Chapter 8: Destiny
'Anything new to report, Mana?'
'It's been a week since we finished evacuating Tokyo, but Ganossa still hasn't made a move. Cyclotron activity has increased, as has the number of Lucifer Hawks detected in the city. I'm
afraid that the Cerberus system and manned patrols are only killing a fraction of them.'We have enough provisions to stay here for at least a month, but I think we'll get sick of those ration packs long before then. Rally, we need to make the first move.' The two were sitting in the corner of Rally's office that she'd walled off as a bedroom. The bed was the only seat available, but the appearance of privacy made up for any awkwardness.
'And what would that be? We know that Ganossa plans to open the Gates of Nemesis, but our only option now is to destroy the Cyclotron. Doing that could take out half of Tokyo. I have Lebia looking into ways to deactivate the Cyclotron, but that has to be done at the right time–too early and Ganossa could simply delay his plans while he restarts it.'
'We can't just sit here doing nothing! For all we know, Ganossa is just trying to starve us out. He has the numbers to easily keep us from bringing in supplies by land or by air.'
'If it comes to that, we have other options. However, it's not likely that we'll have to wait long. The Cyclotron is almost at full power and I can feel great powers gathering.'
'I hope you're right. The waiting is wearing us down…as are the close quarters. Having everyone live in the station was a good plan for security, but it won't be long before serious problems appear.
'The gateway is not open yet. Your body shall be returned to you at the proper time.'
'But the AMP opposes me! Rally Cheyenne has somehow been healed of her wound and Katsumi Liqueur has broken free of the Demon Sword. Without my full powers, our forces cannot prevail.'
'This last offensive has been…costly. Perhaps it is time to seek a peaceful resolution.'
'No! Not now, after all we've sacrificed! Will you let Rosa's death be in vain?'
The being of light stood silent for a moment. 'Very well, I shall return your body. But this is your last chance, Ganossa. Do you understand?'
'I do. Gaia will be yours.' The lavender-haired mage bowed low and teleported away to reclaim what he had given up in his bargain years ago. A tall black and grey Lucifer Hawk materialized a few feet from where he had been standing.
'Did you hear everything?'
'Yes, Goddess Nemesis. I do not trust that man: he has deceived us before.'
'Neither do I. You must ensure that his plots do not harm us. I rely on you in this, Lucifer.' The Hawk bowed, hand to breast, and departed in the same fashion as Ganossa had .
Katsumi and Kiddy swapped jokes as they approached the locker room at the end of an exhausting night shift–jokes that made Nami and Yuki blush behind them. The door swung open, almost hitting them in the face, as Alex emerged wearing a long blue robe. 'Morning, ladies,' he yawned.
'What were you doing in the women's locker room?' demanded Katsumi. The silver-haired man looked up and blinked at the sign.
'Must've translocated into the wrong one. What's the problem? I didn't see anyone else in there.'
'Morning, Director. Did you know that this pervert was in the locker room with you?' Alex jumped like a goosed girl as Rally exited the locker room behind him with her jacket over her arm. She adjusted her tie as she answered Kiddy's question.
'I heard some bad singing, but I thought that was just you. It's nice to know someone's interested in me, though.' Alex blushed and translocated himself into his office.
'Did she say what I think she said?' Katsumi asked Kiddy once the older woman was out of earshot. The cyborg nodded slowly. The blue-haired mage continued, 'Then the rumours about those two are true? When do you think it started?'
'Not the night we picked him up in the park. He was in no shape to do anything that night. They were together in her office for a while when he woke up, though…and he walked out with a new job that didn't even exist before.' The two younger officers quietly entered the locker room while Kiddy and Katsumi pondered the question.
'There's only one way to find out, and I don't think either of you is brave enough to try it,' a new voice interrupted from behind.
'How long have you been listening, Lum Cheng?'
'Long enough to know that you and Kiddy are discussing something that really isn't any of your business. Who cares what those two do? From what Grandpa says, it's about time she found someone. I'd like to take a shower now, if you don't mind.' The diminutive mage pushed past the two women with a towel slung over her shoulder.
'If you've broken something, leave it on the table. If you're here to ask about this morning, get out.' Alex called from his office as Kiddy stepped in. His screen displayed the schematics for one of Mobile Division One's suits. An inset in one corner was linked to a camera facing the door.
'My blaster refuses to accept this magazine. Is something wrong with it?' The redhead dropped the weapon on the desk.
'Contact's dirty. Looks like Lucifer Hawk ichor…just a sec while I clean it.' Alex strode to the workbench where he picked up a bottle of green solvent and a soft cloth.
'Hey, what's this?' Kiddy tapped a fat, waist-high cylinder standing in one corner. Multi-coloured lights danced within.
'That's the firing chamber from one of Simurgh's pulse cannon. It needs a little new coolant, but there's also something not quite right with the power feed. That's the arm from Ralph's suit. The trigger for his blaster's been sticking,' Alex explained as Kiddy poked at a partly disassembled vambrace. As Kiddy prodded a plain black box on the counter, he shouted, 'Don't touch that!'
'Why? Is it some sort of bomb?'
'No, that's my lunch . Now, if you'll leave that alone, I have something for you. The R&D folks sent it over just last week. The shippers weren't all that careful with it and it's a little…delicate.' Alex whipped the tarp off a large item in the back corner to reveal a gun fully as long as Kiddy was tall. Bulky cooling and energy supply systems swelled behind the bazooka-style shoulder rest; the trigger was housed in a grip near the muzzle. Kiddy effortlessly hoisted the weapon to her shoulder and jokingly took aim at Alex.
'Nice. What is it?'
'The tech people say that it's a combination of the Graviton and the spirit shield weapon first tested almost four years ago by the AMP. The test data indicates that it may be capable of taking out a small building with a single shot. It still hasn't been field-tested against Lucifer Hawks, though. How's the saddle feel?'
'It's a bit low in the front–makes me want to aim at your feet instead of your head.' A slip of foam duct-taped in place solved the problem.
Alarms blared in the hall outside, slightly muffled by the walls. Mana's voice cut through the clamour. 'Attention, all personnel: we are now on Status One alert. All officers report to the AMP office for briefing in five minutes.'
Five minutes later, every member of the AMP and Mobile Division One stood in full gear in the AMP's spacious office. Rally wore the slim sword Avalanche Wong had pulled from her that terrible night when Station 00 fell. Lebia called up a map of Tokyo on the holographic display and Mana began the briefing. 'A magic array of immense size and power has appeared in the city. There can be only one purpose for a spell of this magnitude, combined with this level of power from the Cyclotron.' A vast ring surrounded the city, circumscribing a six-pointed star and a variety of cabalistic signs. Red dots marked each point of the star. A crimson cloud from the north drifted slowly towards the flashing point that marked the station.
'These markers indicate the location of no fewer than six Category One Lucifer Hawks in the city. There is also a large number of lesser Lucifer Hawks approaching from the north, probably to prevent us from interfering.
'Kiddy, you will defend the station along with the bulk of Mobile Division One and the Cerberus units. Lebia and Yuki will man Simurgh as a mobile command center and medical facility. A team of medics will be on board with them. Lebia, try to stop the Cyclotron if you can. Each other member of AMP will take two Mobile officers to confront one of the Category One Lucifer Hawks.'
One armoured officer had been counting on his fingers. 'Wait a minute, that leaves one of them without an opponent!'
'I will take on the last one. Alone.' Alex declared quietly from the back. The assembled officers had heard enough tales of his power that no one dared to gainsay him.
'Everyone, choose your escorts; we move out in fifteen minutes. The Cyclotron is not yet at full power, so we have a little time. But not much, so move quickly!' As the briefing broke up, Alex beckoned for Rally to meet him beside the door.
There are a few things I need to pick up at home. If you wish to join me, I will introduce you to a couple of people you should know if you ever want to visit me.
Why not? You might have something I can borrow for the battle. The two turned down an empty hallway and Alex tapped the stud behind his ear that activated his link to Alice. A golden portal opened before them a moment later.
The portal deposited the couple on a broad lawn with a grove of cherry trees off to one side. Alex said, 'This estate once belonged to my wife: she inherited it from her grandfather and she left it to me. I might as well introduce you to Alice; she's the AI who runs this place while I'm away. Alice, please come out here for a minute.'
A tall blonde arrayed in a conservative black suit materialized in front of the couple and bowed low. Alex introduced the two women to each other and the hologram vanished.
Alex immediately set off towards a stately marble building not unlike a Greek temple. Rally almost started upon entering. 'This is a crypt!'
'Yes. I think you should meet one of the residents. She's at the far end.' He led the way to Elaina's bier. The brunette was in the same position as during his last visit, hands crossed over the sword hilt at her breast. 'Elaina, it's been a while…I've avenged you. But a new battle calls and I would use your sword if I may.'
The corpse glowed almost imperceptibly and her hands slowly lifted enough for the widower to pull the sword free. They settled over her heart once the tip was clear. Alex saluted his former wife and drew a deep breath. 'Elaina, there's someone I'd like you to meet. This is Rally Cheyenne, my new business partner and friend…you may be seeing a good bit of her around the house if you're still hanging around. I'll leave you two to get acquainted.'
With that, he turned towards the entrance of the mausoleum. He stopped at the door and called, 'You wouldn't happen to know where I put the armour your father gave me at our wedding, would you? Ah. thanks.'
Alex translocated himself into his personal armoury, a room somewhat smaller than his workshop at Station 07. The room was filled with bins of ammunition and an assortment of weapons and armour: polearms, swords, pistols, rifles, and knives filled shelves and racks that left aisles just barely wide enough for the thin man to fit through. I really should expand this place just in case I gain a little weight, he noted as he made his way to one corner. He leaned the crystal sword against the wall and picked up a long bundle wrapped in brown paper. Within lay a scabbard wrought of some green metal in the form of twining rose canes punctuated by scarlet blossoms. The sword to which it belonged was equally remarkable: the blade was a single crystal, razor sharp with a flattened diamond cross-section. The crystal was transparent, with just a hint of red. Its hilt was a scarlet and gold phoenix in flight, its wings swept back to form the hand guard; its head and neck extended several inches over the blade. Alex produced a small round stone from his pocket and set it among the phoenix's tail feathers as a pommel. It was perhaps the size of a kiwi and oddly divided into two halves, gold and silver. The boundary between the sections shifted slowly as one watched.
Rally entered the room just as Alex sheathed this sword, teleporting to his side despite the cramped quarters. 'That's a very interesting sword. Elaina said you would tell me its history.'
'It is an old heirloom of House Jaddo, my wife's House. Technically, it belongs to her brother now; but he detests anything to do with the old days, so it was interred with Elaina. This mansion was once the seat of House Jaddo, but my father-in-law moved to an orbital colony several years before his father's death and the seat moved with him. My other kin rarely come here.
'This sword was supposedly wrought in the first Golden Age of this world, a time when magic and science together did great deeds that none have yet matched. It is named the Rose Sword for its colour and the scabbard, but some also call it the Phoenix Blade for its hilt. This stone is a memento of our honeymoon, so I thought it appropriatre to attach it to the sword. We dwelt for a time in a peaceful land lit by two radiant Trees. When we left, the Powers that ruled the land wrought gifts for us of their light. One was the necklace you saw around her neck; this stone was given to me as a light for when I walked in dark places.
' Elaina wielded this sword often in our travels together…. But it is not the only reason I came here.' A quick flourish removed the cloth covering a standing suit of armour: it consisted of a number of curved black plates, polished into dark mirrors. Two cups covered the shoulders and tapered to a point several inches away. The upper part of the helm extended over the visor in a long narrow bill wrought in the form of a dragon's head.
'Dragonscales, 'Alex explained. 'Supposedly provides wonderful protection against magical and physical attacks. This suit was a wedding present from Lord Jaddo.' He stripped off his suit and snapped his fingers. The armour disassembled itself and reformed around him. The silver-haired man pulled off the helm and set it back on the stand.
Rally stopped him as he prepared to call for Alice to send them back to her world. 'Something's been bothering me the last few days. You told me that you never learned to use the mental aspect of your talents–you aren't telepathic in any sense of the word. But we've been talking that way ever since…'
'I've been wondering about that, as well. It only seems to work when I'm trying to contact you…some races link mentally when they mate, maybe it's something like that. Certain types of vampires can bond other beings to them by forcing them to drink their blood. We can talk about this later…it's time to go back.'
The two emerged from the portal on the roof of Station 07. Kiddy stood there with a dozen Mobile officers and one large helicopter. She handed Rally a slim tablet displaying a map of Tokyo with two red dots on it. 'These are the two Hawks left after everyone else chose their targets. Good luck.'
'I'll take the far one. We can drop Alex off on the way.' Rally motioned for two armoured
officers to follow her aboard the helicopter.
'Thanks, but I think I'll fly.' Two broad wings of black fire unfurled at the silver-haired man's back. He dove off the roof's edge, rolled twice, and shot off towards the Lucifer Hawk's location with Rally's voice ringing in his head. Showoff! The helicopter followed him a moment later.
Simurgh hovered over Tokyo Tower, its computers linked to the data storage facilities housed in the replica of the Eiffel Tower. Yuki sat in the pilot's seat, keeping watch over the silent city. Lebia reclined behind her with a series of plugs attaching her to the computer. Glowing text crawled across Yuki's screen: Lucifer Hawks purged from Tokyo computer network. Attempting to access Cyclotron system. After several minutes, a new message appeared: I'm in. Transmitting K-worm virus to shut down the Megadynes running the Cyclotron. It may take several minutes to work.
The plugs retracted and Lebia sat up. 'What's going on, Yuki?'
'Everyone's fighting…it's not going too well–the Lucifer hawks are very powerful.' The psychic blanched. 'Nami will need the medical bay soon. She's five kilometers southwest of us.'
Nami landed with two Mobile officers, Mark and Ichido, beside a pile of rubble. Three distinct strips of earth glowed at this vertex of the magic array. A single Lucifer Hawk stood atop the heap, built not unlike Alex's Scorpio suit with outsized chest and shoulders. Its head was crowned with a dark halo. 'So, you are the successor of Razan Yamigumo. You cannot hope to succeed where your father failed .'
'Perhaps, but neither can I allow you to destroy this world.' Nami drew the White Tiger Sword, which hung at her side; its blade reflected the light of the magic array in a thousand shards of rainbow. The two officers at her side shouldered Gauss rifles and fired.
The Hawk vanished from sight as they pulled the triggers and the shots detonated against the building behind it, vaporizing stone and glass. The Hawk snatched up one officer and threw him into the third floor of the building. Nami spun and struck with her sword, cutting deep into alien flesh. The creature grabbed her with its other hand and threw her across the street into the facing storefront. Ichido opened fire with his blaster, but the Hawk merely laughed; it countered with a beam of molten fire that punched through armour and flesh, leaving a foot-wide tunnel in the officer's chest. The demon plucked Nami's sword from his arm and cast it away.
The priestess struggled to her feet and groped for the dagger she kept in her sleeve. She drew it from her sleeve and pointed it at her opponent. A blazing kirin appeared in the air between them and charged the Lucifer Hawk, wounding it grievously with its horn. Green ichor gushed from the slash before the flesh reknit itself.
Nami leapt towards where her sword had fallen, pulling a disk embossed with mystic symbols from within her robes as she did so. The Hawk unleashed a second stream of fire, but it bent around the disk to scorch stone and asphalt instead of its target. Suddenly, the Hawk roared in pain as its legs blew away from its body in a thunderous explosion. A Gauss rifle glinted in a window above. The limbs melted and flowed towards their fallen master and reformed within seconds, though slightly smaller than they had been. Before the demon could attack the marksman, Nami plunged her sword through its head. Alien flesh parted to open a channel around the sword, splitting the head in two. The creature slid away and reconstituted its head before standing.
The Lucifer Hawk struck again with its fiery beam, this time blowing the priestess backwards despite the shield she bore. When the dust settled, the disk lay a few feet from her hand, which was now attached to her arm by only a few shreds of flesh. 'As I said, you never had a chance against me.'
The Gauss rifle cracked again and the shell blew the Hawk in two. As it gathered itself to continue the battle, a great wind blew down the street and brilliant lights stabbed down from above. The Simurgh had arrived.
'Here they come. Get ready!' Kiddy called out as the swarm of Lucifer Hawks approached Station 07. None were above Category Three, but their numbers were formidable. Kiddy and the Mobile officers were stationed on the roof while twenty Cerberus units cruised around the building. Kiddy's new cannon leaned against the low shack that housed the elevator.
A swarm of globular piranha, sleek eels, and magenta and grey Mantas approached from the north. They spread out in two great arms to encircle the station and come at it from all sides. The station's shields sparked but held as the first Lucifer Hawks slammed into it. A few of the weaker ones fell charred to the ground or disintegrated entirely. As more Hawks pressed against it, lightning ran across the barrier in a complex net. A few of the more agile or powerful creatures slipped through to be dispatched by Cerberus units. The officers nervously eyed the Hawks as they inspected guns and newly issued knives that were closer in length to short swords.
'I'm dropping exterior shields. Let 'em have it!' Kiddy shouted into her radio as she stabbed a button hastily rigged to the low parapet and drew a pair of Gravitons. A dozen sets of arm blasters hummed on. One final flash of lightning hurled a dozens of blackened corpses to the ground as the swarm surged forward.
The invaders were met by a storm of missiles and pulse cannon fire from the Cerberus units circling the station. Those who attacked from above encountered blasters and Graviton bolts. Even Kiddy staggered under the recoil from wielding two of the guns. The few Hawks that managed to evade the defenders' fire threw themselves against the building, but the shields erected to defend the station proper were much stronger than those that had prevented approach.
One particularly large Manta–almost as wide as a small car with horns as long as a human arm–dove down at Kiddy, twisting to dodge her shots . The other officers fended off their attackers with long knives, carving dripping steaks as Hawks flew by. Kiddy dropped her guns and grabbed the Hawk by its horns as it bared saliva-coated fangs. 'You don't want to eat me: I'm just skin and bones!'
The cyborg pulled her arms apart, tearing the Manta in two from head to tail. A pair of piranha moved in behind her. She spun and rammed her fist through one, then backhanded the other into the parapet. It slid to the roof to join the growing pile of alien carcasses.
One man was down, covered by piranha and eels tearing futilely at his armour. Another officer was tearing at the creatures with his knife. Once the man was free, Kiddy ordered his rescuer to get him into the elevator. 'The medics will know what to do.'
A two-meter long eel wrapped around the redhead and hissed shrilly as it struck at her face. Kiddy ducked her head to one side and shrugged, tearing the beast into several segments. As quickly as it had begun, the assault was over.
'Now what?' asked Ralph as he leaned against the elevator shack.
'I dunno. Probably something worse. I don't think we can hold off a second attack like that.' Kiddy replied. Three additional officers were taken below for medical treatment and only two Cerberus units were still functioning. A strange light shone from the center of the great magic array spread over Tokyo.
'You two stay here and guard the helicopter,' Lum Cheng ordered her escort. They'd landed about a block away from the Lucifer Hawk's location, and she could feel its power even here. Ordinary men, even equipped with the latest armour and weapons, wouldn't stand a chance against it.
'But we're supposed to protect you!'
'I don't need your protection. Gesso is all I need.' A burst of flame at the officer's feet ended the argument. The purple-haired young mage strode off alone as the two men settled down to await her return.
The Lucifer Hawk floating above the shattered storefront strongly resembled the one Nami was confronting across town: powerful torso, muscular limbs, and dark halo crowning its head. Lum Cheng noted that its aura faintly resembled that of Katsumi Liqueur for some unfathomable reason. Lightning cracked in the dark clouds above, but no rain fell. The creature stood at the base of a column of light, staring towards the center of the array and oblivious to her approach.
'Gesso, strike with consuming flame!' A torrent of shimmering fire shot from the rune-carved staff and blasted the Hawk from its perch.
'Who dares to attack me?' it roared in pain and anger.
'I am Lum Cheng of the AMP! If you want to destroy this world, you will have to destroy Gesso and me first.' Lightning leapt from the staff as she whirled it above her head and slashed it downwards. The Hawk spread its arms wide and the attack fizzled against its barrier.
'You do not wield Imperial Gesso even a tenth as well as he who bore it last.' Threads of utter darkness lashed out from the Hawk's hands. Gesso flared with a piercing light and the threads vanished like dew beneath the sun. Lum Cheng whipped the staff in a complex pattern, chanting softly; the light contracted into a thin shaft and took on the form of a wingless Eastern dragon.
The dragon lunged at its foe, luminous jaws gaping. The Hawk raised one arm to ward off the attack. Alien flesh dissolved at the dragon's touch and its foe retreated a dozen meters down the street. A globe of green fire gathered in its outstretched hand and shot out at the charging dragon. The explosion threw both Hawk and mage through the air and across the pavement. The cloth wrapping one of Lum Cheng's buns was burned away, filling the air with the stench of singed hair.
'Not bad, little one, but this battle ends now.' A pillar of green fire rose at the Hawk's feet and tore down the street towards the young mage, who was struggling to her feet. She planted Gesso in the ground before her and the column parted to avoid the tall staff. When it had passed, Lum Cheng slumped forward, panting. The Hawk approached and spoke again. 'If such a small thing wearies you so much, this city is doomed.'
The creature raised its arm for a killing blow, flesh flowing to form a cruel, bitter blade. The limb flashed in the magic array's light as it swung down. And its owner screamed as the blade broke against rune-carved Gesso. The other stump writhed and quivered in sympathy. Lum Cheng lowered the staff and held it like a spear.
'And if a little pain makes you stop, Ganossa's plan will fail.' The young mage thrust Gesso's spear-like head through her opponent's chest and green ichor sprayed from the wound.
'That is not enough to defeat one such as I.' The stump of its arm reformed into a hand and the Hawk raised it, gathering its fire. Lum Cheng pulled on Gesso, but its broad head caught in the Hawk's back. Green fire blasted her, tearing the staff free of alien flesh. The girl flew into the storefront behind her and lay motionless atop a pile of boas and lingerie.
Her foe strode towards her, a fresh blade shining at its side. Suddenly, it halted and growled half to itself, 'What is this call? If that fool has no reason to summon me so, he will be a head shorter.'
As the Lucifer Hawk faded from sight, Lum Cheng levered herself up with Gesso's aid and whispered 'Come back here, coward,' before collapsing again. The radio tab at her collar blinked, transmitting the distress call it was programmed to give if its owner lost consciousness.
Alex coasted on fiery black wings. He wandered in his own thoughts and the city passed unseen beneath him. Why are you doing this? I thought you decided that confronting Kylos would be your last battle.
I never could say 'no' to a set of beautiful eyes.
I say you're mad. There's no need for you to join this battle. Rally and the AMP can take care of themselves.
I am committed now…I cannot turn back.
Do you love her enough to die like this?
I…I don't know. But I cannot allow this world to be destroyed without trying to help save it.
You always did have a hero complex. And there's your enemy on that roof.
Alex set down on the roof of another police station, no deserted except for the Lucifer Hawk standing at the far side. Like the others aiding Ganossa's perversion of Project Gaia, this one was a powerfully built humanoid crowned by a dark halo. As the old warrior folded his wings, it spoke. 'Good evening. I have long desired to test myself against the one who defeated Kylos. Perhaps you will provide better sport than those half-trained girls.'
Alex gave no reply, but instead shot across the roof with the Rose Sword shining in his hand. The Lucifer Hawk vanished before he struck and rematerialized behind him, hurling a blast of blue flame. The mage's wings instantly folded into a long spindle; the fire washed over it with no apparent effect. The wings snapped open, unleashing a storm of fiery black darts. Most of them rebounded harmlessly off the Hawk's shield.
'You are a worthy opponent, Alex de Winter. You have the honour of dying at the hands of Gomra Magnoz.' Gomra lowered its shoulder and charged into the armoured man, knocking him over. Alex rolled backwards, bringing his sword up as he did so. The crystal blade bit deeply into the Hawk's fist as it crashed down. The mage came up in a crouch and instantly sprang forward thrusting with the sword.
The Hawk stepped back and knocked Alex on his face as he charged past. A blast of green fire enveloped the black-clad man. No sign of him remained when the flames died. 'Kylos truly was a weak fool to lose to one such as he.'
'If your eyes are for more than decoration, you would not be so quick to judge my strength.' Gomra felt the blade tap his shoulder twice before the sweeping blow took his head off. Black fire consumed his body, leaving only a thin trail of ash to blow in the wind.
A shaft of cerulean light smashed into Alex's backplate, hurling him into a bank's stone lintel on the street below. Gomra's hand clenched on the pavement behind him. The rest of the Hawk sprouted from its stump, shedding a coat of thick slime. Alex's wings crumpled and faded as he fell.
The Hawk floated down through the clouds of dust raised by their battle to stand beside the fallen warrior. Blood ran freely from his head and the fire had left his eyes. 'It would seem that your eyes are not as sharp as they should be, either.'
'Perhaps. But you cannot even distinguish reality from illusion,' a half dozen throats chorused. The fallen man rose as five silver-haired copies of him strode out of the swirling dust. Each one carried a faintly pink sword in his black-gauntleted fist. None lost his balance as the ground shook beneath their feet.
A brilliant light flared to the east, eclipsing the magic array shining at their feet. Gomra turned to gaze uncertainly at this new light. 'My master calls me. I cannot remain here.' Vermilion rings shot from its hands in all directions as the Lucifer Hawk teleported away. Alex stepped out of a shattered storefront and took flight towards Rally.
'Proud Ares, succour my friend with Thine shield and strike my foes with Thine flaming sword!' A wall of fire rose between the Hawks and Mana; a beam of crimson light swept across them from the ground below. It was not enough to break their shields, but it sufficed to throw them back a few paces. A silver-haired woman wearing teal suit and maroon tie rose to face the Hawks. They retreated another step. The one with a pair of long horns spoke.
'We were wondering when the legendary Rally Cheyenne would join this battle. My colleague was beginning to think you had run away.' Rally silently retreated behind the wall of fire to see to Mana.
'Are you alright, Mana? Taking on two Category One Lucifer Hawks is foolhardy, even for you.'
'I'm fine, Director. I was holding my own until the second one appeared behind me. I'm afraid that Norita and Akira are dead and our helicopter destroyed.'
'We have a ride: I left mine with Locke and Hayao a few blocks away.' The fiery wall shook under a spell's impact–the Hawks were getting impatient. 'Are you ready to go see what our rude neighbors want?'
The wall exploded outwards at Mana's nod. Rally teleported the two of them to the building's roof, leaving the Hawks gaping at the hole where they had been.
'Noumaka Sanman Tabasara Dansen Damakara Shiyadasowataya Untaratakan Man!'
'Solal of Sol, Selene of Luna, lend to me the power of silver and gold! Darkness falls, and we have need of light to chase it away!'
Pink globes of light shot from Mana's hands, followed by two shafts of light from the heavens: one golden as the sun's fire, another the peaceful silver sheen of the moon as it had been before the Silent Crisis. The Hawks' shields held only a few seconds against the attack before they were consumed by the spell's light. A moment later, the building shook violently, throwing the two women to their knees.
'I can't feel their presence any more…but something is happening at the center of the array. What is Ganossa planning?' Rally asked once they regained their feet.
'Something that involves all the Hawks he can gather. The true battle is about to begin,' Alex announced as he landed behind them. Simurgh followed shortly; Yuki reported that Nami and Lum Cheng were being treated in the medical bay, but Lebia was close to stopping the Cyclotron.
'Roy, Nozomu, stay here and protect the helicopter. I don't want to have to walk back to the station,' Katsumi ordered as she grasped Grospoliner's hilt. The blue-haired sorceress set off down the street, leaving the men to guard their chopper. Most of the buildings lining the street stood intact, though rubble littered the road.
The Lucifer Hawk waiting for her two blocks away was just as heavily built as the other five aiding Ganossa, but its lower body resembled a centipede more than a man. 'Good evening, Katsumi Liqueur,' it hissed as she approached. 'Will you not reconsider your foolish decision to fight against us? We are only completing the project your father, Gigelf Liqueur, attempted so many years ago. He too sought to open the doors of Nemesis. Help us fulfill your father's dream!'
'My father wished to establish peaceful relations between our worlds. The Gate was to be the salvation of both Gaia and Nemesis. Your version of Project Gaia is merely a power grab by Ganossa. I don't know why the original Project failed, but my father tried to seal the Gate when it did. I will finish what he started!' As Katsumi charged, Grospoliner's blade seemed to catch fire, glowing a fierce red.
'If you would follow your father's path, join us and aid in the union of Gaia and Nemesis.'
'Never!' The blade swept across the Hawk, cleaving off its long segmented tail.
'How? The Blade of Barzabel…but you never spoke the incantation.'
'I am the Key to the Gates of Nemesis, and I will close that door forever.'
The Hawk's flesh melted and reformed, making it whole once more. The creature laughed as it crawled atop a steel I-beam protruding from a pile of rubble. 'You do not understand: without the resources of Gaia, Nemesis cannot long survive. The Gate must open! Master Ganossa has obtained your genetic code to serve as the Key–we no longer need you. Now perish!' The ground exploded beneath Katsumi's feet and the magic array brightened. 'Ah! The Gate is almost open. Soon, life will again flow in Nemesis as Ganossa promised. What?!'
The ground trembled and a great pillar of light appeared at the center of the array. The Hawk stared at the new light and cocked its head as though listening to someone. It nodded reluctantly and teleported away. Katsumi floated to the Hawk's former perch, Grospoliner blazing in her hand. 'Where did it go?'
'Ganossa has turned against Nemesis and put in motion a plan that will destroy both Nemesis and Gaia. Come with me: I will take you to the place where our strength is being gathered to defend the two worlds,' Lucifer rumbled as it materialized beside her.
'What about Roy?'
'He is already on his way. As we should be.'
Ganossa stood on the shattered remains of a skyscraper at the center of the great magic array, a casualty of the past weeks' skirmishes. Suddenly, he pitched forward onto the rubble below with one hand clutching at his chest. Strange patterns of brown and black appeared on his skin. The lavender-haired mage growled as he slowly rose to his feet. 'This body…it is merely a construct made of Lucifer Hawk flesh. It seems that Lord Nemesis had no more intention of keeping his word than I did. Very well, then; if neither Nemesis nor Gaia will serve me, let them both perish.' The ground rumbled beneath his feet and the array flared with new light.
'Lucifer Hawks, come to me! Become my new flesh and blood!' Four broad-shouldered almost-human forms materialized around him; a flock of lesser Hawks screamed as they flew in.
'What do you want, Ganossa? We were within minutes of destroying the AMP.'
'The AMP is less than nothing to me now! This whole world will soon be destroyed, and Nemesis, too. Now join your flesh and power to me!' The Hawks roared as the light dissolved their bodies. Streams of darkness wound about Ganossa, twisting into a winged form that dwarfed the skyscrapers around it. Great spikes adorned its shoulders and ringed its neck. The ground trembled and buildings fell as this new Lucifer Hawk rose.
'Hear me, AMP! The time has come for this war to end. Nothing shall survive this final battle!'
'That…thing is Ganossa?!' Rally gasped. The survivors of the AMP and Mobile Division One stood on the roof of Station 07, several miles from the giant Ganossa had turned into. Lucifer nodded grimly beneath her, its tophat-shaped head threatening to overbalance the Hawk. The building's continual shaking did not seem to affect it, however.
'He has turned against both Gaia and Nemesis. If he succeeds in what he plans, both worlds will perish. The Lucifer Hawks he has forcibly joined to himself managed to report that much to our Goddess before he silenced them.'
'Director! The Cyclotron…it's rising!' Lebia dashed down Simurgh's ramp to show Rally the tablet displaying this development. Moments later, the great ring could be seen clearing the rooftops. An immense hole appeared in the sky as lightning crackled about the Cyclotron. Legions of Lucifer Hawks descended from the portal as a planet approached.
Lucifer's single eye fixed on the rapidly growing speck. 'NO! It can't be…if Nemesis and Gaia touch, both worlds will be destroyed utterly.'
'We must get closer,' Katsumi muttered. 'Even my spells don't have enough range to damage him at this range.'
'We can't use Simurgh or the helicopters. Those Lucifer Hawks would just swarm us under,' Mana pointed out. She leaned heavily on Lum Cheng's shoulders, but had no visible injuries. The young mage bore bandages on her face and left arm, but stood with Gesso's aid.
Alex suggested teleportation. 'Yuki, Rally, Katsumi, Lucifer and I all have that power. One of us can bring Kiddy and her cannon along.'
'Hey, what about us?' Roy asked. The remaining effectives of Mobile Division One stood in close ranks with Gauss rifles shouldered.
'We can't take you. This is not an enemy you can hurt with guns–' Katsumi began.
Ralph cut her off. 'We came this far with you. You can't just ditch us at the end here.' Rally nodded and motioned for the officers to take their places beside those who would teleport them to a location mere blocks from Ganossa.
The officers materialized on a broad roof, which once covered an indoor driving range. As they watched, the rotating Cyclotron ground to a halt: Lebia's K-worms had accomplished their task. Ganossa roared, 'NO! Not now! But you are too late, AMP. The Gate is open.'
A green orb gathered in the giant's jaws. Then a beam shot out at the gathered officers, disintegrating buildings in its path. Mana, Katsumi, Rally, Lum Cheng, Alex, and Lucifer stood before the blast, combining their power in a single shield. Even they were pushed back by the force of the attack. Suddenly, Lum Cheng collapsed and the beam broke through. The explosion hurled the mages into the armoured officers standing behind them, but they had blocked most of Ganossa's power and were merely singed.
Katsumi leveled Grospoliner at the giant and chanted, 'Spirits of the sky, Shad Balshmos Haa of the moon! Cast on me the silver sword! Shed the light meant for the planet Thune and fulfill your contract with Selene !'
A shaft of golden light shot out from her sword and spattered against Ganossa's shield. Beam pushed against shield for long seconds, but the attack eventually fizzled. The AMP stood silently in shock: if that spell was not enough to break Ganossa's defenses, what would?
The giant's chest opened, and a tiny human figured emerged. It spoke with Ganossa's voice, mocking its foes. 'Is that the full power of the great Katsumi Liqueur? You may have stopped the Cyclotron, but even Goddess Nemesis cannot stand–'
The creature's taunts were cut short by the crack of a Gauss rifle. A moment later, the hole in the giant's chest blazed with the light of a matter-antimatter detonation. The creature's flesh sloughed off, each fragment resolving into an individual Lucifer Hawk, as the thing in the hole continued to scream. Roy pulled his rifle's bolt to chamber a fresh round. He grinned sheepishly as the five mages turned the evil eye on him. 'I just remembered that these rounds were supposed to be able to penetrate the type of shields Lucifer Hawks use most often. It was worth a shot.'
'And so the prophecy is fulfilled,' Alex murmured. Feeling the others' stare, he elaborated: 'There was a small temple in Tokyo that dealt in prophecies. Ganossa happened to show up for a consultation at the same time I did…the oracle said that he would not be slain by any spell.'
The Gate in the sky was closing and the remaining Lucifer Hawks slowly drifted back towards their home. Lucifer turned and bowed to Rally. 'Thank you for your aid against this man who threatened my Goddess. I will go now, to lead my people home. Goddess Nemesis has ordered that no more of us visit Gaia for the time being. Certain…rebels may attempt to visit your world despite this. Deal with them as you see fit. Perhaps another generation will fulfill Gigelf's dream of peaceful coexistence between us.'
Rally surveyed the ruined city below them after Lucifer had left. 'There's a lot of rebuilding to be done. Good thing I have stakes in most of the construction companies. And what will you do, Alex?'
'I'll probably retire for a while. I'm not as young as I used to be, after all. You could join me if you'd like.'
'Thank you, but there's too much to do here. Come back in a year or two and my answer might be different.'
1) The exchange between Ganossa and Nemesis is taken from vol.11 of the manga, with a few alterations. Any confusion that may result from the deal involving half of his body is shared by this author and may be solely attributed to M. Asamiya. The same goes for the dialogue between Katsumi and the Lucifer Hawk she fights later on.
2) Two pints and a cookie to anyone who knows where that little scene came from. I meant to put it in earlier, but now's as good a time as any.
3) The name of Nami's father is given in vol.11 of the manga, and also in the episode 'Mobius Klein,' I think. Her clan holds a number of powerful relics, of which the Kirin Dagger and the White Tiger Sword are the only two whose names I've encountered. The kirin is a mythical creature that strongly resembles the Western unicorn…it is available as a summon in at least one Final Fantasy game (FFVI; III for those in the States…and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance). There is also a Kirin card in the Legend of the Five Rings card game…rather an interesting card, really, but I forget exactly what it does.
4) The Mantas are those weird flying things Katsumi summoned deal with Nami and the Simurgh when they were captured…I think that was at the end of the episode 'Hell Road.' They might've appeared earlier in the series, though. They resembled flying Manta rays with fleshy horns trailing back from almost-human faces. The dorsal surface is magenta, and the belly is grey. The Cerberus system is a collection of robotic weapons platforms that appear here and there in the manga…their primary purpose seems to be keeping people out of restricted areas and patrolling Tokyo after its evacuation towards the end of the storyline.
5) The incantation is from vol.2 of the manga…I do not quite remember the variation used in the anime beyond a vague phrase about 'The Light of Cthulu.' It seems to be the most powerful of her spells in the anime.
I've noticed that I've been a bit inconsistent about Katsumi's hair colour, saying it's purple in one chapter and then saying it's blue. It's strange…it's blue on the cover of the first volume of the manga and in the TV series. However, it's purple on the last few manga covers, as is Rally's. I like the blue better personally, but I'm too lazy to go back and change every reference.
If the latter part of the chapter seems confusing, it's because I've decided to base my ending on the one in the manga since it's far better than the one I'd previously created. All the battles are supposed to be happening simultaneously around the city. Some of the dialogue is taken from Kia Asamiya's ending, but most of it is my own.
Well, that's the end of this version of 'Requiem Knight.' Thank you for staying with this story for so long. I began the first version over a year ago, basing it mostly on the anime. Then I bought the manga and realized that M. Asamiya had written a far superior ending, so I scrapped the fic and started anew. I also wanted to develop the relationship between Alex and Rally a little better…I think I've done so, but I'm still not quite satisfied. In hindsight, it might have been better to post this chapter as a handful of shorter ones, or perhaps omitting a couple of the battles. I hope this wasn't too long or boring. If I had any talent at drawing, I would have rendered this as a comic with the battles on alternating pages: a few pages for Katsumi, followed by a bit of Nami, and going around like that up to the point where Ganossa makes his metamorphosis. Unfortunately, the technique that works so well in panels or on film fails utterly when written.
There will be no further updates to this fic unless I decide to retouch one of the chapters, as it were. And now I leave you with the lyrics to the song at the end of the TV series (at least, these are what the words sound like to me…the official lyrics may be slightly different). It has been a sort of theme song for this fic ever since I found the song on a website about a year ago.
Think, O lover, of the times that we have shared
Came along the day we finally took our vows
You failed the strength to go on with your life, who knows when we'll meet again?
I feel you in the summer wind; the love inside of me is keeping me alive
No time to think of the mistake: the one mistake I have made is causing me pain
Soar through the sky to see how high you go
No can touch you, so fly to and fro
Dreams shall remain untold and lo! Awake and realize it's all true
To see you once again, angels from above are telling me to pray
Stars in the sky are showing us the way
Never let go of the hope
Can't justify the pain
Don't lose the love that lights up the stars
Rain me down…I pray your soul to keep where love can be found
The view: think of the past–the past the brought joy to you and filled up your heart
Memories filled with pain still linger on
Must face the truth 'cause our love is now gone
Never forget the joy that we had; come hold my hand while we can