Well, this is it! The final chapter in my story: An Ancient Evil, starring Tommy Arashikage, a.k.a. Storm Shadow. Took a while, but I thought I had to finish it for my readers. Thanks to everyone who stuck with me for this story.

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An Ancient Evil! Part 7

His first attack didn't work, so he had to devise another stratagem.

Compared to the guardian, he was an insect; an insignificant bug that needed to be swashed. But Tommy didn't want to be that bug, nor did he have plans to be killed by a massive, walking stone, goliath. The thing had to be ten stories high, and there had to be a way to bring it down.

He stepped back, as the supernatural creature lifted its massive leg and stomped it down, but he flipped out of the way to avoid it.

The ground shook violently and he spread out his arms to keep his balance. He gulped nervous, but he still had his wits and skill as a ninja. There had to be some way to bring this thing down, though he doubted very highly that he could use a slingshot. If not a slingshot, then perhaps something else, he thought, and brainstormed.

He had the ancient power of Pallentides at his finger tips, and he used it. He slapped his hands together and opened them slowly, producing a ball of Ki, spiritual energy that resided inside every human, and generated a sizable sphere. The energy sphere crackled with powerful force, changing from hues of blue, green and then bright yellow.

When he thought it was ready, he got into attack position, and as the guardian came within range, pulled his hands back, and fired it directly into the creature's face. There was a large explosion, and the impact destroyed and completely obliterated the creature's head. The powerful blast had made it through the creature's protective barrier. Bits of stone cascaded in every direction.

Tommy's eyes widened with satisfaction and he produce a thin smile, believing at any moment the guardian would fall. But seconds passed and the creature didn't fall. Then the creature appeared to regenerate its strength and opened a second eye in its chest to see. It raised its hammer and brought it down hard to the ground. Tommy flipped out of the way again and landed on his feet.

But he quickly ran back at the creature and hopped on its arm, and using an ancient technique of finding the breaking point, punched the statue at the elbow joint, then he jumped off. When the creature tried to pull its hammer up, the elbow joint broke in two and the hammer dropped to the ground with the guardian's hand still attached.

However, even without its head or its right arm, it continued with its attack. Tommy gasped as it raised its right leg up again and stomped right in front of him, knocking him down. He looked at the leg a few feet in front of him and breathed out a sigh of relief that it had missed.

Tommy quickly got to his feet and backed off once more, then looked past the creature and saw Marduk smirking. His power must have given the creature the ability to fight even when it couldn't see; he must be its eyes. "Destroy him, my pet," Marduk said. "Your skilful acrobatics have been amusing, Thomas Arashikage, but now its time you die." He looked at Pallentides trapped in the spirit cage beside him. "You should not have brought him back, Pallentides, he was probably very content where he was in the underworld. Now, you're causing nothing but pain."

"He'll defeat your creature, Marduk, mark my words," Pallentides said.

Marduk laughed, and saw nothing to confirm Pallentides belief that Thomas Arashikage would defeat his guardian.

The creature pursued Tommy. Suddenly, his left ankle hit a large stone and he nearly tripped over it, finding himself in the rumble of the entry way. Behind him was the open cavern. How was he supposed to beat a supernatural creature like this? In all his years with Cobra and G.I.Joe, he had seen some unbelievable things, but nothing like this.

The creature made a fist with its left hand and slammed it to the ground, forcing Tommy to jump out of the way. Then he scurried beneath its legs and ran towards the throne platform. Marduk was there, looking smug, with his arms crossed across his chest, mimicking Cobra Commander to a tee, in his body.

"Having trouble, ninja?" he said, snorting a chuckle. "There's no way to defeat my guardian." The creature turned and started its way back to him. "But your antics are amusing."

"There's always a way," Tommy said confidently. "Nothing is without its weakness."

Then he heard a voice inside his head and he looked at Pallentides.

Trust in your abilities, Tommy, he heard the soft whisper of Pallentides. Of the flesh means being limited to its prisons, you must break down its barriers. The power I have given you can not defeat this creature.

Then how am I supposed to kill it?

You must believe in the human spirit, only then, will the answer be revealed.

And then, for some unexplained reason, he looked at Katrina. There was something about her that Pallentides was trying to tell him. But what was he trying to say?

He jerked around as he heard the guardian approach, its gigantic legs stomping on the ground. Then it leaned over and picked up its massive hammer from the ground and came at him it.

Tommy knew it was time to stop running. He walked a few steps forward, and faced it. The second eye in its chest looking at him like a Cyclops out for its next kill.

"It appears your hero has come to the ultimate truth, Katrina, that its time for him to die," Marduk said, chuckling. "There's nothing that he can do now but embrace his fate."

Katrina gasped, and let out a loud distressing cry, "NOOO!", as the guardian raised its massive hammer. "I can't let this happen! TOMMY, GET OUT OF THE WAY OF THE GUARDIAN!" she shouted out, but he didn't move.

Katrina felt a sense of guardianship when it came to Tommy, and she felt she had to protect him from the Guardian. She knew she was the only one that could. She would be punished, but at that moment, she didn't care, and transposed her spirit into the Guardian, entering it, stopping its attack. The hammer stopped a few feet above Tommy's head.

"KATRINA, NO!" Marduk bellowed out angry.

Tommy had seen Katrina fly into the creature and knew she was giving him a chance to defeat it. Temporarily void of Marduk's power, he knew he couldn't waste the opportunity. He leapt onto it, and like before, hit certain breaking points of its body. He then leapt off, and Katrina flew out and stood by his side.

For a moment, the creature stood frozen, but when it tried to move, it broke and crumbled into hundreds of fragmented pieces, falling to the ground in a heap of ruins. Dust filled the room, and Tommy covered his eyes with an arm, but when the dust settled, like a ninja mask, his hair and face, around his eyes, was covered in a light color of sandy brown.

He turned to Katrina and said, "Thank you. As I stood there, I realized what Pallentides was trying to tell me about you, that only you had the power to defeat the Guardian, and you did it."

He turned to Marduk. "Your toy is broken, Marduk," Tommy said. "I've slay the dragon, now I'm coming for its master!"

Marduk extended a hand and a surge of light bolts ejected themselves from it, engulfing Tommy in blue energy. He screamed and collapsed to his knees in pain, feeling the power of electricity coursing throughout his body. The attack lasted for three seconds, but it felt like more. Marduk stopped, and looked at Katrina furiously.

"You disappoint me, Katrina, I thought you were loyal to me," he said. "When I ruled the world, I was going to restore your body to you, so you could stand at my side, to be my Queen, but now you'll suffer, like all the rest. I have no patience for traitors."

"If you want to fight someone, Marduk," Tommy said panting breathlessly, getting to his feet, still feeling intense pain, "then fight me! Leave the girl out of this."

"And why should I do that?" he wondered smugly.

"Because if you do, then I will… accept your offer."

Marduk's eyes widened with shock and then he smirked amused, even underneath that mask, the movement of his eyes expressed it all.

"I have no chance of winning, so I might as well accept the obvious," Tommy said. "If you give Katrina life, then I will become your General."

"You're a ninja, so your word is unbreakable," he said. "Do you swear by that oath?"

"My word is my bond, and to a ninja, that is most truly sacred. Restore Katrina back to life and I will lead your dead army to victory."

"Very well, I accept your offer," Marduk said, and extended his hand towards Katrina. A surge of energy flew from his hand and engulfed Katrina, producing a blinding glow. Tommy had to shed his eyes with an arm from the radiance it gave off. When the light died down, Tommy lowered his arm and his mouth was agape with unexpected, open-mouthed surprise.

Katrina was human, and was wearing a long, flowing, white dress. She felt her face, and her chest, feeling her heart beat, and smiled completely dazzled by what she felt. Tommy couldn't believe what he saw: a beautiful, young woman. "I'm human?" she said confused, her vocal cords producing beautiful tones. And Tommy nodded, and smiled. But suddenly she shook her head and started to cry. "No, I can't accept this knowing what it will cost you, Tommy!"

"Don't concern yourself with me, Katrina, escape this place, help the survivors, I know what I'm doing," he said, as if sounding like he had some secret agenda in mind.

"Go, be among the humans, Katrina, and experience this new age," Marduk said, almost speaking like a father would his only daughter. "5,000 years have past and I imagine the world has changed a great deal in that time. But be warned, I am not finished with you yet."

"What do you mean by that?" Tommy said.

"Now that we inhabit human bodies once more, Katrina will be my Queen in this brand new world, and seed my off-spring. I was a king 5,000 years ago and I used the Staff of Power to rule the lands around me. Now, 5,000 years later, the world will be mine again, and I will use it to create the perfect utopia, where no one will challenge me."

He turned over his hands and used his powers to levitate several meters into the air, then the ground began to shake and it opened up to make way for a stone alter, that rose where his throne once stood. On the alter was the Staff of Power, untouched by age, its golden rod attached to an empty collection receptacle on one end.

"Once the staff is regenerated with human souls, I will use them to make myself even stronger," he said.

Tommy clenched a fist, and said, "Now that I know where it is, it ends here." He quickly turned to Katrina and said, "Katrina, run! Get out of here quickly."

"But I want to help," she said.

"No, I need you to flee this place and get the survivors, in the cavern, to the surface," he said. "I can't let Marduk escape this place."

Katrina did what she was told, and ran to the cavern, escaping through.

"But you gave your word!" Marduk said god-like, the chambers echoed with his magnificent, booming voice.

"A ninja is bond by honor to abide by that sacred oath, but sometimes, if the cause is worthy, that oath can be subterfuged for the betterment of others," he said. "You were a tyrant when you alive and killed people for pleasure. You and Cobra Commander heed similar traits, but his thrust of conquest is different."

"And how different is he to I? I kill for pleasure and profit, so does he; I kill for power and protégée, so does he; he wants to rule the world and so do I. Why is he so different and I?"

"Because I'd rather serve under him, then be a slave to you!" Tommy said, and quickly made and nine ancient hand symbols of the Arashikage clan, speaking them out loud as he went: "Rin… Pyo… To… Sho… Kai… Jin… Retsu… Zen… Zai…" He then closed his eyes and re-positioned his fingers into the tenth symbol. "VOID!" And using the power of Pallentides, he gulfed Marduk in a sphere of glowing blue energy, so he couldn't move.

Marduk tried to break the barrier, but he couldn't do it.

Tommy then picked up the Staff of Power from its resting place on the alter, and pointing it at him, Tommy said, "Now return to the void you once came, demon" And unknowing how to use the staff, it obeyed his desire, it sucked the spiritual entity of Marduk from Cobra Commander's body and into the receptacle.

Cobra Commander dropped like a stone and Tommy put down the staff to catch him. The ruler of the most powerful terrorist organization in history was unconscious in his arms. It was so tempting to snap his neck and kill the man who had caused the world so much grief. But he couldn't do that. He couldn't kill a man in cold blood. If he was such a man, he would have killed Zartan for murdering his uncle. Somewhere in his heart, he knew he was a good man.

He turned around and suddenly saw Pallentides ghost standing next to the alter with the Staff of Power in his hands. "Thank you, Tommy Arashikage, I knew you would defeat him," he said.

"I couldn't have done it without you," Tommy said modestly. "What now? The Staff of Power is too dangerous for humans to have."

"I will return it to the time of ages where it will remain forever under my watchful eye, and where Marduk will never escape," Pallentides said. "You're a wise man, Tommy, and I hope you find the peace you seek in your heart. You still have a long road ahead, but I know you'll find it." He smiled. "We may never met again, but remember me."

And Pallentides ghostly form faded from existence, and with him, the Staff of Power.

The world was so close to annihilation from a maniac, but the world always was, and as he looked at Cobra Commander, he knew it still was. He carried him out of the chambers and through the cavern, to the elevator, taking him to the medical bay in their underground HQ.

Tommy lay Cobra Commander on a medial table, sand and dust covering the equipment and floor with every moment. The main doctor on duty said with total bewilderment, "What happened down there?" And Tommy told him. But after his story, they looked like they didn't believe him.

After filing a report, he went back to his quarters and took a shower. He spent nearly an hour scrubbing the dirt and grim off his body and from his hair. Sitting on his bed, he sighed deeply. Katrina was gone. No one had seen her after Road Pig and those who survived his bloody rampage made it back to the surface. By all accounts, she had simply disappeared. Was the human form Marduk gave her only temporary?

"Why are you sad, Tommy?" she asked, and Tommy jerked around, startled, but more elated, to see her ghostly form sitting on the bed next to him.

"I'm sorry, Katrina," he said. "I couldn't save you."

She smiled happy. "Why are you sorry, Tommy? I'm happy, and I'm free." She said. "My master is gone and you're still alive."

"But you're no longer human," he said.

"I did live, a long time ago, but my time has passed," she said contently. "I'm not longed for this world anymore, it's time for me to depart." She got up and hovered to the back wall, the very same wall, Tommy had trapped her next in an energy barrier the first time they met. "But before I go, please do one thing for me."

"Anything, Katrina," he said.

"I sense your heart is unhappy, but smile for me, one last time," she said. And he did. "Thank you, Tommy, for freeing me."

And Katrina faded until she was gone.

Tommy sighed again.

But suddenly he shivered chilled and felt the press of cold lips against his right cheek. Smiling, he knew Katrina was free.

END