Last update 10/29/09
ONI JOINT STORY
"What happend to you all this time my darling?"
So mai told him the story, from when she was taken to the TCTF up to the present, at least all the importent points. Dr. Hasagawa drank it all in, like a man in the desert. When she had finished, her father looked thoughtful. He was contemplating Mai's present situation with the lossof hr chrysalis.
"It's not dead, but dormant, the chrysalis itself too much damage from the energy web. It needs time to go dormant and heal itself, before it can continue to be your symbionte. How long it will take, i do not know. If the Shinatama with the neural link with you wer still alive, I could calculate the strencth of your chryslais and how long it would take for it to regenerate. But i can't tell you now, it could be in an hour, a day, a week, maybe longer. Until then you are vulnerable. I would suggst now would be a good time to learn to depend on your skills alone. you have a chance many chrysalis hosts won't be able to experience. If you learn to rely on your own abilities, once the chrysalis awakens, you will be able to rely on the combined strength of you and your chrysalis."
Mai considered this for a moment, then nodded. There was logic in his words. For the next couple weeks, Mai trained hard in her fathers lab, using the ShinBots as practice. Her muscles were hard and thick because of years of hard work, but she was unused to having to use them withoutthe help of the chrysalis. After a few days, she could move like she did before, without staggering or awkward movements. After a week had past, she became more combat ready, although certain abilities she had had before still eluded her, such as jump flipping and her twister kick. After the second week, she was able to defeat most of the Imago hosts, but the more combat trained ones were still able to beat her. The Imago hosts had also almost completed their recovery. They were now more independant, less afraid. Although they still held a sense of closeness between themselves, and a deep rooted affection for Mai. They also sparred between themselves and improved intheir own combat, taught by Mukade, Barabas, Griffen, and Mai herself sometimes. After the two weeks had passed, they had a small army of chrysalis hosts.
"We should leave now." Mukade suggested at the end of the week
"I agree." Dr. hasagawa turned to his shinbots. "I need you all to guard this place while I'm away."
"Goodbye father" they all said in unison. He smiled.
"I built you well." They giggled
Mai snapped her visor back on, and barabas picked up the wounded girl. The doctor grabbed a breath mask on his way out and slapped it on his face. They had just goten ready to leave. When the door bust open and a dozen heavy BGI troopers filed in and formed two lines, one behind the other, with their guns pointed at the band. Then, through the door, came Samoko, her Chrysalis Accelerator in hand. Mukade whipped out the gun he had used on Mai, and fired at Samoko before she knew what had happend. She dropped to one knee. The Bgi troopers tensed and prepared to fire, but Samoko held up her hand, a grimance on her face. After a few seconds, it faded and she drew herself up again. She laughed.
"That weapon was created decades ago." MY chrysalis is much more advanced then any of yours.
Mukade fired two more bursts. This time she managed to stay standing, and she only has distracted for a few seconds.
"Drop your weapons and surrender."
"I was afraid of that"
She brought her weapon up and fired one long blast at Kyari, the one person from the group who ha started to remember. Before their eyes, she glowed brighter and brighter, and after about 12 seconds, she imploded, collapsing upon herself until she was simply a point of light, then winked out of existence. Mai gaped in horror at the spot that Myari had been standing.
Then the anger began to rise. And the people standing nearest to her gave an exclamation and retreated from her. She had begun to glow once more. She grew brighter, until she was covered with pure energy.
"You'll pay for that!"
Samoko laughed, but there was a note of uncertainty behind her words. She sprinted towards Samoko. The lines ofBGI troopers formed up in front of her and opened fire. The shots disappeared into the storm of light, but had no apparant effect on the entity. She wrapped her hands around the closest officers, lept off the ground, around and snapped his neck and those of 5 other around him with her flying feet. She quickly dispatched the remaining troops and turned her attention to Samoko, who had just sat there the entire time, stunned. Mai jumped, spinning into the air, both fists raised, and brought them both down, hard onto her skull. There was a dull crack and Samoko slumped to the ground.
Gradually, the light faded, and Mai stood there, triumphant.
"Come on, lets go before any more of them show up."
They agreed, and hurried to the entrence, all of them stood for a second where Kyari had fallen, then moved on.
After they had all gone out the door. Samoko, laboriously raised her head to her comm.
Initial raid a failure. Initiate plan Beta.
The group was ragtag to be sure; along with Mukade and Barabas, the imago symbiotes now numbered seven. The other five had been assigned names for practical purposes, although none of them had any true memories of their past before the BGI prison. Casey was the tallest and the only one who still retained any apparent hair pigment; a shaggy, pale red crop grew sparsely from his scalp. His eyes were a faded green. The rest consisted of a bald woman called Sam, a man called Ford with scraggly white hair stretching down past his shoulders and a sparse beard, and a woman with crudely-cut, short white hair in tight curls who went by the name Axel. The boy who Barabas had carried from the lab looked like he couldn't have been older than 17, though the look in his eyes suggested otherwise. He was the smallest of the group, bald and with a strange lump on his forehead. He went by the name of Edgar.
All of the imago symbiotes chose their names themselves. Some, not knowing anything else, named themselves after those who had experimented on and tortured them. They all had pink eyes and pale skin, although the one called Axel was clearly of African descent. Most of them had become strong and agile after spending two weaks healthy, well-fed and excercising. Their bodies recovered and adapted quickly to their training. Only Edgar remained somewhat weak.
With Griffin, whose chrysalis was still too young to reach the imago state, Mai, who for some reason remained yet to transform, and the recently awakened James Hasegawa, the group numbered ten in total. Mai had discarded Mukade's armor as her chrysalis grew capable of protecting her once more. Mukade had refused to don it ever again, favoring instead the outfit he'd been given by Frank. James wore a small aparatus over his mouth and nose to filter the air. The group marched for nearly a mile across a dusty barren field of dry dirt and rocks. Finally, Dr. Hasegawa stopped. He knelt down and brushed aside some seemingly arbitrary rocks revealing a small switch. He flipped it and the dirt promptly began to fall into a horizontal opening growing in the dust before them. After some surprisingly quiet humming as the doors slid, the opening ceased to spread after about ten feet had been cleared. A shallow ramp led down a short distance and the group could see a large vehicle parked at the bottom.
"What's this for?" Axel asked, her words hissing through her sharp and jagged teeth.
"An emergency," James replied simply.
The group crawled inside. It was a strange vehicle, heavily armoured and fitted with strange and foreign-looking gadgets.
"Is this thing equipped with any weapons?" Mai asked, turning to her father.
James sighed, glancing down. "I'm sorry you had to grow up in an environment thinking like that," he said. "I never wanted to hurt anyone. I never built anything intended to destroy..." Mai frowned. The thought of a violence-free paradigm sounded both amazing and impossible to her.
Before long the ten of them were on the interstate, Dr. Hasegawa behind the wheel. Griffin rode in the passenger seat and Mai in the middle. The rest were in the back in an open area with bench seating around the perimeter. They had chosen to move in the dead of night so there was barely another car on the road. "We should have brought that weapon," Griffin suddenly said, unprovoked.
Mai expressionlessly withdrew from her jacket the device Samoko had used to decimate Kyari. "Always one step ahead of you, boss," she said rather sarcastically. "This thing spooks me, though. Not many things can, but this thing does."
"I'm sure it's the same for us all," Griffin replied. "It could destroy any one of us in a moment. But it will come in handy."
"Assuming they even have any more chrysalis symbiotes at their disposal," Mai shot back. Griffin nodded without a word.
Edgar sighed meekly. Something was concerning him, but he was nervous about speaking up. "Where are we going?" he finally managed.
"Back to the BGI lab," Mai replied. "We have unfinished business." She looked back at Edgar with a smug grin. Edgar scrambled away at this, pressing himself against the back hatch of the vehicle in the vain attempt to distance himself.
"What's wrong, Edgar?" Mai asked, turning around. The rest of the former imago test subjects saw the look in her eyes and became fearful. "We're taking you back home." She smiled. They all followed suit with Edgar, scrambling to the back of the vehicle, huddled in fear. Barabas looked at them concernedly. They looked back into his eyes with pure terror at the monster he was.
"What's going on?" Griffin asked, glancing over at Mai. She looked back at him.
"This one's for you," she said, a sly and satisfied look in her eye. She pulled out a gun and pointed it into the back of the vehicle, snapping off a shot. It struck Casey in the skull. He slumped forward, his blood and brains spattered against the back windshield.
"NO!" Griffin shouted, grabbing Mai and wrestling her away. James looked over and saw Griffin throttling the life out of Mai. The two toppled over into James' lap, and James swirved the vehicle and crashed into the median on the freeway. Everyone was thrown forward and stunned by the impact.
Mukade sat up after a second, holding his head. He wasn't used to the fragility of his exposed humanoid form. He scratched the short brown hair that grew from the right side of his head and groaned. Everyone else in the car suddenly looked up at him. They had strange yet familiar faces. They were faces of people he had tortured and killed in his past. His heart began to race. "What are you doing here?" he said aloud as they all crawled towards him.
As he looked around though, he could also see the familiar forms of the people he knew sitting up slowly and rubbing their heads and aching appendages in similar fashions after the recent car wreck. He realized he was seeing two different realities simultaneously.
He logically separated the illusions from actual reality and scrambled to the front of the vehicle. He could still see the form of a bloody young woman reaching out at him desparately, but he also saw James Hasegawa unconscious against the steering wheel. He suddenly realized there was a loud and continuous sound ringing out in the night air. He pulled James from the steering wheel and the noise ceased; he must have been laying on the horn.
In actual reality, the people around him began to scream, yell, whimper or fight once more. "EVERYONE!" Mukade shouted. "STOP IT!" He was ignored. Someone punched him in the face and he fell towards the front of the car. Looking out the windshield, she caught a glimpse of a familiar giant robot in the middle of the street walking rapidly towards them and shaking the ground with its steps. Realizing he had no time to lose, Mukade pulled James into the back and jumped into the driver's seat himself. "Hope this thing still runs," he said to himself. Taking the wheel, he backed away from the median, put it in drive and burnt out on the pavement, speeding away from the metal monster.
Ignoring the chaos occurring in the car around him for as long as he could, his passengers gradually began to calm down. "What happened?" Mai finally asked, rubbing her temples as everyone else sighed and groaned.
"The big bad is back," Mukade said. "That machine we fought in the BGI facility. I think it's got some new tricks up its sleeve; messing with our minds and such." Griffin looked back to see Casey safely working out his own kinks from the ordeal.
"I saw some messed up stuff," Mai said.
"I think we all did," Griffin chimed in, looking into her eyes sorrowfully.
"How'd we get out of it?" Mai inquired.
"My body's not the only thing that's part machine," Mukade said, knocking on the metal plate that was the left side of his head. "I somehow saw reality alongside the projected images. Tough to distinguish, but I know what's real and what's not." He quickly realized that he had absolutely no confidence in that statement.
"So we're not really going back to the lab?" Edgar said.
Mai hesitated, looking back. She could tell he was scared; she understood. "Edgar, even I never want to see that place again and I was only there for about fifteen minutse," she said. "But the world is dying, Edgar. The only way we can save it is to go back there and do what has to be done."
"You can't make us go back to that place!" Axel hissed.
"You guys," Barabas spoke up. "This is our chance to truly get revenge on the people who did this to us--ALL of us. Screw saving the world; that's just an added bonus." The previous test subjects seemed dubiously content with this proposition.
"We've got to get there, and quick," Mai urged. "That steel behemoth is probably on its way back as we speak. We've got to beat it there. We've got the advantage while that thing's out of play."
Before long they neared the familiar building once more. "Mukade, pull off here," she said, indicating a driveway into a property adjacent to the BGI building. "Maybe Frank's here. He might be able to help us out." Mukade nodded, pulled in and parked the car. The group got out and walked towards the building. It was unmarked with painted aluminum siding and a plain wooden front door under a small lamp. The ten of them filed through the doorway.
Inside was dark and empty. Before long, though, a few dim lights flickered on and a Frank walked in from the back room. "Hey, glad to see you guys are alright!" he said.
"You don't know the half!" Barabas said. "The BGI attacked us, and we were assaulted by a giant mind-altering robot."
Frank raised his eyebrow, then gaped. "Oh, right. Wow," he said, pausing. "Mind-altering robot, eh? Lemme get a hit of that!" He winked, then chuckled at himself. Mai furrowed her brow.
"We need help," James butted in. "Do you know anything about the BGI facility next door?"
"What?" Frank said, flustered. "I don't know, I mean, what do you mean?"
"Anything," James replied. "Any knowledge of their projects, defenses, building layout..."
"Hmm," Frank said, rolling his eyes to the ceiling and tapping his foot, placing his hand under his chin. He looked very thoughtful. "Well, they probably don't have too many people on staff at the moment. I mean it's the middle of the night after all."
"Do you know that for a fact?" James asked.
"Well, no," Frank replied. "Just an educated guess, I guess." He smiled, then pointed to Mukade. "Nice shirt."
Mai glanced at Mukade. She narrowed her eyes, shifting them back towards Frank. He looked back at her suddenly and their eyes met and locked. She held his stare and he raised his eyebrow before averting his gaze. Mai suddenly lunged forward nearly twenty feet and, before anyone really realized what was happening, had Frank by the shirt collar. "You," she said hostilely to him.
"Take it easy, lady!" he said frantically. "What--"
"He's one of them," she said, addressing her comrades. "He's stalling us right now. He also is having us tracked. Mukade, your shirt."
Mukade donned a concerned expression and quickly tore off his shirt, inspecting it. It didn't take long to find a tiny embedded microchip in the collar. "Oh no," he said simply, dumbfounded. The dim light gleamed off the metal plates, piping and wiring on his arms and torso.
"What!" Frank yelled. "This is ridiculous!" Mai turned him around and punched him in the back of the head, knocking him out and letting him fall to the floor.
"But wait," Mukade said. "If they knew where we were the whole time, why did they take so long to take action against us?"
"Probably working on some big scheme," Mai posited. "The theatrics we saw tonight were likely just the opening act."
"We should get out of here!" Axel barked.
"No!" Barabas countered. "We can beat them, whatever they've got to throw at us! We've got a small army of super-powered and super pissed daodan hosts fighting for what's right! NOTHING can stand in our way."
On cue, a series of loud crashes were heard and the building shook. In through the door rushed dozens of large, pale figures. The former imago test subjects recognized the newcomers as their previous fellow prisoners. They were quicker and bulkier now, though, and they weren't slowing in their aggressive headlong charge towards Mai and her crew.
Mukade drew his weapon and brought one of the Imago's down, twitching, but they recognized the threat and two of them quickly disarmed him and threw the gun out of reach. He crocuhed and spun his body forward into their legs and knocked them both to the ground. He flipped into the air and came down, one foot on each of their chests. That should have driven the air from their lungs and taken them out of the fight, but they both grabbed his legs and threw him into the wall. Hard. He crumpled the ground. Shakily he got back to his feet, he couldn't let them touch him, he was still too weak. The two Imago subjects recongnized his weakness and grinned evily. Suddenly, Sam, Ford, and Axel, jumped on top of the nearest assailant. The other one turned in surprised at the new comers. Mukade saw his chance, he shadow shifted through the stunned attacker. And before he could turn around, mukade punched him twice which sent him sailing into the wall. He then threw 4 more kicks consecutively into his back. The final kick sent him through the wall. He dropped to the ground outside, his spine had been shattered. He turned around to face his second attacker, only to see that the 3 had already taken him down and incapacitated him. But they didn't have time to recover. Immediately, 6 more took their place. Mukade took his place next to the 3 Imagos.
"I hope you three remember what I taught you."
They didn't reply, but matched his stance, and stood ready. He smiled.
Clearly, the main priority of the assault was Mai herself, 10 of the assailants ran directly at her. Casey and Edgar joined her side, they were still the two who held Mai in higher effection than the other 3, who had run off to help Mukade in his weakened state. As soon as the group was in striking distence. Mai executed a Devil Spin kick, which sent the nearest half of the group flying back the way they'd come, the 5 behind them, ducked their flying bodies, and kept coming. The fight raged on, for minutes. Three fo them were out of the fight, but the rest kept coming. They were loosing. They joined up with Griffin, who held another 5 at bay, and Mukade backed up into their group. Together they formed a circle of flying limbs but they couldnt keep it up forever. But..where was Barabas and her father? She had heard his voice att he start of the fight, yelling something att he test subjects, but they didn't listen She couldn't wory about that right now however. Itwouldn't matter if she didn't live. They had already downed over a dozen of them but there was another two dozen still fighting.
When James saw the Imago's running at them, he immediately understood what was happening. These subjects would never willingly turn against them. When they started fighting, it merely confirmed his suspisions. They were too...coordinated.
"Stop!" He yelled. "We aren't your enemies."
All he got was the attention of one of the attackers who came right at him. Then Barabas was there and crushed in his enemies skull.
"Barabas!" he yelled over the noise. "I need you to come with me!"
"I need to stay here and help them!"
"You won't be helping anyone if you stay, there are too many!"
"I'm not going to run away!"
"And you won't be! There is a way to stop them from attacking us!"
Barabas reluctantly agreed, and he follow the doctor out a side door. They went around to the front of the building. As they rounded the corner, they saw the Iron demon standing there. He was right, they were being controlled. Fortunately for them, the mind control required its attention and it was unable to defend itself. When Barabas set eyes on it, he immediately dodged behind the corner again, butthe doctor just stood there. Seeing that he wasn't immediately riddled with bullet holes, Barabas stood up, and peaked around the corner. he looked at James, with a look of understanding. He walked up to the behemoth, and searched around it. As he suspected, it HAD undergone some upgrades. In a small, very protected compartment, lay a deadly brain. He knew better then to simply destroy the brain with his bare hands, it's defense systems would activate if it felt any danger towards itself. Instead he looked around the compartment. He found a panel and wrenched it open. It was made of some very heavy metal, and was thus, probably very important. inside, he found a mess of wires. He grabbed a handful of them and pulled
The Imago subjects suddenly stopped fighting, they blinked and looked around. Confused. A minute later, Barbas and her father returned through the door, and she knew what had happened.
Samoko looked in disappointment at the cameras installed in the warehouse. That doctor was stating to become a real nuisence. Now she had lost much of her Imago army because of him. She pressed a button on teh console in front of her and walked way from the screen, she didn't need to see this.
In the warehouse, all of the former attackers shuddered, and collapsed to the ground convulsing. They all stood in shock at what had happend. It took all of Mai's control to keep her temper in check. She knew what had happend. Samoko hadn't let all these Imago subjescts to go into battle without some sort of Fail Safe. She had most likely implanted a chip into each of their brains, those chips which had just releases enough electricity to bring down 5 fully grown elephants. Enough to permanently destroy them.
"Lets go." said dr. Hasagawa solemnly. "This building isn't safe anymore."
As they exited the structure, Casey paused.
He looked around and saw a burning barrel by the street. He grabbed a flaming board out of the fire, and tossed it into the warehouse they had just evacuated. The warehouse was very old, and was made primarily of wood, wearas the newer ones were made of metal. The warehouse blazed almost imediately. They stood for a minute in silence. Thenthey turned and headed back to Hasagawa's van. Mai put an arm around Casey.
"Thank you. Those people in their deserve a cremation, not to be left to the BGI to toss into a pit and left there."
Casey took comfort in her words, and in the arm around his shoulders.
Before Mukade boarded the van, he stripped his shirt, and hooked it onto a passing car.
"That should keep them off our trail for a time."
They all piled into the van. Mukade and James sat inthe front. Mai was on one side, with Edgar and casey on either side. Both of them fell asleep on her shoulder. She put an arm around both of them and drifted to sleep herself. Across from them. Barabas, Griffen, and the other 3 Imago's sat, tired but alert.
They'd been on the road for a little while now. There was desert stretching down either side of the narrow road, an unfamiliar sight for most of them as they'd grown up in an arcology of streets and skyscrapers, or in a stark and bright lab never even seeing sunlight. Mai shifted restlessly between the snoring Casey and Edgar.
"Hey. Get up," Axel said suddenly, looking at Mai. Mai cocked her head, confused. "Let me take your place; you look like you could use a stretch."
"Thanks," Mai said, smiling. Axel stood up and stepped to the other side of the bay, swiftly switching positions with Mai and letting Casey and Edgar rest their heads on her shoulders. Mai stretched as much as she could in the cramped space, then climbed up front and jumped over the bench seat, settling in between her father and Mukade.
"Hey, sweetie," James and Mukade said simultaneously, then glanced strangely at one another. Mai laughed.
Mukade cleared his throat. "That was uncharacteristic of me, I'll be honest," he said with good humour. "I guess you just bring out the best in people."
"Sometimes," Mai said. "Sometimes I bring out the worst." She sighed, then turned to James.
"What is it?" James asked, sensing the vibe from her before even looking to see the concern on his daughter's face.
"I've got to tell you something," she said. "I know you've been trying not to ask, and I know you probably don't want to hear it, but ultimately you deserve to know."
They were silent for a moment. "It's about Muro, isn't it?"
"Yes," she responded. James sighed, then nodded. "He's dead," she said, coming right out with it.
"I know," James said, unable to keep a tear from almost immediately sliding down his cheek regardless. "I could tell; could almost feel it..." He swallowed.
"I killed him," Mai continued.
"What?" James choked, turning to face her and swerving a little bit.
"Dad!" she said, and he quickly corrected his driving. "Dad, he's the one that's responsible for this. I left out the details about Muro because I didn't know how to tell you, but I realize I've just got to be upfront, lay it out and not leave out or build up to anything. He's the reason this world is dying."
"Mai, stop!" he nearly shouted. He paused, more tears streaming down his face. "I know, you're trying to be blunt and honest, just give me the facts... But this hurts, Mai. To know my son was a monster... It hurts more than I could have imagined." He hesitated once more. "It hurts more than when your mother died."
"Dad," she said, tears forming in her eyes as well. "I'm sorry..."
"I know," he said, putting his arm around her and pulling her close. Mai realized that for the first time, everything felt real. Her whole life she'd been in a dark fantasy world of superheros and crime fighting, completely without anyone she considered true family. Even Shinatama, whom she loved, was ultimately a machine and she'd always acknowledged this in the back of her mind. Now her father was back and the life and death of his child and her sibling were suddenly weighing heavily on her. This man beside her to whom she was truly connected and truly loved was in pain, and she was sharing it.
They sat there like that for a few moments, silently crying. Then they were quiet and still for a while longer. Finally, Mai fell asleep and breathed softly. James sighed.
"Where are we going?" Mukade finally asked after a bit.
"To the processor out in Stoneridge," James replied. "Since we can't seem to be able to breach the BGI facility, I figure we've got a shot at learning something useful here. We're running out of options and time."
"I know," Mukade said. "I just--" Mai suddenly breathed in sharply and sat up. Promptly, she leaned the other way and continued her nap against Mukade's shoulder, smacking her lips a few times. Mukade and James exchanged a smile, and Mukade began to gently pet her head as she slept.
"She's amazing," James said.
"I know," Mukade replied. "She really turned out to be quite an incredible young woman."
"Yes, and I can't believe I'm just now seeing it," James continued. "I can't believe I spent nearly her entire life's story without her." He closed his eyes tightly, but opened them before a dangerous amount of time had passed, keeping track of the road. "And now I join the script during what's probably the closing scene."
"Don't say that," Mukade assured him. "We'll overcome this. Mai will overcome this. Look at what she's overcome already. Half the people in this car would have killed her on sight last month. She swayed us all, with her reason but mostly with her heart and spirit."
There was a pause. "She's amazing," James reiterated.
"So what's your story?" Axel hissed, quietly but suddenly.
Barabas snapped out of his daze and looked back at her. "Who, me?" Barabas responded.
"Of course you, silly," she said. "You're the one who busted me out of that place and I've never even though to ask you about yourself."
Barabas smiled at her strange yet confident manner of speech. It was remarkable for her situation in life, he thought. "Well, I don't really know," he said. "Don't have much of one I guess. I don't remember my parents; I was with the Syndicate for as long as I can remember. My goals consisted of how much weight I could lift, how many cement blocks I could bust and later how many skulls I could bust. And believe me, I was a star achiever." He sighed.
"Hey," Axel said, noting his regretful tone. "You've left that behind you, just like we've left our life of submission behind us."
"It's still clear as day in the rear view," he countered. "A month ago I considered my life of pain to be the one I should lead."
"And two weeks ago I considered my life of fear the only one I ever would," she countered in turn. "Look to the future, man!"
"But you TOLD me to look to the PAST!" he snapped back, a bit aggressively. "I'm sorry," he said immediately.
"No sweat," Axel responded without missing a beat. "You're right. I dragged it up. I'M sorry."
Barabas smiled at her. "We're gonna be alright, aren't we?" he said, a strange and optimistic feeling rising in him.
Axel smiled back and nodded.
The sun was rising by the time they reached Stoneridge. It was a much smaller city than the one they came from; like a distant suburb. Normally a city this small wouldn't warrant an atmospheric processor, but this town was full of the elite class and their mansions. They'd paid to have a processor constructed in their town for the feeling of security. Of course, they were far from secure now and the town was all but deserted as the self-centered residents fled for air that was further away from its untimely degradation.
James drove up a short but windy road to the parking lot at the processor, parking the car haphazardly in the middle of the barren blacktop. "Mai," he said, gently grabbing her arm and shaking her slightly. She immediately woke with a gasp, her eyes shooting open. James instinctively drew back and shielded himself, half-expecting an unintentionally violent reaction. Mukade just smiled.
Mai looked back and forth at both of them. "How long was I out?"
"Don't know," James said. "Doesn't matter. We're here now." The former test subjects were much more difficult to wake. They were exhausted from a lifetime of anguish. Every night since Mai had known them they'd slept near twelve hours apiece, and slept heavily. Finally, though, all ten were once again assembled outside the vehicle. They walked up to the sliding glass front doors.
They didn't open.
Mai kicked through them, and the group strolled into the facility. "Let's split up," said Griffin.
"Because that always goes well," Barabas said sarcastically.
"This isn't a TV show," Griffin shot back. "We're just running out of time to find..." He paused. "Uhm. What exactly are we looking for, again?"
"Database. Computers, something along those lines," James said. "Information, basically."
"Casey, come with me," Griffin said.
"I'm with my dad," Mai chimed in.
"Edgar--" Barabas was cut off by Axel's simultaneous words.
"Barabas--" she stopped as well, then hesitated. "Good idea. You take Eddy. Me and Ford can get this together." Ford nodded in stoic agreement.
"Guess I'm with you, then," Mukade said, stepping to Sam's side.
"Now," Griffin said. "Let's get moving.
The five groups roamed around the building. It didn't take long before something of interest was spotted.
"There!" Edgar shouted, pointing ahead into the room he'd just entered. Barabas looked in the direction indicated and saw a large array of consoles and other undoubtedly complicated apparatuses.
"Great," Barabas said, pleased. "Now we've just gotta find someone who has any idea what to do."
"So, what's it like?" Mai asked suddenly.
Her father glanced over. "What's what like?"
"Being suspended in time like that," she clarified.
He reflected for a moment. "Very strange," he finally said. "In a way it's as if I wasn't suspended at all; I feel like I have memories of countless hours staring out at that unchanging room... On the other hand, it definitely doesn't seem like nearly two decades have passed since I entered that tomb."
They were quiet for a minute.
"What was it like for you?" he inquired. He looked to her, and she looked away, frowning.
"Hey!" a voice came from up ahead. The duo glanced up and saw Mukade and Sam approaching from the opposite direction.
"Any luck?" James called back.
"Nothin," said Mukade, getting closer. The two groups finally converged and halted their progress.
James sighed. Suddenly a huge crash rang out, shaking the building.
The glass ceiling above them shattered and glass shards rained down onto Axel and Ford. The Iron Demon landed with a jarring impact and the two former test subjects fell to the ground.
"Son of a--" Axel was cut off as the Iron Demon casually opened fire from the giant machine gun on its arm. Axel scrambled to her feet, pulling Ford along with her and ducking around a corner.
"What," Ford said uninquisitively. Axel looked down at him. He was bleeding from four places that she could see; two in his upper right shoulder, one on his left side, probably through his kidney, and a chunk taken out of the outside of his left thigh. She also noticed blood begin to trickle down his cheek and neck, quickly noticing that a good chunk of his right ear was missing too. "Oh," he said, his expression becoming more blank.
"Ford!" she yelled. "Stay with me!" No response. "Don't give up on me, damnit! Ford!"
"Sh-" he said. "No..." The sounds of helicopters became apparent.
"Not... Ford..." he said. "I... Remember..."
"What--" Axel was cut off as a powerful hand grabbed her by the throat and slammed her down onto the floor. The wind was forced from her lungs and she choked. Over her knelt a slightly scarred Samoko wielding a syringe. Axel looked upwards towards the Iron Demon down the hall. It was now standing still and protected by several stationary armed and armoured guards that had repelled down from the choppers. She glanced over at Ford who was dragging himself slowly along the floor towards the nearby wire-bound railing. She felt a sudden sharp pain in her neck and jerked her head back towards the Iron Demon, and as she saw more beefed-up and mind-controlled imagos begin to repel down into the room her vision faded to black.
CRACK! A body landed next to them. Casey and Griffin both jumped back and yelled; they had been on their way to investigate the crash. The long-haired head lifted slightly and made eye contact with Griffin. It was Ford.
Without a word, Griffin and Casey quickly grabbed Ford and carried him into the nearest room. He was bleeding badly and seemed to be drifting in and out of consciousness.
"Ford!" Casey yelled, lightly slapping the man's face.
"My name..." he began, opening his eyes a bit more.
"That's right," Griffin said. "Stay with us."
"No!" Ford snapped weakly but suddenly. "Will... William"
"William?" Griffin repeated, confused.
"His name," said Casey. A stark look had taken over the boy. Griffin could see the look of longing in his son's eyes; Casey wanted desperately to remember.
"What happened?" Griffin asked William. William coughed and began to shake, unable to respond.
"William, it's okay," Casey said, dropping to his knee beside William. "We're here."
"What the hell's going on?" Barabas demanded in a harsh whisper, slinking up behind Mai, James, Mukade and Sam. Edgar followed him close behind.
"The big bad bot is back," said Mai, "and the imago army."
"Plus a bunch of well-equipped guards," Mukade added, almost as an afterthought.
They waited a moment. Mai quickly popped her head around the corner again, then drew it back. They were pretty far down the building from all the commotion, but the whole facility was being swept by the harnessed imago warriors.
"Did they see you?" asked James.
"What's going on?" inquired Barabas.
"I don't think so," Mai began, "and the imagos are hunting all over for us. The metal beast is being protected by a rather impressive swarm of soldiers." She stopped and, suddenly, smiled.
"What?" Mukade urged. "What's so funny?"
"They're throwing everything they've got at us," Mai said. "This means two things: One, that we really are making worthwhile moves..."
There was a pause. "And?" Mukade prodded.
Mai's smile grew wider. "They're getting desperate."
Samoko rounded the corner and came face to face with the group. Standing by her side was Axel, a content yet ultimately hollow look in her eyes. "Guess so," she said with a daring tilt of her head.
Mai's smile grew wider. "They're getting desperate."
Samoko rounded the corner and came face to face with the group. Standing by her side was Axel, a content yet ultimately hollow look in her eyes. "Guess so," she said with a daring tilt of her head.
"Axel ?? " Barabas said in concern "What have u done to her "
"Tamed her a bit dear .. something we should have done to u " ... "Now let's talk about this rationally ... Mai, James if u would come with us peacefully .. I promise I'll make the others' death swift and as painless as possible" she said taking her gun out .
"over my dead body .. mai said as she started to glow ... "
"have it ur way then ... " samoko said as she aimed at konoko ... a loud bang interrupted her and she fell to the floor .
Griffin was standing behind with a gun and Casey carrying ford .
the group reunited ...
"Let's get out of here !" mukade said
" Mai must die ... " Axel said as she picked up Samoko's gun and shot at Mai ...
"NOOO !!" James screamed as he jumped in front of the shot and fell to the floor .
Mukade in return took the prototype gun out shooting at axel ... who fell in return
"Dad !!! no !!" Mai jumped catching his fall ... "Dad ! no no please dad !"
"Mai there are more mutants coming" ! Barabas said ...
while Mai glowed brighter and brighter !!
"NOOOOOOOOOO !!!" She screamed
as the light engulfed her whole body ... "it's happening" Griffin said "she's turning into the Imago stage ... "
"Mai ... " James whispered as he began to stand up.
"James ?? " mukade said shocked
"apparently the gun works on those who have a chrysallis .. I don't" James said .. "Mai !! resist the anger resist the pain ... let ur inner self shine ... u're so loved .. remember that he said ... " while covering his eyes from the blinding light.
seconds passed ... and the light finally fainted as the figure it engulfed fell to the ground.
" Mai ... " James and griffin inquired coming close to the body ...
suddenly gun fire opened at them as more agents and mutants came into the room ...
"U little b..." Samoko said standing up ..."U'll pay for this !" she said searching for her gun .
"looking for this ?" mukade said as he waved her gun at her ...
"Kill them now !!!" She yelled
they all took cover behind some crates Barabas carrying both ford and axel ... and griffin and james carrying mai
"There's no way out .. we have u surrounded !! " Samoko threatened
"Dad ... I ... what happened ?" Mai said "I feel so ... so Powerful !"
with a jump flip she came out from behind the crates ... dodging bullets and plasma rifles .. and running towards Samoko with a running leg throw she threw Samoko right into the ceiling and into the Iron demon ...
loud electrical noises were heard as the iron demon collapsed ... doing so the mutants stopped attacking ... while the agents didn't ...
"They are the enemy !!!" Casey yelled at the mutants pointing at the agents ...
the mutants no longer under control turned against the agents ... Mukade Barabas and the others joining the fight.
Mai looked up and saw the iron demon and Samoko out of sight they clearly retreated having their mission fail once more .
minutes passed on a brutal battle .. Mai's team ending up triumphant ...
after things calmed down .. finally Mai said ... "how do i look ? "
looking at her hands ... her skin was still the same ... "why ?" she said looking at her dad
"Whatever the final form of the transformation is, it's a reflection of one's true nature ... I guess u're inner nautre is same as ur outer ... beautiful " he responded " u still look the same " Barabas said "lucky u" as he tended to Ford and Axel who both have now recovered... "we found some counsels by the way" ...
"show us" James and mukade both said equally excited
that is very interesting ! James said ... according to this the machine can disintegrate all the toxins ... everywhere ! by connecting to the satellite system it can emit a ray of chrysallis origin this ray will cleanse the air and water wherever it hits ... I have to do some more research ... mukade u can help me by telling me everything about ur machine ... "
"No rush guys ... " Mai said smiling "we got their gun we nailed the iron demon ... we got a mutant army ... I'm stronger than ever ... we are ready for them .. the next time we go the BGI it will be the last ... their last !"
"Well, James, it's really quite fascinating actually," Mukade began to explain. The two of them began to stroll off down the hall to discuss things that only they would comprehend.
Mai frowned slightly. "They probably won't be too long," she said idly. There was a pause. "Who wants to play slapsies?"
James sat in front of the console quietly typing. After a bit, Mukade sighed. "I've done some bad things, James," Mukade confessed.
"I know," said James. "It's alright." He seemed preoccupied but genuine.
"It's not though," Mukade persisted. "I'm not alright. My mind, James... I feel like it's gone."
"It seems present enough to me," James replied.
"It takes everything I've got to suppress the wicked thoughts and urges," Mukade mourned. "It's one thing that my past is tarnished, full of sadism and immoral pursuits."
There was a pause. Jame said nothing.
"But it's like I still don't care," Mukade continued. "Like I could snap back to it at any second. I have no desire to change or repent."
"You obviously do, Toshio," James responded. Mukade choked on his breath; it had been so long since he'd been addressed by his first name. "Just look at you. If you didn't desire to do the right thing, why would you be doing what you are now?"
Mukade frowned. "It's not that simple," he protested.
"Things are a lot simpler than people like to imagine," said James.
"I just don't feel like I can make it right," Mukade despaired.
"You can never correct your past's mistakes," James said with authority. "Only your future's path."
Mukade chuckled. "Frank was right," he mused. "We do enjoy the drama."
SMASH! James and Mukade spun around as glass shattered and the metal door frame hit the floor, the jagged edges of the wall now stretching into the room. Behind the carnage stood Mai. She bore a look of stark fear. Mukade and James simultaneously jumped to their feet and followed her out of the room.
Barabas was on both knees cradling a body in his arms. It was Axel's. She and Barabas both were silent.
Carpeting the room around them were scores more carcasses of white, standing among them a few mortified and equally silent familiar daodan symbiotes.
"I guess," Mai began, a lump forming in her throat as she tried to speak. "Samoko made it back home." She stared at Barabas and Axel, her eyes growing wider until she had to turn away. Clumsily, she jogged into the nearest room and weeping could be heard quietly through the door.
Mukade stepped in behind her, placing his hand on her shoulder.
"It's just so terrible," she said, turning around and embracing the cyborg. "Everything I do ends in death, loss and pain."
Mukade stroked her hair once more and felt tears drip onto his skin as she half-buried her face in his shirt. "It's not you, darling," he assured her.
"No, it's not me," Mai said. "It's the whole damned world. It's all there is. It never stops."
"It's the systems," Mukade said, fumbling with his words. "The people grow into perpetuators of the torment because they don't know any better, because they would otherwise have to admit they've been wrong all along."
"And when one attempts to change, to abandon the pain and fight for an end to it," she said, leaning back and looking at Barabas through the window, "all they're rewarded with is more and more of it. How are we EVER supposed to end this cycle?"
Mukade also glanced out to the spectacle at which Barabas was the center, envying the moral conviction with which this man now acted. As a fellow former monster, Mukade stressed his mind; why did he not feel the same way? Why?
"It's not up to us to end it," Mukade said finally. "It is inevitable: One way or another, it will come to an end. All we can do is try and make sure it is a prosperous one." He kissed her forehead. As he pulled back, Mai glanced away from Barabas and into Mukade's eyes. She could see his ancient and desperate soul screaming silently from within. He gazed back into her eyes and saw in turn the purity and frustration of a girl like her in a world like this. Slowly, they leaned closer.
Suddenly Barabas cast Axel's body aside like a piece of scrap metal. He leapt to his feet, then stormed steadily towards the front door. "Wait!" James called. Barabas ignored him.
Sam, William, Edgar, Casey and Griffin all followed Barabas. Mukade and Mai poked their heads out to investigate the commotion. "He's going to finish it," James said when he saw them. "Come on." The three of them chased after Barabas and the rest, trailing behind but catching up quickly.
In the car, the nine of them were completely silent for a long while. Finally, Griffin spoke. "You know this car is probably bugged, right?" Griffin spoke up. "How else do you think they found us at the processor?"
There was no response.
Griffin sighed. "We're going to need some sort of plan," he insisted.
"Kill them all," Barabas said from behind the wheel. He was doing nearly 110 MPH. Nobody challenged his recklessness.
"If we can get to this fabled machine," James said. "I should be able to use it properly."
"Good," Griffin continued. "Mukade, Mai, Barabas and myself will accompany you--"
"No," Barabas said immediately rejecting the plan. "I'm going. To kill. Them all."
"Fine," Griffin said, seemingly almost blowing off Barabas' vengeful vendetta. "Willam, Edgar and--"
"Call me Ford," William interrupted.
"But," Griffin responded, confused. "I thought, your name--"
"William was a monster," said William. "I wish I'd never..." He didn't finish the thought. "Call me Ford."
"But that was the name of your torturer!" Griffin countered. "What could possibly be--"
"Dad," Casey said, shooting Griffin down. "Just drop it."
Griffin looked at his son. "What... Did you just call me?" Casey hesitated, looking away. Tears came to Griffin's eyes both from joy and desperation. He knew his son didn't remember; still, Casey was beginning to think of the old man as his father.
"You guys are with me," Barabas said, commandeering the instruction. "Sam, Ford, Edgar and Casey. You all deserve--"
"It's too dangerous!" Griffin butted in. "Casey, you can't..."
"Dad," he repeated the painfully elating word, "I have to." Griffin curled his lips inward, fighting off further protest. He hadn't been able to protect his son so far and was powerless to do so now. The helplessness tore at his spirit, but he remained strong.
They arrived uninhibited at the BGI installation in the middle of the day. The sun was high in the sky and the shadows of Mai and company were scarcely visible as they emptied from the vehicle. They marched towards the front doors, Barabas leading.
This time the doors did not open. Unaffected, Barabas bashed his body through them and continued his stride. The facility was sparsely populated. Of course, everyone immediately looked to the intruders. "Alright," Barabas said, a sickening calm in his tone. "Here we go."
Thickly armoured bodies scattered the lobby like rag dolls. The white stone floor was accented with a candy cane-like blood effect. Barabas and the previous imago test subjects stood victorious and nearly unscathed in the center of the room. "That takes care of that," Barbas said, clapping his hands together at alternating angles as if to dust them off. "Let's continue the hunt."
They searched countless rooms before they found what they were looking for. Mai, Mukade, Griffin and James stepped towards the machine. It looked duller than any of them had expected; rather an ordinary-seeming machine, actually. It had pipes, metal panels, bolts and wires. It had a monitor towering over a large key panel. James got to work.
Outside they heard the mayhem of Barabas and his team avenging themselves against those responsible. Although he seemed to be fighting for justice, Mai was burdened by his murderous spirit. She knew violence would never solve itself. She almost felt like Barabas had been lost to the agony once more.
"Oh, god," James said, a sudden terror in his voice. "No..."
"What is it?" Mai inquired concernedly, looking to her father.
"It says--" a gunshot reverberated throughout the room. James slumped forward onto the keyboard, blood spattering the screen before him.
Mai's mouth dropped and she rushed to his side. "DAD!" she cried.
"MAI!" James cried in return. Mukade watched them as they both dashed to where the other had been standing and knelt to the floor, crying over the empty air. Griffin was nowhere to be found. Mukade turned towards the door and saw Samoko. She was beaten, bruised and bloodied and bore in her hands a large jar. Within the jar, an oversized brain floated suspended in a strange substance.
Springing into action, Mukade stepped through the shadows and was immediately by Samoko's side. He executed a clean chop through the jar, the glass and bio matter within shattering and splitting simultaneously. Blood, brain, glass and gel covered the floor below Samoko's trembling knees.
"Mai!" Mukade called. Mai looked towards him, the brain's hold on her forever broken. Mai reached into her jacket and withdrew the weapon with which Samoko had destroyed Kyari in the lab. Aiming, she pulled the trigger...
Samoko laughed. "Looks like you're out of batteries, girlie," she said, pulling a nearly identical weapon out from her own coat. She pointed it at Mai, seemingly forgetting that Mukade was standing right next to her. The cyborg quickly disarmed the woman, but she punched him in the jaw. With the momentum of his fall, he hurled the weapon towards Mai. It skidded across the sleak floor and clattered to a halt near her feet. Quickly, she knelt and armed herself.
A ball of energy blasted from the barrel. Samoko dodged with an unnecessary cartwheel, taunting Mai. "Is that all you've got?"
Mukade rolled to his feet and sprang at their foe, wrapping his arms around her's and her chest. He locked his fingers tightly together as she struggled in his grasp. "Now!" Mukade demanded, hollering at Mai.
"But," Mai began, knowing there was nowhere to take the argument.
"NOW!" he repeated with increased urgency. Mai fired. Samoko and Mukade were engulfed in an incandescent energy field. They glowed brighter and brighter, beginning to levitate slightly above ground level. Finally, with a blindingly magnificent flash, the spectacle faded and shrunk into the air until it was seen no more.
Mai and James stood and stared at nothing, dumbfounded and alone.
After what seemed like an eternity, Mai finally spoke. "He did it," she said with strange satisfaction.
"Yeah," James confirmed, understanding. "He did." The two of them turned back to the computer screen.
There it was, stated simply on the monitor preceding the terminal blinking cursor. "Atmospheric damage irreversible."
The small group just stood there, silent, and stared at the 3 words that had just condemned the world. What could someone say that would make it all better? All they had worked for, the lives that had been lost, had been for naught. Axel, Kyari, Mukade and many others. The ones who's lives they had saved, were now destined to live in a dying world. As they lingered, the same question formed in all of their heads.
What happens now?
Barabas was the first to shake himself out of it. He raised a fist and brought it down on the screen, which startled the rest of them back into life. They blinked and looked at Barabas.
"So what, now that the world is going to die, we're all just gonna sit here and wait for it to happen?"
"There's not much else we can do." stated Mai, softly.
"I'll tell you what we can do. We can go find the ones that are responsible and make them pay."
"I can go back into developping the chrysali," James said with a heavy heart. He would miss the company of Mukade.
"We can't save everyone, but we need to save as many as we can. Someday, maybe our children will learn to forgive the sins of their fathers, and to rebuild what was once humanity."
"I can help all the surviving chrysalis hosts. Help them to regain their identities."
"And I can help you." offered Griffin, looking pointedly at Casey.
The young man caught his eye, and gave a small smile.
"We should leave now." suggested James, "Theres nothing more to be done here. We may have won this battle, but this war has no foreseeable end. The BGI will never die out. Samoko may have perished, but more will rise to take her place. We will never be safe."
"No one is safe anymore." said Mai
No one said a word, but none needed to be said. That one statement had been building itself in each of their minds. No one is safe anymore.