If you checked my profile, you probably noticed I'm still here. Unfortunately, this chapter is quite a bit shorter than my usual chapters, but I am of the opinion that this might be part of my problem. I try to stuff too much into one chapter, and I get bogged down as a result. So I am going to see if I can divide chapters into sections, and see if I can get updates out faster.

Besides, I figure I've made you guys wait long enough.

Anyways, here's the first part of the chapter you all were anticipating (I hope).

Disclaimer: See previous page.


Rise of the Chosen

Chapter Twenty Four

The Red Devil


"Pandora! What the hell happened to you?!"

Prometheus caught his sister as she stumbled into the area Prometheus had claimed as his command area.

"S-sorry Prometheus…She's gotten…stronger…"

"Tch." Prometheus grimaced as he guided Pandora over to some rubble and sat her down. "She must have picked up her game big time to have beaten you up this badly. Don't move."

Pandora held still as her brother peeled away her ruined armor, tossing it en-masse to one side.

"Lightning generator blew. No wonder you're such a mess. Gch!" He cursed creatively as the damaged generator shocked him. It quickly joined the rest of the armor in the pile. "You're lucky I've got some spare plating to fix this with. Can't do much about the generator though. You'll just have to make do without it. The drones, I can probably fix, I think…"

Pandora gazed around as Prometheus continued to wrestle with her gear, muttering profanities under his breath. Far in the distance, she could hear weapons firing. And far overhead, she could see explosions as Serpent's armada squared off against the formidable Hyperion.

"Do you think…she'll make it back in time?"

Prometheus paused. "I dunno. But whatever happens next, she'll probably be aching to beat up somebody for it. You and I had better be ready."

"Right…"


It didn't feel right.

That was Aile's first impression as she stepped off the trans-server pad. Area M had felt unnatural in its alien textured walls and labyrinthine tunnels. The presence of Model W had helped heighten the unnerving feel of the place, but that had made Area M feel…evil.

Area N, as Zero liked to call it, simply felt dead. No, she corrected herself, not dead per se, but more like…abnormally empty. There was a formless presence about the place. It almost felt like a hidden booby trap, waiting for her to walk into its path so it could be sprung.

Area N felt less like a location, and more like the physical manifestation of the calm before the storm.

She absently swiped at the mechaniloid heads that appeared in her path, spewing fire. They weren't relevant to her destination, and Leviathan had raised her Heat Shield, absorbing that fire energy for its own use.

The awakened Biometal had helpfully clarified the use of her Heat Shield as they maneuvered through the eerie area. Simply put, it absorbed heat energy from the surroundings to power an artificial heliopause, which deflected attacks with sheer thermal pressure. It was powerful, but it also drained heat from the surroundings. It was most useful against heat-based attacks, since they supplied their own heat for absorption. But in a confined space, the Heat Shield could result in lowering the ambient temperature dramatically to power itself. This served as an advantage to Leviathan, who was designed for low-temperature environments. However, Aile was only human, and that low temperature would be extremely hazardous to her health. Even worse, Levi's shield wasn't fully operational, due to her missing the original device, and was rather inefficient as a result.

Or, in layman's terms, Levi's shield sucked away all the surrounding heat to keep her shield running, and it could hurt Aile if it got cold enough.

There's the path. This way, Aile.

With Zero guiding her, Aile cautiously pushed forward.


No. Hell, no.

Ugh…X, we've talked about this.

Are you kidding me, Zero?/! You want her to go through that?/!

Aile tuned out the duo, preferring instead to focus on the point of the twos' argument.

Early in 20XX, Dr. Albert Wily, Zero's father, had created the infamous 'spikes', as a deterrent security mechanism. Believing in the theory that a deterrent only worked if people were actually 'deterred' by the mechanism, Wily had created one of the most fearsome things in history.

The 'spike' was actually more like a crystalline organism shaped like a spike. It had three defining features: It grew insanely fast, it fed on metals, and it absorbed it's food through physical contact.

If anything that it fed upon touched the spike, the spike instantly grew through the object in question in order to absorb all of the edible material it could, utterly destroying the object in question. Once it was done, it conserved energy by returning to its original shape, leaving no evidence behind.

Wily had originally designed the spike to protect people from rogue machines, by surrounding the machines' work areas with the spikes. However, after Wily declared war upon mankind, he modified the spikes to recognize the iron in human blood as a viable food source.

From that point on, contact with a spike was considered to be instantly fatal to any organism, human or machine, simply because it was.

And unfortunately for Aile, hundreds, if not thousands of them lined the room in front of her, stretching on as far as the eye could see.

Great. I hate spikes. Fefnir grumbled. And these are the really good ones, too. You know, the ones that explode you if you fly over them with anything other than a compression system.

"They can do that?"

Not precisely. Harpuia clarified. This particular breed of spike releases a highly volatile gas as part of its natural cycle. It was designed for enclosed areas, much like this one, to prevent an intruder from simply flying over the obstruction. Harpia cursed mildly. I'm afraid I will be of limited use here. My plasma thrusters are low yield enough that you can make quick air dashes safely, but flying over the entire field is out of the question.

Not a problem! Zero exclaimed, drowning out X. For with a push of a button…

Zero fiddled with the nearby console a bit, and gigantic square blocks suddenly appeared all over the field.

And then vanished. Only to reappear again.

May I present the bane of X and good Maverick Hunters everywhere. The Disappearing Block and Spike Pit! Keeps out enemies, friends, door-to-door salesmen, and that annoying neighbor of yours! Guaranteed to make any mundane activity into an exciting life-or-death scenario! Only $4,999.99 USD, some restrictions may apply. The Block and Spike Pit may result in multiple casualties. The Block and Spike Pit is not for anyone. See a doctor if you are thinking of installing one, because there is obviously something wrong with you.

Everybody stared at Zero.

What?

As he lacked the ability to facepalm, X simply groaned for the umpteenth time that day.


Thankfully, despite X's misgivings, crossing the spike pit was easier than it looked, since Zero had memorized the pattern that the blocks used. All it took was Zero taking over for a bit, and some truly death-defying leaps, but they finally made it to the other side of the pit.

"Is this…why X…hates these things…so much?" Aile panted as Zero gave her back control of her body.

Pretty much. Dealing with spike pits is much like trying to disarm a bomb. One wrong move, and extremely fatal things happen. Doing it so many times tends to wear on a person after a while. Even reploids aren't immune to excessive stress.

"Right…" Aile pulled herself together. In front of them was a massive doorway. It looked like any other doorway, but Aile could feel as though something on the other side was waiting for her. Which was understandable; Aile was certain that something was waiting for her.

From here on Aile, I can't help. You can wield my armor and sword, but this is a challenge you must overcome with your own wits and skill. You'll understand what I mean soon enough.

I assume we cannot assist either? Harpuia mused.

I'd prefer if you didn't. Not to mention that this challenge will be very fast, and I doubt you'd have the time to advise her anyway.

Zero… X growled. What, exactly, is on the other side of this door?

That's for her to deal with X. But you should know exactly what I'm doing shortly.

"…"

Aile didn't move for a bit. Truth be told, she was a bit frightened. Zero had yet to lead her astray, but his manner was not doing much for her nerves.

"Zero, this is the only way out of here, right? The only way to get back to Prairie and the others is through this door?"

Unfortunately, yes.

Aile sighed. "Then it doesn't really matter what stands in my way, does it? Somehow, I'll make it through. I have to."

With a hand that everyone could see trembling faintly, she opened the door and stepped through.


"Fire in Section 3, Port side! Dispatch response team immediately!"

"Understood. Response team Echo has been notified, and is en-route. Do what you can until they get there."

"Incoming missiles, 3 o-clock high! Starboard Gatling turrets, intercept immediately!"

"Plasma cannon 67, there are no high-priority targets in your immediate vicinity. Engage ground targets designated high priority by the ground forces."

"Command, Aft section 8! Shield generator A8 just overloaded! Bring auxiliary generators A81 and A82 online while we make repairs!"

If Prairie could describe the scene at hand, it would be absolute chaos barely restrained by iron-willed order. She and the three operators issued commands, monitored sensors, notified response teams, designated targets, and maneuvered the ship. It was a tall order, one that had to be reiterated and repeated several dozen times every minute.

But they did it anyways, and the Hyperion was still alive because of it. And because the Hyperion was still alive, Colbor and the ground forces were still alive as well.

"Enemy bomber approaching ground forces left flank. Forward particle lasers 77 through 82, engage at first opportunity."

"Command, Forward section 2! Enemy missile saturation is too thick to divert forward lasers!"

"Understood…Commander Colbor, enemy bomber approaching your left flank, and we can't engage at the moment. Be prepared to engage if we can't stop it."

"Roger that. I have two good long-range fragmentation warheads I can use for small warships. Plot the bomber's course for Bar's section, and leave it to us."

Orders circulated and were carried out, formations shifted, and enemy ships and forces were dashed across the ground. But the maverick numbers were considerable, and more of them moved in to fill the gaps.

But they would not give up. Not with all Innerpeace behind them.

Outnumbered, outgunned, and undaunted, the Guardians held their ground.


The door hissed shut behind Aile, and the room was absolutely silent.

Aile almost flinched with every slow step, as the clang of boot striking metal echoed in the near infinite expanse.

Far off in the distance was an endless void, a great hole in space. The great black orb hung there, far, far away. It looked like nothing she'd ever seen before, but somehow, it felt familiar.

Is that…Cyberspace?

That's impossible. Cyberspace doesn't exist in the real world.

Except that it does. Zero intoned softly. The one who rests here makes it real. That's his explicit capability. You all should know that.

All eyes diverted towards the one thing that existed in the room, and every single Biometal save Zero inhaled sharply. Even Aile paused at the sight. Somewhere, in her heart, she now knew what stood against her.

There stood a familiar armored figure that many of them had all once fought against. Deep, crimson armor flashed as he shifted slightly, acknowledging her presence.

"So, you've finally arrived…Zero."

He turned.

Aile quavered beneath that bloody gaze as he raked her with his glare.

His eyebrow rose in amusement. "Oh? Not Zero. His little pet human. He can't even bother to come face me himself, but sends a little girl to do his fighting for him? How disappointing." He shook his head sadly. "How the mighty Zero has fallen."

Zero made an unhappy noise, almost a growl, but didn't respond.

Aile finally looked him in the eye, and stepped forward. "Zero may have guided me here, but I'm not here for him."

"Oh?" A faint smile creased the warrior's face. "Elaborate."

"I'm here because Weil's legacy survived his death. Zero said the power necessary to destroy it permanently could be found here. I'm here to put an end to this."

"Tch. Of course some part of the old bastard survived. You can blame Zero's weakness for that."

"Weakness..?" Aile shook her head. "Whatever, it doesn't matter. However it survived isn't relevant. I still need the strength to defeat it."

"Interesting…You've got guts, girl. I'll give you that. Alright, I accept your challenge." He settled into a battle pose, although he didn't draw a weapon. "If you want to harness the power of Destruction for yourself, you must first defeat its current wielder: Me!"

Aile nodded. "Alright." Nervously, she settled into a battle stance of her own; hand resting on an undrawn Zx-saber, and Harpuia ready to shift armors if she needed to evade in a hurry.

He merely raised an eyebrow at her stance. "Huh. Looks like Zero taught you more than just the ability to bite off more than you can chew. Seriously girl, do you have any clue what you're up against?"

Aile nodded. "You're the evil version of Zero…you're Omega."

"Hah!" He uttered a sharp bark of laughter. "Omega?! It is a name, and nothing more. It may describe who I am, but it fails to convey just what I am."

He drew his sword, a violet arrowhead shaped blade of pure energy sizzling to life as he did.

And the air itself suddenly cracked, like fragile glass.

"Do you have any idea who you're challenging, little human? I am the nightmare of all who exist! The Destroyer; He whose coming foretells the end of all things!"

Raw power surged through the chamber, and the surrounding space seemed to break down as he roared his battle cry.

"I AM THE MESSIAH!"

And with that cry, with reality itself shattering around him, Omega, the evil God of Destruction, launched himself at his opponent.


When Aile had fought Prometheus, he'd been able to overwhelm her slower reflexes with sheer speed, but Aile had worked long and hard to bring her reaction time up to scratch.

And against Omega, it almost wasn't enough.

'He's freaking fast' Aile thought as she narrowly avoided a lightning-quick slash, bringing the Zx-Saber up to block Omega's next swipe as he charged at her.

Only for his next attack to include a solid kick to the gut that sent her sprawling to the ground.

'And he's really strong too. I can't block him outright.'

She darted sideways to evade his next attack and retaliated with a swing of her own, only for the red reploid to use his own dash thrusters to carry him out of range. With a yell, he careened towards her, and Aile set herself solidly and met his violet blade with her own.

Or tried to, at any rate. Omega had telegraphed an overhead swing, but easily converted it into a stab without any warning. Aile barely managed to set her own blade to push his stab to the side, only to leave herself wide open for his fist, which sent her flying again.

And the near-infinite expanse of their battlefield meant that she flew really far before she stopped.

Severe damage to the chest plate. Harpuia noted calmly as Aile flipped upright. Don't take another hit like that.

"Duly noted." Aile had time for a brief groan before dodging a wave of green energy; most likely a kougenjin attack, albeit far larger.

"Kougenjin!" Aile shouted as she responded in kind. Her attack hit Omega's next wave, and the two exploded in midair. Aile braced for the oncoming attack, and met Omega's stab as he rushed her through the smoke. But his impossible strength easily overcame her guard, and she spun away to avoid it.

Only to quickly take aim with her Zx-Buster, fully charged.

Omega merely grinned at her in response.

With a wild yell, he slashed the massive energy bolt in two with his sword and charged her to follow up the attack.

But Aile had shifted to the Hx-Armor the instant the bolt had fired, and her thrusters burned furiously to move her out of harm's way. Shifting to the Fx-Armor in midair, she immediately activated Volleyfire mode, took aim, and fired everything she had.

And in that instant, everyone present realized that even if Fefnir had perfected the Volleyfire for use against Zero, it wouldn't have done him any good.

Omega didn't dodge. He didn't even move. His sword wasn't even visible as it impossibly slashed apart air and plasma around him, creating a torrential vortex of exploding energy and smoke that left the red demon completely unscathed.

It was ridiculous. No one could physically move fast enough to counter a barrage of that magnitude.

But then again, given the current state of reality around them, did the laws of physics really have any say in the matter?

"Heh. Not bad, girl. Not bad at al-doh!"

Apparently, Aile hadn't expected her attack to work anyways. So instead of being surprised at his survival, she'd charged the mass of smoke and socked Omega in the face with a knuckle-buster the instant she heard his voice.

"Hahaha! Okay, I'll give you that one. That was good."

Omega's laugh echoed endlessly as he reappeared out of the smoke, not even visibly bothered by her attack.

"Gotta give ol Fefnir credit though; when he does firepower, he doesn't do things halfway."

Fefnir didn't reply to that, although Aile did pick up a contented feeling from the fiery Biometal. Praise from the God of Destruction was probably high praise indeed.

"You're not bad, kid. Guess Zero and the rest taught you well. Looks like I'll have to step up my game a bit."

"Is this the part where you say 'I am not left handed'?" Aile retorted dryly.

Omega snorted at that, before blinking and looking down. His sword was, indeed, in his left hand.

He promptly burst out laughing.

"Gyahaha! Zero, where did you find this girl? She is a gem! She suits you and X perfectly!"

Omega settled into a ready stance, but his grin had not left his face.

"Your name was Aile, right? Since we've concluded the preliminaries, what do you say we head to the main event? Show me everything Zero and the rest taught you!"

Omega hurled himself at her with a wild cry.

And Aile couldn't keep a grin off her face as she responded in kind.


AN: Oh, it be on.

Okay, let's see if I can't get the next chapter out in less than two months or so, hm?