"Sir? Sir? SIR!" Baron looked away from the screen showing the last hour of humanity.
"Yes, my good man, what is it?"
"She reached level 46."
"Did she now? In under a minute. Impressive."
"And she killed six of my men in the process." Major Varon joined in.
"You should have expected that, Major. Just tell your men to keep their distance. They're supposed to slow her down, they aren't even supposed to stop her. Wait for four minutes and then tell them to retreat completely."
"Yes, sir." Major Varon then went back to his men and Baron continued looking at the screen.
Meanwhile, on level 46, Jo noticed that the soldiers were widening the distance to her. Something's up. Alright, the stairs to the next level are right there.
"Alright, I've got a proposal for you guys. I know that Baron neither wants you nor me to die. So how about we all go up together?" There was a short silence, then a voice shouted out.
"We'll have to contact our superiors."
On the main deck, a soldier whispered something to Varon, who then walked up to Baron.
"Sir, she looked through the strategy. Should I tell my men to let her up?"
"Not yet. Tell them we have to discuss this, wait for three minutes, and then let her up."
"Very well, sir."
"Alright, Jo, their discussing it."
"Discussing? It's not like Baron to discuss things when he's supposed to give an order. At least that was my impression." The soldier then turned to his comrades.
"She's right, you know. Baron usually gives clear, precise orders. He doesn't discuss things." The others looked at each other, than agreed.
"What could he be planning?"
"Yes, what?" They noticed that the question had been asked by a woman and remembered that they were an all-male squad. They looked around and saw Jo, kneeling right beside them.
"Hi guys. How's it going?" They all raised their weapons, but Jo was faster. She punched one strait on the nose with her left, knocking him out immediately. Then she swung with her right, knocking the other two out, and then knocked the weapon out of the hand of the last one and grabbed his neck.
"Alright, then." She shoved him over to the elevator. "Call the elevator!"
"You know, I really think..." She knocked his weapon into his side.
"Okay, okay." He placed his hand on the panel and the door opened.
"Thanks." She knocked him out by smacking her pistol over the back of his head, went in and pressed the button for level 49.
"Sir, the elevator has been activated."
"What? What dimwit is using the elevator? We gave precise orders not to?" Major Varon spoke into his mic.
"Main deck to level 49. Is the elevator running."
"Confirm the person in their."
"Roger that." The soldiers pointed their weapons at the elevator.
"Remember, do not fire if it's Jo. Baron wants her alive." The entire squad replied.
"Yes, sir." The elevator door opened and Jo walked out alone.
"This is level 49. Jo left the elevator and is alone."
"Roger that, level 49." Varon then faced Baron. "What now, sir?" Baron sighed.
"Let her through. No reason in stopping her anymore."
"Yes, sir." He spoke into his mic. "All right, men. Open the elevator and let her through."
"Roger that. Over and out." The men laid down their weapons and moved aside. The squad leader then put his hand on the panel and the elevator door opened. He then moved aside as Jo walked past him into the elevator. When the elevator arrived, she entered the main deck and was once again greeted by Baron.
"Well done, Jo, well done. And even a good..." He looked on his wrist, as if he was wearing a watch. "two minutes before I expected you. That means you still have 7 minutes to defeat me and stop the operation. But..." He raised his pointer. "Don't think your win is sure, just because you discovered my weak spot. That actually gives me an advantage, because it'll make my victory all the more glorious. Now then," There was a moment of silence. "Let's start." He immediately dodged a hit from Jo and swung at her. She, as well, dodged. And they both retreated a bit.
"I see you're more cautious than before, Jo. That's good, but remember, the clock is ticking." She then dashed at him in a circular path and tried to knee him, but he blocked her hit with his left arm and shoved her against a panel. She tried to get up again, but he grabbed her throat and punched her multiple times in the face and threw her back in the middle of the room. He then walked over to her and bent over her. She took that chance to swing at his mouth piece, but he grabbed her arm and threw it on the floor. He then stood up and kicked her in the gut.
"I win again, Jo." Then Taron spoke up.
"Sir, President General Saron is calling from Garon." Baron turned to him.
"Is he now? Let's see what he wants. Put him through." Taron then pushed a button and the screen showed a middle-aged man with short brown hair and a bushy mustache.
"Baron? Baron? Ah, there you are. What's the situation over there?"
"We're making excellent progress, sir. Density is already up to... what exactly?" He turned to the people on the computers.
"Excellent, that means it's only a matter of seconds until the humans start dropping like flies."
"Very good, Baron. Mind if I watch?"
"Not at all, sir." The screen then halved, showing both Saron and Earth. Then one of the people on the computer spoke up.
"30 seconds to 80% density, sir."
"Excellent, begin countdown."
"Yes, sir. 25, 24, 23." It can't end like this. "20, 19, 18." I can't have failed. Jo tried to push herself up, but couldn't move. "10, 9, 8." Damnit, damnit, I'm sorry, Meg. "5, 4, 3." Then the screen suddenly flashed up and Baron became outraged.
"What's going on, what's happening?" Jo looked up and saw that the Earth was... on fire. "Are those real flames?"
"No, sir. It's the gas. The atmosphere is being cleansed."
"How can that happen?"
"I don't know, sir. But it's obvious that the density is going back rapidly. We are now at 50%, 40, 30."
"Density at 0%. The atmosphere is completely cleansed."
"Baron! How could this happen?"
"I don't know, President General." He checked the controls and then slowly looked up. "Unlikely, but it's the only possible explanation. The humans must have..."
"The genius of Garon got fooled by pea-brains?" Baron placed his hands on the panel and just stood over it.
"Unfortunately, it sames like that is just the case."
"How could you not put that in your calculations?"
"As you said, they're pea-brains. How could I expect them to master atmosphere conversion at this level?"
"In 20,000 years, for the first time, you have failed. You will return to Garon immediately."
"Yes, sir." Then the picture of Saron disappeared and Baron turned to Jo. "Pick her up." Two soldiers grabbed her arms and pulled her in front of him. He then lifted her chin. "What will I do with you, now?"
"How about letting me go? That would be very nice of you." Baron then scratched his chin.
"Hmmm. Maybe. But maybe I should stick to our agreement from the battle. I should execute you, right here, right now."
"Go ahead, I have nothing to fear. I doubt you would waste any of your precious soldiers on a raid, so your plans to invade Earth are stopped."
"Not stopped, postponed. Garonians are never defeated. We will return, once the war is won. We will return and wipe out the humans in one quick wave. Yes, you will see. You will live to witness the true end of humanity. Put her in the teleporter." The soldiers dragged her into the space she remembered having arrived on the ship. "Goodbye, Jo. Although, more like, until the next time." She then only saw a bright white like when she arrived. Then she was back on Earth and passed out.
After a while, she woke up again and found herself in a hospital room. She sat up and saw a nurse.
"Excuse me, nurse?" She turned around.
"Oh good, you're awake. I'll tell her right away."
"Wait." Jo tried to stop her, but she was already out of the room. Tell who? After a short while, she heard someone dash down the hall. Suddenly, the door swung open, and Meg stood in the doorway, with tears in her eyes.
"Thank God!" Meg jumped Jo and kissed her deeply. Then she pulled away and slapped Jo straight across the face. "You idiot! I was worried sick about you. Where were you?"
"You won't believe what happened. The RAPT citadels acted funny, then there were these clouds everywhere, and these scientists from Bailan, they..."
"I see you haven't changed a bit." Jo smirked. Meg smiled back.
"By the way. Where were you exactly?" Jo just smiled and kissed Meg on the cheek.
"It's a long story."
"Well, I think we have a lot of time now, right?" Jo smiled.
"I hope so, Meg." She then looked out of the window and into the starry night sky. "I do hope so."
Final Chapter. I have to say, I'm pretty proud of this story. I might even post a sequel.