For only the second time in her life, Sally could follow Sonic's movements. The first, as Sonic had remembered, had been the incident with the Deep Power Stones, which had given them both similar levels of super speed. Her new gifts didn't make her much faster than normal, but her senses seemed to have expanded a hundredfold. Even in the midst of a furious firefight, everything was clear, and moving almost through molasses.
She watched as Sonic ran up to a mobian soldier taking cover behind a barricade, down on one knee and firing at the shoulder. The blue hedgehog simply took his slower opponent by the shoulder, and spun him. Before the soldier even hit the wall and passed out, Sonic was off to his next target. A grenade flew through the air, and Sonic kicked it into the air. It went off a second later, but Sonic was already behind cover, so fast he had been.
Sally spun her new covenant, the Spear of Rhadamanthus, over her head. Tails, or Miles rather, had taught her a few tricks on how to use it, though he had explained she couldn't hope to have Mogul's level of Mastery for many years yet. If she was only able to tap into the basics of its power, then she could only imagine in awe what the ancient tyrant could have done with it.
Not that she initially liked the idea of using one of Mogul's old relics, but that hardly mattered now. Mammoth Mogul was gone, and Miles had given her the weapon as a symbol of the bond between him and her, no one else. Rhadamanthus himself was still worshipped among some canines for his loyalty and steadfastness, and these were traits Sally could appreciate. Mogul was irrelevant, now.
She summoned the power for Form One as the weapon spun, and the air filled with booms, deafening those still around. Sonic would be able to take it, protected by his Chaos powers, but as she could see, the un-enhanced fared far worse. Most fell, holding their hands over their ears, yet others simply lost consciousness.
A Palace Security Droid, however, was not vulnerable to an attack of that type. Four of them stomped forward on massive mechanical legs from behind the cover of a building. They were bad news, armed with automatic grenade launchers and chain guns. She and Sonic immediately shifted their attention to the new threats. Behind them, a Nicole spider robot became riddled with holes and exploded.
"Form Three!" She mentally commanded, and the Spear adjusted itself invisibly. A purple glow engulfed the bladed head of the weapon, and as she ran, it left a violet light trail in her wake. Jumping, she spun in the air to build momentum, and brought the cutting arch of purple light trough the air and into the frontal glacis plate armor of the mech.
The light itself cut, and kept cutting, through metal and plastic and ceramic.
By the time it dissipated, the mech cracked and slid in half, bisected cleanly. To her side, she saw Sonic moving at top speed, first demolishing the external weapons with superspin attacks, and then searching for a weak spot. It seemed to find it, running under the mech, and after a pause of building up his energy, shooting upwards violently. The machine crumpled as he exploded out of the top, flying up into the air and then flipping to land neatly on the ground.
Several rockets streaked by, hitting another of the mechs, which lost both its legs in the ensuing fireball. Sally and Sonic nodded to each other in silent agreement. The way was open. Cutting past the fighting mechs, and avoiding another explosion, they made their way to the cratered Palace Steps, and from there the Inner Courtyard. A contingent of troops stood in the way, but not for long. Form Four shook the earth beneath their feet, and then Sonic was among them, a blue blur blasting from man to man like a pinball.
Finally, finally, they were back in the Palace itself.
They were halfway to the Royal Hall and the Audience Chamber, via the main gallery, when the wooden doors behind them fell off their hinges. Quickly, metal shutters fell to take their place, and electrified with a soft hum. The paintings and portraits on the walls lowered into the wall, and were replaced by spherical turrets bathed in what looked like fog.
"What's this? Oh, it's you two." The voice that came from the hidden speakers was undeniably that of Geoffrey St. John. He sounded busy, as if he was talking while running. "Don't really have much time to banter, so I'll just say this: Princess, I'd strongly advise you to surrender. Otherwise, you won't get out of this room alive. I'll come by and arrest you two once things have calmed down… Ey! What're you…!"
"Why that dirty skunk! No time for banter?" Sonic made a fist and shook his head sadly. "Eggman would've never been so sloppy…!"
Sally gave him a disbelieving look. "You wanted to exchange insults with him."
"It's a time honored tradition!" Sonic replied, over-dramatically. "You call each other names, and then boast about yourself, and then someone leaves while laughing! He broke The Code!"
Sally just let out an exasperated sigh. "That's pretty pathetic if it's true…"
"Well, let's see what's so special about this trap!" Sonic took a few steps forward, and instantly two of the wall turrets locked in on him. But instead of firing bullets or beams, they started to … sprinkle. Sonic instinctively jumped back, and the fine mist lingered in the air. Sally whistled, and pointed to the floor.
The rug was frozen solid.
"Liquid Nitrogen," Sally explained with a frown.
"Ok. Definitely not cool." Sonic also frowned and looked around. "We'll have to find a way around…"
"…I'll come by and arrest you two once things have calmed down." Geoffrey St. John was not having a good day. Not at all. He was about to say more into the Secret Service headset that had become so ubiquitous he hardly thought about life without it, when he saw a trio of his Agents running away from the Hangar.
"Ey! What're you blokes doing?" He held out his hands, blocking their path.
"St. John sir!" The first of them saluted, but he looked ragged. "That cyborg! She's in the main hangar with the ex Captain!"
"And you're running away from them!" St. John felt like taking them out back and shooting them. "Follow me! The King will have our hides if we lose the Hangar!"
Geoffrey quickly snapped on the bandolier he'd picked up just a minute before after leaving the Audience Hall, and checked to make sure everything was in place. Running up a flight of steps, he entered the wing of the Palace with the Hangar. It was easy enough to get to, even for someone who didn't know the layout of the Palace like the back of his hand. On the way, he found and rallied no less than a half dozen other cowards who had fled for it.
The inner doors were already open, and when St. John stepped through them, he groaned inwardly at what he saw. Agents and Royal Guards were strewn all over the place. Most looked alive, at least. The static defenses, the turrets and even the man-portable gun platforms, were completely unsalvageable. Worse, two of the three Royal Shuttles looked like they'd been through a recycling machine.
"Well, if'n it ain't St. John!" A voice called from above, and Bunnie flipped down from her perch on some of the metal catwalks used to service the royal ships. She stood, completely un-intimidated, with one hand on her robotic hips.
"You!" St. John growled. "This time I won't go so easy on you! Senescence; the metal rusts!"
Bunnie pursed her lips, and looked down at herself, then back up at him.
"Senescence; the Metal RUSTS!" He said again, louder, and then let out a long suffering sigh. "You had the killswitches deactivated somehow, didn't you?"
Bunnie tapped her nose.
"Ok. The old fashioned way, then." He snapped his fingers. "Open FIRE!"
Bunnie's rockets immediately activated, scooting her back as St. John's troopers cut loose with their weapons. Her left arm covered her body and face effectively, and bullets pinged harmlessly off the hardened metal frame. The bullets, even if they hit her organic parts, probably wouldn't cause any really threatening injuries, but it wasn't like she liked being shot either. Suddenly, her sensors picked up a new threat, and she looked up over her fist to see something the size of a grenade in the air.
Warning: EMP Device Activated
And then the little device exploded in a white flash, scrambling her more unprotected circuitry. Her HUD became a mess, with malfunctioning displays and grainy static. St. John watched Bunnie suddenly stagger, confused, and he leveled his GAST, loaded with 'special' ammo. The HV rounds would chew up the gun barrel and make it useless, but who cared at this point?
He had to be careful, however. He knew Bunnie was equipped with regeneration mechanisms and redundant biomechanical organs. To get a kill, one had to hit her in the head, and punch through the sub dermal plates. Not easy, especially with her moving around, but not impossible either, for a trained marksman.
"Sir! Look out!"
"Eh?" St. John stepped back just in time, as he saw the shadow from above. There was a flash, and the forward half of his handgun corkscrewed through the air. The skunk cursed, and jumped back as another flash nearly cut him in half. A safe distance away, now, St. John spared a look at his gun: the cut was so clean; it looked like it had been done by an industrial laser.
Antoine stood before them, holding a rapier, but not one the Royal Guard used. The base was thicker, and reinforced, just over where the cross guard was attached. The blade itself shone with a silver brilliance.
"You are being faster than you look… n'est-ce pas?" Antoine lowered the tip of his sword, and easily cut a line in the Hangar floor with a spray of sparks.
"High Frequency Sword." St. John snorted. "An honest to Source vibroblade! Where the hell did you guys get all these new toys?"
"Royal Guards!" St. John looked over his shoulder, and saw the three Guards he had with him holding up their hands in surrender. With a grunt, he reached behind him for his backup GAST. "Bloody hell…"
The Manifest Destiny unleashed another colossal blast of white ionic energy, pummeling the primary city shield of Echidnapolis. The echidna resistance in the air had finally been properly driven from the field, losing over two thirds their number. What was left had turned tail and ran, and Charmy had given Prince Taji and Center Fleet permission to pursue, to destroy the echidna fleet completely, and to avenge the loss of Prince Mello. Move missiles impacted the shield, and with one last gasp, it shattered and fell.
Charmy allowed himself a savage grin.
His chair gone, he settled for standing, watching the final phase of the invasion. The last of his Assault Destroyers landed, disgorging their swarms of troops into the heart of the city. Losses had been much heavier than anticipated, with almost all of South Fleet damaged or destroyed, and substantial elements of Center and North Fleets also damaged or crippled by ground emplacements. But with the shield down, things were almost over.
All he had to do was wait, and let his warriors do their thing.
In all, Charmy had brought over twenty one thousand soldiers to fight, in three waves. Behind him, the slower armored columns and escort forces advanced, another twenty thousand troops waiting to join the battle and secure the city. The echidna defenses were both soldiers and militia in equal numbers, and as expected, they were fighting hard for their homes and families.
The Manifest Destiny drifted over the heart of the urban squall, taking potshot at targets of opportunity with the point defense weapons. Unknown to anyone onboard, its position was being carefully monitored. Cloaked figures moved through the city, and gathered for a precision strike.
"Another shield bubble is developing!"
Charmy scoffed at hearing that. What could…?
"Right below us!"
"What!" Charmy looked desperately from screen to screen, but didn't see anything useful. A shield below them? The interaction of two shields on contact with each other created a destabilization, allowing a sufficiently reinforced projectile to penetrate. The humans were the only ones, as far as Xialjyet Intel knew, to really take advantage of the interaction effect to create shield piercing torpedoes, because of technical difficulties and doctrinal differences. A sufficiently powerful shield generator was not easy to fit on most things.
"Picking up Dark Legion hoverpods!"
"Commandos?" Charmy laughed. "Useless! Shoot down as many as you can. There's no way they can harm this battlecarrier!"
Unnoticed by Charmy, a single echidna glided under his own power towards the ship. Knuckles angled himself carefully, and hit the disrupted shields of the Manifest Destiny fists first. There was substantial resistance, but his powers protected him, and he finally broke through. Doing so had caused him to undershoot the fighter hangar, but he wasn't worried. Getting a good grip on the side of the ship, he started to climb…
Less than a minute later, he found his last handhold, and pulled himself up.
The hangar was a cavernous space, with berths for dozens of fighter and corvette craft, and several transport shuttles. Xialjyet workers and warriors were everywhere, scurrying to repair damaged craft and prep others for launch. Knuckles cupped his hands, cracked his knuckles, and ran into the nearest thick of them.
"Sir! Disturbance in the Main Hangar!"
Charmy raised an eyebrow at that. "How can that be? We've been swatting these Dark Legion gnats from the sky!"
"It seems… one individual… is tearing through our forces," the voice came over the speaker, with just a trace of trepidation. "We believe it may be the Guardian."
"Knuckles." Charmy sighed. "I suppose this was inevitable…"
"Sir. Hangar Defenses are down. Point Defenses in that area are inoperable."
"It looks like we'll have to repel boarders." Charmy started to head for the door. "Send in the reserves. All of them. I will deal with Knuckles and the Chaotix personally."
Sonic grunted from the strain, as he pushed off the wall. Wall jumping was hard enough, but doing it with someone in your arms was many times worse. Not that Sally was heavy (or, not that he's say that she was out loud), but he just wasn't well built for it. He could out jump a meat head like Knuckles easily enough (Sonic almost chuckled at that thought), but this sort of thing wasn't what he generally practiced often.
But it was the quickest way trough the hall. There was no way to get by normally without getting a extra-cold shower of liquid nitrogen, and the door behind them wasn't just electrified, but booby trapped with a bomb as well. Since Sally had no idea how to diffuse it, or if it was similarly safe to go through the walls (or even try) that left this route. The turrets seemed to only target things walking along the ground.
So here he was, wall jumping as close to the ceiling as he could manage, with Sally in his arms. Again and again he jumped, pushing off before he could fall. The hall was long, too, pushing him to his limits. A single slipup, and they would both fall, and a few spritzes later… He didn't even want to think of it. Instant icicles or maybe they'd just shatter. Not good at all.
Damn that St. John!
It was a good trap! The least he could have done was make with some evil laughter, and say, 'Farewell, you pesky hedgehog!' or 'This should put you on ice!' or 'Hohohoho! I've got you this time!' Something like that. Only an amateur villain didn't use puns or veiled threats. Even Snively had known better!
"Ta da!" Sonic made a perfect three point landing at the end of the room, and quickly let Sally stand on her own two feet. Because his hurt. Not that he would admit that fact, but he just hated wall jumping so much! If he never had to do it again it would be too soon.
"All right!" Sally reached for the door, to open it. "Let's…" She gave it a pull, but it didn't open. "Oh. It's locked."
"Can you cut it open?" Sonic asked pointedly. "Do NOT tell me I have to wall jump us back over there!"
"I should be able to…" Sally never got to finish her sentence, as the doors opened themselves. Freckled multicolored light streamed down from the painted glass high above in the Audience Chamber ceiling. There was no music in the hall this time, save the distant staccato chatter of gunfire. Red and velvet and black drapes swayed softly from the change in air pressure caused by opening the doors, and at the far end of the hall, on a Throne of Gold, the roboticized shell of King Maximilian the First sat in brooding silence.
The two approached him, their shoes and boots resounding off the marble floor, and echoing throughout the hall. King Max didn't move, didn't run. His hand rested easily on the pommel of his sword, and he waited.
"Father…" Sally said, he voice low. Then, shaking her head and steeling her resolve, she yelled, "FATHER!"
For a few seconds, he just sat there.
"So: Jezebel returns with her Black Knight to dethrone the rightful King," he stood as he spoke, his hand wrapping around the hilt of the Sword of Acorns, the more precious family heirloom of that royal family.
"And the King saw her, and her perversion, and he said…" Drawing his sword. "You have consorted with False Gods and you have Slept with Demons. You have turned from the Glory of the Source, and remade the noble into the wicked. And I shall not forgive you this."
"I spared you before, my precious daughter, out of fatherly love." Max's unchanging, ironclad face betrayed no emotion, but his voice spoke of heartbreak and the pain of betrayal. "This time, as your King, I will kill you."
The building behind her crumpled, as an explosion reduced the lower floors to rubble. A swarm of Xialjyet flew by, chittering to each other in unintelligible bee-speak. The bark of an automatic energy rifle filled the air, and two of the warrior insects fell out of the air, thrashing wildly. She ignored them, and the other nuisances. All but one.
Cream rested her hands on her hips, and stared. "And who are you?"
The girl seemed her age, an echidna, with a Guardian crest. She wondered if it was a dye job, like she'd heard was semi-fashionable. Regardless, the other girl wasn't much to look at; she was rather standard in all respects.
"Just a friend of a friend," the echidna girl responded, her arms confidently crossed.
"Somehow I doubt that." Cream reached to her side, and flexed her fingers. A half dozen Xialjyet who strayed too close, probably thinking to pick her off, fell to pieces in midair. She looked around, trying to find her light, to find…
"Looking for this?" Lara held up a struggling mass of yellow and blue.
"Cheese!" Cream screamed, and was about to attack, when Lara held him right in front of her.
"Oh, he's just so cuuute!" Lara cooed, and hugged the chao close to her chest. It started to struggle even harder. Cheese's hand brushed against the emerald in Lara's chest, and flinched sharply as if burned. Indeed, a wisp of smoke rose from its hand where contact had been made.
"Oh? It seems he doesn't like my jewelry…" Lara snickered, keeping her eyes on Cream. "I've always wanted a pet chao, you know."
"You…" Cream started to slowly walk forward. "You let him go right now!"
"Really. It's your own fault for letting him wander around," Lara said, and held Cheese out, as if to hand him over. Cream came closer, and closer, when she suddenly paused as if sensing something.
"What?" She asked, but not Lara, instead addressing the Chao. "Yes. I feel it too. Something…"
'Get her attention but try not to kill her, he says. Oh, sure, that's easy, I say. Me and my big mouth.' Lara quickly put a halt to the pointless thoughts, and returned her focus on the here and now. If all was going right, then the battle in Mobotropolis would be getting the Devourer's attention, while the larger (but less apparently relevant) battle here in Echidnapolis went undisturbed. That meant keeping the corrupted former Freedom Fighter now calling herself Cream occupied.
"You know what they do to stray animals without a collar in Echidnapolis?" she asked, and tightened her grip on the chao. "THIS!"
Her power flared, and the Mad Chao instantly burst into flame.
Cream's jaw dropped, and she covered her face with her hands. "What… what have you done? Cheese? I can't hear him anymore! I'm all alone!"
Lara dropped the burning piece of meat, and wiped her hands together. 'Well, that should hold her attention…'
"I'm all alone. I'm all alone. I'm all alone!" Cream's body started to convulse, and she screamed, eyes wide and wild. The flesh on her arms peeled away and fell to the ground like flecks of paint, revealing silver lines and raw patchwork organic armor the color of day dried blood. A triad of long bladed spikes grew out of her forearm, curving back and mounting a smaller spike behind them. The underbody stretched from her neck to her arms, and on the curve of her shoulders, a gem appeared, violet on the right, sapphire on the left.
A third eye opened in the middle of her forehead.
'The Eye of Ysbadadden,' Lara confirmed, with grim finality. 'His powers in her right arm. The powers of Sekhmet in her left.'
Cream's left hand came up, fingers clenched, before turning to point at Lara. The echidna girl instantly used her powers to construct a shield around herself to block and nullify chaos energy. Silver lines hit the shield a millisecond later and curved around and off it, slicing apart the street to her left and right, and neatly cutting a lamppost in half.
"Ok." Lara looked from side to side with some trepidation. "That's a neat trick…"
Knuckles backhanded another of the Xialjyet interlopers, sending it flying into a bulkhead with a sick crash. He, the Chaotix, and a half dozen of the Dark Legion's finest commandos had managed to turn the hangar into a warzone. Xialjyet bodies were piled up in places, and hundreds of others were flung around, hanging limply from broken fighter craft, or crawling around on the ground.
Knuckles was loving every minute of it.
His fists were hammers, and the face of every insectoid Xialjyet he met was a nail to pound in. He uppercutted one, sending it flying high into the air. He was stronger than ever, more powerful than ever, fully recovered from that explosion in Haven. He saw Vector, another powerhouse, plowing through a handful of Xialjyet workers, his powerful fists sending them reeling.
Mighty, too, was in his element, swinging a massive piece of pipe several times his size like a baseball bat. More and more Xialjyet swarmed down from entrances above the in front of them, like an unending tide. With a warcray, Mighty tossed the pipe at a group of warrior Xialjyet with guns, crushing them. To Knuckles, it sounded like someone eating cornflakes. He grinned wider.
Even Julie, who had seemed somewhat reluctant to be working with the Dark Legion, much less being in command of them, was holding her own. She was with the other commandos, directing their fire to different areas, while occasionally adding some of her own Type-3 Dark Legion PPG handgun. How many had they killed so far? He'd long since lost count of how many had fallen victim to his own fists.
Then, he felt an approaching power.
At the far end of the hangar, Knuckles saw some new colors besides the usual yellow and black. Red. White. A cape. He knew instantly that things were finally being taken to the next level. Swatting away the last annoying Xialjyet in reach, he started heading towards a more worthy opponent.
Charmy looked over the carnage in the main hangar, and motioned to his elite guard. The Praetorian Guard were his finest shock troops, taken from those assigned to guard the egg chambers and the Queen of the Hive herself, the one indispensable member of the colony. They were larger and more savage than any Xialjyet warrior save the elites of the Giant Hornet Hive.
And he had dozens of them.
"You made a mistake coming here!" Charmy yelled, as he led them.
"The mistake was yours! When you Betrayed the Chaotix!" Knuckles yelled back. Something caught the echidna's eyes, and he saw Mighty charging forward. He thought, at first, about stopping him, but then decided to let the armadillo get his chance. It was only fair.
Charmy swept back his hands, keeping his Elites behind him. Mighty made no attempt to hide his attempted haymaker - throwing caution and subtlety to the wind. Charmy let him come, and reached up unfasten his cape, throwing it aside. His right hand glowed, and he disappeared.
Mighty slowed in his charge, and looked around, confused. "Where…?"
"You're too slow, Mighty." Charmy placed his hand on Mighty's back.
"When did…?" Mighty's question was cut short as he was sent flying, his entire body in pain, and his mind nearly blacking out. He hit the ground, rolled, bounced off a nearby metal ramp, and landed between two dead Xialjyer warriors. Charmy shook his head and lowered his right hand, wisps of smoke wafting between his fingers.
"That's what I'm talking about!" Knuckles motioned Julie, Vector and the others to follow him. A hundred feet from where Charmy stood, he stopped. Julie took the opportunity to run over to where Mighty lay, fighting to stay conscious.
"I didn't betray the Chaotix," Charmy explained with a scowl. "I sided with my people. I'm going to bring peace to this Island!"
"You call this peace!" Vector scouted, sweeping his hand towards the death around them.
"It is the horror of war that gives us peace," Charmy insisted. "Angel Island was divided, and war would have come sooner or later, with or without me. The forest grows back stronger and healthier after a fire. This Island will prosper, united, under the flag of Goldenhive and the Quaz Xialjyet!"
"Charmy…!" Julie cried to him, but it was obviously too late.
He just shook his head. "If you hate this war so much: try and stop it. Try and stop me."
Knuckles smirked. "Let's go."
Charmy pointed, and his Elite Guard charged. "Let's."
Sonic watched Sally fight, knowing he couldn't help. He had learned first hand the energy draining powers of the Sword of Acorns when wielded by its master. Normally, that would not have deterred him, but with Max's new body essentially an extension of that sword, there was nothing he could do. Just touching Max, even to strike him, would seal his doom.
So he watched.
Max handled the sword like it was truly an extension of his body and soul, stepping in and out with pinpoint lunges. Sally, who had only had a few days to train to use the Spear of Rhadamanthus, was at an innate disadvantage. What surprise there had been for the King that his opponent was now immune to his life draining power had quickly been replaced with a determination to do the job the only way that was left.
Sally spun the Spear, parrying a blow and using it to open a counterattack. She could not use the weapon to its full potential yet – indeed, it was possible she never could. Tails had explained in detail how Mogul had wielded it, and the techniques he had observed and found out for himself. She, however, was not a weapon fighter by choice. She had to use it differently.
She willed it to be as flexible as it could be, and advanced on her father, twirling the tip of the glaive to make her eventual strike less obvious. He kept his sword level, blocking it evenly, and avoiding when she struck hard and down, the marble floor shattering where the blade hit.
Max landed on his feet with a heavy thud, and Sally pressed her attack.
She was nimble, agile, even more so than before. She spun both herself and the weapon, creating two deadly arcs. Max tried to follow her movements, so he sidestepped, and as she got close, his sword cut through the air in a figure eight, deflecting a half dozen strikes. Sparks flew from between them, but the King was undeterred, and he suddenly pushed forward, throwing Sally off balance.
She cart wheeled back, and out of reach, breathing heavily.
Her former father just chuckled darkly, his own fatigue no longer even an issue. He short stepped, his right arm moving faster and faster as he stabbed at his daughter. Sally desperately moved to block or avoid the attacks, and took a chance by trapping and pushing the sword off course, leaving just enough opening for a snap kick.
Max held up his left hand and blocked it while leaning back slightly. He quickly reversed the grip of his sword in his outstretched right hand, and pulled it back. Sally, caught by surprise, barely moved enough to save her right arm. She fell to the ground and rolled out of the way as her father stomped down with a roboticized foot.
Sally winced at the pain, and clutched her right arm. Blood flowed freely from between her fingers, and she quickly wiped it off and put her hands back on her only means of defense. She was tired. Not even counting all the fighting getting to the Palace, she had been dueling her father for over ten minutes without rest.
Max returned his sword to the proper gripping style, blade forward and not reversed. The Sword of Acorns dripped with the blood it had been meant to protect, but he flicked it clean with a single sharp move. He began walking towards Sally again, his pace relentless. She backed up.
The blade of the Spear glowed vivid heliotrope, and Sally swung it at him desperately. Max just swept up the Sword of Acorns to intercept the energy headed towards him. On contact, it dissipated. He laughed.
"That's an impressive weapon," he admitted. "But you will never defeat me. And when I'm done with you, I'll dispose of your worthless lover here. Even Elias, who I had such hopes for, is just another risk I cannot afford. I shall return all of you to the dustbin of history where you belong!"
Sally caught her breath, and charged. Max met her with his sword, blocking a frontal strike, and then one to the knees. He turned to his side, brought his arm back, and blocked the reverse blow to the back of his neck. Sally would never know it, but he was faster, stronger, better than he had ever been. Even as a young man, when he had been a champion level duelist.
Still, she tried. She used her legs and feet, and kicked him in the back of his knees. It barely phased his robotic physiology, though it was a clever move, and in response he sucked her in and slammed the pommel of the sword of her Ancestors into her midriff. She braced herself and tried to block the follow up strike with her spear, but Max wasn't just aiming to slash at her.
As his sword hit her spear, he straightened out his arm and took a step forward with his right foot. The angle was not enough for a deep thrust, but it was enough. Sally wheeled back, yelling this time, as a fountain of blood erupted from her right shoulder. She struggled to stay on her feet, but he didn't give her the chance.
The first swing, she blocked, and the second as well, her movements desperate and hasty. It left her left side exposed. He cut down, and caught her left leg, but missed the most vital artery in the thigh. She made a pained sound, and fall back, holding her weapon across her body, hoping it would provide some measure of safety.
He took his aim for the killing blow.
When suddenly, everything went dark. Sonic ran around the Iron King, twice, wrapping him up in the velvet drape he had torn down. Then, with all his strength, he pulled, and swung. King Max flew halfway across the room before hitting a pillar with a crash.
Then, Max tore his way free, ripping the cloth like tissue paper.
"I see you've gotten your speed back," Max said, quickly extraditing himself. "Let's find out how long it takes me to drain it out of you."
It was total chaos.
Knuckles swiped at Charmy, and jumped after him as the smaller fighter ducked and flew back. He passed by a pair of Praetorians tearing apart a Dark Legion commando, and he saw Julie standing on a pile of bodies, firing wildly, a gun in each hand. He didn't know where Vector or Mighty were. Really, it was too bad Espio hadn't come.
Charmy was fast, and incredibly maneuverable. He moved in one direction, and then the next, and then shot off at high speed to higher ground. Knuckles followed him up a wall, missed hitting him by an inch, and then had to quickly move one hand down to block the bee Princes' ever dangerous right hand.
The flipped away, and Charmy faded to the left, and then the right, and back to the left. Knuckles took to the right, a flying backhand missed, and he kicked, but as always Charmy used his wings to avoid the strike. The bee turned, and Knuckles avoided his stinger,a and then batted aside his fist.
Charmy spread his arms, and shot backwards like a bottle rocket. Knuckles was after him in a heartbeat, and they spring boarded off the floor, the wall, and the ceiling. Suddenly, in midair, Charmy became aggressive again, his right hand heading right for Knuckles' face. The echidna former Guardian barely had time to grab it around the wrist.
"What…?" Knuckles pupils grew wide, as he saw what looked like hundreds of little spikes in Charmy's hand. Then they retreated back into his glove, like they were never there. The two kicked off each other, and landed on the ground.
"See something you didn't like?" Charmy asked, the fingers of his right hand curling wickedly.
"See some of what you did to Mighty, now," Knuckles replied, and moved his head back and forth, making little popping sounds in his neck. "That must be the power you get from the emerald."
"It is…" Charmy held up his hand, and a long stinger extended out of the palm. "The stinger is really the most deadly part of my body, and now not only can I move it to my hand, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Like… so!"
He shot his hand forward, and the stinger detached, becoming a missile.
Knuckled dodged it at the last second, and it punched a hole in the wall behind him. Charmy, unimpressed, still held out his hand. Suddenly, thousands of tiny stingers shot out, a machine gun rain impossible to avoid. Knuckles didn't even try and move. He just pulled back his fist, and hit the ground. A section of the floor, a plate of metal over three meters to a side, rose up in response, forming a makeshift shield.
In a second, a thousand little stingers riddled the steel plate.
"That…" Charmy looked to his sides, for a counter attack, and then felt something around his ankles. Knuckles exploded out of the ground at his feet, spun in the air, and slammed Charmy into the ground, before tossing him into two of his own soldiers, who had been about to hit Vector from behind.
"Woah!" Vector tried to cover his head, and looked from where Charmy lay, among the broken bodies of his elite guards, and back to Knuckles. "Thanks for the save, man!"
"Watch your back next time," Knuckles growled, and jumped, his fist cocked.
Charmy wasn't done just yet. Getting his feet on the ground, he reached to the side and tossed one of the Praetorian bodies at the attacking echidna. Knuckles batted it aside, and hit the ground just as Charmy became fully mobile again. His fist punched a hole in the metal, but it pulled it out with a grunt, and went back to chasing his foe.
"Damn that St. John!" Antoine cursed his old associate's name, and not for the first time in the last few minutes. The skunk had been forced to fall back once Bunnie rejoined the fight, and his men started to desert him. Antoine had hoped to catch him as he escaped, but the Secret Service Agent had gotten away when Antoine remembered his priorities.
He reached the Royal Quarters in good time, only having to deal with two of the cockier members of the Royal Guard. Most, knowing he had been Captain and was thus much better than they, simply stood down. He supposed it was rather unbecoming for an elite organization, but for now at least, it was much more convenient.
Unfortunately, it looked like he had one more obstacle to deal with.
"Ho ho! The ex-Captain finally shows up to be put in his place!"
It was Norberto Vanguard, one of Antoine's subordinates who had been clever (or just cutthroat) enough to assume command after his ouster. He was a feline, calico with orange streaks, and not unskilled. He was also something of a braggart and a dandy, even by Antoine's standards. And weren't calicos only supposed to be female?
"Norberto," the coyote addressed him with obvious annoyance.
"Captain Vanguard to you!" The tomcat stomped his foot, and draw his rapier. "I am Captain now, and you are nothing more than a vagrant! You see, how…"
Antoine flicked his wrist twice, and sheathed his HF blade.
"How… ah…" Norberto's sword broke into three pieces, leaving him with little more than a stump and a guard over his hand. Biting his lip, he fell to his knees. "Forgive me Captain! I had no choice! St. John made me do it!"
Antoine grimaced at the display. 'Shameless…!'
"The keys to the Royal Quarters, if you please." He held out his hand. Norberto fumbled and quickly handed them over before running for the door. Antoine patted the hilt of the vibroblade Miles had made for him. Vanguard was actually a very good, if inflexible and cowardly, swordsman. Though his position in the guard came as much from his supposedly good breeding and noble family. If not for being totally outclassed in the weapons department, he would've probably fought tooth and nail.
Well, maybe not nail.
Antoine quickly opened the Royal Quarters, and made a search for where the Prince and his wife and child were being held. On the way, he passed by the Queen's Quarters, and curious, he opened the doors.
"Queen Alicia?" he asked, raising his voice a bit. "My Queen? Are you around?"
Walking in deeper, he heard beeping. Pushing open to the doors to the Queen's bedroom, he saw her. Sally's mother lay, seemingly asleep, on her bed. The medical equipment set up, however, indicated her rest was anything but natural or peaceful. Antoine's eyes were drawn to her medical chart, and he skimmed it.
"Heart Attack," he said, quietly, and bowed his head to her before taking his leave to find her son.
Sonic circled the Iron King, but knew his options were limited. He had tried throwing things, but his attacks all involved actual contact with his opponent. He couldn't think of anything else that was effective. He'd even tried knocking down one of the pillars, so it could hit his opponent, but Max was a lot smarter and faster than the dumber varieties of Eggman robot those tricks sometimes worked on.
"I grow weary of this!" Max roared making two lightning quick slashes that Sonic was fast enough to elude.
"You and me both, pal!" Sonic stopped and wagged a finger. "So why not just give up?"
Max lowered his weapon, and turned to where Sally lay, wrapping a piece of cloth around her leg to try and stop the bleeding. Turning his back on the hedgehog, he began towards her, dragging the tip of his sword on the ground, where it made a cruel scraping sound.
"Hey! Over here! You old fart!" Sonic ran closer, to try and tempt the King to shift his attention back onto him. "I thought you wanted a fight!"
Max chuckled, and continued towards Sally, who had the Spear, but had lost a lot of blood. Sonic jumped in dangerously close, desperate to him to turn around, but Max ignored the azure hero.
"You're wrong. I never wanted a fight." Max was almost in striking distance. "Now: Watch. Watch, and realize your helplessness. Your powerlessness."
Max's hand came down, but stopped. Sonic stood in front of him, holding the King's gauntleted hand, preventing the killing blow. The Iron King seemed to be surprised by this, but it only lasted an instant. Then, the sword began to glow, ominously, and Sonic felt his strength – even his new energies – leave him. The dam had been broken, and like before, everything was pouring out without control.
"Sonic!" Sally gasped from behind him. "No!"
"You're a fool. You could have escaped, and caused me trouble. But now…" Max pushed down, and Sonic's failing strength was barely enough to hold him back. "Now you will die a useless and pointless death, delaying the inevitable."
"Useless? Pointless?" Sonic managed a weak smile and even laughed. "And people call me an idiot. You think I'm unhappy, trading a few years of my life, for a minute of hers?"
"If you love my daughter so much," Max said, and pushed down again. Sonic fell to one knee. "I'll bury you two side by side!"
Sally struck up with her Spear, but her tired state made her slow, and the attack was easy to see coming. Max just took a step back and out of range. Sonic let go of his wrist, and fell back, where Sally caught him. The sword continued to glow, drawing the life out of him, and the scene, with him in her arms… it was just like the dream.
He even found himself saying the same words.
"That was too easy… did you really think this fool the next King?" he asked, and saw the growing horror, and anger, in her eyes. "Now Jezebel… We come at last to you, who corrupted the Order of Knights, who turned him against me… who plotted and schemed and betrayed for her own petty purposes and indulgences…"
"Sonic!" Sally pleaded, deviating from the script. She lowered him to the ground. "I'm so sorry…"
"You have wronged our Kingdom!" Max snapped. He, at least, knew his part and his lines. He was Marius! He had been betrayed! He was just making things right again! History would remember him and condemn her!
"Forgive me," Sally ran her hand down Sonic's face, and took in his smile. Then, she forced herself to her feet, and faced her father.
"You brought this on yourself!" Max yelled, but the sound of a door opening caught his attention. He looked behind him, and saw St. John stumble in. The skunk was short of breath, and bleeding from his arm, where his crossbow had been damaged.
"My Lord!" He called. "The hangar! Couldn't hold it! Your son… The ex-Captain has gone to set him loose! I went to Central Command. Our forces outside are near the breaking point!"
"I will deal with those other pests in due time," Max replied, utterly confident. "As you can see, I'm almost done here."
He lunged, and Sally parried it, falling back. He lunged again, and she blocked it, most slowly. He was toying with her, and they both knew it. On the ground, Sonic groaned, and curled into a fetal ball. The sword of Acorns turned from a blue glow, to a red one.
"Do you see it?" Max asked. "This blood red glow. Before, I only drained the extra energy, the chaos energy, from him. Now, I will take my time and drain him completely, until only a withered husk remains!"
Sally shook her head, and tried to attack, but he batted the strike away with contemptuous ease.
"This little rebellion of yours is about to end. And then I will return my attentions to Mercia, and the cities of the south. I will retake them, and I will decimate their populations, as my grandfather did when he first took those lands. All that offends me, I shall put to the torch. All who oppose me; I shall put to the sword!"
Another voice came from behind, as Elias and Antoine burst in.
"Father! Stop this madness!" Elias started to run towards him, but Max whirled on his son. The former Prince had to dart back to avoid being slashed. As he faced his original opponent, his daughter, Sally lifted her Spear, and threw it over his head.
"Elias! Catch!" she yelled.
"What is it?" He took a step back, and held out his hands. The Spear was flying in a lazy, easy arc through the air, headed right for him. But before it got within reach, Elias felt something hit him. As he fell to the ground, he saw Geoffrey St. John in his place, reaching up.
"I have it!" St. John cheered, and the Spear of Rhadamanthus was in his hands. "I have it!"
"Very good work!" Max applauded, and faced Sally again. "What a foolish mistake to make!"
Sally just held out her hands.
"Behold!" She said; her voice low and weak. "His Last Work, His Loyalty made Manifest, his Body and Soul. The Spear of Rhadamanthus. My New Covenant with a New Source."
And St. John howled as the weapon in his hands burned like molten steel and turned into a lance of white light. His back turned, the Iron King never even saw it coming. He didn't even feel it. One moment, Sally's hands were empty, and then something flashed and appeared in them, that damnable Spear! He tried to move, but something was wrong. Something was...
He looked down, and saw a hole the size of his fist, or larger, in the middle of his chest. Sparks were falling from severed wires, and bits of machinery and electronics clattered and fell. His left arm could move a little, but his right seemed to be stuck making the same small motion over and over.
"My King!" St. John yelled from behind him.
"No. Enough…" Max replied, his voice working at least. "I wish this to end."
Yes. This was the ending from before, wasn't it?
But different! He would change it! When he died, the Kingdom's most potent chemical weapon would fill the Palace in seconds, killing everyone. He was the Great King, and Last King! It would all end with him, as was foretold!
'Even in death, I shall strike down those who have wronged me!'
His sword arm wavered. "Foolish daughter…"
And in that instant, she moved. There was no rustle of soft silks. Sally rushed forward with her weapon, and the great blade of it pierced him cleanly and easily. A little higher, and it finished the work, cutting what passed for his heart, and preventing any circulation of essential fluids throughout his damaged body.
"Daddy…" Sally whispered into his ear, her voice soft and sweet. His vision faded and his mind slowed, but he knew that voice. It was his little girl, calling him from the garden, where she had been picking flowers with her mother. Sally's lips moved as she said her last words, for him alone, and then she stepped back.
King Max fell forward and stopped moving.
The red glow around the Sword of Acorns died with its master.
"It's finally over," Sally announced, facing Elias, Antoine and the still shell shocked St. John. "Sonic needs medical attention. Call a doctor for him."
"My King…" St. John stared down at his burned hands.
"Geoffrey!" Sally yelled. "Call a doctor. Now."
"The King is dead... Long live… the King." St. John repeated the mantra, his face contorted in grief and loss and confusion. Wearily he tapped the headset he wore; silently thankful he had not carried out that one order from his now departed supreme monarch. To ask such a thing was impossible. Geoffrey St. John was, above all the laws of heaven and mobius, loyal to the Golden Throne. For there to be a Kingdom, there had to be a King!
"This is St. John. We need a medical team to the Throne Room. ASAP."
"All forces loyal to the Throne will stand down," Sally then said.
"Additionally," St. John continued. "All Secret Service, Royal Guard, and Homeguard units are to stand down. Repeat: Drop your weapons and stand down."
"Good." Sally let out a deep sigh, and collapsed to the floor.
"Stay back, damn it!" Charmy cursed, and more stingers shot out from his hand. Knuckles ducked and dodged between and around them. Looking into his eyes, the bee Prince quailed, despite his new powers.
"Alright, damn it! You want to die?" He suddenly stopped, and slammed his palm to the wall. "I'll kill you ALL!"
Knuckles barely moved in time. More stingers erupted from the walls and floor, by tens and then almost a hundred, covering every direction. Knuckles felt one cut his leg, and another his forehead, as he flipped and jumped away from the wall to escape. The spikes followed, however, retreating into the wall and then appearing somewhere else. Knuckles ran past two Xialjyet elites who had been firing at Julie and her commandos, and they were almost instantly impaled in a dozen ways.
Before the spikes could retreat back into the ground, Knuckles counter attacked, sweeping his arms out. A handful of the spikes broke, and Knuckles grabbed them, ran to the side, and threw them like javelins. Charmy had to pull his hand back to defend himself, and he did so by forming a shield of spines out of his hand to block the projectiles.
"Poison…" Knuckles hissed to himself, feeling the effects from multiple wounds and multiple doses. He was tough to start with, but his experience in Haven had made him all but invincible. Or so he thought. Charmy's poison was testing even his resistance, and he could feel the burning sensation all throughout his body.
He flew through the air, and again tried to catch Charmy in close combat. The Princes' shield retracted into his gloved hand, and he again ducked out of the way of one of Knuckles' blows. Knuckles struck again and again, but Charmy was always a step ahead, and he counter attacked with his hand, or with his regular stinger, aiming for a killing blow.
Then, in an action half insane, half brilliant, he let Charmy hit him.
The Bee Prince smirked in triumph, and Knuckles felt the pinpricks from his stingers. There was a thump, as shot not just poison, but chaos energy, into his body. But Knuckles, unlike Mighty, had braced himself. He grabbed Charmy by the wrist and shoulder.
"You damned fool… are you going to die on your feet?" Charmy snarled, trying to pull himself free.
"You… have something… I want…" Knuckles pulled his arms back and apart, and Charmy howled in pain. His elbow started to bend, and stretch, in unnatural ways, and then, with a tearing sound, Knuckles fell backwards.
The Prince of Goldenhive's right hand and forearm in his grip.
Knuckles laughed in victory, and held up the twitching appendage. He shook it, and a small topaz gem fell out of the palm and onto the floor. Knuckles threw aside the arm, and snatched up the Chaos Emerald, his vision starting to fade and his body go numb.
"NOOO!" Charmy jumped over the railing after him.
"YES!" Knuckles yelled, and jammed the emerald into his forehead. It was hard and painful, and when Charmy got too close, he backhanded him with a loud crack. Knuckles started feel it, the power… only… only something was wrong. It wasn't like before. This wasn't the Master Emerald's Energy, or that of one of the Super Emeralds. What was this?
Why did it BURN!
Knuckles roared as smoke rose from every pore in his body.
Charmy barely saw him. His neck was broken, and he couldn't move. Miles… Tails… hasn't told him that Knuckles would be this powerful. Hadn't told him that Knuckles knew about the Emeralds, and how they were used. Everything was so quiet. His head lolled to the side so he was looking outside, and he saw Echidnapolis burning.
Did I do that?
No. No. He hadn't. It wasn't burning. That wasn't fire. It was white, and brilliant, and beautiful, and warm, and rising like a thunderhead. He felt himself drawn towards it, towards the tornado, and he closed his eyes. Oh, he thought, at the very last.
Here was true peace…
Cream and Lara paused in their fight, and looked up at the sky. The former looked confused, even afraid, but the latter smiled sadly. She knew what it meant, and that was nothing truly worthy of celebration. The ceremony was complete. The Sacrifice was ready.
It manifested first as an arch of white and silver, and then another, and then another. Then, the arches detached from wherever they had been grounded, and rose, higher and higher, splitting apart and becoming more delicate in appearance. The tornado of souls, the collected chaos energies of thousands of freshly slain, rose higher into the air. They came there to swirl and dance, like feathers finding their place on the wing of a titanic seabird.
It was terrible and beautiful, and it brought tears to her eyes.
Beneath her feet, the ground began to tremble.
Wreckage flew though the air, forming great wreaths in the sky for the dead. The wings dipped, lower, and Lara could feel the wind on her face as if they were real and tangible things. When it rose, there was a body attached, the curve of a back at first, and then more. White robes and gold amulets hanging from slender wrists rose penitently to the sky. The beginnings of an echidna, pink locks and blue eyes, a body as tall as a city's radius, blocking out the sky.
Even though who would not see the chaos energy, those not attuned to it, stopped what they were doing and gazed upwards. The darkness and the clouds retreated, leaving an open sky, and a brightly shining sun, that bathed everything in ethereal and unexplainable warmth. Soldiers gazed up, and even Xialjyet warriors averted their eyes to the heavens.
Aurora's arms reached up, her hands seemed to straddle and encircle the sun.
Lara strained, and saw a dot against the outline of that far off star. She couldn't quite see it, but she knew what it was. The Master Emerald was held aloft, a mile above the so called Angel Island. It pulsed, angrily, released from containment, and finally realizing what was happening around it. A distant voice thundered with rage and hatred, but it was too late.
Aurora never said a word.
Her wings flapped one last time, and then they began to envelop her. Lara reached up, wanting to feel her, to be closer to that tranquility and bottomless being. Aurora's arms lowered, the Master Emerald cupped within them, until they disappeared behind her closed wings. There was a distant building up, of something titanic and immeasurable.
And then, she was gone.
And the Floating Island Fell.
Dingo New Territories
He walked past them, unseen and unchallenged. He had watched, discretely, as she had struggled, and felt terrible for not being there for her. Her pain was, after all, his fault. For days, he had weighed his options, and ran theories through his head.
He still didn't know what to do.
So much else had fallen into place. The Master Emerald had been purified, at the cost of thousands of lives, leaving his hands dirty for orchestrating the event. He had betrayed Charmy, and lured him to his death in the process, but he had been successful in also cleansing Knuckles of the taint he had picked up in Haven. His own emerald had burned most of the chao from the former Guardian's body, but Knuckles remained a divided piece, caught between his and The Devourer's influences.
Sonic had his powers back, and Sally had her Kingdom, splintered and at war with itself as it was. Unlike Lara and even Fiona, he could not directly sense or influence either of them, and that near freedom they had filled him with a measure of pride. His other projects continued apace, and though the world was still caught up in the fires of war, it was a fight between mortals, with mortal aims.
That would do.
Then, at the last, there was… this. There were guards stationed around the facility, but really, they were useless. He had walked past them, without them batting an eye, and if he could do it, so could his enemies. He found himself in the room where other males were sent to wait, looking through the glass at the two bundles that stood out among their dingo peers. But when they left to be with their wives, he remained behind.
"I've created many things over the years, did you know that? Weapons and ships and marvels of technology," he said, putting his hand up to the glass. "And then there's life. You two. I helped create life."
'Forget them,' Merlin had said. 'Forget them, or kill them. One day, they will be a liability. Even now, they stand in the way of your resolve, even now they make you waver and divide your thoughts.'
Miles rested his forehead against the glass.
'You, my protégé, have killed so many. With your weapons, with your wars, with your cause, and with your hands. This is what your future holds. We three are Gods of Death. Not Life.'
"I wasn't there to protect you or her," he muttered, his eyes closed. He'd been regenerating at the time, recovering from having his body destroyed. Merlin hadn't told him, hadn't shown him, until after Ysbadadden's emerald had been removed. In Merlin's thinking, in Mogul's, children would die and turn to dust, and you would outlive even your descendants. What was the point of them, then?
"What a lovely expression you have, little brother."
Miles's eyes moved, slowly, to take in the face of who had spoken. The speaker sat in one of the waiting room chairs, his legs crossed. He was large, with the face of a serpent, or in this case: a dragon. His scales were a hundred shades of jade, but his eyes, angular and mocking beneath heavy horned brows, were the color of burnished gold. Curving crescent horns rose up from the sides of his face, and he smiled like a shark.
"I'm sorry. Am I bothering you?" he asked, in a voice that sounded like he came from the depths of a cavern.
"This is only a fragment of myself," Miles went back to looking at the two babes on the other side of the glass. "I wouldn't come here in person."
"I imagine Merlin would never allow that," The Devourer said from behind. "It's far too obvious and easy. This body is just a fragment, as well. Barely a handful of chao I detached and ordered into this form."
He snickered, and stood next to the kitsune fox.
"I had a child once, you know. He died, of course. They do so tend to do that…"
Miles repressed a snarl. "Are you here to threaten me?"
"I am curious: what would you do if I came for them?" he asked, and a second later answered. "I suspect you'd rush your real self out of hiding before you let them die."
Miles didn't dignify his nemesis with a response.
"I don't want that yet," The Devourer continued, and then he turned and walked away. "I want there to be more suffering, first. I want it to be something special, and horrible, so that I may reflect on it centuries from now with the utmost fondness."
"I'll destroy you. Like I did the Master Emerald." Miles didn't face him, didn't turn around; didn't even know if he was still there listening.
"I'll destroy you, Merlin, and myself." He clenched his fists. "I don't know how, but my gift to these two… will be a world without Gods. I swear it! I swear it!"
And there it is. The formal End of The Cycle of Ages: New World Order.
I would not like to say a few words. First, is that there will be a small side story, detailing the events that occur between the kitsune and humans, which takes place around the end of NWO, and lead into the third and final book. Also in this fic will be "newslets" and snippets detailing the post-NWO characters and world. So more will be coming, to provide additional closure. This fic's multiple climaxes made it run long to begin with, thus the need for an extra chapter.
Additionally, I would like to thank all those who read and reviewed and sent me emails of comments, criticism and encouragement. Especially my friend chicobo, who was always available for COA related discussions. I also have picked up general ideas from other books and shows. And of course, my old favorite NGE (aka Eva) provided some very nice imagery to aim for, like the summoning of Aurora (which I based off of Rei-Lillith). Hell, I even found, finally, something from Naruto to use (Charmy's ability; before that, believe it or not, I found that series rather barren land for inspiration).
New World Order has been a lot of work, and it is amazing to look back and see it all done! So:
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the second book of the Cycle of Ages! Universe information (aka "fluff") on all things related to COA, from weapons to ships to army organization to characters to history can also be found on my website's CCC (Comprehensive Cast of Characters) / COA Bible.
- Capn Chryssalid