I

Respawn

It was peaceful. No guns firing, no mines blasting. It was a quiet day. Jason, Jester, and about eight others were temporarily stationed there, and frankly, they were stuck. They had no commands. They'd been there for a month, and ever since no orders had come from Ronin Command. Of course, they suspected something was deadly wrong, but Jester didn't dare go against the orders of the Ronin Command. She had persuaded her whole group and—surprisingly—Jason as well to stay until they got some definite word.

Ace sat, conversing with one of the locals who had invited him and Jester into the man's home.

"Have you heard any word?" the man—an organic farmer named Frank Hyensen—asked, concerned.

"No. We have waited well over our time," Jester replied.

"I still say we should leave," Jason rolled his eyes.

"Jason, we don't know what's happened! It's probably better this way."

"What do you think happened?" Frank asked.

"We all think—and know—" Jason shot an icy glance at Jester as he said that last word, "that Ronin Command is either destroyed, or taken over by the Krall, and their forces are advancing until they finally wipe out each and every Ronin base. They'll be here soon, and I know it. The war will be over if they destroy all our bases and kill all of our men."

"Maybe this base is small enough that they don't know about it," Jester tried to bring hope into the picture.

"Are you insane, Jester? The Krall aren't smart, but they're not stupid. They're clever. They'll search this solar system inside and out before they're absolutely sure that every single thing that says or thinks 'Ronin' is blasted into hell. There's not a chance for us, Jester. We're going to be killed whether you like it or not."

"Are you always this pessimist!?"

"I'm not pessimist—I'm looking at the truth, and you know that as well."

"You know, Jason, sometimes I don't understand you."

"That's probably a good thing. Now, let's stop before Mr. Hyensen gets ready to lose it."

Jester rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "Big brothers," she muttered.

"Well, I can see there's quite a problem your people are in. Maybe if you disguised yourselves—"

"I am too well-known among the Krall. There's a reward out for me, actually," Jason interrupted Frank.

"But thank you," Jester always made an effort to be polite.

"There's just no way we're getting out of this unless there's either a time machine, or a really fast ship, and there's no way there's any of these in this solar system. We're too far away from the Core and the people out her aren't rich enough to access any of these luxuries," Jason ran a hand through his hair as he always did.

"No offense," Jester jumped in again.

He looked at her as if to say, "What are you doing?"

She shrugged in return.

"I see." He stopped as if in thought. "Your people that you came with seem to be very strong. I have heardstories of you--haven't you killed over a dozen people?" asked Frank.

Jason chuckled. "Wow, you really don't get much, do you? I've killed hundreds, and it shows no sign of stopping."

"Even better than I expected," Frank smiled, impressed.

"Excuse me, but I'd rather not hear 'Ace' exalt himself. Good day, Frank," Jester got up and left.

"Jester, come on, I only corrected the man!" Jason stood.

"It's quite alright. I must tend to my farm anyways. Excuse me."

"See ya, Frank." He was headed over when he felt a small hand on his chest—Kai.

"What happened?" she asked.

"Little sisters, you know."

"No, I don't. My little sister was killed. Jester seems pretty mad."

"She's just jealous because I'm better."

"Better? Better at what?"

"Killing people, shooting guns, flying Raptors, driving Scorpions…all of that fun stuff."

"Does that make you better? She's your sister, Jason. She was hurt just as much as you were. Right now she needs a big brother."

Jason's eyes dropped, sadness sweeping over him. "She didn't watch them die." He stood up straight. "Bishop can help her. It's no problem."

"I'm sorry you think so." Kai turned and left, joining some other people.

Jason rolled his eyes. Why does every one hate me all of a sudden?

"Hey, my f—a. What's kickin'?"

It was Othello. He held up his hand for a high five.

Jason gave him one. "Nothing. Kai and Jester have turned against me, though."

"Those little b—es? What happened?"

"Jester got mad, Kai saw, and she gave me a little talk."

"What got Jester all high and flamin'?"

"She got jealous because I've killed way more people than she has."

"Aha, yes, my f—a. I bet I could kill more than you in the next battle."

"You're on."

"I'm off to see Bishop. Wanna drag along?"

"Jester's with Bishop. She probably doesn't want to be disturbed. She hates me like hell right now."

Othello shrugged, then punched Jason's shoulder. "I'll go talk to her. Maybe I can cool her off. Catch ya later, f—a."

"See ya, Othello." Jason continued walking until he was alone in the sand, about a mile away from the base. He saw something in the horizon, but the hot sun made it hard to see…locusts? He didn't know. He got out some binoculars, and a momentary sweep of terror ran through his veins. "Oh, crap."

He ran back as fast as he could, and was at the base momentarily.

Jester was the first he ran into. "Jester…"

"Go away, Jason. I'm not talking to you. And I'm not jealous."

"No…look!" He grabbed her arm and pointed.

"Your eyes are messing with you. I'm done, Jason. Go away."

He shoved the binoculars into her hands and pointed again, still breathless.

Then she saw. "Crap…you're right…We have to prepare for battle, like…now!" She ran off, yelling at people and warning them.

Jason had a few more moments of breathlessness before he grabbed his Tarydium Stinger—what you would call a "machine gun"—and helped to ready everyone else.

He ran to Frank's home and burst through the door. "Frank, the Krall are coming. I suggest you take your family and go!"

Frank looked up from what he was doing. "The Krall? Here? You were right."

"Yes, I know, so let's go already! Please hurry!"

"I'll hurry. You go and get with your men. I will be alright."

Jason ran out and took his place between Othello and Bishop, and next to them were Kai and Jester.

The Krall were in sight now. They could see that this wouldn't be easy.

"Are we gonna die?" asked Jester, watching the Krall inch closer and closer.

"Hope not. Though it would be interesting to find out what happens," Othello shrugged. "Oh, and Jason, I'm going to kick more a— than you will."

"Yeah right," Jason chuckled.

"May peace follow us whereverwe go," Bishop lowered his head and closed his eyes. "A moment of silence for those that will die in this battle."

They all lowered their heads, then raised them as Bishop said, "Amen."

"Let's kick some Krall butt," Kai cocked her gun.

"May the strongest team win. Let's meet 'em." Ace charged at them with all he had, followed by those that were closest to him. "Spread out!" he ordered.

It wasn't long before they were pushed back into the streets, and that's when Ace saw Othello…

He had been shot right in the gut, and blood was pouring from his mouth.

Kai saw as well. She ran to see if he was still alive, but…then was sniped.

"NO!!!" Ace watched as Bishop was burned to the bone, then on him fell his sister. He held her in his arms as she looked at him. She had taken several bullets to her torso, and blood was coming out from her mouth.

"I'm sorry," she said quietly, then closed her eyes and went limp.

Filled with rage, Ace went after the Krall that had shot his sister and, leaping into the air, felt as one…two…three…four bullets shot into him. On the ground momentarily in his last moments he looked at his sister and thought of all of the things he should've said and done…now, he was going to die.

It all went white. He couldn't feel anything, say anything, or do anything. I'm…dead…right?

Suddenly he felt something…a chair? It was under his butt and against his back. Slowly, ever so slowly he heard voices and saw two people in a room…What the…

"Maybe this base is small enough that the Krall don't know about it," Jester suggested.

"Hold on, where the h— am I?" Jason asked.

Frank chuckled. "What do you mean? You're in your base, on the desert planet Yatara. Where else would you be?"

"We have to get out of here now," Jason shot up to his feet.

"What are you doing, Jason?" Jester asked.

"Jester, a huge army of Krall are headed this way! We have to leave! Othello dies, Bishop dies, Kai dies, you die—I die!"

"Jason what are you talking about? I'm alive, you're alive, nothing's wrong except for the fact thatwe might be the last of the Izanogi."

He put his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes in all seriousness and desperation. "Jester, I saw mom and dad die, and I can't bear to see you die. Don't ask me to do that. Don't, Jester. We need to get out, and we need to get out now. We have less than an hour before they get here."

She was surprised at this, but quietly, after a moment of silence, she said, "Okay. Jason. I'll trust you."

"Alright. Frank, come with us. I think you were killed as well. Jester, gather our group and we'll leave."

"What about everyone else?"

"Tell them they have an hour to leave. We're leaving now. Rendezvous right outside the east side of the base."

Jester sighed before turning around and going to do as she was instructed.

Jason turned to Frank. "Gather your things, but bring as little as possible."

"I'm ready to go. I don't need anything."

"Good. Follow me." They went to the rendezvous point and waited until they were all together. Then, they left of foot.

It was hot, and the going was hard. Sweat was soon pouring down all of their faces.

"Jason, can we rest?" Jester collapsed to a sitting position.

"No."

"Well I'm resting and there's nothing you can do to stop me!"

Jason rolled his eyes and went over and slung her over his shoulder.

"What are you doing!?"

"You're resting, aren't you?"

"Whatever." She gave up.

"There's a hidden cave nearby. We can hide there," Frank informed, tired as well.

"I am getting ready to shoot the d— sun right out of the sky!" Othello aimed his gun at it.

"Don't you dare! You'll give away our position!" Jason stopped him.

"Easy, man. Not like I was going to," Othello threw his hands up in the air for a moment.

"Curse thee, sun!" Bishop grunted.

Finally, they were inside the cave. They could barely crawl through, the opening was so small.

They heard the gunfire and explosions coming from their former base. Jason peered out at it to watch. Suddenly, there was a bright flash as there was a huge explosion that engulfed the whole base. No more base. It was just them now.

"Hope no one left anything," Jason joked as he leaned against the wall and rested his head back to "relax".

"Why?" asked Kai.

"They just wiped it out with a major bomb. It's just us. Do you know where the next 'city' is?" Jason asked Frank.

"Not for hundreds of miles. You'd need some sort of ride, like those Scorpions you guys left.They looked likethey could carryall of us," Frank just smashed their hopes.

"Well, that's something to remember for the next time around," Jason shrugged.

"Next time around?" asked Jester.

"I don't really die. I start back to when me, you, and Frank are talking, and it goes from there."

"Is that possible?" asked Kai.

"It's happening, and it's painful. Hate dying. Dying hurts, especially when you die thousands of times. I guess it's karma."

Othello laughed. "You're kidding, right? So…so you, like, get to start over and redo mistakes?"

"Yep, just like a game…" Jason rolled his eyes.

"They dare to come toward us," Bishop was watching them the whole time.

"We should be safe under here," Othello shrugged like it was nothing.

"I'm not sure if it can hold that…" Frank pointed at their Goliath.

"If they dare drive that over us…" Jester didn't finish the sentence.

"Well, nice knowing all of you," Othello actually took it well. "I wouldn't mind dying. I mean…this war…Don't get me wrong. I love action, but this war is seriously making me annoyed."

"I'll see you guys, but you won't remember. So, what have we learned?" asked Jason, smiling a fake smile.

"Stay out of the cave, get the Scorpions, go to the city, get off this planet, get out of this solar-system," Jester summed it up.

"Thank you."

By now the truth was inevitable: the tank was coming over.

It was barely creeping on by now.

Jason watched as it slowly cracked, and the roof came crushing down on them.

In his last moment, he said, "This is painful."

II

Lessons Learned

They were in their Scorpions, all "snug and cozy". One of the commanders looked quizzically at them. "Are you sure it's okay for you guys to take these?" he asked.

Jason rolled his eyes. "Believe me—we brought them, we can take them. You won't need it. It's not like there's gonna be some big battle." He sat down into the cockpit and set the thing forward. "Alright, Frank, in my last time around you said there was a city a few hundred miles from here. Show me, will you?"

Frank was squished up next to him. "Yeah…head east, and stay on that track."

"Simple enough," Jason shrugged.

"Jason…"Jester spoke.

"Yeah?"

"I think they've got a lock on us…"

"WHAT!?" he looked behind them and, sure enough, a missile was headed straight for them. "Turbo, everyone—weave in and out so it gets confused. Go."

After that fail, Jason switched over into reverse and fired at the cursed thing.

It hit and exploded.

"They'll send more. We have to go faster. Use as much turbo as you guys can without running out of fuel."

They got farther and farther, but they couldn't escape the flash or sound of the large explosion.

"Hope no one left anything," he shrugged, figuring he'd say it one more time.

"Unidentified crafts headed straight for us," Kai warned.

"Air or ground?" asked Jason.

"Both."

"Crap…Do we have stealth mode on these things?"

"Think so…doubt it, though."

"Okay…We might have to group up. 2 in each Scorpion—one drives, the other shoots the AVRiL Longbow at them. Does that work?"

"How are we going to do that without stopping?"

"Jump."

Kai leapt with Othello, and Jester hopped in with Bishop. The scorpions they left behind were quickly destroyed.

"Frank, I doubt you can shoot the Longbow, so you can drive. Don't do anything too insane."

They had a hard time switching places, but finally did. They didn't have a problem with shooting down 25 crafts, but they did have several with killing the other 75 that came along with them.

One of the Krall had planted a mine on the back of Jason's Scorpion when it got close enough.


This time he made sure they brought a lot of mines and laid them down at around the whole base, and they left out of the North side since the Krall were coming in from the South. Jason made sure they didn't stop for anything, but…they ran into another group of Krall.

After that he decided to go southeast, and they hit a major sand storm that buried them alive, so Jason shot everyone so they wouldn't suffer.

Then Jason started plans on stealth mode for the Scorpions, but no one would understand that if they gave Jason the information they'd have more than an hour to make their stealth mode.

After his tenth time around, he was running out of ideas, so he found himself chilling with Othello watching the horizon.

"So, you keep on dying and respawning?" asked Othello.

"Yes, Othello, for the millionth time!"

"Oh, seriously!?" Othello asked excitedly.

"Seems like it. It's starting to get annoying, though. Living, dying, living, dying, getting everyone to trust you again."

"Yeah, that would suck. So, what are you planning to do after this?"

"This? Oh. Well, Next time around I'll probably run over to you to help me to convince the scientists that if I keep respawning we can build those stealth covers for the Scorpions."

"You shouldn't have a problem with me."

"That's good. Finally, good news." Jason could see the Krall coming.

"Well, as usual we're going to die. I'll see you next time around."

"Ole my F—a."

Jason made sure he was the first to die this time. He didn't like seeing Jester covered in blood.


"Hey, Othello, wanna help me?" Jason ran over.

"With what?" Othello asked.

"Help me talk the scientists into starting a little project for me."

"What kind of project?"

"Making stealth sheilds for the Scorpians."

Othello shrugged. "Sure thing."

They walked over to the scientist building. After a long, aggressive discussion, they found themselves walking out in failure and in crossfire.

Jason watched Othello died as he himself slowly and painfully did so.


"Maybe this base is so small that they—"

"Jester, shut up and listen. I have been dying and respawning for what seems like forever and I honestly just want to make it stop!" Jason interrupted Jester.

She stared at him like he was crazy. "What are you talking about? Did you fall asleep for a second there?"

"No! I didn't! I swear to God I am telling you the truth! We have to get out of here now!"

Jester stood, angry. "You know, you're really messed up, Jason."

Jason sat there a moment, then muttered, "Oh what the f--."