Silent Mobius: Red Destiny

Book 1: New York

Chapter 14: Mobius Redux

Authors: OSTOCOM

E-mail and website: see our profile

Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some language

Disclaimer: We do not own Silent Mobius or its characters, but we do own our own characters. See the Authors' Notes for complete disclaimer.

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"We're going to close the gate to Nemesis!" Kiddy didn't bother to hide the surprise in her voice. "How the hell are we supposed to do that?"

"I'm sure Katsumi knows what she's doing," Lum Cheng chimed in before Katsumi could answer. "After all, it was her idea."

Katsumi sighed, and avoided the inquiring looks of her fellow teammates. "Actually, I really don't. But Grosspoliner remembers the incantation that my father used in 1999. I'm going to use it, and we're going to be in the exact same spot my father was in last time."

There was a minute of silence. Then Kiddy said what everyone else was thinking: "And what happened last time we tried closing the gates? Just looking out the window at the acid rain will answer that question. What makes us think it will work this time?"

"Do we even know what went wrong the first time?" Nami asked quietly.

"My father was a very powerful sorcerer. But an incantation of that magnitude requires a lot of power...more than I think even my father estimated. This time, we won't be doing it on one man's strength alone. We'll make sure we have the power to shut this thing for good."

"Which, I take it, is the reason why the ECC is arriving here in a little under ten minutes," Lebia said, nodding in the direction of the landing pad on the roof. "And here I thought they were just stopping by for a visit. You could have told us that Rally approved this little proposition of yours a bit sooner."

"I just found out," Katsumi answered. "I wasn't expecting her to...but I think she understands how serious things are."

Nobody said anything, but several people's gazes shifted to Roy, who was playing up at the front of the office. For the past six months, he had gotten very used to the AMP headquarters, since he spent all his time either with them or in Ralph's care. Katsumi was completely unwilling to leave Roy at a day care center, and the rest of AMP were inclined to agree with her. After the Category One had attacked AMP headquarters and nearly kidnapped Roy, nobody was willing to take chances, even if it meant keeping a little boy under 24-hour personal surveillance.

Within a few moments, Rally and Isozaki entered the main office. Everyone rose expectantly, knowing what Rally was going to say before she spoke. "Everyone, report to the roof. Our guests have arrived, and we should welcome them."

This produced a round of smiles from the members of AMP, and they were more than happy to carry out their Chief's orders.

Moments later, all eight women and Roy were standing by the landing pad, watching as the chartered helicopter slowly came to a stop. When the blades finally ceased whirling, the seven members of ECC climbed out. Katsumi, Kiddy, Lebia, Rally and Roy recognized the first four women that appeared...but there was also a tall blond-haired woman carrying a water bottle, a short Mexican-American woman, and a petite young woman whose dark blue hair had a dramatic silver streak.

"Hi! My name is Roy! Welcome to Tokyo!" Roy called out in carefully practiced English the moment they were all out of the helicopter.

Adara, delighted to see the little terror again, scooped up Roy in her arms. "You've gotten so big! And I see you remembered some English," she praised the beaming four-year-old.

The rest of the women exchanged greetings. Despite the language barrier between some of the members, everyone was successfully introduced. It was Rally who finally interrupted the reunion: "All right people, why don't we go inside and get out of this rain? Yuki, it would be great if you could brew some coffee."

"I agree," Maris said, drawing her coat closer around her. "Let's get out of this fu—" She stopped suddenly as she noticed Roy in Katsumi's arms. "I mean, this freezing rain."

The other ECC members exchanged glances, surprised at Maris' unexpected restraint.

As the women walked towards the AMP lounge room, Rally drew Kiddy and Lum Cheng aside. "Would the two of you call Ralph and Avalanche Wong? Ask them to join us...it would be good to have everyone together."

Kiddy grinned and hit the speed dial on her cell phone, as Lum Cheng nodded with excitement. Three weeks ago, Avalanche Wong had traveled to Tokyo to see them. His arrival had been completely unexpected, but they were more than happy to let him into the circle of knowledge, even if he wasn't acting in an "official" capacity. Lum Cheng had been especially happy to see her grandfather again; she had missed him since leaving China four years ago.

However, with his arrival came a sense of uneasiness, because of the contents of the small black box he carried with him. Avalanche Wong was now the guardian of the demon sword Medium. Katsumi and Mana had been particularly nervous when they sensed what he carried...for them, nothing but guilt and dark memories were associated with what was inside. Avalanche Wong assured them that the sword was safe in his possession, but that didn't put their minds at ease.

------

"I hope you guys enjoy this," Yuki said in Japanese, grinning from ear to ear. "I don't think I've ever made coffee for this many people before! I'm not sure if it's the same quality of smaller portions..."

"Excellent as always, Yuki," Kiddy complimented her.

"This is great! You could open up a shop with this stuff," Amber added, trying not to burn her tongue on the coffee.

Kiddy translated Amber's compliment to Yuki. Her smile diminished somewhat. I actually had a shop for awhile. It's closed now. My manager...left, and I had to sell it. Kiddy translated only the first part of the explanation, hoping to stave off innocent questions which might raise painful memories for Yuki.

The members of AMP and ECC were seated in a wide circle in the break room, with Roy running back and forth between people's legs every now and then. Rally, Mana and Mackenzie were out discussing things on their own, as well as waiting for Ralph and Avalanche Wong to arrive.

"So! You guys gained three more members in six months," Kiddy nodded at the three junior members. "You must have a great recruiting program."

Maris snorted something under her breath, and Feritzia grumbled and looked the other direction. "Let's just say coincidence is a great recruiter," Amber said, winking at Kiddy.

Lebia did a quick head count. "Now both groups have six members...interesting."

"Now, I've heard all your names, but I haven't heard what you do yet," Kiddy said. "How'd you three end up with us psychos, anyway?"

Amber smiled brightly. "I used to be a journalist. I was investigating some mem-sweep cases when I came across the ECC. I'm a truthsayer."

Kiddy's eyebrows shot up. Maris cleared her throat. "I can breathe underwater, and I have a water sword named Nauticus. I used to be a lobster fisherman."

"And you curse like one too," Feritzia interjected with a bluntness that would have made Lum Cheng blush. "Feritzia. I'm an ice mage, and I'm still not sure exactly why I'm here."

Miakoda gave an uncomfortable twitch at Feritzia's lack of tact, and forced a tight smile. Calixta sipped at her coffee carefully before breaking the silence. "Well I must say, it's nice to finally meet all of AMP. Seeing you again is reassuring after all that's happened."

"I heard you guys have had it rough," Lebia said sympathetically.

"You could say that..." Adara did well to hide the pain in her voice.

"It's not exactly been a picnic over here, either," Katsumi said decisively. "Which is why we're going to end this once and for all. I know with all of you here we can do this. We can close the gates to Nemesis, and end this war that's cost us so much."

The AMP was quiet, and Katsumi knew they were still having doubts about the idea. However, they still gave her looks of encouragement and support. Katsumi was grateful to them...she was not exactly sure about this plan herself, and couldn't help like feeling this was more an act of desperation than anything else.

(Desperation or not, we have to try. Third attractions are popping up almost constantly now, and we can barely keep up with it. If we don't take major steps now, we'll eventually be overrun,) Katsumi thought to herself. She decided not to dwell on what might happen if they failed.

"Well, that's certainly incentive enough for me," Amber said, trying to give Katsumi a positive reaction. "Although if we're successful, it means we'll be put out of a job."

Nobody had even considered that...probably because nobody thought it worth considering. They all knew that their first priority was to protect humanity from the Lucifer Hawks. If that meant getting rid of the threat for good, then job security didn't matter. They all knew this, but couldn't help feeling some remorse, especially if it meant they had no reason to see each other again.

"Hey Lebia, do you suppose you could show me around your station?" Calixta said to the visionnaire. "I would love to see the equipment you have, and I've been dying to meet Dewey II..."

Lebia nodded, and everyone took this as a signal to disperse and talk with whomever they willed. Katsumi figured she could at least try and make Roy take a nap, although she didn't even want to think about how difficult that would be with all the visitors around.

/Master, I sense an unusual presence here./

Katsumi turned to Grosspoliner, who was floating close behind her in his sheath form. Roy reached his arms up, trying to bring Grosspoliner back down to him, but the sword's attention was apparently elsewhere.

/What do you mean, an 'unusual presence'/ Katsumi asked mentally.

/There is another one close. One who is like me./

Katsumi looked around, and the first person she noticed was Maris with her ever-present water bottle. Remembering Rally's mention that Maris was also a sword wielder, she figured that must be who Grosspoliner was referring to. "Maris! Could we see your sword...Nauticus? Just for a moment. I think Grosspoliner wants to talk to him."

Maris blinked in surprise. "Sure, whatever." She unscrewed the water bottle, and commanded Nauticus to emerge. Katsumi watched in amazement as the liquid sword flowed out of its container into Maris's hand. Maris let go of the sword, and it hovered in midair on its own with an ethereal feel. Grosspoliner turned and stared at Nauticus, who apparently just stared back. Realizing that Grosspoliner wasn't going to pay attention to him, Roy turned to look up at the person who owned the water bottle.

"You have an adorable son," Maris said, kneeling down to ruffle Roy's dark blue hair.

"Thank you. I just wish...his father was here to see him." She sighed, glad that she was now able to mention the incident in normal conversation.

"He leave you?"

"No. He...passed away."

"Well, at least he wasn't a jerk about it." Katsumi detected a hint of bitterness in Maris's voice. "It must be hard to care for a child all by yourself."

"I get discouraged sometimes," Katsumi gathered up Roy in her arms. "But I'd say it's worth it."

Maris only just nodded. She was looking at Roy with a strange expression on her face, as if watching Roy was like looking at a photograph of a distant loved one. "He really is adorable," she said once again.

Katsumi glanced back at Nauticus and Grosspoliner, who appeared to still be hovering there and staring at each other. "Huh. I wonder what swords-with-a-will talk about?"

Maris shrugged. "Um...sword stuff?"

While their masters talked, Grosspoliner and Nauticus held their own conversation...one which was slightly less sentimental.

/I am Grosspoliner, the King of Swords./

/I am Nauticus, the lord of the water./

/Did you know that I would be here/

/No. But I sensed you when I arrived./

/Do you sense the other one here/Grosspoliner's voice was slightly apprehensive.

/Yes. But it wasn't the same as you. This is an opposing presence. It seeks to undo us all/ Nauticus answered

with all seriousness.

/...I've been having strange dreams. Dreams of a time before my master Katsumi, or my previous master Gigelf, or any of the Liqueur line. I was my own master. How could that be/

/It seems as though we've always been as we are. What would our purpose have been before that? Was it the same as it is now/

/My purpose is to do what my master Katsumi wills. To protect those who cannot protect themselves. To destroy those who would hurt the humans./

/...But would that include destroying yourself/

Grosspoliner paused. /What do you mean/

/The other one that is here. The one that opposes us./

/Medium is not like we are. You know that just as well as I do. We have a will of our own, but we are not slaves to ourselves./

/We are bound by a contract that has existed since our creation. To break that contract would only mean disaster./

/This is true. But a thought has occurred to me, Nauticus...do you think there are others out there/

/More that are like us? Or like Medium/Nauticus sounded puzzled.

/Like us. Those that are bound by contracts, that serve their masters as we do./

/I don't know. But I sense that we are not...complete./

Another pause. /Should we tell our masters/

/No. If we are meant to find the others, we will find them./

Nauticus then turned away from Grosspoliner. /Ms. Lynn, we're done now. Please call me if you need anything./ With that, the water sword liquefied and then evaporated into nothing.

Roy was finally able to grab ahold of Grosspoliner once again, and smiled at regaining his friend. "Gosspleener, let's go play with Caleeza and Adara and Amber!"

Grosspoliner sighed, and said in an exasperated tone/Don't you ever get tired of playing, little master/

Katsumi laughed as Roy merely ran off with the sword in both arms. Just then, Lum Cheng passed by them and waved. "Hey Katsumi, Maris! Come down to the lobby, Ralph and my grandfather just arrived!"

------

"How have you been?" Ralph hugged Kiddy tightly, knowing it was usually better if he was the one to initiate the hug. "It seems like it's been forever."

Kiddy smiled, and let herself enjoy Ralph's embrace. "You twit, it's only been three days or so."

"Three days is forever if I'm just sitting there without you. You've been getting all the action these days."

"Lucky me," Kiddy snorted. She looked over to where the others were gathering. "I suppose we should go join the gang. Katsumi and Rally are going to explain exactly how we're going about pulling off this crazy plan of theirs."

Lum Cheng sped past Ralph and Kiddy to where Avalanche Wong was hobbling up behind them. She was always grateful when her grandfather came to visit, and was even more so now. He was nearly knocked over by her enthusiastic hug. "Hello there, granddaughter! I see you're good health, as always," he said after regaining his breath.

"You have to meet all the girls from New York," Lum Cheng smiled at him, "They just arrived today."

"So I've heard. Well, let us make sure that their journey here was worthwhile."

With all members present and accounted for, the women and the two men began to settle themselves in the large AMP conference room. The ECC was beginning to understand how the AMP had first felt when they visited New York...it was very difficult for them to keep their eyes open. But they kept their composure as best they could, and listened as Katsumi proposed her idea.

Katsumi looked around carefully at her teammates, compatriots and friends. They were all somewhat nervous, but ready to do whatever was needed to protect their cities and their world. Katsumi took a deep breath, glanced back down at her son, and began, with Lebia providing Japanese translation. "First off, I want to thank you all for taking part in this. I know that most of you don't have to be here, but you're here anyway. I think this shows the Hawks how connected we are in the fight against them, and I'm almost certain they're not happy about it.

"This is the essence of my plan: we close the gates to Nemesis, and we do it soon. It will require a lot of power, which is why we need everyone's help. Grosspoliner has remembered the spell to close the gates. We'll do the spell in the same location as before. There's an important convergence of earth's energies there, and it can only help us. This time, however, there will be no interference—from Ganossa or otherwise—and working together we can correct whatever went wrong before.

"I will perform the spell in the center of the circle. There will be a lot of magical energy involved, which means I'll need the help of other people. Rally, Lum Cheng, Adara, Feritzia and Miakoda..." She nodded at each person in turn. "All of you will help. I know that all of you have access to large amounts of magical energy, it's just a matter of gathering it together."

She looked in Avalanche Wong's direction. "Which is why we need your help, Master Wong. You will act as a conduit for the energy, and redirect it into me and Grosspoliner. With all seven of us working together, we should have enough energy to close the gates forever.

"Now, if we're going to close the gates, you can bet that a whole lot of Lucifer Hawks will show up to stop us. Which is where the rest of you come in. Nami, Yuki and Mana will work together to create a triple psychic shield. This should greatly decrease the chance of Hawks entering the area where the spell will be performed. Everyone else will also be on the defensive: Kiddy, Lebia, Ralph, Mackenzie, Amber, Calixta and Maris, be ready to fight. Above all else, we must prevent any Lucifer Hawks from reaching the inner circle.

"That's all. It's not the best idea ever, but it's there, and it's the best we've got. Does anyone have any questions?"

There was a long, heavy silence. Then Feritzia raised her hand and said, "Okay, so, what exactly am I doing again? Does it involve a lot of mystical wind tangling my hair? Because if it does, I'd like to switch with someone else."

Adara just about fell out of her chair. Maris groaned and replied, "It means you just stand there and lend your magic to Katsumi, moron. Make yourself useful for a change."

"Is transferring power like that safe? What if someone gets hurt?" Feritzia objected.

"It should be all right. If anything, it'll hurt me rather than all of you," Katsumi answered her.

Of course, nobody wanted that to happen, either. But they could see that there would be no arguing with Katsumi on this point, so they didn't bother to try. When nobody said anything else, Mackenzie stood up and addressed her subordinates: "You heard her, ECC. We've got a busy day tomorrow, so we need to be well fed and rested up. Rally has suggested an excellent restaurant with some real Japanese food, so we'll have our dinner there before going back to our hotel."

The ECC nodded in compliance, especially since they were all beginning to feel a little hungry. The women slowly dispersed down to the lobby, where they exchanged small talk and shared experiences until the taxi arrived.

Feritzia, who was the last to walk out to their waiting taxi, stopped suddenly as she noticed Avalanche Wong staring at her. At least, she sensed that he was looking at her intently. "What are you staring at?" Feritzia said, unnerved by the ancient elementor.

"Feritzia Ricci..." Avalanche Wong began.

Feritzia blinked. She didn't recall anyone telling this man her last name. "What is it?"

"Two of the six are here ..." His voice was filled with husky ambiguity, as if he was not even aware of what he was saying. "The other four shall reveal themselves in time. When they do, you will come to know who you are, and what sort of power you have."

Feritzia was stunned. She had not expected this sort of thing out of Avalanche Wong. "I know who I am," she said quietly.

"You know who everyone else thinks you are. You are still searching for your purpose. Why you have awoken in this time, with these people?"

Feritzia just shook her head.

"You are the Maiden of Ice. Your purpose is twofold, but you cannot see it." He seemed to smile to himself. "It's always been fascinating to me to see the younger generation learn new things about themselves."

Feritzia backed up a few steps. She certainly didn't feel like she was learning anything about herself. "Yeah, I'm sure you do," she said quickly before turning on her heel and exiting the building.

Avalanche Wong watched her go. His smile slowly disappeared as he turned his gaze to the darkening clouds through the lobby window. "If only the young did not have to face the coming trials in order to learn them..."

------

The following night was just as stormy and foreboding as the day before had been. Clouds billowed over the ruined buildings of old Tokyo as three separate vehicles moved towards an open field of concrete. Long abandoned after the Silent Crisis, this section of Tokyo now echoed with an eerie loneliness. There was no sign of life for miles around, either human or Lucifer Hawk. Although the latter was good for the AMP and ECC, it still didn't help to ease their tension. Nobody said a word the entire ride there, though everyone was thinking similar thoughts.

The vehicles stopped a few feet from the site of the incantation. The spot where Gigelf had stood 36 years ago, where he had tried to save the world from destruction, lay in a field of broken buildings. Rally stepped out of the lead vehicle and felt the harsh wind whip through her hair.

"All right, people. Let's get everything prepared. We need all the time we can get."

Everyone else exited the vehicles and got to work. Feritzia instantly began to question and complain, earning several glares from the ECC. Roy trailed Kiddy closely, glancing around like a timid bird. Katsumi had been loath to leave him behind, especially when his most qualified protectors were taking part in the sealing of the gates. Roy had never been to this part of Tokyo, and he couldn't help but feel afraid. He put on a brave face, however, and kept asking if he could help. The women smiled at his requests, but were more concerned with keeping him safe than letting him run wild in an attempt to be heroic.

Rally pointed to the outer rim of the concrete circle. "Mana, Yuki, Nami, set up a barrier around the far perimeter of this area. Everyone else, keep inside the barrier and keep a sharp lookout. Those performing the spell, move toward the center."

Nami walked around the far edge of the circle, placing 'ofuda' on the walls of stone every few feet. Yuki and Isozaki stood on opposite ends of the circle, and prepared to cast shields of their own.

Lebia and Calixta joined them on opposite sides, each of them scanning the area for Lucifer Hawks. Maris clutched Nauticus as she and Kiddy walked out into the darkness, barely able to keep Lebia and Nami in sight, due to the low fog and wind. "I don't like this," Maris said in a low voice as they took up their positions. "This doesn't feel right at all."

"You mean how there are no Lucifer Hawks here?" Kiddy said.

"Exactly. If we actually are going to pull this off, it means the Hawks will disappear from the Earth for good. Now if I were a Lucifer Hawk, I'd want to do something about it. So why haven't any shown up?"

"Well, either they don't know about it..."

Maris snorted sarcastically.

Kiddy knew it sounded unlikely. "...Or it means we're doing something wrong." She looked back to where the incantation was to be performed, and fingered the trigger of her graviton gun.

Maris shook her head decisively. "Just don't think about it. We have to stay sharp."

"Right..." Kiddy tried to ignore the icy shiver running down her spine. She sensed that the feelings were mutual for Maris. "Stay sharp."

In the center ring, Adara, Feritzia, Miakoda, Lum Cheng, Rally and Avalanche Wong all formed a circle around Katsumi. Katsumi couldn't help but notice that the other six people around her seemed to form the familiar six-pointed star. Remembering the strength that such a symbol gave her, she tried to hearten herself and shook the tension out of her muscles. /I bet this brings back old memories, doesn't it Grosspoliner/ she said mentally to the sword.

/Actually, I'm afraid not, my master. I can't seem to remember much of that night at all, except for the spell that my previous master Gigelf used./ Grosspoliner sounded somewhat distressed.

/That's okay. That's all we need to know at the moment/ Katsumi reassured him.

For several minutes, everyone stood around and did nothing. Feritzia finally looked up from where she was drawing circles in the dirt with Prism and said, "So are we going to get this thing over with, or what?"

Rally sighed, and spoke into the communicator on her collar. "Isozaki, are things clear on your end?"

"No sign of life here," came the reply.

"Yuki, how about you?"

"Things are pretty quiet," Yuki responded.

Rally then nodded to Katsumi, who nodded in return. She held Grosspoliner above her head and commanded his blade form to come forth. The enormous sword spread to its full eight-foot height in her hand. Once Grosspoliner was fully formed, Katsumi took him and thrust the blade into the ground at her feet. On contact with the ground, a strange wave of green light seemed to spread out beneath their feet, followed by an invisible pulse that could be felt all the way down to the bone. Then slowly, an enormous symbol made its way out from around Grosspoliner. The green lines spread outward, lighting up all of the ruined buildings with an ethereal green glow. Nobody could actually see what the symbol was from their position, but they all somehow knew that anyone above them would see an enormous six-pointed star.

Katsumi lifted her gaze to the heavens, and spread her hands, seeming to offer up Grosspoliner to some higher power. A heavy wind began to swirl around her, buffeting the nearby ruins and forcing everyone to brace against it. Adara closed her eyes and produced a ball of flame in her hand, concentrating all of her energy into the heat she could create. In the same way, Feritzia willed herself to concentrate on the ice magic she could feel flowing through her veins, and her skin suddenly went cold, with tiny flecks of frost developing across it. Miakoda uttered a long chain of words to herself in Navajo, the air around her shimmering with a warm brown glow. Lum Cheng held Jesso upright in front of her, chanting the spells of the elements. Finally, Rally released her own magical energy, and the mark on her forehead glowed a dangerous red. Nobody seemed to be aware of Avalanche Wong chanting his own spell, and redirecting the power into Katsumi. Those on the outside could see the old man straining with the effort, but nevertheless managing to do his part.

Katsumi's consciousness flickered in and out as a sudden wave of energy filled her limbs. The bright stones on Grosspoliner glowed brilliantly as he was also filled with the combined power of the six other women directed through Avalanche Wong. Roy watched with frightened eyes as Katsumi seemed to quiver with the combined energy, and would have run forward, had Amber not stopped him.

"What's wrong with Mommy?" Roy cried, his lower lip quivering.

"It's okay! Your mommy is fine! She's just doing some magic, it will be over soon!" Amber said, trying to reassure both the four-year-old and herself.

Once the energy reached its maximum output, Katsumi found herself yelling out the spell to the billowing clouds above, although she was barely even aware of where she was.

/Guardian Lord in Heaven,

Soul of all planets,

Please lend me your power/

Whoever Katsumi had called was certainly listening. The wind spun faster around her and the six magic-users, causing the power to waver for just a second. They all remained faithfully steady in their concentration, however, almost as if another force was guiding them.

/Great Grand Cross!

Become the power to move the gates of Nemesis!

Give us God's mercy and protection!

Twelve Anima Mundi of our system, hear my plea!

Hear me, guardian spirit of Terra...

Mother Gaea/

The earth began to rumble beneath their feet. It was not enough to make them lose their balance, but enough to make them feel as if the very core of the Earth itself was shifting. Just as the earth's magic began to circle around Katsumi and Grosspoliner, so the clouds above them began to swirl into a funnel shape, exposing a patch of the stars directly above them. It seemed as if the atmosphere itself was forming a path to the invisible world in the sky, the dark twin of the planet they now stood upon. Those that were in the innermost circle for a moment became aware of what was happening, and it seemed to all of them that the gates to Nemesis really were going to close.

/Close the gates to Nemesis,

Upon the name of Katsumi Liqueur!

There must be no chain to the heavens!

Portal to the skies, close/

A brilliant beam of light erupted from Grosspoliner and stretched upwards through the tunnel in the clouds, and into infinity. The great six-pointed star below them glowed even brighter, until the stones they stood on seemed to be on fire. For a moment, it seemed as though gravity was trying to undo itself, as everyone's hair flew upward with a mysterious wind that rose from the earth.

Yuki, who stood a good distance from the inner circle, watched all that happened with wide eyes. She felt like she almost didn't need to protect the field; she saw no Lucifer Hawks anywhere near them. Her heart rose along with the beam of light to the sky, and she wanted nothing more than to leave her post and go congratulate Katsumi on completing the spell.

A sudden flash in the sky broke her moment of happiness. The clouds that swirled above them all suddenly took on an angry red tinge, and bright red lightning filled the air with thunder. Yuki's dream six months ago suddenly came rushing back to her in a torrent of images, and she collapsed to the ground, overwhelmed. It was all the same as before...the world spinning out of control, and the six-pointed star seeming to cover all she could see. Yuki screamed at the rush of memories, and her cry broke the trace that had held everyone in its grip.

Across the circle, Nami's 'ofuda' suddenly split in two and caught fire, breaking the protective barrier that they had formed. Nami knew that it was not because of a Lucifer Hawk, but instead from the power that was radiating inside the barrier. She made a signal to Isozaki, who shouted into her collar communicator, "Chief, the barriers are going down! We need to stop the spell now!"

Rally heard the command, and tried to end the supply of magical energy she was giving to Avalanche Wong. However, it seemed as if she were locked in the position, and was unable to stop herself from adding power. The mark on her forehead glowed with burning intensity until she could barely stand it, and it was all she could do to stand upright. She turned to Katsumi and yelled, "Katsumi, end the spell! This isn't right! Undo what you've done!"

Katsumi heard Rally's cry, and felt the earth beneath her trembling with negative energy. But she couldn't move, and she didn't know how to undo the spell. Instead, she did the only thing she could think to do at the moment, and tried to perform the spell again:

/Guardian Lord of Heaven,

Soul of all planets,

Lend me your power!

Great Grand Cross.../

The ground quaked angrily, and several people on the middle ring lost their balance and collapsed on the stones. The green symbol become blood red as a wave of crimson spread over the ground. It seemed as if Grosspoliner being thrust into the ground had caused the Earth itself to bleed, and every person present felt the pain the Earth was feeling. In an instant, they all knew what had happened: this blood-red wave was what had covered the globe the first time around, on a warm July night in 1999, when the Silent Crisis had poisoned the rain, tainted the ground, and wiped out more than half of life on the planet.

And now it was happening again.

Katsumi felt tears rise in her eyes as the words continued to come out of her mouth, uncontrolled. Though they had all been afraid that a second Silent Crisis would result from their plan, no one had actually believed that it could happen. But now they could feel it in the air, in the earth, and in their blood. In a desperate attempt to stop it all, Katsumi grabbed Grosspoliner and tried to pry him from the earth's grip, even as she continued the spell.

Suddenly, however, a new voice emerged amidst the turmoil. It started out slow and husky, but grew in power until it blocked out Katsumi's words and even the noise of the wind. Everyone's eyes turned to Avalanche Wong, who now was also lifting his gaze to the clouds. In a voice that was full of unimaginable power and authority, he said:

/Guardian Lord of Heaven,

The Spirit of Terra, called Mother Gaea,

Turn from your wrath!

Lift your curse from your people,

And place it upon he who will bear it!

The power to burn,

Shall burn this instead!

The power to destroy,

Shall destroy this instead!

By your will, Soul of all Planets,

Keeper of the four elements,

Leave the gates to your wisdom!

Lurem Orithin Kai/

As the spell finished, the beam of light suddenly disappeared from Grosspoliner, and shifted to Avalanche Wong instead. The air radiated with a high-pitched noise, so loud that nobody heard Lum Cheng scream to her grandfather.

However, they all felt what Lum Cheng saw...the power churning between the six people in the circle had suddenly shifted, as if a new gravity was pulling on their energy. The focus of the whirling earth shifted from Grosspoliner to Avalanche Wong, and the red tinge to the earth intensified until it turned white.

It seemed to those around him that Avalanche Wong had become a black hole, drawing all light and energy to him. Avalanche Wong continued to chant, but his words were drowned out by the roaring wind. Just when it seemed that all the magical energy in the world had gathered into one tiny spot in old Tokyo, all sound suddenly ceased and Lum Cheng's voice ripped out over the silence: "GRANDFATHER!"

With a silent boom, a shock wave circled out from the ancient elementor, throwing everyone within the circle backward. The shock wave caused the concrete itself to ripple. The great metal buildings quivered, and blocks of old walls tumbled to the ground. Mackenzie looked up just in time to see the wall she was stationed behind begin to give way, and she rolled to avoid it. Above them, the clouds rolled back like a scroll, revealing a star-filled sky.

Nobody saw what happened next, but they felt a second wind rush past them, as if a vacuum was being filled. The wind rushed inwards for a second, and then was gone, leaving behind only a deathly silence.

Katsumi slowly picked herself up, and the first thing that she saw was Grosspoliner in his sheath form, lying next to her. Her thoughts instantly turned to her son, and she scanned the horizon for him. She breathed a little easier as she saw Amber holding Roy in her arms.

"What are the conditions? Report!" Rally was the first one to break the silence.

Those that were on the outside of the circle began to stumble inward, desperate to find out what had happened. "The shields were completely destroyed," Nami said breathlessly. "Was it a Category One?"

Nobody answered her question. They were still trying to figure out what had taken place. What mere moments ago had been the beginning of a second Silent Crisis was now an empty, peaceful landscape.

All eyes turned to where Avalanche Wong had been standing. He was the only one who had not stood up after the shock wave. Lum Cheng was kneeling by his side, and gently shaking his still form. Although all the others were desperate to release a flood of questions, they were muted by Lum Cheng's quiet voice, speaking in halting Chinese.

"Grandfather? Grandfather, it's me. You can get up now, it's all over. It's all over..." Her voice choked, and she wiped furiously at the tears brimming beneath her eyes. She kept shaking the still man until she suddenly seemed to remember that there were other people present. "Somebody help him!" she cried furiously to her friends. "Isozaki, Rally, somebody! Help him!"

Isozaki moved towards Lum Cheng and her Grandfather. Lum Cheng kept shouting demands at no one in particular, the desperation in her voice echoing off the splintered concrete and into the cloudless sky. Isozaki knew before she touched him that Avalanche Wong would have no pulse. She withdrew her hand quickly, shocked by what she did feel. It was as if the old man's body had become nothing but a husk. All traces of his spirit and soul were gone, somehow sucked into the mystical black hole he had generated. Lum Cheng saw the look that crossed Isozaki's face.

"No!" The young elementor stood up and gripped Jesso so hard her fingers turned white. "How did this happen? Katsumi, what have you done! What did you do to him? Rally! All of you! What did you do!" she screamed at her friends, then choked as her voice gave out. "...What did I do?" she finally said to herself.

"It wasn't any of us..." Miakoda said hesitantly, not in answer to Lum Cheng's question, but coming to the realization. "He did it himself. He absorbed all of the power."

Roy freed himself from Amber's grip and ran back to his mother. Katsumi absently hugged her son as he clutched her leg. She was trying to keep the tears away from her own eyes. Suddenly she understood what Avalanche Wong had done. He had allowed himself to absorb the immense powers they had released, and had sacrificed himself to prevent another Silent Crisis.

/It's my fault...this was all my idea. If I hadn't even thought of this, Avalanche Wong wouldn't have.../

Katsumi didn't even realize that she had been mentally speaking to Grosspoliner. He answered/No, master. None of us knew this would happen...not even I./

Katsumi didn't answer him. She couldn't bear to take her eyes away from Lum Cheng, who had once again fallen beside Avalanche Wong. She was choking on her own sobs, crying the tears that all the other women there were feeling.

She spoke quietly to him through the sobs, "Grandfather...you can't leave me here alone. How could you do this? Now I have no one...now I'm alone..."

"No..." Isozaki responded, touching the young woman's shoulder hesitantly. "You're not alone."

------

"How's Lum Cheng doing?" Calixta asked as she sipped at her coffee the following morning. The day had dawned with perfect sunshine; a somewhat rare phenomenon. But none of those who had gathered at the AMP headquarters found much joy in it...they all knew that no one had gotten any sleep that past night. Reports had to be filed, and arrangements had to be made for Avalanche Wong's body. It was a long, tiring process that no one even wanted to think about, so they ended up sitting around the office and kept Yuki busy making coffee.

"She's been in her room since last night. Mana talked to her for a while, but I think she's alone right now. Chief Rally is going to order her to take some time off...my guess is that she's going back to China for a few weeks," Nami answered once Lebia translated the question into Japanese.

"They're going to have the funeral there, aren't they?" Amber added solemnly. "Are you all not going to go?"

"We're going to hold a service here as well, but I think Lum Cheng wants the actual rites to be performed in China, in their traditional fashion," Lebia said quietly. "I think Avalanche Wong would have wanted that."

"Well...at least he was, you know, old," Feritzia said. The ECC turned a few shocked glares in her direction. She scowled, frustrated that they didn't realize what she was trying to say. "You know what I mean! At least he died heroically, and not half-deaf and wrinkly and wheezing in bed."

Maris was about to give Feritzia a sharp remark when Kiddy broke in. "She is right, you know. If Avalanche Wong hadn't done what he did, we would all be dead right now. And we would have screwed the world up to the point that a whole horde of Lucifer Hawks could have waltzed right in and made a buffet out of humanity. We should recognize what Avalanche Wong did for all of us, and remember him for it."

"Yes, we should remember him..." Katsumi's voice spoke up from the far end of the conference room. She was staring at the window at the brilliant blue sky, her face hard and set. "But we should also learn from this. None of us knew from the start that this would definitely work...so why did we go ahead with the plan regardless?"

"Because it seemed like our best option at the time," Adara told her. Katsumi had been not much better off than Lum Cheng since the incident, and they all knew she blamed herself for what had happened. Adara, however, wanted no more of this eternal cycle of guilt; she knew exactly how it could affect a person, and she sensed that Katsumi had already suffered from it enough. "If any of us here had doubted you, Katsumi, we wouldn't have gone along with it. But every single one of us was there, helping you. We're as much to blame as you are."

"I know, I know..." Katsumi turned to face them, the anxiety showing through her voice. "But something here still doesn't feel right. I've been telling myself all night that we should be grateful for what Avalanche Wong did instead of sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves. But that hasn't helped at all."

"What do you mean?" Miakoda asked.

"I just keep getting this feeling that Avalanche Wong's death has led to something we aren't thinking of. Some horrible thing we're missing."

"Well, Lum Cheng's current condition," Calixta said. "That's obviously not a good thing. Losing a family member never is."

"Unless they're rich..." Feritzia said to herself.

"Feritzia!" Calixta whirled on her with an almost Maris-like ferocity.

"Well, I'm not saying it applies here!" Feritzia said in her defense. "I mean, Avalanche Wong didn't have many possessions anyway, right?"

"Actually, I'm not sure if he had any," Lebia said with a small laugh. "He gave Jesso to Lum Cheng many years ago. About the only thing he's been carrying around recently has been..."

Lebia stopped suddenly. It only took the others a few seconds to realize what she was saying, as they remembered the small black box.

"Medium," Katsumi breathed.

------

Rally felt her heart stop as what looked like a stampede of the AMP and ECC women suddenly came thundering up towards her, Mana and Mackenzie. They stopped a few feet away before Katsumi finally blurted out, "You haven't packed Avalanche Wong's things yet, have you?"

Rally shook her head, dumbstruck. "No...they're all still in his room."

"We need to get into it right away!" she said, her voice full of unusual desperation.

Rally was about to ask what the matter was when Mana stepped forward. Alarm spread across her even features, and Katsumi instantly sensed that Mana had the same fears that she did. "I'll open the room for you," Mana said decisively.

Five minutes later, all of the women stood outside the door anxiously waiting to see if their fears had been confirmed. Katsumi, Mana and Rally were the only ones to actually enter the chamber, and they headed straight for the small black box resting in the bedside drawer. Katsumi felt her heart sink as they pulled the box out. She remembered Avalanche Wong had told her about the lock, that he had enchanted it with several powerful spells so that only he could open it. But now that he was dead, the spells had been nullified...and the lock had been broken. Rally hesitated, then lifted up the lid.

The box was empty.

"It...it's gone." Mana's voice was quiet and frightened, as if she could barely find the energy to breathe. "Somebody took Medium."

"No, they couldn't have," Rally said. For the first time in a long time, Katsumi detected disturbance and uncertainty in Rally's voice. "We set up shields around the entire building complex. Lebia even had a direct link to Dewey II...we would have known immediately if someone had broken in."

"Medium cannot move by its own will," Mana protested. "But it's gone. Someone must have taken it."

"But how? Who would've known that it would be here, much less that Avalanche Wong died and lost control over it?" Rally asked.

Katsumi was not in the mood to ask questions. She now realized what exactly had been bothering both her and Mana since Avalanche Wong's death...that Medium had been set free again. And there was no telling what had happened to it, or who now had control over it. She clenched her fists, trying desperately to hold back the feeling of guilt and hopelessness that was trying to make a noise. Instead, she simply turned around and left.

Rally and Mana turned around as Katsumi stormed out of the room, and past the others waiting outside. At first no one dared to follow her...they all knew what had been found inside. Finally, Kiddy snarled something to herself and ran up to catch up to her.

"Katsumi, stop! Medium may be gone...but at least we know about it. We can stop it before it possesses anyone else. We can destroy it for good..."

"You'd like to think that, Kiddy," Katsumi turned to face her, her voice cracking. "But I know better. Whether or not it was Ganossa, somebody else out there is going to be possessed by that sword. Because someone else knows what it can do."

Kiddy didn't respond.

Katsumi squeezed her eyes and turned away, trying to close off the reality of the situation. But even in darkness, it was staring her in the face. "Somebody is going to get hurt. Somebody is going to die. And it's because of us."

------

The demon sword Medium smiled to herself, stretching a new body for what seemed like the first time in ages. This new body had limbs that were filled with unusual strength, and she longed to make it even stronger. She knew where true power lay: in the power of grief and anger, the power to feel pain, and to make others feel pain. She wanted all the world to share in this power, to revel in this eternal torment that would forever penetrate her alone. But for the moment she would settle for this new soul, and the ones it was connected to.

/I didn't want this/ A voice crawled its way from the depths of the soul she had possessed. /Why are you doing this? This isn't right./

She snarled to herself. This one was unusually resistant, and she couldn't help but wonder if she had been tricked into possessing it. /I will decide what is right and wrong now./

/But you don't belong here. I know what you want to do with me... How could you have come in? I didn't want this/

/Yes you did. You wanted to die. Well, now you've been granted your wish. You can just sit back and be as dead as you want. I'll do all the work now./

/You're wrong. This isn't death...this is something worse. I'd rather live without him than live like this/

/You wouldn't last a day. Without him, you're nothing. Just a sniveling, useless shell that's a burden on everyone else. What hope could you possibly have now that he's dead/

/You're lying/

/You saw it with your own eyes. He's dead, and it's because of you. Who would want to live with that/

/I don't believe you/

She laughed. /Well, it's a little late for that now, isn't it? Whether I'm telling the truth is irrelevant. You asked for something, and you got it. It's not my fault if you can't decide whether or not you want to live./

/He is alive. I knew you were lying; I knew you were evil! I want to go to him/

/Oh, I'll go to him all right. All in due time, of course. I want to savor every moment of this./

/You...you damned bitch! If you dare touch him, I'll.../

/Who says I'll touch him? It's the people he cares about I'm interested in hurting./

She stopped suddenly, unable to move as the voice within fought to regain control. For a second, Medium was afraid. But she forced the voice back with savage ferocity, calling on all her demonic powers of fear, anger and hatred, beating the soul into submission.

The voice was quiet again, and this time for good. She smiled to herself, glad there would be no more interruptions. She had much work to do. She opened her new eyes and focused them on first thing she saw: a tall man silhouetted against the brilliant light streaming through a broken cathedral window.

She would have to thank him later.

------

"Mommy, can we go to the park today?" Roy asked for the fifth time that hour.

Katsumi sighed heavily. She knew that she should give in to her son's request. It would certainly do them all some good to get out of the AMP headquarters. Lum Cheng had left for China three days ago, and the ECC was planning to return to New York at the end of the week. AMP had promised to show the New York girls around Tokyo, but nobody had really been up to exploring the city. They kept making excuses to each other about needing to be ready in case any Third Attractions popped up, but things had been unusually quiet for the past few days.

"Let's go after lunch," Kiddy said decisively, getting up from her seat. "All of us. It would be a real shame if you guys spent all this time in Tokyo and didn't see anything."

"That sounds good to me," Adara said. "Let's face it guys, we're not going to make things any better by sitting around here on our butts. Might as well take a break before we have to go back to New York."

Everyone nodded in agreement, and Roy immediately perked up. It seemed as if his mother and friends had been sad for many days now; he had tried to cheer them up, but it just hadn't worked.

Just then, Isozaki stuck her head into the break room, and motioned to Rally. "Chief...there's a call for you. It's not someone we know and...and I think he's from England," she added quizzically.

Rally nodded, and left the break room to answer the phone in her private office. She expected the call to be from the manufacturing company scheduled to send them replacement parts for the 'Simurgh', and sighed at the thought of spending an hour talking technicalities with some technician in Great Britain. "This is Rally Cheyenne. May I ask who's calling?"

"This is Lord Alfred Wellingham IV, founder of the Royal Order of the Mystic Protectorate," was the heavily accented reply. "And I am most glad to make your acquaintance, Miss Cheyenne."

Rally blinked in confusion...this definitely wasn't the manufacturer. "You sound like you've been trying to find me for awhile, Mr...Wellingham."

"Indeed, Miss Cheyenne, indeed. I've heard rumors that you head a small police force of individuals who specialize in battling the creatures known as Lucifer Hawks. Is this true?"

Rally was not sure how to respond. Could this be someone working for Ganossa? She ruled out the idea quickly, figuring that if Ganossa was going to try and taunt them, it wouldn't be through some British Lord...Alfred. "Yes, actually it is. We also have a team from New York visiting us."

"Well, that's jolly splendid!" Lord Alfred responded, his satisfaction practically radiating through the phone. "Two teams, even better than I expected, and certainly better than my intel led me to believe. If it's not too much trouble, I should greatly like to meet a few members from both groups..."

"Wait, hold on!" Rally interrupted. "What do you mean, meet members? For what purpose?"

"Oh, I am sorry, Miss Cheyenne! I forgot to explain... You see, I'm the founder of a similar team. Been carrying on fightin' the buggers—oh, pardon my language ma'am—in London for several years now. We only recently heard there was a similar operation in Tokyo...international intelligence just isn't what it used to be, ma'am...didn't even know about one in New York. We figured it'd be wise to contact some Japanese Hawk-fighters, maybe exchange a few stratagems and the like."

The realization of what this could mean began to dawn on Rally, and she felt a smile creep across her face for the first time in days. "You would like some representatives from our teams to meet you in London?"

"That would be splendid. Just give us about three days to prepare, and I'll have Paddy, one of my subordinates, meet you at the Heathrow Airport."

"Well...okay," Rally said, amazed that she was even agreeing to this so readily.

"Right then! We'll be seeing you at noon sharp this coming Sunday. I'll send you a flight voucher. Bring as many people as you like...you can come to the office, have tea, talk business and all that. I must say, we heartily look forward to meeting you!" Lord Alfred finished off cheerily.

Rally said goodbye, and hung up the phone. She stayed at the desk for a few minutes, trying to process the conversation that had just taken place.

(A third Lucifer Hawk-fighting team? In London?)

Finally, Rally left the office, and went back to the break room. Everyone looked up as she entered, sensing that she had something to tell them.

"Change of plans, I'm afraid..." Rally said. "I've just received a very interesting phone call. Who's interested in going to London?"

---------------------------------------------

Book two begins soon! XD