CHAPTER 7 - BETRAYAL OF LOYALTY
Section 3 – Allied Nations Waypoint Safety Zone, Japan
The displaced survivors knew the outcome. The distortion bubble had sheared the top of the roof and superstructure, and now debris and ironwork rained down on the helpless civilians. Once the massive aliens surrounded the safety zone, the trio of Type-S paused as they peered down into the pandemonium - screams of human beings drowned out the sounds of the collapsing building. Not wasting another second, the razor-sharp tentacles flew and tore at the crowds of retreating people - their fragile bodies ripped beyond recognition as construction dust fell around the remains. Another force distortion toppled more of the roof, which crashed down blocking exits with metal and reinforced concrete. The three monstrous aliens glided in further, positioning themselves around the chaos, making escape impossible.
The three Pandora watched helplessly as the survivors were slain. Anguish twisted the looks on their dirt-covered faces as they sifted through the destruction in an attempt to reach each other. "Sarah, Stephanie!" Deanne screamed, "We have to do something!" Another long girder fell to the ground, forming a cloud of dust that plumed into the air. "Where the hell is Amelia?"
"She's not here!" Sarah cried, "It's totally up to us!"
"It's just the three of us?" Stephanie asked, ducking instinctively upon hearing another explosion.
"Don't worry team!" Deanne yelled. "We have a job to do!"
"Right!" Sarah replied, gripping her weapon.
"Our success is slim, but I'm ready!" Stephanie nodded to her friends.
"Okay! Let's distract those bastards so these survivors can have a chance to escape! This might be a one way trip, so are you all ready?" The heroes hugged one another before separating for the last time. "God speed to all of you! I'm so proud to have called you my friends!" Deanne exclaimed before running toward the lead Type-S.
Stephanie and Sarah held hands for a moment longer before splitting. "I'm sorry Amelia couldn't be here for you…" Sarah nodded before sprinting in the direction of the second towering creature. "Take care and give them hell!"
Stephanie faced the third alien and accepted her duty. Accelerating toward the enemy, she saw Alvaro Garza assisting with the rescue of a woman trapped under a mountain of rubble. As she passed, her fabricated smile revealed her mission to the Limiter. "No…" Alvaro replied as he started to chase after Stephanie. "No! Wait! I can help you!"
The control room of Whisper-Twenty-One
Amelia was slammed against the wall as Eva grappled with her. Turning her left leg, Amelia pushed off the support beam, and connected an elbow across Eva's face as she shifted her weight and drove the heel of her boot into the assassin's ankle. In retaliation, Eva pulled the Field Major off-balance and forcibly shoulder-tossed her across the room – her body colliding into a rack server of sensitive computer equipment. Amelia flipped around and re-engaged, tackling the dark woman and forcing her backward. The power of their attacks rocked the thin spire, causing the exterior supports to fatigue and buckle.
With supernatural agility, the dark assassin broke the Field Major's hold and landed a two-hit punch to her face before sweeping her leg and driving her enemy to the floor. In one continuous motion, Amelia lifted her leg and double-kicked Eva in the mouth and throat. Faltering, the raven-haired woman rubbed her neck before wiping the blood from her lip.
"You've improved." she hissed. "How did you know where to find me?" The Dark Pandora then turned to her former Limiter, "Damian lured you here with that tracker didn't he? Pathetic!"
"It's over." Amelia replied. "Your actions end today!" Turning her shoulder, the Field Major crashed into her opponent, crushing Eva's body against a metal partition. The excessive energy from the two woman continued to weaken the antenna, and the tower started to sway in the wind.
Deanne Tanner ducked under a volley of tentacles as she launched upward in an attempt to drive her Volt Weapon into the thick chest armor. Failing in her third attempt, the Pandora landed on the ground and executed an evasive Single Accel - avoiding the alien's fierce retaliation. Dropping back, the powerful Pandora surged forward, delivering another burst of energy as the alien ignored the survivors Deanne was trying to rescue.
Calling to them, "Now everyone! Go! Head for the concourse exit! Don't look back, just keep running!"
The weary group of civilians fled from the fight as the tall Pandora kept the alien's attention. "That's right you alien bastard! Keep your eyes on me!" Deanne felt relieved as the last of the survivors disappeared inside the alcove. The hard part is done, now hopefully those people can reach the lower concourse and get to the street before this building collapses! Spinning her weapon in a semi-circle, the woman taunted the alien, "It's just you and me, so let's go!" The Pandora stormed the Type-S in an explosion of acceleration; her confidence bolstered by the unbreakable desire to defeat her enemy. Screaming at the top of her lungs, she aimed her Volt Weapon and impaled the creature.
Deflecting the strike, the large NOVA flung its sharp arms out and grabbed the Pandora, its tendrils quickly constricting around her waist. Surprised, Deanne struggled against the crushing force before the alien tossed the helpless woman into the ground. The tremendous force of Deanne slamming into the concrete, bent and broke her body. After a few moments, she slowly recovered and barely avoided another heavy attack.
Losing her ability to stand, Deanne had no choice but to retreat behind cover as another tentacle struck at the ground nearby. The threshold of intense pain indicated that the Pandora had suffered a multitude of severe fractures. To make matters worse, the large chunk of superstructure didn't protect the heroic Pandora for very long. Deanne had no choice but to attack as the NOVA relentlessly demolished the area.
Swinging her weapon, the weakened woman limped forward, blocking and slashing at the NOVA's onslaught. Dodging another strike, Deanne lost her balance and fell, just as the NOVA adjusted its offensive. With a high-pitched sound, a glowing essence enveloped the battlefield, immobilizing her instantly. It's a Freezing! I'm trapped! Using every last ounce of strength, Deanne fought against the invisible barrier that was holding her prisoner, but it proved futile. The trapped Pandora knew she had seconds before the final strike, so she desperately looked for Sarah. Scanning the carnage, she found her best friend enduring a similar hardship at the far side of the stadium. She was happy to see her comrade, but wished she had another chance to say goodbye. The stinging sensation of her tearing flesh forced Deanne's eyes shut as her perforated body ruptured, covering the area with blood and human tissue.
The control room of Whisper-Twenty-One
Eva escaped Amelia's grapple and flipped around kicking out the Field Major's leg, dropping the woman onto the floor. In a two-arm strangle hold, the assassin dragged her opponent to the window. "Look and see who the true enemy is!"
Amelia's heart sank as she saw the giant NOVA attacking the inner perimeter of Section Three. "…NO!" She cried, fighting desperately to break Eva's grip. "There's innocent people inside!" Amelia grew more frantic, "Deanne, Sarah… Stephanie! Oh my God, Alvaro!"
Eva spun and roundhouse kicked Amelia to the floor plate. "Your team and Limiter are down there? That's impossible! I cleared that area of Genetics personnel!"
Amelia ignored the raven-haired devil and crawled back to the glass. Placing a hand against the pane, she propped herself up and watched the fires and smoke billowing from the ice rink. "Oh Alvaro…" she whispered. Turning her head, "Why Eva? Why did you do this?"
Damian peeked out from behind a terminal and noticed the two enemies by the window. Eva had lowered her guard and stepped next to the devastated Field Major. She stared out, observing the NOVA's assault. "The duty roster said only el Bridget-Aoi and her team were on Section Three Defensive Duty, and I…sent them away. There wasn't supposed to be anyone else there." The Dark Pandora clenched her fists, "There wasn't supposed to be anyone there!"
"…You're a monster!" Amelia howled. "I don't…know…who or what you are anymore! You've taken EVERYTHING away from me!"
"This is your fault! You brought them here! You sealed your team's death! For what? To capture me?"
"I'm going to kill you!" Amelia declared in a labored breath. "I don't care anymore…"
Sarah Gant never realized Deanne's death, she was too busy with her own Type-S to notice the terrible tragedy that occurred.
The hulking alien lashed out with its slender arms and tried to land a hit on the fast moving Pandora. "Slow moving shit!" She taunted, "You have to move faster than that to get me!" Creating another sonic boom from her tremendous acceleration, the multiple shock waves confused the creature as she completed several evasive maneuvers.
Vaulting against the side of the building, she lunged forward and used the alien's own body as a spring-board to gouge the chest plating. Successfully cracking the armor, the Accel Type Pandora landed on the ground and readied herself for the next attack.
As if called for, the towering Type-S turned and glided in the direction of the lead monster. It appeared that the two creatures were planning to regroup. "Hey, wait a minute!" Sarah yelled chasing after it, "It's not over!" The NOVA floated effortlessly until the two aliens met, doubling the threat against the single young woman. "Damnit! Tag-teaming it huh? You're still going down!" The pair of Type-S remained motionless as the Pandora entered their range of Freezing.
Sarah paused as the lead NOVA transmitted a series of melodic chimes. Suddenly, its massive shoulders contorted, and several raised bumps manifested along the leading edge. Concerned, Sarah witnessed the center of each hump expose a thin needle-shaped projectile. In fierce succession, the Type-S proceeded to launch the missiles at the Pandora's position.
In a panic, Sarah jumped out of the way as the first volley of shots exploded into the ground. "Holy shit, these projectiles are fast!" Dashing sideways, she evaded the second round of attack. "I can do this all day!" She mocked, as the alien's body adjusted once more. "C'mon you piece of shit! Is that all you got?"
Seemingly frustrated, the two creatures pulsated with energy, projecting a similar series of noises. Just like before, their shoulders modulated and the bumps began rising, but this time, the missiles appeared thicker. Sarah confidently anticipated the same kind of assault, so she lowered her head and charged forward. The aliens focused their concentrated attack and launched the projectiles. Blazing through the air, the weapons aimed on the fast moving Pandora. Instead of piercing its intended target, the cylinders of each projectile separated and a glistening material flung itself toward the woman. Sarah was instantly ensnared in razor sharp webbing and screamed in horror as the netting quickly recoiled - tightening until the Pandora was neatly shredded into small geometric pieces.
The control room of Whisper-Twenty-One
Eva blocked Amelia's tackle, and with supernatural reflexes, the assassin spun and landed an elbow across the Field Major's jaw. She quickly grabbed her stunned enemy and threw the woman toward the opposite end of the control room.
"You've got spirit Amelia, but you're no match for me!"
"Why?" Amelia shouted, slowly getting to her feet. "What could you possibly gain, you traitor?"
"Gain?" Eva laughed, "You don't understand. Once Master receives confirmation of what happened, he'll finally accept me."
"You're crazy, who is this Master you're talking about? You don't make any sense!"
"He's…the father…I never had."
Amelia teetered, before regaining her footing. The sustained injuries suffered at the hands of her rival were adding up. Amelia could feel her heart pounding in her chest. If I fail to gain the upper hand, the Wraith of the East wins.
Damian got up as the two combatants exchanged another series of fast close-combat strikes. As the Limiter steadied himself, Amelia's body landed at his feet. Rolling forward, the Field Major got up and dove at the dark assassin again.
"Stop it! Stop please!" Damian shouted, wanting the conflict between the two warriors to be over. Amelia ignored him as she carried her opponent rearward - the momentum driving the two through the exit and tumbling over the stair railing, crashing hard onto the middle landing.
"Eva!" The Limiter limped to the doorway, trying to steady himself as the antenna swayed more violently. Getting to the edge, he looked down and saw the two bodies in a heap fifteen meters below. Nervous, he descended the thin stairs, tightly gripping the handrail as the building distorted and flexed.
Stephanie was truly afraid. The Pandora had struggled with her awareness of dying ever since she entered the Pandora Program. Back in Basics School, she was taught to expect death on the battlefield, but unlike her fellow teammates, she was always uneasy with the concept.
When Stephanie Bates met Amelia Ellsworth, her life changed. She looked up to the young Pandora and appreciated her friendship. Amelia was the only cadet who saw Stephanie as an individual and not as a competitor. In Stephanie's opinion, Amelia was the person she wanted to aspire to. Unfortunately, everything unraveled during the final Basics School assessment. Stephanie's image was shattered when her 'role model' confessed the desire in giving up. It hurt Stephanie to watch her close friend succumb to such grief, which changed her overall perspective of her. Even though Amelia chose to sacrifice herself to save Stephanie, the young Pandora still found it difficult to believe in her again.
As the third NOVA shot it's tentacles in the woman's direction, Stephanie continued to have distracting thoughts about Amelia. As she dodged, jumped and ducked under the flurry of the monster's attack, her mind kept wandering: Where is Amelia? I hope she's doing ok. She said she was coming right back! I really wish she was here with me now, I truly believe I'm going to die today and I have a lot more things that I wanted to say to her!
Alvaro Garza caught up to where Stephanie was fighting. "Stephanie! Wait, I'm here!"
The Pandora turned to see Amelia's Limiter rushing over and taking position behind some cover. "Get the hell out of here Alvaro! You can't help me! Stay back!"
Stephanie believed that Alvaro wished to help because of the closeness he felt to his Pandora's teammates. With uncontrollable panic driving everyone's emotions, Alvaro thought he could nullify the NOVA's Freezing effect and bolster Stephanie's chances of defeating the alien. Unfortunately, he remembered that his power only works with Amelia, so he reluctantly pulled his sidearm. "The ANMP gave me a gun so I can help distract the monster!"
Stephanie performed a backward handspring and landed next to the anxious young man. "Alvaro, I need you to lead the remaining survivors away from here! You can't do anything with that thing!"
"I don't want to leave you alone!" He shouted as gigantic chunks of construction debris fell around their position as the alien smashed at the crumbling superstructure. "Stephanie, please! Deanne and Sarah are gone, it's just the two of us left!" For a moment, the Pandora lost her nerve, she scanned the destruction and confirmed that none of her friends were alive. Stephanie knew defending the safety zone was suicide, and despite the unfavorable odds, she held onto a glimmer of hope that her best friend and team leader would appear. As the NOVA advanced, she humbled herself to accepting her fate.
"Alvaro, leave me alone, you're going to get killed!"
"No Stephanie, we can do this together!" He tried to reassure her that he could be useful, but they both knew the truth. The Pandora smiled and touched his cheek.
"I can see why Amelia chose you." Alvaro had tears in his eyes as she pushed him away. "Go, protect the remaining survivors! Get them to…" The two heroes ducked as the third NOVA struck out with its arms and demolished another section of the superstructure directly above them. Grabbing Alvaro, Stephanie leapt to the side as another avalanche of rubble crashed down. Without saying a word, the woman placed him behind the protection of another broken wall and kissed his cheek. Whispering in his ear, she gave him her final order, "Save the survivors please…" Turning, she ran toward the Type-S with her weapon in hand. Alvaro just stood and watched the Pandora re-engaged the creature.
Amelia slowly rolled over and lifted herself up. Turning toward her adversary, she just had a moment to throw her hands up as the dark assassin connected a heavy kick, sending the Field Major over the rail and plummeting the remaining fifteen meters to the ground.
Landing next to her, Eva grabbed the woman by the neck and tossed her over a pile of rocks. "You've lost!" She screamed, "Just give up!"
The Field Major raised herself off the ground and surveyed the scorched landscape. Her mottled hair and torn uniform fluttered in the warm breeze as her heart skipped a beat. As she looked out over the wasteland, she could feel the overwhelming sorrow. The heavy black smoke hung low over the horizon as red-hot cinders blew in all directions.
"I've had dreams Amy, dreams you're surrounded by fire and complete desolation. An energy beam engulfs everything - vaporizing the whole world…and there was someone else with you too. I also saw the N…NOV… NOVA…"
Amelia finally understood Allison's dream. Here, among the destruction, was the enemy; an ex-Pandora named Eva Dalca. Surrounding them was an invasion force of NOVA and the entire planet was under siege -mankind's hope was failing.
"This…can't be happening." She said as the Wraith came closer. Materializing Silverstarr, Amelia twirled the slender sword behind her back and aimed it at her opponent. "I have to stop you…"
"Still not giving up?" In a flash of light, Balaur's Fang appeared in Eva's right hand. She slowly turned and twisted her body into an offensive stance. "As a fellow fighter, I respected you by not using my Volt Weapon, it seems you've become desperate!" Amelia slowly raised the sword above her head - the seriousness of her expression made Eva concerned. "You won't last very long with your injuries. I'm willing to spare your life if you just surrender!"
The Field Major tried to focus, keeping her sword balanced, "Eva Dalca, you're…under arrest for treason and…murder."
The Dark Pandora shook her head in disappointment. "If that's your choice, then I won't hold back. I will make your death honorable and quick."
Stephanie crashed hard against the ground, the searing heat melting away part of her uniform, exposing her boiling flesh. She tried protecting herself, but the tremendous blast caused serious damage across the majority of her body, leaving the Pandora severely disfigured. Gasping, Stephanie turned her back on the NOVA and gazed up at Alvaro. She found that the Limiter had retreated to the upper level and had gathered the last remaining survivors together.
As painful as it was to watch, Alvaro observed his friend's final moment. The Pandora went to reach out with a hand as she fell to her knees, her last desire was to make sure Alvaro and the civilians were safe. He couldn't hold back his emotions as Stephanie collapsed face down on the ground - her charred body continuing to broil and wither.
"Mister! We have to escape!" One of the survivors exclaimed. It was difficult for Alvaro to retain any sanity as the three aliens converged on their position. Moving slowly as if toying with their cornered prey, the Type-S produced more melodic sounds, before their gigantic bodies glowed with energy.
"This way! No! Look out!" Alvaro shouted, but nobody was able to act on his instruction. Within a second, the chest plating of the lead NOVA opened, exposing the modulating core membrane. Next, a brilliant array of light emanated from the center - a terrible focused fusion beam of vaporizing power sliced a precise swath through the crowd of people and out through the side of the building. Alvaro cried out in anger as many of the civilians atomized before his eyes. "No!" He shouted as more people disintegrated. "You bastards!"
Running toward the panicking survivors, he met up with Malina Brennan. "Malina! Where is your mother and brothers?" The pre-teen seemed to be in shock, and couldn't answer. Picking up the girl, Alvaro tried escaping through a doorway to the lower concourse level. As they hurried through the darkened tunnel, they found the exit blocked with fallen debris. "Don't worry, I'll get you back to your family! Let's try to go this way!" As they ran, they heard more screams and the sound of the fusion weapon. The brave Limiter carried Malina back through the concourse and around to the other side of the broken building. He slid to a stop as another beam of pure energy separated the walls and carved more of the superstructure away from the rest of the building. "This whole place is falling down! Hold tight Malina! I'm going to run through!" Dodging more falling concrete, the pair found an undamaged staircase to the lower concourse. Heading down the uneven steps, Alvaro lost his balance, and the two crashed to the floor. The young girl held her head as the building shook. "We're almost out! Here we go, I'm sorry! This way!" Malina grabbed onto Alvaro as he lifted her up. The two found a crevice between some fallen material, and squeezed through. Running from the building, they made it outside to the deserted streets. "We did it! We did it…oh no!" Alvaro's brief elation turned to dread as the two survivors came face to face with a fourth Type-S floating toward them.
"Malina?" Alvaro asked, pulling her close to his body; her shaking and convulsing made it difficult for the young girl to focus on his voice. "Malina, listen to me! I want you to keep your eyes on me. Can you do that?" She kept shaking uncontrollably, but gripped his arms as tight as she could. "Just keep you eyes on me…don't look at it, just look at me okay? I'm right here with you." She tried to nod as her terrified eyes stared into his. Tears streamed down the little girl's face as he stroked her hair and rubbed her cheek. "That's it," He encouraged, "Just keep looking at me. It'll be okay, I'm with you Malina…"
The gleaming fury of the fusion weapon did its work, pulverizing everything in its path, and dispersing the bodies of Alvaro Garza and Malina Brennan.
Amelia felt the tingle within her body immediately. She turned her attention back to the remains of Section Three, witnessing the energy weapon's discharge. "Alvaro…" she whispered as she ducked another attack. Eva noticed her opponent's distraction and cartwheeled sideways sinking the blade into Amelia's mid-section. The Field Major cried out as the assassin pushed the blade in farther.
"What was that just now?" She taunted, "He's dead isn't he?"
Amelia panted, still looking down at the ground. Crushed, she let her arms fall to her side allowing Silverstarr to disappear. Flinching with pain, Amelia's body shook as Eva pulled her weapon free. "I'm sure he died a hero's death."
"…it wasn't supposed to…happen this way…"
"Amelia, I've kept my promise. Submit to me and I'll spare your life. You've endured enough pain; with Alvaro and your team destroyed, you don't have to suffer anymore. Allied Nation forces will come to this place and investigate the loss of Section Three. You can be rescued!" Eva lowered her weapon and stepped away. "Don't try to follow me, there are NOVA spawning everywhere and I want you to stay alive. We'll meet again someday."
Amelia coughed up blood as her mind wandered. A cold feeling came over as she recalled a distant memory. "You're lucky Amy Leah, that I saved your life. Now I will expect nothing less from you in return. Don't ever forget that Pandora always keep their promises."
"…No…" The Field Major whispered. "You… can't…leave…"
Eva frowned at the wounded Pandora. "Are you stupid? Do you wish to die?"
"You told me…that I was lucky…"
"…I was lucky that you saved my life…"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"…in Basics School…"
"I never saved your life." Eva seemed puzzled as she gripped her scythe tighter.
Amelia coughed again as she smiled, "You forgot didn't you? I thought Pandora always keep their promises. Even now you reminded me…"
Eva grew frustrated, her anger boiling as she came closer. "I'm not a Pandora anymore Amelia!"
"You've always been one, you were just forced to forget…"
"You don't know anything about me!" Eva screamed. "You don't know my past! You don't know!"
Amelia felt her strength stabilize as the Stigmata's healing energy swelled. "You were a good person Eva…brave and powerful. Why did this happen? You don't have to be a slave to your Master any longer. Wake up!"
"Stop it! Shut up, shut up!" Eva shouted, still gripping her head and shaking. "Stop, stop, stop!" Amelia was curious as she pressed further. Forcing herself to stand, she could see her adversary was clearly distracted and was struggling internally with something. Now was Amelia's chance.
"There is a bigger threat than us…the NOVA. This planet is under attack, and it's up to us to stop it. You, and me Eva. It's up to us - we are mankind's last hope. We are the last of the Elite guard of trained Pandora."
Damian hid behind some chunks of earth as he watched the two women. He believed it was up to him to stop Eva from causing anymore harm, but he didn't know how to go about doing it. As he waited for the right moment, he continued listening to their interaction.
"No, no, no! Shut up, shut up!" Eva fought harder against the whispers in her mind, Gavril's device had conditioned her so perfectly, that any individual thought brought confusion and agony. "Stop it please!"
Amelia forced herself forward. "Yes! I need you Eva, I need you to help me defeat the NOVA. I need your strength and courage!"
"Stop it! Shut up, shut up!" Amelia tried again, but the dark-haired Pandora degraded further. Finally reaching the breaking point, Eva's resolve crumbled. Damian saw his opportunity and took it – running toward the two women with his arms outstretched. He knew he couldn't stop her in time, but it didn't matter; he was willing to do anything for his love. Screaming in primal rage, Eva blindly twirled her weapon and slashed. The blunt sound of the weapon severing flesh surprised the dark assassin. Amelia yelled out in pain as the scythe tore through Damian's body and into hers.
Stunned, Eva reached out and grabbed his right shoulder; her anger dissipating as she realized what had happened. Damian's heart relentlessly pumped blood through the severed artery as he hemorrhaged all over the two Pandora. "No! Oh my God what have I done?" Eva released Balaur's Fang, and watched both victims slump to the ground.
The dark Pandora quickly pulled the young man up to cradle him. Her sobbing was frantic as she felt his body give out - the gentle tinge of released energy inside her heart indicated his uncomfortable passing. Confused, Eva paced around the uneven ground, carrying his body as if he was a child. Beside herself, the assassin refused to believe she was responsible for killing her Limiter - every suppressed emotion erupted at once as the ex-Pandora cried openly. Gently rocking his body, the woman whispered in his ear that she loved him and admitted how sorry she was for everything.
A trembling hand covered the seeping gash in her side; Amelia winced, trying to sit up. Several meters away was Eva Dalca, walking the body of Damian Mathis in circles - the pitiful sight making the Field Major reflect on her own emptiness. Bracing herself, she scanned the horizon - the dark-orange cinders still peppered the landscape as the wind carried the slivers of burning material west from the shores of the ocean. To her surprise, she saw only two tall aliens floating several kilometers away. The area was still unsafe, but the majority of the Type-S had disappeared. Getting to her feet, she limped slowly toward her rival, summoning her remaining energy to materialize Silverstarr.
Eva noticed Amelia approaching, but was too depressed to resume the confrontation. As a peaceful gesture, she spoke first. "He's dead, Amy Leah...he really died by my hand."
"I know." Amelia said, trying to support her weight. "He wanted to stop the two of us from fighting."
"He was always like that…always protecting me." Eva's mind-control waned as her raw emotion replaced the programmed parameters. She kept her head down as Amelia stepped closer. "I surrender myself to you Field Major, and I'm prepared for the consequences of my crimes. I…have no passion to continue our battle. I've the lost the will to fight, and I don't hear the voices anymore. So…what's going to happen now?"
Shocked, Amelia had to think before answering, "We will have to wait for a transport to take us back to GHQ. From there, you'll be imprisoned until the tribunal can rule on your actions. I'm positive you'll stay incarcerated until the global NOVA threat is neutralized."
Eva sighed as she gripped Damian's body tighter. "They'll have enough evidence to charge me with treason and…sentence me to death."
Accepting the premature verdict, "It seems appropriate…after everything I've done."
"It's too bad, we've been through so much, you and me."
Eva forced a smile as she look over at her rival. "We surely have Amelia."
"How could you have willingly done this? I still don't understand everything."
"I can't really explain what happened either. I just felt these overwhelming urges; the…voices you know? Thankfully, I hear nothing but a silent peace inside my head." Eva continued to aimlessly move Damian around in random circles.
"You have to leave him behind. We need to get to higher ground to signal a rescue. This area is still too dangerous." Amelia's injuries burned throughout her abdomen as she kept pressure on the deep wounds.
"I know, just give me another…oh shit…" The raven-haired Pandora's attitude quickly changed as she focused on something in the distance; her keen eyesight spotting the sauntering outlines of at least a dozen humanoid NOVA.
"What is it?" Amelia asked nervously.
"Can you run?" The assassin asked, the tone in her voice was a mix of fear and anxiety.
"I can barely stand…why?"
"Start heading southwest…there are NOVA coming this way." Amelia turned and saw the humanoid creatures marching toward them.
"Oh my God…Eva, I think they spotted us!"
Placing the body of Damian on the scorched earth, she said her last farewell. "Goodbye my love, I think I'm understanding why you risked your life to visit me all those years ago. Now, I know what I have to do…please wait for me, I'll be joining you soon."
The group of bloodthirsty creatures bounded toward the two Pandora after recognizing their presence within the city's destruction. Gritting her teeth, Balaur's Fang flashed into Eva's right hand "Amelia, get out of here. I'll hold them off for you to escape."
"Wait a damn minute! You can't! Eva, you'll die and then I'll lose my chances of survival as well! We need to stick together! Eva stop!" It was no use trying to convince the stubborn woman, the Wraith of the East impulsively exploded forward in a burst of acceleration.
The dark Pandora didn't look back as she ran. Eva's mind was clear for the first time in years. There wasn't any stinging whispers or personal conflicts. The Pandora almost had a smile on her face as she ran toward her impending death. The freedom made her feel stronger than ever. I'm still a Pandora! I'm going to do my duty and keep these bastards away from Amelia! The hard-charging woman collided with the two leading humanoids, knocking them sideways into the dirt. Twirling in mid-air, she crashed down in the center of the alien horde. As they circled her, she eyed each of their snarling faces, taunting them to attack her.
Amelia hobbled along as fast as she could when she noticed the lone tiltjet circling the area of Section Three. As long as she could reach sensory range of the aircraft, she would be guaranteed a rescue. Focusing on the plane, Amelia didn't want to look back at the mob of humanoid creatures Eva was entangled with. She sacrificed herself for me again! Why? This won't change anything! What the hell is going on?
A large paw slashed her face as the dark Pandora fell sideways from the impact. Still disorientated, Eva crashed into the body of another humanoid monster before recovering and driving her heel into its mid-section and then retaliating against another alien by slashing at its neck. Ducking and dodging another assault, the nimble woman positioned her body and performed a Tripe Accel, gutting five creatures in one continuous action.
Determining that she had reached the limit of the tiltjet's sensors, Amelia fell to her knees. Her severe exhaustion impeded the Field Major from going any further. Her vision blurred as she imagined the aircraft banking around and soaring toward her position. As Amelia fell into unconsciousness, her last thought dwelled on Alvaro and how much she missed him.
"Amelia!" Eva screamed as she witnessed the Field Major's collapse from a few hundred yards away. "No Goddammit!" In anger, she gripped a NOVA by its neck and crashed it into another before spinning her scythe in a circular pattern to engage the next threat.
A unique sensation caught the dark Pandora off guard as a humanoid monster dug its sharp teeth into her neck and shoulder. In an instant, her left leg gave way as she fell downward under the weight of the creature. With both hands, Eva seized its maw and forcibly pushed it off her body. Still grasping the monster's head, another alien intervened and ripped a terrible gash across her chest and side.
Summoning her remaining strength, the Wraith of the East refused to give up. Tossing a stunned alien against another, she tumbled underneath the legs of another while slashing upwards with her Volt Weapon dissevering another. Continuing to draw the monsters away from Amelia's position, she counted six remaining NOVA as she retreated.
"That's it!" She panted, "Follow me…" Eva could taste blood in her mouth as she drew them in closer. She did her best to defend against the aliens' relentless onslaught, but her stamina was failing. Of course the confident assassin knew that taking on so many NOVA was useless, nonetheless, the shear enjoyment of releasing her anger upon the invaders gave her just a few more seconds of strength.
Eva endured several more blows to her head and torso which brought the assassin to her knees. Three creatures trampled the struggling woman and began to feast upon her exposed flesh. Losing sight of Amelia, Eva hoped that her former rival was far enough away to not attract the aliens' attention. Now, at the mercy of the enemy, she would soon be reuniting with her one true love. The numbing sensation denied Eva the agonizing pain of the creatures' incessant gnawing of her shredded shoulders, back and neck. Her left arm had been removed above her elbow, and Balaur's Fang wouldn't materialize any longer. Through the carnage, she thought she saw something closing in on her position. Her fading vision describing a dark-gray shadowy bi-ped approaching. The figure didn't seem human, it actually appeared to be more mechanical in nature.
"Lock EFS weapons on targets." Said a voice over the com-link.
"Affirmative, on your mark."
"EFS rockets away." The white trails of the micro-missiles drew parallel lines across the ground as each projectile destroyed the remaining NOVA with pin-point accuracy. "Targets pacified sir. Nothing further on my scopes."
"Confirmed, excellent work pilot, your company's armor is quite impressive."
"Thank you sir, it's the latest model from Minsk Heavy Industries."
"Roger that. Okay, Teams One and Two, retrieve the asset. You have forty-eight seconds before the Genetics tiltjet picks us up on their sensors." The combined teams of eight soldiers worked efficiently as they gathered Eva Dalca from the smoking remains of the humanoid NOVA. One soldier attached medical equipment to the woman's chest, while the others gently loaded the Pandora onto the portable med cot.
"Thirty seconds…" Gavril Magda calmly reminded.
The dark-haired woman was secured and the team of soldiers hastily moved her across the demolished landscape to a waiting transport.
"Nineteen seconds men!"
As predicted, the lone tiltjet streaked across the sky as it banked over the smoking wreckage of Section Three. As it passed overhead, it began to circle for a third time.
Nightfall's personnel vehicle successfully stayed outside the aircraft's effective radar range and proceeded further away from the war-torn area. As the six-wheeled transport bounded over the bumps and road debris, Gavril sat down next to his wounded asset. The woman had a myriad of devices connected to her body as the complicated equipment monitored her unstable life signs. "Eva, I'm so proud of you." He said, stroking her blood-soaked hair, "Not only did you prove your loyalty, but you allowed Nightfall to test its latest anti-NOVA weaponry in the field. Everything went according to my plan." Eva managed to open one eye as she frowned at his face. "Eva? Don't be discouraged my sweet, we'll have you fixed up, good as new." He leaned in closer, touching her lips with his own. "I have a new mission for you darling." He slid his open mouth to her left ear, "You're going to participate in a new experiment; I met a man named Olek Litvinchuk, and the good doctor has some promising research. He calls it the Moirai Project."
A single tear dripped down the side of her encrusted face as she realized her disillusionment – being rescued, the Master denied her wish to reunite with her Limiter and now she will be a slave to him again.
Gavril gazed into her eyes as he thought about what he witnessed on the battlefield.
Eva my sweet, you earned a place by my side, but unfortunately you will not get the reward you were hoping for.
Touching the device around his neck, he unclasped the chain and held it in his hand. The dark assassin followed his hand with her open eye. Marveling at Dr. Dehrdome's amazing craftsmanship, he gently wrapped the technology around the Pandora's neck. Sliding the enabler, the tiny sensory node pulsated with energy. Eva shuddered as the device wiped away every memory from the last five hours, leaving his victim empty, cold and indifferent.
"Eva?" Gavril asked with a twisted smile.
The remnants of Section Three
"Who is she?" Chrissie asked as Maya and Kim hauled the unconscious woman aboard.
"Put her here." Satellizer ordered, gesturing to the fold-out cot. The two women quickly moved the battered Pandora over to the makeshift bed.
"Her uniform is pretty messed up, but she's a 3rd Field Major." Kim said, as she helped lay the officer down.
"Life signs?" Satellizer requested.
"One moment." Maya inspected the woman's body and felt for a pulse and any evidence of breathing. "She's pretty busted up, but she's still alive. It's a miracle the scanners picked up her signal at all."
"I've seen this person before." The 1st Field Major admitted as she gave the all-clear to the pilot. "She looks like Amelia Ellsworth, from Genetics America."
"The former Warblade of the East?" Maya asked as Kim and Chrissie looked on. "How did she end up way out here?"
"Is there a problem Lieutenant McGeady?"
"Aye ma'am, no problem." Maya fumbled in the portable medical kit and pulled a Hypo-Stim from its red colored case. Plunging the needle into the unresponsive woman's chest, she squeezed in the medical gel. Immediately, the patient awoke and seemed excited as her senses came rushing back.
"Where…am I?" She asked in between coughs and gasps."
"Name, rank and identification." Satellizer ordered, showing no emotion.
"What? Oh…protocol…right…" The officer struggling to remember. "Amelia Ellsworth, 3rd Field Major, Genetics America…GM476, recently assigned Civilian Defense Duty to Section Three."
"See, I knew it! The Warblade!" Maya said, proud of herself for knowing Amelia's past reputation.
"So, Field Major Ellsworth! I'm Second Lieutenant Maya McGeady, and this here is Second Lieutenant Kim Okada." Amelia barely nodded as she was introduced to the young women. "Over there is First Lieutenant Chrissie Fernway, and I'm sure you know 1st Field Major Satellizer el Bridget-Aoi."
Amelia tilted her head after hearing the name. "Satellizer? You were the ones…that were called away from Section Three…" Amelia then remembered the attack, "Oh God, the people!" Amelia forced herself to sit up, "We need to get back there…look for survivors. We have to save them…" Amelia blinked in confusion as the four women sat in silence. "Wait…what's going on here?"
The atmosphere inside the cabin quickly became uncomfortable as their silence lingered. Suddenly, a sarcastic laugh from the back of the aircraft interrupted. "You dolls think you're human? You think you have a shred of emotion? Of course they're the ones who left them all to die…" The raspy man's voice taunted them from a restrained jump seat. "Stupid dolls, obeying your damn orders and performing your duty…it's pathetic." Amelia was puzzled at this strange man's affirmation. Turning her attention, "What are you talking about sir?"
"Tell her 1st Field Major!" Mavis shouted.
"Enough Commander…" Kim replied firmly.
"Tell her about the Section Three reports! Explain to that woman how you and your team caused the loss of so many lives…" The man trailed off as his guilt betrayed his unsettling demeanor. "Tell her how you're responsible for the deaths of countless men, woman and…children!"
Amelia wouldn't believe it, "Tell me there were some survivors? Please? Tell me all of this isn't true?"
Saint Cecilia's Independent Care
2nd Floor, Room 7
Washington State, United States of America
The write-in application for the Headmistress position consisted of an online document and a hand-written four page letter of intent. Amelia forced herself to focus as her tired eyes blurred the double-spaced words. She sat hunched over the paper curling her auburn hair behind her right ear as she tapped the pen.
"How far have you gotten Amy?" Allison inquired as she mixed some raspberry ice tea. Sighing, the tall Pandora slapped the pen on the table and pushed her chair away.
"Ugh! I can't do it mom. I don't know what to say."
"What can't you do dear?" The old woman inquired.
"This whole letter writing thing! How do people even write with pen and paper anymore? I don't even know what to say anyways, this is so stupid!"
Allison chuckled as she poured two tall glasses. Placing a plate of ham and turkey sandwich wedges and the tea on a serving tray, she walked the lunch to the table. "Here, take a break and eat something."
"I'm not hungry mom."
"Eat it, Amy Leah."
"Fine mother…" Amelia exhaled as she sat heavily in the chair, staring at the plate of food.
"Your brother invited me to dinner on Thursday. I would like it if you came with me. Can you pick me up around 5pm?"
Amelia took a sip of the refreshing liquid. "I'll think about it. Jonathon's kids can be troublesome sometimes and they always want to talk and hear stories about their superhero-aunt."
Allison smiled as she took a bite of her sandwich. "Can you blame them? You'll always be a hero to them. You and your friends defeated the NOVA remember? That's not something young people forget about."
"I'm not the hero, Jonathon's the hero; for being a real father, starting a family and getting us all back together."
"Give your teenage nieces and nephew another chance. They look up to you." Allison said cheerfully, "Now eat that sandwich young lady."
"Mom! I'm forty years old. I don't feel young anymore. I feel my life has been wasted on so much tragedy and fighting…" The woman lightly pounded her fist on the table as she looked out the window and thought about the application. "I don't know…what should I say in the stupid letter? I just can't think of anything. I don't even know why I listened to Katrin in the first place! God it's so stupid!"
Allison thought for a moment. "Write about your feelings from your heart. I would explain not just how you could be a good Headmistress, but how you would serve in the position. We've been at peace for years, so you could also write about how you were instrumental in the defeat of the enemy, and the training of all those girls…"
"I thought of all that already."
"Then you've got your application finished!"
"It's not that simple mom." Amelia replied as she nibbled a turkey sandwich. "Maybe I shouldn't apply for the position. I should just resign my commission and get a house by the ocean. Maybe I shouldn't be a Pandora anymore. I…think I would like to start over."
"You're thinking about him again aren't you? I'm sure the two of you would have had a beautiful place by the water."
"Yeah, well that dream is over…"
Allison patted her daughter's hand. "Amy, you were always destined to do something great. Don't retire, reach for the top and be that force for good again. Go back to Genetics and make your mother proud."
Proud… Amelia thought, after all the troubled years, she never dreamed that Allison would support her continued career in the Pandora Program. As she gazed at her mother from across the table, a smile formed on the woman's face. "You're…proud of me mom?"
"Of course sweetheart, how could a mother not be? I know I've stumbled and given up, and purposely alienated myself from you and Jon. I absolutely hated every minute of your time away from me, but I've always been proud of you Amy…Amelia. I hope that one day you'll forgive your crazy old mother."
"Mom…" Amelia's voice was shaky. "I'm sorry for becoming a Pandora, I should have never challenged dad all those years ago." Allison swiped her gray hair aside and took another drink of her ice tea.
"You did what you thought was best for your family. You showed a lot of maturity back then."
"I love you mom."
Allison's smiled widened. "I love you too honey, now let's try to finish your application."
"Okay, what do I have to lose right? Sure, why the hell not? I'll make you proud mom. I'll do my best and really make an impact for good."
"I know you will Amy."
Amelia shrugged, "Now, all I have to do is make sure my interview goes well...I haven't gotten the job yet you know."
"You'll get the job, I'm sure of it. I had a dream about it actually." Allison said confidently.
Amelia raised an eyebrow as she paused. "Wait. You had a dream about me again?"
"Oh yes…it was through divine intervention that you got the job." Amelia's mouth remained opened for a moment before she could muster a reply.
"Mother? What do you mean by…divine intervention?"
Here ends the side story of Freezing: Intrepid and Fearless. Thanks for reading! Your opinion matters to me, so it would be greatly appreciated if you would take a moment and leave a review.
The exciting story continues in...
Book 3 - Sovereign