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His cape snapped and flicked in the wind. He watched fearfully as the portal opened, swallowing the first world. Then the second. He stood on the brink of the universe, a tear falling from the corner of his eye as the portal came upon the next world, his homeworld, destroying it. The Maelstrom was being sucked in too, and the other worlds were feeling the portal's irresistable tug. The universe was ending, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. The wind intensified as his chunk began speeding up. His balance wavered and he took a step back, staring defyingly into the void ahead. The portal towered above him, powerful, ancient...
Khin was never lucky. When he was only a small child, his parents were smashed when the Maelstrom attacked their planet chunk. He survived the battle when the Nexus Force arrived and took him back to Nexus Tower. But he never cared much for the Nexus Force. He left the tower as soon as he could and went to Nimbus Station, where he got to know people and soon became a local face. He slept in a forgotten house just inside the forest edge. He lived undisturbed for years, until Vareh came along...
Vareh was lucky. When she was a small child, her father became a successful businessman and her mother got more time to take care of her. At 18, she was sent to Nexus Tower to join a Faction. She loved the Nexus Force joined Paradox. Soon she was an adept Shinobi and left the tower for Nimbus Station. She planned on going to Gnarled Forest or Forbidden Valley, but she got sidetracked and bought several Faction potions and bags of Imaginite. It was dark by the time she began going to the launchpad, and she decided to search for a place to sleep. And so it was that she wandered into the edges of the forest...
Khin had seen her moving towards his house. He drew the dagger he always kept with him, and watched warily she entered the doorway. The house, while not completely destroyed, was still quite damaged. The door itself had fallen down long ago. Vareh heard a noise from upstairs as Khin moved into a more concealed position. She drew her Shinobi katana* and rushed up the stairs. Khin saw her and leapt at her, slashing his dagger at her blindly. She attempted to dodge, but Khin's left arm lashed out, grabbing her leg. She fell to the ground and attempted to attack him with her katana, but he parried the weak strike and slid his dagger's blade down the katana's until he reached the hilt, then twisted, flinging the dagger from Vareh's hand. He said, "What are you doing in my house?" "This place is your house?" Vareh asked, bewildered. "Who lives in a place like this? There's plenty of fine houses out in the Assembly area." "I don't have any money to buy one." "Why not?" Vareh asked. "My parents sent me with plenty. Why didn't yours?" "They didn't because they're dead," Khin said flatly. "Oh," Vareh said quietly. "Oh, I'm sorry..." "I don't want to talk about it," Khin said. "Now I have a question for you. Why did you join the Nexus Force?"
"What do you mean?" Vareh asked. "Doesn't everyone join? Isn't it everyone's dream to become part of the powerful army, choose a Faction, battling Maelstrom at every corner?" "Not mine," Khin said. "I want nothing to do with it. Trust me, I have no love for the Maelstrom. But I have no mind for getting involved in a war." "And stand by as innocent minifigures are smashed? When you could have been there to save them?" "Their safety is not my concern. It's the Nexus Force's and their own." "Explore the Universe? Discover new places?" "I'm happy here." "Get rid of you old, boring life and plunge into danger?" "I don't want to risk my life like an idiot." "What about Assembly? Have you seen the Personal Fortresses those Engineers build? Enveloped in an invulnerable turret, machineguns blasting everywhere!" "I don't want to sit like a coward behind the controls." "What about the Sentinels? Massive armor, shields, flaming arrows, energy blasts, swords! Direct combat! Only brave minifigures could do it." "With the protection the armor provides, anyone could do it." Vareh prepared to start another speech, but realised she was out of convincing things. She said, "Think about it. I'm sure you'd make a great member of the Nexus Force." She turned and walked out of the house, slinging her katana over her back. Khin watched her leave, thinking about what she had said.
Khin watched the Nimbus Plaza closely for the following days. A few people who favored him offered him positions in the Nexus Force, without the tests. He politely declined, saying he was happy as he was. He saw Vareh twice in the days, buying Faction potions. She didn't see him the first time, but the second time, when she bought Rank 2 gear, he clapped sarcastically, and she looked at him, leaning against the mailbox near Nexus Jay. When he got bored of hanging around, watching the proceedings of Nimbus Station and being amused by Nexus Jay's arguments with inquisitive recruits, he returned to his house. He went up the stairs, then suddenly something slammed into him. He drew his dagger and slashed at the figure that had attacked him, but his dagger was pushed aside by another blade. He pushed the minifigure and jumped up, ready to strike. Then he saw the minifigure. "What are you doing in my house?" he asked. "And why did you attack me?!" "Why did you attack me the first time?" Vareh asked. "I didn't know who you were. It's called defense of property. Why are you in my house?" "Testing my skills." "Why can't you test them on Dark Ronin or some other Maelstrom monster?" She shrugged. "I prefer you. You're more of a challenge." She turned and started leaving the house. Khin grabbed her shoulder. She looked at him. "Yes?" she said sarcastically. "Don't come back to my house when I'm not here, please," he replied flatly. "And, if you do, I won't be so forgiving next time."
"INCOMING!" A shell exploded right next to Nexus Jay. He leaped aside, dropping his checkboard. He reached for his microphone to call for help. In his house, Khin heard explosions. He rushed outside just in time to see the Plaza circle get hit again. He saw minifigures everywhere, running in panic. He knew only one thing: Nimbus Station was under attack. He looked around to see what he could do to help. He saw Vareh in the crowd. Then an explosion rocked the ground next to her, and three Dark Ronin burst from the ground. "Vareh!" he yelled, throwing his dagger at the Ronin. It struck one in the hand, knocking its weapon away. Khin ran over to it and jumped at it, retrieving his dagger from the ground. He stabbed it, smashing it, then blocked a strike from a second. Vareh slashed at the other, cutting it in half. Then Khin planted a kick in the remaining one's chest, slashed it's face with his dagger and watched it fall apart. "We need to get out of here," Khin said. "What's going on?" Vareh asked. "I'm not exactly sure. But I think the Maelstrom is attacking Nimbus Station. We have to leave. It's dangerous." "I'm used to danger." "Well so am I, and I judge this is a bit too dangerous." He pointed at a Maelstrom Dragon descending from the sky. It threw a fireball at the forest, incinerating a group of trees and scorching the surrounding area. "Agreed," Vareh said. "Let's go!" Khin grabbed her arm and they ran to the Race Place, where Kurt Tussle was rushing people onto rockets to Nexus Tower. The two minifigures boarded a rocket and blasted off.
As the rocket exited Nimbus' atmosphere, the two minifigures saw Spiderlings and Dragons descending toward its surface. "By the Nexus..." Vareh breathed. "Surely the planet is lost, now." "Never," Khin said. "The Nexus Force is strong. I know firsthand, however little I care about it." Vareh didn't ask any questions. She said, "We need to go back. I can't just run, knowing that the world is in danger." "Going back will get us nowhere," Khin said. "We'll get smashed. Remember that Dragon. If it can destroy half a forest, then imagine how easily it will smash us." Vareh sighed. She looked away from the sieged Nimbus Station and out toward Nexus Tower.
They landed at Nexus Tower and jumped from their rocket. Walking down the bridge, they suddenly heard something. Like a saw blade. Khin began to yell, but it was too late. The bridge creaked and began to fall from the tower. As it did, the minifigures on it saw Spiderlings and Chainsaw Stromlings clinging to the side of the tower, underneath the spot the bridge was before. The bridge shattered into pieces. Vareh screamed as everyone was thrown into the air, falling towards Crux Prime far below.
Khin yelled to Vareh, but the wind tore the words away from him and they were lost in the air behind him. Fragments of the bridge were falling past them, collecting minifigures with them. Vareh was tumbling through the air, dangerously close to becoming one of them. Khin maneuvered himself to get closer to her, and grabbed her arm. She looked at him and began to calm down. He pointed at a piece of debris that had just smashed into another minfigure. He pointed at her. She nodded, understanding his message. They looked down. Below was Sentinel Point Zeta, which was approaching frighteningly fast. Khin told Vareh that they needed to ball themselves up in order to land safely. As the ground came so close that they could see Brannan Lander's panicked face, they curled up and then the ground hit them. Vareh landed safely, her armor absorbing most of the impact. She rolled a few meters before stopping and standing with slight difficulty. Khin landed a few meters away, broke his ball on impact and rolled into a piece of debris. He crawled up and stood. "Are you alright?" Vareh asked. He opened his mouth, about to respond, but then his eyes widened. "Vareh, move!" he yelled, charging at her. He grabbed her and pulled her out of her spot as a huge piece of the bridge crashed down right where she was standing moments before. The two minifigures stood as Brannan Landers and Bronson Jarls rushed to the debris to look for other survivors. "Thanks," Vareh said. "You saved me twice in twenty seconds." She kissed him.
The minifigures helped any other survivors, the reported to Brannan Landers. "It doesn't look like you're going to be getting back up there too soon," he said. "But we could use you down here at any rate. Talk to Bronson, he'll get you smashing some Maelstrom!" Vareh nodded and began walking to Bronson Jarls, but Khin stayed back. "What's wrong?" she asked. "I want nothing to do with the Nexus Force," Khin said. "You can just go and smash some Maelstrom. You don't need to get orders from Bronson Jarls." "The Maelstrom isn't my problem. It's the Nexus Force's." "It's everyone's problem. It doesn't care who it attacks, where it attacks, anything. It would infect you without hesitation, like it would to me, even though you've never threatened a Stromling before. I've smashed plenty." Khin thought about it. "Fine," he said. "I'll smash a few." "Are you sure your dagger will be able to smash these? They're Invaders. Pretty tough." "I'll be fine." Khin jumped from Point Zeta and charged a Stromling Invader. He slashed his dagger at it. He took out a Pirate. Vareh ran over to him. "You're good at this," she said. "Where'd you get the skills?" "I guess it just came naturally." He threw his dagger at an approaching Mech, hitting it, then ran at it and punched it's armor, putting a huge dent in it. It made a few mechanical screeches then exploded into bricks.
"Get out there and smash some Maelstrom!" Brannan Landers cried out. "We need to secure the defenses so we can get everyone back to the safety of the Tower!" "We've got Talons coming," Bronson replied. "But they're due in fifteen minutes." "We'll have to hold out until then. Everyone able, take the fight to the enemy!" Minifigures rushed forward, jumping down from the Point and attacking the swarming monsters. Engineers set up their turrets on high ground, forcing the Maelstrom back. Sentinels swung their weapons and fired lasers, knocking down and smashing enemies. Assembly summoned forth creatures which brought down their wrath upon the Maelstrom. Venture League members rushed back and forth through the enemy lines, causing havoc with their lightning speed and power. Paradox dropped Maelstrom bombs and explosions, tearing apart lines. Khin and Vareh stood side by side, hacking at the Maelstrom. Soon, the Maelstrom was pushed out of the range of the Engineers' turrets. The Engineers jumped down to join the others, then used their magnets followed shortly by unleashing their devastating Personal Fortresses.
Personal Fortresses began to cut down line after line of Maelstrom. Sentinels began pushing forward, bashing the monsters with their shields, shooting flaming arrows, calling in orbital strikes. Buccaneers and Daredevils began blasting away, setting the Maelstrom alight and knocking them down. Assembly were creating more creatures and turrets to smash the monsters. And Vareh, one of the few Paradox members, was slashing at the Maelstrom, striking them with lightning, and, as she was finishing with a target, transforming into a purple cloud and rushing at another. Khin had trouble keeping up. In moments, the enemy forces had been pushed back to the point that Stromling Invaders and Pirate Invaders were being forced into the chasm at the edge of Point Zeta. Mechs came next, then Spiderlings and Ronin. Then the rest were smashed, or pushed off, and Zeta was clear. Just in time. A squadron of Talon dropships descended from the sky, guns rotating in in caution. Then as they landed, the Nexus Force members climbed aboard, Vareh pulling Khin with her, and the ships took off back to the Tower.
"Vareh," Khin said as they landed on one of the two remaining landing platforms on the Tower, "that battle just then..." Vareh turned to look at him, waiting for him to finish. "The battle?" she prompted. "It changed my mind," he said. "About the Nexus Force. They're not cowards. Nor are they stupid. They're people who see the bigger picture. They're fighting to save the Universe, I see that now. Protecting Imagination, and ultimately, every minifigure." Those Sentinels... The Mechs and Spiderlings could've torn through their armor easily. They rushed in with fear. The Venture League were... just running about, not with any care about themselves, dashing about inside the Maelstrom. Assembly's creatures would've taken a huge effort to summon, and Personal Fortresses leave you completely exposed from the rear. Anything could've come up behind them and torn them apart." And Paradox... you were amazing. The ease that you can smash the monsters with! And the Maelstrom energy that you use so dangerously... you could get infected. Do you ever worry?" Vareh shook her head, silent. "But now... I said I wanted nothing to do with the Nexus Force. Before, I was blind. I thought the Nexus Force were cowards." He paused for a moment. "Back when I was young... when my parents were alive... I never knew much about the Nexus Force." When the Maelstrom invaded, the Nexus Force was close behind. But they never anticipated the amount of Maelstrom that was there. When they were fighting, they were outnumbered. They took me as my parents were attacked by the Maelstrom. When they were smashed, the Nexus Force set me in a Talon and then attacked the Maelstrom. I saw rage in their movements, but never recognized it at my age. When they had to retreat and let the world fall, there was pain in their eyes at leaving a world to be overtaken and minifigures still left there. I only remember these details now that I see the truth. I'd forgotten over the years..." He stopped. He looked at Vareh and said, "I want to join the Nexus Force." Vareh was silent for a few moments. "Well," she said, "I suppose Nexus Tower is the best place to do it."
"Where will we go?" Khin asked. "I guess we'll go see Vanda. I'm sure she'll understand us coming to see her personally. She's probably heard about Nimbus Station, or at least seen it in the Shadow Orb." The two minifigures walked down the Sentinel hallway. Yawny Goodknight was mumbling in his sleep about saws and collapsing platform, reminding the minifigures of the unpleasant events of the last fifteen minutes. They reached the Sentinel Vendor area, where a minifigure holding a briefcase, wearing a quiver and a parrot perching on his shoulder called out to them, "Do you have any Crux Prime Armor? I'll give you my Briefcase!" "We don't have any, sorry," Vareh said quickly, hurrying along. "Traders. They'll do anything to get what they want, no matter what is costs them." "I see a lot of them in the Plaza," Khin said. "I saw one offering a million coins and for a Jester Cap once!" They moved on, jumping through the portal and saying hello to Olivia Nightshade, and entered the Paradox area. "Hey, Meyer!" Vareh said. "Can we talk to Vanda?" "I think so," Meyer said. "She's up on her platform as usual. I don't think she has any meetings at the moment, but she might be a little caught up with the launchpad disaster outside, but she's probably dealt with Nimbus Station. She's organised like that." "Thanks, Meyer," Vareh said, leading Khin up to Vanda. "Hello, Miss Darkflame," Vareh said. "Hello, Vareh," Vanda said. "What's wrong?" "Nothing," Vareh said. "This is Khin. He wants to join Paradox." Vanda looked at Khin. "I remember you. You abandoned the Tower as soon as you were old enough to leave. You didn't care about the Nexus Force. Now you come back here, running from the fight on Nimbus Station because 'it's not your fight'? You have a lot of nerve coming back here." Khin looked guilty. He said, "My mind was changed." Vanda glanced at Vareh, who was looking at Khin with disbelief. "Mmm-hmm. Well, I suppose I could grant your request. Which speciality would you like?" "Space Marauder, please." "Fair enough." Vanda pointed at the ground and a set of Rank One Space Marauder armor and weapons, which Khin picked up. "Thank you, Miss Darkflame. Forgive me for what I said when I lived here." "Perhaps I will. Prove yourself to be loyal, Khin, and maybe you shall be forgiven. But for now, you must go. Nimbus Station is under attack. That is your first mission: help our forces to battle the Maelstrom there." "Let's go," Vareh said, rushing down the stairs. Khin quickly followed her. "So... what do you think, Vanda?" Meyer asked, looking up at her from his post. "I think he can be dedicated. Let's hope his dedication can work in the Nexus Force's favor."
The two minifigures ran down the Sentinel hallway, following the steady stream of minifigures lined up.
"How do you think we'll get off the planet?" Khin asked.
"Not sure, but Doctor Overbuild's probably already got something set up," Vareh replied, staring off into the distance.
"Is something wrong?"
"It's just..." Vareh turned to look at him. "The things Vanda said. You abandoned us? Just left? You hated us?" Khin slowed down a bit, and his expression turned to sadness.
"I'm sorry," Vareh said. "But did you say those things? Do those things?"
"I... I did leave," Khin said. "But I never said I hated the Nexus Force. But I had no love for them either."
Before Vareh could say any more, he continued, "But things are different now. I'm part of the Nexus Force."
Vareh nodded. "Let's go."
They made to the front of the line, where they saw Overbuild's hastily built transport system. It was composed of a large array of bouncers and just as many jetpacks lying next to the bouncers.
"Hope you're not afraid of moving too fast!" Vareh laughed, grabbing up a jetpack.
"Of course not," Khin said less surely, strapping on his own jetpack.
Vareh jumped onto a bouncer and immediately it threw her high into the air above the Tower. Khin quickly followed.
A second after leaving the bouncer, he activated the jetpack, continuing to gain momentum as he continued higher and higher into the sky.
He looked down and saw a small speck below - Nexus Tower. A fleet of minifigures was above and below and around him, and he assumed from Crux Prime it would look quite spectacular.
He continued soaring upwards until the sky darkened and he was in space. He saw Nimbus Station ahead, and blasted towards it.
Approaching Nimbus Station, Khin could see some of the damage already. Maelstrom Dragons were perched in the burning trees, spraying fire everywhere. The Plaza was being rampaged by Maelstrom, and Admirals were blasting away at the buildings. Ronin and Spiderlings made up most of the defensive force that was keeping the Nexus Force bottled up in the Race Place.
Khin activated his jetpack and softly landed on the ground to find Vareh waiting for him. Her face was grave.
"This doesn't look good," she said. "They outnumber us ten to one, and they have alot more force than we do."
"We'll retake Nimbus Station," Khin reassured her, drawing his blaster.
"You know how to use that?"
"No idea. Let's go."
They ran forward, joining into the front lines. Khin stopped a few bricks in front of a Spiderling, aimed at it and pulled the trigger. A concentrated blast of energy burst from the front of his weapon, striking the Spiderling and forcing it back.
He fired again, unleashing a similar blast. Grinning, he fired a third time, but this time the cloud was larger and produced far more recoil, knocking him backwards. He jumped up in time to see the Spiderling explode into bricks from the shot.
He took aim at a Ronin this time, and fired another combo, this time holding the weapon with two hands on the third shot. He smashed a few more creatures, then retreated backwards.
"What do you think?" he asked Vareh.
"I think you're decent," she replied. "You should learn to hold the blaster with one hand, though. Soon enough you'll have a rocket launcher in your other hand." She pointed at another Space Marauder, a Rank 2, who blasted a Spiderling into pieces then fired a missile at a Ronin, smashing it.
"You also have a grenade," Vareh said. "And you can draw Imagination from Maelstrom and give it to nearby minifigures."
Khin tried throwing his grenade, which landed on a Ronin's helmet, bounced off and exploded, smashing it.
He grinned then held his Blaster's trigger, which began drawing energy from the air. Soon it glowed and shook, and he released it. Imagination flew over to nearly minifigures drawing some thanks.
He turned to Vareh who nodded. "Good work," she said. "We'd better get back to smashing Maelstrom though."
Khin agreed and turned around. He threw a grenade at a Spiderling, which was knocked to the ground from the blast. He then fired another shot, finishing it off.
He took aim at a Ronin, but Vareh was already there, slashing it. She blocked its first attack, then knocked the katana from its hand. She kicked it in the head, knocking it over and smashing it. She leaped over a Spiderling, hacking at its legs at the same time. It squealed and shot a web, but she dodged and rushed forward, becoming a blur of energy. Her sword swiped again, finishing it off.
Khin looked back just in time to see a Spiderling jumping through the air toward him. He froze for a moment then acted, attempting to run, but it was too late. He reflexing pulled something from his belt and looked back, the Spiderling coming down upon him...
Vareh ran over to him, but he pushed the limp Spiderling off of him and pulled the dagger from its chest. "I can't live without this thing," he said, sheathing the knife.
"Indeed," Vareh said.