Chapter 42: War on Vaelidius
The battalion of Vaelidians rushed on through the vast open landscape, determination leading their way towards the break-in point through the city borders. Leera ran along the outer left of the pack, eventually pacing away from the rest of the maulkats. It seemed as if she had a path of her own to take - even so Ace didn’t mind it. He had faith in her instinct and went along with it, holding on tightly as she began to ascend up the higher ground.
He thought that perhaps Leera was leading him through a shortcut to the rest of the Seekers?
She darted past boulders and in through crevices, leaping over cliffs and passing through wide channels within the canyon. Ace couldn’t see any signs of the city from there, and he wondered if Leera really was going the correct way. But he could see that the static beams of lethal energy from the moons were streaming down ahead of them, possibly taking down some of the karnifex minions?
The maulkat suddenly growled, baring her teeth for reasons unknown. Ace heard, and noticed that the fur around her neck and back had arisen indicating something was coming up ahead.
To the right came a horde of flying karnifex, barely missing Leera as she sprinted past. Ace had already pulled out his Hardlight Vipers, firing at the incoming foes.
They swarmed and screeched from left to right, in an attempt to take them down. Ace kept his focus on the insectoids to keep Leera’s path clear until she finally made it through the end of the canyon.
The barricade stood there before them, many metres above the ground. It didn’t look like it would be easy to break through as climbing or flying over would be their best chance to get inside the barrier.
Ace had to admit, he could not pick out a way of entry and the only way he could get in was to abandon Leera, but that was not an option.
Karnifex aircrafts spawned from the outposts of the barricade above, much to Ace’s annoyance. They were a flying saucer-like shape, hovering down to their level to fire their blasters. Leera jumped to the side to avoid their gunfire, and Ace switched his Vipers to his Launcher instead - as it was more powerful to deal with enemy aircrafts.
Each one blew apart as he fired the blue beams of energy, but he still needed a way to get inside the city. But as he watched these crafts continuously appear out of the sky to fend them off, he studied the flat surfaces of these aircrafts. And then he thought of an ingenious idea.
“Leera... are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
The maulkat chuffed in question, tilting her head to the side. Ace looked up at the karnifex aircrafts, giving a nod in the direction of them. Leera looked up as well, glaring for a moment before she caught on and paced her way up a hill in response. She accelerated up towards the closest karnifex saucer, hurling herself into the air and landing on top of the aircraft.
Her sharp hooves scraped the rooftop of the saucer as it flew out of control while she pounced again to land on an upper aircraft. Ace was quite thrilled with how she was performing. He kept his focus on shooting down opponents and holding on tight as Leera concentrated on keeping their balance. The karnifex were enraged, more of their saucers came out in defence and Leera used this opportunity to leap up higher.
The third aircraft was tricky to land on due to it moving through the air wildly, in serious danger of crashing into the nearby wall.
“That way!” Ace shouted, pointing at another aircraft flying down in their direction.
She rushed to jump onto the next saucer before it crashed into the city barricade. It set off a massive explosion, causing panic amongst the villains. They fired without thinking wherever the maulkat and verpardi went, even going as far as gunning down their own saucers whenever Leera landed upon them.
By now, she and Ace had made it near the top of the wall. Ace looked over and saw that the edge was only a few metres away. Leera could see this as well and so she crouched down, not taking any notice of the remaining saucers.
Ace shouted. Leera sprung with all the effort she could muster, taking a bound through thin air and grasping onto the ledge ahead of them. She clawed at the edged to gain grip and Ace immediately hopped off to help her onto the outcrop.
Leera heaved herself over, seemingly relieved by their efforts. The two couldn’t stay there in the open for long; karnifex aircrafts were still after them and so they both ran out of sight down the stairways leading into the cities compounds. Ace and Leera rushed down the stairs frantically, even daring to jump down several steps at a time. Leera had the better advantage - jumping the rest of the way down with little effort, her joints cushioning her fall.
Right there and then however, another saucer descended and headed towards Ace. Leera roared in panic. She stared up at Ace on the stairway, watching helplessly as the saucer fired its bullets in Ace’s track, realising she was unable to leap up to save Ace from the apparent danger.
But he was unafraid. Ace dodged the beams and threw a small device right at the karnifex aircraft. It latched onto the ship and then he cracked a smile. The aircraft became electrified and in retaliation - it jet into Ace’s direction at high speed.
What came next was a loud bang, followed by a screeching clash of metal against the armoured wall.
Ace took a leap as the explosion let off a huge cloud of fire. The explosion was so extreme that it had blown a large, gaping hole right through the barricade.
Ace fell from the vast height and landed on both his feet and hands. He breathed heavily, quite relieved to have survived the assault. He was even more surprised to discover he lacked any form of injury from the landing.
Standing up off the ground to brush himself off, he could see the inner city. Fires were abundant, and abandoned, damaged and destroyed buildings were all around him.
Vehicles were everywhere, bare skeletons of what they should have been. Massive beams of lightning went on to flash down from the skies, explosions following suit all around the city. He could smell the strong stench of iron in the air – confirming it to be blood. Bodies of different species were here and there, tripping up the various soldiers brave enough to carry on fighting.
It was an absolute mess.
Karnifex were everywhere, but so were Verpardi soldiers and Aleumarr in mechs, as well as their various vehicles that were still intact. The fighting was on-going and Ace and Leera did not hesitate to join in on the action. Leera sprinted off into the way of the karnifex on her own to fight. She pounced into the centre of a swarm, crushing several beneath her sheer weight and impaling another with her sharp horns as she rammed into the surviving foes. Ace noticed that she appeared to have no problem taking on a large group of karnifex on her own.
He on the other hand, ran deeper into the streets of Nyxion city. It was not long until he came across even more karnifex minions, firing his HL launcher at the alien invaders as they flew down at him.
More and more insect corpses piled the streets as he shot them down, one by one. The numbers were overwhelming; even with the beams from the skies helping clear away some of the invaders. At his side, he could see other Vaelidian soldiers fighting the same swarm as he.
Ace couldn’t help but watch them fight from where he stood; fascinated to watch how his own race fought and moved about. The verpardi warriors moved quickly on their feet - leaping across structures, climbing up walls and buildings with little effort and landing high from rooftops to attack the opposition. Even though their technology wasn’t as advanced as his own, he had to admit they were very capable fighters.
Even the smaller Aleumarr were very agile and quick on their feet with their own forms of gunfire. Some of them piloted giant-mechs around the streets, helping clear the road of more karnifex.
He ran on through the streets to aid in taking down more of the insectoids, shooting down more of them as they came into his view - and out into the sky, he could hear somebody familiar, shouting...
A flash of gold shot right across the sky came with plasma shots showering down at an enemy.
“-Jetspeed coming through!”
Ace recognized the voice and gunfire right away. He looked up to see a certain skyboarding verpardi, flying through the sky again to help clear away more of the karnifex minions.
Ace ran out into the middle of the street once the coast was clear. The remaining Vaelidians fled to chase down any survivors, bringing a brief moment of silence into the atmosphere.
“Heh, Ace Hardlight does it again as it seems. Nice job, nice job with everything”
Jake said whilst flying down to ground level. “We owe you a lot”
“No problem. Nobody owes me anything, but those bugs on the other hand...”
“Oh yeah, the karnifex. Nasty little bastards, aren’t they? There are millions of them, and I ain’t over exaggerating!”
“I know that...”
Ace looked off into the sky, thinking aloud.
“Where is everybody?”
“Oh, the team? Well Kurt, Bettilena and Aster are fighting with the Air-force, I think. I decided to stay down here with our own kind man, fighting alongside them. Showing my Vaelidian pride!”
“Okay. So where do we go now?”
“Oh yeah I almost forgot! There’s a base camp, not too far from here where we can restock on weapons and ammo. Which is why I came for you, heh”
“Right. Hope you didn’t forget to bring me some form of transport...”
Jake grinned cheekily. He pulled out a flattened gadget from underneath his own skyboard and pressed a switch. It suddenly transformed into its full form and, as expected, it was the same skyboard Ace had used when he and Jake would race one another.
He wasted no time, hopping onto the skyboard to follow Jake, who was leading the way towards the outskirts of the city.
Ace and Jake came to land at a base of some sort. It had only just been set up earlier on in the day, when the Vaelidian army first broke through to take control of the northern part of the city.
They walked inside and were already greeted by other verpardi, particularly in the Vaelidian language. It was a well set up camp with an extensive arsenal of weapons was available, mods and various types of ammo and gadgets.
“Now we can reload our weapons and head back out into the field, if you like!”
Jake was eager to scrounge around through the many types of weapons, especially of the Vaelidian kind. Ace had a look around at what was available, although he would never replace his guns. He did however take interest in what kind of weapon modules they had.
He reloaded both his HL Launcher and Vipers as he was at it, making preparations before the final task ahead of them while Jake stood there waiting. Then another group of soldiers walked into the room, catching both of their attention.
“Good to see you made it here in one piece”
Ace turned around at the sound of the deepened voice. He saw Crujeido there, as well as Malvin and a few other verpardi men he saw earlier on in the underground base.
“Well duh, of course he made it. He’s the one who pummelled you earlier on!” Jake said, giving him a snarky look.
“No need to act as a white knight, bud. I think Ace can speak for himself”
“You got that right. Had much trouble getting into the city?”
“Well, there was a bit of a struggle at the barricade but in the end, we did break through, all thanks to the help of the soldiers on the inside, and the international moon defence system. Seems you and the maulkat got through without a sweat”
Replied Crujeido. Ace grinned slightly; it was good to be able to act civil with the locals for a change. Although he was curious as to what the army had to do next to win back their home planet.
“So what next? Take down Kaedos while we are at it?” Ace asked Malvin.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t got the slightest clue as to where Kaedos is at the moment. But we are close to the city centre. The very centre where many of our civilians are held as prisoners, slaves, hostages, who knows what. The majority of them are scientists – both verpardi & aleumarr, some of the most intelligent people on our planet. Being forced to work on whatever plans the karnifex king has on mind...”
“Man, why is it always the scientists being kidnapped?” Jake remarked, rolling his eyes and sighing.
“...anyway Ace, seems you are done preparing your weapons. Now I would like you to meet my niece”
Malvin left the scene to enter another room. He emerged just moments later with a verpardi woman at his side. She was dressed in a custom military uniform that was quite revealing, had short medium blonde hair and hazel coloured eyes. She also appeared to be a young adult, possibly in her mid-twenties.
Her eyes darted between Jake and Ace, but Jake on the other hand would not stop staring at her.
“Ace, Jake. I’d like you to meet Evanna”
Jake said in an avid tone. Although she had already run up close to them, Ace in particular. She couldn’t keep herself settled as she stood there, smiling and looking up at him with a gleeful expression.
“Oh my, I have heard so much about you! The great Ace Hardlight, it is a pleasure to finally meet you!”
“Uhh yeah, it is good to meet you too”
“I saw how you dealt with Crujeido earlier on, and I heard about how you managed to activate the International Defence System on your own. You’re very impressive in the physical and intellectual department…”
For some reason, it felt kind of awkward getting this sort of attention - though back in his DreadZone days, he would have craved for it - especially from woman of his own species.
Ace looked to his left and saw that Jake didn’t look too pleased with being ignored during that moment. He then coughed.
“Oh sorry, I almost didn’t notice you there! He he. Well my name’s Evanna. Nice to meet you too, uhh...”
“Jake Jetspeed’s the name.”
They shook hands with one another, despite the dodgy feeling shrouding the two.
“Okay I think we should prepare ourselves. We can’t just stand around chatting all day” Ace said, folding his arms and waiting for Evanna to get the hint.
“Oh yes, you’re absolutely right! Hold on, I’ll get myself a weapon!”
Evanna rushed over towards the weaponry station. Ace sighed, and looked over at Jake. He didn’t appear to be taking any notice of Ace though, as he continued to eye up the female from afar.
Malvin walked up to Ace to speak to him alone, looking back at Evanna before explaining.
“She is only a trainee in the Vaelidian army, and so I was thinking that maybe she could go with the both of you, out into the field.”
“Oh yes, of course she can! Doesn’t hurt to have more in the team, right Ace?”
Jake interrupted, annoying Ace to an extent. He ignored Jake though, and turned his attention back to Malvin.
“Uhh, are you sure she will be alright out there? How experienced is she?”
“She knows the basics of weaponry and survival, and she is very eager to help out in this war. I know I can trust her around you lot, it is too much of a risk to send her out with inexperienced soldiers...”
“...Alright then. Just as long as she doesn’t get in our way then it’ll be fine.”
“She will do her best out there Ace, I can assure you. She’s one tough lady”
“I sure hope so...”
“Anyhow, we are going to lead a massive assault against the central part of the city, to free out civilians from the containment fields they have around that area.”
“We should get going then.”
Evanna came out from the weaponry station, with a gigantic bazooka perched on her right shoulder, looking notably confident with her new weapon. She walked over to Ace and Jake saying,
“I like big guns...”
She waltzed by Ace, winking at him. He wasn’t too sure how to react to it, so he simply shrugged it off. Jake could only watch in envy as she continued to give off flirtatious looks at Ace. He mumbled to himself.
“Hmph... why do the ladies never pay any attention to me?”
“Ace, why can’t you let me have a chance with this lovely verpardess? Besides, she’s a blonde so she might be related to you somewhere down the line!”
“Look, can you please just drop it? It is not like I am forcing her to go after me.”
Ace hushed. He and Jake flew on their skyboards several metres above ground level where Evanna couldn’t hear them. She was driving a hover-ute packed with weaponry and other essentials for the task ahead of them.
“Hmph. I bet it’s because I don’t have huge bulging muscles.”
“Oh just stop it already, we have more important things to focus on right now. And besides, I believe women don’t take any notice of you because you behav-“
Ace was forced to cut his sentence short once he saw some signs of fighting up ahead, noticing some buildings crumbling to the ground before them with various explosions echoing nearby.
He and Jake flew down to Evanna’s level to arm themselves. Ace whipped out his HL Launcher as Jake got out his trusty Pulse Pistols. Evanna on the other hand, got out of her vehicle carrying onto the large bazooka she had chosen earlier on.
“Okay boys, it’s time we go to where all the action is!”
Ace felt slightly unsure at the sight of Evanna as she lifted the bazooka onto her shoulder;
“Uhh... do you want me to show you how to use that?”
“I already know how to use it, thanks! Just check the skies to see if the coast is clear and I’ll watch the ground!”
Ace sighed in annoyance, watching her drive off with the ute. He and Jake set off on their skyboards again towards the war and could already see karnifex flying high about, patrolling the skies above the city centre.
He wasted no time, already setting his eyes on the enemy from behind his visor, locking on and shooting at them one by one. Jake flipped on his own visor to do the same. It was a nice challenge shooting at long range. Although as they shot down each one, the insectoids could easily notice their position - and many were already moving in their direction on ground. This forced Ace and Jake to descend and hop off their skyboards, holding out their guns together to await the threat.
“Hold on guys, I’ll take care of this!”
Evanna moved up forward, hopping out of the hover-ute with the bazooka on her shoulder. Ace watched carefully, with an eyebrow raised. He even took a few steps away from her, whilst Jake stood there completely oblivious.
A loud boom erupted from the barrel of the bazooka, sending Evanna stumbling forward a few steps as the wall behind them was shattered from the impact of the missile.
Ace did not hesitate to face-palm; that there was the definition of ‘stupid’. He could hear that Jake was in stitches, finding it very difficult to contain his laughter.
“Oops! Seems I had it the wrong way around!” Evanna said as she shrugged.
Nah, really? Ace thought whilst rolling his eyes.
Jake walked over to Evanna, now that he was able to contain his amusement; even so he would still smirk about it as he looked back at her,
“Heh heh yeah, I say! But I know a trick with that; if you aim it at the ground, you can use the bazooka to shoot-jump up to higher places. Like tall buildings for example!”
Ace couldn’t take it anymore. He parted from the two on his skyboard and flew into the enemy quarters on his own. He was really annoyed by their carefree attitudes, especially when their home planet was still in crisis. He missed the presence, teamwork and common sense of the other five Seekers - especially one in particular.
If only Jenna were here...
He positioned his HL launcher nonetheless, preparing himself for the incoming wave of karnifex. He could already hearing their piercing screeches and buzzing from their wings.
He fired at the presence of their arrival. Karnifex came in for him and other Vaelidian soldiers around the area, firing waves of beams and bullets. Taking down more of these enemies was no problem this time round but Ace didn’t want to spend too much time taking down the karnifex – he still had to figure out a way to free all of the civilians. He could remember Malvin saying something about a containment field. And so he flew to a higher altitude and he could see what was happening in the distance.
He used his visor to zoom in on the action and from afar, there was a large group of rebel soldiers attacking one control station of the containment field. To his right, a smaller group of rebels were taking care of the second control of the field. It was quite clear on what he had to do next.
He moved in closer towards the third containment station ahead of him, flying at high speed and gunning down at any foes flying towards him to the sides.
But a sudden jolt right there rocked from underneath his skyboard, catching Ace off guard and making him gasp in shock. The skyboard was badly damaged in the midst of it all, hurtling down towards the streets at high speed giving Ace no other choice than to leap from the wreckage in mid-air.
Falling through the air, he came to grasp on the side of a nearby building, sliding down a few metres before his fingers could gain a tight grip on the architecture. He was at least a hundred metres above ground level, but that was not the main concern. The minions came in for him again, and he fired at them with his right hand, using the other to hold on to the side of the structure tightly.
As soon as the coast was clear, he leapt from his position to land on the side of the opposite building several metres away, jumping down again to make his way lower with care. He gripped the ledge of a windowsill before letting go to land on the ground beneath him.
Ace ran forward to attack with a wave of plasma beams, shocking more minion karnifex in his path while they shot back at him in return. He dashed forward and strafed from side to side, determination bringing him closer to his target.
As expected, even more of the insects came out in an act of defence around the containment field.
He could only scoff.
Closing his eyes and focusing his mind he vanished for a second, to let loose and reappear with eight hard-light clones at his side.
The karnifex screeched and came in for him, all firing acidic lasers at him and his copies as he ran on. He slashed his Launcher at them as they came in close contact, ripping some of the misfortunate foes apart with his titanium blades. Karnifex attempted to eviscerate through Ace’s copies with their own pair of blades but were puzzled to notice that no blood spilled from Ace’s skin. The fight grew more intense when he came closer to his intended target but at the same time, the swarm kept him busy. He found it too difficult to try and target the containment field control and karnifex at the same time plus a couple of his hard-light clones were eliminated from the damage the karnifex inflicted.
Then out of nowhere, a missile came in from above Ace flying on and crashing into the containment control structure, causing a considerable amount of damage. All the karnifex were startled by what had happened, even Ace was surprised.
His true self turned around to see Jake and Evanna standing there, on foot. But this time, Jake was holding the bazooka on his shoulder and Evanna was welding Jake’s pistols. She was shooting at the karnifex around while Jake focused on firing another missile at the containment field.
Ace had no time for talk, but he and his remaining clones did give off a friendly grin and nod for both Jake and Evanna. He focused on keeping the minions at bay while Jake could use the bazooka. It was utterly overwhelming, even while Ace had five of his hard-light clones out, helping fight against the swarm. But Evanna did provide much needed help for the time being, as he could notice her gunning down karnifex, much to his amazement.
Pulse Pistol and Hardlight Launcher lasers scattered about to bring down more and more of the insectoids, and once Jake fired the fifth and final missile from the Vaelidian bazooka, the containment field shattered.
The structure sparked wildly in an array of blues and greens, causing the field around the containment area to flash brightly before it finally disappeared.
Evanna cheered wildly at the sight of it all, jumping about and shooting in the sky with the pair of Pulse Pistols.
“We did it Jake! We actually did it! We freed our people!”
She suddenly embraced Jake, much to his delight. His eyes were wide and he dropped the bazooka. Ace switched off his hard-light clones and looked over towards the two, beaming at the sight of it.
Their celebration was brought to a halt when they came to notice the sounds of the civilians up ahead. Cheering was heard, but also screams and raging yells. Verpardi and a handful of aleumarr came dashing out into the open, some of them rushing past Ace, Jake and Evanna. Some of them gave words of gratitude, but the majority of the freed civilians appeared to look frightened and confused.
Seeing these civilians out in the open brought a wary feeling upon Ace. Something awful must have been going on in there. Most of them looked worn out and unwell and others were heavily scarred and had bionic limbs - what were they used for?
Loud buzzing sounds suddenly erupted from within the containment walls, and large figures shot out from the rooftops, landing into the open street ahead of them.
Ace watched the creatures closely. They were similar to the karnifex minions, but at least three times their size. They were even more similar to the Eviscerator than the smaller karnifex; noticing that their first and third pair of limbs were large and well developed. And like the Eviscerator, they appeared to be mute.
These particular karnifex did not hesitate to attack as they watched the verpardi civilians running from the containment area. Each one leapt down from above, performing back flips and landing down into the escapees’ path.
Ace could only watch in horror. The karnifex slashed their way at any nearby verpardi, lacerating and assassinating many in only single swipes from their bladed limbs. The civilians were mortified at the horrific sight of carnage, running in all directions and calling out for help.
Ace rushed forwards with his fellow verpardi soldiers at side, firing constantly with their blasters to eliminate the assassin karnifex. Baring his fangs in rage, he sprinted closer to the assassin to lunge at it, stabbing his launcher into the thorax and letting off a powerful beam of energy.
The assassin thrashed at Ace, pushing him to the ground after he had blasted a gaping hole through its abdomen. But the giant karnifex was still alive and standing, which Ace found to be highly disturbing.
It turned towards him, raising both its wrists and thrust its arms forward releasing three barb-like projectiles from each wrist. This came as a shock to Ace and he was struck at the right side of his body, causing him to drop his Launcher accidentally. The venomous barbs pierced the skin on his thick arms, while other barbs scraped his terraflux vest.
Jake and Evanna gasped at the sight of it, but Ace simply got back into position and gained his posture. He ripped the two of the barbs out of his arms with a painful yell, although luckily for him the venom from the karnifex had no effect on verpardi, but the wounds did cause great discomfort.
The assassin prowled towards him in response, just before Ace used his invisibility to vanish from sight.
“Whoa, where the hell did Ace go?”
Jake was confused as well as Evanna. He grabbed one of his own pistols off Evanna without asking and fired it at the confused assassin to distract it. Ace now had a chance to pick up his Launcher of the ground besides him. With the Launcher at hand, he side stepped around the foe and turned completely visible as he attempted to hack away at the bug-like alien with his bladed Launcher.
He was quite enraged now, swiping and slashing his way through the karnifex’ exoskeleton, watching its acidic blood leak out from its wounds before it finally tumbled to the ground. There was no time to lose though, as there were more of the large assassinator karnifex around the area, exterminating any fleeing civilians they came across.
Ace was quick to sprint in the direction of carnage again, already blasting repetitively with his Launcher in desperation to prevent more lives being lost. The karnifex noticed his retaliation and turned around, hopping forward and performing back-flips and cartwheels to dodge his fire. They were very agile and clever; much more than the ordinary minions before them.
But it did not daunt Ace, as he strafed in tune to the assassins moves, even throwing a few Shock Mines around, like the ones he used inside the defence facility.
Activating it came as a pleasant relief as Ace could watch the huge karnifex before him become electrified around the ring of electricity.
Even so the relief was short lived and another of the large karnifex came in, firing a large green laser from its hands. Jake and Evanna saw Ace being surrounded by several of the karnifex. The pair shot at the karnifex in frustration, annoyed by how their bullets dealt very little damage, even while using the additional mods they obtained earlier on. There were clearly not enough soldiers around this part of the city.
Then a bright flash raced along a trail of green electricity, ripping through the air and catching the attention of Ace Hardlight. The karnifex all gazed over at once; noticing some new faces come to light. This distraction gave Ace time to prepare his next move.
A roar erupted from the other side of the field; becoming louder as the beast crash landed onto an assassin – mauling it viciously with its claws and horns. Jake was relieved when he saw that it was Leera Lashclaw, aiding him in the fight and so he reloaded his Pulse Pistol to take down more enemy insects.
Evanna meanwhile, looked over at the rooftop in the distance, noticing the presence of a brunette verpardess armed with a glowing neon rifle.
She leapt from the high structure, flipping through the air to land down smoothly onto the surface where the karnifex were distracted by her entry.
Ace could clearly see that it was Jenna Joltstride; much to his delight. But she was wearing some traditional Vaelidian armour over her usual attire.
An assassinator karnifex noticed him look away for a moment and, realising the verpardi had made that mistake, it lashed forward to pin him down to the ground, trying with all its effort to ram its bladed forearm into his chest.
Ace was strong, but the karnifex was even larger than him. He gritted his teeth tightly, holding back the bladed limb with a large amount of effort.
Jenna ran closer to the troubled Vaelidians, becoming more aware of the alarming situation everybody was in. The karnifex came in for her, back-flipping and swaying their claws and blades. Jenna didn’t have much trouble avoiding the attacks, back flipping and side stepping out of range. Her flexible physique helped her greatly in this situation.
She didn’t have much time though, quickly getting her Static Strider back into handheld position for the moment, charging it up and releasing another jolt of tesla-based energy.
Green forks of lightning struck the assassin in front of her; becoming completely static and electrocuting all nearby karnifex within that single strike.
Even the karnifex that had Ace pinned down was stunned, giving Ace the opportunity to kick it off and get his Launcher back at the ready. He charged up his gun and fired at the foe, sending it back several metres. He made his way for Jenna, whom was armed with a familiar weapon. Ace was pleased to have her in his presence - even more so when he noticed that she was using the Static Strider. The weapon he had built for her a few months earlier.
“I’m so glad to see you again Jenna...”
“There’s no time for talk now hun...”
Jenna and Ace stood back to back, waiting for the Elite karnifex to retaliate. The sadistic beasts had their glowing eyes locked onto the pair, approaching them slowly and raising their forearms into an intimidating stance.
The verpardi pair bared their pointy fangs together, reloading their weaponry in unison, lowering themselves and taking the first step forward simultaneously.
Flashes of blue and green lit the scene as the Static Strider and Hardlight Launcher fired in opposite directions to one another. Ace and Jenna’s onslaught was overwhelming for the few misfortunate enemies before them. Karnifex were enraged as they were inflicted with damage; some even losing their limbs in the process of being shot and electrified.
A large assassin flew in close for the verpardi pair; furious and swiping at them with its long bladed arms. Slight cuts to the skin were inflicted upon both verpardi. Jenna shrieked when a blade came into contact with her arm and rifle, watching it fly from her hands to the far left. Ace gasped at the sight of her, and turned around but was knocked over by another large karnifex soldier. Jenna dodged the other blade and managed to grab out one of her Plasma whips. She lashed at the beast several times in desperation, giving Ace enough time to regain his posture and deliver a powerful punch at the karnifex in front of him.
The karnifex unleashed its large golden blades, but Ace was too quick for it to react, kicking it hard in the centre of its body, sending it flying backwards. He crouched down and tackled the alien to the ground with his Launcher aimed at its head, halting its chances of escape and blasting away its head in a single shot.
Metres away, Jenna got out her second plasma whip and swung it forward in close range, over and over to attack the enemy in front. She did her best to ensure that the karnifex couldn’t unleash its dreaded blades. Ace darted around and grabbed his HL Vipers out to shoot at the same foe, finally sending it to the ground, twitching and seemly dead. The other soldiers surrounding the pair saw this. Their wings rose and the remainder of the karnifex assassins fled from the scene in a rush.
“Oh no you don’t!”
Jenna wouldn’t let them go so easily though, trying in vain to lash out at the escapees as Ace continued firing his Vipers at them in flight.
In the far off distance, Leera was seen chasing off remaining assassins that Jake and Evanna had been fighting against as well. It appeared to be that they were all retreating, flying up towards a row of large skyscrapers.
Ace tried firing at them as they disappeared into the sky but it was no use once they were out of range. He stopped for a moment to look up into what he could see of the rooftops. The sky was dim, smoke and dust shrouded the sky so he couldn’t see where they had gone.
“Damn cowards…” He used his visor to seek out their signatures, zooming in and finally catching a glimpse of their whereabouts.
“Told you that you’d be the best man for the job”
Jenna smirked, walking over towards Ace to stand close to him. Although she couldn’t help but notice that Ace didn’t respond in any way - not even cracking a smile.
“What’s a matter?” she asked.
He could notice that the karnifex up above were organised into particular positions around the buildings. But why? Why weren’t they fleeing from the scene or returning to finish what they had started?
Then it all made sense. He frowned and took a few steps away.
“Everybody… get out of here, now!!”
Jenna looked above, but was still unsure by what he meant. Ace quickly grabbed her by the arm and sprinted right before a loud boom from above shook the entire area.
Debris fell all around and the remaining civilians panicked; running to avoid the falling fractures. A green glow lit the sky, indicating that it was the Elite karnifex assassins who had detonated the surrounding skyscrapers.
Buildings around the area were beginning to collapse from the ignition, bars of iron screeched and rocks were cracking as more and more walls came crumbling down onto the streets.
Everybody in the surrounding area was in serious trouble.
“Damnit! Where do we go!?” Jake shouted, as he and Evanna rushed frantically to find the nearest escape route.
Their vision was hindered by the dust and falling debris, unable to see a thing. They couldn’t even tell where Ace and Jenna had gone. Fortunately for them, Leera was quick to find them through the chaotic surroundings with her sharp senses. She lowered herself for Jake and Evanna to hop on, before taking off into the unknown ahead of them.
She galloped readily until they came into an open and more serene area, where many other civilians and Vaelidian soldiers were moving further from the chaos.
“Where’s Ace? Where’s… the brunette chick?!”
“ACE!! JENNA!!! ARE YOU THERE?!”
Jake called for them repeatedly, but neither of them answered. Only civilians and soldiers were seen around here, but no sign of the other two Seekers…
“Jake, who was that other lady?”
“She’s my sister, and her name is Jenna. Not ‘that brunette chick’. Now help me find them!”
“But if we go back in there, we’ll be in serious danger!”
“I don’t care! If their lives are at risk, then I’ll have to join in to get them out of it!”
Jake didn’t stay for long out of the open. But instead of rushing towards the falling buildings, he ran around the outskirts, Evanna and Leera right behind him.
Ace and Jenna made their way around the broken buildings; some of the structures had come to a halt with collapsing. While others continued to crumble piece by piece amongst the shattered landscape.
As they were taking steps closer towards the light, the sounds of crackling and churning became quieter.
At least until it morphed into the unnerving sounds of karnifex wings.
Ace scowled at the thought of those beasts, and so he got let go of Jenna to get out his HL Vipers. Jenna attempted to get her Plasma whips but was startled as a large pillar came crashing down.
She screamed and scurried backwards, Ace sprung forward to avoid the falling stone pillar, stunned by what had just happened.
Ace was disrupted again when the lone karnifex assassin knocked him down from flight. He growled and wrestled the karnifex away, punching it several times until it came loose. The karnifex raised its forearms and released six yellow barbs of venom from its wrists, which Ace in turn had to avoid by leaping to the far right.
With his sharp teeth bared once more, he fired rapidly at the assassin to finish it off once and for all. Viper bullets did pierce its exoskeleton, but the karnifex was still alive and charging up its green beam of energy.
Ace was becoming more frustrated with this opponent, but he couldn’t use his HL clones here, as the area was too small and the enemy was too quick. Instead, he dashed around to avoid the beam until it finally stopped. And now, he got out his HL Launcher.
He noticed over time that the karnifex were a lot weaker against close range, melee-based weapons - which was ironic, being that the karnifex were skilled with melee attacks themselves.
He dared to get in close, swinging his launcher at the bladed limbs of the karnifex, managing to slice off its left forearm in a surprising twist. Although the insectoid’s face was emotionless, its body language certainly indicated fear. Something Ace found to be rather satisfying.
He mercilessly slashed towards the karnifex as it took a few steps back, bleeding acidic yellow blood. It even tried to take off into flight but Ace leapt after it, snatching one of its wings with a tight grasp to bring it down. He was not going to let this one escape, again.
It thrashed about, desperate to get the upper hand and quite startlingly, the blade from its only elbow punctured Ace’s upper body. He bounced back in reflex, startled but swiftly reloading his Launcher for assault. The dying karnifex soldier was finally silenced after several direct shots from it, but Ace continued to shoot until he knew for sure that it was dead.
He stood up straight, breathing heavily and wiping the stress from his forehead. He felt quite exhausted, especially with the injuries he had sustained. The stab that went through his upper chest was sore and throbbing. However, that was the least of his concern.
Ace rushed over towards the fallen pillar, leaping up and climbing over to get to the other side where Jenna had vanished into. He hurled himself over to the other side, pushing loose bits of debris aside and looking for any sign of her. The dust had started to settle by now and as Ace looked around more, he saw her lying motionless just ahead of him.
He rushed over to her side, feeling quite distressed at the sight of her as he got closer. To his relief, she wasn’t crushed by any of the falling debris. She was breathing normally, and had no sign of major injuries; only having the cuts and bruises she had obtained earlier on.
Ace sighed in relief, picking her up gently into his arms to lift out of the ruins. He used his visor to locate a new escape route, walking through the unknown streets once more and further away from the carnage they had left behind. Small fires and clouds of dust became less visible as he walked down the street in silence. Although for some reason, he wasn’t very concerned for Jenna’s wellbeing at the moment.
“You can stop pretending now”
He slowed his pace, looking down at Jenna’s face as she was in his arms. He could notice her body wasn’t very limp at all, and he grinned when he saw that she was smiling too.
“I know that you’re stable enough to walk on your own”
“Sorry. It’s just that I always wanted to see how it is to be in your arms…”
“I was waiting for the opportunity too, so I couldn’t help myself”
She chuckled at Ace’s response, as did he. It was a peaceful atmosphere now, even the beams of light from the security defences were becoming more silent as the seconds rolled by - a sign that the karnifex forces were diminishing from around the city.
He flipped up his visor to look into her eyes during the moment, being that he liked to see her with his own vision. He found it pleasurable to be so close to her, the feeling made it seem as if the war had ended already.
At least until a very familiar scream echoed out to them.
Ace groaned in sheer annoyance at the sound of it, having disturbed such a peaceful moment. On the other hand, Jenna was alarmed. Hopping out of Ace’s arms she looked towards the light ahead of them.
“That was Jake! Come on Ace, it didn’t sound good!”
The pair ran towards the cries of pain, rushing around another block of buildings before finally coming across the sight of familiar faces.
Ace was quite pleased to see Leera there, pinning down a karnifex assassin and mauling it mercilessly. It appeared to be that there was no other karnifex around anymore, but the worries didn’t end there.
Evanna was standing around Jake a few metres away, looking distressed and uneasy about the situation he was in.
“I’m going to die aren’t I?!”
“Jake just calm down, okay?! This isn’t helping at all, you know!”
Evanna told him.
Jenna and Ace ran over towards the two of them, to see what the commotion was about. Evanna turned around to see Jenna standing there with Ace. She even tilted her head slightly, while Jenna asked-
“What’s wrong with my brother? And who are you?”
“Oh, my name is Evanna! And you must be Jenna. Jake told me all about you!”
Jenna rushed up to Jake nonetheless, noticing his pained expression as he looked down at his right leg. It looked badly injured and bloody. When Ace moved in closer to take a look, he could see that there were two karnifex barbs in his leg. It was a gruesome sight, especially once Jenna moved the shredded bits of clothing out of the way.
“Oh Ace, Jenna… man am I glad to see you guys! But I think I’m… I think I’m going to die!”
“Hush now Jake! I’ll help you, just… try to sit still okay?”
“But… those bugs go me with their DAMN STINGERS!”
“Can you please stay still!? I’ve got some Nano-gel on me so I’ll help you-“
“NANOTECH CANT SAVE ME FROM THIS DEATH SENTENCE!”
Ace growled in annoyance before he saying,
“Oh could you please just shut up Jake!? Don’t you remember that our blood has a strong immunity against toxins such as venom?”
Jake quietened down for a moment, thinking about what Ace just said. Jenna sighed, taking this moment to quickly pry out the two barbs that were stuck in Jake’s leg.
He wailed in agony, threatening to kick about and cuss but Ace was quick to restrain him to the ground. Evanna could only stand there in front of them, gobsmacked by what was going on.
His wound began to bleed even more, but Jenna applied pressure to it with her left hand. She got out the tube of Nano-gel from her pocket and applied it over the wound and in only just a matter of seconds the gash in his leg was sealing up and healing rapidly.
It all became serene once more and Jake could feel himself relaxed, with the pain eased away by the nanotech. Ace let go of him to allow him to stand up, he scratched the back of his neck and chuckled.
“I guess I freaked out a bit there, heh”
“A bit? You were hysterical.”
Ace said, giving off a smug look. Jake stood up afterwards and blushed slightly, feeling embarrassed with the presence of Evanna there.
“Thanks again sis. Wasn’t expecting you to come out to help us too.”
“No problem. I came because I didn’t want to miss out on all the action, and the Star Seeker is fine alone while it is on lockdown mode. Those shields are designed to withstand almost anything on land.” Jenna explained, giving off a smile and looking back towards Ace.
Jake then put his hand up, waving it around and saying,
“Oh man, I almost forgot! Kurt called just a few moments before the karnifex attacked me. He said that we should go see how Aster and Betty are doing out in the field.”
“I was thinking about how the other Seekers were doing. Where are they anyway?” Ace asked Jake.
“Not too far from this location, Kurt just gave me Betty’s nav position! So we were gonna head on over, but Kurt told me he needed you for something important. He was going to call you when he was ready.”
“Sounds interesting. Maybe he knows where I can find King Kaedos.”
Ace looked down, thinking to himself. He was eager to finally come face to face with the alien responsible for the chaos and turmoil his world and people had gone through. He truly couldn’t wait to eliminate him in his own hands.
“Anyway, we best head off now! Got no time to waste around here!”
“Wait, hold on a sec-“
Ace told Jake, as his own visor notification sound caught his attention. Ace flipped his visor down to answer the call. It was Kurt, as he had suspected.
He walked a few metres away from the group to speak with him.
“Ace, it is good to hear your voice again. Sorry I did not call earlier, there have been a lot of obstacles shrouding my end of the field…”
“No that’s fine. Jake told me you called earlier on. He said you needed me but… where are you, exactly?”
“I am at a secret location and I don’t want the others to know, because it is highly dangerous. I currently reside inside of Kaedos’ base”
“What, seriously? How did you get in there?”
“It’s a long story. But I want you to come meet me here. Nobody is around right now, surprisingly. And there is a lot of information here that I found to be quite startling.”
“Give me your nav location, and I’ll be there as quick as possible.”
“Will do. I’ll see you soon.”
Ace nodded before Kurt’s call cut short. He turned around to face the other verpardi of the team. Leera had even joined the group again, standing there besides Jenna and Jake. Jake appeared to be impatient, already having his pistols out once again and nagging everybody to move.
Although Ace interrupted before he could speak.
“Kurt called. He wants me to meet up with him at a location, but I must go alone.”
“That’s okay Ace. We’ll go check up on Aster and Bettilena while you go see Kurt. We’ll be fine.”
“Sure now? I don’t want to have to be there to restrain you for medical treatment, heh.”
“Ha ha, very funny.”
Jake replied, rolling his eyes and grinning slightly.
“Good luck with… whatever you’re planning to do now. We’ll keep in touch! C’mon girls, it’s time we headed off!”
Jake already took several steps away, bringing out his skyboard once again and activating it. Evanna ran off towards Jake, as did Leera. But Jenna held back, yelling out to her brother.
“You guys go on; I just need give Ace something for the final fight…”
“Sure thing sis, just don’t take too long”
Leera, Jake and Evanna made their way further down the streets towards the location of the other remaining Seeker members. While Ace walked up close to Jenna, pleased to be alone with her again.
He moved up closer, beginning to wrap his arms around her and she beamed back up at him warmly. He asked,
“Heh, what was that all about?”
“Well, Nurse Jenny here couldn’t leave you untreated now, could she?”
Ace chuckled. He was suddenly reminded of the last time he got treated by her, back on Pokitaru. She got out her tube of nano-gel again, and Ace moved his arms away as she began to inspect his injuries. She gently examined his skin with her fingertips, noticing all the small cuts and bruises; but the stab wound on his chest was distracting her the most what with the large stain of dry and fresh blood on his terraflux vest.
“I’m fine, really. I’ve had worse than this and other people may need the nanotech more than I do-“
“Shhh. Let me have a look - that wound on your chest, it looks like you were stabbed quite hard back there…”
“Yeah. Those karnifex blades are pretty sharp. Especially if it can go through terraflux fibre in a single strike”
She was quick to apply a generous amount of nanotech to the wound, nevertheless. And it healed up quite rapidly. Even the terraflux was repaired from the nanomites inside of the gel - a special feature Ace had in most of his clothing, much like in standard battle armour bought from vendors.
She withdrew back a bit to take another look at him. Ace already felt a lot more eased after having the gash healed up, taking a breath of relief.
Without asking, Jenna went on to place the remainder of the nano-gel tube into the right pocket of Ace’s track pants. His cheeks gave off a rosy tint as she did so.
“Not a problem…”
The verpardi couple moved in closer again to hold one another. He lowered his head to meet with her face, nuzzling the tip of her nose as it met his own.
“I liked the way you handled the Static Strider today. You should use it more often.”
“Oh I will.”
She replied, moving up closer to further their embrace.
The pair remained in the same fix for several moments, unwilling to part again soon.
“I don’t like to say this but, we have to get moving.”
Ace let go of her for that moment, as she did the same. He sighed, but knew very well that there were important matters to address. He had to find Kurt, but how? His skyboard was destroyed and his spaceship was nowhere near the city. And the location Kurt resided in was miles away from here.
“There is one more thing I wanted to give you”
Jenna reached into her pocket and got out a key-ring. To Ace’s delight, it was the keys to one of the Seeker jets - just what he needed.
“Well, I had to get to the city with one of our jets, but I figured you may need to use it from now on.”
“Perfect, now I shouldn’t have any trouble reaching Kurt from here. Thank you, Jenna. Thank you for everything.”
“You don’t need to thank…”
Ace got the keys from her hand, pleased to have a quick way to the final mission ahead of him. Jenna shuddered, looking down for a moment and blushing slightly. She reluctantly begun her walk away from Ace, but was stopped by his hand.
He spun her around and drew her in close, pressing his lips to hers as an arm encircled her waist. She responded happily to his gentle ministrations, returning the kiss. His nerves had eased so substantially at the moment; although the thoughts of war were still on his mind, and to his utmost dismay, he pulled away.
He smiled down at her again and she looked up at him to speak.
“Take care of yourself, and don’t make this our last.”
He nodded lightly, and allowed the verpardess to take the first few steps away from him. It was disheartening, but he knew it was for the better of the situation.
She took off sprinting down the darkened streets to where the other Vaelidians had gone to. He took a moment to reflect on himself, thinking about what lay ahead; what kind of dangers King Kaedos had in store, and what the woman on his mind last said to him…
This won’t be our last.
I will try my best to make it not be.