Joint Story3

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Last update 10/29/09


ONI JOINT STORY


Salvation

Samer

Barabas let them shackle his wrists and stand him up, walking with them out of sight.

Mai let go of Mukade's arm and sighed. "What do we do now?" she wondered aloud.

"We wait I guess" Mukade replied ... "u're glowing again " he continued ... "it's time to give u another shot ... "

"Oh God I didn't even notice it this time ok ..." she said extending her arm .

"It won't be long now" Griffin said optimistically "Soon we'll get access to the machines, mukade will treat u we will save the world ! and I'll free my son !"

"Easy there ... I don't think it will be that easy " Muakde said bringing Griffin back to reality.

Meanwhile ... the shackled Barabas was under investigation ...

"So what brings u here my dear ?" Samoko said to Barabas caressing his face "I've decided to surrender ... It's not worth it anymore"

"mmm and a wise decision that is ... but why now ? something smells fishy she said walking circles around him " "U gave us quite a challenge back there in the vault ... we lost many good agents ... " "There's nothing good about them" he replied

" Says the mutant white monster " she laughed ... "Look dear ... let's make a little deal ... u're strong, I give u that ... but u're lost without ur master ... we an give u new hope new objective and all the killing u'd ever want "

"i think I'll pass ...I'm my own master now "

"Barabas ... Barabas ... I'm so disappointed in u ! ... when we gave muro that experimental chrysallis to implant in one of his men ... we told him to choose the most ruthless strong man he had ! not a coward !"

"maybe u just need a little motivation she said singling to 2 of her men ..."

the 2 carried a familiar object the made Barabas's eyes shine with eagerness ... "My gun" he yelled

"Yes, yes boys do need their toys ... all it takes is for u to tell me where they are .... and u can have so much weapons ... knock urself out ! we have a full arsenal "

"U are changing people into monsters ... they never have a chance "

"Barabas do u really care about some homeless ppl who would have died anyway ... sacrifices must be made for the future ... "

"Muro got me by that same kind of talk ... keep ur guns"

"Very well then dear ... take him to solitary confinement in the earthquake proof prison .. we wouldn't want u to affect other with those delusions now would we ?"

"No wait ... I'm not dangerous anymore ... "

"Why so eager dear ? take him .. NOW"

Barabas was led to a solitary prison cell .. by a dozen of agents

"Something doesn't feel right ..." she said talking to one of her henchmen

I want u to patrol the area outside ... I have a feeling she's here ...

"will do ... " he said as he walked away

"use the special force unit ..." she said stopping him ... "Guys ... I think we have unexpected company she said talking to her head set ... Prepare the Iron demon"

....

Back outside mai was getting anxious ... "What if they see right through him !" she said "he's not a great actor u know"

"Shhh ..." mukade said "did u hear that ? someone is getting near ...

"I don't see anyone ... "Griffin responded

"They're wearing invisibility cloaks" mukade whispered

"Guys we're not alone !!" Mai said pointing her finger to ...


Leus

...Thin air. Mukade roundhouse kicked in the direction Mai had indicated, and his foot connected jarringly with something. A loud clang rang out on impact, followed by a heavy thud shortly thereafter. Another clang rang out and Mukade was sent sailing back a couple of feet, gracefully turning his fall into a backwards arial and landing in a kneeling pose facing away from the action.

"How many are--" Griffin was cut off as something connected with his jaw. His arms windmilled out and he fell on his side, stunned.

"I can't tell," Mai shouted back mid-kick. Another clang and thud followed this attack, and Mai suddenly reached backward and grabbed something unseen. Her legs were quickly swept out from under her and she fell to the ground, losing her grip. Within milliseconds, though, Mukade had dived headfirst towards whatever Mai had been holding, and he wrestled the invisible assailant to the ground. He reached down, then ripped his arm back. A loud snap was heard and the figure of a man in a black coat quickly became apparent on the ground beneath Mukade. Mukade cast aside the cloaking device and activated his own, vanishing. Mai pounced on top of the fallen adversary.

The commotion stopped suddenly. No one moved a muscle, except Griffin who cautiously propped himself up on his elbow.

"Easy, now," came a voice from the air. "Just, let him go."

"I don't think you're in a position to be delegating," Mai responded snappily. "Come get him yourself."

Silence.

"Alright then," said Mai. She pulled a pistol from the man's coat and cocked it, holding it against his neck.

"Wait!" the man shouted. Mai obliged his request. After some hesitation, the man implored once more, "do something!"

"I hope you're talking to me," Mai said, "and I can't really think of too many options at this point." The sounds of slow footsteps began, speeding up and fading away simultaneously. Mai smiled. "Sounds like your men abandoned you."

"What do you want?" the man hissed between clenched teeth.

Mai cocked her head. "As I recall, you addressed us," she said in a faux-confused tone. "What do YOU want?"

The man sighed painedly, unresponsive.

"That's what I thought," said Mai. She reached into his coat and pulled out his ID badge, the gun still pressed firmly beneath the man's jaw.

"Leland Fort, Lab Tech," she read aloud. "Nice moves for a lab tech."

"Even our janitorial staff is highly trained in martial arts," Leland replied. "We know how to hold our own."

"Not exactly the type of work you signed up for, eh?" Mai prodded. "Being sent to fight super powerful radicals bent on the destruction of your employers?"

"I wasn't sent here to fight," he said, his eyes wandering away from her gaze.

"I just got lucky, then?" Mai said, this time with fake excitement. "Must be my day. So, Leland. How'd you know we were here?"

The man furrowed his brow and gulped. He opened his mouth and a strained squeak emitted. "Enough questions," Mai said, pulling the trigger.

---

"Alright," a man said as the large metal lock clunked open. "We've decided your story checks out."

Barabas stood up. He hadn't been in this cell for more than a few minutes. "What do you mean?" he asked in response.

"The powers-that-be around here cleared you for admission into the program," the man explained. "Come on."

Barabas stepped up to the doorway. As the heavy metal door swung open, Barabas saw two black-clad heavily armed and armoured guards accompanying this man, who himself wore a long, black coat.. "Come with us," one of the armoured guards said through a hissing filter in his helmet.

The four of them walked down a hallway and made a turn. They came to an unmarked door. The unarmoured man swiped a card through a slot in the keypad next to the door, and the four men walked through into a straight, long and narrow corridor with nothing but another door at the opposite end. They took a few steps down the hallway and the door at the other end opened. Through it emerged a young man in a long, black coat, and behind him he dragged a withered and stark-white body. "Idiot!" the man accompanying Barabas shouted. "We take those out the BACK door!"

Suddenly the man stiffened, and he quickly turned to meet Barabas gaze. Barabas narrowed his eyes, and he felt a heavy hand grab his left shoulder. Barabas let his elbow fly behind him, striking the armoured man in the head and cracking his faceplate. The other armoured guard grabbed Barabas' right arm with both hands and held firm. The struck guard recovered and quickly grasped Barabas left arm with both hands. Barabas flexed his muscles and slowly began to build the momentum to break free, but the guards were pulling in opposite directions and made it difficult, temporarily restraining him. The black-coated man swiftly withdrew a syringe from his coat and advanced on Barabas.

A loud snap resonated throughout the hallway and the man's body fell limply to the floor, his head twisted nearly upside down.

---

"Griffin, Mukade, come on!" Mai demanded, pocketing Leland's badge and tossing his pistol to Griffin's side. "We've got to get in there!"

"Hold on a second," Griffin said, getting to his feet and tucking the weapon into his waistband. "Barabas may have been right after all. With just the three of us--"

"Mukade?" Mai interrupted, inquiring of the still air around her. There was no response.

"Great," said Griffin. "Two of us. We won't be able--"

"I don't have time for negativity, Griffin," Mai said bluntly. "Barabas is in trouble."

"So what if he is?" Griffin said. "The crux of the matter is that he was right: We need a better plan."

"Mukade!" Mai shouted.

"What do you care, anyway?" Griffin continued. "Yesterday he was your mortal enemy, the kidnapper of your best friend and--"

"Don't you bring her up," Mai snapped, then sighed. "Griffin," she said earnestly. "This man has just begun his trek down a long path of redemption. I've got to show him that justice, heroicism and overall goodness are worth fighting for. I've got to show him the value of trust, and the mutual benefits of fighting this good fight. I can't just use him and abandon him like everyone else in his life has. How will he see this path as any different?"

Griffin stood wordlessly.

"I'm going," she said, beginning a jog towards the building. Griffin hesitated a second then followed suit.

The two walked through the front doors together and began strolling aimlessly. For the first few seconds they went unnoticed. Then a voice rang out, "Hey!" Without looking to the source, Mai and Griffin darted into a hallway. Rounding a corner, Mai ran straight into someone. They both fell to the floor, and Mai looked up to meet the familiar gaze of Barabas sitting across from her.

"What are you doing here?" they asked each other in unison. Mai noticed a black-armoured figure walk up to Barabas' side. She jumped to her feet and assumed a fighting stance, but quickly recognized the unique armoured form of Mukade. "What--"

Mai was cut off by the sounds of foot steps approaching down the hallway behind them. She extended a hand to Barabas, who took it in his own and was swiftly pulled to his feet. "Come on," Barabas said, turning back the way he'd came and beginning to jog. "This way." Mukade followed, trailed by Mai and Griffin.

Soon the four arrived at an unmarked door. Barabas kicked the door as hard as he could, but to no avail. Mukade gave it a sturdy kick as well, but with the same result. "We've got to get in here," said Barabas.

"Why? What is it?" Mai queried, reaching into her pocket.

"The execution chamber," Barabas responded simply. Mai withdrew Leland's ID badge and swiped it through the slot on the keypad next to the door. A small green light lit up and a loud click resounded. Barabas tried the door and it opened. The four of them jogged down the long hallway, carefully avoiding the bodies littering the floor. The door at the other end of the hallway was held open by a pale and lifeless body wedged inside. Barabas ripped the door back and charged inside, followed by the other three.

Inside were rows of stark and unaccomodating operating tables. Many had naked white bodies sprawled out on them, and some of these had men in black coats hovering above. Some of the subjects on the tables moaned, twitched or squirmed. Some lie still. Some had been opened wide, revealing their insides to the outside world.

No one moved. The black-coated men stared at the intruders, and the intruders returned the gesture. "Alright," Mai reasoned in a stern but calm voice. "Let's just--"

BANG! One of the coated men fell to the floor, a hole in his chest. Griffin lowered his smoking weapon and stepped forward to the table next to which the man he'd just shot had been standing. He stared down at the white figure on the table. "Casey..." Griffin murmured with horror.


Mukade

After seeing one of ther comrades fall, the rest of the black suited men, backed up and raised their hands. Clearly, they did not want to mess with Griffin. He leaned over Casey, tears forming in his grey, steely eyes.

"Casey..?"

The young man didn't respond. Griffin's hand flew to his neck. A look of horror began to form on his face, but disappeared as he felt the fleeting signs of a pulse. A pass of his hand over his mouth and Griffin felt the faintest whiff of a breath escape his lips.

"Alive..."

He couldn't contain it any longer, the man Mai had known all her years, broke down, sobbing. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Mai almost burst out laughing, although she was glad she didn't.

Mukade and Barabas were standing a few paces behind them. Barabas had an expression on his face that clearly showed that he didn't know what to feel. She guessed that Mukade must have a similar expression on his face.

Suddenly, an alarm piecred the sound of Griffin's sorrow. One of the men had managed to sneak to a panic button on the wall while the three of them had been abosrbed with Griffin's reaction. Mai had to keep from striking herself in anger. She shouldn't let this happen at all.

"Mukade we've got to go..."

"No can do Mai." He said,checking his wristband teleporter, "My energy is nearly all drained after all this teleporting around. It's not meant to be used as often as it has been these past couple days. I have nowhere near the power to teleport 4 people, let alone 5." He glanced at Casey.

"How many can you carry?"

"Two, and at that, not very far."

"Take Casey with you, we'll..."

"NO!" Interrupted Griffin "I won't let himout of my sight!"

Mai began to respond, but stopped herself. Griffin would be of no use in this situation, Mukade could be.

"Mukade, give your teleporter to Griffin."

Reluctantly, he slipped it off his wrist and tossed it to Griffin, who almost didn't catch it, which furthur reinforced Mai descision to get Griffin out of there. 10 seconds later, both he, and is son had vanished, and Mai, Barabas and Mukade were left to face whatever came their way.

As much as she wanted to shoot everyone in the room, she held back. She thought back to the scientist she had killed earlier. What came over me she thought with a growing knot in her stomach. They quickly and efficiently incapaciated the enemy. Then they quickly went from table to table, helping those they could get up and follow them. They all found various weapons around the room and stripped some the guards of their cloathes for their own use. They would all heal quickly, but she doubted they would be combat-ready just yet, guns would have to suit them for now. They had 14 total with them by the time they finished. There were many others alive, but as much as Mai wished, there was nothing they could do for them, they would have to find their own way later, if they could. She silently wished them all luck, then lead the party out the way they had come.

To their surprise, they encountered no resistece along the halls back towards the entrance. As they stepped outside, they came upon a site that nearly made them all freeze in place. A gargantuan metal robot loomed not 15 feet ahead of them. No sooner had they stepped out the door the robot had spotted them.

Mai, Barabas and Mukade had cleared the door and managed to dodge the initial volley of what Mai identified as an enhanced version of the Black Adder machine gun, built to accomodate heavier bullets. Two of the symbionts behind them werent so lucky, with their reduced reflexes they caught the bullets square in the chest and went down instantly, with gaping holes. They weren't going to get up again. The ones behind the two that went down quickly jumped to either side of the door, and fired weapons around the corner, which were virtually ineffective at the giant monstrosity. Then, to Mai's horror, a squad of well armored BGI troopers stormed out of the hallway were they had been a minute before, and took aim at the surprised escapees.

No no NO! It was all wrong! She couldn't give these men and women a glance at freedom onlyto have it torn from their dead fingers! Slowly, she began to glow again, her rage furthur speeding on her metamorphosis. But instead of the light purple and blue lights that usually danced around her, she was encircled in a deep green and red.

"GO! GET AWAY!" Someone shouted. It took Mai a second to realize that it was her voice! It was deeper and distorted. But she couldnt worry about that now. She didn't have to tell them twice. The remaining 12 symbionts raced by the iron demon. The three rescuers were drawing most of the fire, but 3 more were caught by plasma balls, and 1 by a mercury bow fired out the door. She turned her gaze now to Mukade and Barabas.

"YOU TOO!"

Barabas was too busy tearing at the Iron Demon, and doding bullets that he couldn't spare a glance

"I'm sorry Mai." said Mukade, as he drew the weapon they had discovered at the lab. Mai only had a second to realize what was going on, before she was hit by a net of searing energy. She dropped to one knee, her glow fading instantaneously as her chrysalis diverted it's energy to keep hr from dying. Mai looked up with pleading eyes at Mukade. He understood how she felt. He too had felt similar when he had first given in to the darkness. With a swift hand, he knocked her unconcious. Quickly, he attached a force field to himself and to Mai, and tossed a third to Barabas.

"Come on! Were getting out of here!"

With bullets ricocheting off their force fields, they retreated from the building. Mukade looked at Mai. He was glad Barabas couldn't see the look of dread in his eyes...


Back at the lab, Samoko frowned...

"This piece of metal needs an upgrade." A grin spread across her face.

"I know just the thing."


Leus

Mukade looked at Mai. He was glad Barabas couldn't see the look of dread in his eyes.

Mukade glanced back over his shoulder. In fact, Barabas couldn't see anything about Mukade at all; Barabas was nowhere to be found. Inside the building the firefight raged on. Mukade carried Mai a bit further, into an alley out back behind the building. A quiet drizzle had started up, and Mukade tripped in a shallow puddle and dropped Mai, her body smacking lifelessly against the pavement.

Quickly, Mukade scrambled on his hands and knees to her side. He looked at her through the faceplate of the fresh helmet he'd retrieved at his lab. Angrily, he ripped the helmet from his head. "Too long have I been contained in this vessel, devoid of face or voice, drifting through chaos like a lost soul," he said, his own voice resonating strangely in his ears. "The madness... It eats away at me..." Mukade spoke to no one. "I can't fight it back..."

"Hey," came Griffin's voice simply from the shadows. He stepped forward, his son limping along beside him, holding onto his shoulder for support. "Is she alright?"

"I don't know," Mukade snapped. He paused. "I... I had to--"

A loud crash interrupted Mukade. A door had swung open very near the group in the alley and slammed against the building wall with force. A figure stepped out. "We need to get out of here," the familiar voice of Barabas asserted. As he became visible, Mukade noticed that Barabas was holding the enfeebled body of an imago test subject in his arms. A few other subjects followed weakly behind Barabas.

Nobody in the alley was in the mental state to be taking decisive action. Barabas looked around frantically and saw a door in the building across the alley from the BGI facility. "In here," he said, kicking in the door. Mukade lifted Mai once more and carried her in through the door. He was followed by Griffin, Casey, and the straggling group of imago survivors. Barabas carefully pushed the broken door into a closed position. Shortly thereafter, several BGI pursuers rushed out into the alley.

The group stayed absolutely silent. Before long, the BGI split up into two search parties and departed in opposite directions down the alley. Barabas breathed a quiet sigh of relief. He looked Mukade up and down. "I like the new look," he commented.

Mukade ripped off his gloves and reached up to touch his pale cheek. His skin wasn't used to the elements of the world, and he felt a tingling possibly akin to mortal pain. "I was a faceless killer," he said, intending to continue but finding no words to follow.

"What?" said Mai without warning. Mukade's head snapped back to look at the girl. She began trying to stand up.

"Easy, now," Mukade said, but she got to her feet without too much trouble.

"What..." she began again. "What's going on? I feel... Weak... My limbs feel heavy..." she said, raising her arms without much effort. "My breath... Constricted..."

"You look normal to me," a voice suddenly came from behind her. She whirled around and tried to grab him, missing and nearly falling over with the motion.

"Who are you?" Mukade demanded, stepping forward and placing himself between Mai and the newcomer.

"Easy, now," the man said, raising both hands in the air, palms out and facing Mukade and the group. "No cause for concern. I'm a nice guy."

"Let me try a different approach," Mukade said, taking a few more steps forward. "Who. Are you?"

The man's expression remained unchanged save the single eyebrow that rose at this advance. "Well, given that you're the ones that just broke into my storage room, shouldn't I be asking you?" he queried.

Mukade's posture relaxed a bit. "Well--"

"Ah, forgive me," the man interrupted. "How rude of me, ignoring a perfectly honest question. The name's Frank. I own this place."

"Well, we--" Mukade was cut off once more.

"You guys alright?" Frank said, surveying the strange group before him. "Half y'all look like you just got back from an all expense paid seven-year vacation trapped in a cave somewhere." He snorted. "With complimentary all you can eat meals of spiders and roach... Ah... Forgive me, again. I tend to get goin'. No offense intended, I hope--" this time Frank was the one to be interrupted.

"It's fine, Frank," Mai spoke up. Mukade noticed her speech sounded normal enough. "I know we must not be the first sight you'd expect to see... Anywhere, really."

"You can say that again," Frank chimed in.

"Do you have any idea what's going on next door to you here?" Barabas interjected, pointing in the direction of the BGI facility.

"Oh, BGI?" Frank said nonchelantly. "Yeah, they got all kinds of crazy science stuff over there, I hear."

"Frank," Griffin spoke up this time. "I'm sure this is unsettling for you--"

"Not really," Frank interrupted again. "I'm pretty easy-going."

"That's great," Griffin continued, "but we've got pressing business to attend to."

"Not a problem," Frank said. "You seem like good guys, havin' a rough go of it and all. Any down-trodden rebels on the run from the man are alright in my book."

"Thanks," Griffin said awkwardly, then turned to the group. "What have we got here?"

"Including this guy here," Barabas said, indicating the man he cradled in his arms by lifting him up slightly, "I managed to get six out alive." Griffin surveyed the five previous test subjects that all stood timidly behind Barabas.

"What are your names, boys?" Griffin requested. He was met with nothing but sheepishly averted glances. Finally, one spoke. "We've never known ourselves by names."

Griffin furrowed his brow and turned towards Casey, who was already looking surprisingly healthy. "Son?" he said softly. Casey was unresponsive, his eyes seeming to be fearful. "Casey," he said. "You don't even remember your own name?"

As Griffin continued to search for his son in the eyes of this creature the resembled him, Mukade spoke up. "Mai," he said. "How do you feel?"

Mai ignored Mukade's inquiry. She was focussed on the interaction between Griffin and his son. Seeing this emotionally intense moment between a parent and child sparked something in her. "My father!" she suddenly exclaimed. Everyone turned to look at her. "Griffin, ever since you popped up again I've been in somewhat of a haze. Part of me was entranced by this new side I was seeing of people I once considered vile and heartless, and another part just felt like she was back in the TCTF, following her commander on a special mission. I'd forgotten what I'd set out to do: To find my father."

"Mai," Mukade began, uneasy. "Just... Take it slow." He hesitated, then changed the subject back. "How do you feel?" he repeated.

She paused, apparently considering the implications of this inquiry and letting them temporarily override her speech. "Strange," she replied. "I've never felt like this before." She reached down to pick up a stray piece of piping from the floor, but nearly fell over once more as she pulled on the heavy object.

"You're weak," Mukade said, stepping towards Mai and holding out a hand.

"You kiddin' me?" Frank chimed in. "Even I'd have a tough time pickin' up a hunk of metal like that. Give the girl a break."

Mukade glanced over to Frank, then back to Mai. He cocked his head, and his eyes widened a bit.

"She's normal," Griffin' spoke up before Mukade could collect his thoughts. "At least that's what it seems."

"The weapon," Mukade began. "It must have somehow reversed the effects of the chrysalis."

A million thoughts raced through Mai's head. She vocalized many. "What?" to start with. "How? Why? How will I defend myself? ...Will it be like this forever?" she paused. "Is this what 'normal' feels like?" She looked at her hands, raising them and letting them fall a few times. "Everything feels so... Cumbersome..."

"Maybe this isn't an affliction," Barabas said. "Maybe it's a blessing. Maybe you've been saved from your fate, free to finally lead a normal life once more."

There was a pause in the conversation. "Boy, you guys sure do like the drama, eh?" Frank commented after a moment. Nobody noticed Griffin sneaking closer and closer to Mukade.

"I bet my father could help us," Mai suggested, ignoring Frank's remark.

"Mai," Mukade began again. Griffin snatched something from a magnetic slot on the back of Mukade's armour. Mukade reacted, but Griffin was too quick and dodged the counter. "What are you doing with that?" Mukade demanded.

"If it made Konoko normal, maybe--" his thought stopped in its tracks as he turned to face the spot where his son had stood just a moment ago.

"Casey?" Griffin nearly whispered to the empty air. The group heard a loud clattering and turned towards the door through which they'd origially entered. It was off its hinges and lie flat on the floor now. Griffin swiftly dashed out into the rainy night in pursuit of his son. Mai tried to chase after him but stopped after a few slow steps.

"Great," Frank groaned exasperatedly, ignoring the chaos and surveying the ruined door.


Mukade

Mukade gave a low curse as Griffen flew out the door. The BGI were still roaming the area in search of them, and he wasn't about to let Griffin get gunned down.

"Barabas, stay here and guard the Mai and the rest of the group."

"Just get back here quickly. I hate babysitting. Unless theres killing involved."

"You never know." commented Mukade as he dashed out the door. as he stepped out into the light, he immediately snapped his eyes closed. It had been too long since he had seen the light of day with his own eyes. Still he couldn't let this stop him. He opened his eyes to a narrow slit and resumed his pursuit.

Griffin turned the second corner just in time to see the pale leg disappear into a nearby building. He followed behind, and entered the building. The room was illuminated only by the light passing through the doorway. It took Griffin a couple seconds to see the quivering, crouched shape on the far side of the room. Casey's head jerked up at the intrusion.

"No, stay away from me!!" he yelled desperatly, in a cracked, voice. It was as if he had not spoken in years, which was probably the case.

"Casey, what...?"

"Stay away!" he repeated

"I'm not going to hurt you Casey." Griffin's voice was that of a desperate father

"Who are you?!?"

These words pained Griffin more then any torture known to man. He sank tohis knee's in despair, speechless. At this point, Mukade passed the door, and saw Griffin framed in the entrance.

"Griffin, get your son and get out of here! It's not safe!"

The older man didn't respond.

"GRIFFIN!"

"He doesn't even know who I am..." he said. His voice was normal, but he was clearly in a lot of emotional pain.

"Be thankful he's even alive Griffin! He's your son whether he know's it or not! If you don't get him out of here soon, wre going to be target practive for a squad of BGI heavy troopers! And that includes Casey!"

The mention of harm coming to his son seemed to snap Griffin out his his semi-trance state. He got back to his feet and started towards his son.

"It doesn't matter who I am Casey, you need to come with me! Now!"

Casey fliched away from Griffin's hand as he reached out to help the boy to his feet.

"No..." he murmed, "No...No...It's not safe....Who are you...I don't want to go back.."

"casey if you don't come with us, you will be taken back to the men in black coats and...."

At the mention of the BGI scientists, his eyes widened and he got to his feet, still wary of Griffin and Mukade, standing in the doorway.

"Don't let them take me back..."

"I won't. Come on, we need to get back."

"I want Mai..."

Mukade's and Griffens brows both shot up simultaneously. Apparantly, Casey had developped an attachment to Mai in the few minutes he was with them, Griffin couldn't begin to imagine why. Unable to respond any other way, Griffin replied

"We'll get you to Mai."

Finally, Casey let Griffin take him gently by the arm. He winced at the contact, but didn't flich away from it. Slowly and with wary eyes, they made their way back to the storage room.

When they got back, Mai was standing, shakily, using the wall as support. As soon as they got through the door, Casey hurried to the group of Imago's which, had formed very near to Mai. They kept on whispering to one another, and looking at her with wide eyes. Griffin noticed, that despite the factthat all thes people were in a range from about 16 to 25 years of age, they all acted like a group of 1 year elementary school students. Casey took his place in the group, but he placed himself the closest he could to Mai. Mukade looked around the rest of the room at Barabas and Frank, who sat there, trying to contain their grins of amusement and failing miserably.

"They seem to have taken a liking to you." Said Mukade with a mix of confusion, and a degree of concern."

"I dunno, maybe they just feel safer around women." Suggested Mai.

"If they really knew you they wouldn't." Mukade commented, which elicited a chuckle from Barabas.

"We've got to get moving, it isn't safe here"

"I've got a truck that can probably fit you all in the back, would you mind a lift?" suggested Frank

"If it's not too much trouble..." said Mai

"Oh it really isn't. I like a little adventure in my life every one in awhile, and you folk seem to be where it's all happening right now. Just let me get my coat and keys, and we'll be on our way."


Samer

"We've got to get moving, it isn't safe here"

"I've got a truck that can probably fit you all in the back, would you mind a lift?" suggested Frank

"If it's not too much trouble..." said Mai

"Oh it really isn't. I like a little adventure in my life every one in awhile, and you folk seem to be where it's all happening right now. Just let me get my coat and keys, and we'll be on our way."

"Where are we going guys ?"

"My father's lab ... " Mai responded "there has to be something we missed before ... some clue to his where abouts ...

"Mai ... u're presuming he's still ... "Mukade said and stopped himself when he saw mai's gaze .

"ok ... let's go " he continued ...

"unfortunately we didn't manage to get anywhere near ur machines" griffin said addressing mukade

"well at least u get ur son back " Mai responded as Casey looked timidly at her and smiled

"Come on Guys the truck is ready ... " Frank said as he climbed to his truck ...

"we'll all ride in the back ... we don't want to be spotted "

"Mai u sit beside frank to show him the way ... and stay low " Griffin said

"ok let's go"

frank drove them past the BGI agents unnoticed and soon the black coated men were out of sight ...

"So ... u're searching for ur father ? " Frank finally said to break the silence ....

"Yes ... I just have to find him ... he can't be dead ..."

"is he like an agent or something ? "

"no he was ... is a scientist ... he and mom tried to battle the government ... they tried to expose the truth of how the environment was ... "

"Oh tell me about now we can't even walk anywhere now ... I know what's it's like to lose some one u love ..." he said still in the same nasally tone ... I had family outside the safe areas ... they were dead few minutes after the atmospheric processors exploded ...

"I'm so sorry to hear that " Mai said s she patted the guy on the shoulder

"No it's ok ... I've learnt to deal with it " ... U just do what u have to do to prevent that form ever happening again ... "

"will do ... Frank our stop is near that exit "

"Oh ... u know that the atmosphere isn't really safe there ... right ? "

"That's ok my chrysallis will ....". mai said then interupted herself as she came to the realization she was the only one among her comrades without protection form the atmosphere anymore anymore ...

"GUYS A little problem here !" she said as she turned to the back

"What is it ... I'm ready, show me those agents !" said Barabas preparing for battle

"No, No it isn't that ... I just realized I'm not protected like u guys anymore "

Griffin and mukade both startled ... "that didn't even occur to me" mukade said ...

"It's fine" except the lab is in an unsafe zone ...

"Ok look" mukade said ... "take my head plate and my armor they'll provide enough safety ... just try not to breath too much ?"

"I thought u were naked under there " Griffin said holding in a laugh

while casey just pointed at mukade and laughed "NAKED !" he said

"Oh shut up ... " "I'm trying to save a life here "

"I think i have some extra clothes back there ...Frank interrupted "I'll drop u off here I can't go any closer .. u know the whole breathing thing "

"are u done there Mai ?" ... Griffin asked ... "Yup we're ready" she said as mukade and she came out from behind some boxes ... she was wearing mukade's armor while mukade wear some civilian clothes ...

"I feel weird" she said ... "all ninja like and stuff"

"I feel human" mukade said as he dusted off his shoulder ... "who knew civilian clothes can be so comfy !"

"Mai ... pretty " Casey said

"hehe thanks ... thanks for the lift Frank let's move it gang ... " Mai said taking the lead as usual

"Mai ... "Griffin interrupted "I think it's best if I take the lead and u just try not to touch ... and stay close to mukade and I ... everything could be poisonous ... "

"ok .. I guess u're right" Mai replied uneasily still not used to this new weak normal state ...

they said goodbye to frank and walked thru the little path leading to the lab ...

"Yep I can definitely feel it even with a chrysalis ... the air is heavier"Griffin said " how are our little friends doing back there Barabas ? "

"normal ... well as normal as they can get anyway " .... "and u Mai ?"

"would everyone just stop treating me like a child ??" she snapped back unintentionally .. "I'm sorry ... I'm fine ... just a little difficulty walking with this thing "

"Guys ... there's something here ..." mukade said pulling everyone's attention ...

"what is it ? " Barabas inquired ... "I'm not sure ... but whatever it is it's huge ... "

A deafening roar interrupted everyone making them cover their ears ...

"what the hell is that !!" Mai said pointing to what looked like a mutated dog a really really big dog with tentacles coming out of it's back

"Nice doggy ..." Casey said while the other mutants hid behind Barabas

"Guys we are not strong enough to face this now ... " mukade said as they all came closer forming a circle around Mai and Casey ... and standing completely still

"Can we make it to the entrance ?" Mai whispered ?

"we can try" ... Griffin said ... " Barabas can u help me distract him ?... mukade, mai u take everyone else inside ... "

"u mean to say mukade take everyone else inside including Mai" Mai whispered

"Just do it !"

"The doggy is charging .. "Barabas said ... as he pushed everyone out of the way "Move now !!"

his punch connected with the monster's face as it launched at them ...

mukade mai and the mutants ran ... towards the door ....

as Griffin and Barabas tried to fight that thing off ...

it's tentacles however extended to grab the yet not so fast Mai and drag her ...

"MUKADE HELP !!" She yelled ...

"PROTECT MAI ! " Casey yelled as he hammered the beast with punches ... the other mutants did the same when they saw Mai in danger ... bringing the beast to it's knees ...

they all ran towards the entrance and made it in ... as the beast started to stand up again and launch towards them...

"one of them is missing !" Barabas yelled as he launched back towards the outside ...

"No don't u big bafoon !" mukade said closing his path ... what's done is done already u can't save him ..." we need u here

"Move out of my way !!" Barabas said carrying mukade

"he's right ... Barabas " Mai said we need u here ...

"we could have saved him" Barabas said surrendering ... with what looked to be a tear in his eye ...

"u can't save everyone ..." mai said resting her hand on his shoulder ... "I learnt that the hard way "

....

they walked thru the lab searching every computer node drawer and piece of paper they could find .... but came up with nothing ...

"we should just get out of here this is useless" Griffin said. as they walked up a little slope leading to a blocked door

"wait" mai said ... "I feel I've been here before like in a dream or something " follow me ... she said as she came down the slope and under it ...

the rest followed her

"What ?" mukade asked "there's nothing here !"

"the floor we're standing on ... there's something under it " (inspired by the dream lab level where the big shinitama was tongue)

"Barabas do me a favor a little earthquaker please ?"

"Barabas did just that as the floor broke under them and they all fell through it to a room under

as the dust cleared off ... Mai stood there shocked ... looking at a glass vessel with a body inside connected to machine ... and finally muttered "No ... no it can't be ! is that really u ?"

"We must protect him " a robotic voice said as a robot with what looked like Shinatama's head approached ready for a battle ...


Leus

"We must protect him," another identical voice came. "We must protect him. We must protect him."

A cluster of small robots emerged from the surrounding shadows, all sporting similar-looking heads of little girls. Some had pink hair, some purple, some brown, some black and some yellow. There were at least twenty robots in total.

"Ah, hell," Barabas sighed, surveying the room full of various hostile-looking robots. Some had humanoid bodies, some resembled spiders, some were on wheels. A few looked like robotic abominations thrown together by a madman, or incompleted projects. Suddenly a series of loud bangs were heard as a machinegun turret opened fire. The group dodged in different directions. Barabas lunged towards the gunning robot and kicked it onto its back. It was unable to right itself, it's wheels spinning fast and useless in the air.

A few of the other robots lunged at the group. Mukade dropped to the floor and swept his foot around, knocking one of the humanoid robots on its back. A surging electrical sound emitted as the robot hit the floor. "Ow," came a high-pitched and monotonous girl's voice. Griffin pulled his weapon out and popped a few shots off at one of the abomination bots, dropping it to the floor. Mai watched this and suddenly had a flurry of painful memories rush back to her. She pictured Griffin in the vault, gunning down what had been the only being she had ever trusted. For a second, she saw the monster in the man once more. She took a step towards them, but one of the spider bots pounced on her head. Mai fell onto her back and the spider bot ripped off her helmet.

Suddenly, all the robots simultaneously stopped attacking. "It is her," one said. "It is her. It is her." The robots all crowded around Mai. Mai struggled out from underneath the spider bot, holding her breath. She scrambled along the floor to her helmet, the robots following at a steady distance. Mai picked up her helmet and secured it in place, finally taking a breath. She choked on the air; she hadn't given the suit enough time to filter the contents of the helmet. Gasping, she choked again. She felt a sharp pain in her chest. Finally she was able to breathe a bit more normally, but her chest burned now and her stomach felt queasy.

A small whimper emitted from somewhere in the room. Barabas and Mai turned first to examine the source. One of the mutants had caught a bullet to the stomach. She didn't look to be too old, but it was very difficult to determine age from the looks of the imago test subjects. "I remember," she said.

Barabas and Mai made their way to her side and the rest of the people in the room turned to face the commotion. "It's going to be alright," Mai reassured from behind her opaque faceplate. The injured girl seemed to look right through into Mai's eyes, but she may have only been looking at her own reflection.

"Kyari," she said. "The name... I think it's mine."

"Kyari," Mai said, her comforting smile unseen. "You're going to be okay. Just hang in there."

"Father. Father. It is her." The robots had now turned towards the body suspended in the glass sarcophagus. For the first time Mai examined the spectacle. There were several pipes, wires and tubes connected to the chamber. Inside, floating in some sort of clear liquid, was the body of her father.

His eyes opened. Mai's opened wider in turn. The liquid began draining from the chamber. Every single person in the room stood still as stone as the vertical coffin emptied. When the chamber was clear, the front swung open with a hiss and a high-pitched whine, pivoting on a hinge at the top of the vessel. Out stepped her father, naked and with sticky gel-like liquid slowly dripping from his body. He grabbed a towel hanging from the side of the machine and wrapped it around his waist, not bothering to wipe the substance from his body.

"Father. Father," the robots repeated.

"Execute M. A. I. terminate," the words weakly escaped from his lips.

"Shutting down," the robots said simultaneously, then sat down and closed their eyes.

The room was silent. Everyone stared at the pale doctor. The doctor glanced around at each of them, a confused expression on his face.

"Where..." he began, then saw the frail and bleeding girl on the ground. He hurriedly hobbled to her side and dropped to his knee.


Samer

"Where..." he began, then saw the frail and bleeding girl on the ground. He hurriedly hobbled to her side and dropped to his knee.

"Mai ? is that u " he said lifting the girl's chin ... as her wound healed within seconds

"Mai stood still hiding behind the metallic mask ... here was her father who has been gone for years ... a few feet away from her ...and she couldn't find anything to say ...

"Mai ..." mukade nudged her ...

"I'm right here ... dad ... " she finally said ...

he stood and faced her with a blank expression on his face ... let me see u

"I can't ... the air ... " she replied

"activate toxin remover ... " he said talking to the room which lit up and a loud suction voice was heard ...

"now ? ..." he continued

Mai hesitated a million thoughts rushing in her mind ... then finally took the helmet off ... revealing her big green eyes glittering with tears ...

"Finally !" he sighed as tears ran on his cheeks and came close to hug her ... "u have ur mother's eyes" he whispered to her ear

Mai who didn't return the hug ... just stood there baffled ... "where have u been ? all these years " she finally said

"I have been in hiding ... I ... there's so much to tell "

"there are a lot of things i already know" she said " I know that mom passed away when u went to the restricted zone, i found the data in the restricted files in the regional state building ... I know that you and Kerr worked on the chrysallis ... that the syndicate kidnapped u and muro ... while kerr took me to the tctf "

"then u already know more than me ... I never knew what happened to u or to Kerr after i was kidnapped ... where is ur uncle now?"

"he .. he's dead I'm afraid" Mai said avoiding eye contact

a minute or 2 passed before her father said : "he shouldn't have gone to them ... it would have been safer if ... " he cut himself off looking at one person in particular his expression rapidly changed to wrath ... "YOU !!" he yelled at Griffin ...

"no James ... wait !" Griffin said holding his arms up for protection as Dr. Hasegawa pounced on him ...

"no dad stop !!" mai said trying to separate the 2 men

"u know who that guy is ???" her dad said still trying to take a punch at Griffin ...

"explain .. dad" she replied giving a doubtful look at griffin

after the syndicate took me ... i was forced to continue developing the chrysallis ... and to be honest after Jamie's death ... my only focus was to develop the chysallis ... I knew they would misuse it somewhere along the way ... but I didn't care ... I knew developing it was the only way to save lives ... The BGI funded our research and provided me with all the technology i needed ... little did i know that they tried to mimic my prototype ... manufacturing 2 prototypes of their own ... they didn't perfect it though they planted one in one of the syndicate strikers ... the BGI was running out of patience ... they started being less friendly ... "

Barabus interrupted ... "one of the syndicate strikers ? ... what happened to him ? "

"I don't know got mutated or something ... " Mai's dad replied

"or something ... u're looking at him doctor" Barabus said angrily

"I'm sorry it wasn't my choice !" ...

"it wasn't ur choice ? I was a field rat ??" Barabus said punching the wall

"Barabus .. please !" mai said " what's done is done ... there's no point in pointing blame now ... people change u know that more than anyone "

"u said they manufactured 2 prototypes ... dr " mukade interrupted

"yes ... i don't know what happened to the second one .. do i know u ? u look rather familiar "

"look closer doc ... remember ur third colleague, the third wheel of ur little gang ? that u and kerr always mocked and said his research is no good ?? "

"mukade !" James said with his jaw opened wide

"hello there buddy ... " mukade replied sarcastically

"what happened to u ?"

"u know old story ... BGI didn't like my research it threatened their greater plan ... they kidnapped me ... planted the second prototype in me ... i went crazy and all serial killer .. u know same old same old ... while u slept comfortably in ur little vessel"

"Guys ... please stop " ... "let's just hear what he has to say ... continue dad " Mai said

"this is a lot to swallow ... the BGI wanted me to test my chrysallis ... i knew i may not be able to manufacture a new one ... and i had to keep muro safe ... so i planted it in him ... i was already sure it will work ... and it did ... physically at least ... but muro ... he started to change to become bitter and angry all the time ... he took great interest in the syndicate ... he was changing and I couldn't do anything to stop it .. all i could do was stay close to him and try to keep him safe .. from himself most of all ... "

"and then ? .. " mai said

"and then a point came when i could no longer stand and watch helplessly as my son turned into a cold hearted man ... i had to leave ... it was the hardest thing I've ever done .. to let go ... " he chocked up saying this and his eyes got teary .. "Mai what happened to ur brother ? .. he said looking directly at her eyes ... "

"he ... he ... " she couldn't bare herself telling him his son was dead ...

"can u continue the story doctor and ask about ur whole extended family later ? " ... mukade said interrupting and saving mai from the thorny question ...

"very well ... I fled the syndicate .. barley making it alive ... i wasn't even sure where to find u ... if u had survived the attack or not ... i came out looking for u .. but instead I found the government against me ... they accused me of murdering Jamie and fleeing trail ... they just wanted to cover up what really happened in the restricted zone ... I was wanted by the TCTF he said pointing at Griffin ...

"I was following higher orders ... The BGI had my son ... The government wanted to cover up I had to declare u wanted by the TCTF ! "

"U KNEW HE WAS ALIVE ? and pretended there's nothing !! " Mai yelled

"no mai .. no i thought the syndicate killed him already ... i thought it would make no difference if i declared him wanted because i thought he's already gone ... " Griffin replied with his eyes to the ground

"well i wasn't .. i was searching for my daughter ... but i couldn't stay ! being chased by the TCTF the BGI and the Syndicate i had no where to turn to ... instead i had to flee here and hide all these years keeping myself in a suspended life state hoping that one day she might find me ... "

"U're such a liar Griffin .. u're such a liar ... " she said as she hugged her dad crying ...


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