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The Insurgency: S4 #5 Reason to Believe (GC)
Part 5 in Season 4 of my Insurgency series. A GC entry for the Marauders. Apologies for the bad editing on some of the images, I was rather pressed for time! Please comment, rate and enjoy!
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12th December 2097: Present Day

Screams of terror and cries of pain echoed throughout the rocky passageways.

Another wave of men who thought of themselves as soldiers, but who were, in reality, no more than thugs and pirates, charged into battle to protect their boss and their livelihood. Shouting cries of encouragement to one another, boosting their confidence in the face of danger, they ran, their feet pounding into the packed-down sand, towards the entrance of their base.

They rounded a corner and fresh blood splattered up the sandstone walls as two were instantly cut down.

These were Remy Ac'ross' men, and Darkblade was here for their employer...

As yet more men rushed towards him, Darkblade continued his steady march deeper into the base where he'd once been held captive. Another bullet struck his armour - his shoulder this time, but failed to penetrate and so Darkblade marched on. He slashed his long, black sword at one man who was foolish enough to get too close and opened him from shoulder to hip, before lunging towards another and sliding his blade straight through his gut.

Darkblade: "You cannot beat me!" He bellowed intimidatingly. "Ac'ross! I'm coming for you!" With that, he deflected another bullet and leapt at its shooter, beheading him in one move.

One alien, realising that resistance was futile, turned tail and fled, skidding slightly on the sand in his haste to get away from certain death.

Alien: "Boss!" He screamed. "Booooss!"
The alien charged into the main cavern of the underground base, the cavern used as Ac'ross' throne room, and pushed his way through the throng of men and women, all arming themselves and seeming to be preparing for all-out war.

The alien pushed his way to Ac'ross' throne in the centre of the room and found him cocking a large shotgun while speaking to another of his men - an olive-skinned being.
Alien: "Boss!" He cried in relief at having found him. "We can't kill him!" He urged.
Ac'ross paused and looked at the man.
Ac'ross: "Him?!" He asked incredulously. "You mean it's just one guy?!"
The alien nodded in terror.
Alien: "He just won't die!"

Ac'ross: "Bullscrim." He claimed. "Anyone can be killed. He'll die."

The alien shook his head in scared disagreement.
Ac'ross: "Ghartic" He began, addressing the olive-skinned being beside him. "Come with me. Let's go kill this son of a bitch."

Ghartic nodded and holstered a pistol before scooping up a machine gun.

Back in the corridor, Darkblade slit the throat of one woman, before deciding he'd had enough of being up close and personal. He grabbed the pistol hanging from his side and shot down three more men in as many shots.

One alien attacked him with two long knives. With a snarl, Darkblade deflected one blow, parried another and then shot his opponent point blank in the face, his head exploding in a shower of gore.

But before the body had even hit the floor, the black-clad mercenary came under fire in a hail of bullets. He shielded himself as best he could with just his arm, but it wasn't much. Impaling the nearest enemy, he used the man's body as a shield against the sudden barrage. Looking beyond his protective corpse, he found a new wave of enemies heading his way, and at their head, was Remy Ac'ross himself and beside him, Ghartic.

Under his helmet, Darkblade grinned.
Darkblade: "Remy Ac'ross!" He bellowed, calling the other man out. "And the back-stabber Ghartic too! I wondered if you'd still be workin' for ol' purple here! I hoped you would be."

There was a lull in the fighting as Darkblade came to a halt and Ac'ross and his men stopped a good ten meters from him.
Ghartic: "Who the hell are you?" He snarled in heavily accented basic.
Darkblade: "What, you don't remember me?" He called, loving every moment. With a shrug, he shoved the dead body off of his sword and then reached up and removed his helmet. His ginger hair was dripping with sweat, as was his beard, but it was the manic look in his eyes that was the most terrifying. "Remember me now, old 'friend'?"

Ghartic: "Jarred?" The alien was genuinely surprised to see him. But not in a good way.
Ac'ross: "Zeal?!" He almost laughed. "So you're still not dead."
Darkblade: "Not quite."
Ac’ross: “I heard the Imperium got you and that kid you used to hang out with.”
Darkblade: “You heard wrong.”
Ac'ross: "You've got some nerve coming back here." The gang boss threatened.
Darkblade: "Why? Because the last time I was here, you tried feeding me to the sand worms?"
Ac'ross: "Is that what this is about? Revenge?"
Darkblade: "Isn't that what everything is about? You sent me to die, and when I didn't, your pet pooch here," He pointed his sword threateningly at Ghartic, "snitched that I was still alive, so you sent him and some men to kill me. But again, you failed."

Darkblade: "Twice you tried to kill me," the merc began, before shoving his helmet back on.
Ac'ross: "Third time's the charm." He replied, raising his shotgun and preparing for battle.
Darkblade: "Allow me to return the favour."
Remy got off the first shot; the shotgun blast echoing loudly, but Darkblade had already moved. He had ducked to one side and fired his pistol twice, instantly killing two of Ac'ross' men. Ghartic's machine gun rattled away, but it was already too late.

In just those few seconds, Darkblade had crossed the distance between them and slashed through
the man to Ghartic's side. The man cried out as he crumpled and Darkblade cut into another. He deflected a melee attack from another and in doing so, sliced into Ac'ross' left leg. He screamed like a girl and grabbed hold of it in pain.

Ghartic reloaded his weapon and as he did, Darkblade spun, cutting two men clean in half. At the end of the spin, he kicked out and caught Ac'ross right in the chest. His shotgun discharged harmlessly into the ground and Remy staggered backwards.

As Ghartic raised his gun once more, with one swipe, Darkblade cut the barrel in two and the cartridge exploded in the alien's hand as he tried to fire. He cried out, dropping the weapon and clutching his hand, but Darkblade grabbed him by the neck.

Ghartic: "Jarred..." he managed to gurgle, before the other snapped his neck and let the lifeless body topple to the ground.

Darkblade prepared to move on to finish off the man he'd come here for, but found him gone. In his place was a corridor full of thugs, all with their guns aimed at him in warning, waiting for his next move.

Under his helmet, Darkblade smirked.

As he fled through his own base, the underground palace he had called home, Remy Ac'ross could hear the screams; The terrible screams, echoing out from the entrance tunnel.

He wished he could run faster, but his wounded leg was making him limp and try as he might, he couldn't stop the fear rising in his chest.

If only he could make it to the back entrance. If he could make it outside, out into the sandy wastes, then he just might stand a chance of getting away.

That was the thought that drove him on - made him limp on through the pain and made him block out the sound of his entire organisation dying.

After what felt like forever, Ac'ross shoved open the back entrance to his base and shielded his eyes from the blinding, never-ending sun. All he could see as far as the horizon was sand. Not a rock, not a building, just endless dunes.

It wasn't looking hopeful, but it was better than certain death, so with pain in every other step, he made his way out into the sand.

Not a minute had passed before he began to sweat from the exertion and just a minute after that, he was properly panting.

Darkblade: "Ac'ross!" The bellow came from behind him, and Remy staggered in pure shock. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the black figure marching after him, trying to catch up through the deep sand.
With a whimper, the sand terrorising his leg wound, Remy pushed on, faster than before, his eagerness to get away renewed.
Darkblade: "How far are you planning on running?" The voice shouted, but Ac'ross blocked it out. He didn't care. As long as it was away from here.
Darkblade: "Your time is up! Face it like a man!" The voice was closer now and, his lip twitching, Remy knew there was no way he could outrun Darkblade. His only chance, as slim as it was, was to turn and face him.

So, steeling himself, he stopped running and spun to face the mercenary. He raised his shotgun and took aim.
Ac'ross: "Stop right there!" He demanded and to his surprise, Darkblade actually halted his progress.
Ac'ross: "How many shots do you reckon it would take to kill you?"
Darkblade: "They've got to hit me first." He boasted.
Clearly, intimidation was not going to work, so Remy gave up.
Ac'ross: "What do you want? You want money? Take it! Take as much as you want! You want my organisation? You've killed most of them! Please... just let me live!" He begged.

Darkblade: "You always were a Coward, you scumbag."
Ac'ross: "Pleeeeeease!" He cried, the first tears hitting his face. "I'll do anyth..."

Without warning, the ground beneath the gang lord erupted in a sandy explosion as a giant sand warm burst above ground. Ac'ross vanished with a scream into the creature's chattering mouth, his shotgun tumbling into the sand.
Darkblade stood motionless as the worm descended back under the sand and disappeared from sight, leaving Darkblade stood alone and victorious.

His work here was done.

Crowd: "Act in! Collective out! Act in! Collective out! Act in!..." the crowd beside me chanted aggressively over and over again.

I was ambling along the main street near my apartment block, walking along the sidewalk as a huge crowd marched up the road beside me, placards in hand and chanting at the top of their lungs. I'd had nothing better to do and had heard that there was going to be a protest today, so had decided to pop along and see what it was all about.

Well, I knew exactly what it would be about.

Tensions had been rising recently with more and more people coming out in support of the Collective Registration Act. People were getting fed up and there had even been a few riots across the system.

Crowd: "Act in! Collective out!" The chant continued, as homemade banners and signs were waved in the air.

So far it had been a peaceful protest, or at least, as 'peaceful' as a group of people shouting could be. But it was clear that the crowd were angry. The hardened faces, the tone of voice - nobody was happy. There were police everywhere though, keeping an eye on the proceedings and making sure nothing got out of hand. But even as I watched on, a little way up the line the first scuffle broke out.
A pro-Collective, anti- registration passer-by had gotten into an argument with somebody at the edge of the crowd. The two began shouting at each other and pretty soon, were exchanging blows.

It didn't last long though, as police were quick to step in and handcuff both parties involved. As they were pulled apart, I suddenly recognised the man ordering the police around. I made my way over just as the guilty pair were big led away.

Tank: "Chief." I greeted as I approached. The Chief of Police noticed me, frowned for a second or two, clearly trying to figure out why he recognised me, and then nodded in greeting as his memories fell into place.
Chief: "Rockwell, wasn't it?"
Tank: "Yes sir."
Chief: "What brings you here? You part of the protest?"
Tank: "No, just watching." I replied over the chanting crowd.
The Police Chief grunted.
Chief: "I'm surprised. After that stunt you pulled the other week."

I frowned, wondering what he was referring to, but he obviously noticed my confusion, as he continued;
Chief: "Going on TV. Shaming The Collective like that."

Now I understood. He'd seen my disastrous interview with Jayn.

Chief: "What the hell were you thinking?"
Tank: "I..." I began, unsure of what to say. "I was trying to tell the public my story. Trying to help people decide which way to vote in the Registration Act referendum."
Even as I spoke, I realised that I was just reciting what Hruuk-Te had told me, had convinced me, but I wasn't backing out now. I was in too far for that. There was no way I was going to admit that I was actually conflicted about the entire thing. Like it or not, thanks to that interview I was now a symbol for Collective Registration.
Chief: "Bullscrim." He growled in response, but keeping his eyes on the crowd. "You were trying to boost your own ego and show off. Hanging around the Archmage too long seems to have left you hungry for more power than you can handle."

Tank: "Now that's bullscrim." I retorted and he shot me a scowl. "I don't want any power. I'm fine as I am. I just wanted to make a difference."

Chief: "Well you've certainly done that." He muttered. "I imagine most of the people here are here because of you." The Chief responded, indicating to the still-marching crowd if protesters. "That interview, or more specifically, what happened at the end, has really got people riled up."

Tank: "I didn't mean for that to happen. I didn't want anyone to get hurt." I explained quietly. I'd felt horrible in the weeks since the Collective woman in the audience had kicked off. Thankfully they'd managed to get the fire under control before it could burn the building down, but the studio itself was now unusable. Several guests had minor burns and one security guard was still in critical condition in hospital. The woman herself had been shot dead by security, which had in turn sparked up angry protests by people who are pro-Collective.

Chief: "Doesn't matter what you 'meant' to happen, or what you 'intended'. All that matters is what 'did' happen." He scolded. "You can mean all the good in the system, but if people take your words or messages the wrong way, your good intentions mean nothing."

He had a good point, but there was no way I was going to admit it. Still, I didn't really know how to respond, so I just turned and watched the crowd for a minute.
Tank: "How goes the hunt for The Boss?" I inquired, changing the subject. After Cat and I had given the Chief everything we had on Cat's dad, we'd heard nothing. We weren't expecting to, but Cat didn't like not knowing. He was still out to get both of us and we didn't want to live our lives I'm constant fear of an attack.
Chief: "Slowly." He replied. "Our analysts did what they could with the information that you provided and we've now handed everything over to the IIA."

I nodded in acceptance.
Chief: "They raided the property you informed us about, but as you predicted, found it empty."
Tank: "Yeah. After we confronted him there, there's no way he'd stick around. He'll have holed himself up somewhere else."
Chief: "Exactly. But he'll be back. People like him always are. He'll not be able to resist crawling out of whatever hole he's made his home in and showing off. But for us, for now, it's just a waiting game."

The Next Day…

Tank’s Apartment

Well; this was it.

Today was the day I stole Tracks back from Eris. It was still early morning though and I yawned as I gathered up everything I would need for the trip. I was going to go and meet everyone who'd agreed to help me at a little, privately-owned spaceport on the edge of town and from there, I'd hired a shuttle that we could all fit on so that we could fly up to the Spire.

Cat: "Do you have everything?" Cat checked as she walked into the living room behind me. Fastening up her own backpack, she didn't look thrilled about our upcoming mission, but I knew that I could count on her.

Tank: "I think so." I replied, as I tucked a small cannister into the side of my pack. Inside the cannister was the fist-sized lump of glowing blue rock that may or may not make the difference between our success or failure today.

I was so preoccupied with my thoughts about the task ahead that I physically jumped when the door buzzer went off.
Cat's pistol was in her hand immediately and we exchanged frowns - we weren't expecting anybody.
I drew one of my own pistols and together Cat and I headed for the front door, Cat a few paces behind and to the side. As I reached the door, I peered through the peep hole and instantly relaxed. Holstering my pistol and nodding the all clear to Cat, I then unlocked the door.

Aurora: "Good morning Tank. I'm sorry to drop by unannounced."
Tank: "It's okay. You're welcome any time." I replied with a smile. "Come on in."

I let the Namorian Priestess pass and she and Cat greeted each other as I secured the door again. The trio of us went back into the living area before we continued talking.
Tank: "So what brings you by?" I inquired.
Aurora: "I've got some important news that I wanted to bring to you in person." She replied sincerely.
Tank: "Okay?"

Aurora: "First of all, know that my mother does not know of my being here and if she did, she would not approve."
That worried me. If this news was so important that Aurora would defy the High Priestess then it couldn't be anything good.

Aurora: "Ever since you saved my life, I've been trying to discover if the mercenary who captured us," Aurora began, indicating to Cat, "is still alive or not."

So this was about Jarred! About Darkblade...

Aurora: "My mother was not happy about my capture. Not happy with me for first of all failing and getting caught, but mostly at Darkblade himself. If he was still alive, my mother tasked me with capturing him alive in order for him to stand trial."
Tank: "And you've found something?" I questioned with dread in my heart.
Aurora nodded.
Aurora: "It's taken a lot of lead-chasing and patience but I recently came into possession of security footage from somewhere on Iapra."

Aurora placed a datapad on the table and Cat and I gathered around as she loaded up a video. She pressed play and the three of us watched on as the video started. The footage was grainy and clearly taken from an old security camera, but we could easily make out a long, rocky corridor. With dread in my heart, I watched as wave upon wave of thugs charged one way up the corridor towards a threat out of our view - none of them returned. Gradually, the men got less far along the corridor before they started to get mowed down. Several appeared to be shot and another collapsed with the black hilt of a knife protruding from his chest.

Then, if that wasn't proof enough, from the opposite direction to the men, a lone figure appeared. Dressed all in black and swirling a long black sword, the red markings on his helmet sent a shiver down my spine.

Darkblade was alive.

Aurora paused the video and for several seconds we just stared at the frozen image of my once-best friend, his sword raised high, about to strike down another man.

Aurora: "He lives." She announced solemnly, turning off the screen. I nodded, unsure of what to say. I felt Cat's reassuring hand on my arm as the past months of fear all came flooding back to me.

I'd not known one way or another if he had survived, but I had hoped he hadn't. I'd loved the man once but after finding out what he had become, I had only wished him dead.
But, it turns out that he lived. So what did that mean? What did that mean for the prophecy? ‘One as a brother, blamed and chained. One as an enemy, enslaved once again. One to tell truth with their final breaths. By the other’s own hand, they bring their death.’
When I thought Darkblade had died, I assumed the prophecy was fulfilled, but now... now I was scared. I thought I'd had it figured out, but now I still didn't know the truth about what it meant.

Although, when I thought Darkblade had been killed, I'd lost the final chance to find out what really happened to my parents. Jarred had admitted to killing them, but I'd never found out why or who had hired him. Now that he was alive, maybe there was still a chance that I could find out exactly what happened and clear my own name.

Aurora: "I'm sorry Tank. I know that this is probably not the news you were hoping for, but now that we know for certain we can start the hunt for him. He will stand trial for his actions and he will suffer for his crimes."
I nodded slowly, my mind beginning to settle after this revelation.

Aurora: "I will do everything I can to locate this man, but I do not have a starting point." The Priestess admitted.
Tank: "That corridor." I began. "That was Remy Ac'ross' base of operations. I've been there before, with Jarred. I can tell you where it is. It's not much but that may be a starting point for you."
Aurora: "I would be most grateful. Do you have any other leads I could chase up?"

I thought for a moment before replying,
Tank: "No. I'm sorry, but I can't think of anything."
Cat: "We've been a bit busy recently." Cat explained and in doing so, gave me an idea.
Tank: "In fact, it may be something you could help with." I started.
Aurora: "What is it?"
Tank: "It's Tracks." I continued. "Eris stole him and I'm going to get him back." I explained, gesturing to our packed bags.
I felt guilty asking; Aurora was already doing so much for me by trying to track down Darkblade, but still I needed all the help I could get.

I went into more detail about my plan - meet up with the others I'd convinced to come along, sneak aboard the Spire, get Tracks and get out, and through it all I could see the frown on Aurora's face deepening.

Aurora: "You realise it will not be that simple?" The Priestess warned when I had finished.
Tank: "Yeah, but... I have to try."
Aurora: "Eris will undoubtedly have security systems in place. You talk of sneaking aboard the Collective's capital ship, the place where the Archmage herself has her home, as if it will be a walk along the street. It will not."
Tank: "I know." I repeated quietly. And it was true. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but that's why I had gathered together everybody I could - everyone I trusted, and I felt guilty enough bringing them all along as it was but.... But I had to try.

Aurora looked at me for a good few seconds, long enough to make me wonder what she was thinking, before she spoke again.

Aurora: "I should not get involved." She announced sadly and my heart fell. Having a Namorian warrior on my side would have given me a huge advantage if the mission turned to battle, but I understood why she couldn't come.

Aurora: "But." She continued and my heart leapt with new hope. "I owe you my life. I think that your plan is foolhardy and childish, but I trust you and your judgement and if you say that you feel we can succeed, then I will go with you."
Tank: "Thank you!" I grinned, wanting to hug her, but I decided against that, assuming Cat probably wouldn't have approved.

Aurora: "I sincerely hope that your plan works as you say and things do not come to violence, but if they do, hopefully I may be able to provide a calm voice of reason to resolve things peacefully."
I nodded, liking the sound of that.
Tank: "Perfect. Thank you."

Aurora: "I will send word to Talitha. She will take the others straight to the spaceport and we can meet them there."
Cat: "Wait? Who are they?"
Aurora: “Talitha is my oldest friend. She is waiting with my two sisters. They are all warriors, like me and there are no others in the galaxy whom I trust more. They will join our cause." Aurora explained and I couldn't help but smile. I had felt good about having one Namorian on the team, but it transpired I was getting four!

Aurora: "In the meantime, I will accompany the two of you there, if that would be appropriate?"
Tank: "Yeah, sure." I smiled without a second’s thought.

Aurora: "I believe the term is 'third-wheeling'." She smirked, before turning to leave. "Now, shall we depart?"
Cat: "Great..." Cat muttered when Aurora was out of earshot. "Not awkward at all..."

The journey to the spaceport didn't take long at all and in the end wasn't nearly as awkward as Cat had been fearing. For the most part, the girls engaged in idle chit-chat, leaving me to worry in silence about the mission ahead.

We arrived bang on our specified meeting time and we found the shuttle I'd hired waiting for us on our designated landing pad, with two other ships already nearby. I didn't recognise either of them, but as Cat, Aurora and I made our way over to the shuttle, the boarding ramp of one opened and Dustin and Risa strolled out to meet us.

Dustin: "Tank." The ex-Core member greeted with a smile as they approached.
Tank: "Nice ride!" I smiled back. "Thanks for coming."
Dustin: "Breaking into The Collective's headquarters is not an ideal plan in my mind, but you've helped us out plenty before, so I feel like it's about time we started repaying."
Tank: "I appreciate it." I nodded before looking past the duo to the other ship as its occupants began to emerge. Who they were though, I had no idea.

Risa: "Who are they?" the red-headed woman asked, echoing my own thoughts.
Aurora: "Are they not with you?"
Dustin: "We assumed you'd invited them?"
I frowned as a young human male, a female and two droids walked briskly in our direction.
Dustin: "Can we help you?" Dustin asked as they reached us.
Man: "We heard there was a mission against The Collective? Trying to enforce the Registration Act or something like that?"
Tank: "Who are you?"
Jack: "I'm Jack Brickton." He announced. "This is Dushka, Iron Bones and Kain." Jack introduced the woman and two droids in turn.

Dushka: "We know first-hand what powerful Collective can do. The Act needs enforcing."

I was about to ask how they'd heard about what was going on, but at that point we were interrupted by the arrival of a battered old landspeeder which looked like it had been patched up with lots of spare, or quite possibly stolen, parts. It pulled to a stop and its lone occupant hopped out.
Risa: "More unexpected company?"

My only response was to nod as I watched the man head our way. How had our supposedly secret mission suddenly become so popular?
Tank: "Can I help you?"
Cramesas: "I'm here to join the squad heading to the Spire?"

I shook my head disbelievingly.
Tank: "How does everyone know?!" I exclaimed turning to Cat, who just shrugged in response.
Cramesas: "Hey, you want my help or not?"
Tank: "I..."

Before I could reply though, a familiar ship flew in low overhead, it’s engines rumbling and the downdraft blasting everybody stood chatting. It hovered for a moment before gently touching down on the pad across from us.
Tank: "Good. The gang is here." I commented aloud, thankful for the distraction and for the arrival of some more people whom I'd actually invited!

As the ship's engines settled and the rest of us watched on, waiting for its crew to disembark, Aurora announced;
Aurora: "Ah, they're here."

Unsure of who she'd been referring to, I turned to find another trio of people approaching on foot from the direction of another landing pad. All three were tall, elegant and had porcelain white skin. They could only have been Aurora's sisters and friend. The four exchanged greetings as they reached us and then the Priestess introduced us to them.

Aurora: "Everyone, these are my sisters, Calaeno and Meissa and my most trusted friend, Talitha."
Talitha: "It's a pleasure to meet you all." She greeted with a smile, but I could see the woman's eyes darting from person to person, taking in the scene and examining each and every one of us. She was a warrior, there was no doubt about that!

Tank: "It's an honour to have you with us." I replied, looking at each of them in turn. I knew that both Meissa and Calaeno were Aurora’s younger sisters and you could definitely see the family resemblance. Meissa had dark red hair with lips that matched, a quiver was slung across her back and a light-coloured cape draped off of one shoulder. Calaeno appeared the youngest of the three. Her dark hair was tied up in an elaborate triple bun and her eyes were just as big and dark as Aurora’s. Talitha, Aurora’s friend, was fearsome-looking. With purple facial tattoos and a black mohawk, she was definitely not somebody I would want as an enemy! In fact, just like the Priestess, despite their attractive appearance, I imagined they would all be just as fearsome as each other.

Voice: "Long time, Tank." A familiar voice called from behind me and I turned back to face the ship that had just landed. A smile appeared on my face as the famous Aurelian, Jakor, strode towards me, accompanied by two of his gang. I must admit that I'd been expecting more of them, but all of these unexpected arrivals more than made up for the lack of Jakor's Aurellians.

Tank: "Jakor." I nodded. "Long time indeed. Thank you for coming."
Jakor: "No worries. Sorry I couldn't bring more help but the others are..." he paused. "Otherwise engaged." He concluded cryptically. I considered asking what he meant but decided against it. If it was something personal, then it was none of my business.
Tank: "That's okay. The fact that you've come at all is good enough for me."

Jakor: "How many more are we waiting for?" He questioned, looking around at the rest of our companions.
Tank: "Well, Derek Collins may or may not be coming, but..."

Risa: "Incoming." Risa warned and everybody stood ready as a speeder bike skidded to a halt nearby.
The... Man? Being? Whatever it was that stepped off and marched over to us was an impressive size. Wearing armour and with a helmet that worryingly reminded me of One’s, he threw his arms wide open and boomed,
Maelstrom: "Greetings! I have become aware of your errand, and I would like to contri..."

Tank: "I really don't want to know, do I..." I muttered aloud, simply turning away from the newcomer, letting him continue his spiel to whoever was still listening. How the hell all these people had found out about my supposedly secret mission to steal back Tracks, I had no idea. But I was beginning to get a little concerned that Derek and his gang hadn't yet shown up.

Cat: "He did say he couldn't make any promises." Cat reminded me, seemingly reading my thoughts and I pursed my lips, thinking. However, I didn't get far with my thoughts because a warning cry went up;
Jera: "Imperium!"

In an instant, weapons were drawn and everybody stood ready for a fight.
Voice: "Whoa! Whoa! We come in peace!" An unfamiliar voice called from somewhere I couldn't place. Dustin gave me a gentle nudge and pointed in the direction of the speaker. Now I saw them. Two male Imperium soldiers, both with their empty hands outstretched, walking slowly towards us.
Man #1: "Don't shoot, okay?"
Man #2: "We're here to help!"

Aurora: "Who are you?" The Priestess demanded.
Jakor: "That's close enough, Imperials." The Aurellian added and the two men stopped walking.

Will: "I'm William Nantucket." The first introduced himself and as he did, I realised that I'd seen him on TV before. "This is Phil Rider." Will continued, gesturing to his companion.
Jera: "Phil and Will. Cute."
Jakor: "What do you want?"
Will: "Like I said, we're here to help."
Phil: "If you'll have us." The second man added.

Tank: "How can we trust you? You know what we're planning on doing?"
Phil: "Breaking into The Spire, right?"
I sighed with frustration. How did everybody know what was going on?!
Will: "Look; you're trying to enforce the Registration Act, yes? The Act is an Imperium law. We're here to enforce it."

So somehow most people seemed to think that this was about the Registration Act. Most didn't seem to know anything about Tracks, and he was the whole point of this! It would have taken too long to explain though and I didn't want to lose any help if it was being offered, so instead of setting the record straight, I decided to keep quiet.
Will: "You're surrounded by Aurellians and Marauders and you're questioning us?"

With another shake of my head, I lowered my weapons.
Tank: "Come on over." I gestured. The others all lowered their weapons, some more slowly than others and as the two Imperials joined us, Dustin muttered to me;
Dustin: "I think we should get going. I don't like how many people are showing up."
I nodded in agreement.
Tank: "Okay, start getting people onto the shuttle." Dustin nodded once and instantly set about gathering the crowd together.

Cat: "Is this what you'd been expecting?" She queried, raising an eyebrow.
Tank: "Not really, no." I conceded. "BUT. If they're here to help then they're welcome."
Cat: "But can we trust them?"

I didn't reply straight away. Instead, I cast a glance around at our companions. They were such a mixed bunch, there was no way of telling how reliable they'd be.
Tank: "I have no idea. I guess only time will tell."

By now, almost everyone was aboard so I held out my hand to Cat, who took it and together we made our way to join them.
Will: "Is this going to be a problem?" One of the Imperials asked Jakor, stopping the masked Aurelian at the foot of the boarding ramp.
Jakor: "Not at all." He growled.
Tank: "We're all on the same side here." I interjected. "Both of you get on board."

The two stared at each other in tense silence for several seconds more before Will lowered his arm and allowed Jakor to board before following close behind.
Tank: "The Imperium poster-boy and the system's most infamous Aurellian..." I mumbled aloud. "This could be interesting..."

The INV Anvil

All was quiet aboard the Imperium Naval Vessel Anvil. In orbit high above Toliv, the ship hung still, keeping an ever-watching eye over the watery world.

On board, the corridors echoed with the routine patrols of guards and the marching to and fro of soldiers. In the training bays, simulations were run for the forces in order to keep their skills honed and in their respective offices, the ship's officers dealt with their own piles of work.

In her study, Captain Lya Drayson stood alone, gazing out at the vast black of space. Her own work had been done long ago and now her time was devoted to the tasks only she knew of.

Space had always fascinated her. It's vastness. It's mysteries. The countless billions of worlds out there, all waiting to be discovered and each holding secrets of their own. Space was a wonderful enigma. Would anybody ever know what it truly held? Unlikely. But if more people like Drayson dedicated their time to figuring it out, then maybe we just might learn a little more.

About its treasures. It's rewards. It's risks. And it's dangers.

'Yes'. Drayson wondered silently. 'It's dangers.' Those were what occupied the Captain's thoughts.

It was a well-known fact now that System 54 was not the only inhabited star system in the universe. First, Earth had appeared and then The Collective. In fact, before they had arrived, the system hadn't even needed a number. But now they were just one of the many.

And how many of those systems, those worlds, out there held threats to theirs? How many enemies lurked deep in the unknown?

Drayson had no idea, but she knew that someone was out there. Someone or something, either on its way or waiting out there in the depths of space. Where they were coming from, what they were after, when they would arrive, Drayson again had no idea. All she knew was that beyond all certainty, something was coming their way...

The door buzzer brought the Captain back into the moment and she cleared her throat before calling for whomever it was to enter.
The door slid silently open and Cadet Odanna entered, offering a sharp salute as she did. Captain Drayson returned the move as the door closed behind the Cadet.
Drayson: "Ari'." She greeted. "At ease."
Ari': "Captain." She smiled in return, relaxing. "Is now a good time? You seem preoccupied."
Drayson: "No, no. I'm fine. Just thinking, that is all."
Ari': "Thinking on...?"

Drayson didn't respond immediately, deciding whether or not to tell Ari' about her thoughts. But she had no proof of anything at present, only her instincts and suspicions, so for now, she decided to keep it to herself.
Drayson: "Nothing much." She responded instead. "Just about our visit to the Claws of Etrion."

Ari': "Ah, yes. Has there been any word?"
Drayson: "None yet, but I'm still optimistic." The Captain responded as she made her way around behind her desk and sat in the chair.
Ari': "Well you didn't really give them much of an option did you." She smirked.
Drayson: "Not really, no." Drayson agreed. "They're going to join up though. It's just a matter of time."

As she said the words, Drayson couldn't help but think again of whatever was out there in space. Only a matter of time...
Ari': "How can you be so sure?"
Drayson: "Because they are nothing. They were so badly defeated by the Collective army that they are now little more than a husk of their former selves. The threat of total destruction is also highly motivational." She replied with a smirk of her own. Lya didn't take pleasure in destruction, but she was willing to do whatever was necessary to achieve total victory and would stop at nothing less.

Drayson: "Also, if Vahroos intended to turn us down, he would have moved his men by now. Instead, they're exactly where we left them, with a Dreaddown-class Destroyer overhead. The only reason for not trying to get away is if he is planning on accepting our offer."

Ari' nodded in understanding.
Drayson: "They will come. They will sign up and soon enough more will come to join."
The Cadet frowned.
Drayson: "I am already working on our next objective. As soon as I get the go-ahead from the Admiral, we can be on our way."

Ari' nodded as the Captain's gaze drifted back towards the transparisteel window and she muttered,
Drayson: "Yes... on the way..."


The set for Darkblade vs Remy Ac'Ross with the microscale mountain range in the background.

The set for the protest.

Part of the set for the meet-up.

Photo taken by Toa Jaton for the shot of the under-side of the ship.

As my series is going to be jumping around though time, I will include a date on each episode and add it to the timeline at the end of each episode so that you can follow it.



 I like it 
  December 21, 2017
Another awesome episode! I love the build-up to the crossover, can't wait to see everyone to finally cross paths!
 I made it 
  December 19, 2017
Quoting Toa Jaton @R.K. Jaze only wore that jacket because he was on the colder half of Iapra,instead of his usual armor.But again,that's fine.
Woops! My bad! --Blast--
  December 19, 2017
@R.K. Jaze only wore that jacket because he was on the colder half of Iapra,instead of his usual armor.But again,that's fine.
 I made it 
  December 19, 2017
Quoting Toa Jaton Nice!I like Jakor's interaction with William Nantucket.I find Jaze's green jacket a little odd,but it's fine.
Thanks! As for the jacket, I tried to get it as close as I could to the one in your last episode. --Blast--
 I made it 
  December 19, 2017
Quoting Captain Kenbo Fantastic! It was awesome to see everyone get together
Thanks Captain! --Blast--
 I made it 
  December 19, 2017
Quoting The Supreme Soggy Overlord of Moles and Moist Melons Fan-flippin'-tastic! DO you include a shot of everyone's character's in the actual GC-thing?
Maaaaaybeeeee..... ;) --Blast--
 I made it 
  December 19, 2017
Quoting Werewolff . Fantastic, as always! Really great how you've tied everyone together, as well as the various reasons they're all there! Looking forward to the next part, when they face off! Also interesting to hear Lya's concern about a growing something in the universe (potential spoilers?) And yes, the ships look great!
Thanks 'Wolff! + As for Lya and spoilers, oh you have no idea... ;P haha! --Blast--
 I made it 
  December 19, 2017
Quoting Philip Pip9766 Gah! This is so exciting! xD Great writing R.K. Blast. This whole Collective conflict (more specifically it's affect on Tank) is very interesting. (Also it's just cool to see Phil here.)
It's good to have Phil there! Glad you liked it! --Blast--
 I made it 
  December 19, 2017
Quoting Grandson Fifticinco Awesome job! I'm already super-pumped for this crossover! The way you edited in those ships looked really good too! Can't wait! ~G~
Glad you enjoyed it! --Blast--
 I made it 
  December 19, 2017
Quoting Traykar Pawfoot Alright, do you care if I use a few of the pictures where everyone shows up for my next episode? And, would you mind removing the I am Maelstrom part?
Of course! + Done. --Blast--
--R.K. Blast--
 I like it 
Grandson Fifticinco
  December 18, 2017
Awesome job! I'm already super-pumped for this crossover! The way you edited in those ships looked really good too! Can't wait! ~G~
 I like it 
  December 18, 2017
Nice!I like Jakor's interaction with William Nantucket.I find Jaze's green jacket a little odd,but it's fine.
 I like it 
  December 18, 2017
Fantastic! It was awesome to see everyone get together
 I like it 
  December 18, 2017
Fan-flippin'-tastic! DO you include a shot of everyone's character's in the actual GC-thing?
  December 18, 2017
Fantastic, as always! Really great how you've tied everyone together, as well as the various reasons they're all there! Looking forward to the next part, when they face off! Also interesting to hear Lya's concern about a growing something in the universe (potential spoilers?) And yes, the ships look great!
 I like it 
  December 18, 2017
Gah! This is so exciting! xD Great writing R.K. Blast. This whole Collective conflict (more specifically it's affect on Tank) is very interesting. (Also it's just cool to see Phil here.)
  December 18, 2017
Alright, do you care if I use a few of the pictures where everyone shows up for my next episode? And, would you mind removing the I am Maelstrom part?
 I made it 
  December 18, 2017
Quoting Traykar Pawfoot Excellent episode, great sets and build up for the crossover. I enjoyed all of the introductions, but I do take issue with Maelstrom's. He wouldn't be as blunt as that, and as of now he wouldn't really be that quick to equate his Maelstrom persona's goals and motivations being linked with those of the Imperium. He'd say something more along the lines of,"I have become aware of your fool's errand, and I would like to contribute my services." Either way, it's Great episode, and I look forwards to the crossover.
Noted and adjusted! Glad you enjoyed it! --Blast--
  December 18, 2017
Excellent episode, great sets and build up for the crossover. I enjoyed all of the introductions, but I do take issue with Maelstrom's. He wouldn't be as blunt as that, and as of now he wouldn't really be that quick to equate his Maelstrom persona's goals and motivations being linked with those of the Imperium. He'd say something more along the lines of,"I have become aware of your fool's errand, and I would like to contribute my services." Either way, it's Great episode, and I look forwards to the crossover.
By --R.K. Blast--
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