Chapter 41: Dark Side of the Moon
The morning sun had arisen as a new day began on planet Vaelidius: a new day in which would bring much change to the ravaged plane and perhaps even the whole entire galaxy.
Ace had himself prepared for what was to come. He was led away from the underground city, out into the open and into the skies of a small spacecraft. Malvin was the one taking him on the flight, flying out towards one of the Vaelidian moons - where the International Defence Control still resided on to this very day.
They had to be very careful; the moon was well guarded by karnifex minions, especially the facility where the defence control was located within. They were forced to fly at a lower speed than normal, to lessen their chances of being detected by radar of some sort. Although it did give Ace plenty of time to be prepared for the mission, especially in mind.
“Not long now. Once we land, I will give you what you need to reactivate the defence system. My people have already made some progress in the facility... you will see soon”
Ace nodded in response to Malvin. He kept a close watch from inside the aircraft as it came within range of the moon. He also noticed that this moon was terraformed; it had some plants, dirt and life about, which indicated that the moon was breathable - great news for him and the other life forms around.
They came within range of the moon’s surface with caution. Malvin appeared to look nervous as he performed the landing, albeit stern and focused on the task ahead of them. Ace stood up after the craft had stopped and as did Malvin.
He led Ace to the back of the aircraft, where he unlocked a sort of vault in particular.
“This is what you will need...”
Malvin finished unlocking an armoured case, opening the cover and bringing a small object into the light...
It shone a brilliant array of hues; red and violet. The colours illuminated slightly in the dim light of the room. Ace looked at it closely, but he did not recognise it from anywhere. He hadn’t seen anything like it previously.
“What is that, exactly?”
“This is part of a Surinox Shard - one of few known in existence. It comes from the Surinox Comet, a comet that has been said to travel through dimensions and even multiple realities, although I don’t really believe that. But what I do believe and know for sure is that this very shard holds an immense amount of power. A small shard from the Surinox Comet is what once powered our international defence system... before it was overrun and hijacked by the karnifex of course. We are not sure what the karnifex are using that part of the Surinox shard for though”
“So, that is a piece from the same comet then?”
“Yes. We found this particular shard in the Polaris galaxy years ago during our exploration through space after we made our escape. We kept it hidden through all these years until we were ready to return for war...”
Malvin handed the Surinox shard over to Ace, looking straight at him. He narrowed his eyes as he looked stern and serious, even frowning slightly as he begun to spoke. He also handed a certain capsule to Ace from the case before closing it.
“Here’s a nano-capsule. In case you didn’t know, nanotech is a rare substance in this galaxy. So please, use it only when it is an emergency. We have a severe shortage of this substance, but so do the karnifex. So they may hunt you down for that as well”
Ace nodded, putting the nanotech into a pocket on the side of his track pants. He placed the Surinox shard into the pocket on his right thigh pocket.
“You need to take the shard to the central part of the facility. Protect it at all costs and never let your guard down. It will help us greatly if you get that defence system up and running”
“I know what to do. Show me the way and I will handle the rest”
The dark side of the moon was where they were headed, right towards the main defence facility down below. Outside lay a dry and barren land, quite similar to that of Vaelidius, although far more devoid of life in comparison. Not even a single light illuminated from the moon’s surface - besides the dim lights of the once grand architecture down below.
From within the walls of the building, the halls were dark and dreary. Dripping pipes and random sparks few continuously from the old damaged interiors of the structure. An alien race armed with blades and firepower patrolled the dreaded hallways constantly. Eyes glowing yellow and their bodies shone a green colour in the pitch dark of the hallways.
A sharp jolted boom interrupted the patrol in the span of a mere second.
A wall to the right blasted right open as smoke, dirt and metal filled the interior as the fading seconds went by. Ace leapt through the centre of the forced opening, both his Vipers at hand firing at the creatures that came towards him.
Bullets fired at what Ace made out to be the karnifex. Their external structure looked vaguely familiar as he could see them come into the light. Every single minion was armed with long blades, protruding from each end of their wrists. All had a pair of wings, six limbs and a primitive form of armour. Some were even capable of firing beams from their hands, or use a native weapon of some sort. They were definitely an insectoid race, very similar to The Eviscerator he once knew, as a matter of fact. However, these aliens were completely organic and quite a lot smaller.
Ace fired his HL Vipers at each karnifex charging towards him. His eyes were so well focused from behind his visor he hardly missed a shot as each wave came over in an attempt to cut him down. The aliens screeched as each one fell in turn and it became quite clear that they were incapable of speaking any sort of verbal speech. Lasers and blades flew towards Ace constantly, forcing him to be on his feet at all times. It was obvious that the karnifex had a huge advantage in numbers and Ace had to think and act quickly, due to each wave flying or scurrying over towards him. As soon as he cleared the first wave of fighters, he rushed on through the descending hallway, towards the centre of his entry.
Even so it was not long until he could hear another hoard of insects make their way out of the upper compartments of the facility.
Ace took a glance over his shoulder, grinning slyly. Now was the perfect time to use his secret weapon, at last...
Pushing a trigger on the side of his visor made an odd tingling sensation flow throughout his person. Ace rushed up to his left, back flattened against the wall as he closed his eyes and begun to fade into his surroundings.
His entire body became invisible as the swarm of karnifex flashed past him, completely oblivious to his whereabouts. They were puzzled as to where he went, knowing it was near impossible to vanish into thin air. Ace kept himself still against the wall as they scanned the area with their own form of vision. Not even their radars could detect him the slightest.
Ace could only give off a cunning grin at the use of his new gadget.
Invisibility was something he always wanted to do ever since he was a youngster. It wasn’t until he was in Zordoom that he learned the ways of invisibility. During the time of his sentence, he was forced to work on the weaponry of the Drophyds, having to repair and build their weapons as one of the jobs while he was a prisoner. But during that time, he also learned how their technology worked – what kind of firepower and gadgets they used in war.
He discovered how they used their invisibility technology this way. Yet the Drophyd technology was flawed, as they were still slightly visible and could be detected very easily by radar guided missiles and gadgets.
Ace fixed that however.
His invisibility worked flawlessly, standing motionless in the hallway. He worked hard to ensure that even radars could not detect his presence. Regardless of that, he had to remain completely still to ensure that his invisibility was working at its peak performance. Whenever he moved, he could be detected. And it could only last for short bursts of a minute or two, as it needed enough time to restore its lost energy.
Not long after the karnifex passed him by, Ace moved and switched off the invisibility function. Looking all around, he could see several different hallways leading to different directions. Yet he knew exactly where to go.
Ace ran towards the centre of the room and leapt over the railing, falling deeper down into the centre. He landed in a dark and deeper level of the facility.
But with the landing, came the uncomfortable sounds of crushing beneath his metal-capped boots. And once he checked to see what it was, he cringed. His visor allowed him to see in the dark and with that technology he saw what was under him: a mass grave of fallen soldiers. Bones and armour littered the place, bodies from what he thought to be from his own kind and perhaps maulkats as well. He walked through slowly, carefully avoiding the pieces and splinters of bones about.
He couldn’t help but admit it felt eerie being alone down here with the dead, made his skin crawl in fact, and the smell of decay only made him feel worse.
A sharp sudden jab in his back made Ace curse suddenly. He spun around and whipped out his Launcher, slashing the karnifex behind him. Right before another pair lashed out of the dark onto him.
He growled and swung his launcher around again to decapitate the pair who had come into direct contact. But it wasn’t over.
Another few pounced onto his back from the darkness, trying with all their might to drive their blades through his back and deep into his skin. Ace snarled and rammed his back against the wall several times, trying hard to pry them off but it was difficult, forcing him to use his HL clone device right there and then.
Eight hard-light clones appeared around him and fired vigorously at the invading karnifex. Even with the extra firepower, it did not make things much easier. Being in such narrow and dark hallways, Ace found it extremely difficult to control his clones and a few of his copies vanished instantly. But he wouldn’t give in, firing as much as he could he finally took down the last of the karnifex surrounding him, giving him the much needed opportunity to move on forward into the next compartment.
The brief moment of solitude gave Ace the time to take more notice of the darkened hallways. He noticed the interior of the hallways down here were heavily damaged and worn down. It looked as if many soldiers over the years had tried to break into the facility down here. The place even lacked lighting in some of the hallways. His back was quite sore from the unexpected attack but their blades didn’t pierce through his terraflux clothing. Still, they did bruise his muscles underneath.
But that didn’t slow Ace down and he knew very well that the enemy would be coming up.
He turned invisible as he ran up closer to the entry of the lower compartment. The more he disappeared, the slower he paced until he reached the very end of the hallway ahead.
As expected, karnifex came out into the open once again in an attempt to ambush him but they were surprised to see that he wasn’t around, their surprise turned to annoyance in a flash and they hissed at one another. Ace watched the pair closely from above them, holding onto a pipe on the wall. He smiled as soon as they walked past, hopping down and planting a small device on the floor.
He sprinted forward; partially invisible and placing another device at the entry. His invisibility was wearing off from the quick movements he made but it didn’t matter right there and then. Even as more of the karnifex minions came out from upper compartments.
He placed more devices around the room and right as a group of karnifex ran towards him he stopped in his track.
Grinning slyly, the insectoids seemed to be confused by his high level of confidence.
Ace leapt over the railings and down into the deep centre of the room. His devices up above popped out in form and let out a shockwave, connecting with one another and frying the karnifex instantly. Ace was pleased when he heard the sounds of electrocution high above him before landing down on the metallic surface.
Not a single karnifex up there survived that planned attack, as it seemed.
He moved on towards the final chamber, feeling quite excited to be near the end of the road already. But his excitement came to a loud stop at the sound of metal crashing behind of him.
Ace took a glance back and saw thick metal gates slam down closed. Many in turn crashed shut and he dashed forwards, knowing all too well the doors were chasing him, to close and trap him in here forever. Right before the last door came down however he contorted his body and sort of half slid, half crouched under it just as it banged shut behind him.
He knew what the karnifex were plotting this time round.
In the very centre of the room was the final elevator down to the main control of the facility, but another entrance behind of it opened and the wave of karnifex flew out into the open. Ace braced himself and held out both of his Vipers.
Gunfire scattered all round and laser lights flickered all throughout the room. He moved from side to side to avoid their fire, leaping over minions who came in for him with sharpened blades. Close combat was necessary when the insects came too close for comfort; forcing him to perform high kicks into their bodies while shooting bullets from the Vipers.
But it was not easy when he was being outnumbered by a long shot.
The karnifex persisted in coming out towards him, flying, scurrying and leaping even lashing out so close and managing to lay a scratch on him in the many swipes coming towards him.
Ace growled and tried in vain to dodge the incoming blades, many limbs swished around to try and cut him down a notch. Ace jumped back but as he did so, a sharp piercing pain hit him in the back of the arm. His eyes widened and he yelled, firing even harder with his weapons. Ace then realised he was in danger; he could not use his hard-light clones, due to the cramped conditions and close combat. He kept obtaining cut by cut, right up until he could take it no more.
He leapt with all his might out of the swarm and looked down at plague of glowing eyes. And with that, he unleashed his wave of clones once more.
Each of himself fired vigorously down at the raging aliens, knocking more down to the floor and landing upon their relatively fragile structures, crushing them underneath his weight.
The remainder came in for him, confused by his sudden amount of clones while Ace was almost as confused as they were. The dark and cramped conditions made it impossible to aim at anything and yet shooting in any direction of the karnifex helped him nonetheless - many more were falling as he fired from his guns. So many that the room was becoming increasingly packed with inanimate insect bodies littered with bullets in their exoskeletons.
The gore and foul stench was even starting to put Ace off this whole ordeal, even beginning to feel a bit sick.
Either way he looked around him for one last time and he could notice that he was largely alone now. A few of the remaining minions were already scurrying for their lives out of the aerial exit. He couldn’t help but shoot more bullets into their general direction, even giving off a cackle at their attempt to escape his aim.
“You ain’t going anywhere!”
He said, before the last of the karnifex fell to the ground, smashing into the insect corpses below it and coming to a complete halt.
Ace and his hard-light clones stood there for a moment, before he could let out a sigh and without warning his HL clones disappeared.
The sheer exhaustion caught up with him right there and then. He limped over towards the final elevator and opened it up, entering it and falling against the wall of the carrier.
His body really ached now and his wounds were stinging and bleeding, right as the elevator began to descend down into the depths of the floor. He took a moment to reflect on what he had just accomplished and it was good to relax after such a rough mission. He took out the Surinox Shard from his backpack and looked at the glistening colours.
For some reason, it was a lot brighter and more luminous than it was before.
“This damned rock better be worth all the effort...”
He immediately got up on his feet and stretched himself, despite the nagging pain - it wasn’t severe, but it was uncomfortable. He had thoughts about using the nanotech but then again, he might need it some other time. Ace decided that he could endure his injuries for the meantime and once the elevator stopped, he stood still.
He turned invisible before the doors opened up at its end but when he glared inside there was nobody there.
He didn’t want to take a risk though; he had to make sure there was no infestation of karnifex waiting for him, like before. Ace very well knew that he would not survive another onslaught like the one previously.
However, it was completely silent down here. He could even see lights within the room, glowing from a large machine in the middle of the room. It looked exactly how Malvin had described it and so, he moved in towards it, holding out the Surinox shard as it began to glow brighter and brighter.
And right as he made it to the machine, the Surinox shard left his grasp and automatically placed itself inside an activated capsule, emerging from the centre of the machine. Ace took a few steps back as it started to brighten up even more – expanding itself and sending out holographic pictures, which Ace took close note of. Even though it was in Vaelidian, he could make out what the pictures displayed were showing.
It was a whole entire map of Vaelidius and its five moons. He watched it curiously, wondering what he had just activated.
As the screens displayed more images, each of the moons lit up a bright red colour. Ace thought that it may be a display to show the progress of activation across the planets defence system. Although he had no idea what it was going to do, seeing as Malvin wouldn’t reveal to him what the secret was.
Right as the last of the moons lit up, it showed an image of a karnifex. An image with a target lighting up around it and now Ace began to understand what it was about to do.
Before he could even give off another grin, the building jolted. He was almost knocked to the ground, taking steps back to look up at the holoscreen again. The room was lighting up more and a Vaelidian voice made an announcement. Unfortunately Ace couldn’t understand what it was saying but then he looked over to the end of the room, to see another form of exit.
This must be my way out. Time to finish the job.
The view was grand from inside the escape shuttle as it navigated itself deep through the violet skies of the night. Ace took this moment of tranquillity to relax, after escaping the Defence Facility.
He could see Vaelidius down below with a reddish flare glowing behind of the great spherical silhouette. He could even spot a couple of the other nearby moons lighting up, sending spectacular shows of lightning down into the planet’s surface. He turned back around to see that the defence system was completely electrified, powering up waves of lightning in the passing seconds.
It was no surprise why Malvin only wanted one soldier to do this particular mission; the bravest, most skilled and the most cunning.
What is going on down there?
He could only wonder. Watching streams of lightning emit from the moon bases, right down to the planet’s surface.
Ace definitely had a lot to ask Malvin after such a show. The escape shuttle appeared to be heading down to the Vaelidian surface during the electrical display.
Perhaps this was his entry to the surface war ahead of him. The final task in taking back what was rightfully theirs: their home; their lives; their future. It was quite a nerve wrecking moment, but Ace had been through so many missions, many battles and wars against terror.
Landing down onto the Vaelidian surface was rough, yet brought with a warm welcome of cheering verpardi and aleumarr civilians. People of all ages were out in the open of the desert wasteland, in the broad daylight and unafraid of the outside world like many before them were.
The escape shuttled opened up and everybody watched in curiosity, making way for Malvin who walked through the crowd. Ace hopped out, relieved to be out of the small, cramped shuttle. He was quite overwhelmed with the amount of attention he got from the crowd of people, both women and men were cheering for him, chanting his name aloud, clapping and bowing. Some teenagers and young children were cheering for him as well. Being welcomed like this made all the effort well worth it. Even the pain was numbed by the presence of everybody.
But the civilians’ did not ignore his battered appearance. A couple of nearby nurses came up to him, giving friendly smiles and handing over some nanotech to heal the wounds he had over his face and body.
Heh. This really was worth the time and effort.
Ace thought, allowing the small amount of nanotech to help heal his wounds. It surely made himself feel a lot livelier.
Malvin walked over to him while the other civilians cleared the way for their leader. He bowed as a sign of gratitude at Ace’s presence.
“You’re welcome” Ace nodded “I suppose this means it is time to head off to war...”
“Oh yes. Thanks to your efforts, the International Defence System will help us cleanse our world of the karnifex. The beams of lightning will target and kill karnifex minions from all over the globe, but it won’t be enough to destroy King Kaedos and the remainder of his kind. It is up to each and every one of us to save our planet”
“-and we will succeed” Replied Ace, who was looking out into the horizon. He couldn’t help but wonder.
“Where are the rest of the Seekers?”
“The majority of them are already out there, fighting in the capital city of Vaelidius: Nyxion City. But someone in particular waited behind for you...”
Malvin turned around to look out towards the group of soldiers to the far off right. Ace could see a large group of maulkats there, male and female, all in armour. But what caught his attention was the presence of Leera Lashclaw.
She paced over to Ace after noticing his presence, rushing up close to nuzzle him affectionately.
“Heh, looks like it is just you and me then”
he smirked, allowing Leera to lower to his level before hopping on her back.
“And I assume you’ll lead the way to the rest of our team?”
Leera chuffed as a response, rising to stand up competently. The armour she wore made it easier and a lot more comfortable for him to sit on. It was the same red and grey colours as the armour the Vaelidian soldiers wore. It matched her perfectly, and provided her with just as much protection as your average soldier.
Leera had already begun trotting out into the open wasteland, in the same direction of which the other maulkat riders were going before breaking out into a rapid sprint. Various types of vehicles and aircrafts flew in this direction at the same time.
In the far off landscape ahead, Ace could already make out signs of a large city. Various structures and skyscrapers were visible making it look fairly large from a distance. But it also had a large barricade built around the city boundaries, at least one hundred metres high and probably well-guarded.
But that didn’t put the Vaelidian soldiers off. And especially not Ace.
As a matter of fact, he looked very forward to this battle ahead of them.