andrew." "Same here. I still have to show you what it's like to be in a real LEGO Island party." Laxus snickered and moved to the driver's seat. As he closed Andrew's door, Catless and Pterisa took a moment to climb off the Xenon turret and say their own farewells. "We may not know each other much," said Catless, shaking Andrew's hand, "but you've definitely proved to be skilled enough at lasting through tough battles like this. I'm glad we could be on the same vehicle." "Again, I'm grateful for all you've done and let me do with you," said Pterisa. "I don't think I would've gotten in quite so easily with your team if you hadn't. Let's hope for the best after all this." She rose her hand, as if to shake Andrew's as well, but as Andrew rose his own hand, she shook her head and muttered, "Oh, why not?" and gave the LEGO Islander a hug. Andrew was quite surprised, but not unaccepting, letting himself hug her back and smile slightly. They held that posture for only a moment before moving apart again. Pterisa and Catless then returned to the Fire Hammer turret, and they, along with Laxus, waved goodbye to Andrew as the vehicle sped off back into battle. Andrew, after waving goodbye to them, then started looking for a catwalk to get up on. Several of the stairs and ladders up to them were damaged or broken, and some more had been blocked by containers that looked to be part of Reptile's plans involving the Green Goo, but there were a few around the back still intact, and Andrew headed over there to check them out. ***** "This is Rookie Agent Dr. Martinet! Firstly, I'm staying behind regardless of rank because this team needs every medic it can get. Secondly, I have located Elite Agents Zachary and Fabello!" "Well, that's good to hear, because the others want Zach at headquarters. Where did they go?" "Eh... I'm a little lost, but what I'm getting is that-a Fabello's brother, who was with XERRD, forced them and Fabello's mother. Something happened and Fabello's mother was shot and killed. By her brother." "Ouch. Are they okay?" "Zachary's fine. Fabello's... a little unresponsive at the moment, but Zachary assures me he'll try to snap her out of it. In the meantime, Zachary's told-a me to tell everyone to watch out for Oswald Fabello. He's blond, mid-twenties, looks a bit insane, and apparently wearing a Dino Attack uniform, but works with XERRD-" "Let me assure that, as a high-ranking member of XERRD, that Fabello has no haven with us." "-okay. Fabello has-a managed to tell me that he went by the codename Verrat, so don't trust anyone with that name, either. An Elite Agent friend of mine as secured a Fire Hammer brought in from Antarctica for them. Zachary says he'll contact the rest of the team as soon as he can." Holly Vinyaya sighed. She assumed that Athena Fabello had been the blonde-haired woman with Zach when she had reunited with them and met Blaire Darkling. Watching her brother kill their mother probably crushed Minerva. I imagine by the end of this battle, we'll all have scars, physical and emotional. She kicked a Mutant Lizard away and fired several Cosmotronic Ray blasts at a pack of purple Lizards. Vinyaya had been simply making the rounds. Shoot, kick, punch, grab, repeat. Run if a Mutant T-Rex showed up. Sprint if a Maelstrom Dragon landed nearby. Vinyaya was already mute to killing these beasts and henchmen. And she would keep fighting until the battle was won. Even with Specs calling out defeat. She wasn't alone. Nearby, two XERRD scientists aided her in her fight named Alvin Gadd and William Lee. The former was fighting with some type of backpack and the latter was in a strange hovercraft device. Dr. Lee had apparently forcibly strapped into the craft by Dr. Rex for suggesting to end the Dino Attack. Gadd had freed him and, with the new alliance with XERRD, was now fighting Mutant Dinos and their allies. Vinyaya didn't have time to hold any bitter feelings toward the XERRD scientists. Nobody did, as evidenced by Pepper Roni's arrival into the battlefield via the Brickster's T-1 Typhoon or Skeleton Drones fighting alongside Alpha Team agents. As she smashed the skull of a darkness Mutant Lizard, she saw a flash of white. Looking around briefly, Vinyaya saw Kareem Nazareno jam one of his katanas into the roof of a Mutant Raptor's mouth. She grinned as it fell to the ground. Nazareno pulled out his sword and nodded to Vinyaya. "Good to see you again, Commander Vinyaya." He jumped away from the Mutant Raptor and slashed through the neck of a nearby Inferno agent taking aim. "I suppose I forgot to ask because of Vherestorm's appearance, but how is your... ah, face?" "Fine so far," Vinyaya said, smacking a Mutant Raptor away with the butt of her gun before shooting it. "It is a rather sore spot to be hit, as I learned from Gonepus." Nazareno was in a duel with a Fright Knight. "I heard about that. Congrats on defeating him. Serves him right for leading the team to the wrong temple." He sliced off the knight's arm and stabbed his chest with both swords. Nazareno quickly kicked the knight away and began to search for another enemy. Vinyaya grabbed the neck of one Mutant Lizard and began to swing it around. "So I suppose you heard about Darkling at XERRD?" She launched the Mutant Lizard and it bowled over several more. "Yes," Nazareno slashed away at Mutant Dinos with ease. "Perhaps he really has changed. Unfortunately, if we are to miraculously win this battle and he survives, he will need to be captured for his crimes in the same vein that Pepper Roni will have to catch the Brickster again." A Mutant Lizard knocked Nazareno off his feet. Vinyaya quickly turned and shot the Lizard off. As Nazareno jumped back to his feet, Vinyaya continued their conversation. "Where is Zelda?" "Over there with Solomon Koplowitz," Nazareno said, his tone changing dramatically. Vinyaya turned her head and watched Zelda Frodongan stab her sword hard into the back of a Mutant Raptor. Vinyaya was surprised by the cold yet sad look in the energetic young agent's eye. "Um... is she alright?" Vinyaya dared to ask. She turned away from Nazareno to continue the fight as he sighed, surprising her. Nazareno replied, "No. In layman's terms, I screwed up." An eyebrow perked up on Vinyaya's face. A rather different change in vocabulary. "What happened?" Nazareno kicked away an Inferno agent with surprising force. "Were you aware that Zelda was... infatuated with me?" Vinyaya let out a small snort as she broke a Fright Knight's neck. "Yeah. Zach and Minerva know, too." "Did she tell you?" Vinyaya snorted again. "No, and she didn't need to. It was obvious with the way that she talked about you, looked at you, and acted around you." There was an edge of frustration in Nazareno's voice as he jumped onto a Mutant Raptor's head. "It was really that obvious?" "A little bit. What happened with her? Did she tell you?" Vinyaya shot away several Mutant Raptors as Nazareno relayed how Zelda had revealed her feelings and Nazareno's response. "Oh. Yeah, you probably screwed up. The most important question is: do you share her feelings? I know you rejected her, but do you love her?" The only sound for several seconds was sound of gunfire and dinosaur bellows. Then, "I don't know." Vinyaya turned her head sharply toward Nazareno, who was in a battle against three Fright Knights. "You don't know." It was a flat statement. "How do you not know?" Nazareno kicked one Fright Knight underneath his chin before stabbing him in the chin. "I... well..." Vinyaya raised another eyebrow. Stammering? From Nazareno? Apparently, it was more likely than you would think. "I've never actually had any romantic feelings for anyone, let alone have someone publicly feel them for me." Vinyaya jammed her gun into a Mutant Lizard's mouth and killed it instantly. "Never? Even as a hormone-controlled teenager? Well, I don't know anything about you space ninjas, so I don't know if there were women in your monastery or whatever. Unless you like..." Vinyaya drifted off, making her meaning clear. "There were women," Nazareno said with shrug as he brought his sword into the leg of another Fright Knight. "But I could only really see them as sisters. Once I left for the wider universe, I never really concerned myself with romance." "Well," Vinyaya said thoughtfully as she slammed her gun into the side of an Inferno agent's head. "This is not my area of expertise, and that's probably an understatement, but I'm going to help you." Nazareno cut the neck of the final Fright Knight. "How?" "First things first. Since you are so conflicted about how you feel about her, how do you feel around her?" Nazareno thought briefly as he cut away Mutant Lizards. "Normal, I suppose." Vinyaya would've facepalmed if she wasn't fighting a Fright Knight. Luckily, Nazareno continued: "I find myself a lot more tolerant of her personality and quips than I would with anyone else. I suppose I've connected with her better than anyone else in a while. I enjoy her company and..." He stopped as he saw Vinyaya grinning at him. "What?" She didn't say anything, merely continued to smile knowingly at him. Nazareno's eyes narrowed. "I see what you've done. Clever, Commander." "So say it then." Vinyaya could easily imagine Nazareno's face turning red as he finally said: "I'm... infatuated with Zelda Frodongan." Vinyaya chuckled quietly. Close enough. She started running as two Mutant Raptors start to approach her. "Throw me on top of one of them!" she yelled out. Nazareno nodded and leaped back on to the ground. He lowered himself to a crouch and extended his hands. Vinyaya stepped on to his hands and felt herself be propelled into the air. She stumbled and grabbed on to the spike of a Mutant Raptor's head. Climbing back up, Vinyaya started shooting Mutant Raptors with the Cosmotronic Ray, allowing Nazareno to easily dispatch them. Vinyaya then fired three shots into the Mutant Raptor's head she was standing on and fell to the ground as the dino collapsed. As Nazareno helped her back up, she looked at him. "So you know what to do now, right?" "I'm not a total fool, Commander. I've already been intending to apologize for my rather... harsh response." Vinyaya rolled her eye again as she turned to keep fighting dinos. "Well, besides that. You've got to admit your feelings to her." There was slight hesitation in Nazareno's voice as he continued. "Is this really the right thing to do? I mean, like I said, there's a significant difference in age and the whole 'mentor-student' type relationship and-" "Kareem Nazareno," Vinyaya said flatly, interrupting him. He could hear him briefly mutter about using his first name, but she ignored it. "I get it. You feel uncomfortable with the idea. Zelda is right. She is as much of an adult as you are. She is a happy, kind young woman who clearly cares for you a lot. and you clearly care for her." Vinyaya crossed her arms expectantly, waiting for an argument. Nazareno sighed. "You're right, of course," Nazareno admitted, looking back toward Zelda. "I'm just..." Nazareno sighed again. "Thank you for helping me see reason, Commander. I really needed it." Vinyaya nodded. Kareem Nazareno needing help. Not only that, but romantic help. She smiled warmly at him. "You better go talk to her." Nazareno nodded once before turning and running back to Zelda and Solomon. Feeling satisfied, Vinyaya turned back to the battle. A million dinos down, a million more to go. ***** The two Fire Hammers pulled up along the side of the street. The squad exited the vehicles, and B turned and faced the rest of the minifigs. "I don't care what you guys think, I need to go in alone. It's my mission, and he only wants me to come," said B. "I don't like it," said Rob, "But it seems like our only option. But still, we've waited years for this opportunity!" B nodded, thinking back to their long history with the individual known as Tempest… ***** LEGOLAND Special Forces HQ, March 23, 2006 "Alright soldiers. You've been transferred to special forces because you've shown more skill than is usually seen in new recruits. You were also recommended stay as one unit, which says something about your teamwork skills. Now, here in spec force, we do not go by names and ranks. We go by codenames, and you, apparently, were not being called by your real names anyways, so we should just keep going with those names for the sake of unit cohesion. Now your codenames are... let me check my list: B, Crooks, Sucker, Knuckles, Rookie. Odd names, but I'll be honest, most codenames don't make much sense anyway. My name is Tempest, and I will take personal command of this new squad, as you are not being inserted into existing squads. Do you understand?" LEGOLAND Special Forces HQ, May 19, 2006 "B, do you understand why you're here?" asked Tempest. B shrugged. "I was guessing something about the outstanding op I pulled off, but your tone of voice tells me otherwise." "You may have completed your objective," replied Tempest, "but you managed to get your squad killed. What's your explanation?" "I was given no time to learn about this squad that I suddenly had to command," B retorted. "Also, just for the record, the intel we were given said nothing about there being snipers waiting for us." Tempest paused. "Alright, dismissed." LEGOLAND Special Forces HQ, July 28, 2007 "Alright guys," said Rob," Do you know why I called this 'meeting'?" "Don't keep us in suspense, Rob," said Kevin, "Or make us guess. Just tell us." "Well," said Rob, "I've noticed an alarming trend. Every time we are briefed for a mission, we get the data, and then when we're inserted at whatever drop point they choose, we find out that either the number of hostiles we might have to eliminate is significantly higher than expected, or they're already waiting for us. That concludes the presentation, now for the quiz: what does that data indicate?" "Sounds to me like we got a weak link in the system," said Sam. "Who lays eyes on any data that gets funneled to us?" "I don't know, but we can find out," declared Rob. "I wrote an analytical program that will find out, hopefully. Parameters include security clearance, and how much info is available to them at any time. Simply put in what area of the department you want to scan, and let it go." "You planned this out, Rob," noted B. "Were you just waiting for our approval to push the button?" Rob grinned sheepishly. "Pretty much. Data collecting... and... Son of a MegaBlok." The smile vanished from his face. "What is it? Who is it?" asked B. Rob looked up and said with the utmost seriousness: "It says the weak link is Tempest." B and his teammates traded glances. "What's his background? Any indication from that?" inquired B. Rob shook his head. "What background? None to be had. That's what the algorithm caught, really. In charge of almost the entire department, but nothing. We even have access to some of the highest-ranked people's personal info, but nothing on Tempest. I hate to say it, but we have a winner. All data passes through him, and only through him. Now, how do we handle this?" "I got this," said B. "Look, I'm two bad debriefings away from a court-martial anyway, so if we're wrong somehow, I'm the only one who has to burn. Tempest doesn't like me, anyway. I'm going to go to his office and casually see what data I can get. Alright?" B walked down to Tempest's office. No one that he passed paid him any attention, as his squad was known to be on the fast track. He came up to the door and knocked. There was no answer. B knocked again, and waited for another minute, and then carefully opened the door. His jaw dropped. The office was empty. The furniture was still there, but any technology, files, or anything that would contain important data was gone. All that was left was a laptop on the desk, facing the chair. B walked up to the desk. On the laptop, there was a video ready to played. B hit the button. Tempest's face appeared on the screen. "Nice job, B. I must say, it took you long enough to figure it out, and even then, it took a seventeen-year-old boy to find out! Granted, he is a prodigy, but I thought you would have picked up on the hints sooner than this. Yes, I am what you would call a 'traitor'. I have my own game to play, and you and your squad were just some pawns that were convenient to move. B, you should realize that in order to get power, you should learn to recognize all the means to whatever end is best for you. Not all of them are legitimate. Forget about it, and you'll go far, because you need to learn subtlety and also, and most importantly, when to give up. Goodbye, B." B walked back to his barracks, fuming. He slammed the door as he walked in. He was startled again by the presence of a minifig who normally wasn't there. "General!" B exclaimed. "What are you doing here?" General Jim of the LEGOLAND Airforce replied, "I see you just found out we have a rouge commander. He's gone, isn't he?" "He ironically gave me his last bad piece of advice. I'm not going to follow it," declared B. "General, requesting permission to track down and eliminate Tempest." "I'm afraid I can't do that, B," said General Jim, shaking his head. "Our top agents are already on it. In the meantime, you and your squad are being transferred to Alpha Team. Their goals are more in line with what you seem to be wanting to do, and your methods will mesh better there." "You're just going to cover this up, aren't you?" realized B. "Move the squad to the next most secretive organization, and there's no evidence to take care of!" "In the most blunt terms, B, yes," replied Jim. "We can't risk this getting out, because, believe it or not, people can't handle the truth." B narrowed his eyes, then turned and walked away. "Most people can't handle a lot of things, general. That doesn't mean that they don't need it." Dr. Inferno's HQ, 2008 "Tempest, you're dead!" shouted B. "You hear me? MegaBloking dead!" B and Tempest both stood in a large hall in Dr. Inferno's underground lair, staring each other down from opposite ends of the room. Crooks' and Sucker's bodies lay motionless next to Tempest. Four of Inferno's henchmen entered the room and carried the bodies out, as B stood staring. He knew that there were too many guns trained on him to do anything to help his teammates. "B," said Tempest, "come and be reasonable. You lost. You can't hope to win a battle you already lost!" "That may be true, Tempest, but the next time I see you, you're dead! And that is my promise!" declared B. Tempest chuckled. "So formal, B. You'll never see me again, in all likelihood! Give it up, and you might get your friends back!" "We both know you're lying, Tempest," said B. B turned around and ran. He knew it was his only option. He was alone, no backup. ***** "Rob," said Sam, "Before B goes and tries to take down a rogue commander who may or may not be there, don't you have something for him?" "Oh yeah!" said Rob, grinning. "B, the boys in R&D said that they needed someone to test this out in the field. Chris said that you'd make better use of it. Brand-new clip-on armor plating. Should keep you a bit safer during some of the moves you like to make." "Wow," remarked B, looking over the armor. "Rob, you didn't forget the other package, did you?" Rob shook his head. "Nope. B, you are completely MegaBloking crazy, you know that?" "Yeah." B attached the body armor to his already-somewhat-substantially-protective jumpsuit. He grabbed the duffel bag that Rob handed to him and walked down the street towards the diner. "Now, I think we've been gone from the battle for a bit too long, so go out there for me and make Dad proud, okay? I might not be coming back." "You will," said Sam, "You'll figure something out." Kabrinsky's Pride loaded up and drove away towards Dino Attack HQ, leaving B alone. B nodded. "Yeah. I'll figure something out." ***** Dr. Cyborg considered. He had heard Specs, Specs of all people, the leader of the team, say that defeat was likely. He couldn't believe it. Anyways, he had bigger fish to fry. All Elite Agents had been ordered to HQ to help with device of some sort. He steered the Titanium Predator towards the smoking building. On the way, he sent a message to Bane. "I need you and Screech to engage the Inferno robot. It's causing a lot of trouble here, and you are its equal, at least, in power." When he arrived, he set the Titanium Predator to hover and jumped out on top of the building. "Elite Agent Dr. Cyborg reporting, sirs." ***** "Tell your Elite Agent friend 'thanks'," Zach said to Marco Martinet as he climbed out of medical Fire Hammer. It had pulled up to a fresh Fire Hammer brought in from Antarctica. "I'll-a see to it," Martinet said, bowing his head. He then leaned in close. "Tell your-a friend Minerva that I'm sorry. There-a wasn't anything I could do." As if on cue, Minerva climbed out of the Fire Hammer. Her eyes had a reddish tint to them that suggested crying. She shook Martinet's hand slowly. "Thank you for the ride," Minerva said quietly, her voice shaking. Zach grimaced. "And thank you for getting her body flown to the headquarters. You gave the crew my request, right?" Martinet nodded solemnly. She had asked him to fly her mother's body to the Super Teleport Pad in the headquarters, where her body would be taken to Antarctica. She had given a specific request for no one to bury the body until she returned or until Minerva died herself. "Thank you," Minerva whispered. She and Zach then began to walk toward their new Fire Hammer as Martinet drove away. Zach occasionally turned his eyes upon Minerva, who was completely silent. She had finally gotten to see her mother truly for the first time in fourteen years, only for her to die. Not only that, but it was her own brother that had pulled the trigger that ended Athena's life. Zach knew Oswald had completely lost it in a combination of regret and a sense of failure. He was trying to simply save his sister and finding out there was no way to save her had crushed him. "You're worried he's going to find me," Minerva said suddenly. "And kill me, like he did with Mom." Zach nodded. Minerva looked at him. She seemed completely broken by her facial expression. "I don't know if I can do it... kill him... he killed Mom, but he was my closest friend for years..." Zach didn't say anything. Minerva might not be able to kill Oswald, but he certainly could. He sympathized with Oswald to an extent, but not enough to keep him alive. If Oswald came after them, he would kill him with one swift blast of Maelstrom. Zach had actually grown fond of Athena Fabello in the time he had traversed LEGO City with her and it had hurt him watching her die just like watching Thaddeus Brickhouse die. Only this time, he had managed to keep his emotions in check for both of their sakes. But he didn't say any of this Minerva. "Driver or gunner?" Zach said instead. "I'll take the launcher," Minerva said with little emotion. Zach nodded, understanding. She wanted to think by herself. And the best way was to take some emotions out on Mutant Dinos. "You'll pull through," Zach suddenly said, full of sincerity. He knew he would. It's been a long time, but she's been through it before. Minerva wouldn't let this stop her. She could probably find a way to have this drive her. And he would be there to help. Minerva's lip quivered slightly. Brushing her damp hair out of her face, she nodded and climbed on to the back. Zach climbed into the driver seat and asked, "You set, Minerva?" "No use sitting around here anymore," Minerva said over their comm connection. Zach started up the vehicle and started to drive toward Dino Attack Headquarters. As he drove, he flipped on the radio. "Elite Agent Zachary is back online," Zach said. "What's my next move?" The radio seemed to explode with chatter. Several people were inquiring about Athena and Oswald, but Zach ignored those agents. He was getting bits and pieces of updates. "Defeat? It's a scandal! It's an outrage!" "I'm not leaving until Dr. Rex is six feet under." "Whose mom died? Kate Bishop's?" "We're doomed, aren't we?" "No! We can still win. We have every organization under the sun helping us, including XERRD!" "Elite Agent Zachary? Can you hear me?" Zach jumped onto the last one. "Yes? Who is this?" "My name Elite Agent Rosalie Mercedes. I got the Fire Hammer for you." "Ah, thanks for that. Can you tell me what's going on?" "Certainly. Specs has called for a retreat. Rookie agents, wounded, and non-agent personnel besides medics are being asked to head for a teleport pad in the building that would teleport them to Antarctica. Standard Agents can retreat, but many are staying to fight out the battle. All Elite Agents have been requested to head to the thirteenth floor of Dino Attack Headquarters. Since there is an aura of secrecy around this, please move to the Elite agent frequency so I can continue to speak to you and Fabello." Zach quickly moved to the Elite agent channel, which was a lot quieter. "Thank you. Now, as I understand it, we have a weapon capable of defeating the remaining Mutant Dino army." "What, exactly? All I can think of is a nuke, but I can't imagine we'd have people hanging behind for that." "No. Have you heard the rumor about a 'Doctor Device'?" Zach remembered hearing something about it at one point. "Now being called the Einstein Device, this very real weapon will be able to wipe out the remaining Mutant Dino army without destroying the city. There's apparently some issues and Specs has called all Elite agents to help out. I have been requested to hold off the advancing army while the issues are resolved. I believe they specifically asked for you and your supposed knowledge of the Maelstrom to help in dealing with this weapon." "What about me?" Minerva suddenly asked, causing Zach to jump. "I don't know, but I suppose you'll find out when you get to the thirteenth floor. I imagine you will be helping hold up the lines while the weapon is repaired." Zach sat in silence for a moment. He could be essential in turning this battle back to the Dino Attack's favor. Heh. I wonder if that so-called prophecy referred to this moment. "Consider us on our way," Zach said with confidence. "I will relay that message to the Founding Members. Please hurry." A determined smirk formed on Zach's face as he slammed down on the pedal as he began to head to Dino Attack Headquarters. As he drove, he noticed someone being attacked by several Mutant Dinos. She was holding herself rather well, but Zach decided to turn and help. "You see her?" Zach asked Minerva. Her response was peppering the Mutant Dinos with Xenon fire. As the Mutant Dinos dropped, Zach rolled up to the agent and rolled down the passenger window. "Like a lift?" he called out. Commander Holly Vinyaya climbed into the Fire Hammer, a half-hearted smirk on her face. "Don't mind if I do." ***** Kareem Nazareno ran back to Zelda Frodongan and Solomon Koplowitz, killing any Mutant Dino that crossed his path with ease. He knew what he had to do. He was slightly embarrassed by needing Vinyaya to tell him, but that didn't matter. He had to tell Zelda. "Zelda!" Nazareno called out. Zelda turned toward him, a confused look on her face. Nazareno was about to admit his feelings when he saw a man jump onto a Mutant Spinosaurus's back. The man quickly slashed the Spinosaurus's throat with a dark-colored katana with a purple line along its blade. The man jumped down from the Spinosaurus and landed behind Solomon and Zelda. They both turned and their eyes narrowed. "Blaire Darkling," Nazareno said coldly. "I see you have not been sitting around these past three years." "Of course not," Blaire said with a half shrug, spinning his two Shinobi katanas absently, a sinister smirk on his face. Even if he was now allied with the Dino Attack Team, Nazareno did not trust the man for a minute. "I'll admit, I didn't think you'd ally with us," Nazareno continued, striking a Hybrid in the chest with his sword. "What about your old mantra about finishing a job?" "I do tend to work around things like that," Blaire said, slashing through a Mutant Lizard. "Dr. Rex told me to fight in this battle. I am, am I not?" Blaire then turned away from Nazareno to Solomon. "Solomon. It is fantastic to see you again, old man. I have to admire your courage for leaving the organization so soon. Perhaps you should return to XERRD. I'm sure Dr. Cyrista would approve moving you to third-in-command. I'm sure that between the two of you, XERRD can be restored to its former glory." Nazareno quickly caught onto Blaire. He only mentioned Solomon and Dr. Cyborg in restoring XERRD. What about himself? "We'll see, Darkling," Solomon said tersely, slashing open another Hybrid. "And you," Blaire continued, turning to Zelda. "I have only seen you in the presence of Nazareno. What is your name?" "Zelda Frodongan," Zelda said icily. Blaire chuckled. "I imagine if you are with the great Kareem Nazareno, you are just as skilled with a katana. Good thing too." Blaire gestured around them. Two Maelstrom Dragons touched the ground near two Mutant T-Rexes. The four massive beasts roared and assembled a good-sized group of Mutant Dinos that began to surround Nazareno, Zelda, Solomon, and Blaire. "Because we're going to need all the skill we can get now." A bit of the old Zelda returned. "You just watch it, Darkling." Blaire laughed loudly. "Definitely a chip off the old Nazareno. Well, lady and gentlemen, it appears we are surrounded. Let's make these creatures regret this decision." Solomon and Zelda nodded curtly. Nazareno looked at Blaire curiously, who only smirked at him. He was up to something, but right now, he would have to trust that Blaire had his back. Nazareno, Zelda, Solomon, and Blaire stepped back until their backs were touching. They could see everything through each other. Seven katanas were raised. The gathered Mutant Dinos and two Maelstrom Dragons seemed to laugh as they closed in on their prey. Nazareno grimaced, but didn't back down. He was back-to-back-to-back-to-back with some of the most skilled swordsmen and swordswoman he had ever met. Solomon's face was emotionless, Zelda's face had a scowl, and Blaire had his signature smirk dancing on his face. Without warning, the dinos lunged forward, biting and clawing. Two ninjas and two ex-Paradox Shinobi versus what had to be more than fifty Mutant Dinos and two Maelstrom Dragons. You had to feel sorry for the Mutant Dinos. ***** Bluetooth had recently given Hertz permission to leave the hospital and help in whatever way he could. The elite agent was not positive Dr. Pierce would agree with the idea but, considering Hertz technically outranked the doctor, he was prepared to go over his head. Regardless, Hertz snuck out of the medical bay, ensuring no doctors would see him. Movement was incredibly disorienting without the aid of his ears, and he became more aware of subtle tremors and movements. His primary skill was now defunct, but he was unable to just sit back and do nothing; he had a mission to the team and was willing to do whatever was necessary to ensure they put up a fight. Hertz soon found the stairs leading out of the basement. The hallway felt and looked deserted but, considering his lack of hearing, it was possible other agents were calling his name this very moment. His skills were in communication, and when the team needed elite agents, Hertz was unable to answer the call. He would head to the upper levels of the base and look for any way he could help. His skills were limited, but he refused to die as a useless man. The sensation in his ears was changing more to a ring. It was not totally quite inside his head, but any outside sounds were indistinguishable. Every motion echoed inside his mind and bounced back and forth down his ear canals. He had little opportunity to talk with doctors, but he was aware the damage caused to his ear was probably the result of damage to his ear bones. If he survived the battle, he could have surgery; it would be what he had to live for. As he made his way up the stairs, a hand touched his shoulder. He had no indication someone else was present, and he jumped in surprise at the contact. Hertz spun around and saw Naomi standing behind him. Her face was hard to read, but he sensed worry and sadness in her eyes. Her lips were moving, and all Hertz could do was nod his head and pull her close. "I'M LEAVING," Hertz said as softly as he could. "I CAN'T JUST SIT HERE AND DO NOTHING AT A TIME LIKE THIS. I'LL CARRY AMMUNITION IF I HAVE TO, BUT I'M NOT GOING TO SPEND THESE LAST MOMENTS BEING USELESS." Naomi continued to speak but all her words were lost. All Hertz could comprehend were the emotions pouring out of her. She knew he could not hear her, but it was something she needed to say. Naomi needed to say what she needed to say, and all Hertz could do was stand back and let her pour her heart out on him. "I'M GOING UP TO THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR," said Hertz. "I HEARD ELITE AGENTS ARE MEANT TO MEET THERE, AND I'M GOING TO ANSWER THE CALL." Naomi did not seem to respond; she just stared at him with her brown eyes and held his hand. He still wore the cast from the Temple of Hotep III battle, but the once-white cloth was now blackened and torn. He could still manipulate his fingers, which was a good sign, but he had to acknowledge his arm might not ever be the same again. In spite of the emotions running between the two, Hertz allowed his mind to go off on a tangent. It seemed that, out of everyone on the Dino Attack Team, he seemed to get hurt the most and spend the longest time recovering. Why was that? Naomi's touch jerked him back to the present. She wiped her eyes and pulled out a notepad from her pocket. Apparently, whatever she needed to say had been said, and Hertz hated not being able to listen. You need to come back, she wrote. You'll be safe in the basement. "I DON'T WANT TO BE SAFE," said Hertz. The intimate moment was somewhat ruined by the volume of his voice, but he hoped she would understand his feelings. "I WANT TO HELP. COME WITH ME, NAOMI. GO TO THE TELEPORT PAD AND LEAVE THE PLACE WHEN YOU STILL CAN." Naomi shook her head and gestured down the hallway. She was accompanied by two other doctors, Naomi Hale, and Noomi Shaw. The three women were working to pull survivors from the wreckage, and the nurse did not want to abandon her task. Naomi had matured substantially in the last few days. Hertz's first impression of her was the popular party girl with rich parents. She had been a cheerleader in school and would have been out of the nerd's league in his high school days. While at first she acted like the stereotypical ditz, her maturity as a professional in these times of crisis amazed the elite agent. "PLEASE COME WITH ME, NAOMI," said Hertz. "THIS PLACE IS NOT SAFE! THE DOCTORS HERE CAN TAKE CARE OF THINGS. YOU CAN TAKE SOME OF THE INJURED WITH YOU AND TREAT THEM AWAY FROM THIS PLACE! IN ANTARCTICA, YOU'LL BE SAFE." Naomi did not respond. If she went on the teleporter, it would feel like she was running away. She would be leaving Hertz and all her team behind. As she looked into Hertz's eyes, she saw how worried he was for her safety and a large part of her wanted to give him comfort. Hertz took hold of her shoulders. "PLEASE, NAOMI, WE DON'T HAVE MUCH TIME! I'M GOING TO STAY AND HELP, BUT YOU DON'T NEED TO. YOU CAN HELP IN ANTARCTICA, I CAN'T!" The conflict in Naomi's eyes was evident. As she listened to Shaw and Hale call to her, she cast her eyes up the dusty stairs of the headquarters. On the thirteenth floor was escape, escape from all the blood and gore of the war. Escape from the pressure of the hospital and having to hold the hands of dying men. On the thirteenth floor was a place she could go, where Hertz might one day join her. But what if Hertz did not survive? What if she went to the teleporter and never saw him again? She would be alone in Antarctica, having left both her job and her love behind. Would she be able to live with the guilt that she ran away? Would she create excuses for herself? What would she say to the other doctors if they made it through alive? Shaw and Hale called her name again. They had lost her in the smoke and dust of the explosion. Hertz took a few steps up the stairs and held out his hand. He said nothing, but he looked her in the eyes with an expression of hope and apprehension. Naomi looked over her shoulder one last time before taking Hertz's hand and following him up the stairs. "CARVER!" Hale called out amidst the smoke. Shaw quickly ran back down the corridor. Approaching the stairs, she saw Naomi running up, holding Hertz's hand. "Carver!" Shaw shouted. Naomi turned toward her. "Where do you think you're going?" Hale asked as she approached. Naomi didn't answer, unsure of what to say. "We got a job to do here," insisted Hale. "I can't have people like you go wandering off!" "You don't understand," replied Naomi. "I love him!" "That's wonderful," said Hale. "But you've got to help us. Tell her, Shaw." Shaw looked at Naomi, then Hertz, uncertain of what to say. "Go," she said finally. "What?" Hale asked. "Shaw, you're going along with this?" "If there's anyone here, we should know how to take care of them," declared Shaw. "Carver, you do what you have to do. Hale and I can finish the sweeping the base, and we'll come meet you. Where you going?" "Thirteenth floor," replied Naomi. "That's where we'll meet you," said Shaw. "Good luck, Naomi. I'll pray for you." With that, Shaw turned and walked away, leaving a frustrated Hale to follow. ***** Hotwire was conflicted, to say the least. He had the utmost respect for Specs, as the leader of the team, but at the same time, Semick had proven himself a capable leader as well. In short, he was completely unable to decide whose orders to follow. And that wasn't even considering Kat in the equation. If she was still down there somewhere... The two Fright Knight windships engaging the Talon II in a fierce dogfight certainly wasn't helping with the dilemma. Hotwire had wondered how in the world a vehicle that was essentially a large boat tethered to a dragon could be so agile. It seemed nearly impossible to track the beasts with the Sonic Screamers. Three Fright Knights suddenly swung down on ropes from one of the windships. Two landed on the tail of the Talon II; the third was not so lucky, and soon became closely familiar with the city streets. The design of the T-1 Typhoon quite sensibly did not allow for the Sonic Screamers to be aimed at the tail, so all Hotwire could do as the two figures in their bat-winged helmets inched forwards was respond to recent developments on the comms. "This is elite agent Hotwire. We're currently being boarded by Fright Knights, but once that's taken care of, I'll try to make my way to HQ. Can't make any promises, though." ***** Hotwire wasn't the only one facing a dilemma. Wright's conscience urged her back towards the battle, but there was no way she could persuade herself to leave Shiller's side. After Pierce had finished operating, he'd declared the agent "stable." This didn't entirely satisfy Wright, however. Dead was "stable" too. So, she had remained by her unconscious partner's stretcher, one hand on the SMG and the other holding Shiller's, as everyone else pitched in to move patients. The nurses, seeming to sense the thoughts teeming in her head, appeared to be waiting until toward the end to approach, and she couldn't help but wonder what she'd say when they did. ***** There were no doubts in Swerve's mind -- leaving now was out of the question. Yes, there were Mutant Lizards inside the base, but if the elite agents in his position followed Specs's directives, there would be more dinos inside, and not just Lizards either. ***** Kat heard a crash from the street, and risked heading outdoors, figuring that the noise would be enough of a distraction to make some real progress. She slipped out the back of the shop she was in and found herself in a short alley. Just as she reached the mouth, a Mutant Lizard blocked her path. Acid-spitting, judging from the sizzle its saliva made when a drop hit the ground. She glanced around, seeking an escape route and bracing herself. There was a flash of color as something wrapped around the Lizard's neck and pulled tight. The creature gave a choked hiss and clawed at the object, which appeared to be a long strip of cloth knitted from thick wool yarn. The cloth was yanked tight, and the Mutant Lizard fell, with a trickle of blood running down its neck. The figure wielding the cloth, outside Kat's field of vision up until now, bent to retrieve it, and noticed her for the first time. "Oh! Hello. Are you all right?" His voice was slightly muffled by the array of woolens around his neck and mouth. "Yes, thanks to you," said Kat. "Sorry, I'm not sure I saw that right. Did you just kill a Mutant Lizard with a scarf?" The figure nodded, wringing dinosaur blood out of the scarf before carefully wrapping it back around his own neck. "One of my own creations. The outer edge is razor wire; the rest is reinforced with nylon rope fibres." There was a yell from outside the alley. "Giles! Little help here?" "Fascinating," Kat said, and meant it. "But perhaps we're dawdling." Giles nodded, and the dashed out of the alley. In the street, Kat recognized the crashed Fire Hammer as Tracer's Vindication. The front end was crumpled and missing a wheel. "Lizards tore it off," Giles explained, as he and Kat joined Helm, who was firing away with a Cosmotronic Ray. She was surprised to see the giant, bearded, sword-wielding Agent there too. Giles's help turned out to be unnecessary, as the mariner and the swordsman made short work of the lizard pack. "Ah, Kat." Helm turned to the new arrival cheerfully. "Good to see you in one piece." ***** "At last," declared Andrew Jackson, although his voice was muffled by the balaclava he was still wearing, "it seems that Lady Luck has set her fires upon me! Or is it that Lady Luck has set me on fire? How does that idiom go? Bah, I don't care, I'm just going to take those fires and burn everything with them! Ha, ha, ha!" Only a short time ago, Andrew Jackson was being forcibly escorted against his will by a pair of Dino Attack agents to a Teleport Pad in the basement. When they received the message that Mutant Dinos were infiltrating the building and said Teleport Pad had to be destroyed, they turned around and began heading towards a new Teleport Pad supposedly being built on the roof. They did not get very far before everything blew up in their faces... literally. Andrew Jackson was the only survivor of the three Dino Attack agents. All around him, Dino Attack Headquarters was in ruin, filled with rubble, smoke, and of course fire. The sight pleased him so much. He found a pair of brooms in a nearby supply closet, used a nearby flame to set them both on fire, and was now running through Dino Attack Headquarters, wielding the burning brooms like torches and swinging them at any foolish Mutant Dinos who dared to come too close, and laughing madly the whole time. "Burn in MegaBlokland, you hideous reptile!" cried Andrew Jackson, cackling as he knocked one of the burning brooms into the face of a yellow-skinned Mutant Lizard. The Lizard screeched in pain and retreated, but Andrew Jackson pursued and did not relent until he cornered the poor creature and set it on fire. The sight of the Mutant Lizard's pain filled Andrew Jackson with sadistic glee, for it satisfied him to give these monsters the very medicine that they had given him back in April. With the Mutant Lizard reduced to a burning carcass, Andrew Jackson continued his mad burning spree around Dino Attack Headquarters. Once or twice, he saw other Dino Attack agents and medical personnel trying to make their way through the base. When they saw him, they'd shout "What are you doing?" and other sorts of things, but Andrew Jackson just laughed it off. He was having too much fun right now just to stop because someone told him. This was the best time he had since that soon-to-be-dead man took his belongings! Unfortunately, that did still come with some consequences. While fighting a Mutant Raptor, Andrew Jackson's mad swinging of his broom-torches caused the flames to lick at his sleeve and set it on fire; after all, this was not his usual Dino Attack uniform, which was designed to be flame-retardant. Grumbling to himself, Andrew Jackson wasted precious time ripping the sleeve off his shirt and gave the Mutant Raptor an opportunity to attack. "Znap you!" snapped Andrew Jackson, who kicked the beast in the snout and proceeded to drive the Raptor away once he picked up the broom-torches again. Andrew's triumphant laughter was interrupted when he heard some voices nearby. He instantly recognized two of them, picking up on Demoman's drunken rambling and the voice of that Western lady from that Fort Legoredo who did that thing with the Hybrids that one time. There was a woman who spoke with the hint of a pirate accent, and a man who spoke a slight British accent. But there was something that disturbed Andrew Jackson deeply as he eavesdropped on them. He heard them say "Pyro" as they talked to each other. But, as he listened, he realized that they were not talking about someone named Pyro... they were talking to someone named Pyro. "Impossible," whispered Andrew Jackson, who grew suspicious immediately. He followed the voices and found Demoman and that Western lady Maria, along with a pirate woman, a Dino Attack sniper, a Mutant Raptor wearing Demoman's scarf around its head, and someone who made Andrew Jackson's face turn hot with anger. She had long, straight, dark-colored hair, and her back was turned towards Andrew Jackson, so he could not see her face. But, he immediately recognized the flame-retardant Dino Attack uniform that she wore... the flamethrower that she carried... and, most offensive of all, the firefighter's helmet that she wore on her head. "That's my hat!" bellowed Andrew. "Nobody takes my hats!" Yelling incomprehensibly in his maddened fury, Andrew Jackson charged at the group, his twin flaming brooms at the ready. One second later, Andrew Jackson was pinned to the wall by the thief's comrades. Evidently, charging at a whole group of people to take down one person while screaming loudly to give away his position was not as effective a strategy as Andrew had hoped. They accosted him, yelling things like "What the heck do you think you're doing?" and "Holy Znap, man, calm down!" Andrew Jackson pointed at the thief, shouting: "She took my stuff! Get out of my way, or I'll burn your house down too! You don't want to get in the way of a man on a mission! Why, I..." As he was still wearing the balaclava, everything Andrew said came out as incomprehensible muffled gibberish. The others traded glances in confusion. Sighing, Maria stepped forward and pulled Andrew Jackson's mask off, exposing his pale, sweaty, dirty, and unshaven face, as well as making his voice audible. "... the lemons! They burned my house down, these sons of MegaBloks, and they burned my family alive! I'm the only survivor, and by keeping me away from that thief who took my stuff, you're preventing me from extracting my wrathful vengeance and sending all these freaks to the fires of MEGABLOKLAND!" As Andrew Jackson continued to rant, the thief finally stepped forward, and Andrew could see her pale face at last. She stared at Andrew Jackson in his pitiful state, then sighed and shook her head. "It's me, Andrea," she murmured. "Don't you remember... Dad?" Just like that, Andrew Jackson silenced. He stared at the thief... Andrea... in shock as the cold realization washed over his hot face. He was so focused upon avenging his wife and his two sons, who had all died in the housefire, that Andrew Jackson had neglected to consider the possibility that his eldest daughter, who had moved out several years ago, could have survived the initial Dino Attack. "Andrea...?" he whispered. "Is that really you?" Andrea Jackson Orange nodded slowly. "Yes, Dad. It's me." But Andrew Jackson felt no joy over seeing his daughter again. The madness and the anger returned as he pointed an accusing finger at Andrea. "How dare you!" he growled. "You miserable little girl! You were nothing but trouble when you lived at home, you engaged in sinful acts, and now... you dare to steal my stuff? My suit, my flamethrower... my hat! The very hat I wore when I worked for the fire brigade! I worked hard to earn that hat, and you just take it from me? How dare you show your face now! I'm going to burn-" "Dad, listen to me!" Andrea raised her voice. "You never approved of anything I ever did, not even Sam Orange, the only person that I ever truly loved! And I've come back to help you now, and you still disapprove-" "Help me?" snapped Andrew. "You took all my stuff! Your mother and your brothers are dead... you dare to prevent me from avenging their deaths? Those were my tools to giving those reptiles the justice they deserved! And there was a mole running through Dino Attack Headquarters, and I could not spy-check anyone to save my teammates because you took my belongings!" "Listen to me!" shouted Andrea. "Dad, you never listened to me! Never!" She lowered her voice before continuing. "I know that Mom, Jack, and Steve died... but they weren't the only ones, you know. Sam died too, as well as the children we adopted. Dad, we both lost our families in the Dino Attack. All we have now is each other... you're the only family I have left. And when I found you, you were too drunk to do anything about the mole, who had already killed Engineer and Medic!" "Aye," said Demoman, grinning. "That was ah fine drink we had togethah, eh, Pyro?" "I was too late to save Scout, Heavy, Spy, Sniper, and Soldier-" continued Andrea. Demoman suddenly burst into tears. "Ah, Ronald! Why do th' good always hafta die young? They got more cross-dressin' flame-retardant arsonists than they got th' likes of you! Everyone thinks I'm just a..." Sobbing, the explosives expert buried his face into the shoulder of See the Mutant Raptor, who stared quizzically down upon the crying Minifig, who was now mumbling something about a pain train. Sighing, Andrea continued. "I couldn't lose you, Dad. That's why I locked you in your room and took your belongings. I was hoping that, if I posed as you, the mole would come for me instead of you. I wanted to save you, Dad. I wasn't trying to steal your stuff or dishonor the memory of Mom, Jack, and Steve... I was trying to protect you." "Wait a second, so you were never really agent Pyro?" realized Maria. "But... even after I cleaned you up some, you were still so pale. If you weren't wearing that suit all the time, how could...?" "After the initial Dino Attack," explained Andrea, "I wasn't able to be evacuated in time. I banded together with a few other survivors, and we hid out underground in a makeshift bunker we made. We stayed down there for a few months, and we'd only leave on very rare occasions to fetch some food or other supplies, and that was only at night. That's how I got to be so pale. Trust me... I developed some claustrophobia down there and started having hallucinations from being cooped up for so long." Andrea's words washed over Andrew Jackson. Despite being driven to madness, Andrew realized that what she said was true. They had both lost their families, and now that they only had each other, that should cause them to bond more closely as father and daughter than they had ever accomplished before. While it is true that Andrew Jackson's insanity and psychotic pyromania would never be truly cured, just for now, as he realized that the daughter that he once disowned had come back to save his life... Tears formed in Andrew Jackson's eyes. Slowly, he reached out to his daughter, his only family, and looked her in the eyes. "I'm... I'm so sorry..." he whispered. Then, he embraced Andrea as he had never done before, with the tender care of a father who rediscovered his love for his only daughter. ***** "Take us up to the lab, quickly!" ordered Reptile. Reptile's T-1 Typhoon, one of the last that had been holding the line around the remnants of HQ, rose in the air towards the top of HQ. It should not have taken too long, but a few Mutant Pterosaurs were in the way. Coral and Tail, however, were able to destroy them. Reptile sighed. He had tried every trick in his book. Organized defenses. Massive radar ray defense systems. He had even, when HQ had been breached, ordered the detonation of a Green Goo tank, taking out hundreds of Mutant Dinos. And yet it had all seemed so futile. Now, Specs was summoning any Elite Agent willing to help to the laboratory on the thirteenth floor. Reptile hadn't been allowed up there for a long time, so he wasn't completely sure what he would be expected to do. But he knew this: without the best, brightest, and possibly craziest minds of Dino Attack working together to activate the Einstein Device, they were completely doomed. The T-1 Typhoon drew up alongside the floor. Reptile hopped down and turned to regard his comrades, still on their vehicle. "Tail, Coral… it's no use. We can send you through to Antarctica easily enough. Go; save yourselves," he said. There was hesitation over the radio. "Sir, with all due respect, I'd like to stay and buy you some extra time," said Tail. "It's not worth it!" shouted Reptile. "I may be an idealist and an optimist, but even I can see we're doomed. The more agents who survive, the better we'll be able to defend Antarctica." There was another hesitation. "That was an order from Specs, and now it's an order from me, Agent Tail," he added. Then Coral's voice came over the line, even as Reptile saw the figure of Tail dropping down onto the thirteenth floor as well. "Tail's going to come over for the teleport. But I'm staying. And don't you try ordering me, because orders have never stopped me before." Reptile's eyes widened. "You realize it's practically certain death to try and hold the line..." "I know," said Coral. "And that's what I'm counting on. Coral - Glacier - out." Before Reptile could say anything else, the T-1 Typhoon turned and flew back out into the fray. "He's given up too," said Tail sadly. "I've read the Glacier Files. He was always a survivor, he believed in living to fight another day. If he's given up now..." Reptile's face hardened. "Well, I'm not giving up just yet. We still have the Einstein Device - and it's time we got it working." He stormed off into the laboratory. The door to the lab swung open, and in stepped Elite Agent Rotor, accompanied by Cabin and Mac. "Elite Agent Rotor reporting for duty," Rotor said sternly. ***** As Shaw and Hale continued down the hall, they were rather surprised to find a group of agents. "Where'd you come from?" asked Shaw, looking at the new arrivals. "We crashed and just got rescued," replied Spike. "Could someone tell me what happened here?" "Someone detonated a bomb," explained Shaw. "Figures," muttered Spike. "You mind if we take a look at you?" Shaw asked. "Since you're here, a quick examination can't hurt much. There's still nobody around here, anyway." One by one, they approached the various crew members, with the exception of Baldrick, whose stench kept them from going anywhere near him. "I don't know what his problem is," Harris muttered. "I got something really weird here," Hale said suddenly, looking at Spike and noting his incredibly pale complexion. "What's your name?" "Spike." "Well, Spike," said Hale, "your skin is incredibly cold, and you got no pulse." "What?" Shaw asked, approaching her nervously. "How is that possible?" "I don't know," replied Hale. "He should be dead." "He is," explained Buffy. "In a way." "What do you mean?" Hale asked her. "Agent..." "Buffy." "What do you mean he's dead?" inquired Hale. "Obviously, I'm not," Spike said, rolling his bloodshot eyes. "I'm standing here, talking to you." "Creature of the night," explained Buffy. "He's a vampire!" Everyone except Spike, Harris, and a handful of others jumped in shock. "What?" exclaimed Hale. "A vampire? I thought they only existed in cheesy LEGO Studios horror movies!" Spike grinned, showing off his sharp incisors. "Oh, those old horror movies didn't star an actor merely pretending to be a vampire. Nope, he was a genuine vampire too. There's plenty of us in Bricksylvania. Just ask Basil; we drive him batty!" Hale stared suspiciously at Spike, while Shaw clutched the cross on her necklace. "Oh, come on," sighed Spike, rolling his eyes again. "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm not some soulless monster; I've got a Creative Spark, same as you. We vampires have better things to do than to suck your blood; my old pal, Rutger, is far more interested in exquisite fashion and master building. Besides, I'm drinking blood out of mutant dinosaurs these days." Hale rubbed her forehead in exasperation. "Okay," she muttered. "We got vampires on this team now. Sure, why not? Add that to the list: mutants, aliens, cyborgs, robots…" ***** The ways to the hangar catwalks were definitely going to be a challenge. They had been heavily damaged by the explosion earlier, and some were just barely hanging on their wires or other attachments. The main way up to them consisted mainly of ladders, with a few stairwells around the ends near the walls, and most of which were also quite loose after the ordeal as well. Andrew was going to have to be prepared and ready to think quick. There was no other way to the thirteenth floor of the Headquarters. The main halls were overrun by Mutant Lizards or severely damaged, and it would take too long to call a ride up to the top of the building. He needed to find a way up to them, and from there he could quickly get to the relatively safer fourth floor, and from there he could reach a stairway to the top. He first decided to take the stairwell, if only to make an easier ascent. Walking to it, he tried the first step. It creaked quite a bit, but the structure seemed to hold. He took another step. It still held. He continued to slowly but surely move up the steps, picking up a little speed as he did so, eventually reaching the first level of catwalks. As he began moving up to the second level, the stairs began to creak more, seeming to be a bit looser up here. Andrew looked closely at the higher section of the stairs. Sure enough, they were swaying slightly out of connection in the stairs halfway to the third level. He would have to get off at the second and find a ladder from there. When he began going up from the halfway point to the second level, Dino Attack Headquarters shook from another distant explosion. Andrew fell to his stomach on the stairs, watching with horror as the stairs began to sway more and more. He only had seconds to act. He got up on his feet again, clinging to the railing as he moved quickly up to the second catwalk level. Just as he stepped upon it, the stairs swayed heavily away from behind him, pulling on the catwalks with its remaining connections until they snapped, sending the stairs to a timbering fall to the ground. Andrew took a moment to catch his breath as he assessed the situation. The catwalk he was on stretched to the front and back of the hangar, connected by two more paths to intersect another catwalk before reaching the upper levels of the headquarters base. However, both of these crossing catwalks had snapped, so crossing them was impossible. The Elite Agent saw a ladder a few paces away from the site of the stairs, and advance quickly to them. He grabbed onto them, and was about to ascend them when he looked up and was met with an annoying surprise. The ladder was made to only be fully used if one was on the side facing away from the catwalks, otherwise they would only make a person bump their head on the next level of catwalk. Andrew supposed this wasn't a problem for the engineers and mechanics who had to keep scurrying up and down the things when working on repairing various Dino Attack vehicles, but for him, he could only hope he was still as nimble and flexible for this has he had said he had when he described himself as "flexible" while signing up. Grabbing onto the ladder rungs with his hands and feet (his laser rifle safely kept strapped on his back), he then reached his right hand around to grab the rung on the other side, did the same with his right foot, then quickly flung himself around the ladder and had his left limbs get a firm hold on the rungs. He briefly took a moment to catch his breath again, then began to actually climb the thing. In no time, he reached the third floor of catwalks. Here were several access stairways to the landing pads atop the hangar along with the pats back to the rest of the base. The level seemed mostly intact, thanks to being more firmly attached to the ceiling at this level, but were precariously swaying at a noticeable rate. Flipping over to the catwalk, Andrew knew this was just as risky as his ascent had been, perhaps more so. The prospect of advancing over these catwalks reminded him of an incident back in the 80s where two hotel skywalks had collapsed, due to faulty supports, on over a hundred people during a dance party. He forced himself to not focus on the memories of the news footage of the scene, and instead reminded him that there was only one option if he hoped to meet his comrades on the thirteenth floor. Taking a deep breath, Andrew stepped back a bit, then, charged down the catwalk to the other end of the hangar. The structure creaked and made slight cracking noises as he ran, but he kept going, taking only the caution to stay close to the railing. Halfway across, the catwalk began to sway. Andrew took only slight notice. Then it began to lean slightly to the left, the side of which Andrew was leaning close to the railing. Now, he took notice. He slowed down, and moved quickly to the other side. The moment he grabbed the railing on said side, the left side of the railing fell, leaving the catwalk hanging on its right side, and the LEGO Islander hanging by the handrails. Thank Ole they at least remembered these! Andrew thought. But he wasn't out of his predicament yet. His only option now was to continue moving by crossing along the handrails like the old monkey bars he used to play on in his younger years. It was a hard task, not only because the horizontal nature of the railings forcing him to move sideways instead of forwards, but the factor of looking down and seeing you were four stories away from the ground was never something pleasant to look at, even if one wasn't stuck with acrophobia. Slowly, Andrew made his way across. Soon enough, he was a little close to a third of the way across. Then a half. Then another third. Eventually, he reached the catwalk on the other end, still upright, having merely had a snapped connection when Andrew's catwalk had fallen. Taking great care to keep his grip in spite of his fatigue and aching arms, Andrew moved up close to the other catwalk, then grabbed onto the snapped-off edge where the snap had taken place. Another moment later, he moved his other hand to it. Finally, he pulled himself up with great effort, and let himself lie flat on the upright structure. He let himself rest for about a minute as he caught his breath. The headquarters shook again. Realizing time was still of the essence, Andrew got up, and advanced to the path to the main headquarters' fourth floor. Opening the door, he was greeted with the smell of smoke and the sight of several collapsed walls. Not only from the explosion earlier, but from the earlier Inferno attack that had crippled Hertz's hearing. Fortunately, the rubble had been cleared by the rescue teams that had come up. It took Andrew no time to find the path to a stairwell connecting to both ends of the tower section of Headquarters. He opened the door, and was mildly surprised to see the faces of Kate Bishop and an older woman that he presumed had been her mother that everyone had been talking about. "Oh, uh, hello, Kate," said Andrew, tipping his hat to her mother in friendliness. "Mrs. Bishop. You have to forgive me, I just came from a rather tiring route through the remains of the route from the hangars. I guess you're walking with each other on the way to evacuate your mother, Kate?" ***** Bluetooth was worried. Specs's announcement had worried him. Semick's own had been spirit-lifting, but didn't help. The Futuron technician was realizing now that he was likely to die. Die for the good cause of standing off against the Mutant Dinos to the end, but still dying. He wasn't comfortable about that. In his left hand was his PDA, which he was looking at on and off as he monitored the numbers of remaining enemies on the TALON-9 radar. He felt the need to write something to someone, something like a last will and testament, or the last letter the young men of wars' past had written to their mothers. But who to write to? His family was out in the asteroid colonies, only hearing from him through the occasional transmission from Alpha Team's limited Intergalactic Communications Center in Antarctica. His friends were either in the refugee facilities or back on the Luna base. He wasn't quite close enough to any of his Dino Attack colleagues to send a message to them, so who else could he- "Vinyaya," he unconsciously muttered. His eyes widened. "Wait... no, no, I don't know her! She barely remembers me as it is!" But his mind told himself there was still something between them. There had been the idea of a kind of an alien defense unit that he had talked to her after recalling those warnings from the edges of the Milky Way. That idea, to adapt Dino Attack to such a force after the war, was still unaddressed beyond talks, and after this battle there might not be much left to adapt, but the idea was still there. And ideas had been enough so many times before to create great things. Yes... Bluetooth still had a loose end between him and Vinyaya through that "ADU" idea. Perhaps he could take a chance and use that opportunity. He did have nothing to lose from it, after all. He rose his PDA to his eyes, and began typing out a message. Dear Commander Vinyaya, I know you probably don't remember me. There were the talks about Rotor and Brown's release, and random meetings before the Maelstrom temple, but we haven't talked much since our first meeting at the camp near where the XERRD Fortress was leveled. Semick's going to stay here and fight it out, so I guess that doesn't stand well for my chances for survival. You're on the front lines, I know, but you have more combat experience than me, so I'm guessing you'll live this one out. Basically, I just want to say I don't want you to give up on the idea of adapting Dino Attack into an alien defense unit or something I suggested. Those UFO readings may be distant, but from what it looks, they still look like they have intents with Earth that aren't peaceful. We should be prepared, especially considering how much we have to recover from these Mutant Dinos, as well as whatever else might target this island, Earth, in the future. Nobody wants what happened to Mars to happen again. Also, I have a confession to make. I'll say it frankly, I'm fond of you. I suppose my nervousness on our first meeting made it a bit obvious, but there's also the detail that I was determined to help Fabello help you when you were taken out by Zach's abuse of your body for a shield. I guess it might've faded a bit when we met over French Fries's idiotic orders, but I suppose I was too furious over the situation to remember that. But now, as it sinks in that I may not survive this battle, I feel the feelings of joy and admiration rising to the forefront, along with the guilt and regret that it never went anywhere before now. Remember me, and remember the "ADU" idea, so to call it. Perhaps if I do make it, we can meet again, and you can get me back down to Earth by making it clear that we can do well as friends and comrades. If not, well, at least I've lifted a large burden on me during my final hours, and hopefully I'll leave a legacy that can help the planet keep on goin' even after this Dino Attack. Most Sincerely, Bluetooth, AKA Ryan Radcliff After taking a moment to read over his finished work, Bluetooth hit "Send", and returned to his duties on the radar. It was time to face the music. ***** If there was one thing LEGO Island had taught Hotwire, it was that very, very bad things could happen when a hostile boarded your T-1 Typhoon. It was for this reason that he'd devised a failsafe the previous night and installed it in the Talon II. He'd known that nobody would be manning the TALON-9 console, which had made the process slightly easier. Unfortunately, there was really no way to work around the danger that would be posed to whomever was in the upper front cockpit. But that cockpit was empty now. Hotwire certainly didn't want to leave the rear cockpit; in their position, leaving one end of the craft undefended could lead to disaster. So, as the Fright Knights clung to the side of the T-1 Typhoon and made their way to the side door -- closed and locked, of course, but that was little obstacle, as the doors were made to be opened from either side, and a sword punched through the locking mechanism made it ineffective to say the least -- he activated his makeshift welcoming committee. The door was sliding open. "As soon as they're inside, duck and cover your ears," he called to Larson, and hoped the pilot would trust him. There was no time to wait for an answer. Two pairs of armored boots hit the deck, and Hotwire hit the switch. There was no way of telling what exactly the Fright Knights' expectations were, but it was very likely that a Sonic Screamer underneath the scanner console wasn't one of them. The knight that caught the brunt of the pounding of sound waves collapsed with a clatter of chain mail, unconscious. The other, off to the side somewhat, staggered back, clutching his head. Unfortunately, since he was right next to the open door, he staggered right out of the T-1 Typhoon, his downward journey interrupted only by the bulk of the starboard Quintronic Beam Emitter. "Now then," said Hotwire, "where were we? On the way to HQ, I'd suggest." Within a minute, they were hovering above the roof of the Dino Attack Headquarters. "I imagine you'd have a harder time with all those stairs," Larson explained. "I'll let you down from up here, then find a spot to park." Hotwire, already moving towards the winch, nodded. The pilot paused only to trigger the PLARXX Radar Ray as a few Pterosaurs began to look a bit too interested, and then lowered Hotwire the last twenty feet to the roof. ***** "We're both getting out of here," Sarah said sternly. "It's not safe." "Kate, you can't go," Andrew said. "You're part of this team; you need to come with us." "I don't want to lose her," Sarah insisted. "Mom," Kate said. "He's got a point." "You remember what you did back on Adventurers' Island?" Andrew asked. "You beat the friggin' Darkitect!" Kate started to remember. She slowly broke free of her mother's grip. "I mean," Andrew continued, "I know you haven't taken some of the revelations you got at Adventurers' Island quite well, I've read the reports, but you're far from a useless member of the team. You were part of the welcoming team when Zenna's crew arrived back on the island. You helped out with rescue attempts for the Rear Guard, you were very interested and involved with the Maelstrom aspects of the mission, you built a bomb to help off with warding off Mutant Pterosaurs, and you did a good job at swiping us those XERRD binders." "...Yes, I do remember that, Andrew..." Kate said slowly, the thoughts of events past appearing to appear in her head. Sarah Bishop seemed a bit surprised with the actions of her daughter, but did keep the collectivism to confront Andrew. "Listen," she said, "I know she's been rather proactive on the team, but she's gone through a lot over these past 60 hours, it really would be in her best interests to get away from everything." "We've all been through a lot, miss," said Andrew. "The traitor business, French Fries's stupidity, the magnitude of this final battle... but overall, this whole team's been holding together and continuing to fight the fight we've fighting for nearly a year." "She's 18 years old! How can you expect someone her age to cope with such matters?" "A lot of our good agents are 18," retorted Andrew, "myself included. And look where I am now: I'm an Elite Agent, with a good set of friends and companions, and a collected and stable mindset." Sarah Bishop looked a little frustrated, but sighed in submissiveness. "Very well, if you think she can be good enough to continue serving, you may very well bring her out there into that mess of a battle." "Might not be the best of ideas at the moment," said Andrew, "given the circumstances, but let me explain it to her first, it's really her choice." The LEGO Islander looked back at the young fellow agent. "Kate, I admit frankly that I've been a bit disappointed by how you've been acting since the XERRD Fortress. I do understand that being forced by Rotor to sneak back in there, being locked in an office by one of XERRD's top leaders, then learning of family connections between you and him is shocking, but it seems you've been taking it very, very harshly. "Now, I heard what happened in the Maelstrom Temple as well. You met Wallace Bishop, in the sense that you learned of his true status and connection to your family, as well as the man who took his guise for the sake of Minifigkind. I haven't heard exactly what he said, but from what I heard from Rex and Vinyaya's mission reports, apparently he and you shared several close words, am I right?" Kate nodded in agreement. Andrew guessed that she was thinking about what she had heard Dr. Einstein tell her not too long ago. "Now, I know it must've felt horrible to lose such a recently-met friend so quickly, but he died for a good cause, for you to help save us all by stabbing his Creative Spark right into the Imagination Orb, banishing the Darkitect from the temple and the planet!" Andrew suddenly remembered the giant purple Mutant T-Rex at the headquarters gate. "Well, so we thought. But still, the point is you earned yourself a place in the history books, and I don't think that the heroine of the Maelstrom Temple should be left a sad, tearful young girl who feels she isn't good enough for the team anymore." The young woman was silent, apparently taking her time to think about all that she was hearing. "Now," Andrew concluded, "like I said, the way out to the battle is mighty dangerous right now, and the battle itself a bit more so. Specs even encouraged all the Rookies to evacuate. But you're no rookie, Kate. You're a veteran and survivor of Adventurers' Island, and as far as I'm concerned, you're as good as an agent as Rex himself. I'd encourage you to follow me to the thirteenth floor, but instead of going to Antarctica, I say you stay with us and help us out with our defeat of Dr. Rex once and for all. You're clever and good at solving problems. I'm sure you can think of something that can help with the plans. So are you with me?" Kate slowly stepped away from her mother and nervously approached. "What are you doing?" Sarah asked. "It's okay, Mom," replied Kate. "He's right." Sarah looked at them, especially her. "Kate, look, I don't want to lose you." "You won't, Mom." "You don't understand," pleaded Sarah. "You're all I have. If you died here, I don't know what I'd do!" Andrew thought quickly how he could address Mrs. Bishop's concerns. She did have some sound reasoning, wanting to be a protective mother and all. If she didn't want her to be separated from her, then... "Well, you don't have to leave her alone out there," the Elite Agent suggested. "I've heard the stories; you've apparently done quite a job with some of XERRD's forces earlier with the Third Headquarters Squad crew. Plus that incident where you beat up Rotor and Cabin when they came back here… that's quite infamous among the ranks right now." Sarah Bishop looked at him and shrugged. "What can I say? You shouldn't stay in the way of a mother trying to protect her children." "Then perhaps you could fight alongside her? I'm sure nobody would mind, and at this hour, I'm sure your help would be most appreciated." Sarah Bishop took a moment to think about it. "What do you want me to do?" "It's as simple as I said," Andrew told Sarah Bishop. "Just follow her into battle and watch her back. Provide cover while she's helping us for objectives, and that sort of thing." ***** "So, Holly," Zach said as he continued driving toward Dino Attack Headquarters. "How's the battle been treating you?" "Firstly, Virchaus," Vinyaya said irritably as she pointed her Cosmotronic Ray out the window and opened fire on Mutant Dinos, "call me by my rank or my last name. Secondly, other than losing my eye, I've been holding up rather well, even killing Paulie Gonepus." "I assume this was before the alliance? Or was he a renegade?" "Before the alliance. From what he said, he would've killed or usurped Blaire Darkling and taken control of XERRD of himself. And based on his apathy toward my accusations, he would've continued to aid the Mutant Dinos." Zach smirked. "Well then, good on you." The Fire Hammer rattled as it ran over a mutilated Raptor corpse. They sat in silence until Vinyaya spoke up again. "How are you doing, Minerva? I'm sorry about your mom." Zach didn't expect Minerva to respond. To his surprise, she did. "I'm doing... okay. Thanks for the... yeah, um, it's okay. I'm okay." Minerva voice was quiet and extremely reserved. Out of his peripheral vision, Zach could see Vinyaya give him a concerned look. Zach turned his head toward the Space Police commando and gave her a serious look, trying to suggest Minerva would be okay. Vinyaya shrugged and continued to shoot down dinos. "Any idea what Nazareno and Zelda are up to?" Zach asked, trying to keep up a normal conversation. It might as well be the last one ever. And besides, even though they had all been in the same area for less than five minutes, Zach felt a strange group dynamic amongst him, Minerva, Nazareno, Vinyaya, and Zelda. An amused smirk formed on Vinyaya's face. "I do have an idea. I met up with Nazareno, and he told me that Zelda confessed." Zach was slightly lost until Minerva spoke up: "You mean she told him about her crush?" Then Zach nodded in remembrance. "Yeah. I guess Nazareno messed up. He was basically the equivalent of a teenager who was having romantic feelings for the first time in his life. Which was basically how it was. He had no idea what to do or how he actually felt, so I had to guide him along I bit. I assume now he's going to or already has returned her feelings." Zach smiled, imagining the great and powerful Nazareno totally lost on how to handle Zelda's feelings. "Well, good for them." He paused as another memory suddenly flashed through his mind. "I suppose that means I have to ship you with someone else, don't I?" He was impressed with how quick Vinyaya's eye narrowed. "This again, Zachary? Is this really the time?" Zach shrugged. "Might as well. It amuses me, primarily because it annoys you." "What are you two talking about?" Minerva asked, confused. "You know when Vinyaya pulled me away to talk to me after we locked up Onion Rings or whatever his name was. After our talk and we started to search the headquarters for you, Zelda, and Nazareno, I decided to start pairing off Vinyaya with potential suitors-" "None which are going to happen," Vinyaya added with a grumble. "-that doesn't matter to shippers. Vinyaya with Nazareno was my favorite choice, but I came up with a couple more." Zach could almost imagine Minerva smiling curiously as she spoke. "Like what?" "Let's see if I remember them all. I romantically paired Vinyaya with Nazareno, Marco Martinet, Frozeen, Hotwire, Rotor, Clint Wayne, Trigger, Semick, Bluetooth, Stranger, Hertz, Pharisee, Dr. Cyborg, and... I think that's it." Zach was happy to hear Minerva laughing over the comm. It was rather reserved, but still laughing. Anything to get her mind off of Oswald and Athena. "Wow," was all Minerva managed to say. "Yeah, so now I need to come up with a new favorite pairing to root for." "Despite the fact," Vinyaya said, half-amused. "I've barely spoken to most of the people you mentioned." "Yeah, but that's the fun isn't it?" Zach argued. Silence fell over the Fire Hammer as they continued their advance toward the Dino Attack Headquarters. Zach got on to the radio and secured a Dino Air Tracker to airlift them to the thirteenth floor to save them trying to traverse the ruined headquarters. As they continued, Minerva suddenly spoke. "Why not Vinyaya and Bluetooth?" Vinyaya rolled her eye in irritation as Zach laughed. "Not you too, Minerva." "What makes you say that?" Zach asked, now curious. "When they met on Adventurers' Island," explained Minerva, "Bluetooth was proposing some idea about turning the team into a planetary defense force after this war. He decided to tell Vinyaya due to her Space Police background. But when he was telling her about his idea, he could hardly talk. He could've easily been smitten by Vinyaya and was nervous about speaking to her." "What if he was just nervous I'd turn down his idea?" Vinyaya shot back, clearly unimpressed with Minerva joining in the shipping joke. Zach laughed again. "Doesn't matter, Vinyaya. The theory's there, and that's all the shippers need." Suddenly, a small buzzing sound echoed through the Fire Hammer cab. Vinyaya turned, surprised, and pulled a PDA from her belt. "What's the matter now?" Zach groaned. "Any more hopeless odds to stack up against us?" "No...at least, I don't think so," Vinyaya said, looking at the device's small screen with surprise. "It's from Bluetooth." Zach raised an eyebrow in surprise. Vinyaya's left eye moved rapidly from left to right as she read the message. As she continued, more surprise seemed to form on her face. Zach pulled up to the front of Dino Attack Headquarters to wait for the Dino Air Tracker. He then turned to Vinyaya. "What did it say?" "I..." Vinyaya was losing her composure fast. Her face was turning red rapidly. Zach suddenly felt a grin forming on his face. She glared at him. "It's nothing," she said, flustered. Zach shook his head and grabbed the PDA out of Vinyaya's hand. Her arm quickly snapped out and grabbed his. She gave him an angry look that he ignored as he tossed the PDA to his other hand. He then began to read the message from Bluetooth despite Vinyaya's protests. "What's going on?" Minerva asked, morbid curiosity her voice. "Here, I'll read it aloud." And so Zach did. Every word. "Well," Zach said as he completed his retelling of Bluetooth's message. His smile probably stretched from ear to ear. "He's fond of you." Minerva wasn't repressing her laughter at this point. "I was right!" Vinyaya wasn't amused in the slightest. "You don't have to laugh at him-" "We're not," Zach said, suppressing his snickers. "We're laughing at the fact that our 'Vinyaya/Bluetooth' pairing now has some merit! So what are you going to write back?" "I-I don't know. I mean, I hardly know him. I'm... I'm flattered, I suppose. I mean I... I might be willing to try something with him. But he sent that message with the idea he was about to die. What can I say?" Zach shrugged. "Any ideas, Minerva?" No response. "Minerva? Are you okay?" Still nothing. Something was horribly wrong. He was about to climb out of the Fire Hammer when one of the back doors opened and Minerva dived into the seat. She slammed the door shut and laid down on her back clutching the upper part of her right arm. Zach's eyes widened in shock as he saw blood dripping past her hand. "Minerva!" Zach gasped. "What-" "Bandage!" Minerva gasped. Her face was as white as snow and a look of absolute terror was carved into it. "Medical tape, something!" Vinyaya quickly turned to the glove compartment and starting shuffling through supplies until she pulled out a roll of medical tape. Vinyaya was about to apply it to Minerva's arm when Minerva snatched the roll away. Minerva removed her hand from the wound and tore off the sleeve of her right arm and wiped the blood away. Minerva then began to wrap the tape around her arm. "Minerva, what happened?" Zach asked, worried. "A bullet grazed my arm," Minerva grimaced, her face scrunched in pain. "It was fired-" Her explanation was silenced as waves of bullets suddenly attacked the Fire Hammer's driver side. Zach and Vinyaya ducked their heads as bullets slammed and ricocheted into the Fire Hammer's hull and windows. After ten seconds, the firing seized. Zach raised his head slowly. Thankfully, the windows of the vehicle were mostly bulletproof, catching all the bullets and allowing none to pass through. Though now the windows and the windshield were cracked. Through the cracks, Zach could see a figure several yards away walking toward the Fire Hammer, a smoking machine gun in his hand. Zach flinched in realization. Oswald Fabello was here for his sister. ***** "I didn't know vampires existed," Shaw remarked as she walked up the stairs with Spike, Buffy, Harris, and the others behind her. "Where'd Carver say she'd meet us?" asked Hale. "13th Floor," replied Shaw. "And we're going to help them?" Hale continued. "That's right," affirmed Shaw. "What can you do, Shaw?" said Hale. "You can pray for them all you want, but it's not going to get anywhere." Shaw stopped. "At this point, I think things are desperate enough that we'll need all the help we can get. Even a little faith might help." Hale sighed, and continued to follow her. "Do you think we can trust him?" she asked, glancing back at Spike. "He's a friggin' vampire!" "He has a soul," replied Shaw. "How do we know that? Because he told us so? And Buffy knew what he was; she could be a vam-" "She still has a pulse," Shaw pointed out. At that moment, a loud explosion rang through the building, knocking everyone off their feet. They looked down to the bottom of the stairwell to see the first few stairs obliterated. ***** "Well..." Sarah said as she thought about Andrew's proposal. As the Elite Agent waited for a response, yet another explosion, this one particularly audible, shook the stairwell. Andrew fell back onto the wall of the stairway, barely staying on his feet, while the Bishops were knocked down to the floor. "Geeze, this building is getting a lot of secondary explosions right now!" Andrew cried out as the shaking subsided. "Ugh, it must be that guy, Firecracker!" said Sarah as she got up and helped her daughter do the same. "He was with the Third Headquarters Squad, and I bet he's getting the idea that bringing the building down on the Mutant Dinos is the last option right now!" "But they've barely hit the building, and Dr. Rex has only hit the outer walls! I mean, really, what is he thinking?" "He's as explosion-obsessed as Demoman," Kate said. "I heard that he almost set off the explosives Demoman set up in his fit of crazy, and was only stopped by faulty wiring. He's nuts!" "Ugh," Andrew said as he put his palm to his face. "We don't have time for this nonsense, I gotta be up on the 13th floor ASAP." He pulled out his PDA and began typing out a message. To all Dino Attack agents in the headquarters but not evacuating or joining the Elite Agents: We've got another rogue agent trying to bring trouble. Agent Firecracker is seemingly intent on blowing up the headquarters, and is possibly the cause of its currently critical condition. It seems now that he is trying to finish the job. He must be found and stopped at all costs! Elite Agent Andrew "That'll have to do for now," Andrew muttered as he sent the message. "Right now, I need to get going. Think over my offer, but either way, I guess you need to follow me upstairs for either of your objectives." He started running up the stairs, turning back briefly to gesture and say, "C'mon!" to the Bishops before continuing up. ***** The door to the lab opened quickly as Shaw ran into the room accompanied by Hale, a group of agents with them. "We found a bunch of people downstairs," Shaw explained. "Spike, Harris, Buffy?" Rotor shouted. "Lance, what are you doing here? And I think we might want to get rid of Baldrick." Meanwhile, Spike took a good look at the teleport. "Ah," he said. "That is a beaut, ain't it?" "I was wondering if you needed any help," Shaw explained. "Pierce sent us up here to find any wounded agents, but I heard about what was going on here. We didn't find any wounded just yet-" "We should be going now, Shaw," interrupted Hale. Shaw ignored her. "I was wondering if there was anything I could do to help," Shaw continued. "If you need an extra hand or someone to provide medical support, or even just someone who can stand back and pray you succeed." ***** B walked to the ruined building, where there had been a diner about a year ago. He cautiously entered the wreckage, looking around for Tempest. However, there was no one else in the building. He turned around, and was about to exit the building when he heard a gunshot. He looked down and saw a bullet hole at his feet. B looked up at the building across the street. Surprisingly, it was still mostly intact, but it was only ten stories high. On the roof, B saw a figure staring down at him. "Aw, MegaBlok." B sprinted across the street, dodging shots from the sniper. He stopped at the entrance of the building. He entered the building cautiously, looking for any dinos or any allies of the sniper. He carefully surveyed the ground floor, looking out at the broken city block. After carefully considering a spot, he placed the duffel bag in the corner of the building opposite where he had come in. He opened the bag and removed a small remote. "So," said B, "I'm alone. No backup. Like that hasn't happened before." He chuckled at his own sarcasm. I'm crazy, thought B. I survived once. It was pure luck that nothing happened besides what already had. I'm fueled only by thoughts of revenge. This isn't even part of my mission. Is it worth it? I'm probably going to die. I am going to die. I don't care. That's why. That is why I do these things. I have no care for my safety, as long as it doesn't put my team in danger. They must be out of the zone now. I got one shot. Well, no sense putting off the inevitable. And after that, B started up the stairway to the roof. ***** As soon as Andrea Jackson Orange stepped away from her father, Maria slowly reached out and took her hand. "Boy, if ma' daddy were here to see this," Maria remarked with a slight chuckle. "Here, why don't we get that there suit off you?" Andrea nodded. Maria led her down the corridor to an isolated room. They stepped inside. First, they took off the helmet, then the baggy suit slowly started to come off. The two women were closer than ever when they finally looked into each other's eyes. "I know this here's a bit soon Py- Andrea," Maria remarked. "But I think I might be feeling something." "I know what you mean," replied Andrea. Maria had finally gotten Andrea's baggy suit off. "You don't understand," she said. "I think-" "I love you too," Andrea finally said. Maria looked at her in surprise. "I guess the situation's dire enough that a little love won't hurt." Maria smiled. She wrapped her arms around Andrea's neck, and slowly they put their lips together... The sentimental moment between Andrea and Maria was abruptly interrupted by the beeping of the former's PDA. Andrea quickly rummaged through the baggy suit and grabbed the device, and read the message. "We got to do something quick," she said. "What's wrong?" inquired Maria. "Firecracker," replied Andrea. "Let's go!" As soon as they stepped out of the room, they found the other members of the squad waiting for them. "Was Firecracker the one that set up those charges?" Maynard asked. Maria nodded. "Apparently, he's gone crazy," she said. ***** Whoever had designed the Dino Attack Headquarters was smart enough to build the steps leading up the thirteenth floor out of sturdy concrete. However, they were incredibly stupid when considering making the building the thirteen stories high in the first place. While bits of dust and small ruble littered the staircase, Hertz was pleased to find the stairwell they were ascending was relatively stable. The same could not be said for the tower, however. Firecracker had placed charges randomly around the base but had not gotten any higher than the third floor. While the damage to the upper levels was relatively mild, it created no illusion that the building itself was stable. With the lack of hearing, Hertz was developing a greater sense of balance and was starting to feel the tower sway the higher he went. Sparks shot from an exposed wire, and the lights flickered. Smoke was a small problem, but damage to some of the generators in the basement meant that electricity would come and go. Assuming Firecracker was not a total moron, Hertz expected the backup generators would kick in as soon as the current power inevitably disappeared. But considering Firecracker's idiocy, the elite agent would not be surprised if the demolitionist had deliberately destroyed those as well. Hertz and Naomi passed a sign that read number eight. Five more floors and they would reach the teleportation pad on the uppermost levels. Once they arrived, Hertz would bid farewell to Naomi and prepare for a valiant fight. He had little idea what was expected of him or how much impact he could make, but he was bound and determined to try even if he was deaf. They passed the ninth floor, and Hertz took an opportunity to look over the railing. The flights of stairs spiraled down the square shaft into darkness below. He instinctively kicked a piece of concrete over the edge to watch it fall and disappear into the blackness without a sound. Naomi suddenly pulled Hertz away from the edge, and her face contorted into a scream. Looking to the wall behind him, he spotted three bullet holes where his head had been. Obviously, he had not heard the gunshots, and he looked around in panic to spot the shooter. More bullet holes appeared at his feet, and bits of dust revealed the machine gun spray of the shooter. Hertz was unable to hear anything around him, but he soon spotted a flash of orange charge up the stairs to greet him. Hertz pulled out his sidearm to take aim at the Inferno henchman, but the weapon was silently knocked aside before the two clashed. Hertz was thrown against the railing of the staircase to lean dangerously over the nine floors. With his broken arm, he sent a weak punch to the side of the Inferno agent and pushed him aside. Although the attack was not powerful, it had enough energy to cause pain to the man's kidney and send him sprawling down a flight of stairs to the next landing. It was at that moment that the Fright Knight attacked from the nearby doorway. With a silent battle cry, his sword swept through the air and collided with the metal railing above Hertz's head. The elite agent ducked out of the way to reach for his gun, but was slammed in the back by the butt of the Fright Knight's sword. Hertz rolled aside and sent out a kick to the chest of the man, pushing him against the railing of the stairway. The sword came down again, but Hertz grabbed the knight's arm with his good arm and twisted the weapon out of the man's grasp. The blade tumbled down the staircase in muteness, and Hertz pushed forward with all his might. The knight let out a silent scream as he was flipped over the railing and disappeared into blackness below. Then a shockwave pushed Hertz against the wall of the stairway. The Inferno agent had recovered enough to open fire with his stolen Sonic Screamer but had a perplexed look on his face when Hertz was not incapacitated by the noise. Ordinarily, the sound from a Sonic Screamer was enough to bring a man to his knees, but the only effect on Hertz was having the wind knocked out of him. The agent fired again, but Hertz did not scream in agony at the sound. The elite agent rolled down the wall and reached for his gun, but the Sonic Screamer was thrown and collided with his face. The Inferno agent was once again upon him, and a short fistfight ensued. The attack was viscous and relatively one-sided, considering Hertz only could properly move his right hand, but he had enough success pushing the henchman against the wall. A kick to the gut sent Hertz reeling backwards and up the next flight of stairs. He looked up at the Inferno henchman, whose lips moved to say a one-liner that was probably original and well-thought out. The sentiment was lost on Hertz as he reached for the Sonic Screamer and blasted the henchman through the ninth floor door and through a layer of adjacent drywall. His legs gave a spasm of pain before they lay still. Hertz let out a sigh of relief. Both men were dead, and he had taken their lives. It was the first time he had done such a thing, and the sensation was not pleasant. The shock of the actions would take a while to set in; he hoped it would not happen until after the battle. He still had a lot of work to do; he could not afford to grieve. Naomi put a hand on his shoulder, and the elite agent flinched. They had to keep moving and could not afford to stay in the staircase forever. He retrieved his sidearm and shouldered the Sonic Screamer. Four more floors to go, and they would reach the thirteenth level. Thirteen, thought Hertz. Unlucky number. Great. He pushed the recent killing aside and continued up the flight of stairs to the teleportation pad. He opened the door and found the pad just as it should be. From the top of the base, Hertz could see the battle with his own eyes and viewed the fires burning all over the city. Rain continued to pour down on the dismal figure present all around. Rex, General, Specs, Greybeard, Frozeen, Shannon, and Dr. Cyborg turned to face him in the downpour. "ELITE AGENT HERTZ," said Hertz in what he hoped was a normal voice. "REPORTING FOR DUTY." ***** Catless was firing the Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher almost constantly, and they weren't even in the thickest of the Mutant Dinos. Laxus was driving, and he finally drove onto a deserted street to fix a couple of bricks that were peeling off, which would have made the Fire Hammer fall apart. Pterisa was able to defend the Hammer by herself, so Catless hopped off to check the swivel for the gun. It was fine, but she heard a cry for help in a familiar voice. "I'll be back in a minute, Pterisa. If I need help, I'll call," Catless said. "Okay, but don't be too long. If I have to, I'll get you myself," Pterisa replied. Catless ran off, but not before selecting a Cosmotronic Ray from the mini-armory they ran in the back of the cab. She ran a few buildings down the street, then went down the alley the cry came from. She realized it was a good thing she grabbed the Cosmotronic Ray, since leaning over a woman on the ground was a snarling Mutant Raptor. Catless whipped the gun up to her shoulder and fired a shot in the Mutant Raptor's eye. It hit, and was a lethal shot. The Raptor fell with a cry, and Catless ran to the woman on the ground. She looked familiar. With a sinking feeling, she recognized Elizabeth "Contest" Cyrista. "Ah, Catless... good... to see you again... I think…" Contest broke off with a cough. Catless glanced down and saw the flesh over Contest's heart and lungs had been burned into with Mutant Lizard acid. They both knew the wound was fatal, and neither was going to waste breath pretending it wasn't. "Catless, I'm glad... you're the last... face I see... Tell Matthew... that I've heard... and seen... his exploits with... XERRD and Dino Attack... Tell him... I'm proud of him... for redeeming himself... Catless, I lost my last contest... with that Mutant Lizard... But I've won... the contest of life... I see Heaven... I've finally won the best contest to win. Catless, tell Matthew I'll miss him and goodbye... Goodbye, Catless." Contest trailed off as she breathed her last and died. Catless stood up and rearranged Contest's body to look peaceful in death. She looked around, and her expression hardened. She had lost so many in the Dino Attack. Her mother, father, little sister, and friends. But the most recent deaths always hurt the most. She had lost her best friend, and a close friend's sister at the same time. Catless walked back towards the newly-repaired Fire Hammer, put the Cosmotronic Ray back in the cab, climbed up on the turret, and activated the Xenon Multi-Mode launcher. "Let's go," she coldly told Pterisa and Laxus. "Catless, what's wrong?" Pterisa asked, having become Catless's friend from chatting while shooting. "I lost my best friend, who happens to be Dr. Cyborg's sister, and I have to tell him later. I'm a little ticked at the Mutant Dinos right now, so let's get fighting," Catless replied. Laxus complied and drove back into the fray, Catless warming up the Xenon's energy mode all the while. ***** Another Mutant Lizard cried in pain as Firecracker tossed another stick of dynamite its way. He chuckled, then reached into his coat, only to realize to his shock, there was no more dynamite left; he'd used up all his sticks. Clearly there was only one solution: to go to the armory and get some more… or even better, just blow up the armory, either way would theoretically work. But then he was stopped by the sound of a gun cock. "That's enough," said the gruff voice Firecracker recognized as Clint Wayne. He'd seen this man's shooting skills and, without any explosives to utilize, he had no real way of fighting back. "Now, I want you to open your coat, nice and slow." Firecracker turned, and slowly opened his jacket. Nothing was there… yet. "Good," Clint said, placing a cigar in his mouth. "I'd like you to come with me." ***** Raine Dashworthy soared over the battlefield that was LEGO City in her Agents Supersonic Jet. She loved to fly, and loved to fly fast. She might have considered dropping out of the Agents Defense Organization for the Dino Attack Team when this apocalypse began, but only have slow-moving and clunky T-1 Typhoons as air vehicles didn't suit her style. She had spent the bulk of the battle flying overhead taking out Mutant Pterosaurs and Inferno aircraft. Occasionally, she'd swoop down and bomb the bricks out of the Maelstrom's ground forces and in one case, under the request of an old Agent friend by the name of Zachary Virchaus, a XERRD outpost that hosted a man that had killed Thaddeus Brickhouse. Raine was disappointed to hear that not only did the man survive, but took over XERRD. Sure, he allied with the Dino Attack Team, but that doesn't change the fact he killed Thad. With the new arrivals in the form of Fright Knight windships and Maelstrom Dragons, Raine made sure to stay in the sky. It was a losing battle. Raine quickly decided the best way to scatter the Fright Knight forces was to take out the massive windship commanded by Willa the Witch herself. The witch wasn't making it easy. She had the largest Maelstrom Dragon Raine had seen so far holding the witch's ship in the air, and it blasted destructive purple flames at any ship that strayed too close. Additionally, the witch could ram her ship into a helicopter with the two halberds jutting out from the front of the cruiser. Willa the Witch also used her own magic to form a shield around the Windship and to attack her enemies. So, Raine had decided to gather up a group of Agents jet pilots to take down the wicked witch's windship. Colonel Score, one of the Agents' commanding jet pilots, was killed barely half an hour ago after a nasty run-in with Dr. Rex himself. Agent Chase had seen fit to promote Raine to Colonel to maintain some order amongst the jet pilots. Raine wasn't much of a commander, but her loyalty to Chase opted her to take the position. Plus, Colonel Dashworthy sounded rather good to her. "Is everyone accounted for?" Raine called out over her comm. "Righto," called Gilda. "Let's do this," said Soarin. "I've seen worse," said Spitfire. "Let's sink this hag!" said Cloudchaser. "Here," muttered Rapidfire. "YEAH!" screamed Snowflake. "HUZZAH!" Nightmare roared. "Okay," Raine said irritably, cleaning out her ears. "Quiet it down a bit, Nightmare and Snowflake. Otherwise, let's do this!" All eight pilots cheered as they slingshotted around the burning tower that was the Dino Attack Headquarters and started flying toward Willa the Witch's windship. "Fire!" Eight pairs of laser blasts shot out from the squadron and on to the windship. Only a few shots made contact before a purple orb casted by the witch surrounded the windship reflected the rest. "Evasive action!" Raine yelled. Her jet spun and dived low as blasts of Maelstrom started streaking toward them. Cloudchaser was hit in the nose and her ship went spiraling into a building. "Oh, no, you don't, foul hag!" Nightmare roared. She dived her solid black jet underneath the windship. As Willa the Witch lowered the defenses, Nightmare flipped around and fired a missile, striking the back of the windship and causing a fiery, purple explosion. "HA! YOUR DAMAGE HAS BEEN DOUBLED!" bellowed Nightmare. "Cool it!" Raine said tersely. "She is still packing some firepower." With the back of her boat now in flames, Willa the Witch had the boat turn to face the seven remaining jets. While she doused the flames with magic, the Maelstrom Dragon carrying her boat roared loudly and began breathing massive arcs of purple fire. "Watch it!" Raine commanded, spinning her jet to avoid the blasts. Raine brought her jet in a wide arc around the ship. She swore as she watched Soarin's jet get nabbed in the dragon's maw and was chewed and burnt up to a crisp. The dragon then threw the jet across the air until it collided with Snowflake's jet. Both jets went tumbling to the ground in a fiery explosion. Biting her lower lip in annoyance, Raine fired two missiles at the straps holding the dragon to the boat. One missile found its mark. The boat suddenly tipped sideways as the dragon struggled to carry the boat. Raine saw Willa the Witch rise into the air on her broomstick and redirect the missile into Spitfire's jet, turning his jet into a fireball. The witch then began to repair the strap with her magic. "She's distracted! Give her your worst!" Raine barked. She, Nightmare, Rapidfire, and Gilda opened fire both with lasers and missiles. The witch quickly formed a shield around her and her ship and continued to repair the strap. The ship was soon completely functional again, and more blasts of Maelstrom energy and fire began to whiz around the pilots. "Blast!" "How do we take this dweeb?" Gilda snapped irritably. "I have an idea," Rapidfire muttered. "Let me try something." "Rapidfire! What are you doing?" Raine demanded. Willa the Witch lowered her energy shield again. At this point, Raine assumed that using the magic and Maelstrom sapped energy out of the witch, which was why she couldn't hold it for long. Fire shot out of the back of Rapidfire's jet as he shot straight for the witch's ship. Willa the Witch blasted away his engine with her wand. Rapidfire maintained his altitude long enough to get near the ship before he nosedived directly on to the ship's bridge. An explosion engulfed the entire ship. Raine, Nightmare, and Gilda fired everything they could at the ship and its dragon engine. A rocket finally exploded near the dragon's throat. It bellowed in anger before its wings stopped flapping. It fell into the explosion, and the ship began to fall into the city. It collided into the ground with the loudest explosion Raine had ever heard. Purple flames consumed an entire city block and left nothing but rubble and charred corpses. "Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead!" Raine cheered through the comm, elated. She felt Rapidfire's sacrifice was a bit unnecessary, but he had been willing to go out to save the planet. "Not quite," Gilda grumbled. A small purple orb was rising out of the chaos. It then shot toward a T-1 Typhoon with a black star painted on its hull. An explosion rocked the helicopter and sent into tumbling into the ground. A loud, sinister cackled echoed through the city. "Get out!" Raine yelled. Taking out the windship had not improved their chances. The witch was faster, and the only thing she had to defend herself. Raine turned her head and gasped as the witch's Maelstrom orb shot through the nose of Gilda's jet. The jet exploded instantly and crashed into a nearby building. Raine's radar beeped erratically. Willa the Witch was coming for her next. Raine sped up considerably as the witch followed. Despite the jet's speed, the witch was quickly gaining on her. Raine turned sharply and moved down low near the rooftops of several buildings. She slowed down considerably and kicked off the glass containing her in the cockpit. Her multicolored hair whipping against her face, Raine saw Willa the Witch zooming toward her. Looking down at the rooftops below, Raine made a quick prayer before leaping out of the jet. Raine combat-rolled as she collided with the rooftop to absorb the damage she was taking. She finally tumbled onto her back, her body aching all over and her head spinning. Slowly climbing to her feet, Raine watched as the witch ran through the jet horizontally, splitting it into two and sending them hurtling to the ground. Raine breathed in relief. The witch thought she was dead. A pang of guilt then washed over Raine. An entire squad was dead because her assault on the witch that only made things worse. Only Nightmare was still flying. However, Willa the Witch was not looking for Nightmare. Her purple orb fading away, the witch was flying on her broomstick for Dino Attack Headquarters. Raine Dashworthy grimaced as she pulled a small pistol from her belt. That hag was going to bust up the headquarters more than it already was. Unfortunately, that's going to have to be someone else's fight. Raine waved her hands over her head, hoping to attract the attention of a helicopter. If nothing came, she would have to join the fight on the ground. "Then it will be time to take out some nasty, reptilian trash," Raine Dashworthy said to herself, smirking. ***** "Wo-hoah! Giant purple ball coming through!" "Keep HQ defended, Bain! We're not leaving the other Elites as sitting ducks!" "You have my assurance, Semick, I'll stay on the job to the end." "Oh my goodness! Is someone recording Cyrista's Bane fighting that Inferno Mech! It's a battle for the ages! Nobody should be missing this awesome moment!" "Don't mess with Johnny bricking Gat, witches!" "Isn't anyone concerned about Willa heading towards HQ?!" "This is for what you lizards did to my family reunion at the Hotel Denouement!" "She's an old woman on a broom. I don't care how much magic she has, she's easy pickings." "I don't care if there a powerful wizard, a scientist with a death ray, or a baker with a super-spicy-tongue-melting-jail-cell-door-opening-hot pizza! You support these monsters, you're dead meat, plain and simple!" ***** Usually, a person would find some level of fatigue from climbing stairs for a building that goes over even a mere seven stories or so. But Andrew wasn't among them. A long battle full of lots of running, dodging, and survival made one's body a lot less susceptible to fatigue. Stairs were hardly a challenge. That didn't mean he was rushing, though. Kate and Sarah were following close behind, though at a slower pace. Andrew kept an eye on them as he went, stopping to wait when they needed a quick break themselves. Andrew still didn't know if they were going to go ahead and join them in the final battle, or go ahead to Antarctica, but knew at least that it would be best for them to be helped up, if only to be more comforted by the idea of joining. He hoped the other Elite Agents would be okay with it. The travel up the stairs was slow going, but the trio did cover floors fast. Barely five minutes after meeting each other, the group reached the thirteenth floor. And as Andrew opened the door, he was greeted by the grim reminder of how much damage had been done. Up here, damage seemed to be most notable externally. Many walls and parts of the roof had caved in, leaving some corridors blocked by landing pad debris. As they went through the floor, Andrew even noted that the area of Specs's office had been flattened. Debris cared not for the importance of anyone to anybody. Besides rain, nothing was fortunately hitting the roof thanks to the remaining T-1 Typhoon defenders, though only time could tell how long that lasted. Andrew quickly found the open door to the sight of the busted lab and Teleport Pad. It was a busy area, and not just due to the incoming loads of evacs being pulled in by Dino Air Trackers. Plenty of agents had already arrived, including Rex, Hotwire, Frozeen Reptile, Greybeard, Hertz, Dr. Cyborg, Tail, all the Founding Members, and several standard agents Andrew didn't quite recognize off the top of his head. "Andrew, glad you could make it," said Hotwire, who was currently in the midst of a conversation with Rex and Reptile. "Yeah, I had to come in by the hangars," the LEGO Islander remarked. "That was quite an experience." He turned to Rex. "Rex, I heard about what happened through the comm chatter. You have all my sympath-" "Save it for now," Rex said sternly, "we have more important matters to deal with." The agent looked up to see Kate and Sarah Bishop behind Andrew. "Oh, Kate. And Mrs. Bishop. Glad to see you two could finally join us. Or are you leaving for Antarctica?" "Watch your tone," Sarah muttered. "And the answer is wholly up to Kate." Andrew stared at his fellow agent of a similar age. She looked a bit shaken by what she had seen up on this floor, but looked to still be weighting her options. "Take your time," he said to her, "but I'm sure we'll need an answer soon." He turned back to his fellow Elites. "So what's going on right now?" "Specs is waiting for everyone to arrive," said Reptile, "but the gist of it is that we're going to need to help with fixing a device that could prove key to stopping the Mutant Dinos through their Maelstrom connection." The scientist pointed to a missile-like device being held in Spec's arms, which was flashing with blue lights. "Though I understand that we're on a time limit, so I hope everyone gets here in time." "Well, Semick doesn't seem to be wanting to leave the battlefield," said Andrew, "So judging from all the people here, I guess only Zach and Minerva are left?" "Seems like it," said Hotwire, looking around. "I hope he hurries up, though I hear they just went through some harsh business regarding Minerva's mother." "Her brother's still out there, and I think he went nuts. So there's a chance he could cause delays for them." "They better handle them quickly," Rex remarked, looking out into the sky towards the battlefield. "I hate to be kept waiting at a time like this." "This is all well and good," replied Spike, casually. "But what about the increasing number of mutant dinosaurs breaking into here? Oh Builder, I can't believe I just said that!" At that moment, Buffy turned toward one of her comrades, a young red-haired woman. She looked nervous and terrified. "I don't think I can do it," stammered the red-haired woman. "Look, I understand," assured Buffy. "But these are desperate circumstances, Willow. Isn't there some sort of spell you can work out or something? Something that Majisto taught you in Castle Cove?" "First a vampire, now a witch," Hale muttered to herself in a semi-sarcastic tone. "What's next?" "Oh come on!" another woman said in a somewhat strangely optimistic tone. "I understand, Anya," Willow said nervously. "I might be able to do something. Maybe some kind of shielding spell or something." "Wait, you can do that?" Lance asked as he turned toward her. "Then why the Znap didn't you do that while we were trapped in that house?" "Because I try not to use magic too much," replied Willow. "Only when I need it! We still had guns and supplies and ammunition, so we did okay." "I think we might have a few too many people in here," Rotor said as he turned toward the crew. "Lance, you stay here, a couple guns will do us good. The rest of you, get outside, keep an eye out for anyone approaching. If nothing else it might buy us a bit of time!" "Alright," replied Spike. He turned toward the door, and one-by-one Buffy, Baldrick, Harris, Willow, Anya, and the others stepped out of the room. Then Andrew turned toward Kate. "You decided yet?" Kate looked at him nervously. It took her a moment of stuttering to get the words out, her eyes struggling to contain her fear. "I-I-I'm going to say," she said. "I don't know how much help I can be, but I figure an extra hand can't hurt, can it?" ***** "MINERVA!" Oswald roared, firing several more rounds into the Fire Hammer. Zach could see the absolute madness in Oswald's eyes. He was gone, there was no doubt. He clearly had no problem shooting his sister now. Vinyaya wasted no time in operating the Xenon Launcher from the dashboard controls. She fired several blasts at Oswald, who fled behind a wrecked vehicle. "MegaBloks," Vinyaya muttered. "Oh, well. Shouldn't be too much of a problem to get rid of him." "Elite Agent Zachary!" the radio suddenly said. "Our Dino Air Tracker is here. Are you ready to get lifted up?" Zach grimaced. "Just a second," he replied. He looked back out the window and immediately ducked as Oswald began firing again. Vinyaya turned the Xenon Launcher and fired several blasts at the rogue Dino Attack agent. Oswald screamed in frustration and went back into his hiding place. "I don't think it's going to be that easy," Zach told the Space Police officer. "We're wasting time!" Vinyaya snapped. "The longer we wait here, the sooner Dr. Rex and his armies get here! Why won't-" Vinyaya stopped to fire at Oswald again. "-he die?" "Because he wants Minerva," Zach said with a hiss. "To kill her. He's gone completely insane." Vinyaya was silent, trying to come up with a plan. "I'll take him." Zach turned his head toward Minerva. She was staring out the window to the point where Oswald was hiding. Her face was still extremely pale and a look of grim acceptance was on her face. "Minerva, you can't take him alone," insisted Zach. "He's gone. He'll kill you, no matter what you say." "I know." Minerva's voice was growing increasingly colder. "We have to get to the thirteenth floor and-" "Zach, they need you because of your Maelstrom knowledge and power. My job would be to defend the HQ long enough to get this 'Einstein Device' working, I'm sure of it. They need you up there, not me. This is your real chance to get a crack at not only Dr. Rex, but the Darkitect. Besides, this... I just have to do this." Zach stared at Minerva, who gave him a hard look back. She wasn't going to budge, no matter how much he persisted. It felt a slight knot form in his stomach. He couldn't let her go and get murdered by her brother. He was mad. He wouldn't hold back. He wouldn't stop to listen to Minerva reason with him. He would kill her. Zach knew it was a bad idea, but he could feel himself giving in. "Fine," Zach said flatly. Then: "You said you couldn't kill him-" "I'll work something out," Minerva said grimly. "You need to trust me. I have to do this." Zach swallowed painfully. He nodded slowly. "I'll make it back. I promise." Her voice didn't waver, believing truly in that sentiment. Regardless, Zach was still on edge. Unlike his feelings after being kidnapped by Oswald, he truly felt this could be the last time he saw her. "I-I..." he stammered, trying think of something to say. Then, without realizing it, Zach leaned forward and kissed her. Minerva flinched in surprise, but quickly kissed back. They stayed in that position for several seconds until: "What did I say?" Vinyaya snapped irritably. "The end of the world is knocking on our doorstep!" Zach pulled away from Minerva, who was blinking rapidly in surprise. Some color had returned to her face. "Huh. Usually I'm the one that has to kiss you," Minerva said, a small, curious smile on his face. "Yep." And with that, Zach crawled into the backseat and got close to a passenger door. "Dino Air Tracker crew! Change of plans. I'm still coming up, but the Fire Hammer isn't. Will that work?" "If you hold on tight!" the agent responded. Zach nodded and then quickly looked at Vinyaya, trying to tell her silently to stay with Minerva. Vinyaya nodded as she climbed into the driver seat and Minerva moved to the passenger seat. "If we all make it through this," promised Zach, "I'm getting you and Bluetooth together, Vinyaya. No matter what." Vinyaya rolled her eye and smiled faintly. "I'll be counting on it. Get ready." Commander Vinyaya turned the Fire Hammer in Oswald's direction. As it began to drive toward him, Zach jumped out of the Fire Hammer and started running toward the Dino Air Tracker. He jumped on to the support that was connected to the Dino Air Tracker by a hook and grabbed on to chain connected to the hook. Zach gestured to one of the agents hanging out from the hull to take off. Soon, the Dino Air Tracker was rising into the air. Zach counted the floors as they passed. He was at the ninth floor when he heard a strange screeching. He turned and saw purple orb hurting straight toward the helicopter. Zach could tell the agents aboard the helicopter probably realized the orb was coming toward them by the panicked but indistinguishable voices coming from the hull. No weapons at all. This thing is seriously a sitting duck. He heard the sound of conventional gunfire come from the hull. The bullets merely bounced off the orb like they were drops of rain. Zach saw exactly where there was going. Zach let go of the chain and ran at Dino Attack Headquarters. He leaped from the support as the orb collided with helicopter. The helicopter exploded in a red and purple explosion. He managed to latch his right hand over a broken windowsill as the purple orb blasted through the headquarters, knocking stone, metal, plastic, glass, and the occasional agent from the building on to a long descent to the ground. Thank Builder I can't feel pain with my right hand. Or bleed. Nazareno knew how to design prosthetics to act completely like the limbs they replaced. One thing he did change was to get rid of the ability to feel pain from that hand. If Zach had an organic hand, Zach would've at least winced over his hand being cut up by broken shards of glass. He ducked his head and allowed the debris to fall to the ground. When the debris fall decreased to a trickle, Zach reached carefully up with his left hand and pulled himself on to the windowsill. Zach looked down below at the wrecked Dino Air Tracker, a mix of normal and Maelstrom flames consuming it. He looked to his right hand. The glove was torn up, but his hand was fine otherwise. He glanced at his left hand as he pulled off his right glove. Not too many cuts. He lucked out. He jumped down into the room connected to the window. The ceiling had caved in, and debris was everywhere. Zach coughed as he pushed his way past a crumbling door archway. He glanced around the hallway briefly. Where did I stop count? Ah, ten. Tenth floor. Not bad. He could probably climb the rest of the way up. He made his way to the eleventh floor before he looked out through a gaping hole facing the rest of the city (and battle). He saw the purple orb floating, which faded away to a woman in black robes and a pointed hat sitting on a broomstick. Willa the Witch. Zach scowled. He had heard the witch's exploits in Castle Cove and her defeat by the hands of King Race and Lord Vladek. She had her magic enhanced with the Maelstrom. Rather alike power-wise, aren't we? Zach raised his hand and pointed his palm at the witch. A Maelstrom fireball erupted in his hand, and he threw it as hard as he could at the witch. Willa turned her head quickly enough to dodge the blast. She searched the Dino Attack Headquarters quickly before spotting Zach and flying up to him. "You!" she screamed. "You did that! How did you do that?!" "It doesn't really matter," Zach hissed. "What matters is that your Maelstrom hijinks are at an end, witch." His tone became more sincere, perhaps even concerned. "You do not truly control the Maelstrom. Heck, I barely can control it, Once you've helped flatten this building and killed the rest of the population of the planet, you will be disposed of, just like Dr. Rex." Willa the Witch raised an eyebrow. "I plan to conquer those weaklings in that barren wasteland!" the witch cackled. "Dr. Rex can be disposed of easily. Dr. Inferno as well, once I'm finished using him." "You're being manipulated by the Maelstrom. You will destroy until you are destroyed." His words had no effect on the Fright Knights' leader. She floated away and waved her wand at him. A fiery streak of Maelstrom energy shot out of it and moved toward Zach. Zach gestured the blast away into a Mutant Pterosaur. Willa the Witch gasped and fired several Maelstrom fireballs at him. He redirected each blast into a flying hostile. He then formed his own Maelstrom fireball and fired it at the witch. She swung her wand like a baseball bat and redirected the blast into the building, causing it to shudder. Dust and small pieces of debris fell around him. Zach's confidence began to fade as Willa gave a wide grin. "Can't fire yourself, or I'll use it to destroy the building!" the witch said, cackling with glee. She fired several more blasts at him. He let them hit the ground near his feet as he turned and started to run toward the stairs that led to the twelfth floor. He was about to reach the thirteen floor when Willa the Witch, protected by her purple orb, shot through the stairs, reducing them to rubble. He stumbled back, his hands raised as the witch slowly approached. Zach had no idea what he was needed for to fix the Einstein Device, but if they needed his ability to manipulated the Maelstrom, he needed to save his strength. Willa the Witch wouldn't have it. She pointed her wand and fired a massive blast intended to kill him and destroy the entire floor. Zach slid back hard on his feet as the wall of Maelstrom energy collided with him. He was only stopped by a wall that, for the most part, was still structurally sound. Wind was rushing all around him. Purple sizzling tentacles whipped around him, slicing through columns and walls like they had no clutch power. Zach felt his energy draining away from him rapidly as he repelled the blast back at Willa the Witch. He either needed to get the witch to give, somehow redirect this blast somewhere it wouldn't level the building, or have someone from the thirteenth floor hear the chaos going on below and come to his aid. Zach would've said some witty "not backing down" type line, but right now, he could barely think as the witch's power bared down on him. She has Darkitect support. MegaBloks. Regardless, Zach stood his ground, trying to come up with a plan. ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  7. Chapter 69: Desperate Times ---- "Would you hurry up and put me back together?!" "I'm-a working on it!" Marco Martinet snapped. "There happens to be a lot of Mutant Dinos around here." As if to prove his point, Martinet rose to his feet and slammed his hammer into the side of a Mutant Lizard's face. "Now, shut up and let me do my job!" Dr. Marco Martinet's patient-in-question was suffering from burn wounds from a Mutant Lizard. His codename was Snake, but following a beatdown by another man named Snake, he had changed his codename to Plastic Serpent, or simply Serpent. Only now, the other Snake had supposedly ditched the team, leaving Serpent free to take his name back. That Snake guy was a criminal, Martinet noted. Why didn't they inject him with microscopic explosives that the authorities could blow up if he decided to escape? Martinet applied one last bandage over Serpent's wound before sending him back into the battle. Martinet turned and sprinted back to his Fire Hammer, swinging his mighty hammer through waves of Mutant Dinos. He pulled off one of his grenades (designed to look like pills), pulled the pin, and jammed it into a Mutant Raptor's mouth before reaching the driver's seat and pulling open the door. Martinet watched with grim amusement as the grenade went off in the Raptor's mouth, killing it. "Well," Martinet said, turning to his medic partner Doctor Giovanni Wade. "Let's-a keep moving, shall we?" Putting the Fire Hammer into drive, Martinet and Wade set off to continue their medical work. As Martinet discovered recently, he was rather skilled behind the wheel. Heh. Perhaps I should have become a racecar driver, eh? The battle in the sky had taken a definite turn for the worse. The Dino Attack, Alpha Team, and Agents all had to deal with not only Mutant Pterosaurs and Inferno helicopters, but now Maelstrom Dragons and Fright Knight windships. The air vehicles were particularly getting battered by the Maelstrom Dragons, who were much stronger than the average Mutant Pterosaur. They could also land and cripple land vehicles with their powerful Maelstrom fire. "How are these guys still here?" Wade muttered. "I thought with the Maelstrom Temple's elimination, all Stromlings except for Hybrids and Mutant Dinos were destroyed!" "Well," Martinet grumbled, running down several Mutant Lizards, "seeing as the Darkitect is still there and I hear this Fright Knight witch has Maelstrom-enhanced powers, I imagine she bent the Maelstrom Dragons under her thumb, and the Darkitect bent her under his thumb." "The skyfleet's going to need to figure how to take these guys down or we're going to need reinforcements. And..." Wade paused and pointed to an injured agent trying to hobble away from a swarm of Mutant Lizards. "I got this," Martinet said, kicking up his door and landing on the ground, hammer raised. He ran toward the agent and swung his hammer at the Mutant Lizards. After a short, bloody carnage, all the Lizards laid dead or wounded. Martinet then turned to the agent. "Get into the Fire Hammer!" The agent nodded and started moving toward the Fire Hammer. Martinet began to follow, but stopped. Just beyond the Dino Attack Headquarters, a fleet of T-1 Typhoons were approaching. As they soared over Dino Attack Headquarters, Marco Martinet managed to count at least twenty-five T-1 Typhoons. In addition, five Dino Air Trackers were with the group, carrying two new Fire Hammers, two Iron Predators, and one High-Voltage Half-Track. The T-1 Typhoon fleet connected with the Maelstrom's airfleet, guns blazing. Taken off-guard by the sudden reinforcements, Mutant Pterosaurs and Maelstrom Dragons were easily grounded, and Inferno aircrafts and Fright Knight windships were ignited and being sent spiraling toward the ground in fiery explosion. Martinet raised his hammer and cheered. There was still no idea on how to defeat Dr. Rex, but the reinforcements against the new Fright Knight arrivals were greatly appreciated. As he cheered, the lead T-1 Typhoon broke off from the main group and oddly began to move in Martinet's direction. As it began to land, its weapons opened fire on Mutant Dinos below that had been hoping to take a bite out of it. Martinet aided the helicopter with his hammer and grenades. As the T-1 Typhoon landed, a woman appeared from inside the helicopter's belly. Martinet gasped. The woman had long, platinum-blonde hair with several flips in it and a long bang that completely covered her right eye. She was tall and had a calm and commanding aura surrounding her. She had a chain around her neck with a star-shaped medallion attached to it and had star-like earrings dangling from her ears. She stepped out T-1 Typhoon and looked at Marco Martinet with her one, light blue eye and gave a small, reserved smile. "Rosie?" Martinet gasped, feeling shock, surprise, fear, and happiness all radiate out of his body at one. Rosalie Mercedes nodded once began walking toward Martinet. As he embraced her, he asked, "What are you doing here?" "The Dino Attack Team had seen fit to promote me to Elite Agent almost immediately after you left," Rosalie said in a calm, soothing voice. "After Dr. Rex launched his attack on the headquarters, I helped organize several T-1 Typhoons to fly over here from Antarctica to come to the team's aid." Even though Marco was happy to see Rosalie again, he was extremely fearful. He was still getting to know her. He didn't know how he would respond if she would die. Horrible memories of hearing what happened to another woman he had loved. Rosalie seemed to detect his concerns. "I can fight, Marco," she said, touching his shoulders. "I did spend a lot of time in Antarctica, but I didn't waste it sitting around. And when I was sent out on a mission, I held my own rather well." Martinet bit his lip with uncertainty. "I just... I-" Rosalie laughed gently, interrupting him. "I am a rather skilled pilot, Marco. I will be safe. There's is no use worrying about me when you should be doing your job." As if on cue, Wade shouted: "Come on, Martinet!" Martinet glanced back to Wade, then to Rosalie. "Stay safe, eh?" was all he could muster. Rosalie smiled and nodded. "May the stars shine down on you." She then turned and reentered the T-1 Typhoon, which Martinet now noticed had a black star painted on its nose. As the helicopter rose back into the sky and engaged the Maelstrom's forces, Martinet heard Wade yell for him. Swallowing his bad feelings, Martinet ran back to their Fire Hammer ambulance. Rosalie was right; there was a job to do and people to be saved. ***** Frozeen and Sam Race ran down a hallway in Dino Attack Headquarters, firing upon Mutant Lizards and the occasional Mutant Raptor along the way. Greybeard ran after them, but kept his pace slow enough to ensure that Mary Rose could keep up, as he did not want to let the little girl out of his sight. "Yeah," Sam Race explained along the way, "when my dad and I took a tour around headquarters, they said that the lounge was right around - oh my Builder!" As they rounded the corner, they were shocked and disturbed to find the entire area left as a burning ruins, as though a rocket had hit the area and took out an entire section of this floor. "No," whispered Frozeen. "She... she must have escaped in time...!" With that, the Alpha Team agent turned on his heel and ran in the opposite direction, desperate to find elite agent Grimton. After recovering from his shock, Sam Race caught up to Frozeen, while Greybeard lagged behind to keep Mary Rose safe. At the far end of a long hallway, Frozeen was sure that he saw someone in a wheelchair. However, the hallway was also host to at least half-a-dozen Mutant Lizards, who knew that a handicapped Minifig would be easy prey and were sprinting down the hallway with saliva dripping from their jaws. "No!" shouted Frozeen. He pulled out his personal handheld laser gun and fired at the Mutant Lizards. Although he downed a few of them, the survivors adapted quickly and made quick, random movements to throw off Frozeen's aim. They were outrunning him, and despite his athletic training in Alpha Team, Frozeen knew that he would not reach the end of the hallway in time. "Shannon!" he cried out a warning. "Look out!" The Minifig in the wheelchair, who thankfully turned out to be agent Shannon Grimton after all, turned her head and saw the advancing Mutant Lizards. In response, she pressed a button on one of the wheelchair's armrests. Suddenly, a minigun, a laser cannon, and a rocket launcher popped out of her wheelchair, and every weapon was aimed at the Mutant Dinos. A short round of bullets, lasers, and rockets later, there were no Mutant Lizards left standing. When Frozeen reached Shannon's wheelchair, he was panting for breath and wiping sweat from his brow; having survived Alpha Team training, this was not from any physical stress, but rather from the stroke of fear for Shannon's life. "Oh, thank goodness you're alright," he whispered, unable to raise his voice any higher. "When I saw the mutants infiltrating the building... and I saw the communications setup in the lounge in ruins... I..." Gently tapping her wheelchair's minigun, Shannon grinned. "As I said, Janice got me interested in technology and engineering. Now, you'd think I would sit in a wheelchair for a few months and not make a few modifications? Besides, the Mutant Lizards needed a lesson in ballistics." By this time, Sam Race, Greybeard, and Mary Rose had caught up to Frozeen and Shannon. Staring at the impressive weaponry of the super-wheelchair, Frozeen nodded. "I see. Look, Shannon, I..." "Uh, guys?" called Sam Race. "We've got some company!" A large swarm of Mutant Lizards of all breeds emerged from a nearby stairwell and were looking for prey. Although Shannon fired her wheelchair weaponry at the Mutant Lizards, even more Mutant Lizards appeared behind the group. Greybeard cussed loudly and tried to slash with his cutlass, but it was quickly knocked aside by a camouflage Mutant Lizard. To top it off, a Mutant Raptor appeared among the group of Mutant Lizards. Suddenly, some of the Mutant Lizards began to screech and scatter. Narrowing his eyes, Frozeen saw a Dino Attack agent enter the scene, firing a Sonic Screamer that was duct-taped to a flamethrower. The lethal combo of sound and fire drove away the Mutant Lizards, but the Mutant Raptor held its ground and roared. In response, the Dino Attack agent whipped out a Cosmotronic Ray and opened fire, felling the great beast, and then proceeded to pull out a shotgun and end its life for good. Only after the Mutant Lizards were chased away did Frozeen recognize the Dino Attack agent... by the fact that he was in a wheelchair. "Rex?" whispered Frozeen. "Is that you?" The Dino Attack agent shot a glare at Frozeen, which surprised the Alpha Team agent. For a moment, although the face was definitely Rex's, it was as though he did not recognize the agent at all. Then, Rex seemed to realize that it was Frozeen, Greybeard, and Sam Race standing there, for he nodded grimly. "Blow me down!" exclaimed Greybeard, grinning. "It be good t' see ye. We be hearin' rumors that ye be down!" "Those rumors were true," Rex said as he narrowed his eyes. "I was down... but now I'm back. And I swear to Builder that I'm not done here until every single one of these MegaBloking sons of 4+ Figures are dead. For too long, they've wreaked death and destruction upon the world... now, it's time for them to pay." Frozeen was taken aback by Rex's sudden change in attitude; this was completely unlike the friendly idealist he used to know. It took him a moment, but he put the clues together fairly quickly. "Amanda...?" he whispered. Rex shook his head, and only now Frozeen saw that his cheeks were wet. Horrified, Frozeen's jaw dropped. Greybeard shook his head in disbelief, as the memories of his dreams came flooding back with the image of Amanda Claw hanging from the very noose which took the life of "Bad Luck" Beatrice. "I'm so sorry," said Sam Race. Rex scowled. "Sorry? Don't pity me! I don't need your pity! If you want to waste your time with useless apologizing, then I have no use for you. Make yourself useful and assist me in killing every last one of these abominations! No one shall rest until we've sent them all to MegaBlokland! Now, come on!" With that, he turned his wheelchair and began wheeling himself down the hallway. Although Frozeen was relieved to know that Rex was still alive and had rejoined the fight, he was disturbed by Rex's change in character and news of Amanda's death. As he reflected upon the latter, Frozeen knelt down in front of Shannon's wheelchair. Shannon looked at him with confusion and asked, "Frozeen, what are you…?" Locking eyes with her, Frozeen spilled: "Shannon, I know this is crazy, and you probably think that I'm a moron and a fool for waiting such a long time to tell you and finally telling you on the brink of the world's destruction, but I love you, and I still love you, and I've never stopped loving you, even when I told you that I didn't, that was a lie, because I actually loved you, and there's no way that I'm going to let the world end without telling you that I still love you, and-" "Peter!" interrupted Shannon, speaking with a harsh and urgent tone of voice. "Stop it! Please, just… stop." She raised her hands in the air, reminding Frozeen of the engagement ring she now wore. You MegaBloking idiot! Frozeen thought to himself. He averted his eyes, overcome with embarrassment and shame. He was blushing so hard, his face was practically the same shade of red as his hair. "I'm… I'm sorry, I shouldn't have…" he stammered. "Um, look, guys," interjected Sam Race, who was feeling a little awkward and biting his lip. "We should probably get going." "Let's just concentrate on surviving the night," Shannon said. "We can worry about this later." She glanced back at Frozeen, and then she looked away. The others agreed, and began to follow Rex through Dino Attack Headquarters. Well, this has been another unmitigated disaster, Frozeen thought, cringing at himself. Great going, Peter. "Ye know," Greybeard whispered to Frozeen, "thar be somethin' about Rex that be shiverin' me timbers. It be not just that he be lustin' fer revenge, says I. It be... well... th' way he spoke, an' th' look in him eyes... he be remindin' me o' Dr. Rex." Frozeen felt the blood drain from his face as he realized that what Greybeard said was, indeed, the horrible truth. ***** "That's it! I've had it with these monkey-fighting Stromlings on my Monday-to-Friday planet!" "HEY! What did I say about references?!" "That was a reference to something? I don't watch movies, I wouldn't know." "Yeah, just because something sounds like a reference doesn't mean it was. Some of us just say things that just happen to possibly be a line taken from a film or whatever." "Quit the conversation and focus on the lizards in front of you!" "HQ's under siege! Darn, so much for my iPhone." "Blow it up on top of the dino scum!" "Shoot the glass dome on top of Inferno's mech! It's an incredible weak spot!" "But it's our headquarters! We can't lose it!" "I doubt any Dino-capturing idealists are doing well morally." "We're at war's end, bud. If or when we win this battle, we won't need a headquarters anymore." ***** The Mutant Dinos were inside Dino Attack Headquarters. The time had finally come for the symbol of LEGO City's saviors to meet an end. Inside, agents were preparing to not let the Mutant Dinos have an easy time. Frozeen, Greybeard, and Sam Race were rescuing allies still stuck inside. Members of the Third Headquarters were trying to blow up the base to keep away parts of the horde. The medical team was bunkering down in the basement, preparing for the worse. Elite Agent Rex was slowly making his way back into battle, but with a dangerously large thirst for vengeance and reptile bloodshed. And others were trying to finish setting up Reptile's Green Goo traps in the hangar, though with the hordes hitting the main area of the building, such efforts seemed futile. Outside, past the Dino Attack vehicles fighting off the bulk of the rest of the Mutant Dinos, along with their remaining allies, Dr. Rex still stood. In spite of his anger and pressuring from the Darkitect, he remained near the demolished barrier wall, perhaps taking some pleasure and glee in seeing his minions - no, not anymore - allies go through the base and pick off agents still inside. This left him a big target to enemy fire, but he, of course, had nothing to fear about that. His Silge armor was taking most of the attacks, and anything that did hurt him was quickly repaired by the Maelstrom. He had nothing to worry about. But plenty to be annoyed at. As he watched Dino Attack Headquarters fall into more and more disarray, a T-1 Typhoon slowly began to draw close to his left. The giant Maelstrom-infused beast paid no attention. It was nothing, it could do nothing to him. The craft continued to draw closer, and the creature continued to think the same. The T-1 Typhoon was being piloted by one Dino Attack agent Pointman. Not an Elite, but given the times, even Standards could man such crafts at this point in time. Pointman didn't talk much, just obeyed orders and acted as seen fit when they weren't there. But he had drawn a reputation for both the stories of his past and the way he acted in battle. This would be an example of the latter. Pointman had dropped off his crew with an Iron Predator a few moments ago, confusing some, but making clear to others he was about to try something crazy. And as he directed his T-1 Typhoon at high speeds at the biggest monster of the battle with no signs of stopping, the craziness was clear here. Crazy. Pointman appeared to have had more than a life's share full of crazy, and not just because he lived on the LEGO Planet. He had been born by a teenage mother under study by some fledgling group of monster fighters, and was followed by a brother a year later. He hadn't gotten along well with either of them, and had suffered sizably for it. Eventually in 2008, his mother and his brother went crazy and broke loose, going on a rampage of fire and murder within the small city of Fairport. Pointman joined with the Agents forces that eventually put an end to their reign of fear, putting a bullet in his brother's head himself. Some said Pointman still saw his family, appearing randomly to goad him into doing what they wanted him to do. Others said that the agent had gone crazy himself, with brief losses of sanity contributing to random acts without sense. Regardless, Pointman still served well as a member of Dino Attack, obeying orders and never failing to carry them out. Except for now. Dino Attack agents, Semick among them, were telling Pointman over radio to stop what he was doing, that it was suicidal and worthless to lose such a good agent as him. Pointman ignored them, choosing instead to begin loosening the attachments of his cockpit's windshield as he drew closer to Dr. Rex. The mad beast began to finally take note of how close the T-1 Typhoon was getting, sound-wise. He turned his head, expecting to seeing it aiming its guns in a pitiful attempt to try and shoot him. Instead, he saw the rapidly-turning rotors at the top of the helicopter aiming right at him like a fan on a hot summer's day. Just at that moment, Pointman managed to detach his cockpit windshield, kicking it open and letting it fall to the ground, letting the rain pour in on him. The T-1 Typhoon, now acting without guidance, began scraping its rotors on Dr. Rex's Silge armor, sending it out of balance as the chopper began to turn its tail up and over the Stromling Mutant T-Rex. Pointman leaped out of his cockpit, then, with quick reflexes, turned to let his backside hit the thigh armor, just above a row of sharp spikes. A Mutant T-Rex was huge, and Dr. Rex was no exception. But a T-1 Typhoon was large too, the main body itself wider than a T-Rex, and its total length much larger than the creature too. Its rotors were snapping off from the strength of the creature's armor and Stromling dexterity, but they had done the job of taking the thing by surprise and stunning him. As the bulk of the T-1 Typhoon flipped upside down, its internal alarms blaring off, it easily eclipsed Dr. Rex and knocked him down to the ground. Pointman had seconds to act, but he acted in those seconds with pinpoint accuracy. As if the rest of the world was going in slow motion compared to him, he guided a slide down Dr. Rex's wet and Maelstrom-covered left leg. The agent avoided touching the tendrils of Maelstrom energy, as well as debris coming from the T-1 Typhoon as it continued to fall atop the falling creature. At last, he slipped off the end of Dr. Rex's foot and landed on his hands and legs. The Mutant Lizards and Raptors had been startled away from the area by the incident, allowing Pointman to get up on his feet and run several yards away from the sight of his collision. The T-1 Typhoon, now without its propeller blades, lay atop Dr. Rex's form for several seconds. Then, within seconds, the monster's head rose, his eyes glowing in an inminifig fury, and snapped his maw down on the helicopter's tail, tearing it off with ease. He then got up, knocking off the remains of the T-1 Typhoon as he did so. Once on his feet, he lunged at the wrecked piece of Dino Attack machinery and tore it practically into all 605 of its component parts. When that was done, the abomination that was barely still Dr. Rex raised his head to let out a roar. At that moment, barely twenty yards away, Pointman drew a pistol from a holster on his chest and began aiming it at Dr. Rex's left eye. Closed instinctively during the roar, the moment Dr. Rex opened it, the agent fired his gun, and hit with pinpoint accuracy the Dino Attack snipers could be impressed by. Dr. Rex stumbled back from the shot, shaking his head as the Maelstrom quickly patched up the damage. In anger, he looked in the direction he had heard the shot come from, and saw the ragged agent with long black hair and beard that was Pointman. With only a stern, emotionless face, the agent began running off, away from the direction of Dino Attack Headquarters. Perhaps it would manage to drive away Dr. Rex from Dino Attack Headquarters, if only for a little while. Perhaps it wouldn't. In any case, Pointman had set out do what he needed to do: make it clear that Dino Attack wasn't done yet, and they were willing to do everything necessary to bring creatures like him down. The agent reached the beaten hunk of an abandoned Steel Sprinter, leapt upon it, and started it up. It sputtered, but the engine ran. He sped off, realizing that there was a good chance that he would find himself either in the white-hot maw of the Maelstrom T-Rex's jaws, or torn apart by claws or Maelstrom energies. So be it, he thought. He didn't fear death, no matter how horrible, thanks to his past. And if it bought time for Dino Attack to finish business in HQ, and possibly stop the beast as well, that was sufficient. His life didn't matter, his skill was easily equaled by other agents in the team. His time may be up, but it was hardly the same for Dino Attack as a whole. ***** "The ceiling here should be thick enough that it won't be affected by the damage," Firecracker explained to his comrades. "There won't be more than a little bit of debris. Still, I'm going to give you ten seconds to get as far away from this door as possible. 10, 9, 8...." Quickly, Elizabeth, Maynard, Demoman, See, and anyone else still there ran off. Firecracker pressed his hand against the handle of the plunger, eagerly counting down. "5, 4, 3, 2, 1." With a large smile, he quickly pushed the handle down. ***** There was a loud booming noise, like the sound of thunder, and Dino Attack Headquarters shook, as it had been throughout the battle. This time, however, the thunder was much louder, to the point of deafening, and the shaking was far more violent. Those that did not fall to the floor hit the deck as fireballs rose out nearly every stairwell. Mutant Lizards screeched as they were engulfed in the flames, while the more resilient took cover. When it was over, Rex performed an upper-body pushup and surveyed the area. Smoke filled the air and ash covered the floor. The walls were charred, windows were shattered, and there was rubble everywhere. There were some flames that still burned, and the entire area looked as though it had survived a Mutant T-Rex rampage. Still, despite all the damage caused from the explosions, Dino Attack Headquarters was still standing... for now, at least. After the original building's fate, Brick League United made sure that the new building could endure a blitzkrieg and survive. Many walls were reduced to rubble, entire stairwells and rooms had collapsed, but the building's core structure remained mostly intact. Rex's ears were still ringing from the explosion, so when Greybeard shouted "What th' devil?", it sounded muffled and distant. "Looks like-" Frozeen paused to cough the smoke out of his lunge. "Looks like Demoman's been having a field day." "A lot of good that drunkard did us," Rex said as he gritted his teeth. "Now, Dino Attack Headquarters is barely on its last legs, and there's still an entire army of Mutant Dinos out there ready to tear it down! Nice job breaking it, hero!" Locating his wheelchair, Rex crawled towards it and, with some insistent assistance from Sam Race, climbed back in. Likewise, Frozeen was helping Shannon climb back into her own wheelchair. Frozeen asked if she was alright, and she reported that, aside from a bit of hopefully-temporary hearing loss, she was alright. ***** Just when it seemed the panic and confusion of the medical bay could get no worse, an explosion above rocked the headquarters. Dust and small debris rained down from the ceiling and a wave of powder rushed down the hallway. Hertz jumped out of bed in surprise. He obviously could not hear the blast, but he felt the tremors run down the walls. All around him, the wounded and medical staff ducked in cover, and the shockwave blew papers across the room. The noise of explosions echoed throughout the basement. Shaw looked up from Hertz and Carver, terrified. She slowly handled her cross, fearing the worst to come. It was over in a few short seconds, but they were terrifying, and small amounts of rubble falling from the ceiling certainly didn't help. The noise had taken most of the other doctors by surprise. Shyly, Shaw reluctantly released her grip on her cross, before sitting down with Carver. She certainly didn't feel the same attraction that Carver did, and probably wouldn't understand her feelings, but she felt bad for both of them. "I don't think a prayer's going to do much good," Carver said, sternly. Shaw nodded in understanding. "Something's happened," said Hale as she stepped into the room. "We got a problem." "What happened this time?" Copper asked. "There was an explosion," reported Hale, running her hand through her raven hair. "Apparently, someone tried to blow up the base but failed." "I see," replied Pierce. "Shaw, Carver! Get over here!" Quickly, the two women approached nervously. "What is it?" Shaw asked. "Apparently someone tried to blow up the base," replied Pierce. "That would explain the noise," said Shaw. "Yes," said Pierce. "There's a possibility of several dead, many with injuries. We're going to have to split up. What's your name again?" "Hale. Naomi Hale." "Hale, right," said Pierce. "Hale, I'd you to take Shaw and Carver. Do a sweep of the base. Take a stretcher with you in case you find anybody. Crusher and I will go in another group. Copper, you and Clickitt stay behind and keep an eye on the patients already here. Be ready to perform surgery if we have to rush someone into here. And much as I hate to say it, if we can find Enter and Return, we may have to rely on them as well. Okay, let's move!" The explosion was certainly substantial. While it was not enough to level the base, it had enough power to rock its foundation. As expected, the basement held up to the blast, but Hertz knew anyone upstairs would be far less fortunate. Grimton had already given the orders to evacuate to the teleport pad on the top of the base. When the explosion struck many of the medical crew had already begun moving patents. Hertz had no idea how many they still had to transport, but odds are debris topside would hinder their movements. Whatever had caused the blast could have possibly sealed them into the basement and trapped them below the surface. This is what Mort predicted. Thankfully, the agent had been wise enough to order supplies sent down so the agents present could sustain themselves in such an event. Air was not a worry since the basement was fully ventilated. What concerned Hertz was how the battle was proceeding outside; if the agents above failed, they would have no one to rescue them from beneath the rubble. ***** "Does anyone know what happened to Kat?" "Probably crushed under the rubble. Serves her right for friendzoning Hotwire." "Oh for znap's sake, Adam, you're not still bitter about Freya turning you down?" "This isn't about me! Friendzoning is the single worst thing a woman can possibly do to a man. Death by collapsing building is the perfect fate for such a stuck-up, frigid--" "GUYS. Please keep the comms free of both video game references AND misogyny from now on." Fortunately for Adam, neither Hotwire nor Kat were listening to the comm chatter. Hotwire was more concerned with the fact that Pointman's stunt had just cost them an entire T-1 Typhoon while simultaneously doing very little harm to Dr. Rex himself. These concerns were interrupted very quickly and replaced by more serious worries, mainly related to the fact that headquarters was suddenly rocked by explosions from the inside. While it was still standing, the internal structure was most likely severely weakened. The only possible advantage was that they could now say that Dr. Rex had not destroyed Dino Attack HQ, and whether that actually counted as an advantage under the circumstances was unclear, to say the least. ***** "This is elite agent Grimton," Shannon spoke into her radio. "Agent Shock, can you read me?" After a bit of static, Shock's voice came in. "Loud and clear! What was that?" "We'll worry about it later," said Shannon, frowning. Glancing at Mary Rose, who was tightly hugging Greybeard's leg, she inquired: "What is the status of the Teleport Pad?" "The roof collapsed during the explosion," reported Shock, "but luckily the thirteenth floor held out under our weight. The Teleport Pad has suffered some minor damage during the fall, and Throramebi is currently making some repairs. Other than that, we should be alright to continue evacuating units to Antarctica." "Good. I fear we'll need to evacuate many more units in the next hour." Everyone turned to see the four founding members - Specs, Shadow, Digger, and Viper - walking through the smoke. "What brings you here?" inquired Frozeen. "Your team needs you out on the battlefield!" Specs shook his head. "I'm afraid that, given these... recent developments, we've been forced to land our T-1 Typhoon. We have only a short time before the next wave of Mutant Dinos enters Dino Attack Headquarters, and with the structural damage caused by these explosions, I know that this building will not survive. That is why it is of the utmost importance that we retrieve the Einstein Device from the technology center before it is too late." "I can run down there as quickly as possible," declared Viper, "and get the Einstein Device before any of those 'scales' can. Sam, you're probably the only one here who can keep up with me in a race. As much as I'd like to say that I did this alone, it's probably a good idea to have someone covering me." "Sure," said Sam Race, nodding eagerly. "I'll accompany you to the tech center. Don't worry guys, we'll be back before you know it!" "Just be careful," said Frozeen. "Don't get yourselves killed," muttered Rex. He wheeled himself towards a nearby shattered window and peeked out the battlefield. Dr. Rex was roaring to his fellow Mutant Dinos, which were still massive in number and still rushing towards what was left of Dino Attack Headquarters. Locking his eyes upon Dr. Rex, Rex whispered, "Come on, Ronald, you sick 4+ Figure. We'll end this for once and for all." Although Dr. Rex was too far away and the sounds of battle were surely too loud to carry Rex's voice, the armored Mutant T-Rex seemingly turned to look directly at Rex as though he heard what the elite agent just said. Rex's heart began pounding, and he clutched his chest due to the pain. Now that Amanda was dead, the chest pain was worse than ever before. In his mind, Rex saw a brief flash of Baron Typhonus, the Darkitect, grinning and laughing in triumph. Gritting his teeth, Rex hissed: "I... won't... let... you... win...!" ***** Snake felt tense as he drove down the roads of LEGO City. This was hardly nothing new to him, but escaping from a place like this where every other turn he had to back out after spotting a fire hammer, he did feel some degree of uneasiness. He couldn't help recalling his first meeting with the team, and how his business in this whole mess got started. Snake smiled to himself. He'd outwitted them. Hauk thought that they could keep a criminal in line, but Snake had escaped, now all he had to do was get out of LEGO City, and the - whoa, he didn't see that one guy coming. He quickly swerved out of the way, and crashed the car into a nearby lamppost. Climbing out, he ran up the man. "What the Znap is your problem?" he said, before the Dino Attack agent turned toward him. He was bandaged all over, but Snake could easily recognize that face, the mustache, grey hair, camo. "We meet again," Snake said. "It's Serpent now," the other agent stated tersely. "Plastic Serpent." Snake took a moment to light a cigarette. He inhaled then took it out. "Smoke?" Serpent stared at him with a look of uncertainty. Snake smiled. "Good." He grabbed Serpent and placed the cigarette directly onto his forehead. Serpent screamed in pain as he pressed harder and harder. "How do you like that, huh?" "What the MegaBlokland is your problem?!" shouted Plastic Serpent, grabbing the cigarette and tossing it aside. He threw a punch at Snake, striking him in the chin. Snake threw Serpent onto the ground. "All those years you tried to steal from me," he remarked. "That one job with Keyser Sozé where you watched me do the dirty work and then tried to make off with the goods." "Seriously, you're still mad about that?" groaned Plastic Serpent. "I did so with the boss's blessing. Besides, this war has changed me, Snake. Hasn't it changed you too?" Snake did not reply. Instead, he kicked the Serpent in the stomach, and he grunted in pain. Snake forced Serpent to his feet and punched him square in the face, dropping him into a small puddle in the side of the road. After he kicked him a few more times, Snake turned, lit another cigarette, and started to walk away. "Yeah, Znap you too," Plastic Serpent muttered, weakly but defiantly, as he watched the criminal leave. ***** "Hey guys! I just found this cool technicolor butterfly. It's so hi-technicaaaal!" "Just keep that thing away from me, man?" "So I heard this Maelstrom thing has its soldiers set off bombs that, like, suck worlds into the Maelstrom! Like there's a subspace in the Maelstrom!" "I thought the Maelstrom was created by some chaos heart and we needed heroes and technicolor pure heart things to defeat it..." "You folks need to stop playing so many video games. Just because some vortex made of evil is purple and black does not make it the Maelstrom." "Hey! What did that guy say about meaningless conversation on the comms?" "Fine. 'Yahoo! Reinforcements! Did you see those guys wipe out the Maelstrom's air force?' Happy?" "Yes." "So, with dinos entering the base, I'm calling us out as officially doomed." "Wait, 'Vinyareno?' Is that a shipping name? Because I've got at least cargo ship full of parings. For starters...." ***** Nazareno blinked several times. Zelda's entire face was red, but she looked at Nazareno with unwavering eyes. "I... like you too...?" he said with uncertainty. Zelda's face became a darker shade or red as she deciphered his tone of confusion. "I... I don't think if you understand what I'm getting at." "To tell you the truth, I really don't." Zelda blinked twice in confusion. "I-I like you. As in, 'like-like' you." Nazareno was unmoving, still trying to figure out what she was trying to say. He saw frustration begin to form on her face due to his lack of response. "I'm in love with you!" she nearly shouted. Nazareno stared for several seconds, trying to come up with a response to this revelation. She was in love with him?! But... how? "You're... in love with me?" Nazareno repeated dumbly, as if he couldn't comprehend what she was saying (which wasn't far from the truth). "Yes!" Zelda said, nodding furiously. Nazareno simply stared. He had never attracted anyone, let alone be attracted to someone else. Being a stoic ninja with your face covered up by a mask did that to you. For once in his life, he wasn't sure what to do. Some part of him did, apparently, because he started talking again. "I-I'm sorry, Zelda," Nazareno began. "But I... just can't." "Why?!" "Well, for starters: based on what you told me, I am thirteen years your senior." Zelda stared incredulously. "You're thirty-four?! But... you don't seem like you're in your thirties! I-" "Well, I am," Nazareno interrupted, raising a hand. "I'm too old for you. You would be better off finding someone closer to your own age." "But I like you!" Zelda snapped. "We're both adults. It could work out! You just-" "You've never seen my face!" Nazareno continued, a scowl beginning to form on his masked face. "How can be attracted to me when you don't even know what I look like?" Zelda's eyes widened with mixed shock. "So? Love isn't based on physical attraction, Nazareno! I'm in love with you, not how ugly or handsome you think you are! Why are you-" "What about the fact that we are basically a student and mentor? It would inappropriate for the two of us to be together." "Well, considering we're both adults and we are at the literal end of the world, it doesn't matter. Would you just-!" "And you were a pirate," Nazareno said with a slight stammer. He growing irritated with how determined Zelda was at this. "It just wouldn't work out. It..." Even as he said it, he knew how weak of an argument that was. Did he dislike Zelda's pirate background? Sure, but did he really hold it over her head? No, and Zelda knew that. "I was never a pirate! My parents were! You're just making up excuses!" Zelda said, her voice rising slightly. "Why won't you at least try something? What's your real problem with this?" "I'm not in love with you!" Nazareno yelled without even realizing it. He immediately regretted it. Zelda looked at him in silence, trying to hide her emotions. But for a variety of factors, which could include never learning how to conceal her feelings or being a descendant of loud and boisterous pirates, Nazareno could see how upset Zelda was at this. "Listen, Zelda, I-" "No," Zelda said, her voice shaking. She shook her head slowly. "You're right. It... it wouldn't have worked it. I'm sorry for bugging you. Just my stupid emotions getting out of control. And I can't really expect you to share my feelings. Let's just get back to fighting, okay?" Nazareno watched her retreating back with mixed emotions. He felt waves of bitter resentment wash over him. Part of it was how he had rejected her. He had let his emotions overrule his calm, logic demeanor and had, more or less, crushed Zelda's heart into a million pieces. The other part was: I'm not sure I'm not in love with her, Nazareno realized, a knot forming in his stomach. For all his skill and power, he had finally found an area where he had no control. No knowledge, no prior experience. Nothing. A feeling of being totally powerless washed over him. He had just alienated the first woman to show any romantic interest in him (with him possibly reciprocating the feelings) and he didn't know how he could fix it. Nazareno was about to turn to try and talk with Zelda when he saw Solomon Koplowitz standing by her. Nazareno winced slightly as he noticed how Zelda was careful to avert her eyes from him. "We need to keep moving," Solomon said. "Or we're dead." Nazareno shot one last look toward Zelda, then nodded grimly. "Of course," he said, making sure to keep his voice controlled. "We must battle on." And with that, Nazareno, Zelda, and Solomon jumped back into the battle, swords swinging. ***** Minerva edged up closer to Zach, who was gripping Athena's arm as if to stop her from running away. "I'm really sorry about all, well, this." She gestured to Athena, then to Oswald, who had his gun trained on them. They were drifting to the west, moving away from the bulk of the battle. They had no way to call for help, as Oswald had made sure to confiscate Zach's radio and destroy it. Zach gave a weak, half-hearted smile. "I'll pull through. Besides, you spent most of Adventurers' Island trying to deal with my issues. I suppose I should return the favor here with your crazy, dysfunctional family. No offense, by the way." Minerva cracked the barest hint of a smile. She could only imagine this being a lot worse if she didn't have Zach nearby, who was taken being held captive by her brother rather well. "Which reminds me, Virchaus," Oswald spoke up, a hint of smug amusement in his voice. "I was watching you chase after Mom when I set you go. What was she doing?" "She thought she was nineteen and I was following her and hitting on her," Zach said with a shrug. Both Oswald and Minerva's eyes widened at this. "She thought she was nineteen?" Minerva repeated, shocked. "Yeah. She got mad, then she decided I was 'cute' and decided to 'go out' with me. I guess her mind just decided to go with that since there was no one around to connect her to her past." A grin formed on his face. "The only real thing that taught me was that I am attractive to Fabello women, mother and daughter." Minerva chuckled quietly. Oswald didn't say anything. Zach then glanced up into the sky and laid his eyes upon the Brickster's T-1 Typhoon. Suddenly, a Minifig flew out from the hull on a skateboard. He had a red-and-blue shirt with blue jeans, a green backpack, and a white cap. In one hand was a pizza and in the other was a Sonic Screamer. The skateboard-riding minifig tossed a pizza at a Mutant Lizard, which screeched in pain as the skateboard landing on the ground. The minifig then turned a fired a sonic blast at the Lizard, dropping it. The minifig then skated into the fray, launching pizzas and firing his Sonic Screamer. "Knock me over and call me deconstructed," Zach laughed. "Pepper Roni flying out of the Brickster's helicopter on a skateboard. You'll never see that again." Minerva nodded in realization. More LEGO Island stuff. She would get this island's population and quirks down, only to probably be killed during this battle. "Anyway, Oswald, can you hurry this up? We're both kind of needed in the battlefield." "Oh yeah," said Oswald. "I heard about the promotion the two of you received. Surprised, Minerva. I didn't expect you to do anything noteworthy to even getting considered for promotion." Minerva didn't say anything, only feeling her face grow extremely hot. At this point, Oswald definitely had to have some type of split personality. One was the brother Minerva had known for years. The other was the revenge-fueled monster created by XERRD. "Minerva more than deserved that promotion," Zach growled. "And she doesn't need her demented older brother to put her down at every opportunity." Oswald didn't have a comeback, resorting to only staring at Zach with hate. They were finally at the edge of the river. Far away from the bulk of the Dino Attack and Mutant Dino forces. Minerva and Zach turned to Oswald, who had an edge of uncertainty in his eye. "Now," Oswald began. "Get-" He was interrupted as a brown Mutant Lizard suddenly appeared and lunged at him, knocking him to the ground. Zach and Minerva were quick and going to help Oswald when two more Mutant Lizards appeared. Deciding to bend Oswald's command about his Maelstrom powers, Zach quickly killed the two Mutant Lizards with Maelstrom fireballs. Before he could take aim at the one on top of Oswald, a scream pierced the air. "NOT MY SON, YOU MEGABLOKER!" Athena Fabello charged past Zach and Minerva, who watched in shock, as she dived on top of the Mutant Lizard. Wrapping her arms around its neck, Athena used all of her strength to pull the Lizard off of Oswald. It screeched and snarled at its new attacker and desperately tried to bite her face. Athena hit its face as hard as she could with her fist and squeezed the Lizard's neck against her chest as hard as she could. The Mutant Lizard desperately tried to shake free of Athena's choking grip and managed to scratch her arms multiple times. Athena winced with each attack, but refused to stand down. After several minutes, the Mutant Lizard finally stopped struggling and grew limp. Athena let the Mutant Lizard slide to the ground. Her entire was shaking and tears were flowing from her eyes. Oswald had climbed to his feet and stared at her mother. Minerva could tell he was terrified. She was too. Horrible visions of Athena approaching a twelve-year-old version of herself flashed through her mind. Watching Tod jump in front of Athena's path and take the knife meant for her... "Not my son, not my son, not my son," Athena muttered, glaring at the Mutant Lizard's body with pure hatred. "Not again. Not my son. Not again. Never again. My son. Tod. My fault. Never again. Not my son..." She was weeping quietly. Minerva and Oswald were both in shock. "Not again?" "Tod?" "My fault?" Does she remember what she did to Tod? Minerva thought. It was impossible. She couldn't possibly remember killing Tod that night. She blinked several times and saw that Zach had coaxed Athena into moving away from the Mutant Lizard carcass and was calming her down. Her eyes widened just briefly before she turned to Zach and smiled faintly. "Oh, hello, Zachary," Athena said. She looked at Oswald and Minerva, which caused her smile to brighten considerably. "So we're finally all together!" Oswald snapped out of his stupor and shook his head. Picking his gun back up, he addressed Zach and Minerva, "Get to the side. Away from her." Minerva felt her arm get lightly grasped by Zach as he pulled her to the side, snapping her back to reality. "Take the helmets off. Don't argue, just do it." Minerva and Zach shrugged and threw both of their helmets to the ground, allowing their sweat-matted hair to get even more soaked by the rain. "Ooh," Athena said, walking up to Minerva and running a hand through her daughter's hair, causing her to flinch. "I like what you did with the color!" Oswald growled and pulled Athena away, before glancing back at Minerva's brown-and-white hair curiously. "What's with the hair?" "The Maelstrom," Minerva said coldly. "The Darkitect, Baron Typhonus, you know." Oswald ignored her and allowed a sincere look to form on his face. "Minerva, I'm begging you, please join XERRD. If you don't, you'll die. I-I can't lose you like Tod. You're the only family I have left. And if you don't..." Oswald pointed the gun at Athena, causing Minerva to jump. "I'll kill her. Don't... don't make me do it. Please..." Minerva could see that Oswald was going off the deep end and was desperate to save his sister from the Mutant Dinos. She looked at Athena, who stared at the gun in absolute silence, then to Zach, who looked at Oswald with mixed shock, revulsion, and pity. He then glanced to Minerva. "Listen-" A gunshot shattered Zach's sentence. Minerva turned to Athena, who was unharmed but spooked horribly. Oswald had the gun pointed in the air, a scowl on his face. "Virchaus isn't helping you," Oswald growled. The "bad" Oswald was back out. "No one is choosing for you except yourself. You've been helped along your entire life. It ends now, Minnie. Time to make your own decisions. If Virchaus says anything else, I'll kill him. Also, don't even consider saying yes to my offer, only to take Mom and run. If you do, I'll kill all three of you." Minerva stared at Oswald in horror. "Oswald, please," she pleaded quietly. "You aren't like this!" The barest hint of "good" Oswald appeared. "Decide." And that was it. Minerva had to find a way to stop Oswald and save her mother. She was getting help from anyone. No Zach to help her come up with plan. She was absolutely alone. Minerva first considered how to possible agree to Oswald's demands and still save Zach and Athena. It would be easy. Say yes and follow him. But, as Oswald had clearly demonstrated, he was mentally unstable. He could still turn and shoot Zach or Athena to break Minerva's will. Denying his demands would only result in Athena's death and possibly Zach's, if he was extremely desperate. Maybe she still could deny his demands. For all intents and purposes, only Oswald and herself were present. Minerva could try to appeal to his better nature. Possibly convince him of Baron Typhonus's survival. She could try to get him to reform. Zach had told her earlier that Oswald had expressed a desire to kill Athena, but now he looked like he didn't want to have to resort to it. He's doubting himself. His will, his decision to join XERRD. He's doubting it. Minerva was trapped. No way could possibly end well. "Oswald," Minerva began with a shaky voice. She calmed it down quickly. She couldn't show doubt or fear to him; his "bad" side would take her weakness and grind it into the ground. "You can't continue doing this. You're destroying yourself from the inside out. I know that XERRD got you to join them by using your past against you. By convincing you that I helped ruin your life. And it's partly true. I did make life harder for the both of us. I... I was angry and sad at everything that had happened and took it out on everything, especially you. But because of you, I got better. I cleaned up my life." Minerva gave one weak sigh before continuing. "I've known you forever, Oz. You aren't like this. You don't enjoy murdering innocent people. You don't want to watch the world burn because two mad scientists told you it was fate. You're my smart, kind older brother who gave up everything to raise me. You were the closest and greatest friend I ever had. Please, just drop the gun and come with me. I'll forgive you for what you've done. I just... want you back." She extended an open hand toward him. Minerva almost felt her little speech was kind of sappy, but she stood her ground. Oswald stared at her hand intently. His hand with the gun was shaking rapidly. He gave Minerva a look of desperation. Minerva knew he wanted to go with her. He couldn't bring himself to grab Minerva's hand. He turned back to Athena, who was watching in confusion. Oswald bit his lip and Minerva watched in horror as Oswald's finger pressed lightly on the trigger of the gun. He glanced at Minerva one last time. His left began to extend shakily toward his sister. Minerva held her breath, desperately reaching from her brother's grip. Then Oswald's radio crackled to life. ***** Taking a moment to regain his senses, Firecracker stumbled out of the basement into the headquarters. What he saw was not promising. "How is this thing still standing?" he asked. "The blast was supposed to obliterate the building! This should be a solid pile of rubble!" Firecracker slowly worked his way through the headquarters. He had failed to destroy it completely as planned, and he felt determined to see the building leveled. As he walked, he occasionally tossed a stick of dynamite into the adjacent room. Here and there, he heard a Mutant Lizard snarling, and tossed yet another stick within, but he had to figure out what went wrong and fast. ***** "Look over there!" Wade said as Martinet drove the ambulance down an otherwise-empty street. As soon as he pulled over, Martinet saw what he was talking about: a man in a puddle, almost motionless. Martinet brought the vehicle to a halt and climbed out, followed by Wade. Both were shocked to find the man all covered in bandages. When they rolled him over, they recognized the face of Plastic Serpent. He groaned in pain. ***** "Any luck yet?" Cabin asked Mac. "Nothing yet," replied Mac. "Keep trying," said Cabin. "This is standard agent Kurt MacReady. I'm stuck in a house somewhere with a few other agents, including Elite Agents Rotor and Cabin, plus one guy I'm starting to become convinced is a vampire. Some help would be appreciated." Meanwhile, Lance, sitting at attention, suddenly spotted something coming round the corner: Mutant Lizards, a whole group, with some Raptors mixed in. As they got closer, he opened fire. Cabin walked over to the window and looked through the crack in the boards, seeing the incoming horde. "They're on both sides," Harris said. "We're surrounded." ***** Kara woke up, which was odd, as the last thing she remembered was being hit in the chest with Mutant T-Rex eye lasers, which should have incapacitated her for more than half an hour, according to the ship's HUD clock. Why am I awake? "Ah, I see you are awake. Good," came Cortana's voice through the cabin speakers. "As you can see, if you look out of the cockpit, I had to lift off of the landing pad for the Dino Attack HQ. Some idiot tried to blow it up." "Cortana, why am I awake?" Kara asked. "A very good question. I ran some scans on your body, and it appears that you have regenerative nanobots inside of you." "But how did they get there?" Kara wondered. "I do not know," came Cortana's reply. The A.I. paused for a moment, then: "I have just searched the UlTech archives and found the following email sent to all employee email accounts, along with the correspondence between Matthew Cyrista and Joseph Twoplate." All UlTech employees are ordered to get shots for protections from any mutant diseases that may occur. Thank you. Cyrista: Here, Joseph, send these orders to the lab setting up the immunity shots. Twoplate: Set up Kara's shot with the nanobots I cooked up. ***** Cyrista's Bane and Screech were having trouble finding the building where Rotor's crew crashed. "Hey, Bane, don't you have infrared vision?" Screech asked. "Yes, I do," he replied. "Then turn it on, you idiot! It would certainly help my aerial search," she yelled back. Cyrista's Bane, who had apparently been nicknamed Bane, thought. From anyone else, he would most certainly not stand for being called an idiot… but for some reason, from Screech, he didn't mind. "Hey, Bane, I think I found something," Screech yelled back as she saw a building with machinery on top being assaulted by Mutant Dinos. Cyrista's Bane confirmed her find as he heard a S.O.S. from Kurt MacReady on the radio. "Do not shoot at the T-Rex or Pterosaur attacking the other dinos," Cyrista's Bane broadcasted back as he started attacking the Lizards and Raptors. Lance fired everything he had. "DIE! DIE! YOU MOTHERZNAPPING RAPTORS!" he shouted. Things were rough elsewhere. Cabin looked in surprise as Buffy actually punched a Lizard in the face, and it actually showed pain. Spike had his hands full as well; he'd jumped out the window, landed on a Raptor, and with a swift motion broke its neck. "How'd he do that?" Cabin asked. "Long story," replied Buffy. "You'd never believe me." Baldrick was just wandering aimlessly. If any man ever embodied the concept of being so stupidly oblivious that survival was a miracle, it was him. It ran in the family. As Lance took a moment to reload, he looked up at the sky. There was a Mutant Pterosaur, unlike one he'd seen anywhere before. Promptly he opened fire. "DIE YOU MOTHERZNAPPER!" he shouted over the noise of his gun. "I got something!" Mac shouted. Rotor fired a shot from his revolver at one of the Lizards before turning toward him. "We got a response. Someone's coming!" ***** When Viper and Sam Race arrived in the technology center, the entire area was in ruins. The floor was littered with rubble, broken glass, and damaged machinery. Snapped electrical wires over dripping pools of water sprayed sparks everywhere, and the fires throughout the center were filling the air with smoke. Most disturbingly, although there were a few Mutant Lizard carcasses scattered across the area, most of the blood staining the walls and floor did not belong to any Mutant Dinos. Already, the next wave of Mutant Dinos were breaking into Dino Attack Headquarters, and with the damage caused by all those explosions, they were finding it easier than ever to infiltrate the base. Viper and Race fired their weapons at any living Mutant Dinos they encountered, but had to be careful to aim their shots precisely to avoid shooting any machinery and potentially creating an explosion. After felling a Mutant Triceratops that had smashed its way into the base, Viper and Sam Race scavenged the area as quickly as possible and discovered - amidst rubble, fire, and pools of blood - the Einstein Device. The fabled weapon looked like a miniature missile, with an outer coat crafted from sleek silver- and blue-hued metals. Nearby, they located a bazooka-esque rocket launcher that appeared to be what the Einstein Device was intended to be fired from. "You think it's damaged at all?" inquired Sam Race. Viper shrugged. "If it is, Specs is a techie; he'll know how to fix it. Come on, let's get out of here before any more 'scales' show up!" Viper grabbed the Einstein Device and its launcher, and the two former racers made their way towards the exit. As they passed a broken window, Viper glanced outside and saw the familiar armored and Maelstrom-possessed form of Dr. Rex himself, slowly lumbering towards Dino Attack Headquarters. There was no way he could be stopped, what with that armor that no bullet could pierce, and all that Maelstrom energy wrapped around his body. Surely, Dr. Rex was the biggest and baddest of all Mutant T-Rexes. And, as Viper thought about it, he was now holding in his hands the one weapon that could potentially defeat the biggest and baddest of all Mutant T-Rexes for once and for all. Digger would tell me to wait until the most intense moment to strike, mused Viper. He loaded the Einstein Device into the launcher and aimed at Dr. Rex. Well, MegaBlok that! It's time to bring him down! But as Viper was about to pull the trigger, Dino Attack Headquarters shook again, just violently enough to cause Viper to stumble. Before he could regain his balance, Viper dropped the rocket launcher onto the floor and tripped over it. Sam Race stopped in his tracks and proceeded to give Viper a hand in getting back up. However, when they both looked at the Einstein Device lying the floor, they noticed a few blue light bulbs on its surface were now lit up and flashing. "It... wasn't doing that before, was it?" Sam Race asked, biting his lip. "MegaBloks!" whispered Viper. "I... I think I just armed the Einstein Device! I don't know if that means it'll go off, or how much time we have until it does... um..." As Viper picked up the rocket launcher, he now saw that it had suffered a bit of structural damage and, try as he may, he could not load the Einstein Device back into the launcher. "This isn't good." "Hurry!" urged Sam Race, beckoning. "We have to bring the device back to Specs! Maybe he can fix it before it's too late!" Gritting his teeth, Viper glared out at Dr. Rex, still visible through the shattered window. "I'll get you soon enough," he promised himself. "You and your scales are all going down!" ***** "So," Blaire Darkling said, smirking slightly. "Have we reached an agreement?" There was silence over the radio briefly before there was a response. "Yes," Dr. Cyborg said with certainty. "I will be your second-in-command." A wave of relief washed over Blaire. XERRD's future was secured in the Elite Dino Attack Agent's hands. "Excellent. With you on standby in case I should die or do something... regrettable, you will continue XERRD's reformation and continue to aid the Dino Attack Team against the Darkitect." "'Regrettable'?" Dr. Cyborg repeated, an air of suspicion in his voice. "What exactly is that supposed to mean?" Blaire's smirk widened considerably. "Nothing, really. The point is you are now my second-in-command and will aid in commanding XERRD, provided your Dino Attack duties do not stand in your way. I will now make the official announcement to XERRD regarding our truce, your place, and hopefully weed out any last fools who refuse to see that Baron Typhonus is alive." "Good luck," Dr. Cyborg said. "As to you, old friend." Dr. Oak then cut the connection to Dr. Cyborg and extended his radio signal to all of XERRD. Scratching his beard briefly, Blaire crossed his arms and gestured for Dr. Oak to put him on the air. "Members of Xenon Elite Researchers Regarding Dinosaurs! This is Blaire Darkling. The time has truly come that we save the world. Not with the extinction of the Minifig race, but with preserving it so it may continue to strive another day. At this point and time, XERRD is now officially allied with our sworn enemies, the very team will helped create in our foolish decision to destroy this planet's civilization: the D.I.N.O. Attack Team! "There is no doubt now! While Ronald Alexander had tried to deny it and some of you have backed him up, Baron Typhonus, the fabled creator the Maelstrom, is very much alive. Not only is he alive, but he is the Maelstrom. We have been tricked. Manipulated. Underneath Typhonus, now being referred to the Darkitect, we perverted the very name of science and used it in our attempt to bring about the end of the Minifig race on the LEGO Planet. Not to restore it to its former glory and allow dinosaurs to repopulate the planet, but so Baron Typhonus could destroy this planet. We have been nothing but pawns to him that he cast aside once his goals are accomplished! "What's worse is that once Dr. Rex was usurped and our organization was taken over by Michelle Glados, we continued this fruitless campaign of self-destruction! She knew very well that Baron Typhonus was responsible for having us start this Dino Attack, but continued this battle for no other reason but for science! Our time as Baron Typhonus's playthings is at an end! Most of us were members of Paradox! We control the Maelstrom, not let it control us! Our former leader is nothing more than a puppet at this point! Merely an invincible weapon for Typhonus to use to destroy us all! Once Dr. Rex has left nothing of this planet but ruins and corpses, he will be destroyed as well! "And with our destruction assured if we continue to aid the Mutant Dinosaurs, I have seen fit to align with the Dino Attack Team. I have come off a conversation with one of their top members and will welcome us among their ranks with the idea that we will pay for our crimes. We'll pay some of our debt off by helping them destroy the monsters we have so foolishly created. With this move, will have lost the favor of Dr. Inferno, whose overinflated ego continues his fight against the Dino Attack Team, and Willa the Witch, who I believe is also being manipulated by Baron Typhonus thanks to her Maelstrom-enhanced power. But in their place, we will gain the favor of not only the Dino Attack, but the Agents, Alpha Team, and the forces of the Brickster, Evil Ogel, Sam Sinister, and Lord Vladek, far better allies in my opinion. "And to assure that we will no longer aid the Maelstrom's agenda in the case that I must resign from command, I have established Doctor Matthew Cyrista, now an Elite Dino Attack agent, as my second-in-command. Yes. The same Matthew Cyrista of UlTech Industries who went missing. The one who designed Cyrista's Bane. He has become a top figure in the Dino Attack's ranks and will keep XERRD on the Dino Attack's side provided I pass on. Feel free not to believe me. I'm sure Dr. Cyrista will be more than willing to prove his survival. "Now, go forth, members of XERRD! Restore right to the wrong we created!" Blaire stepped away from the microphone and turned away. It was official now. He didn't pride himself in public speech, but he believed his words should have hopefully convinced any remaining supporters of Dr. Rex of Baron Typhonus's hand in this affair. Blaire's thoughts were seized as a pained scream cut through the air. Turning quickly, he saw an electrospear jutting out of the chest of Dr. Oak. He stared at in morbid shock before his eyes rolled back and he became limp. The Quasifigus lacertilia pulled his electrospear out of Dr. Oak's body and glared at Blaire as three other Hybrids joined him. All of the Hybrids' eyes flashed bright purple and seemed almost to be on fire. They snarled at him and began to move toward him. Blaire quickly noticed the unmoving bodies of other XERRD scientists in the area. Their advance was cut off as Gary Oak, who had grabbed his grandfather's Space Marauder gun, shot one Hybrid multiple times. Gary's distraction gave Blaire enough time to run at the Hybrids. Pulling out a dark gray katana with a violet line running along the edge of the blade, Blaire jammed the sword into one Hybrid's chest. Before the other could respond, Blaire had already shot him in the head with his gun. Blaire pulled his sword out of the Hybrid's body and placed it back in his trenchcoat. He stared at the bodies briefly. The Darkitect is not happy with our change of allegiance. Blaire allowed a small smile to form on his face as he shook his head. How ironic. Huntsman had the Hybrids betray the Dino Attack Team, and now Typhonus has had them betray XERRD. Blaire turned to Gary, who stared at his grandfather's remains with watering eyes. "The Hybrids have betrayed us. Spread the word, then get out of here. Nowhere is safe now, might as well fight." Blaire turned and began to descend the stairs. He had a battle to join and, more importantly, had a space ninja to find. ***** When Viper and Sam Race caught up to Specs, Shadow, Digger, Rex, Frozeen, Greybeard, Shannon, and Mary on the tenth floor, Specs's eyes widened at the sight of the flashing blue lights on the Einstein Device. "You armed the Einstein Device?" gasped the team leader, and as he raised his voice, it seemed that he was on the verge of lose his reputed composure. "Viper! What did I tell you about the Einstein Device?" "Why are you blaming me?" Viper raised an eyebrow. "Because I know that you secretly desire to be the one to deliver the final blow! I know you want to be the one who defeats Dr. Rex! But Viper, look... there's still too many of our own units on the battlefield. If the Einstein Device goes off... I don't know for sure what will happen, but I fear that it will place all our lives in danger. The Einstein Device is supposed to be a last resort, not just some toy that can defeat the enemy for us!" "Well, why wait?" snapped Rex, earning some stares. "They're all going to die, anyways! Why does it matter if we wait for the Mutant Dinos to kill them first? We might as well go down and bring all those abominations down with us in one swift and clean strike!" "Rex!" exclaimed Shannon, blinking. "I understand that you're eager to avenge Claw, but what you're suggesting is-" "Guys, stop it," Digger stepped in, who was raising his arms as though he was trying to physically contain the argument. "I know that we're all on the edge given the situation, but this is no way to be acting in a crisis. Trust me, I've learned that lesson the hard way. I'm all for exciting and intense moments, but this is a time to act calm and reasonable." "You're right," Specs said as he nodded grimly. Rubbing his forehead, he thought for a moment, considering his options. "Perhaps, with some combined effort from some of our elite agents, we can modify the Einstein Device to lessen the risk to our fellow Dino Attack agents. Even with the technology center in ruins, we still have some strong scientists and engineers in the team, like Reptile and Dr. Cyborg." "And it's a device that deals with Maelstrom," added Digger. "Perhaps Zachary Virchaus can lend a hand in that department." "And with skilled fighters like Rotor," murmured Shadow, "we will find the strength to keep the Mutant Dinos where we want them for just a little longer." "Sounds like we have a bit of a plan emerging," Rex raised an eyebrow. "I've learned to hate plans... they never go right. But, if this works... then we can stop the Mutant Dinos for good. Count me in." ***** The stakes had never been higher. HQ was massively damaged and close to collapse. The Mutant Dinos may've taken severe losses by now, but they were far from backing down. The Castle Cove witches and Inferno forces were not giving up. And the Dino Attack agents were suffering from their causalities, fatigue, and moral state. But there was still hope. Most Elite Agents were still up and directing orders. Rotor was apparently close to a rescue by Dr. Cyborg's allies. And they had Alpha Team, the Agents, and XERRD themselves gunning for them. They may be starting to suffer, but they were far from being done with. "Keep clear of HQ, and hold formations around the diameter of the site!" Andrew was saying to the team members over radio. "What matters now is that we keep together, and don't let ourselves fall victim to claws, witchcraft, or a giant metal foot!" "Also note that we do have an opening coming up for beating Dr. Rex!" Semick also said through the comm. "The Founding Members have gone into HQ to fetch a device that I've received word of being capable of driving the Maelstrom out of that son of a brick's body! If they can get it and work it right, we could definitely turn this battle around!" "I'll take any chance we can get by now." "I wouldn't rely on it. It's going to take more than the press of a button on some device to end this, I'm sure." "Why doesn't anyone just shoot the Znap out of that mother-!" "Which part of 'Silge armor and Maelstrom regenerative properties' don't you understand?!" "The Einstein Device isn't a myth! I knew it!" "Miss Witch, I'll give you something to wave a stick at!" "That stunt of Pointman's was completely pointless! Why'd he throw his life and ship away like that?!" "What did you expect from the likes of him?" "B better get back here, stat!" "And so does Zach and Fabello too, for that matter, assuming they weren't injured in that explosion." "What caused it, anyways?" "Someone get Pyro and Andrew Jackson to fight fire with fire in regards to that Inferno mech!" "I overheard some of the Third Headquarters Squad talking about blowing up the building as a last resort in Dr. Rex's assault. Seems like they were a little preemptive, though." "Seriously, they should've consulted with us first! You don't just blow up our HQ without telling anyone, darn it!" "So much discord right now," Laxus remarked. "Yeah," Andrew muttered briefly as he looked up to the skies through his Fire Hammer windshield. Along with the Alpha Team craft carrier and the still-surviving Agents Aerial Defense Unit forces, they still had a good fifty-or-so T-1 Typhoons still in the hair. Half of them were recent reinforcements from Antarctica. Most were occupied with defending the ground forces, while a good ten of them were keeping busy attacking the witch crafts and Inferno's giant robot, which was almost taking up the role Cyrista's Bane had been playing earlier ("Someone sic that cyborg T-Rex on the Inferno robot!" someone on the comm had said. "It'd be the coolest battle tonight!"). Semick was still leading somewhere around the middle, helping to cover the front lines, while Reptile was still hanging around close to the area of the Headquarters, defending the rooftops as much as he could for the sake of the Founding Member's T-1 Typhoon. Hotwire's team was coming back into the main battle just now, having been helping out B's team with the bulk of the Inferno agents at LEGO City's outskirts. Andrew turned his attention back to the radio. "Semick, how is everybody?" "Bluetooth's been helping me get everything understood," the former Power Miner replied. "Hertz apparently went deaf in the attack on the communications and is still getting treated. He's not going to be much help with the radios, but I'm getting Bluetooth to try and talk with him via PDA to see if he can help out with coding and working out how to best narrow frequencies between us and all our allies." "I've already sent a message to him," Bluetooth chimed in. "He'd better reply soon, and I've told him to let the medics know he has Semick's authorization to be helped back into the field. Or at least, help from the bunker they're making in the HQ basement." Andrew felt horrified that Hertz had suffered such a cruel handicap, which made Hotwire and Rex's conditions seem minor by comparison. But he was happy to hear Semick working things out. "Good to hear," he said. "How about Cyborg and Rotor?" "Rotor sent out a PDA message about their situation," said Bluetooth. "I replied, explaining to him about Dr. Cyborg sending Cyrista's Bane and some kind of friendly Mutant Pterosaur to find them. Hopefully they'll be able to understand what's going on when the two arrive." "And Dr. Cyborg was apparently talking to that Darkling fellow currently leading XERRD," Semick added. "Apparently, our fellow Elite is now the second-in-command, and if Darkling dies, he gets command of the scientists. He should report back in any time now." "Sounds excellent!" Hotwire added, just now flying in with several other T-1 Typhoons. "Hope I'm not too late to regroup with-Znap, what's up with the Maelstrom dragons?!" "You've missed quite a bit," said Swerve. "Including Kat try to talk down Dr. Rex." "What?! Where is-" "The building she was on got pulverized not too long afterwards," said Semick. "We haven't found a body yet, though, so there's a chance she's still out there. We're keeping an eye out." "Along with several other agents," said Andrew. "Reports are saying that Zach and Fabello were forced out of HQ with Athena by some XERRD guy. I've asked Joike, Gypsy, and Observer to look for them, but they haven't found them yet." "And where's B, by the way?" Semick asked. "I heard something about him having to settle a score with someone alone." "Uh, yeah, that would be true," said Hotwire. "Hopefully, he'll have that finished up soon, though." "He'd better. Once the Founding Members get out of HQ, I suspect they'll want us to focus our efforts in a certain way in regards to how they're going to use that device they're planning to use. I want all of us to be able to report quickly and immediately in case they need our help." "Understood," said Andrew. "We'll keep holding out in the meantime." "Great. Now focus back on the task at hand, people. There's no time to waste." ***** Whitmore, a rookie agent among the Internal Affairs team, looked up from Montgonel's wound as Montoya stepped into the rain, a semi-conscious Carrie Enderson in his arms. "I got a civilian," Montoya said. Slowly, he approached them. One of them took her and brought her into the helicopter. "What about Pharisee?" asked Whitmore. "Somewhere in the back of the bowling alley," replied Montoya. "That's where I last saw them. I found Carrie - the civilian - back here. You mind if I go sit with her?" "No problem," replied Whitmore. Montoya slowly walked up to Carrie and held her hand. Whitmore looked up to see a familiar figure approaching them in the rain: X2. The rookie agent and UlTech Infiltrator nodded to one another, bearing no hard feelings toward one another for their commander's actions. Together, they stepped into the bowling alley, past Walter as he shot another ball. Finally, their journey led them into the dark room in the back, where the bowling pins were set up. The room was mostly dark, as they looked around. Finally, amidst the dim light, they could see a still figure. The two of them approached for a closer look. Sure enough, the man in question was a large black man. Something was on his face. It was an annoying sensation as a small rough tongue swept back and forth across the bruise that now covered the majority of his forehead. Commander Pharisee's eyes opened slowly, and instinctively his hand went to his head. It was sore, but it would offer little more than an inconvenience latter in the day. As he rose from the hard concrete floor, the scrawny alley cat that had awoken him scurried into the shadows of the bowling alley. The commander needed to reassess his surroundings and came to several startling conclusions. The first and most apparent was that Trigger was gone. He remembered beating the mercenary within an inch of his life when the man had clubbed him over the head with a bowling pin. The impact had knocked him out and, in most cases, it would have been enough for Trigger to make an escape. However, based on the toll he had recently taken, Pharisee assumed he could not have gone far. He would have no means of escape and he was likely apprehended by the agents just outside. The second thing he noticed was that Carrie Enderson had vanished. All that remained of her presence was a pool of blood on the floor. The drops of red disappeared down the hallway and vanished behind the door that led to the bowling lanes. Pharisee's detective skills informed him of the peculiarity of this scenario. If she had dragged herself along the floor, there would be a continuous messy trail of gore. Instead, the result was small spots an equal distance apart. The only thing that could lead to such an effect is if someone carried Carrie. "What happened here?" Whitmore asked. "Give me a hand, here, will ya?" The commander did not respond as he slowly picked himself off the floor. X2 slowly grabbed the commander by the arm. He was incredibly heavy; Whitmore and X2 practically had to drag him out of the back room. Pharisee, X2, and Whitmore followed the trail of blood back down the row of pin-setting machines. On the way, Pharisee spotted the gun that had belonged to Trigger and he realized his own weapon was missing. He took the mercenary's weapon as a replacement for his own and carefully opened the door back to the lanes. Nothing seemed to have changed since they last saw Walter, Dude, and Donnie. The trio was still playing their game of bowling with little regard to what was happening around them. Dude rose from his seat and called over to Pharisee. "What the Znap happened there?" Dude asked as he saw Whitmore and X2 supporting Pharisee's weight. "Here, let me give you a hand." "Don't worry about it, Dude," replied Walter. "That guy's been hurt, man!" said Dude. "I think we got to do something." Quickly, he got up, ran over toward them, and struggled to help pull Pharisee's weight. Instead of walking around the lanes, Pharisee opted to cut directly across them. In the process he stepped across the roll that Walter had just thrown and disrupted what could have been a strike. "What the Znap?!" barked Walter. "It's illegal to step over the line! You're on the Znapping lane!" Pharisee paid no heed as Walter continually cursed at him. Since the angry bowler's previous weapon had been torn apart by the commander, Walter opted to charge him with considerable tenacity. Without breaking stride, Pharisee dispatched him with a quick punch to the face. Walter fell to the floor with a thud (on the other side of the line) and the commander walked over him. "Hey man, what were those gunshots I heard back there?" asked Dude. "It would not have anything to do with that lady that came through here would it?" Pharisee nodded his head. "Where is Montoya? I entrusted the man to your care." "The guy went back where you were and picked up that lady," responded Dude. "I think he took her to that helicopter outside. She looked pretty messed up, man." "I should know," responded Pharisee. "I was forced to shoot her so I could get to Trigger. Her injury was enough to throw the mercenary off-kilter and allow me to take a shot." "Was the necessary, man?" asked Dude. "Did you at least kill him?" Pharisee walked over to the seat where he had hung his trench coat and put it on. "I don't know. Either way, Trigger could not get far. I brought the man down a few levels. He will bear the scars of my reckoning for some time to come." With those words, Pharisee vacated the bowling alley through the hole in the wall. He had lost valuable time during his unconsciousness but, without a vehicle, the escape radius of an injured man could not be high. Pharisee hoped his men had already apprehended him, but he had never before lived on the concept of hope. As Pharisee and his companions once again stepped out into the rain, he spotted the T-1 Typhoon landed in the street. As they reached the chopper, Marina came to their assistance. There were more agents than he expected. Those who had been tasked with guarding the back door had now relocated to within the helicopter or outside in the rain. The entire party was present. Standing just inside the door was Montoya. He was holding the hand of a woman under a blanket who was trembling terribly. Beside him was a man on life support and an agent covered beneath a white sheet. The mood was as somber as the rain pouring down, and Pharisee stepped across the puddles in silence. "What happened here?" asked Pharisee quietly. "Where is Trigger? Who is that man beneath the cover?" "Trigger stumbled out of the bowling alley after the fight," responded Whitmore. "He was faltering and seriously beaten up. We tried to apprehend him, but he killed McGovern and shot Montgonel. We emptied quite a few rounds into the guy and he went down in the back. We were so busy tended to Montgonel that he slipped away." Pharisee sighed. "How far do you think he could have gotten?" "He's probably dead now, sir," said Whitmore. "No one could have survived what you did to him, combined with how many times we shot him. He probably had just enough energy to crawl away and die." "I don't want to take any chances," said Pharisee. "Never utter the phrase no one could have survived that to me. If a man has enough willpower, he can accomplish a great many things on the brink of death." "With all due respect, sir," said Whitmore, "searching for a mortally wounded man seems like a poor use of time. Montgonel is in critical condition and Carrie has quite the nasty gunshot wound." Montoya locked eyes with Pharisee. "She said you shot her. Is that true?" Montoya asked, his question like a piercing arrow. Pharisee sighed. His actions would be defined by whether or not shooting Carrie was a reasonable sacrifice. He knew very little of whom she was and, unless he learned otherwise, she did not deserve what befell her. Pharisee did not often feel doubt; his actions were calculated based on a vast range of factors. At the time, it seemed shooting the innocent woman was the only option if he hoped to take down Trigger. To some degree, it worked, and he had succeeded in bringing down the mercenary… but if Trigger survived, the sacrifice would have been wasted. Either way, the commander had to ask himself whether Trigger's crimes outweighed Carrie's innocence. He knew he had committed many crimes for the sake of the greater good and, as long as the villain was defeated, he did not allow those moments to weigh him down. It was in this particular instance that he understood his failure. He had not defeated Trigger; the man had escaped to kill again, and now the blood of both Montgonel and McGovern was on his hands. Yes, Trigger could be dead at this very moment but, in his heart, he would have to grasp that what he did to Carrie was in vain. He had hoped that one innocent would be the last expense in the fight to take down a man who had committed a lifetime of wickedness. Instead, she had become collateral damage in his sacred fight against the evil men of the world. It had been unproductive; her life was now wasted because Pharisee had failed to stop the man he shot her for. "Sir, do you really need to find Trigger?" asked Whitmore. "We can't afford to let Montgonel stay here any longer. He needs blood now!" "No," answered Pharisee bluntly. "I must see the body. I need to know whether or not the sacrifices of these three people are in vain. My failure already had led to the suffering of two good men. I must know whether or not it will lead to more." Despite the rookie's protests, Pharisee turned away and headed down the side street to the right of the bowling alley. The blades of the helicopter began to spin behind him, and the pilot flashed his lights in a sign of impatience. The commander held up a finger to indicate his absence would only take a moment, before he disappeared behind the corner. There, in the middle of the street, lay the body of the man once known as Trigger. He lay on his side with his arms and legs sprawled out beside him. The rain created ripples in the pool of blood surrounding him, and his open eyes gazed up at the gray sky. Thunder boomed as the commander approached. There was no doubt that the mercenary was dead, his lifeless eyes continuing to express his final moments of life. Pharisee could not pretend to know what his final thoughts had been; his life had taught him never to sympathize with his quarries. It was through his apathy that Pharisee was so effective in his mission. In the grand scheme of things, Trigger had been just another unrighteous man whom the commander had dispatched. Although Pharisee was not directly responsible for the man's death, he still held responsibility. He wanted to remember the names of the men whom he had unleashed justice on. He hoped one day he would learn Trigger's name so he would not become just another number. Although he believed Trigger deserved his justice, Pharisee had to remember the man's humanity. He had to remember his face so he could live with the burden it carried. Even the death of an unrighteous man was still murder, and grasping the toll it took on his own soul was a necessary sacrifice for a greater society. Now, Trigger was dead, and Pharisee had to ask himself whether his demise was worth the suffering he brought down upon Carrie Enderson. Would she be able to comprehend what he had done to her was for the greater good? Would she see his justification and understand Trigger's death was worth her leg? It was unlikely; Pharisee would live with that cross forever. It may not have been his choice to decide what Carrie's role would be, and he would have to learn there might not be a justification. If he had not shot Carrie, Trigger may have escaped and killed more of his agents, but McGovern's life was one too many. Through his head, Pharisee would replay the actions of this night forever and wonder whether he had made the right choice. Pharisee retrieved his original weapon from the dead man's hand before turning back to board the helicopter. He left the body of the mercenary where he lay. He would have to confront both Carrie Enderson and confess his failure to her. He would try to explain, but he knew she would not listen. He might have destroyed her life forever in exchange for the death of an evil man. Was Trigger's death worth more than her life? As he boarded the T-1 Typhoon, the helicopter immediately made its way to the headquarters. The suffering of Carrie was directly on his hands, and the suffering of Montgonel was a direct result of his failure. Pharisee rarely experienced regret but, on this night, he did. It was a sensation he was not familiar with, and it pained him to accept his failure to people he swore to protect. As the helicopter made its way back to headquarters, X2 stared coldly at Pharisee but did not say anything. Pharisee was forced to look into the eyes of Carrie and Montoya. They held feeling of pain and anger that the commander could not ignore. "I'm sorry," the commander said simply. "I put my mission over your lives. I shot you, Carrie, because I thought I could end the suffering a single man could inflict. It was useless in the end, and Trigger went on to shoot two more good men. This was my failure, Carrie; I sacrificed your leg in a futile effort to destroy a wicked man. Trigger is dead now, but I will always remember the cost I inflicted on you. I hurt you, Carrie, and I failed to do my job. I'm not asking for forgiveness; I just hope you can understand." Rain gushed threw the open door of the helicopter. Lightning continued to flash outside, illuminating the suffering behind Carrie's eyes. She said nothing to the commander but continued to gaze upon the remnants of her knee. It was obliterated beyond recognition, and it was all for naught. Pharisee had chosen to make her an unwilling sacrifice and had achieved nothing but one last dead agent. "Montoya," continued the commander. "I'm sorry for what I brought you through. I carried you through continuous suffering in hopes of catching a wretched man. It was waste and an unmerited punishment for a man I now start to see as good. You are not the attempted murderer I once saw you for, Montoya, you saved the life of Carrie, and even now you ease my suffering. I ask for the forgiveness of my ways, Montoya. You did not deserve what I wrongfully unleashed on you. I can see that now." Montoya stared into Pharisee's eyes. It was on this man's account that he had been beaten and humiliated. He had been forced to confront his own dark past, and the memories of Trigger and the commander would always haunt him. The driver locked eyes with the commander and uttered one simple word: "No" Pharisee frowned. "Then this will be my burden. I will forever remember my wrongs against you two, and I will never forget. I will live with the suffering I inflicted on you forever. This is my justice." The helicopter continued back to the headquarters in the rain. No more words were spoken, nothing more transpired. ***** The area was filled with silence after Blaire Darkling's speech. The only noise was the rain splatted against the ground and the occasional rumble of thunder. Minerva and Zach simply looked at each other before looking back at Oswald, who was staring at his walkie-talkie in shock. XERRD may have joined forces with the Dino Attack Team, but had Oswald? "Baron Typhonus..." Oswald muttered absently as he began to put the pieces together. "He... is... the Maelstrom?" Minerva stopped herself from nodding, not wanting to trigger a negative reaction from him. Oswald glanced at the two of them and could see in their faces that Blaire was right. "H-he... is... the Ma-Maelstrom." The color was draining from Oswald face rapidly. "Everything was an illusion," he said. His gun was now shaking violently. "A lie. We're nothing but tools. What... what have I done?" Minerva could feel the sudden agony and remorse that traveled through his body. He looked at Minerva and Zach. "There's no hope... we're all going to die... nothing matters... I failed... can't save Minerva... all going to die..." The gears in Oswald's head were turning. His remorseful face suddenly became darker. In fact, the entire area seemed to become darker. A mad glint appeared formed in his eyes. "There is nothing I can do," Oswald muttered. Minerva watched madness descend over him like the rain. "Everyone I ever loved is going to die and there's nothing I can do to stop it. I'm so sorry, Minerva." His eyes pierced his sister's. "For everything." Turning to his mother, his entire person became bitterly grim. "You monster," Oswald spat at Athena. "How could a mother do what you did? Force her children to fend for themselves when they needed her most!" Minerva and Zach glanced at each other. Minerva was glad they could read each other's expressions, for she saw a purple spark travel up Zach's arm. Just knock him out. It would be safer that way. "Had her kids suffer while she hid behind memories of the past!" Oswald's tone became darker. His gun was still shaking, but it was steadying out gradually. "Ki-ki-killed her own son while trying to kill her daughter." He looked back at Minerva with eyes sparked with madness. "Oswald," Minerva whispered, trying one last time to reason with him. "Please..." Oswald's jaw slackened as he stared at his sister. His arm was shaking again as he looked back at Athena. Minerva realized what was about to happen. She started running at him instinctively as Zach fired a Maelstrom fireball. Bang! Athena Fabello's eyes widened to astronomical proportions. She looked down at her children, who were both lying on the ground after being struck by the fireball. They both shakily crawled to their feet. Minerva had attempted to shove Oswald away, but only ended up getting caught in Zach's Maelstrom attack. Her entire body screamed in pain, but she muffled it as she looked at her mother. Athena stared at Minerva with wide, unwavering gray eyes before looking to her son. Then to his gun. Finally, she looked down at the growing red stain on her sweatshirt, around her chest. Athena fell to her knees slowly. Minerva whipped her head from Athena to Oswald. He looked as though he was going to be sick. He dropped the gun and, without a single word, fled from the scene. Minerva didn't bother chasing him. She started to move toward Athena when Zach grabbed her arm. "Are you alright?!" He seemed extremely worried. "I didn't mean to shoot you, it's-" "I'm fine!" Minerva snapped. She wasn't, both physically and emotionally. But she was more concerned with getting her grievously wounded mother to safety. It was like Tod all over again. "Help me!" Zach nodded in silence and approached the fallen Athena. Together, they wrapped Athena's arms around their necks and lifted her off the ground. "Athena, can you hear me?" Zach asked, maintaining a calm voice. There was a small interlude before Athena weakly nodded, staring straight ahead. "Can you walk?" Athena didn't respond to this. Her pupils were still wide open. "I'll take that as no," Zach said, looking away. "We'll just have to be careful with her feet." Minerva nodded. With Athena between them, they hurried as fast as they could back to Dino Attack Headquarters so they could find her medical attention. It was hard going. Oswald had clearly been anticipating this, so he had brought all three of them all as far enough away from the headquarters (which was now smoking and seemed on the verge of collapse) so they couldn't save Athena. Despite this, Minerva was felt a sudden determination to get her mother to safety. As they walked, Minerva felt her heart sink. Oswald had finally lost it. She had hoped learning the truth about the Dino Attack would've helped, but that, combined with remorse for his previous deeds, had crushed Oswald's hope entirely. He believed there was no hope left. That he was going to lose everyone that he had cared about. His plan had failed. There was no chance of saving his little sister now. And with his sunken sanity, Athena had become his first target. Minerva suddenly realized she was trying to stop the blood from exiting Athena's chest with her hand. Her glove now soaked in blood, she looked at her mother again. Her eyes had returned to a normal size. However, Athena was now muttering something, but Minerva couldn't hear it as they reached the battlefield. Gunfire, explosions, and roars muffled everything. "Hey! HEY!" Zach suddenly yelled out. He waved his free hand. "MEDIC!" Minerva finally saw it. A Fire Hammer (or was it a Dino 4WD Trapper? It lacked the gun and instead had a small, cube-like area in the back) with the Star of Life painted crudely on the side of the door. The Fire Hammer stopped in its tracks and a mustachioed doctor jumped out of the cab and started running toward them. "What's-a going on?" the doctor exclaimed. He looked at Athena "Is that a-?!" "Yes, Martinet," Zach said. "A civilian. Who's been shot. We need help." Martinet nodded and gestured for them to go to the back of the Fire Hammer. "I think we can-a make space for her," Martinet was saying in a hurried tone. "We found another injured man, but her wound appears to be much more serious. The headquarters has-a been blown up and at this point, I'm not-a sure if we should take her-" "Stop." Zach and Minerva froze in their tracks and looked at Athena in surprise. Her breathing was shallow and her head was bowed down, allowing her long blonde hair to cover much of her head. Martinet raised an eyebrow. "Excuse-a me?" Ma'am, we need to do something or else-" "No," Athena said, lifting her head to face the medic. "Thank you..." "Dr. Martinet." "Thank you, Dr. Martinet, for wanting to help…" Athena paused, trying to catch her breath. "But it's far too late. I want to speak to Zachary and Minerva." Martinet looked at the two Elite Agents curiously. Minerva nodded slowly, her breath taken away. Martinet sighed, but nodded. Lifting up a massive hammer, "I'll keep the dinos away." Athena smiled weakly and nodded once. As Martinet went to guard them, Zach and Minerva set Athena down on the ground and leaned her against the side of the Fire Hammer. Minerva stared at Athena, trying to find something to say. The only word that made it past her lips was, "M-Mom?" Athena bit her lower lip. There were tears in her eyes. "I'm here, Minnie." The younger Fabello woman was still guarded. "Minerva, I... I'm so sorry. For everything." Minerva froze. Memories of herself as a young child flooded her vision. She had her ear to a door. She could hear a woman weeping gently. The woman hadn't left her room for days. She would only leave to get more bottles full of a liquid that Minerva wasn't allowed to have. A blond-haired boy pulled her away from the door and told her to stay away from her. "But she's my mom," Minerva had argued. Oswald had grimaced. "She's not Mom anymore. She doesn't care about us anymore." Tears were forming in Minerva's eyes. This was her mom. The happy mother she had known when she was toddler. Not the alcoholic woman who used her memories to hide away from the present, but Athena Fabello. It was only now that Minerva realized how much she missed her mom in all those years growing up under Tod and Oswald's care. Being shot must have freed her mind from her amnesia somehow. Minerva leaned forward and hugged her mom. Athena returned the hug. Her crying was louder now. "I'm so sorry. Because of me, you had no mother and lost a brother." Athena choked at mentioning Tod's death. "Oz... Oz had every reason to do what he did." "No," Minerva muttered, not wanting to let go of her. "He didn't. He shouldn't have. He's... not okay. He's-" "Shhh," Athena said soothingly. Minerva became quiet immediately. Minerva pulled away and looked into her mother's eyes. There was calm comfort and acceptance in her eyes. "I'm so proud of you, Minerva," Athena whispered, wiping a tear off of Minerva's cheek. "You haven't let what I've done to you control you." "But... but, I-" Athena put a hand to Minerva's lips and shook her head. "I've been watching you for the past hour, Minerva. I remember everything you said, including what you said to Oswald. You've become a strong, beautiful young woman. I... I only wish I hadn't missed watching you grow up." Athena looked past Minerva and up to Zach. He was clearly shaken, but had remained silent. "Thank you, Zachary. Thank you for helping me reunite with my daughter one last time. Even if I was a little annoying." Zach smiled faintly and nodded. "No!" Minerva gasped. "You can't die! You've come back. You're yourself again! You can't leave!" Athena smiled sadly. "It is certainly unfair that the only way I could speak to you as myself is when I'm on the verge of death. You'll pull through, Minnie. I'm sure of it." Athena touched Minerva's cheek quietly. "I wish I hadn't been so weak." Her voice was becoming weaker. "I wish I hadn't given up." "Mom!" Minerva sobbed. "Martinet! Get back over here! Please! You can-" "Shhh," Athena whispered gently. "It's okay, Minnie. I get to see them again. I hope Tod forgives me. I'm so sorry..." "Please!" Minerva begged, her desperation growing. "I forgive you! Just don't go!" Athena looked into Minerva's eyes, a motherly smile forming on her face. "I love you, Minerva. Tell... tell Oswald that I... love him... too." Athena closed her eyes. Her chest rose one last time before falling and become still. "No!" Minerva yelled. She shook her mother's shoulders once, knowing that she wouldn't respond. Minerva laid her head upon Athena Fabello's cold shoulder and sobbed loudly, grieving the loss of her mother. ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  8. Chapter 68: Worsening Odds ---- "You're pulling my leg off. That cyborg thing is on our side?!" "Hah-ha! Our list of pet monsters just keeps getting bigger and bigger!" "Omaigawsh, that Gonepus's gun is horrible! Disintegrations, eggh! I hate that!" "Who's leading XERRD now? Gonepus?" "I think it's the Darkling fellow." "Dr. Cyborg was part of XERRD. Maybe he can convince them to let him lead!" "After taking control of that Cyrista's Bane, I'm supporting anything he wants to try." "Is that a gunslinger riding on a Mutant Lizard out there?" "Oh wow, what a reversal of fortune!" said Laxus. "Alpha Team comes in, Dr. Cyborg tames Cyrista's Bane… man, what's next?" "I have no idea," said Andrew, "but the odds sure are stacking up in our favor. Let's just hope things stay like that." With the forces drawn closer to HQ in their last bids to defend it (in spite of the charge Dr. Rex was leading), the Mutant Dinos were gaining more ground to try and push the Dino Attack vehicles aside. The team was holding up, but some of the organization was fraying at the edges, with most of the T-1 Typhoons still recovering from having the Cyrista's Bane affair taken care of and the extended absence of Hertz and his communications team. Currently, Andrew was doing his best to help the T-1 Typhoons get full understanding of the situation on the ground-based front lines. Zach and Minerva were busy trying to get Athena back to HQ for evacuation, and Dr. Cyborg was still cleaning things up over at the Power Station site, so he was mostly alone in this job. "B's going off to handle some challenger who has a personal problem with him, it seems," Hotwire was saying. "And just to inform anyone who was curious, Kat's... gone rogue. In a nutshell, she's still got a bit of Katerina in her, and she's gone off on her own to try something." "Katerina appears to be an intelligent woman from what I've seen of her," said Rotor. "I wouldn't worry too much about her, but if she is going to try something suicidal, you have my sympathies." "Same here," said Andrew. "Keep up the good work out there, and once Zach comes back, we're sure to have everything together to push even Dr. Rex back!" "I don't know about that," said Cabin, "but I see your point. Good luck down there." "Same to you." Andrew focused now on several Mutant Raptors hounding his Fire Hammer on the left side of the vehicle. Catless and Pterisa were doing well enough picking them off, but they were insistent on hitting the vehicle. It was becoming a large level of concern. "Darn it, it's taking too long to shoot them with their shields up!" Catless said with frustration. "I can't get a shot from this side of the vehicle!" Laxus was saying. "Geeze, I'm wishing Minerva was still with us right now." "And I'm driving," said Andrew, "so I can't exactly wield a large Cosmotronic Ray right now. Just keep them off, an-" POP! The Fire Hammer suddenly jerked to the front-left side, making the LEGO Islander lunge over the wheel and leave the horn honking for several seconds before he managed to collect himself. Taking a moment to open his door window, he poked his head out briefly before ducking back in. It took about two seconds, but it was enough to find the problem. One of the Mutant Raptors had managed to pop the front-left wheel. This left the craft heavily off-balance, and made steering, especially to the left, an incredibly difficult task. The wheel well was grinding loudly from being dragged across the road, and it was surely getting ruined the more the Fire Hammer moved at the speed it was going. Logically, Andrew had two options: Find a new vehicle, or replace the wheel. Both were insanely difficult given the circumstances, but the former more so due to the scarcity of an empty vehicle that wasn't torn to bits. That meant he would have to do the latter. "What's happening?" Pterisa asked. "We've got a popped tire," said Andrew. "Under the circumstances, we're going to have to get it replaced, and fast." "In the middle of a battle zone?!" cried out Catless. "Are you nuts?" "We don't have any easier options. Look, there's a downed Fire Hammer up to our right. I'll pull up to it, get out, pull off a wheel, then we can get the thing propped up on some bricks so we can pull the old one off and attach the new one." "We've done it before on Adventurers' Island," said Laxus. "It's a bit more difficult here, but I think we can do it again." "Alright," said Catless. "I'll keep cover from up here. You guys get to work." "I'll assist however I can," said Pterisa. "Good to hear," said Andrew as he managed to get the Fire Hammer to turn and brake at the downed vehicle of the same brand. It looked to be sawed in half vertically by some kind of powerful laser, but its wheels were still intact and okay for use. After coming to a screeching halt, Andrew and Laxus piled out of the vehicle, guns blazing at the remaining Mutant Raptors still on their tail. Then they ran for the broken Fire Hammer. After taking off the hubcap holding the wheel in place, the two friends grabbed the wheel on the front right side. After a count to three, they pulled on the thing as hard as they could, slowly sliding it off the Technic rod it rested on. The vehicle wreck creaked as they did so, its balance being rocked as the wheel was detached. As the pair finally slid the wheel off the rod, letting it fall on its side on the ground, the broken half of the Fire Hammer shifted to lying on the ground by its front end and the back wheel, producing a sizable thunk! as it did so. Still focused on their task, Andrew and Laxus didn't notice as the moved to pull the wheel back up straight and began to wheel it back to their Fire Hammer. They did notice the results of the "thunk" when they heard Catless's turret thumping over them, and turned to see a Mutant Stegosaurus approaching them. The two quickly moved to finish moving the wheel to the relative safety of their vehicle. As they leaned the wheel on the side of the vehicle, they turned just in time to see a Mutant Raptor charging right for Andrew. The Elite Agent quickly ducked, letting the giant lizard slam into the hull headfirst, putting a bit of a dent on the driver-side door. Andrew reached for the laser rifle he had left on his back, but as he drew it, the Mutant Raptor regained its composure and knocked the weapon out of his hands with its head. The Raptor reared its head and prepared to lunge at him with its teeth, but before it could do so, a lightning bolt struck square in the top of the head. The creature shook from the electrocution, and was quickly knocked down as Pterisa swooped in and kicked it right in the noggin. The Minifig/Mutant Pterosaur Hybrid then got to Andrew's side and pulled him up. "Whoo, thanks," said Andrew. "Guess I should've watched myself better." "Don't worry," she said with a smirk, "I've got your back. Now get back to work on that wheel." "Yes, ma'am," said Andrew in a cocky tone. The two smiled for a second before Andrew ran back to the chopped Fire Hammer, needing some bricks for the job of holding the vehicle up during the wheel change. ***** Mort had boarded Swerve's Iron Predator after his Solar Speeder had failed to survive a run-in with a pair of Mutant Triceratops, and was now putting the Cryothermic Cannon through its paces. Swerve himself, meanwhile, had his hands full, between monitoring comm chatter and picking off smaller targets with the Z-1 Kinetic Launcher. He'd been listening in on the Elites-only channel, but hadn't said much so far -- due to his lengthy absence, he didn't feel his words would be received with the same weight afforded to more recent promotions, such as Semick, Hotwire (That kid sure went places, he thought), or Andrew. He heard the latter describing the situation on the ground, and finally put in his own two cents. "Andrew's right. Whatever you can spare, send 'em to back us up. The line's getting weaker, and this is the worst possible time to let our guard down." ***** The Fire Hammer skidded across the wet road, splashing a large puddle and sending water flying into the air. As the Fire Hammer lacked a windshield and a roof, Frozeen and Sam Race were soaked to the bone by now from all the heavy rain, while Greybeard's pirate longcoat was waterproof enough to keep his clothes underneath dry. "Come on!" Frozeen said through gritted teeth. "We need to intercept the Mutant Dino army heading to Dino Attack Headquarters! Maybe we can incapacitate a few dozen Mutant Lizards before they reach the building!" As the Fire Hammer turned down Christiansen Street, lighting flashed directly overhead, immediately followed by the great crack of thunder, roaring above the howling wind like a massive explosion. The brief second of light provided by the flash lit up the area around them, and even Greybeard could see the movement of many Mutant Dinos. They were not all marching down one street, but their numbers were so great that they were forced to swarming down whichever path was available. Frozeen shuddered to think of what happened to the front lines in order to allow so many Mutant Dinos to break through. Although Frozeen heard cries of triumph over the radio regarding the apparent defeat (and subsequent allegiance) of the so-called Cyrista's Bane, the cybernetic Mutant T-Rex that he had heard so much about but never actually saw in battle, he could tell that victory was still not in their grasp. "Looks like we've got a massive dino rush on our hands," reported the Alpha Team agent. "I suggest we start falling back to headquarters before it's too late." "Fire th' cannon, me hearty!" shouted Greybeard once the Fire Hammer was close enough to the Mutant Dino army. Frozeen aimed and fired the Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher at the Mutant Dinos, making sure to switch up modes every few shots to prevent any Mutant Lizards from adapting to his strategy. Sam Race floored the gas pedal and rammed the Fire Hammer into the Mutant Dino army, and Frozeen winced as he heard the crunching of bones under the jeep's wheels and saw the occasional carcass fly up onto the hood. After the Fire Hammer plowed through the Mutant Dinos, Frozeen noticed that one of the headlights was now broken. "Careful!" yelled Frozeen. "This Fire Hammer's seen better days; unless we do some last-minute modifications to this thing, I don't think it can survive another charge like that!" "You know," Sam said with a shrug, "all those years ago, I laughed at Workman Fred for thinking that a digger could be a good racer. Right about now, I'm wishing that I had one of those." "If we find one lyin' around," suggested Greybeard, "then 'we got t' build like crazy', says a certain maniac Redbeard knew once, an' then maybe this Fire Hammer be better suited t' plowin' through th' Mutant Dinos." Already, Frozeen saw a number of Fire Hammers, Urban Avengers, and the occasional Iron Predator driving in the direction of Dino Attack Headquarters. Driving away from headquarters, but sticking around close enough to fire at the Mutant Dino army with pistols and rifles, was a Fire Hammer driven by Lord Sam Sinister, and it appeared that Mr. Cunningham and Rudo Villano were also riding the same vehicle. The Brickster wasn't the only one out to have a good time during this battle. Still, it wasn't enough. "If Dr. Rex and his army gets any closer to headquarters," Frozeen gritted his teeth, "then it won't be a safe place for much longer!" He thought of Shannon Grimton, confined to a wheelchair and overseeing communications, and shuddered at the thought of her being trapped in Dino Attack Headquarters when Dr. Rex arrives. I won't let that happen, he promised himself. ***** "Alright, so you'll be on standby. We'll give you a call when we need to get picked up," Zach was saying to Joike as he, Minerva, and Athena stepped on to the front step of Dino Attack Headquarters. "They need every hand they can get, so I don't want you waiting around for us." Joike nodded. "Will do. See you later." The Fire Hammer's engine revved and sped away as it rejoined the rest of the Dino Attack Team. Putting on his helmet, Zach tapped Minerva's shoulder, who was looking at her mother with a sad look on her face. "You alright?" he asked. "You and her were kind of..." He drifted off. Minerva turned to him. "I'm fine," she said quietly. "It's just like when Oswald showed up on Adventurers' Island. I was surprised and I didn't know how to respond, so I responded with snapping at her." Zach patted her on the back in a comforting manner. "I get it. At least she won't hold it over your head." Minerva gave a faint, bitter smile. "I suppose she won't. But how did you get her to remember you?" Zach briefly explained what Blaire had told him. Minerva looked over at her mother again. "He really thinks Napoleon XIV helped her?" "It kind of looks like it. At least in some areas. I'm not sure if she'd ever go back to normal, even if the institution had done more to help her." Minerva didn't respond right away, continuing to stare at her mother with a look of pity on her face. "I-I suppose she's happy," she said, trying to keep her voice under control. "In her little world. It would be cruel to bring her into the world we're in now." Zach looked at Minerva curiously. As opposed to Oswald's "resurrection", she was handling Athena's return rather well, especially when Zach thought back to Minerva's slight outburst when discussing Athena after receiving the letter from Napoleon XIV. "I don't think I'll ever forgive her," Minerva continued quietly, almost more to herself than to Zach. "For what she did to us. To Tod. Because her, I have no mother and have one less brother. But... it's not worth it. Holding a grudge. Nothing good would come from it. It just..." Minerva faded off. Zach wrapped an arm around her and squeezed her close. He wanted her to know he would be there for her, no matter what. Athena turned briefly and looked at Zach and Minerva. Minerva didn't seem to notice, but Zach watched the older Fabello woman with mixed interest. Athena seemed confused and shocked as she watched her daughter get close with some stranger. Zach thought he saw the barest glint of a tear in the mother's eyes before they grew wide. "Let's go, you two," Athena suddenly said. Minerva pulled away from Zach's embrace and stared. "Your sons are waiting." Minerva turned her stare to Zach, who was completely lost. "She... she thinks you're my dad," Minerva said, incredulously. "Do I look like your dad?" Zach asked as Athena walked toward Minerva and grabbed her hand. Minerva paused, trying to remember her long-deceased father's appearance. "You both have glasses. That's really sort of it." Athena tapped Zach's shoulder and gave him a warm smile. "Let's go, Isaac." Zach shot a brief glance at Minerva, who only gave a weak sigh before pulling her hand irritably away from her mother. Athena gave Minerva a confused glance that quickly faded away as Minerva grabbed Zach's hand and raised an eyebrow as she looked her mother curtly. She may not totally despise Athena, but that doesn't mean she likes her, Zach reasoned. "Let's get going. They'll be wanting us back in the battlefield soon." Minerva nodded. She removed her hand slowly from Zach's and pulled open the front door. Then she, Athena, and Zach stepped inside the building. Zach could see the receptionist Elizabeth Wilma gathering papers from her desk in preparation to evacuate. "Um, excuse me?" Zach spoke up. The receptionist looked up, a worried look on her face. "Yes?" "We heard something about a teleporter evacuating people to Antarctica, correct?" Wilma nodded. "Could you direct us to it. We found a civilian…" Zach gestured to Athena. "… and she needs to get out of here." "Of course, if you will follow me..." ***** Carefully, Firecracker led the Third Headquarters Squad through the corridors as he pulled a lengthy wire. In the other hand, he had a plunger. The plan was simple: if things get rough, light the charges in the lab, then use that blast to detonate a series of other charges. The blast could and hopefully would engulf the entire base, but that was his plan, and he was hoping to put it into action. As Demoman left to go plant the remaining charges, Firecracker took the time to carry the wire into the basement, as he reached the bottom of the stairs, he carefully started to set up the plunger. Slowly he tied the wire to it, and then lifted the handle, ready to push it down at a moment's notice. ***** "Look," said Epsilon. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm starting to think we should be getting the heck out of here." "What do you mean?" asked Shotgun. "They're getting awfully close," replied Epsilon. "I'm afraid he's right," Scope agreed. "Yeah," replied Shotgun. "We'd better get out of here." As the handful of snipers started to move out of the base, they passed Elizabeth, who watched in surprise until one of them caught her attention. Slowly he turned toward her. "You're a pirate?" he asked, lowering his rifle. "Yeah," replied Elizabeth. "You do seem familiar," replied the agent. "Really?" "Aye," replied the man. At this point, she started to clue in. Despite his uniform, this man was from the Tropical Sea. And indeed, there was something about him that seemed familiar… uneasily familiar. This man couldn't have been a pirate himself. He was too well-kept for that sort of thing, with his neatly combed hair and clean-shaven face; most pirates didn't bother making themselves neat, outside of the captains, but that was mainly for special occasions and when they wanted to intimidate their foes, not something they made a point of daily. He certainly couldn't be an Indigo Islander; no face paint. That left one possible explanation. "You're an Imperial?" Elizabeth asked. Indeed, while some Imperials did sport beards, like Governor Broadside and even his trusty sidekick Lt. De Martinet, they still seemed to keep themselves tidy and presentable. This man had clearly shaven regularly to ensure that. "That's right!" replied the man. His accent sounded slightly British, finally making it clear that he was from the Imperial Guards. "Look, I'm not going to hurt you right now. Things may have gotten rough back then, but out here, we got no choice but to work together! You remind me of a girl I once met, quite a fine lass too, one who broke social customs and caught a few rather nasty pirates. Got fine money for it too. We had a gig going for a while. Then at some point she left me for dead. Cast me adrift in a little floating bucket with a paddle and an annoying parrot." Elizabeth looked at him nervously. "Maynard?" she asked. "No! No, you can't be..." The officer looked toward her. "Elizabeth? A pirate? So those rumors were true, then. Captain Norman told me all about it, but I didn't want to believe it." "Indeed," replied Elizabeth. "And now you're with the Dino Attack Team?" "Yes," said Maynard. "Interesting thing, really. We'll have to catch up." ***** Nazareno landed hard on the ground and looked at Cyrista's Bane. They had taken down this behemoth and now it was allied with the Dino Attack Team, which was reason enough to celebrate briefly, as things were only about to get worse. They would need a hundred Cyrista's Banes at the point to even hope to defeat the Typhonus-controlled Dr. Rex and his Mutant Dinos. Additionally, Blaire Darkling had still not called for a truce with the Dino Attack, so XERRD and Dr. Inferno's agents continued to be a problem. Additionally, he heard that the Fr- "Hey!" Zelda said, tapping Nazareno's shoulders. He flinched visibly, leading Zelda to snicker quietly. "We did it! Cyrista's Bane is ours!" "Indeed," Nazareno said. He jerked his thumb toward Dr. Rex and his army of Mutant Dinos. "We still have them to deal with. And XERRD, Dr. Inferno, and possibly-" "Okay, thanks for bringing down the mood," Zelda interrupted, rolling her eyes. "A small victory is still a victory. Might as well relish it while we can." "I suppose so." "So, listen. I wanted-" Zelda was interrupted as two Mutant Lizards charged at them. The two of them easily cut them down. "We need to fall back!" Nazareno said. Even with Cyrista's Bane defeated, the army of Mutant Dinos had not been halted. "Wipe out as many dinos as we can on the way." Zelda began to say something before Nazareno turned and started running, swinging his swords at any dino that crossed his path. As he jumped on to a Mutant Raptor's snout, Nazareno turned his head briefly as saw Zelda close behind. She was jumping from Mutant Lizard to Mutant Lizard, make sure to slice open their backs before jumping to the next one. Nazareno quickly slammed one katana into the skull of the Mutant Raptor before jumping to the next one. He became aware that Zelda was calling out to him, but over the footsteps and roars of massive dinosaurs, he could not make out the words. He was about to turn back to her when a Mutant T-Rex's laser beam struck near his feet. Nazareno glanced up at the offending T-Rex, his eyes narrowing. He moved toward the T-Rex's feet and quickly climbed up the beast's leg and on to his back. The Mutant T-Rex bellowed angrily and tried to shake Nazareno off. Nazareno ignored the beast's frustration and climbed on to the T-Rex's head, where he quickly jabbed both katanas into its eyes. The Mutant T-Rex bellowed in anger and shook its head wildly. Nazareno's footing slipped and he found himself hanging on to one katana gouged into the T-Rex's eye. The beast opened its maw and tried to shake Nazareno into its internal furnace. Suddenly, the T-Rex bellowed again. Nazareno glanced downward and saw Zelda stabbing at its feet and legs. It stomped around madly, trying to squish the pest attacking its legs. Using this distraction to his advantage, Nazareno spun himself around on the katana like a pole and propelled himself back on to the T-Rex's head. Pulling both swords out of the beast's skull, Nazareno glanced down at Zelda, who seemed to be talking to someone or something. She looked up at Nazareno and gestured him to jump off the T-Rex. Nazareno quickly slid down the Mutant T-Rex's tail and started running. Nazareno understood why in a moment. It appeared that Zelda had called for help, because as Zelda started running toward Nazareno, the T-Rex was peppered with Cryothermic Cannon fire until it was put out of its misery. Nazareno allowed himself to sigh in relief. "Thank you for your aid, Zelda." "No problem," Zelda said quickly. "There's been something-" "No time," Nazareno interrupted. He started up back toward the headquarters. "We need to-" "Kareem Nazareno!" Zelda snapped suddenly. "Will you listen to me?" Nazareno turned back toward her, eyebrows raised. Her cheeks were bright red and, upon seeing Nazareno's glare, she began to stammer. "I'm sorry, it's-it's just-" Nazareno raised a hand curtly, stopping her. "What would you like to tell me?" Whatever it was, it was clearly too important to wait. Zelda seemed surprised. "Oh. Uh..." Nazareno gestured for her to continue. She clearly wasn't expecting this response, due to how flustered she appeared. After several seconds of silence, Nazareno spoke up. "We do have an army of Mutant Dinos stampeding toward headquarters. Unless you decide to tell me what's so important, I think it can wait-" "No," Zelda said quickly. She tugged on her ponytail nervously. "It can't really wait. Since we could both be dying soon..." Nazareno stared at Zelda briefly. He had no idea what Zelda wanted to say, but now his curiosity was sparked. "Well, what is it?" Zelda let out one, nervous breath before continuing. "I-I... I like you, Nazareno." ***** When Cyrista's Bane's internal repair systems were running, he had to stay immobile for the most part. As it was finishing, Dr. Cyborg heard the screeching of a Mutant Pterosaur. He looked up, and saw one coming towards him. He readied his gun arm, as the Pterosaur screeched in the saurian language: "Wait, don't shoot, I'm different." "What is that supposed to mean?" he demanded of the hovering Pterosaur. He could see that this specimen was visibly different, being smaller than other Pterosaurs and lacking features such as teeth or head crests. "I am the original Mutant Pterosaur. I am therefore free of the Maelstrom, and free of Alpha Rex's control. I recognize you also, Dr. Cyrista. I have heard of your desertion, and I wish to fight with you." "Well, alright..." Dr. Cyborg trailed off as Cyrista's Bane got back up. "Welcome, original Pterosaur," Cyrista's Bane said. "I am glad you are with us." ***** The Reclaimer arrived at the Dino Attack HQ. "I need a medic or four at the landing pad, my pilot is injured with second degree burns on her outside, and light burns on her inside. Hurry!" Cortana radioed in. ***** "What do we do about that dino monstrosity?" Cabin asked, noticing that Cyrista's Bane was moving. "Nothing," replied Rotor. "Apparently, some son of a 4+ Figure actually had the guts to talk to that thing and persuade it to change sides!" Cabin blinked in surprise. "You're kidding?" "No," said Rotor. "I say we still keep an eye on it, but as long as that thing's attacking XERRD, I'm okay with it around. In the meantime, we can finish this whole business with Dr. Rex. I got a rocket here with his name on it!" "I think I'm picking something up," Cabin said. "Incoming swarm of Pterosaurs by the look of it!" "EVASIVE MANEUVERS!" Rotor shouted over the comm. Sure enough, she was right. A group of rather ferocious Mutant Pterosaurs were approaching quickly. As fast as they could, the pilots opened fire, some of the Pterosaurs fell, but they still continued to attack. There were far too many for Rotor's T-1 Typhoon to handle alone. Soon they were overpowered. Finally, one struck at the tail. Lance shot it down, but not before it could knock the chopper off balance. Soon, they were spinning out of control. Another Pterosaur took off part of the rotor as they struggled to keep the vehicle balanced. They were spinning like crazy. Under the circumstances, it was hard to keep a clear head. Rotor struggled to bring the vehicle to a smooth landing as it fell toward the street below. Still, it hit the ground with a very loud crash. For a few brief but terrifying seconds, it seemed to drag along before the engines finally died. Rotor coughed as he climbed out of the smoking cockpit and dropped onto the city street below. Cabin was following soon after. One by one, the other agents in the helicopter started to crawl out. In the air, the cries of the Pterosaurs could still be heard. Another T-1 Typhoon went down, crashing onto one of the buildings before plummeting onto the streets in a heaping mess. Amidst the smoke, a man with a thick beard and long hair climbed out of the cockpit and coming to his senses, slowly looked around, and approached his teammates. "Kurt MacReady," the main said. "Most people just call me Mac." "Agent Rotor. This is Agent Cabin. We'll have time to get acquainted with the others later." "What do we do now?" Mac asked. "We're limited on ammunition," replied Rotor. "We're still going to need a bearing before we can get anywhere. I say we find a building and use it to our advantage. We'll get what weapons we can and then lay low until somebody finds us." ***** "Znap, Rotor and Cabin are down!" Bluetooth cried out, reporting immediately after seeing the results of the Mutant Pterosaur scuffle on the PLARXX radar. Semick instinctively raised his hand to his face in frustration. He could only assume the horde of flyers that had to be with Dr. Rex's charge had taken them by surprise. And this far out from HQ, their TALON-9 systems were too weak to handle such a rush. Still, it was a matter of extreme frustration. "Hotwire," he said over the radio, "the Pterosaur swarms have overwhelmed Rotor's crew. Looks like you're alone out there in that area air-command wise. Hold your forces together, I'm coming to assist you." "Got it," came the reply, "I'll appreciate the help." "You're more than welcome," Semick continued as he moved his T-1 directly into the front lines area. "Dr. Cyborg, spare some of your forces from the Cyborg T-Rex takedown to go assist Rotor and Cabin's crews. I'm not leaving them alone out here when I need every Elite to help keep this team together!" "I'll do what I can," the good doctor replied. "And it's called Cyrista's Bane, Semick." "We can bother with insistent terminology later." Semick turned around and looked at Bluetooth. "Bluetooth, I'm not liking Hertz's radio silence. Get in contact with the HQ medical team, I need them to start filling me in on these things." "Understood," the Futuron technician said, picking up his own radio mic and switching the frequency over to HQ's. "This is Standard Agent Bluetooth! To any Dino Attack medical staff still paying attention to the radio transmissions, we need an update on the status of Elite Agent Hertz! Our last communication with him was shortly before the Inferno bombardment on our communications center! Has anyone found him? What is his status?" ***** "MegaBloks, we've got two more elites down!" "It's time to run, dino cowards!" "Make that three, Andrew hasn't said anything in a while." "I've survived Mr. X's stunt rallies! You've got nothing on stopping my rock on wheels, Rexy!" "Andrew's getting a wheel change, he'll be back in a jiffy!" "In the middle of this?!" "These dinos haven't heard pain until I've blasted bad pop music on my speakers!" "Aaaaggh! Whoever's playing 'Friday' really loud, stop!!!" "Hah hah! Didn't expect a former Flying Legando and his amazing separation abilities, did ya, Mr. Brontosaurus?" ***** As it happened, the crew had landed in a residential neighborhood, or what was left of one. Finding a house wasn't a problem; they just had to find one that could hold everybody. Fortunately, there was one that was still intact. It required some maintenance, but structurally it still stood. Slowly, the team got to work attempting to fix things. One man in a leather jacket with blond hair seemed to be doing a pretty good job with the roof. One of the machine guns salvaged from the wreck was placed in an upstairs window, and Lance was left on guard. Another man took the back side of the house. "We got to turn this house into a fortress!" Rotor shouted over all the workers, struggling to board up the doors and the windows that weren't being used as loopholes. Cabin was following him around, nervous but keeping her cool. Being the one other elite agent there, that left her as the only other person in command, at this point a second to Rotor, even though no real hierarchy existed between them. For the most part, things were quiet. Overhead, they occasionally heard the sounds of battle: helicopters in action, explosions in the distance. Once in a while, Lance opened fire at the odd Lizard that took a wrong turn. "I think we're done here," said the blond man with the leather jacket, who spoke with a thin English accent. As he approached Rotor, it became apparent that he had very pale skin, bloodshot eyes, and pronounced incisors. "You think this will hold?" "Well, about as well as it can hold with what we've got," replied the man accompanying him, a young man in his early twenties. "I used to work in construction in LEGO Town." "Alright then," replied Rotor. "You got a name?" "Spike," replied the pale blond man. "Harris," the construction worker introduced himself. "Good. Alright then, Spike. Why don't you go give Harris a hand with the weapons?" Spike smiled and turned away, accompanied by his construction worker friend. "There's something strange about that man," Cabin muttered, gesturing towards Spike. "I don't know," said Rotor. "But we're going to have to work with him for now. Like it or not, we're going to be stuck here a while. We might even die here." Cabin seemed uneasy at the thought of that. "Still," Rotor remarked, "there's probably worse ways to go, and to be honest, you're not a bad person to be spending my last few hours with." Cabin smiled. Slowly they started to lean forward and wrap their arms around each other, their lips were just about to connect... "Excuse me," Spike said again. They both turned in surprise. He pulled out a revolver. "I just came to give you this." Spike handed Rotor the revolver, who promptly took it with a slight grin. "See if you can find some classical music around here, will ya?" asked Rotor. ***** Commander Holly Vinyaya and Doctor Paulie Gonepus collided together fiercely. Vinyaya held off Gonepus's Maelaser as he attempted to point it at her while she, with her free arm, attempted to point the Cosmotronic Ray at her foe. Unfortunately, even with Gonepus's right arm no longer functioning thanks to a well-placed shot from a sniper, he still had one mechanical arm on his back. With that arm, he easily pulled the Cosmotronic Ray from Vinyaya's grip and tossed it aside like a toy. He then grabbed Vinyaya's neck and hoisted her high into the air. "I'm thinking," Gonepus said, pointing the Maelaser at Vinyaya's right leg, "I take out every limb you own as compensation for that limb of mine you took. Maybe jab out that other eye of yours for kicks. Then, to spare you of any more pain, I'll blow your head to MegaBlokland. How's that sound?" Vinyaya responded by kicking the Maelaser out of Gonepus's hand. Instinctively, Gonepus dropped Vinyaya and reached out with the mechanical appendage to catch the weapon. Vinyaya quickly stood back up and punched Gonepus hard in the face. "Remember, Gonepus?" Vinyaya hissed with a cold smirk before punching Gonepus again. "I took out your other robo-limb. No more circus acts for you; you're back to only two arms." Gonepus quickly recovered and smacked Vinyaya hard in her midsection with his mechanical arm. "Perhaps," Gonepus snarled as he walked toward her, cracking his knuckles on his left hand. "But I think this one arm has enough before to break you into ten different pieces rather easily. Eleven if you count the epaulets." Vinyaya was quick to notice that Gonepus had ignored his Maelaser completely. She assumed he was suffering a borderline breakdown at this point, and his only concern was harming her in as many ways as possible. She could use this to her advantage. She quickly rolled out of the way as his mechanical arm curled into a fist and smashed down into the concrete, creating a small dent. Gonepus roared in anger and smashed his mechanical fist several more times into the concrete, missing the quicker Vinyaya each time. Gonepus then picked up a chunk of rubble and tossed it at Vinyaya like a Throwbot. Vinyaya ducked to dodge the blow as the rubble shattered into the building behind her. She spotted her Cosmotronic Ray nearby and started to move toward it. Gonepus hurled more pieces of rubble. One piece flew at Vinyaya's feet. Vinyaya jumped over the piece and stumbled slightly as she hit the ground. It was enough for Gonepus to charge at her and pin her throat against the building with the mechanical arm. Vinyaya gasped for air as she stared into Paulie Gonepus's mad eyes as he grinned. She kicked her body upward and wrapped herself around the robotic limb. She briefly saw a look of shock on Gonepus's face as she kicked underneath his chin. Gonepus screamed and clutched his face, dropping Vinyaya hard on the ground. She stumbled toward her Cosmotronic Ray. She picked it up, turned, and fired three consecutive shots at the XERRD scientist. Each shot was off by at least three feet. MegaBloks. She had used her right hand. Gonepus spat out a few teeth in anger and lunged at Vinyaya as she switched arms. She dove to the side as Gonepus's mechanical arm tore through the side of a building. Before Vinyaya could pull off any more shots, Gonepus turned and kicked her in the shin. She gasped in pain, giving Gonepus enough time to go and punch the right side of her face. Vinyaya screamed in agony as her acidic scars created a burning sensation across her entire face. Gonepus chuckled darkly and attacked again. Vinyaya collapsed to her knees, her eye watering from the pain. Gonepus prepared to attack again when Vinyaya's hand shot upwards and grabbed the arm. Gonepus gasped as Vinyaya twisted his arm sharply. She ducked as the mechanical arm snapped at her head viciously. Fighting through the stinging pain, Vinyaya rose to her feet and kicked Gonepus in the stomach before punching him in the nose. Vinyaya turned to pick up her Cosmotronic Ray when Gonepus's mechanical arm grabbed her heel and lifted her in to the air upside down. Vinyaya felt all the blood rushing to her head as Gonepus grinned madly. He punched her hard in the face again. Vinyaya suppressed a scream as body swayed from the force of the hit. As her body swayed toward Gonepus, she wrapped both arms around his throat and squeezed hard. Gonepus made a retching sound and abruptly dropped her again. Vinyaya dragged her feet back into a standing position and kicked Gonepus in the thigh. As he groaned, Vinyaya released him and backed away. Gonepus glared at her and lashed out at her with the mechanical arm like a whip, shattering the concrete it brushed against. He lashed his arm out again before grabbing her arm and whipping her around into the side of the building, leaving a Minifig-sized crater in the wall. Despite her armor absorbing most of the shock, Vinyaya still had the wind knocked out of her and a weak grade of whiplash. She prepared for Gonepus to attack again when she heard him chuckle darkly. "Of course. I had forgotten about you." Vinyaya turned her neck briefly and her eye widened as she saw Gonepus once again had the Maelaser. "You know," Gonepus said, in a false calm voice. "You are more trouble than you are worth. I think I'm just going to finish this here." Vinyaya was already moving when Gonepus roared, "I'M-A-FIRING MAELASER!" Where she had been was now only a gaping hole after the dark violet powers of the Maelstrom tore through it. Vinyaya was mentally punching herself. She had taken too long, and now Gonepus had found the Maelaser. "You're crazy!" Vinyaya shouted without even realizing it. Gonepus shrugged. "Blah." Then another streak of Maelstrom energy shot out of the weapon toward her. Vinyaya combat rolled out of the way and into her Cosmotronic Ray. Picking it up with her left hand, she ran out of the way again as another blast of energy came at her. Aiming briefly, she fired the Cosmotronic Ray twice. The blasts struck Gonepus's remaining mechanical arm. His small eyes widened and he bellowed in horror as he watched the decapitated limb fly through the air almost in slow motion, gripping the Maelaser loosely. The Maelstrom weapon then slid out of the arm's grip and began to fall toward the ground. Gonepus was running toward it, hoping to catch it. Vinyaya lowered her shoulder and charged at Gonepus, throwing him back. Gonepus snarled and shoved Vinyaya away forcefully with his left hand. He ran and managed to barely catch the Maelaser in the cradle he formed with his left arm. "You're finished, officer!" Gonepus roared. He turned around toward Vinyaya. "I'm going to-" He was interrupted with the sound of gunfire. Gonepus gasped and his body jerked involuntarily. He looked from Vinyaya, whose weapon was smoking from being fired, to his chest, where there was a small hole in his Space Marauder armor and where a small, red blotch was forming. Gonepus dropped the Maelaser in shock and fell to his knees, gasping for air. Vinyaya walked toward the XERRD scientist slowly, her weapon trained on his head. He looked up at her, a look of maddened fury in his eyes. He weakly reached for his Maelaser, only for Vinyaya to kick it away. "One more stake into your heart shouldn't matter," Vinyaya said coldly to the scientist. The Dino Attack Team already had one Maelaser in their possessions. And the more advanced copy that could corrupt Minifigs. There was no need for this one. Pointing her Cosmotronic Ray at the Maelaser, she fired. The weapon created a rather impressive, purplish explosion upon being shot that made the hair on the back of Vinyaya's neck stand up on end. When the smoke cleared, only a small pile of ashes remained. Gonepus looked at the pile in horror, what little color in his face draining away instantly. He then looked at Vinyaya with the most horrifying face of pure hatred that she had ever seen. "You disgust me," Vinyaya hissed. Watching Gonepus breakdown over losing his mechanical arms and the Maelaser reminded the look of pure fury Michelle Glados had shown in the Maelstrom Temple after her teleporting device had been shot and destroyed by Minerva Fabello. "You care more for your pathetic little toys then you do for billions of innocent lives. The fires of MegaBlokland are waiting for you, Gonepus." Gonepus snarled, his breathing becoming harsh and shallow. He was beyond saying anything comprehensible. He laid on the ground, a small pool of blood forming around him. Doctor Paulie Gonepus breathed one last, painful breath before moving no more. Vinyaya stepped through the hole Gonepus had created with his Maelaser and took shelter in the building briefly so she could catch her breath. She just barely brushed her hand against the right side of her face, which was now only emitted a dull pain. Vinyaya let a small, celebratory grin form on her face. She may be half-blind, but she could still kick brick. And Pierce was going to keep me in the headquarters. Pfft. Vinyaya reached for her radio and pulled put in close to her face. "Commander Vinyaya here," she said with just the barest hint of cockiness in her voice. "Paulie Gonepus won't be a problem anymore." She chuckled briefly as she heard several cheers and whoops of joy at Gonepus's demise. She pocketed the radio and stepped back out into the rain. Enough celebrating. Back to business. She glanced at the ruined remains of her Urban Avenger mixed with the remains of the Fire Hammer Gonepus had thrown at it. Suppose I should find a new ride. Shrugging, Vinyaya headed back into the battle, her Cosmotronic Ray over her shoulder, ready to find a few dinos that needed a good beating. ***** Drip Drip Drip You could cut the tension with a knife. Trigger continued to hold his weapon to the head of Carrie Enderson as he dared Commander Pharisee to make a move. Pharisee did not lower his weapon; the powerful IMI Desert Eagle remained pointed unwaveringly at Trigger and Carrie. While the standoff had been going on for quite some time now, Pharisee had no intention of backing down. He had learned patience over the years and he knew how criminals like Trigger think. Despite the fact that Trigger had a hostage, it was he was calling the shots. Pharisee was the aggressor and Trigger had to react based on the commander's actions. He sincerely hoped to use this to his advantage. Trigger assumed there were only a limited number of possibilities when confronted with a hostage situation; however, he did not account for the commander's methods. To some degree, he was right. Most law enforcers would use standard procedure. They would allow Trigger to make demands and then send in a negotiator in hopes of protecting Carrie. While this method was tried and true, Pharisee was not a normal law enforcer. The Commander prided himself in his unpredictability. While he contemplated his options before making a decision, he liked to choose an action that would throw his foes off balance. It was especially surprising when a man of the law did something unpredictable. One needed to evolve based on the situation and not treat all criminals the same. Moving off standard procedure was sometimes the best technique for taking men like Trigger by surprise and winning justice. Trigger's overconfidence was his weakness. Pharisee understood that Trigger had operated as a mercenary for a considerable amount of time. He knew a lot of the tricks of the trade, and he knew the general behavior of cops. Pharisee did not do things by the book; the book was outdated and narrow, and he did whatever was necessary. "Very well, Trigger," Pharisee began sarcastically, "you are not a coward. Truly, I say that only a foolish man would fight not only for what he believes but also for the sanctity of this world. You are valiant to leave them to meddle in the woes of existence. I see that you can function just as well without the world; I bet you don't need people, do you?" "I've gotten as far as I am today without getting too attached," said Trigger smugly. "Relying on others only gets you Znapped." "Indeed," continued Pharisee, "I bet you made that gun yourself and forged those bullets. You have never needed someone else. You can't get off this planet, Trigger; once we're all dead, Earth will eventually run out of all that makes life worth living. I'm not trying to convince you to come back; I'm just stating the truth so you understand just how ignorant you are." Pharisee turned his attention to Carrie Enderson. "Even now, you live off the lives of others. You exist vicariously only through the suffering of your fellow minifig. Truly pathetic, Trigger." Trigger rolled his eyes and growled. "We're done here, Pharisee. I don't need to wait here and listen to you preach. I'm leaving this joint, and you can't stop me. Carrie here is my hostage, and I would have no reservations shooting her. You make a move and she's dead, understand? I'm calling the shots now!" Pharisee could tell Trigger was getting disturbed by the commander's apparent lack of concern. Right now, he stood less than ten feet away from them and he was slowly getting closer. With every small step Pharisee took, Trigger jumped back in alarm. "I have made many sacrifices in the name of justice, Trigger," said Pharisee darkly. Even as Trigger shoved his weapon closer and closer to Carrie, Pharisee did not lower his weapon. "I know what kind of man you are, Trigger. You contribute nothing to this Earth, and I will do what is necessary to take you down. Many times, I have made decisions that some would say are unscrupulous in the name of the greater good. I have since lived with that mantle, and I am prepared to live with it further." "I swear to the Creator, I'll Znapping kill her!" yelled Trigger as he backed away further. "Swear to me!" yelled Pharisee in response. The sudden change in volume suddenly seemed to make the commander larger. In that moment, Trigger suddenly seemed to shrink away under Pharisee's might. And the room got even darker. The tranquil drip of the leaky bowling alley was interrupted by the tenacity of Pharisee. The incredible escalation changed the atmosphere in seconds, and Trigger backed away at a more rapid pace. The mercenary had met many colorful individuals over his life but, for the most part, he had dispatched them from a distance and with meticulous planning. As the commander seemed to grow more and more in front of him, he started to feel less and less in power. "Get back!" warned Trigger. "You don't want to do something you'll regret! You would not want an innocent like Carrie on your conscience, now, would you?" "I already live with regret!" retorted Pharisee. "I already carry that burden!" He suddenly brought down his gun forty-five degrees and fired one sudden and earsplitting shot. It struck Carrie Enderson in the leg, and the woman screamed in agony as the bullet shattered her knee. With such a powerful weapon and at such close range, the leg crumpled immediately as the blood splattered behind her. Clutching her wound in anguish, she crumpled to the floor, exposing Trigger to Pharisee's fury. "Son of a-" was all Trigger could say before the massive fist of Pharisee collided with his face, and he was thrown down the row of machines. Placing his hand over his bloody nose, he turned his gun on Pharisee and fired a shot. However, the adrenaline and surprise proved too much and the shot missed by several feet. Pharisee casually stepped aside and over Carrie's body to take another shot at the mercenary. The bullet grazed Trigger's arm, and he dropped his gun in pain. Unarmed and outweighed by almost 10 pounds, Trigger had no options but to run. He backed away from the imposing monstrosity of the commander before taking a full bolt to the door. He only made it a few yards before a heavy bowling pin struck the back of his neck, and he crashed to the floor. Then Pharisee was on him. The commander grabbed Trigger by the collar of his leather jacket and lifted him off his feet. For a moment before the punch came, he glimpsed the terrifying eyes of Pharisee. Beyond the bright whites of his eyes, he glimpsed a burning passion that could not be reasoned with. The eyes burned deep into him and he flinched as a fist collided with his face a second time. Trigger's nose snapped, and he was slammed into the concrete floor. Through his swollen eyes, he looked up at Pharisee as his foot came down on his chest. His breath left him, and he was once again lifted into the air. "There will be no bargain," hissed Pharisee. He smashed Trigger against the wall and gave furious punches to the gut. Trigger slid to the floor, and a sudden kick pushed him to the ground. He attempted to crawl away, but a hand grabbed him by the hair and slammed his head into the metal pin setting machines. He had enough time to glimpse the red smear left behind before Pharisee slammed his head into it a second and third time. Trigger now lay on his back, looking up at the flickering florescent light. His breathing was heavy, and blood trickled down his face. Commander Pharisee's shadow fell over him, and he once again attempted to escape. Great arms wrapped around him, and he was flipped over the larger man's shoulder to hit the ground hard. He was then grabbed by the legs and tossed aside to collide with the wall a second time. There was no escape. The mercenary was broken. Trigger attempted to rise from his futile position, but his legs wavered and he collapsed against the machines. He paused to catch his breath and held up a weak hand. "What you're feeling is pain, Trigger," said Pharisee grimly. "A lifetime of wickedness is catching up to you. This is justice, Trigger. Good and evil are repaid in kind, just as shadows follow bodies, and echoes follow sounds." He punched Trigger more, and he crumpled to the floor after a swift hook to the left. For all his life, Trigger had been savvy and in control. Now, for the first time, he found himself at the mercy of another man. Unless he was confronted with a miracle, he had no hope of survival. Physically, he was outmatched by Pharisee, and nothing he could do could change that. He would die in the damp and the grit, like so many other mercenaries have. As he lay on the floor and prepared for his last moments of life, his hand touched something round and heavy in the shadows. It had a substance to it, and it rolled on a precarious balance. As his fingers closed around the neck of the bowling pin, his broken lips shifted into a smile. "And you will know the truth," said Pharisee. "The truth will set you free." The commander bent down to deliver a powerful hit to Trigger's jaw, but Trigger rolled away and swung the bowling pin with all his might. He was weak and his vision was blurred from the beating he had received, but the impact from the heavy pin was enough to take down the commander. It hit his head with a heavy thunk, and Pharisee slumped to the floor on top of Trigger. The mercenary rolled aside and let out a sigh out of relief. Once he was confident in his success, he withdrew Pharisee's desert eagle handgun and placed it in his holster. Trigger allowed himself to move faintly, and he uncertainly rose to his knees. His body was bruised and beaten, but he gave a shallow laugh as he reached into his pocket and withdrew his cigarette case with broken fingers. After what he had been through, he really needed a smoke. Once he was on his feet, he limped down the row of bowling machines toward the door. He was dizzy and, several times, he had to reach for support. He fumbled with the knob before finally opening it and stepping out into the cold rain. "Trigger?" The mercenary looked back at Carrie Enderson, lying at the end of the row. She clutched her knee in misery as tears flooded her eyes. Trigger looked at the barkeep and then outside to freedom. She was hurt, but Trigger hurt more; he had to look out for himself if he hoped to survive this conflict. He stepped further outside and locked eyes with Carrie before closing the door between them. ***** From aboard their personal T-1 Typhoon, the founding members continued to oversee the Dino Attack Team's struggle against the Mutant Dinos. Although Cyrista's Bane had not only been defeated but also now pledged its allegiance to the Dino Attack Team, the battle against the cybernetic T-Rex was costly and broke the front lines long enough for Dr. Rex to gather a Mutant Dino army. Now, as the Maelstrom-possessed monster charged towards Dino Attack Headquarters, Specs knew that it would not remain safe much longer. As much as Specs hated to do so, in case Evil Ogel or any other power-hungry villain was listening to the radio, he had no choice but to contact the technicians and weapon designers. "What is the progress of the Einstein Device?" he inquired. The radio crackled to life with the voice of one of the lead engineers. "Almost finished! It'll be done in about a half-hour, I'd say." Specs frowned, seeing the Mutant Dinos drawing closer and closer to headquarters. "We don't have a half-hour." As a technician himself, Specs wished for a moment that he were not obligated to lead the team so he could help the others in designing the weapon that could very well bring their salvation. "I understand the importance of taking your time, but we cannot afford for the Mutant Dinos to get to the Einstein Device before it's ready." "It will be ready," promised the engineer. Next, Specs checked with the Portal Operations Team. "What is the progress on Operation Antarctica?" General's voice came in through the radio. "We've finished building a Teleport Pad to Antarctica's refugee facilities in the basement. So far, only those in need of medical attention and those who absolutely cannot fight have been sent through. We intend to build another Teleport Pad atop Dino Attack Headquarters so that T-1 Typhoons and Dino Air Trackers can airlift entire units to be teleported to safety... as well as provide everyone a place to fall back to, should Mutant Dinos start entering the building." "Good," said Specs. "But work quickly. If Dino Attack Headquarters is overtaken... we may have choice but to teleport as many units to Antarctica as we can." "Yes, sir," agreed General. "Shock, Throramebi, and I will assemble the Teleport Pad as soon as we reach the rooftop. We shall honor the memory of Libo!" "'Honor the memory'?" repeated Digger, who was eavesdropping on the conversation. He blinked in surprise. "What happened to Libo? I mean, last I saw, he was still alive, even during... well, you know… that incident." "Dropped a bridge on him," muttered Shadow, a little bluntly. "Oh, come on," said Viper, frowning. "Be serious." "No, it's true," Specs said as he shook his head sadly. "When I sent the reformed Portal Operations Team across the globe in search of XERRD's teleport pads, Libo was with them. At one point, their journey brought them to Japan, and they found the country overrun with Mutant Dinos commanded by Hybrids. After disabling XERRD's local teleport pad, they were pursued across the nation by the Mutant Dinos. When they reached the famous Stone Tower Bridge, Libo lagged behind to give the others a chance to escape. When the Mutant Dino army tried to cross the bridge, Libo brought it down... but he was still on the bridge when it collapsed." "That's a shame," sighed Digger. "That guy did so much for us, only to die without much recognition or fanfare." "We'll worry about the memorial service later," grumbled Shadow. "Now, we should be thinking about giving these Mutant Dinos a taste of their own medicine... destruction and carnage." ***** Dr. Cyborg had an idea. He sent a message to Cyrista's Bane and the prototype Mutant Pterosaur. "Cyrista's Bane… alright, for ease of speech, you are gonna be called Bane a lot, okay? Anyways, you and Screech are gonna go help Rotor's group, okay?" "Yes," Screech replied, "but what's with the name?" Dr. Cyborg shrugged. "Well, Pterisa was already taken, and anything similar sounds like copying." "Fine, it will work, but you had better find me a name like Pterisa, Tyrannus, Veleosis, Lizrado, and Rex." "Yes ma'am," Dr. Cyborg finished. They left, and Dr. Cyborg turned around. He saw a Mutant T-Rex standing behind him. ***** The group of people outside in the bowling alley turned in surprise as Trigger staggered toward them. "You alright?" Montoya asked. "Znap off!" snapped Trigger as he slowly limped toward the exit, inhaling his cigarette as he did so. Slowly, Montoya turned toward Walter. "That gun of yours," Montoya said. "It's not loaded by chance, is it?" "Is it loaded?" Walter said, turning toward him. "What the Znap do you want a Znapping gun for, huh?" "I need you to shoot these cuffs," replied Montoya. "The sooner you comply, the sooner you can get back to your game." Reluctantly, Walter reached into his bag and pulled out his gun, and slowly walked over toward Montoya. Taking careful aim, he fired, and the chain broke in half. "Thank you," said Montoya as he stood up and walked toward the back. Slowly opening the door, he stepped into the dark room where the machines were set up. "Is someone there?" a familiar female voice called out. Montoya looked carefully, but in the dim light, he could vaguely make out the face of a young woman - Carrie Enderson. "Yes," replied Montoya. He slowly walked toward her and sat down. She seemed nervous. "It's okay," he said. "I'm not going to hurt you. Can you walk?" Carrie shook her head. Slowly, he picked her up and carried her out. ***** Outside, Trigger was hardly surprised to find more agents waiting for him. There were four or five total, all pointing guns at him. At first, he complied, held up his hands. One man, McGovern, approached him to frisk him for weapons, but suddenly Trigger made his move. He reached behind his jacket and drew his gun and fired a solid round into McGovern's stomach. Montgonel fired. Trigger flinched in pain as he looked at the bullet hole in the side of his waist. "You son of a 4+ Figure," he muttered. Trigger quickly fired another round at Montgonel, who collapsed onto the ground. Two down, three more to go. By this point, the other three had finally decided to do the smart thing. They started to open fire on Trigger, realizing he was a threat. Finally, the mercenary collapsed onto the ground, lying against the wall. As the remaining agents struggled to tend to Montgonel, who was still alive but badly hurt, Trigger slowly began to crawl away. It was agonizing. The pain was nearly unbearable, but he kept moving, clutching certain wounds with one hand. Before long, it was soaked entirely in his blood. Finally, he could take it no more, and collapsed in the middle of a road, soaked in blood. He started to think about things as he lay there, the people he killed. When he shot Ursula Bennett that one night at Dacta Corporation, he thought nothing of it, but now he almost started to realize how she might have felt, knowing there was no chance, and fearing whatever was to come next. He thought about Carrie and how he'd left her so suddenly to save his own skin after working with her all those years. For the first time in his life, he felt something possibly close to remorse as he lay there in the cold rain. ***** Helm pulled Tracer's Vindication up to the line. Giles adjusted the Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher, probably switching modes, or something. It was a multi-mode launcher after all, right? Helm had to confess he didn't really have a clue how it worked, but Giles ran the machine so smoothly one would think he'd been born on it. Winston swung out onto the hood, sword drawn. In seconds, the next wave was upon them. Up above, Osprey and Desdemona peppered a T-Rex with cannon bursts until it fell. Osprey had finally exchanged his exaggerated optimism for grim silence; accordingly, the "1812 Overture" was now being followed by "Mars" from Holst's The Planets suite. ***** Things were still rough, Swerve reflected, but they were looking up, if only slightly. Now that he and Andrew had made the continuing gravity of the situation clear over the fall of Cyrista's Bane -- and of Dr. Paulie Gonepus as well, now -- the defensive line had been strengthened considerably, and the ranks of Mutant Dinos were breaking over them like ocean waves on a cliff face. Well, maybe not THAT good, but still pretty good. As he was manning the Z-1 Kinetic Launcher, Swerve was focused more on the short range. So it was Mort, from his higher vantage point in the turret, who saw what was coming next. "Well, this doesn't look good," he muttered. Swerve looked up briefly. At that moment, the air was split by a long, unearthly roar, and the ground shook. The undead elite agent had to agree -- this didn't look good at all. ***** Pierce had posted Wright outside the door to the infirmary, along with an Agent who called himself Jinx. Wright was glad for the company; the fact that her mind was still with Shiller probably did not make her the most effective of sentries, and she knew it. She began absentmindedly unloading and reloading the SMG, in hopes of distracting herself. The rumble of the battle up above and outside was practically tangible, and the two of them couldn't help but glance up worriedly from time to time. Thus far they'd been silent, save for an awkward attempt at flirting on Jinx's part, which Wright had quickly and harshly shot down. So it wasn't until the rumble was intensified by a rapid pounding and what sounded like a deep, eerie roar that either of them spoke again. "Whatever's going on up there," Wright said tensely, "I think it just got worse." ***** Hotwire cursed. Strategy was not one of his strong points, especially not when he had to concentrate on shooting down Pterosaurs at the same time, but all he could do now was pray he didn't get anyone killed as he ordered the nearest T-1 Typhoons into something like a formation. He tried to raise Rotor or Cabin on the comms, but there was nothing on their line save static. Just then, a deep, unearthly howling roar echoed off of Dino Attack HQ and the surrounding buildings. The comm chatter exploded with panic. It took Hotwire a few seconds to make sense of what had just happened. Apparently, the Darkitect's patience had run out. Dr. Rex himself had broken from his own ranks and was making a beeline for Dino Attack Headquarters. ***** Reality, as perceived by Dr. Ronald Alexander, was currently composed entirely of pain. No, not "pain" -- absolute unadulterated agony, and this was still an understatement. He could see the towering red-and-beige building ahead of him through a purple haze. Though he wasn't sure what was happening, he felt himself charging towards it. He didn't resist -- perhaps if he were successful, he would finally be allowed to die. "RONALD ALEXANDER!" That voice... now, that was enough to stop him in his tracks. Briefly struggling against the force that drove him forward, he slowed his pace and turned his head. A minifig was standing atop a nearby building. It was three stories tall, so he was forced to peer up somewhat to get a good look at the speaker. A woman, brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, and a face like... He opened his maw, and forced the growl that emerged into a word. "C-- ...Catherine?" Katerina looked down scornfully at the wreck of a creature that had once been her biological brother. "Yes," she said, "and again, no." Dr. Rex pounded the ground with his foot in rage and anguish. "They took you away! But this time I won't let them. I'll crush them all, bend them to my will. You won't have to leave again!" "Oh, but I will be leaving. You can count on that." Katerina dropped to the roof of the next building, which was only two stories, putting her eye-to-eye with the armored T-Rex. "Do you know why they took me away?" she said coldly. "Because it was for the best. And not merely because our shared birth parents could not support two children. You, Ronald, with your possessive nature and your lust for control, would have destroyed me, as you have done to every last person close to you." Dr. Rex's only response was a howl of rage. "You remember, I am sure, the one occasion we were allowed to meet," Katerina continued. "You were ten, and I six. When the time came to leave, you refused to let go of my arm. My parents had to pry me away while yours held you back. And you cried out that you would 'fix the world' so that no family need ever be separated again." She threw her arms wide, gesturing at the destruction all around. "And what a FINE JOB you have done!" she shouted. "Look at yourself. A twisted monstrosity, enslaved to the greatest force of malevolent chaos ever to exist." Ronald Alexander thrashed about as the Darkitect urged him towards Dino Attack HQ. "It was necessary!" he rasped. "I needed the power of the Maelstrom in order to--" "TO WHAT?" Katerina screamed. "To bring ruin to the world you swore to better when you were young? As a direct result of your foolishness, this entire planet was very nearly destroyed. By your actions, you would overturn the balance of the cosmos in favor of chaos and the annihilation of all that ever was. For that, I now sever my ties to you completely. You lost the right to call me sister long ago!" She took a step back from the building's edge and waited to see what would happen. ***** Minerva, Zach, Athena, and Wilma walked through the headquarters at a brisk. Minerva was keeping an eye on her mother while Zach listened in to a radio that he had received from Joike's Fire Hammer. Luckily, Athena had kept mostly quiet at this point. Minerva was relieved at this. Now that her emotions were in check, she probably wouldn't have snapped at Athena again, but it was still just better to have her quiet. "What's going on outside?" Minerva asked Zach as he put away the walkie-talkie. "The Darkitect sent Dr. Rex straight for the headquarters," Zach said with a hint of urgency. "He's only being held off by talking to a woman, who I am hearing is either 'Kat', 'Katerina', or both. Which makes some sense, as I did hear something about Kat being Dr. Rex's sister." He turned to Wilma. "Dr. Rex appears to be fighting off the Darkitect's influence for now to speak to Kat. I know personally that he won't last long unless something big happens, so we need to take this opportunity to find this Teleport Pad quickly." Elizabeth Wilma nodded and sped up her pace. Zach and Minerva adjusted while Minerva grabbed her mother's arm so she could keep up. As they rushed through the cafeteria, Minerva got a brief look around. Back in the kitchen section, Minerva thought she could see Mama and Papa Brickolini baking pizzas, thought she wasn't sure why. The mess hall itself was mostly devoid of life, save for a couple of people sitting at a table with their heads bowed, speaking quietly enough that Minerva could not comprehend what they were saying. She sped up to Zach. "What are they doing?" Minerva whispered to him, glancing back the Minifigs. "Praying, presumably. To what deity, I'm not sure." Minerva frowned slightly. "What is that supposed to do?" Zach shrugged. "People find comfort in it. To know someone more powerful than anyone is out there, listening. Also, there is a giant beast leading an army of monsters toward this headquarters, the giant beast being controlled by an almost godlike person in control of basically the essence of chaos and destruction. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some religious text that describes an incident like this. All we really need is a savior to arrive and save us from certain destruction." Minerva glanced back at praying Minifigs. She herself did not follow any religion, preferring to put her faith into more physical beings. She couldn't really blame the Minifigs for trying to find some comfort in this battle or trying to get some outside help. At this point, she could probably bring herself to pray as well. The group continued down the hallways in silence. Zach and Minerva were eager just to get Athena out of danger so they could return to the battle. Naturally, things never seem to work out that way. "Stop," a shaky voice commanded from behind them. Minerva flinched visibly. "Turn around." Wilma, Minerva, Zach, and Athena turned slowly to face Oswald Fabello, pointing a handgun at the group. Minerva suppressed a small gasp. Zach was right. Oswald wasn't looking very good. Sunken eyes, unkempt hair, a slightly-crazed look. He had sunk even farther down since she had last seen him fleeing into Adventurers' Island jungle. "Oswald," Minerva whispered. "I-" "Drop your weapon," Oswald commanded irritably. Minerva dropped her Cosmotronic Ray quickly. "You too, Virchaus. Drop the knife." Zach scowled, and let his knife fall to the floor. "And no Maelstrom tricks, Virchaus. One little purple spark, and I will kill all of you." Zach didn't say anything, choosing simply to glare. How did he know about that? Minerva wondered. "You," Oswald hissed, turning his stare to Elizabeth Wilma. "I don't care about you. Get out of here. Now." Elizabeth Wilma looked to both Zach and Minerva. Minerva couldn't bring herself to speak, so Zach did: "He's dangerous. Just go. And maybe get some help." Oswald chuckled coldly, but didn't say anything. Wilma nodded quickly and turned and fled. "Well," Zach continued, crossing his arms. "Your plan seems be working, from what I can tell. Athena and by extension, you, made it to Minerva. What now?" Oswald cracked the barest hint of a smile. "We get out of here so we can have a more private place to talk." He stepped to the side and gestured for the group to get ahead of him. Gripping Athena's arm, Zach gave Oswald one last cold glare before they started walking. Minerva came up from behind and walked by Oswald as they began to leave the headquarters. Minerva looked at Oswald, who stared straight ahead. Her brother probably disliked Zach and he most certainly hated Athena. If anyone could possibly reason with him at this point, it was her. "Oz," Minerva said quietly so only he could hear. She had chosen to use his old nickname as if to better connect with him. "What are you going to do?" Oswald was quiet for a brief moment, and then he spoke. "I can't lose you, Minerva. You're the only family I have left." Minerva was taken aback briefly. She had expected the crazy, murderous psychopath she had seen on Adventurers' Island to speak. Instead, she was speaking to her older brother. "Do you think being with XERRD will keep me alive?" she asked gently. Oswald nodded slowly. "No organization is safe from Baron Typhonus. He'll destroy the Dino Attack Team, then turn the Mutant Dinos on XERRD. No one is safe." She saw his eyes narrow briefly. "Baron Typhonus is dead. He was killed when the Maelstrom was created." "No," Minerva said, her voice growing cold. Oswald finally turned to look at her. "He isn't. I saw him myself in the Maelstrom Temple. He spoke to me, trying to get me to turn against my team. He is alive and he's out there now, controlling Dr. Rex. You are his puppet, just like the rest of XERRD is." Oswald looked at her, unsure what to think. Minerva was silently hoping that her words were help Oswald. He then turned away. "I don't know what to do with you, Minnie," he said in a shaky voice. "Part of me wants to just kill you. The other part wants to keep you safe because you're my baby sister and the closest companion I had in the last six years." Minerva reached a reassuring hand out to Oswald. She wasn't sure if he was actually being manipulated by the Darkitect or his sanity was declining because of the Darkitect, but she was determined to help him. Oswald looked at the hand, then at Minerva. "You helped me when I needed it most," Minerva said warmly. "I want to return the favor." Oswald seemed like almost wanted to grab the hand and pull his sister into an embrace. To apologize for what he's done. He then turned his head and saw that they had reached the front door. Regaining some of his composure, Oswald turned to Zach and Athena. "Out the door. Now." The group shuffled out the front door and into the battlefield. Minerva gave Oswald a pleading look, but he ignored it. "This way," Oswald said, pointing. Sighing but not willing to give up Oswald just yet, she followed the rest of the group toward Oswald's destination. ***** "Dino Attack... turned you... against me...!" Dr. Rex thrashed around, feeling muscle spasms all over his body as he struggled to remain still, despite Baron Typhonus's urging, despite the Darkitect pulling his strings. The physical pain was greater than ever, and Dr. Rex wished for nothing more than to simply die. But now, even worse was the emotional pain. If it weren't enough that he only now realized that he was little more than the Darkitect's plaything, Dr. Rex now had seen his sister, his dearly beloved Catherine, again, after so many years of being forcibly separated... and she had just disowned him. He remembered all too well the pain he suffered from losing her the first time. Now, like a musical motif, a dark reprise of those memories was now playing in his mind. "I... cannot..." said Dr. Rex, aghast at Catherine's words. "No..." Unable to even put his thoughts into words, Dr. Rex delivered a terrifying roar that was so loud that it nearly deafened those nearby. A violent muscle spasm shook Dr. Rex's entire body. The Maelstrom energies constricting his being tightened their grasp. "She's... my sister...!" panted Dr. Rex, although it was unclear who exactly he was talking to. "I cannot lose... not again...!" One tendril of Maelstrom energy wrapped itself around his neck. It constricted tightly, choking Dr. Rex and causing him to thrash about violently again. Although Dr. Rex tried to roar again, his breath was stopped by the Maelstrom energy, silencing his cry of defiance. Katerina took a step back, for all the good that it would do. "You..." rasped Dr. Rex. "You are the reason... You are why I... did all this... You! You're... the cause of all this! This... this is all... your fault!" When Dr. Rex found the strength to look at Katerina again, his eyes appeared to be ablaze with fury and madness. The Maelstrom energies engulfing his body glowed brighter than ever, and his form almost appeared to be burning in a purple inferno. "Fine!" he spat, and Katerina could hear pure hatred dripping from his words. "You dare... to renounce... your own brothe