CHAPTER 11 - FOUND, BUT LOST
"Hello sweetheart, how are you feeling?" Satellizer opened her eyes and smiled at her husband. Seeing the look on his face - the pain in his eyes, she immediately frowned.
"What's wrong Kazuya?"
"Satella, it's happening all over again, our daughter needs our help, but this time I'm afraid that there isn't anything we can do."
"What did she do Kazuya?"
"She…went NOVA Form and destroyed the enemy. Satella, she…lost control, and projected an Eirenbar Set on the Pandora. She was preparing them to exterminate everyone."
"What? Oh no, Summer…"
"She's powerful Satella, but unstable. She almost destroyed everything, including us. It has to be the M-Type, its maturing faster than expected."
"What stopped her?"
Taking a deep breath, "…You did."
"I did? How?"
"I took your unconscious body back to the battlefield; to where our daughter was, and made her see you in your condition."
Pulling the sheet aside, Satellizer struggled to sit up. "Where is she Kazuya? I need to get to her."
"Whoa! Where are you going?" Kazuya pleaded, holding his arms up trying to keep his wife from getting up. Unfortunately, the older woman had already swung her legs around getting down from the bed. As she tore the sensors from her body, the medical equipment began buzzing its warnings and alarms which alerted the nurses to rush in.
"Satella, you aren't in any condition to…"
"No!" Satellizer cried to her husband as the nurses entered. "Kazuya, take me to her!"
At that moment, out in the corridor, someone overheard the commotion coming from the hospital room. Peeking in, he saw Satellizer and her husband standing across from two nurses who were insistent on keeping the couple inside the room.
"Forgive me, but is everything alright in here?" Both Kazuya and Satellizer recognized the older man immediately. "Dr. Wakahisa? What are you doing here?"
"Hello Mr. and Mrs. Aoi, is everything okay? I was actually coming to see you."
"Me? Why?" Satellizer asked.
"It's about your Stigma Necrosis."
"What…what about it?"
"I understand that you waived the procedure to have your Stigmata removed. May I ask why? The Genetics representative I spoke with implied that you were breaking protocol by not having them removed."
Satellizer felt flush as her cheeks turned red.
The doctor then turned to the two staff members. "We are all set here; thank you nurses. You may go." The nurses were reluctant to leave, but Dr. Wakahisa pushed them along and helped them out of the room. "Yes, yes, thank you very much…" As he shut them out, he could still hear their complaints through the door.
"Okay, that's better." Smiling, he turned back to the couple who looked at him with anxiety.
"I may have a solution to your necrosis."
"Doctor! What are you talking about?" Kazuya said as Satellizer walked around to the other side of the room feeling embarrassed.
"Typically, if Pandora suffer from Stigma Necrosis, we simply extract the tablets and usually their bodies readjust and for the most-part, heal themselves. In your case, Mrs. Aoi, your refusal to remove your Stigmata is becoming a detriment to your health. If we don't act quickly, you are going to die. I'm surprised your health is as stable as it is right now; a tribute to your legendary strength."
Kazuya turned to his wife. "Satella, why do you really want to keep your Stigmata? It's not because of Kazuha is it?"
Satellizer still faced the wall before answering, "That's not the full reason, although I did want to continue carrying a part of your sister inside me."
"What's the real reason then?"
"I…I feel guilty, my powers are my curse. I can't forgive myself for all the innocent people I failed to protect during my tenure as a Pandora. I can't escape what happened at Section Three, and I broke so many promises to Summer."
"Why allow yourself to die? Isn't that giving up? Isn't that surrendering?"
Satellizer felt ashamed, but still believed in her ideals. She wanted to atone for everything and the best way would be dying by the very technology that allowed her to achieve so much power - especially the 6 Heroic Stigmata from her husband's dead sister, Kazuha.
"Mrs. Aoi, my team believes that there is a solution to your problem."
The doctor sat down, "Satellizer, we know about Summer. We received information that many of the officials representing the Allied Nations are supporting her termination from the Pandora Program. The reasons behind the cover-up and her placement in stasis is that everyone fears that she would revert to that strange type of NOVA Form. The only hope for her is an implantation transfer which, in my opinion is the only solution that is feasible."
"Doctor, I need a moment to process everything."
"Of course Mrs. Aoi."
"Wait a moment." Kazuya added, "How would Satellizer adapt to the change in Stigmata?"
"That's an interesting question. The goal would be that Satellizer would receive three new plasma tablets which would keep her status in the Reserves, but unfortunately her power output would decrease immeasurably. She would go from Elite status down to Average. She would have to deal with limited abilities, mostly due to her low compatibility."
"So your theory is that Summer would receive my sister's Heroic Stigmata?"
"Correct Mr. Aoi. Kazuha's tablets are extremely potent and powerful. Your wife carried them through a long maturation period. It's my professional opinion that just a few of Kazuha's Stigmata could nullify the M-Type's instability which would keep Summer from going into NOVA Form so erratically. Then, with training, she will be able to Transcend safely and use that ability you Aoi's inherently have in controlling Stigmata."
"This…is all theory?" Satellizer asked quietly.
"Correct Mrs. Aoi, but I have every confidence that your daughter would benefit from the procedure."
Kazuya looked at his wife as she pondered the idea of re-implantation.
"Both of you should understand more than anyone else that your daughter has become something unpredictable. Back then, we hypothesized when Summer was on the operating table that there was a small chance she wouldn't be totally compatible."
"Kazuya, where is our daughter?"
"She is buried deep inside the older portions of the Citadel. Kept under the vigilant guard of the military. Unfortunately, Amelia and Genetics have little input on her status right now."
"If you two want your daughter to stabilize, you will have to get her out of that place, and deliver her to me at the institute. Then, we should be able to complete the procedure."
After some time, Doctor Wakahisa left the Aoi's alone in their hospital bedroom. Kazuya and Satellizer sat contemplating what transpired. "We will need to tell Sister Amelia about all of this." Kazuya explained. "We'll need her help if we ever want to get Summer out of that…that tomb."
"I don't trust her; she gives off an uncomfortable essence."
"I know, I've noticed it too Satella. I just don't know what else we can do."
"IMPIOUS TOTEMS, HEAR ME."
The two Pandora stood in front of the NOVA Prime as the space-time bubble dissipated. "Grace…" Brittany and Yumi responded in perfect unison; their faces ashen and lifeless; their pupils, the color of pearl, surrounded by dark shadows that encircled their eye sockets.
"WHERE, IS THE GIFTED ONE? THE… SUMMER?"
Yumi Huhn spoke first, "Purity, her current position is unknown to us. Communication with the database has been restricted and my access to the archives has been denied."
Brittany Temple then added, "Purity, I have ignored all insignificant intelligence from my squad mates on her whereabouts. It truly is a mystery to everyone. We speculate that she has been moved to a secure location despite the statement from the headmistress explaining that the gifted one was reassigned.
"NO, SHE IS CLOSE BY. HER CRUX SIGNATURE IS STRONG, IT RADIATES WITH POWER, BUT IT CONFUSES ME."
The two manipulated Pandora continued to speak with their master about how to capture and eliminate Summer. As the conversation drew to a close, Yumi flinched and hesitated - shaking her head and rubbing her eyes.
"WEAK-MINDED FOOL, ARE YOU FUNCTIONING APPROPRIATELY?"
For a brief moment, Yumi felt her humanity struggling to the surface as she realized what was happening. However, after a few more moments, Purity's control strengthened and Yumi once more obeyed her master implicitly.
"YOU WILL CONTINUE SEARCHING THE ISLAND FOR THE…SUMMER. IF YOU FIND HER, ELIMINATE HER IMMEDIATELY."
The two girls sat un-moving until the Prime disappeared. Once the space-time portal was closed, both Pandora reverted to their imprinted memories; as if everything was back to normal.
Sledge moved through the hallways as he closed the gap between himself and the fleeing army of Kun's soldiers. Unable to train his gun, Sledge relied on his abilities to overrun the retreating soldiers.
Kun and Minato had already contacted Nana and relayed the intel on Mavis's untimely death. Nana also informed them on the situation regarding Summer el Bridget-Aoi. "We are going to have to slow down the big guy if we are going to get to the aircraft." Kun called out as they ran toward the airstrip.
"Leave it to me!" Minato shouted as he and two other soldiers split off and slid to cover. "Get back to West Genetics! Don't worry about us! Leave us behind!"
Kun acknowledged as they pressed on to the runway. As Sledge rounded the last corner, he sensed the three soldiers hiding behind cover. Going prone, Sledge unleashed his phased plasma rifle and burned gaping holes through the wall partitions and stacks of crates.
Minato and his team ducked and slid to the side as their positions were compromised. Opening fire with their automatic weapons, they blanketed Sledge's location with hundreds of bullets.
Reloading their guns, Minato looked through the smoke and debris as Sledge emerged unscathed and angry. "Light him up!" Minato ordered as they unloaded another barrage of bullets on the large man.
"There isn't any effect! He's not falling!" The soldier shouted as their firearms continued to spray bullets in Sledge's direction.
Flicking a switch on his rifle, Minato aimed his gun upwards and fired the grenade launcher. The area surrounding Sledge exploded in a ball of fire as shrapnel and building construction debris flew outwards.
From the cloud of dust, Sledge emerged; his clothing burned and smoking. Part of his flesh had burned away, revealing overlaying plates of gleaming material. Dropping the disabled phased weapon, he continued toward the three soldiers.
Minato's men opened fire again, but Sledge sprinted the last meter; grabbing the first soldier by the arm, and slamming him to the ground. Wincing from the bullets from the second soldier, he spun backward connecting a fatal roundhouse kick to the man. Turning his attention to Minato, he smirked. "I understand your daughter is a Pandora?"
Minato stepped backward hearing Sledge's cold statement about Kallie. Leaping into the air, the large man reached Minato and came down crushing him to the ground. Bleeding internally from multiple injuries, Minato coughed up blood as he felt the weight of Sledge's immense body. Struggling to breathe Minato whispered, "just kill me…"
"I'm not going to kill you." Sledge replied, gently lifting the confused man off the ground. Not fully understanding what was happening, Minato's vision blurred as he lost consciousness.
When he returned, Sledge informed Marta that the injured prisoner has a daughter enrolled at West Genetics. Realizing the potential of a having a hostage, Sledge recommended that a message be sent to Amelia so that she would assign a rescue detail. Understanding the true nature of Sledge's proposal, Marta expects that Amelia would assign Larisa to the rescue team – which would prove an opportunity for her daughter to return home to Minsk and exact her revenge.
"Sledge, your plan is brilliant! We can tie up our loose ends by having my daughter return here. We need to contact Eva immediately."
"You filthy pigs! What the hell is this?" Elise Abetz screamed as the four girls scrambled to attention. "I can't believe what I'm seeing here! I see four of the laziest Pandora ever to wear a Genetics uniform! You should all be ashamed of yourselves! What a disgrace!"
Nii stood perfectly still staring straight ahead while Kallie raised an eyebrow in the instructor's direction. Pina frowned as she struggled to inch herself taller, while Adriana casually swallowed the last morsel of her ration bar.
"Lohman! What the hell is wrong with your team? I can't begin to imagine that this squad is associated with Platoon 13. If it were up to me, I would discharge your whole group and dissolve Gamma Squad altogether!" The tall German woman sized up the four girls as she walked up and down the line.
Acting smug and sarcastic, Adriana offered some pleasantries. "Instructor Abetz, nice to see you during our scheduled break. How are you doing on this fine day?"
"Don't give me that load of shit! How quick you forget that the NOVA are back! We can't be caught off guard anymore! I've cancelled your break time! Form up immediately!"
"Yes ma'am!" The team exclaimed as one voice.
"Okay, new interval! I programmed something new for you girls!" The instructor briskly walked off the simulation floor panels and activated the computer. As the simulator operators punched in the command function, the room crackled to life.
"Soldiers, welcome back to defending West Genetics! Let's see how long you survive!" Elise called out as the Spartan décor of the simulator immediately changed to a familiar battlefield.
"This! This is from last week!" Pina exclaimed
"The NOVA clash?" Nii asked Kallie as the simulated Type N2s materialized in front of them.
"Okay team! Kallie, Nii, roll to the left! Pina, distract the main group coming up the center! I'll be right behind you!"
"Roger that!" Kallie acknowledged as she spun her Kusarigamas in her hand.
"Okay, I'm there!" Nii flipped her Katana backward and sprinted alongside Kallie.
"I'm on it!" Pina exclaimed, racing directly into the group of N2s spinning her Kunai knives in each hand.
Elise studied the girls closely on her PADD as they engaged the enemies. So, this is the legendary Gamma Squad, let's see how powerful they truly are without Summer el Bridget-Aoi.
"Finally! There you are! Why are you up here?" Corraine inquired as both Davina and her stepped through the roof access door. "We're scheduled for interval training today!"
"What do you want?"
"Larisa, what's the matter with you? This is not like you to act this way! Get a grip and let's go!"
"Shut it Davina!" Obviously angry, she could not understand what was happening. "Everything is just spinning out of control! I don't understand any of it!"
"What don't you understand?" Corraine asked.
"What happened to el Bridget-Aoi?"
Both Corraine and Davina blinked as their team leader spoke Summer's name. "Alpha and Gamma teams show up on the battlefield without any explanation as to how they covered the distance in such a short amount of time. Then they team up with us to take on a bunch of NOVA and then suddenly we're waking up with partial memories of what happened - all enemies are destroyed and Summer is nowhere to be found. Something just isn't right!" Davina and Corraine tried to remember everything that happened, but kept finding gaps in their memory. "Doesn't it strike you as odd? How did they really get here from the Black Sea so fast? Their reports stated they flew through a temporal displacement bubble. And, how did two Type-S NOVA get destroyed without us remembering ANYTHING? And…there's the situation with Instructor Okada dying during their mission; sacrificing herself to save the Platoon?"
"Larisa, get a grip!" Davina replied as she walked toward her team leader. "None of us can remember everything that happened that day. There was so much going on, I'm sure the severe trauma is suppressing some of our memories."
"You're wrong. I know for a fact that something happened. I can feel it! I just don't know. It's too convenient that Summer disappeared after the NOVA clash!"
"Have you talked with Amelia? From what I heard it was the headmistress that issued the orders to reassign GM870."
"No," Larisa responded as she turned away from them. "I'm starting to believe that Amelia has her own hidden agenda."
"A hidden agenda?"
"Yeah, but I don't know for sure…"
"This is pretty serious stuff Larisa."
"I know! That is why I'm so angry!"
Why am I spending so much time and energy thinking about Summer el Bridget-Aoi? As Larisa contemplated her frustration, deep within her heart, she felt concern for her former teammate's well-being. Summer had always made an effort to try to work things out, but Larisa always pushed her away. Now, with the reality of her actually being gone for good, the emptiness inside the tall Belarusian grew to unbearable proportions.
Where are you Summer? What the hell is going on?
"Headmistress, we…need your help."
"Steward Aoi and the former Field Major. Is this a social call?"
Kazuya and Satellizer stood in the doorway to Amelia's office looking grim and tired. "Forgive our intrusion. May we have word please sister?"
"I'm listening. You two always had a reputation for making grand entrances. What can I do for you?"
I should probably start at the beginning…" Kazuya reluctantly explained the entire story from the moment the NOVA invaded fourteen years ago. He described Summer's injuries from the aircraft crash and explained in detail the procedure to implant a tablet into her body to repair the damage, cleverly leaving out the fact that the tablet was the top-secret M-Type Stigmata. After concluding the story with Doctor Wakahisa's theory of re-implantation, they looked to Amelia who had a very surprised look on her face.
"Very…interesting for sure. I trust you haven't told anyone else this story?"
"Alright, we need to act quickly then." Amelia stated as she busied herself at her desk, looking for some paperwork and organizing some reports.
"Sister, we need to get Summer out of there, but how can we do it?"
"Kazuya, most of the Joint Chiefs of the Allied Nations want Summer discreetly removed."
"That will not happen," Satellizer responded, growing angry at the thought of her daughter being discarded like a piece of failed outdated technology.
"Field Major, I won't allow it to happen. I have a way of getting Summer out of that prison without raising too much suspicion. I will just need to…"
Both Satellizer and Kazuya felt a slight tingle as Amelia paused. For the next few moments, it seemed the headmistress struggled to focus, then relaxing as if she woke from a daydream. "Sorry…about that, I was…thinking of a way to get her out. Don't worry, I have a plan. If what you said is true about Summer's condition and that the Gengo Institute is willing to transplant the tablets necessary to stabilize the young woman, we need to free your daughter immediately."
As the three left the headmistress's office, Kazuya messaged Wakahisa, informing him to prepare for Summer's arrival.
The afternoon sun was getting low as daylight slowly dwindled. Wendy followed Bronwen and Tamsin to the Memorial Wall, worried about their friend who hadn't returned that afternoon. The cryptic message sent to Tamsin's handset simply said: At the wall…
As the three girls walked up to the elaborate stone memorial, they noticed the freshly etched characters carved precisely into the bright polished marble; the letters spelling out the name: Kim Okada. On the bench nearby, was Bella Mayberry, looking forlorn and lost in thought.
"Hey." Tamsin said as she sat down next to her friend and roommate.
"We were worried that you didn't come back. What made you come here?"
"I don't know, I just wanted to pay my respects I guess."
"Why? She wasn't our instructor."
"I know, it's…I just don't understand all of it sometimes."
Wendy stepped close to the wall and touched Kim's name; feeling the sharp edges and impression of each letter recessed in the marble.
"I heard she sacrificed herself to save Platoon 13." Bronwen stated, recalling what she heard second-hand from some of the sophomores.
"Yeah…" Bella whispered.
"What's wrong?" Tamsin asked.
"I didn't know Instructor Okada very well, but I know from the others that she was a remarkable Pandora and a great teacher. You know she fought under the command of Satellizer during the Great War."
"Everyone knows that. So why is this bothering you?" Tamsin inquired.
"I think my problem is…will I be ready to do what must be done for my friends, my team…or mankind? You know, pay the ultimate price, sacrifice myself for the good of others."
"That's pretty deep Bella." Wendy mused as she walked away from the wall and stood near the bench. "Listen, we're here to do a job. West Genetics chose us to defend the world. Mankind believes in us. If that means that we pay the ultimate price of dying on the battlefield, so be it. It's what we do, we're Pandora."
"Wendy, how can you be so calm about it? Doesn't it bother you? Aren't you afraid?" Bella's eyes began to water as a tear dripped down her cheek. "I, just don't know if I can do this… I watched our classmates die because of Nightfall's Mech attack, and then experiencing the NOVA attack…"
"Bella, it's okay." Bronwen gently responded as she sat down next to her. "I'm a little scared too. I don't know if I'll be able to do it if the time comes."
"You guys are hopeless!" Wendy responded as she paced up and down the paved sidewalk, disgusted to hear that her teammates expressed their true feelings.
"You know, I think Summer is gone because she sacrificed herself for all of us."
"What do you mean, Bella?"
"I mean, look what happened when the NOVA kept advancing. Summer's dad got really hurt, and then she appears out of nowhere! There was this strange orange light and then the next thing I know, all the NOVA are gone and everything's back to normal. Well, everything except for Summer being gone."
"You think she defeated all the monsters by herself?" Wendy joked. "Whatever, there's no way! She's not…"
"It's possible! We all know the rumors! How she's overly powerful. Everyone talks about it, but nobody says anything around her or her teammates. Why can't it be true?" Bella rubbed her eyes. "What about when she saved all of us from that Mech? She created a Freezing! No Pandora can do that."
"Yeah, and she killed the Mech pilot too!" Wendy added rather abruptly. "Don't forget that Bella! We aren't supposed to kill people, just the NOVA."
"I know, Wendy, I didn't forget."
Wendy kept pacing the sidewalk as Tamsin and Bronwen comforted Bella.
"Then, Sister Amelia tells everyone that Summer got…reassigned? I…think it's a lie to cover something up. Maybe she's really hurt or something…"
"What?" Wendy and Bronwen sat mystified that their friend would even think the headmistress was hiding the truth.
"Where would Summer get reassigned to? She's just a 2nd Year. Unless you're part of the 3rd Year program in which you can train with the Numbers from 4th Year, you stay here at West - you aren't transferred anywhere."
"That's pretty weird." Bronwen replied as she tried fitting all the pieces together.
"What does the Steward say about all of this?" Wendy exclaimed. "Wouldn't he be all upset that his daughter is gone?"
"What's to say he isn't? He's been hard to reach lately. He visits the Citadel a few times a week and then travels to Gengo Memorial. Other than that, he stays away from everyone. Some say he's been ordered to stay away from the Pandora."
"Gengo Memorial? That's where Satellizer is recovering right?"
"Correct. So then…what's so important at the Citadel? Wait a minute. Hold on! No way. Could it be? Is Summer at the Citadel?" Bella shot to her feet, a flood of thoughts entering her head, "Could it really be that simple and obvious? Hide her in plain sight?"
The struggling N2 received a thrust to the throat as Nii buried her weapon deep into its body.
Pina crashed to the ground nearby as a pair of humanoids continued to push through their defenses. "Get up!" Nii ordered when Pina couldn't lift herself off the ground. Cutting deep slashes into both aliens, she turned to the small girl. "What's wrong with you? Come on, we have to keep fighting!"
Suddenly, from above, Adriana came down crushing the injured N2s. Swinging her massive Volt Weapon in circular patterns, the powerful Pandora smashed each creature until their transparent bodies vanished.
Marching up to Nii, Adriana grabbed her by the blouse and pulled her close. "Pina has low compatibility! Her healing and strength have a lower threshold than ours, remember? You have to watch her back!" Shoving away the puzzled Pandora, Adriana sprinted over to assist Kallie with a different pair of monsters; the two, engaging in a team attack combination, eliminating several more transparent enemies as the next wave began.
Nii stood dumbstruck, feeling ashamed for yelling at the little Pandora. Caught up in the moment, she forgot that Pina's compatibility and abilities were handicapped. Looking down at her, "I'm so sorry! I forgot, I'm…"
Not watching her surroundings, Nii received a severe blow to the head from a creature that attacked her from behind. Tumbling to the ground, she looked up to see the snarling monster standing over her, ready to deliver the final strike. Mustering her strength, Pina jumped between them, deflecting the blow. Driving her Kunai knives into its face and neck, Pina forced the monster backwards and away from her teammate as she fell to the ground alongside the creature. Pina repeatedly pulled her knives from the wounds and re-inserted them into new locations on its neck and head until the transparent enemy vanished. Breathing heavily, she slowly stood back up, wiping the blood from her mouth and eye.
"Th…thanks." Nii responded quickly, utterly amazed at the endurance of the little Pandora.
"We're a team Nii, we're Gamma Squad. Now you get up!" Wincing, she shrugged off the pain and fatigue as she engaged the next simulated alien.
Yeah, we are a team! Gamma Squad of Platoon 13!
Nii jumped back to her feet, rejoining the fight.
From across the simulator room, Adriana watched Nii interact with Pina. As she smashed another Type N2 with Knights Edge, she wondered again if Summer would ever come back. The anger and sadness of losing her roommate drove her to focus on her fighting as she allowed her frustration to fuel her energy in battle.
Delivering another tremendous swing to an adversary, she suddenly remembered something Pina told her a few days ago. Halting her efforts, she yelled out the voice activated safety termination sequence. "Pause simulation program, Code STSR27!" Surprised, the simulation operators quickly activated their controls ending the fighting.
As the transparent humanoids froze and disappeared from the room, Adriana's teammates quickly gathered around her wondering why she interrupted the interval.
"Guys, I think I know where Summer is!"
"What?" Pina replied as she looked at Kallie with hope.
"How is this possible? Nii asked as she de-materialized her Katana.
"Pina, you told me that Kazuya was going into the Citadel right?
"Yeah, he did. Once or twice this week maybe?"
"Kallie, you said the database records were incomplete?"
"Affirmative, there seemed to be gaps in the information. Like they were removed and filed elsewhere."
"Guys, I'm just going to bet that Summer is inside the Citadel somewhere. I'm so stupid for not noticing it before. With our memories incomplete, it's hard to piece things together."
Rolling her eyes, "That's your hunch?" Pina replied. "What makes you so sure? We don't have authorization to enter the Citadel unless it's for the Carnival."
"Just what in the hell are you lazy good-for-nothing pigs doing?"
The four girls turned, watching Instructor Elise approaching from the control booth.
"Instructor!" Adriana replied quickly, "We are all…very injured and need to visit triage. Request permission to take a short break?"
"What? Are you serious?"
"Affirmative. Please instructor, it'll just be a few minutes."
"Unbelievable! You have six minutes."
"Thank you instructor!" Adriana replied as the four girls ran from the simulator room.
Brittany Temple stumbled on the stairs as she fell against the railing. The sharp pain in her head made her disoriented. Then, in an instant, her eyes went blank as Purity telepathically fed information to her from Amelia Ellsworth.
"Citadel, Sub Level 2B, L Corridor, Section 9," Brittany spoke out loud as Purity completed the information exchange. Changing direction, the Pandora rushed back down the stairs and out into the courtyard, heading directly for the Citadel on the far side of the island.
On the sidewalk, Larisa Tamm saw Brittany running toward the opposite end of the island.
"Brittany! Where are you going? Hey!"
The Auburn-haired Pandora ignored her team leader as she continued to run around the corner of the next building passing a group of 3rd Years.
On a hunch, Larisa decided to follow Brittany. With so many unexplained things going on, the tall blonde felt it was necessary to investigate.
Sprinting across the quad, Adriana, Pina, Kallie and Nii headed for the Citadel. Arriving at the entrance, the guard on duty held up his hand.
"Stop! Hold on a minute! State your business."
"Get out of our way!" Adriana shouted, "We know Summer el Bridget-Aoi is inside and we want to see her right now!"
The guard started to perspire, as his hands shook. The loaded weapon in his holster was close, but he was facing four of the top ten elite 2nd Year Pandora. Despite being prepared, he knew this was going to happen. Obeying the order that she had given him earlier, he quickly stepped aside to let the girls into the facility.
"Sub Level 2B, L Corridor, Section 9. Please be discreet, and don't make a mess," he pleaded as the four girls rushed past him.
Running through the corridors, Kallie led the way as they searched for Section 9; the sounds of their shoes tapping the concrete echoing through the unoccupied corridors as they went from section to section.
"Here!" Kallie shouted as they rounded the last corner. In front of them stood a large metal door with several orange hazard logos painted at each corner. Intimidated by its size, the four girls walked slowly up to it, carefully looking for a way in.
Inspecting the heavy blast door, Kallie followed the thin conduits along the floor to a small activation pad on the side wall. She placed her fingers on the key pad and went ahead and activated the door.
Swiveling orange lights illuminated the activation cycle as the hiss from the pressurized door filled the room. Motorized gears groaned as they turned against each other. The squeal of the rusty wheels pierced the quiet as the tremendous door slid sideways, revealing a greenish glow from inside. The girls stood awestruck at the lone cylindrical chamber located in the center of the massive circular room.
Jumping over the conduit piping, Adriana slammed her hands on the glass and peered inside. "Kallie! Come here, I can't see a thing! It's all crystallized!" Pounding the glass, "Summer!" She cried, "hold on, I'm getting you out of there! Oh my God!" Materializing Knights Edge, Adriana wound up to swing the massive weapon at the chamber in the hopes of smashing it open.
"Wait!" Kallie shouted, "There's a control panel."
Swiping her hand across the device, the panel beeped a series of sounds as the canister unlocked and slowly opened. A plume of condensation filled the room. Each of the young Pandora stood motionless, anticipating the discovery of their lost comrade. The chamber continued to pump the thick white cloud of gas into the air as the device completed its equalization cycle. Adriana waved her hand to dissipate the smoke as she looked inside.
"Summer! It's me! We're here to…" As the air cleared, Adriana found the hyperbaric chamber empty. All that was left was a breather mask connected to an inner control panel. "No…" Adriana whispered, "No, no, no, no! Denting the top and sides of the cylinder with her fist, she frantically looked at her teammates, "She's not here! She's not here!"
The sunset filled the darkening sky with the pleasant colors of orange, red and purple. The calm waves of the Black Sea reflected the sunlight evenly across its surface. As evening approached, a lonely trawler gently made its way through the bay as it returned home.
The port city of Varna, in Bulgaria was a busy place which attracted vacationers and tourists from all over the world, enticing them with beautiful seaside beach resorts, entertainment and other points of interest.
The crew of the Simona hustled along the deck as they prepared to moor the sixty-five meter boat into dock; men were tossing ropes and turning crank set pulleys as the bottom trawler was eased into its berth. Another eight minutes and the job was finished; the ship, all tucked in its home, was lashed tightly to the dock.
As each crew member went below deck to gather their belongings, a particular young sailor stepped off the boat with nothing but a worn messenger's bag and the clothes on his back. Sauntering down the dock with his hands in his pockets, he headed toward town to grab a meal before hitching a train north.
"Very successful week!" Captain Milian called out with his heavy accent, "Thank you Oren for all your help! In future, if you ever need boarding pass to work, just come find me! I'll give you good rate!"
Waving back to the man, "I'll do that Captain, thanks for everything." Smiling to himself, it felt good to be back on the mainland. A lot had happened to him when he was out at sea; he owed a life debt to the crew of that ship.
The Simona had embarked on a two week charter to deliver materials and supplies to the various oil rigs and floating platforms in the northwestern quadrant of the Black Sea. Witnessing what they thought were explosions and smoke in the distance, they steered an intercept course. Upon arriving, the crew found nothing but floating debris, and among the wreckage was Oren, barely alive, clinging to a makeshift raft of wood and plastic. The crew immediately hauled him aboard, mending his wounds and assisting with his recovery the best they could. On the days that followed, Oren regained some of his strength and insisted on working onboard ship to pay back the crew for rescuing him. Captain Millian was always curious, but never once questioned him about the nature of how he was found floating in that debris. For the captain, he just wanted to help out a lucky sailor who was found alive at sea.
Now, refocusing on his mission, Oren looked forward to fulfilling the remainder of Nightfall's plan. Trotting up the concrete steps of the dock, Oren abruptly stopped when six men dressed in military fatigues surrounded him, their neatly pressed uniforms fit tight around their toned, muscular builds. Hidden under their jackets were semi-automatic rifles, and strapped to each of their left legs was a large caliber weapon. "Hello Oren." Her voice was deep and sultry, almost playful, yet completely sinister in nature. She stepped out of the shadows and approached the young man, "I didn't think we were in the business of working in the Maritime Industry."
"Eva…" Oren replied, acknowledging the woman as he kept a vigilant eye on her henchmen.
She was almost an inch taller, with long dark colored hair. Her curvaceous figure seemed to burst out of her tightly fitting uniform. She purposely stood in his way, licking her ruby-red lips as she spoke. "Oh my, you don't look too good. Not fully healed yet? Those horrible Pandora, they must have hurt you real bad…" She continued to tease, sliding a gentle finger down his bruised left cheek to his chest.
"Why the hell are you here Eva?" His voice was stern as he brushed her hand away.
"I've come to collect you of course."
"Ridiculous! I was already on my way to Marta."
"We figured, we've been monitoring you."
Eva stepped aside and gestured for the young man to follow. Around them, the soldiers filed in, concealing their weapons and following the pair down the sidewalk.
"You still didn't answer my question." Oren replied as Eva continued walking. "Why did you really come here?"
"He is very…worried about you."
"Why would he all of the sudden be interested in me. I was part of Litvinchuk's phase of the plan," Oren replied.
"The Master isn't pleased that we lost the oil rig. There were many secrets on Litvinchuk's drives."
"It was all their fault we lost the rig!"
"Who? The Pandora? You couldn't have stopped them if you tried."
"Eva, there was one who sacrificed herself so that the others could get away. I never would have expected that to happen."
"That would have been Instructor Okada; don't underestimate the loyalty of a Pandora."
"How…would you know that?" Oren seemed concerned that Eva knew about the events of that night.
"I have my sources, plus we had eyes on the oil rig the entire time. We watched the whole event unfold. Pretty impressive that one Pandora was able to subdue you long enough so that the others could escape."
"Go to hell! I killed her, just like I'm going to kill that other one!"
"You mean Summer el Bridget-Aoi?"
"Is that her name? The…daughter of Satellizer?"
"Oh yes, she has become quite an interesting individual. I doubt you'll be able to handle her anymore."
"What makes you so sure?"
The group ventured across the outlining streets of the village until they came upon two cars parked along the shoulder of the road.
"How naïve of you, I still haven't broken my ties with Genetics, you know."
"Eva, the Master isn't satisfied with me is he?"
"Let's not worry about that right now. I'll talk with him and smooth things over. Marta and Sledge have a plan that he expects you to participate in. Don't worry."
Three of the soldiers got into the first car while Eva, Oren and the last soldier occupied the second vehicle. As the cars drove off into the night, Oren kept his thoughts to himself.
If the Master chooses, I'll die before I get my chance at killing the daughter of Satellizer. I can't afford to let that happen!
"Hey! What are you doing here?" Bella cried as Tamsin, Bronwen and Wendy appeared through the doorway.
"YOU?" Adriana exclaimed, "What are you four doing here? How did you know about this place? Shouldn't you be in…in training or something?"
"We should be asking you the same thing!" Bella replied as she cautiously entered the room, "The guard let us through, saying that you guys were already inside." Looking around the green-lit room, "What is this creepy place? Where's Summer?"
"Is she in there?" Tamsin asked as she and Bella stepped closer to the open Hyperbaric Chamber.
"No, she's not here…" Adriana said shaking her head.
"This is crazy!" Pina responded. "It looks like she was here, but was somehow taken away? Nothing makes sense."
Kallie interrupted. "Listen, guys…we need to think through everything logically. When we arrived at the entrance, the guard granted us entry. When we got to the outer door, the pass codes and locking mechanisms were already disabled. Finally, inside this room, the chamber controls were unlocked and whoever was inside that device had already been removed. Coincidence?"
"What are you saying?" Bronwen inquired.
"I'm saying that all these events were purposely laid out for us to learn that Summer was here. What we have to do now is pick up her trail."
"Okay, but where would she have gone to now?"
Carefully following Brittany through the semi-lit corridors, Larisa snuck around to the last corner and followed her teammate to the final hallway. As Larisa got closer, she could hear the sound of loud voices. Noticing green light spilling out from the large doorway, Larisa observed Brittany walk straight into the room.
"Think! Think!" Where could she have gone?"
"I don't know Adriana!" Wendy said as she looked around the room, trying to find clues to Summer's whereabouts.
"Guys? It's Brittany," Pina said as the girl stepped through the door, "H…how did you find out about us being here? Hey, what's up? Are you all right?"
Everyone went silent as they looked at her strange expression. In the low light, they could see her eyes glowing a slight shade of yellow as she viewed the cylinder in the center of the room.
"Destroy the Gifted Totem, Volt Weapon deploy."
Materializing her twin Anti-NOVA weapons, she aimed them directly at the hyperbaric chamber.
"Holy shit! Get down!" Adriana screamed, as Kallie reached to shield Pina from the blast. The four freshmen dove for the ground as the eruption of purple, white and red energy filled the room; the cylindrical chamber exploded into micro-fragments of metal and dust as the shock wave splashed an oval shaped outline of charred destruction on the far wall of the room.
Alarms, warning sirens and flashing lights suddenly activated, signaling the emergency. Throughout the Citadel, banks of auxiliary lights automatically clicked on, illuminating every dark corridor.
Stepping over the damaged conduits, the possessed Pandora moved to where Adriana lay. Electrical sparks crackled and danced off Brittany's body as she walked through the destroyed equipment and stood over the recovering girl. Aiming one weapon, she spoke in frightening monotone. "Death to the Impious Totems." From out in the corridor, Larisa couldn't believe what was happening. Suddenly possessed by an overwhelming sense of rage, she materialized Simargl, and impulsively rushed into the smoking room to save Summer's friends.
With no time to act, Adriana shut her eyes, bracing for the worst. In an instant, Larisa was there swinging her Volt Weapon, impaling Brittany through the stomach and smashing her body against the far wall, causing a significant dent in the reinforced steel.
"Lohman! Are you hurt?" The tall blonde asked, breathing heavy. Pulling Simargl free, she called out to the others, "Is everyone else okay?" After scanning the charred and smoky area, she was relieved to find everyone alive, with nothing but a few scrapes and bruises. "Everyone!" Larisa commanded, "get to the exit immediately! Move it people!"
"Boy, I'm glad to see you!" Adriana exclaimed, still in shock, "Wait, what are you doing here?"
Assisting Adriana through the damaged room to the exit, "I guess I'm here to help you! What is this place?"
"This is where they were keeping Summer!"
"What? Keeping her…like as a prisoner? Are you serious?"
"Yeah, but she's gone now!"
"GONE? Where the hell did she go?"
"Larisa, I have no idea, but…
Hearing a noise behind, the two girls turned to see Brittany getting back to her feet. Her skin, a checkered pattern of thin hexagons with slim pairs of translucent blades protruding from various parts of her back and shoulders - in the center of her chest, grew a small diamond-shaped crystal, pulsating with energy similar to that of the NOVA.
"What's wrong with Brittany? She's looking like a NOVA! Larisa, we need to… Hey, wait a minute!"
Without speaking, Larisa pushed Adriana through the doorway as she faced her former teammate. "Lohman! Promise me you'll get everyone to safety and report all of this to the headmistress. I'll…handle this!"
Adriana nervously nodded, but as she observed Brittany's body glow even more with energy, she changed her mind, "No, you can use my help right now!"
"Negative, insure the safety of your team and the freshmen!"
"Larisa, we can't afford to lose you!"
"I've got this, now get the hell out of here!"
Adriana frowned as she accelerated down the corridor, pushing herself to almost supersonic speed.
Larisa continued breathing heavy as she gritted her teeth, "well Brittany, or whatever the hell you are, let's see who's really the top ranked Pandora in 2nd Year."
Here ends BIRTHRIGHT: Book 2 of Freezing: Accede Destiny. Thanks for reading! Your opinion matters to me, so it would be greatly appreciated if you would take a moment and leave a review.
Below are some teaser questions...
1. Our heroes are in quite a predicament, Summer hasn't been found, but her friends are getting closer to learning the truth. How do you think they will find out if Summer is alive or dead?
2. Larisa just attacked her friend and teammate to save Summer's friends. What's your opinion on her loyalty now? Will she live up to her Ranked 1 status and stop the Anti-NOVA wielding Brittany Temple?
3. If it's true that Amelia helped Satella and Kazuya rescue Summer from stasis, how does her NOVA Prime's manipulation fit in? Can she be trusted?
4. Oren survived...
5. Is Marta really going through with Nightfall's plan and is it really the extermination of all Pandora?
6. Summer is unstable, so re-implantation of Kazuha's legendary Stigmata may equalize her flow rates. What will happen to Summer's power if she really does get the Heroic Stigmata?
7. Will Satellizer really be willing to remove all her Stigmata for Plasma replacements?
8. So, what kind of humanoid is Sledge and can he really be stopped?
9. We just met Eva and learned that there is someone else; the Master. Who are they?
10. What could the title of Book 3: Sovereign mean?
The exciting story continues in...
Book 3 - SOVEREIGN
Attention fans of Accede Destiny who have continued the journey with me through this entire writing project! I wanted to let you all know that I am working on a short story titled "INTREPID and FEARLESS." This story will center on Headmistress Amelia, and her rise from humble beginnings to her status as one the last of the elite Pandora from East Genetics. Check back often for uploaded chapters!