Author's Note: Hey! It's me! I'm back! Yay!
Yes, the sequel is finally here, so bring your shadows, your popcorn, and sit back, read, review, and enjoy. If you're one of those people who didn't review, and therefore didn't get a shadow, now is the time! Shadow Pound is always open for adoptions! If you've reviewed, but never asked for a shadow, just tell me. They make really cute pets!
If you've been reading this introduction wondering what in the world is going on, I recommend you go back and read "The Same Team." All the pairings, the friendships, the "not-really-family-but-seems-like-family" comments, and of course, the SnuggleBunny jokes will make a lot more sense!
Okay, people who reviewed the Epilogue, you are awesome! Yes, Zapwing, Tege, Aerrow4eva, Love Shall Never Die, Hawk-Masters, Bergie, and LethoBion, you are officially amazing! 204 reviews was the final count before I posted this story, so again, thank you everyone who cared to read and review "The Same Team."
I'm going to start the story before all of you set your shadows on me for rambling on so long in my author's note. I don't own the Storm Hawks. Let's begin!
A thin, tall, bony boy with long-ish pale hair, large glasses, and a hunched posture stood alone on the runway of a small Terra, hugging himself and shivering. He was Jack, the nerd with big dreams, to be a certified crystal Healer and Battlefield Medic. He was Jack, older brother to three and sole provider to his aging mother and younger sisters at age fifteen. In such a small Terra and with the responsibilities for his family, he doubted that he would get much chance to fulfill his dreams.
He worked as a janitor, sweeping the newly-built runways every afternoon and night. It was a new job, and upgrade from dishwashing all day long at the local tavern. He worked shorter shifts, and the pay was nearly double. You see, it was a Cyclonian job.
Jack was a proud citizen of a Cyclonian. Ever since his Terra signed the treaty six months ago, things had only gotten better. A school opened, which he and his siblings all enrolled in. They had gone from practically homeless to a small, cozy apartment of their own. Master Cyclonis also believed in jobs for all who wanted them, so Jack was able to take up work as a janitor on the Terra's landing strips, which Cyclonia had also installed. Times were still hard, but Master Cyclonis made sure no on went cold or hungry. Being a Cyclonian citizen meant that you were taken care of.
Master Cyclonis was the hero of the Atmos, with her chosen champion, the Dark Ace. Jack had read his sisters stories from the papers about the way they single-handedly saved Terras, fighting off great clouds of shadows, or how her newest inventions improved lives or made fighting the shadows easier. Since they had become Cyclonian, his dreams had become—not easy, as it still took a lot of work to get into medical school—but possible.
He whistled a happy tune as he swept the spotless runway again. Glancing up, he took note of the sky—a hazy red through the advanced force-field, courtesy of Cyclonis. The sky looked pretty clear, so he checked the red crystal around his neck, another invention by Cyclonis which allowed one to reenter the safety of the red veil. Then, carefully, he stepped outside.
As much as he knew the shield was for their own safety, he missed the bright blue of the sky, and the freshness that the air just seemed to lack inside. It was one of the reasons he had taken the job so happily; as dangerous as it was, he got to enjoy fresh air every night. Whistling his happy tune a bit louder, he swept of the runway, once, twice, three times. He was enjoying his work so much that he didn't notice the sky ominously darkening.
"Hey, kid, what are you doing? Get back into the Terra's shield, quick!" A strange-looking girl with dark skin, midnight blue hair, and tangerine eyes was flying above him on a Heliscooter. He recognized the symbol on her back from one of his history books; she was a part of a famous Sky Knight squadron. As much as he tried to remember, he couldn't think of the name. It was biology, math, and crystal sciences he excelled in, not history or politics.
What were the Sky Knights doing here? Atmosia and Cyclonia were on great terms, but Talons protected this quadrant. It was an easier arrangement, letting the Sky Knights take care of the Terras who were too proud or too traditional to accept Cyclonian help.
"Move it, dude!" Now, there was a blonde behind her. "There's like, a cloud of shadows on the way, and you totally do not want to be out here!" Jack was frozen in surprise. Shadows? Here?
"Piper, how many of the new Leecher weapons do we have?" asked a red-head who was piloting another skimmer. A blue rabbit-thingy was sitting on the side-car.
"Barely enough," the girl, Piper, replied. "Most of them we added to our energy cannons, which Junko and Starling are at right now. I'm not sure how long we can hold these shadows off!"
The cloud of shadows, which was a rather small one, probably only containing two hundred, was now within shooting distance. A small, shaggy looking ship which was well-patched up rose above the cloud line, shooting bright bolts of purple at the darkness. Jack only stared, gaping.
The shadows broke up, giving less of a target as they swooped around. The girl, Piper, blasted with her crystal staff. The blonde one was taking careful aim, lining up his sights with the built-in crossbow in his skimmer. "Finn! Just shoot!" came an exasperated cry from one of his teammates. Finn let loose a volley of purple blasts, each hitting and destroying a shadow, turning it into black mist.
The red-head jumped onto the wing of his skimmer, rising in the air, glowing blue, before shooting a giant bolt of energy. The girl with the crystal-staff, Piper, added a stream of purple to it, and it exploded, killing twenty shadows. Jack finally regained control over his legs and decided to run.
Five shadows hovered behind him, cutting off his escape back to the safety of the shield. As they slowly advanced, he backed away, until he reached the empty air. He took one more glance at the group of nightmarish shadows, then jumped.
Jack was falling, falling, away from one gruesome death to another. No mere janitor was equipped with a parachute. He bit his lip, trying not to scream, when Thud! something knocked the wind out of him. He looked at his savior to see a very familiar looking Talon Elite uniform, black hair, chiseled features, and crimson eyes. He had been saved by the legendary Dark Ace, hero of Cyclonia.
The Dark Ace had stood on the wing of his skimmer and snatched him from the air speeding past. Which meant…
"Ah! Stupid cloud cover! How do they expect us to see their ship?!?" A small female at the controls yanked the skimmer up before they crashed into the small, raggedly battle cruiser.
Jack had heard that the Dark Ace and Master Cyclonis were inseparable. There were rumors that she even wore a ring he gave her, and never took it off. It was definitely true that every time she appeared in public, he was with her. Would it be too much to hope that this was his revered leader?
"Remind me again why I'm driving?" the annoyed young woman complained. She turned a bit, and Jack caught a glance of violet eyes and pale white skin before the dark, purple-black hair blew in front of her face. It was Master Cyclonis!
"You're driving because the wind would blow you away if you stood on the wing," came the reply. Jack could just imagine the Dark Ace giving his signature smirk.
"Shut up," she grumbled.
The skimmer lurched again as Cyclonis let go of the controls to shoot a strange blast of energy at twenty shadows, which all dissolved into a black mist that solidified to form a crystal. "Could you drive again now?" she hissed, leaping up to cover their flanks from the ever-moving shadows. "I'm a bit busy keeping us alive!"
The Dark Ace chuckled good-naturedly, then set Jack down on the now-crowded seat before taking the controls. A few more blasts of purple from both the Sky Knights and the Cyclonians, and the sky was clear again. Both parties landed on the sparkling clean runway that jutted from the Terra.
The Dark Ace hopped down first, then picked up his Master and set her on the ground next to him. Finally, he offered Jack a hand, which he gratefully took. Jack had never really been flying before, and had yet to develop the stomach for all the twisting and turning. He wobbled a bit before the wave of dizziness passed.
"Are you okay?" Master Cyclonis asked him kindly.
"Yes…" he mumbled.
"What were you doing outside the shield?"
"It's my job," he explained nervously. "I'm the janitor. I lost track of the time, and…" his voice caught in his throat. "Please don't fire me. I need to help support my family."
The Master's face softened. "Hey, it's okay. You were actually really brave, considering you've never been in a battle before." She dumped the crystals that she had made from the shadows into his hands. "They're just energy crystals, and if you can't find a use for them, I'm sure they'll fetch a good price."
"Th-thank y-y-you," he stuttered.
The Sky Knight squadron was surrounding them now, angry looks in all of their eyes. Jack shifted nervously on his feet. Despite the fact that Cyclonia was the savior of the Atmos now, and more Terras were joining every month, many Sky Knights were still resentful of them and their aid.
Besides the blonde, the red-head, and the girl, a Wallop, a purple-haired woman and a nervous-looking Merb were standing there. "Do you know how irresponsible and dangerous that was?" the red-headed one scolded. He gave out an aura of authority; Jack could immediately tell that this was their Sky Knight.
"I know," Master Cyclonis joked, elbowing Dark Ace lightly in the ribs. "I told him not to let me fly!"
"It's a direct violation to laws you helped write!" the blonde one burst out.
"I had to move in to the Condor because lone skimmers aren't allowed anymore out of a certain range of a Terra or ship, so what gives you the privilege to fly around anywhere you want?" purple lady continued.
"You know, this is our Terra, and we have the right to protect it," the Dark Ace said reasonably.
"Protect it!" the blonde sputtered. "Dude, you totally stole our rescue!"
"I missed you, too, Finn," he laughed.
Cyclonis and the crystal girl, Piper, were embracing each other. "You've gotten skinnier! It didn't show this much in the message crystals!" Piper said worriedly. "Haven't you been eating?"
"There's barely any time to eat, not with the empire to run, all these new Terras to incorporate, and, of course, the shadows to worry about," Cyclonis protested.
"I trusted you to take care of her!" Piper told a disgruntled-looking Dark Ace.
"Don't get me started on her," Dark Ace replied. "I have to force her to go to bed every night; she always wants to keep working."
"It's not my fault that there's only twenty-four hours in a day," Cyclonis protested.
"Lark! It won't do anyone any good if you work yourself to death," came the admonishment from Piper.
"I hope she listens to you, because she always ignores me when I tell her that," the Dark Ace said.
"I don't ignore you, I take what you say into consideration and find your argument to be moot," Cyclonis pointed out. "There are things more important than my well-being, like saving the world, for example. Why should I sleep when every second I waste someone might die?"
Jack shuffled his feet. He didn't like the idea of his Master overworking herself to save irresponsible people like him. Unfortunately, it only made the Sky Knight notice him again.
"Hey, are we going to leave the kid standing here, or will someone walk him home?" the red-head asked.
"I can walk myself," Jack said. "My shift is over anyway. Thanks so much for saving me and all, Master, Dark Ace, Sky Knights." He hastily retreated, leaving his broom lying abandoned on the runway. He looked as if he couldn't believe all that happened to him was real.
"I think you scared him," Cyclonis whispered to Aerrow. Everyone burst into laughter again.
"So, we were heading to Terra Atmosia, if you need a ride anywhere nearby," Piper offered.
"Let me guess," the Dark Ace grinned, "every Sky Knight has been summoned, and you all have no idea why."
Aerrow looked curious. "You know something we don't?"
"We've been in contact with Terra Atmosia," Cyclonis explained. "And they've indicated that they want to sign the treaty." Everyone looked at her blankly. "The treaty to join Cyclonia." There was silence for a couple seconds, then,
"So we can offer you a ride! We kept your old room empty, you'll have to share again, but I don't think that will be a problem."
Cyclonis smiled, a beautiful grin that lit up her entire weary face. "That would be great," she said.
A bit long, but I wanted to re-start with a bang.
If you didn't get it from the context: Starling has not officially joined the Storm Hawks Squadron, but she does live on the Condor because of the new laws. Dark Ace and Cyclonis are still a couple, but they're not really public about it, so no one besides the Storm Hawks knows for sure. Cyclonis has gotten better at using her crystal powers, and now can turn shadow energy directly into crystals without having to store it in her body first. All the Sky Knights fight with Leecher Weapons now, which can harm the shadows, as they're made from modified Leecher Stones. I think that's all the important stuff!
Ok, OC Jack was just going to be a poor random person that was saved, but would anyone care to see him in another chapter? Just wondering, because he's a fairly promising character…
Review, review, review! Please! Pretty Please! Do I have to ask again? (Shadow 17: Yes. Me: Review!)