"Sparkster! Come on, I've found the perfect spot!"
The call echoed through the Onyx Forest, startling the birds out of the trees and floating into the ears of an opossum in blue armor, no more than nineteen years old. Smiling, he wrapped up his findings (mostly deep brown chestnuts and ripe crimson strawberries) in a bag and trekked towards the edge of the forest. Grabbing one of the chestnuts, he popped it into his mouth, crushing the shell between his teeth. He chewed slowly, keeping the rest for the one who the voice belonged to.
Sherry, princess of the kingdom of Zebulos, was normally a kind and thoughtful person. However, keeping someone waiting for two straight hours does take its toll on an opossum, and she tapped her foot angrily as the blue-armored opossum ambled towards her, carrying a small bag of what looked like snack food.
"Where have you been!?" she said quietly, attempting to keep her temper under control. "You said you were going foraging and it was two hours ago!" Unable to check her anger, she put full vent to her spleen, stamping her feet on the ground. Sparkster laughed.
"Now, now, princess." he chuckled. "Keep acting like that and you won't get any strawberries!" He reached into the bag and plucked out a large berry, obviously picked at the peak of freshness and with skin red enough to make one's mouth water. Unsurprisingly, this was the effect it had on Sherry, it being her favorite food. Her anger forgotten, she sat down, smiling eagerly. Still chuckling a bit, Sparkster dropped the bag next to a picnic basket and lay down on the large terrycloth blanket, watching the clouds drift by. Taking a strawberry from the bag, Sherry lay down next to him.
"You know, sometimes I wish you didn't wear this armor during our picnics. It makes the whole affair seem more..." she grasped at straws, trying to find the word.
"Formal, you mean?" Sparkster suddenly whispered in her ear. She started, then nodded. Sparkster flicked her nose playfully.
"Well, then I guess that's how these picnics will stay, because unless some sort of disaster happens, then I'm not taking my armor off!" Sherry laughed at her companion's cheeky remark and shoved him. Unflinchingly, he reached into the picnic basket and pulled out a cucumber sandwich. As he sat up and started eating, he began looking into the distance, feeling the weight of the sword at his side.
"It's been a long time since we've had any sort of danger, hasn't it?" Sparkster remarked dryly. Sherry gave him a strange look. "I'm not saying I want something bad to happen to the kingdom, Sherry, you know that. But..." He busied himself with eating his sandwich. Sherry sighed, pulling out the other cucumber sandwich, and taking a small bite. Cringing at the taste, she set it down and brushed the crumbs off her lap.
"I should tell you the real reason why I chose to have our picnic here." Sherry stood up, pulling Sparkster up with her. Sparkster raised an eyebrow, still chewing his sandwich. "See, I've been hearing rumors..." Sparkster swallowed and cut in.
"You aren't saying you actually believe the rumors that there's some sort of secret Devotindos operation going on here, are you?" he said, frowning. Recently, a Rocket Scout patrol unit had seen a troop of Devotindos soldiers marching towards the nearby valley. According to the unit's report, the soldiers had been escorting a large band of scientists and a purple-armored opossum, who he easily figured was Axle Gear. Anyone who knew about the soldiers was told to keep the information secret, but someone had let it slip, and now it was a widespread rumor through the whole kingdom. He had given the whole unit a stern talking-to after that blunder. Sherry looked away, with what looked like a speck of doubt in her eyes. The picnic lay forgotten.
"We've tried to keep peace with the Devotindos ever since their invasion. I may not be the ruler of Zebulos yet, but I'm not going to let anything happen! Even if we did win both the war against the Devotindos and the war against the Gedol, we're still recovering from the damage they both dealt! I'm not letting anything happen!" Sherry cried. Sparkster closed his eyes and folded his arms, deep in thought. Sherry stared at him.
"You realize that this would be a completely top-secret and unauthorized mission, correct?" Sparkster said. Sherry nodded.
"And that if your father, or any of the Rocket Knights, find out about this, my position in the Rocket Knights will be compromised, correct?" Sparkster said. Sherry nodded again.
Sparkster smiled, then unsheathed his sword.
"Well then, we'd better get going! It's nearly dark!" Sherry sucked her breath in as Sparkster picked her up. Before she could protest, the pair was rocketing towards Onyx Valley.
Axle Gear was frustrated. Despite the large amount of orichalcum that the Devotindos soldiers had mined from the valley's hidden quarry, their scientist team had found no use for it other than to strengthen their armory. Annoyed with the Devotindos' lack of vision, he ended up forcing the scientists to study the orichalcum closer, since they clearly didn't see the potential the metal had. Although he realized that the magical power of the metal was extremely volatile, he didn't care. If their tests came back positive, then he had the power to make everything change, make the world become one under his rule. Slipping into a daydream, he didn't notice the sinewy hog running up to him.
"Axle Gear, sir. The scientists have requested you meet with them in the test chamber. They require your assistance with an urgent matter." The hog said, stuttering a bit as he did so. Axle groaned, not looking at the hog.
"You mean they've requested that I bring them all another round of ale? Ha! Sooey, you know how I feel about them. Tell them I'm not their servant and make sure they get back to work." Axle said, spitting on the ground as he did so. Sooey flinched at Axle's harsh tone.
"Sir, I don't mean to be rude, but... from how they told me to get you, it didn't seem like they wanted ale. In fact, it sounded like something had gone wrong down..." Axle turned his gaze on the unfortunate pig, who went silent and hurried off. Letting out a disgusted sigh, he kept his gaze on the horizon, noting the particularly beautiful sunset. Most of his peers didn't realize that he enjoyed the scenery of Elhorn. Then again, if they did, he'd probably lose a part of his sinister reputation, so he kept it to himself. Noticing a speck, he stared at it, wondering what it could be. If it was a unit of Rocket Knights, they would have to evacuate the surface quick and get to the lower floor of the camp. Slipping on his visor, he started zooming in on the object. At the max zoom, he could clearly make out what it was.
It was just two opossums, one decked out in blue plate armor, the other dressed in a simple green dress. At first he smirked, then laughed. It was not a good sound.
"At last. At last, my chance has come! I'll get rid of Sparkster and get a hostage in the process! Those idiots!" Axle cackled. Heading towards the camp's announcement system, he lowered his voice to a seedy whisper.
"Attention, Devotindos camp. A Rocket Knight unit is incoming. All personnel to the lower area. Repeat, all personnel to the lower area." Hearing the loud, marching feet of the soldiers, he looked around the area, which, to the casual eye, looked as if it was an old and deserted military camp, complete with a few rotting Devotindos corpses to add to the effect. Taking out a small cloth pouch, he dumped the contents into his hand and waited.
When Sparkster and Sherry arrived at the valley, Sherry couldn't help but gasp. Sparkster himself was a bit put out; the entire place was a nest of the dead. Corpses were strewn across the entire field, and the tents that were still there were badly torn. Sliding down into the camp, the two started looking around, finding nothing in particular.
"This place is awful... what could have happened here?" Sherry remarked as she observed a sad-looking corpse. Sparkster sighed. He hadn't expected such a horrid scene. Certainly he had expected an old camp that the Devotindos had forgotten, but this was more than he had originally expected.
"Foolish little Sherry. You never understood what war truly brings upon us!" Sherry squeaked in fright as a blade pressed against her throat. Sparkster whirled around, his power sword drawn.
"Axle! What the hell do you want?" Sparkster yelled. Axle laughed and pressed his blade tighter against Sherry. She gasped with pain, a drop of blood appearing on her neck. Sparkster gritted his teeth, but stood his ground. Axle simply stuck his tongue out at him.
"What do I want? What do you want? After all, you are the visitor here; the visitor always is under the care of the master." Axle said. "Although it seems that you have to do what I say, unless you want the pretty girl to lose, aha, blood. And we don't want that, now do we?" Sparkster growled at Axle's ploy. The Rocket Scout's report of the science camp was true, yet he fell for the whole scheme. Realizing that he couldn't do anything, he loosened his grip on his sword.
"Good boy. That's it, nice and easy." Axle cooed. Slightly inching backward, he waited until Sparkster had dropped his sword before speaking again. "Good. Very good. You understand that you can't win this one. You both were fools for ever trying to come here!" Axle seemed to frown. "However, it's commendable that you did find us... so I think I'll give you a little gift." Opening his palms, he let go of Sherry, who fell to her knees, rubbing her neck. He revealed a small device in his right hand. In his left, he held a metal ball, no bigger than a marble, with a brilliant copper-and-blue color.
"Have any idea what this is?" Sparkster shook his head, while Sherry mumbled an almost-inaudible 'no'. Axle took the ball and held it up to the sunlight. It gleamed, reflecting light like a polished mirror. "This is a bead of orichalcum, the most powerful metal in the world. With this, I can power anything I want. With a single bead, I could tear this land apart. But I have more... practical uses for it." Placing the bead into the device, he pressed a button.
The strange machine seemed to glow white slightly, and then violently shook, the glow changing to a bright green. Small electric sparks flew off in all directions, and it flew out of Axle's hand, looking for all the world like a tiny spastic robot. Odd seams of purple and green appeared in the air and the entire place began to look as if it was being sucked into itself.
"What!? Impossible! There was no chance of this happening, the scientists ran tests themselves! How could it be happeni-" Axle never got the chance to finish, as he suddenly disappeared into a bright orange portal. Running over to Sherry, Sparkster held her close as they saw the entire camp get ripped apart. Sherry was in tears and Sparkster was in shock. Both could only watch the world morph into bright colors and odd shapes.
"Sparkster... Sparkster, help me..." Sherry mumbled before passing out. Sparkster closed his eyes, blocking everything in his mind. Suddenly, he fell. Slightly losing his grasp on Sherry, they plunged headfirst into a hard substance. The last thing Sparkster heard was "Alpha Unit reporting, sir. We've found the rogue." He then passed out, exhausted.
Well, this is the first thing I've posted in a long time. There are probably some things you're wondering about, so I'll just talk about them now. No, I don't think strawberries are Sherry's canon favorite food, but I don't think anybody really cares right now. As for the odd machine, you'll learn what that is pretty soon. As for the odd effect it had, if you're having trouble imagining it, think of warping back into the world in the Dragon Quest 6 ending combined with the Resonance Cascade from Half-Life 1.