14Talmidhttps://community.lego.com/t5/Stories-of-LEGO-UNIVERSE/Servant-of-Darkness-Being-the-first-book-in-the-Stromling/td-p/2525720/highlight/false/page/155This is a sequel to Servant of Darkness, The Search, Full Circle, Fading Fast, and Alone in Space and Time.
Availability: The Darkest Night can also be found here.
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Author's Notes: This is a sequel to Servant of Darkness, The Search, Full Circle, Fading Fast, and Alone in Space and Time.
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It was the incessant thumping noise that awoke him from his dark slumber.
His eyelids gradually rose, and he became aware of in addition to the constant pounding, a humid feeling around the chamber he was in, consistent with the steamy mist flowing around him.
Gallant Strong Cyclone instantly jerked to life, flying from the near-vertical metal bed he had been leaning on, and ripping off the wires strapped to his arms, legs, and torso.
A split-second later he had ran splat into a door, which burst open, sending Cyclone sprawling out of the cloudy room and onto the ground, right past the person who had just unlocked the door for him.
His surprisingly still-operational Space Marauder gear absorbed the shock of barging through the door and crashing to the hard ground, but the force of it all still sent spasms throughout his body.
Biting his tongue to keep from crying out, Cyclone rose slowly to his feet, extending his arms to steady himself. His savior stood behind him, shaking her head with disdain.
"Seriously, Cyclone." Alternate-Kate stated. "Think before you crash, might save you some pain next time."
Cyclone whirled around to face her, and responded in kind. "You're late."
Already she was working on another of the chamber-thingys like Cyclone had been in, which he assumed contained Real-Kate. It was blue, tall, but not very large. But just with enough size to fit something the size of a LEGO Minifigure.
Cyclone narrowed his eyes as he realized there were only two tubes. "Where's Woody, Flex, and-"
Alter-Kate cut him off. "Watch," she interrupted, and walked past him towards a large crate. She kicked it over, and several pieces of machinery, electronics, and plastic, clattered out.
"Robots." she said briskly, before getting back to her work.
Cyclone eyed the pieces of plastic before him, and shivered at the sight of disembodied limbs, even though they were plastic. He cringed, as his gaze followed farther down the sea of parts to the edge of the large platform he stood on, which had a sudden drop off, down several hundred feet to a hard tiled-floor below.
Cyclone quickly looked away, and back to Alter-Kate and the tube. Its door swung open, and Real-Kate stumbled out.
"Whoa...." Kate stammered, teetering around for balance. Cyclone stepped over and helped her steady herself. "How long have we been in there?" she asked finally.
"The plane-trip from the US of A across the Atlantic to Europe and Germany and then here, in total, took two days." Alter-Kate explained matter-of-factly with a shrug. "I've been waiting for my chance to get you out of here, and now's the day. But first, you need to do your part."
Cyclone flinched as two syringes suddenly appeared in her hands. "Meet me outside, Lot 2." was the only instructions Alter-Kate gave them, before stabbing them both with a syringe each.
Cyclone didn't have time to react before all went black around him.
When Cyclone recovered from blacking out, his arms, legs, and torso were all tingly. It wore off in only a few seconds, but the shock he experienced after sitting up and looking around wide-eyed remained with him longer.
He was full-sized.
Shakily, he stood up, and his eyes darted to the door. Recalling Alter-Kate's instructions to meet her in Lot #2, he was about to exit the door before remembering someone.
He whirled around and helped Kate to her feet, and then realized he didn't even know what 'Lot #2" meant.
Nothing better than to ask a friend.
"What do you suppose this 'Lot #2' is?" Cyclone asked.
Kate was silent for a few seconds, before suggesting, "Parking lot?"
Cyclone just barely kept himself from facepalming. It was so obvious. "Parking lot, yeah." he stated. "Where do you think that is?"
Pointing upwards, Kate said, "Above ground, unless it's an underground lot. That means upstairs."
Cyclone unholstered his blaster, and headed for the door with Kate following. "Most likely. Something tells me whoever works here doesn't want us to leave." he said, and reached for the door knob. "We might need to fight our way out...."
He had just barely opened the door before alarms started blaring and lights throughout the room began blinking red.
"Stupid stupid STUPID!" Cyclone cursed, only now catching sight of the door-alarm mounted above the door.
"As you said, 'We might need to fight our way out.'" Kate repeated. "I think that's definite."
Cyclone nodded, and yanked the door open completely.
A white, spotless wall of a hallway stood in front of them. Cyclone and Kate tore out of the doorway and stood, back-to-back, facing two hordes of armor-clad guards bearing Assault Rifles.
"Nexus we're dead," Cyclone said softly, shifting his hold on his Space Marauder Blaster.
Kate glanced at him for a second, before throwing a bright blue shield around them both, which was followed by immediate machine firing of every soldiers' assault rifle.
Bullets bounced harmlessly off the spherical shields' perimeter, ricocheting against the walls and flying all over the place, smashing into lights destroying them, the black armor of the soldiers knocking them down, and creating ugly gray pockmarks in the formerly sparkly white linoleum walls of the corridor.
"It IS my turn to save you anyway," Kate stated, before raising her sword and slashing it through the air, effectively blowing every guard and bullet far, far down the hallway and out of sight. Instantly she was holding Cyclone's wrist, charging down the hall as well, and unintentionally dragging Cyclone face-down on the hard linoleum tiles.
Until ten long seconds of battering torture later, Kate rounded a corner into another hall which lead straight through a door into Underground Parking Lot #2.
And smack in the middle of it, dead ahead of them, was a shiny red overrevving Toyota Supra. Alter-Kate was at the wheel.
Grinning, Alter-Kate swung the passenger door open. "Get in."
Behind them, the doors to the garage busted open and soldiers burst in, blasting away. Without much of a choice, Cyclone and Kate dove towards the Supra, scrambling into the vehicle, and barely getting to close the car door before Alter-Kate jammed her foot on the accelerator pedal, and with an ear-shattering screech of burning rubber, the shiny JDM sportscar tore from the garage.
And onto the Autobahn.
Several black SUVs piled onto the road behind them, ready to pursue. Still accelerating, the Supra climbed to way over any normal speed-limit.
Surprisingly, the SUVs were able to match the Supra's speed, and were even catching up. Two pulled up on the left, and began edging to the right, attempting to sandwich them against the guardrails.
Alter-Kate slammed hard on the brakes, and the car rapidly decelerated clear of the SUVs. Before their drivers could react, she skillfully swerved around to the SUVs' left side. But a red minivan crawled along ahead of them, blocking escape from ahead.
Cyclone grimaced as Alter-Kate drove the Supra off the road passed the grassy divider between the two highway roads. Into oncoming traffic.
Uncomfortably squished between Kate and the manual gear-shift placed between the two-seats in the car's cabin, there were two reasons why Cyclone gritted his teeth. The uncomfortableness of the situation was one, and the other was the traffic streaking by.
"I thought you said think before you crash!" he yelled over the roaring inline-6.
Alter-Kate responded by shifting into a higher gear, and the Supra careened even faster down the opposite lane. Other than that, she didn't give him any verbal response.
A wave of nausea swept through Cyclone as a sporty looking roadster with a grill that looked like a mustache streaked by, the panicked driver and passenger staring at them mouths agape as they streaked past.
Cyclone fought the urge to do something that would ruin the seats and dashboard of the Supra, and instead slouched down lower in his seat. When he felt a little calmer, he looked up, and they were still headed into oncoming traffic.
Peering to the right, Cyclone saw the SUVs roar into a tunnel, but didn't have much more time to stare when suddenly he was jerked into Kate, and he realized that Alter-Kate had just drove into an exit ramp that went over the tunnel. Still driving the wrong way.
Apparently, Alter-Kate decided it was time to take a more safe driving style, and since the SUVs were probably driving farther away from them with every passing second, the immediate danger of being caught by two giant black boxes on wheels was no longer as urgent. The Supra swerved back into the correct side of the road, and dismissing the shocked stares from all the other drivers on the road (some of whom were muttering curses in German), Alter-Kate maneuvered the sportscar into a side street, away from most of the attention.
The rest of the attention was a bunch of sporty looking coupes and roadsters, the driver-window of the lead one, a black Porsche 911, sliding down so the driver, a guy in sunglasses with super-greasy black hair, could grin at them revealing fakely-shiny white teeth.
Then he called, "'Sup, nice car. Wanna race?"
"Don't even think about it," Cyclone whispered in Alter-Kate's ear, but she didn't seem to hear him.
Instead, she called out the window to Greasy, "Where to?"
Greasy Hair grinned, and revved the engine of his 911. "Porsche Factory, ten miles from here. You look like you need a faster driving machine. You'll be smoked in that thing." He paused for a second, before grinning as he watched a tuned Lotus Federal Elise screech to a half next to him. "Here's our sponsor."
The driver door opened, and a woman with shoulder-length brown hair stepped out. She was dressed in a black leather bomber jacket, utility jeans, and racing grip gloves. Leaning against the side of her car, she produced a red bag full of cash from inside the Lotus.
"Another race, huh Raze? Here's that cash." she swung the bag around before tossing it back into the car.
With a smirk, Raze said, "You got it, Izzy. The winner takes it all." Turning to Alter-Kate, he stated, "To the starting line."
With more gas than required, Raze drove his Porsche to the starting line, a random crosswalk. The rest of the racers, five others, lined up next to his black 911. A blue Bugatti Veyron, a black Jeep Cherokee, a yellow Corvette ZR1, a green Camaro ZL1 Convertible, and a yellow Gallardo LP-550-2 Valentino Balboni with a black Carbon Fiber roof. The drivers of each car didn't appear as obnoxious as Raze who was over-revving his poor Porsche's engine to the red-line, but definitely seemed eager to race.
Cyclone grimaced as Alter-Kate rolled up to the other racers, and glanced at Kate, who exchanged worried glances with him.
"Uhhh, why don't we wait here...." Kate started.
Cyclone nodded in agreement. "Yeah, good idea," he contributed.
Alter-Kate rolled her eyes, and unlocked the doors. "See ya later." she mumbled.
Cyclone and Kate eagerly got out onto the sidewalk, and watched as from a side street, Izzy dictated the start-counter.
The other five racers and Alter-Kate's Supra took off, the Corvette instantly zooming off with blinding acceleration. The Gallardo was close behind, with the Veyron and the Camaro screaming after the Chevy. The Jeep trailed, but kept pace with the other cars, and cut through a front-yard at the first corner, and similar short-cuts kept the Sport Utility Vehicle close to the pack.
And Raze, humiliated, embarrassed, and raged at being unprepared for the start, crawled his smoking Porsche after the other racers, while Izzy drove her Elise off through side-streets to the Porsche Factory.
It happened so quickly. In less than ten seconds, the race had moved on. There was no sign of a street race ever having started there, except for long skid-marks from excessive wheelspin, and the dirty tracks across the front-yard which the Jeep had cut through.
Cyclone looked around, and then started walking towards an alleyway, with Kate behind him. "Something tells me that if we're going to fit into the setting of casual life, we'll need to change into more casual clothes...."
Kate nodded, and followed him into the alley. "Fine with me, though it's the opposite of that saying. How's it go? When in Crux Prime, don't do as the Maelstrom do...."
With their casual clothes equipped, Cyclone and Kate did little to attract any attention of any kind in the European town they walked through.
And they succeeded. They succeeded in not attracting any attraction from the population. But they didn't blend in inconspicuously enough to hide from the rifle scope that followed their every move, the figure holding the rifle edging ever-so-closer to his two targets along the rooftops of the Bavarian apartments.
Then he fired.
It happened so quickly that no one noticed the small white flash as the Matter-Transportation-Slug fired from the rifle's barrel impacted the sidewalk, and sent a white mist flying up around Cyclone and Kate before they could do anything. And it dissipated in less than a split-second, ensuring that nobody saw it.
Except for the rifle-shooter, who was standing over both of his targets, both of whom had, thanks to the Matter-Transportation-Slug, been transported to the rifle-man's rooftop.
The Slug did more than transport matter. It also stunned its targets to ensure an easy capture. And paralyzed, Cyclone could do little more than flinch when the figure holding the rifle shouted, "You!" and threw off his helmet to clatter to the stone rooftop they lay on, and thus revealing his identity.
Krill Mathias. The bounty-hunter swore, and paced around the rooftop muttering other curses, before coming to an abrupt stop and staring Cyclone, disregarding Kate, in the eye. "And why, does it always happen to be, that my target is YOU."
It took a second for Kril to realize that Cyclone couldn't answer, and mumbling something unintelligible, Krill pressed a button near his rifle's scope. Instantly Cyclone felt himself relax, and he and Kate sat up.
"How'd you get here?" Cyclone grunted, since even though he was no longer paralyzed, spasms ran through his body, turning into pins and needles as his muscles came back to life. "And how are you full sized?"
Krill glanced at him questionably as he was an alien from Ratarius IV. "Has something been messing with your mind, kid?" he inquired, intending it as either an insult, or in truth a legit question, with some sarcasm of course. The former was most likely.
Insult or not, Cyclone didn't take any offense, or if he did he didn't show it. "So I'm right, the portal DID shrink us." he groaned.
"I have no idea what the Nexus you're blabbing about, Gallant Strong Cyclone." Krill stated, rolling his eyes, but still holding his rifle trained on them. "I'm just here to get ya outta here."
Now it was Kate's turn. "You're the second person to say that, and last time, it FAILED." she said, crossing her arms.
"Well I can assure you, this time I'm really getting you back to our universe, though of course, probably not the exact location you two have in mind," Krill explained, prodding them with his rifle. "I've got an inpatient employer, but a job is a job, especially if the pay is good."
"Something tells me it's not the Nexus Force," Cyclone grumbled, as Krill started fumbling with a something resembling a metal brick on his belt, alongside masses of other devices and most of all, as expected with a bounty hunter, weapons. Pistols, grenades, thermal detonators, trip mines, and spare ammo he wore around his waist, and on his back were several fold-up rifles, rocket launchers, a concussion blaster, and a heavy repeater. But those were only some of the goodies Krill carried. The rest, and most important of them, he kept out of sight in hidden compartments throughout his armor suit. And the only people who ever saw them in use were usually the guys he smashed right after in his assassin jobs, which usually had the biggest pay. So a lot of people saw them, but never lived to tell the tale.
Thankfully, this was not an assassin job. Rather just a capture mission.
And the last time Krill had a mission like that, Cyclone was his target. And once again, Cyclone was his target. Though this time, Cyclone wasn't alone.
"You got that right, Cyclone." Krill said through his teeth as he focused on the metal brick, which seemed to not be working the way he wanted. He barely suppressed another curse before continuing, "The Nexus Force is too much of a nerf to think of sending anyone after you. You're on your own, except for me."
Well, we're not actually alone, Cyclone wanted to say, but Kate gave him a glare which told him to shut up. Cyclone clamped his jaw shut, and bit his tongue to keep from talking back. He took a deep breath.
"Crux, what is WRONG with this thing?!" Krill shouted, grabbing the metal brick and punching it, which did no damage to either Krill or the brick, since Krill was wearing armored gloves, and since the thing he had punched WAS a brick. He smirked, since instead of doing damage, his having hit the brick had set something off inside it, and making it actually DO something.
"Say welcome home, kiddies." Krill said, still grinning. But then his grin disappeared, and was replaced with a scowl, as the brick exploded into a million pieces.
Cyclone rolled his eyes. "Don't tell me that brick was your return device?" he inquired nonchalantly.
Krill irritably tossed what was left of his metal brick over the edge of the roof, and it fell down several feet to land someplace random. "Nope," he answered, fumbling for another brick with his right hand and using his left hand to keep the rifle trained on Cyclone's and Kate's backs, even though he was mostly focused on getting his spare brick.
Cyclone quickly spun around and punched Krill in the jaw, expecting to send the unsuspecting bounty-hunter to the ground. But he had extremely underestimated Krill's ruggedness, since he barely flinched and reached up catch Cyclone's wrist in his next attack, knocking the Space Marauder off balance and sending HIM falling to the floor.
A blow suddenly struck his side, and Krill tumbled down next to Cyclone. Kate leapt over, sword unsheathed and ready to give him another kick to the chest, but Krill was ready. He grabbed her foot and twisted, sending her down, and he quickly stood up, anticipating Cyclone's next move. He cracked the end of his rifle of Cyclone's head, knocking him dazed.
Instantly Krill was holding two pistols, each aimed at his two captives. Shaking his head, Krill stated, "Hey, I'm on your side."
"Yeah right, with a rifle on us." Kate shot back, grimacing as she massaged her ankle. "Why don't you tell us something about this job of yours?"
"Classified." Krill snapped.
"I'm gonna guess you don't even KNOW who your employer is this time." Cyclone retorted, rubbing the back of his head.
"Not Darky," Krill confirmed. "And not the Nexus Force. I saw him in person, shady guy."
Cyclone raised his eyebrows. "Mr. Ree?"
"I said 'Not the Nexus Force.'" Krill repeated. He paused before thinking of what to say next, before continuing, "And Mr. Ree isn't a representative of the Nexus Force, he's just a vendor in Nexus Tower. That's it."
This time with his eyes trained on both of his targets, and standing at a safe distance away, Krill holstered one of his pistols and selected his spare metal brick. "A job is a job, and my employer has the cash." he explained, one-handedly pressing buttons on the device.
"So you're just gonna turn us in," Kate muttered. "Not very friendly to me."
Krill sighed audibly, and pressed a final button on the device which opened up a bright purple vortex in front of them.
Like Maelstrom, Cyclone realized, cringing.
"You wouldn't understand," Krill went on, about his occupation as a bounty hunter. He put the device away, and closed his right hand back around his other pistol, raising them both to be trained on Cyclone and Kate. He jerked them upwards, and obediently they both stood up, arms raised leaving their weapons on the ground.
"Good, I don't want any trouble," Krill said under his breath, as he prodded them towards the portal. "Prepare to meet my employer."
Cyclone and Kate glanced at each other. Krill had helped them before, and assisted in defeating the Maelstrom initially, but could they trust him that they would be kept safe in the hands of his employer? And once they got back in their universe, could they escape from Krill long enough to get into the reach of the Nexus Force?
"I don't think so," another voice spoke up, and a bright blue and white stream of Imagination suddenly blasted over right in front of Cyclone's and Kate's faces. It impacted with the Maelstrom Portal, and then with a blinding flash of harmless light they both disappeared.
Krill shouted in exasperation, turning to face whoever had just ruined his pretty purple portal with pretty flashing pink lights. "WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING TO ME WITH YOU?!?!" he roared, holding both his pistols with one hand and jabbing them into his captives' backs, while quickly unholstering a third pistol.
But he didn't have time to take action, since an arrow flew into his chest-armor, its flaming tip protruding through to the other side of his titanium chestplate. Krill yelled, and for a few seconds he lost his focus on his captives, and even though they had failed previously, Cyclone ducked and grabbed his Space Marauder gun.
Kate instantly had picked up her sword, and was swinging it full force into Krill's midriff. A blast of Maelstrom from Cyclone's blaster impacted Krill's back, and the bounty-hunter was felled. Growling, he tried to sit up, but the tip of Kate's sword rammed into his side, knocking the wind out of him. Krill wheezed, and then started coughing as another blast of Maelstrom enveloped his face.
Not wanting to actually smash Krill permanently, Cyclone decided to just end it a different way. But Kate beat him to it, and sent a flying kick into Krill's neck, putting him in extreme need of a chiropractic adjustment, and knocking him unconscious.
And then their savior arrived. Cyclone and Kate turned, and then stared, open-mouthed, as a black Jeep Cherokee Sport came barrelling down the hill, which half of the apartment building they stood on actually was built INTO, meaning that an edge of the hill was connected to the building's roof. And that was the part of the hill that the Jeep was roaring down, it's V6 screaming.
The SUV's tires squealed as it went into a sideways drift, it's right side facing Cyclone and Kate as it screeched to a halt, it's right passenger doors swinging open, and Alter-Kate beckoning them in.
Kate quickly bolted towards the back, diving through the back door, but Cyclone lingered around for a bit. "What about Krill?"
Alter-Kate glanced at Krill's unconscious form lying besides Cyclone's feet. The bounty hunter looked like he was just faking it, and would jump up at any second and start biting. But she didn't care. "Toss him in the back," she suggested, and Cyclone nodded, promptly picking up Krill, weapons and all, (which were all heavier than he expected) and dragged him into the backseat before getting in himself.
Then she turned her gaze to the driver, a mustachioed guy wearing a top hat that looked oddly out of place on him. "Get us to that factory in Billund Denmark, fast." she ordered, holding up the wad of cash she had earned from the race.
The driver nodded, and yanked the wheel to the side while putting the Jeep in second gear. He jammed his foot on the accelerator, and flames exploded from the torn off muffler, sending plumes of smoke wafting around the rear steel bumper. But by the time the smoke dissipated, the Jeep was already gone, roaring onto the highway and on its way out of Germany to the country of Denmark, home of Legos.
Watching with dissatisfaction, Disarray sat in front of a fidgeting Algernon as he observed the reels of security tape play out on his laptop screen, showing over and over again, the escape route via Toyota Supra, which his lab rats, the boy and the girl, had taken.
Nervously, Algernon asked, "And, uh, sir, how do you, er, expect to get these, ah, entities, back?"
Frowning, Disarray closed the laptop, and drummed his fingers on its lid. He raised his eyebrows, and swiveling around on his rotating chair, produced a remote from his jacket. He pressed a red button in the center alongside other dials and switches, and with a whiz of air rushing by, a panel in the wall slid open. It was only a panel of about a foot wide or so, but the space inside was large enough to hold four small, robotic machines. Purple, red, blue, and green lights lit up as they powered on, and then they rolled, or crawled, out of their domain into the center of the room, their sharp mechanical parts twitching as they awaited orders.
Being aichurophobic, (scared of being touched by sharp objects) Algernon cringed as Disarray uploaded a program into the machines, and they started moving towards him on their way to the window. "What... what are they, um sir?" Algernon whimpered as the purple one skittered by his feet.
"Spybots," Disarray answered matter-of-factly. "Used by S.M.A.R.T back in 2003. And I got my hands on these gems in the sand."
"And, erm, what are they, uh, doing, sir?"
"Proceding with the program I installed," Disarray answered, looking back to his remote as the spybots skittered out the window and into the open-air of early dawn.
Algernon gulped, and then asked his final question. "And that program is-?"
Disarray looked up, and stared his subpar Federal accomplice straight in the eye. "Level 15, Hunt. And Capture."
It was said the Maelstrom was defeated when the Dark Mythrans were overthrown.
It was said they would never come back.
They came back.
And a new leader had risen.
"Give me an update," he wheezed out an order. Boots clanked on the ground as the figure clad in black robes walked slowly around the command room.
"One of three targets identified," a Stromling announced from his station.
The figure stepped to the minion of Maelstrom and stared at his screen. "Yes, it is him." he confirmed, before clutching his chest and letting out a fit of coughs. Merely the sight of the Buccaneer that struck what would be the final blow sent the robed man into a spasm of pain and fury.
Several coughs later, he recovered with a deep breath, and continued. "The other two?"
The Stromling shook his head. "Negative, we have not yet received word from Mathias."
The figure gave no response, and went back to circling the room. "Is there anyone with Target #1?" he questioned.
"Yes," the Stromling answered. "Three Sentinels, a Bat Lord, an Avant Gardens Recruit, and two others who remain unidentified. One appears to be Assembly."
"List him as it," the figure stated.
The Stromling nodded, not bothering to correct his commanding officer that the alleged Invetor was a her, and did his master's bidding.
"Three Sentinels, an Assembly, and two weakly recruits aren't worth anything to me," the cloaked figure rasped. "As long as Cheerful Power Rover is destroyed our work is one-third complete."
A Stromling Admiral Invader entered the room flanked by two Elite Spiderlings. "My assassins are ready to take him out, master." the Admiral said.
"I don't need you," the master snapped, much to the supposedly-feeling-less Admiral's dismay. "I will enact revenge personally."
"As your bidding states, master," the Admiral bowed and left the room, his Spiderlings clattering behind him.
The master continued circling until he arrived at the window overlooking the gray rocks of the moon his base was located upon. Staring up into the dark, always night sky, his hooded face remained as dark as ever. Yet a passing comet overhead happened to cast its light in the one location that was the master's platform. For a second his face was illuminated, orange, and purple like a Stromling. But not like any other Stromling. Black pupils stood in the center of his red eyes, and he had visible lips.
"Soon you will fall, brought down like I was. Unlike your enemy who rose up, you will always be falling, never to return. I am coming for you, Cheerful Power Rover."
And then, as the comet left, and the light was once again replaced by shadow, he spoke only three more words before silence reigned again. "Let me Demonstrait."
Avant Gardens, formerly world of Maelstrom, now world of peace and quiet. Whatever Maelstrom presence used to be on the chunk of Crux was now in Crux Prime. The gardens were free.
He watched as Rover stared confidently ahead of them as he lead the way to the old Paradox Lab, which was now half museum. The other half served as a command base for the new Satellite Defense the Nexus Force had put in place around Avant Gardens, Crux Prime, Forbidden Valley, and other major worlds.
Sergeant glanced from Rover to the rest of the members of the group. Lord Brocktree, strong, loyal, and friendly ally. His sidekick and friend Suave Able Cat. Master Blade, whom Rover rescued from the future, Intrepid Fusion Eclipse, Sergeant's friend and Bat Lord, and their two allies also from the future, Dica and Raptor Flune.
Rounding the rocky hills that separated what was the main battleground and the Paradox Lab, the group arrived in front of the Paradox Lab, refurbished and retrofitted in all its glory. Welcoming revolving glass doors with neon lights all over the place stood in the center, while the walls were replaced with glass planes, revealing more neon lights inside. On the lab itself were several radio and satellite antennas and dishes.
The only thing not welcoming on the doors were the yellow "Not Open Yet" signs taped on it and the yellow Assembly barricades from the Monument which were hastily put in front of the building. Rusty Steele and Brutus Speck were inside the lab working on air conditioning with hamster wheels and fans, while standing impatiently outside the lab in front of the barricades was the one and only, Vanda Darkflame.
Looking down from the new large satellite clock which adorned the front of the lab, Vanda turned to look at the newcomers. "I see you're back," she said, addressing Rover, Blade, Intrepid, and Sergeant. She nodded at Lord Brocktree and Suave, and then glanced at Dica and Raptor, before turning her attention back to the original four. "Where's Cyclone and Kate?"
Sergeant opened his mouth to speak, "They're-" but Rover interrupted him.
"Later," Rover stated. "Here are the results from the Venture Explorer mission."
"But-" Sergeant tried again, but Rover shot him a glare. If he tried one more time....
"Cyclone and-" Sergeant stuttered, but Rover elbowed him, hard. Then he unleashed George the Buccaneer Monkey, and then, transfixed on the monkey which began chasing after the Flying Banana Rover tossed, Sergeant followed after George. He liked monkeys.
Handing over a datapad which he composed to Vanda, Rover continued, "We discovered that the Maelstrom Vortex at the center of the Nimbus System is in reality just a Temporal Storm engulfing a planet with a lot of Temporal Wildlife on it. Inhabited only by plants. If we make a massive version of one of Wisp Lee's Maelstrom Vacuums and tune it to suck up Temporal Clouds instead of Maelstrom Bricks, we might be able to clear the storm and stop the Venture Explorer's Endless Loop." He paused for a second, before asking, "Where's Agent Bob?"
"Right here," Bob's voice said, and the always-smiling undercover Nexus Force agent stepped out from behind some trees. "We were spying on you," he admitted. "We wanted to hear what was going on."
"'We'?" Intrepid raised his eyebrows.
Wisp Lee limped out from behind the trees too to stand next to Bob. "Me too," he grumbled. "It was Bob's idea."
"Whatever," Vanda snapped. "Dismissed, you two."
"Awwwwww," Bob's smile may have faltered ever so slightly, but his mood didn't change all that much. "Let's go, Wispy."
The two left, and after quickly reading over Rover's document, she concluded, "I'm glad that will come to an end."
Sergeant came back then, George clinging to his shoulders. "What did I miss?"
"Nothing important," Intrepid whispered, and Sergeant cringed since George started dancing on him.
"Now tell me where Cyclone and Kate are," Vanda told Rover, and gave another glance at Dica and Raptor. "Come with me," she lead Rover through the revolving doors and into the museum, leaving the rest of the group outside.
"I like monkeys," Sergeant forced himself to say in order to keep his pride, and then grabbed George off his head and throwing him with all his might away from him.
Vanda paced around, listening to what Rover had to say regarding Cyclone and Kate's supposed whereabouts, and finally, the origins of Dica and Raptor Flune.
It didn't take long for Rover to finish, since he was talking fast. She didn't get everything he said, but the important parts she understood well enough to announce her final verdict to the Buccaneer.
Bunching up her eyebrows in thought, Vanda concluded, "They can't stay here."
Rover raised his eyebrows, and questioned, "But can they go back? To the future? If I'm correct, the history they knew is altered, so in theory, both the Dica and Raptor we know don't exist anymore."
"But they are still here," Vanda said, not as a question. "And we've got two experienced fighters stranded in another universe which from what you've told me is way too hostile for survival. There is a lot of Imagination and its effects at play with this, but that doesn't tell me how to get them back, or how to solve all this time-travel mess you've caused."
"Me?" Rover exclaimed.
Hands on her hips, Vanda stated, "Cheerful Power Rover, you have been travelling back and forth through time doing all sorts of changes and such regarding your friends' futures and the future of the Nexus Force. Completely unnecessary, and you should know that we have a temporal directive regarding this."
Rover opened his mouth to protest, but Vanda raised a hand to stop him. She continued, "Temporal Directive Section D Verse 18 Subject Violations states that violation of the temporal directive depending on the range of severity of actions and aftershocks can result in a court martial which can end in the defendant being sentenced from being expelled from the Nexus Force to even permanent jail time."
"Wait wait wait wait wait, stop." Rover interrupted. "In case you didn't notice, I was HELPING-"
"History isn't something to meddle with, we don't even understand it." Vanda snapped.
Rover thought back to the mission Vanda from the future had sent him and his friends on, which involve time travel. Hypocritical, he thought. "You'll see about that," he countered, edging for the door.
A flaming purple katana was suddenly at his neck. Rover gulped, as Vanda growled, "What do you mean, 'you'?"
Achievement unlocked: Vanda Rage Mode ON
"Errr, nothing you'd be interested in at this current place," Rover stated, trying hard not to falter as he stared down the long blade in front of his face. "Or time." he added quietly under his breath.
Slowly Vanda brought her sword back away from Rover, and replaced it on her back. "Bias is a powerful enemy, but be glad I'm not being all serious on you." she muttered threateningly. "You and your friends are hereby on indefinite leave from the Nexus Force. Your faction gear will be confiscated, as you'll have no need for it. Hand it over."
Rover grumbled something unintelligible and unequipped his Buccaneer gear, grudgingly handing it to the Paradox Faction Leader. No sense messing with her anymore, especially when she didn't hesitate to unleash the power of dual Maelstrom-infused katanas on him.
"Have your friends leave their gear at the base camp." Vanda ordered. "No funny stuff. Take the transport bus to Nimbus Station, where you'll stay in your apartment. That's the only thing even close to the Nexus Force you'll get to keep until this ends."
Staring at his feet, Rover headed for the exit, and as he left, he thought he heard Vanda add something else.
Something else that sounded like, "If it ever ends."
"I'm really, really, sorry you have to go through this Rover," Brocktree was saying as he and Suave helped Rover and friends get set up in their old apartment. "Suave and I will try everything in our power to get you out of this mess. I promise."
Rover sighed as he tidied up the apartment's living quarters. It hadn't been used for about a month, and during that time things had definitely gotten messier somehow. He was pretty sure somebody had broken into the apartment when they were vacant, and Sergeant's sudden outburst proved that.
"Come ON!" Sergeant wailed. "The south windows are broken, definitely a break in! We'll be getting lots and LOTS of bugs tonight!"
"I hate bugs," Intrepid muttered from another room. "Spiders and mosquitoes. But what I hate more is that they had to take my Bat Lord gear. Why why why...." he moaned.
"Shut up about your Bat Lord gear," Blade snapped. "It's not something sacred."
"To me it is," Intrepid grumbled.
From where she was lying on the floor resting her head on her arms, Dica spoke up. "All Crux Prime items are super rare in the future," she said.
"I don't want to hear about the future either," Blade stated. "What I want to know is why someone broke in."
"To steal stuff," Suave said matter of factly. He examined the window, and the crushed glass on the floor. He quickly grabbed Sergeant's "Flash Bulb" camera which he had been using to take pictures of George doing random stuff much to Sergeant's annoyance, and then snapped a picture of the glass shards.
"Look," Suave announced, pointing to the glass. "Some parts of it are crushed down more than others. I can make out a footprint."
"Shoeprint," Intrepid corrected. "Who'd want to step in glass?" he asked sarcastically. "I'd only do if it I were wearing metal boots."
"You've just answered your own question," Suave answered, and whipped out a scanner, which he carefully hovered over the glass. "There are traces of rust in the air over the glass."
"Nice find," Raptor said, walking over. "Anyone know what they took?"
From back in the bedroom, Rover overheard Raptor's questions. His eyes fell upon a faded blue drawer, which was slightly-open. "Did any of us leave any valuables behind before we left for the Venture Explorer?" he called as he placed his hand on the drawer's handle.
"Yeah," Blade replied. "I left my journal back here in a faded blue drawer."
He heard the sound of Intrepid facepalming. "I was wondering what that book was. I thought that was MY secret hideaway place for secret stuff, I left my spare Bat helmet there."
"So that was yours," Rover stated, as he began tugging on the drawer. It wouldn't budge.
"We all left our secret stuff there," Sergeant said.
Rover gave the drawer a final tug, and it jerked open, sending objects and books flying. A Bat Lord helmet flew towards his face, and Rover just barely grabbed it before it hit him in the face.
"Catch," Rover tossed the helmet out the door into the main room, where Intrepid caught it. Picking up the notebooks and journals that littered the floor, Rover was about to stuff them back into the drawer, when he noticed a smaller green notepad that hadn't flown out.
His notes. Dropping his friends' secret thingies, Rover carefully picked up the notebook, only for the covers to fall off in his hands revealing....
....nothing. The pages were ripped out.
"He went for me," Rover said softly.
In all the years of his occupation as one of the most experienced bounty hunters in the Nimbus System, Krill Mathias had NEVER been beat by anyone other than those so over-powered they let their strength bring them down. Such as The Darkitect.
So when his targets actually beat him in effort and coordination, that came as a big surprise for one of the best bounty hunters known to the Nexus Force. And even worse is that they were kids in fancy gear. HE WAS BEAT BY KIDS. IMPOSSIBRU.
Krill swore, but "Oh Nexus" came out as an unintelligible mumble because he was gagged. And attempting to get up and force his way out of the confined space of the floor of a jeep was also extremely difficult to a normal person, because not only were his arms and legs were bound, but Cyclone's and Kate's boots were resting on his chest. They weren't going to be moving anytime soon.
Unfortunately for the SUV's occupants, Krill Mathias was by no means normal. Amazingly, he pushed himself up off the floor and proceeded to stand up, pushing Cyclone and Kate out of his way in the process. His fingers moved rapidly, easily untying the rope that bound his wrists, and he would have finished the job if a bright flash hadn't suddenly lit up in his face.
A very unusual bright flash, so bright that it could literally stun anyone for the next ten seconds. And in those ten seconds Krill received a punch to the jaw, a kick to the side, a sword at his neck, and a gun to his chest. And he fell back down on his hands with a loud crack, which hurt.
"I seriously wouldn't move if I were you," Kate warned, holding her sword steady.
Krill spat the gag from his mouth, and muttered, "You think you can keep me-"
The blaster dug deeper into his chest, and Cyclone stated, "Talking too."
Krill grumbled something quietly, and settled down. Score for everyone but Krill.
"Stop here," Alter-Kate instructed the driver, whose name was Thaddeous Nathanael "The Second Thing of Guys".
The Jeep rolled to a stop at the road's shoulder, which bordered a dense forest. The sky was dark and gray, the result of the time being evening and announcing the arrival of a storm. This also made the forest even darker and forbidding. And a better hiding spot.
Through the tinted windshield, Alter-Kate watched as a black Mercedes Benz crawled by slowly, its own blacked out windows almost yelling "KEEP OUT" until it slugged around a corner out of sight. To the average passerby, it had continued on its way out of the area. But to the keen eyes of Alter-Kate, it had stopped. She could tell because the reflections of its red tail lights on the pavement had stopped moving, instead of following the sedan out of view.
"Everyone out," she announced, and swung open her door. Her final instructions to Thaddeous were, "Make a U-Turn, go anywhere, just get out of here. You don't want to get involved."
Thaddeous rolled his eyes, and shrugged. "Whatever," he muttered, and as soon as Aler-Kate, Cyclone, Kate, and Krill had gotten out, he lifted his foot off the brakes and threw the car into a smokey, but effective semi-donut, before the black Jeep Cherokee Sport roared out of sight, hopefully never to be seen in the area again.
"Come on," Alter-Kate urged as Cyclone and Kate untied Krill's legs, then she took off into the forest.
Pulling Krill behind them, Cyclone and Kate followed blindly as the sky darkened, casting the first shadows of night on the landscape of northern Bavaria.
Leaves crunched as the group made their way, running, through the trees. Once inside the woods, it wasn't as unnavigable as it appeared from the outside, but it was difficult all the same. The silhouette of Alter-Kate's hand suddenly popped up in front of him, and Cyclone quickly came to a stop with Kate and Krill both bumping into his back.
They weren't moving, but something, or someone else was. The continuous sound of other leaves crunching somewhere not too far away from their current position, and that it was getting closer, meant only one thing. They were being followed.
"Split-up," Alter-Kate whispered loudly enough so that only the group could hear.
"Gladly," Krill snapped, and then as silently as he had been static, the bounty-hunter had taken off into the depths of stealth.
Kate blinked, and she realized she was standing alone. Well, not really. An arm reached out and pulled her after it, and she stumbled blindly after Cyclone.
"You go left, I'll go right," he said softly when they arrived at a rock. Then Cyclone was gone too. Her thoughts racing, Kate sprinted along the left side of the rock, down a different path hardly discernible between the lines of trees.
Shadows danced across the passage from the rapidly fading sunlight that managed to slip between the clouds and through the treetops. Kate could feel her feet getting tired, but she pressed on, listening to the rhythm of her footsteps.
Then she realized she was listening to something else as well. The sound of her footsteps....
Spooked, Kate came to a halt, right in front of a small cliff overlooking the dark waters that bordered the coastline, across from which lay Denmark. A second later the other set of footsteps stopped making sounds too.
The hairs on the back of Kate's neck bristled, and she confirmed it. She was being followed. With dense trees begging her to get faceplanted against on both sides, a stalker behind, and a cliff's edge followed by open water in front of her, the choices of where to run were limited.
She didn't have much time to decide, because a set of gloved hands grabbed her face. Squirming wildly, she elbowed her attacker in the stomach and kicked out behind her, resulting in the force on her face to loosen a bit. Freedom was hers, and she pushed forwards to it.
Maybe too much. A second later, she was falling through open-air down the cliff, and in mid-shriek collided with the water's surface. Not as deep as she expected, the shallow sand not only came up too soon, but the rocks covering it provided the exact opposite of a good landing.
Pain shot up all around her before she blacked out.