You know this story...
Or at least you know how it ends.
It ends in bloodshed across worlds.
It ends in utter devastation, both tangible and emotional.
It ends with the event that defined an era.
This is the story that started it all...
It is a nebulous tale – hinted at, but never fully explored.
It is a sequence of events so often taken for granted, that must work out somehow.
It is one of the greatest stories never told...
I will tell you the story of the Lylat System:
I will show you how it worked, how it faltered and at last, failed.
I will show you the politics, economics and society that drove it.
I will show you its people, with hopes, dreams and issues of their own...
I will tell you the story of Star Fox:
I will show you how it all began, how it nearly ended.
I will show you why the villains fell to their faults,
And how the heroes rose to the challenge...
I will tell you the story of James McCloud:
I will show you how he lived, how he loved...
I will show you how he fought, won, lost...
And at the end of all things:
I will show you his fate.
I will tell you the story of the Legacy...
-Star Fox: Legacy-
What little direct sunlight there was arrived filtered through layer upon layer of dense vegetation, split into thin bands or dispersed by the leaves, vines, and branches of the area's overcrowded trees. The surrounding air steamed hot and thick with with permeating moisture. It was in some ways like the inside of a sauna, but in a stifling, almost nauseating way that comes with clouds of flies, mosquitoes, and any number of other tiny, irritating winged insects...
A dark, wiry terrier with oily black fur struck himself below the cheek, and wiped off the insect's smeared remains onto the heavy khaki fabric of his shirt, dampened partly with sweat, and partly with the jungle's sheer humidity. A military style tactical vest was secured over his rugged clothing, complete with an integrated holster containing a large-caliber blaster handgun – common for a soldier, mercenary, or otherwise sensible individual on a long journey through unsafe territory. More distinct though was the shoulder-belt slung across the terrier's back bearing an archaic style broadsword, but apparently augmented with more contemporary features...
He reached back and pulled a water canteen from a bulky backpack laden with wilderness survival gear, and took a much needed drink as he continued this wearying trek through the dense jungle floor. The armed terrier didn't travel alone, but he'd fallen a little behind the party. Some several paces ahead in a small grassy clearing were three other figures, two of which were equipped with bulky packs similar to the dark terrier, but the third appeared a partly feral reptilian clothed with little more than his bare leathery hide, exposing most of his limber body.
After a brief exchange with the two others ahead, the reptilian plodded away from the clearing toward the armed terrier, and each gave the other a stinkeyed glare as they strode past...
It sounded a like an insult, but the terrier only responded to it with a slightly puzzled, slightly offended wince...
He caught up with the two other backpack-bearing figures in the clearing, the first of which was a fairly young avian woman with bright yellow plumage, and a somewhat nervous disposition in her voice.
"I know he and the rest of his tribe are forbidden to even set foot near this shrine, but I'm not sure sending our guide away like that was the best idea..."
She glanced over her shoulder toward the limber reptilian, who was quickly disappearing into the jungle thicket.
"What if he talks?"
The other figure was a slim mid-aged hound with a long slender muzzle, and a more confident composure than his avian companion.
"Don't worry Beverly, he's not going to talk. The lightfoots may not trust us, but they don't really trust anybody else either..."
He stepped further into the clearing – a flat, grassy circle about twenty meters across.
"All things considered, it's probably better he's not around for this."
"And good riddance too." the terrier scoffed as he followed forward, "What'd that scaly chookter call me anyway?"
"Translating his Saurian very politely, Scott, I'd say 'gisteht dyotor' comes out roughly 'stinking furball'..."
The slim hound began pacing along the outside of the clearing, scanning the tree-lined circle's edge until he stopped next to a dense tangle of vines brambles a few meters wide.
"The entrance should be right here," he said as he motioned into the impassible cluster, "but vegetation must've grown over it after so long, after so many unattended centuries."
"Way ahead of ye, Harrison..."
Scott drew the broadsword off his back as he stepped up to the brambles, and began hacking away at the dense knot of undergrowth with his impromptu machete.
"Might take... about that long... just tae cut through all this~"
"Heh, or maybe not."
The blade struck something hard behind the tangle of vines, something similar to stone...
"Step away Scott, now..."
Harrison brushed the terrier aside and clawed at sword's sword's point of contact, ripping away the vines and ferns in a single-minded frenzy. He soon stripped away the last layer of plant-matter, and revealed a smooth vertical surface of dark gray rock underneath. The slim hound felt along the stone slab, searching, feeling, and he found it; a round hole about a centimeter across in the otherwise featureless plane.
"Yes, yes, this is it!"
Harrison pulled at a thin cord fastened around his neck and fished out an object from under his shirt attached to the cord – it looked like a small violet-tinted quartz crystal. He plunged the crystal into the corresponding hole in the wall, and a light flashed across the stone surface, followed by trembling as if in an earthquake and a dull stone-on-stone scraping...
"Stand back." Harrison said, motioning for Scott and Beverly to back off.
The smooth stone split into to two halves, cracking open before the party like the pages of an ancient tome until and everything came to a stop. The surface was gone, and a narrow corridor made of the same gray stony material descended underground in a gentle slope and curve. There was some light down this corridor – a quiet, iridescent glow that didn't appear to emanate from any single source. The light was simply there, eternal...
Harrison stepped straight into the corridor and began along gentle downward slope, with the other two following close behind.
"Whoa, hold on guys." Beverly warned, not a few paces into the descending corridor.
She slipped a monitoring device off her belt and checked its readings.
"The ion-radiation just jumped about point-six rads in here. I'll bet that's were that weird ambient light is coming from."
"Anything we ought be worried about?" Scott asked.
"We should be okay if we're not here more than a few hours." the avian assured as set her pack down and began rummaging through it, "Still, we should all take inoculations just to be safe..."
She produced thee thin cylinders from a pocket of her pack – autoinjector tubes – and uncapped one of them before injecting the dose into her arm. After her inoculation , she offered the other two to Scott and Harrison.
"I'm not taking the chances..."
The terrier accepted the autoinjector, and administered the inoculation into his own arm without hesitation.
"And you, Dr. Harrison?"
Beverly held out the last inoculation to the slim hound.
"Thanks, but I won't need any." Harrison declined.
"It's alright Beverly," He cut the avian off, "I know what I'm doing."
"It's your DNA." Beverly remarked with a shrug.
She replaced the unused tube and hoisted her pack onto her back again before joining the rest of the party...
The group continued down the eerie corridor with few words between them. The air inside was much cooler, and less damp, but it carried a hint of power not unlike the distinct smell in the air when a thunderstorm was imminent.
"This place gives me the willies." Scott muttered, glancing around the corners, floors and ceilings, as if he were expecting to find booby traps, or something sinister...
Beverly appeared to fidgeting with similar anxieties, and stifled them with speech.
"It's all the same architecture as the Saurian's most important monuments, but it's all in much better condition. Just look at these floors and walls..." She gestured around them, "You see, there's no creeping vines, no fungi, or lichen, or any living material whatsoever down here. This ambient radiation would've killed off any organisms that tried settling in."
The avian brushed her winglike hand across the walls as they walked on...
"I would've loved to stay a bit longer and take a few samples of this stone material, but that's not why we're here..."
"That's right Beverly," Harrison responded over his shoulder, "We're here for something far more important."
"And when are ye goin'tae fill me in on what's so important?" Scott asked.
The party reached a stone door at the end of the corridor, similar to the entrance far behind them, but without any jungle overgrowth.
"We won't have to tell you Scott, you'll see it for yourself right here..."
Again, Harrison inserted the small violet quartz into the hole. The crystal flashed with a brief blaze of light, and the two halves of stone crept apart from each other...
The room beyond was a great deal larger – almost gymnasium sized. It looked built in the same exotic architecture and lit with the same sourceless indigo glow permeating through the rest of the 'shrine'. The center was dominated almost entirely by a broad platform raised a few feet off the ground. The center of this platform held only one thing: a lone statue. The sculpture's form resembled a kind of ape or simian, standing at perfect attention with a sceptre clasped in one hand, but the facial proportions on its head were all off. The mouth was shrunken, the forehead much larger, plus the nose and chin were far more pronounced than any known primate species in Lylat. It was at the same time both alien and eerily familiar...
"Is that what we came here for?" Scott asked, pointing out the solitary statue.
"In a way..."
Harrison stepped into the room, and dropped his heavy backpack on the floor near the entrance.
"Tell me Scott, how effective is your impact-claymore on rock?"
"Depends on the density, really..." the terrier explained as he dumped his own pack onto the floor next to Harrison's, "But it'll crack most stones clean apart with a good burly thrust."
Beverly barely contained a laugh.
"Sorry, it's just..." she followed suit and set her pack down too, "Never mind."
Harrison ignored her, continuing on with Scott.
"What we need is inside that statue, and we need you to break it open so we can get at it."
"Ye're keeping something from me, aren't ye?"
The terrier asked, highly charged with suspicions.
"It'll make more sense once you step up there..."
Harrison gestured toward a set of steps leading to the top of the platform.
Scott climbed the short flight of steps to the top of the platform and began walking toward the statue. A light flashed from the statue similar to the doors, and then it came to life. The stone figure opened its small angled eyes, both of which shone brightly with a pale blue light, and the sceptre in its hands extended into a full-length staff. The stone figure took a few heavy steps, whirling the staff around itself with a warrior's precision.
The terrier stopped in his tracks, stunned.
"What's all this then?"
"The inscription here reads Test of Prowess..." Harrison replied, looking over a text carved in the steps, "So you'll just have to prove your prowess in a duel."
"What? Ye mean against this eh... what'ye call it?"
"We're not sure if the Saurians have a word for it, but for lack of a better word we've decided to call it a 'Krazoa Golem'." Beverly answered quite casually, "You'll do fine, you're an expert at this whole fighting thing."
Scott turned back to the statue with a weary grumble.
"This only gets stranger and bloody stranger..."
He drew his broadsword and assumed a well-practiced swordsman's fighting stance.
"Yer move, ye stone-faced git."
The statue stood waiting with its staff held ready, its two eyes of light never leaving the oily black terrier for an instant.
"So that's the way ye're gonnae have, is it?"
Scott stepped forward and performed an experimental thrust, but the statue spun the staff in a defensive sweep that knocked the blade aside.
The terrier started off as simply as possible, testing his peculiar opponent with a basic series of routine cuts and thrusts, and the golem's fighting style gradually revealed itself. It used sweeping spins as a defense, flinging blows aside with the staff whirling like a turbine. The statue favored lighting-quick thrusts for its offense, but also used a variety of sweeps, strikes and slams when appropriate. Though a staff can strike with both ends, it can only strike with a single end at any given time; it was still a single weapon. Its length offered a reach advantage, but it also provided a greater length to use as leverage. The staff's advantages at a distance could be easily undermined, but only if one can get inside the whirling barrier of spinning staff...
After a few exchanges between them, an opportunity came when the statue came forward with a normal downward strike. Scott deflected the blow to his right, then quickly stepped in and slipped the claymore's blade down between statue's right arm and wedged under the staff. From here, the terrier cranked his sword in a counterclockwise motion under his opponent's forearm that forced the staff back, using sheer leverage to break the golem's grip from it's weapon and leave it completely open – a strip-away technique. Scott maintained the sword's rotating momentum, and followed-up by smashing the claymore's heavy crossguard into the statue's face. The dark terrier kept going still, spinning from the crossguard blow into a back-kick while simultaneously drawing his large-caliber blaster handgun with his empty left hand. As expected, the statue-warrior was forced to stagger back a few feet, and Scott raised his handgun to bear on the golem before loosing three blazing shots into the reeling stone figure.
* Blam! * Blam! * Blam! *
From all that, only the statue's prominent nose had broken off from the cross-guard strike, and three black scorches marked its chest where the blaster shots landed. Such a maneuver would've obliterated a living fighter of flesh-and-bone, but the stone figure was apparently unfazed, and came at the terrier once again with its staff swinging...
The golem kept hammering at Scott's defenses with the same unrelenting robotic precision to its staff technique. The fight wasn't going to end quickly, and it didn't need to for the statue-warrior to win. It'd only be a matter of time for Scott to become tired and worn out, for his own technique to get sloppy from exhaustion. That's when the fighting golem, which didn't use any organic muscles or need any breath, could easily finish the breathless terrier off. In many respects, the battle was almost like fighting an opponent encased in power-armor...
Power-armor clad fighters retained most of their natural agility, were notoriously heavy, and practically indestructible, much like this statue-warrior. The way to beat power-armor was to strike at the weak points – usually the joints. But the golem had no 'weak point' at its joints, it was made of stone. But however tough this statue-warrior was, it's broken nose proved it was far from indestructible, and had its weaknesses. Under enough pressure, wood will splinter and snap, metal will bend and shear away, and stone will crack and crumble...
The statue-warrior came in for a low sweep at Scott's left leg. He blocked the strike with a low guard and transitioned cleanly into a hard downward cut. As expected, the statue-warrior caught the blade with the middle of the staff. Scott lunged forward underneath, intending to slam the claymore's hard pommel into his opponent's chin with an uppercut blow, but it never connected...
* Thunk! *
The statue-warrior intercepted the terrier with a solid knee-strike to the chest. The blow knocked Scott away hard on his back, but he managed to harness the momentum, rolling backwards onto his feet again. There were definitely some cracked ribs and bruising, but the terrier had more immediate concerns and couldn't yet be bothered by troublesome injuries. He shook it off and stepped forward, resuming the battle against his stony opponent once more...
Blade and staff clashed again in the deadly dance of the duel. One fighter unnaturally patient and methodical, the other brash and uncanny. Neither could find an opening in the other to exploit, and the fight seemed a stalemate for some time. Time – the more it passed, the more Scott wore himself out, and the more his technique would slip while his opponent held rock steady. He needed to end the fight, and end it quickly. When the statue-warrior thrust its staff once again, the terrier was only barely able to catch it and redirect it downward, between his legs...
Scott reached down and grabbed the staff in his left hand. The terrier chambered his blade back for one final thrust, and pulled the toggle to engage the sword's impact mechanism for the fatal blow, drawong a low hum from the weapon. But before he could launch his attack, the statue-warrior hefted the staff upward over its head, with Scott still holding on as he ascended. He kept on going in the vertical circle, to where the floor was coming down to crush him on the other side. And there was something else: the statue-warrior's unprotected back...
Scott flipped the claymore into a backhand grip, readied the blade over his right shoulder, and waited for the right instant – there'd only be one chance at this. Descending headfirst toward the floor above him, the terrier jammed the point of his sword into the small of his opponent's back as hard and as quickly as he~
* Slam! *
When Scott opened his eyes, he was staring at the hilt of his sword, stuck straight into the golem's back. He was laying on the platform floor just behind his opponent, where he must've landed on his back. The terrier pushed himself onto his feet, staggering from the shooting pains. Those cracked ribs we sure stinging now, and probably with a few more bangs, bumps and bruises. The skewered statue-warrior stood stock still, holding the staff over its paralyzed head. With one last ounce of determination, Scott grasped the hilt of his broadsword, engaged the impact mechanism, and twisted the blade with what strength he still had...
* Crack! *
The golem broke apart into several pieces and collapsed to the ground as little more than a pile of rubble on the platform. Exhausted and panting from his bout, Scott brushed the dust off his blade and slipped it into the baldric across his back, then spotted something off. The pieces of broken stone at the terrier's feet began to glow with an odd blue light, and the sound of a hundred voices filled his ears, all whispering at once. Then a small luminescent cloud rose out of the debris into the center of the chamber, radiating the same indigo blue~
"Get back, Scott!"
Dr. Harrison had stepped onto the platform, and strode toward the statue-warrior's shattered remains with a determined purpose.
"You have no idea what that is."
"And you do?"
Bewildered, Scott backed away from the glowing apparition and let Harrison take his place.
The slim hound answered Scott's question with a solemn nod as he gazed upon the hazy blue patch with a similar wonderment as a child...
"And I'll know even more soon enough."
The cloud descended, and hovered in front of Harrison for a few moments, then surged forward, knocking the lanky canine off his feet as he became engulfed in the glowing aurora, but he didn't fall. Instead, Harrison was lifted several feet off the ground, where he hung in the air suspended by nothing at all. The glowing blue aurora began to fade, and Harrison sank back to the floor on his hands and knees, apparently drained by the experience...
"Bring the first-aid Beverly, quick!"
Scott rushed to Harrison's aid as fast as his battered body could take him, with the young avian accompanying at his side.
"What the bloody hell's happened tae him?"
Compared to Scott, Beverly did not seem at all alarmed by the bizarre events, and answered the terrier's confused question quite calmly.
"He's alright, that's what it's supposed to do."
"And what sort of contermashious thingme is supposed tae be doing that?" Scott demanded, referring to Dr. Harrison on the floor, "It's like magic, straight from a fairy-fantasy."
"The only difference between magic and science is an understanding..."
Harrison stood up on his own, slowly, massaging his forehead as if slightly dazed or dizzy. When he took his hand down from his face, a pair of pinpoint blue lights were revealed gleaming within the black pupils of his eyes.
"If I told you exactly what you were getting into when I hired you, would you have believed me? Would you still have taken this job?"
"I... well..." Scott muttered, fidgeting and avoiding eye-contact.
"You don't have to answer..."
Harrison blinked a few times, and the surreal lights in his eyes began to fade down and out of sight.
"You'll receive your payment once we arrive at the Cerinia Institute, and you can believe whatever you want to about what you just witnessed..."
The group gathered their equipment and departed from the 'shrine' using the same narrow, ambiently glowing corridor they came through. None of the three spoke a word to each other on the way out, marring the otherwise perfect silence with the sound of their footsteps and breathing. When they reached the clearing at the surface, Dr. Harrison, Beverly and Scott were welcomed back into the world with the glare of sunlight, the jungle's sweltering heat, and a surprise...
Four soldiers in unmarked camouflaged uniforms materialized silently from cover, shrouded behind the trees and vegetation encircling the clearing. They moved in toward the group with a silent, dead-certain step of the highly trained and disciplined. The soldiers all wore form-fitting masks and headsets that hid their faces, and wielded a variety of top quality small arms at the ready...
"Drop your weapons." one of the shadowy soldiers ordered, aiming an assault rifle squarely at Scott's face. Neither in a position to fight nor argue, the terrier complied, slinging the impact claymore off his back and removing his blaster handgun from its holster before setting them on the ground.
Another voice spoke up, but it wasn't any of the soldiers.
"Arno Harrison, you surprise me. I didn't think you had it in you..."
The latest speaker stepped out from behind a nearby tree casually, as if he were just taking a pleasant stroll through the woods. He was an eagle plumed white on his head, dark brown on his wings, and dressed in unremarkable but appropriate clothing for the hot and humid tropical climate.
"Who are you?" Harrison demanded, "What's going on here?"
"Who I am isn't important, but I represent Lylat Central Intelligence..."
Beneath the eagle's relaxed veneer was a precision – a carefully controlled command behind every word and every action that said without words that me meant business.
"What is important is who you are and what you are doing here."
The slim hound gave a nervous shrug to the enigmatic newcomer.
"I'm just a scientist."
The eagle nodded slowly, and with absolute certainty.
"But you're a scientist under peculiar circumstances, conducting field research in almost complete secrecy, and with the financial backing of black market investors~"
"I don't believe this..." Harrison snapped back in outrage, "Do you have any idea what's been here all along? Not even the native Saurian tribes understand what's buried on this far-flung planet, and they live here! Some sort of research has to be done, otherwise there'll be no telling what could happen if it gets into the wrong hands."
"My thoughts exactly..."
The avian agent stepped forward, coming face-to-face with Arno Harrison.
"We just want to help."
"That so?..." Scott asked, glancing uncertainly to the silent soldiers around them, "Ye've got a right queer way of showing it then."
Beverly shot a worried glance at the dark terrier.
"Don't give them any excuses."
"Look..." Harrsion replied wearily at the eagle, "I have to get back to the Cerinia Institute, immediately."
He began to step back toward Scott and Beverly.
"Now if let us pass~"
The agent shot his hand out and held the slim hound in place.
"I can't do that."
"Yes you can, and you really should..."
Harrison shoved the other's hand off his shoulder.
"If you and the poor excuse of a government you work for truly want to help, then I suggest you send your gun toting boy-scouts home and arrange an appointment with my secretary."
"Alright Harrison. I've tried being reasonable with you, and I've even played along with your little game, but enough is enough..."
The casual mask was gone, revealing the agent's cold, hard, and mechanically precise mentality.
"Whether you realize it or not, the nature of your research presents a major security risk to the people of Lylat, and is only further compounded by the seedier connections you've made pursuing it. One way or another you will be coming with me – whether it's willingly like a gentleman or bound and gaged like a prisoner is your choice."
"Don't you understand anything I've been telling you? What I've uncovered is probably way beyond security, and those scheming gangsters, and the decisions I was roped into making. I have no intention of being your pet egghead, or anyone else's for that matter... "
Harrison glared into the avian agent with his teeth bared, and the tips of his fingers began to tremble with small spasms.
"You can't just treat me like one of Them!"
"Actually, I believe I understand perfectly..."
The eagle backed away from the angered hound, behind the safety of his shadowy entourage.
"I was hoping it wouldn't have to be this way."
The agent made a commanding gesture toward Harrison, and one of the soldiers slung his rifle over a shoulder as he closed in on the slim hound, reached for a pair of handcuffs from his belt. But then stopped, and went for his side-arm instead...
Noticing his comrade hesitate and expecting the worst, one of the other soldiers stepped forward with piqued suspicion.
"What's going on, Buckley?"
The individual identified as Buckley took a step back, and assumed a more combat-ready stance as he drew his side-arm pistol.
* Crack! *
A flash of blueish light silhouetted the the soldier's head before could finish, and his lifeless body collapsed to the ground as it went limp. Harrison was there on the other side, with an open hand extended where Buckley's head was a moment earlier. His eyes were ablaze with a searing blue light, and his face contorted in a ghastly grimace.
The three remaining soldiers snapped their assault rifles into fire-ready positions, all aimed directly at the crazed figure of Arno Harrison. Their discipline was solid, showing no fear given the unexpected turn of events, but they still hesitated a moment, and that moment was long enough...
The slim hound drew his lips back in a toothy grin as he brought his hands out in front, both of which ignited in a luminescent blue aurora.
* Crack! *
Claws of lightning erupted from his outstretched arms, striking each of the camo-clad figures in their faces before they had chance to fire. The jungle clearing shone brighter for a time, lit-up by Harrison's blazing arcs of electrostatic discharge. The soldiers' agonized cries of pain were barely heard, smothered over by the lightning's screech and crackle...
The lightning stopped, and the four soldiers' lifeless bodies fell dead to the ground below them. The mutilated corpses stank of their scorched flesh, still sizzling and smoking from the attack, and their faces burnt into featureless black husks that barely clung to their skulls. Absent though was the avian agent of Lylat Central Intelligence...
Harrison appeared unharmed, even cracking a satisfied smile and a laugh at his deadly handiwork. But then his laugh degenerated into a labored wheezing, and his knees started to shake and buckle beneath him. A brutal fit of coughs wracked the hound, spraying an inky black liquid from his thin muzzle, until he finally collapsed to the ground.
Beverly rushed to the aid of her fallen colleague and helped him onto his back. To her alarm, patches of Harrison's fur began to fall out, brushed away like it wasn't even attached at all.
"What's happening tae him?"
Scott scooped up his handgun from the ground and prepped it for use, scanning the area for any contacts...
The young avian tore her pack off her back, opened it and extracted a first aid kit, which she put to use almost immediately...
"I don't know. It's like radiation poisoning, but all at once."
"See what ye can do..."
The terrier brought his weapon up and began a quick search, leaving Beverly Finch alone with the slim, ailing hound. Scott brought his weapon up and quickly scanned the trees for any movement, any sign of reinforcements. The four unknown soldiers were completely dead and not a threat, but the eagle from before was nowhere to be found – no body, and no signs that he stuck around. Gripped by this undefined fear, the mercenary terrier approached the nearest soldier's corpse...
"What the hell were you thinking?" Beverly muttered mostly to herself, her hands flying tirelessly from the first-aid kit to Arno Harrison's decrepit shell of a body.
"B... Beverly..." Dr. Harrison wheezed, barely managing to speak between bouts of gurgling, fluid filled coughs.
"Hold still Arno, you'll be alright..."
Using an autoinjector tube, she administered dose after dose of antibiotics, adrenal steroids, antiemetics – anything else that might slow the rapid process of decay.
But despite the yellow bird's best attempts, Harrison's body was still falling apart on the cellular level. Fur continued to fall out at the slightest brush, revealing several patches of blackened dying skin underneath.
"It won't work, there's... no use."
He gurgled and bubbled as he breathed, which meant his lungs were rapidly filling up with fluid. The black, ink-like liquid even began to seep out of his nose.
Beverly's heart raced, and her breath quickened as her determined hands continued desperately to hold on to Harrison's life.
"Don't you dare talk like that, I can still save you..."
She pulled out an oxygen mask from the kit, and started the enriched airflow as she prepared to apply it to the dying hound's face~
Harrison knocked her hand and mask away with a clumsy swipe.
"L... Look at me Beverly, in the eyes... just look..."
With he trembling hand he pushed back the dark lensed glasses onto his forehead, and his other found one of Beverly's empty hands to clutch. The two of them looked the other squarely in the eyes as Harrison requested. Though his eyes were webbed with bleeding and bloodshot vessels, a pair of pale blue lights still shone behind each of his pupils – lights which seemed to penetrate further than just the surface, into the mind.
"Y... you'll know..."
The lights in his eyes flared brightly, and began to flicker on and off like the flashes of a strobing light. The flickering began to pick up speed, switching from blindingly bright to total darkness quicker and quicker, on and off, on and off, until it was finally impossible to distinguish the darkness from the light...
And then it stopped.
Arno Harrison laid motionless below her, dead, and those troubling lights in his eyes were gone. Beverly flinched away when she realized what just happened, and rapidly checked her vitals for anything unusual, or out of place. The only thing that seemed abnormal was a newfound headache pounding against the inside of her skull...
Scott knelt down next to one of the soldiers, Buckely, who still clutched the grip of his side-arm blaster. On closer inspection, the pistol turned out to be a state-of-the-art and difficult to obtain Aran Arms VED56-S – he was definitely more than a simple grunt, or gun for hire. The terrier set the blaster aside, anf stripped away the dead soldier's flex-armor vest before undoing the military-style camouflage jacket underneath, where a pair identical ID tags hung around Buckley's neck.
[BUCKLEY, FRANCIS, J.]
It was an ID tag used for the Cornerian Special Forces.
Scott immediately stepped back and away, bringing his handgun up once again as he scrutinized the surrounding jungle, searching for any sign of anything out of place. A second wave could be anywhere, lurking, stalking. Special Forces were deployed almost exclusively either for the highest level of danger or the highest level of secrecy, and often both in tandem...
Not finding any readily apparent reinforcements, the terrier went down to Buckley again, and removed the headset from the charred remains of his head. It was still active, so Scott brought the device to his ear to listen-in on the comm channel. There was nothing – no static, no cries of alarm, no bustle of orders, just dead and empty silence...
The mercenary backed away, holding onto the eerily quiet headset as he made his way back to where Beverly still tended to Harrison.
"How's he doing?"
The yellow avian rubbed a hand against her forehead, and answered in a flat, matter-of-fact tone.
And she began packing up the first aid kit.
"Then there's not anything more we can do..."
The terrier dropped Buckley's headset down, letting it clatter against the ground at his feet.
"Maybe we ought tae bury him, and the others~"
The mustard yellow avian reassembled her composure from scratch and stood up suddenly, cutting Scott off. "There's no time."
"Ye alright, las?..."
Scott watched her curiously for a moment as he retrieved his impact claymore and baldric, and replaced them on his back.
"We should leave, now."
Without any more words, she hefted her pack back onto her shoulders and started on her way.
Scott remained a moment longer, taking one last look over the carnage scattered across the jungle clearing: four dead elite soldiers, and one dead eccentric scientist. He backed away from it all, confused, uncertain, and otherwise at a complete loss...
The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true.
We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth – never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities...