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PeabodySam

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About PeabodySam

Year 17
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    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 63: Enemy Advances ---- Dr. Rex was furious. The battle was supposed to be simple. The Dino Attack Team would come out, see his unstoppable army, then run away screaming like little girls. From what he was seeing, this was taking far too long. It was time to play his ace in the hole. He activated the radio built into his armor. "Dr. Glados," he growled, "yes… it is time. Teleport Cyrista's Bane into battle." Dr. Rex signed off. It wasn't long before Dino Attack Team heard a T-Rex roar. However, it was louder than usual, and it also had an electronic screech to it. Confusion swept across the Dino Attack ranks. What among the Mutant Dino army could possibly make such a sound? As everybody was wondering what this was, a strange T-Rex came around a corner on the far side of the field of rubble. Dr. Cyborg groaned as he recognized the dinosaur. It looked similar Dr. Rex in his silge armor, but was larger in size. Its armor was as powerful as Dr. Rex's, with one side of its face completely covered with armor. It had an electronic eye. Long metallic limbs were grafted onto its forearms, quadrupling their reach. Its legs had pistons half inside them, making them more powerful. Its tail had an extending grappler attached, like a mechanical claw. Its voicebox had been mechanically augmented to interfere with radios in the near vicinity when it roared. And, if the biomechanical augmentations weren't enough, the base Mutant T-Rex had been made to grow larger, faster, and stronger. Dr. Rex had built Dr. Cyborg's design for a biomechanically-augmented Mutant T-Rex, and sent it into battle. Oh, joy. ***** The first surprise of the day was here, and to Semick's eyes, it was nearly as ridiculous as it was frightening. He immediately went for the radio. "Dr. Cyborg, might you know anything about this... thing?" The good doctor's voice came crackling in after several moments of static. "*ktzzzz* like something I design back in my XERRD days, the Promethean Knight. He must've finally put it to use." "Well, if it's your blueprints that went into that, surely you must know a few weaknesses in the build that could let you take it down easily?" "Of course, but Dr. Rex might've done some serious tweaking with my work, so I'm not fully sure what Cyrista's Bane is capable of at this point." "Then I'd suggest you get to work. And let some agents help you out, I don't want you handling this entirely alone." "Understood." Semick then tweaked the signal back to common signal. "All agents, focus on keeping your distance from the cybernetic dinosaur! Dr. Cyborg will focus on taking it down, but he might want a few of you to help, so be alert for that! However, I want some T-1s and Iron Predators providing support for them! Everyone else, just keep defending our forces from the rest of the army! I don't want any of you forgetting that practically every Mutant Dino XERRD has made is still at our doorstep!" ***** "Hey, Laxus?" Andrew asked. "Yes?" Laxus replied. "Remember when you said a cyborg dinosaur would be cool to see? Did you have to jinx us? Did you have to!?" "You still remember that?" Laxus asked. "Wow." "Oh, just forget it," said Andrew. "You heard what Semick said, we need to stay away from that thing and keep defending the HQ." As Andrew drove back towards the river, where the Mutant Dinos had somewhat let up their forces when they were waiting for the cybernetic T-Rex to drop in, Laxus turned his focus back to the radio. The comm chatter was something like this: "That is one, big, ugly, mother-" "Now this is even MORE like Dino Cop 4!" "Did anyone else's radio spike in buzz during that thing's roar?" "I need some good music for this." "Where the Znap is Zachary?!" "Hold the line, mateys!" "Kukukukukukukukukukuku..." "Nerve, nerve, nerve!" Prompted by one of those broadcasts, Laxus decided to try and reach one of their comrades. "Zach, this is Laxus, what's your status?" ***** "What in the name of Jørgen Vig Knudstorp is that?" Zach questioned in awe as he looked at the new massive arrival. "I don't know," Minerva began. "But-" Suddenly, the radio crackled. Zach could hear pieces of conversations coming out of it. Finally, he heard, "-ach....Laxus...status?" Zach frowned. "Repeat." He glanced at the Minifig in the leather jacket, who was glancing at the newcomer with mixed interest. The signal came in much clearer. "What's your status?" It was Laxus. "Someone fired a bazooka at us. Not really sure who it is. Definitely Minifig, but no Paradox gear. I can't see if he's wearing one of those guard uniforms those grunts wore back at the fortress. The point is, we're in a hole, the engine's dead, and we got a hostile-" "Reggie," Minerva whispered in horror. Zach watched in horror as Reggie ran up to the Minifig in the leather jacket, prepared to take him down. The man turned back to the Fire Hammer, an eyebrow raised in amusement. As Reggie pulled his fist back for a punch, the man waved his arm in a circular motion, striking Reggie in the chest. The gunner fell back, clutching his chest. The man spun the knife in his hand briefly before bending down, looking at Reggie briefly, then cutting his throat. Minerva gasped. "Our gunner was just killed," Zach said. "Minerva and I are going to engage the hostile." "Alright," Laxus said. "Contact us when he's taken down." "Will do," Zach said before turning his attention back to the man. The man rose back to his feet, wiped the blood from his blade, and started walking briskly toward the Fire Hammer. As he approached, he discarded the bazooka, pocketed the knife, and revealed a handgun. He jumped onto the Fire Hammer's hood and pointed his weapon at Zach. Zach pointed his Cosmotronic Ray at him and fired. The man ducked from the attack, his eyes narrowing. He rose and lunged at Zach, knocking him from his feet. Zach winced with pain as the man belted him with two punches. The man moved his head close to Zach's, squinting. His eyes suddenly widened as he was pulled off of Zach by Minerva, causing him to drop his gun. She turned the man so he faced her and punched him hard in the cheek. The man grabbed Minerva's neck and forcefully shoved her over the front seat and into the back. The man felt the back of his neck being tugged again, this time by Zach. Zach gripped the man tightly, turned sharply, and shoved him over the passenger door and on to the wet ground. Zach jumped onto the ground as the man was standing up. The man began reaching into his pocket. Zach responded with a quick punch in the face with his right hand. The man stumbled back, clutching his forehead. "What the-" he groaned. His eyes then widened in sudden realization as he stared at Zach's right hand. "You!" the man hissed. Likewise, the man finally speaking allowed Zach to recognize his identity. The man lunged at Zach, wrapping his hand tightly around his throat. "Let's have a nice little chat, eh? Just like old times?" Zach could only gasp for breath as the man grip tightened. The man chuckled. "Right then. Let's go." Pushing Zach ahead of him, the man started moving in the direction of the river. Zach struggled fruitlessly against the man grip, desperately choking for air. He contemplated briefly shooting a ball of Maelstrom into his face, but couldn't concentrate enough energy. Finally, he succumbed to the lack of oxygen and fell into unconsciousness. ***** Minerva rose to her feet painfully, rubbing her temple. Whoever that man was, he had not been gentle when throwing her into a pile of supplies in the backseat. She climbed over to the front seat and glanced around. No sign of Zach or the man. "Zach?" she called out. She hopped out of the Fire Hammer and searched all around it, careful not to attract the attention of the numerous Mutant Dinos around it. Nothing. Is he-? She couldn't bring herself to finish the thought. She swallowed painfully, then tried to reassure herself. "He isn't dead," she muttered. "There's no body. That guy must have captured him. He's captured. He's still alive." She repeated those words to herself multiple times. "He'll find a way out. He's smart." She glanced towards Reggie's motionless body. Even if Zach was alive, she was still alone with a dead Fire Hammer surrounded by Mutant Dinos. They haven't noticed her yet, but that what change soon enough. I need to find help. As Minerva climbed back into the Fire Hammer, the radio crackled back to life. "Zach?" it was Laxus again. "Have you dealt with the hostile?" Minerva took up the radio. "Zach and the hostile are M.I.A.," she said, feeling her voice crack slightly. "The gunner's dead. The Fire Hammer is more or less busted. I need help." There was silence. "We'll try to find you." "I'm with the Fire Hammer half-buried into the earth." "Noted. Take care of yourself until we reach you." "Will do." Minerva turned away from the radio and moved to the back to the Xenon Launcher. She scowled seeing that it had been damaged from various Mutant T-Rex blasts and the crash. She moved to the backseat and found her Sonic Screamer crushed and broken. "What-?" Then she glanced at the minigun Zach had decided to take "just in case". It had fallen on to her Sonic Screamer and damaged it. She lifted up the massive six-barrel machine gun with all of her strength and threw it on the dashboard, which created a good-sized dent. Minerva remembered Zach using this weapon before they went to find Pyro and Demoman. It fired rapidly and could probably decimate a massive horde of Mutant Lizards with ease. I guess I'll use this. Minerva briefly searched the back seat and found a bandolier that she threw over her shoulder. She then stepped on to the hood and lifted the massive weapon up. Her muscles strained as she held the weapon tight in her grip, waiting for her first enemy. She didn't have to wait long. A red-colored Mutant Lizard eventually noticed her and moved toward her cautiously. The barrel began spinning. Then, it fired. Minerva stepped back and tightened her grip on the weapon, surprised by the force of the weapon. The Mutant Lizard screeched and turned around to flee, only for the machine gun to tear several holes into the Lizard, causing it to collapse. Minerva bent over, resting the minigun on the hood as its rotating barrels came to a stop. This thing is powerful, but ridiculously heavy. She lifted her head and saw more Mutant Lizards converging on her. She swore as she lifted the weapon back into firing position. "You better hurry up, Laxus." Minerva growled under the strain of the weapon as the barrel began to rotate again, ready to take no prisoners. ***** "Sounds like Zach met somebody with a grudge," Andrew remarked as he maneuvered through the battlefield. Laxus had managed to use the radio signal from Minerva's broadcasts and locked on it with his PDA's GPS system. They were now converging through Mutant Dinos and vehicles in an attempt to reach it. "Who could he have left?" Laxus asked. "That Scratch guy is long dead, and whatever Stromling guys he met have to be gone as well." "Might be something from his time with the Agents. Regardless, let's focus right now on keeping his companion okay." With one last swerve of the vehicle (and a small slide on the slippery pavement), Andrew managed to get his comrade's busted Fire Hammer in sight. Minerva was in a standoff with several Mutant Lizards and at least one Mutant Raptor, utilizing a heavy machine gun to the best of her ability. Their vehicle managed to push through several of the Lizards, while Catless managed to keep busy shooting the others with the Xenon launcher. The Mutant Raptor tried to make a charge for the Elite Agent, but a blast of Pterisa's lightning managed to stop it in its tracks long enough for Laxus to give it a good shot with the Cosmotronic Ray, leaving it vulnerable as the Fire Hammer rammed into it and Catless took over. Minerva quickly tossed aside the minigun she was using (which landed with a heavy impact on the hood of her Fire Hammer) and made the quick dash to Andrew's vehicle. She managed to pull open a door, hop inside, and get it closed just as a Mutant Spinosaurus started taking an interest in the scene. Andrew quickly made for a quick getaway before it could take enough notice of them. "Thanks for coming to my aid again," Minerva said between pants. "Guess I'll be working in here for the time being." "Would you like to take up using this for me?" Laxus said while offering her the Cosmotronic Ray. "It helps to be able to monitor the systems without having to divert one's attention to firing." "Sure," she said, taking it. "Sorry to say we can't really go after Zach right now," Andrew muttered. "We have no clue where he went, and we're a bit busy with the battle." "I understand," Minerva said with a sigh. "But he's gotten out of tough situation before. I think we'll just have to have faith in him." "I'll just inform everyone on the matter." ***** "Current status update: Zachary is MIA after an ambush by an unknown assailant. Minerva is riding with us for the time being. Andrew out." "Well, bugger." "That sounds like a personal problem. Fine time for it." "What the Znap is that bad doctor's armor made of?" "Thank goodness I brought some Brickolini's with me." "I could really use an Orchania right now!" "Someone tell these Iron Predators to watch where they're going!" "Yikes! I almost ran over Ed Mail!" Semick groaned at the news. After firing at another couple Mutant Pterosaurs, he took up the radio and said "Hotwire, Rotor, Cabin, see if any of you can spare more aid to the ground crew at the river. With Zach gone and Minerva having to stay with Andrew, I'm gonna need another Elite to try and help organize the Urban Avenger and Fire Hammer crews. And having the air advantage might be of help. Just watch the T-Rex eye beams." ***** "What in tarnation?" Greybeard heard King Joseph Race gasp over the radio when Cyrista's Bane appeared. "Not even the Space Knights' greatest technology could match up to that thing!" "Ignore it!" shouted Greybeard into the communication device. "Just focus on th' one in th' silver armor! Just a few more rounds ought t' do it, me hearties!" As he said this, he turned the wheel, and his Fire Hammer skidded over wet pavement as it began another round around the Mutant T-Rex in silver armor. Dr. Rex was visibly angered and frustrated by the three Fire Hammers. When he tried to focus on smashing one, another would fire its Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher at him. Greybeard did not know the name of the Dino Attack agent who was manning his Xenon Launcher, and decided that this was for the best. Anyone could die in this battle, and it was no use getting attached to anyone at this point. Still, Greybeard circled around the Mutant T-Rex as his gunner pelted the Mutant T-Rex with sonics, energy, and other modes of the Xenon. Now, more than ever, he was thankful that he ever participated the LEGO Racers championship of 1999. Lightning flashed, and the Mutant T-Rex roared in fury. As thunder rolled across the heavens, Dr. Rex slammed his foot down in Greybeard's path. Greybeard swerved out of the way just in time, splashing water everywhere as the Fire Hammer drove through a puddle. The rain pelted his windshield, but the old pirate could see just fine in the storm, even with only one good eye. The Mutant T-Rex was momentarily distracted as pellets of energy were fired from Sam Race's Fire Hammer. Greybeard's plan was doing the trick. The Mutant T-Rex was becoming increasingly confused, and although his silver armor protected him, he was starting to weaken. "Now!" shouted Greybeard over the radio. A Fire Hammer driven by Anubis sped into action. However, this was not a standard issue Fire Hammer, but rather the Dino 4WD Trapper sub-model used primarily for capturing and transporting Mutant Lizards. In battle, the Dino 4WD Trapper was not nearly as strong as the Fire Hammer, but it had one thing that a Fire Hammer did not, and that was a hook and cable. While Greybeard, King Joseph Race, and Sam Race's Fire Hammers continued to distract the Mutant T-Rex, Anubis's Dino 4WD Trapper unleashed the hook and cable, wrapping it around one of the Mutant T-Rex's legs. Then, the Dino 4WD Trapper drove in a tight ring around the Mutant T-Rex. Dr. Rex bellowed and fired his laser vision at King Race's Fire Hammer. He tried to take a step forward, but his legs were tightly bound by the work of Anubis. Lightning streaked across the sky, but its thunder was unheard over the sound of the mighty Mutant T-Rex as it tripped and fell down upon the ground below. "Drink up, me hearties!" proclaimed Greybeard. "Dr. Rex, th' Mutant T-Rex in silver armor, be fallen!" Over the comm, Greybeard heard a number of voices in response: "Dr. Rex himself? I thought he was invincible!" "Ah, come on! This party was only getting started!" "Already? That's kind of a letdown. Way too easy." "Am I the only one happy about this anticlimax?" "Yeah. Whenever you're ready, we've got a cybernetic T-Rex on our hands!" Dr. Rex was struggling to get up, but under the weight of his armor and the rope around his legs, he found it difficult to do so. Greybeard drove his Fire Hammer past the fallen Mutant T-Rex, shaking his hook at the creature as he passed his eye. "Hah!" barked Greybeard. "Take that, Dr. Rex! Ye be not so tough now, says I!" The Mutant T-Rex glared at Greybeard with anger, but with the eyes of a wild animal rather than the cold fury of a mad scientist. Greybeard found himself amused that Dr. Rex, who had been built up to be terrifyingly intelligent and insane at the same time, was little more than a maddened beast. Oh, how the mighty have fallen, mused Greybeard. Greybeard turned his wheel, and he, King Race, Sam Race, and Anubis moved to join the others in battle against Cyrista's Bane. However, Greybeard heard a distinct sound over the sound of the storm: the sound of many Mutant Dinos moving and roaring at once. But where he thought he heard the Mutant Dinos made no sense, as all the Mutant Dinos were still trying to cross the river, and yet he thought he heard the Mutant Dinos from behind him... Greybeard slammed his foot on the brake. In horror, he turned over his shoulder to look at the section of LEGO City behind him which, thanks to the work of the front lines, remained largely untouched by the Mutant Dino army. There, just a block away, was a staircase which descended beneath the sidewalk, presumably leading to a subway station. The realization caused Greybeard to gasp. "They be in th' subway!" Greybeard shouted into the radio. "They be-" He was cut off as a Mutant T-Rex burst out of the subway entrance. This one, much like the one that Greybeard had just taken down, wore silver armor, but the armor was of a more intricate design and more heavily protected the Mutant T-Rex's skin. It was also a slightly different hue, which did not look quite silver, or at least the silver that an old pirate such as Greybeard was used to. The Mutant T-Rex glanced in Greybeard's direction and saw that the Dino Attack Team's front lines were preoccupied with Cyrista's Bane and the Mutant Dino army that was still trying to cross the river. With that, the Mutant T-Rex made a sound that sounded far more disturbing than a growl or a roar: a sinister chuckle. Then, Greybeard recognized a look of cold intelligence mixed with complete madness in the Mutant T-Rex's eyes. "No..." whispered Greybeard. The Mutant T-Rex in silver armor that crossed the river was only a red herring, he realized. With that, the true Dr. Rex lifted his head towards the sky and roared. Swarms of Mutant Lizards and packs of Mutant Raptors emerged from the subway station and gathered at his feet, eager to tear apart some Dino Attack agents. One group of Mutant Raptors, the coldest and most devious hunters of the Mutant Dinos, apparently smelled fresh meat, as they immediately turned and entered a nearby bar with the name "ENDERSON'S". Greybeard picked up the radio. "Rex!" he reported. "Dr. Rex an' a group o' Mutant Dinos got past th' front lines by usin' th' subway system! Me men be surrounded, wi' Mutant Dinos on both sides now! An' we got some cyber-somethin' T-Rex tearin' through our men!" ****** "Brickin' called it!" "... What?" "I knew it was too good to be true." "Shut up and regroup, we're not all just nameless redshirts here to scream like pussies before getting killed!" "It's a tr-*SMACK* No lame jokes!" "You know, we really should've blocked that subway." "This calls for more Murray Gold!" "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." With some reluctance, Semick began moving away from Dino Attack HQ. He left the duty of focusing defenses on it to Reptile, who seemed to have it covered for the time being. The second surprise had come, and as the old saying went, "nothing beat the classics." Dr. Rex had used a decoy for the initial assault, and was now (supposedly, anyways… at this point, having a clone army of himself wasn't implausible) leading another legion of Mutants out of the ruins of the old subway system, likely using the old route Rex had used to discover his operations months ago. Though Semick hadn't quite advised it, it seemed many forces had gathered around Greybeard's effort to take down the decoy, and several others were trying to aid Dr. Cyborg however they could, there was a clear weak point between them and the Iron Predator legion watching over HQ. Weak, but not reinforceable. I'll show you we're not the predictable pushovers you think we are, Semick thought. Grabbing the radio, he began giving out more orders. "Andrew, Minerva, start giving Greybeard's men a hand at getting their defense back together! Dr. Cyborg, get yourselves and your men prepared for another angle of assault! Rex, stay there and hold the line from Dr. Rex's dinos until the front lines can pull themselves together! Hotwire, Rotor, Cabin, provide air support wherever you can around the river and Iron Predator lines! Reptile, hold the HQ cover and see if you have any more tricks up your sleeve! Hertz, start reaching out and see if Alpha Team or Agents have any support teams coming in to aid! Everyone else, act as necessary wherever you're fighting to prevent your deconstruction, as usual!" With that, Semick called together several nearby T-1 Typhoons and advised them to follow him. He was beginning to form a plan regarding this new wave, and he needed to avoid being spotted before it was too late. "Uh, Semick," Bluetooth asked. "What is it you have in mind?" "Just seeing if we too can pull off the same trick more than once." ***** "Alright, pay up," said one of the agents within the headquarters sniper post. Several others grumbled as they got out various bits of change from their pocket. "I'll have to admit, that was quite a spectacle," said Shotgun. Stranger looked out at the giant metal-covered hulk that was the boss of the enemy forces. "Definitively looks like he has himself covered," he muttered. "I'll say," said Epsilon. "I've shot a few bullets at him and his decoy, but they practically ricochet off him! The stuff's nigh-impregnable." "That why you aim at the weak points for massive critical damage," said Stranger. "Where?!" "The eyes, armor creaks, maybe a couple in the mouth. It's simple stuff." Stranger got down back on his knees and began aiming his fancy new laser rifle. "Just watch what the pro does, son." Scope grinned as she pulled her rifle out of the loophole in the sniping post and turned to the other agents. "Who was it that bet 40 studs that I couldn't kill a Raptor?" "That would be me," replied one of the other snipers. "Well, then, pay up," said Scope. The agent grumbled as he took out some cash and handed it to Scope before she turned back to the loophole. ***** A group of agents were assaulting Cyrista's Bane, but with little effect. Cortana(2) and Cortana(3) were circling it, distracting it with the Cryothermic Cannon. Dr. Cyborg was trying to think back a month ago, when he made the blueprints. It was hard to remember, but getting a deadly injury and being rebuilt as a cyborg without you remembering will do that to you. Semick's orders came in, and Dr. Cyborg rebroadcast them, saying he would pick the agents to assist him. He started to think, Who would I need? X1, Zelda, and Nazareno, to start with. He had heard Solomon Koplowitz had defected. He was good with a sword, he remembered. He tried to think if there was anyone else he needed. Dr. Cyborg contacted Zelda, Nazareno, Solomon, and X1, asking them to assist in his plan. He told them to come to his position if they were willing to assist. He would then explain his plan. ***** Nazareno watched as the true Dr. Rex led more Mutant Dinos into the battle with dismay. He knew Dr. Rex was going to pull a few tricks in his desperation to defeat the Dino Attack Team, but this was unprecedented. Nazareno slammed his sword down on to the neck of a Mutant Lizard trying to attack his Steel Sprinter, killing it instantly. His plan of himself and Zelda heading right into the fray was working so far, but with this new group, he might have to take an even more unprecedented action. "Zelda," he said, speaking with her through a radio headset built into his mask. "Where are you?" Silence. Then: "Near the river with a nasty pack of Mutant Raptors." Nazareno nodded. "I'll be there in a moment." He turned Steel Sprinter and started moving toward the river. He soon found three Urban Avengers with Cosmotronic Rays attached to them, as opposed to Sonic Screamers, attacking a pack of seven Mutant Raptors who seemed to be ignoring the buggies in preference to something in the center of their group. He approached an Urban Avenger, whose driver was concentrating on one Mutant Raptor. "Do you know where agent Zelda is?" he asked. The Urban Avenger driver ignored him as he shot down a Mutant Raptor. Then he turned to him. "Who? The ninja girl?" Nazareno nodded. The driver gestured into the center of the Mutant Raptor pack, which had dwindled down to four. "She's in there. Me and my lads are helping her get rid of those force fields." Interested, Nazareno stood up on Steel Sprinter and leapt on to a Mutant Raptor's back. The dinosaur didn't seem to notice as it continued to snap at its prey. Nazareno smiled with amusement as three Mutant Raptors attempted to attack a fourth. He could see a silver sword jabbed into the eye of the fourth as it screeched in anger and pained. He finally saw Zelda, who was lying on her stomach on the Mutant Raptor's head, one hand gripping the skin around the corners of the Raptor's mouth and the other holding her other sword. As the Mutant Raptor's companions tried to attack Zelda while injuring their ally, Zelda moved herself until she was hanging on to the Mutant Raptor by the skin of the lower corners of its mouth. Zelda then shoved her sword into the roof of the monster's mouth. The raptor groaned and collapsed. Zelda quickly pulled both swords from the Raptor's body and turned to the remaining Mutant Dinos. She quickly dispatched the first Raptor as she stabbed it in the foot with one sword and in the stomach with the other. The second Raptor's force field hadn't been taken out yet, so Zelda dodged its attacks until one of the Urban Avengers finally eliminated the shield. Zelda then jumped forward and stabbed into the maw and neck of the Raptor. She turned and rolled to the side as the Raptor Nazareno stood on swiped at her with its claws. Might as well. Nazareno raised both of his swords and slammed them hard into the skull of the Mutant Raptor. He felt vibrations travel from his swords through his person as he heard a very audible crack. He saw Zelda and one of the Urban Avenger drives flinch at the sound. He stayed on the mutant's head until it fell to the ground in a dead heap. He pulled his swords out carefully and stepped on to the ground in front of Zelda. "Excellent work," Nazareno said, looking at the carnage with a mixture of distaste and approval. "You have far exceeded my expectations." He saw Zelda's cheeks becoming red again. "Thanks," she said. "So what's the issue?" He pointed towards the massive cybernetic T-Rex and the Mutant T-Rex in silver armor at the subway station entrance. "That," he said to the cybernetic T-Rex. "and the first Mutant T-Rex in the armor was a red herring. That one at the subway appears to be the real Dr. Rex." "The guy certainly has a thing for red herrings, doesn't he?" Zelda noted. "The whole darn organization has a thing for red herrings," one of the Urban Avenger drivers muttered. "Anyway," Nazareno continued. "The battlefield is now effectively surrounded by Mutant Dinos. I recommend staying together for the time being since I am unsure how many more tricks Dr. Rex has up his sleeve." "Sounds fine with me." "Good." Nazareno turned to the three Urban Avenger drivers. "Gentlemen-" There was loud cough from a thin woman with short red hair. "Lady and Gentlemen. Would you care to accompany us? We could use your skill and Cosmotronic Rays." The red-haired woman shrugged. "Why not? Name's Parr." A large man with, curiously, well-kept blue hair nodded as well. "Might as well. My name is Sullivan. How about you, Fredricksen?" A short, white-haired older-looking man with black, thick-rimmed glasses waved his hand. "Bah, sure. Whatever." "Very well." Nazareno returned to his Steel Sprinter. He turned his head and saw Zelda looking sheepishly at him. "You've lost your Sprinter?" "Maybe?" she said in a light, joking matter. Nazareno rolled his eyes but gestured her over to his Steel Sprinter. She sliced off the transparent blue dish off the back and climbed on board, gripping Nazareno's shoulder with one hand. "What was that dish-thing even for?" Zelda wondered. Nazareno shrugged and turned to Parr, Sullivan, and Fredrickson. "We are heading to the pirate's group to aid in the reconstruction of the defenses. We will hope that the Iron Predators and other defenses will take care of XERRD's newest reinforcements." "'The pirate'?" Zelda whispered into his ear. His eyes narrowed. "Greybeard," he said coldly. "Now, let's ride!" With that, the Steel Sprinter and the Urban Avengers started moving back into the battle. ***** As helpful as she tried to be, Kate still felt a strange sense of isolation, as the noise of battle continued outside. "You alright?" said a voice from behind her. Kate turned to see the familiar figure of Nicholas Saran. "I'm fine," she replied. "Look," said Nicholas. "I know when a person is troubled by something, and when they are, the best thing to do is talk about it." He turned toward Hertz and Shannon. "You don't mind me taking her for a few minutes?" Shannon shook her head as Saran put an arm around Kate's shoulder and led her into the next room. "Would you mind telling me what's troubling you exactly?" Saran said. Kate took a moment to think. "I don't know," she said. "It's all happening so fast." "What is?" "I just..." Kate said. "Go on." "Well... you see..." "It's alright, I won't tell anyone." "I just found out my mother's been lying to me," replied Kate. "I spent thirteen years believing my uncle died in a car crash, and then this guy shows up and says otherwise." "I'm sure she had good reason," suggested Saran. "She did," replied Kate. "BUT SHE'S MY MOTHER! SHE LIED TO HER OWN DAUGHTER!" "What about your father?" "I never knew him before now," Kate said. "According to mom, the only reason I was born was because she Znapped Pierce in the emergency room." "So Pierce is your father then?" Saran asked. "Yes," replied Kate. "That's not so bad," said Saran. "You were already close to him, and he does certainly care about you." "I know," replied Kate, trying not to cry. "It's just happening so fast." Saran slowly sat down on the couch next to Kate, putting an arm around her shoulder. "Look," he said. "I can see how all this would be hard for you, but you have to understand, even if you were conceived totally by accident because of a brief hospital affair, your mother loves you. She does everything she can for you." "I know," said Kate. "She did everything she could to pay for school." "Your father loves you too, Kate," continued Saran. "You got two loving parents, and they're both here to support you. That's more than can be said for the rest of us." Kate briefly smiled in between the tears. She was still trying to keep her tears suppressed. Nicholas Saran did everything her could to keep her comfortable, but he knew how hard things were for her right now. "It's alright," Saran said as he sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulder. "We'll get through this, Kate. We'll get through this." ***** "You hear something?" Trigger asked. "I think so," replied Snake. "Sounds li-" At that moment, Carrie quickly flung the door open and ran down the stairs. "We got trouble," she said. "Don't tell me they've tracked us already," muttered Trigger. "No," replied Carrie. "It's worse. We got a group of Raptors coming." "You got to be Znapping kidding. Do we have any weapons?" "There's a few guns in the next room," said Carrie. "I keep my armory with me in case I run into you again." "Good," said Trigger. "Alright, I'll start building a barricade. Snake, you and Carrie get the guns, and maybe we can hold them off long enough to make a break for it." Trigger turned in relief as Snake and Carrie arrived with a collection of guns. Carrie quickly tossed Trigger a rifle. He had already set up a makeshift barricade against the door and was struggling to keep it shut as one Mutant Raptor smashed through the window, Snake fired a solid round through its head, killing it. Trigger fired at another one, only to see something weird: the bullet was absorbed by its force field. "Oh Znap," Snake muttered. "What do we do?" Carrie asked. "Dinosaurs like these are invincible to bullets," Trigger muttered. "I got one," said Snake. "It didn't see you," Trigger said. "You must have taken it by surprise. The only way we can make a stand is if we can catch them all unaware, but we're going to have to make a break for it. Carrie, you got any grenades or anything?" "Yeah," replied Carrie. "You think of everything, don't you?" Trigger remarked. "Yeah," Carrie said with a smile. "Snake and I will try to draw them for the moment. Carrie, you get the grenades and get to the roof! Throw them at the MegaBlokers, understand?" Carrie nodded and ran back downstairs as Trigger worked to block the smashed window using one of the tables. One Raptor stuck its head in; he placed his rifle in its mouth and fired. That one fell dead, but there were still a few dozen more, and they all wouldn't fall for that. Within a few minutes, Carrie returned with a box of grenades and worked her way upstairs. By now they were starting to tear through the walls. Once or twice, Trigger and Snake were able to shoot them in the mouth, but for the most part the bullets did little more than slow them down, if only by seconds, but that really was all they needed. Opening an upstairs window, Carrie picked up two grenades and pulled the pins off them both, and tossed them into the crowd of mutant dinosaurs. She grabbed another, pulled, the pin, and did the same. She did about two or three more before the Mutant Raptors started to notice and react, but their numbers were reduced. ***** "Acknowledged," Hotwire replied to Semick. Larson deftly swung the Talon II back around over the Iron Predator lines, letting a missile fly at a pair of Mutant Brontosaurs at the same time. One fell, and a round from a Cryothermic Cannon below brought the other down. There was a sudden blare of Wagner as Rotor's T-1 Typhoon came alongside. "You better have one heckuva plan, Semick," the pilot remarked. "I wouldn't worry about that," Hotwire said. "He always does." Trusting in the intuition of a greater strategist than himself, Hotwire simply sighted a large pack of Mutant Lizards and laid down a rain of sonic energy from the Quintronic Beam Emitters. "Pterosaurs incoming at about half past seven," Kat called out from the rear cockpit. There was a thrum as she peppered them with blasts from the Sonic Screamers. The beasts faltered slightly, and as soon as they were in range, Larson triggered the PLARXX Ray. The wave knocked the Pteranadons out of the sky. "Look out below!" he called out as the mutants plunged earthward. Shiller heard Larson's warning blare over the radio. While many of the Iron Predators attempted to shift to avoid the falling Pteranadons, he instead called out to Swerve: "Stay put! I've got an idea." He swung the Cryothermic Cannon off to the left, while focusing on the particular pterosaur that was plunging straight towards them. Gotta time this perfectly. With no more than a second to spare, he jammed the joystick to the right as hard as he could. Motors in the base of the turret groaned in protest as the massive cannon barrel connected with the falling dinosaur. Just as the cannon reached the apex of the turn, Shiller fired. The momentum of the rotating barrel combined with the force of the cannon blast sent the dazed body of the Pterosaur plowing into the lines of dinos approaching the ring of Iron Predators. ***** Tracer's Vindication swerved and skidded across the pavement. There was a thump as the vehicle intersected with the path of a charging Mutant Lizard. As day broke, it was becoming easier to see even with all the rain, so Helm was easily able to spot the charging Raptor before it was too late. He hit the switch next to the gearshift, and the Cosmotronic Ray that Hotwire had added so many months ago blazed to life, stopping the creature in its tracks. As the Raptor fell, a shadow passed overhead. Helm peered up and saw... "A flying Iron Predator?" Just then, there was another odd roar which caused the comms to buzz and sputter, and Helm finally saw the source of the sound. "Mother of Ole... Giles, give it everything you've got!" His gunner opened fire with the Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher as Helm stomped on the gas, joining the mess of other vehicles as they desperately tried to evade the biomechanical behemoth that was Cyrista's Bane. ***** "Half past seven? Isn't that a bit unnecessarily specific?" "Tess, look out, you've got a lizard on your tail!" "Well, Reptile turned an Iron Predator into a submarine once, so why not make it fly?" "Hoohah! Take that!" "Guys, have you seen that Space Ninja? He just stabbed a znapping raptor right in the znapping head!" "FOR NARNIA!" "Sick move with that Cryothermic Cannon. We should start playing baseball with Iron Predators when this is all over." "Man down! MAN DOWN! For Godtfred's sake, where are the medics?" "Space Marauders incoming! Drop a bridge on 'em!" ***** The Iron Predator came to a rather sudden stop as Elizabeth hit the brakes. "What was that for?" Maria asked as the vehicle jerked for a moment. In front of them was a street: the buildings were in ruins and on fire, and a large group of menacing Mutant Dinos seemed to be present. "What do we do?" Elizabeth asked. "Exactly what we came out here to do," replied Angel Eyes. "We're going to kill them. We all have our strengths here. Who we got? Two demolitions experts, three good marksmen, a pyromaniac, and a pirate." "I'm good with a sword," added Elizabeth. "Good," said Angel Eyes. "I can go," volunteered Pyro, who was sitting in the back of the vehicle, her gas mask in her lap. "You sure about this?" Maria asked. "Yes," Pyro replied as she slowly put her gas mask on. "I'll torch as many as I can. I'll need you guys to provide me with cover fire, though." "You can count on us," replied Clint. Slowly, Pyro got to her feet and picked up her flamethrower, a flare gun, and a fire ax, and worked her way toward the mutant dinosaurs that lay in the street before her. Her teammates watched in confusion as she slowly stepped into the alley. A Mutant Lizard suddenly noticed her, and it was promptly torched. Its screams echoed throughout the streets. Before long, Pyro was torching everything in sight: Lizards, Raptors, and other things. Before long, the whole street was on fire, as Pyro held her flamethrower in the air and launched an enormous burst of flame. Sarah Bishop could not help but stare in awe. "One shudders to imagine what inhuman thoughts lie beneath that mask," Sarah said, nervously. "What dreams of chronic and sustained cruelty." Pyro cheerfully blew bubbles out of her large vaguely flamethrower-shaped apparatus through the colorful landscape as far as she could see. Suddenly, there was a giant baby, it looked vaguely like a lizard, but it was tiny and had little wings. Quickly, Pyro picked up a lollipop from nearby. The lizard baby cried in delight and ran towards her. Pyro jumped and tossed the lollipop into the baby's mouth. With one clear swoop, Pyro had lodged her fire ax into a Mutant Lizard's skull. A little winged baby raptor came down then and sat on Pyro's flamethrower. In an act of delight, she pulled out a bubble maker and blew a few bubbles into its face, and it burst into laughter. Pyro pulled out her flare gun and shot the Raptor square through the throat, causing it to fall almost instantly. Pyro quickly motioned for all the little baby dinosaurs to follow her, and she darted down the road, followed by hundreds of little winged baby dinosaurs before they eventually stayed behind. Amongst the burning debris, quite a few dinosaurs lay wounded. Their screams echoed through the alley, but Pyro just kept persisting. She kept on going through that sugar bowl land, whistling softly to a tune in her head before she suddenly heard someone snap their fingers. Looking around, her flamethrower was suddenly snatched, and she could see a little baby Maria before she blinked and then saw a very adult Maria standing there. "You alright?" Maria asked. "I think so," replied Pyro. She slowly removed the gas mask and looked around, seeing that the Iron Predator had made it through the intense flames of the street. "I think I got a little carried away there." Unlike the others, it didn't take long for Maria to figure it out. "Let's keep the mask off you from now on," she said. "I think it might be better for your health." "What the heck is that there thing?" Elizabeth asked as she drove the Iron Predator down a former highway. In the distance, they could vaguely see other Dino Attack vehicles, and helicopters were forming in the sky, but what she was pointing towards was something humongous: a mutant tyrannosaurus cyborg thing. "I ain't got no idea," replied Maria. ***** Osprey's Aerial Defense Unit slipped smoothly into the defensive line of T-1 Typhoons. He ordered the gunners to engage, then turned to the cockpit. "Dez! Status report?" Desdemona, the pilot, quickly checked the readouts on her screen. "The jeeps are joining the line, the jets have been delayed by pterosaurs outside the city limits, and we're getting some seriously odd readings off that big T-Rex down there. Oh, and the Grendelwulf brothers are closing in fast." Osprey smiled at that last tidbit of information. Things on the ground were about to get even hotter. ***** Calling the Agents Defense Organization rocketcycle a "motorbike" didn't nearly do it justice; it was more like a murderous Ferrari on two wheels. And this particular "bike," howling through the streets of LEGO City at breakneck speed, fit the description even more thoroughly -- painted bright red, propelled by a souped-up engine that barely fit in the vehicle's frame, and sporting a pair of six-barreled laser cannons in place of the normal light EMP missile launchers. Not exactly compliant with regulations, but then again, its driver and passenger were effective enough that command didn't seem to care. Lieutenants Matthias and Winston Grendelwulf, nicknamed "Hazmatt" and "Epic Winston" by their teammates, were essentially a two-man army. Both over six-and-a-half feet tall and built like minotaurs, they had the uncanny ability to weaponize virtually any object. A common explanation for this was the fact that they themselves could be considered living weapons in their own right. As Epic Winston stood perfectly balanced on the back of the bike, with the wind whipping through his jet-black beard, he mulled this description over, and found that he rather liked the sound of it. Still, he had his preferences when it came to instruments of destruction. He reached back and thoughtfully touched the hilt of the five-foot double-edged broadsword slung across his back. They were nearing the battlefield now. A pack of Mutant Lizards broke off from the main body of the army and charged, clearly thinking that two men on a bike would be an easy target for them. They were dead wrong. Hazmatt glanced back at his elder brother, who gave a slight nod. The younger Grendelwulf turned hard, skidding on the back wheel of the bike. Epic Winston bent slightly at the knees and drew his sword. As he leaned forward to stay balanced, he swung the blade -- six inches wide and nearly an inch thick in the center -- at the Lizard that had just reached the same point that their rear wheel was passing. The reptile fell to the street in two separate pieces. Winston continued his swing as he leaped off the back of the bike, bisecting another Mutant Lizard and decapitating a third. Simultaneously, Hazmatt let loose with the metaphorical whole nine yards, spraying the rest of the pack with the laser cannons. Epic Winston twisted in midair, letting go of his broadsword, which spun through the air and lodged in a lizard's back. Winston himself landed on the final beast's neck with both feet. There was a satisfying crunch as it hit the ground. In the space of just under two seconds, about a dozen Mutant Lizards had fallen, either riddled with holes or in pieces. As the bike came to a stop, Hazmatt reached out and plucked his brother's sword from the slumped form of the dead lizard. He tossed it above his head and gunned the engine. Epic Winston leapt over his head, snatched the sword out of the air, and landed neatly on the back of the bike. The two brothers opened their throats, and, with a roar that matched that of their engine, charged into the ranks of dinosaurs and XERRD warriors, leaving devastation in their wake. The same thought occupied their minds: This is where the fun begins. ***** "Oh great, it's the Arrogant Defense Organization. Why don't you just shove off?" "No, they're okay now, remember?" "Eat lasers, scaleface!" "I knew I shoulda stayed home today." "Osprey! Great to have you at our backs again!" "Ole help us, Pyro's on a rampage!" "Little help? These XERRD sorcerers are kicking are backsides worse than Duke on one of his bad days." "Holy Znap! Did you see those two Agents who just showed up?" "Don't worry about Pyro, just stay outta the way!" "You mean the two guys on the bike? Yeah, some real serious honey badger 4+ going down over there." "Here come old flat-top, he come groovin' up slowly..." "Concentrate your fire on its legs! If we can get it on the ground maybe we can-- AAARGHH" "Jenson? Come in, Jenson. You there? Jenson? JENSON!" ***** Blaire Darkling watched the battle from a top of a ruined building with interest, a strange mixture of emotions swirling through him. One was determination to win this battle and to see the Dino Attack Headquarters crumble. The other... was doubt. Michelle Glados, Paulie Gonapus, and other scientists had returned from Adventurers' Island with word that Baron Typhonus, the fabled creator of the Maelstrom, was still alive and controlling the darkness. Not only that, but the Dino Attack had been orchestrated by Typhonus, called the "Darkitect", all along. Dr. Rex had disregarded the news with undeniable fury. He was in control of XERRD, not some legend. Around that moment was when Blaire truly began to doubt his leader's sanity and the true purpose of XERRD's mission. He cautiously ran his hand through his white hair. It was once a dirty blond shade before in the incident that created the Maelstrom Temple dyed it pure white and ruined his eyes, forcing him to wear sunglasses. I must finish the job, Blaire thought to himself. An old habit of his before becoming a Paradox Shinobi. He also finished a job, no matter how... unethical. Even after turning over to a new leaf, he kept this habit. Even with his doubt about XERRD's leader, he would see the Dino Attack to its end. He walked up to the edge of the building, where three Quasifigus lacertilia were perched with sniper rifles, picking off any Dino Attack agent that crossed their path. He sighed. He had very much preferred working with the Minifig guards. However, he would deal with commanding Hybrids this one day. Even with this organization's ethics in doubt, what I did with guards was completely moral. They would've have suffered out here. He heard a rough voice speak behind him. Blaire turned and saw two Hybrids standing before him. In the middle of them was a man in a white labcoat with wild black and orange hair. "Ah!" Blaire exclaimed, extending one arm briefly toward the Minifig. "Doctor Inferno! So glad you could join us." He turned to the Hybrids. "Leave us." They both bowed their heads and headed towards the building's staircase. "Let's have a nice chat, shall we?" Blaire said, his voice layered with cool hatred as he stared at the fuming mad scientist. "Glad to see you haven't run away yet, Inferno. I am surprised; I expected you to be long gone from here." "Thanks to your Hybrid friends, I'm still here," Dr. Inferno muttered coldly. "Which brings me to my main point of dragging you away from whatever desertion plans you had," Blaire continued. "I've been extremely unhappy with your lack of cooperation in these last few weeks." "How so?" Inferno demanded angrily. "I've been aiding this organization since the beginning and-" "Do not play games with me," Blaire hissed, pointing a gloved finger at Inferno. "I am not a fool. You did not expect your forces to get such a beating from the Dino Attack Team in the Goo Caverns and on LEGO Island. You have been hesitant to supply us henchmen since then." "You are wrong!" Inferno hissed. "I am not made of henchmen to just shower XERRD with!" Dr. Inferno then scoffed. "I don't need to be badgered by some 'small name, big ego' such as yourself! I only answer to myself and Dr. Rex. I don't even know your name!" "My name is Blaire Darkling, and I think you have every right to get talked down by myself. I sent a sent a specific request for you to send some henchmen to our fortress on Adventurers' Island and you ignored it. With your reinforcements in addition to the guards and Skeleton Mummies, the Dino Attack Team wouldn't have been able to destroy that fortress." "I told you," Dr. Inferno snapped angrily. "I am not made of henchmen!" "Regardless, there should have been some of your troops there." "Señor Palomar was in charge-" "Señor Palomar," Blaire interrupted, "is completely useless to this organization as of late. His only purpose was overseeing operations on Adventurers' Island. Seeing as he miserably failed that job and has no useful resources, I am honestly surprised Dr. Rex has not disposed of that fool yet." Dr. Inferno was silent, glaring at Blaire angrily. The XERRD commander smirked. "This extends much farther than having enough henchmen. You are finally realizing how far in over your head you are. You aligned with XERRD because of your misguided and childish opposition to Evil Ogel and for survival purposes. I wouldn't be surprised if you were planning to overthrow Dr. Rex at some point and use the Mutant Dinos to your own ends. However, only now, as Dr. Rex continues to freefall into his violent insanity and with the revelations of the Maelstrom manipulating this organization, do you doubt your decision." Dr. Inferno sneered. "You should talk, Darkling. You're in this just as far as everyone else." "True, but I have my endgame sorted out," Blaire scoffed. "Do you?" Inferno was silenced. "As it stands, I am finishing this war on my terms. And as one of XERRD's top officials, I demand you send your henchmen into battle to aide us one last time." "And what if I don't?" Inferno hissed in a daring matter. Blaire leaned in close. "I'll send them in myself. By any means necessary." He let the threat hang in the air for a moment. He turned his head. Several Agents Aerial Defense Units were approaching the battle. Blaire grinned, an idea forming in his head "Look who is just arriving," Blaire said, gesturing to the dark blue helicopter. Dr. Inferno's good eye narrowed angrily. "Perhaps you should treat it like this: this is not only the final battle between XERRD and D.I.N.O. Attack, but the final battle between your forces and the Agents Defense Organization. Perhaps even the Alpha Team, as I'm sure they'll be arriving on the scene at any moment. This can finally be your moment. You can topple all three of your rivals at once. The Agents, the Alpha Team, and Evil OGEL Empire with the Dino Attack Team. You will become the greatest evil genius of all time. You will finally beat out that wretched Ogel, once and for all." Blaire suppressed a smirk as he watched Dr. Inferno think this over. He knew of the mad scientist's over-inflated ego. Defeating all three of his enemies at once would make him the greatest villain of all time. Finally, he said: "I will order my henchmen to join your forces." "Excellent," Blaire said, shaking Inferno's robotic hand. "Go now." Inferno nodded and headed toward stairs. Egotistical villainous fool, Blaire thought with relish. He turned back to the battle. The only thing left to do would be to contact Willa the Witch and have her and a couple of Fright Knights join our ranks. Except for she hasn't been heard from since encountering Lord Vladek and King Race. Perhaps she will make a late entrance. If not, oh well. Blaire jerked his head to the side, flipping some of his hair out from in front of his sunglasses, smirking as he crossed his arms. This is shaping up to be quite the battle. ***** Chaos rained on the battlefield. B was sitting behind a now-broken windshield, and was constantly being assaulted by stray drops of acid. Bullets and rays of all sorts deafened and blinded him for mere instants, while he constantly had to correct his course to avoid hitting teammates. Suddenly, a beeping came from the dashboard. B swore loudly, honked his horn, and turned his Fire Hammer towards the mountains on the other side of the city. "Sam!" he shouted. "Code. MegaBloking. Red. Follow me!" "What is it?" responded Sam. "You afraid we're outgunned beyond hope? We can fight this!" "Look, if we don't do this, I'm afraid that we'll be flanked from behind!" said B. The two Fire Hammers turned and headed back into the city. B put his foot down. The needle on the speedometer approached 170 KMH, and no dinosaur was fast enough to catch up. Concentration was crucial at these speeds, but B couldn't afford to slow down. "Rob, what's the quickest route to those coordinates?" he asked. "Keep going straight," replied Rob. "The street goes right to it. You might need to slow down a bit, though." "Not now," said B. "Get on the radio and explain that we're handling a situation." "Do we need backup?" asked Rob. B rolled his eyes. "Rob, if we need backup, we're already dead." "That's comforting," muttered Rob. The two Fire Hammers careened around corners. As the mountains grew incredibly close, B looked up and saw vehicles approaching his position. "MegaBloking son of a Znapping 4+ Figure! Inferno's goons on our position!" "Shoot, or call for backup?" Rob asked again. "No. There's no way we ever need backup! OF COURSE CALL FOR BACKUP!" B suddenly yelled. "No need to yell," grumbled Rob as he turned on the radio. "Hello, to anyone who can hear me, Dr. Inferno's forces are trying to flank us from behind. If you aren't too busy fighting mutant dinosaurs, we could use some MegaBloking help here!" ***** Captain Thaddeus Brickhouse approached his Aerial Defense Unit at a brisk pace. His crew was already on board; all they needed was Brickhouse to hop on, and they could get to the sight of a massive battle between the Dino Attack Team and XERRD. This is where it ends, he thought grimly. He knew this was going to be a toughie, but with news of decoy-Dr. Rexes and giant cyborg Mutant T-Rexes, the Dino Attack Team needed all the aide it could get. He almost reached his helicopter when he bumped into a woman jogging to her vehicle, a helmet tucked under her arm. Brickhouse backed away. "My apologies, Dashworthy." Raine Dashworthy ran a hand through her multicolored hair irritably. "It's fine, it's fine. I'm ready to get out there and make a few Mutant Pterosaurs wish they never knew how to fly!" she said boastfully. Brickhouse smirked, amused by the young woman's enthusiasm. He gestured for her to continue. "Best get to your jet, Raine. The Mutant Pterosaurs are eagerly awaiting your challenge." Raine nodded. "See you back here when we're toasting out victory!" With that, she continued her jog to her Agents jet. Brickhouse, quickly climbed into his designated Aerial Defense Unit. "Alright, pilot!" Brickhouse called out as he closed the hatches. "To Dino Attack Headquarters!" The helicopter rose into the air, left the Agents hangar, and started moving into the chaos. ***** Greybeard cursed to himself. He had focused his efforts on bringing down some random Mutant T-Rex that was just as dumb and feral as the rest of them... but just happened to be wearing silver armor, causing everyone to think that it was Dr. Rex. Dr. Rex knew this would happen, and Greybeard was angry that he did not see it coming; from what Greybeard had heard, Dr. Rex was exceptionally fond of red herrings. Greybeard could not imagine what could possibly be so interesting about the "ENDERSON'S" bar, but apparently the Mutant Raptor pack was calling for backup. Backup arrived in the form of more Mutant Raptors, a few Mutant Lizards, and even a Mutant T-Rex. Greybeard considered the possibility of civilians who had not been evacuated being trapped in the bar. With a shudder, he prayed to Builder that this was not the truth. "Come on, me hearties!" Greybeard shouted into the radio. "Joe, Sam, Arubis-" "It's Anubis!" "-we took down one o' 'em Mutant T-Rexes in silver armor," continued Greybeard. "Dr. Rex be just another one! Come! Let's give this one a few rounds an' take 'im down fer good... fer real, this time!" "Agreed," came King Joseph Race's voice. "It seems we've developed an effective strategy. Anubis, hang on for another few minutes while Sam, Greybeard, and I repeat our three-Fire-Hammer trick." "The Mutant Dinos do not stand a chance against LEGO Racers!" Sam Race laughed over the radio. "LEGO Racers... and Anubis." "Hey, maybe I'll join the next LEGO Racers championship, and then we'll see about that!" Anubis retorted in a playful manner. With that, Greybeard, King Joseph Race, and Sam Race sped into action once more. They caught up quickly to Dr. Rex, who was already leading some of his Mutant Dinos in the direction of Dino Attack Headquarters. Repeating the procedure, Greybeard caught Dr. Rex's attention by driving in front of him while his gunner fired the Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher at the armored Mutant T-Rex. The blasts barely affected Dr. Rex, but just as he was about to retaliate, Sam Race's Fire Hammer began firing its own Xenon Launcher at him. As Dr. Rex turned his attention towards Sam Race, it was King Race's turn to fire. As Greybeard turned his Fire Hammer to make for another cycle around Dr. Rex, he expected to see Dr. Rex getting worked up and frustrated, much like the Mutant T-Rex decoy. However, at best, Dr. Rex appeared mildly annoyed; at worst, he was bored. Just before Greybeard's gunner could fire at him, Dr. Rex turned his attention to Greybeard's Fire Hammer and, with his laser vision, struck the gunner with incredible accuracy. Then, without even turning around, Dr. Rex swung his tail and knocked the Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher cleanly off King Joseph Race's Fire Hammer, taking his gunner with it. Greybeard paled. The decoy was just a random Mutant T-Rex, as dumb and feral as the others. This, the real Dr. Rex, had the intelligence of a scientist and the unpredictability of a madman. Too late, Greybeard realized that the strategy that brought down the decoy would not work on the real thing. "Retreat!" Greybeard barked into his radio. "Joe, Sam, pull back-" Dr. Rex slammed his foot down upon the hood of Greybeard's Fire Hammer. Greybeard was sent flying through his windshield and landed on the wet pavement several meters away. Cut, bruised, and struggling to find the strength to look up, Greybeard saw one of the other two Fire Hammers speed away in time. The other Fire Hammer was on fire. In a kamikaze maneuver, it tried to drive itself into Dr. Rex's leg, but the mad-scientist-turned-T-Rex simply lifted his foot and let the burning Fire Hammer speed underneath him. Seconds before the Fire Hammer drove into the Green Grocer, its driver jumped out of the vehicle and rolled on the pavement. Unsheathing his cutlass, Greybeard ran towards the crashed Fire Hammer as quickly as possible, slashing at Mutant Lizards along the way. Dr. Rex, it seemed, perceived that he was no longer even remotely a threat, and so he walked away, making deep noises that sounded suspiciously like a sinister chuckle. At last, Greybeard reached the burning wreckage of the Fire Hammer, half-embedded in the Green Grocer, and saw King Joseph Race lying on the ground. Greybeard helped the king of the Space Knights get to his feet, but a swarm of Mutant Lizards and a pack of Mutant Raptors smelled fresh meat. In only a matter of seconds, the old pirate and the racing king were surrounded by the hungry reptiles, which eyed them with blank white eyes as saliva dripped from their maws. "An' so," Greybeard gritted what few teeth he had left, "it ends." King Joseph Race narrowed his eyes and ignited his laser saber. "Greybeard," he declared, "it has been an honor and a privilege to have known, raced, and fought alongside you all these years." Greybeard nodded grimly. "Aye. Ye be like a brother t' me. Now, let us go down fightin'... t'gether." Ready to accept their fate, Greybeard slashed with his cutlass and King Joseph Race swung with his laser saber. Fighting back-to-back, they took down any Mutant Dino that dared to come near the two friends. And they would continue to fight... until eventually, when the numbers are too many, the Mutant Dinos overwhelm them, and together, they meet their destiny. ***** The comms were abuzz as some of the first witnesses of the Agents involvement came in. "What, those Inferno guys are still around?" "Alright, now these dinos have to face two world-defending organizations!" "Try spinning, that's a good trick!" "Tell that to Greybeard." "Shoot 'em in the eye! Always the eye!" "Are we gonna be here all day? I'm hungry." "That's why you should've brought some Brickolini's." "Was that an anthropomorphic dog I saw walk by?" "Hey, Agents! You guys have any EMP grenades?" B's broadcast about Inferno agents coming in near the mountainside of LEGO City proved to be a useful opportunity for Semick's plan. He directed three T-1 Typhoons to try and keep Dr. Rex's attention (though avoid getting killed, but considering that monster's accuracy with eye beams, they had to be prepared for that fate) while Semick directed three more towards B's location. That is what he said over comm, at least. In actuality, Semick diverted himself and another T-1 Typhoon behind a low skyscraper while the other two moved on to B's rescue. From there, they began moving down closer to the streets and began flying slowly behind the buildings. This was to best avoid the attention of Dr. Rex as they moved closer to where he had appeared. With the commotion from Greybeard's attempt to stun him and his other T-1 Typhoons distracting him with their own weapon barrages, the mad tyrant failed to notice the choppers as they managed to make it to the other side of the station where Mutant Lizards and Raptors were still pouring out. "How's the subway system out here?" Semick asked Bluetooth. A quick scan of the TALON-9 brought an answer. "This is, was, a less focal part of town. This is the only station for at least fifteen more blocks into the city." "Then this should at least buy us enough time to prepare." Then, over radio, he said: "Pointman, you ready?" The other T-1 Typhoon pilot said nothing, only moved into position to aim its cannons at the base of the buildings to the left of the subway entrance. Semick moved to the line of sight of the buildings on the right. "Ready... aim... fire!" With both pilot and front gunner fire combined, both T-1 Typhoons struck in unison at the building bases. Both structures then began leaning with heavy groans as their bricks gave out, and began toppling sideways to the ground. Or more accurately, the subway and Mutant Dinos right below them. Dust clouds burst as the buildings landed hard. With all the wear they had taken over the course of the city's Dino onslaughts, they could barely withstand holding together anymore, and as they dust cleared, it was shown that they had broken up into nothing more than a big, heavy pile of bricks. Which managed to plug up the subway entrance perfectly. Semick allowed himself only the briefest moment of joy to pump his fist and say "Yes!" before pulling his controls back to maneuver his T-1 Typhoon back behind the buildings he had flown in behind. Even if this was only a temporary hassle to the Mutant Dinos, Dr. Rex (who was turning to see what had happened) would be mad as MegaBlokland, and he knew it wouldn't be best to stick around. His craft shook a bit as he accidentally brushed the back end of his ship on the side of a building. He quickly got a sight of what he was doing and steered his controls as best as he could to pull back on course, on which his fellow T-1 Typhoon already was. "Watch where you're going!" remarked Attack from the gunner port. "Yes, yes," Semick muttered. In spite of everything he'd been through, he still wasn't exactly an expert pilot on this thing. He had to be careful, especially if he had to do something quick to avoid any consequences for his latest move. ***** The Talon II was one of the two T-1 Typhoons directed to the aid of the two Fire Hammers that made up "Kabrinsky's Pride." The group was being hassled by four Inferno jeeps, two helicopters, and a pair of small hoverjets. Larson dropped to an altitude of fifty feet to try and take out the jeeps, and Hotwire raised B on the radio. "B, we've got your back up here, no matter what crazy color you decide to paint your vehicles." He opened fire on a jeep, while the other T-1 Typhoon attempted to draw the two orange choppers away. The hoverjets, unfortunately, proved to be too agile for any of them to hit. "Hotwire! Thanks for the backup." "Speaking of crazy colors," Kat said, "seems we're not the only ones who heard that SOS." There was a sudden, unearthly howl from a short distance away and a bright red Agents jet-cycle came into view, cannons blazing. One of the hoverjets darted back around behind the new arrival and went into a dive, attempting a strafing maneuver. The cycle swerved back and forth, avoiding the shots, and as the jet passed over and began to pull up, the Agent who, Hotwire realized, had been standing on the back, jumped on top of the jet. As the craft flew higher, heading towards the Talon II, Hotwire was able to see what was happening more clearly. The man raised a massive broadsword above his head, twirling it as easily as if it were a light machete, and sliced at the right wing. He must have severed some important connection, because the turbine in the wing abruptly stopped spinning. Just before the jet spiraled out of control, the Agent leaped. He passed out of Hotwire's field of vision, but he heard a thump from behind him, and twisted in his seat. Back in the gunner's cockpit, Kat was doing the same. The sword-wielding man had landed on the Talon II's portside Quintronic Beam Emitter, and was pulling himself onto the deck. He stood, and for the first time, Hotwire got a good look at him. He was a giant of a man with a shaggy mane of dark hair and a beard to match, and was the first person Hotwire had ever seen to wear an Agents uniform with the sleeves removed. "Top of the morning," the man said in an unsettlingly deep -- but surprisingly smooth -- voice. "Name's Lieutenant Winston Grendelwulf, but my friends call me Epic Winston, and anyone who fights alongside me is a friend of mine." Kat was the first to reply. "I'm Kat, they're Hotwire and Larson." The giant nodded. "Pleasure to meet you." He glanced out of the T-1 Typhoon. "Now, friends, if you'll excuse me..." The second hoverjet was passing close by at an altitude of about thirty feet, firing at one of the black Fire Hammers, which was responding with a volley from its Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher. Epic Winston ran two steps and hurled himself out the starboard side of the Talon II, landing atop the jet as he had with the first. This time, however, he simply plunged his sword right through the cockpit canopy and into the pilot. The jet quickly began losing altitude. Winston dropped off the back as it passed over the Fire Hammer, landing on the roof of the cab. The hoverjet glanced off one of the Inferno jeeps, which, having tried to avoid it, was now spinning out of control. The jet, meanwhile, plowed into the street and carved a flaming furrow in the ground before being stopped by a conveniently placed building. With a nod to the gunner of the Fire Hammer -- it appeared to be Crooks, but from this height Hotwire couldn't be sure -- Epic Winston sheathed his sword, jumped off, and landed back on the red jet-cycle as it drove past. This time, he slipped onto the driver's saddle as the other Agent, who had the same mane of black hair but was beardless, hopped up and crouched on the hood with a pair of SMGs. As they skidded about madly on the wet pavement, he nimbly kept his balance and shot out the tires of the remaining jeeps, making them easy targets for the Talon II's XL-4 launcher. Up above, the other T-1 Typhoon was faring decently. The Inferno choppers were faster and more maneuverable, but the Dino Attack helicopter was far more heavily armed, and so they were able to keep their adversaries mostly on the defensive. One chopper managed to score a hit, and the T-1 Typhoon rocked before returning to steady flight. "Slight damage to portside Beam Emitter," the pilot reported. "I think we'll be fine, though." They fired a missile at one chopper, striking the tail. The craft spun out of control, impacting the side of a building. From the deck, a Dino Attack agent fired a Cosmotronic Ray at the second Inferno helicopter. The pulse of energy made the chopper shudder, and it lost some altitude before recovering. This, however, put it in range of Kat's Sonic Screamers. She fired directly at the base of the rotor, and the chopper faltered, then fell as the rotor blades splintered under the assault of the supercharged sound waves. "Thanks much," B said. "We got dinos incoming, though. Get ready." Hotwire brought the TALON-9 readings up on his cockpit screen. B was right. He grimly tightened his grip on the Quintronic Beam Emitter controls and braced himself for the onslaught. ***** "I'm tellin' ya, if you woulda said four months ago that the Agents would show up with reinforcements for us before Alpha Team, there's no way in MegaBlokland I woulda believed it." "Let's show XERRD what Quadrant 14 felt like! Come on!" "ERMAHGERD AH KERLED A RERPTER!" "Dangit, put down that sandwich!" "I got one!" "Holy cow, this is even crazier than the time those cyborg things showed up in giant mechas!" "Good shot kid, just don't get cocky." "Just wait, how many more armored T-Rexes have they got?" "Do a barrel roll!" ***** B drove past the smoking wrecks, formerly vehicles and henchmen of Dr. Inferno. Looking up, he could see that he would soon be playing a very dangerous game of chicken with a large group of Mutant Dinos. "Sam, pull a U-turn and head back into the city," B said into his mic. "Hotwire, I need you to lure the dinos back into the city. I have an idea that I can only pull off if I don't have anything on my tail. There's a cave up ahead that I need to get to, and I need to make sure nobody goes in after my Fire Hammer does, alright?" "Roger that, B," Hotwire said. Larson flew the Talon II upwards and back, trying to get the dinos in range. A deep, gruff voice broke over the comms. "Hazmatt Grendelwulf here." It was the other giant shaggy-haired Agent, Hotwire realized. "Where do you want us?" It was with some difficulty that Sam Kabrinsky and the Grendelwulfs persuaded the packs of dinosaurs charging down the street to follow them back into the city, but they pulled it off as B raced toward the foothills. Hazmatt remained on the hood of the bike, occasionally spraying the beasts with short bursts from his SMGs -- not enough to take them down, but enough to keep their attention. Epic Winston began losing patience somewhat; taking one hand off the handlebars, he drew his broadsword and punched it into a Raptor's side as he passed. The Talon II floated above them, dropping shots behind the dinosaurs to keep them moving back in the right direction and prevent them from noticing B. Hotwire remained uneasy. "We ought to be drawing them away from the main battle, not back toward it," he muttered to himself. "Dang it, B, you'd better have one seriously good plan." ***** Trigger emptied another shotgun shell into a Raptor's head, causing it to fall. It was only just after that that Carrie Enderson returned with the remaining grenades. "We're going to have to make a break for it," Trigger said. "But there's so many of them," said Carrie. "I know," replied Trigger. "Pass me a grenade." Carrie did so. As another Raptor stuck its head through one of the holes in the walls, Trigger threw it into its mouth, and within a few short seconds it exploded. "What we got to do is get to the roof," Trigger said as Snake fired into the mouth of another dinosaur. "We got to get to higher ground. That should buy us bit more time." "What do we do?" Carrie asked. "This is a city we're in. Naturally, on a busy street like this, this bar is right next to a number of other buildings, some of which are still intact. If we can get to the roof, we might be able to find a way of climbing away before they tear us down." With that, Trigger ran for the stairs, followed by Snake and Carrie. They slowly worked their way up until finally they opened a door and reached the top of the building. As Trigger noted, there were other buildings fairly close, and a group of angry Raptors crowding below. Snake was the first to go. He ran to the edge and jumped, and just in time grabbed the edge of the roof of the building next door and kept running. Trigger was soon to follow. Then Carrie made her jump. She grabbed the edge of the roof with one hand, and slowly struggled. Snake watched coldly, but Trigger walked up to her. "Here, take my hand," Trigger said as he held out his hand. Carrie grabbed it, and slowly he helped her onto the rooftop. They took a moment to catch their breath. "What now?" Snake asked. "Well," replied Trigger, "we'll have to keep going. If we can get to the end of the street, at least we might just stand a chance. On the other hand, someone's probably left an old car around here somewhere. All we have to do is hotwire it and then we're home free." ***** "Greybeard? Greybeard! GREYBEARD!" No matter how many times Rex shouted the old pirate's name into the radio, there was no response. Greybeard's line was as dead as a doornail. Worried, Rex traded glances with Frozeen and Amanda. It was very disconcerting to have to wait here in an Iron Predator while the front lines were in danger. Turning his attention back to the radio, Rex tried for King Joseph Race. No reply. Then, when Rex tried for Samuel Race, he received a load of static which finally cleared to the following message: "... Dr. Rex. I'm turning back and I'm going to rescue them!" "No!" ordered Rex. "It's too dangerous! Pull out, Samuel Race! Get out of there as quickly as you can!" "No way! That's my father and an old family friend back there! Don't worry, Rex, I'm fast enough! I can-" "Sam, listen to me!" interrupted Rex. "I understand that you want to rescue them, but if Dr. Rex got them, I'm afraid there's no hope! You need to-" Rex was cut off as the other line began to blare static. He cursed quietly under his breath. He knew that if he were in Samuel Race's position, he would do the same thing. But as much as he wished that Greybeard and King Race could be saved... he feared that Sam Race's efforts were reckless and suicidal in the heat of battle. Another few tense moments passed, during which Rex could only hear the sounds of falling rain, the rumbling of thunder, and the distant noises of battle. Then, at last, Rex heard a voice on the radio with a very clear message: "I need... help! Meet... me at... Enderson's!" "Enderson's?" said Amanda, blinking. "I know where that is!" With Amanda shouting directions, Rex drove the Iron Predator through the streets of LEGO City. The tank-like vehicle had to come to a halt in front of a huge pile of rubble that blocked their path. Frozeen began grumbling, "If I had my Tundra Tracker with me, I could just drill through this mess." "Amanda and I will continue on foot," decided Rex. "Frozeen, stay with the Iron Predator. If we need anything, we'll contact you. If you don't hear from us in five minutes, assume we're dead and return the Iron Predator to the defensive position where Semick wanted it." "It's dangerous to go alone," Frozeen said before he tossed Rex a Cosmotronic Ray. "Here, take this!" With that, Rex activated his hover-chair, and he and Amanda hopped out of the Iron Predator and continued on the way to Enderson's. ***** "You snipers all think you're so cool, sitting up in your windows taking potshots. Why not come down here and see what real fighting's like?" "Drat! Missed by a mile. A plague on you and your descendants, you stupid lizard!" "Why the heck are they crowding around that bar? I never thought of raptors as the drinking types." "Remember the Lusitania!" "Pshh, I could clear the dinos out of that alley in ten seconds flat! Ten. Seconds. Flat." ***** "We got the opportunity," said B, "now we take it. Rob, Kev, you know where you need to go in there?" Rob and Kevin responded affirmatively. At the high speeds, the cave seemed to rush up at them, and then the three were enveloped in total darkness. B stopped the Fire Hammer, and the three dismounted, drawing their weapons. "Rob, find the generator. Kevin, find the security system," instructed B. Rob quickly found the generator, and the cave was suddenly filled with light. While Kevin fiddled with the security system, B walked over to a workbench. He pushed aside what spare tools and bits of metal lay on it, and quickly found what he was looking for. "And to think that the last time I was here, it was only to open a box," he mused. B heard an ominous click come from the back of the cave. He spun around and readied his pistol. A laugh echoed through the cave. "It's so good to see you, B. I thought you'd never get here!" B swore, recognizing the voice as belonging to the Inferno agent Bio-Eyes. "Can nobody I kill stay dead?" "That's your hello?" scoffed Bio-Eyes. "I mean, c'mon! I'm the next Mr. Ruler of the Universe, and you're wondering why I'm not dead already? Tough crowd. You see, B, we really aren't that different. Wait, that's too cliché. How about this? Give me what you just found, and you won't die!" "Overconfident, arrogant, and flamboyant in a very evil manner?" mused B. "You definitely are one of Inferno's elite goons." "Please, B," said Bio-Eyes, "'goon' is a term that is beneath me." "Let's add conceited to that list, shall we?" B snarled. "Shall we conclude the first stage of the proverbial duel of wits?" said Bio-Eyes. "As much as I'm enjoying this, we must get to the actual witty banter, as I am on a bit of a schedule." B seethed with anger. He took a step toward the Inferno agent at the back of the cave, but the sound of multiple rifles cocking made him stop in his tracks. He realized that there were more Inferno agents surrounding them. "Look," said Bio-Eyes, "I'll give you the information you're looking for! You see, I'm sure that everyone you've killed has stayed dead! In fact, I'm not the person you think I am! Dr. Inferno has, you know, only a certain amount of templates for elite henchmen, and I am, in fact, only the second to bear the title 'Bio-Eyes'!" B did not care for this trivia fact. "Look, 'Bio-Eyes', I'll give you three choices: surrender now, and potentially live, fight now, and die, or run screaming out of the cave like a little child, and probably die at the hands of my teammates. Your choice." "Come now, B!" said Bio-Eyes. "I'm sure you know that you're outgunned and outnumbered in more ways than one! We all want a quick and easy end to this war, and that's why we're both here! Scheming: it's what this whole war's about, y'know. Everyone has their own personal agenda that they're pushing, and everyone wants out of the arrangement that they're in! Inferno, Ogel, Dr. Rex, everyone is planning something! I'm sure that as soon as the war is over, Ogel is gonna pull out some big plan that you're going to have to contend with, assuming your side wins! However, given these current circumstances, isn't likely. Inferno, you see, apparently isn't happy with the way the war is going. He wants to rule the world, not the rubble left after the apocalypse! So, he sent me here, and I think you know why." "That seems a bit counterproductive, doesn't it?" remarked Rob, who was standing warily by the generator. "Why would this be counterproductive?" asked Bio-Eyes. "Because, don't you know?" said B. "Sequels almost always bomb in whatever they attempt. By the way..." B nodded at his teammates, and they launched into action. Before the Inferno agents knew what hit them, they lay on the ground, dead. B then aimed his pistol at Bio-Eyes and fired. The shot echoed through the cave, and the body slumped to the ground. "Eat lead, you son of a MegaBlok." ***** After clearing the pile of rubble, Rex and Amanda Claw moved with urgency as they made their way down the street. Rain washed over them as they moved, and Amanda often splashed in puddles along the way. Luckily, Zed Provhezor had likely taken rain into account when he designed the hover-chair because it was designed so that all circuits were well-protected from the water to prevent any short-circuiting. Every time they came to an intersection, Amanda pointed in the direction to go. The more they ran, the closer the sounds of battle came. At last, Rex and Amanda stopped in front of a bar with the word "ENDERSON'S" written in bold letters displayed above the door. However, the place looked as though a bulldozer had run through it. Recognizing it as the work of a Mutant T-Rex, Rex traded glances with Amanda. Slowly and cautiously, they entered the wrecked bar. Inside, they found two Mutant Lizards scavenging for meat, and Rex quickly dispatched them with the Cosmotronic Ray. "Hello?" called Rex. "Anyone in here?" No reply. Rex and Amanda were about to turn and leave when they heard a cough. From behind the counter, they saw two familiar figures rise, each one leaning on the other for support. As they limped towards Rex and Amanda, Rex was disturbed by all the cuts and bruises that covered their skin and all the blood stains on their torn clothing. Quickly, Amanda ran forward to assist them, giving them extra support to walk. "Oh my Builder," whispered Rex. "How are you?" "I've been better," one of them said with a shrug, "but I've been worse, too." The other shook his head in disbelief. "I... can't believe it..." he sobbed. "I... I was sure that I was fast enough... but my speed... my speed failed me! Failed my kingdom! Failed... my father! My... my father...!" The realization washed over Rex like cold water. "Is he...?" inquired Rex. The first nodded grimly. "He... didn't make it." Rex beckoned to them. "Come, we need to get you two out of here. It's not safe here, and it won't be safe elsewhere for long." With that, Rex, Amanda, Greybeard, and Samuel Race exited Enderson's bar. Even in the small time that they spent inside the bar, they could see that the battle had intensified even more on the streets outside the bar. They caught a glimpse of a Fire Hammer speeding away, pursued by two Mutant Lizards and a Mutant Triceratops, which the jeep's Xenon Multi-Mode Launcher was trying to aim and fire at. Meanwhile, an Urban Avenger fired its Sonic Screamer at a swarm of Mutant Lizards but proceeded to be ambushed by a Mutant T-Rex. "Let's go," said Rex. "Wait." Amanda held up her hand, then pointed towards a car at the end of the block. It was a normal civilian car, but its alarms were blaring, and a pack of Mutant Raptors were keenly interested in it. Since Mutant Raptors were intelligent hunters, Rex doubted that they were merely distracted by the lights and noise of the car alarm, but instead more likely trying to get inside the car to get some fresh meat. "Hand me the Cosmotronic Ray. I think I can handle this." Tossing the Cosmotronic Ray to Amanda, Rex told her: "Okay, but quickly. We need to return to the Iron Predator quickly, before even more Mutant Dinos show up here." Amanda sprinted down the street towards the car. As soon as she was in range, she fired the Cosmotronic Ray at the nearest Mutant Raptor. The ray's beam hit the Mutant Raptor dead-on, and the creature stumbled. The other Mutant Raptors quickly took notice of her, but her aim with the Cosmotronic Ray was true, and they fell quickly. By the time Amanda reached the car, the Mutant Raptors were fallen. Looking through the car window, she saw that there were indeed some Minifig passengers inside, none of which were wearing Dino Attack uniforms. She lightly knocked on the window, which rolled down to reveal a woman. "Thanks for that," she said, smiling in relief. The woman looked strangely familiar to Amanda, but she was sure that they had never met. Raising her eyebrows, Amanda guessed, "You must be Enderson." "Carrie," said the woman, nodding. "How did you know? I never forget a face, but I don't think I've seen you before." "I know your brother, Bartholomew," explained Amanda. "He once mentioned having a sister, and I think I can see the family resemblance. I'm glad you're alright, Carrie, but what are you doing here? Mayor Frictionfit issued a mass evacuation a few hours ago." "I know," sighed Carrie, "but I needed to stay behind, tend to my bar... and protect these two fellows from the upcoming dino attack. When the bar was no longer safe, we took to the rooftops and then tried to hotwire this car for a quick getaway. Of course, as you saw, it didn't quite work out." Two fellows? wondered Amanda. She nodded to Carrie, then stepped forward and knocked on the driver's side window. When the Minifig in the driver's seat refused to lower his window, Amanda knocked again. This time, the window rolled down, and what Amanda saw filled her with disgust. "Trigger." Apparently just as disgusted, Trigger replied with, "Venomosa. And so, we meet again." On top of that, sitting next to him was none other than the "eyepatched wonder" himself, Snake. Pointing her Cosmotronic Ray at him, Amanda forced the car door open. "Step out of the car," she ordered. "Now." Trigger glared at her with hatred in his eyes, but eventually he complied, knowing that she was not going to leave him alone otherwise. Shaking her head in disbelief, Amanda muttered: "Wow, Trigger. Really? You know, I used to think that you were just a heartless mercenary who would complete a job by any means necessary. Guess I was wrong about that. You know, when I was… her… I at least had the decency to finish a job rather than ditch my employers in their darkest hour!" "Oh, shut up!" snapped Trigger. "You're the one who betrayed the rest of us back at Dacta!" "You know," mused Amanda, "it is kind of ironic. You are so MegaBlokland-bent upon killing me… not because I killed Keaton, Orange, and the others, but because I foiled your precious little job. And here you are, running away from another job. I guess, in your twisted mind that perverts everything to make you see things the way you want to see them, a little heist on Dacta Corporation is a million times more important than saving the world. Someone needs to get their priorities straightened out." "I'm not a moron," growled Trigger. "I know when it's suicidal to stick with a job, and that's when I back out. No point in losing my life for money." Amanda lowered her head, glaring at Trigger with fierce intensity. "Get your head out of your hip piece, Trigger! Look around you! The world is in ruins! This is not some little inconvenience that you can walk away from; this is the apocalypse itself! Mutant Dinos are everywhere across the world! Every spaceport has been destroyed, every spacecraft wrecked beyond repair… and even if you miraculously found some way off the planet, LEGO Planet is officially under quarantine, and nothing is allowed to leave the planet to prevent the Mutant Dino invasion from spreading to other worlds! There is no escape, Trigger! If you run from this job, and we lose this battle because you were not here to help us, you'll have nowhere to run." Then, Amanda bent in close to Trigger, so close she could smell his disgusting cigarette-ridden breath, and pressed her knife to his neck. "And if we win this battle and I find out that you are such a blind idiot that you did not hear a word I said and then deserted us anyway... then I shall hunt you down and assassinate you without a second thought." Trigger snorted. "If you're so MegaBlokland-bent upon killing me, then why don't you just do it now?" Amanda lowered her knife, but she kept her eyes locked on Trigger. "Because, unlike you, I am not MegaBlokland-bent upon killing you. That night at Dacta, you let it change your entire life... for me, it was just another Tuesday, and I never gave you so much as a second thought after that night because I simply don't care about you at all. You're nothing, Trigger. You're just an empty shell without any personality. Montoya is a greater man than you can ever hope to be." Pointing her knife at Snake, Amanda continued: "And you? You're as bad as him! If we win, you'll need that pardon... and if we lose, you won't need a pardon, because you'll be dead!' Turning to Carrie, she sighed. "I'm sorry you got mixed up in this, Carrie. You're free to go, but be careful... LEGO City is not a good place to be at the moment." As she turned to leave, Amanda heard a gun cock. Spinning around, she threw her knife, and her aim was true, as the flying knife knocked the pistol right out of Trigger's hand. As she retrieved her knife, Amanda shot Trigger one last death glare before departing. "I hate that 4+ Figure," Trigger muttered to himself as she walked away. He turned toward Carrie, feeling suspicious of her for the first time. "She knew your brother?" "I didn't know anything like that," insisted Carrie, nervously. "He never told me anything about Silencia Venomosa." "You'd better be telling the truth," said Trigger. "Now, let's go." "What about Silencia?" asked Snake. "Znap her," replied Trigger. "I can take care of myself." ***** Dr. Cyborg was waiting for the people he contacted to call him back, so he was watching others attack Cyrista's Bane, trying to figure out any additions Dr. Rex may have made. He saw two Fire Hammers driving up to it. He heard them over the radio. One would attack it, and try to get it to turn around. The other would then attack it from behind. The plan seemed to be working perfectly, except that when the second came behind it to attack, Cyrista's Bane looked over its shoulder and fired its eyebeam at it, melting the engine. If anyone hadn't been clued in yet that this isn't a normal Mutant T-Rex, then that should be a pretty clear indication. "Hmm..." Dr. Cyborg said to nobody but himself. "How is that possible? They gave no indication of their plan, except... over the radio! Oh, scrap, this isn't good, not at all. That can now intercept radio transmissions and somehow understand them! I gotta warn people! But how..." He trailed off as he looked at one of the two Cosmotronic Rays he had installed on the Titanium Predator. He remembered idly planning a communications system based off of recalibrated Cosmotronic Rays last night. He connected to it and changed the settings such as power and wavelength so it would transmit messages instead of death. He automated it to send messages to everyone within range not to use radio to plan attacks against Cyrista's Bane. With that done, he recorded a message and sent it to X1 via Cosmotronic Ray. He had gotten responses from Nazareno and Zelda, saying they and the Urban Avengers with them would help. Helm and Hertz had volunteered, but Solomon had said he had something else to do currently. The message he sent to them using X1 to impersonate himself explained his plan. ***** "I'm not sure what to do against that Dr. Rex," Cabin said over the comm of her T-1 Typhoon. "Everything we're throwing at him is doing nothing. If anything, I think it's just making him angrier." "Focus on the cyborg first," instructed Rotor. "Dr. Rex may be the key target, but the cyborg is the greater threat at the moment." "There's something up with this thing," Cabin said as she eyed Cyrista's Bane. "I think it might be intercepting our radio transmissions." "How's it doing that?" Rotor asked. "I don't know," admitted Cabin. "Whatever it is, we got to do something." "Alright," replied Rotor. "All units are to change radio frequencies every fifteen minutes." As he spoke, he began to change his own frequency. "How will that help?" Cabin asked. "Well, theoretically, it will have to adjust its senses to the changes in frequency. By repeatedly changing our frequencies, we might just be able to confuse it," explained Rotor. ***** The first thing Zach heard was rain tapping on glass. Then he felt a drop land on his face. Blinking twice, Zach slowly rose to his feet and looked around, massaging his neck. He was clearly in some building that hadn't been recovered yet from the initial Dino Attack. Furniture was tossed around, gaping holes in the wall, and everything was extremely dusty. He turned to the windows of the room and glanced out the broken one. He was at least a story off the ground. "Finally. You're awake," a voice said from the shadows. Zach's eyes narrowed, remembering who this person was. He turned around and saw the thin outline of the man from the darkest corner of the room. "I'll admit," the man said. "I probably wouldn't have recognized you if you hadn't punched with that Builder-forsaken hand of yours. It hurt the first time in the tent on Adventurers' Island, it'll hurt again on the battlefield that is LEGO City. What was your name again?" "Zachary Virchaus," Zach said with scoff. "Can't even remember my name, Oswald?" Oswald Fabello stepped out from the shadows, no longer wearing the helmet and cloth, with a scowl on his face. Zach was surprised to see Oswald's physical appearance change so drastically since Adventurers' Island. His once handsome face had gained a sunken look on his face with bloodshot, tired-looking eyes. His blond hair was somewhat unkept and had the barest hint of gray in it. "I honestly couldn't care less about you, Virchaus. I haven't been secretly plotting your demise since leaving Adventurers' Island." "Busy plotting Minerva's, right?" Oswald smirked. "Not quite." "Where are we, exactly?" Oswald shrugged. "A building on the 'XERRD' side of the river. Don't know what it’s for, but I don't really care." "Alright, and so why did you bring me here?" Zach was preparing to launch a ball of Maelstrom at Oswald so he could leave. "I wanted to talk. I have no desire to kill you. Yet." Oswald took a seat in one of the few right-side-up chairs. "The more cooperative you are, the less likely I'll have to kill you." Zach knew he should've just blasted Oswald and left. "Are there any more XERRD guards, or is it just you?" It was Oswald's turn to scoff. "They're all gone. Blaire Darkling dismissed them all." Zach remembered Carolyne Provencal mention this Blaire Darkling fellow. "Why would he do that?" Oswald shrugged. "He gathered us all up last night, which was around fifty of us. He flatly told us that we all probably die tomorrow and, considering the recent revelations at the Maelstrom Temple, he dismissed us. Told us to run off. Escape and rejoin society in Antarctica. It would be easy to claim that all us died in the battle." "Rather noble. But you remain," noted Zach. "But while you were deceived into believing XERRD's ideology, I imagine most of the guards were there for survival from the Mutant Dino apocalypse." Oswald smirked. "You're not as stupid as you look. Besides that, I have a few scores to settle. Now, are you going to cooperate?" Zach sighed. "What do you want?" Oswald stood up. "Where is Minerva?" His voice was cold and serious. "So confident in that she survived?" Oswald laughed coldly. "Even if today had ended up being the day the Maelstrom gave its reckoning to this rock, Minerva would've survived until the final moments." "I don't know. I saw some of what the Darkitect was planning. Bit hard to survive that." Clearly not amused, Oswald stepped toward Zach and punched him hard in the mouth. "Now, where is she?" There was no use lying. Rubbing his jaw, he said, "She was that agent that you threw into the backseat of the Fire Hammer by the throat." "Son of a-" Oswald turned away from Zach, running a hand through his hair in an irritated fashion. "Fine, fine," he muttered, clearly to himself. "We can still work this out." He turned back to Zach. "In the meantime..." Zach grimaced, prepared to get some sort of beatdown from the former Dino Attack agent. However, Oswald merely took a seat, staring at hard at Zach. "So tell me," Oswald began, running his hand through his hair. "What exactly is your relationship with Minerva?" Zach raised an eyebrow at this sudden change of tone. "I know what I said back on Adventurers' Island, but now I'm genuinely interested." Zach remained silent. Oswald rolled his eyes, but nodded. "I see. Friendzoned." Zach coughed. "What?" "You know, when-" "I know what it means, thanks." This sudden talk reminded Zach of Stromling!Zach's angsty lashing at Minerva for, more or less, moving him into this so-called "friendzone", despite never really making a proper advance toward her. Thinking about now, he realized how embarrassing it was. He had been stung, sure. But he hadn't really held it against her. Oswald raised his hands defensively, half-grinning. "I'm not really surprised. You don't really seem like her type. Sorry, mate." Zach glared at Oswald. "Actually, I guess you would consider us in some type of romantic relationship." Zach could see Oswald becoming more and more amused. "I hope you don't mind if I doubt you." Zach shrugged. "Whatever, 'mate'. How about this? Minerva is the greatest friend I found in this war and, among other things, without her, I'd be a ridiculously over-the-top zombie." Oswald gave Zach a curious look. "Okay. Well, you're clearly in love with her. I thought she may have had feelings toward you, but I don't know. You seem like a pathetic nerd trying to prove to me that you 'got the girl' for the first time in your life." "What do you want me say?" Zach demanded, growing angry. "Say something only her older brother would know about her?" Oswald shrugged. Zach thought for a moment, then: "Your dad was murdered, your mother's insane, and she murdered your brother." Zach quickly found Oswald's hand around his throat again. Oswald glared at him for a brief moment before stepping away, releasing his grip. "Perhaps you're right. Minerva wouldn't share that you unless you were close." Oswald sat down again, breathing heavy. "The old family shame," Oswald muttered. "You just became a bit more important to me, Virchaus." "Perfect," Zach said sarcastically. "I imagine when she told you the story, she glamorized and avoided her own faults." "Like what? Mentioning her kleptomania?" Oswald's face darkened. "She nearly ruined us more times than she would ever admit because of her issues. Tod and I told her to stop, but she didn't listen." "Rather hypocritical," retorted Zach. "She told me she continued to steal because, despite both of your objections, your family ate the food she stole." "It wasn't a problem until she was older," Oswald hissed. "She took her grief over Tod's death out by stealing even more than before. It became tick for her just to swipe something without even realizing it. And with this, she got caught, forcing me to pay what little money we had already to get her out. The cops would lighten the fee occasionally because they knew what happened to us. They figured what had happened 'messed up' Minerva. They pitied us." Oswald spat the last words out angrily. "But in the end, she's moved on," said Zach. "Because of Breen and Provencal, you continue to hang on to the past and let it drive your future far more than it should." Oswald sneered. "How philosophical. Breen and Provencal were right, though. Whatever aspirations I had were crushed because I had to take care of an ungrateful brat." "It's not her fault," Zach said angrily. "You're right. It isn't," Oswald said, surprising Zach. "At least not all of it. I suppose I should factor some blame in for dear old mom, eh? She's the reason my brother is dead and why I had to take care of Minerva in the first place." "She's dead." Oswald raised an eyebrow amused. "Unfortunate. I had hoped to do the honors myself." Zach simply stared. If Athena Fabello was still alive, would Oswald really have the nerve to kill her? "One last thing. Out of curiosity, why do you even like Minerva?" Zach paused. "As I said, she's my best friend. She saved me from the Maelstrom even after everything I did. Even if she was a bit rough around the edges and having a messed up past (which includes you, by the way), Minerva is a nice person and means well to everyone, from a former zombie to an insecure Hybrid and, unlike you, can put her past struggles behind her and move on." Oswald was silent, simply glaring at Zach as he considered what the young Elite Agent said. "That's all I needed." Oswald said finally with a shrug. He walked toward Zach and launched three punches at Zach's face before he could realize what was about to happen. A few punches later, Zach felt himself fall back into unconsciousness. ***** This is the message Dr. Cyborg sent to everyone helping him: "Alright, here is the plan. Helm and the Urban Avengers will just shoot at Cyrista's Bane. Running around it, changing course, that kind of stuff. When it shoots its tail at you, that is when Nazareno and Zelda will grab it and climb onto his back. Slice away at any skin you can find. Hertz, I want you to build a device that can discharge a car battery in a second. I will use this and stun him for a minute or two. While he is down, I will interface with the hormone injectors and relax it enough to knock it out. Alright everyone, get to work." "What about those of us in the air?" one of the pilots said over the radio. "Try and fire at it," Cabin said. "It's got to have a weak spot somewhere. I'd say aim for the exposed flesh. Hopefully, that ought to slow it down." It was not long after that Rotor put his hand on the trigger and hit the button. He fired a rocket straight toward Cyrista's Bane. Cyrista's Bane roared in happiness. This is what it was made for. It shot its eyebeam at an Urban Avenger circling it, barely missing it. Incoming at three o'clock, a voice in its head said. It turned and clawed a missile out of the air, directing it to an old office building. The building exploded. Cyrista's Bane roared again, also in happiness. This was the most fun it had ever had! Remember Alpha Rex's directive, the voice said. Cyrista's Bane hadn't forgotten, it just had not seen its primary objective - the one who abandoned it, which he was named after, the one person that should have been its friend, but had hated it and left it, according to Alpha Rex. It kept on the lookout, for revenge. ***** Andrew did his best to maneuver around one or two wrecked Urban Avengers as he kept his distance from the Mutant Spinosaurus. It wasn't exactly chasing them, thanks to a few well-aimed lightning bolts striking it in the eyes and leaving it blind. Even so, a raving mad Spinosaurus was dangerous, even if it didn't know where it was going. Several other vehicles were working to help taking it down, firing nonstop at the legs. The creature was obviously made to take a lot of fire, but he was showing quite a bit of wear by now. In the meantime, Andrew's Fire Hammer was focusing more on the various other Mutant Dinosaurs running about. "If I had to guess," a guy alongside the river was saying to Laxus over radio, "we've taken out maybe... maybe one-third, perhaps a half of the forces around here. At this rate, assuming we get that cyborg thing taken care of and manage to weaken Dr. Rex's control, we could have this under control by lunch." "Don't count on it," Minerva said from the back seat. "How about the forces on the other side of the river? Do they have any encampments we can take out?" "Most of them are moving over to nearby buildings over here. They're trying for a foothold, but they're going to probably be wary about settling, especially after what Semick did over there." "Then I guess we just have to keep to holding out," said Laxus. "Keep a bird's-eye view out, Observer, and stay alive." "Affirmative." "Hold on!" Andrew cried out, and he suddenly jerked the vehicle hard to the left to avoid getting hit by the Spinosaurus, now fully weakened and falling to the ground. As he came to a sliding stop, the vehicle crew managed to catch their breath as the comm went crazy again. "TIIIIIMBEEEEER!" "I sure wish Alpha was here. That allegedly super-super speed could come in handy." "How did he even get all that armor to cover him and let him move freely?!" "HQ Turret 4 down for repairs!" "Why are you swordfighting that sorcerer? Just shoot him!" "Here comes another wave! Chains, Wolf, Hoxton, you're all with me!" "This reminds me of a time my buddy Keith spent a week with the Adventurers." "You're not making me a handicap, lizardhead!" "Ramirez, cover me!" "Everyone with Dallas!" "One big guy down," Catless remarked from the turret, "a dozen or two to go." ***** "All units are to change radio frequencies every fifteen minutes," Rotor was saying. "We suspect Cyrista's Bane of being able to intercept and understand our radio transmissions, so we have to protect our strategies from interception." "We're bringing several Dinos back with us to give B the time to work on a plan of his," said Kat. "I'd say we might also want to prepare ourselves for more Inferno henchman. Everyone, be prepared for enemies with guns and fast vehicles of their own." "If Inferno thinks he can take you out easily, he's gravely mistaken," said Osprey over the Agents linkup. "Both we and Alpha Team, who we have word is on their way with a few surprises of their own, will be more than able to help you take out his men." "Alright, here is the plan," Dr. Cyborg was saying. "Helm and the Urban Avengers will just shoot at Cyrista's Bane. Running around it, changing course, that kind of stuff. When it shoots its tail at you, that is when Nazareno and Zelda will grab it and climb onto his back. Slice away at any skin you can find. Hertz, I want you to build a device that can discharge a car battery in a second. I will use this and stun him for a minute or two. While he is down, I will interface with the hormone injectors and relax it enough to knock it out. Alright everyone, get to work." "I caught Trigger and Snake trying to desert the field," Claw was now saying. "If no one spots them around our area by the end of it, or sees a civilian car speeding off in the opposite direction of the base, they're open for arrest. But if you see a woman riding with them, let her go. She's not involved with them. Don't arrest her. And I have Rex's backing on that, Pharisee, if you're listening." Semick listened to these transmissions with great interest as his and Pointman's T-1 Typhoons returned to the main battle area. It was good to see that the rest of the team was also coordinating parts of the battle as well as he had been. It meant well if anything was to happen to any one of them. It also made him more confident when he heard some of the things on the main comm frequency. "No, no, no, no! This wasn't supposed to happen!" "Look out, here comes Tom!" "Where's MyBot when you need him?!" "Has anyone seen the Founding Members out here yet? I'd figure they'd not want to just sit through this one." "I threw three RPGs at Dr. Rex! It's just silly how much damage he's taking!" "What? How did you… oh, rocket-propelled grenades. Silly me, I thought you were talking about roleplaying games." "Wait, when did Reptile show up again?" "Hey, listen! Aim for the joint cracks!" "Guys, I think King Race is dead!" "So it goes." "Where the Znap is the Renaissance!?" ***** "Like the guy on the radio says," Stranger was saying to some of the agents trying to snipe at Dr. Rex, "you have to aim at the weak points. Cracks in the armor he uses to let himself move, holes for his important facial features, his teeth. It's simple stuff, really." "You realize how much he's moving?" Scope said. "I'm not saying you're wrong, only that it's harder than it seems." "That's why it's a challenge," Stranger said with a smirk. "You rarely get this sort of activeness with deer, after all." Stranger focused once more through his laser sniper rifle. Dr. Rex was rampaging again, going after a few T-1 Typhoons. As he stopped to focus his eye beams, Stranger managed to get one eye right in his scope, and fired. The lovely beam of light his weapon's ammo produced fired straight out and hit it right in the bullseye. The monster groaned in a bit of pain and stumbled, and Stranger grinned. "You see?" he said to the others. "That's how it’s done. Wait for the right moment, and BAM." Turning back to his line of fire, the Western survivor felt a chill run over him as he realized that Dr. Rex, now recovered and obviously mad again, was looking almost right at him, almost appearing to be focusing his eyesight... "DUCK!" Stranger cried out, and he shifted down flat on the floor mere seconds before he felt red-hot heat sear right over his back. Looking up, he managed to see the beam pass through several other windows on the sniping floor. Dr. Rex must've been sweeping the floor in an attempt to get rid of him and the other snipers. Luckily, when this Dino Attack HQ had been built by Brick League United, the engineers had designed the facade with the most intense T-Rex eye beams in mind, so there was nothing to worry about in terms of structural integrity. Only the fires that sparked up when the beams torched the various crates in their line of sight. As Dr. Rex stopped his eye-sault, several agents were already making a run for the fire extinguishers. He could hear Shotgun breath out a large sigh of relief. "Do NOT do that again, Stranger," he said. "I got it, I got it." Stranger got up, readjusted his hat, and grabbed his rifle bag and ammo bag. "I won't try it here again, but I don't think I'm done with that trick yet." And before anything else could be said of the matter, Stranger headed for the stairs. ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  2. Chapter 62: The First Wave ---- The Titanium Predator was ready. Dr. Cyborg had made some last-minute tweaks, Cortana(3) had adjusted to it, he had started the reactor, and the sequence to start the entire vehicle was almost done. When it was finished, he jumped in. He split his hands into wires and inserted the ends of his arms into sockets built for that very purpose. He started syncing Cortana(3) to himself and Cortana(2). He connected his personal generator and the vehicle generator. His robotic eye turned golden. He smiled, and piloted it out of the ground hangar. He arrived at the front lines just in time to hear the end of Greybeard's speech. He started singing the song with everyone else while he searched the Titanium Predator's systems for any bugs. He finished just as the first shots were fired. He lifted the altitude above ground level to 25 feet, and started firing at a Mutant T-Rex. ***** The battle was joined. One T-1 Typhoon attack wing began to take off from the hangar. It appeared that the rest were being held in reserve by their commanders, or those commanders were trying to figure out where the choppers could be best used. Coral's console lit up with attack plans. He glanced at them and grimaced; it looked like the Strategy Planning department was frantically coming up with increasingly half-baked stratagems for the battle that would probably get quite a lot of them killed. However, one useful thing was contained within the data dump. "Reptile?" he said over the comm system. "I hope you have a better plan than some of these fools do - because you're in command of a T-1 attack wing." Reptile sighed audibly. "With luck, someone has realized we must clear the skies of Pterosaurs before we can go on crazy bombing raids on the other side of the river. Otherwise those swarms will rip us apart like they did on Adventurers' Island." "So, orders? We're getting increasingly frantic requests for orders..." Coral said, a bit irritated. "Right. I've got an idea about these Pterosaurs. For the meantime, we'll provide air support for the front." Reptile tapped a few keys, and Coral surmised he was now addressing all the pilots under his command. "This is Reptile. We're going to provide cover for the Fire Hammers out front. I want every pilot to hold formation just behind the Fire Hammers, and fire on anything that crosses the river. Focus on Pterosaurs and T-Rexes. "Look... I won't pretend this will be easy. If you've seen the reports you know this is going to be a lot more difficult, a lot more dangerous, than I know a lot of you were hoping." That was an understatement - the panic at the front lines that Coral's old friend Greybeard had barely been able to quell had spread, in a slightly more subdued form, to the rear guard. "But we can win this. If everyone does their part, stays calm, and follows orders- we can triumph. Reptile out." Coral frowned. "Not the greatest of motivational speeches, was that?" he asked. Reptile replied, evenly, "I've broadcast Greybeard's speech and song to everyone." Coral would have laughed if not for the circumstances. Instead, he focused on leading them into battle. The T-1 Typhoons rose and flew forward to the Fire Hammer lines. There, things were quickly turning into chaos. Coral saw a grouping of Fire Hammers engaging two Mutant T-Rexes near the center of the fray - they were rather outmatched. Tail and Reptile seemed to see the same thing. The craft shuddered as both the mounted Goo Spheres and the more conventional sonic weaponry opened fire. Seconds later, the two T-Rexes toppled beneath the combined onslaught of the T-1 Typhoon and the Fire Hammers down below. While taking down two T-Rexes would have ordinarily been something they could celebrate, it was a drop in the ocean today. Coral hadn't seen anything like it since that day in the Goo Caverns, and even that had been tame compared to this. Coral wasn't sure how long they would last, unless someone came up with something very clever. He was a survivor. He had survived betraying Alpha Team so long ago by joining the pirates. He had taken on a new identity, and lost all his memories for a time during the war with the Skeleton Pirates, but he had survived even that. He had survived the beginning of the Dino Attack, and had joined up with Reptile, where he had managed to survive quite ably thus far. But as he flew the T-1 Typhoon to where they were needed, and Tail cut down Dino after Dino on the ground below... he vowed that if he had to die today to stop these monsters, so be it. But he'd take as many of them down as he could before he allowed that to happen. ***** With some assistance from Crusher, Cabin quickly hastened to get her jumpsuit back on. Rotor was waiting by the door to the infirmary. As soon as Cabin's boots were on, she ran up to him. The two pilots quickly ran as fast as they could toward the garage. Cabin climbed into the first T-1 Typhoon she could find, as did Rotor. "You ready for this?" Cabin asked. "As ready as I'll ever be," replied Rotor. "LET'S GET THIS PARTY STARTED!" And within moments, Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" echoed throughout the hangar as Rotor's Typhoon reached into the air. Cabin couldn't help but smile. As the music of Wagner echoed through the streets, Lance Williams had taken his place in the gunner's seat of Rotor's T-1 Typhoon. Carefully, he scanned the horizon in search of mutant dinos. Lance was already firing on all the Mutant Lizards in the streets below. "Save your bullets, Lance," Rotor said as he charged toward the army, and with a simple click of a button, he launched the first rocket. ***** Flying a helicopter in a tempest as powerful as this was something that was generally avoided whenever possible. Despite the power of a T-1 Typhoon. it was not impossible to feel the craft shake with every gust of wind. Pharisee held tight to the handholds as the T-1 Typhoon swayed back and forth. Water and ice rushed through the compartment and knocked several passengers off their feet. The darkness outside seemed to pull them away from their small sanctuary, threatening them with the angry blackness that loomed just beyond the doors. The commander of Internal Affairs was receiving minute-by-minute updates of the situation back at the headquarters. Hertz and the communications crew informed him that Dr. Rex's army had arrived at the gates. It was difficult to leave them at a time so dire but he had his own sacred mission to address. This was his calling and he could not betray his vows. He shot a dark look at Montgonel. The agent held his ground firmly in the sleet as he shot his commander a glare of equal measure. Pharisee's first impression of the man was that he would be incapable of making the tough call. If he could not depend on his men to take the shot when it truly counted, he might as well be doing this alone. "Don't assume that Montoya is innocent because he is a family man, Montgonel!" yelled the commander. Sleet nearly knocked him off his feet as he called to his colleague, and he squinted his eyes to protect them from the windstorm. "It is not unheard of for violent men to have family on the side. Regardless, his past life means nothing to me! It is what he did here that matters. He tried to kill Claw! Does that have no consequence for you?" "The man was confused!" retorted Montgonel. "He is changed!" "I will be the judge of that!" yelled Pharisee. "Besides, what about the other men in that truck? Trigger and Snake are vile; do you believe we should not attempt to apprehend it because one decent man may be on board?" Montgonel took a look down at the fleeing vehicle. With the sound of the weather, the driver may not know he was being pursued. He admitted they may have the element of surprise, but he had scruples about arresting a good man. "What if he's a decoy?" asked Montgonel. "He may be leading us away from the others." "We will apprehend him nonetheless," Pharisee replied as he reviewed the city below him. "He will tell us what we need to know." Montgonel gulped. From in the look in the commander's eyes, he could only imagine what he had in mind. "Unless you can convince me otherwise, I am fully prepared to forcefully stop that truck!" said the commander. He motioned to the gunner positioned on the side. "Prepare to fire a warning shot." ***** The shelling began. Nicholas Saran could hear the distant thunder of artillery as it opened fire on the approaching horde. The headquarters was not designed as a fortress, more along the lines of an office building, but it still had a small array of cannons located atop the parapets. He did not expect it to last long. Soon, the Mutant Pterosaurs would swoop in and decimate any heavy weapons that the headquarters had. Despite what some agents would say, this was to be an up-close-and-personal battle. He shivered at the thought of blood turning the wet cement outside red. The psychologist entered the lockers of the headquarters and removed his warm red sweater. Men would need a doctor, but more would need an able-bodied comrade to watch their back. By no means was the fifty-year-old man able-bodied. He had a hard time running with his peg leg, and he had not used a gun in years. However, he had been a police officer in another life. He knew what it meant to be a fighter, and he was prepared to do his part for the team. He observed himself in the mirror. The appearance of a middle-aged one-legged man in full Dino attack gear was almost comical. Nicholas smiled; it was good to back in uniform. He had been forced to resign the force after his accident, but now no one could tell him to leave. He shouldered his gun and marched with gusto down the halls. Nothing would keep him from this night. ***** The pool table made a decent improvised desk to coordinate the attacks. With the help of some of his old business partners, Hertz was able move some satellites, which provided him with live transmissions of the battle outside. Footage from outside the base was projected onto the television, and Hertz astutely watched the movements of the opposing force. His ears buzzed with the signals of hundreds of agents outside and he struggled to comprehend the wave of information being broadcast to him. Also on a monitor was the jumbled gibberish of XERRD's codes. A fuzzy line marked the frequencies of the scientist's voice patterns as his decoder struggled to comprehend the meanings of the words. "Watch those Raptors!" yelled Kate as her eyes caught movement on the screen. The yellow icons indicated Mutant Raptor movement suddenly surge forward out of the horde and begin to make a run for the river. The Raptors' long legs easily cleared the water as they charged with incredible speed at Dino Attack's Fire Hammers. The force fields protected the beasts as they collided with the team's munitions and cut into any agents unfortunate to be outside of their vehicles. With his bird's eye view, Hertz had an advantage other agents did not. "Position the Fire Hammers and Iron Predators in an inverse V formation!" he ordered. "Attack the mutants on the flanks as they charge." His ear set rung with the affirmatives of hundreds of agents as they moved into positions. To those on the ground, the situation seemed chaotic, but Hertz was able to glimpse the movements in their entirety. Unhindered by wind and rain, nothing could escape his sight. Shannon called him over to her station on the air hockey table. In her hands was a complicated mess of wires that led to an antenna outside the window. "We're ready to activate the liner jamming matrix," she said. "It should give XERRD something to worry about." "Well, let's initiate some chaos," Hertz said with a smile. "Triangulate the signal to cover as much of the army as you can. If we can sustain it, it should keep them deft and dumb." Shannon hesitated before pulling the switch. "If we give them time, they'll be able to track the source to this room. It will knock out their communications but they may be able to recover soon. Once they do, they'll send a force to take us out." The elite agent nodded. Jamming their transitions would strike a powerful blow, but it would do little to hinder the mutants. If they directly attacked the communications room, it would black out all coordination the Dino Attack Team had. "Put it on reserve," said Hertz finally. "We'll activate it on my order." ***** Solomon Koplowitz's eyes flashed open. He slowly placed his helmet on his wet white hair and took a defensive stance with Fullmetal's sword. Before him lay the vast legions of Dr. Rex. He smiled. It would be good for that monster to see that one of his once-trusted scientists now stood at the head of the Dino Attack Team. For too long, Solomon had watched evil and done nothing to quench it. Now was the time to strike down wickedness. He was born a pacifist, but he knew that sometimes some had to be struck down for the greater good. A Raptor cleared the river and charged. Artillery opened fire on either side of Solomon, but the force fields kept the creature safe. Its fiery red eyes flashed in vivid contrast to the cold icy rain. Saliva sloshed from its maw as it descended on the philosopher with its gaping jaws. It leaped, and Solomon took a defensive crouch. With two swift swings of his sword, he severed the Achilles tendons, and the monster fell into a puddle with a crash of spray. Solomon walked over slowly and shoved the katana into the Raptor's skull. It gave a squeal of anguish and its tail thrashed before it lay forever still. He wiped his sword clean, drew his gun, and waited for the next mutant. ***** Montoya slowly struggled to steer as fast as he could without being able to see much. He was far from a bad driver in any sense, having worked various jobs as a getaway driver before he'd worked in worse conditions. The windshield wipers were working harder than ever to clear the rain from the windshield. All he could think about was home, that little cabin by the sea. He'd get there and Debbie would have some nice delicious meal waiting for him. That was the only thing that kept him going, what made him leave Trigger and Snake in the first place. He was suddenly snapped back into reality by a loud noise, it sounded like gunshots. Suddenly, a stray bullet smashed through the back windshield. "You gotta be kidding," he said. "Why did I agree to this?" He ran through his head everything that had happened. He went there to bring Silencia to justice, something she seemed to deserve for all the people she killed. He remembered hearing the news of Sindstorme's death, and shortly thereafter the infamous death of Edward Korrupte. He remembered his five comrades, who while not the best of friends, were still his partners and were brutally murdered at her hand; the fact that he himself just narrowly survived an attack by Silencia. Yet it happened. Silencia came to him, totally reformed. Montoya was never sure, but something about him knew that she was genuine; perhaps his own reformation gave him some idea. She told him to tell Trigger, but he wouldn't listen. For him, it was business. He didn't care about the five men that died that night, or any of the others who died by Silencia's hand. He had a score with her and would do whatever was necessary to settle it. There was a part of Montoya that felt sorry for Trigger, who had optimistically hoped he'd changed, but then he thought of Venomosa, who had gone from that silent, cold-blooded killer to a gentle talkative young woman. Maybe someday, he thought to himself, somewhat optimistically, thinking that maybe one day Trigger would reform… but for now, he was just a cold-blooded killer, and if he hadn't let Montoya know Venomosa had been found, he wouldn't have been drawn back into this life. Now when he was just trying to get home, there were men trying to kill him for reasons he did not understand. Another bullet ran through his back windshield as he ducked under the seat. Hastily, he pulled the truck to a halt and nervously lay down. "Calm down," he said to himself, attempting to reassure himself he was going to be fine. "They're probably looking for the others. As soon as they come here and see me, they'll just let me go." Still, Montoya reached into the glove compartment. It took a moment for his hand to get a firm grasp before he reached for his cell phone inside, and with a quick push of a button, he soon heard a dial tone, followed by that soft, comforting voice. "Hello." "Hey baby," replied Montoya, clearly panicked. "Where are you?" Debbie asked. "I'm coming home right now," he said. "You just tell the kids Daddy will be home soon. I just need to clear up something quickly." "Is something wrong?" Debbie asked. "No," lied Montoya. "Everything's fine, Debbie. I love you." Still, it was hard for him not to cry. ***** It was chaos in every sense of the word. With Minerva at the wheel, Zach's Fire Hammer barreled toward the river with their fellow Fire Hammers. The army was massive with every Mutant Dino breed (even including the rarer ones, such as Spinosaurus and Triceratops) working together to destroy the team once and for all. He had little doubt that the imposing Mutant T-Rex in silver armor was Dr. Rex himself, seeing to it that the Dino Attack Headquarters was laid to waste and every agent was dead. As they reached the river, several Mutant Dinos had already jumped or walked through it and was now on Dino Attack turf. "Hit them with everything," he said into a radio, talking to the Fire Hammers around him and their gunner, a dark-haired older man named Reggie. Reggie responded with a low grunt while he peppered oncoming dinos with Xenon fire. Zach opened the passenger door a crack and examined the Mutant Dinos heading the pack. While the T-Rex he assumed was Dr. Rex was in the lead, there was also an annoyingly large amount of Mutant Raptors leading the charge. He swore and pulled back into the vehicle and began to search the back for a Cosmotronic Ray. Once finding it, he leaned out of the slightly ajar door and began firing at the raptors, aiming to take out their force fields. Minerva turned to the radio as Zach fired. "There are a lot of Mutant Raptors here. Get rid of those force fields!" Almost immediately after saying that, several Steel Sprinters pulled up started firing their Cosmotronic Rays. She turned to Zach. "I'll admit, having a little authority is nice." "Less talk, more drive and shoot!" Zach grunted as he shot a stray Mutant Lizard that was running for his door. Another Mutant Lizard managed to slip past his radar and attempted to get into the Fire Hammer. "Oh, no you don't!" Zach roared. He kicked the Lizard once and slammed the door into its face multiple times before it finally collapsed. They're everywhere, Zach mused. Opening his door again, he shot a Mutant Raptor twice, disabling its force field. It was then struck repeatedly by Xenon blasts by Reggie, knocking it down. "Keep it up!" Zach yelled, remembering Semick's advice of encouragement. "We're holding them so far, but there is still a long way to go!" ***** Nazareno heard the first shots go off, followed by massive roars of anger. It was soon followed by an ominous boom of thunder and a terrifying crack of lightning. It has begun. The final storm. he thought grimly. He looked at Zelda, who watched intently as the Dino Attack Team's forces collided with XERRD's legion of Mutant Dinos at the river. "It's time," he remarked with little emotion. Zelda nodded wordlessly to him. She made sure her ponytail was secure and slid a black bandanna over her mouth. "And you are positive you can handle this?" Zelda rolled her eyes at him. "I'm positive. I do have some skill beyond what you taught me." "It is more than apparent that you are highly skilled, Zelda," Nazareno said sternly. He saw her cheeks become bright red at his compliment, but he ignored it. "What we are about to do is exceptional dangerous and would be suicidal to any other man. By my reckoning, it still is suicidal, but we have a much better chance at beating those odds and I do not want you to suddenly panic if things go wrong." "I don't plan on it," Zelda said, a hint of annoyance in her voice. "I am aware of what we are about to do, and I'm willing to take the risk." Nazareno sighed. Zelda showed exceptional promise. She could take care of herself, so why was he worried? "Well then, I suggest we join our comrades." He gestured out to battlefield, where Urban Avengers and Steel Sprinters were moving in to provide backup in case a dino managed to slip through. "However, we will be taking it a bit farther than they are." He revved his Steel Sprinter's engine. Even if its outward appearance was wrecked and ruined, Nazareno had made sure it had a decent engine so he could pull off their maneuver. With a single nod to Zelda, the two of them took off toward the front lines at full speed. ***** The fight had begun. Everyone knew that now, but still, that had to be acknowledged. Only a few days after the Adventurers' Island mission had ended, the team now found themselves in the final, most important mission of all. Semick felt a little better with the first sight of the enemy forces. Sure, his heart had skipped a beat for actually seeing that large a number at once, but at least this would be a bit easy to get into, seeing as how everyone knew the strengths and weaknesses of these things by now. Any surprises in the works would be coming later. Of course, the rest of team hadn't quite reacted so well. Perhaps the gravity of the situation should've been made clearer alongside the encouragement. At least Greybeard managed to get everyone back into it excellently. Semick told himself to try the song method at another point, if he got a chance. The Mutant Dinos were coming from the other side of the river. If XERRD had any projectile-based methods to take on HQ itself, it would undoubtedly be focused on the building with little resistance. It had guns, but they weren't long range, and the Pterosaurs would be making it hard on them. Dino Attack would simply have to focus on knocking out the ranks. Other agents were already taking action. Rotor was leading the aerial charge with "Ride of the Valkyries" once again blaring from his sound system. Zachary and Fabello were holding up the lines with Andrew near the river with a good deal of other agents. Most fortunately, Reptile had also shown up again. Semick was overjoyed, though he didn't bother asking questions, only filled him in briefly on the situation and his plans. Now the senior Elite Agent was directing T-1 Typhoons into air-support position, and he was saying that he had plans for the Mutant Pterosaurs. All the better for him. Though in the meantime, Semick was getting several T-1 Typhoons to join him in providing defense for the HQ from the specific attacks the flyers were making on HQ. Everyone's PLARXX Radar Rays were at full power, a practical death sentence to any Mutant Pterosaur that got in their range, and the ships were continuously moving to avoid getting hit by T-Rex eye beams or other projectiles. It was now a simple matter of firing at the Pterosaurs when they got close. All was looking to starting well, but Semick didn't dare to let himself believe that. Unexpected turns were bound to come, and he clenched his hands on the controls of his T-1 Typhoon as he felt prepared to change his maneuver at a moment's notice. From his cockpit, he could see the form of the armored T-Rex that was their greatest enemy alongside the river. What are you planning, you son of a 4+ figure? he wondered. Accompanying Semick in his T-1 Typhoon were Bluetooth, still manning the TALON-9 system as vigilantly as ever, as well as two gunners by the codenames of Attack and Defend. Although Semick and Bluetooth had previously worked alongside Defend, they admittedly did not know the gunners very well, but they looked to be good marksmen, and Semick had felt them good enough to take up the roles only Raider, Zach, and few other agents had played before. Bluetooth was forcing himself to be calm as chaos sounded around him. On his screen, he could see the big red mass the Mutant Dino army consisted of, as well as the cloud of Pterosaurs that kept coming at them. PLARXX was doing a good job at stopping those the T-1 Typhoons couldn't shoot, but the range was still limited enough so that some of them could slip through and hit the building. The technician did what he could to expand its range, but it was a tough process. He kept thinking, during that time, of all the people he knew well that might die today. Stranger was still somewhere in the tower area of the headquarters, helping the other snipers defend. Andrew was out there on the front lines, doing what he could with Laxus and Pterisa. Titan was still at LEGO Island, as far as he knew, but he had heard rumors of agents dropping by from there to lend a hand, so who knew? And somewhere Vinyaya was out there, using her experience as a commando-rank Space Police officer to hit the Mutant Dinos with the long arm of the law. He thought briefly of how he stacked his connection with her. They hadn't talked much since that time in the Adventurers' Island camp when he wanted to discuss that possible alien threat (which seemed so far away and harmless right now), and the last time he had interacted with her was during the French Fries fiasco. He seemed to have a feeling of respect for her that went beyond respecting the officers of the law. Was it anything significant? It was hard to say. They hadn't met since then, and he doubted she thought much of him either. She had too many things to concern herself with. Shaking his head, Bluetooth concentrated back on the situation at hand. The PLARXX signal was finally getting a bit bigger, and the Futuron machine expert needed to get it focused to work right without breaking. ***** There was an old saying among Minifigs that always proclaimed "War is MegaBlokland." Unsurprising, considering most Minifigs Andrew had met in his time were against the concept of war in the first place. Perhaps it was because of the worst of the struggles that happened during the 20th Century, but it seemed that nobody wanted to have anything to do with battle bloodshed unless it had to do with any sense of tradition (Pirates and Knights didn't want to seem to live without their traditional enemies trying to break down their door every once in a while). Even the battles that happened from time to time in space seemed preferable, since up there, prisoner-taking still seemed to be much-preferred over anything else, even with non-Minifig species. From his time in Dino Attack, Andrew could understand easily why people thought this way. With rain pouring hard on his Fire Hammer's windshield, thunder clapping loudly every minute, and the black blurs of Mutant Dinos charging all around, he could see exactly why recent centuries had seen relative peace among the people of Earth. Andrew was driving his Fire Hammer with every amount of skill racing and patrols had taught him. Laxus was switching between monitoring the radio and the Xenon launcher's condition to firing out at the Mutant Raptors with the Cosmotronic Ray he had gotten from HQ. Pterisa was manually running the launcher, firing at whatever dinos she could aim at with both the cannon and her lightning powers. "You doing okay out there, Pterisa?" Andrew asked into the radio link between him and the cannon. "I am hitting a target with every shot," she said. "At least that's one comfort from this horde. No ammo's going to waste." Andrew couldn't contain a smirk. "Just watch your back out there. Why nobody gave the gunner's seat a roof over their head is beyond me." "Will do." Laxus fired another two shots from the Cosmotronic Ray. "What is this, every last Mutant Dino they have left?" he said as he ducked back inside. "They must've had to pull out from every other landmass they overwhelmed!" "I heard rumors about other places being emptied, so... you know," Andrew said. "Get us back to the local frequency. I want to check up with the agents around." Laxus turned on the radio speaker and mic for the current area of Dino Attack vehicles. He was greeted by a loud amount of cries and broadcasts from across the team. "This is Elite Agent Andrew," he said into it. "Are we holding up well?" Among his replies were: "Andrew? Oh, the young guy!" "How do you think?!" "I've lost a tire, but I ain't givin' up yet!" "Anyone know when that Daedalus is comin'?!" "It's like a mass of tar out here!" "They haven't got me yet!" "I'm okay... relatively." "Alright, good." Andrew said. "Keep it up, and remember their weaknesses: Lizards trip up when you vary your attack methods, Raptors just need a Cosmotronic Ray to stop, Pterosaurs can be sonic'd to knock them out, and T-Rexes can be tripped or simply shot in the head hard enough!" "Except for the big guy, you-know-who." "Wait, that's what this big old thing can do?!" "A sonic what? Screwdriver?" "Ah, like the old saying! The bigger they are..." "Funny, these Lizards have been going down like flies for me..." "Just use a little more gun, and these things trip easily." "Got it, spreading the word." "That's the spirit! Keep it up guys, and these beasts will learn the hard way not to mistake us for easy pickings!" ****** This attack was like a dream come true to Stranger. Every shot he shot at the oncoming mass at the backside of HQ was guaranteed to hit something. Dino, Hybrid, XERRD scientist, it didn't matter. It helped that he was using a fancy new sniper rifle the lab boys had just come up with for the job. With fancy new electronics to making using the scope produce highly accurate shots at an impressive range, not only could it shoot a laser right through the body of a Mutant Dino, it could also still hit creatures on the other side with as much effectiveness as before. Sadly, the thing could only fire when in scope mode, and it went through ammo like an AK-47, but it was effective enough for him to come up with a bag of ammo to utilize it as much as he could. After several successful bodyshots, he managed line up a headshot with a Mutant Raptor that had just taken a Cosmotronic ray to the face, and not only struck it dead center, but managed to take out a Mutant Lizard passing by, also in the head. "DAAAARRRRRRNNN, that's a good shot!" said Epsilon alongside him. Stranger turned to see his fellow sniper staring at him with admiration, his hands holding out both a standard sniper rifle and a bottle of rum. "Are you drunk?" Stranger asked him, humorously. "Swiped it from Greybeard when he wasn't a lookin'," Epsilon slurred. "Wanna have a slip? It makes this all the more easier to take-" Stranger lunged for and grabbed the bottle and flung it out the agent's sniping window. "Nobody can shoot well when drunk, especially a sniper," he said. "Sober up and get back in the game." "Here they come," Shotgun said as he stared out one of the small loopholes in the sniping post. "You ready for this?" "I think so," Scope replied as she placed the scope onto her rifle. "That armored one looks particularly nasty," Shotgun said. "He looks like a priority." Slowly Jackson aimed towards the dinosaur, and pulled the trigger... ***** As a knock was heard on the door, Maria quickly pulled on her bathrobe. Pyro rolled over, pushing aside the covers in the bed. "What's going on?" Pyro asked. "I'm not sure," replied Maria. "You just stay there." Slowly, Maria walked up to the door and saw standing there Clint Wayne. "Can I help you?" Maria asked. "Yeah," replied Clint. "I'm not sure if you knew, but everyone's getting ready." "Are they?" Maria asked. "Yeah," said Clint. There was a moment of silence. "Alright," said Maria. "See if you can find Pyro's gear. I'll just get suited up." "What was that?" Pyro asked. "Somethin's happened," Maria explained. "For Builder's sake, get some clothes on!" Maria walked over to a drawer and pulled out some of the simple clothes she had won in El Paso. "Here, put these on." Pyro nervously took the clothes and walked into the bathroom. It was only a moment later that Clint came back with Pyro's baggy suit and masks. He handed them to her before leaving. Shortly after that, Pyro stepped out of the washroom. "I done got your gear," said Maria. "No thanks," replied Pyro, shuddering involuntarily at the sight of the firefighter's suit. "Why not?" "That gas mask makes me feel claustrophobic… when I wear it for too long, I think it sometimes make me hallucinate," Pyro started explain with a slight chuckle as she sat down. "Sometimes, when I wore that thing, I swear I thought I saw myself in some weird Candyland." "What?" asked Maria. "It was weird," replied Pyro. "There were giant lollypops everywhere and this song that kept playing… oh, how did it go… 'Do you believe in magic?'" Maria laughed. "Next thing I know, I'm not sure if I'm burning mutant dinosaurs alive or spreading sunshine and happiness to adorable winged baby dinosaurs," continued Pyro. "It is the strangest experience ever. No amount of drugs can get you feeling like that. I can tell you, you know something is weird when you're not sure if your flamethrower is shooting fire or bubbles." "Come on," Maria said. "Just put the suit on." Pyro sighed. "Alright," she said, reaching for the baggy suit. It did not take her long to put it on before she reached for the balaclava. "Actually," Maria said. "Don't bother with that. Just put the gas mask on." Pyro nodded and carefully placed the helmet onto her head. Within a few minutes, her voice was slightly muffled, but not totally unintelligible. Funny, thought Maria, her voice sounds higher-pitched now than it did back at Gold City. ***** B had never had much use for formations on the battlefield. In his opinion, conformity was a one-way ticket to an early grave. That is why there were two jet-black Fire Hammers just out of the line. A marvel of design. Whoever painted it did a great job. "Kabrinsky's Pride" this is. "Get back in line, Kabrinsky!" A voice shouted through B's radio. B scowled and made an inappropriate gesture out towards the commander of the ground charge. "Look," B yelled into his mic, "the last thing we need to worry about is who's not following the one hundred and one battlefield etiquette rules! Besides, the more disorganized we are, the harder it is for them to figure out what our plan is!" Everyone's probably mad at me for that, B thought to himself, but we need to concentrate on stopping these MegaBloking mutants from overrunning our position. B pushed his foot to the pedal. He felt detached from the rest of the team. He didn't care what his teammates thought of him. He didn't worry about the horde of dinosaurs they were facing. He didn't think about the fact that it was very possible that he, and everyone else, could die. All he needed to worry about was five other people in fairly close proximity. And he wasn't about to let them die. "Sam, put your foot down. It'll take all day, otherwise." And so, the two Fire Hammers that constituted "Kabrinsky's Pride" charged ahead. Ready, and yet fearful, of the death that lay before them. ***** Kara took off out of the air hangar roof and joined the pack of T-1 Typhoons. An alarm sounded on the wall-mounted terminal in the body of Reptile's T-1 Typhoon. Reptile turned to it, exasperated. A Mutant Pterosaur swarm was rapidly approaching the HQ. Not again... This was, however, what Reptile had prepared countermeasures for. This time, perhaps they wouldn't be caught like sitting ducks in the metaphorical hurricane. Every T-1 Typhoon came equipped with a PLARXX Radar Ray, a nifty piece of technology that had been devised early in the... well, Reptile supposed it was officially a war now... as a Pterosaur countermeasure. The T-1 Typhoons were much more powerful than the Pterosaurs, but a lot slower and less maneuverable than the airborne reptiles. Which meant that unless T-1 Typhoons could get Pterosaurs in their sights and disable them quickly, they would be vulnerable. Enter the PLARXX Radar Ray. This was a passive weapon built straight into the radar systems of the T-1 Typhoon. In addition to gathering data on the surroundings, it had a fortunate side effect: it scrambled the senses of Mutant Pterosaurs and knocked them out could. Unfortunately, it wasn't all-powerful, and for maximum effect required them to be in close range. Pterosaurs could still attack from range... and in sufficient numbers, could simply overload the system. This is what had happened at Adventurers' Island, resulting in the crash landing of nearly a dozen T-1 Typhoons. Reptile had designed what he hoped would be a countermeasure to such massive Pterosaur swarms. It would only be effective if the Pterosaurs came directly over the base... but now they had. Now was the time to test it. He tapped a few keys, connecting his onboard computer to the servers running in the base's communication center. The powerful transmission system there was not radar-based, but Reptile had studied the PLARXX system. It had taken him the better part of a month to work it out (unfortunately, some of the agents who had helped build it had perished during the Dino Attack), but he had figured out how it could be adapted to other communications systems. It had required installing a prototype power generator in the communications center, and overclocking equipment to run at dangerous levels. But hopefully it would be worth it. "Reptile to T-1s! Back off from the Pterosaurs - repeat, back off from the Pterosaurs!" he shouted. There were confused exclamations over the comm line. Back off? But the radar rays were only effective at close range! Had Reptile spent too much time away from the field and lost his senses? Kara heard Reptile's orders and complied, flying away from the incoming Pterosaurs. Then Reptile tapped a key, and everyone heard a strange pitch come over the radio system. It lasted for three minutes… and when it was done, every Pterosaur that had been too close to the base suddenly fell straight out of the sky. Kara watched them drop all at once. She smiled a devious smile, and began warming up the weapons. ***** Scope's rifle was ready to go. The ex-military young woman held her rifle in the tiny loophole, aiming toward the Mutant Pterosaurs that were approaching. She pulled her trigger just as they started to fall. ***** Catless's Fire Hammer crashed and burned, hit by T-Rex vision. She saw another Fire Hammer through the rain, with someone with a cape manning the gun, and some blue and red guy copiloting. She flagged them down quickly, and hitched a ride. "I'm Catless," she said from the back as the Xenon kept being fired. "I'm Andrew," the driver said, "and this is Pterisa," he indicated the gunner, "and Laxus." He indicated the copilot, whom she now saw was an alien. "You're Pterisa, the Hybrid?" Catless asked. Pterisa nodded in the affirmative. "You have lightning powers, so why don't you use them while I fire the Xenon? I'm just a regular old minifig, unlike you." Pterisa nodded again, confidence boosted slightly by the small compliment. ***** "Zachary!" Minerva shouted, turning the wheel sharply. "Hurry up!" "I'm trying," he grumbled. He was shuffling through the pile of equipment in the back seat of the Fire Hammer, searching for more Cosmotronic Ray ammunition. "Ah. Here it is." He loaded his Cosmotronic Ray, stuck it out the window, and fired on to a Mutant Raptor charging at the Fire Hammer. It stumbled back in surprise, allowing Reggie to quickly taking down with the Xenon Launcher. "Just keep the ammo in between us," Minerva said, trying to see through the large splotches of rain slamming against the windshield. The windshield wiper could only help so much. He nodded, fired at one more Mutant Raptor, then heaved the box of ammo out from the back to the middle of the front seats. "Good," Minerva muttered. She suddenly reached her uniform's pocket and pulled out a grenade. Taking both hands off the wheel for a brief moment, she pulled the pin and tossed it out her door window into a pack of Mutant Lizards. The grenade exploded, killing several Lizards and injuring any dinos nearby. "Glad you're on top of things," Zach said, continually glancing out his window. "Keep your hands on the wheel, though." Minerva allowed herself to smirk briefly before she gasped as the Fire Hammer slammed into the side of a Mutant Stegosaurus that was passing ahead of her. Minerva slammed on the brakes, bring the jeep to a jolting stop. "Reverse!" Reggie screamed over the radio. The Mutant Stegosaurus had stumbled slightly, turned toward its attacker, and roared angrily. Minerva quickly flipped the vehicle's gear in reverse and backed up. Zach stuck his Cosmotronic Ray outside the window and fired upon the angry reptile stomping toward them. With Zach and Reggie's combined fire power, the Stegosaurus eventually toppled over. Zach glanced at Minerva disapprovingly. "He walked in front of me!" Minerva exclaimed, putting the vehicle back into drive. "It's his fault!" Zach decided not to argue and continued to scan the area. Not much to see other than rain and endless waves of Mutant Dinos. An explosion suddenly rocked the back of the vehicle. Zach heard a distant pained grunt from the radio and saw dirt splash on to the back window of the vehicle. Minerva began to quickly turn the vehicle around. "What was that?" she muttered. Through the rain, Zach could see Reggie struggling to climb back on his feet, the wind clearly knocked out of him. Not far ahead of the gunner, he could the dark outline of a XERRD Space Marauder, a rocket launcher in his grip. Zach swore angrily. "Hold on!" he called out to Reggie. He immediately regretted that decision. The Space Marauder fired another rocket that collided with the earth in front of the Fire Hammer, sending chunks of dirt everywhere. Zach took control of the Xenon Launcher from the cab and started firing at the Space Marauder. "Come on!" he shouted to Reggie. The gunner stumbled as he ran toward the Fire Hammer. Zach let out a sigh of relief as he finally hit the Space Marauder, dropping him to the ground. "Alright," Minerva said, cracking her knuckles before putting them back on the wheel. "Now we can-" She stopped as a massive foot stomped the ground ahead of them. A Mutant T-Rex stared down at them with red, evil eyes. It unleashed an angry roar as it raised its foot over the Fire Hammer. Minerva was quick. She threw the vehicle into reverse and slammed on the pedal. The Fire Hammer backed away just as the Mutant T-Rex's foot came crashing down on the ground. As the jeep rolled back, Zach could hear crunching sounds as the vehicle hit and ran over Mutant Lizards. The Mutant T-Rex roared with fury. "Come on," Minerva muttered to herself in an almost taunting matter as she stared at the Mutant T-Rex. "Come and get me." "Glad to see you're getting into this 'final battle' thing," Zach said, somewhat amused. "However, you are trying to fight a Mutant T-Rex with a Fire Hammer." "I've got a plan," Minerva said confidently. Zach looked at her, saying nothing. "Okay, more of a rough idea." Zach was all up for doubting Minerva's so-called plan. "Well, since a Mutant T-Rex is going to be trying to kill us no matter what we do, let's try this 'rough idea'." "Here we go then," Minerva said. The Mutant T-Rex let out one more angry bellow before charging at the Fire Hammer. ***** Sarah Bishop slowly stepped into the armory. Most of the agents had already gone, and she certainly was not an experienced agent, but she wasn't prepared to let that stop her, not while her daughter was in potential danger. Quickly finding a few bandoliers, she put them on over her dark-colored tank top, and then she found something that made her smile: it was a great big minigun, one which could clearly do quite a bit of harm. At that moment, the door opened and two younger women entered, and Sarah quickly put down the gun. One of the women was wearing a gas mask, the other looked like she belonged in the Wild West. Soon, the gas masked woman eagerly pulled out what looked like a flamethrower before she turned toward Sarah. "I see you found Heavy's gun," she said, keenly. "Who?" Sarah asked. "He was one o' 'em guys got killed by the mole," the Western girl explained. "I see," said Sarah. "I'm Maria," the Western girl introduced herself. "This here is my... um... partner... agent Pyro." "Nice to meet you," Pyro said, somewhat shyly, and her voice slightly muffled by the mask. "Now you sure you got enough fuel in that there thing?" Maria asked, referring to the flamethrower. "Definitely," replied Pyro. "Good," replied Maria. "Now let's get out of 'ere before you start hallucinating about 'em lollipops." Sarah briefly smiled at the remark before she turned back toward the minigun. "Why don't you come with us?" Maria asked, turning back toward Sarah. "You workin' with anybody yet?" "No," said Sarah. "I just want to keep my daughter safe." "Where is she?" "Helping Hertz and Grimton set up some equipment in the lounge," replied Sarah. "Even better," declared Maria. "You can help by keeping the dinosaurs from getting 'ere." "True," Sarah replied as she slowly grabbed a shotgun and strapped it to her back. She picked up the minigun and, taking a moment to gain her balance, she turned toward the two women. "Let's do this." As the trio left, Sarah could not help but ask about the rest of them. "Who else is with us?" "There you are," Angel Eyes remarked, as if on cue. Accompanying him was Demoman, who had finally sobered up (relatively speaking) and was now armed with a grenade launcher. "I got him out of prison, I figured he could help us now that the mole is gone." He took a moment to light his pipe. "And out there, we'll need all the help we can get." Clint was there as well, leaning against a nearby wall while smoking his cigar. "Who's your friend?" Angel Eyes asked. "Sarah Bishop," Sarah introduced herself. "Now if I can figure out where Firecracker got t-" At that moment, there was a loud BANG. Debris went flying out of the wall in the corridor as the familiar figure of Firecracker stepped out of the smoke. After a moment of coughing, Angel Eyes finally spoke up. "I guess that settles everything. Why don't we call ourselves the Third Headquarters Squad, eh? The last one was the second, so this one we'll call the third." "Was there ever a first one?" Maria asked in confusion. "Aye," replied Demoman. "The original Headquarters Squad originally established Dino Attack's outpost in Gold City before 'em Hybrids stole it. An' then we Second Headquarters Squad came an' took it back!" He paused to drink a bottle of rum. "Let's do this!" ***** Even from his position, Rex could hear the chaos of battle as the Mutant Dino army collided with the Dino Attack Team's front lines. He watched as Mutant Pterosaurs engaged T-1 Typhoon in aerial combat before falling from the skies as though their wings had been clipped. Picking up the radio, Rex inquired: "How are things out there, Greybeard?" The radio crackled to life with the grizzled voice of the old pirate. "Arrr, thin's be goin' rather well! Seems that despite 'em large numbers, we be pushin' 'em 'ard enough t' prevent 'em from crossin' th' river. Any that slip by get quickly taken care o', too." "You okay there?" asked Rex. "You haven't had a lot of driving experience with Dino Attack, so..." "Belay yer worries," reported Greybeard, "I be fine! Ye be forgettin' that I used t' be a LEGO Racer! In fact, thar be this silver-armored Mutant T-Rex pushin' through our defenses at th' moment... but Joe, Sam, an' I 'ave a plan t' take 'im down!" Rex blinked. "Don't engage the silver-armored Mutant T-Rex!" he warned Greybeard. "Greybeard, listen to me... it's too dangerous to take on Dr. Rex himself with only a Fire Hammer! We're going to need Iron Predators and T-1 Typhoons to bring him down!" "I said belay yer worries!" said Greybeard, laughing over the line. "We only be goin' t' distract th' ol' beast, delay its attack long enough fer yer Iron Predators an' T-1 Typhoons t' arrive! Ye see, Joe, Sam, an' I be racin' around th' monster an' takin' turns firin' at it! Wi' three Fire Hammers driven by professional LEGO Racers circlin' the beast, our plan be leavin' th' T-Rex confused an' disoriented, says I!" Rex nodded grimly. "Okay, Greybeard. Just be careful. You don't want to know what Dr. Rex is capable of." ***** By this point, the garage was mostly empty, but there was still one large vehicle intact: an Iron Predator. "Anybody know how to drive that thing?" Clint asked. The other agents looked at him with some confusion. "I can," said a voice from behind them. Everybody turned to see a young woman in pirate garb. "You can drive one of these?" Angel Eyes asked. "Yeah," replied the pirate girl. "I stole one once, I think I should be able to remember how it worked." "You got a name?" asked Angel Eyes. "Elizabeth Winsor," the pirate introduced herself. "Well, Elizabeth," Angel Eyes said keenly. "Welcome to the Third Headquarters Squad. Let's move." And with that, the eight members of the new Third Headquarters Squad climbed into the Iron Predator, as Elizabeth got into the driver's seat. "Now, if I remember, this switch should go forwa-" The Iron Predator suddenly started to jerk backward. After a moment of fiddling with the controls, Elizabeth finally started to get it moving, breaking down the garage door and driving out into the streets. ***** Dr. Cyborg was shooting all guns at all dinos. So far, he had managed to take down seven Raptors, two Pterosaurs, one Stegosaurus, and who-knows-how-many Lizards. He had assigned Cortana(2) to keep an eye on the people he knew more than in passing. So far, no one was in big trouble. "Dr. Cyborg," she alerted him from inside his head, "Zach, Minerva, and their gunner are in trouble." She gave him the exact coordinates, and he piloted the Titanium Predator to above them, shooting more Dinos as he went. He saw a slight pattern in Minerva's driving, like she had a plan. He still charged up the Cryothermic Cannon just in case they needed his help. Minerva slammed the gas and charged at the Mutant T-Rex. Zach tensed immediately. "What are you doing?!" he asked. Just as the two were about to collide, Minerva suddenly swerved to the right, narrowly dodging the Mutant T-Rex's massive foot. "Playing chicken with a Mutant T-Rex?" Reggie asked over the radio, sounding somewhat annoyed. "Kind of," Minerva said. The Mutant T-Rex turned back toward the Fire Hammer and bellowed, angrier than before. "This isn't going to work forever, you know," Zach said. "We're just going to have to work with it!" Minerva exclaimed. "You and Reggie keep shooting at it in the meantime." The Mutant T-Rex charged at the Fire Hammer. Minerva starting driving toward it again, Reggie peppering the beast with Xenon fire and Zach with Cosmotronic Ray fire. The blasts seemed to have little effect on the T-Rex. Minerva swerved out of its way again. Instead of stopping, the Mutant T-Rex jerked its body, swinging its tail at Fire Hammer. "Duck!" Zach yelled. He and Minerva lowered their heads as the tail swept through the cab, shattering the windshield and removing the roof entirely. Zach winced as he felt rain fall on his head. "You still there, Reggie?" Zach called to the gunner as he raised his head. "Yeah," the gunner grumbled. Minerva lifted her head and went back to driving. "It figured me out quicker than I thought," Minerva muttered as she backed the Fire Hammer away from the Mutant T-Rex. "That's not going to help," Zach grimaced, firing another shot at T-Rex. "It's got-" Bright red beams of power suddenly shot out of the T-Rex's eyes and torched the ground behind them. "Laser vision," he finished with an irritated sigh. Minerva scowled as she continued to drive away from the Mutant T-Rex. Lasers began to rain upon the Fire Hammer about as much as the water was. Zach felt a painful buzz in his head. Then, a plan formed in his head. "Call for backup," Zach said as he carefully stood up in his seat. "What are you going to do?" Minerva asked as she began pushing buttons. "You'll see," he said. He jumped over to the back seat and reached the back of the jeep, where Reggie was continually firing at the Mutant T-Rex. Zach gripped what used to be the support for the cab roof for balance. Reggie glanced back at him. "What are you doing!?" Reggie screamed. "I got a plan," was all Zach said. He waved his hand. "Come on, beastie!" he screamed to the Mutant T-Rex. "Give me your worst!" The Mutant T-Rex roared and his eyes began to glow brightly. Zach braced himself and raised his hands. The laser shot out of the Mutant Dino's eyes and shot towards Zach. Just as it was about to incinerate him, the beam suddenly turned and blasted a stray a Mutant Raptor to the left of the Fire Hammer, knocking it down. Reggie's mouth hung open in awe. "How did you do that?" "Mutant T-Rexes aren't just the nastiest Mutant Dino I've seen. They're also the nastiest Stromlings I've ever seen." He hadn't considered it earlier, but since Mutant Dinos were Stromlings, he had somewhat of an influence over their Maelstrom powers. "Whatever, just keeping doing whatever you're doing!" Reggie fired more blasts into the Mutant T-Rex while Zach knocked away the T-Rex's laser blasts and occasionally fired a blast of his own. However, after several minutes, fatigue began to set in. Zach found himself gasping for breath. "Minerva!" Zach screamed between a gasp of breath. The T-Rex fired another laser. Zach barely managed to knock it away. He felt himself creeping upon unconsciousness. "Where... are those... rein...forcements?!" The Mutant T-Rex made a low growl noise in the back of its throat as it leaned forward, prepared to incinerate the back of the Fire Hammer in its jaw. Zach scowled, growing extremely angry. "It's laughing... the T-Rex... is laughing... son of a MegaBlok." Blam! A blast, presumably from a Cyrothermic Cannon struck the Mutant T-Rex. It stumbled to side, smashing several Mutant Lizards under its feet. it roared and glanced around, confused. Then another blast struck it, this time in the face. It screeched angrily and began to fire its lasers into the sky, where a hovering Iron Predator was firing at it. That's weird, Zach thought in a daze. A few more blasts in addition to Reggie's Xenon eventually caused the Mutant T-Rex to collapse, where it moved no more. Zach climbed back into the front seat, panting slightly as he buckled his seatbelt. "What was that?" he asked, gesturing up to the Iron Predator in the sky. "Dr. Cyborg," Minerva responded. "He redesigned an Iron Predator. Calls it the Titanium Predator." "How is our unnamed-yet-plucky Fire Hammer doing?" "Other than having no roof or windshield, fine." "Good." He lifted his Cosmotronic Ray back up. Without the windshield, shooting at Mutant Raptors became just a little bit easier. As he fired, he suddenly noticed a lone Minifig standing on the battlefield. He wore a black leather jacket and a Dino Attack-issued helmet with a piece of cloth over his mouth. His eyes expressed boredom as he clutched a conventional bazooka in his hand with a stack of missiles by his side. "What an... excuse me," Zach muttered before correcting himself. "What a moron." He gestured to the Minifig as he spoke to Minerva. "What do think this guy's up to?" "I don't know, but - oh, no," Minerva's eyes widened as the man pointed the bazooka at their Fire Hammer. She tried to turn away, but was too slow as the weapon fired. However, the rocket instead hit the ground, cause a much larger explosion than the Space Marauder rocket. The Fire Hammer suddenly tilted and jerked as it went into the small crater created by the missile. Zach pushed down the airbags, rubbing his head painfully. "Are you alright?" he asked groggily. Minerva pushed down her own airbag. "Yeah." She turned the Fire Hammer's key, as its engines had stopped following the collision. However, the engine faltered. "Shoot," she murmured as she continually tried to turn the Fire Hammer's engine back. "It's no use," he said, slowly climbing rising to his feet. "We need to get to another vehicle or back to the headquarters. I'm not interested in being in this battlefield on foot." "Look," Minerva muttered, pointing ahead. The man with bazooka was walking towards them, his bazooka raised and loaded, ready to attack again. "First," Zach said, gripping his Cosmotronic Ray. "We deal with this guy." ***** Elizabeth was slowly struggling to manage as she attempted to operate the Iron Predator. "This is a lot harder than I remember," she said. "You sure you can drive in this weather?" Maria asked over the loud wind. "You kiddin'?" replied Elizabeth. "Back in the Tropical Sea, I once sailed through a friggin' hurricane in floating bucket and got through alright!" "Really?" "Okay, that time it was just a light rain," confessed Elizabeth. "But I once ran into the maelstrom out there." "You can't be seriou-" "Not that Maelstrom," clarified Elizabeth. "The mythical whirlpool of death. Trust me, when you've had to navigate things like that, a little rain is nothing. Don't tell me you cowboys get scared of a little thunder!" "What?" Angel Eyes exclaimed. "You're yellow, aren't you?" Elizabeth asked with a slight chuckle. "No!" snapped Angel Eyes. "Now, do you have any idea where you're going?" "Do you know where we're supposed to go?" asked Elizabeth. "No, I don't," replied Angel Eyes. Firecracker started to reach into his trenchcoat, his hand itching for a stick of dynamite. "I wouldn't," Angel Eyes said. "You gotta save those for when we run into trouble. Unfortunately, in this fog, it's hard to see." ***** "The truck stopped," said Montgonel as he pointed at the lifeless vehicle below them. "Maybe you accidentally killed him." Pharisee shook his head as he looked threw the rain. "Unlikely. If we killed him, the truck would have crashed. It came to a stop. I believe Montoya is surrendering." "What's the plan?" asked Montgonel. "You have some cold hard justice in mind?" Pharisee shook his head. "His crimes are small compared to that of the others. But it is a crime nonetheless. Trigger and Snake could also be in the truck. They would be my priority." "What of Montoya?" yelled Montgonel over the wind. "If the others are absent, we will make him talk," the commander responded casually. "I believe Montoya would be willing to rat out his colleagues if we put enough stress on him." Montgonel ran his hands through his wet hair. This was not what he signed up for. Pharisee walked over to the boom crane on the starboard side of the helicopter. He flipped a switch and positioned it over the truck. He then advanced to one of the exterior storage compartments and withdrew three harnesses. With the gale force winds in the sky, it was difficult keeping a firm footing on the slippery exterior, but he soon made it back to the relative safety of the compartment. "The wind is too strong for the Typhoon to remain in one position for too long," said the pilot. "I don't think I can keep it hovering indefinitely. So make it fast, and I'll pick you up as soon as I can!" "Be prepared to leave fast," ordered the commander. "We may hitch a ride back in the truck!" The pilot gave his affirmative, and Pharisee, Montgonel, and X2 took position by the door. All three firmly strapped on their harnesses and prepared to jump into the tempest. "When we jump, the wind will catch us, so keep a firm control of the speed of your descent!" advised Pharisee. "Go too fast and you'll break your legs on the street. Keep control!" Montgonel and the Infiltrator nodded. Pharisee took hold of the cable and connected it to his harness. Once the ratchet system was in place, he positioned himself by the door, took a deep breath, and jumped. The swift descent was disorientating. It was impossible for Pharisee to gain a perception of speed or the distance from the ground in the incredible wind. With the incredible power of nature swirling around him, he struggled to slow his fall. A sudden brown blur caught his eye, and he slammed the ratchet with all his might. His legs collided with something metal, and he allowed his knees to flex with the collision. The surface below his feet caved in with the impact, and he permitted himself a moment to get his bearings in the black and desolate city. At his back was the distant rumble of guns. The battle was in full swing blocks away. He quickly undid his harness and jumped from the top of Montoya's truck. The impact had left a sizable dent, and he splashed down onto solid concrete. What lay inside the truck was a mystery. The windows were fogged, and water cascaded down the glass. The windshield wipers still worked at full power, but they did little to quench the torrent of sleet pouring down. He pulled aside his trench coat to draw his gun. Anything could be inside the vehicle, and he was prepared to open fire in a moment's notice. Taking aim at the driver's side window, he gave his order: "This is Dino Attack Internal Affairs! Step out of the vehicle slowly!" ***** Hydroplaning occurs when a layer of water builds between the wheels of a vehicle and the road surface. This leads to a loss of traction that prevents the vehicle from responding to control inputs. The effect increases based on the speed of the vehicle, the intensity of the steering, and the amount of water present. As Solomon Koplowitz watched the vehicles of the Dino Attack team careen across the pavement and collide with anything in their path, he had two different reactions. First was his thankfulness he was not in a vehicle at the moment. Unlike the many drivers who struggled to control their craft, Solomon bore no risk of being unable to brake and spinning helplessly into the river. However, being on foot meant he was in no way protected from the crashes. At least from the safety of a driver's seat, he had the aid of seatbelts and an airbag. On the ground, he frequently had to run to get out of the path of out-of-control Fire Hammers and Urban Avengers. The old man hit the ground hard as he ducked aside. He immediately had to pick himself up and fire at a Mutant Lizard charging from his left. The beast went down, and he spun around to fire two more concise bursts at a yellow variant approaching from behind. A third purple Lizard jumped from an unknown location, and he stabbed swiftly with his sword. The weight of the mutant pushed it further down his blade, and he cast it off with a quick swipe to his right. His sword collided with something metal, and he quickly withdrew it from the armored form of a XERRD Space Marauder. The scientist whipped out his rocket launcher and fired a blast at Solomon, but he twisted aside and slammed his attacker's helmet with the flat of his sword. He stumbled back, dazed, and the philosopher took the opportunity to slash at his rocket launcher. A bloody cut was sliced into the Marauder's arm, and he immediately dropped the weapon. One more quick shot at the chest, and the man was finished. Solomon had little opportunity to take in the victory, because the butt of a gun immediately slammed him in the head. The philosopher let out a yell and splashed down onto the hard surface of the Dino Attack plaza. He grabbed his gun and rolled over to face his attacker. It was difficult to glimpse the features in the rain, but he glimpsed three distinct forms. The first two were that of Hybrids clutching muskets with ax heads affixed to the end. The third was that of bearded Sorcerer wearing a black turban, glaring down upon him with deep hollow sunken eyes. Solomon frowned. "Raul." ***** Despite a lengthy MIA period, plus a condition of undeath that made it difficult for those maintaining the database to decide whether to register him as KIA despite the fact that he was now back IA again, Swerve was still an Elite Agent in the D.I.N.O. Attack Team, and as such, requisitioning an Iron Predator didn't take much effort. He pulled up to the defensive line around the building, and glanced back at Shiller and Wright. The two were just reaching the end of a rather lengthy kiss, after which Shiller climbed easily up to the gunner's seat. Wright cracked her knuckles. "Bring 'em on," she muttered. "We're as ready as we're gonna get." ***** Mort caused a few heads to turn in surprise when he joined the medics in the infirmary they were setting up. "Pardon me for asking," Pierce said, walking over, "but how do you expect to help, given that you're in forensics and not medical?" "I know how bodies work," the Alpha Team agent replied. "Living or dead, there's little difference. What's life, anyway? Nature's way of keeping meat fresh. The only difference is that you need anesthetics when the body on the table is alive." "Unless your name is Dietrich Luzwheit," a nearby medic muttered. Mort shot the man a glare. "Do not speak ill of spoiling meat." ***** Over the heavy noise of the rain, Pharisee heard the faint click of the door unlock. With his gun still trained on vehicle, he watched as Montoya slowly open the door and step outside with his hands up. "Please," whispered Montoya. "I'm sorry, I meant no harm. My wife…" "Your wife is of no consequence!" Pharisee yelled over the rain. "I am not swayed by your tribulations, Montoya! Get on the ground!" With the rain, it was difficult to see the man's tears, but Montoya wordlessly got onto his knees. "You no doubt know I am not a forgiving man!" Pharisee warned over the thunder as he pointed his gun. "So I will ask you once: Where are Trigger and Snake?" X2 and Montgonel appeared behind him and glimpsed the horrifying sight of their commander pointing a gun at a man on his knees. "Pharisee!" protested Montgonel. "What are you doing? Montoya was pardoned!" The commander ignored the comment and kicked Montoya hard in the back, forcing his face into a puddle. "WHERE ARE THEY?!" "I don't know," Montoya said. Pharisee proceeded to kick him again. "You expect me to believe that?" he asked, menacingly. "We saw you get into that truck with them; you must have left them somewhere." "Look," Montoya said as he slowly struggled to sit up. "I'm just trying to get hom-" He was promptly kicked to the ground by Pharisee. "Sir," Montgonel said as he approached Pharisee. "That's a free man." "He is a criminal," insisted Pharisee. "Even if you were pardoned, it doesn't excuse him for what he did." Montoya looked up at the men in fear and confusion. "They're in a bar," he confessed. "Enderman's or something. I don't know. Apparently, the bartender was an old friend of Trigger's." X2 stepped forward and spoke in Minifig. "That's enough. You have the information you want, now leave." "No," Pharisee countered, "I will arrest him." "For what?" X2 asked. "Desertion? He was never a part of the team. Assault on agent Claw? He was pardoned. What else could you think of, hmm?" "For aiding Trigger and Snake in their desertion," Pharisee said. Montgonel was just standing back, watching the show. "No. You have your information. Now leave him alone. He is under my protection." X2 drew his katana, to show that he was serious and not bluffing. Pharisee ran at X2, trying to knock him down, but X2 slapped him to the side with the flat of the blade. ***** The Talon II brought down everything it had on the Pterosaurs. Larson, seeing some of the beasts begin to take an interest in the lower-flying Titanium Predator, swooped in lower to provide Dr. Cyborg with some cover, courtesy of the PLARXX Radar Ray. Pterosaurs were swarming around the Titanium Predator, but the Talon II came and knocked them out. Nodding his thanks, Dr. Cyborg noticed through a wireless connection with X2 that he was in a disagreement with Pharisee. Smirking that his authority now had a use, he connected to X2 to send Internal Affairs a message. At the same time, Kat spotted two very definitely black Fire Hammers darting erratically across the battlefield, and her heart lurched up into her throat. Fortunately, she soon heard several Elites yelling at B's squad over the open comm, and she put two and two together. She added her own two cents to the cavalcade of criticism. "Ole's whiskers, B, you couldn't have picked a different colour scheme? You had me thinking ShadowTech was back." ***** The rain at this point was making the roads a little slippery to drive through. But after a few occasions where Infomaniac had made LEGO Island rain just so the racers could have a bit more of a challenge, Andrew had a better hang at what he was doing. "Just watch the extreme turns, guys," he told the other agents over the radio, "and you'll be fine." The current mess of vehicles, though in a bit of chaos due to Dino swarming and the need to adapt quickly to the wet roads, was managing to hold themselves together. Andrew was a bit disappointed that they didn't have anything like what the T-1 Typhoons were using to overwhelm various Mutant Pterosaurs, but so far, his vehicle was holding up. Not only were Laxus and Pterisa doing well at their jobs, but they had picked up an extra ally: Catless, who was now manning the Xenon turret while Pterisa provided electrical cover on its blind side. Through the Raptors and Lizards, Andrew could see the various Mutant T-Rexes trying to break the ranks into bits. They were succeeding here and there, but with some creative use of weaponry and tactics, some agents were managing to confuse or stun them enough to provide enough of a barrage of fire to knock them down. At least one team of Fire Hammers, who Andrew picked up from communications to be Greybeard, King Race, and his son, was working on the creature that was almost certainly Dr. Rex himself, apparently trying to distract them with a tactic of racing-strafe around the beast whose mind less and less resembled that of a man. "I certainly hope they know what they're doing with him," Laxus observed between bumps of the car. "That's textbook definition of bullying a dragon." "Greybeard's lasted long enough to know how to survive," said Andrew, "even if he can get cocky. And Dr. Rex's mind is said to be weakening. Maybe he'll go insane and he'll be not much more than a T-Rex in fancy armor." "Speaking of those dinos," Catless added from the turret. "I heard people saying that what you did back at that temple in Adventurers' Island effectively wiped all Maelstrom from the planet. Shouldn't that mean it's not a part of the Mutant Dinos anymore? Could it not have left an effect in its absence?" "It's not gone completely from them, or from me for that matter," said Pterisa. "It's in too deep in our bodies to simply be removed like that." "Well, hopefully, it's not enough for the Darkitect or Baron or whatever to come back," said Andrew. "I've had enough of the Maelstrom for at least a decade." "Agreed," said Laxus, who turned back to the comm. More broadcasts were coming in about the ranks. Hotwire was now in the air with the Talon II, and Helm was making his presence known with a Fire Hammer dubbed Tracer's Vengeance. B and his team were in, recognizable with their black-colored vehicles. Elizabeth, along with several other agents like Pyro, Demoman and Angel Eyes, was now part of a team proclaiming themselves the Third Headquarters Squad, and driving in via Iron Predator. Andrew didn't know if all the naming-after-dead-or-destroyed things was an entirely good decision to make, but if they lasted long enough to kick some serious Dino behind, that was fine with him. Comm broadcasts seemed to agree: "Alright, shows those guys! Take us down, several dozen show up in our place!" "Maybe I should rename my vehicle the Cheese Factory II." "Can we just concentrate fire on the guy in charge? He can't be made of iron, can he?" "Who the MegaBlok's deflecting T-Rex eye beams?!" "I punched a Hybrid in the face! Awesome!" "That reminds me, if Hotwire's not dating Kat, I should try for her." "Arr! Send these beasties to the bottom of th' river!" "I'm fightin' in the rain! Just fightin' in the rain! What a glorious feeling, I'm happy again!" "Gotta love these guys and their attitude, huh?" Laxus remarked. ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  3. Chapter 61: Beginning of the End ---- Taking a seat, his tray loaded with a large pepperoni pizza and a large plate with chips and salsa dip, Andrew was ready for a nice, calm dinner meal with his friends. "Having the Brickolinis come here to serve food was the best idea this team ever had," said Bluetooth, munching on a pizza of his own, topped with mushrooms and anchovies. "Have to agree, they're pretty good," said Stranger, who had a bit of sausage and lettuce added to his. "I definitely like how they're willing to be experimental with their toppings," said Laxus, who had chosen a few unique ingredients for his, among them ketchup, bacon, and a bit of peanut butter. "And that's why they're still the best darn pizza place this universe has seen," Andrew said with a grin, taking a few good bites out of a slice of his own. Pterisa was still with the group, enjoying a pizza that had a rather large amount of anchovies on it, along with a bit of salmon. As Andrew began dipping a few of his chips, she tapped him on the shoulder. "If I could take a moment," she said to him, "I'd like to thank you for all you and Laxus have done today. I didn't think anyone would be willing to be so open and welcoming with accepting me into the team." "Well," Andrew replied, "I can't take much credit. The team's definitively been just as welcoming as us, barring a few notable exceptions. Zach, Minerva, Joike, they've taken your joining in stride. And after all the allies this team has seen, I don't see any decent reason not to." "Yes, yes, I agree. But it's comforting to know someone like you was willing to enough to serve as a guide, taking me all around HQ and helping to defend me from those naysayers who were being hostile. It gives me hope about how I can live with the rest of the world when all this is over." "Wow..." Andrew was a little mortified by all the compliments he was being given. "Well, I suppose it's just natural, given that I'm the guy who likes space, is friends with a Martian, and lives that one zany island where nothing is impossible or unacceptable. Speaking of which, I'd recommend LEGO Island if you're looking for a place to stay. If the Brickolinis' reaction to you is any indication, they're sure to be fascinated with your appearance, if anything." "I'll keep that in mind." The two stared at each other, smiling from the good mood they had put each other in, for a few seconds before feeling the awkwardness of the situation and turning back to their meals. "You know," Stranger said suddenly, "I just realized something. Tomorrow's December 21. You guys remember the significance of that date?" "What, that it's only four days 'till Christmas?" Bluetooth replied. "I know I'm a little excited about that. I hear some of the guys are starting to prepare some activities for-" "No, he's talking about how that date's significance for the whole 2012 Doomsday thing," said Andrew. "Isn't that 2010?" Laxus asked. "I know there was a movie that-" "The director of that film only did that for a bit more drama in his disaster simulation reel that was allegedly a movie. As far as I know, the Mayans and I Ching or whatnot have always said 2012." "Well, if you pardon some gallows humor," said Stranger, "with what's going on, I wouldn't be surprised if doomsday decided to come two years early. Heck, had things gone wrong a few times, I bet it might've even come earlier by now." "Well, let's hope it doesn't," Bluetooth said, just as the voice of Specs started coming out of the HQ intercom. "Attention, all Dino Attack personnel..." ***** I hate being right, Semick thought as he listened to Specs's broadcast. The B issue was still being settled in a few small ways, as he understood by the time he left, but it seemed like he would be able to get back to base ASAP. And not a moment too soon, either. Within seconds of entering the lobby, Semick got to hear the A-Bomb of an announcement on the intercom. The news was foreboding. Just as Semick suspected, the downturn in Mutant Dino activity in LEGO City was a sign of something bad. The creatures were gathering in the outskirts of the city, where the patrols were missing them most. Meanwhile, recent intelligence gathered from an old ally revealed that Dr. Rex was, in a fit of insane fury from their recent victories, was planning a strike on Dino Attack Headquarters with the intent of blowing it down to bits. Specs repeated a message intercepted from the mad-dino himself, who promised the end of Minifig civilization by sunset. Semick's eyes narrowed. Now he knew what he had been doing was right. This night would be the calm before the storm (literally, judging by some of the weather he saw on the way in), and the team needed to prepare for the attack as quickly as they could. He hoped everyone had slept well the night before, because he doubted anyone would get any sleep tonight. One thing he quickly became concerned about as he thought over the team's circumstances was the emotional state of the agents. From what intelligence he could gather from his PDA, the mole business, though settled, was still a measure of concern for the team as a whole. Furthermore, some matter regarding a loose cannon of an Elite Agent called French Fries had caused a bit of disarray earlier when it was revealed he had tried to have some agents put to death for earlier misdeeds. Currently, the agent was locked up, but it seemed that some agents were still preoccupied for trying to discover the "why" and "how" of the matter, and whether it should concern them. This needed to be settled quickly. Specs had the right idea, and was going around the same points of reassurance and confidence boosting on the intercom that Semick had gone through in his speeches to his men during the last battle at Adventurers' Island. This would definitively help, but more would have to be done before the night was over. And the former Power Miner was ready and willing to do what he had to. And he had just the idea. He began typing out an All-Agents Bulletin, narrowed down to the Elite rank only. To all my colleagues with the rank of Elite Agent: As you may have heard, we've got a problem brewing just outside LEGO City, to say the least. As you also may understand, our team may not be in the best emotional state for this concerning the recent events that occurred today at HQ. In that regard, we need to rebuild this team's confidence and readiness to fight. I want all of you, and all of your comrades of any rank that you feel have been strong comrades, friends, or simply associates in the course of our battles, to start going around the team and remind them of all we've done. All we've overcome, beaten, discovered, survived, defeated, and recovered. From the first schisms brought on by Kotua, from the struggle with our own fears that most of us faced at the Maelstrom Temple. We need to remind our fellow fighters that no matter what's coming, the simple fact that we've made it this far, and have overcome the mole and inner-agent struggles that attempted to cripple us strategically and emotionally, means that we will be able to win this one last fight. We must do this, for if we don't, our world, and perhaps our universe may fall. But if we do, we will finally end this long and tedious conflict, defeat the madmen who have hounded and strained us for nearly a year now, and at last have a home for our families and friends to come back to. For Dino Attack, for Minifigkind, and for the world, help your fellow agents understand that we will win this fight. -Semick ***** Dr. Cyborg was just wandering the building, bored out of his mind. He had nothing to do. He wound up at the hangars. He saw Kara underneath the Reclaimer, working on something. "Hi, need any help?" he asked Kara. "No, why?" she asked from under the ship. "You know Cortana and I are perfectly capable of doing it ourselves." "Knowing you two, the Reclaimer would implode," Dr. Cyborg said with a smirk. "I'm gonna kill you for that," she said nonchalantly, without stopping the work. "Without risk, there's no fun in life," he said. He then left for the cafeteria. It was about dinnertime. Dr. Cyborg heard the announcement about an attack tomorrow. He was sitting at the table with Andrew, Laxus and Pterisa when it came over the intercom. "I hope Dr. Rex holds off for four days. I'd hate to die three days before my birthday!" he said, trying to break the tension. ***** Barry Jackson sat crouched in his sniping post as the announcement played over the loudspeaker. Dactyl stood in surprise, listening. Meanwhile, Sarah carefully covered Kate's ears as she heard it, trying as hard as she could not to wake her daughter. "What do we do?" Sarah Bishop asked, listening to the chaos outside. "I don't know," admitted Pierce. "I say we get out while we can," suggested Sarah. "Kate's here. I say we just run off." "Then get shot for aiding a deserter?" Pierce asked in a darkly humorous tone. "I care about her just as much as you do, Sarah. I want to see her get through this and go on to a better life, but I don't think we can get her out so easily. But you're a non-combatant. I'd suggest you-" "I'm not leaving," declared Sarah. "I spent so many long months in Antarctica, worried sick that Kate would be coming one day in a body bag. Now that I've found her, I don't want to let her out of my sight." Pierce took a moment to think it over. "That's very noble of you," he said. "What about you?" Sarah asked. "Me?" replied Pierce. "I don't think I'll be leaving any time soon, and they probably will need a doctor on standby." There was a moment of silence before Pierce spoke up. "Should we wake her?" he asked, motioning towards Kate, who still peacefully slept in Sarah Bishop's arms, a sharp contrast to what seemed to be happening around them. ***** It looked like Hertz was going to spend Christmas alone. Aside from Naomi, he really had no personal life. He knew enough about relationships to know that the phrase "just friends" really meant "I don't think we should meet for a while." Considering that Hertz really had no real friends, he resolved to wonder the halls alone. It was easy to forget about the holiday season while on the lush and tropical Adventurers' Island. Even now in LEGO City, there was no snow, instead a heavy layer of rain poured outside the window. He had often been alone on Christmas. Even before the Dino Attack, his social life had been minuscule. Mostly, it had been due to his obsession with his work. He had actively tried to make friends once he got out of college, to little success. Eventually, he had given up pursuing any kind of relationship. Hertz became somewhat of a recluse and had rarely ventured outside his home, aside from groceries and the annual ComicCon. He had even fallen away from his family. Christmas had become nothing more than a word on the calendar for him, and the holiday lost all meaning. The Dino Attack was the most he had interacted with people in years. Hertz had led a very lonely life. Therefore, he wandered the halls alone. A distant thunderclap was heard outside, and the glass of the headquarters shook from the storm outside. Considering that he no friends in the outpost to hang around with, he made his way to the one place he could feel comfortable. It was the first time he had entered the communications room since he arrived at the building. It was certainly an impressive configuration. Wires and cables ran up through the ceiling and across the entire room. Across the floor was a variety of other wires that connected to two central tables that held a configuration of satellite dishes and antennas. Everything in the room seemed perfect. He moved to take a seat by one of the massive wall terminals, but then did a double-take of something he had not initially seen. A woman in a wheelchair was parked in front of a computer. All Hertz could see of her was her long coffee hair as she faced away from him. "Hello?" asked Hertz. The woman jumped in her seat and spun around to face him. "You scared me." She smiled. "I'm agent Shannon Grimton. I'm the new temporary head of tech and communications." Hertz raised an eyebrow. "Really? I've been the leading communication officer for the entire Adventurers' Island campaign. I would have thought they might have considered me." "What's your name?" Shannon asked as she held out a hand. "Hertz." He frowned as he took it. "It's just… I've dedicated my entire career to this, and I was not even offered the job. I really would have liked that position." "Well, you can help me," said Shannon. "I'm sorry you were overlooked for this. My degree is in biotech, and I'm afraid radios are not one of my strong suits. I might not be as fit for this position as you are. In fact, I'm surprised that you haven't already been promoted to leading communications expert; I can only assume that, in the wake of Ata's havoc and chaos, the founding members wanted to act quickly and, instead of promoting you to elite agent, they just hurriedly went ahead and chose a tech-savvy person who was already an elite agent." "I guess," said Hertz, shrugging without looking at her. As she worked beside him, Shannon Grimton noticed that Hertz was a very quiet fellow. Although they were now working together, he rarely made eye contact with her and kept to himself most of the time. Already, Shannon thought that she recognized this sort of behavior. "But I just want you to know," she continued, "that I'm very grateful for your help. No hard feelings, right?" "Oh!" said Hertz, blinking in surprise. "Of course not. No hard feelings at all. I'm just..." Shannon nodded. Since Hertz was clearly not angry with her, she was now certain that she recognized his behavior, and so decided to be as open and friendly as possible. "I don't know if they'll promote any agents to elite status by tomorrow... but if they do, I'll see to it that you're one of them. I mean, you definitely deserve it. From what I heard, you're one of the best radio operators this team has. Word has it you might already be considered for an elite position anyway. Maybe you could teach me some of your secrets." Hertz smiled as he took a seat next to her. "I suppose we could exchange a few notes. We're be working together so we'll have to get along, right?" Shannon chuckled and brushed her long hair behind her ear. "So, is it true you hacked the intercom in the XERRD headquarters?" "Oh, that was nothing," said the techie, laughing. "You should hear about some of the stuff I did before I joined the Dino Attack." He was about to recount a tale about a certain jetpack-wearing hippie when the load speaker buzzed. Hertz rolled over on his spinney chair to turn up the volume. Specs was giving a speech, during which he repeated a message intercepted from Dr. Rex. "What is this?" asked Hertz slowly. "What's going on?" "XERRD is planning an attack tomorrow," muttered Shannon. The light drained from her face as she heard the news. "We're not ready for this." Hertz suddenly jumped from his chair and over to one of the terminals. He quickly started calibrating an antenna. "What are you doing?" asked Shannon as she wheeled over beside him. Hertz did not take his eyes of the monitor. "If XERRD's attacking tomorrow, they could already be here. I might be able to intercept some of their transmissions. It's not much, but it's a start." Shannon nodded and got to work beside him. ***** Trigger was walking through the hallway, accompanied by Montoya, when he suddenly encountered an all-too-familiar face. "Hello, Snake," he said. "What's up?" "I heard things were gettin' rough," replied Snake. "I don't know about you, but I'm getting the Znap out of here." "What about your MegaBloking pardon?" Trigger asked curiously. "Isn't that what they promised you if you helped them out?" "Znap the pardon," declared Snake. "It's not like it's going to last long. As soon as I'm done, I'll do something else and the police will be right back after me again." "I see," replied Trigger. "I won't tell anyone. In fact, I'll go with you." "You mean you're not going to kill Silencia?" Montoya asked. "What the Znap gave you that idea, Montoya?" said Trigger. "She is a menace to this planet and needs to be stopped, but even I'm not stupid enough to hang out while several dozen guys are pointing Znapping guns at you and going out of their way to protect her." "What about those guys watching you?" Snake asked. "They got distracted by some Znapping announcement," replied Trigger. "I say we get the Znap out of here before anyone finds out we're gone. Montoya, you coming?" Montoya took a moment to think. "I got a truck outside," he said. "Good," replied Trigger. "Get us out of town." "Oh no," said Montoya. "I'm not letting you two anywhere near my family." "Well, at least find some MegaBloking place we can hide for a while. Now let's go!" "What about your money?" Snake asked. "When I'm paid to do a job, I do it," replied Trigger. "But I know well enough to back out when you're in over your head. Now let's go." It was a brief but tense few minutes as the trio climbed into Montoya's pickup truck. Quickly, he hit the ignition and started to drive away. ***** "What in blue blazes was that?!" Doctor Saran yelled as he burst into Pharisee's office. The commander did not look up from the file he was studiously readying. "Something troubling you, doctor?" he asked lazily. "You're not one to get upset." "You brutally attacked an unarmed elite agent - who was already beaten - in a jail cell! Do you find nothing wrong with this?" It was not often that Doctor Saran became flustered. It took a considerable amount of energy to make him angry, and angry he was. "Quite frankly, I don't, doctor," said Pharisee. "Considering the realm of options, it seemed like the best action to take." Saran rolled his eyes. This was not a psychological meeting, so he allowed himself to exhibit his annoyance. "Would you mind telling me why?" Pharisee closed the file he was reading and motioned Saran to take a seat. The psychologist grudgingly hobbled over and rested himself across from the commander. "I believe my attack on French Fries was a necessary evil," began the commander. "Without the intervention of a third and neutral party (myself), more agents would have taken the law into their own hands. Supporters of French Fries would have attacked Rex. Supporters of Rex would have attacked French Fries. It was important that my department have the last word. If we did not, more vigilantes would have taken the law into their own hands." "But was the show necessary?" asked Saran. "Did you have to make the speech and attack him in his own cell?" "It was important that I outdid Rex's efforts," answered Pharisee. "I needed to show that I had superiority and was in a position of power and control. If the last thing that happened to French Fries was be thrown in jail by Rex and his allies, it would give the appearance that they had the last word and that internal affairs lacked control of the situation. This needed to end with me on top." "So you beat the man to a pulp?" asked Saran. "I must say that it seems like excessive force. French Fries was already beaten; did you really need to attack him in his cell?" "I needed the public to know that I mean business. I go to great lengths to ensure justice and that my image be the last thing on their mind. Not Rex taking the law into his own hands, but me doing my job." Saran nodded. He in no way approved of the commander's methods, but he could understand his logic. "Speaking of Rex, where do you stand on him?" asked the psychologist. Pharisee sighed and removed his sunglasses. "That all depends on how your talk went. Rex still needs to be held accountable for his actions. The question is, to what degree?" "I can't tell you the details," said Doctor Saran. "All I can tell you is that it went well and that we made progress. I've scheduled another session on the 27th." "Considering our impending doom, we may not make it that far," said Pharisee. "Some of us will not be making it to Christmas this year." "Not with that attitude," responded Saran. At that moment, Wright and Shiller burst into Pharisee's offices. Both seemed flustered and out of breath as they reported to him. "We have a situation." Pharisee quickly rose from his seat. "What do you mean, a situation?" "We lost Trigger and Montoya," responded Shiller. "They somehow slipped away." "How long ago?" "Less than 10 minutes," said Wright. "They can't have gotten far." "Place an All Agents Bulletin," ordered Pharisee as he bolted around the desk. "I don't trust those men unsupervised." Saran was about to say something when a UlTech infiltrator entered the room. "Snake has disappeared," it said. "I checked the security tapes, and he left the base not long ago in a pickup truck with Trigger and Montoya." The commander grabbed his black leather trenchcoat and his gun holster. At a brisk pace, he moved from the office and set a course for the hangars. "Ready a T-1 Typhoon," the commander said into his radio. "Set up a perimeter; they can't have gotten far, even with a vehicle." Saran finally found an opportunity to speak. "Commander, is this really the best use of time and energy? XERRD is attacking in a matter of hours, and I don't think taking a helicopter out to look for three men is a good use of resources." Pharisee spun around and pointed a finger at the psychologist. "Can you definitively tell me where Trigger's loyalties lie?" Doctor Saran did not respond. "If by chance XERRD offered him more money, do you suppose he would have any regrets about betraying us? This very moment, he and his companions could be broadcasting everything they know about us to XERRD. The fact three of the most morally questionable individuals have disappeared on the eve of battle is cause for great concern." Pharisee, Wright, Shiller, and the UlTech infiltrator soon reached the hangars. Pharisee quickly boarded a nearby T-1 Typhoon accompanied by other Internal Affairs agents. "Is this really the best use of time?" asked Doctor Saran a second time. "This place will be needing some leadership, especially from an elite agent like you. It's not right for you to be leaving like this" "I'm doing what is best for Dino Attack," responded Pharisee. "I've done the research. These men are capable of horrible things. They have no loyalties, they believe in nothing. They are selfish to the core. I will not rest until I know they can no longer compromise the safety of this institution." The helicopter then rolled out of the hangar and onto the cold and windswept tarmac. ****** There was a certain amount of driving through the city. Finally, Trigger noticed a sign: Enderson's. "Pull over here," Trigger said to Montoya. Reluctantly, Montoya brought the vehicle to a stop and followed the other two men as they climbed out and walked inside. "What's all this about?" Montoya asked. "If this is what I think it is, I think I know someone who can help us," replied Trigger. Sure enough, at the bar was an attractive, blonde-haired young woman. "Hey," she said casually before changing her expression to something a bit colder. "Carrie?" Trigger asked. "Yeah," replied Carrie. "What the Znap you doing here, Carrie Enderson? Shouldn't you be off-world?" "When I heard about this whole thing, I came back because I wanted to make sure my family was okay," explained Carrie. "I couldn't catch a shuttle back, so I decided to reopen my brother's bar. I had to fix it up quite a bit, but it's good to have customers who aren't alien criminals." "Is your brother here?" Montoya asked. "No," replied Carrie. "He's running a bar in Antarctica. We still talk here and there." "I thought you said she could help us," said Snake. "I'm Znapping getting to that part," snapped Trigger. He turned back to Carrie. "Look, something's happened, and we need a place to lay low for a while. Can you help us?" Carrie casually wiped a glass as she smiled. "Come on," she said, putting the glass down. There was a slight creaking as the door to the cellar opened, and Carrie led Snake, Montoya, and Trigger down the stairs. "Not the most comfortable, I'll admit," she said. "But it is a place where you won't be seen during business hours, and you have access to food and such; once people clear, I can give you actual rooms. Out of curiosity, what happened?" "We deserted," replied Trigger. "If anyone comes asking about me-" "I never seen you before," finished Carrie. "Excellent," Trigger said as he placed a cigarette in his mouth. Carrie turned and walked back up the stairs, shutting the door behind her. Montoya looked at the other two men somewhat nervously. It certainly wasn't easy being a reformed criminal stuck in a dark room with two cold-blooded murderers who were probably already wanted by the police. "You didn't have to do it," Montoya said. "I did what I Znapping well had to," replied Trigger. "I'm telling you," Montoya insisted. "You're wrong. She's reformed-" "All she's doing is setting you up," said Trigger. "Now that she knows you're alive, she's going to kill you. She's going to track you down and stab you in your MegaBloking back like she did to Deniro, and then she's going to kill your MegaBloking wife and your children. Is that what you want?" "No," replied Montoya. "Then stay out," declared Trigger. "I don't want to have to kill you, too. Unfortunately, those dang agents confiscated my gun." "So what exactly is the plan?" Montoya asked. "Simple," replied Trigger. "We lay low while Carrie keeps watch. As soon as the coast is clear, she gets us false passports and we get the Znap out of the country." "I see," said Montoya. "You aren't, by any chance, taking me along for the ride?" "I won't force you to come," said Trigger. "I'll only need your truck, and we can leave you behind at your Znapping home with your Znapping wife and Znapping kids." Snake calmly lit a cigarette as he stuck his boots up on a table. ***** A sort of grim atmosphere had descended upon Dino Attack Headquarters after Specs made the fateful announcement. The majority of the team, especially those who had joined during the Adventurers' Island mission, was confident in a sure victory. Long-timers and veterans who had seen friends fall over the course of this horrible war realized that this could potentially be the last time they ever saw peace... a short calm before the terrible storm. Rex watched from a window in the hallway as Alpha Team Helicopters and Agents Aerial Defense Units airlifted civilians out of LEGO City, which was about to become an unsafe battleground. There was even a Coast Guard helicopter or two helping in the evacuation. A squadron of T-1 Typhoons escorted the transport helicopters, protecting them from any Mutant Pterosaurs that dared to come near. As he watched the helicopters at work, Rex reflected over the past eight months. He could hardly believe that this war was only eight months long... surely, it felt as though it had lasted over seven years. In that time, Rex had met and fought alongside many great people. He remembered escaping ShadowTech with Kai and Hyrode; rescuing Databoard, Turahk-Kal, and Glide from the Voltage; working with Zero and meeting Amanda Claw and Roger Remous; fighting FUTURE with Frozeen, PBB, Chompy, and Libo; and defending the Power Station with the help of Reptile. And, with a heavy heart, Rex reflected upon the fact that most of these people had died or disappeared a long time ago. Rex heard footsteps. He turned his head and saw Ben Gunn approach him. "I'm glad I found you again, Rex," said Ben Gunn. "I still might not remember my time before the Goo Caverns, but it appears that things have changed for the worse since the last time I was on the surface." "I'm sorry, Ben," sighed Rex. "I'm sorry that you were safe in the Goo Caverns for so long... and we bring you out of your safe haven to a surface world on the verge of total destruction." Ben Gunn shook his head. "It was my choice, not yours, to leave the Goo Caverns. After seeing what XERRD was plotting, I knew that if I had chosen to stay, my safe haven would be neither safe nor a haven for much longer. A castle may be a protective house, after all, but a dangerous place to live when the enemy brings the ceiling down upon your head." Rex nodded in agreement. He absentmindedly placed his hand in his pocket and felt the ring with which he intended to propose to Amanda. Then, with a start, Rex remembered that the ring belonged to Ben Gunn and was in fact stolen by Greybeard. Clearing his throat, Rex said: "I believe I have something of yours, Ben." He pulled the ring out of his pocket and showed it to Ben Gunn. Upon looking at the ring, Ben Gunn narrowed his eyes. "What are you doing with this?" he whispered. "Greybeard... found it," explained Rex, "and gave it to me because he knew that I wanted to propose to a girl that I know, and... well, since you're still alive and you're here, I suppose it rightfully belongs to you." He held out the ring and waited for Ben Gunn to take it. Instead, Ben simply smiled. "Keep it," he decided. "It might have been mine once, but it holds no sentimental meaning for me now, and I have no need for a pretty ring without any meaning. Use it wisely, Rex, and propose to her." Rex bit his lip. "But Ben, I'm... I'm not going to live for much longer." Ben Gunn raised his eyebrows with a facial expression that seemed to look into Rex's very mind, making Rex feel as though he was talking to Dr. Saran once again. "Well, then, why wait?" Before Rex could reply, the elderly man turned and left. No sooner had Ben Gunn left than Frozeen appeared. "Oh, hey, Rex," greeted the Alpha Team agent. "Who were you just talking to?" Rex shrugged, pocketing the ring as he did so. "Oh, that was Ben Gunn. Have you gotten a chance to meet him yet?" Frozeen glanced in the direction that Ben Gunn left. "Darn. No, I haven't, and I've been eager to meet this 'Ben Gunn' guy that everyone seems to be talking about. Well... by 'everyone', I just mean Amanda and Greybeard. I'm just rather curious to meet him in person, and I feel like I keep missing him. It's like I always happen to walk in a room just after he leaves." "Any particular reason you want to talk to him?" inquired Rex. "I'm afraid that, while he's quite sane nowadays, he isn't as... interesting as he used to be." Frozeen shrugged. "An old man who lived in the Goo Caverns by himself for who-knows-how-long? Can you blame me for being interested? Maybe he knows something that neither Alpha Team nor Evil Ogel ever knew. And if he does... I hope maybe I can tie up a loose end or two before the final battle. Anyways, Greybeard and King Race wanted to see you and Amanda as soon as you two are ready to go." ***** Greybeard watched as his old friend, King Joseph Race, talked with his son, Samuel Race. The old pirate reflected upon the fact that, although they were father and son, circumstances meant that Joseph and Samuel were often separated during the course of the Dino Attack. Now, in the calm before the storm, they had the opportunity to have a father-son bonding moment. They comforted each other, with Joseph telling Sam how proud he was, and Sam telling Joseph how much he loved him. As Greybeard watched, it made him feel a little depressed that he would never have such a bonding moment. He barely even knew his own father, and Beatrice had died long before she could conceive a child. During the Skeleton Pirate wars, Blackjack Wilson had looked up to him as a father figure, but Greybeard failed to appreciate this until the lad died young. Greybeard sighed, reflecting upon his lack of family. "Grandpa?" Greybeard turned around to see Mary Rose standing there. The old pirate bent down on one knee so he could speak with her face-to-face. "Me dear," cooed Greybeard, "yer grandpa be off wi' other Dino Attack agents t' secure th' perimeter near th' Dino Attack Power Station. That way, we can hopefully stall 'em Mutant Dinos from gettin' too close t' Dino Attack Headquarters. Ye should stay here, where it be safe." "You'll keep me safe, right?" asked Mary. "Promise?" Being a realist, Greybeard knew that his chances of survival were slim. Still, he locked eyes with Mary and gently laid his hand on her shoulder. "I promise." He gently kissed her on the forehead, as her real grandfather might have, then stood. It was already nightfall. The calm before the storm would end in a matter of hours. ***** "So this is it," Minerva said grimly. "Yep," was all Zach managed say. After Specs's announcement came through, Holly Vinyaya and Zelda Frodongan left Zach and Minerva to their own devices; both presumably to help prepare for the battle. Zach was also certain that Zelda was going to find Nazareno. Zach and Minerva were quick in arming themselves and getting helmets. They both were helping where ever they could, which had ultimately led them to the helicopter hangar. It was slightly bare due to T-1 Typhoons helping escort helicopters with civilians out of the city. The T-1 Typhoons that remained were undergoing last-minute inspections so they were prepared for the battle. Heading the efforts were more LEGO Islanders: namely, Nubby Stevens and Bill Ding. Nubby and Bill spoke surprisingly very little as they made sure everything was ready for tomorrow. Zach and Minerva helped by simply following the mechanic and builder's instructions. "Why is that Agents helicopter here?" Minerva asked as Nubby dismissed them. She pointed to the dark blue helicopter landed near the edge of the hangar. Curious, Zach and Minerva walked over to it. "Hey!" Zach called out. "Why is this thing here?" In response, a dark-haired, bespectacled man in an Agents uniform appeared from behind the helicopter. "I'm refueling. I'll be out of your way in a moment..." The man squinted at Zach, then grinned. "Zachary Virchaus." He began to approach Zach. Zach smiled in realization. "Thaddeus Brickhouse." He shook the Agent's hand. "Good to see you again." "Hopefully not for the last time," Brickhouse said, scratching his beard. "I heard you became one of those Stromlings back on Adventurers' Island. Imagine my surprise to see you here!" "Well, thanks to a couple of friends, I am here." Zach gestured to Minerva. "This is one of those friends. This is Minerva Fabello." Thaddeus extended his hand toward Minerva, who accepted it with her own, smiling nervously. "Nice to meet you, Minerva. Me and Zach were close buds back when he was an Agent. While he moved on to this team, I stayed behind." "You know why," Zach said, crossing his arms. Brickhouse waved his hand. "I know. I know. If you haven't already seen, the Agents Defense Organization has learned its lessons. We didn't interfere with your Adventurers' Island mission until your team actually needed us. And relations have been improved with the Alpha Team considerably." "I've noticed. Are you going to be out there tomorrow?" Brickhouse revealed an arrogant smirk. "Plan on it. Agent Chase is going to have some of us hanging around to back you guys up. Dash Justice will probably do the same." "Good to hear. Now, I suppose you should be going back to the-" "Civilian evacuation." Brickhouse nodded. He turned and climbed into the helicopter. "Best be going. I better see you on December 22." Zach smiled sadly. "You too." The Aerial Defense Unit fired to life and quickly left the hangar. "That seemed rather random," Minerva noted as they started to head for the exit. "A bit. But now that we know he's here and he knows we're here, he'll probably save our lives at some point tomorrow in a Chekhov's gun moment." Minerva smiled briefly. "That's encouraging." She looked away. "What do think?" He knew what she meant, but still asked. "What?" "Do think we'll win tomorrow?" Zach sighed. "I want to say that there's no chance of Dr. Rex winning, but I'm not sure. This is easily looking like 'final battle' material. If it is, we can probably bet that Dr. Rex is out there leading the Mutant Dinos himself, seeing to it that this building is flatten and all of us murdered. And if this is a final battle, we might be able to anticipate scientists, Hybrids, and mercenaries aiding him. And then there's stuff he might throw out that we aren't anticipating..." Minerva looked at him. "So basically, if we even have a chance, it's going to be like running through MegaBlokland and back?" Zach nodded. "I'm staying with you. Until the end." Zach wrapped his arm around her and brought her close. "Until the end." Minerva rested her head on his shoulder. If there was one thing he didn't regret from happening in this war, it was getting to know Minerva Fabello, and he would gladly fight with her until this battle was won or until he was dead. He mentally cringed. Death seemed to be just a few hours away. There were enough close-calls on Adventurers' Island to tell him that he wasn't invincible, even if he could control the Maelstrom. Compared to when he first landed on Adventurer's Island, Zach was uncertain what would happen tomorrow. Anything could happen. He squeezed Minerva's hand tightly. All he could do now was wait. ***** Dr. Cyborg finished his meal, and went to the lab. He had been working on Dino speech translator software, and he uploaded it to himself. All of a sudden, he remembered a plan he had been working on a couple of weeks ago, when he was in XERRD. A bio-mechanically augmented T-Rex, codenamed the Promethean Knight. He had almost completed it, too. He sincerely hoped Dr. Rex hadn't finished it. He contacted X1 and X2, telling them to prepare for battle to occur within 24 hours. ***** As thunder rumbled in the distance like the tolling of church bells, the final hours fell upon the Dino Attack Team. As Rex sat in the conference room, he reflected upon how, in the past, it had always been so full and lively just before a mission. Now, it felt as though he were attending a funeral. It truly is the end of it all, reflected Rex. He glanced over his shoulder and locked eyes with Amanda Claw. She smiled gently and nodded, but there was no happiness to her expression; only acceptance. At the head of the conference table sat the four founding members, as they always did. They always seemed so sure of everything, so confident in the success of their team. But now, their resolve was grim. Specs cleared his throat, and began his announcement: "This shall be our final meeting, everyone, and as we are on the eve of attack, I shall keep it brief; I do not intend to keep you for long, as the rest of the team is in preparation for the upcoming battle. However, there are a few... important announcements I need to make. First of all, we have a few last-minute promotions for well-deserving Dino Attack agents." "Zachary Virchaus," announced Shadow. "In recognition of his work on Adventurers' Island, from defending the Aztec Village to taking down two of XERRD's most dangerous operatives, Glados and Provencal. Despite his time as a Stromling, he has proven to be one of our strongest-willed agents, breaking free of the Darkitect's control in our darkest hour. Of course, that could not have been possible without the help of Minerva Fabello, to whom the team owes immensely. Therefore, Zachary Virchaus and Minerva Fabello are each receiving the title of Elite Agent." Given the current mood, there was some slight hesitation due to the question of whether or not it was appropriate, but there was some applause in response to the promotion. Remembering how Zachary had saved him from a hungry Mutant T-Rex during the Aztec Village battle, Rex clapped his hands together approvingly. "Dr. Cyborg," continued Digger. "As a former XERRD scientist, Dr. Cyborg has given us much insight into our enemy. His knowledge of technology, Maelstrom energy, and Mutant Dino biology has proven most useful to our cause. And despite working for XERRD, Dr. Cyborg has displayed such unrelenting loyalty to the Dino Attack Team that it cannot be overlooked. We see it fit to grant Dr. Cyborg the rank of Elite Agent." There came more applause. Rex joined in the applause, remembering how much Dr. Cyborg always wanted to be there to help out, ultimately being able to repair Zed Provhezor's former hover-chair. There were a few more promotions after that. Rex did not recognize all the names, but he did nod his head approvingly when Bluetooth and Rockford were listed among them. He recalled rumors that Dust might be granted an honorary posthumous elite promotion, but it did not come to pass. "And finally," concluded Viper, "we have an agent who some may call an 'underdog' - the kind of humble, hardworking agent who rarely gets recognized but is more than deserving of a reward. As he is busy working with agent Grimton at the moment, he could not be here to attend this meeting, showing his devotion to his work. And given the recent... revelations about Ata, it is only fitting that we are presented with a brilliant telecommunications expert to more than simply 'replace' him. And so, we proudly bestow the rank of Elite Agent upon Hertz." Although Rex barely knew Hertz, having only met with him a couple times and not exactly conversing with him on a personal level, Rex could tell that this was a good choice by the founding members as he joined in the applause for Hertz's promotion. At that moment, the doors opened, and three figures stepped in. Rex immediately recognized them as General, Shock, and Sam Throramebi. Although he was elated to see them again for the first time in weeks, Rex could not suppress a shudder as he laid eyes upon Shock, however, for even in the dimmer-than-usual lighting of the conference room, he could see that her once-flawless beauty was now tarnished by several horrible scars across her face. "What happened?" Rex whispered to Frozeen. "During the Adventurers' Island mission," he explained, "the Portal Operations Team were sent on an intercontinental mission to track down and destroy all of XERRD's teleporters to severely cut off XERRD's ability to move and transport units. I was talking to Shock earlier today, and she said that a Mutant Raptor got to her while they were investigating Sandy Bay." Rex bit his lip. "Poor girl." "The good news," continued Frozeen, "is that she's taking it rather well. She's well-aware that a little plastic surgery could take care of the scars, but she said that she won't consider it, believing that the scars are too important to remove so easily. Besides, she thinks that having a few scars of her own brings her a little closer to General... a little romantic, isn't it?" Rex nodded in agreement. He watched as General, Shock, and Throramebi approached the conference table. Specs cleared his throat. "Ah, yes. I'm glad you three could make it to this meeting. When I created the Portal Operations Team, General and Shock, I gave you two a specific order to use as a failsafe. Now, I believe it is time... time to execute Operation Antarctica." General and Shock traded glances, while Sam Throramebi raised an eyebrow in confusion; he was not a member of the original Portal Operations Team that was reportedly shut down by Digger, so he did not know what Specs was referring to. Nodding grimly, General declared: "It shall be done." Then, the three of them turned and exited the conference room. As Dino Attack agents in the room began to murmur among themselves, Specs cleared his throat. "General, Shock, and Throramebi shall see to it that, in a worst-case-scenario, we have a last resort, a last hope for survival. I hope we never have to use it... because if we do, it shall mean that the war is lost. That is why it is up to the rest of you to make sure that the Mutant Dinos never reach Dino Attack Headquarters." Then, Specs sighed in a way that Rex never heard him sigh before: a sigh of defeat. "You know," he murmured, "for the past eight months, I have had to lead this team, knowing very well that we are the last hope for the LEGO Planet. And despite all the hardships we've faced... all the disputes we've had... all the danger we've been in... this team is more than I could have ever hoped it to be. I thank you all for making this possible. It has been an honor and a privilege to know such a strong and dependable team. Now, let's get out there... and make Dr. Rex wish that he never stepped foot in LEGOLAND." ***** Solomon Koplowitz stood like a statue in the freezing rain. Flashes of lightning illuminated his soaking wet cloak as it draped around his wet form in the downpour. His stance was calm and collected as he stood without moving in the courtyard before the front gate. The rain soothed his senses. The rejuvenating power of water flowed down his brow and fell upon the helmet resting under his arm. In all the misery that was felt inside the building, Solomon felt life falling forth from the skies and giving him strength in the approaching storm. In his left hand was the long and elegant form of a cold steel katana. Water flowed down the blade and bounced off the hard concrete. Light from the headquarters reflected off the sword, giving the appearance that he held a thing of light. He had found the weapon in the locker of an agent he did not know. It bore the name of Leonidas "Fullmetal" Spartana. Considering the owner had not been heard from in weeks, Solomon believed there would be no harm in borrowing it. It would be good for the blade to taste battle one last time. The philosopher meditated in the bitter sleet. Now was the time to be serene and controlled. He let the icy rainwater run down his head and gather at his feet. He felt every drop as it touched his skin and reverberation in the blade. He stood alone and in the cold. He waited. ***** The door slowly creaked open as Carrie Enderson descended down the stairway holding a small tray of food. She placed it on a small table, along with three bottles of beer. "No thanks," said Montoya. "Come on," said Carrie. "You got to eat something." "I don't think so," replied Montoya. "Look, the way I see it, I'm thinking I should go." "Oh, come on, now," insisted Carrie. "At least get something." "No," declared Montoya, standing up. "The way I see it, it will be a lot easier for everyone else here if I go. Sooner or later, they're going to come looking for you two. They might have even identified the truck. I can get out of here. If nothing else, I can draw them off. I'm the only one here that isn't being hunted, you see. If they pull over the truck and find me, they're just going to think nothing of it." "The weather's not looking too good," said Carrie. "It's alright," replied Montoya. "I've probably driven through much worse, and it should buy us time before they get any leads." Montoya slowly stood up and worked his way up the stairs. He opened the door slowly. "Montoya," said Trigger. Montoya turned. There was a moment of silence. "It was nice seeing you again," he said. Montoya smiled before closing the door behind him. He slowly walked outside into the pouring rain and climbed into the dry interior of his pickup truck. He took a deep breath, and then he turned the key, hit the ignition, and began to drive away. ***** Everyone was somber as they filed out of the conference room. There was no real joking, no smirks, no loud banter discussing what the mission was. Only the stoic acceptance of the fact that they were now to face their final, and perhaps biggest, challenge yet. "Well, this is it," Laxus muttered to the crew of people he had come to know alongside Andrew over these past few weeks. "Earth's final battle, the one where its fate will be determined." "It's going to be a doozy, that's for sure," said Stranger. Though he had always taken a realistic and somewhat humorous attitude to everything, he was realizing the gravity of the situation. "I'm no optimist, but I'm willing to bet that we can survive this onslaught fairly well. Fairly." "I... I hope so, Stranger," said Bluetooth. The anxiety was clearly getting to him. He wasn't a fighter, and he clearly was worried about his chances out there, even if he would be simply joining Semick on his T-1 Typhoon. "The best we can do to prepare ourselves," said Pterisa, "I suppose, is to remind ourselves of what we're fighting for. Our close companions, our future, this planet's civilization, and perhaps the emotional strength of everyone in this universe." "Not a bad thing to think of," Andrew agreed. "I know many leaders have used that emotional strength from motivation to empower countless armies, even if they were quite certain they were following the footsteps of the Bolivian army, so to speak. It's quite a valuable asset." Andrew glanced at Semick, who was coming up behind them. "Very true, Andrew," the proven-resilient leader said. "So far, I'm thinking it will serve us well here. I've already got several groups not unlike yours to remind themselves of their motivation, and I have no doubt it will help our efforts. Now, if I may, before you get yourself prepared, I want you to meet me with some other Elite Agents in the mess hall. I want to discuss a plan I have for the battle. Please come alone, I feel this is a matter for our rank only." As Semick continued down the hall, Andrew glanced at the group around him. Bluetooth and Stranger were already heading their own ways for their preparations, leaving him with Laxus and Pterisa, the only people he had been in really close associations with these last few months. Laxus patted Andrew reassuringly on the shoulder. "I'll go get prepped and wait for you at the hangar," he said. "Hopefully, there's still a Fire Hammer we can claim, assuming whatever Semick's thinking of doesn't need you elsewhere." "I'll join him," Pterisa added. "In this environment, I suppose fighting on my feet and wings might be a bit hazardous. It might be best strategically to lend my lightning abilities to aid one of the vehicle teams." "It'll be more than helpful to have you aboard," said Andrew. Then he said to both her and Laxus, "I'll see you soon." ***** Reptile sighed as he exited the conference room and headed towards his office in the technical development wing of the HQ. The Mutant Dinos were coming for them, tomorrow. He had spent so much work, so much energy, developing ways to defeat them. He was a scientist, not a killer. But he had become an engineer, become a technician, become an Elite Agent of Dino Attack. And all that work was for naught if they did not win tomorrow. And would they? He would do his bit, of course. He had already done it, to a large extent. Green Goo-based weaponry would be used where it could be. He had spent the day conferring with other scientists and preparing emergency countermeasures. Some surprises for Dr. Rex that, hopefully, the enemy would not anticipate. The enemy. Reptile remembered, when he had first joined the team as a replacement for Magma as a technical officer, that they had been unaware of the existence of this XERRD. The Mutant Dinos were a menace, a threat, but... not an enemy. He had read logs of Rex and others trying to tame them, trying to prove that they were more than mere monsters. And now, it was time for him to put his brilliance, his science, his inventions, his engineering - all of it - to use, for killing. Is this how Magma felt? It was common knowledge that Magma had been an extremely skilled engineer in the 2004 Mission Deep Freeze against Ogel. And that after Deep Freeze ended, Magma had decided to go into Special Operations and become one of Alpha Team's most effective trained... well, killers. Reptile sat down in his office chair and sighed. However, he then noticed agent Tail at the door… Tail, his comrade for almost all of this nasty mess… Tail, who had shot and killed one of his friends and comrades when that agent had gone insane so long ago. He wondered if he would ever become like Tail, or Magma. He hoped not. But he knew he would be responsible for the deaths of more Mutant Dinos tomorrow than ever before... and so he wondered. ***** Semick had sent the same message, either by mouth-to-mouth or PDA comm, for all Elite Agents, be they new or old, to come to the Mess Hall to hear in on his plan. Within ten minutes of him reaching the mess hall, he had managed to acquire the presence of a good number of them. Rex, Hotwire, Adventure, Cabin, Andrew, Hertz, Dr. Cyborg, Zach, Rotor, and Fabello were present, and were now waiting a little anxiously for Semick to begin, perhaps just so they could return to their preparations as soon as possible. The increasing sounds of thunder and pitter-patter from rain on the rooftops was helping no one's nerve here. Semick stood at one end of the table where everyone was sitting or standing around, a map of the area of LEGO City where the Dino Attack Headquarters laid (drawn in with pen, due to the map being made before the attack) out in front of him. On it were several red markings and a couple soda cans from the last meal, likely serving as markings. "Fellow agents," Semick began, "I'd just like to take this time to give you a sort of battle plan I want to try before we launch ourselves into the street and air. I also want to give you some encouragement on how I feel, as a whole, we should act if we're to keep our team's will to fight going. "First, I want to address the terrain." Semick waved his hand around several marked buildings around the lot of the HQ. "There's many buildings still leveled right around our perimeter, but they're still very rough terrain for our vehicles, even the tracks on our Iron Predators. Most of our operations are undoubtedly going to be in the streets, and I just want to make it clear I don't want to limit ourselves in that manner. If push comes to shove, clear out buildings if you must. Just watch the falling debris and don't let yourself get surrounded. "Also, I just want to say that in spite of what Specs says, I don't think the Mutant Dinos reaching the HQ is a completely major blow at us. Undoubtedly, Dr. Rex will try every trick he has to try and strike at it, and we need to be prepared to either let chunks of it go or abandon it completely in the fight. I'll get more into detail with that later, but for now, I can only advise about the points of concern." Semick pointed to several markings around the HQ drawing on the map. "Watch the backside. Like an unwary person in the room with an assassin, it's the least defended point, and it being the part that faces the dockside that some of our carrier ships use to reach here doesn't help. The laboratories area doesn't have much strategic value, but that glass ceiling is just asking for some Pterosaur to dive-bomb into it. The hangar doors need the strongest defense, and most of all, I want everyone to be aware that the central tower needs its operations moved closer the ground. It looks like it could easily be knocked over. "Now let's talk about placement of our forces," Semick said as he grasped a few of the soda cans. "Obviously, I want our T-1s all around the area. Their firepower and defense capabilities are too priceless to squander. The Iron Predators," he said, placing a few cans close to the HQ drawing, "should be our last line of defense from the onslaught. Not to say I don't want them on the front lines, only that their tanklike-build and cannon capabilities would serve well to hold the line if the Dinos get to close. The rest of the fleet needs to create a perimeter," Semick placed the remaining cans all around the HQ lot, "around the base. Fire Hammers and Urban Avengers will be our main fighting vehicles, while the Steel Sprinters will serve best as run-and-gun fighters, and perhaps as scouts and messengers as well. The drivers all know their strengths and weaknesses by now, so hopefully the only problem we should have is number overwhelming, which is most likely going to be the biggest problem of all. Only good side of it is that a mass that big is bound to be easy to hit, and fallen Dinos might have a good chance to trip comrades or something." Semick took in a deep breath. "Now here's the matter I want to discuss the most, and that's how I want us to act. Now I'll say this much. When I was first promoted to Elite Agent, I figured it was only a title that only served the benefit of giving me authority to use an Iron Predator and T-1 Typhoon. But during my time on Adventurers' Island, I've come to believe it means something more. Agents do respect you for it, but they also treat you naturally as a leader, in what seems to be an instinctual thing to look for these days to look for when the Founding Members are rarely on the front lines themselves. They look up to you, feel determined to see you standing, feel some pride lost when you take an injury or two, but ultimately listen to every word to say, and nearly always feel better when you're shouting over the mic to give orders. "With that in mind, I want all of us to take up the reigns of leadership as much as possible during this fight. All of you should do your best to encourage whoever you fight alongside to stay strong and keep at it, as well as help whoever you can when it is possible. Some will find this easy," and Semick glanced at Adventure and Rex as he spoke, "I have no doubt, but others I know aren't used to it, or have been through things that might make it hard for them," Semick also glanced at Rotor and Andrew, "but I want you to try anyways. I also want you to try your best to lead certain parts of the team to try my battle plan and unite various parts for an offensive strike, perhaps during a Mutant T-Rex horde or some giant robot XERRD drives into battle. Overall, I want us to work together to create a better defense and heighten our chances at victory. If the worst-case scenario comes and the headquarters falls, we can still direct the team to avenge it and finish those Mutant Dinos off." Semick took another breath. "Now I have a few ideas how each of you can focus your efforts. Hotwire, Cabin, Rotor, you've all done well with a T-1 in the past, and I think it would be foolish of you to pilot anything else. Even if your tactics, Rotor, have given us... trouble... in the past, you've still proven yourself well as a commanding agent several times before. If you just can keep the welfare of your comrades in mind more often, you shouldn't have much of a problem. Perhaps a bit of classical music would be of some help. And I think seeing a Talon II in the air wouldn't hurt either, Hotwire. "Dr. Cyborg, you've got many helpful technologies and tricks on your side, and while I may not know all of them, I'm sure they could be of help here on the front lines. See to it that you can put into good use as many things as you can. "Adventure, you're a determined, fearless, and confident agent. While you may seem silly at times, that kind of attitude is endangered among the ranks at this point. If you can keep it up on the main defenses, I'm sure many agents will be in gratitude for your cheers and encouragement against the masses of reptiles. "Andrew, Zach, Fabello, I know none of you are natural leaders, but after what you did back there in Hotep's temple, I'm sure you've made yourselves more well-known than ever. To have you out there, either with the Iron Predator defenses around HQ or the main fighting lines, will definitely be an encouragement for others to be heroes and defy the odds as well. And Zach, though I doubt you want to remember your time as a Stromling with fondness, and that leading Maelstrom soldiers is completely different from leading Minifig soldiers, I think that your experience could possibly give you some idea as to how to help guide your agents along, and could be a way to help the people who saved you learn a few tricks as well. "Hertz, I know you're not a fighter, but I do know you're a darn good survivor and communications expert. I'd say your place is with the men who might remain at HQ as very last defenders, and it would do us well to have someone who can keep track of all the radio and PDA messages coming in when the battle is in full heat, so we might have a way to understand what the Znap is going on with everyone. Plus, it might be a good way to help to explain to the Founding Members what it is we're doing. "And Rex, I know you're not a natural leader to great extent. It's why you encouraged Hotwire and Reptile to take more command responsibilities on Adventurers' Island. But you've still got intuition and some good friends serving with you, and undoubtedly you're still the legend of an agent you were back in even the earliest days of the war. You were among the first Elite Agents, after all. Therefore, I'd encourage you to work with the Iron Predator defenses around HQ. You've been using that vehicle since back when things first started escalating from simply taking back LEGO City, and if anyone can help these things manage a defense, it's you." Semick took a deep breath, relaxing a bit from all the talking. "Alright. That's all I have to say. Feel free to try your own ideas, or question some of mine, but I personally encourage you to keep what I said in mind. I just don't want us to get unorganized out there." ***** Catless went into the hangar, searching for someone. She spotted them, and hurried over. "Kara, have you seen Dr. Cyborg anywhere?" she asked. Kara hopped out of the Reclaimer's cockpit before replying. "No, I have not. Why do you ask?" Before Catless could answer, Kara continued. "No, don't tell me. Let me guess. You want to tell him, 'In case we die tomorrow, I want you to know I have loved you since college,' hope he replies, 'I love you, too,' and possibly give him a kiss on the lips/vocoder." Catless stared, mouth open in shock. "How did you know?" she asked incredulously. "When I am bored, I have a tendency to read Legend of Builda romance fanfics for the humor. You'd be amazed how often that kind of thing happens. Let me tell you, forget about it. Dr. Cyborg does not have someone he likes in that way, or at least he hasn't told me. He and I have been accused of dating before, however. I would loudly yell 'no', he would quietly deny it whenever that happened. If I had a dollar for every time we've been called a couple..." Kara trailed off, shaking her head in amusement. "Anyways, forget about telling him you love him. That's my advice. Any questions?" "Yes," Catless replied, "What is Legend of Builda?" "It involves princesses named Builda, heroes named Bricklink, and a bad guy named Ganonblok. Tell ya what - we survive today, I'll tell you all about it," Kara finished. "Deal," Catless replied, shaking Kara's hand. "Kara, Cortana, come in," came Dr. Cyborg's voice over the radio. "I have special orders for you." "We're here, Chief, go ahead," Cortana replied. "Kara, I want you to mainly assist the T-1s. You know the Reclaimer's limits best, however. If there is something you can easily do besides the T-1s, do it. Cortana, I want you to copy yourself into me. You and your copy will know what each other knows, so we will be in contact." "Yes sir, copying now," Cortana said. "Oh, and one other thing: I expect to see you both tomorrow. No heroic sacrifices, understand?" Dr. Cyborg added. "Yes, sir," Kara and Cortana replied. "Well Catless, are you coming?" Kara asked. "No thanks, I'm on a Fire Hammer," Catless answered. "I'll be watching your back," Kara said and gave a two-fingered salute. ***** "You really should tell her your feelings, you know." Hotwire, who'd glanced up to watch Kat leave, looked back at Wright. The two of them, plus Shiller and -- until a few seconds ago -- Kat, who'd just gone out for some air, were sitting in the rec room. It was mostly empty -- most agents were either preparing for the upcoming battle or in a panic, but the four of them reasoned that it might well be their last chance ever to relax. "Say what?" "We might not make it through the day tomorrow," Wright said. "Tell her. You may never get another chance." Confusion briefly creased Hotwire's face, followed by a look of understanding. "Ah. If you mean what I think you do, then I'm afraid you have the wrong idea." Wright chuckled. "Oh, come on. This is no time to be shy. I've seen the way you two look at each other -- you really expect me to believe you're 'just friends'?" "No, actually," snapped Hotwire, "because that phrase has always rubbed me the wrong way. I don't know why modern society thinks that friendship is somehow worth less than romantic love, but for Builder's sake I wish they would stop devaluing friendship just because it doesn't include holding hands or snogging or whatever it is that people in relationships do. Kat and I aren't 'just' friends, because 'just' doesn't even enter into it." He paused. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to fly off the handle like that." "No hard feelings," Wright responded. "Not really following you, though. Do you... play for the other team, then, or what?" "I don't think he plays for any team at all," Shiller volunteered while lying upside-down on a couch. "Back in school, I always thought he was either lying or a late bloomer when he said he never fancied anyone, but if he's still like that now, I'm inclined to believe him." Wright looked quizzically back and forth between them. "Really? So you don't ever get… I dunno, butterflies in your stomach, or any of that stuff?" Hotwire shook his head and braced himself for the inevitable interrogation about his mental and physical health -- it certainly wouldn't be the first time -- but to his relief, Wright simply shrugged. "Whatever, then. People are all weird." She gave Shiller's foot a whack and he tumbled off the couch. "Any weird business you think we should take care of, babe?" Shiller stood, brushing his hair away from his face with the back of his hand. "On our last night on earth? I got a few ideas." He grabbed Wright's hand and pulled her up from the couch and into his arms before turning to Hotwire. "Well, O'Neal, it's been fun, but I think we gotta go." Hotwire laughed as the pair waltzed out of the room. "No problem. I've got an undeserved reputation as a pilot to deal with." ***** Magma glared at his superiors. "Sirs - Zed, Dash. We have to do something. They're going to get slaughtered. You've read all the reports..." "We have," Dash said. "Then you know. They think they have a chance... they have no idea. We've helped them evacuate, and a dozen of our agent have volunteered to join the defense. Why won't you let me bring in everything we've got? I can have dozens of vehicles and men who are currently sitting on guard duty down here doing absolutely nothing-" "They are not doing 'nothing', Magma. They're needed, as a reserve," Zed said reluctantly. "So... we've written them off, have we?" Magma said. "Our grand plan, that we argued for before the LEGOLAND government. We would build an agency to save the world, and we did. And so far, they've been successful. They've allied with almost everyone but these XERRD enemies - who we never saw coming, it seems - and now we've written them off." Zed and Dash looked at each other. Dash shrugged. "No, Magma, we haven't. But you weren't cleared for this, I couldn't tell you," Zed said. "But forget that for now. We have a plan, and - although Dash has issues with your leadership style - we've decided to put you in charge of its execution." "I wasn't cleared? But I - wait, what - what is this plan?" "Do you remember the Iron Hammer?" Dash said simply. Magma's eyes widened, and slowly, he smiled. ***** Zach stared out of a window in one of the hallways of the soon-to-be-under-attack headquarters, thinking about what had happened in the past hour. Rain tapped against the window at an irregular beat. Normally, this would calm him and be sorely wanted. If one thing was wrong with LEGO Island, it was the always perfect weather. Now, it put Zach on the edge. The water on the window obscured his sight, but the dark outline of tall building against the dark and cloudy sky were still visible somewhat. After the mental image of city always being bright, even in the dark, was ingrained in his conscious, seeing no light from any building was more unnerving than he'd like to admit. Elite Agent Zachary. Something he hadn't really predicted to happen was a promotion to Elite Agent. He supposed he had done a fair amount on Adventurers' Island, but he figured the part where he attempted to destroy the team and, through that, the planet, as a Stromling would prevent any sort of promotion. Not that I particularly cared. I had more pressing concerns about a post-Stromling future. Most importantly, the Darkitect's constant reminders that he would be shunned by the team for his work as a Stromling. So far, the Darkitect had been dead wrong and Zach's promotion codified it. Though she was off making preparations and he hadn't been able to speak to her more personally since before the meeting, Minerva seemed just as and perhaps even more surprised to be promoted to Elite Agent. When her name had been included with his, her eyes had widened astronomically, forcing Zach to suppress a snicker. On to Semick's meeting, he had remained mostly quiet and made sure to note everything he had said concerning himself and Minerva. Once again, he had yet to discuss it with her, but was certain they would be on front lines. Waiting for the Mutant Dinos to reach the final stretch of Iron Predators would be more unnerving than staring at a dark skyline. The mention of leadership had brought on much thought as well. He himself disliked leading unless said leader is incompetent. He didn't know if the leadership demonstrated during the battle of the Temple of Hotep III was the Maelstrom's work or his own hidden talents. Semick's right, of course. Leading intentional cannon fodder is different from leading actual people. I think I would rather just stay as 'role model' as opposed to 'leader'. But if it comes down to it, I'll do what I must. He felt a person brush against his side. Zach turned and saw Minerva, her helmet tucked underneath her arm. "How're you feeling?" she asked, looking out the window as well. "Fine. A bit surprised at first, but I've moved on. You?" Minerva laughed bitterly. "So was I. Semick's meeting and a quick talk with Vinyaya and Nazareno made me feel better. Somewhat." "So do we have a ride?" If the fate of the planet most likely did not depend on the success of this battle, he might have looked into taking an Iron Predator or T-1 Typhoon. "I found us a Fire Hammer with a few other people." "So we're taking the front lines?" Minerva nodded once. Her face was full of grim determination. Zach merely stared ahead. He wanted to say something to her. Something reassuring. Something encouraging. Something heartfelt. Minerva looked at him, "Let's go see our friends," she said quietly. "Just in case...just in case we don't see them again." He looked at her. The only thing upsetting her determined face was her damp eyes. He swallowed hard and nodded. She took his hand loosely and started to lead him to their friends. They found them in the garage. Zelda, Nazareno, and Vinyaya were speaking in hushed tones near an Iron Predator. "… kind of last-resort means we lose the war?" Zach heard Zelda ask. Nazareno sighed deeply. "I don't know. The only idea I have is the abandonment of the planet." "What?!" Vinyaya coughed. "It seems likely enough. If Dr. Rex were to overtake us and defeat us once and for all, Antarctica would be his next target. If the team falls tomorrow, we may give up the planet to Dr. Rex and simply evacuate the LEGO Planet's remaining population to a colony in space. It would ensure survival, but would result in losing the LEGO Planet to Dr. Rex and have it become the Mutant Dino paradise he is dreaming of." Zach winced as he listened to this. If Vinyaya was correct, winning seemed more important than ever. Nazareno turned to Zach and Minerva and bowed his head. "Congratulations, Zachary. The promotion was well-deserved." Zach smiled faintly. "Thanks. Where will you be in this battle?" Nazareno gestured with one hand to Zelda. "I will be with Zelda. We are taking a more... direct approach with the Mutant Dinos." He then gestured to a pair of Steel Sprinters nearby. They looked somewhat beaten and rusted. In sudden realization in what Zelda and Nazareno were planning to do, Zach nodded. "Sounds spectacularly dangerous," Zach noted. "A two-man army riding right into the pack." If this was anyone else, he'd protest (maybe even command) that the idea was suicide and was pointless. However, he realized who was pulling off. "Knock around a few Mutant T-Rex skulls for me, eh?" Nazareno bowed his head again. Zach turned to Zelda. "I expect you to do the same, apprentice." She smiled confidently. "You can bet on it." "Good. I better see you guys on December 22 when we are celebrating our win." Even as Zach said it, he still wasn't sure if he was going to survive, but if anyone was, Kareem Nazareno and his very skilled apprentice Zelda Frodongan would. Nazareno seemed to read his mind. "It was an honor knowing you, Zachary Virchaus," he said calmly, extending his hand toward Zach. Zach shook it silently, looking into the eye-slits of Nazareno's mask. As he moved on to Zelda, she quickly embraced Zach in a warm hug. Surprised, he returned the hug. Thinking about it, he hardly knew Zelda and she hardly knew him. Despite this, the knowledge that they both shared the turmoil of the Maelstrom somehow made them closer. Zelda suddenly pulled away. "When this is over," she said with certainty. "We're going to start a real friendship." Zach smirked. "You can be that big sister that I never really wanted." Zelda chuckled quietly and bobbed her head in agreement. With that, he moved on to Holly Vinyaya. Their relationship was a strange one. One based on a lot of sarcasm. While he does find Vinyaya a bit uptight, Zach knew she was a fearsome soldier. He tried to find something to say to her. Something that would smooth over their earlier rough patch like the discussion with Scratch did. Something to make amends. "Well, Commander. Looks like I outrank you now." Vinyaya rolled her eyes, but smiled faintly. "Congratulations, Zachary," she said. Zach raised an eyebrow at being referred to be his first name (and designated codename) as opposed to his last name. "You better be out there when this thing starts living up to that title." Zach nodded and shook her hand. He stepped to the side and watched Minerva as she spoke to Nazareno in a quiet, hushed tone. After several minutes, she embraced the space ninja warmly. The same pattern occurred for Zelda and Vinyaya, Minerva managing to solicit a hug out of the latter. Minerva then joined him, putting her helmet on her head. "Ready?" he asked her. "Ready as I'll ever be." "Then lead on to the Fire Hammer." ***** Kat found a bit of quiet out behind the building along the docks. She'd been hearing the pestering in her head for a good fifteen minutes, and finally decided to just get the confrontation over with. Closing her eyes, she found herself in the half-light of her mind with Katerina standing before her. "I had hoped you would come to your senses, but I see you are still laboring under the delusion that you exist," the iron-eyed woman said icily. "Given that we are one and the same, surely you must realize that you lose nothing by submitting, while the D.I.N.O. Team gains my experience." "No, you listen," Kat retorted, matching Katerina's venom with her own. "You may say I don't exist, but if I perceive myself as existing, who are you to claim I don't? The past eight months of my life have been more-or-less an unending procession of existential crises, and once you get through enough of those, it makes a person pretty dang sure of who she is. And the answer to that question is 'Not you,' so buzz off." When Katerina abruptly disappeared from her mind's eye, Kat thought she was victorious. However, she reappeared seconds later. "Intriguing. I cannot tell whether my Creative Spark was split, or if a separate Spark was generated five years ago. Perhaps both." "So what you're saying is…" "What I am saying is that you were correct and I, in my haste, was mistaken. We are indeed two minds in one body." "Well then," said Kat, "since neither of us would be here if it weren't for me, I think I'm entitled to call the shots from here on out." "All right," said Katerina reluctantly. "Name your terms. Perhaps we can reach a compromise." ***** Somewhere Highly Classified: Magma and Zed headed through the corridors of the facility. Zed was briefing him on the current state of the Iron Hammer, but he was lost in thought. He remembered when he had first been reassigned to Dino Attack from Alpha Team. He, along with his friends Shark and Sting, after conducting a few minor operations, had heard rumors of Ogel being up to something related to the Mutant Dinos. The rumors had been completely wrong, of course; Ogel would later become their ally against Dr. Rex, XERRD, and their Mutant Dino horde. But at the time, they had seemed like they might not be, and so Magma mounted an investigation. They had discovered Ogel constructing an airship at his island fortress, an airship that was clearly intended to take the fight to the Mutant Dinos. It made sense, Magma supposed, as a mobile attack ship, capable of unloading Drone troops and vehicles and orbs and other standard Ogel equipment, would be most useful in combating the Mutant Dinos, who were spread out across the entire world. Especially since Ogel's armies were much smaller than they had once been, thanks to their 2008 battle. And so, he had stolen it. It was still being finished, and so the ship was not under as much security as it should have been, and besides Magma had had years of experience infiltrating Ogel's bases. He had stolen it, dubbed it the Iron Hammer after an amalgamation of Dino Attack vehicle names, and brought it back to Dino Attack HQ. There, Shadow had assigned a handful of agents to crew it and keep it running. Those were the days... when it seemed like every ex-Alpha-Team-agent-turned-Mutant-Dino-killer had a giant airship and secret army of their own... reflected Magma. Of course, Kotua's Voltage had been a bit of a wildcard. And when the situation with Kotua had gone even more critical than usual, and the Voltage was apparently rogue, Magma had ordered the Iron Hammer to engage it. It was the only thing Dino Attack had that could have stood up to Kotua's ship for more than a few seconds, though that was all it lasted, as he had been outgunned, outmatched, and outflown by the much more powerful Voltage. He had thought the ship unsalvageable, and so abandoned the ruins. Alpha Team, however, had apparently not. They had sent a team to collect the ruined airship and bring it to Antarctica. And for the next five months, they had worked on it in secret. "We haven't finished repairing most of the landing bays or troop transport systems, I'm afraid," Zed said. "You'll have to leave your Blizzard Blaster behind. Fortunately, we have converted one of the bays to an aerial hangar, so it can launch a small wing of Blue Eagles or similar fighter craft. But that, and the considerable weapons capacity of the ship itself, are all you've got." Magma nodded. "That's unfortunate, but I can live with it. It's true that the strength of this ship mostly came from its troop transport capabilities, but as you say Ogel, and then Dino Attack, put some nice firepower into this thing." "And we've upgraded that as well," said Zed with the hint of a smile. "I don't know what the current status of Goo-resilient Mutant Dinos are, but for those that aren't there are some powerful Reptile-grade Goo Launchers in here. Along with a broad range of conventional weapons." They entered the hangar, and Magma smiled again at the ship. "This brings back the memories..." he said softly as he walked forward. "It does, doesn't it?" a familiar voice said. He whirled to see Cee Dee, Shark, and Sting standing near the ship. "And with Alpha Team's best pilot, heavy weapons expert, and Mark V6 Android, we have no chance of losing the day," Magma said, his smile threatening to become a grin. He felt happier than he'd been in years. The old friends spent a few moments reminiscing, before Zed coughed meaningfully. Magma looked at his superior and nodded. Zed turned to leave as the four entered the ship. "Sting, get the flight crew in order. You know where we're going - get us there as fast as you can. Shark, make sure the Blue Eagles are ready to go, and check that all weapons systems are ready. Cee Dee, I want you to monitor the power systems and be ready to throw everything to weapons and shields as soon as we get there." Magma pressed an intercom button. "This is Special Agent Magma. All Alpha Team agents who have been assigned to this ship, listen up! We're going to Dino Attack HQ. There, the Dino Attack Team is about to be attacked by enough Mutant Dinos to conquer a planet. And we are going to be there to lend a hand. I want everyone onboard in the briefing room in ten minutes. The push has come to shove, understood? Magma out." He wasn't honestly sure that even this ship would make too much of a difference. Now if they had Kotua, and the Voltage... but no one knew what had happened to Kotua. So it was just them. But he was determined to try. ***** Reptile, Tail, and Coral stood in front of the T-1 Typhoon that the system said belonged to him. He wondered when he had last set foot in the thing. Probably the mission to Adventurers' Island. There, Reptile had been in command of a wing of T-1 Typhoons that were taken down by a Mutant Pterosaur swarm of considerable strength. So he had ended up leading a team of agents on the ground in an attempt to locate the Maelstrom. After that, Reptile's memories were foggy. Though from what he had learned, it seemed that the Skr-Ok Clan, a group of rogue, rebellious Vikings who had been associated with some questionable scientists, former and current members of XERRD, had launched a sneak attack and kidnapped him sometime in the middle of the mission. They had then brought him to their command post. The operation on Adventurers' Island had ultimately been successful, but no thanks to him. After S-71's Drone commandos rescued him, they took him to one of Ogel's bases. From there, he had gained passage back to Dino Attack HQ, and had been transferred from active duty to research for the last several days. And now that it was time for them to fight again, and he was needed on the front lines. And so, he had decided to claim a new T-1 Typhoon. "Well, do you still remember how to fly one of these things?" Reptile asked Coral, the Alpha Team agent-turned-pirate-turned-pilot. "We'll have to see, I suppose. If we crash, you'll know I've forgotten!" Coral retorted, climbing into the cockpit. Tail entered the gunnery cockpit, as was his usual position, which left Reptile to operate the considerable amount of equipment in the back. He had ordered a few modifications made to the usual array of gadgets a T-1 Typhoon carried, and he had a few more he wanted to complete before the attack began. And so, he grabbed a toolbox and began to work at a frantic pace. ***** Hertz did not expect to feel any different after his promotion to elite agent and he was surprised when he did. Agents looked at him differently as he walked down the hall and he felt empowered by his new responsibility. He hoped to prove to the others that his promotion was the right decision and he was excited to show what he was capable of. He found Shannon where he had left her in the communications room. The woman had on a headset and was carefully trying to calibrate a radio dish. "You're doing it wrong," Hertz said casually as he entered the room. "The wavelength is too small for the conditions. It will get lost in the storm outside and you won't get any reception." "Well, why don't you do it, then?" suggested Shannon, smiling as she pushed herself away from the desk. "We don't have time," answered Hertz. "I'm an elite agent now, and we are going to want to move this equipment to a more secure location. This tower could prove structurally unsound, so I want to move all essential tech to the south side." "Fine," answered Shannon. "What needs to go?" "Let's move this stuff down to the third floor. We're pack up as much as we can and set up shop in the lounge. We'll want to have some altitude boost our range." Some rookie agents soon joined them in the room, carrying a variety of foam-lined suitcases. Hertz and Shannon then proceeded to take apart the equipment and pack them away safely in their designated boxes. "What about the computers?" asked Shannon. "Leave them," responded Hertz. "They're too heavy to move. I can do a lot with just a radio, and it will give us more mobility if we have to leave fast. If push comes to shove, I'll be able to coordinate and keep everything organized from a T-1 Typhoon. Hopefully, it won't come to that." "So we'll be the guys taking in all the information from the battle, processing it, and implementing what you know." "That's the plan," said Hertz. With incredible efficiency, the last of the equipment was packed. Hertz was only able to carry one suitcase because of his cast, and Shannon only was able to place one on her lap. Thankfully, with the help from the rookie agents, they could transport most of the supplies in relatively few trips. Once they arrived at the lounge on the southern side of the base. It had a good view of the harbor and plenty of space to run wires. In addition, it had some comfortable chairs to sit it. Also in the lounge were Pierce, Sarah Bishop, and Kate. The latter was sound asleep on her mother's lap. Hertz gave a "sorry to disturb you" look as he brushed past them and threw open a window. The icy spray of the storm rushed into the room, and Kate jumped awake as she was assaulted with the sudden downpour. "What the Znap are you doing?!" yelled Sarah as she stomped over to Hertz. "My daughter needs her rest!" Hertz shrugged. "Sorry to disturb you, Miss, but I need to set up these satellite dishes. I'm relocating the command center down here. Quite frankly, Kate's been sleeping for a while, and it's time you made yourselves useful." Sarah's face went red, but Pierce walked up and put a hand on her shoulder. "It's okay," said the doctor. "I should be making my way to the medical bay. It will be very busy in a few hours." "Is there anything I can do to help?" asked Kate as she wiped the sleep from her eyes. "I have a pretty good understanding of electronics." "Help Shannon set up the wires," responded Hertz as he pointed to his assistant. "This place is going to be quite the hub of information once the fight starts. We're going to need to function like clockwork." Sarah slowly walked up to Hertz as soon as Kate and Shannon were out of earshot. He looked at her with a look of unease, but to his surprise, she just tapped him on the shoulder. "Go easy on her, alright?" Sarah said. "She's been through a lot lately." ***** "Okay by me," Larson said. "It'll be good to have another Elite Agent on board anyway. I used to fly cargo choppers, so they recruited me specifically to fly T-1s. I didn't really do much to earn my rank." "Fantastic," Hotwire responded. "I was never that good at flying, so I didn't do much to earn my reputation. We'll make quite a team. And you don't mind about the Talon II thing?" "Not at all. Like you said, it'll help morale." The two of them strolled through the hangar towards Larson's T-1 Typhoon. "So how'd you get a reputation as a pilot without piloting?" Hotwire explained briefly about Kat. "Unfortunately, we discovered today that she can't tap into machinery anymore. Probably a side-effect of Loop's attack." Larson nodded thoughtfully. Just then, there was the rumble of an engine from the hangar doors. Larson and Hotwire turned as the roughest-looking Fire Hammer they'd ever seen pulled in. The paint had all but peeled away and there were numerous blackish-green stains on the sides. Larson's face crinkled in distaste. "It looks like it's been sitting at the bottom of the ocean." Hotwire looked closer. "I think… it has been." He grinned "You gorgeous thing!" Kat poked her head out the window. "Sorry, which of us are you talking to?" Hotwire laughed. "I haven't the slightest idea! How is this even possible?" "Apparently, the Aqua Raiders dredged it up," Kat said, shutting off the motor and jumping out. "A ferry pulled up to the dock about ten minutes ago and dropped it off. They replaced the engine, but everything else is still mostly waterlogged." "Well then," Hotwire said, "looks like we've got our work cut out for us." ***** Just before Pharisee's helicopter could take off, a younger, brown-haired, clean-shaven agent climbed on board. "I just got your bulletin, sir," the young agent said. "Look, whatever this is, it better be urgent." "It is, Montgonel," replied Pharisee. "These are dangerous men." "I see," said Montgonel. "Would you care to explain to me exactly what's happened and who's involved? If possible, I wouldn't mind seeing some files on each of them." Pharisee gave the signal, and the T-1 Typhoon lifted off the ground and into the stormy skies. With the sound of the propellers and the gushing rain, it was difficult to have a conversation. The commander wiped the water from his face as he stepped over to Montgonel and took his hand. "I don't have time to give you the files," the commander yelled over the thunder outside. "They're back at the headquarters, anyway. I can tell you, however, that each of these men assaulted another agent in the last few days." "What do you mean?" shouted Montgonel. He, too, was soaking wet, and it took some effort to not be blown out of the T-1 Typhoon onto the dark ruins below. "Snake is a convicted felon who attacked another member of the Dino Attack for having the same codename as him," said Pharisee. "He is violent, unpredictable, and a loose cannon." Montgonel nodded. "What about the other two?" "Both Trigger and Montoya attempted to murder agent Claw at different points. The former is a mercenary with no loyalties. He held a knife to an elite agent's neck and has yet to be held accountable. Montoya is an old associate of Trigger and tried to shoot Claw with a shotgun." It was difficult to read Montgonel's face in the rain, but Pharisee was able to discern that he raised his eyebrows. "Montoya was pardoned." "Perhaps too soon," responded the commander. "I do not believe men like him can be reformed. The world is not in different shades of gray, Montgonel; it is in black and white. A leopard cannot change its spots." Montgonel was about to argue when the pilot's voice was heard over the radio. "Sir, we spotted headlights down below." Pharisee grabbed a pair of infrared binoculars and peered down at the dark streets. Sure enough, a vehicle was driving alone down the empty road. "Who would be out in the storm at this hour?" muttered Pharisee. "The populace of the city is currently small," said the UlTech Infiltrator X2. "Probability is that this vehicle is the one we are looking for." Sure enough, the vehicle below was a pickup truck. "I think I might remember reading about this Montoya," replied Montgonel. "Someone gave me the file after the incident with Claw. According to those documents, he reformed after a gruesome job at Mindstorms, Inc., during which the most illegal thing he did was drive the getaway car. He has since been living in a small isolated seaside cabin out of town." Pharisee shot him a menacing look. "According to the file, he has a wife and kids," Montgonel added. ***** Dude casually took a sip of his White Russian drink as he sat down in the mess hall and was approached by Angel Eyes, who was holding a bottle of whiskey. "Howdy," Angel Eyes said as he sat down. "I don't think we were ever properly acquainted. I'm Angel Eyes." "Dude." "Dude," repeated Angel Eyes, pouring a glass of whiskey. "Interesting name. You hear all this talk about us being attacked?" "Yeah," replied Dude. "It's probably nothing. Everyone's getting freaked out over a minor Znapping problem." "Do you have to use so many cusswords?" Dude looked at him in confusion. "What the Znap you talking about?" he asked. ***** Dr. Cyborg was in the labs. His first act as an Elite Agent was to requisition a broken Iron Predator. He looked it over sadly, lamenting the fact UlTech was not chosen to make the Dino Attack fleet, although, they were XERRD-aligned then, so it was understandable. He had also taken parts from an UlTech warehouse in the city. He began to modify the Iron Predator. By the time it was done, it was much better. He had changed out the engine with a plasma reactor, like the one in the Reclaimer. He had improved the cooling system of the Z-1. He had added a computer, redesigned the wiring, changed the treads for variable repulsor plates, allowing it to hover up to 100 feet above the ground, and most importantly of all: gotten it to work! He then contacted the Reclaimer. After he signed off, he had Cortana(2) copy herself into the Titanium Hammer, as he had named it. He called X1. "X1, I want you to take a Steel Sprinter and go melee. I also expect to see you and X2 alive tomorrow. Cyborg out." Dr. Cyborg and his team were ready. Now all they had to do was wait. ***** "What's the plan for this battle, B?" asked Sam Kabrinsky. "Go down fighting, or retreat if necessary?" "They told me that, if we need to retreat, then we've already lost," said B. "And when have you followed orders when it really came down to life or death?" Sam pointed out. B smiled. "And that's why I have a backup plan: If things go really wrong..." "Which they will, knowing our luck," said Rob. "If things go really wrong," B repeated as he showed them a map on his PDA, "we head to these coordinates. Lead as many agents there as you can." "Are you sure that's wise? If that spot's supposed to be safe, why would we lead the dinos there?" said Kevin. "It's easily defendable," explained B. "At least, it can be more easily defended than the HQ or the city." Rob frowned. "So you're saying that if we're about to die, turn tail and run for the hills?" "Yes," B said flatly. "The object is to survive to fight again." "Sounds stupid to me," muttered Rob. "We fight to run, to fight again, to run again." "That's why we signed up, Rob," retorted B. "OK," said Kevin, "We have plan A, go down fighting. We have plan B, retreat to a safer spot to continue fighting. What's plan C, if you have one?" "I've never had to make one up yet, and I won't now," declared B. "Anyway, does everyone have their gear?" The answer was unanimously "yes." "B, where did you find our old gear?" asked Kevin. B shook his head. "It's not your particular 'old gear', but it is exact same type of weapons and armor. Rob helped me with that." "Now," said Ezekiel, who up until this point had been silent, "what do we have as far as vehicles go?" "Two Fire Hammers," replied B. "Modified to my and Rob's specifications." "B, you're driving one, right?" asked Sam. B nodded. "Correct. Sam, you drive the other, Rob and Kev get shotgun in whichever one, and Chris and Uncle Zeke get the turrets. Now, let's roll." ***** Work on Hotwire's old Fire Hammer was finally complete. The heavy-duty Cosmotronic Ray underneath the left headlight needed some minor adjustments, but had come through surprisingly unscathed. Once this was complete, there was only the matter of painting "Talon II" along the side of Larson's T-1 Typhoon ("Though what we really need is a Renaissance II," Larson had pointed out). Within minutes, agents began pouring into the hangars and garages. Shiller, jogging past with Wright, called out, "O'Neal! I better be seeing you tomorrow!" "Count on it!" Hotwire yelled back, as he followed Larson and Kat up into the Talon II. When he reached the deck, Larson was already strapping himself in, but Kat, noticing the difficulty of climbing a ladder with only one real leg, stopped to help him up. "Listen, I just have to say something," Kat spoke quickly. "Ever since we first met, I've just felt like we understand each other somehow. I think... Znap, I don't know how else to say it. You're the best friend I've ever had." She paused, seeing the look on Hotwire's face, and added: "Sorry if this is weird. I just had to mention it, given that we might all die today." Hotwire smiled. "I don't think it's weird. I could have said the exact same thing to you. Whether or not either of us see the sun set again, it's been really splendid knowing you." With that, they embraced for the briefest of moments, and then strapped in. Naming a Fire Hammer was undoubtedly even more unconventional than naming a T-1 Typhoon, but that didn't stop Hotwire from christening his old and unintentionally amphibious vehicle, especially in light of the agent he was giving it to. Helm stuck a small photo of April and Jason in the dashboard, then revved the engine of Tracer's Vindication as the charge began. ***** It had been too long since he last sat at the controls of an Iron Predator. The last time he drove one of these fearsome tanks, he helped defend the Dino Attack Power Station with Reptile. Before that, he had not used one since his original Iron Predator was blown to bricks by Kotua. But now, Rex felt at home once again. Rex glanced over his shoulder at Amanda Claw, who was manning the Iron Predator's cannon. She nodded, with that same expression of grim acceptance of their fate, and gave a thumbs up. Rex returned the motion, then turned his attention to Frozeen, whose hands gripped the Iron Predator's Z-1 Kinetic Launcher. Frozeen nodded similarly, managing a slight smile. "No matter what happens," Rex murmured, "we're together, and that's what matters." With that, the Iron Predator rolled out of the garage, ready for battle. Truth be told, Rex was extremely grateful that Semick was a strategist and understood that, despite all the acclaim he had gathered from his fellow agents, Rex was not. Therefore, when Semick instructed Rex to oversee the Iron Predators' line of defense, Rex did as he was told, despite Greybeard's wishes that he would join the Fire Hammers at the front lines. Still, Rex told Greybeard to keep him updated via radio; the use of telecommunications would also help keep Hertz updated on the Mutant Dinos' activities. Thunder rumbled ominously, and the earth shook, as though the LEGO Planet itself was on the verge of destruction. There came a sound, a single chime, like a church bell tolling. Rex's heart raced, and it wasn't the rain which chilled him to the bone. ***** Dawn of The Final Day -24 Hours Remain- Greybeard sat outside his Fire Hammer, as did many of the other Dino Attack agents on the front line. They were waiting for their doom, and Greybeard had taken advantage of the moment to share one last Cup of Yo Ho Ho with his old friend King Joseph Race and his son Sam Race. As a pirate, his senses were finely tuned to the weather, and he could tell from a single breeze when a storm was about to hit. And as the thunder shook the earth, Greybeard inhaled a fresh breath of air and immediately knew that the calm had ended. Climbing atop his Fire Hammer, he grabbed a spyglass and pressed it against his good eye. Several other agents mimicked his motions, but with standard issue Dino Attack binoculars. "What do you see, Greybeard?" inquired Sam Race. As Greybeard lowered the spyglass, his look of undisguised horror spoke louder than words. King Race and Sam Race traded glances in disbelief. The other Dino Attack agents were already shouting: "I've never seen so many Mutant Dinos before!" "There must be hundreds - maybe even thousands of them!" "How could there be so many Mutant T-Rexes?" "One of them - the one in the lead - was wearing silver armor!" "I think I saw some Hybrids and Space Marauders in the front lines!" Very quickly, Greybeard watched as the reports gave way to hysterical cries of panic: "We are going to die!" "I'm never going to see my wife and kids again!" "I'm never going to see my husband and kids again!" "Game over, man! Game over!" "We are doomed!" "What the MegaBloking Znap, how are we supposed to defeat those sons of 4+ Figures?" "Well... that's it." "It's no use! We're never going to win! It's over! We've lost!" Greybeard glanced around at his fellow teammates. While some of them, most likely elite agents, were trying to maintain order, most of them had not realized the gravity of the situation until now. They had been confident in a Dino Attack victory, but how their morale was so quickly shaken! And, peering into his spyglass once more, he could see the army of Mutant Dinos drawing closer and closer to the river which served as their side of the perimeter. With the front lines in such utter disarray, how could they hope to defeat the Mutant Dinos when they arrived? Greybeard had a brief flashback to a time near the end of the Skeleton Pirate War. He had been made captain of the Soaring Danishman... before the mighty ship had been pulled to Davy Jones's locker by the Kraken and the Sea Serpent, killing most of his crew... including Blackjack Wilson, the young lad that Greybeard had grown fond of. And I be determined not to let that happen again! thought Greybeard as he gritted his few remaining teeth. Raising his cutlass to the sky, Greybeard called upon the years he spent on the deck of a pirate ship, shouting orders over hurricane winds and the crashes of waves against the hull, and spoke as loudly and clearly as he could muster. "Belay that!" announced Greybeard. "Here we be, wi' th' Mutant Dinos nearly upon us, an' ye cowardly bilge rats be panickin' an' screamin'! What? Do ye fear death? Do ye fear that dark abyss?" "Greybeard," murmured King Race, "I don't think that's the best-" He was interrupted by the voice of a Dino Attack agent who shouted: "Well, excuse me for not wanting to die, pirate!" A couple of other Dino Attack agents shouted in agreement. A young red-haired Dino Attack agent stood atop his Fire Hammer. "Enough!" he ordered. "As an elite agent, I order you to listen to Greybeard! Greybeard, please continue." "Not wantin' t' die?" repeated Greybeard. "Aye, I can understand. But remember somethin'... we be members o' th' Dino Attack Team. We signed up fer this! Ye all should 'ave known that, by joinin' this team, ye be goin' t' die. But what be we goin' to die fer? After all, we didn't join this team t' be snivelin' cowards, but neither did we sign up t' die in vain. And tharfore... let us not die in vain. Ye shall listen t' me!" Greybeard pointed his cutlass in the direction of the Mutant Dino army, which was drawing nearer with every second. "Right now, our doom be on our doorstep. But th' rest o' th' Dino Attack Team... nay, not just th' rest o' th' team... th' entire population down in Antarctica! They be lookin' t' us t' ensure that we stop doom in its tracks! They be lookin' t' us t' lead th' Dino Attack Team in battle t' victory! They be lookin' t' us t' ensure that we look Death right in th' eyes... an' we tell him... 'Ye shall not pass!'" Now pointing his cutlass towards Dino Attack Headquarters, Greybeard continued: "An' what shall they see? Frightened bilge rats? Nay! They shall see that even in th' face o' total annihilation, we remain resolute... brave... free! An' th' enemy," he pointed his cutlass back at the advancing Mutant Dinos, "shall only see th' firin' o' th' Xenon Launchers an' th' Cosmotronic Rays... they shall hear our battle cries as we fight fer freedom... and they shall know that we will never fall! Fer as long as our Creative Sparks remain strong, never shall we die! An' if our lives must be sacrificed... then we sacrifice 'em proudly, wi' th' knowledge that we stand here, today, on th' brink o' destruction... an' we die fer th' freedom o' th' entire planet! That be what we shall die fer!" Greybeard's last words echoed through the night, but he saw the other Dino Attack agents staring at him, motionlessly. As Greybeard's motivational speech was met with silence, the old pirate faltered. Perhaps he couldn't motivate the Dino Attack agents... not now, not like this. Sighing in defeat, Greybeard sat down, resigning to his fate. And so, he did the one thing he could still do. "Yo... ho..." he sang softly. "Haul... together... Hoist... th' colors high!" King Joseph Race stepped up onto the Fire Hammer and looked down upon his old friend. "Heave... ho..." he continued. "Thieves... and beggars... Never shall... we die!" Greybeard looked up at King Race, who smiled in return. Together, they repeated the verse. "Yo... ho... Haul... together..." It was an old pirate shanty, which would be sung by Captain Roger Redbeard to rally up his men before a big raid. Since Greybeard was the only pirate present, he was the only one who knew the lyrics by heart. But whether it was that the lyrics were easy to learn, or it was that the song might have possibly been played on L.E.G.O. Radio once or twice, the other Dino Attack agents began to pick it up. Starting with the elite agents, including that red-haired individual: "Hoist... the colors high!" Then picked up by the standard agents: "Heave... ho... Thieves and beggars..." And finally, everyone was joined in: "Never shall... we die!" The Dino Attack agents repeated the verse over and over, growing stronger and louder every time. As the lyrics grew in power, so did the confidence of the Dino Attack agents. Greybeard couldn't believe his one good eye, and he grinned as he stood during the third refrain. By now, the Mutant Dino army was nearly upon the river. Laughing, Greybeard pointed his cutlass at the lead T-Rex, who was indeed wearing silver armor, and bellowed: "Me friends, me mateys, me hearties! Raise th' colors high!" Already, Dino Attack agents were climbing back into their Fire Hammers and manning their Xenon Multi-Mode Launchers. They sped towards the river, giving the Mutant Dino army a proper welcome. And so, the end has begun. ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  4. Act 8: The Final Battle Chapter 60: Calm Before the Storm ---- Naomi groaned as she zipped up Ata's body bag and struggled to lift the weight onto the waiting gurney. The wheels slid it away, and she attempted to compensate with the changed center of gravity. The dead weight shifted and Ata's body fell to the floor with a flop. Naomi swore as she bent down to pick it up. "Do you want some help with that?" She looked up to see Hertz leaning on the doorway to the mortuary. He gave a lopsided grin as he limped over beside her. "I can handle it, Hertz," Naomi muttered as lifted it up and slammed it onto the gurney. "It seems to be all I'm capable of." "What do you mean by that?" said Hertz, raising his eyebrow. "You did magnificent work after the attack on the rear guard camp." Naomi rolled her eyes. "Have you noticed that, of all the medical staff working here, I seem to be only one without a PhD?" "What about those two guys?" offered Hertz. "Do you mean Enter and Return?" said Naomi, chuckling. "Those two are idiots." She removed the plastic gloves from her hands and pulled down her hairnet to unleash her plush afro. She gave a halfhearted sigh as she pushed the gurney down the hall. Hertz followed her. "What do you mean, this is all you are capable of?" She did not look back as she headed to the crematorium. "It seems to me that the only work I seem to do around here is fill out paperwork and bring stuff to the doctors. I thought I'd be making a bigger impact than this. I'm at the bottom of the pecking order, Hertz, and I'm starting to feel it." The techie shrugged. "Well… err… isn't that what a nurse does? They're a doctor's helper, right? You went to med school to become a nurse, not a surgeon like Doctor Wade." It was the wrong thing to say. Naomi stopped the gurney suddenly and Ata's body slid to the floor with a plop. Hertz limped in front to return it to the cart just as Naomi put her head down. "You should still be in bed, Hertz. It's hardly been any time since you broke your arm, and your leg's not fully healed." "If this was anywhere else, I would agree with you," responded Hertz. "But my arm would take weeks to heal and I want to-" "Want to what?" Naomi cut in sharply. "Be a hero? Do your job? Why can't you just listen to what I tell you to do?" Hertz was at a total loss for how to respond. He could tell something was troubling Naomi, but he had no idea what. He placed a hand on her shoulder but she shook it away. "What's this about?" he asked softly. "I just feel like such an idiot," she said. "I thought I could contribute something when I found that scrap of paper. I thought I might be able to help stop that mole and actually do something cool. Claw made me feel like a moron and I have nothing to show for it except this!" She pulled out the handwriting that Claw had provided her and threw it at Hertz. She then turned to the gurney and kicked it. "Instead, I'm just cleaning up this mess!" He was totally clueless. Responding to social cues had always been one of his shortcomings, and he felt totally awkward standing in the hall with a beautiful woman on the brink of tears and doing nothing. He approached her cautiously and put an arm around her. "There, there," he cooed for lack of a better response. Instead of the reaction he hoped for, Naomi glared at him and pushed him away. Hertz gave her a lost look and flung his arms up in the air. "What do you want me to do?" "Seriously, Hertz, you have not figured it out by now?" said Naomi. "Give me some space, you're suffocating me! Just back off!" Hertz's mind was spinning. "Back off?" he asked, confused. "What was that on the tarmac, then? You ran out and we kissed. You're sending me all these mixed messages!" Now Naomi flung up her arms. She let out a long groan and continued pushing the gurney down the hall. "That was different. I was worried about you; I thought you might have died. That was it. Everything is just so weird between us now and it's happening so fast. I need a break." "What do you mean?" "Hertz, you proposed to me after three days!" Naomi said a little too loudly. Some other agents in the hall gave the two some strange glances. "You don't find anything weird about that?" Hertz tugged at his collar uncomfortably. He was horrible at talking about his emotions, especially with eavesdroppers. "Naomi, please, I love you. Can't we just start over?" "It's talk like that that makes this so messed up!" she muttered. "I'm not ready to start over, Hertz; I need a break!" The techie sighed. There were a lot of things he wanted to tell Naomi, but they all sounded some dumb in his head. He wanted to say how sorry he was and admit he was a loser, but it was impossible to put into words. Instead of saying what his heart told him, he just nodded dumbly. "Okay." Naomi shrugged and gave a weak smile. "Thanks, Hertz. I think we both need this right now. I'll see you around; until then, we're just friends." "Just friends," repeated Hertz. It was not what he wanted, but he was incapable of arguing with her. Naomi gave an expression that Hertz could not identify before she walked away pushing Ata's gurney. She left Hertz standing alone and confused in the hall. He had never felt so lost. Now, more than ever, Hertz wished for the days when life was so much simpler. A time before mutant dinosaurs, world-ending catastrophes, and melodramatic romance. A time when it was just him and his computer... ***** March 26, 2010: Charlie Schultz had been waiting in line for the last two hours dressed as a rebel pilot. In most cases, his bright orange jumpsuit would stand out like a sore thumb, but at this San Diego convention his attire was relatively normal. The reason he was in line was so the actor who played Imperial Pilot #6 could sign his unopened vintage TIE fighter (with starboard wing damage). This was the main reason he had driven across six states and now stood between an Ewok and Elvis. As he surveyed the crowd of Jedi and overweight basement dwellers, it became apparent to him that the most out-of-place people were the two suits rapidly approaching. They looked far more serious than the standard crowd. One was Hispanic and wore his hair in a tight ponytail. He had a narrow face and smelled of cigarettes. He wore gold chains around his neck, and an expensive watch was on his wrist. The second man appeared Irish. He wore a poor-fitting suit that hung awkwardly around his hulking frame. He also had chains, and an earring was on his left ear. Charlie would not have been surprised to see him as a bouncer at some sleazy bar. He hoped the men would pass him by, but instead they stopped in front of him. He observed that the Irishman held a silver Halliburton case, which he constantly checked. Charlie got the impression that the contents were considerably valuable for the man to be looking over his shoulder every few minutes. "Are you Charlie Schultz?" was the first thing the Hispanic man said. "We were on your website and read your bio. We have some work for you, and you have a skillset that people in our organization lack." These were not the sorts of conversations that Charlie liked to have in public. Ordinarily, he would motion that the meeting should continue in private. However, considering the lengths he had taken to hold his space in line, instead he said: "I'm busy." The Hispanic man seemed disappointed. "Now, Mr. Schultz, it took quite a bit of effort to track you down, and even more so to smuggle these in." The Irishman pulled aside his jacket to reveal a holstered gun. Charlie began to sweat but attempted to maintain his cool. He did not like guns and had worked hard to ensure he only took nonviolent clients. "Are you with the government?" asked Charlie. "Because I don't take government contracts." "Oh, no," chuckled the Hispanic man. He spoke quietly and softly. The calmness that he possessed frightened Charlie more so than the threatening demeanor of the Irishman. "We work for a very private man. He likes to be kept informed. Now please, let's find somewhere away from prying ears." "Good luck with that," said Charlie. "The convention center is packed. We'll need to go pretty far." "We have time," said the Hispanic man. He spoke like a lifelong smoker and the cigarettes had clogged his lungs. "We will pay well, of course." Reluctantly, Charlie left his spot in line and followed the two men through the fray. They walked across the entire convention center and down three flights of stairs before they found a place where they could have a meeting. Charlie felt uncomfortable being alone with them and prayed that the contract would go without a hitch. "Before we get started, I need to make sure that whatever you want me to do is legal," Charlie began. "I try and keep my work legitimate, and legal entanglement only complicates things for me." "Why, of course," said the Hispanic man. "We read that you have experience with cryptology and linguistics. We would like you to translate a recording of ours." "What kind or recording?" asked Charlie. "How is it encoded?" He was hoping for an excuse to deny the deal before it got dangerous. The Irishman walked up and unlocked the Halliburton case. Sitting inside a foam lining was a tan plastic box with a keypad, tape player, and reel of paper. Also in the box was an old-fashioned cassette. "We found this tape awhile back," said the Hispanic man. "But it's encoded. We can't make heads or tails about what it says. We want you to translate it and return both the tape and encoder to us once you're done." Charlie timidly accepted the case and investigated the device. "What sort of things do you expect to find on the device? Nothing too interesting, I imagine." "I would not say that," said the Hispanic man. "We'll find it very interesting once you get it to us." The Irishman spoke for the first time. "You better not tell anyone what you find." Charlie paled at the obvious threat. "I don't know if I want this job." The Hispanic man chucked. "My friend is very rude. What he means to say is that the information you find is confidential. This certainly is not the first confidential work you've done." "I suppose not," began Charlie. "But…" He trailed off. "But what?" asked the Hispanic man. "You will be rewarded considerably. We are prepared to offer you $100,000 for your work." Charlie looked at the encrypter in his hand. "So all I have to do is translate this message?" "That's all you have to do," the man said with a smile. "We'll make it worth your while." He held out his hand to seal the deal. It hovered in the air for a moment as Charlie considered whether to accept. He considered the intrigue of the job and the payment he would receive. Finally, he took the hand. "I'm glad you're seeing things our way," said the Hispanic man, whose smile grew. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a note card. "This is my number. Contact us as soon as you're done." "Of course," said Charlie. "What's your name?" The man smiled. "It will be best for everyone if you don't know that. Now, be careful with that encrypter, Mr. Schultz… you would not want anything to happen to it." "And don't tell nobody," added the Irishman. "Yes. Don't tell anybody. Have a good day, Mr. Schultz. We're sorry for the trouble we caused you." The two men left, leaving Charlie with a Halliburton case and a great many questions. When Charlie returned to the convention center, he found that the actor had left. He begrudgingly removed his keys and headed out to his car. It was raining hard, and he was relieved to get into his dry car and go home. As he pulled onto the wet streets to begin his long drive back to LEGO City, he did not notice the car that pulled out and followed him. ---- Maria quietly hummed a soft tune to herself as she stroked her brush alongside Pyro, who was sitting in a small bathtub. "You never struck me as the kind of person who would be willing to do this," Pyro remarked. "You seemed something of a feminist to me." "Feminist?" Maria asked. "Yeah," replied Pyro. "It's a term used outside of extremely sexist communities for people who support equal rights for women and believe they are capable of doing the same things as men." "Like playin' with fire?" "Yeah," Pyro replied with a slight chuckle. "Look," said Maria. "Just because I like doing the same thin's as men don't mean I won't do this kind of thing. I got the skills for them, I might as well put them to use. I just don't like bein' forced into it by social customs based solely on mah gender is all." Pyro smiled. "You got family?" Maria asked. "I did," replied Pyro. "I had somebody once." "Did 'e have a name?" "Sam," Pyro said wistfully. "Nice girl. We adopted a few kids even, but they all died when the house burned down. And you?" "Just mah daddy," replied Maria. "I never could find a good husband. He were the one that taught me to use a gun. Is that how you got hold of your flamethrower?" Pyro couldn't help laughing, even if it did sound rather bitter. "Yes," she replied sarcastically. "My dad taught me how to use one when I was eight. It's the one thing he taught me." It sounded like she had a strained relationship with her father. Even so, Maria could not help smiling as she slowly reached into the tub and took Pyro's hand. ***** Sarah Bishop sat down on the couch next to Kate. Whatever happened, she was clearly distressed, even if seeing Pierce again had cheered her up somewhat. The awkward situation of Sarah having beaten two people with the butt of a gun right in front of her certainly did not help much. "Look," Sarah said. "Is something wrong?" "Why did you come here?" Kate asked. "Because I was worried about you," replied Sarah, putting an arm around Kate's shoulder. "Look, Mom," said Kate. "I understand you are concerned, but I'm eighteen, I can look after myself." "Under any other circumstances yes," replied Sarah. "But in the middle of this Dino Attack? Kate, when Pierce told me all about that Rotor-" "Pierce told you that?" Kate asked. "Yeah," replied Sarah. "We met in Antarctica." "And you came back together?" "Yes." "What are you not telling me, Mom?" Kate asked. Sarah sighed. "You knew Pierce, didn't you?" Kate realized. "I mean, before the war." Sarah took a moment to breathe. She took a deep breath before holding Kate's hand. "He's your father," she finally said. "Pierce?" "Yes," confirmed Sarah. "We met in a hospital. Some drunk driver knocked me off the road, and he fixed me up. We got to know each other well, and then I got out. Four months later, I found out I was pregnant with a girl." "And why did you never tell me about Uncle Wally?" Kate asked. "You told me he died in a car accident. Why didn't you tell me he was still alive?" "It was complicated," replied Sarah. "But how do you know?" "I met someone on Adventurers' Island," explained Kate, her eyes starting to puff with tears. "Frank Einstein. He said... Wallace Bishop cut out his own brain. He's now in an institution somewhere." "Frank Einstein?" Sarah repeated. "Yeah," replied Kate. "He said that Wallace then sent him a request to protect you, both of us." "That would explain a lot of things," murmured Sarah. "He must have been the one who kept giving me money for your education, the money we would have used to pay your college tuition." Kate was already crying heavily. "Why did you lie to me?" she asked. "You wouldn't have understood," replied Sarah. "After Astrid died, Wallace just wasn't the same anymore. The pain was too much for him. When news of his attempts to pull out his brains got out, there was a giant controversy, police inquiries almost daily, and you were only six. I didn't want you caught up in something you didn't understand." Kate could not help continuing to cry, and slowly she crawled into her mother's lap. Quietly, Sarah put an arm around Kate and held her tightly. ***** "Look," Montoya insisted. "Like it or not, she has changed. It's been eight years since that heist. It's not impossible." "You're really that gullible, Montoya?" Trigger said. "All she's doing is setting you up, just like she did then." "You don't know that," retorted Montoya. "Alright," said Trigger. "Let's say, for the sake of argument, you're right. It's still Znapping business. In twenty Znapping years, nobody has double-crossed me and lived… except her. This isn't personal stuff we're talking about; this is business. She is a menace to this world, and we have no Znapping choice but to kill her." "It's just business?" Montoya repeated, puzzled. "You mean this has nothing to do with those who died?" "I don't give a Znap about everybody who died that night. I can't even remember their Znapping names." "Orange, Deniro, Verbal, Keaton, and Scorsese," replied Montoya. "I remember them. I remember everything, their faces, their mannerisms." "Why do you care?" Trigger snapped. "You didn't even see them MegaBloking die. You just sat in the car while Keaton got stabbed in the Znapping back!" Having heard a few snippets of their conversation, Wright strolled over to where Trigger and Montoya were quietly arguing. "You might be interested to hear," she said to Trigger, "that they've caught the mole... and it wasn't agent Claw. Bit of a hole in your case now, just sayin'." Montoya gave Trigger a strange look upon hearing the news. He seemed caught in a tight corner, trying to find a way out. ***** Leaving Elizabeth to look through the files on Silencia Venomosa, Pierce adjusted his labcoat as he walked back toward the other doctors. Due to lack of a proper morgue, the bodies of the Second Headquarters Squad were still lying on cots in the back, covered by sheets. Crusher was helping a familiar face out of bed. Pierce was rather pleasantly surprised to see Cabin sitting up. "How's she doing?" Pierce asked. "So far, so good," reported Crusher. Pierce turned toward Cabin. "Feeling any better?" "A little," replied Cabin. "I got this terrible pain in my head, and I think I need to use the toilet." "I'll take care of it," offered Crusher. "I should probably give her a change of clothes." Pierce could see what she meant, Cabin's usual jumpsuit seemed very sweaty and stained in certain areas. ***** For the second time in forty-eight hours, Hotwire woke up in an infirmary. It wasn't quite as bad as the last time, though the phantom pains in his left leg were coming at him in constant waves now. He opened his eyes and saw two figures sitting by his bed. The first was Helm, and the second was a Dino Attack agent whose face was completely hidden under a ski mask and a pair of dark goggles. "Holding up okay?" the masked figure asked. Hotwire sat up. The voice was Septimus's, but the diction... "Swerve," he said. "Loop was telling the truth?" Swerve nodded. "Ambushed me after that rockslide. Too bad for him, all his tampering with the Orb damaged it enough for me to break away and get my own mind back." He paused. "Still, I'm glad you made it out. What about Talon and Spectrum?" Hotwire swallowed hard. "Spectrum apparently got killed in the battle at the power station a few months back. Sarah... didn't even make it out of the mountains..." "Builder, I'm sorry," Swerve said, slightly awkwardly. "So then, your T-1..." Hotwire nodded. "I try not to think about it much. Where's Loop now?" "Dead," Swerve replied simply. "It was a long time coming." Helm spoke up to change the subject. "The medics are all having a spot of trouble figuring out what to do with Katerina. All the tests they ran showed no higher brain functions, but she doesn't need any life support. It would be wrong to euthanize her, but it seems to be completely impossible to wake her up." He glanced over to the next bed, where Katerina appeared for all the world to be peacefully sleeping. Hotwire looked over. He sighed, unsure what to think of the situation. Then he remembered his last conversation with Helm. "Say, did you find your son?" The mariner stiffened. "In a way," he said, after a few moments' pause. "I've... been told you knew Jason. That he fought alongside you on Adventurers' Island." He paused, gathering strength. "He joined the team under the codename Tracer." ***** Commander Pharisee had noticed a considerable presence of agents from the mess hall. From what he could deduct, they all had come in hopes of blood, and that is exactly what they received. Pharisee removed his sunglasses to peer at the stains on Rex's uniform. It did not take a genius to determine that the elite agent was the reason for French Fries's current injuries. Rex himself sat erect and indignant in his hover chair. The commander knew that Rex had already unleashed his own judgment on French Fries, and the cold light that shown in the agent's eyes told him that Rex felt no regret. "Alright," Andrew said, still clearly shocked at Rex's actions. "Let's get him out of here." Everyone nodded and began to file pass Rex and Claw, Pterisa making sure to keep the battered French Fries as far away from Rex as she could. "Mother of Knudstorp," Zelda muttered, glancing back at Rex. "What was that about?" "Who's Trouble?" Minerva asked. "A Mutant Lizard that Rex trained early in the war," Andrew said. "He disappeared a long time ago." "Which makes you wonder how exactly French Fries knew he hit Trouble, as darkness-breed Mutant Lizards all look basically the same." Zach said, rolling his eyes. "What a moron." He heard French Fries groan in fatigued anger. "I'm not sure the outburst was necessary," Nazareno interjected. "Even if the target is a hopeless fool. Hopefully, it was an isolated incident and it won't happen again." Everyone nodded. They all knew Rex was seen as a leader. If he were to have another breakdown, one much larger that left him incapable of fighting, it would be a crushing blow to morale. They soon arrived at the detention block. They walked past the cells of Demoman and, after much looking, a disgruntled-looking Carl Lutsky who was quietly muttering to himself. Whoa, was all Zach could think as he looked at the former commander. The group quickly found an empty cell and Pterisa threw French Fries in. As they locked the door, Laxus spoke up, "Since you can pardon agents, Andrew, you should probably go and free Rotor and George Brown." "Sounds like a good idea," Andrew said in agreement. A quick search led them to a cell where Commander Vinyaya and Bluetooth were speaking. "… know French Fries is a fool and Rotor and Brown don't belong in there," Vinyaya said calmly. "Unfortunately, neither you or me have the authority to release him." She stopped as she saw Andrew, Laxus, Minerva, Zelda, Zach, Pterisa, and Nazareno approached them. "Yes?" "I would like Rotor and Brown released," Andrew stated simply. Bluetooth turned around and grinned at the group. "Excellent timing, Andrew." He turned back to Vinyaya, who revealed a half-smile as went to find some keys to open Rotor and George's cell. "Glad to see you guys are still alive." Zach smiled. It was nice to see Bluetooth again. They would have to catch up at some point. Vinyaya soon returned with a ring of keys in her hand. She handed it to Andrew. "You may do the honors." As Andrew went to unlock the door, Zach stepped back to talk with Minerva. "You know," Minerva said, "this team has a lot of corrupt individuals who think they can do whatever they want without facing consequences." Zach nodded. "I've only met two. The incompetent French Fries over there and Scratch. Though I suppose you could justify Scratch's case in some way-" "Virchaus," Vinyaya said with a hint of malice in her voice as she approached him. "May I speak to you?" She glanced at Minerva briefly. "Privately?" "I-sure, I guess." Vinyaya nodded curtly and gestured for him to follow her. Zach glanced at Minerva uncertainly. "You'll be fine. Unless you did something wrong. Then you won't be fine," Minerva said. "Thanks," Zach responded sarcastically as he began to follow Vinyaya. George looked up from the small cot as Andrew suddenly approached their cell. "I suppose French Fries was too eager to wait until dawn to see us shot." "Oh, no, sir," replied Andrew. "Quite the opposite: your executions have been cancelled." "Well," sighed George. "Better this than a last-minute reprieve, I might say." "You're free to go," said Andrew. "We've, uh… taken care of French Fries." There has always been a fine line between bravery and stupidity. The determined, but otherwise clueless, look in elite agent French Fries eyes was enough to inform the assembled agents that the agent was a complete and utter moron. It was common for fools to see themselves as among the wisest. The case was no different with French Fries, who paraded himself back and forth across his cell with considerable bravado. He indignantly wiped the blood from his prized mustache with a spotless white handkerchief. French Fries had amassed a considerable following over the last few hours. Elite agent Andrew was currently in control of the situation, and he was not far from jail cell when the imposing figure of Pharisee arrived. Andrew stepped up and held out a hand. "Commander Pharisee, I don't believe we have met. I'm elite agent Andrew, and I believe the situation is under control." Pharisee looked down his nose at the young agent. He stood a head taller than him and addressed him in his deep bass voice. "I don't believe you do. You and Rex have created a lynch mob. Your colleague has already unleashed his own wrath upon agent French Fries, which was not his place to do. Once my reckoning is delivered, I assure you that Rex, too, will be investigated. He has already attacked me once, and his behavior has proven to be considerably dangerous." Andrew prepared to say something to Pharisee, but Nazareno interjected. "Elite agent Rex is struggling with his own turmoil at the moment. We who were present can agree that he was emotionally compromised when he attacked French Fries. Andrew is in control of the situation." "No, he is not," said Pharisee. "It is not your place to dictate judgment. These events lead only to greater violence. It is my job to punish the unrighteous man. I alone must live with this burden." "Are you going to arrest French Fries?" asked Minerva. "Yes," responded Pharisee. "He ordered the assault of another agent, a sin no greater than that of agent Rex. Once he is behind bars, elite agent Rex may soon join him." "You can't do that!" yelled Laxus. "Elite agent Rex is a hero. We will all vouch for that!" "A hero is held to the same code that binds us all!" shot back Pharisee. "No one is above the law. Internal Affairs exists to ensure that the Dino Attack Team operates with grace. Because we are a separate entity, we operate outside the hierarchy of the elite agents. I am prepared to arrest or kill anyone who goes against the code of conduct." "Seems like your department has too much power," accused Minerva. "Who are you to be the judge?" "I know firsthand the difference between right and wrong," said Pharisee sharply. "Do not question my integrity! I pay unto evildoers that which they deserve." French Fries sat in his cell accompanied by the loyal figure of Darling standing outside the bars. The elite agent's eyes were still swollen shut, but he had refused any offers to be visited by a doctor. Instead, he was content to eat pizza rolls well the other agents outside watched. "French Fries," Darling muttered cautiously. "We should make these agents leave. You're not very popular right now, and I don't want anyone to get hurt." "Pish posh!" exclaimed French Fries. "We're getting the recognition we deserve. It's a shame that freakish thing was not killed, or we'd be getting more attention." "But not in a good way," whispered Darling. "You made these people very angry. They want your head." "Impossible," said French Fries. "We are being stared at because I am revered. I have brought the Dino Attack Team to new heights today. I imagine I'll be promoted to founding member for my actions." "I don't think it works that way," muttered Darling. French Fries was about to respond when Darling's head was suddenly slammed into cell door by a hulking form standing behind them. French Fries looked with disdain at the shadow of Pharisee. "Was that necessary?" he asked. "Darling was about to complement me." "Elite agent French Fries," Pharisee said in a voice that everyone could hear. "You were under arrest on charges of incompetence, leaking information, and attempted murder of the hybrid Pterisa." French Fries shook a finger under Pharisee's noise as he let himself into the cell and closed the door behind him. "No. I should certainly not be in here. I should not have been arrested. I…" His sentence was cut short as Pharisee lifted him from his seat and threw him across the room. The man's body slammed into a cell wall, where he collapsed. Pharisee strolled over slowly to where the man lay. French Fries's eye lit up with a newfound terror as the commander stood above him. "I am your reckoning, French Fries," Pharisee said softly as he cracked his knuckles. "I am the man that will make you pay for your crimes. You are an imbecile and a fool, and you will soon receive that which you deserve." "Who are you?" French Fries whispered through his bloody lips. Pharisee knelt down by the elite agent on the cell floor. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities and the tyranny of the evil man," the commander said smoothly. He rose from his position beside French Fries and raised his voice so everyone could hear. "Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak though the valley of darkness." The whites of his eyes flashed at the lunatic on the floor, and French Fries yelped in fear. "For he is truly his brother's keeper," boomed Pharisee as he drew his gun and took aim. "And the finder of lost children!" French Fries whimpered as he looked down the barrel of Pharisee's gun. The dark elegance of the commander was offsetting, and the fire that burned in his eyes seemed to reach into small man's soul. "And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to destroy my brothers!" yelled the commander. "And you will know my name is Pharisee when I lay my vengeance upon thee!" In sudden surge of fury, Pharisee descended on the unfortunate man. He brought his gun down upon his head and pelted him with his fists with incredible tenacity. French Fries screamed as he was lifted from the floor and slammed into the wall. Pharisee unleashed two more vicious punches to the face before he crumpled to the floor and lay still. The commander regained his composure and holstered his gun. He stood coolly above the man, the only evidence of the attack that shown on his figure were his bloody hands. "Let that be a lesson to the onlookers," Pharisee said softly. Then, suddenly raising his voice again, he exclaimed: "I am to be torment in the hearts of the unrighteous! An image of fear in the eyes of those who have wronged. I will haunt the nightmares of the wicked. No more will the Dino Attack suffer under the weight of the amoral, for I am to be judgment upon thee. I pay retribution where retribution is due. The good men have nothing to fear from me, but for those who have sinned, their time of assurance is at an end." Casually, he unlocked the cell door and left French Fries where his motionless body lay. The onlookers parted to let him pass. ***** Amanda Claw waited patiently outside Dr. Nicholas Saran's office. She knew that a psychiatrist was exactly what the team needed, and she mused bitterly over the fact that many of the team's members would be considered downright "messed up" in the eyes of the public. And not just the obviously-crazy members like Pyro or Duke, but even the respected... such as Rex. As she waited, she was surprised to see Frozeen approach her. "Oh, hello," greeted Frozeen as he drew near. "What's wrong?" inquired Amanda, concerned. Struck with surprise by this question, Frozeen faltered. "Wrong? Nothing is wrong. Everything's… fine." Amanda raised an eyebrow. "Your eyes are red, your cheeks are a little damp, and when you speak, I can hear that your throat is a little dry. Can you understand why I was just being little worried since you've been crying?" Frozeen sighed. "It's no use lying to you, Amanda," he admitted. "You're just too good at reading people." He did not elaborate, so Amanda did not push any further for an explanation. After a moment of awkward silence, Frozeen cleared his throat and declared: "It was nothing. Just a little déjà vu, that's all." "I see," said Amanda, nodding. "Our past does have a nasty way of coming back to haunt us." "So," Frozeen decided to change the subject, "have you seen Rex? There's been some recent developments regarding Mutant Dino activity in LEGO City, and it appears to be urgent news." Amanda gestured towards the door to Dr. Saran's office. "He's in there," she explained. "Andrew and I urged him to seek a little counseling after... a recent incident. The mounting stress of the Dino Attack has really got to him, I'm afraid. He's tried so hard to bottle it all up, but some moron French Fries was the last straw for him." "Counseling," repeated Frozeen. "Counseling is good. It helps a lot more than you think. Trust me, I know." "As for recent developments," continued Amanda, "he and I were speaking to Ben Gunn, and-" "Ben Gunn?" repeated Frozeen, confused. Amanda shrugged. "I don't know; he's an elderly man who's dead-serious all the time. Apparently, he met Rex and Greybeard at one point. He was also the old man that the others saw clothesline Ata." "Ah," said Frozeen, nodding. "That's who he is. I'd like to meet him someday." "But more importantly," continued Amanda, who lowered her voice but carried a more urgent tone, "Ben Gunn told us that Dr. Rex is planning a massive attack tomorrow." "Tomorrow?" Frozeen's face was grim. "Then I'm afraid that Sha... I mean, elite agent Grimton's theory was correct. She was telling the founding members about how the lack of Mutant Dino activity in LEGO City was due to the dinosaurs actually gathering their forces near the edge of the city, where our scanners and patrols are not so strong." "Just think," sighed Amanda. "This might be the final battle... and any one of us may die." Frozeen tried to smile reassuringly. "I'm sure we'll all pull through... we've survived this long, right? You, me, Greybeard, and, of course, Rex. Still... it might be wise to tie up loose ends now, because we don't know if we'll ever get the chance again. Like how you wrote a letter to Bartholomew Enderson." Amanda nodded. "He deserves to know," she murmured quietly. Frozeen scratched his head. "Out of curiosity... just a quick question, and you don't have to answer if you don't want to, but... I remember the name Bartholomew Enderson. He was... involved in an Alpha Team investigation a couple years back; he wasn't in trouble or anything, but we thought that he might have known about someone we were trying to find... he's a bartender, right?" When Amanda nodded in response, Frozeen continued: "We wanted to ask him a few questions, but we never got the chance. But now... how can I phrase this... I apologize for being blunt, but... are you her?" Amanda stared at Frozeen with surprise. Frozeen locked eyes with her and held up his hands. "Look... if you are, you are not in trouble. You're still one of my most trusted friends in the Dino Attack Team, and I would never hold it against you... instead, I'd understand that you've changed and you're redeeming yourself. After all, my own record isn't spotless, so it would be hypocritical of me to judge you for your past. I know this is a strange question, but after what you said in Ata's room, I couldn't help but..." Amanda closed her eyes and, after a moment of silence, nodded gently. Frozeen gently placed his hand on her shoulder. "It's okay, Amanda. To me, no matter what you were, to me, you will always be Amanda Claw, one of the greatest Dino Attack agents. And I thank you for doing such great work with this team." Amanda smiled. Frozeen glanced at the door to Dr. Saran's office. "He's going to be in there for a while, isn't he?" he murmured. "So, uh, how are things with you and Rex?" "Wonderful," said Amanda, beaming. "Things could always be a little better... but given the circumstances that we are in, I daresay, it's the best that it could possibly be." Frozeen scratched his head and leaned against a wall. "This might sound a bit awkward," he said as he chuckled nervously, "but I hope you can help me out a little... what's it like to be in a relationship with someone you love?" Amanda raised an eyebrow, intrigued by his question. ---- It was still storming outside when Charlie Schultz sloshed into his home and plugged the encrypter into his computer. His home was dark, and the techie had not wasted time in making it homely. While the main floor was a labyrinth of unopened mail and file cabinets, the basement was a meticulously organized maze of wires and blinking radio transceivers. Charlie prided himself in the capabilities of his basement workstation. He could send the notes symphony around the world at the push of a button and pick up radio signals from Greenland. While others would consider this eavesdropping, Charlie considered it a test of his skill and a worthy challenge. Thus far, there was no code that Charlie had not been able to discover. While he had trodden on thin ice before when it came to government transmissions, he had always been able to cover his tracks by bouncing his signals across dozens of satellites. By the time a signal was traced back to him, Charlie would be able to vanish There were instances when he had been dangerously close to being caught, however. A close call a few years back had led him to outfit his tech with the latest in cyber security. Part of him had allowed the main floor of his house to fall in such disarray so as to provide a hazard to any intruders. It was in such a level of chaos that no one could find anything of value except him. That was what he told himself, at least. Mostly, it was because he hardly ever spent time outside his basement. Being glued to the monitors downstairs had led him to neglect the livable part of the house, and he hardly ever used it anymore. The plastic encrypter that the men had given him appeared to be an antique compared to his modern devices. He had learned that appearances could be deceiving, and often times more complex material would be hidden in unassuming cases. He inserted the tape in the encrypter and set his monitor for the correct settings. Soon, red symbols started to appear on the screen and flashed in patterns far too fast for Charlie to read. Once they settled, the text was as incomprehensible as chicken scratch. Jajsbcjzxyjbauixcqyhstchnauiyjdsjciusnkcjownzhjcbkjauihckjsuxzbkjhasujbcjuyhuwhkljhxjhjskjhzjhxlkjsopucpslcidbjabjqkslknzjuhwskjhwuybkxjhyhwkjbzjixkjielkzxhuhelahslkzjnfljhwlkjzduhlejkhlzxhlehucluzhlvuhzlhnzllhshlkishnmcjjvuyheksiapijenknvoiaoskxoialkdljaojqpaolsieusidjfnchjsielkzhiashndujcluaunjduisneincjusjdjuuanjeuxkjghbcnvibncnmsjbdjnsiuakisnhufnlkjasuhflkauejuikhskhaoieocujoaihenljkhclkhakebnbgulannshndhoqjzjoiazhjiejzkjdoijfnoiaoiehidhoieoiahzhoeiuicnoihehociouiehyhcnudhuolaolohebvuebnsjajuhoiajncuhouiauyeuhbcjuyaweouihcbnujahsuih The paper reel on the encrypter whirred, and a hard copy of the message was spat out onto his desk. It was the same gibberish on the screen, and Charlie crinkled it up and tossed it over his shoulder in annoyance. He could tell the code was at a level that made the enigma machine look like child's play. Every icon was replaced by another icon, which was replaced by another icon, which was run through a very complex algorithm, which turned it into entirely random letters. As the length of the message increased, the number of replacements increased. Charlie could certainly solve it, but it would strain his hard drive to the core. He looked at the encrypter. The device turned a relatively simple message into an unreadable cluster. Using a different reader would be impossible due to the nature of the tape, so he would have to figure out exactly what code was being used. Charlie got up from his chair and stared shuffling through the doors of his storage cabinet. He withdrew a mess of wires and plugged them into a variety of devices, including his computer and the encrypter. Behind him, a tower started beeping as it scanned the technology. "This may take a while," he muttered. The program he was using scanned through every code in his archive to identify the one being used. Considering how large his databank was, it would take time to sort through every possibility until it found a match. A flash of lightning outside interrupted his thoughts. The storm was intensifying, and a severe weather warning flashed on his screen. BEEP BEEP Charlie returned to his chair and smiled. The program revealed that the code he saw before him was Xeleos encryption. That particular cipher had not been used since the Spyrius incident back in the 90s. He had the ability to translate it, but it would seriously strain his hard drive. He typed the necessary commands into his computer and waited. The symbols began to change one at a time. It was a meticulous and time-consuming process, but soon words would begin to appear. The cooling systems kicked in as his computer struggled to process the size of the code. Charlie hoped that it would not overload before the process was finished. Words now appeared at random. They were not entire sentences; instead, they emerged at random in the center of the article. What he saw was not what he expected from two mobsters he met at the convention: Mutant…Xenon…Regarding…Serum…Doctor…City Taken out of context, the words made absolutely no sense to Charlie. His assumption was that the code would relate to blackmail or extortion. Instead, the content appeared to be far more malicious. The hard drive was straining to cope with the code, and his cooling towers whined with the overload. Dinosaurs…Tyrannosaurus…Paradox…Elite…Extinction…Incredible The text started to flash faster. Charlie held his breath with every word that appeared. Whatever he had gotten his hands on was something way bigger than he could have possibly imagined. Death…Casualties…Maelstrom…Rex…Lizards…Destruction Smoke was now billowing from his computer. The code and the information were overloading all his systems, and the lights in his house flashed on and off. Words were still appearing, and Charlie sweated with every reference to bane and carnage. The cooling tower suddenly caught fire as the last three words were decoded. Dino...Attack…2010 Charlie jumped from his chair as sparks shot from his desktop and the lights went dark. There was a distant clap of thunder, and someone kicked down his door. ---- "Dumbfounded" was the only word that could adequately describe Hotwire's reaction. He opened and closed his mouth several times, trying to come up with the proper words. Helm could guess what was going through the agent's mind; he knew from experience how difficult it could be to express condolences. Still, he managed a half-smile. "It's all right, kid, I'm just glad you had the chance to know him." He motioned towards Katerina. "Anyways, as I was saying, could you possibly catch me up on this?" Hotwire sighed. "Well, first off, Kat learned she was actually synthetically grown and modified by ShadowTech. Then, on LEGO Island, Loop -- he was a ShadowTech experiment too, though we didn't know that at the time; he was working undercover for Dr. Inferno --" "And for Ogel before that," Swerve added. "I encountered him a bunch of times in 2008, which is how he got such a huge grudge against me." "Yes. Anyway," Hotwire continued, "Loop showed up on LEGO Island and killed her, or so we thought..." Helm sat fascinated, listening to the bizarre tale of the Schattenbergs, Swerve occasionally contributing what details he'd gathered. They were briefly interrupted when a medic arrived to look Hotwire over before declaring him free to leave. "So, as far as you know," Helm said as Hotwire stood, pulling on his cap and gathering his belongings, "she had her mind erased because of a sibling rivalry that has lasted decades and remained unhindered by death?" Hotwire nodded, sparing Katerina a glance. "Could be worse," Swerve pointed out. "Brick League United and Reliable Excavation Deconstruction were at each other's throats over a similar issue for something like a hundred and fifty years." This elicited a few laughs as the trio walked out. They were stopped in their tracks, however, by a curious sound -- a yawn. Hotwire looked back and froze. On the bed, Katerina Schattenberg opened her eyes and sat up. ***** Wade was quickly pushing his way through the crowd of onlookers in the detention block, a first aid kit in his hand. "Out of my way," he said as he moved toward the cell where the battered and bruised Elite Agent French Fries lay. One agent of the crowd slowly unlocked his cell and allowed him to enter. Within a few short minutes, Wade was on the ground, setting up his equipment. "I wonder what all that's about," Angel Eyes said curiously as he lit his pipe, leaning against the bars of Demoman's cell. Suddenly, Dude ran up to him, holding a tiny shotglass containing a drink. "I just heard some Znap from some other people," Dude said. "Apparently, they caught the mole." "They caught the mole?" Angel Eyes asked. "Yeah," replied Dude. "You can let that guy out now." "Alright then," said Angel Eyes. "I'd just like to verify that first." ***** Crusher turned in relief as Rotor wandered into the infirmary. "Ah," she said. "You're back. What was all that about?" "Some crazy guy tried to get me executed," replied Rotor. "I see," said Crusher. "You feeling alright?" "For the most part, yes. How's Cabin doing?" "Not too bad, surprisingly," replied Crusher. He motioned towards one of the cots, where she was resting quietly on her own, now wearing a simple t-shirt. "You think we'll be able to fly?" Rotor asked. "Well, I don't know that I'd recommend it just yet but you should be able to if you have to." ***** Angel Eyes slowly knocked on the door. "I'll be out in a minute," came Maria's muffled reply from within. There was a moment of silence before the attractive Western girl opened her door. She was rather oddly wearing a bathrobe, much to Angel Eyes's surprise. Pyro was lying in Maria's bed, covering herself with sheets. "I'm sorry," Maria said, slightly nervously. "I was just takin' a bath. Pyro was tired... so I let her take a nap in that there bed and I just... decided to take a bath." "What about the mole?" "I kept the door open," replied Maria. "And listened real careful in case he came in." "I see," said Angel Eyes. "I've just heard that the mole has been found. I still need to verify the information before I let Demoman out, but I think for the time being we can allow Pyro some freedom, so long as you keep her in your sight." "That ain't goin' to be no problem," replied Maria. "Good," said Angel Eyes. With a grin, he tipped his hat, turned, and walked down the hall, the sound of his spurs echoing slightly off the walls as Maria closed the door. ***** Sarah calmly stroked Kate's back. The young rookie had practically cried herself to sleep in her mother's lap. All this that had happened was clearly too much for her to take. In the past few days, Kate had learned the rather disturbing story of what really happened to her uncle, and learned that the man she had grown so close to was her biological father. While the latter was not necessarily a bad thing, it was still quite shocking and a lot for her to handle. At that moment, the door to the rec room opened, and Pierce stepped inside. "Hello Sarah," he said. "You mind if I sit down?" Sarah nodded, and Pierce took a seat on a nearby chair. "I told her," she said. "About you and me." "How'd she take that?" "I'm not sure yet," replied Sarah, still running her hand alongside Kate's side. ***** Holly Vinyaya moved out of the detention block at a brisk pace, Zachary Virchaus close behind. He had no idea what she wanted him for and she had refused to elaborate. As they walked down a hallway, Zach gained the courage to ask a question. "So, Holly," he said. "Where exactly are we going?" Vinyaya turned sharply and faced him, a look of annoyance on her face. "Do not call me Holly," she snapped. "You will refer to me by my rank." With that, she continued to walk ahead. "Seriously?" Zach said, now annoyed himself. "The one time I'm trying not to irritate you, and I irritate you!" Vinyaya ignored him. "My apologies, Commander." He made sure to stress her title. Finally, she stopped at a door. "Enter," she commanded. Zach bowed mockingly before he entered what seemed to be a storage room. Vinyaya followed him in, closed the door, and flicked on the lights. "Alright," she said. "Now-" "Just a moment," Zach interrupted. Vinyaya rolled her eyes but nodded. He leaned back against a crate. "Is there any reason why you seem to dislike me, provided this isn't the reason that you brought me here?" "Besides blatant lack of respect toward me?" she asked irritably. "Yeah." Vinyaya sighed. "It's mostly the whole 'Stromling' thing. You nearly killed me and used me as a shield. Yes, I am aware that it was the Darkitect's influence, but I am unfortunately one to hold a grudge or two." "What about Zelda?" Zach questioned. "She was a Stromling and, from what I hear, she almost killed you too. Do you hate her too?" "No, which brings us back to point A," Vinyaya said with a slight smirk. "'Blatant lack of respect toward me.'" Zach was about to say something when Vinyaya silenced him. "It doesn't matter. Now, on to what I want to talk about. I would prefer if this conversation does not reach anyone else's ears. Understand?" Zach decided to take that statement as a threat Vinyaya would act on. "Fine." "Good. The reason I am speak to you is because I heard you and Fabello discussing an agent named Scratch. This agent's real name is Logan Zekria, correct?" "Yes." Zach pulled the glove off of his right hand and flexed his metallic fingers. "He is the reason why I have this." "And you killed him, right?" Zach shrugged. "I'm not really sure if I pulled the trigger or he did, but he's dead. Why does it matter?" Vinyaya sighed again, her face becoming red. "Well," she said stiffly. "I was a bit, um, involved, uh, with Scratch." Zach let that sink in. Then, a grin slowly began to form on his face. "Wait. So you and Scratch were-" "Yes!" Vinyaya hissed, wiping the grin off of his face. "Alright, so did you two know each other prior to the Dino Attack?" "No. We were on the same T-1 Typhoon that was downed in Adventurers' Island's jungles." "And so, you two became close under the desire to survive and make it to an outpost or something, right?" Vinyaya raised an eyebrow curiously. "I-yes. How did you know that?" Zach shrugged. "The same thing more-or-less happened to myself and Minerva, though it was more fighting in a battle together than trying to survive in a Mutant Dino-infested jungle. In fact, I'm more than ninety-nine percent sure that most relationships formed during this war were 'helped' by being forced to bond with one another for survival purposes." Vinyaya waved her hand. "Anyway, I was in charge and, since it was a Mutant Dino-infested jungle, things looked rather bleak. Logan was extremely determined to survive and offered to help me. You would not believe how powerful his-" "-senses are?" As soon as he finished her sentence, Zach expected Vinyaya to angrily scold him. However, she simply nodded. "Yes. That managed to save my life at one point from a very nasty Stromling Islander." "We worked together," Vinyaya continued. "And I suppose I let my guard down around him. He was a rather nice person, even if a little rough around the edges." She paused, her face reddening again. "We were... rather close." "Did he share your feelings?" Vinyaya shrugged. "Back then, I thought so. Now, I'm not so sure. I will say that he trusted me enough to tell me secrets he hadn't told anyone else. Such as his former employment to Sam Sinister. He was suggesting to me that he was going to get revenge on Sinister since they were both on the island. He never elaborated on what he was going to do, but I suppose it would have been sinister." Zach smirked in spite of himself. "What was your response to this?" "A flat no. Sinister is an ally and we needed him. Logan told me Sinister was a fool and we didn't need him. After some arguing, he told me he would save his revenge for after the war, which was good enough for me." "Did he tell you about the whole dinosaur bit?" Vinyaya nodded sadly. "He was determined to wipe them all out, mutant and normal. I wasn't a complete love-stricken fool. I told him if he tried anything against the native dinosaurs, I would not hesitate to take him down. After that..." "You think he didn't trust you after that?" Zach guessed. Vinyaya nodded. "Logan Zekria might have still held feelings for me, but was much more reserved around me after the 'dinosaur thing'. We stayed together even after we reached an outpost. We only split when he was sent to the TumTum Tribe's village to fight. I never saw him again after that-" "Because he went ahead with his plan to kill ALL the dinosaurs," Zach finished. "And so what happened then?" Vinyaya asked. "I am aware that several native dinosaurs arrived during a battle outside the XERRD fortress." "That was him. I didn't know what was going on, so I followed him to help him escape the dinosaurs chasing after him. The dinos were circling him when I reached. He revealed what he was doing. He knew I was going to turn him in, so he fought me. If it's any consolation for nearly killing you, he beat within an inch of my life. Before he was going to shoot me, he told me he knew Minerva had watched run after him and said she would have to be killed as well." Zach chuckled. "At this point, all I can think is, 'What a cool dude.'" "'Cool dude'?" Vinyaya repeated, frowning in confusion. Zach glanced upward. "For some reason, I can't bring myself to mention the word I want to use, despite it not being that obscene. Oh, well. Anyway, I forced myself to get back up and fight. I did better, which led him to shoot my hand off. In a possible calculated move, he then blew up my hand with a Cosmotronic Ray, not taking the chance that I am a LEGO Islander and might have been able to click my hand back into my wrist. Now determined to beat this man, I stood up and fought for his pistol. In the fight, the pistol went off, shooting him and ending his life rather quickly. Dinosaurs stopped being hostile, crisis averted." Both Zach and Vinyaya were silent. Zach glanced over Vinyaya's shoulder while she stared at the ground, clearly thinking. Finally, Vinyaya sighed and looked at Zach. "I suppose the reason I wanted to discuss this was to get it off my chest, and since you knew Logan somewhat..." "No problem," Zach said calmly. Thinking back to Rex's outburst against French Fries and even Minerva's minor outburst concerning her mother, all directly related to holding in emotions, he added: "It's best not to bottle up your feelings only to have to explode later on. I've seen enough of it today to be certain." Vinyaya nodded. "How do you feel about Scratch now?" "I don't know. He was a terrible person, but I couldn't help but feel a little sad that he died." Zach suddenly wondered if his responsibility toward Logan Zekria's death played a role in Vinyaya's animosity toward him. "I'm certainly ready to move on from it." Zach nodded. "Now that we've shared this touchy-feely moment, we can be friends now. Right?" Vinyaya laughed quietly. "Keep thinking that, Virchaus. Let's head back to the detention cell so you can be with your girlfriend." Zach grinned, and the two left the storage room. As they left, Zach decided strike a random conversation with the Space Police commando. "Now that that's out of the way, you're in need of a new love interest," Zach began, ideas already forming in his head. "What?" Vinyaya asked, a curious smile appearing on his face. She shook her head as she realized where Zach was going. "You better not start shipping me with other agents, Virchaus, or I swear..." "Right now, I'm thinking Nazareno is the best choice for a pairing with you..." ***** Katerina looked down at herself. "Physical body, ShadowTech uniform," she muttered, glancing around the room. "Dino Attack HQ, Hotwire has a peg leg, Helmie's here, but he's actually in Antarctica..." She abruptly grinned. "Must be a dream." She hopped off the bed and did a cartwheel, landing in front of Hotwire, Swerve, and Helm, who were watching her in shock and confusion. And they weren't the only ones; there was a clatter from across the room as one of the medics dropped his clipboard in astonishment. Katerina poked Hotwire in the forehead with a smirk, knocked his cap off, caught it and placed it on her own head, and then, with a leap, began jumping on the nearest bed. Hotwire, meanwhile, was just as astounded as he'd been the other morning when this woman had hopped down out of his T-1 Typhoon, only this time there was a tad more foolish hope in the cauldron of confusion. The mannerisms, the tone of voice... Barely daring to let himself believe it, he asked, "Wait, what's your name?" "Bit of a silly question. You know me already." She paused and tilted her head quizzically. "Unless this is going to be one of the weird dreams." "Um, yeah, I mean, I know you, but I don't believe you and Swerve here have met before," Hotwire stammered, jerking a thumb at the masked figure behind him. "Well in that case, it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, even though it seems the jury's still out on whether this is reality," she said, hopping to the floor and grabbing Swerve's hand. "I'm Kat." ***** As the crowds dispersed, Andrew felt it would be a good time to leave it himself. Laxus and Pterisa were quick to agree, and Bluetooth decided to join them as well. "Geeze, that was... eventful," said Bluetooth. "Where the heck did that crowd come from, anyways?" "Well, we did cause quite a ruckus when capturing that guy," Andrew replied, "so I guess it isn't too surprising that those people showed up to see what happened. But really, that Pharisee guy needs some perspective. We captured him, so besides from keeping others from abusing French Fries before the guards reappeared, how was I 'failing to control the situation'?" "I'm just surprised Rex clearly didn't want to 'take control of the situation' after..." Laxus faltered, recalling the scene again. "You know." "He does seem to have some issue he needs to work out," said Bluetooth. "Hopefully, he takes your advice and gets a bit of therapy. Pharisee should think about his actions, too. It won't do anyone good to barge in on him at some point and have him arrested." "Well, I'm confident enough that any pardon I give can override whatever policy this Internal Affairs division is going to try on him," said Andrew. "Especially given the circumstances. And if they don't listen to me, I'm certain that some of the other Elites can back me up on that." The group was silent for a few more moments as they walked towards the mess hall. It was almost dinnertime. "So... Pterisa, right?" Bluetooth asked the Hybrid. She nodded. "Yeah, um, good to see you're taking well. Sorry you had to see Rex like that, he's really a dogged nice guy, as far as I've heard." "I know," she said. "He was all too helpful for me when I got unmasked by the Darkitect. I suppose he can't always have an easy time, considering circumstance has left him in the original body of Alpha Rex, and he has lost track of Mutant Dinos he's bonded with, such as this 'Trouble' he speaks of." "You have to wonder if that lizard, among others, is still out there in the city somewhere," said Laxus. "I mean, maybe he might've been killed by some agent on patrol that didn't see signs of friendliness, and I've heard a few things here and there about Rex's old tamed dino building getting flooded during Kotua's crazy period, but there's still no solid confirmation of anything. But who really knows?" "True," said Andrew. "Stranger things have happened. Kat got killed, then came back as a computer program, then got a body again due to some ShadowTech thingamabob. Trouble could simply appear again in the final battle or something." "Optimism at its finest," said a new voice. Stranger was now walking alongside the group. "Missed you guys. I've been taking up Sniper's place in the sniping post." "Good to hear everything's recovering from the security defects that mole put on us," said Bluetooth. "I was helping with fixing Engineer's sentries earlier." "Hopefully, that should improve our chances during an attack," said Andrew, thinking just now of what Semick had said earlier. "Speaking of which..." ***** "I think some explanations are owed all around," said Helm after a few moments of confusion. "Agreed," said Kat. "But could we do that in the cafeteria? I'm famished." Soon, the four of them were seated in the mess hall, Kat with a heavily loaded tray in front of her. Noon had passed quite a few hours ago, but late lunch was still being served due to the odd times at which agents were trickling back to HQ from the most recent mission. "So, what's the last thing you can remember before you woke up?" Hotwire inquired as she began eating. She paused in thought for a moment. "The battle at the rear guard camp had just ended and we were about to leave for Outpost 4." Hotwire shifted uneasily. "That... was several days ago." "Well, of course it was," said Kat. "That was the last time I saved." Hotwire furrowed his brow in puzzlement, but Helm butted in. "Look, why don't we just catch up on what happened over the course of the past few days, then see what holes need filling in afterwards?" Nods all around. Kat listened intently as Hotwire and Swerve related the events at Outpost 4, the battle at the Temple of Hotep III, Dust's death, Zachary's redemption, and the cleansing of Adventurers' Island. Helm joined in as they moved on to the day's events -- the deaths of the Second Headquarters Squad, the capture of the mole, and Loop's reappearance and final end. Kat paused to register all of this new information. She turned to Swerve, pointing at him with her fork. "So you're really Septimus." He nodded. "And you're really Katerina Schattenberg?" Kat laid her fork down slowly and carefully. "No," she said evenly but coldly. "No, I am not. She may have claimed that, but it couldn't be further from the truth. Contrary to her apparent belief, she didn't simply adopt a new identity. Katerina Schattenberg made another person, a fully independent mind, and used her as a disguise. When I'd served my purpose, she threw me out. Just like every other person who was ever briefly useful to her. You may as well say I'm Loop, or Michelle Glados, or Dr. Rex himself. Any of those would be equally flattering." Swerve was clearly somewhat taken aback. "Well, to be fair," he said, "you pretty much did the same to me. Septimus was Swerve, not the other way." "Point taken," said Kat. "I'm sorry." "Anyway," Hotwire interjected, "what was that you said about saving?" "Oh, right," Kat replied. "Well, there's plenty of space in a T-1 for file storage, so I'd been... basically, making backup copies of my mind every few days." She took in the shocked looks she was getting in response and snickered. "Sounds, weird, I know. Almost eldritch, if I may say so myself. That's why I didn't tell anyone. I figured there was no reason anyone should find out unless something happened. And I guess Katerina unthinkingly transferred every last byte related to herself when she dropped into this body, and I'd encrypted and compressed the backup enough that it was buried too deep for Loop to touch it. That's why I needed a nice long nap to swim back up to the surface." "Maybe it wasn't an accident, though," Hotwire pointed out nervously. "Maybe Katerina realized what the backup was and brought it along just in case. After all, she was inside your mind, so it's probably safe to assume she was in the backup too." Kat's expression grew grim. "Well if that's the case, then I can guarantee she'll never get back out. I just got back, and I don't plan on leaving again." "Having a party?" Hotwire looked up to see Shiller strolling to their table. Momentarily worried, he looked around the room and was relieved to see Wright by the door, keeping an eye on Trigger, who was in the midst of a quiet but clearly vehement conversation with an unfamiliar man. Shiller followed Hotwire's gaze and smirked. "Don't worry, we said we wouldn't let him out of our sight, and we meant it." Kat had turned too at this new arrival, and now that there was a break in conversation that coincided with her swallowing another bite, she stuck out her hand and said, "We haven't met. I'm Kat." "Shiller," he responded, shaking her hand. "Me and O'Neal here go way back." ***** "Do you really think that?" Vinyaya asked, glancing at Zach. He shrugged. "I'm leaning towards it. Due to his apparent deep-rooted dislike for pirates, I imagine he's been a ninja from a very young age. Though I don't know how space ninjas operate as opposed to regular ninjas, so you never know." Vinyaya and Zach had returned to the prison block to find it empty, so they took to wandering the hallways. While Zach brought up numerous ideas on who to pair Vinyaya with, they had ultimately returned their focus on Nazareno. "I think Frodongan is infatuated with him," Vinyaya said. Zach raised an eyebrow, then smirked. "That's interesting in a variety of ways. One is her pirate upbringing, and two is that it sounds like she tried to kill him while she was a Stromling." "Well, Nazareno stayed behind during the Maelstrom Temple and was there when Frodongan returned to normal. As the only two agents in the midst of a bunch of medics, it seems very likely they could have bonded in that time." "Do you know if Nazareno shares her feelings, or is even aware?" Vinyaya shrugged. "He's a hard man to read, naturally." "So he's attracted Zelda and he's probably attracted you," Zach said. Vinyaya began to argue when Zach cut her off. "I'm thinking Nazareno may be a chick magnet. Maybe even a borderline se-" "How are you so certain that I like him?" Vinyaya interrupted curtly. "Space?" suggested Zach. Vinyaya's eyes narrowed, apparently not satisfied with his answer. "Hmm. Did you help hunt after an intergalactic terrorist by the name of Matthew Vherestorm?" "Yes." "Well, Nazareno spent a good number of years chasing after this 'Vherestorm', so that's another thing you have in common. I don't know, I just see the two of you getting along rather well." Vinyaya rolled her eyes. "Probably. That doesn't mean I have to be romantically involved with him. Like you said, he-" "Hey!" Minerva's voice called out from behind them. Zach and Vinyaya turned to see Minerva and Zelda approaching them. "We've been looking for you." "So have I," Zach said, smiling. Minerva turned to Vinyaya. "So why did you need to see Zach?" she asked. "It was a... personal matter that needed to be cleared up," Vinyaya said. Zach nodded in agreement. "Where's Nazareno?" he asked. "He said he wanted to be alone for a bit," Zelda said. She smiled, amused. "I think he's hungry, so he's probably going somewhere he can take off his mask." Zach chuckled. "Probably. I could go for a quick bite to eat. How about it?" Zelda and Minerva nodded. "Vinyaya? Oh, sorry, Commander?" Vinyaya smirked. "I suppose I could have something to eat." "Good," Zach said, clapping his hands together. "Let's go." ---- Rain and wind rushed into Charlie Schultz's home with a viscous tenacity. The wooden splinters of his front door stood at the feet of the shadowy intruder as he sniffed the air and slowly started to descend the steps. Lightning flashed, and Charlie was able to get a brief glimpse of who the intruder was. A black helmet with a green visor covered any facial features. Some inner light illuminated the face shield, giving off an early green glow. He wore a dirty white jumpsuit with black sleeves, and a logo was set in an octagonal field plastered to the figure's chest. In his hand was the shadow of a gun. Charlie huddled under the shadow of his desk as the figure navigated his cluttered room. He assumed that he had some form of night vision, based on the ease with which he navigated the labyrinth of wires and equipment. It was only a matter of time before he was found, and Charlie had to think fast. In his shaking hand, he held the tape. He had no idea what information it contained, but the reference to Paradox and the Maelstrom was enough to disturbed him greatly. It was the ramblings some estranged scientist, of that Charlie was sure, and he was positive that the events and organization the tape hinted at would lead to a catastrophe that LEGO Planet had never before witnessed. Powerful men wanted this tape and, based on the men he had received it from, it may be too late to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. Charlie assumed that, at this point in time, he was the only person who had glimpsed its contents, making him a very valuable individual. The figure walked by Charlie's hiding place. He held his gun (which Charlie could now tell was a laser gun) out before him as he probed the dark shadows of the room. Charlie had to destroy the tape. Despite what others may say, he was not the only person with the ability to decode it. With enough money and resources, anything could be accomplished. Carefully, Charlie's hand slid out from the shadows to the top of his desk. He thought there might be a soda that he had been drinking and it would be enough to ruin the tape. His hand grasped the aluminum cylinder, and he gratefully pulled down the can. Charlie prepared to pour the contents onto the tape; he hated to destroy such knowledge, but it was the only option that presented itself. Then the desk he was hiding under exploded. Wooden splinters rained down upon him, and he was thrown across the room to collide with a power station and slump to the floor. Slivers of wood were embedded in his arm, and his shirt was stained red from the hundreds of cuts from the deadly shrapnel. Charlie still held the tape and the can of soda in his hands. They both stung from the slivers, and he feebly tried to finish the job. The introducer stood over him, holding his smoking gun. The muzzle was directed at Charlie's head, and the finger hovered over the trigger. "Hand over the tape, Mr. Schultz," said the man. "I would have no regrets about killing you. My organization cares nothing about collateral damage as long as the mission is successful." "Who are you?" asked Charlie. "What is this all about?" Through the visor of the helmet, Charlie was able to see the red-haired individual. He smiled. "Ordinarily, I don't like to divulge that sort of thing, but since you will probably die from blood loss anyway, I don't see the harm." Charlie nodded; if he could keep the stranger talking long enough, he may create enough time to destroy the tape. "I work for an organization called Blacktron Future Generation," said the intruder. "Perhaps you figured that out from the giant B plastered to my chest. Our leader, who shall remain anonymous, has been monitoring a man named Dr. Rex and your employer for some time." "What?" asked Charlie. "Who is Dr. Rex? Who hired me?" "The man who hired you is very wealthy, Mr. Schultz. An Englishman who has amassed an incredible fortune over the last few decades, he is a far-reaching individual and has hundreds of loyal employees at his disposal. He too has been keeping tabs on Dr. Rex and the Maelstrom." The intruder chuckled. "I'm glad you will die with at least some of the answers, Mr. Schultz. Unfortunately, it seems I am to leave you with more questions. Now give me the tape, Charlie; I will not ask again." Charlie pulled out the can of soda and positioned it over the tape. "I'll pour this on the tape," threatened Charlie. "You're never know what it says." "Do you think a little carbonated water is enough to stop Blacktron?" the intruder said with a flash of anger. "We are omnipotent, Mr. Shultz. Anything you destroy, we will rebuild. We have not endured the decades to be trumped by a measly radio operator with a can of pop!" Charlie prepared to dump the contents of the can, but the Blacktron intruder lunged. The force of the gun pummeled Charlie's head, and the tape was thrown away. The Blacktron agent held the tape gleefully and removed his helmet to wipe the sweat from his brow. "You are a pathetic individual, Mr. Schultz, You are weak and forgettable. No one will know that your last moments of life were wasted fighting for a lost-" The Blacktron agent was interrupted as his back was peppered with the shoots from an automatic weapon. Blood spat from his mouth, and his bloody corpse fell forward to land on Charlie. A curved woman stepped through the open door in a form-fitting blue jumpsuit. In her hand was a smoking Uzi, which she shoved in her hip holster as she walked down the steps. Charlie pushed the body of the Blacktron agent aside and attempted to rise to his feet, but he still felt weak from the shrapnel. The tape was still in the intruder's hands, and Charlie desperately tried to reach for it before the new stranger took it. She held out a hand. "No." Charlie hesitated. "Are you with the Englishman?" he asked. "Blacktron? Dr. Rex?" "No," she said. "My name is Agent Trace of the Agents Defense Organization. I am here to confiscate that tape." "How do I know I can trust you people?" Charlie asked desperately. "How do I know you won't take the tape and kill me?" "An ambulance is on the way to tend to your injuries." She said. "The two men who hired you have been taken care of. Our organization will ensure your safety, as long as you say nothing about the contents of that tape and what transpired tonight." "What is this all about?" asked Charlie. "Who are these people? Who is Dr. Rex? What is the Dino Attack?" Trace seemed to consider for a moment before responding. "We have reason to believe that, later this year, there will be an epic calamity. We don't know what exactly it entails yet, but based on recent reports from Nexus Force, it may involve the Maelstrom." "The Maelstrom?" asked Charlie. "I thought it was isolated to the Nimbus system." "It's on the move and it may already be here," said Agent Trace. "That is why it is imperative that we review this tape before it's too late." Trace held out a hand and waited for Charlie to hand it over. He gazed at the simple reels of the device and pondered what events would ultimately unfold because of him. He was now part of something that would shake the planet to its core, and he could not walk away now. If these Agents believed they could stop it, he would not get in their way. Charlie placed the tape in Trace's hand. She smiled. "Thank you, Mr. Schultz. Thanks to you, that Blacktron agent was stalled long enough for us to get here. I don't know what would have happened if he had brought this back to his master. We will review the contents and do what we can." Trace helped Charlie to his feet and escorted him over to a chair. "Is there anything I can do to help?" he asked. "Enlist," said Trace. "Personally, I believe there will be a war, and they will need smart men like you. You will have the opportunity to be part of something big; don't let that chance pass you by." She shook Charlie's hand and walked up the dark steps to the broken door. Red and blue sirens flashed outside, and a medic passed by Trace as she vanished into the storm. The medic shown a flashlight into the room and found Charlie's bloody form in the chair. He quickly ran over and pressed a hand to Charlie's brow. "My name is John Michael Dorian. We need to get you to Sacred Heart hospital right away." The doctor helped Charlie from his chair and helped him up the wet steps. "What about that man from Blacktron?" asked Charlie. "What man from Blacktron?" said Dorian. "It seems to be that one of your costumed friends from Comic-Con was unfortunate enough to be near your desk when it exploded." "But why would my desk explode? Why would he be full of bullets?" asked Charlie. J.D. shrugged. "I don't know, that's all the story the Agents gave me." ---- At last, the door to Dr. Nicholas Saran's office opened, and Rex floated out in his hover-chair. Amanda and Frozeen greeted Rex as he entered the hallway, and Amanda asked how the psychiatric session went. "It went well," said Rex, although his voice was solemn. "Dr. Saran says that it will take time before I'm... well, recovered, and he wishes to schedule more sessions with me. Unfortunately, I do not know when I'll have such time... certainly not tomorrow. We need to speak with Specs immediately." They heard a distant rumbling: the roar of thunder. "A thunderstorm this late in December?" mused Frozeen. "This has certainly been a warmer-than-usual year. Normally, we would see snowfall by now." "That's certainly working in Dr. Rex's favor," said Rex, grimacing. "No doubt the Mutant Dinos will fight a lot better in a thunderstorm than a blizzard. Come." Rex piloted the hover-chair to Specs's office, accompanied by Frozeen and Amanda. Upon entering the office, Rex saw that the other founding members, Digger, Shadow, and Viper, were already speaking to the team leader. They were telling Specs about things that they had learned from "Mary Rose" and "Shannon Grimton", neither name sounding familiar to Rex. When Specs saw Rex, Amanda, and Frozeen enter, he saw the grim look in Rex's face and understood that their news was not good. Still, he motioned for Rex to tell what he knew. Rex told Specs everything that he learned from Ben Gunn. Specs sat in contemplative silence for a moment as he let the information sink in. "MegaBloks," he murmured quietly. "With the team still recovering from the situations created by Ata and French Fries, we're not prepared for such an attack. Even worse, we have a large number of civilians who have returned to LEGO City, and we must begin an evacuation immediately; I must contact Mayor Frictionfit and let him know about this news. Hopefully, Dash Justice and Agent Chase can lend us a few Alpha Team and Agents vehicles to move the population, but I don't know if we have enough time. As for the Doctor Device, it is nearly finished... but unfortunately, seeing as Frank Einstein has passed away, we never received his instructions on how to complete it." "Instructions?" repeated Rex. Specs nodded. "In a number of his chess piece holograms, Dr. Einstein included a set of instructions for building the Doctor Device. He came up with an idea to reengineer the weapon to counteract the Maelstrom energies inherently found within a Mutant Dino. However, the weapon is unfinished, and without his last set of instructions, I do not know if it will work." Rex and Amanda traded glances. Rex reached into his pocket and pulled out Frank Einstein's last bishop chess piece. "Amanda and I listened to the message recorded in here," explained Rex, "but there was nothing regarding the Doctor Device." Interested, Specs leaned forward and took the chess piece. Looking it over, Specs murmured: "That's because the instructions were never contained within the main message. There was always another part of the chess piece, never the same part in any two of them, which could activate the instructions for the Doctor Device." Carefully, Specs fingered the chess piece, trying to see if there was anything that was loose. At last, he found that a small bump on the head of the bishop could be rotated, and as he did so, the chess piece opened up, revealing the hologram of Frank Einstein. As Rex, Amanda, and Frozeen had never studied technology or engineering, what Frank Einstein said in those next few minutes made little sense to them. It was all engineer and inventor jargon that sounded like a foreign language. However, Specs was keenly interested in every word, staring with wide eyes as the hologram of the Assembly professor spoke. When the message ended, Specs handed the bishop chess piece to Viper. "Make sure this gets to the technology center as quickly as possible," ordered Specs. Viper, being a skilled racer before joining Dino Attack Team, knew the importance of speed; he nodded and darted out the door. "And thank you, Rex," continued Specs. "I hope we never have to use the Doctor Device... but if we do, it may win the war." "You know," suggested Rex, "I've been thinking. I know it's called the Doctor Device because it's very loosely inspired by the weapon from Ender's Game, which Frozeen told me all about… but I cannot help but notice that, as development of this weapon continued, it became less and less similar to the original Doctor Device. Therefore, I propose a name change. In honor and memory of all that he has done for the Dino Attack Team, including helping us design this device... I propose that we rename it 'the Einstein Device'." Specs, Shadow, and Digger traded glances, nodding in agreement. "Now," sighed Specs, "comes the hard part." He took the microphone that was on his desk and pushed a button, activating the intercom system in Dino Attack Headquarters. "Attention, all Dino Attack personnel..." ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  5. Chapter 59: Into the Fire ---- "Now sum up, please," French Fries said impatiently to Gibbons, who had just provided a rather horrific defense case that involved a few questions which ultimately failed to help the defendants. The defense attorney then picked up a piece of paper and started to read the speech. "Gentlemen, you have heard all the evidence presented before you today, but in the end, it is up to the consciences of your hearts to decide, and I firmly believe that, like me, you will find that agent Rotor and agent Brown are in fact totally and utterly guilty." Gibbons sat down. An annoyed George turned the paper around, revealing the rest of the speech, and the attorney quickly stood back up. "-Of nothing more than simply trying to do their duty under difficult circumstances." "Nonsense," replied French Fries. "They are deserters and traitors, and they're going to be shot. However, before we proceed to the formality of sentencing the deceased - I mean defendant, I think we'd all enjoy hearing the case of the prosecution. Gunderson, if you please." Gunderson slowly got to his feet and worked his way to the podium. "My case is very simple," Gunderson said. "I would like to start by calling my first witness, Elite Agent French Fries." French Fries stood up and worked his way out of the chair to the podium. "Did you not read the report of the affairs on Adventurers' Island?" Gunderson asked. "Yes," replied French Fries. "Did it not say that agent Rotor attempted to execute his own men?" continued Gunderson. "Yes." "Did it not also say that George Brown received an order to destroy the XERRD Fortress?" "Yes. " "Did agent Brown follow that order?" "No," replied French Fries. "What did he do?" "He deserted the scene of the action," explained French Fries. "Did it not also say that Brown broke Rotor out of prison?" "Yes." "I object!" protested George. "We were being attacked by a swarm of mutant dinosaurs." "Which brings me to my next point," continued Gunderson. "Did they stay and fight that mob of dinosaurs?" "No," replied French Fries. "They ran off into the jungle as far away as they could." "So you're not denying that they deserted?" "No sir," affirmed French Fries. "Can you see Rotor and Pilot anywhere in this room?" French Fries promptly started shouting and pointing toward the defendants' table. "THEY'RE THERE! THEY'RE THERE! THEY'RE THE MEN!" "Very good," concluded Gunderson. "No further questions." "Splendid, excellent, first class," French Fries said as he worked his way back to the judge's table. "I therefore have absolutely no hesitation..." As he spoke, he picked up the piece of cloth and placed it onto his head. "... in announcing that the sentence of this court is that you, Elite Agent Rotor and Standard Agent Brown, will be taken from this place and suffer death by shooting tomorrow at dawn. Court dismissed!" ***** "Well?" Zach said expectantly, crossing his arms. Minerva bit her lip, suppressing a snicker. "Well, if I was your mother, I'd be worried sick about what might happen to you next after reading this letter." "I did put some encouraging words in it," Zach protested. "I'm pretty that will do little to nothing to reassure her," Minerva said. She shrugged. "It doesn't matter. You're out in a Mutant Dino-infested world. Your mother's going to be terrified regardless." Zach pulled the letter away from her and folded it into an envelope. "Then I suppose I'll send it off." He rose to his feet and began to head to the post room, Minerva right behind him. Fortunately for him, he managed to meet Ed Mail on his path. "Ed! Glad I caught you." "Oh, hello, Zach," Ed muttered. "I suppose you need a letter to be delivered, too." "Yeah." Zach handed it to him. Ed put the letter into his large sack. "Now excuse me. The mail must be delivered." Zach and Minerva stepped out his way, allowing him to slowly pass on. "Where to, now?" Minerva asked. "Perhaps we should-" Zach paused as he looked ahead. He saw a floating chair briefly pass through the intersection in the hallway, its occupant, who Zach could not identify, clearly looking for someone. "That sort of looks like Zed Provhezor's chair." "Who?" Minerva asked, confused. "Ze Professor?" "Zed Provhezor." "That guy you were reading about that got sucked into the Maelstrom vortex?" "Yeah. Some nearly-limbless XERRD scientist who floated around in a hoverchair. I passed by him briefly before getting the Maelstrom injected into my body. But, as you said, he should be dead." Minerva frowned, her grip tightening on her Sonic Screamer. "So, I guess that we should see why this guy is in such a hurry?" "Probably would be a good idea." Zach made sure his Cosmotronic Ray was fully loaded before he and Minerva started to move after the hoverchair and its occupant. ***** George and Rotor's attention was drawn as a guard opened the door to their cell. "Chap here to see you." At that moment, a dirty, filthy short man walked into the cell holding a sack. "I brought you some breakfast for your final breakfast tomorrow." "I take it you're not putting much hope on a last-minute-reprieve, then?" George asked. "No sir" replied the man. "You are as dead as some doo-doos." "As a dodo," corrected George. "Now, do you have a name?" "Agent Baldrick, sir," the man introduced himself. "Well, I'll leave you to it," said the guard. He closed the door. "Do not despair, guys," Baldrick said as the door closed. "All that talk of food was just a dead herring. In fact, I have a cunning plan." He held up the sack. "This is not food, but an escape kit." "Great Builder," said Rotor. "With a gun, a hammer, a chisel, a change of clothes, a false passport, and a false mustache, we might just stand a chance." "Ah," Baldrick murmured. "About that…" George reached in and pulled out something that surprised him. "A small painted wooden duck?" he asked. "Yeah," said Baldrick. "I thought, if you get caught near water, you could balance it on top of your head, as a brilliant disguise." "Yes," muttered Rotor. "We would, of course, have to escape first." "Now what's this?" George said as he reached in. "Unless I'm much mistaken, a hammer and a chisel?" "You are much mistaken," replied Baldrick. "A pencil and a miniature trumpet," said George as he pulled out the items. "Yeah," said Baldrick. "A pencil so you guys can write me a postcard to tell me how the breakout went, and a small little tiny miniature trumpet in case during your escape you need to win favor with a difficult child." "Look," Rotor said in a slightly calmer voice than usual. "We don't want to spend our last precious hours rummaging through this feeble collection of stocking fillers. So let me just ask you a series of simple questions. Is there a saw in this bag?" "No," replied Baldrick. "A hammer?" "No." "A chisel?" "No." "A gun?" "No." "A false passport?" Baldrick stopped to think for a moment. "No." "A change of clothes?" "Yes sir," replied Baldrick. "I wouldn't forget a change of clothes." "Well, that's something," remarked George. He reached in and pulled out two costumes. "Robin Hood costumes," he realized. "Yeah," said Baldrick. "I put in a peasant's outfit at first, and then I thought: what if you arrive in a peasant village and they're in the middle of a fancy-dress party?" "And what happens if we land in a peasant village dressed in Robin Hood costumes and there isn't a fancy-dress party?" George asked sarcastically. "Well," admitted Baldrick, "to be quite frank, I didn't consider that eventuality, because if you did, you'd stick out like a-" "Like a man standing in the middle of a lake with a small, painted, wooden duck on his head?" finished Rotor. "Exactly!" replied Baldrick. "Excuse me sir," the guard said as he walked in. "Um… yes," said George. "Thank you, Baldrick, we'll finish this 'picnic' later." "Yum, yum," said Baldrick enthusiastically as he turned toward the guard before leaving the room. ***** In one of the security stations, Bluetooth was assisting some men in rewiring the connections to a couple of the sentries Engineer had set up just before he was killed. The mole, who was revealed by the word going around to be Ata, seemed to have jammed its internal computer that had nigh-completely fried its programming. A couple of mechanics were working to try and reconfigure the sentries, having a bit of difficulty due to not quite understanding the late Engineer's impressive methods of building them, but were steadily making progress. What Bluetooth was doing was making sure the connection would be working right once the sentries were brought back online. It was simple enough, since Futuron had far more complicated ways of connecting networks, but it was still tedious, especially since the technology was in need of replacement after the beatings a bomb drop and a schism had done to the various parts of the security stations. "Okay, I believe I have all the circuit breakers reset and the connections reestablished to the ports," Bluetooth told the crew. "Once the engies get back to you with their work on the sentries, call me on my communicator, and I'll get back to you." "Alright," said one of the security agents. "Thanks for the help. The sooner we recover from that mole's sabotage, the better." Departing from the room, Bluetooth began feeling parched, and began looking towards one of the locations he thought they had a vending machine. But as he rounded a corner, he encountered a mustached agent who looked slightly familiar, a black piece of cloth hanging on his head. "Pardon me," he said, "I must be getting to dinner." "Sorry, um..." Bluetooth paused, trying to remember the guy's codename. "It's French Fries," he said with full seriousness. "Now if you'll excuse me-" "Wait, I know you!" Bluetooth then remembered. "You're the idiot Zenna reported as forcing her to expose the Antarctica mission! How the heck are you still here?" "Oh, please," scoffed French Fries. "That's all just a big misunderstanding our enemies created to discredit us. A hoax. I've done nothing but good civil services to keep our team in the right of way." Bluetooth wasn't impressed by this man who was sounding less and less sane by the minute. "I see... what's with the cap?" "Oh, that?" French Fries said, removing it from his head in the process. "I just came back from judging a treason case. A couple of agents from Adventurers' Island got themselves in a mighty bit of trouble, as I'm sure you know." "What, you mean Lutsky? He's already in the brig, suffering from a couple of mental conditions, not unlik-" "Oh, no no no no no. I mean agents Rotor and Brown, of course." "What?!" Bluetooth cried. He recalled the case back at the camp where Rotor had tried to get several agents executed for disobeying his controversial order to fire on the XERRD Fortress during the final stages of attack. He knew Rotor, although given some pardon after the camp ambush, had committed enough unorthodox deeds to get back into trouble, but he doubted any trial of his should be overseen by such an oddball like French Fries, let alone one that would still see George Brown as still in the wrong for his disobedience. "Yes," continued French Fries, "and they have been found guilty, and will be shot at dawn tomorrow. A fit punishment, I think, for having the bright idea of disobeying a superior's orders, or executing one's own men, or running from their posts, or freeing-" "ARE YOU MAD?!!" Bluetooth cried out, barely containing himself from shoving the undeserving Elite Agent into the wall. "I CAN'T EVEN BEGIN TO TELL YOU HOW STUPID YOU ARE!! FIRST ANTARCTICA, AND NOW THIS!!? HOW ARE YOU STILL HERE!?!" French Fries was completely taken aback, but quickly gained some amount of composure back, and began looking displeased. "Are you in question of my judgment, agent?" "You..." Bluetooth said, his frustration now only barely contained, as he waved his index finger at the man's face. "You... are so fired." With that, he ran down the hall, making a beeline for a nearby water fountain. Stopping, he took a long drink from it, beginning to let his nerves cool down and senses return. French Fries was an idiot, but an idiot with enough followers to be able to pull off stunts like this. He couldn't simply be taken down by a couple agents. This had to be made widespread throughout the team. And there was only one way to do it. Bluetooth pulled out his PDA and began typing out a message. Agents of Dino Attack, Elite Agent French Fries is at it again! The last time this man decided to take a major action, the Antarctica mission was exposed, causing mass riots in the refugee camps and a needless schism between our idealist and realist sympathizers that nearly crippled our leadership! Now he's taken to taking charge of our personal criminal justice system! Agents Rotor and Brown, who both ended up on the wrong side of our prosecution system at various times during the Adventurers' Island mission, were treated to a "trial" organized, judged, and ruled over by French Fries himself! He has seen it fit to declare them guilty and have them killed by gunfire in the morning! This is a horrid choice of behavior and unruly mockery of justice, no matter who is being punished here! I implore everyone, from our lowest rank rookies to our Founding Leaders, to do what they can to stop this madman before dawn, and save two of our men from a despicable fate! -Standard Agent Bluetooth He then set it to send to all agents with the All-Agents-Bulletin alert setting, and pressed "Send" as hard as he could. ***** Katerina waited for several minutes before agent Hotwire finally handed over three wires with the insulation stripped away for about four inches. She nodded in gratitude and carefully grasped the wire between her palms. Immediately, a flood of data raced into her mind, and she absentmindedly stared at the ceiling while she began sifting through it. First, she narrowed her field to security footage from the day so far. Blackouts over the deaths of the Second Headquarters Squad, Trigger's violent outbursts, Zelda and Nazareno sparring, and so forth. She raised an eyebrow when the timestamps of two bits of footage revealed Specs to have been in entirely different areas of the building simultaneously. Most likely a glitch. It wasn't important, anyway. What mattered was Lupus Schattenberg: where he'd been and where he was. She was rewarded quickly as she located the mess hall footage during her confrontation with Bogart. And there was Lupus, now unmistakable despite the Dino Attack uniform and the bandanna. She focused her mind's eye on him, and when he exited, she sorted through the footage that followed it chronologically, narrowing her field even more to track his movements throughout the building. Once satisfied, she handed the wires back to Hotwire. The entire process had taken approximately seven seconds. "So where's he get to?" Hotwire asked as he re-insulated the wires as best he could. "The most current footage revealed Lupus Schattenberg near the interrogation rooms," said Katerina. "He appeared to be confronting a masked figure dressed in the uniform of an Ogel Drone." ***** Swerve was beginning to feel a bit more like himself -- or at least less like not-himself. The thick gloves did a fairly decent job of obscuring the skeletal thinness of his hands, and the balaclava and dark goggles concealed his bare skull completely. He still had to get rid of the horrid uniform, though. If memory served him properly, the barracks were this way. Perhaps there'd be a spare uniform that would fit a skeleton. The oddest thing by far about the last several months since his transformation --and that bit was still something of an enigma -- was that he'd experienced only positive emotions while oblivious to his past life. A defense mechanism, perhaps? Or perhaps not, as negative emotions had been commonplace enough for the last hour or so; he was choking some back at that moment, as the memory of Mort's look of utter disgust popped into his mind. This was what took his mind off of his surroundings, and this inattentiveness was what allowed him to be grabbed by the arms from behind and hauled into an empty briefing room. He tried to struggle, but his multiple cracked bones made this difficult. Within seconds he was tied to a chair. "Calm down. I just want to talk," his assailant said, walking around to where Swerve could see him. The Alpha Team agent-turned-drone stiffened in recognition. The face was familiar, though he couldn't see the third eye due to the grey bandanna tied around his attacker's head, but what tipped him off was the subtle buzz he felt in the air, as though the minifig before him were a live wire. "Been a while, hasn't it, Swervy?" said Loop. ***** April 27, 2010 Swerve sat down gingerly on the side of the road and tried to remain calm. That lasted for all of seven seconds. He cursed in frustration. The mission was a failure. At least Spectrum, Talon, and Hotwire were safely on their way back to HQ. The road to Mt. Bricklake was too narrow for his Iron Predator, so he and Spectrum had set off on foot to try and raise the alarm personally. Unfortunately, a rockslide and a sprained ankle put an end to that quickly, separating the two of them and immobilizing Swerve. The PDAs and radios were still dead -- for all of Talon's promises of her brother's skill, that rookie Hotwire couldn't seem to keep the comms online for more than two minutes at a time. The Alpha Team agent could hear the Pteranodons overhead. So much for saving Mt. Bricklake, he thought to himself, fighting off despair. This was interrupted when he heard footsteps behind him, and a voice that was all-too-familiar. "Small world, isn't it? I hope you didn't think I'd forgotten about you." Swerve turned with some difficulty. The speaker was a broad-shouldered minifig with three eyes. "Loop," he growled. But... the uniform was wrong. The last time he'd confronted this mad mutant, he'd been fighting a servant of the Evil OGEL Empire. Now, Loop was dressed in the orange garb of the henchmen of Dr. Inferno. "Can't even stay loyal to a competent villain, huh?" Loop laughed. "I'm loyal to nobody you know about. Fighting for Ogel served its purpose in time... and that's why I'm here now." He began circling Swerve. "You can do a lot of interesting things with electricity, you know." He snapped his fingers and sparks began to buzz up and down his arms. "Fry a person's mind to a crisp while leaving their body functioning perfectly, destroy software programs in the blink of an eye... or create a field to cancel out radio waves..." Swerve's eyes widened, and Loop grinned. "Yeah, I don't mean to brag, but that was all me. That Hotwire seems to be exceptional with wiring -- you can bet I'll be keeping an eye on him -- but it's all useless if the signal dissipates in seconds." Loop continued monologuing. "But that's not all you can do with electricity. I've experimented quite a bit, you see, and one of my very favorite things to do," he said, walking around behind Swerve, "is paralyze someone." He placed one hand on Swerve's spine and emitted a jolt of electricity. Immediately, the Alpha Team agent went completely numb. "Much classier than ropes," said Loop. "Even when you tie someone up, they can still struggle. Unfortunately, this is not a trick that will ever work on you again, old friend, because in a few minutes, you won't have any nerves at all. Literally." Swerve couldn't even move his eyes, so when Loop walked around behind a nearby boulder, the only evidence of the Inferno henchman's presence was his voice. "You should be flattered to know that I specifically selected you for this task," spoke Loop, "and suggested it to my commanding officer." Swerve desperately tried to pick up the mutant in his peripheral vision. Within seconds, his captor had returned, and Swerve gasped when saw what Loop had in his hands. The three-eyed minifig smiled darkly. "Like I said, fighting in Ogel's army had its advantages." Loop was holding a Mind-Control Orb. ---- Rex piloted the hover-chair through the hallways of Dino Attack Headquarters, trying to pursue the fleeing Ata. As he caught more and more glimpses of the XERRD mole darting from shadow to shadow, he became more and more sure that it was him and not some trick of the mind. Unfortunately, even after the hover-chair was fully repaired by Dr. Cyborg, this was the first time Rex ever tried chasing someone with it, and it was not something he picked up on quickly. Behind him, Rex became aware that a small crowd of followers were pursuing him in return. First, there was Zachary Virchaus and Minerva Fabello. Behind them, Frozeen and Amanda struggled to catch up. Rex overheard a quick exchange between Zachary and Frozeen as the latter explained that Rex had taken Zed Provhezor's hover-chair after the Maelstrom Temple battle. "What exactly are we doing?" yelled Minerva as she ran. "It's Ata!" Rex quickly shouted over his shoulder. "He's escaped!" "Ata?" wondered Zachary. "The communications expert? What about-" "The mole!" Frozeen quickly filled Zachary and Minerva in on the news. Evidently, while word was slowly spreading around that Attila Huntsman was the traitor, it hadn't reached the ears of Zachary or Minerva yet. "He's actually a XERRD shinobi... it's not surprising that he could find a way to slip out of the high-security imprisonment!" "Th' mole be a shinobi?" Rex became aware of an older, grizzled, and familiar voice joining those behind him. "Th' same mole that caused 'em Antarctica riots? Blow me down, I be shiverin' me timbers if I dinnae 'elp ye shoot down that bilge rat, says I!" "Great to have your help, Greybeard!" responded Rex. "I think he's headed for the lobby!" "Tell you what, Rex!" decided Frozeen. "Amanda and I'll go this way and meet you there! Hopefully we can surround him and catch him before it's too late!" "Sounds good to me!" agreed Rex. As Amanda and Frozeen left the main group and took a detour, Rex, Zachary, Minerva, and Greybeard continued the pursuit for another few minutes. The only way Rex could be sure of where they were going was based upon the occasional glimpse of Ata slipping from shadow to shadow. As a shinobi, his skills of sneaking around and avoiding security systems were greater than normal; Frozeen was right, Rex realized, as nearly any security system would be no good in holding Ata. At last, just before reaching the lobby, Rex heard the sound of a flintlock pistol firing just as Ata emerged from one shadow. Greybeard's aim was true, and Ata stumbled. "Hah!" barked Greybeard. "Ye shinobi think that ye be so invincible! That we buccaneers dinnae stand a chance against ye! Well, think again, matey!" Still, Ata was nearly out of the building, and with surprising perseverance, he continued to flee with uncanny speed. As he saw Ata enter the lobby, Rex feared for a moment that they were too late and that Ata would escape. By the time Rex, Zachary, Minerva, and Greybeard entered the lobby, Ata was already at the doors. "No!" shouted Rex. At the last possible second, an elderly man in a black suit who was sitting on a chair by the doors bolted out of his seat and extended his arm in a horizontal chopping motion, slamming it into the neck of Ata. The XERRD shinobi, caught by surprise, was knocked backward upon the floor and gasped for breath. As Rex and his friends approached Ata's fallen form, the old man lowered his arm and stared at them. Greybeard stood over Ata's body and glared down upon him with his one good eye. "So," he hissed, "ye be th' mole responsible fer th' Antarctica riots. Ye be th' one who stirred violence in th' Dino Attack Team an' in th' refugee facilities, endangerin' us all in th' process. What cowardly scum ye be! It be time fer ye t' dance a fine dance t'night!" Then, before Rex, Zachary, or Minerva could stop him, Greybeard fired his flintlock pistol again. This time, he silenced Ata's gasps forever. Before Rex could find any words to say to Greybeard, Frozeen and Amanda arrived. "Ah, good!" panted Frozeen. "It looks like you got h... Oh, my." "Ye cannae lock up a shinobi," grumbled Greybeard, "an' he deserved t' be punished fer what he did." "We did have some help, though," added Zachary. "If it weren't for him..." He trailed off, and everyone looked in the direction he pointed; Minerva, Rex, and Greybeard with surprise, and Frozeen and Amanda with confusion. The old man that they had seen... had disappeared. ***** "Hey, what's this?" Dude said curiously as he reached into his baggy shorts and pulled out a dusty PDA. "Agents of Dino Attack," he started to read. "Agent French Fries is at it ag-" "What kind of name is that?" Walter asked. "Agent French Fries. How is that a guy like him became an Elite Agent, and YET WE ALL HAD TO STAY IN ZNAPPING ANTARCTICA BECAUSE OF YOUR STUPID CODENAME!?" "Hey guys," said a sudden voice from behind. Everyone turned to see a filthy, dirty, short man in uniform with a great big smile on his face. "Who are you?" Dude asked. "Agent Baldrick, sir," replied the man. "Look, I just got this funny message I wanted to show you." He walked up to the prison and handed the PDA to agent Pyro, who sighed and took it. "You looked a bit down, so I thought this might cheer you up. It's hilarious." Pyro took a moment to read it before tossing it back out. "I'm pretty sure that's not supposed to be funny," she said with a monotone voice. "Are you kidding?" replied Baldrick. "It's the most hilarious joke I've ever read in my life." Nearby, Montoya heard the security doors to the detention block open. A Dino Attack agent who looked like a shameless knockoff of Indiana Jones approached his cell and casually leaned against the bars. "G'day, mate," the Dino Attack agent said with a grin. "Now, you're the one they call Montoya, eh?" Montoya looked up with surprise. "Err, yes," he said, nodding. "That's me." "Well, today's your lucky day!" The Dino Attack agent clapped his hands together. "Name's Rick, but the folks 'round here know me as Elite Agent Adventure. And, as an Elite Agent, I have the authority to pardon you and set you free." Suspicious, Montoya raised an eyebrow. "Why would you free me?" he wondered. As he unlocked Montoya's door, Adventure shrugged. "I don't know the full story, but Claw put in a good word for you and said I could set you free. She said that you owed her a favor or something like that." Could it be? thought Montoya. With hesitation, he asked: "I'm afraid I don't know anyone by that name. Maybe if you could tell me what she looks like...?" Adventure smiled to himself. "That sheila is might pretty, I tell you. I'd say she's likely in her mid-twenties. Got long brown hair, usually tied in a ponytail. Kinda quiet, though; she doesn't speak much unless it's necessary. She's also got some high-ranking friends, like that honcho Rex who manages to stay in the action while sitting in a wheelchair, and from what I hear, she's quite skilled with a knife. I can respect that; there's nothing quite like going on an adventure and cutting your way out of primate-infested jungles in a macho fashion with explosions in the background while..." As Adventure continued to ramble, Montoya's thoughts turned grim. Based upon that description, Claw had to be Silencia Venomosa. Which meant that the only reason that she sent Adventure to set him free would be so that he could talk to Trigger. That must have been the favor she was referring to. "... and a monkey named Vladimir Bananas flying off into space. Ah! There we go!" Adventure opened the cell door and tipped his hat in Montoya's direction. "You're free to go, Montoya!" ***** "I be tellin' ye!" muttered Greybeard as he walked alongside Frozeen. "Thar be an elderly fellow who 'elped us take down th' mole. I dinnae imagine it, says I! Rex, Zachary, an' Minerva say they saw 'im too!" "Right," said Frozeen, frowning skeptically. "And he just mysterious vanished right before Amanda and I walked in?" "Aye," said Greybeard, "as strange as it sounds." Frozeen sighed. "You know, I'd think that, after growing up on LEGO Island, joining the Alpha Team, and experiencing the Dino Attack, I'd be used to strange things like this. Still, experience does not make it any easier to comprehend. He wasn't... pale or translucent or anything, was he? I sure hope there aren't any ghosts haunting Dino Attack Headquarters now." He shuddered at that thought. "It be this room t' yer left," Greybeard pointed out. Together, they entered the room where Greybeard left Mary Rose during the pursuit of Ata. They were surprised to find that the little girl was not alone, but accompanied by Shadow, Digger, and a female Dino Attack agent in a wheelchair. Mary Rose was sitting on a table, and the wheelchair-bound agent sat in front of her, speaking with Shadow and Digger. Her voice carried a hint of a British accent. "... is true, then we should not be relieved that Mutant Dinos have been appearing less and less frequently in LEGO City. The families and businesses that have returned to LEGO City from Antarctica have put themselves in danger. And-" The female Dino Attack agent turned to see the newcomers enter the room. "Oh," she murmured. "It's you." "What?" Greybeard raised an eyebrow, confused. He turned to ask Frozeen if he knew what she was talking about, and then he saw that Frozeen was quite flustered. The Alpha Team agent's face had paled and his eyes were widened. Swallowing hard, Frozeen managed to say: "Oh! Well... hello again. It's, ah, been a while." "Indeed," agreed the female Dino Attack agent, "it has been 'a while'." "I be sorry," said Greybeard, "but I dinnae exactly remember ye, so, err, could someone fill me in so me timbers belay their shiverin'?" "Right," said Shadow, nodding. "After the revelation of Ata's true loyalties, we had to quickly and temporarily promote someone else to the position of lead communications officer, and this young woman here seemed fit for the task." "And her name be...?" inquired Greybeard. The Dino Attack agent wheeled herself over towards Frozeen and Greybeard. "As Peter and I have known each other since middle school," she explained, "we don't need to exchange formalities. However, as you and I have only just met, Greybeard, it is only fair of me to introduce myself. I am Shannon Grimton, leading technology expert with a degree in biotechnological studies, and youngest daughter of the late Alpha Team technology expert agent Gromtin." ***** "That was exciting," Minerva said to Zach as they made their way to the mess hall. "I would say so," Zach responded absently. "Guess we found the mole. And now he's dead thanks to Greybeard." "I don't know if killing him was necessary." "No, but he had a point. If Ata can slip out of a high-security prison once, he can do it again. Getting killed in an unceremonious fashion is more than fitting for mole that helped cause everything from the riots in Antarctica to the deaths of the Second Headquarters Squad." "I suppose." They finally reached the mess hall and found Zelda Frodongan and Kareem Nazareno at a table, Zelda consuming a snack while Nazareno sat in front of her, unable to eat due to his mask. As they approached, Zach noticed that Zelda had a sheath on her back that concealed two silver katanas. "Greetings, Zachary and Minerva," Nazareno said plainly, not turning to face the two. Zelda grinned. "Hello, Nazareno. Zelda," Zach said, taking a seat next to Nazareno while Minerva took a seat next to Zelda. "Getting one step closer to becoming a ninja, aren't you, Zelda?"' "Unfortunately, the swords in the armory do not even begin to match the quality of mine," Nazareno said. "These swords will suffice, but barely. That is why I suggest carrying a firearm on your person just in case." "Yes, yes," Zelda said. "So, did you two hear they caught the mole?" "Yes," Zach said. "We watched him get killed by Greybeard." "And why did the pirate shoot Ata?" Nazareno said, closing his eyes and keeping his voice controlled. "He was escaping. He was a XERRD Shinobi. Some old guy clotheslined him, and Greybeard finished him off. From my interpretation, Greybeard seems to dislike Shinobi as much as you dislike Pirates." "Of course," Nazareno muttered. "And who was the old man that stopped Ata from escaping?" "We don't know," Minerva said. "He stopped Ata and then he just sort of... disappeared." "Curious. I wonder where he could've run off to?" Nazareno shrugged. "So the mole is dead. Good. One less issue to deal with. With him gone, we should be able to move on to the team's next assignment soon enough." "What do think the team will do next?" Zelda asked. "Unless another urgent issue rises that needs to be dealt with, a final conflict with XERRD is on the horizon. One that will decide to the victor of this war. It could be anywhere at any time, but it will happen. Very soon." ***** "Oh 'allo sir," Baldrick said as he turned toward Montoya. "Hey," replied Montoya. "You've just got out of prison," said Baldrick. "Yeah," said Montoya. "Your point is?" "I've got something here," replied Baldrick. He held out a dirty sack. "Breakfast?" Montoya asked sarcastically. "That was just a brilliant dead herring," said Baldrick. "Red herring," Montoya corrected. "The phrase is red herring." "What I've got here… is an escape kit!" "Ah yes," muttered Montoya. "I'm sure a small painted wooden duck will come in handy, as will two Robin Hood costumes, a pencil, and a miniature trumpet." "How'd you know that?" Baldrick asked, surprised. "These cells aren't soundproof," replied Montoya. "I could hear you pretty easily in there. I also won't be needing that since I've just been released. That's why I'm not in my cell. By the way, I wouldn't go talking about these things right in front of a cop." Montoya motioned toward Vinyaya, who seemed to be watching Baldrick with a look of irritation. "Oh well," replied Baldrick. "Suit yourself, I'm going to go complement that one guy on his great joke." Baldrick looked at his PDA again. "Agent... Bluh...eh...tuhth. I'm going to go speak to him." Montoya sighed as he turned and walked toward the door. ***** French Fries excitedly sat down at one of the tables in the cafeteria with a large plate full of food. "This is looking good, Darling," he said to the agent there. "Yes," replied Darling, somewhat embarrassed by his codename. "Tell me," said French Fries, taking a large bite out of his food. "How are we doing in the field?" "Pretty good so far," replied Darling. "Have you tried out my plan yet?" asked French Fries. "What you mean the one where everyone gets out of the base and walks really slowly toward the army of mutant dinosaurs?" "That's the one, yes." "Unfortunately no," replied Darling. "I've run into a slight flaw with that one. You see, no matter what way we try it, everyone always gets slaughtered in the first ten seconds." "Oh dear," said French Fries. "I think we're going to have to boost the morale of the men!" ***** Rex's chair floated beside Amanda as they left the Dino Attack lobby. Rex was still shaking his head about what just happened. He was shocked that Greybeard had taken it upon himself to be Ata's judge and executioner but, seeing as Greybeard was a pirate and a realist, it did not come as something completely unexpected. That, and as much as Rex hated to admit it, Greybeard's apparent animosity towards ninja allowed him to bring up a valid point: if Ata was such a skilled shinobi that he could escape Dino Attack's highest security prison, no doubt he could do it again. Still, Rex could not believe how quickly Ata had seemingly changed in the past twenty-four hours. From a trusted technology and communications expert... to a XERRD shinobi and infiltrator... to yet another death brought about by this war. Wanting to take his mind off the subject of Ata, Rex was about to ask Amanda a question when they both suddenly stopped. The old man in the black suit appeared before them. He walked towards them, taking long strides with every step, and stopped in front of Rex's hover-chair. "I need to speak with you in private," he spoke to Rex. "It's very urgent matters." Amanda narrowed her eyes, and Rex, taking notice of this, bit his lip. "I'd... feel a little safer if my companion Amanda was with me while we spoke," Rex explained. "We've just had some problems with trust and security, and while you did help solve these problems (thank you, by the way), I'd just feel more comfortable if-" "Very well, then," said the elderly man, nodding. "Now, come in here with me. We haven't much time to talk about this." Rex and Amanda traded glances, but they followed the old man as he entered the broom closet. The bulk of Rex's hover-chair made the space a little tight and claustrophobic, and the lighting wasn't so good here, but it seemed to satisfy the old man. Now that they were closer, Rex could tell there were some things... off... about the elderly man. His black suit was brand-new... so brand-new, in fact, he forgot to take of the price tag. He stood tall and erect, but he also appeared dangerously thin, as though he was suffering from years of malnutrition. His skin was horribly pale, and it was wrinkled on his face but stretched bone-tight on his hands. Aside from a few strands of silver-white hair that covered his scalp in an attempt to replicate a comb-over, the man was completely bald. Strangely, although he was shaven, it appeared that he had not done a very good job at it, as there were noticeable cuts on his cheeks and chin. There were also a number of larger cuts and prominent bruises on the old man's scalp and hands. His eyes were sunken deep into their sockets, with only a glint of light reflecting off their shiny surfaces to let Rex know that they still existed. But most of all, there was something familiar about the old man. Rex could not put his finger on it, but his appearance and his voice vaguely reminded him on someone he had once met. But surely, Rex thought to himself, if I ever met a Minifig like this before, I would remember. The elderly man cleared his throat. "I come to you," he explained, "bearing bad news from the Goo Caverns... knowledge of XERRD's current activities." Rex raised an eyebrow. "In the Goo Caverns? Sir, Dino Attack Team was down there just a few months ago, and we cleansed the caverns of Mutant Dinos and Dr. Inferno's forces... shortly before the caverns collapsed in a massive volcanic eruption. Why would XERRD be down in the Goo Caverns when their main base of operations is on Dinosaur Island?" The old man shook his head. "They were down in the Goo Caverns, holding a meeting in an Inferno outpost. I overheard their discussions, and one of the scientists mentioned that their Dino Island Laboratory was in ruins thanks the work of one known as 'the Brickster'." Rex blinked in surprise. "The Brickster? I don't believe it... so the Brickster-Bot invasion was a success, not a suicide mission." "They were most... displeased about the Brickster's work," continued the elderly man. "Especially the one that they called 'Dr. Rex', who appeared to be a Mutant T-Rex wearing silver armor and speaking plain English. In fact, throughout the entire meeting, Dr. Rex seemed like he was on the verge of an explosion. I overheard a few of the scientists murmuring among themselves: they think Dr. Rex has finally gone mad, but they are too afraid of him to say or do anything to stop him. At one point, they received a message from... oh, what were their names... ah, yes: Michelle Glados and Paulie Gonepus. That's when I learned about the Dino Island Laboratory; they were on their way back to that lab when the other scientists explained that the lab was destroyed." "So," muttered Rex, "looks like Glados and Gonepus got away after all." "They were not alone," elaborated the old man, "but of the scientists that contacted the Inferno outpost, they were the ones who spoke the most... I remember that Raul and Ingrid were with them too, but they did not speak as much. Quite interestingly, Glados was saying something about a 'Darkitect'. She was reporting that XERRD had lost a Maelstrom Temple, but was also trying to explain that the whole Dino Attack was actually the work of the 'Darkitect' who was manipulating XERRD. Gonepus even dared to suggest that they quit while they were still ahead, to which a number of scientists in the Goo Caverns hushed him up, saying something along the lines of 'You don't want to know what happened when Dr. William Lee and Dr. Robert Nicholas suggested that to Dr. Rex'. Needless to say, Dr. Rex was outraged by the talk of this 'Darkitect', proclaiming that 'he doesn't exist' and 'he's just a myth', asserting himself as XERRD's true leader, and declaring that XERRD's purpose was always to help destiny return the world to the dinosaur age. I suspect that the only thing that saved Gonepus's life was the fact that he was not in the same location as Dr. Rex when he made this suggestion." "Oh my Builder," murmured Amanda. "The Darkitect has really destroyed his mind." "Indeed," agreed Rex, bitterly. "He was once a gentleman-like scientist. Now, he's reduced to being MegaBlokland-bent upon destroying the world... without even knowing it." "But that's not even the worst news," the elderly man shook his head. "Dr. Rex was downright furious upon learning the news from Glados and Gonepus; in addition to the loss of the Maelstrom Temple and the so-called 'rumors' of the Darkitect, he learned that his trusted second-in-command was actually a Dino Attack spy. In retaliation, he ordered that someone send a message to someone named Attila Huntsman to begin destroying the Dino Attack Team's morale, and then... and then Dr. Rex proclaimed the following message…" "When the sun sets on December 21, 2010... Dino Attack Headquarters shall come crashing down... the courage of Dino Attack Team shall fail... and the age of Minifig civilization shall end!" Rex's eyes widened. He turned to Amanda and inquired, "What's today's date?" Biting her lip, Amanda checked her PDA. "December 20, 2010." Rex's heartbeat started to race. Clutching his chest in pain, Rex whispered in incredulity: "Tomorrow... he's planning an attack... and it's tomorrow!" "I'm sorry that I could not have delivered this message sooner," the elderly man said as he scratched his forehead. "Even for me, it takes some time to travel from the Goo Caverns to LEGO City, and I had to make myself a little more... presentable; I don't think they would have allowed someone who looked like a homeless bum to enter Dino Attack Headquarters and ask to speak with a high-ranking agent such as yourself. That, and I entered right in the middle of Huntsman's chaos, and I would have waited in the lobby for you, but I wanted to help track him down, so I tried to join in the mole hunt." "Oh wait," said Rex, blinking in realization. "You're the one that Elizabeth Wilma referred to as 'Gun'." The old man chuckled. "Don't let my appearance deceive you, Rex. And don't let the fact that a couple tons of rock fell on my head and finally knocked some sense back into me fool you, either. I still might not remember my real name... but I sure remembered that little nickname that you and Greybeard bestowed upon me when we first met a few months ago." Rex's jaw dropped. When he found his voice, he could only manage to stutter two words in disbelief: "Ben Gunn?" ***** The boat had docked smoothly, but nothing was happening on the harbor front. B stood on the edge of the gangplank, not daring to take the first step onto the dock. Rob came up from behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. "Lemme get this straight, B. They say that we can't come on shore because they think we're imposters, yet the let us dock here? Isn't that like saying to the wolf: Don't come into the barn, but I left the door wide open?" "Ours not to wonder why, Rob," replied B. "To be honest, I'm not sure what policy is when it comes to dealing with MIA/KIA agents if they happen to show up. But, like the guy said, we need to be verified by someone confirmed to be alive and who also has a confirmed identity." "Oh, the bureaucracy," Rob said in mock horror. B rolled his eyes. "There's nothing I'd like more than to just walk back into HQ right now. But, we still need to follow protocol, no matter how stupid it seems. Look at Chris and Uncle Zeke; they're making the most of the time sparring. Come on, let's go a few rounds." "Alright," agreed Rob, "but go easy on me; I'm not quite as good at hand to hand combat as you are." B and Rob sparred for what seemed like hours, never keeping one style for longer than one punch or one blow. An uppercut followed by a kick, or maybe a judo hold repealed by a jab to the ribs. It was only a few minutes in when they ended the match. "Good one, Rob," complimented B. "You're getting better at this." "You just have to know when to improvise," replied Rob, "which is what they've been trying to teach me for years. I guess I finally picked up on that." ***** Agent Bluetooth was rather surprised when a short, dirty, filthy fellow with missing teeth and a great big smile walked up to him. "Are you agent Bluhehtuhth?" Baldrick asked. "What?" replied Bluetooth confusedly. "Agent Bluhehtuth," said Baldrick. "I just wanted to say I liked your joke." "What joke?" asked Bluetooth. "The one you sent to everybody in the base about the guy named French Fries. I especially like the punchline - 'I implode everyone, from our founding rookies to lowest leaders, to do what they can to stop this madman before dawn' - it was the funniest joke I'd ever seen in my entire life!" Bluetooth felt a weird range of emotions running through him. Shock, surprise, confusion, a bit of amusement. But what seemed to stand out the most was anger. Anger at this strange man seeming to take all he had said without any realization of the seriousness of the issue. It couldn't be contained. Completely out of nowhere, as Baldrick began to snicker, the Futuron agent grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and pushed him against the wall. "I. Was. Not. Kidding!" he growled at the filthy man. "Two agents are going to die at dawn because of a madman with a silly name, unless people like you sober up and realize the gravity of the situation! This man is the reason lives were endangered during Digger's schism; he shouldn't even still be here! Do you understand, mister?!" Baldrick, shocked and fearful of the sudden reaction, nodded his head up and down. Bluetooth let him go and stormed off towards the holding cells. The time for tomfoolery and distraction was over. Action had to be taken. ***** As Andrew's party of three entered the mess hall, he contemplated what he had heard from Semick. Sure, it may seem just natural worry to be concerned about the town and what Dr. Rex might do next, but for some reason, the idea was sticking in his head. Thinking about it now, it did make him uneasy about how LEGO City was dino-free and recovering. As comforting as it was to see signs of the planet recovering, it almost seemed too comforting, like the reassurance given by the light at the end of a tunnel in spite of it belonging to an oncoming train. Semick was right. LEGO City, and more directly, Dino Attack Headquarters, seemed likely to be the focus of the next big, perhaps final, attack. And while it was impossible to know how or why it might happen, the important thing was to try and prepare for everything that could be conceived. The cries of someone familiar began to pull Andrew from his thought. Focusing on what his eyes could see, he could see Zach waving to him from a nearby table, Minerva, Nazareno, and another agent with swords on her back alongside him. "Might as well sit down," Pterisa suggested. Andrew nodded and followed her and Laxus to the group. "Been a good day for you guys?" Minerva asked as they sit down. "Pterisa, have you liked what you've seen today?" "It's quite a nice building," she responded. "And I'm happy that the team has been accepting of me." "Mostly we've just be wandering around, watching movies, eating pizza, nothing special," said Laxus. "Good to hear," said Zach. He glanced at Andrew's face, which was still looking somber from his thoughts about Semick's words. "You feeling alright, Andrew?" "Oh, yeah, yeah, I have. It's just.... well, we talked to Semick on the way down, and he's feeling a bit concerned about what's coming next." "What do you mean?" asked Zelda, the female agent Andrew didn't recognize. "Well, he's feeling anxiety from how LEGO City's been cleared to the point where the populace is rebuilding with great progress could mean something about XERRD's next attack. He's feeling that they'll try to hit us here in HQ, and that they'll try something we might not have a chance at beating." "Seems like a more-or-less normal concern to have," said Nazareno, "but a bad feeling isn't much to go on." "I know, but the more I think about it, the more I can't help but feel that same way. That something's coming to hit us here and hard. At the least, I suppose we can only prepare ourselves for the worse, but who knows what's going to happen next?" The group was silent as these words were thought over for a couple seconds. Then Andrew started up again. "Well, there's also other matters to think about. Did anyone else get Bluetooth's message?" Zach and his colleagues shook their heads. Laxus pulled out his PDA showed the group the latest All Agents Bulletin message. "It's a repeat of that incident with Rotor and the flight crew he wanted killed. Only this time the shoe's on the other foot, or so they say." "It's incredulous that things like this happen here of all places," said Andrew. "Somebody needs to find this 'French Fries' and have him arrested or something, and I hope those guys at the holding area are smart enough to find Rotor and Brown and get them out of there." ***** After talking with Andrew's group, Semick had gone off to go look at the various points of the headquarters he felt might be important in case of an attack. There might not be any attack warnings coming in as of yet, but at the least, he could encourage people the start being more vigilant considering the risks. Currently, he was in the hangars, talking to the mechanics and engineers about the state of their vehicle fleet. In regard to their numbers, they had been thinned out a bit after the missions, as was often expected. Several of the men were particularly annoyed that the Adventurers' Island team had lost fancy Renaissance T-2 Typhoon to gravity during the battle at Hotep III's temple, to the point where a team of mechanics had been flown out to try and get it airborne again, or at least salvage and repurpose its surviving critical components for another T-2 Typhoon. Semick could only wish good luck to them. Extra firepower and defense were always appreciated. "So besides that," Semick said, "how are we looking?" "Welp," said the guy in charge of management of the hangars, "our manufacturers'll have a few more T-1s flown in tonight, and the army's gonna have a few of their tank designers help with rebuildin' the Iron Predator scraps brought back from Castle Cove. I also hear rumors about Space Police sending in some kind flyin' warship called the Daedalus or somethin', but I'm pretty sure that's just a rumor the rookies are throwing around for fun. Otherwise, we're doing pretty swell, sir. Don't you worry 'bout nothin'." "Alright then," said Semick. "Keep up the good work." Walking back towards the headquarters proper, Semick was stopped by an agent who was running outside with a clipboard and one of those tablet devices under his arms. "Pardon me, but are you Elite Agent Semick?" "That would be correct. Am I needed for something?" "Just for a small task, but it requires some small travel. Our guy with the Coast Guard says some agents on the MIA list have arrived at the docks, and he's insistent we get someone to go and ID their authenticity. You up for it?" "Sure, assuming it won't take long," said Semick. "OK, good. And don't worry, it won't. We'll just grab a Fire Hammer, and we'll be off." Within a few minutes, Semick was then riding shotgun with the agent, heading towards the docks to check out these new arrivals. ***** "Schiess?" Trigger turned in surprise to see the familiar face of his old partner. "Montoya?" he said. "What the Znap you doing here?" "I got your message," replied Montoya, a little puzzled by this response. "Yeah," said Trigger. "You didn't need to come here. I had everything under control. Silencia's running around this MegaBloking base killing everybody but this Znapping team is too stupid to realize it." "I spoke to her," Montoya said. "I almost had her, but they caught me." "You let them get you, Montoya?" growled Trigger. "What kind of fool are you, you worthless MegaBloking son of a 4+ Figure?!" "I spoke to her," continued Montoya. "She told me she changed." "She told you that," Trigger said in a mocking tone of voice. "You forget that she also told you that she was working with us before she killed Orange, Scorsese, Verbal, Deniro, and Keaton." "She's speaking now," retorted Montoya. "There's something about her that's differ-" "Obviously, she's just trying to put you into a false sense of security," declared Trigger. "You're going to make up with her, and as soon as you turn around, you're going to collapse on the ground with a Znapping knife in your back." ***** What kind of name is French Fries? Zach thought, rolling his eyes. "It's ridiculous how many power-corrupted individuals we have on this team. How exactly did this French Fries become an Elite Agent? More importantly, how is he still an Elite Agent if he helped leak the Antarctica mission and helped create the whole pointless realist versus idealist war and the riots in the refuge facilities?" "I don't know," Andrew said with a shrug. "Perhaps the Founding Members were too busy monitoring four ongoing missions and forgot about him?" "Probably," Nazareno said coldly. "Another kangaroo court. Involving the same people as last time." It was clear from Nazareno's tone that he was not amused. "He wasn't impressed with Rotor's trial on Adventurers' Island," Minerva muttered to Zach. "He thought we were wasting time when we should have been heading to the Maelstrom Temple." Zach found Nazareno losing his temper hard to believe, but he was busy serving the Darkitect at that time, so he would just have to take Minerva's word for it. "Wait, wait," Zelda said. "I'm not following. What trial on Adventurers' Island?" "I suppose you didn't infiltrate the camp until my ambush," Zach said. "Infiltrate?" Laxus asked. "Zelda was a Stromling spy," explained Zach. "I believe she interrupted a command meeting trying to send me information?" Andrew's eyes widened in realization. "So you were that Stromling? You were cured as well?" Zelda seemed somewhat embarrassed about her Stromling past. "In a more conventional way than Zach's cleansing, but yeah. So what about this trial?" Minerva, Nazareno, Laxus, and Andrew explained to Zelda the trial Rotor had attempted to put on to convict and execute George Brown and his crew. "So how did you know about it?" Zelda asked Zach. "Did Ghost tell you?" "He was very brief about it. No, I learned more by reading the database not long ago," Zach explained. "Now that we're all in the loop, I do hope somebody stops French Fries. Brown isn't in the wrong for showing concern toward his teammates, and even though Rotor sounds like a jerk, he's been far more helpful to the team than French Fries, his own kangaroo court aside." "What does he look like, anyways?" Pterisa asked. "I don't think any photos were attached to the message." "Hold on, let me see if I can get through to the database with this," said Laxus, looking down at his PDA. "The techies were working on a feature to allow the PDAs to uplink with it so people didn't have to search somewhere for a laptop." "Database access for useful information?" Minerva said jokingly. "There's an app for that, I guess." The group snickered at the joke as Laxus's PDA loaded up a screen saying "D.I.N.O. Attack Team Information Database V.34: Mobile Build V.1.45". Going to the "Search" function and typing "Agent: French Fries," he managed to get a bio page with a mugshot-like photo. "Here, he said, showing the image on the PDA to the group. "Now we can put a face to the name. As strange as it is." Laxus glanced at Andrew, who was now looking around the mess hall. After a moment, he saw something somewhere behind Zach and Minerva's side of the table. "I think I see him," he said, his voice now taking a bit of a quieter tone, perhaps to avoid a ruckus. "He's the one sitting by one other guy with a rather stuffed plate of food." The group turned to see what Andrew was looking at. Sure enough, there was an agent who matched the look of French Fries's image (though there were cases where people tended to see similarities between agents' faces; once or twice, someone had told Andrew he looked a bit like the infamous Kotua) talking with another agent as he ate. "I wouldn't advise too hasty action," Andrew suggested, "but I think we have to do something about him." ***** Katerina, Hotwire, and the two synthfigs hurried down the hallways to the briefing rooms. They didn't pass very many agents on their way; it seemed that most of those inside the base were occupied elsewhere, probably with the hunt for the mole. They soon reached the room where the camera footage had shown Loop, and burst inside. Loop was sitting in the wheeled office chair at the far end of the room, spinning idly. "Lupus Schattenberg, this nonsense has come to an end," Katerina barked. "Executive override: basalt. Now stand and follow us out." Loop made a halfhearted attempt to rise from the chair, but then sat back and plopped his feet up on the desk. "Whoops, looks like I don't have to do what you say anymore. How about that?" "Impossible," hissed Katerina. Hotwire began to draw his handgun, but Katerina shook her head. "Isn't it, though?" Loop said, amused. "You'll love this bit, then. Executive override: seventh. Restrain them." Swerve, stripped of his balaclava, goggles, and gloves, stepped out of the shadows behind them with a length of rope and, in the blink of an eye, had it looped around Hotwire, pinning the DINO agent's arms down. Swerve pulled the rope tight and knotted it securely. "Septimus?" Hotwire exclaimed, shocked. The drone pulled out a strip of cloth and tied it around Hotwire's mouth to silence him. Katerina assumed a combat stance. "Wolfgang, take the drone. Rainer, with me. We should be able to overwhelm him." Wolfgang took a step back but did not move. Katerina turned towards him, annoyed and incredulous, and in that moment, Loop tossed a small bolt of electricity towards Rainer. The synthfig caught it, gently placed his hand on Katerina's back, over her spine, and released the energy in a pulse. Katerina felt her entire body from the neck down become numb. She found she was completely frozen. She tried speaking and managed, "How--?" Now Loop stood, smirking, and sauntered over. "Cane was quite a bit more clever than you gave him credit for, as am I. Did you really think you had him fooled all this time? No, he knew from the start, five years ago, that you were neatly tucked away behind that cheerful 'Kat' mask. And of course, once he realized you'd survived, he decided that death was too good a fate for you. All the time I spent following you -- when I shot you dead, for Znap's sake -- all we wanted was for you to come back out, to reveal yourself. Because the next part would only taste sweetest if you were awake to experience it." "All this just for mutiny?" Katerina spat. "Oh, no way," Loop said with a chuckle. "This isn't mutiny. This is vengeance. You assumed, for decades, that Canis Schattenberg was brimming with gratitude for taking him under your wing. After all, why wouldn't he be? Mom dead in childbirth, dad dead from TB, and then in swoops Auntie Kat to make his life a perfect sciencey paradise? Of course, with the disdain you held for old RW, you never even considered the possibility that Cane held his father in high regard." Loop paused. "Frankly, Rainer Wolfgang Schattenberg was the man's idol. And that idol didn't think any more highly of you than you did of him. Oh, he knew you were going to sell those mines, and on his deathbed, he made sure his son wouldn't rest until he saw you ruined." "That's ancient history," Katerina snapped. "Don't tell me you actually care about that old feud!" Loop laughed. "Me? Of course not. I only agreed to this because it's fun. The only score I had was settled months ago when I made Swerve back there my pet." Katerina didn't react to this, but Hotwire did, gasping. Loop laughed again. "Small world, isn't it? Anyway, that 'feud' wasn't all that ancient to Cane, which is why he managed to hijack your plans completely. Your little executive override trick only works on me once, and your two friends over there are acting solely on instructions Cane left in their heads." He paused. "If I heard you correctly, you named them after their grandfather. How fitting." "I've heard enough," Katerina said, her voice full of fear masked with venom. "Kill me then, if that's what's you're here for." "Have you even been listening at all?" Loop grumbled. "Cane said death was too good for you. Besides, the past five years have proved that you'd find some way to survive. Your mind is far too tricky, so that's what we're after." He stood facing Katerina and placed his hands on her temples. "I've been practicing this quite a bit for the past few years. You'll live, I can promise you that... but you'll be a vegetable. Mindless and immobile. The only brain functions you'll retain will be the ones necessary for keeping your body alive." He grinned malevolently when he saw the terror that now showed in Katerina's iron eyes. "Nighty-night, Auntie Kat." After that, the only thing that existed in Katerina's personal universe was pain. The insides of her eyelid seemed to her to shine brighter than the sun, and every bone in her head was white-hot. She tried to scream but could not make her brain send the command. The only thing to do was get lost in the agony until she felt herself slipping into oblivion. ***** As the meeting in the conference room dismissed, Frozeen tried to slip away, but he was stopped in his tracks by Shannon Grimton, who moved her wheelchair in his path. Looking him intently in the eyes, she said cordially: "Hello, Peter." Frozeen took in a deep breath, making sure to remain composed. "Frozeen," he said, quietly but firmly. "You should probably address me by my codename, Frozeen, while I'm on-duty." That's right, he thought to himself. Just keep calm, cool, and professional. You can do this. Shannon nodded. "Yes, of course. Bit of a quizzical codename, though," she remarked. "It was my dad's codename," explained Frozeen, "before he disappeared during Mission Deep Sea. I simply took up the mantle." "I see," said Shannon. She seemed genuinely sympathetic. "Looks like I'm not the only one who had an Alpha Team agent for a father. Small world, huh?" "Small world, indeed," agreed Frozeen. "I suppose you could've gone with 'Gromtin' as your Dino Attack codename. Keep the family tradition going." She chuckled a little. "Well, I admittedly considered it, but I don't think the name has quite the same meaning or impact for me as it did for him: an inside joke, mashing up his surname Grimton with his favorite pop culture Wallace and Gromit and The Adventures of Tintin." "I'm pretty sure 'Frozeen' is an inside joke as well... and I confess, I don't get it either." They both laughed, but the humor felt fleeting and hollow as they discussed their fathers who were either dead or missing. Sighing, Frozeen said: "I served alongside agent Gromtin in World City. I can't believe I never realized he was your father… though I guess that's because I never met your family before, despite all the years we knew each other in grade school." "No, I suppose not," said Shannon. Frozeen was not sure how to respond. An awkward silence descended upon them both. Just keep making small talk, he said to himself. "So… what happened?" he inquired, gesturing towards her wheelchair. "If you don't mind me asking." Shannon looked down and sighed. "Just a month ago, I was trapped on the third floor of a building infested with Mutant Raptors. While I fought them off as best as I could, I knew I was outnumbered. So, as I detonated an explosive to take care of them, I did the natural thing and jumped out a window." She lightly slapped one hand against another, mimicking the motion of hitting the ground. "Broke both my legs upon impact, but I still had enough strength to turn around and fire my Cosmotronic Ray at one Mutant Raptor who jumped out after me. Since some of the doctors here refused to let Enter and Return operate on me, I've been confined to a wheelchair until my legs fully recover." Frozeen winced involuntarily. "I'm sorry to hear that." "At least I survived. That's what matters," said Shannon. "Definitely," agreed Frozeen. "But don't worry," she assured him, "I've made the best of it. Sitting in one place for too long gives me plenty of time to tinker around with my wheelchair and give it a few upgrades of my own design." Frozeen nodded. "Good, good." To relate to her situation, he was tempted to bring up the fact that he had spent the past six years as terribly-scarred burn victim living in the G.E. Body's cybernetic augmentations for life support, but he decided it would be too difficult to explain (and even more difficult to believe, considering that he was currently looking no worse for the wear after somehow dying and being resurrected), and so chose to keep his mouth shut and not say anything more about it. Unfortunately, as a consequence, another awkward silence ensued. As he looked for a different subject to discuss, Frozeen's eyes picked up a detail he hadn't noticed before: an engagement ring on Shannon's finger. "On a lighter note… congratulations. Who's the lucky man?" "Stefano," replied Shannon, beaming as she looked down upon the ring. "You remember him from advanced calculus class, right?" Instantly, Stefano's name conjured up memories of Frozeen's classmate in high school. "Oh, of course. How could I forget? Funny, smart, charismatic, friendly, cool. He's a good man. I'm happy for the two of you." Although Frozeen meant this sincerely, he realized that he said it flatly and emotionlessly. "Thanks," said Shannon. "We'll be getting married once the war is over." "That's good to hear." Once again, Frozeen stood there in uncomfortable silence. He closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. I can't keep doing this, he thought painfully. "What happened, Shannon?" he asked at last. "What happened between us? We used to be good friends and then… how did it come to this? Why do we talk cordially and politely with one another like it's a charade expected of us, pretending everything's fine between the two of us when it's so obviously… not?" Shannon frowned as she stared intensely at Frozeen. "You know very well what happened in senior year. As I recall, you were the one who pushed me away. The things you said to me were very… insensitive and hurtful. You described me as though I was a poorly-written character that you resented." Frozeen adverted his eyes, trying to focus on the floor or the ceiling, anywhere but her. "I never meant to hurt you. I didn't realize that-" "How couldn't you?" said Shannon, shaking her head. "Any normal person would've understood-" "That's just it! I'm not 'normal'!" snapped Frozeen. He did not mean to raise his voice, but his distress clearly altered the timbre of his speech. "I wouldn't expect you to understand. You, always so perfect, top of our class, surrounded by friends… you'd never know how hard it was for me, struggling to make friends and constantly being picked on by bullies for being an easy target: a lonely, vulnerable, socially-inept, autistic-" "Autistic?" repeated Shannon, cutting Frozeen off. She had a curious look in her eyes that he could not figure out. Frozeen fell silent, realizing what he had blurted out. Being on the autism spectrum was a subject he typically avoided discussing. He withdrew his anger, silently cursing himself for keeping it bottled up and letting it explode now. When he spoke again, he spoke slowly and quietly to carefully control himself: "Yes, that's right. I was diagnosed at an early age with high-functioning autism. I've had years and years of counseling, guidance, and therapy, but even now as an adult, it's… still difficult. So when it comes to making… connections… with people, it's not something that comes easily to me. It's no excuse for what I said to you, but… it's why I was aloof enough to say something so blunt. Like I said, it's not something I expect you would ever understand." "But I do understand," Shannon said softly. "My older sister Janice is on the autism spectrum as well, and all my life I've had to be there to support her." Frozeen blinked in surprise. "Your… sister?" he realized. "I... I never knew..." "Some people," continued Shannon, "might look upon my sister and say that she 'will never fit into society' because she is 'different'. But I see her differently. I know that Janice has an incredibly intelligent mind and, even more importantly, a strong heart. She is the one who inspired me to study biomedical engineering and technology. I look past what other people may call 'differences' and see people for who they really are. And you, Pe… Frozeen... I knew you had a good heart. And that's why, throughout middle school and high school, I looked out for you as a friend… and that's why it hurt when you spoke so dismissively about me." Locking her eyes intently upon Frozeen, she said: "So please, don't think that I couldn't understand. You shouldn't be so quick to assume what others think about you… and you should never think of others as merely blank slates who only exist to revolve around you." Her voice hardened as she finished speaking. Frozeen was silent. He wanted to speak his mind, to open up and admit his true feelings for her, but he just could not form the words in his mouth. At last, he rubbed his eyes, shook his head, and whispered: "I'm so sorry, Shannon. I-" Just then, Shannon's PDA beeped. She took out the device, read the incoming message, and frowned. "Apologies, looks like I've got to go. I've got less than twelve hours to figure out Dino Attack's communication systems, unless I can somehow conjure up a proper replacement for Ata. This whole situation is absolutely mental, I tell you." As Shannon wheeled herself away, she turned over her shoulder and said to Frozeen: "See you around?" "See you around," Frozeen said softly, watching her go. He then looked down at his hands after having rubbed his eyes, and discovered that there was a bit of residue water on them. Was I… crying? ***** "I think two of us should stand guard for now," Angel Eyes said. "We'll take it in turns, but if the mole comes, we'll get him. I'll go first, and Firecr- wait, where'd he go?" Demoman muttered some other unintelligible phrase. "That's unusual," Pyro muttered. "Normally, I'm the one nobody can understand." "Should we... do something.... about her?" Dude asked. "He's right," said Walter. "She Znapping stinks." There was a brief period of arguing before Maria finally stepped up. "I'll take care of it," she said. "I saw men bathe all the time back in El Paso. I think I can help a woman." "You think so?" said Angel Eyes. "No problem," replied Maria. "You learn a few useful skills bein' a woman." "And if the mole comes?" "I ain't goin' to let her out of mah sight," declared Maria. "Alright then," said Angel Eyes. He slowly walked up to the cell and opened it carefully. Pyro nervously walked toward her. Maria took her hand. ***** "You know," Darling said, "is it just me or are those guys watching us?" French Fries looked up at the small group of agents at a nearby table, accompanying them a particularly repulsive looking creature. Suddenly, he spewed out a mouthful of food. "GREAT BUILDER!" he shouted. "What in MegaBlokland's name is that thing?" "What thing, sir?" Darling asked. "That thing!" declared French Fries, pointing at the creature. "It looks like a Minifig/Mutant Pterosaur Hybrid!" "I think that's what it is, sir," replied Darling. "That's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in my entire life!" said French Fries. "For Builder's sake, kill it! KILL IT!" "Bit excessive, sir," commented Darling. "It is strictly against the policy of this team to bring mutant dinos in here! One of these days I'm going to catch that Rex and have him shot, just like I did to that little Mutant Lizard of his." "You mean the one you ran over, sir?" "Yes," replied French Fries. "That's the one. Now kill that thing, and once you do, I want you to find out who is responsible for bringing it in here and have them shot!" "Sir-" "I could always arrange to have you shot," said French Fries. Slowly, Darling sighed, stood up, and walked toward the table, drawing his revolver. He carefully cocked it and aimed it toward the abomination with the Pterosaur head. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm under orders." And he pulled the trigger... ***** Loop sighed happily as he carefully focused and channeled his stores of electrical energy into Katerina's brain. He relished the mental image of the current dancing through her grey cells, knocking them dead. He noticed, after a few seconds, that Hotwire was struggling. He nodded to Rainer, who walked to the back of the room and zapped the agent into unconsciousness. It hadn't been easy, Loop reflected, to get this trick down to a science. The first time he'd tried it, his unfortunate test subject had simply been cooked alive. The next, he'd gone too easy, and that victim had later recovered. But that had been over three years ago, and he was fully prepared for this moment. Katerina's body would live on for decades, requiring no life support, but remaining comatose until death -- the perfect fate for her. Loop grinned. If killing her body doesn't work, he thought gleefully, the only thing to do is erase her mind. His reverie was abruptly shattered when three shots rang out. Loop stumbled backwards, confused. He watched Wolfgang and Rainer fall to the floor with holes in their heads, looked up and saw Swerve brandishing Hotwire's smoking handgun, and finally glanced down at his own torso. A red stain was spreading rapidly across the shirt of his stolen D.I.N.O. uniform. He fell to his knees as Swerve crossed the room to stand over him. "Tampering with a Mind-Control Orb to suit your own plans mighta seemed like a good idea at the time," the drone said. "Too bad that made the mind-control part less effective." Loop simply spat at his rival's feet before collapsing onto his back, blood pooling beneath him. Swerve cocked his skull. "That was a bit impolite," he said. "The way I see it, I've just done you a favor. I've fought you enough times to have an idea of what makes you tick. You've always wanted to be free, truly and completely free." He knelt beside Loop. "Sadly, complete autonomy isn't really possible, is it? Someone's always giving orders. Especially when you're born and bred to be a weapon for others." Loop's face contorted into a grimace and he growled, but there was agreement in his eyes. "Nobody's ever gonna tell you what to do again," Swerve said quietly. Loop drew a long, ragged gasp. "Go-- go to Mega-- to MegaBlokland," he choked. "And-- and th-- thanks." With that he closed his eyes and let the world go black. Swerve regarded the lifeless form of his old nemesis for a few moments before he stood. He walked to the corner of the room and retrieved his gloves, balaclava, and goggles. He glanced back at Lupus Schattenberg one last time. Then he picked up the prone forms of Katerina and Hotwire, heaved one onto each shoulder, and carried them out of the dim room to the medical wing. ***** Pterisa seemed prepared for this sudden attack. French Fries being quite vocal about his disdain toward her seemed to help. As Darling pulled the trigger, Pterisa's wings shot open with enough force to throw the revolver into the air, firing as it flew. The rest of the agents at the table had a quick reaction. Nazareno lunged at Darling and pinned him to the ground. The agent struggled briefly before surrendering to the space ninja. "Maybe you aren't aware," Zach said coldly, rising to his feet. "But without Pterisa, the Maelstrom would have most likely gained enough power to destroy this planet." "I was following orders," Darling grumbled. "Then, as an Elite Agent," Andrew said. "I'm ordering you to stand down." At this point, French Fries rose to his feet and stomped angrily toward the group. "What are you doing?" he demanded. "Why is that abomination here? And why did you let it attack agent Darling?" "Pterisa is an ally," Minerva said through gritted teeth. French Fries glared at her. "She helped us take the Maelstrom Temple." "It is a Mutant Dino and needs to be removed from this building in accordance with policy," sneered French Fries. Zach wished he could punch this Elite Agent in the face. However, he refrained and continued to fume. He glanced at Pterisa, who seemed shocked and uncertain how to respond to this attack. Getting attacked by your supposed allies is not exactly a self-esteem booster. "She has done absolutely nothing wrong," Laxus argued. "She only attacked Darling because you tried to have him kill her!" "I don't care!" French Fries snapped. "Now stand down and shoot her or I'll have you all shot!" "Perhaps..." Pterisa suddenly said, sounding a little nervous again. French Fries jumped in surprise at her speech and turned to her angrily. "You should speak with your Founding Members, Elite Agent French Fries. Specs, Shadow, Digger or Viper will be able to vouch for me and allow me to stay in this building." French Fries smiled. "I don't think that's going to do you much good," he said. "I got friends in high places. Excuse me, Darling." "Yes sir," said Darling, nervously as he got up. "Get Gunderson on the phone to Antarctica," ordered French Fries, "get them in charge with the political head of state the various corporations responsible for our funding. Let them know that these men are harboring the enemy. Octan won't provide a single drop of fuel until this is resolved!" "Sir," questioned Darling, "you sure that isn't a bit excessive?" "Absolutely not," replied French Fries. "From now on, we're making sure this team does its job properly. No more training mutant dinosaurs, not like that one fool. Oh what's his name? Ress? Ret?" "Rex, sir?" suggested Darling. French Fries nodded. "Yes, that's the one, who tried to train that mutant dinosaur, Tribble." "Trouble." "What?" "His name was trouble, sir," explained Darling. "Right," replied French Fries. "I took fine care of him, I did. Ran him straight over! Now, I should be going." With that, French Fries turned toward the door and continued talking to Darling. "Now we'll also need to boost the morale of the men before the next big push. Then we can implement my brilliant plan." "You mean the one where everyone gets out of the base and walks very slowly toward the mutant dinosaurs?" "Yes, that's the one." Darling sighed. "I'll... uh... see to it then." "Very good, Darling." French Fries turned back toward the agents. "Now, I got work to do, but if that... thing is still here at dawn tomorrow, you will all be severely punished.... court martial followed by firing squad. Do I make myself clear?" There was a moment of silence. "Good," said French Fries as he turned away. Before French Fries could take another step, Andrew ran towards him, grabbed him by the arm, and slapped him hard across the face. He fell to the ground, and Andrew put himself atop his fellow Elite Agent. "Nazareno!" he asked the ninja, "a little help he-" He was interrupted as French Fries punched him in the face, knocking Andrew off him. The madman got up and tried to run, but didn't get far before Nazareno lunged at him, pinned him to the ground, then pulled him up with a firm grip on his arms. "At least Rotor was a good leader," the ninja muttered with quite a bit of hostility. "You? Judging by that 'plan' of yours, you have fewer commanding skills than a blade of grass." By now, Andrew was back on his feet, and he had some anger to release. "French Fries," he told the struggling agent, "you have no understanding of the importance of certain secrets, your views on dino extermination are so extreme that Kotua would be aghast, you fail at leadership, you're more ignorant than several politicians I could name to make a point, and you're willing to turn on your allies. That alone is so pitiful that it's a wonder that you're still here. But then you go and insult the things that some of us have spent hours into trying to help, and then... and THEN... you pass the line." Andrew looked back at Pterisa, who was still a little shaken at French Fries's hostility, and tried to shoot her a reassuring smile. Then he turned back to the agent of the focus of his fury. "Insulting our most recent ally, who's still trying to just find a way to live among us, and who I and my friend have been spending the last day trying to welcome in, is one thing, but what you said about Trouble..." Andrew smiled with a menacing grin as he pulled out his PDA and typed out a message. Rex, I don't know if you've heard, but the team's got a troublemaker problem, and I think you should look into it. Elite Agent French Fries is bound to be fired soon. Not only did he cause the Antarctica riots and Dino Attack schism by ordering Zenna to announce the secret mission there to the world, but he's tried to have two agents put to death for their actions on Adventurers' Island, has tried to get the team to try a really stupid plan during the next attack, tried to have some of our comrades killed just for their looks, and is trying to use "friends in high places" to try and run our team his way. How does this involve you? He's claimed to hate your idealist, dino-taming style with a passion, and brags with pleasure that he ran over Trouble at some point. I'm going to have him put in the holding cells, so feel free to visit him there, but if he escapes, do as you see fit. -Andrew Andrew sent the message and turned to his fellow agents. "Darling," he said, "From now on, you shouldn't obey this man. Try using your own codename or something to signify independence. Now, I think we better get this guy to the holding cells. I think he might have someone wanting to see him later. Plus, we can try to find Rotor and Brown and let them go." "Minerva and I know the way," said Zach. "Just follow us." The group began moving towards the exit. As they walked, Pterisa got near Andrew and whispered: "Thanks for defending me." "No problem," Andrew whispered back. He looked back to French Fries, a furious look on his face as he tried to get free, but Nazareno wasn't having a problem keeping his grip on him. "You are in soooo much trouble," Andrew muttered. ***** The Fire Hammer arrived at the docks. Getting out, Semick saw a couple agents around the pier that he couldn't all recognize, but could for a few, such as an agent with glasses and a brown helmet with a glass visor. He was sparring with one of his fellow agents. "You the guys they sent for ID?" asked an agent who was walking up to Semick and the guy who drove him there. "Yes," said Semick. "So do I need to sign some papers or something?" "No, just confirm that you can confirm them as the agents they claim to be. Now c'mon." The three agents walked up to the group at the docks. As they did so, one of the sparring agents stopped sparring and looked to them with a smile. "Finally!" he said. "You're Semick, right?" "That would be correct," said Semick. "I don't think we've fought alongside each other, B, but I've seen you around enough to know who you are." "And the others?" asked the dock agent. Semick stared at the other faces. "I'll be honest," said Semick. "I don't know them. Last I heard, B was with some friends by the name of Crooks and Knuckles and the like. But I think if they're with B, they're who they say they are. If we have problems with them, they can be handled later. Now just let them go, we don't need agents being isolated out here." ***** Rex's joy over his reunion with Ben Gunn was brief. His PDA began beeping, and as he read over the message, his smile disappeared and was replaced with a grim expression. "What is it?" inquired Amanda. "I'm sorry, Ben Gunn," said Rex. "You cannot imagine how overjoyed I am to see you again, even if you are the bearer of bad news. But an urgent matter has just come up that demands my attention. If you wish, you may come with me." Ben Gunn shook his head. "It's alright, Rex. I need to use the facilities anyways, so I could use a little break." With that, they exited the broom closet and stepped out into the hallway. Rex gave Ben Gunn some quick directions to the nearest restroom, then piloted his hover-chair in the direction of the detention block. His grim silence worried Amanda, who read his features and could tell that something was definitely wrong. At last, Rex found the Dino Attack agent whom he was looking for, Andrew, along with a group consisting of Zachary Virchaus, Minerva Fabello, Kareem Nazareno, Laxus, and even, to Rex's surprise, Pterisa. They were bringing along a Dino Attack agent with a large handlebar mustache, whose arms were locked behind his back by Nazareno to ensure he wouldn't escape. Rex stopped his hover-chair and looked at the group before him. Raising his eyebrows and frowning, he murmured in a quiet and surprised voice: "What's all this about?" "Ah, Rex," said Andrew, nodding. "I'm glad you could come. This," he gestured to the mustached Dino Attack agent, "is French Fries." "Yes," said Rex, "but why is he being escorted to the detention block? Surely, this is not how an elite agent such as French Fries should be treated. What did he do to deserve this? Really, guys. Let's act a little more reasonable here. Nothing that French Fries has done at all constitutes him being locked up." "But-" began Zach. Rex waved his hand, cutting off Zachary. "That's enough." He piloted his hover-chair until he was hovering right in front of French Fries. The other Dino Attack agents either stared at Rex in disbelief or began murmuring amongst themselves. Rex locked eyes with French Fries, smiled gently, and began taking off his gloves. "Elite Agent French Fries, today is your lucky day." With that, Rex landed a single punch on French Fries's face, summoning every ounce of physical strength he had as he made the attack. French Fries staggered back, and there was noticeable blood on his mustache. Then, Rex stripped away his facade of gentility and civility. His fake smile twisted into a horrible scowl as he gritted his teeth. "I've waited a long time to do that," Rex hissed through clenched teeth. "That dates back to the Kotua crisis. Oh, how I longed to give Kotua what he deserved, but I never had the chance. Then recently, with Rotor's little firing squad... I thought I'd give that to Rotor, but Clint Wayne was too quick. But this... Kotua may have gone mad, but he was also intelligent and a loyal agent when not under mind-control, and Rotor at least is a competent leader with a good taste in music. You, on the other hand, have no redeeming factors. So, all this anger has been bottled up for nearly a year... and, as we all know, we shouldn't bottle up anger... because when it releases..." "How dare you!" snapped French Fries. "You dare to assault an elite agent? I'll have your hide for this! My friends in high places-" "Don't you see?" interrupted Rex. "I am an elite agent too, and so is Andrew over there. We don't need 'friends in high places'... we are the people in high places. And even so, I've got a friend, too: Specs, our team leader, and you can't get a place higher than that. But still..." "Puh," scoffed French Fries. "I don't need to listen to you. Not after hearing the screams of your precious little mutant as I ran it over." "You just crossed a fine line, buddy," Rex said as he narrowed his eyes. "Andrew, as an elite agent, you have the authority to pardon me. I need you to pardon me." "Pardon you?" said Andrew, blinking in surprise. "Pardon you for-" "For this," growled Rex. With that, he lunged out of his hover-chair and tackled French Fries to the floor. Everyone was too stunned to react; they could only stand back and watch in horror as Rex delivered a beating, holding nothing back as he let loose his rage. French Fries did not even have a chance to fight back, as every second landed another blow upon his face. "YOU..." Rex shouted as he laid blow after blow upon French Fries, "SICK... 4+ FIGURE...! Is it true? IS IT TRUE?" "What?" French Fries gasped in between blows. "DID YOU OR DID YOU NOT RUN OVER TROUBLE?" yelled Rex. "I don't know!" snapped French Fries. "They all look the same! Pesky little buggers! Nobody's going to miss that mutant!" He just did not know when to shut up. Seething with fury, Rex landed a punch right in French Fries's mouth, knocking a tooth or two loose. "I SWEAR TO BUILDER..." screamed Rex, "IF YOU LAID SO MUCH AS A FINGER ON TROUBLE... YOU'RE DEAD! YOU HEAR ME? DEAD!" The horrible beatdown continued for another few dreadful seconds before Amanda finally snapped out of her stupor and tried to pull Rex off. In the end, it took the combined effort of Nazareno, Andrew, and Amanda to pry Rex off of French Fries, and even as they forced Rex to sit back down in the hover-chair, the elite agent was still trying to throw punches at French Fries. When French Fries stood, his face looked like he had run through traffic. His mustache was soaked with blood, which also dripped out of cuts on his lips and cheeks. His eyes were swollen from all the bruising, and he could scarcely do more than squint. To ensure that he did not try to escape, Pterisa grabbed his arms and locked them behind his back. Rex was breathing heavily. What he had just done had been extremely cathartic. He understood well how T-Rexes, his own kin, would have considered this rage-driven beatdown a justified act of retaliation. But as an elite Dino Attack agent among minifigure society, he also knew he had just degraded himself by stooping to violence, and now his teammates regarded him with uneasy concern, as though they were afraid he might soon jump off the slippery slope after Lutsky. When the others managed to finally calm Rex down, he wiped the sweat off his brow and glared at French Fries. "Get this scum out of my sight," he growled. "If you need to, get Specs's permission to lock him up in the highest-security prison available. And Andrew, please make sure that you pardon me." ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  6. Chapter 58: Out of the Frying Pan ---- While they waited for the return of Vinyaya and the arrival of the firefighters, Zach, Minerva, and Anubis dashed about the corridor and those nearby, gathering all the fire extinguishers they could find -- all two of them. Minerva and Anubis stood as close to the door as they could stand and squeezed the handles of the extinguishers. It had little effect on the inferno inside, but it did make it somewhat easier for Vinyaya, who sprinted back down the hall in full Space Police armor minutes later, to affect an entrance. She paused for a split second to ensure her suit was sealed, and then charged into the room, directly at Pyro. As the two of them grappled, Hotwire cursed. "There should be more extinguishers around here." Zach shrugged, peering through the flames in the room and then recoiling from the smoke with a cough. "Perhaps the mole has been stealing them," he said once he had his breath back. "You never know what he or she might have had planned." Vinyaya stumbled out of the burning room, hauling a disarmed agent Pyro with her. There was the faint sound of sirens outside, a shout from down the hall, and then a troop of firefighters rushed in, dragging hoses with them. "One down," said Hotwire, turning away from the scene, "one more to go." A drunken yell from agent Demoman in the next room punctuated his sentence. "Even with the pyromaniac down," Zach said quietly. "I have a feeling that Demoman will be harder to deal with. One push of a button and boom. We're all dead." The firemen were quickly taking out Pyro's carnage. Behind Zach, Vinyaya was struggling to control Pyro, who was screams of anger were muffled by his balaclava and helmet. Vinyaya shoved him against the wall hard, causing several firemen to jump in surprise. "Stand down!" she yelled. "Mmmmph frmmmpha mmmph mmph!" Pyro shot back, his head being pushed against wall. "He's paranoid," Zach said. "He thinks the mole is after him. Which he/she probably is. Demoman and Pyro are trying to defend themselves." "By destroying this building?!" Vinyaya snapped, reaching for a pair of handcuffs on her armor's belt. "Well, the Second Headquarters Squad is full of crazy sociopaths. They all seem to be insane to some extent. The only justification in Demoman's case is that he is probably too drunk to see straight. Combined with grief over the rest of the team's death does not help." "And that's hardly a good justification," Minerva said irritably. Remembering what she said about her opposition to alcohol, Zach could understand why Minerva was irritated. Demoman's grief while intoxicated could only fuel her anger due it closely resembling her mother's condition. He only hoped she wouldn't do something rash in response to it. Vinyaya finally managed to snap the handcuffs around Pyro's wrists. Despite this, he continued to struggle against her. "Just knock him out," Zach finally said. "He is absolutely no help to anyone being conscious at the moment." Vinyaya nodded in agreement and seemed to try a way to knock out Pyro without harming him. She seemed to find a pressure point, because Pyro slouched forward on the wall, his protests silenced. Vinyaya adjusted him so he appeared to be simply sitting against the wall before joining Minerva, Zach, Anubis, and Hotwire. "So," Vinyaya said, wiping the little soot and ash that had landed on her visor. "Back to Demoman." Picking up their pace, the group returned to Demoman's room and entered it slowly, careful to avoid stepping on a stray explosive. In the corner sat Demoman, his finger hovering over the button on his detonator. He held an empty bottle in another hand, but that didn't stop him from trying to take a drink from it. In front of him was man wearing a trenchcoat, who seemed to be trying to communicate to the distraught, intoxicated member of the Second Headquarters Squad. Firecracracker took a few minutes to examine the room. He then walked up to Demoman and quickly pulled the detonator out of the drunken man's hand. "This is the detonator, yes?" Fircracker asked. Demoman responded with more nonsensical rambling. Firecracker then grabbed the semi-conscious agent and pulled him to the door. As the others in the room followed, he hit the button. Everyone froze for five very tense seconds. When Firecracker hit the button on the detonator and nothing happened, Hotwire almost laughed with relief. Demoman hiccupped. "Well," said Firecracker, glancing around the room, "looks like he wired these all up perfectly but forgot to synchronize them with the detonator itself. Lucky, otherwise half of this building might have gone up in a cloud of dust." "Then why in MegaBlokland did you push the button?" Vinyaya snapped. "You could have killed us all!" Firecracker simply shrugged. "Well, it'd be a shame to see such good explosives go to waste," he remarked. ***** Trigger had returned to the mess hall again, fuming as usual. The room was empty for the moment, though the dinner shift would be starting before long. He glared up momentarily as Wright and Shiller sat down across from him. "Listen, we just want to say that this is nothing personal, y'know?" Wright said. "We'd like to leave you alone just as much as you'd like us to leave you alone." Shiller nodded. "Orders are orders." "Oh, so now we're all friends?" Trigger said coldly. "Am I supposed to shake your hands and go, 'Aw shucks, I like you guys too!'?" "Nah, nothing like that," said Shiller. "We just wanna make sure you don't find any reasons to hunt us down and try to kill us after this is all over." ***** Specs and Amanda watched from behind glass. "I should have suspected this," said Specs. "His behavior has been quite… odd, especially in recent times." Amanda sighed with her arms crossed. "You would be surprised what dark secrets one can hold," she murmured quietly. Nervously, she locked eyes with Specs. "Is it truly wise leaving him in there… alone… with Ata?" "Ata has stated that he will only speak to Rex," said Specs. "We'll be here, watching, listening, and keeping a close eye on them." On the other side of the glass screen, which was seemingly masked by a one-way mirror, Rex and Ata sat across from each other at a small table. Both were rendered immobile; Rex paralyzed in his wheelchair, Ata cuffed to his chair. All items had been confiscated from both Dino Attack agents to ensure that Ata could not use them against Rex. Rex grimaced at Ata, who sat back and smiled placidly as though he were perfectly relaxed. "I'm disappointed in you, Ata," began Rex, although his true emotions were much stronger than mere disappointment. "A month ago, I had trusted you like a brother… you helped Amanda and me return to Dino Attack Team, and you helped find the Constructopedia and save LEGO Island. But now, after all you have done for the team, you reveal yourself to be a filthy, cowardly, murderous traitor. You disappoint me." "I disappoint myself, too," said Ata. His calm smile looked like a smug smirk to Rex. "I should have been better prepared to face your girlfriend; after a fight between her and Trigger broke up, I found her knife cast aside in the hallway, and I thought that using it for my next little murder victim would have taken care of her. I'm no fool, and I know my own limits. For example, I knew that I stood no chance against Spy, so I let Soldier take care of him. World's best infiltrator doesn't stand a chance against a shotgun to the head, hmm?" Rex fought back his anger. "I looked through your records, Ata," continued Rex. "Attila 'Ata' Huntsman, age 42, an ordinary civilian who left the refugee facilities in Antarctica to join the Dino Attack Team. It's a shame we'll have to add in that, somewhere along the way, you were corrupted by XERRD." "You assume I was bribed," said Ata, chuckling. "You assume that I was just another Dino Attack agent who was manipulated by XERRD into betraying you guys, like Oswald Fabello. You assume that I'm only working for XERRD because I was offered a reward, like Señor Palomar or Jacques Cunningham. Well, here's the big reveal… I have been willingly working for XERRD the entire time. What you don't see in those records is that I am a retired Paradox Shinobi; I was recruited by XERRD at the same time as Wallace Bishop and Michelle Glados. While they were hired for their scientific intellect, I was hired for my skills as an infiltrator. In fact, this plays into the very reason why I would only speak with you." "Which is…?" inquired Rex. "You see, Rex," Ata said, "you and I joined this team for the same reason. We are both moles working for XERRD. The only difference between us is that one of us became the mask. When it became apparent that their first mole had failed, they planted me in Antarctica so that I may blend in with citizens, eventually join the Dino Attack Team, and keep an eye on all of you by overseeing communications. If anything, Rex, I am far more loyal to my superiors than you ever were." Rex remembered what Dr. Einstein had told him about his origins. "Wrong," he said as he gritted his teeth. "A brave Minifig sent me to help Dino Attack Team, and I openly continue to follow his wishes even today. You… you lied, you deceived…! Everything good about you… everything that we liked and trusted about you… a lie! Why did you even bring Amanda and me back into the team? Why did you give us the Constructopedia?" "I admit," Ata said, "I would never have brought you and Claw back to Dino Attack Team if it weren't for that meddling agent Chupacabra who witnessed my findings and refused to believe my insistence that it was merely a glitch! If I had my way, then I would have spoken to you in private in an effort to set you back on the right path. As for the Constructopedia, your squad was never meant to make it inside the L.E.G.O. Radio Station alive… a certain pack of Mutant T-Rexes should have finished you off! But both instances, I found, worked to my favor. I earned your blind trust. But unlike you, Specs never trusted me. In addition to simply spying on the team's communications, I created communication blocks at Dino Attack Team's least convenient moments and simply passed them off as glitches… which would have worked if I didn't have Specs looking over my shoulder every minute. He also grew suspicious when he saw me lingering around his office, trying to eavesdrop on private meetings of the founding members." "So you're the one behind the communication blocks," muttered Rex. "I thought that there was more than Murphy's Law at work. Seems your work is a little active for an infiltrator who oversees communications. And speaking of 'active', why did you kill most of the Second Headquarters Squad?" "Wasn't it obvious?" said Ata, shrugging. "Engineer and Sniper were involved with this HQ's defenses. While Medic's operation would have revealed that 'Specs' was behind their deaths, it was not something that was ready to be revealed, so I killed him for knowing too much. After all, I still needed to brew enough suspicion and distrust to turn Spy and Claw's teammates against them; only once that succeeded did I choose to reveal the 'killer' to you so that you would try taking down Specs himself. While it is true that Dr. Rex was most displeased to learn that nine Dino Attack agents took out the Hybrids' establishment in the western frontier, this proved to only be a secondary motivation for an infiltrator such as me." "Hybrids," repeated Rex, whose face twisted into a scowl as a realization dawned upon him. "You were the one who told them to execute Order 66! You're the reason I'm in a wheelchair! And on top of that, you tried to make my life miserable by framing Specs and attempting to condemn Amanda! And all this time, I trusted you for deceiving me and the rest of the team!" Once again, Ata smiled. "If I may, I will point out that you are wrong about one thing… my act as 'innocent little Ata' may have been a lie, but it was never 'wrong', as you imply. You question my morals, and history will no doubt brand me as a villain and a traitor. Few will understand why I did what I did. I don't blame you. After all, you don't know the whole story. You can't see it now, but you will, one day. Everything I have done... this is all for the greater good! The Dino Attack is necessary for Dr. Rex to unlock his true potential and save billions of lives across the universe. He is the chosen one, prophesized to have the power to forever banish the Maelstrom from this world. This is destiny at work. Just you wait and see." "Baron Typhonus," muttered Rex. Ata raised an eyebrow at the mention of that name. "Excuse me?" "If you truly worked for XERRD this whole time," Rex said, "then you were horribly deceived, just like the rest of XERRD. XERRD's true purpose is not to help destiny… it's been reduced to a marionette whose strings are pulled by Baron Typhonus. Typhonus has blinded you from reason and is using your Mutant Dino army to bring destruction and chaos to our planet in order to help the Maelstrom destroy the universe!" "You lie!" snapped Ata, who finally dropped his cool demeanor and actually became agitated for once. "Baron Typhonus is either dead or a prisoner to the Maelstrom – everyone knows that!" Rex shook his head. "You could say that there have been… scientific advancements and recent findings that highly suggest otherwise. Baron Typhonus is not imprisoned by the Maelstrom… he is the Maelstrom. And he's been using you to help him accomplish his goals!" Ata was silent for a moment. His skin had paled, his eyes were wide, and he was breathing heavily. When he spoke again, he sounded as though he had all of his life sucked out of him. "You say… that everything I've done… has been a lie?" "Ironic, isn't it?" remarked Rex. Now it was his turn to smirk. Ata did not reply. "Ata," Rex spoke sternly, "you know the charges for treason. We shall hold you under custody for now until your exact sentence can be determined. You, like Kotua, were deceived and controlled by a greater power, meaning the severity of your punishment might be lessened… but I will not promise this." ***** Zach breathed a sigh of relief. "Alright. We saved Pyro and Demoman from themselves. Now to guard them from the mole." He saw Vinyaya leave the group momentarily only to drag Pyro, still unconscious and handcuffed, back into the scene. "So where are we going to take them?" Minerva asked, crossing her arms and glaring at Demoman as he wobbled on his feet, hiccupping. Zach shrugged. "Somewhere that makes it easy to guard them until this mole is brought to justice. Somewhere that makes it hard for the mole to sneak up on us would be good." "I hope this guy is found soon." "With any luck," said Zach, "the mole will slip up soon enough. Perhaps he'll target Rex to tie up those loose ends involving Soldier, Spy, Heavy, and Scout's deaths, only to get his bricks handed to him by Claw or something." "Well, that's certainly a pleasant image," Minerva noted, rolling her eyes. "You're welcome." "Well," Dude said. "We don't even know who this mole is. It could be, like, anybody, so where can we put them where they're not going to get killed, man?" "I don't know," replied Vinyaya. "Just throw 'em in prison," Maria said. Vinyaya looked at her. "Just put 'em in one of them prison cells and keep them guarded. Just make sure to disarm 'em first, but otherwise you should be fine. Maybe y'all can even unmask that there Pyro while you're at it." "We'll finally prove it's a woman," Clint muttered with a faint grin. Maria looked at him with a certain intimidating glare. "She's right," Angel Eyes said. "At this point, keeping them disarmed and locked where they can't possibly do any harm to each other is probably the best choice we got." "If it will keep us from getting blown up," Snake muttered, crossing his arms. Commander Vinyaya seemed to pause to think, before saying: "Right now, throwing them in a cell where the only ones that can hurt them are themselves sounds like the best idea." With her hoisting up Pyro by his handcuffs and Firecracker escorting Demoman, the group started heading toward prison complex. Zach and Minerva lagged behind considerably. "Nobody seems to have taken into consideration that any one of us could be the mole," Zach whispered to Minerva quietly. "I don't know about anyone else, but I'm sure Vinyaya is thinking about it," Minerva said. "She was rather intent on helping Specs find the mole earlier. I doubt her intentions have changed very much. She's just more silent about it." "Cause she has got experience with this sort of infiltration kind of stuff, right?" said Zach. Minerva nodded. "Makes since, I suppose." He paused briefly before saying, "You know, everyone is a suspect, including us." Minerva frowned, "We've been together the whole time. Our alibis are pretty tight." "What about Engineer and Medic? We were separated when they were killed. What if I was actually killing Engineer instead of taking a shower? What if you were killing Medic?" "But we were together the rest of the time. Unless you're implying there are multiple moles." "Always a possibility," Zach said with a shrug. Minerva suddenly smiled and looked forward. "If you were the mole, XERRD did a poor job," she said. "Infecting you with the Maelstrom was kind of a dumb thing to do." "Perhaps Dr. Rex hid the mole's identity from most of his followers so defectors and captured scientists couldn't give it away? Provencal infected me, not knowing I was XERRD's eye in the Dino Attack Team." "Maybe. I'd think I would be a much more believable mole though." Zach gave a half-smirk. "Sure. Instead of concentrating on the Dino Attack's primary objective, the mole decided to chase after one agent." "All a part of my 'ploy', so to speak. I needed to gain the trust of someone. I started out small with some goofy, bespectacled redhead Standard Agent and would work up the ranks. I pretended to be attracted to you. Unfortunately, you, in turn, became attracted to me. A minor setback that I thought was dealt with when Provencal corrupted you. With you out of the picture, I would become closer friends with people like J.D., Nazareno, and Vinyaya while sending information to XERRD superiors. Then you just so happened to return to the camp and gave your message to Andrew." A sinister smirk appeared on Minerva's face. "At first, I was annoyed by your persistent attraction to me and was absolutely content with killing you off. However, I would have worked this angle to my advantage. I would use this message and the 'star-crossed lover' facade to get closer to Elite Agent Andrew so I could get information. The only problem would be having to go after you. I reasoned that if Andrew and I found you, I would kill you and Andrew and pretend I only barely escaped." Zach raised an eyebrow at how Minerva would go about being a mole. "And why would you keep me alive?" Minerva let out a long, fake sigh of disappointment. "When we defeated you, I would've killed you and Andrew when Ahua intervened. You defeated him and saved my life. A small ounce of humanity would overcome me, and I would let you live. We escaped and headed for the real Maelstrom Temple. Then we would get into the fight against Provencal and Glados. They would know I was the mole. They would make the attack look real while I made the injuries look real, all while giving you a hard time. When it came down to us and Provencal, I would pretend to have a breakdown so Provencal could 'defeat' me and kill you herself." "Why though? You could've killed me easily by switch over to Provencal's side," Zach pointed out. "I felt bad for you, naturally. So stricken by me. It was better for you to die believing that Minerva Fabello was ally and 'girlfriend' than know the horrible truth. Once again, my humanity was showing. Unfortunately, you killed Provencal. So I would maintain a relationship with you a little while longer. I would return to the Dino Attack Headquarters and begin working with the other mole in taking down that meddlesome Second Headquarters Squad. He gave me the symbol to begin by killing Engineer-" "You didn't kill Engineer?" Zach interjected. "Unfortunately, no. I would be sitting with Zelda Frodongan while the murder took place, who discussed her ridiculous theories with me. When the announcement was made that Engineer had died reached the mess hall, I began to make my move. Zelda and Vinyaya left, and I waited for you to return. I would tell you I was going to go take a shower, when in reality, I was going to head off Medic. I would be informed of his unorthodox measures and knew he would discover who the mole was with some medical procedure. I headed him off and murdered him. Then I would take said shower to clean off the blood and reunite with you. "I would be helping the other mole with his killing spree, but your insistence at staying by my side hindered my plans. I might have been able to off Sniper while you went to pick up that laptop, but I decided not to risk it. After telling you the story of my past, we would start moving. At that point, the other mole would have made his grand move and murder Soldier, Spy, Heavy, and Scout. We would learn of what happened, leading us to go find Pyro and Demoman, where I could finish them off myself. Unfortunately, Minifigs by the bucketload began to arrive, making it hard to pull off the murder." Zach simply nodded, smirking slightly. "Alright, 'Master Spy'. So what are you going to do now that you've revealed your whole diabolic purpose to me?" Minerva lips curled into a smile. "Let me see..." She scanned the hallway for a moment. Her eyes rested on a door that presumably led to a closet or office. "Ah! I would stay in character as completely stricken by you. I'd find a closet and forcibly shove you into it." "What? How would that-" "When the agents would backtrack to see what happened, they would see two perfectly normal love-stricken young adults kissing in a closet. Unimpressed as they might be, they shrug it off and continued their escort. Once I made sure they were gone, I'd kill you." "I don't-what?" Zach was surprised at this sudden turn. "Then, to top it off, I would injure myself and make it seem like the mole killed you and grievously wounded me while I cried for help. Nobody would be the wiser." Minerva displayed a look of seriousness on her face. "You kiss me and then kill me?" "Due to my pity toward your one-sided attraction toward me. And to stay in-character. If you can't already tell, I'm a fantastic actress, manipulating your feelings to my advantage." "Huh." Minerva smiled and continued to look ahead. Zach smiled half-heartedly. "Well, you've thoroughly convinced me you're the mole. Because I oddly find your story somewhat believable. Up until you kiss me and kill me." Minerva shrugged. "Remember that when you're dead in a closet because you didn't listen to the mole who was trying to save your life." Zach looked at her once. She glanced at him briefly before suddenly kissing his cheek. He jumped back in surprise, causing Minerva to snicker as she walked ahead of him. "Not funny," he said, trying to stop a smile from forming on his face. Minerva continued to walk ahead, unfazed. "Nope. It's hilarious." It was hardly long before Pyro and Demoman had been brought to the prison. As the group carried the two unconscious agents, they noticed that they were drawing attention from two other prisoners: one man with blond hair, and the other that Vinyaya recognized as the man who tried to kill Claw. "We'd better disarm them," Angel Eyes said as they came to a stop. "Last thing we want is for them to have a hidden weapon of some sort." Demoman was easily stripped of his bandoliers and his clothes. When he was down to the basics, Firecracker placed him on a small cot in the cell. As soon as the others had turned their backs, he reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a stick of dynamite, and carefully placed it into the unconscious man's hand before closing the cell door behind him and walked toward the door. "What is all this?" Donnie asked as he approached. "Walter, what's goi-" "SHUT THE ZNAP UP, DONNIE!" Walter shouted angrily. Slowly, Sarah tried to help take care of Pyro's outfit. Removing the baggy clothing seemed nearly impossible, but she managed to reach for the mask. She carefully took it off of the agent's head. Maria removed the balaclava, and what everyone saw there was unbelievable. "Oh my Builder," Sarah muttered at the sight of Pyro's face. ***** Rex pulled the joystick, and his newly-repaired hover-chair moved forward. The hover-chair's design was a marvel to behold, assembled with advanced technology that could have only come from the greatest minds of Paradox. Unfortunately, that meant that repairing the broken and glitching chair was easier said than done for Dino Attack Team's most skilled technicians. They had only just fixed its problems, but before giving it back to Rex, they had warned him that the slightest bit of damage could potentially cause it to start malfunctioning again. Accompanying Rex were two of his closest teammates: Amanda Claw and Frozeen. Even with the mole's identity revealed, Rex felt it was best to surround himself with people he knew for certain that he could trust. Together, they entered the room where Attila "Ata" Huntsman once lived, before his living situation was permanently changed to a cell. "Look at this," Frozeen said, pointing towards Ata's bed. On its own, it appeared normal. Compared to the rest of the standard-issue beds for Dino Attack agents, Rex could see that its pillow appeared thicker than normal. As an Alpha Team agent, Frozeen's attention to detail served him well. Together, they approached the bed, and Amanda cautiously slipped her hand into the pillowcase. She pulled out, much to her surprise, a briefcase. It was locked, but before Frozeen could offer to open it, Amanda had picked the lock herself. The briefcase opened, and their eyes widened at what they saw. "Wait a second," said Rex, blinking. "Amanda? Remember how we ran into Spy and he was grumbling something about a briefcase? I think we just found out what happened to it." Spy's briefcase contained an assortment of gear. There was a handheld device which Frozeen identified as the electro-sapper, designed to disable security systems... for example, the cameras and turrets set up by Engineer. There were packs and packs of cigarettes, much to Amanda's disgust, but Rex noted that only some of them were real; the rest were the fake kind that created smokescreens, such as the one used in the Portal Operations Room. There were a number of knives and pistols inside the suitcase, which must have been the weapons that Ata used in addition to stealing Amanda's knife. But most notably, there were clothes. Lots and lots of clothes. More clothes than Rex thought it possible to fit inside a single briefcase. As Rex, Amanda, and Frozeen rummaged through these clothes, they realized that they were not just any clothes, but disguises. One set of clothes looked like it would be worn by Pyro. Another set bore more than a passing semblance to Greybeard's pirate garb. There was also a XERRD labcoat, an Ogel Drone uniform, and even a dress inside the suitcase. Amanda's eyes drifted towards an envelope underneath the cigarette packs. She took it and, with Rex's permission, opened it and pulled out a number of photographs. Every single picture showed the late Jim "Spy" Covalent, ninja cowl and all, in various romantic scenes with a woman who bore some semblance to the equally-late Bob "Scout" Rutherford. She showed these photos to Rex and Frozeen before opening a second envelope she saw in the briefcase. Reading it, she reported: "It's a love letter to Helen Rutherford, telling her about the victory at Fort Legoredo and promising to return to her as soon as the Dino Attack war ended." Looking over the photographs, Rex murmured, "He must really have loved her. It's really a pity that the letter never got delivered... or that his promise will not be fulfilled. And on top of all that, her son won't be coming home, either." Rex sighed. "Poor Helen Rutherford. I'll have to extend my sympathies towards her... it must be so hard for her to lose two loved ones in this horrible war." "This reminds me," Amanda gently put down the letter. "I need to write a letter of my own. You see, there are some loose ends that need to be tied up... and one of them is an old friend of mine, Bartholomew Enderson. I... I need to write him a letter, thanking him for always being there for me... and telling him that... that I'm sorry... that he is free now." "Well, well, well. What do we have here?" Rex, Amanda, and Frozeen startled at the sound of that deep, booming, all-too-familiar voice. Amanda and Frozeen spun around, while Rex rotated his chair to face the voice's owner. Striding into the room, flanked by a pair of Guard Drones, was none other than Evil Ogel himself. ---- "Can I help you?" said the young woman at the other side of the counter in that small bar as Schiess sat down. The bar itself was filled with various travelers, astronauts, and some aliens of various types. In the back, there were a group of people who looked like they were heading for that Ice Planet, Krysto-2002. Schiess recalled hearing news that the colonists and scientists were investigating ice meteorites originating from the Ice Planet. One or two Space Police officers were sitting in the back with donuts, their bright green suits making them stand out, but they were probably off-duty and too busy to notice any of the illegal business that sometimes went on in here. "Yeah," replied Schiess. "Anything you'd recommend?" "Well," said the barmaid, "there was this one weird drink you can try." "Sure," decided Schiess. Slowly, the barmaid poured a strange greenish liquid into a small shotglass and handed it to Schiess. He took one sip and nearly gagged. "What the Znap is this?" Schiess asked. "I don't know," replied the barmaid. "Some alien we recently made contact with. I think they called themselves Zotaxians or something." "What?" Schiess exclaimed. "They're pretty strange things," added the barmaid. "In fact, there's one back there." Schiess slowly turned and got a glimpse at a hideous-looking minifig, though his face was only partially visible through his thick helmet. "What do you have that's actually drinkable?" Schiess asked after a moment. The barmaid quickly poured him a glass of beer. "That's a bit better. Listen, you got a name?" "Carrie," the barmaid introduced herself. "Carrie Enderson." "Enderson," Schiess repeated. "That name sounds familiar." "I got a brother back on LEGO Planet," replied Carrie. "He runs a popular bar in LEGO City." "I see," said Schiess. "Interesting. Listen, I need you to do a few things for me. The bartender hears everything, right?" "Yeah," replied Carrie. "Good," said Schiess. "In that case, I got a task for you. I'm a mercenary, you see. This seems like a good place to find work." "You want a job?" "Are you kidding?" scoffed Schiess. "Me? A bartender, that would be insane. What I'd like you to do is listen for anything, make notes if you can on anything that sounds like a rough job that pays." "Alright," said Carrie. "If you find anything worthwhile, I'll slip a little extra into your tip," offered Schiess. He slowly handed her a twenty-dollar bill. "How can I reach you if I find anything?" Carrie asked. "You don't," replied Schiess. "I'll come back at the end of the week and see if there's anything, and if you try to tell anybody about this, I'm going to put a bullet in your MegaBloking head. Understand?" Carrie nodded with a faint smile. Schiess then stood up and walked toward the door. ---- Semick was proceeding down one of Dino Attack Headquarters's hallways, his mind bogged down by the recent events. It was definitively an unwelcome return to the thoughts of how he had to operate in the last days of Adventurers' Island. He had found out all he could about the mole situation. Early in the morning, agent Engineer was found dead in the halls from a bullet to the head. Some of the agents who had checked back on his post in a security wing revealed someone had been meddling with the security systems. Whoever it was had been trying to blind their eyes, and Engineer had clearly been killed for trying to stop him. His body was handed off to agent Medic for an autopsy. While having the security of his comrade and friend Heavy should've been enough security, the killer had managed to take the opportunity of Heavy going out for a sandwich break to strike. The heavy weapons agent returned to the grim sight of finding Medic dead on the floor. The theory going around was that the mole was simply ensuring that no signs were found for his identity. Shortly afterwards, agent Sniper was found without life signs in his sniping post. There were signs of a scuffle, and it appeared he had fought the best he could against his attacker, but he had simply been outmatched, and received a fatal stab wound for his troubles. While the agent wasn't the only long-range security the team had for sure, it was obvious to Semick that losing such a skilled sharpshooter would serve as a weakness for the team. Then came the real bloodbath. Agents Scout, Soldier, and Heavy had regrouped to a "safe room", the former room of operations for a project regarding portals that had faced difficulties during Digger's schism. Through chance, Rex had ended up being brought there, and Spy arrived as well to give the group more details on the mole and warnings on what he could be capable of. It seemed that paranoia soon set in, and Soldier and Heavy began firing shotguns and miniguns at their comrades. But soon after that, the mole had struck again, and by the end of it, Spy, Scout, Heavy, and Soldier were all dead. Rex seemed to have only barely survived, the commotion the event had caused having resulted in agents flocking to the scene, and the mole fleeing before he could be discovered. The event had left seven out of the nine-member Second Headquarters Squad deceased, and the emotional stress had taken its toll on the remaining two members. Just a few minutes ago, agents Pyro and Demoman held up rooms in the basement level with an insanely large blaze and a boatload of explosives, respectively. Luckily, fellow agents and some members from LEGO City's fire department were able to calm the issue, and the agents in question were brought to the detention blocks for their own safety. Fortunately, these crimes were not going unpunished. Semick had managed to encounter Shadow during his investigation into the matter, and he was told that Semick had managed to catch the mole in the act. While the Founding agent didn't know himself who it was, he was able to tell Semick that the traitor was under interrogation now, and would be punished as seen fit. It calmed the Elite Agent to know that this crisis was more or less at an end. But he still didn't feel right. This event only showed that their enemies were intending to try and underwhelm the heart of Dino Attack operations itself. Granted, such an act wouldn't be surprising, and the Cam O'Cozy matter showed that XERRD had been trying to break them where it hurt before, but trying to undermine base defenses when LEGO City had been sufficiently defended from major Mutant Dino infestation for months seemed to signify that something was brewing within the enemy forces. Something big... "Semick? ... Hey, Semick!" A shake on the shoulder brought Semick back to the present. He was mildly surprised to see Andrew at his side, his companion Laxus and a winged Hybrid standing nearby. "Ah, Andrew. Sorry, I was... occupied with something. You two been busy with much?" asked Semick. "Mostly just helping our newest ally get acquainted with the team," said Laxus, gesturing to the Hybrid. She smiled and gave a small wave. "You must be Pterisa, I'm guessing?" said Semick. She nodded. "Ah, I thank you for the role you played at the Imagination Temple. You have my gratitude and appreciation, I assure you that." He took a moment to shake her hand. "You're welcome," Pterisa said with a bit of gratitude herself. "My... friends here have shown me around the base and introduced me to a lot of interesting activities. It's been quite helpful for my nerve." "Good to hear." Semick turned to Andrew. "How much have you heard about the mole business?" Andrew frowned. "We spent the last few hours watching a movie, so I can't say I've heard much. I know about what happened with Rex, Spy, and the others, and what Pyro and Demoman did, but not much beyond that." "There isn't much else to tell, admittedly. I've heard Specs's got someone they're pretty sure is the mole, which is reassuring, but I can't say I'm quite at ease." "Why's that?" asked Laxus. Semick took a glance at his surroundings. "Let's take this somewhere with a bit more space. I don't want to crowd the halls or anything." ***** B leaned over the railing of the ship and smiled. For once, it seemed that they were in the clear. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a figure walk up behind him. "Do you want an explanation?" "No," replied B. "I think I got one." B looked off into the distance and saw that the broken skyline of LEGO City was coming into view. He climbed up to the bridge of the ship. "Feels too good to be true, doesn't it, Sam?" Sam looked up from his computer. "You're awfully cheerful, B. Did someone spike your rations with something out of the medical cupboard?" "No," said B. "I just feel like I've accepted what has happened to us. I feel calm." "That still might be some of the painkillers talking," said Sam, analyzing the situation with the mind of a doctor. "The first thing we should do is get you, Kev, and Chris to the medical centre." "Right..." muttered B. The radio hummed to life. A voice spoke: "Unidentified vessel, this is LEGO City control. Please identify yourself. You aren't scheduled to arrive." B took the microphone. "LEGO City, this is Benton Kabrinsky and squad, arriving from Adventurers' Island. We need minifigs on board that require medical attention." "Impossible. Your squad was reported KIA. I'll let you dock, but we need someone to verify your identity. Over and out." "Well, MegaBlok you too," said B. ***** "Not to appear lazy," Minerva muttered to Zach. "But I think there is enough people here to keep track of Pyro and Demoman. And it's getting crowded. Could we leave without getting in trouble?" Zach nodded in agreement. "I'd say we can move on." The two then turned and started to leave the prison complex. "You can finally pull off your 'kiss and kill' plan." Minerva rolled eyes in amusement. "You're never going to drop it, are you?" "No," said Zach. "The very idea just seems so outlandishly ridiculous that the entire gambit about you being the mole lost its charm." "Oh no! Now you don't think I'm the mole! I might as well go cry in a corner now," Minerva said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Okay, okay, I get it," Zach said defensively. "I'll move on. For now." "Good." They returned to the armory and picked up some bigger weapons: Minerva grabbed a Sonic Screamer and Zach resigned to a Cosmotronic Ray. The two then headed outside the headquarters' front doors. Zach breathed in a large gulp of air as he looked ahead. LEGO City was still a wreck, but with more people moving back, things were starting to get cleaned up and restored to a semi-decent state. Minerva stood beside him, looking into the city. "This place looked really bad the last time I was here." Zach nodded in agreement. "Now that people are moving back in, that's expected." "I hope moving people back in doesn't kill any civilians," Minerva said quietly. "What if Dr. Rex organizes his Mutant Dinos to attack here again? Civilians will be caught in the crossfire." Zach flinched. "Let's hope it doesn't come to that." It was a very real possibility. The war was reaching its climax, especially with the cleansing of the Maelstrom Temple. XERRD has made their move with mole. One would hope that the Dino Attack Team would respond quickly by heading to Dinosaur Island and finishing off XERRD and its forces before XERRD mounted an attack on LEGO City. Minerva raised her Sonic Screamer and asked, "Who's that?" Zach squinted as he saw a man slowly approaching the headquarters, a bag over his shoulder. As he came closer, Minerva lowered her weapon slightly. "I think it's a civilian." "Yeah. I think it's..." Zach allowed himself to smile as he identified the man with a black mustache and a blue cap. "Ed Mail." "Who?" Minerva looked at him, then in realization, "A LEGO Islander, right?" Zach nodded as he walked up to greet Ed Mail. "Here I go again," Ed began. "I know, I know. I'm in your way. Hey, I know you-" "Good to see you again, Ed," Zach said. "Still making the rounds?" "Oh, hello Zachary. You know how it is. Rain, snow, sleet, and hail will never stop me. Why should an apocalypse? Besides, the mail must be delivered, shouldn't it? Oh, yes, it must." Zach smiled as he listened to Ed ramble on. Behind him, Minerva half-grinned, somewhat confused by Ed's behavior. "Ed, this is Minerva Fabello, my... ah, girlfriend." Minerva shook Ed's hand somewhat nervously. "Good to meet you," said Ed. "I have a letter for you. Or did I leave it at the station-?" "A letter?" Minerva repeated, surprised. Ed pulled his sack over his shoulder and started shuffling through hundreds of envelopes. He pulled one out at last. "This is for you, Zach," he said. Zach accepted it. He presumed it was from his family in Antarctica. Ed continued to look for Minerva's letter. She looked on anxiously. Finally, he pulled it out and handed it to Minerva. "There you go," Ed lifted himself back up and cracked his back. "You wouldn't believe how heavy that bag is. Or you might. I don't know. I suppose I'll have to see my brother about it. Yes, I should." "Thanks, Ed," Zach said, grinning. Ed Mail nodded once before he started walking toward the Dino Attack Headquarters entrance. He turned back to Minerva, who was eyeing the letter curiously. She looked up at him, to Ed, then back to him. "He was... interesting," Minerva said. "Is everyone on LEGO Island like that?" "No," said Zach. "Some people are considerably more... 'interesting', I suppose. You haven't met people like Captain Rom or Nubby. Rom takes his job very seriously and Nubby will talk your ear off if you give him the chance. But they're all decent people. You'll get used to their mannerisms soon enough." Minerva smiled faintly before looking at the envelope. "Who would send me a letter?" she thought out loud. "Your mother?" Zach guessed. "Oswald?" Minerva shot him a dirty look. "I doubt she even realizes that her home has been flattened by Mutant Dinos and she's never written in the past. Why now? And Oswald has that agent Keith Empson's PDA, remember? He can send me threatening messages through that." Zach flinched at Minerva's sudden cold tone. She tore open the envelope and read the letter in silence. As she read, her eyes seemed to widen. "What?" Zach asked, worried. She lowered the letter and looked at Zach, showing little emotion. "You weren't too far off. The letter says Mom died a few days ago." ***** All eyes were on Evil Ogel as he strode towards Rex, Amanda, and Frozeen, flanked by a pair of Guard Drones that stared forward with blank expressions and empty eye sockets. Ogel approached the trio and looked upon them as a king may look upon his servants. "I understand the Dino Attack Team has been having some... difficulties involving a XERRD mole," rumbled Evil Ogel, his baritone voice echoing through the room. "Err, yes, that is correct," said Rex, nodding. "We have taken care of the issue. The mole has been identified and taken into custody." "Is that so?" Ogel raised an eyebrow, puckering his lips ever-so-slightly as he did so. "What a shame. I was hoping to assist your team in tracking down the mole." Frozeen frowned. "If you don't mind me asking, Ogel, how exactly would you have assisted us?" Evil Ogel smiled darkly as he chuckled. "A few Evil Plant leaves, a little Green Goo... and a couple of Mind-Control Orbs. It would have been all too simple for me to force the mole to publicly confess the truth. All too simple indeed." He laughed, a terrifying sound that rang through the Dino Attack Headquarters. Rex and Amanda traded worried glances while Frozeen made a disgusted sound under his breath. "Very well then," said Ogel. "As the mole situation has been taken care of, what do we have here?" "Oh, nothing," said Rex, shrugging. "We're just checking the contents of a dead man's briefcase." "Oh?" Ogel raised an eyebrow once again. "Who's the dead man, might I ask?" "Agent Spy," Rex replied quickly, only to realize too late, as Frozeen shot him a glare, that he said too much. Evil Ogel's lips curled into a hideous smile. "Ah, at last. Agent Spy has met his demise. I have had enough with him sneaking through my bases, uninvited, all while disguised as one of my Skeleton Drones. He was a worthy adversary, but it admittedly comes as pleasant news to know that he has finally passed. Now, if you don't mind, I would like to take a look at Spy's briefcase." Despite his faux politeness, Rex, Amanda, and Frozeen could tell that any attempt to refuse would elicit an unwanted response from the two Guard Drones. They had no choice but to back down and give Ogel what he wanted. Evil Ogel approached the briefcase and began rummaging through it. He looked through all the clothes and scowled as he laid eyes upon the numerous Ogel Drone disguises. But then, one disguise in particular caught his attention. Raising his eyebrows in surprise, he reached into the briefcase and pulled out a black helmet with a golden visor, nearly identical to the one that he wore. For a moment, he stood perfectly still, silent as the grave. Then, Ogel's face broke out into a grin again, but Frozeen noticed that it wasn't his evil gloating type of smile, but his sinister masterminding type of smile. "I don't believe it," Ogel whispered. "I've got it! I see it now! It is clear as day! Oh, what a brilliant plan I have masterminded! Dr. Rex shall never see this one coming!" With that, Evil Ogel turned to face one of his Guard Drone. "Contact DID-S4, DID-S2, and DID-S5 of squadron LMM-03/04-01. It is time! This plan, I will guarantee you, shall not fail! It's foolproof! Whereas my gambits with the Boggle Rocket, the D.O.O.M., the Whirlpool Machine, the Time Freeze Ray, and more have all failed, this plan will succeed! I know it! It is the perfect plan to... to..." Ogel faltered, as his expression turned to a confused frown. "I never thought I'd see the day," Frozeen said with a smirk, "when Evil Ogel, known for masterminding failed plot after failed plot to take over the world, finally comes up with the perfect, foolproof plan..." "... to save the world," Evil Ogel finally managed to spit out, through clenched teeth and with a begrudgingly bitter tone. ***** "Hey Kate," said a familiar voice. Kate looked up from the couch she was sitting on to see the face of Lance Williams. "How you doing?" Lance asked with a slight hint of enthusiasm. "I'm fine," replied Kate. She was simply flipping through various channels on the television set. "Look," Lance said, "I just wanted to say I'm sorry for anything I might have said on the island. A couple of us were thinking about getting together tonight, maybe having a party of some kind. Perhaps you'd care to join us." "Maybe," said Kate. At that moment, the door opened, and Sarah Bishop walked into the room. Upon seeing her, Lance turned with a slight look of fear in his face. "I wasn't going to hurt her," Lance said nervously, remembering what this woman had done. "It's alright," said Sarah. "Kate, is this guy bothering you?" Kate shook her head. "Mom, it's okay." "Mom," Lance muttered with a slight smile, amused that Kate's mother had shown up in the base, though she seemed to feel rather awkward. ***** Dr. Cyborg went to the tech lab. He was bored, so he figured he'd find something to fix. He asked about projects, and someone told him Rex had come in with a XERRD hoverchair. He "borrowed" the security feed (they really shouldn't run those wires between the walls, they're so vulnerable to him) and saw Rex and Amanda in Rex's quarters. He went there and saw them talking. He knocked on the open door. "Excuse me, I'm bored, and I thought I might be able to completely fix that chair for you." Rex nodded, and got out with Amanda's help. Dr. Cyborg got under it and began repairs. "Well, this might take a while," remarked Dr. Cyborg. "Zed designed his machines like Rube Goldberg's idea of a Rube Goldberg machine. I guess to keep us from messing with it." He was silent for a second, then started again. "Have you heard the rumors? They say Silencia Venomosa herself is in here with us. Got any idea who she might be?" "No," Rex replied after glancing at Amanda. "No, I don't." "Hmm. Well, I can't wait until they find her," Dr. Cyborg said, "I want to speak with her." "About what?" Amanda asked. "I want to thank her." Amanda's eyes widened. She glanced wordlessly at Rex, and he could tell that she was very surprised by this response. She could not possibly imagine why Dr. Cyborg would want to thank her. "For what?" Rex asked. "For doing her job so well," replied Dr. Cyborg. "That sounds like it's a story," Amanda said, furrowing her brow in bemusement. "It is. It's a long story, but we might have time for it, given the complexity of this chair," Dr. Cyborg said. Rex and Amanda listened keenly. "Well," Dr. Cyborg started, "I started UlTech nine years ago. I was in the same business as Mindstorms, Inc. and the Dacta Corporation. They were some pretty fierce competition. Some people started buying from us, but not enough. My startup fund was being depleted fast. We were in a downward spiral. To attract customers, we needed an innovative product. To create a new product, we needed money. To get money, we needed customers. UlTech seemed like a flop. "Then, the president of Mindstorms was killed by the deadly Silencia Venomosa. I was in my rented space in an office building when my assistant came in. He said I wanted to see this. A television was hanging on the wall in the hallway. I came out and saw a news report about an assassination of the Mindstorms president. I was glad. I would never hire an assassin myself, but who was I to turn down good luck? Some of Mindstorms' customers turned to Dacta, but many started buying from us. And then, the leader of Dacta was killed, too, and Dacta went under soon after. Everybody started buying from us. By the time Mindstorms got their game back together, it was too late. We had been cemented as one of the leading technology companies on the planet." Rex and Amanda traded glances. Rex could see that Amanda Claw was horrified, disturbed, and repulsed by Dr. Cyborg's story. She locked eyes with the former XERRD scientist and said in a quiet yet clearly exasperated voice: "Do you know what you just said?" Dr. Cyborg faltered. "Why, what's the-" "You're glad that Uærlig Sindstorme was assassinated?" continued Amanda. "You consider it good luck that Edward Korrupte was murdered? You want to actually thank Silencia Venomosa... this horrible fiend... this murderous terrorist... for doing a 'good job' just because your company profited from it?" Rex could see that Amanda was getting very distressed about this; it was obvious from her body language and from her voice. Gently, he reached out towards Amanda and murmured, "Amanda, please relax, it's okay-" Amanda shook her head. "No, Rex. It's not 'okay'. Dr. Cyborg, listen to me. Silencia Venomosa was not some miracle you should thank. She was a cold-hearted murderer. A complete monster. And if you consider it good fortune that, eight years ago, a horrible massacre occurred on Main Street, LEGO Town... Edward Korrupte was not the only one killed that day, you know. At least a dozen police officers, all of whom had families of their own, were murdered for doing their job. And not to mention all the innocent civilians who got caught in it all. If you consider that day good fortune just because you profited from it, then... then... you're no better than Walter Breen!" Although Dr. Cyborg appeared disturbed by the other things she said, that last comment made him angry. "Don't compare me to that dirty coward!" he snapped. "In fact, what does Walter Breen even have to do with this?" "Because he is the one who-" Amanda stopped herself, realizing that she was about to give away too much information. She took a moment to regain her composure, so Rex decided that it was in their best interest if he did some talking. "The thing is, Dr. Cyborg," explained Rex, "the work of Silencia Venomosa is still recent in the minds of most LEGOLAND civilians. It may be considered, as they say, 'too soon' to say such things about her. I know you meant well, and I thank you for repairing my hover-chair, but... I think Amanda's right. If Silencia Venomosa is half the person everyone makes her out to be, then her work is nothing to be thankful for." With that, Rex quickly glanced at Amanda, who nodded silently in reply. Dr. Cyborg was puzzled. What was wrong with Amanda? He replayed the conversation in his mind (literally). Oh, scrap. That's what she was mad about. She thinks I was glad they were murdered! I really put my foot in my mouth. Oh, brother, I better fix this, and fast. "Amanda, I wish to apologize," he said. "I was not happy they were murdered. I was merely happy about the NXT model going missing, and the havoc her infiltration caused. I would have liked it better if nobody was killed. I can see Venomosa is a touchy subject for you. I apologize for seeming to be happy she killed people." Amanda nodded. Dr. Cyborg turned and left, unsure if she forgave him or not. As he walked down the hallway, he began to think. She knows Walter Breen hired Venomosa. Only Venomosa, Breen, and the members of XERRD he bragged to would know that. She also really didn't like me seeming to like Venomosa's murders. I wonder... ***** The sight of what lay beneath that mask was quite a shock toward everyone. What most people expected was probably to see an ugly man, dirty, unshaven, pale, but what they saw was something different. "I told you so," Clint muttered as he looked at Pyro. Her skin was understandably pale, almost gray. She was soaked in sweat, which dripped down her messy hair and the small tank top which, until a few minutes ago, was covered by a baggy fire suit. Her hair was long, straight, and dark-coloured, though it was hard to tell if it was her natural colour or it was just really dirty. The agent formerly known as Pyro groaned as she slowly started to come to her senses. "Why am I in here?" she asked. "You can talk?" Angel Eyes remarked with a grin. "Yeah," replied Pyro, rolling her eyes. "I can talk. What, didn't you hear me shouting at you earlier?" "I guess your balaclava and helmet muffled you," said Angel Eyes. "Can someone explain why I'm in here?" Pyro asked again. In the cell over, Demoman muttered something incomprehensible in his sleep. "What do you-" Dude was about to say before he cut himself off. "You lit a Znapping room on fire, man!" "Brilliant, wasn't it?" Pyro replied with a grin. "I was perfectly safe in my flame-retardant suit. If that mole came for me, I was going to see to it that he burned in MegaBlokland!" Desperately, Pyro started glancing around; at first, they suspected that she was probably hoping to find a lighter or something else that could produce a flame, but then she asked: "Could you let me out of here now? I'm feeling a little… claustrophobic in this cell." "Not a chance," Vinyaya said. "This was for your own good." "I think we ought to have someone stand guard," Angel Eyes said sternly. "We'll take turns on shifts, maybe two at a time. I don't want either of them trying anything, and if the mole comes to kill either of them, I think they ought to have some protection." "Isn't that a bit much for an empty priso-" Donnie was about to say before Walter cut him off. "SHUT THE ZNAP UP, DONNIE! It's only mostly empty, there's two other prisoners here." ---- "... in a fire. Luckily, the local LEGO Town fire department arrived at the scene immediately, and there were only minimal casualties. Right now, the building has been evacuated as there could have potentially been structural damage to the building itself, and construction crews have been deployed to survey the damage. But worry not, Miss Brix, because..." Bartholomew Enderson looked up to see Silencia Venomosa enter the bar. She took a seat, but to Enderson's surprise, she turned her attention to the news playing on the television. There was the news reporter, Lotta Brix, and she was interviewing someone that Venomosa recognized all too well. "... despite this setback, the company will remain strong and geared towards the future, as it always has been. I have no doubt that my grandfather Korrupte would be proud to see how far Dacta Corporation has come in only three generations." As he said this, Edward Korrupte smiled assertively and adjusted his red tie. "Excellent news, Mr. Korrupte," Lotta Brix said as she flashed a smile. "Now, do you have any idea what may have caused the fire? Already, rumors are circulating, especially with the recent murder of Mr. Sindstorme, that this was no mere accident, and someone with malicious intent may have triggered the fire. Do you think the elusive Silencia Venomosa may have been behind this?" As Korrupte's smile disappeared and was replaced by a grim expression, Enderson leaned in close to Venomosa, gestured towards the television, and raised an eyebrow questioningly. Her response was simple and understood as she shook her head ever-so-slightly. She had already received her reward from Korrupte; there was no profit to be gained from antagonizing him... at least, not without a client. "I highly doubt that Venomosa was behind this," stated Korrupte. "Recovered security footage shows a pair of unidentifiable men entering the building with a canister of kerosene. They were sloppy in covering their tracks, and I have already notified the authorities, ensuring that they will be tracked down and brought to justice. Besides, I personally do not believe in the myth of Silencia Venomosa, and I am confident that I have nothing to fear at all from her." Quietly, Bartholomew Enderson slipped Silencia Venomosa the envelope from Walter Breen. She took it, opened it, and read the letter inside. "He says that everything you need to know is in that letter," whispered Enderson. "He... didn't want to see you in person." Venomosa sighed and gently shook her head, an action that took Enderson by surprise for a brief moment. She was always a stoic, which combined with her eerie silence to place her right in the middle of Uncanny Valley. And yet, as Enderson reminded himself, she was only Minifig. A girl who could not have been more than 20. Evidently, she agreed with Enderson's view on Breen, and was disappointed to see such cowardice in her clients. As she folded the letter once more, Enderson caught a brief glimpse of a few words that stood out to him: "Dacta Corporation" and "Edward Korrupte". He glanced back at the television screen, and Lotta Brix was still interviewing the CEO of Dacta. "... but worry not, since I shall be surrounded by police escorts at all times. If anyone dares to lay a finger on me, he must be absolutely mad to try such an attempt." Oh my Builder, thought Enderson. He glanced back at Silencia Venomosa, who was already standing up and about to depart. It occurred to him that, as her secret keeper who had somehow managed to stay alive, he might possibly be the only person in the whole world that she actually trusted. She was only Minifig, a girl no more than 20, and she trusted him as a daughter might trust her father. As she turned to leave, Bartholomew Enderson spoke in a wavering voice, but with genuine compassion: "Take care." She glanced quickly over her shoulder and locked eyes with him. She simply nodded in reply. Then, she left the restaurant. "Be safe," whispered Bartholomew Enderson. ---- After reading the letter over for the third or fourth time, Amanda Claw was finally satisfied. She could never put her emotions down in words as easily as in body language, but this would have to suffice. Silently, she folded the letter, placed it in an envelope, and stood from her desk. "Are you ready?" asked Rex. Amanda nodded. With that, they left Rex's room and headed to the Dino Attack post room. Along the way, they passed the door to the prison complex. Amanda paused there just long enough for Rex to stop his hover-chair and turn around with a confused expression. "That's the prison complex," he murmured, "I thought we were heading to the..." "We are," said Amanda, nodding. "This letter is going to tie up one loose end. While I'm here, I would like to tie up another loose end. There's someone I need to speak with." Rex realized to whom she was referring. "Would you like me to come in with you?" offered Rex, concerned. Amanda shook her head. "I know that you're saying that for my own safety... but I feel that this would be better if I could speak with him one-on-one." "Then I'll wait out here until you return," decided Rex. Amanda Claw opened the door, passed through the security checks, and entered the prison complex. She considered it a good omen that most of the cells were unoccupied, and of the handful that were occupied, Amanda only knew a few of the occupants. In one cell sat Demoman, who was drunkenly singing a song to himself. "Ah sailor went t' sea, sea, sea t' see what he could see, see, see, but all that he could see, see, see was th' bo'om o' th' deep blue sea, sea, sea!" The way he put emphasis on the word "blue", Amanda noted, seemed to reflect his depressed mood; evidently, he was still hit hard by Ronald E. Army's death. At last, Amanda found the person she was looking for. A man in his late thirties or early forties, dressed casually, a cigarette butt in his mouth, sitting in a way that made it clear that he seemed resigned to his fate. Silently, she stood outside his cell, locking her eyes upon his form. When he looked up and saw her, he started. Just seeing her made all the horrible memories that haunted his nightmares for eight years come rushing back. Despite the cold fear running through his body, he managed to appear composed, and put on a scowl as he glared at her. "Why?" he hissed. "After all these years, why do you come to haunt me now? What sort of dark sadistic gambit are you planning to make my life miserable?" Amanda's features were solemn. In her years as Silencia Venomosa, she left no survivors or witnesses, and thus could not imagine how horribly the life of such a survivor would be forever impacted by their encounter with the infamous assassin. Now, as she looked into Montoya's eyes, she knew. And it sickened her, filling her with guilt for what she had done. "Montoya," she spoke, quietly yet loud enough for the prisoner to hear her words. At the sound of her voice, Montoya blinked in surprise and stared at her with shock, just as Trigger had done back in the Maelstrom Temple. Surely, everyone knew that the one defining trait about Silencia Venomosa was that she never, ever spoke. As this realization washed over Montoya, his aggressive facade faded away as guilt settled in. "I can't believe it," he whispered as he lowered his gaze. "I got the wrong woman. I'm... I'm so sorry..." Amanda shook her head. "No, Montoya. You need to listen to me. I'm the one who should be sorry... because you were right. You got the right woman." Montoya raised an eyebrow and looked up at her once again. "What?" Amanda sighed. "The very first thing you asked me when you came into Dino Attack Headquarters... if I remembered you. I do remember you. I thought you were dead, and I had not given a single thought to you or Schiess since that night... but yes, I do remember you. I remember Schiess. I remember Orange, Scorsese, Verbal, Deniro, and Keaton." "So it was you," Montoya muttered bitterly. "And I understand," continued Amanda, "why your first instinct upon entering Dino Attack Headquarters was to shoot me in the face with a shotgun. But as much as you would like to come up to me and say, 'Hello. My name is Montoya. You killed my partners. Prepare to die,' I know that you will never get your revenge. You don't have it in you to look me in the eyes as you pull that trigger... and walk away, forever burdened by the fact that you have just taken someone else's life, just as I had taken five lives that fateful night. You may have pointed a shotgun at me today, but I could tell that, even if Zachary Virchaus hadn't conveniently shown up, you didn't actually have it in you to actually pull the trigger." "Shut up," snapped Montoya, grimacing. "You don't know me. You don't know what I'm capable of. If you think that I'm too weak to-" Amanda shook her head. "You're not weak, Montoya. You're Minifig. Unlike Schiess, you have emotions and morals. Schiess wants to kill me just because I foiled the heist, but you want to kill me to avenge the deaths of others. And that is what makes you strong, not weak. I remember you, Montoya. Eight years ago, while you, Schiess, Keaton, and the others plotted the heist on Dacta Corporation while I sulked silently in the background, I paid careful attention to everything about you. Your words, your tone of voice, your actions... even your body language. And I could see that you were different, Montoya. Schiess and the others were cold-blooded mercenaries only in it for the money... as was I. But you... you weren't in it for yourself. You were in it for someone else. For everyone else, it was just another job. For you, you were hoping to quit your criminal life and go clean after this job was done, perhaps even settle down with someone you loved. Perhaps, even, over the past eight years, you changed your ways and actually go clean. Eight years is a long time, and people can change drastically in eight years. And that is why I need your help, Montoya." Montoya was silent as he continued to stare at Amanda. He furrowed his brow, trying to think of what she could possibly need him for. "The woman you met eight years ago," explained Amanda, "is no longer the person that I am today. I've changed, too, over the years... and the fact that I am finally speaking is only the least notable of these changes. Much like you, I've quit my criminal life, and I've joined Dino Attack Team in hopes that, by helping to save the world, I can redeem myself of all the horrible crimes I've committed in the past. I cannot change the past, but I hope to change the future. I cannot ask you to forget, or even forgive me for what happened with Dacta Corporation and Mindstorms, Inc. But I hope that I can get you to see that I have changed. That I am repentant. That I wish to redeem myself. That I have found a Minifig who loves me and, once this war ends, I intend to settle down with him." Amanda shot a quick glance at the exit door. "The problem is that Schiess, or 'Trigger' as everyone calls him now, refuses to believe me. To him, I have not changed one bit from the person who foiled that petty heist eight years ago. And for that, he wants to kill me, and not even the entire Dino Attack Team will stop him. Nothing I can say or do will change that. He won't listen to me. Nor will he listen to anyone on this team who has worked with me for the past year. But you... Montoya, he trusts you. He will listen to you. Montoya, if you can convince Schiess that I have changed, I would be eternally grateful." "How do I know that you're telling the truth?" inquired Montoya. "Eight years ago, we thought you were one of us, but it was all just an act. How do I know that you aren't deceiving me now?" Amanda sighed. "You can never truly know for certain. But sometimes, life requires you to take a leap of faith." She locked eyes with Montoya, hoping to make it clear that what she was saying was genuine. "I must leave you now, but I implore you. Please, Montoya. Please see me for who I am, not for who I was." With that, she turned and started to head for the exit. "But what about Orange, and Keaton, and-" began Montoya, who stood and leaned against the bars of his cell. Amanda Claw stopped. Gently, she murmured: "Think of it this way. The best way to avenge their deaths... is not by taking another life... but by saving another life." With that, she left the prison complex, and Montoya watched her go. While Rex waited for Amanda to finish her talk with Montoya, a hand burst through the bars of a nearby cell and grabbed his arm. Rex pushed away with his hover-chair in surprise, but the man had an iron grip and held the elite agent firmly in place. Carl Lutsky pressed his face to the bars of his cell. This was the first time Rex had seen the man since his breakdown, and the present state of the ex-commander was disturbing. Lutsky still held a firm grip on the agent's arm. "I hear you caught the mole," cooed Lutsky. "Yes, we did," responded Rex. He still attempted to remove himself, but he retained his composure long enough to answer the mad commander's question. "Was it Dust?" whispered Lutsky. Rex did not think it was possible, but Lutsky pressed his face deeper into the bars. It struck images into the elite agent's mind of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, one of those old movies he happened to see his teammates watching in the rec room. "I know Dust killed those men." Rex did not know how to respond. The obvious answer was that Dust was dead, and that was what he said. "NO!" yelled Lutsky. "He's controlling you, too. He's in your head, Rex, you have to kill him!" The commotion was drawing over curious onlookers. Dude, Walter, and Donnie strolled over to see what the fuss was. "Dust is dead," said Rex firmly. "You killed him." "No, no, no, no," stammered the ex-commander. "I see him, he speaks to me." Rex looked over to the other agents with a look of confusion. Amanda had finished her talk with Montoya and was heading down the hall to meet Rex. "There!" screamed Lutsky. "I see him!" The agents all looked to where Lutsky pointed, but there was no one there. The ex-commander released Rex's arm and retreated to the corner of his cell to scream at the imaginary Dust. "YOU'RE A DEAD MAN, YOU SON OF A 4+ FIGURE! A DEAD MAN!" Amanda took Rex's shoulder. "Are you ready to go?" Rex nodded his head but continued looking at the sad figure occupying the cell. "Yes," said Rex, "let's get out of here." ***** "She's dead?" Zach repeated, surprised. "I don't know much about her, but she can't be much older than fifty if her oldest son is in his mid-twenties." "Take a look for yourself," Minerva said somewhat indifferently. She handed him the letter. It was Napoleon XIV Mental Institution. "Died of natural causes. Says she 'passed away'," read Zach. "She was mentally ill," Minerva stated in a matter-of-fact tone. "I think it can shorten your life." Zach raised an eyebrow at her. She seemed completely unaffected at the news that her mother had died. He looked back at the letter. "It says she is already buried with no funeral at the request of a Ginerva Chase. Who is-" "Athena's sister," Minerva said, her voice souring. "Nobody wanted to deal with Mom anymore after what happened with Tod. Athena Fabello's immediate family at this point only consists of her sister Ginny and her daughter Minerva. Since I am away fighting for the Dino Attack Team, Napoleon XIV chose to contact Aunt Ginny first, who clearly decided to save us the trouble of organizing a funeral where nobody cared about the passing soul in question and just have her buried somewhere in Antarctica." Zach frowned. "Seriously?" Minerva shrugged. "The fallout from Mom's breakdown wasn't pretty. I know Aunt Ginny was probably heartbroken to hear Tod had died, but I'm sure she was just as if not more embarrassed that her insane sister was the culprit. Nobody really forgave Mom for killing Tod, especially Oswald and me. I'm certain that Mom lived the last six years without seeing any family or friends." Zach knew Minerva would probably be angry for how he felt, but he couldn't help but feel sorry for Athena Fabello. Torn apart by grief and abandoned by every single person she ever loved did not sound nice. "It sounds like dying was probably a good thing. She finally got to escape her not-so-happy reality." Wrong thing to say. Minerva's emotionless face turned into a scowl as she jabbed Zach hard in the chest. "Death only made her escape permanent," Minerva hissed angrily. "She escaped her harsh reality a long time ago, forcing us to suffer through it while she watched happily by the sidelines!" Zach was struck silent after Minerva's sudden outburst. His mind buzzed annoyingly, telling him to lash back at her. No, he told himself calmly. That won't help. "I'm sorry," he began. "It's just that you didn't seem to care-" "I don't care," Minerva snapped, cutting Zach off. Her tone, however, seemed to suggest otherwise. "I moved on after Tod died. For all intents and purposes, Athena Fabello died in 2004. She is nothing to me anymore. Her death means about as much as the death of an insect. Nothing." Zach watched as Minerva fumed. "I'm going to be honest," he said slowly. "It seems like her death does mean something to you." Minerva glared at him angrily. Cold and calm, she said, "She was my mother. Obviously, her passing means something. Other than our blood connection, I feel nothing for her, Zach." Minerva let out a long sigh. "She's gone. I'm done talking about her. She meant little to me before and means nothing to me now." Zach simply nodded. It was clear that Athena Fabello was a touchier subject to Minerva than she had let on earlier. It would best for them both if they just let it go. "I'm sorry for snapping at you," Minerva said quietly. "It's just-" "I understand," Zach interrupted. "Just drop it." Minerva nodded in agreement and the two started to head back to the headquarters' entrance. ***** Montoya slowly sat down and laid his head against the wall in his cell. Indeed, this wasn't Silencia, though she claimed to be. She'd asked him to talk to Schiess, but in this position, it seemed nearly impossible. As it happened, Schiess had no way of knowing that he was here, not yet anyway. To the one side, there was a strange blond-haired occupant. He seemed somewhat unsettling, and while he didn't really seem to be paying attention to anyone else, seeing him seemed to scare Montoya completely. A little further down the hall, a group of people were discussing something. Through the bars, Montoya could faintly see a pale woman being held in one cell, and in the other, a semi-conscious one-eyed fool who was singing something incoherent. There was a part of him that wanted to escape, but the last thing he needed was trouble with the law. The best thing to do was cooperate to the best of his abilities, and hopefully they'd let him go and he'd be able to go back home. He still couldn't tell if Silencia's words were genuine, or if she had just been setting him up. He was reluctant to find out either way. ***** Rex and Amanda Claw made their way to the post room. They were rejoined by Frozeen, who was reading through something else that they had found in Spy's briefcase: Spy's journal. "Spy was on to something," murmured Frozeen as they walked. "To quote from one of his more recent journal entries..." "While Blondie, Angel Eyes, and Maria may have learned that 'Huntsman' is supposedly the mole, this does not make my job any easier. As far as I know, there is no Dino Attack agent codenamed 'Huntsman', and the closest codename I can think of ('Hunter') has been used by at least three Dino Attack agents... one of which is operating with the GAIA Squad in Mount Bricklake and the other two... well, it may be difficult to track either of them down. Still, I speculate about the mole's identity. An efficient mole would be one who does not attract much attention from the rest of the team; the less likely he/she is to stand out, the less likely he/she is to be suspected. Therefore, I doubt that the mole is anyone of the elite status or higher; most likely an inconspicuous standard agent that no one would bat an eye at. At the same time, an effective mole needs to be in a position where he/she can learn as much information as possible. A technology expert would be an ideal occupation for a mole, since he/she would be granted access to much information. The problem is that Dino Attack Team has no shortage on technology experts; they are nearly as common as the scientists and the soldiers. This, of course, leaves the eternal question... who is it? Also, I will need a new suit, as a Hybrid got blood on my favorite blazer yesterday and I am most displeased about this." Rex and Amanda traded glances. "Wow," remarked Rex. "He nearly had it. If he had lived a little longer, I suspect that he would have figured it out before the rest of us. As much as I hate to admit it, Ata was smart; Spy was dangerous for a mole to keep alive, and so he knew that, by brewing suspicions and paranoia, he could turn Spy's teammates against him." Frozeen sighed. "It's truly a shame that Spy was killed. He was one of those veteran Alpha Team agents that I could not help but admire, even long after I became an elite agent. Like agent Gromtin, for example. He was twice my age when he died back in Mission Deep Freeze, but much smarter and more skilled than I'll ever be. Before joining Alpha Team in 2000, Gromtin was a computer designer; his four years with the team changed him to a complete technology expert and master hacker." Amanda glanced out the window, seeing the destroyed skyline of LEGO City. "Wherever his Creative Spark is," she murmured, "I hope it's in a better place." "Well," Frozeen said with a shrug, "I doubt that he's trapped in some Builder-forsaken desert wasteland for all eternity... that's about one of the few things I can imagine being worse than a desolate city." "How about a desolate city in some Builder-forsaken desert wasteland?" added Rex. "Taken over by Ice Drones that he cannot kill, no matter how hard he tries," mused Frozeen, "and his only source of internet has to be stolen from some big, tall, ominous-looking citadel ruled by an oppressive overlord that makes Evil Ogel look like a soft, cuddly bunny." Chuckling himself, Frozeen decided: "Yep. Forget MegaBlokland. That... thing we just described... that sounds like a fate worse than MegaBlokland for Gromtin. Pray to Builder that his Creative Spark is, indeed, in a place much better than that." "Did he have any family?" inquired Amanda. "I... think he once mentioned having daughters," said Frozeen, shrugging once again. "It's funny, though. I haven't actually thought about Gromtin in years. All of a sudden, we're talking about him, completely out of the blue." Amanda thought about what she had told Montoya, that she had not thought of Schiess or Montoya until they suddenly reentered her life. "Maybe Gromtin's Creative Spark is just reminding you that he existed," suggested Amanda, "for some special reason that only fate knows." Frozeen laughed, and Rex and Amanda both stared at him in surprise. "I'm sorry," he said, chuckling. "I couldn't help it... but I just had a mental image of a little ball of light flying around my head shouting 'HEYLISTENHEYLISTENHEYLISTEN' in a high-pitched voice, just to remind me of what I already know." Rex managed a smile. "Well, when you put it like that..." ***** Semick led Andrew's crew out to a balcony somewhere in the middle of the height of the building. From there, the entirety of LEGO City's skyline could be seen. Though obviously still bearing the wounds from the Mutant Dinos' first onslaughts, the city appeared to already be on the road to recovery. Vehicles could be heard driving among the streets, the equipment of busy construction crews echoed from various parts of the city, cranes sporadically rose out of the ground and gaping holes in the skyscrapers. Even a few lights were on in some of the buildings, an early response to the first signs of twilight. Progress was clearly being made, and there was no doubt that when this war finally came to an end, LEGO City, along with the rest of the world, would be restored to its former glory in a matter of months. "It looks quite haunting," Pterisa observed, "but looking at it from here, and knowing of how Minifigs are moving back in, the skyline almost seems to stand out as a message of hope." "Like a monument to the spirit of endurance and reconstruction," added Laxus. "Something that's always been a big ideal for not just Minifigs, but for many worlds in this universe." "Yeah…" said Andrew. "It's quite comforting to see this city healing so well from the attacks." "Maybe... but I find that it gives me pause," said Semick. "It worries me to see so many civilians returning to life here. This war isn't over yet." "It almost is, plus as the base of our operations, we've pretty much kicked the Mutant Dinos out. Save a few stranglers the patrols are taking care of, there's not many left. It's hard to imagine them taking it back, especially considering what's been done to Dr. Rex's methods of creating more of them." Semick remained silent for a few moments, appearing to Andrew like an ominous sign. "The thing is, Andrew, I've been imagining a lot since I heard about the mole, and I'm starting to lose my confidence." "So..," said Laxus, starting to look concerned, "what you're saying is-" "I'm starting to feel like our enemies are planning something. Something big, something we would have a hard time predicting, something... that serves as one last strike that could very well devastate our forces here at HQ, and this city in the process." The group was silent as they contemplated this idea. After a few moments, Andrew spoke. "Well... I can understand the worry, but... there are the facts to consider. The Maelstrom Temple is cleansed, the Brickster's devastated their Dino Island facilities, many of XERRD's top scientists are dead or captured, the mole's been just about weeded out, we've cleared out several important locations... what do they have left? What could they possibly-" "I wouldn't underestimate Alpha Rex," Pterisa suddenly interjected, looking quite morbid. "The other prototypes and I made that mistake before, and... well, I can only thank Dr. Einstein that I managed to end up where I am now. He may have had his many of his resources cut off, but trust me when I say it's very possible that he has some secrets locked up somewhere, like I was, ready for a last resort attack on your team." After a few moments of contemplating her words, Andrew added to the conversation. "True, actually. Not only do we not know everything he has at his disposal, this former man is highly unpredictable, and I'd bet my Titanic car that a professional psychologist would diagnosis him as insane to the highest degree. Assuming the database researchers are correct, not only does he want to eradicate Minifigkind, he's got issues with General regarding love interests, has used Ole knows what methods to live eighty years or something, and has spent years with Paradox and his life as a Mutant T-Rex exposing himself to the Maelstrom." "Compound that with the utter rage he must be feeling at our latest victories," said Semick, "and he might be willing to go all out, possibly willing to let himself, his XERRD followers, and all his plans fall by the wayside in some mad urge to get revenge and utterly destroy us. In short, I'm willing to believe that we could very well be facing our hardest challenge yet very soon." Semick looked back out to LEGO City's skyline, which was beginning to take on quite a beauty as the sun began to cast an orange light on the horizon. "And LEGO City, with its returning civilian populace, could end up right in the middle of it all. A sitting duck, thinking it's safe to go back in the water. I can't just stand here and let that possibility come to fruition. We need to prepare for the worst." ***** "So what's all this?" Elizabeth asked, noticing the files in front of Pierce. "Documentation," replied Pierce. "Something about a renowned criminal by the name of Silencia Venomosa." "Venomosa," repeated Elizabeth. "I think I've heard of her. I always assumed she was just a myth, a rumor fueled by the Imperial Armada to scare us pirates." "According to this, she was real," said Pierce. "And in these headquarters, no less." Elizabeth seemed fascinated. Pierce turned in shock as a tall Elite Agent with a thick handlebar mustache burst into the infirmary, accompanied by several armed men. "I'm looking for elite agent Rotor," the mustached man said. "I understand he is in here." "Yeah," replied Pierce. It was only a few minutes before two of the armed men grabbed Rotor and forced him out of his cot. "Elite Agent Rotor, I presume," said the mustached man. "I am Elite Agent French Fries, and I have reviewed the report of the Adventurers' Island mission. You are therefore under arrest, and due to be court martialed for treason!" "Treason?" Rotor repeated. "Attempted murder, torturing prisoners, deserting your post, and escaping from prison. Take him to the court room." Rotor was rather surprised as he was forced into the small box in the court room to find the only other man there was George, also sitting at the table of the defendants. There was another man there: their defense attorney, agent Gibbons. "What's going on?" Rotor asked. "I'm not quite sure," replied George. "Some form of trial." "It's quite alright," Rotor said, relaxing. "Any reasonable judge is bound to let us off." "Of course," replied Gibbons. "Who is the judge, by the way?" Rotor asked. Suddenly, a deep-voiced incoherent shouting was heard. They quickly recognized the voice. "I'm dead," Rotor muttered. "Well, come one," French Fries said as he walked into the room and started shoving his way toward the central judge's chair, pushing aside two other men. "Let's get this over in five minutes, then we can get some dinner." After getting comfortable, French Fries proceeded to start. "Right," he said. "The court is now in session; Elite Agent French Fries is in the chair. The case before us is that of the team vs. Elite Agent Rotor and Standard Agent George Brown, both guilty of mass treason. Oh, and clerk, hand me that black cap, I'll be needing that." The man in front of the judge's table passed French Fries a black, flat piece of cloth. "I love a fair trial," George remarked sarcastically. "Anything you have to say before we kick off, Gunderson?" The prosecutor stood up in response. "As this is clearly an open and shut case," Gunderson said. "I'd like to request a private prosecution against the defense council for wasting the court's time." "Granted," replied French Fries. "The defense council is fined fifty dollars for showing up. Now, let the trial begin. The charge is that agent Rotor did deliberately, and knowingly, attempt to murder his own teammates, tortured innocent prisoners, and deserted your post in the face of duty, and that George Brown has deliberately, and knowingly helped a convicted war criminal, deserted his post in the face of duty, and disobeyed some orders as well." ***** Once Demoman and Pyro had been escorted away and the firefighters departed, the corridor calmed down a bit and the various agents dispersed. Hotwire was soon left alone, and he began walking away. As the adrenaline faded, he became aware of an intense ache in his left foot -- odd, given that he no longer had a left foot. Phantom pains. So it begins, he thought. Can't be much longer before the psychological trauma hits. His musings were interrupted when he rounded a corner and saw Katerina Schattenberg walking purposefully along, flanked by her two three-eyed Loop lookalikes. He couldn't help but feel a twinge of mourning for the woman he'd befriended months ago, especially since she shared the exact appearance of this... stranger. Hopes that she wouldn't notice him survived only the briefest of moments as she quickened her pace. Now just hoping that the resentment he felt wasn't visible in his eyes, he slowed to meet her. "Agent Hotwire," Katerina said smoothly, but with an undercurrent of urgency in her voice. "Perhaps you can be of assistance. I have reason to believe that Lupus Schattenberg survives and is now in this very building." "How's that possible?" said Hotwire skeptically. "He went down aboard the Talon outside Hotep's temple." He listened carefully as Katerina related her encounter with Detective Bogart, and the odd bandanna-wearing figure she'd seen skulking at the edge of the room. By the time she finished, he was beginning to feel worried as well. "But how do you expect me to help?" he asked. Katerina gestured towards a security camera a few feet away. "If you could grant me access to the right wires, I will be able to connect with the system and view all the recent footage, which could help us to locate him." "Why not just go through the proper channels?" She shook her head. "Too inefficient. Lupus is a rogue element -- an agent of chaos, if you will -- and must be dealt with as quickly as possible. I will be able to resolve the situation with ease and rapidity on my own." Hotwire raised an eyebrow, but he moved towards the wall panel under the camera. It would be easy enough to expose the proper wires without knocking the camera offline or triggering any alarms. Rather tedious, though -- an infiltrator would undoubtedly be much better off with EMPs. He pried the panel open, slipped on a pair of insulated rubber gloves, and began sorting through the array of cords. After several minutes, the feeling of Katerina's iron stare as he worked became slightly discomforting, so he attempted conversation. "So how'd Loop get free? I thought you reprogrammed him or something." Katerina sniffed. "I cannot be sure." She sounded slightly embarrassed by this lack of knowledge. "I can only theorize that the chaotic events of the battle somehow allowed him to break away from his psychological conditioning. Still, as I said, it will be an easy enough matter for me to reassert control once we locate him." Hotwire couldn't help but find this somewhat unnerving. Sounds like straight-up mind-control, he thought, and decided he'd rather continue working in silence. ***** With the sudden surge in occupancy in the detention ward, the cellblock had become filled with curious onlookers. Pharisee had no qualms in allowing them to stay. He believed in a strict policy of transparency and encouraged agents to see the men who attempted to destroy all that was sacred and holy to the team. The commander stood with his arms behind his back, looking into the cell that contained the traitor Ata. The man was a special kind of filth; agent Rex would claim that he was just a pawn and was being manipulated by XERRD, but Pharisee was less forgiving. Even if Ata did believe what he was doing was right, he still was in the moral wrong when he had pulled the trigger on Engineer, and he deserved punishment for his crimes. Pharisee firmly believed that Ata deserved to die. Once the investigation was over, he would put in a word to the founding members and the council of elite agents requesting a public execution. Pharisee turned in surprise as Detective Bogart approached him with a look of accomplishment. "I spoke with our prisoner while you were apprehending the mole," he began, referring to Montoya. "He still hasn't given me his name, but he said something about Silencia Venomosa trying to kill him. Apparently, he is a reformed criminal who worked with her only to be betrayed. He also said he got a message from this building, from someone named Schiess, I believe." "Who's Schiess?" asked Commander Pharisee. "That name's not on the registry." "We know him as Trigger," said Bogart. Pharisee scowled. "I should have known. Trigger's punishment is far overdue. I have business to attend to, but we will soon bring him here to answer for his crimes. We cannot allow violent men to roam free. They must be held accountable." Bogart gave a lopsided grin. "Trigger won't be causing trouble for the time being. Last I heard, he had two agents and Solomon Koplowitz shadowing him." Pharisee nodded. "Good to hear. Now if you excuse me, I have something I must say to agent Claw." ***** "So," Minerva began, leaning against the wall of the Dino Attack Headquarters. "Who is your letter from?" "Let's see," Zach said, tearing open the envelope and pulling out a sheet of paper. He read through the letter, a small smile forming on his face. "Just as I thought: the folks back in Antarctica checking up on me." "Mommy worried about her little boy?" Minerva asked, grinning. Zach ignored her playful insult. "Yes. She wants to know if I'm okay. Hopes that I haven't been injured. She'll probably split a brick when she finds out what has happened." "Losing a hand, becoming a zombie, and getting every beating under the sun?" "She also says everything is fine in Antarctica at the moment," continued Zach. "Not so much of a surprise." "I think she wrote that letter for the sake of getting a response from you," Minerva noted. "You can't really blame her. In all seriousness, she's probably worried sick that I ran around a jungle inhabited by mutated dinosaurs, trying to take down a temple that was host to an exceptional dark power bent on destroying the universe. A dark power she knew I would have some... issues with." Minerva merely nodded. Zach suddenly felt guilty. Minerva most likely felt jealous that he had a mother that cared for his wellbeing while she, as of few days ago, has no mother. Eager to rectify his mistake, Zach continued speaking. "Let's head in," he said. Minerva stood up straight and they pushed open the door and entered the lobby. "What should I write? Everything? Brief summary?" Minerva shrugged. "I'd probably be somewhat detailed. Like a lot of what happened would best be explained in person. But don't be so vague that she's left panicking about your state of wellbeing." Zach nodded. "Sounds good. Let's see... I'll mention the fortress, Scratch, the temple. I'll throw in the long Stromling bit with the promise that I'm mostly okay and I'll explain everything when I see her again. And an 'I miss you' to top it off" Minerva grinned at his explanation. "Oh, and I suppose I'll mention you." "And Mommy will be excited her little Zachy got a girlfriend, right?" Minerva said with a smirk. "Probably," Zach said in complete seriousness. "And then she'll want to meet you, have coffee, go shopping, etc. Treat you like her second daughter, that sort of thing. Not sure how well it would work out. Without going into much detail, you two aren't very alike." Minerva laughed. "I'm sure that will be fun," she said sarcastically. "When you put it that way, you both are incredibly sarcastic. You'll get along great." ***** Doctor Saran shook the hands of Clint Wayne and Angel Eyes as he stepped up to Pyro's cell. "How did the talk with Demoman go?" asked Angel Eyes. "Sorry, Doctor-Patient Confidentiality," said Saran. "I'll need to do a follow-up when he's sober. Make sure he does not have access to alcohol in the future. Admittedly it will make our sessions less… interesting… but it will be beneficial once I can get serious responses." "When will you be creating a psych report?" asked Clint. "As soon as I can," responded the doctor. "But I'll certainly need more time." He was led up to the bars containing Pyro. She stank horribly from the sweat and ash, and her matted black hair hung in clumps over her pale gray eyes. "What can you tell me about Pyro?" said Saran. "I want to hear your impression of her." "Quite frankly, we only just learned Pyro is a 'she'," offered Clint. "For all the time we've known her, she kept hidden behind a mask." "Why do you suppose that is?" asked Saran. "Keeping a face hidden could mean any number of things." "We always assumed it was for the heat," muttered Angel Eyes. "It can be more complicated than that," said the psychologist. "Fear, self-hatred, people-pleasing, or not fully knowing who she is could play a role. By forcefully removing her mask, Pyro may be feeling exposed or violated right now." ***** When Rex, Amanda, and Frozeen arrived at the post room, they were surprised to see Ed Mail already there, picking up some letters written by Dino Attack agents while putting others written to Dino Attack agents into their respective P.O. boxes. "Well, I'll be," said Frozeen, grinning. "Looks like the rumors were true after all; not even the apocalypse itself could stop the world's greatest mailman." "Oh, hello, Peter," murmured Ed Mail, not even looking up from his work. "How's things been since your family moved to LEGO Town?" Although he could have launched into detail about the disappearance of his father, the revelation of his true heritage, and all the misery he had been in since joining Alpha Team, Frozeen chose to simply shrug. "Oh, you know. Things have been just fine, even if I do miss the old days back at LEGO Island. How has LEGO Island been the past few years?" "The same," said Ed Mail, nodding. "Working every day... because there's mail to deliver every day... and I'm the only mailman on the island... so I never get a break... but it's okay... because it's always nice on LEGO Island... and even if it were raining, snowing, sleeting, or hailing, there's still mail that needs mailing... so I wouldn't get a break anyways... so might as well enjoy working in such nice weather..." Frozeen smiled with a look of nostalgia in his eyes. "Ah, Ed," he said, chuckling. "You haven't changed one bit." "This letter is for Bartholomew Enderson," Amanda spoke up, handing her envelope to Ed Mail. "And this one," Rex reached into his suit and pulled out a familiar envelope, "is addressed to Helen Rutherford." Frozeen raised an eyebrow. "You're still going to send Spy's love letter, even after he... well, you know?" Rex nodded solemnly. "It was intended for her, and it would not be right to keep it from her. Additionally, Specs and I have added a letter of our own to inform her about Spy and Scout and to extend our sympathies towards her. We're also including phone numbers so that she can arrange their funerals, receive grief counseling..." Rex felt a lump in his throat as he spoke. Over the past year, he had seen many Dino Attack agents die. This was the first time he found himself directly involved with the process of delivering the news to the deceased's loved ones. It pained him to think of poor Helen Rutherford as she sits in the Antarctica refugee facilities, all alone, reading the horrible letter that would tell her that her husband and her son would never come home. Ed Mail took the letters and put them in his oversized sack of mail. Then, he slung the bag over his shoulder, bending over due to its massive weight, and began to slowly walk out the post room. Rex, Amanda, and Frozeen watched him go. As Ed Mail stepped into the hall, Rex thought he caught a glimpse of someone hiding in the shadows and darting around the corner. Rex blinked and narrowed his eyes, but the figure was gone. Did his eyes deceive him, or had Ata somehow escaped from his high-security imprisonment? Gritting his teeth, Rex thought to himself, I'm not going to take any more chances. With that, he pulled on the joystick and piloted his hover-chair out into the hallway, intending to give chase. ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  7. Chapter 57: Scrutiny ---- Dino Cop, in spite of all the acclaim and being directed by Stephen Spielbrick himself, was a pretty cheesy flick that made for great riffing material. Somehow, in the middle of nowhere ("Funny, it looks like plain old Egypt to me," Andrew had remarked), Johnny Thunder and Pippin Reed (then during their Hollywood phase) managed to find a flask in an Egyptian temple containing some kind of liquid with concentrated dinosaur DNA ("Now what does this have to do with a temple of gloom?" Joike had said). After escaping the temple's collapse (Andrew had given Johnny a line of "'I really should expect this more often, this is practically becoming part of the routine.'"), it had ended up in a lab where it would end up in a lab ready to be studied by Professor Genome ("Gee, I wonder what he studies?" Pterisa had joked, getting into the spirit of things. "Hamsters?") and guarded by newly arrived Police Lieutenant Ty Rex with his number one weapon: his catchphrase: "Nothing is what I do best." (Laxus, as Rex: "'As opposed to actually doing anything. That I don't do well.'") As luck would have it though, one quiet afternoon during guard duty, the city the lab was in was struck by an earthquake, and Rex was trapped as the lab collapsed (Joike: "Oh gosh, why did they use so many windows on a building in an area where a large-scale earthquake can happen, aaaaah!"). As he lay under the rubble, his only concern remained the safety of the DNA as he fell unconscious (Andrew: "'I suppose... getting rescued and being able to see my wife and kids again would be nice too... but the DNA...'") and said DNA dripped over him... (Pterisa: "'Good thing this isn't a serum that mutates people into dinosaurs, because that would be unrealistic… right?'") Later, as rescue crews and officials began investigating the wreckage of the lab, in one of the films memorable moments, a Tyrannosaurus Rex emerged from the rubble wearing Rex's Police cap, and proclaimed to all, "You can call me Dino Cop!", much to the shock of the in-film observers (Andrew, as Mayor Brickman and Professor Genome faint: "Well, they sure took that lying down.") Dr. Cyborg came into the rec room. He was just wandering around; he didn't really have any friends, so he couldn't hang out with his friends. He saw Laxus, Andrew, and Pterisa watching Dino Cop, so he thought he'd have some fun and dropped in on the movie-riffing party. He watched a ten second clip of the movie, then grabbed the remote off the couch and paused it. "Now, I know what you're thinking," he said. "This movie is good, but it needs one thing-" He projected the clip he saw out of his eye, albeit replacing the dinosaur with a rather sub-par image of an old-fashioned cyborg that wasn't realistic at all. "The main character needs to be a cyborg!" "Boo!" Andrew yelled good-naturedly. "Get out of here!" Laxus demanded. Pterisa just laughed, took a pillow off the couch, and threw it at Dr. Cyborg. The other two followed her example and did the same. They were poking fun at him, but did enjoy the joke. "Alright, alright, I get the message, I'm leaving!" he said. He left, still hearing their laughter. "Though I will admit," said Laxus, "a cyborg dinosaur would be something cool to see." "Only in the movies," said Andrew. "If we saw it on the front lines, it would be significantly less cool, to say the least." ***** A hooded figure approached Zach and Minerva while they were watching Zelda and Nazareno. The figure said in a feminine voice, "Have you seen Dr. Cyrista?" They replied no, and the figure left after saying, "If you see him, let him know Contest is here." Zach watched the retreating back of the cloaked figure curiously. "Well, that was weird." "Yeah," Minerva said, scratching the back of her head. "Wonder what she wants with Dr. Cyborg?" Zach shrugged. "If she's a hostile, Dr. Cyborg should be able to take care of her. Now, the story." Minerva nodded again and cleared her throat. "So," she began, sighing slightly, "while you were fighting Provencal and Glados alone, I was helping trying to help Pterisa get rid of the Stromlings tailing her. When I decided she could handle it on her own, I noticed everyone facing things that didn't resemble Stromlings, from mysterious cloaked figures to butterflies. Then Oswald and my mother appeared in front of me." "Your mother?" Zach said, surprised. "Yes. My mother, Athena Fabello." She seemed somewhat embarrassed. "Athena..." Zach paused. "Oh! I see. Athena and Minerva are-" "The goddess counterparts in Greek and Roman mythology, yes. My mother was really smart when she was younger. She named me Minerva primarily for that reason. Intended to be our little smart inside joke when I got older and understood it fully. Too bad that never happened." "What happened? Something bad clearly must have happened to consider your own mother your worst fear." "The best place to start would be the death of my father," said Minerva. Zach grimaced. Already down a bad place. "He was at a convenience store. I think he was picking up a snack before he came home. He saw two men fighting in the store, and it was approaching physical violence. Dad tried to mediate the two. Calm them down." Minerva laughed bitterly. "Nobody could have predicted what happened next. One of the men pulled a knife and stabbed Isaac Fabello in the throat. He died almost instantly. He was just trying to be a good person, and he was rewarded with a premature death. "Later that night the police dropped by our house. When Mom got the news... she didn't take it well. At all. She broke down right on the doorstep. Crying, screaming. My brother Tod cried with Mom. Oswald left for his room without saying anything. I just sort of stood there. I was confused. I had no idea what had happened. I was only four years old at the time. But I knew that whatever happened caused Dad to never come home from work again. "A week later, a funeral was held. Even then, I still had no idea what had happened, and neither Tod, Oswald, nor Mom had even tried to explain it to me. The only thing I remember from that funeral was Mom wearing a black dress and weeping throughout the entire service, which ended up coming back as a part of the Darkitect's illusion. After the funeral, we... stopped talking about Dad. He was almost never brought up again. It's affected me to the point that I remember almost nothing about him. "Tod and Oswald managed to move on. Mom didn't. She tried to drown away her grief in alcohol. Needless to say, it didn't help. She would spend days locked in her room. Sometimes, you could hear her crying. Other times, it was silent, generally meaning she was drinking or asleep. It reached a point where Tod ordered me to stay away from Mom whenever she did leave her bedroom." "Was she violent?" Zach asked. Minerva swallowed hard and shook her head. "No. She was just sad. And extremely angry, which was worse when she was drunk. Despite Tod's commands, I talked to her when I was six. She was in the kitchen, eating a bowl of cereal. No alcohol in sight. So I went up to her and flatly asked where Dad was. She responded with a just as blunt 'He's dead' before bursting into tears. I had no real idea exactly what 'death' entailed, but whatever it was, it made Mom sad, so I cried with her. "That was closest I'd ever get to her after Dad's death. She continued to drink, and I realized that was the part of her problem. So I found all the liquor I could and tried to throw it away so she would stop. It didn't go over so well with her. She yelled at me until I burst into tears and Oswald had to force her away. I didn't try to get rid of her drinks again, but it didn't matter long after that. Something happened later on. Perhaps her mind was poisoned from her drinking. Maybe she attempted to suppress the memories of Dad's death. Either way, she lost all perception of reality one day. She had no set reality. At one point, Dad was alive and we were all at the ages we were the year he died. Other times, her memories went farther back, to points where she didn't know Tod and/or me existed. "Although we decided Mom lost her ability to take care of us long ago, it was now official. So Oswald took over as 'head of the family'. He and eventually Tod started to look and get jobs to support us, including Mom. I wanted to help, but was too young to get a job. So I... resorted to stealing food from stores. Oswald and Tod didn't approve it simply because it went against their morals. However, when I brought the food home, they would eat it regardless. I continued to steal and became friends with a harsher crowd of people, who would teach me how to fight and occasionally helped me steal. Naturally, Oswald and Tod didn't approve of me coming home with tons of bruises and cuts, but I didn't really care. Regardless of them not approving of my actions, life started to look up. Mom was insane, sure. But Tod and Oswald both managed to secure jobs, and my thieving made sure we got a decent meal each night and essential materials their paychecks couldn't cover. Life returned to a sense of normalcy. Of course, it wouldn't last." ---- There was a somewhat lengthy walk for Montoya and Schiess as they stepped out of their motel. "I'm thinking we should do something," Montoya said. "This Silencia betrayed us. I think she oughta pay." "Indeed," replied Schiess. "Personally, I'd like to put a bullet in her head and be done with it, but in the meantime, we can maybe at least get a temporary victory. I got a plan." After some walking, they finally reached a gas station. They waited for a few minutes until a car started to pull into one of the pumps. The convenience store was still closed, but that wasn't going to stop them. "Montoya, you take care of the car," Schiess said. "I'm going to go and see if I can get a couple cases of kerosene." "Are you doing what I think you're doing?" Montoya asked. Schiess smiled. "Depends on what you think I'm doing," he said as he walked towards the small shop, Montoya drew his gun and walked toward the car. There was a young woman standing there at the pump, she couldn't have been younger than her mid-thirties. In the back of the car was a young girl, probably around ten years old. Montoya was not like the others. He had no intention of harming either of these people, but if they were going to finish their job, he had to make sure they didn't know that. Quickly, he cocked his pistol and aimed it toward the young woman. "Hand over the keys," he said. The woman looked at him in shock. Trying to hide his reluctance and to keep his hand trembling as little as possible, Montoya walked over to the door where the little girl was sitting and opened it, aiming the gun right at her. "Get out of the car," he said. Quickly, she complied and ran into her mother's arms. "It's alright, Kate," the woman said. "It's going to be fine." She quickly took the keys out of her pocket and handed them to Montoya. "Now finish filling it," he said, motioning toward the gas counter. ***** Schiess was surprised to find that the door was not locked, even though the sign clearly said "closed". Stepping inside, he looked around. There were, of course, the usual food items, not exactly the kerosene he needed. Then he suddenly heard something. He turned in surprise to see a young girl, apparently trying to hide behind the counter. She couldn't have been more than ten. Slowly, Schiess took off his sunglasses and started to approach her. He was tempted to reach for his gun but decided against it. The girl seemed scared, and it didn't take long for him to see why. She had been stealing various items, particularly snacks. "It's alright," Schiess said. "I ain't goin' to tell anybody. You got a name?" The girl looked at him nervously. "Minerva," she said. "You come here often?" Minerva nodded. "You a good thief?" Minerva nodded. "I need your help with something, then," Schiess said. He reached into his pocket, removed his wallet, and handed her a 20-dollar bill. "I need a couple cans of gasoline. Do you know where I might be able to find some of those around here?" Minerva simply smiled. ---- Bogart leaned against the doorframe and took a moment to place a cigarette in his mouth before lighting it as he watched Amanda walk away. "Something's not quite right with her," Bogart muttered to himself. He turned back into the hospital. "Hey Pierce?" "What is-" Pierce said as he turned before cutting himself off. "You do know there's no smoking in the hospital?" "Sorry," Bogart said as he stepped away from the doorframe. "I need information on Agent Claw." "We do have medical records," replied Pierce. "I don't normally give them out, but in this case, we might be able to make an exception." Bogart took a moment to drop the cigarette and crush it under his shoe before stepping inside. "Would you come this way?" Pierce continued. Bogart was led towards a small room filled with filing cabinets, Pierce opened one drawer to reveal several folders, apparently sorted alphabetically. "Cabin, Canama, Carver, Catless, Charon, Chupacabra, Claw - here we are." Pierce removed a small file and handed it to Bogart. He looked through the first few pages: checkups and other things from Claw's childhood, then suddenly he saw something. "Is this the whole file?" Bogart asked. "It should be," replied Pierce. "Well, if I didn't know better, I'd say that at least ten years of her life are missing from this folder, possibly more." "I honestly don't know how that happened," said Pierce. "We're usually pretty thorough with-" "I'm not accusing you of anything," clarified Bogart. "For some reason, someone didn't want us to know what happened in that time. She's been hiding, Pierce, and I'd like to know why." "You think she had something to do with the mole?" asked Pierce. "Well, it's a lead to something," replied Bogart. "That man did mention Silencia Venomosa to be here." "Silencia Venomosa?" Pierce asked. "The killer?" "That's the one," affirmed Bogart. "That's impossible," declared Pierce. "She's just a myth, a little story that criminals tell their children at night, you know, 'If you aren't good, then Silencia Venomosa's going to come and get you.' You know, like Keyser Soze." "'I wouldn't say that," said Bogart. "I spent four months trying to catch her after the incident at Dacta Corporation." As Pierce and Bogart were talking in the medical wing, the cloaked figure came in and asked the same question. The same answer was given, and she moved on. A tall man entered the infirmary. "Ms. Venomosa is no myth, Dr. Pierce," he said darkly. The figure slammed a stack of freshly printed papers on top of the file cabinet. "This woman is not some demon that dwells in the heart of the wicked. No, I assure you that Ms. Venomosa is very real and very much alive." "Who are you?" said Bogart as he picked up the top piece of paper. "And what is all of this?" The muscled figured casually removed a stapled document and handed it to Pierce. The image on the front was an unfocused snapshot of a woman, but the likeness was enough to make the doctor's heart skip a beat. "I am elite agent Commander Pharisee. I am head of Dino Attack internal affairs and I am taking control of this investigation." It was a clear statement of his apparent authority. "I imagine that face is familiar to you, Dr. Pierce. The woman you see before you is indeed agent Claw." Pierce slowly paged through the document. "It can't be." "I know how to do my research, Dr. Pierce. What you see before you is everything that I was able to locate on Mrs. Venomosa. I printed every report, every iota," Pharisee said. "I know where to look and what I found relating to Claw's past is disturbing." "Hey, this looks like Dacta Corporation," muttered Bogart. "I know quite a bit about this incident." "I would imagine you would," said Pharisee. "The report identifies you as a detective working on the case." Bogart shook his head in awed disbelief. "Unbelievable," he remarked. "Silencia Venomosa is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the past decade… and you figured out her identity in less than twenty-four hours?" "It's deceptively simple," explained Pharisee. "For all of Venomosa's notoriety, no one gave two bricks about Amanda Remous until today. A quiet, plain-looking, young woman who didn't even finish middle school. Since no one knew who she was, she could operate freely in anonymity. But now, as the reputable agent Claw, she no longer has the power to stay under the radar. With so much attention drawn towards her, it was only a matter of time before someone put two and two together." "Why are you talking to us?" said Dr. Pierce. "You certainly seem to know what you're doing." "I want you to summarize the events," said Pharisee. "Tell me what you know." "I identified the murder weapon as hers. Agent Claw herself did not deny it," said Bogart. "What about an alibi?" asked Pierce. The doctor was not ready to believe that agent Claw was a mole. "There have been six murders. Someone must have seen her for at least one of them." "No," said Pharisee. "I already talked to some agents. Claw has been elusive the last few hours." The commander turned to the detective. "I am going to go and speak with agent Rex and agent Claw. I want to gather more evidence and hopefully make an arrest." Pharisee pointed to a very large handgun strapped to his hip. "I am prepared to use force if the Creator is willing." Pierce was looking increasingly uncomfortable. "Let's not be jumping to violence, Comman-" Pharisee raised his hand to silence the doctor. "Dr. Pierce, this is my duty on this Earth. If I want your opinion, I will ask for it. My purpose is to expel evil from the Dino Attack, and you will soon find that evil dwells in the most unlikely of places. Do not try and stop me. Do not get in my way." Pharisee handed the entire file to the doctor. "I hope you read this, doctor. It might change your opinion of agent Claw." He then turned to Bogart. "You have some prior knowledge of the woman. Perhaps you would join me." Pierce took a moment to pick up one of the documents and started to read it. "Well, at this point, I know about as much as you do," Bogart replied. "We knew she was present at Dacta Corp. and Mindstorms. I was never really able to get a proper lead. That's how well she covered her tracks. I can tell you, in twenty years, she was the only case I could never solve, but at this point I'm starting to think that she's connected to these murders. The fact that her knife was in the body of one of the victims should back that up. There was another guy I ran into in the mess hall who claimed to know Silencia, something about her double-crossing him or something." ---- Montoya struggled to hold his gun steady as he watched Schiess approach the car holding two cans of kerosene. He took a moment to open the back-seat door and place them inside. Slowly, Montoya lowered his gun and stepped into the driver's seat, with Schiess taking the passenger side. They closed the doors and drove off, leaving the young mother struggling to comfort her panicked daughter. "What exactly is the plan?" Montoya asked. "We gotta get to Dacta Corp. Headquarters," declared Schiess. "What?" Montoya exclaimed. "After everything that happened last night?" "Yes," replied Schiess. "We're going to burn down that MegaBloking building, maybe cheat her out of her dough. It'll be a temporary victory, at least until we can find her and deal with her properly. Consider this a simple 'Znap you' from us." Montoya smiled as Schiess lit a cigarette. It was not long before the car came to a stop outside Dacta Headquarters. Schiess took a moment to cock his gun before opening his door and stepping outside. He picked up the kerosene and handed the other can to Montoya. As the two of them stepped through the door, Schiess removed the cap to his kerosene canister. Slowly and reluctantly, Montoya started to do the same thing. A young receptionist was sitting at the counter. She looked up at them. "What do you think you're-" Schiess quickly pulled out his gun and shot her through the chest. She fell down quickly. Within the next few minutes, they began to splash kerosene around the lobby before making for the door. As soon as they stepped outside, Schiess took his cigarette out of his mouth and threw it back in onto the floor, and within seconds a flame started to burst. Quickly, Schiess and Montoya got back in the car. Montoya hit the ignition and began to drive away as the fire began to spread... ---- LEGO City was finally in view. Semick sat up more as he brought the T-1 Typhoon in for the final approach. He could only wonder what developments he might have been missing in the past few hours. He had neglected to get any updates during most of the travel time, having wanted to take use of one of the few moments he could get for relaxation. But the time for kicking back was over, and it was time to get back into the routine. He switched on the radio and switched frequency to Dino Attack headquarters. "Dino Attack HQ," he said, "this is Elite Agent Semick, reporting on my upcoming return to headquarters. There are still clear landing pads available, I presume?" "We report several clear spaces within the hangar, Semick," said the voice at the other end. "Good. How's things at HQ gone? Anything pertaining to our possible next mission?" "Well..." ***** "Are you sure?" Amanda whispered to him, trying to conceal the terror in her voice. "Positive," Rex said as he gritted his teeth. "It can't be!" Amanda said, shaking her head. Rex bit his lip. "I would not believe it," he admitted, "but then that would mean that I could not believe even my own eyes. Did my own eyes deceive me when Specs came into the room, shot Soldier, stabbed Heavy, and was about to slit my throat?" "I don't doubt what you saw," said Amanda, "but our own team leader being XERRD's mole just doesn't sound plausible." "Is it really so farfetched?" asked Rex. "Just a few days ago, we learned that XERRD's second-in-command was working for Dino Attack Team the whole time; things are rarely what they seem. Add in the fact that I used to be a T-Rex disguised as a human, and you used to be… well, you know… all things considered, Specs being the mole sounds positively mundane in comparison." "Did you hear the way Specs spoke in the hospital wing?" Amanda shot a quick glance over her shoulder. "He put so much contempt and anger into his voice every time he referred to the mole… in fact, I could be mistaken, but I do not even think he ever said 'mole', 'infiltrator', or such… he always said 'traitor'." Rex sighed. "I do not know what his motivations are… But Specs would truly make an effective mole. His balaclava hides his expressions and his emotions, allowing him to masterfully control his own appearance to hide any hint at his true identity. And his position as team leader gives him full knowledge of every action by the Dino Attack Team, explaining why XERRD is always two steps ahead of us, and yet nobody would ever suspect him." "But why would he leave you alive," wondered Amanda, "if he knew that you knew that he's the mole?" "Because he knows that no one will believe me," Rex said with a grimace. "He'll know how painful it would be for me to know such important information and be unable to tell anyone… and watch my friends die all around me at his hands…" Just like the Darkitect said. Rex's heart raced. He clutched his chest and began breathing heavily. Amanda was immediately alarmed. "Are you alright?" she gasped. "Should I bring you back to the hospital wing?" "No, no," Rex said as he waved his hand. "I'm fine. But I think we ought to check on the remaining members of Second Headquarters Squad… Pyro and Demoman. They need to be protected." As they left to look for Pyro and Demoman, Amanda lowered her head and murmured in a low voice, "You know, a lot of people are suspecting that Silencia Venomosa is the one behind this." Rex bit his lip. He remembered what Spy had said just before he died, that there may have been an unfathomable malicious intent behind the murders of the Second Headquarters Squad that would have been in Venomosa's style. Slowly, Rex nodded. "I know. It certainly does not help that your knife was found in Sniper's back." "But I'm innocent, Rex," whispered Amanda, looking at him with wide, desperate eyes. "Some people refuse to believe it, but I'm innocent. I left behind that life long ago, and nothing XERRD could do or offer would change that. You believe me, right?" Rex locked eyes with her, letting his expression speak for him. He trusted her more than he had ever trusted anyone before. In actuality, while the lives of Pyro and Demoman were a major concern for Rex, that was not the thought that got his heart racing. Specs likely only needed one person to know who he was, just one person to torture with the horrible truth. Anyone else who knew was expendable and would be better off dead… And now Amanda Claw knew. ***** "It was a normal night in 2004. As normal as it could get at my house," Minerva continued. "Oswald, Tod, and I were all in the kitchen, making dinner. We were having fun, trying to cook and making a mess. Mom suddenly entered the kitchen in a panic. She kept saying that the man that killed Dad was going to kill her next. Tod tried to calm her down, but nothing was working. She was becoming more and more hysterical. She looked at me and her panic... changed into anger. She kept pointing at me and yelling. She thought... I was the man that killed Dad and was back to kill her too. She shoved Tod out of the way and pulled a knife out of the cabinet and started moving toward me. I was terrified. I froze in fear. She almost reached me when Tod suddenly tackled her to the ground." Minerva paused and breathed in deeply. Zach could see her eyes were becoming damp, but she didn't seem to notice. "There was a short fight. It barely lasted ten seconds. Then they pulled away. Tod fell next to me. The knife was buried into his chest. His breathing was heavy and irregular. He looked at me and smiled at me. A warm, caring smile that tried to reassure me that everything was alright. Then his eyes closed and they didn't open. Mom broke down. She started crying and screaming Tod's name. Then..." Minerva paused again and wiped her eyes. Zach was silent, giving her an opportunity to recover. She swallowed once and nodded. "I can't remember what happened next. I shut down and went into shock. I think a few hours later I finally came back to reality. Oswald told me Tod was dead and Mom was in custody. There was a big long investigation where the cops figured out that Mom hadn't been able to take care of us for years. She would've gone to jail for that and murder, but she was declared insane. Since they feared she would have another episode like that, she was thrown in a mental institution and Oswald, since he was eighteen, was officially made my guardian. And we never saw Mom again. We both hated her for what she did and wanted nothing to do with her." Zach leaned back. "Huh." That's all he could think to say. Then: "You seem to have turned out fine. What happened was bad, but at least you don't seem to have serious mental issues after watching Tod die. I'm not so sure about Oswald." Minerva nodded. "That's because I wouldn't allow myself to be ruined by the event. Oswald and I spent a week grieving. I wanted to give up. But then I thought of my mother, who gave up after Dad died. I didn't want to become her, especially after what she did to Tod. I forced myself to move on, which was harder than I expected. My thieving increased due to my grief and anger and my exploits became considerably less noble. And growing older made me more suspicious to shop owners. And the people I stole from before began to suspect me, so they always watched me close. I was arrested multiple times and had to get Oswald to bail me out. I would've gone to some detention center had the police not felt sorry for us. After a while, I finally realized my stealing was counterproductive. Only after I tried to stop, I realized I was almost addicted to stealing, riding on some sort of adrenaline rush each time I swiped something from a shelf." "How did you stop your kleptomania?" "I cut ties to those friends I mentioned, as I had nearly been caught by authorities due to stealing with them and violence. I asked Oswald for help, so he kept an eye on me and I gave him permission to do whatever was necessary to stop me from steal. I suppose it might be comparable to a drug addict trying to break his addiction. I was moody, angry, unfriendly, and sick a lot of the time. I took the anger out on Oswald, which often lead to shouting matches. Despite that, I pulled through." Zach simply nodded. "And so, what did the illusions do?" "Degrade me," Minerva said. "Blamed me for Tod's death, Mom's insanity, and Oswald's corruption until I shot them both trying to shut them up." "So that's why you snapped against Provencal. She convinced Oswald that what happened in the past was your fault." Minerva nodded. "It was kind of like a punch in the face." She wiped her eyes again. "It's not your fault, though." He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her in tight. Minerva didn't say anything, only turning her head away. "Minerva, I'm sorry that-" "Don't be sorry for me," Minerva snapped, turning her head sharply toward him. "You wanted the story. I didn't want to share because I don't want pity. It happened and there is nothing you or I can do to change it. It made me who I am, I suppose." Zach raised his hands defensively. "Sorry. Though it sounds like the only good thing was that it made the person that you are." Minerva smiled weakly. Zach rose to his feet. "Now that you have depressed me to a great extent, I'm feeling up for some fresh air. Care to tag along?" "Sure," replied Minerva. Zach extended his hand and pulled her to his feet. As they started walking toward the exit, Minerva spoke again. "Well, I suppose I was more impacted by the incident, in a sense that I promised never to consume alcoholic beverages after watching them steal away my mother's sanity. And while I will use them, I'm not particularly fond of knives. At all." Zach shrugged. "Well, not drinking isn't a bad habit to pick up. And I can understand the bit about knives. Now enough of your stories. I'd rather not hear another one." Minerva punched him hard in the shoulder, chuckling as they reached the exit. ***** "Hello, Pierce," said a familiar voice from the doorway. Pierce looked up in surprise to see a young pirate woman, whose face quickly made him smile. "Elizabeth?" he asked. "Look, this probably isn't the best time, I got work to be doing." Elizabeth Winsor smiled at the remark. "How'd Adventurers' Island go for you?" "Well, from what I saw, it was pretty rough," replied Pierce. "A bunch of people died. We probably won't be seeing Zenna for a long time. What about you?" Elizabeth's grin faded, if only slightly. "It was kinda dull," she said. "We did find a few interesting things, though." "Like what?" inquired Pierce. "You remember that Cam O'Cozy guy who tried to kill us all?" "Yeah." "He's a robot." "A robot?" repeated Pierce. "Yeah," replied Elizabeth, nodding. "A mechanical man, a machine made to resemble a-" "I know what a robot is," Pierce interrupted her. "We still have the parts actually," Elizabeth said, keenly. "Wrench kept them in his locker. We were going to tell Specs, but we never got hold of him." ---- Montoya finally pulled the car to a stop outside his apartment and ran inside. Within a few minutes, he came back out with Debbie, who was holding a small suitcase containing her own valuables. She climbed into the back, and Montoya was quickly back in the driver's seat, hitting the ignition. "What's going on?" Debbie asked. "Where are we going?" "Something's gone wrong," replied Montoya. "Look, it isn't safe here anymore. If Silencia finds out we're together, she-" "Silencia?" Debbie asked, nervously. "Yeah," replied Montoya. "The assassin." "Look," Schiess said. "She tried to kill us, and if she learns either of us are still alive, she'll continue to pursue us. Our only chance is to get out of town and lay low until things cool off." "It'll be fine," assured Montoya. "I'll tell you what. I'm going to leave my life of crime behind. I got my money from this job. We're going to go to the seaside, find a nice, isolated cabin, and start fresh." Debbie seemed to smile shyly. "What about you, Schiess?" Montoya asked. "You got any plans?" "Yeah," replied Schiess. "I'm goin' to get off this planet." "What?" Montoya said, somewhat confused. "I'm getting off this MegaBloking planet and getting as far away from here as conceivably possible," continued Schiess. "Maybe I can get a job as hired muscle for the Space Police or something." "A bit excessive, isn't it?" Montoya asked. "That's why I like it," replied Schiess. ***** It had been nearly a decade since that fateful day, the day he made a promise that he had kept ever since. For the past eight years, Montoya had been true to his word, and left any and all traces of his criminal activity behind, if only because was concerned about a repeat of what happened at Mindstorms, Inc. that cost the lives of five of his seven comrades. He was now approaching his early forties and lived with his still-beautiful common-law wife and a few children. They were happy here, and they didn't even leave when rumors about mutant dinosaurs started to cause panic. Even when those rumors were confirmed, Montoya and Debbie still remained in that little cabin by the sea. Lighting a cigarette, Montoya would sometimes find himself staring off into the ocean. He was rather surprised when Debbie approached him. "Someone from Antarctica called," Debbie said. "I thought we already told them, we're not going," Montoya replied. "No," clarified Debbie. "It was a message. They got a phone call, some guy named Schiess, he said he was looking for you." The name quickly caught Montoya's attention. He hadn't seen Schiess since they parted ways after that heist. "He said to tell you, 'I found her.'" "That was the message?" Montoya asked. Debbie nodded. It didn't take long for Montoya to figure out what the message meant. "Did they say anything about where he was?" "They said the call came from Dino Attack Headquarters," replied Debbie. There was a moment of silence as he walked toward the small pickup truck they kept out front. "What are you doing?" Debbie asked. "It's just some unfinished business," replied Montoya. "As soon as I'm done, I'll come right back. You take good care of the kids while I'm gone." Debbie nodded. They both kissed before Montoya climbed into the front seat of the truck and drove away. ***** Before heading outside, Zach and Minerva decided it would be best to pick up some weapons, so they started toward the armory. While walking, they began to discuss conspiracy theories Zach had heard while in Antarctica. "Wait, so there are conspiracy theories about this war?" Minerva asked, almost surprised. "Naturally, as there have been conspiracy theories about everything that's ever happened ever," Zach said. "I spent some time around those facilities as an Agent and I'd occasionally get some guy to tell me that I'm 'sheep' and 'helping the conspiracy against the people'." "What sort of theories did these people have?" "They have a wide spectrum. Here's just a basic one: I had someone tell me the government (don't ask me which one) orchestrated the Dino Attack so they could dig up all the oil in the world with no one watching so said-government could control the post-war economy or something. There also the one where 'the government' caused the Dino Attack to ultimately create some sort of unified totalitarian government. Before I left Antarctica for Adventurers' Island, someone managed to tell me that the riots and Greybeard's speech were some sort of test to see how easily the government could manipulate the fear of the populace to their advantage." "That's... strange," Minerva responded. "So how to they explain the existence of XERRD?" "Easy. They're scientists (or actors) that were hired by the government to pretend like they started the Dino Attack. The theorists predict that sometime by the end of the war, Ronald Alexander will just 'disappear' instead of actually being killed. They say he will actually get a high sum of money, and identity change, and be forced to move to some exotic, isolated tropical island or something." "They do realize that Dr. Rex is a Mutant T-Rex, right?" Zach shrugged. "I don't know if they ever addressed that. But you're right, it's kind of hard to adopt a new identity when you're a Mutant T-Rex." "Any more strange theories?" "Loads. Are the Mutant Dinos robotic, or are they mutated creations of extraterrestrial beings who are using them to weaken are defenses enough so they can invade themselves? Are the dinos in fact just modern military vehicles using some strange cloaking device that makes them look like dinosaurs with superpowers?" Minerva raised an eyebrow. "I assume these people haven't left Antarctica since the Attack began?" Zach chuckled. "It's a fair guess. I've also heard even stranger theories like the Alpha Team and Agents secretly created the Mutant Dinos and fight the war pretending to be bitter rivals when they are actually close allies who are actually helping the Mutant Dinos advance. There's also something more along the line of XERRD's thinking: The Mutant Dinos are super-evolved dinosaurs that aren't just a science experiment. Their true purpose is the restore the Earth to a more environmentally friendly state by destroying civilization. Mother Gaia is in slaughter, so she will do whatever it takes to return to her former glory, even if it means the destruction of an entire species." Minerva smirked. "'Gaia'? Bringing up more Greek mythology?" "Just a bit. The whole shocking revelation about you and your mother's names are still hanging on in my brain," admitted Zach. "Haha. Got anything stranger?" "Well, someone told me that Specs was actually a woman underneath that balaclava..." ***** Pharisee and Bogart walked quickly down the hallways of the headquarters. It was evident he was a man on a mission, and agents moved aside to let them pass. "I really think Trigger would be helpful," Bogart muttered for the third time, "The man has more experience with agent Claw than me." Pharisee pushed agents aside as he moved toward where Rex and Amanda were last seen. "Trigger is a pathetic low-life clutching at straws at the end of his menial existence. I know his history and I know that he assaulted agent Claw earlier." "You know," Bogart said, "even if this Trigger is, as you say, a crook, he does seem to have information. I'd like to know why he assaulted her. Actually, if my understanding is correct, he's a mercenary, a soldier-for-hire. It's a perfectly legal profession, not like her." Pharisee turned toward Bogart angrily. "His involvement would not be an asset but a hindrance for justice. I assure you, Detective Bogart, that once Claw is behind bars, he will be joining her in the next cell over." Bogart bit his lip. "That seems a little harsh, sir." "I feel no sympathy toward the unrighteous, detective," responded Pharisee. "Only under blind justice from an unprejudiced heart will Trigger earn his deliverance." The detective whistled slowly but said no more to the commander. Soon, the two men had reached one of the lounges in the lower levels of the HQ. Agents had reported that Rex and Amanda had gone there so the two could have some privacy after what had transpired in the infirmary. Bogart prepared to knock on the door, but Pharisee threw it open and stormed inside. The detective's hand hovered in the air and he shrugged before following the commander inside. Rex sat alone on a couch. The rec room was vacant aside from two agents playing pool in the shadows. Pharisee made a motion, and the rookie agents dropped what they were doing and left the room. Pharisee and Bogart were now alone with Rex. "Where is agent Claw?" demanded Pharisee. "She's in the backroom," Rex answered. "What's going on? Is she in trouble?" "I think you know the answer to that," said Bogart. "We need you to answer some questions." The detective took a seat on the couch opposite Rex and put his feet up on the table. "We are prepared to arrest your girlfriend for the murders of the six members of the Second Headquarters Squad," said Pharisee as he drew his gun and approached the closed door to the backroom. There was a dartboard back there, but he had a strong feeling that Amanda had not gone in there to play a game of darts. "We need to know what you told her after you left the infirmary," said Bogart. "We have privacy now. You can trust me and the commander." Satisfied that Amanda was present, Pharisee advanced on the elite agent. "You had better tell us what you know, Rex. This is your last chance. Either you come clean, or agent Claw will spend the rest of the war behind bars." "Pharisee," said Bogart slowly. "You know what Claw is capable of. You read the Venomosa files. We might need backup." "That won't be necessary," began Rex. "No, it won't be," Pharisee said as he cocked his gun. "I am prepared to use force if agent Claw attempts to resist." He turned to Rex. "You don't want that to happen, do you, Rex? Now tell me what you know. I would rather not spill blood today." Bogart calmly lit a cigarette as he watched the confrontation, but he lowered his hand toward his gun, just in case something unexpected were to happen. ***** Hotwire, Vinyaya, and Mort assisted the rookie agents in transporting the corpses from the safe room to the morgue. Mort very determinedly stayed for the autopsies; Vinyaya and Hotwire were predictably less enthusiastic about this particular stage of the proceedings "I saw enough of those poor stiffs sprawled across the safe room," Hotwire muttered as they left. Word was spreading rapidly about the mounting evidence against Amanda, and it was not long before the Space Police officer and the one-legged elite agent learned of it as well. "Well, that rules out my theories about Rex," Vinyaya remarked as the group of agents claiming to have overheard the information from 'that detective who must have walked here from the 1940s' moved on down the hall. "I have to admit, I hope they're wrong about agent Claw, for Rex's sake as much as hers," Hotwire said. "He's had a rough enough time as it is without his girlfriend turning out to be a traitor." ***** Montoya slowly brought the truck to a halt as he caught his first glimpse of the building he'd only seen in the news: Dino Attack Headquarters. Slowly, he opened the door and walked over to the trailer. Inside, he had a shotgun, a few cans of kerosene, and some duct tape. Taking a moment to light a cigarette, Montoya picked up the shotgun and started to walk into the headquarters. As it turned out, blending in was fairly easy, most of the agents there were dressed casually at the moment, so nobody really took any notice toward his lack of uniform. It still did not make him any less comfortable, though. All he wanted to do was find Silencia, deal with her, and then get out. It didn't take long before Montoya started to overhear rumors of Silencia Venomosa. Quickly cocking his shotgun, he proceeded down the hall. He briefly caught a glimpse of the man he thought he recognized as Schiess, but who seemed to be under supervision from a group of agents. I wonder what he did, Montoya thought to himself before continuing onward. He thought about what he would do when he found her. If anyone tried to stand in his way, he decided that he would cock his shotgun to intimidate them into standing down. Hopefully, he would get her alone and force her into an empty room. No doubt she would try to pull a knife on him, but not even Silencia Venomosa should try to bring a knife to a shotgun fight. Montoya thought about the kerosene and duct tape in the car. He imagined a scenario in which he taped Venomosa to a chair, splashed the kerosene onto her, and then lit it with his own cigarette. Of course, the more he thought about it, the less likely it seemed that he would actually be able to pull it off in reality… ***** Upon arriving at the armory, Minerva was quick on simply selecting a Sonic Screamer to use. Zach, not wanting to use a Cosmotronic Ray so soon after having one fused to his arm, spent more time looking over weapons. He picked up a long-bladed combat knife and eyed over it. "Turning into a knife fanatic?" Minerva asked curiously from behind his shoulder. "Just a bit," Zach said, sheathing the knife. "I figure, if I can wave one of these things around with my left hand and not get killed, I should be able to handle it as a backup weapon, provided I lose my firearm." He spent even longer trying to find an ideal shooting weapon. He finally laid his eyes on a large, handheld gatling gun. He grinned like a child on his birthday as he carefully loaded the weapon and moved in toward a shooting range. "Really," was all Minerva said, crossing her arms in amusement. He shrugged her away as he threw a long chain filled with bullets over his shoulder. "I've always wanted to use one of these," he told her, taking aim at a target several yards away. His grin widened as the six barrels began to rotate. Then the gun started firing. Zach jumped, but held his ground against the massive amounts of force the weapon as hired at the target ahead. The bullets from the weapon tore apart the target at the other end of the range. Almost as soon he had started firing the weapon, it suddenly ran out of bullets. Zach flipped off the weapon, grinning at the decimated target ahead. "Impressive," Minerva said, chuckling. "Watching you jump when that thing started firing was pretty good too." "Shh," he said, walking back over to her. "Hey!" a man said, walking over to them. "Have you heard? The Second Headquarters Squad is dead!" Zach and Minerva looked at him, surprised. "Seven o' nine o' them are dead! All o' them offed by the mole!" "How?" Zach asked. "Engineer was murdered tryin' to catch 'im. Medic was killed 'cause he coulda figured out who the mole was! Sniper was stabbed in the back, 'n' Heavy, Scout, Soldier, and Spy were all killed at once in their safe room. Only Rex survived in the safe room, 'n' only Pyro and Demoman're alive." "Rex survived? So did he see the mole?" remarked Zach. "He claims to've been blinded so he couldn't see the mole's identity." Minerva frowned. "That sounds suspicious." "And now they're sayin' that Silencia Venomosa's behind the murders! And she's also apparently agent Claw!" At this, Zach raised an eyebrow. Minerva's face betrayed fear. "Keep an eye out for yerselves, lad and lady. You never know who yeh can trust." With that, the man ran away from them, presumably to spread the news. "Well," Minerva said, scratching the back of her head. "I think Zelda's theory was dead wrong. The mole was targeting the Second Headquarters Squad. Doesn't seem to be trying to cover up his tracks or anything." "That bit about Rex seems off," Zach pointed out. "But I'm not willing to go and point fingers at anyone." "What about that bit about Claw and Silencia Venomosa?" Minerva bit her lip nervously. "What if Venomosa is really here and working for XERRD?" "It probably wouldn't be the strangest thing to ever happen," Zach said as he shrugged. "You're rather calm for someone who just heard that one of the most infamous assassin-bounty hunter-mercenary in the world might be in this building." Zach shrugged again. "I understand she's dangerous. Venomosa and her exploits were just something I would read in the paper. To my knowledge, she never operated on LEGO Island and probably never had a reason to. I considered myself rather safe, seeing the only threat as a deconstruction-and-pizza-crazed criminal. LEGO City would offer a different mentality than LEGO Island's. Rest assured, I'll probably be terrified out of my wits if I ever actually meet Silencia Venomosa and not Claw." "Anyway, I think it's time we stop sitting around." Zach sighed. "Yes, I know. The brief relaxation was blissful, but time to get back to work, I suppose. There's a mole running loose around this building and he needs to be stopped. What do you suggest we do?" "Find Pyro and Demoman and keep an eye on them," Minerva said, discarding her Sonic Screamer for a more traditional handgun. "Whoever the mole is, they're clearly targeting the Second Headquarters Squad. If we find Pyro and Demoman, we may be able to figure out who this guy is." "Sounds like a plan." Picking up his own handgun, the two left the armory and began their search for Pyro and Demoman. As they passed the armory, Hotwire and Vinyaya nearly collided with Zach and Minerva, who were quickly exiting the room loaded down with weapons. "Have either of you seen Pyro and Demoman?" Zach blurted. "No luck so far, but it couldn't be a bad idea to track them down," Hotwire replied. "I just hope they aren't dead when we find them." ***** Rex's features hardened. "Now, see here," he said. "In the past year, no one has worked more closely with Amanda or known her better than me. Her intentions are pure, and her brother's death fuels her motivations to help Dino Attack Team win this war. I see no reason to even consider that she is guilty. We're wasting time here; the mole is out there, and you-" "I have no such... attachments to anyone in this team," interrupted Commander Pharisee. "Your judgment is hindered, Rex, leaving you blind to the truth about your girlfriend." "He's right," agreed Detective Bogart. "It's a necessary precaution when it comes to these investigations to be willing to distrust anyone, even those that you think you can trust with your life." Rex grimaced as he remembered what he saw in the portal operations room. Although Pharisee and Bogart demanded to know what he told Amanda, he barely even knew them, and could not bring himself to admit the truth yet. "I am sure that you are right," muttered Rex, "and that no one is above suspicion when we are hunting for a mole. But remember... I am the only living witness to this mole, and I am certain that he-" "You admitted that you could have been mistaken about 'his' gender," corrected Bogart. Rex swallowed. "Well, I do have an idea... an untested hypothesis that probably holds no water and so I shall withhold said hypothesis until I have more substantial proof-" "Even if it continues to put your girlfriend at risk of arrest?" Pharisee raised an eyebrow. "It's not like that!" snapped Rex. "I saw agent Spy's head explode because someone made the mistake of thinking that he was the mole! I'm not going to put any innocent lives at risk by partaking in a witch hunt! I... I have an idea, but the only way we can get it to work is if he accidentally confesses-" "We've already had one of those," said Pharisee, frowning. "From what Detective Bogart has told me, agent Claw admitted to owning the very knife used to kill Sniper." "But Amanda could not have killed Sniper!" insisted Rex. "How do you know?" inquired Bogart. "Does she have an alibi?" "Indeed," said Rex, nodding. "At the approximate time of Sniper's murder, Amanda was looking for Gun." Bogart and Pharisee traded glances with confused expressions, so Rex rolled his eyes. "Some Dino Attack agent who had no imagination when he came up with his codename." "Were you with her as she was looking for... Gun?" queried Bogart. "No," Rex said as he shook his head. "She was alone?" Bogart raised an eyebrow. When Rex did not reply, he continued: "Then how do you know that was what she was really doing? Look, Rex, this alibi isn't as vacuum-proof as you would like it to be, and there is mounting substantial evidence pointing to Claw as the murderer. We may have to take her in until such a time that her innocence can be proven, not approximated." "Over my dead body," Rex growled, gritting his teeth. Pharisee cocked his gun, meeting Rex's show of intimidation with one of his own. "I can do that." As Rex shot Pharisee a dark glare, Bogart cleared his throat. "You know, Rex, all you have to do to clear Amanda's name is just stick with her at all times to prove that she has an actual alibi. That being said, why is she in the backroom by herself?" Rex gestured towards the wheelchair sitting next to the couch. "She's faster and quieter alone than she is with me. We're looking for agents Pyro and Demoman, hoping to protect them from the mole, assuming that the mole's pattern is killing off the entire Second Headquarters Squad. She went into the backroom to look for Pyro or Demoman, since elite agent Adventure told us that he last saw them in here. We both agreed that, if she were to encounter the mole as he tried to attack either of them, she could save them if she weren't hindered by me." "I see," Pharisee said, nodding. "Detective Bogart, come with me." With that, they turned away from Rex and strode over towards the door to the backroom. Rex paled. "What are you doing?" He struggled to look over his shoulder at the two men as they opened the door. He couldn't believe his eyes; they were taking advantage of the fact that he was crippled so that he could not stop them as they arrested Amanda. "Get back here! As an elite agent, that's an order!" "I'm an elite agent and head of internal affairs," Pharisee said with a shrug, "and Bogart here isn't even an official agent. You have no authority over us, and your orders mean nothing." "MegaBloks!" shouted Rex, seething with fury. His heart pounded madly in his chest, but Rex ignored the drumming as pure T-Rex instinct took over. He reached for his wheelchair, but instead fell off the couch and onto the floor. Not even bothering with the wheelchair anymore, he crawled with his arms over to the backroom like some sort of vicious wild animal. Pharisee had already opened the door by the time Rex reached them. He rammed his elbow into Bogart's knee and grabbed the pants leg of Pharisee. As Pharisee tried to kick Rex off, Bogart lost his balance and fell into the head of internal affairs, causing the three of them to pile atop one another in one chaotic jumble. Rex, at the bottom of the pile, gritted his teeth and tried without success to shake Bogart and Pharisee off of his body. "This ends now!" he declared, although his voice sounded like a wheeze due to the weight on his back. "I've put up with enough Mutant T-Rex dung throughout this entire apocalypse, and the last thing I need is more pointless fighting inside Dino Attack Headquarters!" There stood Amanda. Her back was turned towards the brawl, and her eyes were focused upon the dartboard hanging on the wall in front of her. As Bogart and Pharisee stood, one of them addressed her by name, and she responded, but did not look away from the dartboard. "I'm sorry to report that neither Pyro nor Demoman are here," she murmured. "I apologize, Rex, for not returning sooner... but I needed some alone time to think." "Think about what?" inquired Bogart. "About how Angel Eyes and Maria found my knife in Sniper's back. And about the accusations Trigger has made against me. And about all the rumors that I have heard. And... oh, Bogart, for Builder's sake, please put out that cigarette. Smoking is not allowed in Dino Attack Headquarters." Rex then saw that Amanda's knife was planted in the center of the dartboard: a perfect bullseye. As he crawled slowly towards her, Rex could see thin streaks of water on her cheeks, which indicated that she had been crying. She was far better about showing it in public than Kate Bishop or Pterisa, but Rex knew that Amanda was every bit as troubled as they were, and the sight of her in pain caused Rex's heart to ache. Pharisee stepped towards her. "Ms. Remous, you are under-" As though on cue, an Egyptian standard agent rushed up into the room and looked down upon Rex. "Elite Agent Rex!" he gasped. "You have to come quickly! Pyro and Demoman have gone absolutely mad!" Amanda turned around, and Rex's eyebrows raised. "Lead the way, agent…" Rex began, trailing off when he realized that he had never met this particular agent. "Anubis," the agent quickly introduced himself. Amanda grabbed her knife off the dartboard and sheathed it. Then, she carried Rex back into the rec room, put him down in his wheelchair, and began to follow Anubis. Although they didn't say anything, Rex could tell that Bogart and Pharisee were following them. Then, Anubis led Rex and Amanda to a room which appeared to be on fire. They were hit by a wave of heat, and once Rex adjusted to the new atmosphere, he could see through the flames and, in the far corner of the room, recognized Pyro. Pyro, appearing unaffected by the fire in his flame-retardant suit, brandished his flamethrower and kept shouting something made incomprehensible by his balaclava and helmet. "Pyro!" Rex shouted over the roar of flames. "What is the meaning of this?" Pyro pointed his flamethrower menacingly at Rex and again shouted the incomprehensible message: "Spmm chmmmk!" "Someone needs to keep an eye on Pyro and make sure he doesn't do too much damage," muttered Rex, "to the base or to himself. Where is Demoman?" Anubis led Rex and Amanda to another room. Rex's eyes widened in shock, for the room was filled with explosives. In the far corner sat Demoman, one hand gripping a detonator, the other holding an empty bottle. Demoman sneered upon seeing the agents enter the room and laughed. "If any ah yehs thinks yehr… comin' an comin' to… ach, yeh remember? I don't! I do not, would not, could not… ah train up yehr grass…" Rex held his hands up, attempting to convey that he intended no threat. "Demoman," he spoke quietly and slowly, "please put the detonator down and-" "Ah, Ronald, yehr ah great pal, like ah bo'le ah rum…" Demoman attempted to drink from his empty bottle. "An if any ah yehs so much as muscles ah twitch 'wards meh, one lil push… an KABLOOEY!" He waved the detonator over his head, laughing and hiccupping as he did so. "Ain't no way yehr ge'in' meh like yeh got Ronald… they gonna glue yeh back togethah… in MEGABLOKLAND!" "Ronald?" repeated Amanda. "Ronald E. Army," whispered Rex. "He was good friends with Demoman… I guess Demoman did not take his death well." Then, turning towards Anubis, Pharisee, and Bogart, he said, "This is not good at all. Pyro and Demoman might be trying to defend themselves from Spe… from the killer, but in doing so they are endangering themselves and others. We need to find a way to stop them." "Rex! Amanda!" called a familiar voice. Rex, Amanda, Anubis, Pharisee, and Bogart turned to see Ata approach them. "Specs wishes to see you two in private, in his office," he reported, "as soon as possible." ---- "... found dead in his office early this morning. Autopsies have shown that Sindstorme was killed by some sort of horrible venom. Many security guards were killed, with their manner of deaths ranging from slit throats to gunshot wounds to inhaling toxic gases, and many of Mindstorms' creations were found smashed and deconstructed in Sindstorme's office. While security cameras were apparently disabled during the time of this heinous crime, recovered footage from shortly before the crime shows an unidentified woman entering the building. Although the footage is too blurry to make heads or tails of her identity, rumors are already circulating that the mysterious Silencia Venomosa is behind this. Mindstorms, Inc. is currently struggling to get back on its feet, and this process could take months or even years before the company has fully recovered from this tragedy, with the rumored NXT project being put on hiatus." As the news continued to play on the television, Bartholomew Enderson poured a drink for the bearded gentleman sitting at the bar, handed the glass to him, and proceeded to clean another glass with his towel in a desperate attempt to take his mind off of what he just heard. "In other news, there was a break-in last night at the Dacta Corporation building. Details are still fuzzy regarding this event, but despite the deaths of secretary Ursula Bennett as well as numerous security guards, CEO Edward Korrupte assures us that everything is under control and the perpetrators have been 'taken care of'. This is Lotta Brix, reporting the evening news. Back to the studio!" The bearded man had black hair that was already graying with streaks of white. He wore an expensive gray suit with a blue tie, and as he stared at the television, he smiled with a hint of smugness. "Truly remarkable, isn't it?" he murmured. "It amazes me what one woman can do." "Remarkable?" repeated Enderson, with the raise of an eyebrow. "I would agree, but I would probably use words like 'tragic', 'terrible', or 'horrifying'. I see that you believe the rumors that Silencia Venomosa is behind this?" The bearded man chuckled. "Oh, you know just as well as I do that these aren't mere rumors. She is a rather impressive and gifted individual. In one clean strike, she was able to knock down Mindstorms, Inc. No doubt that they will recover over time, but right now, they're flailing in the seas of marketing and business, threatening to drown them now that their boat has sunk. People say that these corporations are so powerful, and yet, all it took was one person to topple such a great empire as Mindstorms." "I suppose," said Enderson, nodding. "But, and I just ask this as a mere bartender, doesn't it concern you that a single person has the power to do such a thing? If you don't mind me saying, you look like the sort of person who would be worried by this prospect." The bearded man shook his head, but his smug smile grew. "Of course not. I have nothing to fear from her. While she has remarkable talents, Silencia Venomosa is merely a weapon. If she were not a mercenary and simply hunted down whomever she pleased, she would truly be something to fear. But she's not. She's a weapon. Without someone there to pull the trigger, she is powerless. And whoever pulls that trigger... is the one who holds the true power." "It's a dog-eat-dog world out there," Enderson pointed out. "As a bartender, I have little to fear, but for businessmen like you... who is to stop a competitor from grabbing the weapon and pulling the trigger on you?" The bearded man's expression remained smug, but it turned dark as well. "Simple. I grab the weapon and pull the trigger first." He held up an envelope. Bartholomew Enderson's features hardened. I should have known that he was a customer in more ways than one, he thought with disgust. Still, as it was his doom, he slowly took the envelope from the bearded man and hid it in a secret drawer underneath the counter. "All the details are inside that envelope," continued the bearded man. "Do not lose it." With that, he paid for his drink and stood to leave. "Details regarding your meeting?" inquired Enderson. "Excuse me?" said the bearded man, blinking in surprise. Enderson furrowed his brow and bit his lip. "Well, you see, normally, her... clients hand me a letter telling her where and when to meet them so that they can discuss her job in further detail. It's her standard routine." The bearded man raised an eyebrow. "Do you think I am a fool? I know better than to meet her face-to-face. Everything she needs to know about the job is in that envelope. When she succeeds, I'll give you another envelope enclosing her payment. There is no need for us to place my life in danger by putting myself in the same room, or even the same building, as her." Bartholomew Enderson frowned with defiance. "If you don't mind me saying, sir, I hardly approve of this whole business myself, but when you're going to pull the trigger on another man's life and you don't even have the courage to look at the weapon you are using... that is what many people would consider to be cowardly." The bearded man scowled. He leaned upon the counter and put his face in close to Enderson. "Do you know who you are?" he hissed, so close that Enderson could smell his breath. "Bartholomew Enderson," he sighed, "a bartender." "And do you know who I am?" "Walter Breen, administrator of Brick League United." "There's a difference, you see?" said Walter Breen, sneering. "There's a reason why I am the administrator of one of the world's leading companies in building and scientific advancement, while you are... a lowly bartender. So, if I were you, I would not question my judgment in this matter. Now, be quiet, do your job, and make sure that letter gets to Venomosa." "Good day, sir," muttered Bartholomew Enderson. Then, Walter Breen turned and left the restaurant. ---- There she was: Silencia Venomosa. At that moment, Montoya stopped. He knew what had to be done, but there was a part of him that did not feel right about this. He stood silently for a moment, before he finally stepped forward. Amanda and Rex were rather shocked as a man in his late thirties approached them, armed with a shotgun. He cocked it rather menacingly as he aimed it towards the former. "Hello, Silencia," Montoya said. His hands were trembling slightly, but he was doing his best to hide it. He may have been a nice guy underneath, but he knew how to at least make himself look nasty when necessary. "You remember me?" Amanda simply shook her head. Montoya reached for his pack of cigarettes and, taking one hand off his gun, slowly started to place one in his mouth. He used the free arm to light it before holding the pack in front of her. "Cigarette?" he asked calmly. Amanda shook her head again, though a look of uncertainty seemed to suggest that she remembered something. Montoya cocked his shotgun once more. "I'm going to do the world a favor, and I'm going to make you suffer for your crimes. I got a little message for you," he said. "From myself, Orange, Scorsese, Keaton, Deniro, Verbal, Sciess... and everyone else you killed: Znap you!" With that, Montoya's trembling finger started to pull on the trigger... After teaming up with Commander Vinyaya and Hotwire, Zach and Minerva started their running of the hallway quickly (as quickly as they could when one of their group was missing a leg). It wasn't long until they found a group of agents standing outside a room. The only ones Zach recognized were Rex and Claw. And one seemed on the verge of shooting Claw with a shotgun. "Hey!" Zach yelled. "What in Blue Bricks are you doing?!" Montoya paused, glancing up at the approaching agents. This distraction gave Rex enough time to ram his wheelchair forcefully into the man's side, knocking him to the floor. Zach, Minerva, Vinyaya, and Hotwire quickly converged on him, surrounding him and pointing their weapons at him. "What was that?" Hotwire snapped. "She's Silencia Venomosa," Montoya muttered, clutching his side in pain. Beside Zach, Minerva flinched and glanced at Claw. "So?" Zach snapped. "Unless we are on a policy of 'shoot suspects on sight', you have no right to blow out Claw's brain, even if she's Venomosa. Whatever happened to 'innocent before proven guilty'?" "What are you talking about? I know fully well she is guilty of what she did," Montoya said calmly, climbing to his feet slowly. "Wait, what are you talking about?" Vinyaya said. "We're talking about the mole." "What mole?" Montoya seemed clueless. "I don't think he's a part of the team," Hotwire muttered. Pharisee burst past Hotwire and Vinyaya and gripped the attempted murderer's arms tightly. Bogart picked up Montoya's shotgun calmly. "Alright, so what's going on... whoa!" Zach said as he turned around. He was looking inside a room filled to the brim with explosives. "What is..." "Demoman," Rex said. "He's having... a bit of a breakdown. So is Pyro." "Where's Pyro?" Minerva asked. "Burning up another room with his flamethrower," Claw said quietly, still staring at the man that had attempted to kill her. Vinyaya facepalmed irritably. "Great," she muttered as she peeked into the explosive-filled room and saw Demoman sitting in a corner. "Excuse me," Ata said, tapping Rex on the shoulder. "Specs still needs you and Claw. From the sounds of it, it's important." Rex faced clearly showed anxiety. He glanced back into the room. "What about Demoman and Pyro?" "We'll take care of them," Hotwire interjected. "Me, Vinyaya, him-" he gestured to Anubis, not knowing his name, "-Fabello, and Zach." Rex's eyebrows perked up at the mention of Zach's name. He looked at Zach and seemed to recognize him. "Zachary? Weren't you a-" "-Stromling?" Zach finished. "Indeed. Thanks to a couple of friends, that is no longer the case." Rex nodded, then he, Claw, and Ata left. Zach turned to group of agents. "So, how are we going to deal with these two?" "Which one of them do we take care of first?" asked Anubis. Hotwire was slightly overwhelmed by the whole situation, but, realizing that he was the highest-ranking agent in the group, did not let this become apparent and forced himself to think clearly. "Demoman's probably not quite as urgent, since he did say he wouldn't detonate those explosives as long as we stay away from him. But, left to his own devices, Pyro's likely to burn this whole building to the ground. And I think this place has been razed more than enough times over the course of the war. Too bad none of us are fireproof. Ideas?" "I could get to him easily if I still had my armor," Vinyaya grumbled. ***** The rest of the movie went by rather predictably and with quite a bit of cheesy entertainment. "Dino Cop" as the character liked calling himself, used various skills and tricks of a T-Rex to (literally) take a bite out of the crime (Joike: "'I one-upped you, McGruff!'") emerging in the city after the earthquake. Stepping on getaway cars (Andrew: "And not crushing the criminals in the process! That takes skill!"), intimidating most crooks just by showing up (Pterisa: "So does his stare make the crooks forget they have guns?"), and somehow being able to "go undercover" by shrinking to the size of a hatchling (Laxus: "Oh, ho, ho, it's magic! You know..."). Then there was some weird, contrived business about a corrupt corporate executive using some stolen devices to cause the earthquake that started the whole mess to gain profit (Andrew: "It's all computers! I don't have to explain it!"), which ended up seeming like a tacked-on plotline to somehow to make the movie viable for a franchise, likely due to the many leftover plotlines, such as the end of the film being Johnny Thunder finding a tomb in Peru with another flask of dinosaur DNA (Laxus: "'Pippin, I do believe this is the start of a beautiful franchise.'") "More like the start of a bad case of Sequelitis," said Joike as the end credits began to roll. "Oh, the joy of cheesy movies," Andrew said as he stretched his arms, having gotten a little cramped from sitting so long. He turned to Pterisa. "Now what do you make of that experience?" "It was... quite unique. But definitely fun." "Good to hear. When you have a sense of humor, it becomes very easy to interact with others." "Wise words there, my friend," said Laxus, looking at the table full of empty pizza boxes, soda cans, and an empty popcorn bowl. "Let's get some of this food stuff cleaned up and return that bowl to the kitchen. Then we should try to see what's been happening. Maybe Semick is back already." "Betcha that mole everyone's talking about's been active," said Joike as he picked up one of the boxes. "Not a good thing to be losing people, but hopefully the more this guy does, the easier it becomes to catch him." "Hopefully," said Andrew, picking up some of the cans and putting them back into their box for easy portage. "Eh, I don't like thinking about it, especially after such a nice time we had here." "Well, as much as I guess we all want to think of good things," said Pterisa, "we have to accept that bad things will come again quickly." "All too true," said Laxus. "But I say if we can still find something to poke a little fun at, and we still have hope, things can turn out okay in the end, no matter how bad it gets." "Yeah…" said Joike. "But let's finish cleaning up here before we sound just as cheesy with our philosophy as that movie was, okay?" ***** Bluetooth watched Semick walk into the base with concern. He had heard everything about the Second Headquarters Squad over Semick's radio chat. It was horrifying, not just the team's deaths, but the fact that there was a murderous mole loose in the base now. Bluetooth himself was barely taking it in, but he could only imagine the stress and horror it must've put on Semick. The Elite Agent had told him before how much he hated espionage, how he was disappointed to have to realized that some of the men he watched over and fought alongside with in the team actually plotted against him. With the Stromlings, it was one thing, as they were simply part of a force MegaBlokland-bent on destroying the universe. But to know that some of his men actually believed that Dr Rex's ideas were good ones, or at least lacked enough trust in Dino Attack to go and join the "winning side", was a devastating blow to Semick's faith in his comrades. Bluetooth felt very sympathetic with him. Knowing that your best ally could be a traitor was never something pleasant to take in, and something told him that this case would be no exception. He could only hope that the team would be able to handle it well. ***** "We got to act fast," Angel Eyes said to Maria and Clint. "We got to find the last remnants of the Second Headquarters Squad." "Yeah," said Clint. "Who's left?" "At this point," replied Angel Eyes, "there's you, me, Maria-" "Do we count?" Maria wondered. "We helped out enough," Angel Eyes said with a shrug. "Ya know," Maria said. "Whatever happened to that one guy, Firecracker, or whatever his name was?" "Good question," said Angel Eyes. "At the moment we'd be-" At that moment, the three of them were suddenly knocked back when a large chunk of the wall was blown apart by a loud explosion. As the trio took a moment to come to their senses, a man drove in on a motorcycle, crashing it into the opposite wall, before getting off and taking off his bandanna and goggles. Even in all the smoke, they recognized the face quickly. "Firecracker?" Maria exclaimed. "Did I miss anything?" Firecracker asked. "Just a couple of murders. Maybe you can blow up the mole." "Who's the mole?" Firecracker inquired. "We can't tell you yet," replied Angel Eyes. He started to continue down the hallway. Practically right around the corner was a scene of commotion, or at least what appeared to be commotion before the agents were stunned by the loud noise. One tough-looking black man was busy holding one guy hostage, the rest of the group looked rather panicked. "What's going on in here?" Angel Eyes asked sternly. "It's Demoman and Pyro," replied another man. Firecracker slowly worked his way toward the one room and saw Demoman sitting there, surrounded by crates of explosives. Upon seeing it, he burst into laughter. "Erik Paulson," Firecracker remarked excitedly, but without a slight hint of fear in his voice. "You've really outdone yourself now. Our superiors at Reliable Excavation Deconstruction would be proud." At that moment, they heard the sound of arguing voices. "Look," said a female voice. "I really don't think this is a good idea-" "Hey man," replied another guy. "It's no problem. I'm gonna sol-" Dude cut himself off as he approached the scene of commotion, leaving everyone to stare at a man with ridiculously long hair, an extremely thick beard and what looked like pajamas. With him was Sarah Bishop. "Dude," Sarah said, "this is out of your league." "She's right," replied Walter, who had been trailing behind them. "Znap it, let's go bowling." "This isn't a Znapping game, man!" Dude shouted. "Walter, what's your problem? We're Dino Attack agents now, we can't just go bowling whenever we want!" "Oh, but it is a game," retorted Walter. "You said so yourself." "Look," Sarah said, trying to resolve it. "This isn't getting us anywhere." "Sarah's right," agreed Walter. "We shouldn't get involved in this mess." "Did I miss something?" asked a gruff voice from behind. Everyone turned around to see Snake, holding a gun, and he seemed to be looking at the scene with some confusion. Minerva frowned as more people seemed to be joining the hallway. She turned to Vinyaya. "How could your armor help?" "It's fireproof to a degree," Vinyaya said, scowling at the new arrivals. "Heat resistance type stuff. With it, I could probably get close enough to Pyro and take him down." "Don't you have a spare set of armor or something from your ship?" Minerva asked. "No. Everything was destroyed when the Enforcer crashed. However…" Vinyaya's mood darkened suddenly. Minerva flinched. "My only surviving ally from that voyage, Julius Kelp, happened to be killed while operating in Castle Cove. Presuming they brought the body back, I might be able to take his armor and get to Pyro." "Excellent," Zach said. "Head over to the morgue and see if you can find it. We'll try to stop him from burning down the building." Vinyaya scowled fiercely at Zach before nodding and starting her sprint toward the morgue. Minerva rolled her eyes. Zach had been extremely insensitive toward Vinyaya, who was clearly unhappy that her Space Police ally had been killed. Minerva could associate with the stress of this situation, but it was still insensitive. I don't think those two will ever be friendly toward each other, Minerva thought. Beyond begrudging respect. "Alright, so while she does that, any ideas on what to do?" Hotwire asked. "Some of the population has returned to the city, correct?" Zach asked. He looked toward Anubis, who nodded. "Call a Fire Department, presuming one has been reestablished. They can help us take down the blaze. I also suppose we could find some fire extinguishers and try to handle the fire in the meantime." ***** Rex and Amanda traded glances. They were now waiting at the door to Specs's office. The last time they were here, it was the most secure room in Dino Attack Headquarters. Now, it seemed more intimidating than a XERRD fortress. Grimly, Rex nodded to Amanda. Without knocking, she reached out and opened the door. Specs sat at his desk, looking down at some paperwork and scratching his head. He raised his eyes as Rex and Amanda entered. Clearing his throat, Specs stood and said, "Rex, it was fairly obvious to me back in the hospital wing that you were lying." Rex coughed, and behind him Amanda understood the cue. "What is it that makes you so certain of this?" Rex asked as he raised an eyebrow. "It was in your tone," explained Specs. "You were clearly holding something back, and in doing so you were directly defying orders. You know very well who this traitor is, but you couldn't bring yourself to say so in front of Frozeen and Greybeard. Perhaps now will be different." "You think I'm trying to protect the identity of the mole?" said Rex, frowning. Specs cleared his throat again. "I never said that. But, I believe you are hiding something important, hoping that you may protect someone's reputation and even, perhaps, the team's morale. We shall deal with this quietly and privately, Rex. No one will know. I am sorry, Rex, but what must be done must be done. Now tell me who the traitor is. That is an order." Rex's mind raced. Specs's order came as a threat, but Rex did not know how. If Rex tried to back out, that might give Specs some sort of perverted satisfaction… or move to more aggressive methods. If Rex openly admitted that he knew Specs's true identity in front of Amanda, Specs could do whatever he wished to her to ensure that Rex remained the only witness, and Rex could not let that happen. What sort of sick sadistic pleasure was Specs finding from this ultimatum? Stalling for time, Rex murmured, "Well, you see, Specs, your methods are most… err, concerning, you might say. This, I am afraid, puts me in a dilemma, an ultimatum, a point of no return, as some might call it. Converging such information and revealing it to all who stand in this room, even now, with only a few people to witness what happens in this room once said information is converged, I am afraid, puts us in a situation where you may think you may have dominant control, be the alpha male, the leader of the pack, and whatever you say goes and nobody questions it…" Specs narrowed his eyes. "What are you talking about…?" Then, Specs felt something grab at his wrist. He tried to turn around, but it was too late: his hands had been cuffed behind his back by Amanda Claw, who had slowly and silently slinked around Specs's office to position herself behind his chair. "What is the meaning of this?" demanded Specs. "I am sorry, Specs," Rex echoed ironically, "but what must be done must be done." "I hoped I was wrong," said Specs. "I prayed that it wouldn't be either of you. But it is all too clear now, and I cannot ignore this deliberate act of betrayal, Rex. This pains me. Here we are, so close to the final battle against XERRD, and you endanger Dino Attack Team's morale in a way that cannot be reversed!" "I am not a fool," declared Rex, "and I will not damage our team's morale by revealing the truth. You may even be remembered as a great hero who mysteriously disappeared, Specs. But for now, I cannot allow you to act as XERRD's mole any longer. Because of you, seven innocent agents lie dead, and two more have placed themselves and others in danger to protect themselves from you." "You cannot be serious," Specs said as he gritted his teeth. "You are accusing me of being the mole?" "Don't act as though you don't know what I'm talking about!" snapped Rex. "You let me see you when you killed Soldier and Heavy so that I ma-" "I am not the traitor, Rex!" Specs spoke with such authority and certainty, Rex almost believed him. Then, Specs was silent for a moment. At last, he murmured, "But why would you accuse me of being the mole in private if you wish to protect my reputation, might I inquire? It simply isn't logical. I would think that, in doing this, you are attempting to damage my team's morale." "Why would I do that?" said Rex, blinking. "I want to ensure that Dino Attack Team wins this war!" "As do I," murmured Specs. "But you, Rex… I fear you may have fallen victim to manipulation by XERRD's true mole. It appears that neither of us is the mole, but I fear that the mole is standing in this room with us." Rex blinked in surprise. "What?" he whispered. Specs turned over his shoulder to look at Amanda. "For a long time, I feared that your loyalties may have been bought by XERRD. After seeing how well you worked with the rest of the team, I began to dismiss my suspicions as paranoia, but unfortunately Digger recently told me that agent Trigger accused you of being the mole, and private detective Bogart has collecting mounting evidence pointing to you as the killer. Still, I desperately tried to believe otherwise, but when I could see that Rex was holding something back in the hospital wing, I feared that he knew your secret and was trying to protect your reputation; I know you two have feelings for each other, and I feared the worst. And here you are, trying to arrest me." Over Specs's shoulder, Amanda appeared surprised. She locked eyes with Rex, and Rex could see that she looked a little paler than usual. Evidently, Rex noted, Specs came much closer to discovering Amanda's real secret than she felt comfortable with. "You're lying!" snapped Rex. "I've had enough with this, Specs. You've been playing enough mind games with me already, and you're not going to make me fall for all those insane rumors!" "Rex," Specs said as he narrowed his eyes. "You must listen to me. I do not know what you saw in that room, but I assure you that it was not me. At the time of Scout, Soldier, and Heavy's deaths, I was calling Mrs. Rutherford on the phone to confirm one of my theories. I can prove this alibi; just speak to Shadow and Viper, for they were in the room with me. Claw, on the other hand, has no such alibi." "How dare you," growled Rex. "You taunt me by revealing yourself as the mole, then expect me to believe that the person who I trust the most-" "Even more than your own team leader?" Specs raised an eyebrow. "Stop it!" snapped Amanda. In frustration, she threw her knife down upon Specs's desk. Both Rex and Specs stared at her with wide eyes. Once again, Rex noticed the tears on her cheeks, which made her otherwise tranquil fury look heart-wrenching. "Just stop it, both of you! I've had enough of it today! The murders of the Second Headquarters Squad… the paranoia and suspicion of the mole hunt… and Trigger and Montoya out to kill me for the very life I've left behind!" Rex opened his mouth to speak, in an effort to comfort her, but he was interrupted by the door knocking. "MegaBloks," muttered Specs. "Agent Claw, uncuff me at once. This conversation never happened, understand?" Amanda quickly complied, but while Specs remained uncuffed, she escorted him to the door to ensure that he would not try to escape. Specs rubbed his wrists, then reached out and took hold of the doorknob. When Specs opened the door, he jumped back in surprise and knocked Amanda back. Clenching his jaw, Specs glared at the person in the doorway. "This certainly answers some questions." Then, another Specs entered the office, wielding a pistol in one hand and a knife in the other. ***** Smoke clogged the halls of the basement levels of the headquarters. Smoke detectors blared in Pharisee's ears and the heat scorched his eyes, but he ignored his discomfort as he held Montoya to the wall. The commander tossed Bogart the assailant's shotgun before twisting the man's arms behind his back and forcefully handcuffing him. "Do you know who this guy is?" asked Bogart as he puffed on a cigarette. "I would certainly appreciate some context." Pharisee ripped the cigarette out of Bogart mouth and crushed it beneath his foot. "Now's not the best time to be smoking detective; the basement's burning up and I don't want to start any more fires." "Speaking of that," said Bogart. "Don't you think you should do something about the fire?" "Commander Vinyaya and Hotwire have the blaze under control," said Pharisee. "That is not my duty now. My job is to deal with the violent, like this man before you." He pulled Montoya away from the wall and dragged him down the hall. Montoya made little effort to struggle and instead resigned to his fate as if he believed he had it coming. "Don't you intend to ask him some questions?" asked Bogart. "There are certainly some loose ends I'd like to tie up. Why did he pull this gun out on agent Claw, for example." "I believe that's something that agent Claw would be able to answer," responded Pharisee. "Once I have brought this man to a place where he can no longer threaten the lives of agents, I will meet Claw outside Spec's office with a pair of handcuffs." "Perhaps the man had the right idea," offered Bogart. "He probably knew Amanda was the killer." "I do not condone vigilante justice, detective," said Pharisee. "Vigilantes are driven more by their personal vendetta than any true sense of right and wrong. The problem with the unit today is men who take the law into their own hands. Man does not have the right to choose who lives or dies, Bogart, only the Creator can do that." "Well then what's your job?" said Bogart, smiling. The detective sensed some mild hypocrisy in the commander's statement and wanted to pry further. "I am a prophet," said Pharisee. "I provide a taste of the punishment that awaits if they do not reform their ways. I tenure and lead the lost souls to their ultimate reckoning. I am the sheriff; the Builder is the judge." Bogart whistled slowly at the profoundness of Pharisee's statement. "All you owe the public is a good performance," said the detective, chuckling. "I owe the public the right to live without fear. I do that by removing those who create it from the people's midst." Pharisee and Bogart finally arrived at the prison complex on the other side of the headquarters. Most of the cells were empty with only a few exceptions, including Mr. Cunningham and Señor Palomar, both taken prisoner during the Adventurers' Island mission, as well as a single light coming from a cell in the center. Pharisee walked past it without so much as a glance and unlocked the door of the cell beside it. "What did this guy do?" asked Bogart as he pointed to the blond-haired occupant. "He killed a man," muttered Pharisee darkly. Montoya was pushed inside the adjacent cell, and the door was slammed shut behind him. The commander ignored the regret in the man's eyes as he turned to leave. "Aren't you going to ask him any questions?" asked Bogart. Pharisee considered for a moment, before rolling his eyes, turning back, and pulling up a stool. "Give me your name," he said bluntly. Montoya did not respond. His experience on the wrong side of the law had taught him it was best to remain silent. Bogart coughed. "You know, commander, this guy could provide some character evidence we need to convict agent Claw. Maybe he saw something." Pharisee shook his head. "You saw the files; we all know that agent Claw has the capacity to kill. His testimony won't be much help because he has clear bias against her. Leave him for the time being. He knows that what he did is criminal, and he needs time in solitude before he provides us with any sort of worthwhile information. You can talk to him as much as you want, but I have bigger fish to fry." "What do you mean, sir?" inquired Bogart. Pharisee began to walk down the hall. "Right now, Specs is alone with Claw and Rex. At this stage, I don't trust either of them, and I would not be surprised if they were conspiring together. I will not allow Specs to come to harm under my watch. It would pain me to put two good agents like them behind bars, but if that is what I must do to preserve this team, I will do what I must." "What's your plan, then?" called Bogart. Pharisee turned around to look the detective in the eye. "I want to contain both of them for the time being. Whether Claw is the mole or not, her being impounded will keep everyone safer. This time, I will not allow Rex to interfere. If he attacks me again, he will share a cell with his girlfriend." "Putting two of the most respected agents behind bars might damage morale, commander," said detective Bogart. "It might ruin your image." "I don't care about my image, detective," Pharisee said as he ascended the stairs. "I care about security." Montoya slowly sat down on the small bed he had with him in his cell. Bogart took a moment to light a cigarette before turning toward him. He held out the pack, reaching through the bars. Montoya reluctantly got up and took a cigarette from his hand before Bogart lit it. "You got a name?" Bogart asked. Montoya remained silent. He changed tactics. "What's your connection to Silencia? You're not even a member of this team, and yet you went out of your way to get in here and kill her." "What do you mean?" Montoya asked. "You seemed completely oblivious to the mole situatio-" "What mole?" asked a voice from behind. Bogart turned around to see an authoritative-looking man with a thick handlebar mustache. "Who are you?" Bogart asked. "Elite Agent French Fries," replied the man. "I oversaw LEGO City during the campaign on LEGO Island." "Really?" said Bogart. French Fries nodded. "That's why we made sure nothing happened." "Except for that one guy who tried to bomb the whole town, and, from what I heard, a war in your own base." "Bah," French Fries said dismissively. "Nothing more than rumors made by people wanting to discredit the team." "I see," said Bogart. "And you're not aware of the fact that there's a mole running around here?" "What mole?" replied French Fries. "We don't have no moles. I think you'll find this is all just a great big fuss about nothing." "Right," said Bogart, somewhat frustrated by this man's apparent cluelessness. "Yes, I got some business to attend to, why don't you go keep things in order elsewhere?" "Yes sir," French Fries said with a salute. He turned around and walked out of there. "What's your connection to Venomosa?" Bogart inquired as he turned back toward Montoya. Montoya took a moment and sighed. "She tried to kill me," he said. "Why?" "We had a job," Montoya explained. "Me, her, and six other guys." "What sort of job?" asked Bogart. "A heist," replied Montoya. "So you're a criminal, then?" Bogart asked. "Was," Montoya tried to clarify. "After we were done, I went straight." "What happened?" "We tried to perform the heist," Montoya explained. "I was the getaway driver, so I didn't see it. I just remember one guy running into the car and telling me she'd killed everyone else. After we got away, we laid low for a while. This morning, I got a phone call saying he'd sent a message from Dino Attack Headquarters that he found her. I wanted her to pay for everyone she killed, so I came in. I just wanted to get in, kill her, and then go back home." "What was his name?" Bogart asked. "Schiess," replied Montoya. Bogart looked at him in slight confusion. He hadn't heard of anyone with that name. "Thank you very much," Bogart said before he turned away. ***** Rex's mind raced. He watched from his wheelchair as two Specs stared each other down. What he saw boggled his mind; while it answered some of his questions, it created a dozen more in their place. "What is the meaning of this?" the first Specs asked as he narrowed his eyes. "You're not supposed to be here," hissed the second Specs, pointing his blade at the first Specs. "You were supposed to be making arrangements with Frozeen to track the whereabouts of Dino Attack agents during the times of the murders." "We finished early," the first Specs tersely stated. "And you're not supposed to be here, either." "Clearly, not anymore," agreed the second Specs, who pocketed his weapons, reached into his jacket, and pulled out a cigarette case. "Stop him!" shouted Rex, but Amanda Claw was already on the move. She darted around the first Specs and knocked into the second Specs, tackling him and subsequently pinning him against the doorway. Specs grappled with her and tried to grab at the emergency lighter on her belt, but Amanda responded with a clean uppercut. Specs crumpled to the floor, and Amanda kicked away the false cigarette. Specs tried to reach for it, but Amanda placed her foot on his arm and pressed a knife to his neck. He cursed under his breath. At that moment, Pharisee arrived at the scene. He saw Amanda pressing her knife against Specs's neck, and Rex could make an educated guess about what ran through his mind. "Agent Claw!" he growled, pulling out his gun and aiming it at her. "Stop right there-" "It's alright, Pharisee," spoke the Specs who was still standing, who nodded to the head of internal affairs and waved his hand. "I believe we have found the mole." As Pharisee's eyebrows raised upon looking at the two Specs in a single room, Rex sighed in relief. He glanced at the Specs lying on the floor, then back at the Specs who was standing. Once again, he felt a sense of admiration and trust in his team leader, which had felt throughout the entire Dino Attack... until it was threatened by the false Specs lying on the floor. It disgusted Rex, just thinking about how the mole disguised himself as the team leader to successfully shatter Rex's trust and morale. "Let's see who's really under that mask," declared Rex, eager to identify the true mole, killer, and traitor. The first Specs strode over to where the second was pinned. The second glared with contempt, first at Amanda, then at the first Specs. The first bent down, grabbed the balaclava of the second, and yanked it off. Rex's eyes widened. "You?" The mole smirked. "Come now, Rex. Remember why I joined the team? To leave my mark on history!" "Stand back, agent Claw," muttered Pharisee. Amanda did as she was told, and the head of internal affairs grabbed the mole. "Normally, we would lock you up in a dank cell for the rest of your pitiful life, but seeing as you're working for XERRD, you'll have useful information. It's time for an interrogation." The mole shook his head as he was dragged off by Pharisee. "I shall only speak to him!" he declared, and then he pointed at Rex. "I will not say a single word to anyone else!" As they watched Pharisee take away the mole, Rex, Amanda, and Specs traded glances. "He came far closer to tearing our team apart than Dr. Rex's greatest army of Mutant Dinos," sighed Specs. "By planting seeds of paranoia and distrust, he turned us against each other. Let this be a lesson to us to never let this happen again." Rex sighed. While it came as a relief that Specs was not the mole and all the rumors about Amanda could finally be proven false, the identity of the mole still disturbed him. The mole was someone he thought was too innocent to be capable of infiltrating and murdering, but now he could see that, in a mole hunt, it truly was necessary to distrust anyone... even the seemingly-innocent, for no one would suspect them. And who would have ever suspected the quiet and innocent communications expert Ata? ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  8. Chapter 56: Tension ---- Hertz lay unmoving in his hospital bed. To his left lay elite agent Rotor; the pilot had bandages covering much of his face but still had enough strength and mental capacity to turn the pages of A Tale of Two Cities. To his right lay Cabin. Mrs. Bishop's attack had proved to be especially brutal on the bystander, and the elite agent lay unmoving beside her heart monitor. She had a white cast covering her entire face and her eye were closed beneath the narrow slits. The doctors assured him that Cabin would live and make a full recovery, but she would bear the scars for most of her life. Both had suffered concussions, but the brain damage would prove to be minimal. Pierce had done a spectacular job repairing Cabin's skull fractures, but her nose would always be crooked. Hertz sighed. What had the Dino Attack become when violent brawls happened on a daily basis? These fights only divided the team further and led to greater distress. People like Trigger and Sarah Bishop needed to be held responsible and be punished, but it seemed that, with the war already on multiple fronts, there was no one to do the job. ***** Solomon watched the fight between Zelda and Nazareno with considerable interest. He had already inquired if the space ninja carried any extra swords, but sadly Nazareno only possessed his two. This led the philosopher to the Dino Attack armory. Although it held a plethora of strange and unusual weapons, including muskets, bananas, and pointy sticks, the katana were far below Solomon's standards. He had a strong knowledge of swordsmanship from his time as a Sentinel. During that time, he had undergone rigorous training as a Samurai before converting to Shinobi during his time with XERRD. Although he respected Nazerano's skill, he considered his fighting style slightly uncivilized compared to his more elegant schooling as a Samurai. He resolved to challenge the ninja to a friendly spar once he had located a suitable weapon. Solomon left the armory empty-handed, aside from a Luger P08 that he hid beneath his robe. The doctor checked his watch. Fifteen minutes until he promised to confront Trigger. He smiled; the mercenary would make an optimal example of the lengths he would go to prove his loyalty. ---- Exactly what happened then, Schiess could hardly remember as it all happened so quick, but the next thing he knew he was out of the building running for the car. Quickly, he opened the passenger side door, stepped inside, and put down the briefcase before looking Montoya in the eye. "GET OUT OF HERE!" Schiess shouted. "What?" gasped Montoya. "What about the others?" "I'll tell you later, just go!" Without thinking, Montoya hit the ignition and got out of his parking spot before he started driving away as fast as he could. Schiess held his breath, until their car was so far away from Dacta Corporation that he could not even see the building in the rear view window. Sweat drenched his forehead, and he desperately hoped that she was not a biker girl who would pursue them in a climatic car chase. Upon realizing that motorcycles were far too loud for her style, Schiess allowed himself to relax a little. "Mind telling me what's going on?!" shouted Montoya, who kept his eyes locked on the road ahead of them. Unfortunately, it nearly midnight on a stormy night, and he could only see the next few feet of highway ahead of him that were illuminated by the car's headlights. He had a lit cigarette in his mouth and hadn't the time to put it out when Schiess showed up. "It's her," Schiess said with a shudder. "That 4+ Figure double-crossed us! We should have known better than to trust her!" Montoya paled. Since their team of mercenaries consisted of seven men and one woman, Schiess did not need to name her in order for Montoya to figure out what he meant. "And the others? She didn't..." Schiess nodded grimly. "Oh my Builder," whispered Montoya. "But at least we got away, right?" Schiess looked down at the briefcase in his lap. "And we've got the blueprints. Mission accomplished." He pulled out his cellphone and called the president of Mindstorms, Inc. "Mr. Uærlig Sindstorme? This is Schiess. I've got the documents you requested, but Silencia Venomosa-" Then, Schiess caught sight of perhaps the most disturbing thing he had ever seen in his life. In the rear-view mirror, he saw a dark shape clinging onto the passenger side of the car. He caught a glint of light as it reflected off a knife raised in the air. "-is on our car!" he screamed to Montoya. "What?" gasped Montoya. "She must've hitched a ride before we pulled out! Grabbed onto our trunk or climbed onto our roof or something!" "Where is she?" "Passenger side!" Schiess pointed out the window. "Well, what do you want me to do?" "Knock her off! Drive into the guardrails!" "But-" "Just do it!" snapped Schiess. Montoya complied, and their car swerved to the right. It grinded against the right highway guardrail, sending sparks flying into the air and creating a horrible noise of metal scratching metal. "Did I get her?" asked Montoya, whose eyes were locked dead forward. Schiess looked past Montoya and saw the dark shape now on the driver's side of the car. Shaking his head vigorously, Schiess pointed and shouted, "No! Driver's side, now!" "Oh, MegaBloks!" gasped Montoya as he dared to quickly glance to his left and saw the dark shape that had to be her. Quickly, he turned the wheel and slammed the car into the left guardrail. As Montoya did so, Schiess glanced up at the sunroof and saw the dark shape pass overhead. Thinking quickly, he pulled out his gun and shot at the roof of the car. Even as he shouted, "Passenger side!", Schiess dared to roll down his window, poke his head and weapon out, and fire at the dark shape clinging to the car. But as Montoya tried to swerve the car to the right again, the dark shape disappeared behind the car and popped out again on the driver's side. "Driver's side!" The car swerved to the left, then to the right, then to the left again, as Montoya desperately tried to shake off the dark shape and Schiess fired his gun whenever and wherever he could. This process could not have possibly lasted more than a minute, but it felt like an eternity of terror to Schiess and Montoya. "Where is she now?" cried Montoya. Schiess looked out his window and saw the dark shape just below him. This time, in addition to seeing the glint of light reflecting off a knife, he could make out her facial features and her long dark hair blowing in the wind. Schiess fired his pistol at her and, as she darted to the side, grabbed the cigarette out of Montoya's mouth and threw it at her. The burning cinder forced her to maneuver awkwardly, and in the process, she let go. To Schiess's surprise, this did the trick. The dark shape vanished, and as he looked in the rear-view mirror, he was relieved to see her body rolling on the wet road behind them. Sighing in relief, Schiess leaned back in his chair. "It's over. We got her." Montoya, who was now just as sweat-drenched as Schiess, grinned. "I can't believe it!" he said as he laughed nervously. He reached down, grabbed another cigarette, and lit it to celebrate their victory. "We're going to make it! We're..." His smile disappeared. "What's that noise?" Schiess's eyes widened as he heard a most terrible series of sounds... the sounds of popping tires. Too late, he realized what she had been doing on their car. "She slashed our tires!" he cried, but it was too late. Without tires, the car's wheels skidded across the wet road, sending sparks in the air. Montoya gripped onto the wheel and slammed on the brakes with terror, but that did nothing to stop their car as it swerved left and right, slammed into another car, crashed through a guardrail, and landed upside-down in a ditch. Battered and bruised, dizzy and nauseous, Schiess struggled to stay conscious. He shook Montoya, and to his relief, his partner was still alive. But as he looked out the windshield at the highway on which they were driving, what he saw filled him with the most undiluted form of terror imaginable. There she was. Silencia Venomosa. Although she was cloaked in shadow, it was undoubtedly her. Her long, dark hair billowed in the harsh storm wind, as did her longcoat. In one hand, she still gripped onto that terrible knife, seeming to glow as light reflected off its shining surface. Her cold eyes pierced through the night, looking directly at Schiess. And still, with an eerie silence so unnatural that it could not possibly be of this world, she walked slowly but steadily towards their car with the terrifying poise and air of a serpent about to strike. And as Schiess beheld this horror, the car caught on fire. ---- "I really don't want to talk about Dust," Saran said calmly. "You're welcome to ask a question about myself, but I don't want to talk about other people." "I want to hear what you think about the Egyptian," Lutsky said stubbornly. "Why does it matter to you?" asked Saran. The doctor was growing concerned. He walked a narrow space between helping Lutsky open up and becoming the one being interviewed. The Hannibal Lector gambit was always a risk in psychology. If Saran refused to talk about himself, the subject would become uncomfortable and lose trust; on the other hand, if he lost control of the interview, Saran might find himself at the mercy of a sociopath. He kept his composure and continued to keep the conversational area about the talk. "Why does it matter to you what I think about Mr. Thutmose?" repeated Saran. "Because he's a madman!" yelled Lutsky. "And I need to know whether or not he's manipulating you!" This was a surprising answer for the psychologist. "Mr. Lutsky, I never met Mr. Thutmose in my life," said Saran. "Prove it," demanded the ex-commander. "Prove the son of a 4+ Figure is not in your head." Saran sighed, "Mr. Lutsky, you know very well I can't prove that to you. You just need to trust me." "Bah," spat Lutsky. "Trust." "Do you have a problem with trust, Carl?" asked Dr. Saran, intrigued. "No," he responded. "But when there are people like him running around, you can never be too careful." "Mr. Lutsky," Dr. Saran said slowly. "You do know that Dust is dead right?" "Yes, I killed the man," said Carl Lutsky. "But that does not make him less dangerous. He's still playing tricks; he's still trying to destroy everything I worked for." "Everything you worked for?" the psychologist asked as he raised an eyebrow. "I mean we," said the ex-commander, backtracking. "He's still in our heads, trying to destroy us, the Dino Attack Team." "But how can he do that when he's dead?" Lutsky suddenly laughed hysterically. "Because he's still alive!" ***** Minerva closed her eyes as Zach finished his tale yet again. "Really?" she said in an almost exasperated tone. "Yeah." "So now you can shoot lightning and fireballs composed of the Maelstrom, right?" she asked. "I'm only limited by my own energy. So I think I'll limit the use of the Maelstrom to a 'last resort' type situation." Minerva nodded. "It's probably for the best." She turned her head. "Oh, they're fighting again." Zelda and Nazareno clashed swords violently. Nazareno moved swiftly and quickly as he struck repeated blows against Zelda. Whenever she managed to get a chance to go on the offense, Zelda was just as quick, though not nearly as graceful as the space ninja. "I'm curious," Nazareno said casually as his parried a swing from Zelda. "Have you trained with a sword prior to this meeting?" "A lot," Zelda said, jumping up from a swing to her ankles. "A hobby I never really dropped after leaving Pirates Forbidden Island." Nazareno's eyes widened substantially. "Pirates Forbidden Island? Were you formerly a pirate?" Zach easily noticed that Nazareno's voice had become colder, more irritated. "No," Zelda said quickly. She could feel the hostility as well. "My parents were. My dad sent me to World City when the Skeleton Pirate War took my mother's life. He died in that war not long afterwards." "Hmm," Nazareno murmured, smashing his sword against Zelda's more aggressively than before. The crowd could hear the swords crack roughly. "Rather interesting you should now be training under a ninja." Zach could see where Nazareno was coming from. There was a well-known rivalry between Pirates and Ninjas, both on the LEGO Planet and elsewhere. Captain Brickbeard had started a rivalry between his pirate crew and the ninjas of this planet in the previous year and often had clashed. Elsewhere, he was aware of conflicts between Ninjas and Pirates in the Nimbus System. It was clear from Nazareno's change of tone and aggressiveness that he did not hold pirates very highly. "Yeah," Zelda said softly, quickly swinging up her sword to block a blow to her chest. "I don't think you should hold my upbringing against me though. I dropped any dream of being a pirate long ago." Nazareno blinked once. "Of course. My apologies." He bowed his head once before striking against Zelda again. "I had a rather... unfortunate meeting with several pirates once. Despite my training, I have not quite learned to let go just yet." He swung his sword upward, knocking Zelda's back. He then swung his foot out, clipping her knees. Zelda swore softly as she fell to the ground. "You really take any opening you get," she mused as she quickly climbed back to her feet and blocked Nazareno's sword again. "Even if you have to make one." "A certain evolution I was forced to undergo," Nazareno said calmly, but Zach could see the fire return to his eyes. "I once preferred a more civilized, perhaps honorable fighting style. However, I was forced to change style after nearly being killed." "By who?" Zelda asked curiously as she tapped the flat side of her blade on Nazareno's wrist. He grunted and quickly tossed his sword into his other hand and continued the fight. "A nasty individual named Matthew Vherestorm. An extremely feared assassin and terrorist throughout the LEGO Universe. He was less known here, but he still completed a job here once or twice. He was cold, arrogant, and you definitely didn't want to get on his wrong side. He worked with a wide collection of scoundrels, from small-time thugs in the back alleys of Sector 6 to dangerous work with high-class individuals such as Silencia Venomosa herself. His only redeeming feature was that he was exceptionally polite, no matter what he was doing." "So, I assume you know him well?" Zelda said, her eyes widened at this lengthy description. Nazareno nodded solemnly and kicked Zelda in the stomach, knocking her back. "I became tasked with taking him down. You could say it grew into an obsession between the both of us. He toyed with me, I toyed with him. He'd intentionally lead me places just so we could talk. Almost always ended with fighting with no victor. He, I would say, was my most fearsome and worthy opponent. "And so Vherestorm was pulling off a hijacking stunt against an Explorien operation on Mondo II. I confronted him and, to say the least, it was fierce. A battle that took us through the facility that was slowly and surely running out of oxygen thanks to Vherestorm. I was critically wounded by him after he used an underhanded tactic to defeat. He escaped and left me to die in a near-empty oxygenless building. If I had not been found by the Space Police a few moments later, I would have perished." The crowd was dead silent at this point. Zelda and Nazareno's fight continued despite this. "Realizing I could not allow such an incident to happen again, I adjusted my style to better deal with Vherestorm and cowardly thugs who dared to challenge me." "Did you ever catch this... Matthew Vherestorm?" Zelda asked. "Unfortunately, no. He disappeared abruptly in 2007, and not a word has been heard from him since. I've checked out other incidents, thinking he may be using a different alias. Nothing. Every lead I had did not resemble Vherestorm in the slightest and if they had, their fighting skills were nothing compared to Vherestorm's skill with a katana." Zach watched as Nazareno smashed his sword upon Zelda's, destroying his own. It was interesting. He had never even thought about Nazareno's backstory. It sounded fascinating, to say the least. Vherestorm… I've heard that name from somewhere. Probably in the news. He continued to muse on Nazareno's recently-revealed background as he watched the ninja in question go against a sword-wielding Zelda without a weapon of his own. ***** It hadn't changed at all, physically. The injection needle, the one Andrew was positive had been used on Claw so many months ago, had sat in his closet gathering dust and a bit of ash ever since he came back from LEGO Island and found it. He had been led to it by those dreams, those strange dreams which seemed to spring up irregularly and vaguely about past, present, future, and a whole bunch of things he couldn't begin to understand. Andrew held it in his hand, having stopped by his room to finally do something with it. It was weird, how things had gone since he had last touched it. First, there was the bring-up of the DNA Device, that thing that had been connected to Reptile's history that had seemed to be related to his own goals but had turned out not so. In retrospect, Andrew couldn't really understand how he could've envisioned somehow finding a way to work it, though he supposed if things had worked out differently, an opportunity would've opened somehow. Fate had a way of doing that with Dino Attack. Then, there was the factor of the Maelstrom. A curious thing, that was. Andrew had gotten the idea it could've been used to power the DNA Device or some other form of transfiguration, but after some time and fantasy dreaming, it had hit him during the fortress "infiltration" of the gravity of the situation. Trying to use the Maelstrom for one's own desires was pretty much how the Mutant Dino war started, and it was clear to him then that if he continued on his path, he'd likely end up in a position far, far, far from his desired one. And then came a strike of irony and an opening through the looking glass. One of his comrades, a fellow LEGO Islander, no less, gets ensnared by the Maelstrom and becomes a highly notable figure in the then-emerging new enemy force. The image of his plain, spectacle-wearing, red-headed face getting tainted by red eyes, purple hair, and an arm fused to a gun was like a gross mockery of what Andrew had wanted to do... and what he might've become. That alone was plenty of motivation to join Minerva in saving him. The moment where that other Stromling Zach had been with (What was his name? Alma? Omaha?) tried to take his mind had been a little enlightening, though also a little confusing. He supposed the important thing that had come out of that was that he had finally convinced himself (and his "consciousness" or whatever) of the importance of not getting distracted by desire and focusing on the task at hand. And that he might want to look a bit more into this after the war if he wanted to understand these freaky "desires" better. And that he might be involved with some weird interests in his future. And now came one last factor. Pterisa, the Minifig/Mutant Pterosaur Hybrid who showed up out of nowhere at the Maelstrom temple. First hiding her identity under the veil and helmet of a strong lightning-shooting samurai, her reveal had shown not only her form, but her concerns with being accepted among standard Minifigs, displayed dramatically by her nervous breakdown. Andrew had never really thought about how, if he had managed to acquire physical changes, he would go about trying to return to her daily life. Thinking about it more did bring about both many practical concerns about his living arrangements and social concerns about how others might take it. True, it was silly in this day and age to think scientists would drag you into a dark room to be dissected, but there were legitimate concerns to be had about how others might treat you, based on whatever fears or prejudices they might have. He supposed now that helping Pterisa now with her semi-formal entry into Dino Attack as an ally to the cause was a reflection of his desire to ensure the best acceptance she could get into the team. The more he could do to help her ease into the normal environment of Dino Attack, and the more he could ensure others wouldn't be treating her with hostility or extreme refusal, the more he could put those concerns about non-Minifig acceptance to rest. So what did all this have to do with the needle? Simple. The needle he was holding represented who he had been before Adventurers' Island. What his goals were and how he was planning things. It was quite similar, yet quite different from who he was now. And now it was time to take care of that. After one last look, Andrew looked at the trash bin in his room and tossed the needle in there. It clanged on the interior side and landed on some papers he had tossed a while back when he first arrived. Technically not the best disposal method, Andrew thought, but it serves well for symbolism purposes. And with that, Andrew left the room and headed for the recreation room. He had told Laxus and Pterisa he would meet them there after handling his business in here, and he was anxious to get down there. He had something in mind, and it involved the Dino Cop box set some agent had left in the rec room recently. ***** "I don't see it," said Crusher. "You sure about this?" "I don't know," replied Pierce. "All I know is what Medic mentioned. I was hoping maybe we could figure out the tools, but at this point, I can't make heads or tails of his brain." Pierce started to put aside his scalpel and stepped down from the table as Wade lowered Medic's body. "What's going on in here?" said a voice from behind them. Pierce looked up to see a strange man in a fedora. "My name's Bogart. Private Detective. I'm here to investigate the murders that have been taking place. You are-" "Alan Pierce," replied Pierce. "I take it your friend here was one of the victims," said Bogart. "More or less," said Pierce. "Any idea who did it?" "That's what we were trying to work out," replied Pierce. "The man here, Luzwheit, talked about some process by which he could project the last things a victim saw. I was hoping to figure it out, but we couldn't." "Do you have anything that could be useful?" asked Bogart. "We do have one thing," said Pierce. "There was recording of his last few minutes. I don't know how much use it will be to you, but I can play it anyway." "Alright," said Bogart. "Let's give it a listen." They played the tape once more for Bogart. As Dietrich Luzwheit spoke on the recording, Bogart motioned towards Medic's body and asked, "That's him?" Pierce nodded. After the tape came to sudden stop, Bogart said, "Interesting." He removed a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. "You mind if I smoke?" "Yes, actually," Pierce replied sternly. "This is a hospital." Bogart sighed and put the cigarettes back in his pocket. "He said, 'Nein, it couldn't be,'" Bogart said. "From that shocked reaction, it would be logical to assume that whoever did this was someone he knew well, someone who would be the last person we'd suspect of committing the murder." "That explains a lot," Crusher sarcastically commented. "There is one other piece of evidence," continued Bogart. He produced the bloodied knife from his pocket. "One of your teammates found this lodged into the back of one of the murder victims. Do any of you recognize it?" Pierce took the knife and looked it over before handing it back to Bogart. "Never seen it before." "This knife must have belonged to someone, someone who knew how to stab a man in the back. Now tell me something, if you knew anyone on this team could be the mole, who would be the last person you'd expect?" Pierce and the other doctors took a moment to think about it. "I don't know," replied Pierce. "I mean, isn't that the point of being the last person I'd expect?" ---- Schiess could not get the car door open. Sweating profusely, he unbuckled his seatbelt and repeatedly kicked the windshield with all his strength. At last, his boot broke through the glass. He wasted no time climbing out of the burning car, hardly even noticing as Montoya also made it out. The two mercenaries were forced to run off on foot, putting as much distance between themselves and their pursuer as they could. Unable to help himself, Montoya stole a glance backward. He could see Silencia Venomosa standing at the edge of the highway. She was completely motionless for a few moments, staring at the fiery wreckage of their car. Then, finally, she turned around and walked away. Montoya let out a long sigh of relief, realizing that she must have believed they perished in the fire. What had stopped her from getting any closer to investigate and confirm their deaths? He did not know, but he was not about to deny this good fortune. Schiess and Montoya walked a certain distance in the rain before finally finding a small motel that was still open, and one which conveniently still had a double room. It was only a moment as a soaked Montoya placed a key in the slot in the door before he opened it and stepped inside, followed by Schiess. "I can't believe it," Schiess muttered. "That MegaBloking 4+ Figure set us up." "I tried to tell you," replied Montoya. "I knew there was something wrong about her." Schiess took a moment to remove his jacket. "So everybody's dead?" Montoya asked. "I know Verbal, Deniro, and Keaton are dead," replied Schiess. "I don't know what happened to Scorsese or Orange." "You think there's a chance they're still alive?" wondered Montoya. "Not with Venomosa running around," said Schiess. "What about the blueprints?" "Znap it," Schiess muttered, facepalming in frustration. "I left them in the car." "What's the plan, then?" Montoya asked. Schiess sighed. "Tomorrow morning, I tell our employer what happened, we get our money if possible, and then we get out of town, lay low for a while. I don't know about you, but I don't like double-crossers. That's why, when she's not expecting it, when for her this is 'just Tuesday', I'll be there to put a bullet in her MegaBloking head. I think it would do us all a great favor." Montoya smiled as he sat down on one of the beds. "In the meantime, I'd suggest you and your girlfriend get out of town soon," Schiess said. "If Silencia finds her and she learns you're still alive, she will find you, she will hunt you, and she will kill you." Montoya knew that Schiess was right. Silencia Venomosa was out there. She couldn't be bargained with; she couldn't be reasoned with. She didn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And she absolutely would not stop, ever, until he was dead. Reluctantly, Montoya reached for the phone and dialed a number before putting it to his ear. "Hello," he said. "Hey Debbie, it's me. Listen, baby, I need you to pack a bag. Look, I can't explain right now, I'll tell you later, just pack a bag and wait for me, I'll come get you tomorrow morning." ---- Trigger quickly closed the phone book and turned the dial on the ridiculously outdated payphone the team had installed into the wall outside the cafeteria. "Hello," he said. "Antarctic affairs. Yes, I need you to pass a message to a friend of mine. His name's Montoya. Tell him it's from a friend of his, named Schiess. I want you to simply tell him, I found her, see if you can get him in contact as well." As Trigger finished his phone call, Shiller muttered, "Ya think that counts as funny business?" "I dunno," Wright replied quietly. "I think we can let that slide unless this Montoya guy actually shows up in person for a killing spree." They followed a short distance behind Trigger as he stalked away from the telephone, hanging back far enough to grant the mercenary his personal space, but, true to their word, never letting him out of their sight. He shot them glares occasionally, which Shiller answered with a sarcastic salute, or a smile and wave. Wright snickered and sharply jabbed Shiller in the ribs with her elbow. "Stop it, you'll just make him madder," she whispered. "I don't think that's possible," Shiller whispered back, punching her shoulder. ***** Loop crept through the halls of the Dino Attack Headquarters, expertly avoiding most attention. Sneaking about, however, would attract the attention of any security cameras, so he was forced to appear nonchalant. His third eye was beginning to itch. Not for the first time, he cursed the superfluous visual organ -- an accidental development, but one that Cane had decided to keep for the menacing appearance it provided, or so the explanation had gone -- and resisted the compulsion to pull off the strip of cloth he'd tied around his forehead to conceal it. He got a few odd looks from passing agents, but this owed mostly to his torn and ragged black uniform, which was fortunately in enough disarray that none of the passersby realized at a glance that it was not the uniform of the DINO team. Even more fortunate was the fact that he did not run across anyone who would have recognized him. He was also able to quickly ascertain the dire situation which now engulfed almost the entire headquarters. Loop grinned slightly -- this could be advantageous... He soon reached the barracks and located an empty room, moving quickly to one of the closets. Time for a wardrobe change. ***** Hotwire was familiar enough with Shiller's tenacity to be certain that the man would follow Trigger like they were chained together, and from the impression he'd gotten of Wright, he felt pretty certain he could say the same of her. He chuckled slightly. Those two are too perfect together. So... no worries on that front. The only other matter of concern at the moment was the Second Headquarters Squad, and the identity of the killer who was hunting them down. After finally retrieving his crutch from the mess hall, he asked around, concerning the location of the various remaining members of the squad, and then headed in the direction of the so-called "safe room". As he approached, he saw Amanda, Greybeard, Frozeen, and Vinyaya rushing toward the broken doorway... out of which was billowing thick, black smoke. Vinyaya coughed as smoke began to clear out. She had been searching for Specs when she heard panicked screams coming from this hallway. More agents arrived after hearing the screams. Even as the smoke drifted into the hallway, Vinyaya could clearly see a body laying outside of the room. Vinyaya slowly approached the facedown body and flipped it over. It was agent Scout with several stab wounds in his chest. She frowned as she raised her head. Hotwire hurried over and joined the group. "Any idea what happened here?" he asked the Space Police officer. Vinyaya gave him a grim look. "Nothing good, that's all I can tell." Amanda led the way into the room, and a shocking scene met the eyes of the agents present. ***** "Excuse me? I think I might know who the mole is." Bogart and Pierce both turned at the new voice. A Dino Attack agent stood behind them, having somehow entered without them or any of the other doctors and medics noticing. The agent wore a grey bandanna on his head, pulled all the way down to his eyebrows. "Who are you?" the detective demanded. "Standard Agent Spiral," the minifig said, with only a moment's hesitation. "Talk," said Bogart. "I need a lead, and I'll take any help I can get." ***** Though his face didn't betray it, Mort was engulfed by inner conflict. The man who'd been his best friend for years was back from the dead... as the very thing they both had once sworn to destroy. He stared at the drone through the two-way mirror of the interrogation room; his identity had indeed been determined. It was, of course, completely impossible for Swerve's face to betray any emotion at all, but he'd begun to feel that same conflict himself as his memories returned, as well as many of the same puzzling questions that had occurred to Mort immediately. How can I remember any of this? That's just not how Ogel Drones work. Swerve glanced over at the mirror on the wall and, for the first time, experienced a wave of revulsion at his own appearance. He tore off the black cap affixed to his head and tossed it away in disgust, covering his face with his skeletal hands. I hope the Dino Attack uniforms include masks or hoods or something. ***** Katerina entered the mess hall. She sent Wolfgang to fetch some food while she sat down at a table, with Rainer on her left, and lay her ShadowTech uniform's jacket across the seat to her right. She looked up and noticed a man in a dark suit, beige trenchcoat, and fedora walking quickly towards her table. "May I help you?" she said evenly as he sat down across from her. "Katerina Schattenberg?" the man said, flashing a badge at her. "The name's Bogart. I'd like a word with you. I'm told you may know quite a bit about the strange deaths that have been occurring this morning..." Katerina's attention drifted over to an agent who'd entered behind Bogart, and now stood in the doorway watching her. He looked familiar... impossibly familiar. It cannot be, she thought. He fell on Adventurers' Island. Still... that grey bandanna concealed his entire forehead, and you never knew what could be underneath.... The agent noticed her watching and gave her a grin and a wink. And then she noticed that Bogart was looking at her impatiently. "Excuse me?" she said. The detective sighed. "I said, what do you know about the strange deaths that have been happening? I've been informed you may have... extra knowledge on this matter, so choose your words carefully." ***** Vinyaya started walking into the room and, despite years of dealing with incidents such as this, she was still gasped. Three people laid most certainly laid dead in this room. Agents Heavy and Soldier were obvious to pick out with bullet and knife wounds on their bodies. The headless man wearing a suit was harder to identify, but she figured he was the agent called Spy who was also a member of the Second Headquarters Squad. Elite Agent Rex also lay on the floor, away from his wheelchair. Agent Claw pushed past Vinyaya and ran to Rex's side. A few seconds later, Claw turned to the rest of the group. "He's still alive. He's just unconscious." She sounded extremely relieved. "Then he may know who this infiltrator is," Vinyaya said with a hint of triumphant. "Get him to the hospital wing. Right now, he's our best chance finding this killer." Claw, with the help of Greybeard, got Rex back into his wheelchair and she started pushing him out of the room. As she watched him leave, a sudden thought occurred to Vinyaya that Rex could have possibly been the one who killed the members of the Second Headquarters Squad. It was unlikely, but why would the mole kill everyone else and leave Rex alive? "I've got a bad feeling about this," Vinyaya muttered. She turned back to the group of agents. "Someone go with Claw and Rex and keep guard. This mole may try to tie up some loose end." At this, Alpha Team agent Frozeen nodded to Vinyaya before turning and leaving the room as well. Vinyaya walked through the bodies and approached the headless corpse of Jim Covalent. Curious. While the rest of the victims' deaths were as clean as you could get being stabbed or shot, Spy's head was blown up. She wasn't sure how this factored into anything, but she kept the thought in the back of her head. "How many be left o' th' Second Headquarters Squad?" Greybeard asked. "Engineer was the first one killed. I believe Medic was killed shortly afterwards while trying to perform an autopsy," Vinyaya said. "So Pyro and Demoman are the only ones left," Hotwire finished. "Definitely a sad sight to see," Vinyaya mused. "The nine of them took back Gold City with no casualties on their side at all. Such a cruel fate to come back to celebrate their astounding victory only to be picked off one by one by an infiltrator." Hotwire nodded in agreement. Vinyaya turned to two other agents in the background. "Go to the hospital wing and get some stretchers. We need to take these bodies to there for further analysis." Wordlessly, the two agents nodded and departed the room as well. ***** Commander Pharisee was built like an ox. He stood 6'9" and muscle covered every inch of his body. He was the image of peak physical shape and saw himself as a prophet of the law. Pharisee prided himself in his lack of empathy. Empathy leads to weakness, and weakness was unacceptable when fighting his sacred battle against injustice in the organization he had pledge to serve and defend. As the head of D.I.N.O. internal affairs, it was his job to stop and punish troublemakers and traitors within the unit. With the thousands of agents currently working in the Dino Attack, it was no surprise that many were crooked and came from questionable amoral backgrounds. Pharisee believed that dangerous men on the inside were the biggest danger to the success of the mission and the safety of the planet. It was under his own piety that he dedicated his mission. The feelings and emotions that drove the men he hunted mattered nothing to Pharisee. He had developed immunity to sob stories of his foes. Their reasons mattered nothing in the face of his code. One of the problems with his line of work was mystery surrounding the agents he investigated. Instead of performing the work himself, Digger had handed off the task of investigating Amanda Claw and Trigger to Pharisee. Standard agents Claw and Remous each had files at the headquarters. Together, they provided a relatively extensive history of Amanda Remous, the woman now known as Claw, dating back to her childhood in LEGO Town. It told of a pair of siblings, Amanda and Roger, who were kidnapped by a mob boss by the name of Don Bricassius. Bricassius had tortured the children until they told him how to access the family fortune. The criminal killed their parents and the butler before stealing everything they had. As a result, Amanda became a selective mute. It was here that all history of Amanda disappeared. While Remous's file continued to thoroughly document the life of Roger, Claw's own file was scant. The woman seemed to have the vanished from the world for the next decade and she did not reappear until the Dino attack in 2010. This concerned Pharisee. People don't just disappear, and usually evidence can be found unless someone is actively hiding it. It was unclear whether it was agent Claw or another shady individual keeping the secrets, or even if the late agent Remous had withheld information on his younger sister to protect her, but Pharisee intended to find out. Digger had instructed him to research the terrorist named Silencia Venomosa and a quick LEGOOGLE search revealed that the woman had been behind a number of acts of violence, including a hospital fire and a gruesome incident at Mindstorms. Checking the time frame of Venomosa's activity, Pharisee was surprised to find they correlated with Amanda's absence. This was hardly a coincidence; during Venomosa's career, Don Bricassius had also been murdered in his home. Pharisee suspected the woman might have taken her newfound infamy to get close to the kingpin and take revenge. Of course, this was all circumstance. Pharisee would need more evidence if he hoped to make an arrest. He placed Claw's file aside and opened the next report on his desk. Standard agent Snake was a criminal who had already assaulted another member of the team. The man had a short fuse and appeared to only be involved with the Dino Attack for his own personal reasons. Pharisee did not approve of a convict on the team, particularly an unrepentant one. His tolerance of men like Snake was nonexistent, and their disregard for society and the code of conduct was unwelcome. The elite agent did not care about Snake's reasons for robbing that bank. He would not care if it were to buy medicine for his dying mother. There needed to be retribution paid, and under no circumstances would he consider the Dino Attack as a "get out a jail" free-for-all. This was not an attempt to atone for his crimes and help the world. It was an act of cowardice to escape the punishment he deserved. He would not allow men like Snake to attack Dino Attack agents and get away with it. In addition, there was the man known only as Trigger. His real name was unknown, but based on what research Pharisee could recover, he had also used the alias Schiess. Trigger had had dealings with Venomosa in the past and left a trail of bodies in his wake. He had already attacked agent Claw once and reports had it that he threatened to kill her as well. In addition, there was a great amount of mystery around Trigger's past. The commander hated secrets, especially those being kept by the lowest levels of society like him. Trigger was undoubtedly dangerous and a rogue. Without respect for the unit and the law as a whole, there could be no peace. Trigger was a disgrace, and Pharisee vowed to make an example of him and Snake. After the two convicts were locked in the cell, there could be order. He would then move on to Sarah Bishop. True, she may have had a bone to pick with Rotor, but her motivation was irrelevant. Mrs. Bishop was only a rookie member of the Dino Attack, but that did not take her out of elite agent Pharisee's personal jurisdiction. She would need to repent for her acts of dissidence. Pharisee's methods were to pay violence unto violence. If they chose to not go willingly, he would pay unto them a reckoning beyond their wildest comprehension. Pharisee would turn the chaos that thrived within the souls of these men into order. And there would be peace. As head of internal affairs, he would make these agents work together and respect the book. Only then could they succeed. Commander Pharisee was a righteous man, and this was his sacred mission. His will be done. ---- With five of the mercenaries dispatched by her knife and the remaining two undoubtedly having perished in that flaming wreckage on the side of the road, Silencia Venomosa immediately returned to Mindstorms, Inc. Her first goal was to slip into the security office, slit the throats of whoever was unlucky enough to be there at the time, and disable the security cameras. This was accomplished quickly and silently. Once that was out of the way, she was free to finish the job. Along the way, she sneaked up on security guards and cut their throats while making her way to the elevators. As she approached the metal doors, they slid open, and she ducked to the side to avoid being seen as a grizzled elderly man in a long coat, a young redhead in a nice suit, a scientist with messy hair and spectacles, and a tall, stern man with a nasty burn scar stepped out of the elevator. As soon as they passed, she darted inside the elevator. Just before the elevator doors shut, a voice called: "Hey, you! Stop!" A line of security guards rushed towards the elevator, brandishing their guns. Silencia Venomosa frowned. Even if she preferred to use her knife due to its effective and deadly silence, she carried around a gun of her own, which, while not nearly as silent as she would like, was custom designed to greatly reduce the sound of the gunshot. She turned around, drew her gun, and fired at the security guards. She took down three of them before the doors shut. But even before the elevator began to rise, she heard someone shout: "Cut the power!" The lights in the elevator shut off, encasing Venomosa in darkness. As the security guards rushed towards the elevator doors and tried to open them, she knew that she had to act quickly. Leaving behind a little "surprise" for the guards once they entered the elevator, she opened the emergency exit in the elevator's ceiling and hoisted herself out into the elevator shaft. Then, gripping onto the elevator's cable as a rope, she started climbing up the elevator shaft. It was a tedious process, but Venomosa was patient and determined. Silencia Venomosa was satisfied to hear, far below her, as the security guards finally barged into the elevator, were shocked to discover that it was empty... and fell to the floor as they inhaled the deadly toxins that she left for them. ***** The sun was just starting to come up when Schiess made a phone call of his own. "Hello," he said. "Sindstorme?" "Yes," replied the familiar voice. "This is Schiess." "Ah, Schiess. How'd the heist go? Did you get the blueprints?" "We did," replied Schiess. "But we lost them." "Lost them?" Sindstorme asked. "How'd you do that?" "They burned up when our car crashed." "Was that you?" remarked Sindstorme. "I've just been hearing about it on the news." Schiess picked up a remote and turned on the television in his room. Sure enough, there was a news broadcast. A young, attractive newswoman was going on about the car falling into a ditch with no bodies. "Witnesses to the incident claimed to have seen a woman climbing around the car, but there has been no evidence of such activity, though the police do report that the tires were damaged prior to the accident. In the process they also came close to derailing a large truck which was carrying a dinosaur from Adventurers' Island for research. They did not want to comment on the nature of the project-" At that point, Schiess turned his attention back to the phone. "We were set up," he explained. "Set up?" Sindstorme asked. "Yeah," replied Schiess. "Silencia. Apparently, she was working for Dacta. She killed Verbal, Keaton and Deniro, and probably Scorsese and Orange. Montoya and I were the only ones who got out safely." Suddenly the line went dead. All that he could hear was a simple dial tone. Quickly realizing that something was wrong, he hung up and shook Montoya awake. "What is it?" Montoya asked sleepily as he woke. "We got to get out of here," replied Schiess. "We'll swing by your place, pick up your MegaBloking girlfriend, and then we're getting out of town, you understand?" ---- Helm walked through the corridors in a daze, eventually reaching the rec room. Larson was sprawled in a chair, draining a coffee mug and flipping through the news broadcasts from Antarctica on the television. He glanced over as Helm walked in. "Morning. You found Jason yet?" Helm fought to keep his voice steady. "He's -- I'd... rather not talk about it now." He sat down heavily on another chair, off in the corner, staring at the floor. "Oh... I'm sorry..." Larson responded awkwardly. The pilot glanced down at his empty coffee cup, then got up and walked out of the room, nodding as Andrew entered. Stepping into the recreation room, Andrew immediately spotted Pterisa and Laxus (they weren't hard to miss, admittedly) near the pool table. Laxus was apparently teaching the Hybrid a thing or two about the game, and he was helping her to hold the stick right to hit the white ball. After a few seconds, he moved his arms away and let her take a shot. She awkwardly thrust the stick through her fingers and hit the ball strong enough to make it nearly bounce off the table as it hit the triangle of various other balls. The black 8-ball ended up immediately flying into the hole opposite of where Pterisa was standing, and she smiled with a sense of accomplishment. "Ouch, tough luck," said an observing agent. "Wasn't that what I was supposed to be doing, though?" she asked. "Hit the one ball to send the others into the holes?" "Everyone except the 8-ball. I know with seeing it everywhere, you might think that's a good thing, like it would get you a nice bonus or something, but actually it's what costs you points and such." "Oh." She looked a little annoyed with herself now. "Hey, don't worry about it," Laxus reassured her. "You're just a beginner. You'll get all the rules eventually, just like with any other sport or game." "Yeah, and besides," Andrew said as he walked up, "all that matters really is enjoying yourself. And you were enjoying yourself a moment ago, right?" "Well, yes, I was." "Then that's all that matters. Now actually, I was wondering if you two were interested in doing something else. Ever hear of movie riffing?" Pterisa, unsurprisingly, shook her head, and Laxus thought for a moment before shaking as well. "Well," Andrew continued, "it's a little something you can do with a bad movie, some friends, and a good sense of humor. C'mon." Andrew gestured towards the TV, where an agent was tinkering a bit with the TV settings. The odd trio walked over to the TV, and Andrew said to the agent: "Hey Joike, that thing looking alright?" The agent turned towards them, showing his high-top haircut and somewhat sleepy look in his face. "Sure, just doing what I can to improve the picture and sound. Apparently, all the constant viewing is starting to wear the thing out." "Well, I'm thinking of maybe killing some time by riffing the Dino Cop films. You still have the box set down here?" Joike smiled and crouched down by the storage cabinets. He opened one and produced a box with a T-Rex in a cop hat on the side. "Alright!" said Andrew. "Now the fun can really start." Joike handed him the box, which had a surprising bit of weight to it. "You can put a movie in. I just want to go get some popcorn and pizza from the mess hall." "Oh, maybe get some soda packs too!" added Laxus. "All that food could make us thirsty sooner or later." "Good point. I'll be right back." Joike then headed out the room. Andrew pulled the DVDs out the box and quickly located the first film in the series. "Joike's a pretty fun average Joe," Andrew said as he took the DVD out and turned on the DVD player. "Really likes his movies. He was working at some institute as just another face in a jumpsuit, doing a good job cleaning up the place, but his bosses didn't like him so they had him shot into space onto a satellite they ran to continue janitor duties there. Allegedly, he occupied himself up there for a few years with watching bad movies and riffing on them with the help of some robot friends. He has some pretty interesting stories to tell." "I can believe that," said Laxus. "You need any help getting the TV to DVD mode?" "Yeah, I might," Andrew said as he closed the DVD case, the movie now inside. "Check the remote box. Use the black one to change the video source to 'DVD Mode,' the silver one to 'SA-CD/DC'; and the RCX-branded one to 'Objective 4'." "That sounds... rather complicated just to watch a movie," Pterisa observed with a confused look. "That's how DVD watching evolved over the years," Andrew said with a shrug as Laxus worked the remotes. "I know what you mean. Back during the VHS years, all you had to do was switch to channel 4 and hit the On button on the machine. Now it's like operating a security system." "Nice comparison," said Laxus, "I know of a few places on the Aero Tube system back on Mars that operate like that." With one final push of a button, the TV finally displayed the main menu for Dino Cop, the theme music playing through the speakers. "Alright everyone, we've got everything for movie sign!" said Joike, who now arrived carrying a bowl of popcorn and two boxes of Brickolinis' in one hand, and a twelve-pack box of cola in the other. "Ooh, c'est magnifique!" said Laxus as Joike piled everything onto a table in front of the TV. "So..." Pterisa said as Andrew and Laxus sat in the couch, and Joike in a nearby chair, "what exactly do you do when you 'riff' a film?" "Oh, it's simple," said Joike, cracking open a can of cola. "Just watch the movie, and when you see something that you can come up with a witty remark, comedic misunderstanding, pun, joke, or pop-culture reference, just say it out loud. Beats having to just sit there and take the badness of the film in. Push the button, Laxus?" "Sure," said Laxus hitting the play button. Finally taking a set besides Andrew on the couch, Pterisa reached for a slice of pizza as the movie began. LEGO STUDIOS PRESENTS, the film began with a deep rumbling of drums and horns. "A magnum opus of drama and epic storytell-," Joike said as the text quickly changed to display the title DINO COP. "Oh never mind, wrong movie." "It sounds like something Barney would call himself if he did an episode on the police," Laxus remarked. Andrew did his best to contain his snickers so as to not disturb the joke-making process, but did end up grinning quite a wide grin. Glancing over to Pterisa, he could see she was grinning slightly as well, though it didn't quite look like she got the Barney joke. This looked like it would be a fun hour and a half. The group crowding around the television hadn't managed to notice Helm, and that was just fine with him. After a few minutes of watching them applying situational wit to Dino Cop, he finally got up and walked out of the rec room. ***** Greybeard, Hotwire, and Vinyaya had spent several minutes trying to make sense of the grisly scene in the safe room before the other two agents returned with stretchers. As they prepared to begin loading the corpses, however, the sound of someone clearing their throat came from the shattered doorway, and agent Mort limped in. "You might benefit from leaving those where they are for the time being. I may be able to glean some details concerning what happened here." The two agents, both rookies by the look of it, nodded and pulled the stretchers back. Mort glanced around the room briefly, and then knelt and began examining each of the bodies more closely. After about a minute of working silently, save for some very quiet muttering, he spoke up again. "Agent Hotwire. I see that whatever deity is in charge of legs has been less kind to you than to me. You have my condolences. Did you find your friend?" Hotwire was so taken aback by the first remark -- unable to figure out if it was sympathy or condescension -- that the question barely registered in his mind. He struggled for a response. "I -- yes, we did. We -- thanks for your help back then, by the way -- we found her. But... things have changed..." Mort waved dismissively in response to Hotwire's gratitude, and when the latter stopped speaking, he responded with: "Interesting. A striking parallel to my own recent experiences." He then fell silent. The five Dino Attack agents waited expectantly, but he did not speak again. Greybeard leaned towards Hotwire and muttered, "I take it ye be acquainted wi' this odd fellow?" Hotwire nodded. "He helped B and me pick up Kat's trail after Agent Cane showed up again and captured her." It seemed so long ago; he could hardly believe it had only been about two months. Eventually Mort stood. "Of those who were in this room, Spy died first, then Scout, then Soldier, and lastly Heavy. Two things are out of place. First, Soldier was knocked about quite a bit before he was killed, which would make more sense had he been the final casualty. Second, assuming that your mole is responsible for all this, I don't think Spy was killed by the same individual who killed the others. Weapons powerful enough to explode a man's skull are usually not the preferred fare of infiltrators and assassins. Perhaps Spy was killed by whoever beat Soldier to a pulp; clearly, they relish a bit of violence." "Perhaps they were fighting amongst themselves," Vinyaya suggested. Hotwire nodded in agreement. "That has been becoming dangerously commonplace over the past weeks, and today especially." Mort frowned. Such lack of discipline wouldn't be tolerated for even a moment in Alpha Team. Aloud, he said, "Was anyone else present at the time of these killings?" "Aye, thar be one," Greybeard responded. "Elite Agent Rex. He be alive yet, an' they've taken him t' th' infirmary." "Good. Hopefully, if he was conscious at the time, he will be able to tell us how all this happened." "Unless, of course, he is the one responsible." Vinyaya said. "Doubtful," said Mort. "Scout was stabbed to death, and Heavy had his throat cut. I understand Scout was known for his speed and agility, so the most likely explanation for his death is that he was taken by surprise. Conversely, it would have taken someone of incredible speed and agility to get close enough to Heavy to slit his throat, given that it appears he was preparing to fire his machine gun when he died. It does not strike me as likely that a cripple would be able to sneak up on someone, nor perform a veritable feat of quickness and athleticism." "That still doesn't explain why Rex was left alive," Vinyaya countered. "The killer may have heard you coming, or perhaps they are taunting us," Mort theorized. "Still, I agree that it is somewhat suspicious." He turned to the two Rookie Agents standing by the door with the stretchers. "Go ahead and take them to the mortuary. The autopsies might provide us with more clues." And inwardly, he added, And you can bet your bricks I'll be right there. A distraction like this is exactly what I need. ***** Nazareno scowled slightly. He allowed himself to become distracted and now he was without a weapon. Zelda pointed her sword at him. If he could see under her bandana, he knew she would be smirking. "Confident you can defeat me?" Nazareno asked as they circled each other. Zelda didn't say anything, only raising an eyebrow. He nodded curtly before running at her. Zelda flinched before charging at him, swinging her sword. Nazareno grinned coldly. As he ran, he pushed up with his feet and flew into the air. He landed carefully on Zelda's head with one foot. As soon as his foot touched her hair, he jumped again, landing behind her. Zelda turned sharply on her heel and stared at Nazareno in surprise. Nazareno ran at her again. Changing her strategy, Zelda stayed where she was, sword raised. Nazareno smirked as he jumped again. He kicked the sword out of Zelda's hand, sending it flying behind her. He tried doing a backflip when someone tugged on his leg, causing him to fall on to the floor. Nazareno's eyes widened in surprise as Zelda stood over him. He aimed a sharp kick at her stomach. She recoiled, but caught the foot in her stomach with her hands. She twisted his foot sharply, causing a popping noise to emit from his ankle. Nazareno blinked back tears of pain and kicked Zelda with his other foot. This time, she stumbled back. Nazareno climbed to his feet sourly. He looked at Zelda, who had picked up her sword again. She knew she had weakened him, so she ran at him. As she swung the sword down, Nazareno swung his hand into the flat side of the blade as hard as he could. The wooden sword shattered easily. Zelda ran into him abruptly, unprepared for her blade to break. She backed away from him. "Okay, you wouldn't be able to do that if we were using actual swords." Nazareno prepared to respond when Zelda suddenly punched him in the stomach. Unprepared and the wind knocked out of him, Nazareno doubled over, allowing Zelda to shove his head into the ground. He attempted to rise when Zelda placed her foot neatly on his head. "I win," she said triumphantly. Zach, hugging a laptop underneath his arms, returned to Minerva panting. Minerva smiled at him as he sat down. "You just missed Zelda beating Nazareno." "What?" He looked into the ring. Zelda stood over Nazareno, her foot on his head. "Really?" "You wanted the laptop," Minerva pointed out. He scowled at her. "I want to see what I've missed," he shot back as he flipped open the laptop and opened the Dino Attack Team database. "I would've waited if Zelda was finally going to beat him." "Sucks to be you!" Minerva said, grinning. She punched his arm affectionately, causing him to flinch. He didn't bother punching back. "How are you so sure it's already updated?" "Trust me," Zach said. "There has to be at least one person on this team who makes sure this thing is updated to the minute." He clicked the search bar to activate it and began typing. ***** "What's going on in here?" said a voice from behind as Vinyaya, Hotwire, Greybeard, Mort, and the others turned to see a man in a suit with a fedora. "Who are you?" Vinyaya asked. "My name's Bogart," replied the man. "I'm a Private Detective. I understand this is the scene of the crime." "You would be correct," Vinyaya said. She gestured to Mort. "He's already given us a good idea of what he thinks happened. If you wish, feel free to give your own examination and see if you can figure out anything new." Bogart took a moment to look around at the bodies lying on the floor. "Most people would normally have gotten rid of these by now," he said, as crouched next to the body of one large, bald man who had a machine gun next to him. "His throat's been cut. Were all of these people killed by a knife?" "All except for that guy," replied Vinyaya, motioning towards one corpse, whose head had exploded, staining his suit in blood. Bogart walked over towards the body and looked at it. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife. "One of your fellow agents found this in the body of one of the victims. Angel Eyes, I think he called himself. I don't suppose anyone recognizes it. And what's this?" Bogart knelt and picked something off the floor from where Rex had been found. "Looks like a cigarette butt to me," muttered Hotwire. "When are these Dino Attack agents ever going to learn that there is a strict no-smoking policy in Dino Attack Headquarters? It's unhealthy, it's certainly not 'cool', it kills you..." "And the last thing we need right now is HQ burning down because someone dropped a lit cigarette," added Vinyaya. "You say that this was where Rex was found," mused Bogart. "Was Rex a smoker?" Greybeard shook his head. "Nay. I be workin' wi' th' young rascal fer a few months now, an' me deadlights ne'er seen th' likes o' him so much as take out a lighter." "I believe agent Spy may have been a smoker, though," pointed out Mort. "He used to be in the Alpha Team, and although I never worked closely with him, I know that he and Frozeen worked together during a rescue mission and infiltration of Ogel's Mountain Fortress at one point in 2008. Maybe he can confirm it for you." "Does anyone know where I can find this Frozeen?" Bogart queried as he stood. "He went to the hospital wing with Rex and Amanda," reported Vinyaya. "I can lead ye thar," volunteered Greybeard. When the private detective nodded, the old pirate made for the exit and beckoned for Bogart to follow. Outside, Greybeard was greeted by Mary Rose, who was waiting with King Joseph Race. "Oh, Grandpa!" she ran towards the old pirate. "Is she yours?" inquired Bogart, raising his eyebrows. Although Greybeard replied with "Aye," he shook his head ever-so-slightly with a grim expression to let Bogart know that he was not telling the truth in front of her. "What's going on in there, Grandpa?" Mary timidly asked. Greybeard glanced back to the formerly-safe room, where there now were two dead bodies and a headless corpse. With a shudder, he murmured, "Nothin' ye e'er want t' see. Trust me." ***** "Did you just say that Gahiji Thutmose is still alive?" asked Dr. Saran. "Because you said earlier that you killed him." Carl Lutsky started to rock back and forth. At the beginning of the session, Saran had hopes that Mr. Lutsky's mental disorder could be nothing more than a slight obsession. However, if he could simultaneously accept two contradictory ideas in his head, Saran was more apt to compare it to Orwellian doublethink. "How is Dust still alive?" asked Dr. Saran. "I see him," said Lutsky. "He talks to me. He says I can't get away." "Can you get away?" inquired Saran. "No," he responded. "I can't stop thinking about him. That's how he gets in my head." "I just need to clarify this, Mr. Lutsky," Doctor Saran began as he withdrew his tape recorder. "When you see Mr. Thutmose, is he real?" "Dust says he's a… a… figment of my imagination," stammered the ex-commander. Lutsky swayed back and forth and he ran his hands through his hair. Saran was surprised by the drastic transition between the calm man he spoke to earlier and the fidgety shadow of a man he spoke to now. "But my imagination is real," continued Lutsky. "And that makes him real. Dust says he fake, but maybe he's lying. If he's lying, then he's real. If he's real, why does no one else see him? That makes him fake. That means I'm imagining things. But my imagination is real. Dust is real, but he says he's imaginary…" Dr. Saran was thankful he had his tape recorder running, otherwise he would never be able to follow Lutsky's logic. "I want to know what Dust says to you, Carl," said Saran. "Commander," corrected the ex-commander. "And what he says does not matter." 'Why not?" asked the psychologist. "Because it's all fake," said Lutsky. "What he says is a lie, it's imaginary, so none of it means anything!" "Let's just pretend it's not. I want you to describe everything about him," said Saran. The psychologist sensed that what this revealed would be important. Since the apparition of Dust was a creation of Lutsky's own mind, it would provide valuable insight into the man's psyche. "He is dressed in a black suit," said Lutsky. The man did not make eye contact and instead focused on Saran's peg-leg. "He's dressed all in black. He wears black gloves, black shirt, black tie, and black suit. Everything is black." "Go on," said Saran. "When I saw him, he was holding an apple," continued Lutsky. "And he had a deck of cards. They were all black." "Did he do anything with these items?" asked Saran. "Did he offer you the apple? Did he eat it?" "Yes," said Lutsky. "But I refused. I did not trust it. I would never eat anything that he offered me." "Did he eat it?" "Yes." "What things did he tell you?" asked the doctor. "Dust said he was angry I killed him, and that now he was stronger," said Lutsky. "He said that now he would always be able to control me, and that I would never be able to get him out of my head. He smiled the whole time, as if it was just another conversation." "Have you seen him since that first meeting?" "Sometimes I see him in the hall," said Lutsky. "Just standing there and staring at me. Sometimes I see him in the window looking at me." Doctor Saran took a breath. This was a spectacular amount of information that he would need to sleep on. The two had talked for almost two hours, but it was evident that Lutsky was becoming uncomfortable. He did not want to stress the man; it would compromise the information given him and possible lead him down the wrong path. Lutsky certainly had levels of paranoia and cognitive dissonance. The psychologist planned to continue the interview tomorrow once both had a clear mind. The doctor rose from his seat and offered his hand through the bars. "I was very nice talking with you with you, Commander. I believe we should continue our conversation tomorrow evening. Is there anything you need?" Lutsky considered for a moment before answering. "Cover the window." ***** Zach scrolled through pages on the database rapidly. From his skimming, he discovered how success was achieved at Gold City and Fort Legoredo by the Second Headquarters Squad and the victory at Castle Cove. He smirked as he read of the Brickster's exploits on Dinosaur Island. Perhaps he will learn that he can blow up stuff and not get in trouble with the law. He let that idea run in his head a few times. Yeah, fat chance. He spent most of his time reading about the outcome of the Adventurers' Island mission, primarily because he was a Stromling for half of the campaign. The only thing he wasn't really aware of was of some trial that an Elite Agent named Rotor tried to hold. It was rather ridiculous matter, involving a T-1 Typhoon crew that didn't want to destroy XERRD's fortress because there will still agents inside. The trial was eventually seized with the intervention of a gunslinger named Clint Wayne. Clint Wayne. Wayne. Wayne. Wayne. Ah. The gunslinger who fought me with Vinyaya and Nazareno. The one who shot me. Ouch, that stung. He wondered if the man was still alive and how he would react to seeing him. Nazareno accepted me. Vinyaya was a little cold at first, but I think she's catching on. I don't know about this Wayne character though. Zach shrugged. He didn't particularly care a whole lot. He grimaced and quickly scrolled past the ambush in the camp. Don't need a recap. A good dozen agents, including Raider and some Elite Agent named Fletcher, died and an even larger number were injured. Despite his scrolling, one sentence managed to catch his eye. He learned that the ambush, coupled with multiple other injuries, had left Elite Agent Zenna in a barely alive-comatose state that forced her off the island and to Antarctica. Zach swallowed hard. Yep. Didn't need to read that. He continued past the ambush and move to Outpost 4, as he already had a good understanding of what happened there thanks to Ghost and Zelda. Fast forwarding to the battle at the Temple of Hotep III. It acknowledged that Zach became a Minifig again, but other than that, the area was still rather bare concerning what happened to the group of agents that entered the temple to take out the Maelstrom Temple. However, there was a report (perhaps a rumor, Zach wasn't sure) that Gahiji Thutmose had been killed in the temple by Carl Lutsky. Zach reflected on Dust for a brief moment. Provided this report was true, Dust had finally reached his oh-so-sacred temple and had been killed barely moment later by Lutsky. He knew Lutsky hadn't like Dust, but apparently it had extended to murderous hatred. Zach himself wasn't extremely fond of Dust due to his manipulative nature in trying to use the team to reach his temple. But he couldn't ignore the fact that they had become some level of fire-forged friends as he save Dust's life from the TumTum natives, ran through the jungle as they were pursued by said natives, and spent hours dangling in a net over a cliff. Rest in peace, Dust, Zach thought. Moving on. Now to the actual battle in the Temple of Creation. He was surprised to learn that XERRD's second-in-command, Dr. Rex's number two, was a mole for the Dino Attack Team the entire time. The one moment he had met "Wallace Bishop" had turned out to be an encounter with Frank Einstein. Doesn't changed the fact he sent a bunch of guards to capture or kill me while infiltrating the fortress, but I suppose he had an image to upkeep then. The death of Zed Provhezor, the hoverchair scientist he saw in the fortress, describes him being pulled into the Maelstrom vortex. Eugh. Not a happy ending at all. "What about that Breen person?" Minerva asked. She glanced over his shoulder and noticed him reading the death of Provhezor. Zach knew that Minerva hoped Breen was dead, especially after playing a role in converting Oswald Fabello. "Shot by Frank Einstein for trying to use Kate Bishop as a Minifig shield to escape." "Coward," Minerva said, turning back to Nazareno and Zelda's fight. Indeed, Zach silently agreed. After that, things managed to fall into place. Baron Typhonus appeared after Greybeard, Frozeen, and Sam Sinister entered the chamber with the Maelstrom Crystal. Ah. Greybeard and Frozeen. I can only hope they forgot about me. As a Stromling, he might had been willing to face them alone. As a Minifig, not so much. Typhonus attempted to convince Sinister to join him, which failed. Cue the battle for the crystal and Zach and Minerva's arrival into the battle. While he battled Provencal and Glados, apparently the Darkitect had spawned the Dino Attack agents' worst fears in the form of illusions. He knew that he faced the thought of being a Stromling in reality instead of an illusion, but he was curious as to what others faced, as he wasn't paying attention to them at all. "Hey Minerva," Zach said. "You said every faced their fear or something in the Maelstrom Temple, right?" "Yeah?" "What did you face?" Then, he added. "If you're comfortable sharing, of course." Minerva's entire mood seemed to change. Her relaxed, happy persona faded into cold sadness. "I suppose I can tell you. There's going to be a long story behind it, though." "After giving you two long stories, I'm interested in hearing from you." Minerva smiled sadly and nodded. She opened her mouth and began to speak. ***** Trigger walked away from the phonebooths and bumped into the imposing form of Solomon Koplowitz. "Are you here to beat me to pulp?" the mercenary asked sarcastically. "Because that won't go well for you." Solomon smiled and casually pulled aside his robe to reveal the Luger pistol tucked in his belt. "I have no intention of starting a confrontation now, my friend. However, I can't say the same for the two agents following you." The scientist motioned to Wright and Shiller standing behind him. They smiled and waved. "I'm sure you've come to the conclusion you're not well-liked right now. I don't like you very much myself. Now, I advise you to end whatever malicious activity you're up to and come clean." "Well, aren't you the boy scout," said Trigger. "I bet you were a hall monitor too." "Who were you just calling, Trigger?" asked Solomon, ignoring the comment. "Considering your reputation, I doubt it was your mother." Trigger chucked coldly and shook a finger at the older man. "I don't see why I should have to tell you. You're XERRD, a traitor to your own kind. I'm in no way compelled to answer your questions. And in case you have not noticed…" He placed a hand on his hip. "I have a gun too. And it's bigger." "Do you boys want me to get a ruler?" called Shiller. "I heard you mention the name Venomosa at the crime scene," said Solomon. "I know a few things about the woman myself. We crossed paths once at Ogel's Island. I would know she's agent Claw." Trigger chucked. The mercenary was surprised to find that Solomon actually agreed with him. "So you know that Venomosa did this," said Trigger. "That would explain why Rex was the only one was not killed." "No, I believe she did not kill them," responded Solomon. "But that's really not my point. For someone who claims to only be interested in money, you seem to have a lot riding on agent Claw. Why even get involved? If you kill a respected agent, what incentive would they have for paying you?" Trigger's face was hard to read, but the philosopher had the impression that the mercenary never thought of this. "So when are you going to drag me to the cooler?" asked Trigger. Solomon shrugged. "I've had a chance to reconsider and I came to another conclusion. I determined that a few days locked up would mean nothing to you. For a worse punishment waits: if you continue to be an agent of chaos, you will be exiled from this unit. You won't be paid, and you will die poor and alone in those cold streets." "I can get money elsewhere," said Trigger. "There are plenty of people who would kill for my services." "You can keep telling yourself that," responded Solomon. "But this world is changing. People don't care about money anymore. If it's not the mutants, it's the Maelstrom. Men like you are disappearing, so you will have to evolve. I recommend you start acting like a member of this team before you become lost in the wind." Trigger just rolled his eyes. "I should not have to deal with this." The mercenary started to walk away but Solomon grabbed him by the shoulder. Trigger swatted the hand away and spun around at the scientist with fiery eyes. "Don't go thinking we're even," said Solomon coldly. "I still don't like you. Just know that if I'm willing to forget you, someone more pious than me will probably not. You're on thin ice, Trigger. I implore you to watch where you step." ---- Silencia Venomosa approached the door to Uærlig Sindstorme's office. She could hear Sindstorme inside, who sounded quite exasperated. "... just been hearing about it on the news." As she swung upon his doorway, she saw that Sindstorme was on the phone and, with an incredulous expression, stammered, "Set up?" Then, Uærlig Sindstorme saw her. "Oh, MegaBloks!" he gasped. He hung up the phone and pressed a large red button on his desk. Instantly, a number of large Mindstorms robots that were on display in his office came to life. Gears turned and motors groaned as the Mindstorms robotics inventions stepped off their pedestals and marched towards Silencia Venomosa. "Ms. Venomosa," Sindstorme spoke sternly, "I advise that you put down your knife and your gun immediately." Silencia Venomosa knew that these hulking scraps of metal could easily crush her. While her speed and agility could allow her to dodge their attacks, she was not a fool, and she could see that she was outnumbered and overpowered. So, Venomosa nodded grimly, and slowly laid her knife and her gun down upon the floor. The robots glared down upon her with large, watchful eyes. "Now see here, Ms. Venomosa," said Sindstorme. "You can't just barge in here with..." As the president of Mindstorms, Inc. rambled in a typical hammy fashion, Silencia Venomosa reached into her pocket. The robots observed this action, but did not react when she pulled out a mobile phone rather than a weapon. She dialed a number, but before she finished, Sindstorme noticed what she was doing. "Put down the phone, Ms. Venomosa," Sindstorme said, narrowing his eyes. "Not that I can possibly imagine who you would be calling." Silencia Venomosa nodded, and she laid the mobile phone on the floor beside her gun and her knife, but before she let go, she pressed the "call" button. There came a series of loud rumbling noises, as though a giant was marching through a thunderstorm. As the noises grew louder and louder, Sindstorme's room began to shake. Uærlig Sindstorme himself was rather confused about the source of the noise. At last, the rumbling stopped just outside the door. And then, there was a brief moment of silence before the storm broke. Silencia Venomosa ducked down quickly, just as a huge, metallic fist slammed through the doorway. Uærlig Sindstorme gasped in horror and cowered behind his desk while Venomosa grabbed her weapons and darted out of the way. The metallic fist was followed by a second fist, shattering the door into splinters. Then, a robot that was even taller and more intimidating than those activated by Sindstorme marched into the CEO's office. The latest prototype of the Mindstorms NXT project. Before getting involved with Schiess's gang, Silencia Venomosa's job was officially to investigate the secretive NXT project that Mindstorms had been developing. In comparison to Mindstorms' earlier robots, which were yellow-and-black and already looking primitive in design in comparison, the Mindstorms NXT was sleek, silver, and futuristic. Its programming was far advanced beyond that of its predecessors, and it could and would do far more than any previous iteration. Most people believed that Silencia Venomosa worked alone, but this was not actually the case. In truth, she occasionally relied on a small circle of hackers, who called themselves the Codebreakers, to assist her during select missions. These were some of the most brilliant computer experts in the world, which made up for her own shortcomings with the rapidly evolving technology. She had sent them the data on the NXT, and the Codebreakers were able to hack it with ease. And just before the attempted heist, the Codebreakers secretly reprogrammed this prototype to activate when it received Venomosa's phone call. From the shadows, Silencia Venomosa watched as the NXT tore through Sindstorme's robotic bodyguards. They tried to do their job, but their primitive designs did not stand a chance against the advanced next-generation capabilities of the NXT. Even if it was merely a prototype, it was all that Sindstorme and Venomosa hoped it would be... much to the regret of the former and the pleasure of the latter. It was over quickly. The Mindstorms robots that Sindstorme had activated lay in pieces at the feet of the NXT. The NXT turned its attention to Uærlig Sindstorme, who was desperately typing in commands into his computer. The NXT marched towards Sindstorme and reached for him, just as Sindstorme pressed the "Enter" key. Despite the Codebreakers' reprogramming, the prototype NXT could still be powered down via Mindstorms computers. The NXT's eyes dimmed as the robot shut down. Silence fell over the office. Uærlig Sindstorme regained his composure and slowly stood, brushed the dirt and debris off his suit jacket. He looked with disdain over the ruined Mindstorms robots that littered the floor, then laid eyes upon Silencia Venomosa. "Well, then, Ms. Venomosa," he muttered. "I have tried to be reasonable and civil with you, but I'm afraid you leave me with no choice." Then, quick as a flash, the CEO of Mindstorms, Inc. strapped a gas mask over his face and pushed another button. The vents opened and began to pour out toxic fumes. Silencia Venomosa raised an eyebrow, but calmly stood there, staring right at Sindstorme. For about a minute, they stood off against one another as the toxic gases filled the room. As Sindstorme became increasingly confused, Venomosa became increasingly amused. "You have got to be kidding me," murmured Uærlig Sindstorme. But she was not kidding him. Over the past few years, Silencia Venomosa had trained herself to build up a resistance to the certain toxins that she used in her jobs. It just so happened that one of these toxins was in the last-resort poisonous gas defenses of Sindstorme's office. Sighing in defeat, Uærlig Sindstorme closed the air vents and opened a window, letting the toxic gases flow out of the room. When the air became safe for him to breathe, he removed the gas mask and stared at Silencia Venomosa. "What do you want?" he whispered. Silencia Venomosa walked up to Sindstorme's desk. She pocketed her mobile phone and her gun, but as a demonstration, she showed him her hand, laid her knife against her palm, and drew. Since she was wearing gloves and did the motion lightly, she did not leave a cut, but she wanted to ensure that Sindstorme understood her message. Then, Venomosa pocketed her knife and pulled out two new knives. She laid them upon Sindstorme's desk, but rested a hand on each one to ensure that he did not try to grab one for himself. One knife was twisted and blackened, almost appearing to be forged from volcanic rock. The other knife was a bright golden color, shining brilliantly as it reflected light off its surface. She looked at Sindstorme, glanced down at the knives, and finally locked eyes with Sindstorme once more. Uærlig Sindstorme was silent for a moment. He realized what Venomosa wanted from him, and it was a cruel choice. He knew of her reputation well enough to know that, either way, she was going to kill him. But the manner in which he died was in his hands. He had to choose the knife with which she would cut his hand. But which knife was better? Which knife would show mercy? He stared at the black knife. With its twisted edge, it looked painful just to behold, and its dark color brought forth to mind images of the world's blackest hearts from the depths of MegaBlokland. No doubt, that knife would bring a terrible death. Then, he turned his attention to the gold knife. Gold was pure, such as a black heart versus a heart of gold. That had to be the right choice. He could not imagine any way it could be otherwise. Finally, Uærlig Sindstorme worked up the courage to point his finger at the gold knife. Silencia Venomosa nodded. She pocketed the black knife, took Sindstorme's hand, laid the blade of the gold knife upon his palm, and drew. Sindstorme winced as the knife left a cut and drew blood, but otherwise seemed painless. As Venomosa pocketed the gold knife, Sindstorme stared at her as though he was asking, "What happens now?" Silencia Venomosa smiled darkly. Then, Uærlig Sindstorme became aware of a burning sensation that took hold of his entire body. He doubled over in pain and screamed. It felt like he was on fire and burning from the inside out. He fell onto the floor and writhed in agony, his horrid scream piercing the air. And then, Uærlig Sindstorme was silent. As she approached the office's now-open window, her escape route, Silencia Venomosa continued to smile with sadistic pleasure. Uærlig Sindstorme was a gullible fool. He thought that the knives represented hearts, just as she thought he would, but hearts were not Venomosa's style. The knives represented snakes, and to quote D.H. Lawrence's Snake: "For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous." ---- When Rex regained consciousness, he was back in the hospital wing. Initially, his first thought was an annoyed, Darn, why is it that I always wake up in the hospital wing? Then, he recalled the events that transpired just before he fell into unconsciousness. The shock of that revelation startled him awake. He bolted upright, gasping for air. "Oh, thank the First Builders you're alright," sighed Amanda. Now that Rex was awake, he saw that Amanda, Frozeen, and Greybeard were all gathered around his bed. Amanda was kneeling beside him, while Frozeen and Greybeard stood. They appeared relieved to see that Rex was alright, but at the same time still very anxious and concerned. There were two others that Rex did not recognize: a tall man in a suit and fedora, and a little girl hugging Greybeard's leg. "The name's Bogart," the man in the suit introduced himself, extending a hand towards Rex. "Private Detective. If you don't mind, I would like to ask you a few questions." "Uh, yeah," said Rex, still trying to get his bearings. "Sure. Of course." "We found ye lyin' in that room," explained Greybeard, "with th' corpses o' Spy an' Heavy an' Soldier. We also found Scout lyin' in th' hallway, also dead. It be a relief ye be still alive." "We also found this," added Bogart, who held up a cigarette butt. "Do you recognize this at all?" Frozeen leaned in close. "From the looks of it," he murmured, "it's no ordinary cigarette… it's one of Spy's false cigarettes. Smokescreens he used to cover his escapes. Given the fact that Spy was also found in the room without a head, it's probably not him…" "If not Spy, then whom?" Rex startled, and the others turned around to see Specs approaching the bed. Rex wanted to jump out of his hospital bed, point an accusing finger at Specs, and declare, "There's the traitor!" However, he knew that could not afford to do so… yet. He needed to explain to Amanda, Frozeen, Greybeard, and others whom he could trust about what he saw, or else his accusation would seem insane. He could not do so in front of Specs, either… or, at least, not out loud. Rex gritted his teeth, feeling his face grow hot as Specs approached his bed. Bogart, Frozeen, and Greybeard stepped back, and Amanda promptly stood. The little girl hid behind Greybeard, peeking out nervously to look at Specs. "I received word that the mole was the one responsible for killing off most of the members of Second Headquarters Squad," declared Specs. "You are our only witness to one of these murders. If you know anything about this traitor, please say so." Rex was silent, trying to think of what to say. If only there was some secret-agent code he could use to communicate with Frozeen, or pirate phrases that Greybeard could catch… Specs sighed. "Elite Agent Rex, I ask this as a favor. But, given the dire times and the importance of such knowledge, I ask again, and this time as an order: What do you know about XERRD's mole and the murders of agents Scout, Spy, Soldier, and Heavy?" Rex locked eyes with Amanda. He knew no spy talk or pirate accent, but he remembered the first reason he ever felt a bond with Amanda… she could communicate through body language alone, and he could understand her easily due to his dinosaur instincts. He prayed that she could understand what message he wished to convey. Shifting his eyes quickly towards Specs, Rex reported, "Scout, Soldier, and Heavy were already in the room with me when Spy entered. Fearing that Spy was the mole, Soldier killed him. I sent Scout for you, but he never returned. Then, the infiltrator came in and murdered Soldier and Heavy." "Did you see who the traitor was?" inquired Specs. Rex looked back at Amanda, bit his lip, furrowed his brow, and quickly shifted his eyes back to Specs again. "I, uh, cannot recall," he lied. "When he came in, he lit a cigarette and created a smokescreen that masked his true form. I could not make out his identity." While Frozeen showed Specs the cigarette to confirm Rex's words, Rex once again glanced at Amanda and shifted his eyes towards Specs. Amanda raised her eyebrows ever-so-slightly. "That's a shame," said Specs, narrowing his eyes. "We are so close to tracking down this traitor, and you, our only living witness, do not know who it might be. Frozeen." The Alpha Team agent stiffened at the mention of his name. "Yes, sir?" "I need you," ordered Specs, "to figure out a way to track the whereabouts of every Dino Attack agent in this building at the times of these murders. We need every possible scrap of information to help us determine what cowardly scum is responsible for killing my men. Now come with me." "Trust no one," Amanda said quietly to Frozeen. The Alpha Team agent nodded in comprehension, then departed with Specs. "One thing be fer certain," muttered Greybeard. "We needs t' git ye out o' bed… if th' traitor returns fer ye, th' hospital bed might be yer death bed." "Right," sighed Rex. "My wheelchair, please?" Amanda pushed the wheelchair to Rex's bedside, and with some assistance from Amanda and Greybeard, Rex climbed into the chair. Then, Amanda proceeded to push Rex out of the hospital wing. Just before they exited, they were stopped by Bogart. "Excuse me, agent Rex, but are you sure that is all that you saw?" Rex nodded grimly. "As I said, the attacker's appearance was masked." "But you referred to your attacker using male pronouns," Bogart pointed out. "If you could not see this person, how could you be sure of 'his' gender?" Rex bit his lip. "I'm… fairly certain that he was male." "But given that 'his' appearance was, as you say, masked," continued Bogart, "you admit that there is a possibility, however slim, that you are mistaken?" Unsure how to respond without giving anything away, Rex slowly nodded. "Do you have a weapon of choice, agent Rex?" inquired Bogart. "Yes. I prefer to use a Sonic Screamer." "And you?" Bogart turned towards Amanda. "Agent Claw, what's your weapon of choice?" When Amanda did not respond right away, Bogart smiled and murmured, "Come now, don't be shy." Rex nodded to Amanda. He thought it was in their better interest if she remained completely open and honest with the private detective. With Rex's support, Amanda admitted quietly: "A knife." Bogart raised his eyebrows slightly as he nodded. "Do you normally carry a knife on you?" "Yes." "May I see it?" "Of…" Amanda trailed off as she reached for her knife. Her face betrayed surprise as her trusty weapon was not in its sheath as she expected it to be. In disbelief, she began patting herself down in a vain attempt to locate her knife. "Would this be your knife?" Rex blinked in surprise and Amanda's eyes widened as Bogart held out a knife. Upon finding her voice, Amanda quietly murmured, "Err, yes." As she reached out and took the knife from Bogart, she dared to inquire: "Where did you find this?" "I didn't find it." Bogart shook his head. "You can thank Angel Eyes and Maria, for they were the ones who found it…" "Thank you," said Amanda, nodding. "… in Sniper's back." Rex stared at Amanda as she paled, color leaving her face. Bogart's features hardened, on the other hand. At last, Amanda slowly sheathed her knife, nervously stepped away from Bogart, and whispered in a wavering voice: "Thank you for your time, detective Bogart." Bogart tipped his hat as he narrowed his eyes. "If I need to ask you two anything else," he said, "or if you two find any information that you need to tell me… we'll find each other." ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  9. Chapter 55: Right Behind You ---- After much searching, Zach finally found both Zelda and Nazareno. They were inside the rather-large garage of the Dino Attack Headquarters. He was surprised to see a good-sized crowd forming in a large empty space where it appeared two Iron Predators could park. He pushed his way through the crowd so he had a good place. He grinned in amusement as he saw Enter and Return at the other end of this makeshift "arena". He was well-aware that the other doctors and medics of the Dino Attack Medical Wing (save for LEGO Islanders such as Dr. Go and Dr. Clickitt) considered them annoyances and disliked their methods, despite their general effectiveness. He imagined that the medics had learned of whatever Zelda and Nazareno were doing and sent them out to make sure no one got hurt. Right now, they stood by with a stretcher, a mailbox, and a shark that rested inside a tank of water that was several sizes too small. In the center of this large crowd, to the far right, stood Kareem Nazareno. He was extremely calm with a bored yet somehow interested gleam in his eye. To the side of him rested his armor and his two golden katanas. In his right hand was a wooden stick that bore some resemblance to a katana. He swung it through the air several times before nodding. At the other end of the arena stood Zelda Frodongan. Over her neck, she wore a black bandana that covered the lower part of her face. She carried her own wooden katana, which she sliced through the air excitedly. She nodded and looked at Nazareno, who remained motionless. After a minute passed, Zelda lowered her sword slightly. "Um..." she said, clearly confused. "Are we going to-?!" She wasn't allowed to finish as Nazareno suddenly launched forward. Zelda was barely able to pull up the sword to block the attack. Nazareno landed blow after blow on Zelda, whose was desperately trying to keep up with Nazareno's quick flurry of attacks. Finally, Nazareno knocked the wooden sword out of Zelda's hands and swung into her shins. She swore as she fell to the ground. The crowd observing the battle laughed lightly. "I win," Nazareno said. "You could've told me you were going to do that!" Zelda exclaimed angrily, clutching her legs. Nazareno shook his head disapprovingly. "I should not have to teach you this," he said. "Unless your opponent is an extremely hammy showoff who likes to gloat and enjoys calling his attacks or is just a moron, he will not be likely to say 'Let's start fighting'. Be prepared." Zelda grumbled as Nazareno helped her back on her feet. She went over and picked up the sword. She sighed as she moved back into position. Almost as soon as she turned around, Nazareno knocked her sword out of her hand and jabbed her stomach with his left hand. Zelda fell to her knees and Nazareno placed his sword against her neck. "I win again." At this, crowd roared with laughter and applause. Nazareno removed his sword and Zelda got back on her feet, glaring at Nazareno. "And another thing: expect your enemy to take advantage of every flaw, mistake, and weakness you have, such as I have done twice. You should also take advantage of your opponent's flaws." "Doesn't sound very honorable," Zelda said as she picked up her sword. "It isn't, but it has become a norm to use any advantage to win. We must adapt. Now, again." This time, Zelda returned to her starting position by backing up, never taking her eyes off of Nazareno. He nodded in approval. Finally, both opponents reached their ends in the "arena" and held their swords in a battle position. Both remained still, never taking their eyes from each other. Finally, Zelda moved. She was quickly met by Nazareno in the center of their arena, where the swords clashed with a mighty crack. Now fully prepared, Zelda managed to block Nazareno's attacks better than before, and even managed to attack herself. The fight was fierce, and the crowd gave many "oohs", "whoas", and "wows". Zelda knocked away Nazareno's sword and prepared to swing down when Nazareno suddenly brought his sword upward, slamming into the underside of Zelda's sword hilt, throwing it behind her. "Don't give up!" Nazareno barked as he swung his sword at Zelda's stomach. She bent her body back to avoid the swing. "Use your speed and athletic ability to get your sword!" Zelda stepped back as she dodged Nazareno's swings. Suddenly, Nazareno threw his foot forward, intending to strike her in the stomach. Zelda let herself fall back into a ball before the foot could hit her. She rolled backwards several revolutions before unwrapping back on her feet next to her sword. She kicked it up into her hand and pointed it at Nazareno. "Excellent!" he exclaimed as the crowd cheered in awe. Nazareno rushed forward and their swords collided fiercely. Now more determined and confident than ever, Zelda managed to land several of her own blows on Nazareno's sword, forcing him to step back. She swung up on Nazareno's sword, forcing it out of his hands and into the air. Zelda then swung her sword at his knees. Nazareno suddenly jumped into the air and did an aerial flip over Zelda, catching his sword and landing behind her. He was about to poke her back with his sword when Zelda quickly turned and knocked his sword off course. The two circled each other. With both their mouths concealed, it was hard to tell how they were thinking. Nazareno stopped and seemingly gestured Zelda over to him, his eyes fiery and excited. Is he toying with her? Zach thought curiously. Zelda ran at him and swung her sword furiously. Nazareno deflected the attack with ease and shoved her away with his left hand. Zelda stumbled backward, but quickly caught herself and ran at him, her sword reared back. As they met, both swords collided with a large amount of force above them. CRACK! Zelda and Nazareno dropped their splintered swords in surprise as chunks of wood flew into the crowd. The crowd cheered in surprise and awe. Zelda glanced at the hilt of her sword on the ground and then at Nazareno. "Is it over?" she asked slowly. Nazareno walked up to her, twisted her arm fiercely and forced her to her knees. She groaned angrily. "It is now," Nazareno said, amusement in his voice. The crowd laughed and cheered their approval as Zelda climbed back on her feet, scratching the back of her head in embarrassment. He slammed her shoulder approvingly. "Excellent work. A few mistakes here and there, but overall a good job. Just because you and/or your opponent has lost their weapon does not mean the battle is over. You may flee or simply fight with your hands, depending on your skill and if your opponent still has his weapon." "Okay," Zelda muttered. She winced as she walked. "I'm going to be hurting tomorrow." "Most likely," Nazareno said, moving away from her. "But we can deal with that later. Catch!" Zelda turned and caught a new wooden katana. She stared at in surprise, but quickly turned her glance toward Nazareno as he swung his new sword at her. ***** As the agents in the hallway dispersed following Trigger's confrontation with Amanda, the founding member Digger pulled Hotwire aside. Digger frowned as he said, "Hotwire, I've yet to be fully debriefed on the events of Adventurers' Island. Was this violence and hostility between agents common?" Hotwire glanced at Doctor Solomon Koplowitz, who stood over Digger's right shoulder. "With all due respect, sir, I'd rather not talk about it with him here." "I believe the intentions of Solomon are sincere, Hotwire, that should be enough," Digger said sternly. "Now answer my question." The elite agent shrugged. "Well, in that case, sir, I'll admit that these sorts of events were more common than you would expect." Digger folded his arms. "Like what?" Hotwire briefly listed off some recent events, including Rotor's near court-martial and the armed confrontation. He also told of the hostility that Commander Lutsky showed to Doctor Cyborg when they first met. "Don't even get me started on Dust," finished Hotwire. "Where are Rotor and Lutsky now?" asked Digger. "From what I heard, Lutsky had some sort of mental breakdown, sir. He's currently being held in the headquarters jail. Rotor was attacked earlier today, and he's in the ER as we speak." "There is a lot of negative energy going around right now, Hotwire," said Digger. "It seems there is a dangerous amount of infighting going around with almost no punishment for the perpetrators. This will need to be addressed, we can't afford to act this way with the war the way it is." "I agree, sir, even after our victory tensions are still very high," said Hotwire. Digger nodded and motioned for Hotwire and Solomon to follow him down the hall. "What can you tell me about Trigger?" asked Digger. "Not much," said the elite agent, shrugging. "He's a mercenary that was hired to work with us." "Do you know who hired him?" asked Solomon. "There is some debate over that. Trigger has hinted that an elite agent in Antarctica paid him, but I myself am not so sure," responded Hotwire. "If the D.I.N.O team hired him, he should be expected to at least follow our instructions. I doubt that an agent would ask him to be on the team but not respect it." "So you think a third party hired him?" asked Digger. "That's what I'm leaning towards, but I'm not sure at this point. He appears to only be motivated by money. I've never heard of the Dino Attack Team hiring mercenaries before. In addition, if money was all he cared about, I don't expect he would have gotten so aggressive with agent Claw." "That's what concerns me, too," said Digger, frowning. "Claw is a respected agent here; this man destroying her credibility is a bad thing to have right now." "What do you know about Silencia Venomosa?" asked Hotwire. "I feel I've heard the name before." "So have I," said Solomon, "Venomosa was a woman tied to a series of violent organizations a few years ago. It's been theorized that she was a subject to a variety of terrorist groups back in the day. She disappeared off the radar shortly before the Dino Attack started." "I'm going to look into Claw's record this evening, see if there are as many skeletons in her closet as this Trigger clams," said Digger. "But there is one more thing I want to ask you." "What's that, sir?" asked Hotwire Digger stopped in front of his office and turned to the two men. "Do you trust Trigger?" Hotwire considered for a moment before responding. "I don't think he's the mole, if that's what you mean." "But do you trust him?" asked Digger again. "No," said Hotwire. "I think he's dangerous and unpredictable. He has no regard for minifigure life, and his obvious disloyalty means that he could betray us whenever he feels someone would pay more. In addition, he has no respect for the work we're doing here, and I quite frankly don't like him." "That's what I'm afraid of," said Digger, frowning once again. "I'm considering having him spend the night, if not longer, in a cell. He needs to be punished for attacking another agent and I feel we'll need some time to look deeper into his past. What do you think?" "I think I'll have to agree with that, sir," Hotwire said. Digger nodded. "And as for your question about Engineer, the autopsy should reveal the time of death, but failing that, the security cameras might allow us to estimate. Still, it could be extremely helpful if you and your friends could list everyone you saw in the mess hall anyway." ***** Pierce was quick to respond to Heavy's cry for help. "What happened?" he asked nervously. "MEDIC IS DEAD!" Heavy shouted. "Calm down," said Pierce. "Let me take a look at him." Heavy lowered Medic onto the ground, leaving Pierce to examine him. "Slashed throat," he muttered. "Looks like someone didn't want him to do that autopsy." At that moment, Maria stepped into the room and almost fainted at the sight of Medic's corpse, but quickly came to her senses. "What happened?" she asked. "I just vent to get sandvich," replied Heavy. "I come back and Medic is dead!" "We got to act fast," said a voice from behind them. Pierce turned around to see an intimidating-looking man dressed in black Western garb, accompanied by the familiar face of Clint Wayne. "Somebody's picking us off one-by-one," Angel Eyes said. "And I think I know who it is." "Who?" asked Pierce. "The less you know, the better," replied Angel Eyes. "The important thing that we got to be prepared for the next murder. Maria, I need you to go to the mess hall and get everybody from the Second Headquarters Squad to meet up there. Heavy, you go with her." "I go vith little lady," Heavy said. "Yes," replied Maria. "Come on." ---- "I don't know about the rest of you," Montoya said as he took a bite into his hamburger. "But I don't trust this Venomosa one bit." "Hey," said Schiess. "If it's any consolation to you, I can honestly say I am not overly fond of her either." "I know," said Montoya. "It's just, the way she was always so reclusive. She seemed to be trying to stay away, and just the way she seemed to be staring at every little thing. It was kinda creepy if you ask me." There was much chatter going on among the men around the table in regards to various things. Some were talking about movies and music, while others like Montoya and Schiess were a bit more professional. "Alright," Schiess said as soon as they were done. "I'm going to go pay for the bill. I'll need you each to put a dollar in for the tip." Schiess left the table. Montoya pulled out his wallet and placed a single dollar on the table. One by one, the others started to follow, with one exception. "Scorsese," Montoya said. "You gotta pay." "I don't pay tips," replied Scorsese. "Why not?" "I don't believe in them. I mean if the waitress does a really good job, then yes, I'll give her something extra, but as an ordinary thing-" "Look," insisted Montoya. "You do realize that the only way they can make a living is on tips. I got a girlfriend trying to bring in money as a waitress, alright?" "What's going on?" Schiess asked as he returned to the table. He counted the money in front. "Who didn't pay up?" "Scorsese," replied Montoya. "He said he doesn't believe in tips." Schiess looked at him angrily. "Look, I paid for your dinner." Scorsese remained silent for a moment. "Alright," he said. "Since you paid for dinner, I'll pitch in, but this isn't something I'd normally do." "I don't think what we're doing now is something any of us would normally do," replied Schiess. ---- "You little maggots think you can keep me in this one room?!" Ronald Army shouted. "You ladies couldn't keep a- OW MY SPINE!" "You should know better than to mess with a woman," Maria said sternly. Angel Eyes slowly walked into the room to address the now-assembled Second Headquarters Squad. "As you may know," he said, "someone in here isn't who they appear." "Somebody's been pickin' us off one by one," Maria continued. "I don't know about the rest of y'all but I sure as MegaBlokland ain't goin' to be next. Based on the circumstances, whoever's tryin' to kill us wants to get at us while we're alone. From this moment on, until we know precisely who the killer is and we can confirm that our theory is correct, none of y'all are to leave this here room without either myself, Angel Eyes, or Blondie as an escort." "Alright, men!" declared Ronald Army, pacing back and forth in front of the rest of Second Headquarters Squad. "We'll use this time wisely! Let us practice marching up-and-down the square!" This generated groans from everyone assembled. "Silence, maggots! Now step forward and form a line! That's it! Let's see here... one, two, three, four... Hey, wait a second! We're missing five men! Where are those maggots?" Pyro murmured something incomprehensible, but gestured towards Heavy, who was sobbing quietly. Army stormed up to Heavy and got so close that they could smell each other's breath. "Quit that crying!" he shouted. "What are you, a baby? Man up, maggot!" "I think," murmured Angel Eyes, "that he's still mourning the death of Medic. Remember: Medic and Engineer just died. That's why you're missing some men." "Oh, right," muttered Ronald Army. "So that's two of them. But where are the other four?" "Three," coughed Scout. "Wait, did you count yourself?" Maria raised an eyebrow. "Shut up, lady!" snapped Army. She proceeded to kick him in the pants, causing him to double over in pain. A short scuffle later, after Angel Eyes and Pyro succeeded in tearing the two fighters apart, a badly-bruised Army tried once again to count his men. "Now let's see... that's one, two, three, four... plus two is seven... no wait, that's six... plus me, that would be seven... We're still missing two men! Now, where are those maggots?" "Alright, calm down," sighed Angel Eyes. "Let's figure out who's not here. Heavy, Scout, Pyro, Demoman, Sold-" "I AM NOT A SOLDIER!" screamed Sergeant Ronald Army. "Huh," Angel Eyes murmured. "That leaves Spy and Sniper." "They weren't with us in the cafeteria," noted Scout. "Has anyone seen where they went?" inquired Angel Eyes. "This isn't right!" declared Ronald Army. "I'm not going to sit around in this mess hall while some maggot is killing my men! I'm going to find that safe room where the Portal Operating Team... err, operated. That's where I'll deposit the rest of you while I hunt down this maggot! Who's with me?" With that, he charged out of the cafeteria, with Scout and Heavy following him. Pyro did not move right away, but instead glanced at Demoman, who appeared to be too drunk to figure out what was going on, and then shrugged to Angel Eyes and Maria. "You've got to be kiddin' me," grumbled Maria. "Now we're goin' to have to hunt down those morons again." She and Angel Eyes pursued the three members of Second Headquarters Squad, leaving Pyro and Demoman alone in the mess hall. ***** "Are we all set to go?" said Semick to his crew. "Everything's packed up and in top working condition, Semick," said Bluetooth, tuning the TALON-9 system to full awareness. "Good. Now get yourself comfy, Bluetooth. We have a long flight ahead of us, and who knows what HQ will have in store for us once we get back." The sun was now just reaching out of sunrise phase as the rotors on Semick's T-1 Typhoon started up once more, pulling the craft up from the landing area of Outpost 4. From below, Semick could see agents waving, and he was sure Rockford was among them somewhere. He was a good agent, that one, and he hoped he would do well both in and out of service. He steered the craft in the direction of LEGO City, and started flying. The jungles of Adventurers' Island soon gave way to desert, and then, pure blue ocean. Semick leaned back and took a nice deep breath. Now was the time he could truly relax for a bit. He would need his energy for whatever was to come. ***** "This morning sure took a somber turn fast," said Laxus. "Tell me about it; unfortunate events just can't leave us alone," said Andrew. "I suppose it's ironic in a way," said Pterisa. "Just recently, your group and allies were sabotaging Dr. Rex's base of operations. Now the tables are turned." "Looks like it." The three were now walking around Dino Attack Headquarters, as promised to Pterisa for her welcoming tour. Agents were taken aback to see her, but Andrew and his companion's presence in the situation helped to push down most concerns, including some of the odd concerns about her being the murderous traitor, since she hadn't left Andrew's side since the Maelstrom temple. "At least Brickolini's is still a small mercy," said Laxus. Andrew had managed to get two extra boxes of the breakfast pizza for the go, and the group was finishing it off rather quickly. Pterisa had been as receptive to it as Laxus, if not a little more. The taste of Brickolini's was truly charming for all species, it seemed. Laxus was just taking the last slice from the first box, Pterisa finishing off the second-to-last. "Couldn't have been better," said Andrew. "I do wonder though what the main goal of this saboteur is. I mean, I know that two of the Second Headquarters Squad are dead, but there has to be other factors, hasn't there?" "Some of those technical agents were talking about malfunctioning cameras," said Pterisa, finishing her slice in a few big bites. "So they're making sure that whatever they want to do, they can't be seen." "Yeah, there was something about turrets, too," said Laxus. "It seems they're going for the classic objective: breaking our defenses." "But that's a bit unreasonable," said Andrew, tossing the empty pizza box near a recycling bin and taking a slice from the second one. "Our team has a boatload of techies and engineering wizzes. The only way to really keep us out of condition is doing substantial damage, which takes a lot of time and effort." "Unless…" said Pterisa, "... they're using some method developed specially in a way that your experts can't comprehend yet." Andrew and Laxus were silent as they took the idea in. That wasn't something pleasant to think about. "Well…" said Andrew. "The best we can do now, I suppose, is start increasing the guard for our security systems and vehicles and keeping an eye on which agents are doing what. And the Second Headquarters Squad better watch themselves, because even if Engie was just trying to stop the traitor, and Medic was trying to find what killed him, there might be reason for the rest of them to be killed, especially if they try to go after the culprit." "You'd think they'd be able to overpower this traitor easily," said Laxus. "Those guys are apparently known for their strength in fighting." "The element of surprise is a powerful thing," said Pterisa. "I know that from experience, and whoever's doing this knows this all too well." "On that note," said Laxus, reaching for another slice of pizza, "I suppose Spy might be considered the culprit here, though that may seem like an easy target." "Anything's possible," said Andrew. "But to push away from that subject for a bit, we're coming up on the main dormitories now. You might be surprised at the quality they put into these rooms, Pterisa." ***** As soon as she returned to Rex's room, Amanda Claw escorted Rex through a hallway in Dino Attack Headquarters en route to the lobby. They were both surprised to see agent Spy approach them. As Spy got closer, Rex was even more surprised to see that Spy had lost his famed composure. He walked with poor posture, he was breathing heavily, and his exposed skin glistened with sweat. Spy was grumbling under his breath, and Rex thought that he heard, "… briefcase. How many times must I tell zhem to not touch my stuff? I bet Scout's trying to play another stupid prank, or maybe Sniper is acting a little more paranoid zhan usual and…" As he walked past them, Spy muttered a half-hearted, "Good day." Rex turned his head to look over his shoulder. "Is there something wrong, Spy?" Spy stopped and sighed. "I don't suppose either of you have cigarettes on you?" Rex raised an eyebrow and Amanda grimaced, but then Spy shook his head and muttered, "Of course not. Agent Claw is trusted with an emergency lighter, and I doubt you smoke, Rex. Zhat's a shame, because I really need a smoke right now." "Spy," Rex spoke sternly, "you know that there is no smoking allowed in Dino Attack Headquarters." "I know, I know," Spy said, nodding impatiently. "I just need a smoke to calm my nerves… Yes, zhere is something wrong, Rex. Zhe spy, zhe infiltrator, zhe… traitor is amongst us. He has taken two lives within zhe past few hours, and I am sure zhat he intends to take another." Rex bit his lip. He remembered hearing the rumors about XERRD planting a mole in Dino Attack Team, and felt angry with himself for sleeping through the deaths of two of his teammates. "Spy, as an infiltrator yourself, perhaps you can shed some light onto this situation. Can you figure out where the infiltrator is heading? Who his next target is?" Spy opened his mouth, as though to say something, but then he slowly shut it and frowned, thinking for a minute. "I'm afraid not. I have not yet acquired enough information. However, I do fear zhat, even now, I see a pattern emerging. I do not wish to cause false alarm, so I shall withhold my hypothesis until I have more evidence. In zhe meantime… I need to calm my nerves so I can think straight." Spy glanced towards the ceiling and added quietly, "Perhaps Sniper has some cigarettes on him. I shall go check on him and ask if I can borrow any." "Right," said Rex, nodding. "Carry on, then." Then, Spy departed, heading to the sniping posts in the upper floors. ***** Brixton "Sniper" Hale checked his PDA once again. The words on the message disturbed him deeply: "Engineer and Medic are dead. Watch your back." It was his worst fear realized. Anything in front of him could be taken down. But an enemy on the inside who could backstab him… he was defenseless. The message was unsigned and untraceable. This, combined with the warning, could only mean one thing: Spy. It would be in his style to send untraceable warnings about watching one's back. Was the message a warning or a threat? Of all his teammates, Spy was the one that Sniper distrusted the most. Sniper's paranoia combined with Spy's preferred fighting style meant that Sniper never felt easy with Spy around. As Sniper considered the message, he contemplated the likelihood of a threat disguised as a warning. If Spy was the killer, then he would want his allies to trust him, and what better way to earn their trust than to pretend to care for their safety? Sniper put his PDA back into his pocket and took a look around his sniping post. There were several crates stacked up. Sniper considered moving the crates around his window to form a defensive barrier. He walked towards one crate and saw the label. Raising his eyebrows, he opened it up and looked inside. Spy will come here with a knife. Smiling maliciously, Sniper pulled a machete out of the crate. But this is a knife! ***** Before Digger closed the door to his office, Hotwire took him by the shoulder. "When I was in the mess hall earlier, I remember seeing the Brickolinis, agents Minerva Fabello, Zelda Frodongan, Andrew, Laxus, Stranger, Snake, Wright, and Shiller. I also saw Pterisa and Trigger." "That's a start," sighed Digger. "I just got word that there has been another death in the morgue. You two help deal with the mole and Trigger. I'm going to do some investigation into Claw." Hotwire and Solomon nodded before heading to the mess hall. "No offense, doctor, but I find it strange that he's giving you so much freedom so soon. I guess he likes you. but I would think that, with all paranoia that is present now, you would be locked up," said Hotwire. "Quite frankly, I'm surprised too," agreed Solomon. "I expected that I would at least spend a few days being investigated before I started doing work for you people. Does the D.I.N.O. team have any form of an internal affairs department?" "I'm not actually sure," responded Hotwire. "We usually need to solve these sorts of problems ourselves." The two found themselves in the mess hall. It still appeared to be a hub of activity and Solomon soon spotted Trigger smoking in the corner with his new buddy Snake. "What do you say we do?" asked Solomon. "I suppose you're more concerned about the mole, right?" "You could say that," Hotwire said with a shrug. "I don't think Trigger's causing trouble now, but I don't like leaving him to his own devices." "You're probably right," said Solomon. "I'd offer to take care of him myself but, considering my former employment, I could not tell you how much I could do for you gentlemen." "He can wait," said Hotwire. "You better establish yourself a little more before you start arresting people." Solomon nodded. "Perhaps I'll just go have a chat with him." "I'm going to go check up on the Second Headquarters Squad," said Hotwire. "Good luck." Hotwire limped down the hall, leaving Solomon to take a seat at Trigger's table. The scientist took ahold of Trigger's cigarette and crushed it beneath his shoe. "What the Znap is this?" swore Trigger. "There is no smoking inside the headquarters," said Solomon. "And I personally find it disgusting." "I don't give a Znap what you think, you Znapping son of a 4+ Figure," said Trigger. "I've never had a use for your kind except as human shields." Solomon kept his voice calm and controlled. "I've never had much use for your kind except as lab rats. Sadly, the rats were more useful." Trigger chucked before discreetly drawing his gun. "You wanna Znapping die? Because that's the direction you're going. You're a member of XERRD, no one will miss you. I bet if I killed you now, no one would lift a finger." Solomon shrugged. "You're welcome to try, my friend, but you're already on thin ice as it is. You tried to murder Claw, as I'm sure you are now aware, the Dino Attack Team did not take kindly to that. Hence why you sit alone." "What about me?" Snake said with a mouthful of food. "You don't count," said Solomon, smiling. "Claw is a 4+ Figure," said Trigger, returning to the subject. "She would have had it coming." "Well, that's why I'm here, Trigger," Solomon said as he continued to smile. "I'm sure you're used to casual murder; I've known a lot of people like you in my day. But that behavior is not welcome here. There will be consequences, Trigger, mark my words." "Is that a threat?" asked Trigger. "Because I don't take kindly to threats." "If that's what you want to call it," said Solomon. "This is what I recommend: you give me the gun, we go down to the cellblock, and you spend the night in an eight-by-eight box. How does that sound?" "You want to make me, old man?" said Trigger. "Oh, I would love to make you," said Solomon coldly. "But not now. I'll give you an hour to think things over. If you don't make the right decision, I'm coming to get you." Solomon got up from his seat and headed to the door of the cafeteria. "Personally, I hope you don't cooperate." He headed down the hallway. "You don't even Znapping work here!" Trigger yelled after him. "Neither do you!" the scientist retorted, smiled back at the mercenary. "No one would miss you, either!" With that remark, he walked down the hall with his cloak billowing behind him. "To MegaBlokland with him," Trigger muttered as soon as Solomon was out of sight. "I know Silencia's behind this. I don't care if the rest of the team's too Znapping stupid to figure it out; I'm going to find her, and I swear I'm going to kill her. You with me, Snake?" "I got nothing better to do," replied Snake. "What about that XERRD doctor?" "I can take care of him," said Trigger. "I killed dozens of his kind." With that, he worked his way out of the cafeteria. "Now she's probably learned from that one little experience," Trigger said. "Silencia was always the kind of person who never fell for the same trick twice." ***** Zach smirked as he watched Zelda and Nazareno battle. While they considered it practice or training, the crowd surrounding them saw it as good entertainment after a particularly nasty week at Adventurers' Island. They had broken two more pairs of swords and they both seemed intent on continuing fighting. He was rather impressed with how Zelda was holding herself up. She appeared to already know how to handle a sword prior to this session and was a quick learner. However, Nazareno was fiercely skilled and had clearly recovered from the bullet wound Zach had given from him. He was fast, fierce, and maybe even a bit playful when he knew Zelda was getting frustrated. Zelda had yet to defeat Nazareno, but there were many close calls. Zach flinched as he felt a pair of arms jab his sides. He turned sharply and saw Minerva behind him, grinning. "Was that necessary?" he grumbled. Minerva nodded. "Come back here." She grabbed his hand and pulled him to the back of the crowd. "I was watching that," he said. Minerva rolled her eyes. "Then let's go watch them kill each other over there by those medics." The two walked over to Enter and Return's location. Zach acknowledged them before he and Minerva took a seat on the floor as they watched Zelda and Nazareno duel. "Wow," Minerva said with awe as she watched Nazareno quickly move at Zelda, swinging his katana with precision as it smashed against Zelda's. "I wouldn't want to face Nazareno. How did you beat him, again?" "I shot him while he was distracted," Zach said. "But the only he defeated me was because you showed up. I'd say Stromling!Zach and Nazareno are rather even since they resorted to use distractions as their advantage." He watched Zelda flip backwards several times to avoid a swing from Nazareno. "Zelda is rather fearsome in her own right, but I suppose that is what happens when you learn from the best." Minerva nodded. "So I was walking back from my shower and I heard some guy scream that Medic was dead." "A medic?" "No, Medic. A Dino Attack agent named Medic." "Oh," Zach realized. "Second Headquarters Squad guy." "Yeah. He's the second one to get killed by the mole." "What?" Minerva briefly explained that Engineer of the Second Headquarter Squad had been killed by a mole and investigations were presumably pending. Shortly afterwards, Medic was killed while trying to perform an autopsy on Engineer's body. "Well then," said Zach. "I can't tell if this guy is targeting the Second Headquarters Squad or these are coincidences." "Zelda thinks that the mole is killing anyone who figures out or is about to figure out who he or she is, so it sounds more like a coincidence that the only people the mole has killed are from the Second Headquarters Squad," said Minerva. "I'd still watch my back if I was one of them," murmured Zach. "Yeah. After going to the mess hall and finding out that you were gone, I saw a bunch of them leave the mess hall with one leading them shouting about a 'maggot' who was killing his teammates." "Sounds like Soldier." "He was also yelling about how he isn't a soldier." "Well, from his page in the database, it sounds like being called 'Soldier' is a serious pet peeve of his, so I think we can safely assume that its Soldier." Minerva chuckled at this. "Whoever this mole is has slipped up pretty well if he allowed Engineer to catch sight of him." "Maybe it was his plan," Minerva said, wiggling her figures in a mock-spooking matter. Zach smirked. "Oh yes. He blew his cover on purpose because he was mad at Engineer because he lost a game of Texas Hold'em to him. The mole lured out his worst enemy so he could finally take him on. After a lengthy fist fight where the mole is victorious, he leans in close to Engineer's sweaty face, holding a pistol to his rival's forehead. He then stared into Engineer's goggles, a triumphant gleam in his eyes and a satisfied smirk on his face. And then, just before pulling the trigger, he says in a cold, emotionless voice…" Zach leaned in close to Minerva's face. She was biting her lower lip, snickering loudly and trying suppress her laughter. "'No, Mr. Engineer. You fold.'" Minerva finally laughed. Zach backed away, his face betraying no emotion. "After his one-liner, the gun goes off. Boom. Dead. And the mole walks away, his thirst for revenge satisfied. He knew he would have to tie up loose ends, such as the case with Medic, but it didn't matter. He had finally gotten his revenge against his only true rival." After Minerva stopped laughing, she nodded solemnly. "You made that up on the spot, didn't you?" "Maybe a bit. It might've been a bit distasteful, joking about someone who just died, but let the record show that you started it." "Yeah, okay," Minerva said, rolling her eyes. "Duck!" They both bowed their heads as splintered pieces of wood flew over them. Zach quickly glanced up and saw Zelda and Nazareno fiercely fighting with some form of martial arts, the hilts of their swords on the ground like broken toys. "This should be interesting," Zach said to Minerva as the crowd cheered excitedly. ***** Sergeant Ronald Army marched down the hallway of Dino Attack Headquarters, with Scout and Heavy following suit. Anyone who got in their way was shoved aside, including Ata, who tried to tell them, "Oh, hey guys! Specs wanted to see-" "Out of the way, missy!" shouted Sergeant Army as he pushed aside the communications expert. Ata moved quickly to make sure that he was not trampled by Scout, who seemed to move as fast as a bullet, or Heavy, who was like a tank plowing through the hallway. He watched them go, wondering where they could possibly be going in such a hurry. They continued in their charge until they came to a three-way fork in the road. There was a hallway to the left, a hallway to the right, and a stairwell directly in front of them. Sergeant Army immediately took the left path, but Scout stopped and called, "Yo, what are ya doin'? The 'safe room' is clearly to the right!" "No, it's not, you maggot!" declared Army. "As a general-" "Sergeant," coughed Scout. "-I have a very keen sense of direction, and the right way is the wrong way, and the left way is the right way!" "Yeah, whatevah," said Scout, shrugging. "Ya headin' to the lobby if ya take the left hallway. Hey, Heavy, am I right or what?" Heavy was silent. "Fine, then!" snapped Sergeant Army. "We'll split up! Divide and conquer! And I'll see you arrive at the safe room late because you took the right way while I took the right way! But don't be surprised if you get yourself killed by this mole along the way!" "Same to ya," muttered Scout, a little darkly. With that, Sergeant Ronald Army took the left path, while Scout to the right path. Heavy stood there, grimly staring at the stairwell. Although Heavy was far from the brightest of Dino Attack agents, he could sense that something was very wrong. They split up, he thought to himself. They are alone. No one to watch them or see what they do. One of them could be killer. Killer who killed Dietrich. I swear upon my motherland that I will avenge Dietrich. I shall go to 'safe room', but I shall not come alone. I will bring her. Yes. Time to bring out big guns, for now is killer killing time! With that, he ran up the stairwell to his room in search of his precious machine gun. ***** Zelda's weakest area was easily the actual hand-to-hand combat. Nazareno used a rather basic form of martial arts while Zelda used a more undefined, random-punch-throwing technique. If she was fighting someone else, she would be fine, Nazareno thought. He couldn't imagine any of Dr. Rex's servants knowing anything above throwing punches and kicks. And Zelda was skilled at fighting with her fist in her own right. She threw a punch at his chest. He easily sidestepped it and twisted her arm sharply. Zelda groaned and turned on her heel, kicking Nazareno in the side. Surprised, he released her arm and Zelda rolled away. She jumped back on her feet, a determined gleam in her eyes. Nazareno grinned. They ran at each other. Zelda prepared to punch when Nazareno suddenly fell into a slide. He rammed into Zelda's legs, causing her to fall. Nazareno quickly jumped back up on his feet and placed a foot on Zelda's chest, pinning her to the ground. Zelda was gasping for breath, surprised. "I win," he said calmly. Behind him, the crowd cheered. Nazareno wasn't particularly fond of the agents simply viewing this as a spectacle, but knew there was no use in making them leave. "No, you don't!" Zelda yelled out triumphantly. She grabbed Nazareno and twisted it, causing him to stumble off of her. Zelda was quickly on her feet and wrapped her arms around Nazareno's waist as she tackled him. After a short scuffle, Zelda managed to pin both Nazareno's arms to the ground. She looked down at him, her eyes wide and her hair damp from sweat. Nazareno shook his head, smirking. "I think I do." Without warning, he suddenly launched his head upward and slammed into Zelda's. She yelled angrily and her grip on Nazareno's arms loosened, allowing Nazareno to turn the tables, pinning Zelda's arms to the ground. The crowd applauded and cheered wildly. "Ow..." Zelda groaned. "Get up!" Nazareno obliged, rising to his feet. Zelda clutched her head and stayed on the ground for several minutes. "Seriously?" she said, rolling over. "Was that necessary?" Nazareno shrugged. "It may have been a bit overkill. I'm glad you attempted to fight back after being pinned, but realize I will do the exact same thing." "Yeah, but my head?" she moaned. "Do you need medical attention?" he asked, looking over toward Enter and Return, who had managed to remain tame during the whole ordeal. "No. Just need a break so my head will stop hurting." Nazareno eyes narrowed, but he smirked. "Fair enough. Maybe that head wound will lead you to the secret of defeating me." "Shut up." ***** When Rex and Amanda arrived in the lobby, they were surprised to find it empty, save Elizabeth Wilma working at the desk. They traded glances, Rex shrugged, and Amanda pushed his wheelchair to the front desk. Wilma was busy, typing away at her computer. "Excuse me?" spoke Rex, trying to catch the receptionist's attention. Wilma looked up. "Oh, Elite Agent Rex. There you are." "Where's Gun?" inquired Rex. The receptionist glanced around the lobby and bit her lip. "Err, he was right there, sitting in that chair and waiting for you. I wonder if he got up to use the restroom. He knew you were coming, but he might have also gotten a little impatient and gotten up to look for you himself; I'm not sure if he knows about your... um, condition." She gestured to Rex's wheelchair. Rex sighed. "Very well. Do you know what he wished to speak with me about?" Wilma shook her head. "I'm afraid not. All that he said was that it was important information, and that he requested that he speak with you as quickly as possible. Maybe you should stick around a bit; I hope he's coming right back." "Right," said Rex, nodding. "I can go look for him, if you want," suggested Amanda. "Rex can stay here in case he comes back, but in case Gun is looking for him, I can find him and tell him that Rex is waiting here." "Good idea," agreed Rex. Amanda moved Rex's wheelchair near the chairs, then sprinted down the hall in search for Gun. Rex sat in his wheelchair, watching the clock as time passed, its constant tick, tock, tick, tock recalling the Darkitect's words. Just thinking about that caused his heart to start pounding again. Rex grimaced and clutched his chest. The pain subsided quickly, but Rex could not help but notice that it lasted a little longer than it did last time. ***** Brixton "Sniper" Hale looked out the window of his sniping post, looking for Mutant Dinos to pick off with his sniping rifle. Or rather, that's what he appeared to be doing. In reality, Sniper kept his eyes on the machete, lying beside him and propped up against the wall. The metal blade was well-polished; in its reflection, he had a good view of the space behind him. If anyone tried to sneak up on him, he would see his attacker in the reflection. Now, Sniper thought to himself, I just wait. The minutes ticked by, feeling like an eternity. Patience was a virtue that Sniper learned long ago. However, seemingly waiting for his own death was the tensest moment he had ever faced. But with Engineer and Medic dead, he was not taking any chances. At last, after minutes of torturous waiting, he saw movement in the reflection of the machete. A dark Minifig, hidden in shadow, carrying something shiny in one hand. Steady, steady, Sniper thought to himself as the Minifig approached. The Minifig raised the shiny object into the air, and Sniper smiled grimly. Just as the Minifig was close enough to strike, Sniper tossed aside the sniper rifle, grabbed the machete, and swung around. "Take that!" Sniper bellowed. "Yeh bloody backstabbing wuss!" The attacker jumped back, diving back into the shadows where Sniper could not see him well. Sniper slashed again with his machete but missed his target. The attacker responded with a feigned swipe to the side, and as Sniper attempted to dodge, the attacker immediately followed up with a kick. Sniper slammed against the windowsill, dropping his machete in the process. He nearly lost his balance and almost fell out of the window. However, as the attacker prepared to strike again, Sniper launched himself at his attacker. "I've wrestled crocs tougher than yeh, mate!" Sniper hissed as he pinned the attacker to the floor. The attacker tried to shake Sniper off, but Sniper refused to move. Therefore, the attacker slashed at Sniper's face with his knife. Gasping in pain, Sniper jumped off his attacker, who quickly jumped to his feet. Another well-placed kick knocked Sniper back down on the floor. As his attacker drew closer, Sniper groped around for his machete. Closing his fingers around the weapon, Sniper lunged at the attacker, slashing with his machete. He laughed as the attacker recoiled back into the shadows. "Hah! Spy! You're bloody useless!" He slashed again, but this time, the attacker dodged the machete and swiped with his knife. The blade skimmed against Sniper's cheek, leaving a cut and knocking off his sunglasses. Sniper narrowed his eyes in anger, but with his shades removed, he could now more clearly see the figure in the shadows. "Crikey!" Sniper gasped. In his shock, he froze for three instants too long. One. The attacker jabbed at Sniper's arm, knocking the machete out of his hand. Two. The attacker sliced across Sniper's torso, and in pain, Sniper doubled over. Three. The attacker stabbed at Sniper's exposed back, planting the knife in Sniper's shoulder blades and instantly killing him. The mole had claimed his third victim's life. ***** Trigger and Snake had made it no more than twenty feet when a voice came from behind them. "So where you boys off to in such a hurry?" They turned and saw the sandy-haired agent who had accosted them earlier lounging in a doorway. "None of your Znapping business, punk," Trigger snarled. Shiller detached himself from the doorway and sauntered towards the two men. "I'll take that to mean you're off to find Silencia Venomosa again, because if there's one thing your actions have showed us all, it's that you just can't take a hint." He absent-mindedly pretended to examine his fingernails. "And I suppose you think you'll still kill her even though all your weapons have been confiscated. And maybe that's something you really are capable of... but I doubt you could do it quickly enough for the deed to go unnoticed. And then you get kicked out, branded as an enemy, and then guess who doesn't get paid?" Trigger scowled angrily. "That's my business, not yours. What the MegaBlok do you think you're doing anyway, following us around?" Shiller sighed. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that you weren't paying attention at the time, after that tap on the face my nice lady friend gave you, but O'Neal did say that we weren't to let you out of our sight, and he is an elite, so despite the huge number of times I've flaunted his advice in the past, I do kinda hafta actually listen to him this time." "Well, you'd have to kill us before we submit to 4+ Figure like that," Trigger snapped. "Oh, we won't do anything like that." The voice made Trigger and Snake whirl around again. Agent Wright had the peculiar ability to crack her knuckles simply by making a fist, and she was doing so now, as she leaned against the wall behind them. "Shiller and I, we're idealists, you see." She looked up at them with a menacing grin. "You try any funny business, and we'll just make you hurt." "What do you suppose we do then?" Trigger asked. "We just sit around while Silencia continues to pick us off one by one? Trust me, I know this from experience. I had this job back at Mindstorms, Inc. She managed to kill five out of seven men, including me. The sixth guy only survived because he wasn't in the building." ---- It was getting dark outside. The only lights came from the streetlamps and the bright windows of nearby apartments as Montoya brought his car to a halt. Schiess handed Montoya a walkie-talkie, and another one to Keaton, who was in the back with Deniro. "Alright," Schiess said. "You boys know the drill? Montoya, you stay in the car, keep a lookout. If the cops start to come, you warn us." "What about Ms. Venomosa?" asked Montoya. "According to our boss, she's already in there. I think she was supposed to take care of security or something. I'd suggest you all make sure your guns are loaded anyway. Alright, let's go." Schiess quickly climbed out of the car. Deniro opened the trunk and got out couple of handguns which he gave to each of the men. Right behind them, Verbal, Orange, and Scorsese were similarly preparing themselves. Schiess cocked his pistol as he opened the door to the Dacta Corporation office and stepped inside. The Dacta Corporation lobby was mostly empty, most of the staff having left for the night. Still, the six men in the room were reaching for their guns just in case something happened. "Alright," Schiess said. "Remember the plan. Scorsese, Orange, you two go take care of security. I need you to disconnect cameras and any other alarm systems in the building. The rest of you, come with me." Schiess led them toward the elevator. As soon as he, Keaton, Verbal, and Deniro were on, he hit the button for the 13th floor. There was a brief dinging sound as the elevator came to a stop. "Who's there?" said a sudden voice, drawing attention from Schiess's gun. He slowly approached the corner, walking past the various inventions that adorned the hall to find a young security guard standing there. Quickly, Schiess drew his gun and shot the man through the head, killing him instantly. Further down the hall, there was a receptionist getting ready to leave. She was just getting her jacket on when she turned saw Keaton pointing a gun to her. "Where do you keep the paperwork?" Keaton asked sternly. The receptionist looked at him. At that moment, Keaton noticed a name on her desk: Ursula Bennett. "Now I'm only going to ask this once, where is the MegaBloking paperwork?" "What paperwork?" "The documents concerning Dacta's latest projects," replied Schiess. "Everything they're planning!" "They're in Mr. Korrupte's office," Ursula said. At that moment, there was static from Schiess's walkie-talkie before the familiar voice of Orange came in. "We've disabled security cameras," he said. "We're currently heading back to your position." "Good," replied Schiess. "Alright. Keaton, Deniro, keep your guns on her. Verbal, let's check this office." With a quick gunshot, Schiess was able to break in. "It's in his desk!" Ursula shouted. Deniro cocked his gun once more. Verbal opened one drawer and found nothing, another drawer, and another. He finally opened the last drawer and revealed a file containing various blueprints. Schiess took a moment to examine them. "Alright, let's get the Znap out of here," Schiess said. There was suddenly a loud gunshot followed by a scream. Schiess and Verbal stepped out of the office to see Ursula lying on the ground with a bullet hole through her chest, right in front of the smoking barrel of Deniro's gun. "Scorsese, where are you?" Schiess asked. "We're working our way up to - oh Znap!" Suddenly the line went dead. "Scorsese, Orange. Are you there? SCORSESE! ORANGE! ZNAP IT!" ---- Angel Eyes slowly turned Sniper's body over, as he pulled the knife out of his back. "Looks like our mole got to him, too." "I think we ought to tell someone," said Maria. "This is gettin' outta hand. This here mole's killin' every one of the Squad, and you, me, and Clint are the only ones who know who it is." "At this point, it's only a matter of time before he comes for us," said Angel Eyes. "But we have evidence now," Angel Eyes glanced at the knife. "Maria, you keep looking for the rest of the Squad. See if you can try to make them see reason. I'm going to go turn this in to our superiors. Maybe it can get us some answers, help us confirm if we're right." ***** "So," Minerva said, leaning back slightly as she watched Zelda place an ice-pack on her head, despite Enter and Return's insistence that they somehow use the shark to help Zelda's headache. "You haven't told me what happened with Provencal." "Oh, yeah," Zach said. He wasn't anxious about reliving the moment, especially since, despite the presence of a mole in the headquarters, he was rather happy and content at the moment. "It's not a happy story and wouldn't consider it my most glamorous moment." "What did you do?" Minerva asked, sitting up slightly. "Rip her head off or something?" She smiled at him jokingly. He returned it halfheartedly, causing her smile to falter. "Seriously, what happened?" "Fine," he said. "After Provencal took you out..." ***** The next thing Rex knew, he was being pushed down the hallway at a rather uncomfortably fast speed. To his shock, it was Sergeant Ronald E. Army who was gripping the handlebars of his wheelchair. "What do you think you're doing?" Rex gasped, holding onto the armrests for dear life, uncomfortable to be on a wheelchair moving at running speed. "Something's amiss, troop, and we are likely next on the hit list!" Sergeant Army explained as he continued to push Rex down the hallway. "First, they got Medic, then they got Engineer… but I'll see to it that they don't get us! We are heading to the safe room!" Army finally came to a stop in a hallway. Also standing in the hallway was rookie agent Scout, who was desperately punching numbers into a hidden keypad in the hallway's wall. Rex had not been in this hallway before in his time at Dino Attack Headquarters, though he suspected, based on information from General about a secret door, this was where the self-titled "Portal Operations Team" operated before being shut down by Digger's idealists. "Report, son!" Sergeant Army demanded. "Can't – get – this – door – open!" Scout reported, his voice clearly strained. "Gimme a little more time, and…" "Oh, you are all MAGGOTS!" Army yelled as he shoved Scout aside. "Scum-sucking maggots hatched from giant mutant maggot eggs served with ham and bacon and spam for breakfast! Let ME handle this! I've got the password!" With that, Army punched in numbers he recited aloud. "One… two… three… four… um, err…" "Five?" wagered Scout. "RUN AND HIDE, COWARDS!" roared a deep voice from the other end of the hall. Scout, Army, and Rex turned their heads to see Heavy charging at them, a large machine gun in his hands. "Get down!" shouted Rex. He launched himself out of his wheelchair, and Scout darted to the side. Sergeant Army, a little too slow, was slammed against the locked door by Heavy, and a second later the door splintered into pieces, sending Heavy and Soldier reeling into the "safe room". Rex climbed back into his wheelchair and was pushed by Scout into the "safe room". Surveying the damage, he sighed and shook his head. Heavy smiled sheepishly and shrugged, while Army, leaning on a desk for support, was clearly at wit's end. "MAGGOTS!" Sergeant Ronald Army screamed. "I'M SURROUNDED BY MAGGOTS!" Rex heard someone clear his throat. He turned his head and saw Spy standing in the doorway. "Sorry to pop in unannounced, gentlemen," announced Spy. ***** "Hey man," Dude said as he approached Kate and Sarah's table and sat down with them, putting up his mostly exposed feet. "Who is this?" Kate asked. "A friend from Antarctica," replied Sarah. "Long story." Walter sat down next to them. "Now this is what I'm talking about," he said excitedly. "This pizza is surprisingly good." Sarah blinked in surprise. "Walter?" she said. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you still be in the refugee facilities?" "Conscription," grumbled Walter, who was clearly unhappy about having been taken away from his daily activities of bowling. "Hey guys," Donnie said as he approached. Apparently, he had been drafted too. "SHUT THE ZNAP UP, DONNIE!" snapped Walter. "Somebody's been murdered," reported Donnie. "I said shut the- wait, who was killed?" asked Walter, now curious. "Three people now: a mechanic, some doctor-" "What doctor?" gasped Sarah. Donnie scratched his head. "I don't remember his name. Ludwig, Luftwaffe, Luxan... Something along those lines." Sarah sighed in a moment of relief. "Is something wrong?" Kate asked. "No," replied Sarah. "It's nothing." At that moment, Angel Eyes stepped into the mess hall. He got himself a bottle of whiskey and sat down at a nearby table where Clint was sitting. After taking a moment to light his pipe, he took out the knife he'd found at the crime scene and handed it to Clint. "Sniper's dead," Angel Eyes said sternly. "We found this lodged in his back. If we can figure out where it came from it might give us some idea who the killer is." "Might be Spy's," noted Clint. "But I can't remember if I've seen him use that particular one before." "If he is the mole after all, then he's one knife short," replied Angel Eyes. "He still has a gun," retorted Clint. ***** Naomi looked grimly at the three covered bodies in the morgue. The victims had been arranged in a neat row with a white sheet covering each body. The blood on the floor had been wiped clean, but Naomi still glimpsed the brown stain that covered the concrete floor where Medic had died. Gates Crusher also stood in the quiet mortuary. The doctor slowly checked off boxes on her third death certificate she filled out today. "Did you know any of them very well?" asked Naomi. "I never had the opportunity to work with agent Medic." "You're lucky," said Gates. "Dr. Luzwheit was very disturbed. Brilliant, but absolutely insane." "So you knew him?" asked Naomi. "You worked with him?" "No." replied Gates. "But I read the some of the surgical reports. There where cases where he dug around in people's brains so they would be unable to comprehend they lost both their feet. He then would sit them back at their computer none-the-wiser so they could continue their work." This made Naomi feel slightly queasy. She had developed a great respect for the medical staff well working with the likes of Dr. Pierce. She found it difficult to believe that someone who pledged to "do no harm" could possibly do that to another minifigure. "You're probably thinking that everyone on the Dino Attack Team is a good person," said Gates, "I was that naïve once, too. You need to know that each side has heroes and each side has villains." She motioned to the second covered body. "Medic was not a villain, but he was not necessarily a good person. His initiations in life were good, but that is not be true for everyone in this unit." She motioned to the three dead bodies. "As I am sure you are now aware." Carver looked at the three shrouded forms. Something then caught her eye on the floor. A bloodstained scrap of paper sat beneath the table where Medic had died. She carefully lifted the scrap and unfurled the bloodstained corners to see what it said. What she saw made her jump into the air shriek. She threw the scrap across the room as if she had discovered a cockroach. "What is it?" asked Gates. "It said you're next!" screamed Naomi. "Relax," said Gates as she picked up the scrap of paper "It was not meant for you." "Then whom was it meant for?" "Probably Medic," suggested Gates. "I bet he was holding it when he died." The doctor considered for a moment. "This is a clue, Naomi. It means that the killer is picking targets, not killing out of necessity." "We should turn that in to an elite agent," said Naomi, "They would know what to do." "We can also use it to check handwriting!" Gates responded excitedly. "If we have the suspects write something, we could match it up to this piece of paper." The two medicinal staff ran off to announce their discovery. "Where are you two going?" Pierce asked as he turned toward Carver and Crusher. "We found something," replied Crusher. "Show him the paper." Carver unfolded a small slip of paper as Pierce read the words on it: "You're next." "Where'd you find this?" asked Pierce. "It was on Medic," replied Carver. "Oh my Builder," whispered Pierce. "There's a pattern, here, something. Whoever these people were, there's a reason this person wants them dead." "I was just going to inform the elites about this-" "Good," said Pierce. "I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I think I know one thing we can do. Crusher, I'm going to need you and Wade to help me with this." "What?" Crusher asked. "Luzwheit believed he could extract the last memories of his victims," explained Pierce. "He thought he could cut open a person's brain, locate a few specific cells, and then project the last thing they saw onto a screen." "Is that possible?" Crusher asked. "I don't know," admitted Pierce. "But the equipment's already set up and we have three bodies. If we can figure out the process, we might just be able to prevent a fourth from joining them." "Right then," said Crusher. "I'll see if Medic left any notes on this procedure. Why don't you and Wade get one of the bodies ready?" Pierce slowly walked over to the mortuary, and pulled off one of the sheets, revealing the familiar face of Dietrich Luzwheit. "Let's see how you like this," he muttered as he struggled to pick up the body. ***** Zach finished his story. Minerva simply looked at him, her eyes filled with concern. "Well," she finally began. "It's... to be honest, it sounds downright horrible, but it was necessary. Provencal couldn't be allowed to live. She was evil for everything she did. To Oswald, to you, to Zelda..." "Zelda?" Zach suddenly questioned. "Zelda told me Provencal was the one who injected her with the Maelstrom." Zach let that sink in. He wondered how many more Minifigs had been corrupted by Provencal's hand. "And besides," she continued, "how you felt when you killed her had to be because you were in the Maelstrom Temple. The Darkitect was messing with you, like he was with everyone else. Except instead of forcing you to face your fear, he was messing with your emotions. Maybe trying to turn you to his side again. Or... or-" "Maybe trying to get me kill myself out of regret and anguish," he said forcefully. Minerva's eyes widened. He had left out that detail. It made sense. The Darkitect didn't want Zach controlling his power, so he would manipulate him into becoming the monster that he had destroyed, only for him to break down in grief and kill himself. "Did you-?" Minerva started. Zach nodded. Minerva was about to say something when he raised his hand. "The moment passed soon enough. As much as the Darkitect has manipulated me in the last week, I finally caught on to him and told myself there was still a lot worth living for." He poked her in the shoulder to reference her. Minerva still seemed worried. "The Darkitect has lost his connection to this planet. He may still be able to just barely contact me, but his influence is next to nothing, even with a small amount of Maelstrom in me." "What?!" Minerva exclaimed. "But we injected the cure in-" "I think I'm a different case than most Minifigs." He raised his hand. He concentrated on briefly enough to allow purple sparks to dance on his fingertips. Minerva was less surprised at this. "Without the Maelstrom, I doubt I would be able to do that." "But why can you do that?" she asked. "You haven't explained that." Zach sighed. Another exposition. "Alright, here it goes. It started when I was about to become a Stromling in the Temple of Hotep III. Ahua did some digging and..." ***** "I think I might have something here," Crusher said. There was a small tape recorder on a nearby counter. She pushed the rewind button and then hit play, and within a few minutes, Dietrich Luzwheit's voice was heard: "It iz a very simple process. Vat ve are going to do is extract ze memories from his brain. We just got to locate ze memory cells, zen we can put needles into hiz eyes to project the last memory onto a screen. First, I vil take ze bone zaw, let me just check - oh yes, zis iz nice and shiny." There was a brief moment of silence before his voice came up again. He was conversing with another voice, which Pierce recognized as belonging to Heavy. Pierce could briefly hear a thud as the door closed, presumably from Heavy walking out of the room. Then, Medic continued his procedure: "Now, to begin ze operation. Ve start by cutting ze patient's skull-" They very faintly heard the door opening once again, and very faint thud. "Vat is zis? 'You're next.'" "That would explain the slip of paper Caver found in his hand," Crusher said. In the next few minutes, they were unable to make much of what they heard. There was a brief clinging noise, as though Medic had hit something metal with his bone saw. Then here was Luzwheit's final words: "Nein! It cannot be!" There was a moment of silence, only accompanied by a loud thud as presumably Luzwheit hit the operating table before landing on the ground. "Well," Pierce said. "That was... very helpful-" He suddenly cut himself off as another voice was heard faintly, announcing Heavy's return. Soon enough, Heavy was shouting and crying, and then Pierce heard his own voice. At that point, Crusher stopped the tape. "We all know what happened after that," she said. "That still doesn't explain the full process," said Pierce. "The other thing that concerns me is that recording seemed to suggest that someone didn't want this autopsy to happen." "Whoever it was only attacked after that other guy was gone," noted Crusher. "Judging by that and the note, I'd hazard a guess that he had other reasons for killing Luzwheit, and he wanted to get him while alone. I reckon as long, as there's at least two of us in here, we should be fine." "Alright," replied Pierce. "WADE, GET OVER HERE! As soon as Carver gets back, we'll need her too. I'm going to have to make a series of educated guesses into this operation." After a few minutes washing and sterilizing the bone saw, Pierce slowly turned toward Medic's body, which lay on the table. "Crusher, you find anything among his belongings?" "A few notes," she replied. "Not much that was useful." "Alright," said Pierce. He started to put the bone saw on Medic's forehead and began to make the cut... ---- Silencia Venomosa watched from the shadows as Scorsese and Orange disabled the security systems of Dacta Corporation. Since it was in her style to leave very little information for the authorities to track her down by, she let them do their job. Then, she would do her own job. She had recorded all information she could gather regarding the heist on Dacta, then sent it over to Edward Korrupte. He responded in a long letter that, to anyone else, would seem professional and emotionless. Venomosa, on the other hand, had dealt with corporate executives before, and her keen eyes could make out the slight nuances and tiny hints in his message that betrayed a barely-controlled fury. As she had anticipated, Korrupte was far more than merely displeased that Mindstorms was sending mercenaries to steal his blueprints, and that was just enough to push him over the edge. In her message to Korrupte, Silencia Venomosa also included a note about making sure that Ursula Bennett stayed in the building during the heist. In Korrupte's letter, he revealed that he was hesitant, but if Venomosa wished it, he felt it was wise not to interfere. What Venomosa did not tell Korrupte was that Bennett would most likely not survive the night, but Venomosa did not care; Bennett was a loose end, and this seemed like the perfect "accident" to kill her off. The last sentence of Korrupte's letter was what filled Silencia Venomosa with sadistic anticipation: "Do what you must." In layman's terms, that was how a CEO tells an assassin such as Silencia Venomosa to "Kill everyone." Already, Silencia Venomosa was formulating a plan in her head on how she would assassinate Uærlig Sindstorme. With such a huge name as Mindstorms, she did not want to pass up the opportunity on composing an assassination that would be remembered for years to come. She considered the ways in which the president would try to protect himself. For that, she already had a very special idea. But how to actually kill him? That would require some thought. At last, Scorsese and Orange finished their work and disabled the security systems. They turned to reunite with the main group. Schiess's voice came in through Scorsese's radio: "Scorsese, where are you?" Silencia Venomosa chose that moment to strike. Silently, she slipped out from the shadows, creeping up on her two targets. She pulled out her trusty knife, ready to end their lives and quickly. Scorsese picked up his radio. "We're working our way up to-" he began. Just then, Venomosa grabbed Orange from behind, clamping one hand over his mouth. She felt him tense against her body and struggled against her grip, but she was too quick. In one swift action, she slit Orange's throat and dropped his body to the floor. "Oh Znap!" cried out Scorsese, who stared wide-eyed at Silencia Venomosa. Disappointed, Venomosa mused on the fact that Scorsese wasted his reaction time with words, not actions. Before Scorsese could say anything more, Venomosa delivered a kick that knocked him to the floor. His radio slid across the floor, just out his reach. Cursing, Scorsese reached for the radio, but Venomosa stepped on his hand. He cried out in pain and, finally deciding to actually do something, pulled out his gun. Silencia Venomosa was slightly amused by this pitiful threat as she simply knocked the weapon out of his hands and plunged her knife into his abdomen. Scorsese's life came to an abrupt end. Venomosa heard Schiess's voice on the radio shouting. "Scorsese, Orange. Are you there? SCORSESE! ORANGE! ZNAP IT!" While Schiess cursed, Silencia Venomosa dragged away the bodies of Orange and Scorsese. In her previous visit to Dacta Corporation, she made a note of where she could hide corpses without anyone noticing for days; she remembered one time, back when she was just a rookie, where she made the mistake of hiding bodies in a utility closet, just like she had seen in the movies. It turned out that the police had also seen those movies, and the utility closet was the first place they checked. Until she could dispose of these bodies properly, she had to hide them in a better place. Two down, five to go. Just another Tuesday, mused Silencia Venomosa. After hiding the corpses of Orange and Scorsese where no one would find them, Silencia Venomosa started going after the rest of her group. She internally debated whether it would be wiser to maintain the facade that they were on the same side or, as she had done with Orange and Scorsese, just ambush and kill them. She decided that, if she ran into any lone stragglers, she would just kill them on the spot. If she ran into the whole group, she would play innocent... and maybe, when they weren't looking, release a toxic gas and kill them all in one swift stroke. As Silencia Venomosa considered the possibility of poisons, she suddenly knew exactly how she would kill the president of Mindstorms, Inc. It was a new idea she recently developed... a horrible, sadistic, malicious idea that she could not wait to use. It was also a literary idea, quite beautifully inspired by a passing line in the poem Snake by D.H. Lawrence. Yes. It would be the perfect death for Uærlig Sindstorme. ---- "Spy!" snapped Sergeant Ronald Army. "What do you think you're doing here? This is my safe room, and you are not welcome in my safe room!" Spy smirked and gestured towards the splintered remains of the door scattered on the floor. "I see zhe 'safe room' is far from safe now." "He does have a point," Rex said, nodding. "Yeah, thanks t' knucklehead here!" Scout retorted, pointing at Heavy. Heavy responded with a dark glare that shut up the rookie agent. Rex ignored Scout's comment. "I presume you've heard what's been going on? In regards to agents Engineer and Medic?" "But of course, I heard about it," Spy said with a grim look in his eyes. Out of the corner of his eye, Rex saw Heavy's dark glare fade away instantly, replaced by a mourning expression. "Dietrich…" Heavy sighed. "Medic vas more than just friend to me. He… vas like… brother…" At that point, Heavy became too choked up to speak. "I think he was a lot more than just a brother to ya," jeered Scout, smirking. Everyone glared at Scout with disapproval for this remark. Spy pointed an accusing finger at Heavy, Soldier, and Scout. "Now, thanks to you incompetent cowards, we have no safe room! And worse… zhey got Sniper as well. I found him in his sniping post, with a knife planted in his back." "Poor fella must've been stabbed from behind while zoomed in," Sergeant Army remarked. "Not quite," Spy said as he shook his head. "It looked like he would not go down without a fight; Sniper had a few minor cuts on his face as well, and I found a nearby machete which Sniper presumably used in conflict with his attacker. But he was dispatched so quickly and so silently, even if zhere was a knife fight between Sniper and zhis… infiltrator, nobody would know zhat it happened until his body was discovered." Surprisingly, a small chuckle escaped Spy's lips, causing the others to stare at him. "I'm quite impressed, actually," Spy admitted. "Whoever is behind zhis is quite zhe master at the art of infiltrating." "What are you?" scoffed Scout. "His number one fanboy? Hah, I bet all ya no-good dime-a-dozen spies secretly suck each other's bricks!" Spy shot Scout a dark glare. "Silence, boy!" he hissed. "Zhat is no way to speak to your father!" Scout was visibly startled. His eyes were widened and his jaw was hanging open. He struggled to find his voice, but even before he could succeed at that, Spy pulled a photograph out of his suit pocket. Rex, Heavy, and Army looked over Scout's shoulder and saw a wedding photo depicting a bride who resembled Scout's mother, Mrs. Helen Rutherford, holding hands with a groom wearing a familiar ninja-style cowl. Scout reached out for the photograph, but Spy quickly pocketed it. "But zhat is of little importance at zhe moment. What matters now is zhat we find out who is zhe skilled master of spies who has successfully killed Engineer, Medic, and Sniper." "They were all members of Second Headquarters Squad," remarked Rex. "Any of you three might be the next target! Where are Pyro and Demoman?" "Zhat is zhe pattern zhat I thought I saw emerging," Spy said as he nodded grimly, "zhe one I hesitated to tell you and Amanda about. It is becoming increasingly obvious zhat we members of Second Headquarters Squad are zhe targets of zhis killer. Why? I am not yet certain, but I theorize zhat our victory at Gold City and Fort Legoredo makes us too dangerous for our enemies to keep us alive. Additionally, taking down Engineer and Sniper could be seen as a strategy to take down our defenses, and as for Medic... he got too close to discovering his identity, and zhe mole wished to give us a scare to discourage anyone else from discovering him. Or perhaps, zhere is a far more malicious intent behind zhese murders, something I cannot fathom... something zhat would be in zhe style of, for example, Silencia Venomosa." Rex tensed at those last two words. "From what I understand, Silencia Venomosa has been... inactive for quite some time now. I seriously doubt that she is behind this; while XERRD has hired mercenaries in the past, I have a strong feeling that she is not one of them." Spy glared at Rex, his piercing eyes boring into Rex's consciousness, and for a moment, Rex thought that Spy could read his mind and discover Venomosa's true identity. "I would not be so quick as to discount anyone, Rex," hissed Spy. "As a spy myself, I know zhat zhe killer could be any one of us. For all we know, it could be you, Rex. And for all you know, it could even be me! And-" There came the sound of thunder. Spy fell to the floor, his skull blown into thousands of tiny shards. He would never move again. Rex, Scout, and Heavy all stared wide-eyed at the corpse, then at Ronald E. Army. The military sergeant was smiling maliciously as he reloaded his shotgun. ***** "There seems to be a pattern here," Angel Eyes said. "First Engineer, then Medic, and Sniper. You see the connection." "Yeah," replied Clint. "They were all part of the same squad." "That's it," said Angel Eyes. "What puzzles me, though, is that nobody's come after any of us. We were there with the squad and we're trying to find out who the mole is, and yet nobody's come to kill us yet. Whoever's responsible must know them. All we know based on this evidence that whoever it was, they're good with a knife." "All the more reason to suspect Silencia," said a voice from behind. Angel Eyes turned to see a rough-looking man in a leather jacket. "Agent Trigger," he introduced himself. "Silencia Venomosa?" said Angel Eyes. "You know her?" asked Trigger. "Back at Gold City, we had a few run-ins," replied Angel Eyes. "I always thought she was long dead." "She isn't," said Trigger. "I know her well. I lost five good men by her hand, and she's right here in this base under the pseudonym of Amanda Remous. She has this whole innocent act she keeps pulling, but I don't buy it." "She uses knives a lot?" "You kidding?" said Trigger. "We had this one job at Dacta. It was down to me and this other guy, Keaton. We just got to the door when I found she'd stabbed him in the MegaBloking back with her switchblade. The getaway driver and I were the only ones who made it out of that mess in one piece, and believe me when I say we got back at her." "That gives us two possible suspects," said Angel Eyes. "I'm not much of a detectiv-" "Perhaps I can be of assistance," said a sudden voice from behind them. The men turned to see a tall man in a suit and fedora approaching them. He sat down at the table and poured himself a glass of whiskey. "Who are you?" Trigger asked, sternly. "The name's Bogart," replied the man. "Private Detective." He held out a badge. "Why didn't you get on this sooner?" inquired Trigger. "I didn't know," replied Bogart. "Specs called and said to come down here because there was a murder, so I came down here to investigate." "Three murders, actually," replied Angel Eyes. "What do we know so far?" Bogart asked. "We know that they were all working for the same squad," replied Angel Eyes. "The Second Headquarters Squad, they called it. The only question is why they haven't come after us?" "Were you part of this... Second Headquarters Squad?" Bogart queried. "Sort of," replied Angel Eyes. "Right," said Bogart. "I'd better start asking around." "I got to go make a phone call," Trigger stated as he stood up. "I'll come talk to you more about this business with Silencia later." ***** "I don't need a shrink," said Lutsky. "Oh, I expect you don't," said Doctor Saran matter-of-factly. "But do you see that camera up there?" The psychologist pointed to a lone security camera mounted outside the wall of cell. "They expect me to spend the next hour or so sitting here." He sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. "You don't need to talk, of course, but it will certainly make us look better if we have some sort of conversation." Lutsky snarled. "Well then, what do you suppose we talk about, Doc? The weather? Perhaps you've noticed that I don't have window in this cell." "Yes, I have noticed," said Saran. "How do you feel about being locked up down here?" "What do you think?" muttered Lutsky. "I was once a distinguished commander; I led these men! Now they treat me like I'm their enemy!" "Tell me about your history as a commander," said Saran. "I'm just curious." "That Egyptian is who destroyed my job," said Lutsky. "He made the other agents think I was insane. That freak had a way of getting in a person's head, that's what he did to the other members of the Dino Attack. He was playing them the whole time. I had to kill the son of a 4+ Figure." "But I did not ask about Dust," said Saran. "I asked about your career. Why did you join the Dino Attack Team?" "This is turning into one of your talks," growled Lutsky. "No, it's not," responded Dr. Saran. "It's just a conversation. Perhaps you would like to ask me a question." "Maybe I will," Lutsky said defiantly. Saran smiled and sat back in his chair. "Ask away." The former commander considered for a moment, before he finally thought of a question he considered worth asking: "What do you think about Dust?" "Do you really think my opinion of that man is important?" asked Dr. Saran, concerned. "I must admit that your fixation on the man is bordering on an obsession." "I'm not obsessed," hissed Lutsky. "Now, answer my question." ***** Naomi walked excitedly down the hall to agent Rex's room. She hoped to turn in the handwriting sample to an elite agent. Someone in a leadership position would know what to do with the evidence. She came to the door of Rex's room. The door was ajar, so the nurse allowed herself to enter without knocking. The room was similar to most rooms in the Dino Attack Headquarters. While rookies all slept together in a large barrack, standard agents sleep in groups of eight, elites shared a room with only three others. Rex's room was no different. It was empty, save for two vacant bunkbeds and a toothbrush sitting by the sink. "Can I help you?" Naomi jumped in surprise as Amanda Claw walked into the room behind her. "Yes, I'm looking for Rex," said Naomi innocently. "I have something I'd like him to see. You would not know where he is, would you?" "He should still be in the main lobby," said Amanda, frowning. "What would you like to show him? Perhaps I could help." Naomi considered for a moment before handing Amanda the bloodstained scrap of paper she found in the morgue. "I found this by Medic's body," said Naomi. "I think the mole wrote it. I hoped Rex might be able to identify the handwriting." Amanda said nothing as she eyed the paper. "Whoever the killer is," Naomi said with a smile, "he must be getting cocky if he thinks he could get away with writing scary threats like that." "He must be," said Amanda "They say a member of the Second Headquarters Squad is suspected. A lot of those guys are rather nuts, if you ask me." Naomi laughed. "You know, there are people who suspect you. I think that's somewhat ridiculous" "Yeah… ridiculous," said Amanda. "You know what you should do?" said Naomi. "You should write something. That way you could put those rumors to rest." The nurse pulled out a notebook from her pocket and handed it to Amanda. "It would certainly make people less suspicious. I would hate for someone like you to get hurt over this." "You didn't hear about last night," muttered Amanda. Just then, Amanda's PDA started beeping. She held up a finger to Naomi, telling her to wait a second, then reached into her pocket and pulled out the PDA. She pressed a button and spoke: "Standard Agent Claw." "Hi, this is Elizabeth Wilma," came the voice on the other line. "Ah, yes," said Amanda. "Has Gun returned to the lobby and spoken to Rex yet?" "I was about to ask if you had any luck finding Gun yet." Amanda frowned. "I'm afraid not. I just checked Rex's room, and there's no sign of Gun here." "Because Standard Agent Soldier just came in, grabbed Rex's wheelchair by the handlebars, and rushed him out of the lobby, all the while shouting something about gathering the Second Headquarters Squad in a 'safe room'." Amanda's eyes widened. "What?" she blinked, incredulous. Rex is with those incompetent lunatics? I better find out where he is and take care of this immediately. "Thank you," she muttered. "I'll try to find Rex immediately, and hopefully one of us can find Gun in the meantime." She pocketed the PDA and began to head out the door. "Wait!" called Naomi before she could go. "The handwriting test?" "Oh, yes, of course," murmured Amanda. She grabbed a slip of paper, quickly wrote something down on it, and handed it to Naomi. "Hope you can figure out who's really behind this before anyone else loses their life." Then, she exited Rex's room and sprinted down the hall. Naomi watched her go, then looked down upon the paper. What she saw seemed to drain all hope from her body: "Careful. People are capable of writing in various styles." ---- "What do we do?" Deniro asked. "I don't know," Schiess replied with a very small hint of panic in his voice. "Something's happened to Orange and Scorsese. There's probably nothing we can do for them now. I say we just get the goods and get the Znap out of here." "What about her?" Verbal asked, motioning toward Ursula's body. She lay there moaning very weakly. Schiess promptly drew his gun and fired two rounds through her chest, killing her instantly. "Let's go," he said. Schiess quickly pulled out his walkie-talkie. "Montoya!" "Yeah?" "Something's happened. I think Scorsese and Orange might have been found. We're getting out of here." "Gotcha," replied Montoya. Schiess quickly grabbed the briefcase. "Let's get to the stairs," he said. "If we take the elevator, they'll be waiting for us at the bottom, plus it's too easy a spot for potential assassins to get to us from on top." "You don't think that Silenci-" "It's a possibility," interrupted Schiess. "It would explain where she went." Schiess turned down the hall and ran toward the staircase, followed by Keaton, Verbal, and Deniro. The four men were running down the stairs as fast as they could. Schiess was in front, behind Keaton and Deniro were following, with Verbal in the back struggling to keep up. Suddenly, Schiess looked back to notice that Verbal was missing. There was a brief scream head for a second before it was muffled. Looking up, Schiess could partially see a brown-haired young girl standing on the landing. Quickly, Schiess, Keaton, and Deniro drew their guns and tried to fire, but she was out of sight before anyone could hit. A few seconds later, they could see Verbal fall onto the railing, a large cut in his throat. "Son of a 4+ Figure," Schiess muttered. "Silencia set us up!" "Their CEO must have paid her better than ours did," Deniro said. "We'd better get out of here fast." Quickly, Schiess turned back down the stairs and continued running. He finally reached the bottom and opened the door before running out into the lobby. He and Keaton looked back as the door opened again and Deniro stepped through, staggering slightly. "You alright?" Schiess asked. "The funniest thing," replied Deniro as he started to approach Schiess before he suddenly collapsed onto the ground. Only then did they notice the large knife embedded in his backside. There was a slight creak as the door opened once again, and in stepped that familiar face of Silencia Venomosa. Keaton quickly raised his gun and fired at her. Just as she expected, as soon as Silencia Venomosa opened the door, someone fired at her. She was too fast, and Keaton's gun arm was too slow. Shooting from the waist, mixed in with shaking arms due to an adrenaline rush, made the bullet all too easy for Venomosa to avoid. Keaton and Schiess were wise enough to do what any sane man would do: run. As they ran, Silencia Venomosa pursued with an unnatural silence. As her prey neared the door, Venomosa drew her switchblade. Schiess was already out the door. Keaton almost made it. He would have made it if he were only a half-second faster. But Venomosa would not let her prey get away so easily. She let the knife fly from her hands and watched it cut through the air before planting itself in Keaton's back. Five down, two to go. Wordlessly, Silencia Venomosa stepped over Keaton's corpse and exited the Dacta Corporation building. ---- When Rex finally found his voice, he stammered: "Soldier! You just killed Spy!" "Dude!" Scout's jaw dropped. "That… that was my dad!" "So much bloodshed!" commented Heavy, staring at the corpse of the Dino Attack agent once known as Spy. "How could you do this?" Sergeant Ronald Army realized that Rex, Scout, and Heavy were all glaring at him. "What are you maggots looking at me for?" he shouted. "Spy was obviously the spy! He gave himself away! Oh, he thought he was so tricky and smart, speaking in third-person, but no one would show so much respect towards a cowardly traitor unless that cowardly traitor was himself! And then he even admitted that he could be the traitor!" "'Could' is not a certainty!" snapped Rex. "Spy could be very innocent, and you'll be under arrest, charged with murder!" "Unless," Scout said as he glared darkly at Army, "you're the true traitor! Get'm! Beat'm to a pulp!" "Now is killer killing time!" Heavy roared, revving up his machine gun. Ronald Army swallowed nervously as he saw a furious Heavy and Scout charge towards him. "Stop this madness now!" Rex shouted from his wheelchair, unable to physically intercept. "Soldier, you will be placed under custody. Scout, find Specs and tell him about what has happened. Heavy, you will stay here with me and Soldier until Specs arrives." Shooting Sergeant Army one last dark glare, Scout spat on the floor and walked towards the door. Heavy sneered at Army and sat down upon the desk, his machine gun aimed at the army sergeant. "You can stop revving your gun, Heavy," Rex said. "It's starting to get a little obnoxious." Heavy's machine gun was making so much noise, in fact, Rex could faintly hear Scout shouting about something but could not make out the words. Heavy sighed in disappointment, but pulled the switch to turn off his gun. When the revving continued, Heavy's eyes widened. "Uh-oh. Gun is not stopping!" "Here, let me help with that!" Sergeant Army already started reaching for Heavy's weapon. Heavy pulled it back, giving Army the evil eye. "This is my veapon!" he growled. "You do not touch my gun!" Scout was still shouting something, but was incomprehensible over the sound of Heavy's machine gun and the argument between Heavy and Army. It only became harder for Rex to make any sense of anything when Army actually laid a hand on Heavy's gun, leading to a wrestling match over possession of the heavy weapon. Of course, neither the strong, furious soldier nor the stubborn military sergeant would listen to the attempts of a handicapped man in a wheelchair to make them settle down. One by one, things started to quiet. First, Scout stopped shouting, likely having given up on whatever message he was trying to tell the others. Then, Heavy's machine gun stopped revving. This was followed by a triumphant laugh from Heavy, who declared, "Hah! See? I fixed my own veapon vithout any of tiny baby man's help!" Sergeant Ronald Army lay on the floor, amidst the broken pieces of the desk, as though he had stood in the way of an elephant stampede. Covered from head to toe with bruises, he slowly and painfully picked himself up. Still, he managed to say, "You… call that… breaking every bone… in my body? You… stupid foreigners… do not-" Heavy slammed his fist into Army's face, sending the military sergeant flying across the room. He crumpled against the far wall, where he lay mostly still. "Okay!" he wheezed. "Now… every… bone… is… broken…!" "Keep crying, baby!" taunted Heavy, laughing. Rex was aghast. Not since Kotua had he seen so many Dino Attack agents fighting one another. He could not possibly imagine how these agents had worked so well together in the Second Headquarters Squad. All that was needed was a bit of suspicion, and suddenly they turned against one another like savages. "Okay," Rex sighed, rubbing his forehead, "now that's over with, we all need to just calm down. Scout, what were you trying to say? Scout? Are you still there?" No reply. "Fine." Rex glanced at Heavy, who was smiling and hugging his gun, then turned to look at Sergeant Army. "Looks like we're going to have to get you to the medical wing as soon as possible." Heavy smiled in Rex's direction. "It is good day! You are here-" Rex was on the verge of explosion. "Agent Heavy! I will not condone this behavior! You will be-" Heavy's smile vanished. "Spy!" he shouted, pointing towards Rex. "I see spy! He is killer!" "Now I'm the mole?" snapped Rex, seething and unable to believe what he was seeing or hearing. "That's your excuse? That's going to be the reason why I'm next on your beat-everybody-up list?" Weakly, Sergeant Army lifted his arm, pointing at Rex. "Get down, troop! Hit the deck!" Rex blinked in surprise. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the glint of light reflecting off a knife. Immediately, he launched himself out of his wheelchair. There came the sound of a gunshot, and Sergeant Ronald E. Army let out one last sigh and moved no more. Heavy, roaring furiously, revved up his machine gun and charged at their mysterious attacker. From his position on the floor, Rex could not see what happened, but heard Heavy bellow in pain, followed by a loud thud as the large Dino Attack agent's body hit the floor. "No…" whispered Rex. He strained to turn over. Footsteps coming closer. Cursing his immobile legs, he pushed with his arms and twisted his body until he could face his assailant. The figure approached him with a knife. The infiltrator bent down close and pressed the edge of the blade against Rex's neck. Frozen with shock, Rex was rendered entirely immobile, and could only stare into the eyes of his attacker and wait for his end. There came voices from far off down the hall. The killer quickly glanced in that direction, then looked back at Rex. Then, the mole chuckled softly, pocketed the knife, and pulled out a cigarette. The infiltrator lit it, then dropped it down upon the floor. The room was suddenly filled with smoke. Rex coughed violently, his eyes watering. Then, just as suddenly, the smoke cleared. His attacker was nowhere to be seen. Several Dino Attack agents rushed into the room. Rex, still in a state of shock, his eyes and throat burning from the smokescreen, could not quite make them out. The whole world was blurring. As far as he knew, all but two members of Second Headquarters Squad had been killed. But that was not the worst thing Rex had seen in the last hour. He now knew the identity of the spy, the infiltrator, the mole, the killer. Specs. Then, Rex fell into unconsciousness. ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  10. Chapter 54: Stirred Hive ---- Dr. Cyborg was in the cafeteria trying the breakfast pizza when his sensors picked up a faint gunshot. "Gotta go," he said. "What's up?" Andrew asked. "I heard a gunshot. I think that's my cue as self-appointed, de facto internal police." He left the cafeteria and started making his way to the source of the gunshot, changing to battle mode as he did. ***** "Alright," Angel Eyes said as he opened up a briefcase. "I think we can split this evenly three-way. 1000 dollars, that would be 300 for me, 300 for you, and 300 for Mari- no wait, that's not going to work." Clint stared impatiently as Angel Eyes tried to divide the money he had been given for his role in Gold City. "... 200 for me, 200 for you, 200 for Mari- no wait." "Where is Maria, anyway?" Clint said curiously. Angel Eyes looked up. "She seems to have wandered off," he replied. "Probably busy doing some things she wasn't allowed to do in El Paso." Clint smiled. At that moment, Maria suddenly burst through the door. "Hey," Angel Eyes said. "We were just talking about you." "You gotta come quick," Maria said with a look of seriousness in her eye. "Somethin's happened. Somethin' real bad." "What do you mean?" "You ain't goin' to believe me until you see 'im." Clint slowly got to his feet as Angel Eyes put down the money. They followed Maria out the door and into a nearby hallway where they saw a familiar corpse. "He's been shot," Maria said. "I ain't got no idea who done it or why." Clint bent down and examined the body closer. "Engineer," muttered Angel Eyes. "This was the guy who thought no one could outdo his guns." "Well," mused Clint, "someone did. He knew too much." "You think it was the mole?" asked Angel Eyes. "That would be one explanation," replied Clint. "We ought to do something," replied Maria. "Should we tell 'em about... you know?" "No," replied Clint. "Not yet, not until we are absolutely sure. Just be careful of anyone else you run into." ***** As Zach was about to reach the door, Nazareno appeared, a golden metal hand in his grip. "I have finished your hand," he stated plainly. "Great," Zach said, accepting the hand and connect it to his wrist. He shuddered as the wires of the hand connected to the nerves in his wrist. He wiggled his fingers. "Thank you again." Nazareno bowed his head. As he stared at the hand, he remembered the time when his first prosthetic hand had been built. How he hadn't wanted a hand with a gun built into it, comparing it to Stromlings and the various weapon attachments to their arms. He smiled. If this was some fictional story, it would've been some excellent foreshadowing for what was to come. Or delicious irony, I'm never quite sure. Nazareno pushed past Zach and approached Marco Martinet. "Are there any more people in need of prosthetics?" "Yes!" Martinet responded. "If you will follow me..." As Martinet and Nazareno turned and started to discuss prosthetics, Zach approached a dark-haired woman wearing a labcoat. "Excuse me..." "Dr. Naomi Hale," she said, smiling slightly. "Can I help you?" "Yeah. Do you think there are any glasses here I could use? These were sort of scavenged off a fallen agent and aren't in great shape." Zach handed the glasses to her. She looked at them briefly before nodding. She turned and left Zach for a minute before she returned with a new pair of glasses. Naomi Hale adjusted them briefly before giving them to Zach. He placed them on his head. "This will work," he said, blinking several times as he adjusted to the flawless vision. "Thank you." Dr. Hale nodded, smiling. Zach turned and exited the infirmary. What to do now? he thought. Looking at his torn and dirty uniform, he came to a decision. Time to bathe. With that, he started looking for a shower. ***** Minerva gnawed on a pizza thoughtfully as she listened to Zelda speak. Minerva liked Zelda well enough. She was just rather... chatty. She seemed extremely energetic and always ready to move. She also decided Zelda had some one-sided crush on Nazareno, which Minerva found extremely amusing. As they talked, Minerva saw Commander Holly Vinyaya approach their table, holding a tray of food. She looked at Zelda and her eyes widened immediately. Minerva hoped she wouldn't have to talk Vinyaya against shooting Zelda. To her surprise, Vinyaya just rolled her eyes and took a seat next to Zelda. "You took that rather well," Minerva noted as Zelda was silenced in the presence of Vinyaya. "It's becoming rather annoying," Vinyaya said. "I suppose the medics fixed you somehow after vivisecting you, Frodongan?" Zelda nodded quietly. She seemed rather uncomfortable next to the commander. Vinyaya slapped Zelda's back in a comforting manner. "I am willing to look past most of that battle, Zelda. I'm not going to kill you unless you give me a reason to." Zelda smiled weakly. "I'm sorry about that incident," she said. "It's not exactly a fun thing to think about. I killed a man and played somewhat of a role in leaving a man without a leg." Minerva watched as guilt and regret began to appear on Zelda's face. "It's fine," Minerva said with certainty. "You and Zach weren't in control. It was all the Darkitect's doing." Zelda nodded, but there was still some doubt on her face. "If it could clear your conscience, you could go apologize to Hotwire over there." Minerva pointed over to the Elite Agent, who was conversing and eating pizza with two other agents. Zelda bit her lip. "Maybe later," she said, turning her glance from Hotwire back to her food. Minerva smiled reassuringly. "He seems like a reasonable person," she continued. "He was also in the Maelstrom Temple, so I doubt he's had any time to develop any contempt toward you." Regardless, Zelda refused to go speak to him yet. Minerva shrugged. "So, now," Vinyaya said, eager to change the subject. "I hear this pizza is better than the stuff they used to serve at Jo-Co's Space Diner before Kranxx blew it up..." ***** Asking around had proved futile. He must have volunteered under a codename, Helm thought, leafing through a hard copy of the Agent Database. He'd gone through all the H's anyway, just in case -- Hacker, himself, Hertz, three Hunters, and so forth -- as well as the J's for good measure. No luck. Nothing for it then; he set aside the files he'd already checked, and then returned to the beginning, flipping through every single file individually. A few agents gave him funny looks but he ignored them. Even if it took all day, Bartholomew Helmutson was going to find his son. ***** Hotwire chomped absently on another pizza slice as Wright let out a peal of laughter. "You were right," she said. "Your codename does fit you." Hotwire smirked and swallowed. "Which one'd you tell her?" "The time you wired the light switches to the fire alarms," Shiller chuckled. Hotwire grinned. Shiller's tales of their school days were doing a great deal of help in getting his mind off of recent events. He'd always felt that the past, unless specifically and directly related to one's present situation, was irrelevant, but he had to admit now that a ghost from your past appearing right in front of you wasn't always a bad thing. Only... there was something that was bothering him. Some detail he could feel burrowing its way up through the layers of his brain. A tingle on the back of his neck alerted him of someone else's attention. He glanced over and saw Zelda, sitting with Minerva and Vinyaya, quickly look down. No hard feelings about the leg, he thought to himself. She was as good as forgiven. Only... Hotwire couldn't look at her without simultaneously seeing Tracer, pale and short of breath, hooked up to all those machines... And that was it, that's what was bothering him. Swerve and Sarah are long gone, and the same for Kotua, Sauro's disappeared, Tracer's dead, and Kat... well, Kat may as well be dead... He looked back at Shiller and Wright again. How much longer before I lose them too? Everyone in the mess hall jumped in surprise as there was a loud gunshot. As the shot rang out, Hotwire, Shiller, and Wright turned in surprise to see a gunslinger standing on a table in the middle of the room. Angel Eyes put his gun into his holster as he looked at the crowd. "I hate to report that one of our agents is dead," he said toward the crowd staring at him. "Engineer's body was found in this building, so we know the killer must have been someone on this team. Now I can't confirm this, but while in Gold City my colleagues and I heard... rumors about a possible mole in the team, and this is starting to make it appear to be true. I suggest that, from now on, you make sure to keep a careful eye on any and all agents you interact with, since they must be someone in this building. Questions?" The room was silent. Having finished his announcement, Angel Eyes lit his pipe, stepped down, and turned for the door. "I think I know who's behind this," Trigger muttered, lighting a cigarette. "I tried to warn them that hiring that MegaBloking 4+ Figure Silencia Venomosa was a bad idea." He started to stand up. "Well, I guess it's time to go kill a hired gun. You up for it?" Snake slowly got to his feet and followed Trigger out of the room. Hotwire's eyes narrowed as Trigger and Snake immediately left the mess hall. "Now that looks awfully suspicious to me," he said to his compatriots. He stood awkwardly. "Znap it, unarmed again. Thought I learned my lesson yesterday morning." Wright pulled a handgun from her boot and handed it to him. "You kick around with us and we'll cure you of that habit pretty quick." She pulled two more guns from her belt, and Shiller drew a long pistol from inside his jacket. Hotwire nodded and reached for his crutch, but Wright shook her head. "Too noisy. Use my shoulder instead." Hotwire raised an eyebrow, but complied, and the three of them quickly followed Snake and Trigger. Vinyaya stood up quickly after Angel Eyes's announcement. "What are you going to do?" Minerva asked. "Help with any investigation," Vinyaya said, making sure her weapon was still on her person. "We get a lot of Black Hole Gang moles in the Space Police ranks and I have a rather good idea on how to spot them. I'm going to go find Specs and the other Founding Members and help them get the bottom of this." Vinyaya then quickly jogged away from them and left the mess hall. "More spies?" Zelda said, annoyed. "Welcome to the opposite end of spying," Minerva said jokingly, referencing Zelda's old role while working with the Maelstrom. "The person being spied on." Zelda rolled her eyes and glanced around. There was small amount of panic among the agents at the news of Engineer's murder. Several people stood up and left the cafeteria to whereabouts unknown. "What do you think we should do?" Zelda asked. "I don't know. Assuming neither of us are the mole-" "I have an alibi," Zelda interrupted. "I was with Nazareno the whole time before I came here." "And I was with Zach," Minerva said. "So that disregards them." "Where are they anyway? Still building Zach's hand?" "Yeah." Minerva bit her lip. She hoped that this mole didn't reach Zach or Nazareno. "They will be fine. They can take care of themselves." "Well I doubt this mole is just going to be killing people he meets in the hallway alone," Zelda said, waving her hand. "He probably killed Engineer because he found out who he was. He will only start killing a lot of people when Dino Attack figures out who he is." Minerva smirked. "Quite an understanding of the spying game." "Shut up," Zelda said, smiling weakly. "That was how I did it. When Vinyaya revealed me in front of nearly every Elite Agent on Adventurers' Island, I had no choice but to kill everyone to try and get out. However, if they had killed me, I had already passed on the information I had learned to Zach, so I still would've succeeded in my main goal: gathering intel." "So it's a safe bet that this guy already passed on what he learned to XERRD." "If he was smart. And if there was any relevant information to the next mission, the Founding Members would do well to change their plans to catch XERRD off-guard." "Hmm," Minerva nodded as she took a drink of milk. "So we're fine sitting here and eating?" "For now," Zelda said as she took a bite out of a biscuit. "Just keep your eyes peeled." ***** Personally, Naomi Carver did not expect Rotor's injuries to be particularly serious. For the most part, it was congruent with wounds she treated on agents who had been in a particularly nasty barfight. With the help of Doctor Pierce, she got Rotor onto a stretcher and carried him out of the hangar. It seemed unnecessary, but the doctor was concerned with the prospect of a concussion. They would need to run some basic diagnostic tests to ensure that his brain functions still met the control. She had to admit, he did look beat up. He was still awake, which was a good sign, though his face was very bloody. Naomi carefully washed it away to check for possible skull damage. "Do you intend to bring him into surgery?" she asked. "I don't know yet," responded Pierce. "I'll need some X-rays to determine if there are any skull fractures. That's my biggest concern right now." They carried him into the medical ward and placed him in a bed not far from Hertz's. Wade and Crusher soon followed with Cabin's stretcher. Cabin also had been hit by a rifle butt, and Carver could tell it looked much more serious than Rotor's. He had been hit more times, but based on the injury on Cabin's face, there was more force to her impact. "She likely has a skull fracture, probably depressed at the Maxilla, Nasal, and Zygomatic," said Wade. "She has many of the symptoms; Cabin here is bleeding from the nose, eyes sockets, and around the eyes. It also appears the pupils have dilated." "We're going to need some X-rays to check the extent of the damage," said Crusher "I'm afraid we're going to need to check for brain damage on her as well." "What about the face?" asked Naomi. "Miss Bishop hit Cabin very hard. We might need to perform some reconstructive surgery on it." In the background, Rotor vomited. Doctor Hale rushed over beside Pierce. "That's not a good sign," said Hale. "We need to get him in surgery right away! He probably has some form of compound fracture. Carver, get some anesthetics right now!" She did as she was told. It appeared Rotor's injuries were worse than she initially thought. At first, she found it slightly amusing that a girl's mother had bludgeoned him. A lot of people thought he had it coming, but now she recognized the risks. She followed Cabin and Rotor's gurneys to the ER. Both Cabin and Rotor were at incredible risk of having permanent brain damage; this was far more serious than she initially thought. Things were hectic throughout the emergency room. Crusher placed two X-Rays of Rotor's skull onto a large flat light. "Well," Pierce said, "they'll live, provided we can get to work immediately. We're going to need to stop the bleeding and relieve pressure on the brain." Hertz lied in bed, watching the whole event take place. It seemed Rotor had finally received his just rewards. Cabin, on the other hand, did not deserve what happened to her. He hopped that whoever did this to her would be held responsible. A lot of agents lately were getting away with brutally attacking each other and receiving absolutely no consequences. He nibbled on the slice of pizza that Zach had brought him. It was nice to see him un-purple. The two had never gotten much chance to talk before, and he hoped that would change in the future. Hertz liked Zach and he wished the best for the agent. He glanced over at the wide window that showed the operating room. He caught of brief glance at the interior before Naomi Carver closed the curtain. Despite what it appeared on the tarmac, reuniting with her and been extremely awkward and uncomfortable. He had looked into her eyes at the Temple of Creation and snapped her neck with his Cosmotronic Ray. He had no idea how he had been able to kill her, but it felt strange looking at her after that experience. He felt incredibly guilty. In addition, this was the first time he had seen her since his disastrous proposal. He had left her crying and alone, but now she seemed to have recovered. Hertz never had been good at reading social cues. Had she moved on? Did she feel any differently about him since he returned? All of this seemed small in the face of the simple fact that they had only known each other for a few days. "I must seem pretty pathetic right now," muttered Hertz. Out of all the injuries he had received in the last few days, most of them were because of his own stupidity. He had fantasies about having a relationship with a woman he barely knew, and in addition, while everyone partied out in the mess hall, he sat alone in the empty hospital ward. "What a wonderful way to spend my first night back," he said to himself. He looked around at the empty wing. "I wish I had a drink." He rolled over and considered going to sleep. It would be the first time in days that he got any rest. He closed his eyes but a gunshot in the mess hall made him open them. There was some commotion there but Hertz opted to forget it. Instead, he drifted off into the endless realm of sleep. ---- Silencia Venomosa silently opened the door and stepped into the Chief Executive Officer's office. Instantly, she began noting everything about the room, including the portraits hanging on the wall; the framed awards, certificates, and cut-outs from The Daily Brick; the large and expensive wooden desk cluttered with writing utensils, paperwork, picture frames, and one paperweight that could possibly be used as a blunt weapon should the need arise, with one large comfortable chair on either side of the desk; and the window on the far side of the room, looking out over the skyline of LEGO Town. Facing the window, with his back turned towards Venomosa, was a middle-aged man in a gray suit. In case one missed the plaque on the door, there was another plaque on his desk that read his name: Edward Korrupte. He did not turn around for some time, and Venomosa realized that he must not have heard her come in. Thus, she walked around his desk and approached the window until she was standing next to Mr. Korrupte. It was out of his peripheral vision that he finally noticed her. With a start, he exclaimed: "Oh, it's you!" He quickly regained his composure, fixed his tie, and requested, "I do apologize, I did not hear you come in. Please, take a seat, and we'll discuss our business." Silencia Venomosa nodded, and so she walked back around the desk and took a seat in the chair opposite Mr. Korrupte. The CEO did not sit down right away, instead leaning on his chair and staring at Venomosa with disbelief. "So, at last, I have the pleasure of meeting you face-to-face," he murmured quietly. "But you are so... young. Given your... résumé, I imagined that you were considerably older. You're not even twenty, are you?" Venomosa frowned, raised an eyebrow, and tapped her fingers against his desk. It was not uncommon for her employers to be surprised by her young age, but for her, it could only happen so many times before she grew weary of it. She wanted to get past the formalities as quickly as possible so she could learn exactly what she was being hired for. "I'm Edward Korrupte," he introduced himself, extending a hand towards Venomosa. "CEO of Dacta Corporation. It truly is a privilege to be working with you, Ms. Venomosa." Politely, Venomosa took Korrupte's hand and shook it. "Now, then," Mr. Korrupte clasped his hands together, "I'm sure you have come with many questions regarding your employment. Most importantly, 'what'. But, I hope you don't mind if I answer 'why' first, and give you a little exposition regarding the circumstances that have led me to hiring you." Edward Korrupte turned his back on Silencia Venomosa and strode back to the window. Watching him do so, Venomosa thought to herself that Korrupte was a foolish man to believe that he could turn his back on her; had someone else already bought her loyalties, that would have been the perfect moment to backstab him. Since she was not hired to kill him... yet... she let it go for now, but felt a little disappointed that her employers would not know better than to always keep their eyes on her at all times. Looking out the window, Mr. Korrupte sighed. "Ah, LEGO Town. Such a prosperous and ever-growing example of some of the best that LEGO has to offer. And, for years, my company, Dacta Corporation, helped shape this town and make it what it is today. Over the years, we have poured our resources into continuing to build upon what our founders have created. We've educated the world on the possibilities of Duplo and Technic. We've funded expeditions to Egypt, overseen the restoration of historic landmarks in Castle Cove, and greatly supported the vehicle industry. Ms. Venomosa, this company has been in my family for three generations. I would do anything to keep it from going under." Venomosa raised her eyebrows, interested. "Now, recently, another company has stepped up to the plate. Mindstorms, Incorporated. While Dacta was once undoubtedly the number-one producer of modern technology, Mindstorms threatens to take that position away from us. Frankly, I'm rather certain, for all their high-tech gadgets, robots, and inventions, that they have been stealing our resources and ideas. Fame is a fickle friend, and already the world is starting to forget all that Dacta is done and is instead drooling over every new product put on the market by Mindstorms. I can't do a thing about this, but I'm not about to sit by and watch my company crash and burn after so many years of unchallenged success." Edward Korrupte turned around to face Silencia Venomosa once more. She nodded and made a gesture for him to continue. "Supposedly, Mindstorms, Inc. has been working on a new product codenamed NXT, rumored to change the world forever. I need eyes and ears in Mindstorms so I can figure out what this NXT business is all about. Someone on the inside that I can trust. Someone who won't talk back or spill the beans. And that's where you come in, Ms. Venomosa. I need you to find out what Mindstorms, Inc. is planning in those dark and decrepit backrooms behind that polished silver exterior of their main office building. I can see that, in your silence, observation is one of your greatest skills, and therefore I have no doubt that you would be perfect for this job." Silencia Venomosa blinked and raised an eyebrow. An infiltration? It was no doubt something she was more than capable of performing above and beyond her client's expectations, but it seemed a little odd to her. Nearly every one of her clients wanted her to bring in someone with a huge price on his head or to assassinate a key figure. That was what she was most infamous for. It seemed odd that Edward Korrupte would try to hire her, a reputed killer, for a quiet infiltration mission. So, she crossed her arms, narrowed her eyes, and cocked her head ever-so-slightly, as if asking if that was all. Mr. Korrupte bit his lip. While he was not nearly as skilled at reading her expressions as her brother (and they had fallen out long ago, so she had not seen him in years), he could sense that she suspected that he was not saying everything. Clearing his throat, he declared, "That is all I wish for you to do at the moment. Should the moment arise where you must... take greater measures, I'll find some way to contact you. But for now, all that I ask of you is to infiltrate Mindstorms, Inc. and feed information back to me on what they are up to." He sighed and shook his head. "Even now, I bet, that upstart windbag who is running Mindstorms has hired his own mercenary, most likely to infiltrate my own company, as I have done with you. I'd hate for this to end as a repeat of Reliable Excavation Deconstruction and Brick League United, but I fear I have no choice but to act first if he has not done so already." Venomosa nodded. She remembered the history of Reliable Excavation Deconstruction and Brick League United. One company was founded for the purpose of building; the other, for deconstruction. Any other time, it would not have been a major intercorporate conflict... but the problem was that they were founded by brothers who had a severe case of sibling rivalry. Their disputes and arguments culminated in the 1950s, when each company hired a team of mercenaries to infiltrate the other company. That... ended badly. Luckily, since then, the two brothers had passed away due to old age, and their successors managed to build far more peaceful relations between the two companies. "Alright then," concluded Edward Korrupte, "if either of us has any questions or new information, we shall contact each other. It was a pleasure meeting you, Ms. Venomosa." Silencia Venomosa frowned and began tapping her fingers on his desk. "Oh, right," Mr. Korrupte said as he scratched head, a little sheepishly. He bent down and picked up a briefcase. Opening it, he showed off stacks and stacks of $100 bills. "Here is half your payment up front. When I feel that your mission is complete, I'll reward your services with the other half." Venomosa's eyes widened as she looked at all that money... and it was only half of her full payment. Nodding, she stood and took the briefcase from Mr. Korrupte. They shook hands one last time, and she started for the door. "Oh, and one more thing." Venomosa paused and turned around. Edward Korrupte slowly sat down in his own chair, with a grim expression as he locked eyes with Venomosa. "This conversation never happened. We are the only ones who know that you and I were here together. Understand?" Of course. It was silly and paranoid to think otherwise. Silencia Venomosa nodded, then opened the door and slipped out back into the hallway. As she made her way back to the elevator, she passed Ursula Bennett once again. "Had a good time, honey?" the receptionist gave a false smile, her nasally voice making her comment even more obnoxious. Venomosa paused for just a second. She turned back and glanced at the receptionist. Then, Silencia Venomosa turned away and resumed walking to the elevator. This time, she smiled to herself. It was a dark and sinister smile, the smile flashed by a serpent as it cornered its doomed prey. Edward Korrupte had requested that only the two of them know about the meeting that was held in Dacta Corporation that day. Surely, Ursula Bennett, who had seen a silent young woman enter the CEO's office today, knew too much. I'll just make it look like an accident, thought Silencia Venomosa, with sadistic pleasure. ---- Trigger and Snake worked their way through several corridors, trying to find the ever-elusive Silencia Venomosa. Bedrooms and washrooms yielded nothing. They searched every room, every closet they found. Every time they found a door, they'd open it, until finally they found what they were looking for: Amanda walking down a hallway by herself. "Man, what an unusual hiding place," Snake muttered sarcastically. "It's a trick. Whatever you do, don't let your guard down," warned Trigger. He raised his gun slowly and, as quietly as he could, snuck up on her. As she paused to look out a window, he quickly ran up to her, grabbed her right around the neck, pulled her away from the glass pane, and put a gun to the side of her head. "Who set us up?" Trigger asked coldly. "WHO SET US UP!?" Amanda remained silent, though she glared intensely at him. "DON'T ZNAP WITH ME!" Trigger shouted as she struggled to break free of his grip. "Was it you? I bet it was you, Silencia." "I'm not-" "DON'T TRY TO PLAY INNOCENT WITH ME!" Trigger shouted. "I KNOW WHO YOU ARE! YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE DOUBLE-CROSSED ME BACK AT MINDSTORMS!" "What?" "Oh, that's right. YOU KILLED FIVE OF MY MEGABLOKING COLLEAGUES, YOU 4+ FIGURE! YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD ME WHEN MY CAR VEERED OFF THE ROAD AND LANDED IN THAT MEGABLOKING DITCH!" After a good fifteen minutes of shuffling through the hallways, Hotwire, Shiller, and Wright suddenly heard shouting up ahead. Shiller and Wright darted over against the wall, nodded to each other, and burst around the corner. "Nobody move!" Shiller shouted, as Hotwire hobbled onto the scene. Trigger had Amanda in a headlock, with a gun pressed to her temple, and Snake was standing by, armed as well. "Drop the gun," Wright ordered, both of her pistols pointed at Trigger's head. The mercenary growled. "I said, DROP THE GUN, YOU 4+ FIGURE." "Are you Znapping kidding me?" Trigger shouted. "After I went to all this trouble to--" "Can it," Shiller snapped. "Save your excuses for the court-martial. I think they're punishing treason with death these days." "I did have my suspicions when you went to so much effort to try and keep us out of the Maelstrom Temple," said Wright, "but I wasn't sure until now. Now DROP YOUR GUN." "Wait, what?" said Hotwire. "Oh good heavens, Trigger isn't the mole. True, he's a total Jack Stone, and he'd probably get along swimmingly with Duke, but he hasn't been here nearly long enough to be worth informing XERRD. The worst that'll happen to him is incarceration as an accomplice to treason. No, Trigger's nothing more than the hired muscle for the real mole... who's still in this room." He swung around and pointed his gun at Snake. "You've been on this team almost as long as me, haven't you? You must've thought you were pretty clever," he said. "Keeping a low profile, letting half the team think you're dead... We might not have found you if it hadn't been for your trigger-happy buddy--" he jerked his head towards Trigger -- "but now, my one-eyed friend, you're nicked." ***** Carl Lutsky was led to a small white room in the basement of the Dino Attack Headquarters. It had one chair and one cot; aside from that, it was vacant. The guards escorting him deposited him in the room before turning to leave. "How long am I going to be kept in this prison?" demanded the ex-commander. "Hopefully not long. We all have work to do, agent. By keeping me locked up, you'll be inhibiting the success of the mission." "We've been instructed to not engage in conversation with you, agent Lutsky," said the guard. "If there is anything you need, you may contact us. Otherwise, we expect you to remain quiet and cause no trouble. Is that understood?" "You are out of line, agent," said Carl Lutsky. "When addressing a superior officer, I expect to be treated with the respect I've earned." The guards said nothing. "I addition, I should not be treated like some criminal. These are the same rooms that are used to hold XERRD operatives. I don't think I deserve to be degraded to that degree, now, do I?" The guard still said nothing. "I have done nothing to merit this kind of treatment. Yes, I shot a man, but by doing so, I saved the operation from catastrophic failure." He stopped to wait for a response from the guards, but they said nothing. "Answer me," said Lutsky sternly. No response. "That's an order." Nothing "ANSWER ME, BRICKIT!" "That's enough, Mr. Lutsky," said a new voice. The guards left the hallway, leaving Lutsky alone with the newcomer. He looked frantically around before spotting a peg-legged man standing in the shadows. "Good evening, Carl," said the man. "My name is Doctor Nicholas Saran. I believe we have a lot to talk about." ***** Digger put his feet up on his desk as he offered Solomon Koplowitz a cup of coffee. The doctor waved it away and took a seat in another chair in the founding member's office. "I'm sorry, agent Digger, I'm afraid I prefer tea," said Solomon. "Suit yourself, I'm afraid we don't have very good coffee around here anyway," said Digger. "We have not been able to perform much containment in the Amazon area, hence the coffee exports have trickled down to almost nothing." "I'm sorry to hear that," said Solomon. "I feel horrible considering what role we played in all of this." "Well, you're not the first member of XERRD to defect, Doctor Koplowitz. You are, however, the first member to sit down with me in my office." Digger rose from his desk to walk about the room. "The others would say that I should not talk to you, Doctor Koplowitz. I'm still not sure that they have particularly trusted me since Antarctica, and I feel I've been out of the loop lately. I choose to have this conversation here as opposed to a cell because of its privacy. Seeing me talk to a leading member of XERRD would further ingrain the idea into their heads that I 'go easy' on the adversary. Others, like Shadow and Viper, would prefer that I keep you looked up in the detention levels until you prove yourself to be of some use to us." Digger pretended to take great interest in a bone lying on his shelf before once again taking a seat at his desk. "I prefer to take a more civilized approach." "That's nice of you, Digger," said Solomon. "However, I doubt that you brought me here to make small talk." "Well, you're right of course, Doctor Koplowitz," responded the founding member. "Over the last few months, my attempts to find a cure for the mutant dinosaurs has been regarded as foolish by my colleagues. We made considerable progress some time ago, only to lose our research in a Mutant T-Rex attack, and then Doctor Einstein was reassigned before we could get back to speed. Any work to perfect an antidote for the mutation serum has continuously been shoved aside in favor of simply increasing the caliber of our weapons." Digger sighed and sat back in his chair. "I dislike the path the dino team is taking. We started as a means to capture the mutants but have become something more like a means to exterminate them. I've expressed my concerns to Specs, but look where that got me. I'm seen as too radical now." "That may not necessarily be your fault, Digger," said Koplowitz. "During my time working with XERRD, we distributed Maelstrom-infected bricks to stir up negative emotions. That was the reason behind your actions, Digger. The fault was not your own." "I am already aware of that," responded Digger. "Regardless, to a certain degree, I did believe them, and I think I still do. I still believe there is hope for the mutants. This war's victory would seem hollow if it was at the price of extinction." "Digger, you've rambled on for a while," said Solomon, smiling. "Now, why did you bring me here?" "Because I believe you can help me," said Digger. "I believe you know the cure for the mutant dinosaurs. As of yet, you and Doctor Strangebrick are the highest-ranking members of XERRD to defect. You must have some sort of knowledge about how the mutation works." Solomon let out a deep sigh. "Digger, by talking to me in private like this, you are further risking your position here in the DINO team. I did extensive reading on your career here, and I don't think that's something you want to throw away." "But can you help me?" asked Digger. "You don't understand," said Solomon. "If Specs caught you talking to me, you would certainly face consequences. They would think you are at it again. I've already committed enough sins in my life, Digger; don't make me add destroying your life to that list." "I don't care, Solomon," responded Digger. "I'm willing to risk it. I want this war to be over as much as the next guy, but not at the cost of throwing away what I believe in." "Well then, I'm sorry I can't help you," said Solomon, frowning. Digger's face went dark. "You can't help me, or you won't help me?" "Both," said Solomon. "I did very little research on the serum itself; I can't give you any information outside of what you probably already know." "Well, if you won't help me, maybe Doctor Strangebrick would," considered Digger. "Digger, don't get yourself back into this," said Solomon. "From what I've heard, you've been doing well the last few weeks. Do you want to throw that all away?" Digger was about to respond when shouting from down the hall interrupted him. "What's going on?" asked Solomon. "I don't know," said Digger grimly. "But I don't like the sound of it. We better go and take a look." Digger shoved a gun in his belt and walk briskly down the hall. Solomon shrugged and followed suit. ***** Dr. Cyborg heard shouting about the mole, coming from the hallway near the founding members' offices. He burst onto the scene, arm cannon raised. When he arrived, he saw Trigger holding his gun to Amanda's neck while Hotwire was shouting at another agent. Dr. Cyborg raised his arm at Trigger. Holding a gun to a renowned Dino Attack agent was pretty indicative of a spy. "Let go, Trigger!" he yelled, "Or I'll assume you're the spy!" "YOU MEGABLOKING SONS OF 4+ FIGURES DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DEALING WITH, DO YOU?!" Trigger shouted. "THE MOLE IS RIGHT HERE! Silencia Venomosa can deny her identity all she wants, but it's obvious her loyalties were bought by XERRD! Trust me when I say that she can and will betray you if your rival offers more money." Leaning in close to Amanda, he said to her: "Now, you might as well confess, admit you're a MegaBloking traitor, or I swear I will blow your ZNAPPING BRAINS OUT, SILENCIA, AND DO THE REST OF US A FAVOR!" As the commotion continued to escalate after Dr. Cyborg's sudden appearance, Wright swore violently. "I've had enough of this." She shoved her guns back into her belt. "Finally," said Trigger, "someone around here listens to reas--" Then he abruptly stopped speaking. This was because, in the blink of an eye, Wright had leapt forward, deftly wrenching the mercenary's gun out of his grasp with one hand, and punching him square in the face with her other hand. At the same moment, Amanda twisted out from the headlock and struck him in the kneecap. Trigger was already stunned from the punch, so when he was thrown off balance, he hit the floor hard, striking the back of his head. He lay flat on his back, dazed but not unconscious. Wright tossed the mercenary's gun to Shiller, then turned to Amanda. "You alright?" "For the most part," Amanda replied, rubbing her neck. "Thank you." "Good." Wright put her hands on her hips and lowered her voice a bit more. "Mind telling us what all this 'Silencia Venomosa' business is about?" Amanda winced and looked at the floor. Before she had the chance to say anything more, Hotwire cleared his throat. "If everyone would just calm down for a few minutes, I'm fairly confident we've got our mole right in front of us." He still had his gun trained on Snake. "What?" exclaimed Dr. Cyborg incredulously. "No, it's got to be Trigger." "As satisfying as that would be, I think he's above suspicion," replied Hotwire, shaking his head. "He may be the very embodiment of the worst qualities of Duke, O'Cozy, and Dust combined, but he draws way too much attention to himself. The informant would have to be someone who doesn't stick out as much... someone who would benefit from having a loud, aggressive red herring at his side." He glared at Snake. "Anything to say for yourself?" "I'm no mole, I can swear that much to you," the one-eyed agent growled. "They promised me I'd be a free man if I helped this MegaBlokin' team win, so what would I gain from losing us the war?" "Duly noted, but you're not quite above my suspicion yet." "Well, even if Trigger isn't the mole, he did try to assassinate a trusted member of the team," Dr. Cyborg insisted. "That could easily be construed as treason, even if it is not the specific kind of treason we're looking for." "Good point," Hotwire responded. "Make sure he doesn't have any other weapons, and don't let him out of your sight." At that moment, Digger rounded the corner, followed by one of the XERRD scientists whom Hertz had captured. "What in the name of Ole is going on here?" "I'll tell you what!" snapped Trigger, pointing an accusing finger at Amanda. "You hired a MegaBlokin' mole of XERRD!" Trigger was creating such a scene that Ata, who happened to be passing by, stopped to see what going on. Digger looked at Amanda with surprise, and then shook his head. "Don't be silly," he said. "Agent Claw is easily one of our most trustworthy-" "She's Silencia Venomosa!" proclaimed Trigger. "For the love of Ole Kirk Christiansen, why are you all so MegaBloking blind? Digger, you and your blokes didn't hire some quiet girl who was a refugee from Antarctica; you hired a mercenary, a professional killer, a terrorist! Mindstorms, Dacta, the Brickfather... do I even need to remind you all of what she has done in the past?" Amanda watched Digger as he paled. She considered herself lucky that Dr. Cyborg barely remembered his past and that Wright apparently never heard about Silencia Venomosa. Digger, on the other hand, seemed to recall all those horrible headline-breaking stories about the mysterious silent woman who always evaded the authorities... and left death in her wake. "You can't be...?" the founding agent whispered. For a moment, Amanda remembered how Pterisa reacted when she was exposed in the Maelstrom Temple. The poor creature was horribly insecure of herself and all but completely shut down when she feared that others' trust in her was shaken. The fact that Pterisa was part-Mutant Pterosaur seemed insignificant in comparison to Amanda's past as Silencia Venomosa. For starters, Pterisa was innocent, even if her race was not... but Amanda was entirely guilty of every horrible action committed by Venomosa. While Pterisa hid her identity with samurai armor, Amanda attempted to bury Silencia Venomosa and never look back. And now, after trying to repress her past for so long, Trigger had just blurted out her darkest secret like it meant nothing to her. Instinctively, Amanda drew her knife and approached Trigger. She moved slowly, but her silence and poise made her movements akin to that of a serpent about to strike. She stared down Trigger with tranquility that masked a burning inferno of hate and anger. She raised her knife, the same knife that had gutted the stomachs of Mutant Lizards, impaled the abdomen of a Dark Spiderling, and sliced through the flesh and bone of Stromlings, all in the last week. She wanted nothing more than to plunge that knife into Trigger's body. Then, Amanda tossed aside the knife. Ata watched with surprise as the knife clattered to the floor. All eyes were fixed on Amanda as she spoke, quietly, with fury so tranquil that it filled everyone with utmost dread. "My name is not Silencia Venomosa," she hissed. "I am Amanda Remous, the sister of Roger Remous, a brave geologist and paleontologist who died for Dino Attack Team's cause. I am here to keep his memory alive and avenge his death. That is something worth fighting for, something far greater than money, something you would never understand, Schiess. So never call me Silencia Venomosa again. You may only call me Claw. I said this once before, I'm saying it again now, and if I need to, I shall say it again and again until it is drilled so deep into your brain that not even the real Wallace Bishop could extract it. Do you understand?" Trigger responded by pulling out yet another gun and pointing it at Amanda. "Go to MegaBlokland," he growled. Although she did not speak, Amanda smiled coolly, a provocative expression that practically screamed the words "After you!" The combination of her silence and her smile infuriated Trigger, who almost pulled the trigger in time before Digger, Wright, and Dr. Cyborg all stepped in at once and wrestled the weapon out of his hands. Amanda continued to smile, but then her attention was drawn to Solomon, whom she recognized from the battle in the Maelstrom Temple. She recalled hearing reports that five out of the sixteen surviving XERRD scientists from that battle had surrendered to the Dino Attack Team, and realized Solomon must have been one of them. With interest, she stared at the XERRD scientist, trying to discern what he was thinking. When Trigger's weapons were finally confiscated, the mercenary grumbled with disgust. "I think everyone needs to pull their heads out of their hip pieces. Anyone among us can be the mole, and you shouldn't discount anyone just because of how long they have been working with the team or how trustworthy you think they are." He shot a glare towards Amanda, who smiled sweetly in return, which somehow infuriated him even more. Dr. Cyborg cleared his throat. "Solomon, I don't suppose you remember anything about XERRD's mole in Dino Attack Team?" Amanda watched Solomon's expression as he shook his head. "I'm afraid not. We knew that we had someone planted in Dino Attack Team, but most of us were not told who it was. I suppose this was deliberately done by Dr. Rex, since if none of us knew anything useful, we could not give it up in an interrogation." He seemed to be sincere, Amanda thought. "I suppose the only thing we can do now," murmured Hotwire, "is trust no one until we get down to the bottom of this." "Keep an eye out for anything suspicious," added Wright. "Good idea," said Ata, nodding. "I should probably get back to work..." Amanda bit her lip. "I suppose I'll need to return to Rex-" "That reminds me," Digger said as he raised an eyebrow. "Why aren't you with Rex?" Amanda sighed. "Rex has had a long, hard day. I figured that the best thing he needed was a little rest. He refused at first, but only moments after he lied down on his bed, he was unconscious. Me? I've got insomnia, and I felt like I needed a walk as much as Rex needed a rest." "Okay, just making sure," said Digger, nodding. "Poor guy. Keep an eye on him for me, okay?" "And an eye out for the mole, as well," added Dr. Cyborg. Amanda nodded silently, then she turned and departed down the hall. The others watched her go, and Trigger made a silent mental vow, before all was said and done, to hunt down that worthless traitorous backstabbing double-crossing Silencia Venomosa and make her confess in front of the whole Dino Attack Team. Amanda's own thoughts drifted back to Trigger. She could not help but know that she would wait with almost-eager anticipation for such a final confrontation. It was a loose end that needed to be tied up for good. "Sir, has anyone determined the exact time Engineer was killed?" Hotwire asked Digger, as Amanda walked off down the hall. "The three of us," he said as he indicated himself, Shiller, and Wright, "had been in the mess hall since 6:45. We'd be able to rule out anyone who was there at the time. One by one, the crowd that had gathered dispersed. Ata was the last to leave, watching everyone go before deciding that he needed to return to his task. ---- Montoya quickly opened the door to the cab and rolled out as a loud crash was heard below. He slowly got to his feet, worked his way up the hill to the roadside, and turned to admire his work as he lit a cigarette. "That's a good day's work," Montoya said with a look of excitement as he turned toward Orange and Deniro. "It's one crime they can't pin on us." "What about the driver?" asked Deniro. "Won't they get suspicious when they open the cab and find blood but no body?" "He crawled away," replied Montoya. "There's one final step to this plan. We got a gas station down the road. I'll just need to use their payphone." He quickly climbed into the driver's seat and started up the car. Orange and Deniro climbed in with him and drove down the road to where he had spotted the gas station. Sure enough, there was a payphone. Quickly putting some change into the small slot, Montoya picked up the phone and dialed 911. "Hello?" Montoya said into the phoneline. "Listen, there's been a very serious accident. I'm currently at a local gas station on 42nd Street. A truck had some problems and drove off the road... I saw the driver get out, but he appeared to be injured badly and he ran off before I could talk to him." There were a few minutes before Montoya hung up, and smiled. "How does reporting our own crime help us?" Deniro asked. "Easy," explained Montoya. "The last people they'll suspect of being responsible for the accident are the people who told them about it to begin with. Now, let's fill this car up and get going." As soon as the pulled into the Mindstorms, Inc. office, Montoya was quick to climb out alongside Orange and Deniro. They slowly stepped into the lobby and worked their way to the elevator. There was a DING noise as it stopped and the door opened. Soon, they were back in the president's office. Schiess was there, along with Scorsese, Verbal, and Keaton. "Truck's taken care of," Montoya said. "Made it look like an accident just to keep the cops off our scent." "Very good," replied Sindstorme. "Allow me to introduce a new hand. You may have heard of Ms. Venomosa." "Venomosa," Montoya repeated. "You mean the famous mercenary?" "The very one," affirmed the president. Montoya turned to see a scary-looking young woman in a dark-colored suit. He did not like the way she stared at him one bit, but she seemed disturbingly alert, possibly listening to everything they said. "Well," continued Sindstorme, "that's a pretty good job you boys did, but I think you all will love what I got in store for you next. We've taken the parts they needed, but I am interested in seeing just what Dacta's plans actually were." Schiess casually took a breath of his cigarette. Montoya was quick to light another one. He held the box out toward Silencia, who simply shook her head. "We're going to perform a heist?" Keaton asked. "That's about right," replied Sindstorme. "Your job will be to walk in there, get the paperwork, and get out. I got a man who managed to steal the blueprints for their office. Hopefully, it will help you plan your raid." Silencia Venomosa listened as the men talked. She took mental notes of everything that she observed, from their posture, to their tone of voice, to the very fact that they smoked. That last bit disgusted her, and she felt nearly offended when Montoya offered her a cigarette. Already, she did not like these men. They would have to go, sooner or later. As they talked about their heist, Venomosa made sure to listen to every detail and remember it. This was what she was here for. It was her business to know Mindstorms, Inc.'s business. For now, her work was merely undercover observation... but Venomosa was too wise to think that was all that Dacta Corp. hired her for. She was a hired gun, a bounty hunter, an assassin, a killer. To hire her and not ask her to kill anyone would be like going to a steak restaurant and ordering fish; what you get might be satisfying, but it's not the best that they have to offer. ---- This particular Dino Attack hallway had become a crime scene. Word had quickly gotten around about the death of Engineer, and investigators were brought in to analyze the area. There was Engineer, lying against the floor, his mouth slightly open, and a bullet hole in his head. The once-gray tile floor of the hallway was now stained red. Dr. Alan Pierce, who had left the hospital wing when he heard the news, frowned as looked over the dead body. This was beyond his medicinal capabilities to rectify; Engineer was dead, and there was no changing that. He recalled stories about Zenna's attempts to revive Kat after she was shot in the neck, but it was too late. "Out ov ze vay! Out ov ze vay!" Pierce looked up with disgust. He saw Dr. Dietrich Luzwheit, also known as "Medic", approach the crime scene. Beside him was Heavy, who was pushing aside anyone in Medic's path. Heavy looked down upon Engineer's fallen form. "So it is true," he said, grimacing. "Engineer is dead." When Medic laid eyes upon Engineer's corpse, all he said was, "Oh, dear, zat doezn't look good. Very vell, zen, I'll bring him back to ze lab." "Wait, what?" said Pierce, blinking. "Just what do you think you are doing, Dr. Luzwheit?" "Ah, Dr. Pierze," said Medic, frowning. "I zought you might be here. I am taking Engineer back to ze lab vor zome… autopzy teztz." "It's rather clear that he died from a bullet wound to the head," Pierce said through gritted teeth. "You don't need to perform an autopsy to find that out." Medic raised his index finger. "Ja, but vat ve don't know iz ze zircumztanzez behind hiz deaz. Vor example, vat he vaz doing ven he died, vat gun shot him, und, mozt importantly, ze identity ov hiz killer. I can vind all zis out viz a vew zimple teztz." "What are you going to do?" demanded Pierce. "Cut open his head with a rusty bone saw, rip his brain apart to find a few specific cells, and poke needles into his eyes to broadcast his last sights onto a television screen?" Despite the tone of Pierce's voice, Medic smiled and casually replied, "Ja, zat vaz ze idea." He quickly gestured towards Heavy, who approached Engineer's corpse. "Exzept zat I take ovvenze to ze 'ruzty bone zaw' comment," he continued. "I vould never uze anyzing viz ruzt on it. I alvayz make zure zat my bone zaw iz completely clean bevore I dizzect people viz it." "You can't be serious!" gasped Dr. Pierce. "We're not cutting up Engineer; we're sending his body back to the Holdem family where it belongs!" "Vat vamily?" Medic raised an eyebrow. "Ze man vaz purely practical! He vaz not a believer in love or beauty! I doubt zat he ever got married. Zerevore, ve have nozing to loze. Ivan, take him avay." As Heavy picked up Engineer's corpse, Pierce rushed towards Medic and grabbed the doctor by the shoulder. "I shall not permit you to do this!" he said, seething. "How dare you cut up a fellow teammate just to satisfy your sadistic pleasures!" Heavy glared at Pierce. "Shall I beat little man for you?" he offered. Medic did not reply. Medic and Pierce locked unyielding eyes. For a moment of silent stalemate, the tension in the air around them was so high, it was almost tangible. "I do vat I can because I muzt," hissed Medic. "Engineer vaz my teammate, my comrade, my vriend. He vaz a brilliant man ov zcienze, und it painz me to zee him dead. I vill zee to it zat he iz avenged, zat he did not die in vain. I muzt vind out ze identity ov hiz killer. Zis iz not vor my benevit… zis iz vor Engineer, vor you, und vor everyone elze on zis team. Iv I can vind ze identity ov Engineer'z killer… I can ztop him bevore he takez anozer live. I have ze zkillz und ze technology to vind zis out, und I shall ztop at nozing to do vat muzt be done, regardlezz ov vezer or not you approve, Dr. Alan Pierze. Do you underztand?" Pierce bit his lip. He did not trust Medic for an instant, not since the incident with the World City mayor. Still, he had to admit that Medic's argument was rather compelling. Grimly, he took his hand off of Medic's shoulder and nodded. Wordlessly, Medic and Heavy took Engineer's body and departed. ***** As soon as Septimus had been treated, he had been whisked off for questioning. A good number of Dino Attack agents had been connected with Alpha Team as early as Mission Deep Freeze, so they would easily be able to determine whether Septimus was telling the truth, or was simply delusional. Mort, however, knew with a sinking certainty that the drone really was Swerve. No one else -- save the Sea Drone, whom Swerve had killed, and the Agents in the sub -- had been present at that Ogel Undersea Base at the time of the incident, and Swerve had refused recognition, so hardly anyone knew that he had saved Mort's life that day. He'd volunteered for transfer to the Dino Attack Team very early on, and after he disappeared, Mort had asked to be stationed in LEGO City, hoping to discover what had happened. And now, after he'd assumed that his old friend was indeed dead, Mort had found him. But instead of relief, he felt only intense confusion. How on Earth could Swerve have become a drone after the war started, when the production of Ogel's Evil Orbs had been stopped in 2008? ***** Zach reentered the cafeteria, his hair cut back to its original length and his face now clean-shaven. The rush for breakfast had died down dramatically and very few people were still eating. A quick look soon found a brown-and-white head resting on a table, a carton of milk next to her. Zach moved toward her. "Minerva?" he said, shaking her shoulders. "You awake?" "Yeah." She lifted her head and rubbed her eyes. "Zelda left with Nazareno to train or something. I was just taking a break." Minerva rose to her feet and looked at Zach. "You shaved?" "I did?" Zach responded in mock-surprise. "No way!" Minerva punched his shoulder hard. "Ha ha. Didn't like the beard and hair?" "It was fun for a while, but it wasn't my 'thing', so to speak." "And you washed out the purple?" she continued, ruffling his hair affectionately. "No," he said flatly. "It wouldn't come out, so I dyed it." "Wouldn't come out?" Minerva glanced up at her own hair. "So the white won't-" "Nope. A doctor I spoke to predicted it. Zelda and I are going to have purple hair forever, and you are going to have white hair. Though honestly, the purple with Zelda's back hair and the white with your hair looks fine. Purple with orange hair didn't look too fantastic to me." "Good, because I was intending to keep my hair like this." "So, where to now?" Zach asked. "Seeing you gives me the good idea of bathing," Minerva said. "I think I'll go do that now." "I-what?" Zach stammered as Minerva pushed past him. "What am I supposed to do?" Minerva didn't turn. "Go see what Nazareno and Zelda are doing? I don't know." And with that, Minerva was gone. Zach rolled his eyes and exited the cafeteria, intending to find Nazareno and Zelda. ---- Montoya started to step out of his apartment when his girlfriend, a young blonde-haired woman named Debbie, walked up to him. "You sure about this?" Debbie asked, nervously. "You know how much it worries me what you do." "Hey," said Montoya. "I'll be fine. You know I only do this for us." "I know," replied Debbie. "I just sometimes wish you'd get a job doing something a bit more..." "Legal?" "Yeah," said Debbie. "It's just that, whenever you get drawn into one of these heists, I get so scared that something's going to go wrong and they're going to take you in." "Nothing's going to happen," assured Montoya. "The money I get from this job should cover us for a while. Maybe we can move into a nice place of our own by the seaside." Debbie smiled. "I love you," she said. "I love you too," replied Montoya as he turned and left the room, closing the door behind him. He worked his way down the stairs to where Schiess was waiting. There was a car parked out front, and Montoya quickly climbed into the driver's seat before starting up the engines. ---- The stack of files Helm had surveyed already was now larger than the stack of files he had left, and still no lead. However, this only increased his optimism -- I'm that much closer to finding him! So he cheerfully forged onward through the P's, Q's, R's... Several minutes later, he opened a file and his heart stopped. He attempted to steady his shaking hands, but he was entirely numb, overcome by the sensation that someone else was in control of his body, and he was merely a spectator. He set the file down and blinked. As his heart and soul sank lower than the deepest trenches he'd ever sailed above, he reread the line of text over and over, hoping and praying that somehow he was mistaken. Or perhaps it was the file that was wrong. But the words were right there, plain as day. They took up no more than four inches of space. And the weight of those six little words utterly crushed him. Rookie Agent Jason Helmutson, codename "Tracer." ***** Rex stood in his room, watching the sun set outside his window. The skies were filled with a most beautiful array of colors, making the sight spectacular, although not quite as picturesque as the sunset on Adventurers' Island, since LEGO City was still in ruins thanks to the Dino Attack. Still, the sunset could not ease Rex's anxieties. He felt as though there was still something that needed to be- "Tick, tock, tick tock." Rex froze in shock. As soon as he recovered, he whirled around, but no one was there. Just his shadow, cast upon the wall by the light of the setting sun. Confused, Rex was ready to dismiss it as something he imagined... only to realize that what he first conceived as his shadow did not quite match his form. Whoever this shadow belonged to, he clearly wore a top hat, a cape, and carried a scepter... Rex blinked. "What are you doing here?" he demanded. "We banished you!" The shadow laughed. "I'd like to congratulate your team on that, by the way. Quite impressive indeed. I never thought you'd have the strength to do it, and yet here you are, having survived a direct encounter with the Darkitect himself. Of course, if I had the Maelstrom Crystal or was at the height of my power, you would never have survived. Still, I admire your efforts... but you are a fool to think that you have completely banished me from LEGO Planet." Rex looked down at his own legs. "I'm standing," he realized. "This must be a dream. You're not real, only a mere shadow from the back of my mind." The shadow shook his head. "True, but dreams reflect the subconscious... and that's where I shall never leave you, Rex. By closing the Maelstrom vortex on Adventurers' Island, you may think that you've shut my only window to the LEGO Planet. That is not true. As long as Dr. Rex lives, I still have power here. I've taken up residence in his subconscious for a long time, and the old fool is no match for the power of my mind. I influence his decisions and control his mind. The best part is... he brought it upon himself. As for you, Rex, I may not have domination over your mind, but your body is poisoned, and I intend to make your fate as terrible as possible." Rex remembered Frank Einstein's message. "Oh, right. I've got less than a month to live. Gee, thanks a lot, by the way. Really appreciate it. But, the thing is... I've won that battle already. I've made peace with my fate, and I'll accept the bell's toll when I hear it ringing. Nothing you can do will change that." The shadow chuckled softly, a most hideous sound. "Death? You think death is the worst part? Oh, no, Rex. You are terribly mistaken. Death is mercy, an escape. I intend to make your life as miserable and as full of suffering as is in my power. You will die, Rex, but first you will watch all that you know and love be destroyed by the Mutant Dinosaurs. You will suffer, Rex. And then, only once you have suffered the greatest of all pains and you are literally begging for death... only then shall I be merciful to give it to you." Rex scowled. He ran up to the shadow and tried to punch it with all his might, but his fist hit the wall instead. As his hand recoiled from the shock and Rex grimaced in pain, the shadow laughed once again. "Tick, tock, tick tock!" BEEP! BEEP! Rex awoke. He was still lying on his bed in his room. His forehead was covered with sweat, and his heart was pounding again. He glanced at the clock and cursed softly when he saw that several hours had passed since he fell asleep. Still, he felt a little refreshed, as Amanda hoped that he would, even if the dream was very unsettling. BEEP! BEEP! "Alright, alright," muttered Rex. He grabbed his PDA from the desk beside his bed and pressed it against his ear. "Elite Agent Rex." The voice he heard on the other line was Elizabeth Wilma, the receptionist of Dino Attack Headquarters. "Gun would like to speak with you in the lobby as soon as possible." "I'll be there immediately," said Rex. He hung up, then sat up on his bed. "Gun?" he mused to himself. "Really? These Dino Attack agents' codenames are becoming less and less creative every day." Then, he realized that he was alone in the room. Wondering where Amanda was, he picked his PDA up again and sent a quick text message to Amanda. A moment later, he received her reply. She had gone for a walk and would return as soon as she finished one last errand that she needed to run. ***** Medic stood in his lab, located in the Dino Attack hospital wing. Before him, Engineer laid on an operating table. The equipment for the procedure had been set up, and now all that remained was extracting the memories from Engineer's eyes and brain cells. Medic picked up his bone saw and looked it over, inspecting its sharpness and checking for rust. In its reflection, he saw his comrade, Heavy, sitting in a nearby chair and resting his head on his hand, with his eyes half-shut. Medic smiled gently, putting the bone saw back down. He turned and approached Heavy. "Ivan," he murmured, "you are an exzellent comrade und a great vriend, but you are tired und veary. You don't have to ztay iv you don't vant to. Vy don't you get zome rezt?" Heavy stirred slightly from his position. "I vant to be here, Dietrich," he declared. "Engineer is dead. I do not vant to see you dead too." Medic laid a hand on Heavy's shoulder. "I underztand your conzernz. But, do not vorget zat I can devend myzelv should I be in danger. Remember zat one Hybrid in Gold Zity?" Heavy grinned. He stood from his chair and patted Medic on the back. "Perhaps snack vill help me stay avake. I vill be back… vith sandvich." With that, Heavy walked out of the lab, closing the door behind him. Medic chuckled softly as he watched Heavy leave. He turned his attention back to Engineer, and then picked up the bone saw once more. He heard the door open again, too soon to be Heavy with his sandwich. In his surprise, Medic bumped against the operating table, and then something fell out of Engineer's gloved hand. Raising an eyebrow, Medic bent down and picked it up off the floor. It was a crinkled piece of paper. Unfolding it, Medic saw a message scrawled on the paper, consisting of only two words: You're next. Medic took this death threat as a warning. He tightened his grip on his bone saw and then spun around, swinging the bone saw like a sword at the one who had entered the lab. It hit against a metallic object, and Medic saw a pistol flying out of his attacker's hand. Medic prepared to swing again, this time to draw blood. Then, Medic caught a good look at the mysterious attacker. What he saw paralyzed his entire body, and he could only manage a choked: "Nein! It cannot be!" The attacker, on the other hand, recovered much more quickly and did not remain disarmed for long. He pulled out a knife from his pocket and slashed at Medic, catching the Barron doctor by the throat. Instantly, Medic collapsed and did not move. "Anyvay, sandvich is great! So moist and del-" By the time Heavy returned to Medic's lab with a sandwich, the killer was gone. However, Heavy instantly saw the blood on the floor and Medic's still form. "Dietrich!" gasped Heavy. He dropped his half-eaten sandwich and dove towards Medic's body. He lifted Medic's head, felt the ice-cold skin, and saw the slit throat. "No!" Sobbing, Heavy cradled Medic's body in his arms, feeling lost and alone in the world. "Help!" he cried, praying that someone would hear him. "Medic is dead!" ---- Link to review topic: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/29406-review-dino-attack-rpg/
  11. Chapter 53: Many Happy Returns ---- Among the things that Ogel Drones did not do were breathing, sleeping, and feeling pain. Still, Septimus did his best to try being as dormant as he possibly could. After Hotwire had dozed off again, there hadn't been much else to do. And, because closing one's eyes is impossible when one's eyes are actually empty sockets, he'd simply stared across the cabin at nothing while he let his mind wander. Pain... that was an odd concept. During their conversation, Hotwire had continually eyed his bandages with a sympathetic look on his face, even though Septimus had attempted to explain that he didn't feel pain the way living minifigs did, or so he'd heard. The odd thing was that he could half-remember what pain was like from... before. Back when he was alive, a human. Now that had come as a surprise, but a welcome one, because it meant he wasn't just insane. He realized that the T-1 Typhoon's altitude was decreasing, and quickly snapped back to the present. Peering out the tiny window, he saw the rubble-strewn streets of LEGO City in the grey pre-dawn light. Within minutes, they were landing in the hangar of Dino Attack Headquarters. As the engines stopped, the minifigs on board began stirring from their varying dozes and hibernations; he watched with a touch of amusement as the agent who had kept Hotwire from falling walked over to the figure in the lumpy sleeping bag and prodded it with her boot until the snores were replaced with a curse and a stream of quiet grumbling. There was a yawn from the other side of the TALON-9 desk as the sleeper in the other chair stood up and stretched. Helm hauled himself out of the forward cockpit, rubbing his eyes. Larson, the only one who'd remained awake for the entirety of the journey, did not even bother leaving his cockpit in favor of the barracks, but removed his helmet, called out, "Wake me for the briefing!" and dozed off on the spot. Septimus heard a quiet chuckle from behind him, and turned to see Hotwire standing groggily in the doorway between the cabin and the gunner's cockpit. As the three card players and the grumbling sleeping bag agent climbed down the ladder into the hangar, the Ogel Drone gingerly stood up, favoring his cracked bones, and made his way to the ladder. Helm helped Hotwire down the ladder after the drone, and as his feet -- well, foot and curved metal prosthetic -- touched the floor, the elite agent smiled broadly at the moment of relief, and couldn't help but state the obvious. "Well, we're back," he said. "Now would someone please find me a crutch?" ***** Kate moaned as she was slowly shaken awake. She rolled over to see Cabin standing over her. As she sat up, she saw the familiar shape of the Dino Attack Headquarters. The sun was coming up now, and she could see daylight. Trigger was in the back, lighting a cigarette. Snake's head still rested against the side of the helicopter. It started to make its landing, and soon the noise of the engines died as the rotors above came to a stop. One by one, the team climbed out of the chopper. Trigger jolted Snake slightly before he got up and followed him out. As Rotor got out, he was approached by a woman. She was probably in her forties and had long brown hair. "Agent Rotor," the woman said sternly. "Elite Agent Rotor?" "That's me," replied Rotor. "What can I do for yo-" Within seconds, Rotor had a rifle butt slammed into his face. He fell onto the floor as the mysterious woman continued to bludgeon him. When she was through, she started kicking him as hard as she could. "YOU... STAY... AWAY... FROM... MY... DAUGHTER!" she shouted angrily. Cabin quickly climbed out of the chopper and tried to grab the woman, only to be bludgeoned in the face by her rifle and knocked aside. After a few minutes, she finally stopped and took a moment to catch her breath. Kate looked up in surprise, somewhat awkwardly, not totally comfortable with the discovery. "Mom?" she asked, somewhat confused. Sarah turned in astonishment. "Kate?" she said keenly, dropping the gun and running up to her daughter. She quickly wrapped her arms around her. "Mom?" Kate said. "What exactly are you doing here?" Rotor slowly started to get to his feet and looked at them in shock. "You gotta be Znapping me," he said coldly. Sarah just gave him a cold glance. "You just stay away from her," she said. "Hey man," said a voice. Sarah turned to see Dude approaching her. "Was that Znapping necessary, man? Did you really have to beat him up?" Sarah said nothing. They were approached by another familiar face, whom Kate was far more pleased to see. "Pierce," Kate said. She ran up to the doctor and hugged him. Pierce smiled and laughed quietly. Sarah seemed to watch, slightly pleased. "I don't Znapping believe this," Trigger muttered. "This team better have my Znapping money. You know what happens to be people who set me up?" "What?" asked Snake. Trigger promptly drew his gun and cocked it. "That's what," he said. "I can tell you out of every MegaBloker who tried to double-cross me, only one ever lived to tell about it." "Who was that?" Snake asked. "Silencia Venomosa," replied Trigger. "I swear, as soon as I'm done with this MegaBloking team, I'm going to find her and blow her Znapping brains out." Snake smiled. "Sounds like fun," he muttered as he stepped out of the chopper. Trigger followed, and the two started to walk away, leaving Kate to her embarrassment. "MegaBlokin' unbelievable," muttered Trigger. "Of all in the jobs in all the worlds, I happen to pick the same MegaBlokin' one as that 4+ Figure Silencia Venomosa… again. Well, this time, things will be different." He found himself reminiscing, thinking back to the last time he saw her, eight years ago… ***** There was a knock at the door of the office. Mr. Uærlig Sindstorme, president of Mindstorms, Inc., looked up from his paperwork. "Come in," he said. There was a slight creak as the door opened and Sindstorme watched a tough-looking man enter. He wore a thick leather jacket, a pair of jeans, dark-coloured boots, and a pair of thick sunglasses, looking very different from Sindstorme's fancy three-piece business suit. His face was clean-shaven, and he had light-brown hair combed back. He stepped into the room casually, taking off his sunglasses. "I understand you got a job here," said the tough-looking man. "Yes," replied Sindstorme. "You got a name?" "Call me Schiess," the tough-looking man introduced himself, using yet another codename. "Good," said Sindstorme. "Your job should be fairly straightforward." Schiess looked around the room. There were six other men sitting around. "I've called you all here because you're the best of the best," Sindstorme said. "Take a seat." Schiess sat down in one chair next to a rough-looking man with short, curly hair. "Things have gotten rough recently," Sindstorme said. "Mindstorms Inc. is currently the number one producer of modern technology, and in order to ensure that it stays that way, we've got to take certain measures." "What's the job?" "For now, you're hired guns," explained Sindstorme. "At this point, our rival Dacta Corp. is mostly trying to do the same thing, but we've got the upper hand right now." "You want us to do the dirty work?" asked a tall man in the corner, wearing a blue shirt and a vest, with a slight combover. "That would be one way of putting it," replied Sindstorme. "I think we can handle that," said Schiess. "At this point, I need you boys to keep a lookout," Sindstorme continued. "When do we get to do something fun?" asked the curly-haired man next to Schiess. "You'll get your chance, Keaton," replied Sindstorme. "We're not quite ready yet, but we will eventually want you to perform a heist on Dacta Corp. once we know what we're dealing with." ***** Batholomew Enderson cleaned the glass. It was already sparkling clean, but it made him feel more comfortable whenever he was cleaning a glass. It did not help that business was unusually slow today, because chatting with customers also took his mind off of whatever it was that troubled him. Then, at last, she entered. Although she was silent as always, her very presence seemed to change the atmosphere of the room. She approached the bar and sat down on the stool. Bartholomew inquired, "Anything to drink, miss?" Usually, the answer was no, but he always asked, just to be polite. As he expected, she shook her head. She was not here for a drink. She was here for business. "Right then," he murmured in a low voice, handing over the envelope. "It's another assignment. I believe this one is from Dacta Corporation, if I'm not mistaken." Why am I doing this? Batholomew Enderson thought with more than a hint of self-loathing as she took the envelope. I always see the results in the news, and it horrifies me. And yet... I know that if I ever refuse to do this... she'll kill me. No. Even worse. She'll kill my family, and then kill me. She opened the envelope, took out the letter inside, and read it over, silently. When she was done, she nodded to Enderson, then stood and left without a single word. May Builder forgive me, thought Bartholomew Enderson as he watched her go. It is a cruel punishment for a humble bartender such as myself to be the secret-keeper of Silencia Venomosa herself. ---- After a stop in the infirmary to get a crutch, have his stump leg checked over, and snag a few more painkillers, Hotwire headed to the barracks and lay down on a bunk. Once half an hour of ceiling-staring had passed, he came to the conclusion that, for whatever reason, he wasn't going to be sleeping. May as well hit the mess instead. The mess hall was surprisingly empty for 6:45 AM; it seemed that the majority of agents were either still on their way back to HQ, or busy sleeping off their missions. He dropped a sandwich and a mugful of coffee onto a tray and looked around. Two of the agents from Larson's T-1 Typhoon were sitting at a table by the wall. He recognized one as the card-playing girl who'd helped him keep his balance, and the other... well, Hotwire hadn't ever seen his face, but the steady stream of grumbling marked the agent as the former inhabitant of the sleeping bag. His head was resting on the shoulder of the female agent, who shrugged him off onto the table. As his forehead landed on his folded arms, she kissed the back of his head and punched him roughly on the arm. "Go get yourself some more food, you big baby." Grumbling, the agent stood, slouching, and dragged himself past Hotwire, his sandy shoulder-length hair falling like curtains and obscuring his face. Hotwire hobbled the rest of the way to the table. "Mind if I join you?" he asked. The female agent gestured welcomingly at the empty seat, and Hotwire leaned his crutch against the wall, set his tray on the table, and sat down across from her. "So, you're the renowned Agent Hotwire?" she said. She had a plain but animated face and long brown hair. "I'm Agent Wright." Hotwire shook her extended hand. "Renowned? Builder, I'd hoped to avoid that." "Hey, a one-legged agent traipsing right into a warzone is definitely gonna attract some attention," Wright said. "When'd you lose it?" Hotwire winced. "Less than twenty-four hours ago, actually," he said. "I'm sure the psychological trauma of losing a limb is going to hit me like a brick wall eventually, but I've been in fight mode so long that I only notice it when it hurts." Wright opened her mouth to speak again, but was interrupted by the return of the grumbler. "They didn't even have any-- O'Neal?" Hotwire looked up and almost dropped his sandwich. "Shiller?" The two of them laughed in shock and joy, and the sandy-haired agent jumped over the table. He roughly hugged Hotwire, slapping him on the back. Hotwire reciprocated, and Shiller returned to his seat. He rapped Wright on the head, and she elbowed him in the gut. Shiller, still laughing, said, "Well, we kept hearing about this Elite Agent Hotwire, but holy Znap, I never in a million years guessed it was you." "And I didn't even recognize you without the mohawk!" cried Hotwire. Wright raised an eyebrow in confusion, and Shiller turned to her, grinning widely. "We went to tech school together. Ten years ago, this punk rewired the intercom to constantly play elevator music real quiet. It took them all day to fix, and they never even found out who did it." Hotwire laughed too at the sudden memory. "Crazy