Program 03: The Fist of Gartlant

Panther lay on a metallic table in the middle of Hess' lab. She drummed her fingers on the table as he finished wrapping the bandage around her right eye.

"How much longer?" she demanded.

"Patience my little doll," he replied happily. Something about his voice made her skin crawl.

"Don't call me that!" she snapped. He leaned over and met her defiant gaze through his crimson goggles.

"The sooner you accept what you truly are the easier it will be for you," he stated, "Now keep the bandage on for at least twenty four hours."

She sat up and swung her legs over the sides. Reflexively she began scratching the gauze.

"Itches like hell," she muttered, "How does it work?" Hess chuckled.

"Your loyalty is more inspiring than your intellect," he replied, "It's wired directly to your power source, so use it sparingly."

Panther grunted and got to her feet uncertainly. At that point the lighting turned red and klaxons began to blare. A blast door came crashing down in front of the double doors leading out of the lab. Panther ran over and began pounding at the door with her fists.

"Let us out!" she yelled.

Panther backed up and began kicking at the door so hard that it began to dent.

"Panther," stated Hess.

"Not now!" she snapped. She turned to see Hess walk over to a vent in the wall and pull the cover off it. He smirked sardonically as he gestured into the open shaft.

"After you," he said cheerfully.

Faust stood over the mangled bodies of two dozen Sabers, smoke drifting out of the muzzle of his emptied pistol. The survivors surrounded him at a respectful distance as he sighed angrily.

"You win this round," he muttered.

"Please return to the basal level," instructed the Mainframe reassuringly. Faust climbed down the rungs of the ladder. When he reached the bottom the rungs retracted back into the wall. He noted that Goddel had not gone down fighting. He was kneeling on the metallic floor with his hands over his head. A nearby Saber held his unfired gun. Faust joined him and folded his arms across his chest.

"You spineless coward," he sneered. Goddel desperately clutched at his boots.

"Please forgive me Fuhrer!" he begged, "I didn't want to die!" Faust pulled his feet free.

"I'll deal with you later," he stated, "For now help me get out of here." Goddel glanced around at the Sabers and the computer core.

"I don't understand," said Goddel, "How could the Mainframe defy your orders?"

"It's malfunctioning," replied Faust, "It's linked to the Maiden circuit." His subordinate blinked in confusion.

"You mean the computer has emotions?" he sputtered.

"Exactly!" barked Faust, "You really are useless Goddel!"

"What should we do?" he whined.

"I'll bide my time for now," said Faust grimly, "They will be here soon." Goddel didn't have to ask who.

Tiger was trying desperately to decode the blast door lock when a vent exploded behind her. She leapt into a defensive crouch but blinked at Panther and Hess standing amidst the clearing smoke.

"Is he alright?" demanded Panther angrily.

"I don't know!" retorted Tiger, "The Mainframe sealed him in!"

"This is your fault!" roared Panther, pointing an accusing finger at her, "You left him alone!"

"Now, now, save the squabbling for later," chideded Hess, "Let's concentrate on saving the Fuhrer." That silenced them.

"Can you open the door?" asked Tiger.

"Yes, if you cover me," replied Hess as he began to tinker with the lock. Tiger nodded grimly.

"Let's welcome our friends," she said.

"Fine by me," said Panther as she punched a fist into her other hand. They watched a legion of Sabers march into view, their weapons drawn.

Tiger ran at them full tilt, even Panther was only barely able to follow her movements. She reached the first row and pummeled them into pieces. The second row was taking aim when Panther got there, her sharpened fingernails were glowing a strange green hue. She slashed through the ranks, screaming bloody murder the whole time. Tiger had vaulted off into the air as the Sabers fired into the bodies of the first two ranks. As they aimed upwards to hit Tiger, Panther knocked a row of them down.

"Hurry it up old man!" yelled Panther.

"All in good time my dear," said Hess with a chuckle as he started to splice some wires.

Tiger by now had slashed down the last rank of them. Panther struck a confident pose, a hand on her hip.

"Not bad for an old Saber," she conceded. Tiger shot her a dirty look.

"Save your boasting for later," she said, nodding to the two legions of Sabers marching around the corner.

"Oh crap," said Panther.

Faust frowned in the direction of the blast doors as he heard the faint sounds of small arms fire.

"They sure took their time," he sneered.

"They'll save us!" said Goddel with enormous relief.

"Uncontrollable Sabers detected," stated the Mainframe, "Executing Option Twenty-nine."

"Twenty-nine!" said Faust, "A kamikaze wave?"

"You mean the Sabers are going to surround them," began Goddel, "And activate their-." He was cut off by a deep rumbling sound on the far side of the doors. The vibration knocked him over. Slowly the blast door rose, revealing a smoke-filled hallway beyond, littered with Marionette parts, the walls coating with black soot. Panther climbed off of Hess and staggered into the room, her clothing singed and torn. Tiger was on her heels, her face creased with worry.

"Fuhrer, are you alright?" she asked.

"Tiger, get me to the throne!" bellowed Faust, "Panther, blast these disloyal Sabers to scrap!"

Panther tore the gauze off her eye and sent a beam of pure light that tore through the Sabers guarding Faust and Goddel. Tiger placed Faust's arm over her shoulder and leapt towards the throne. Several other Sabers got in the way.

"This is not permitted," said the Mainframe.

"Panther again!" he shouted. Panther fired her eyebeam again, grazing Faust's arm as it tore through the Sabers. Electricity arced through her broken amber eye and she crumpled to her knees in pain. Tiger dropped Faust off next to the throne. He bent down so he was at eye level with the other Saber.

"Your name is Luchs," he whispered, "The most cunning and crafty of cats."

The Saber embedded in the throne gasped as the circuit breakers around her sprung to life. The Mainframe began raising giant cylinders that pierced the ceiling. The wires retracted from Luch's arms and the panels uncovered her body. The face shield rose, revealing her violet eyes, which were wide with shock beneath bangs of hair. She got weakly to her feet.

"Fuhrer," she said plaintively. He slapped her across the face, knocking her to the ground.

"You must be punished," he snarled, "I'll teach you to disobey me."

"Yes Fuhrer," she said, looking downcast. Faust climbed down to the floor level, where Hess was inspecting Panther's damaged eye.

"You overdid it," he said in disapproving tone.

"Fix her up," ordered Faust, "Then send her for discipline."

"But why Lord Faust?" demanded Panther, looking pale.

"You made me bleed," he stated as he walked past the still paralyzed Goddel. Tiger jumped to the ground and caught up to him.

"Lord Faust, please show them mercy," she begged, "They are newly born." Faust stopped in his tracks.

"I don't need your pity!" hissed Panther to Tiger.

"You would have me spare them?" he asked without looking back.

"If it pleases you my Lord," she added.

"Mercy is for the weak," he said, "If you don't understand that, you can share their punishment." Tiger hung her head.

"Yes my Fuhrer," she said numbly.

Faust drank red wine from a goblet as he watched the three Sabers writhe in pain as high voltage electricity ran through their bodies. All three dangled from the ceilings of the dark metal dungeon. He was nearly finished with the glass when he nodded to Hess, who turned a dial all the way down.

"Do you understand why you are here?" he asked.

"Yes, we were bad," said Luchs.

"We failed you," added Tiger.

"It was their fault!" yelled Panther. Faust stabbed a button and more electricity was shot through Panther. She howled in pain.

"You are nothing without me!" he roared, "I will not tolerate such failure again!"

"Yes Fuhrer!" said the three of them in a chorus.

"Release them," he instructed as some Sabers unchained them. They slumped to the floor wearily.

"Please forgive us," said Luchs.

"I will this time," he replied, "But don't disappoint me again."

"Yes my Lord," said Panther. He gestured for them to stand as he took a briefcase from Hess.

"Take these and use them," he said as he pulled out a short handled whip and handed it to Tiger. She looked it over curiously as Faust handed Luchs a dozen small blades.

"Thank you my Lord," said Luchs gratefully. She was eager to get back on the right footing with her master.

"This is for you," he said as he flung a small object at Panther. She caught it and stared at a translucent blue eyepatch in the shape of a star.

"It will regulate the power of your eyebeam," explained Hess. Panther removed the bandage and tied the eyepatch over her amber eye.

"You three will serve an important part of my plans for Terra II," said Faust, "Tiger will lead you two."

"Yes Fuhrer," said Luchs submissively.

"What?" said Panther, "I mean-great."

"Master please give us a name," said Tiger, clutching the whip to her chest.

"You already have a name," he replied.

"I mean for the three of us, my Lord," she added. Faust stared at the three of them pensively for a moment.

"Saber Dolls," he said. Faust then turned and left through the door.

"Fine, I'll take your orders" said Panther grouchily, "But only because he said so."

"I hope we can all be good friends," said Luchs.

"Let's not keep Lord Faust waiting," suggested Tiger, "He is counting on us." They nodded to her and the three of them took off after their master.

For the glory of Gartlant and Terra II.