21 – CAPTIVE, GOING ON CAPTOR
"AHHHHHHHH," a Red soldier said delightfully to another, yawning.
The second solider turned to the first. "It's not even six yet. How can you be tired already?"
"I'm not," said the first soldier. "I just felt like yawning, is all."
The two of them continued their vigil, which was to guard the entrance to the Sector 17 roadways. A few more minutes ticked by. The first soldier thought of all the weird things that had happened this week, what with the beginning of the Campaign for Universal Obliteration and all. It was amazing that, in just a week, this army had been created, constructed a civilization in another dimension, and launched a war on another planet, which was even in another universe. All in all, it was starting to be a bit much. The soldier knew that he, as well as many other people, were starting to wonder if universal obliteration was coming along too quickly.
From off to the side of the first solider, a "blarg" sound was followed a slump and then a thud. The first soldier turned to find the second laying face up on the ground. "Sleeping on the job, now, are we?" he called out loudly.
The second soldier didn't move.
"Am I going to have to report you?" the first soldier said, this time even louder than he had just before.
The second solider still did not move. The first soldier crossed his arms and let out a "hmf". Then he noticed something about the second solider. "Hey, what's this hole doing in your helmet?"
Then the first soldier fell to the ground, landing face down since he had been leaning over to begin with. A similarly sized hole shone out of the back of his helmet.
From across the roadway, peeking around an alley corner, Amber watched the soldier fall through the scope of her sniper rifle. She didn't like using the Red's variant of sniper rifle as much as the one she had fashioned for herself. Its zoom view was incremental instead of precise, so she had to choose from a preset number of zoom settings instead of being able to set the view exactly as she wanted it. Also, the upper half of the rifle had a different weight somehow, much denser, so that it felt as though the gun always wanted to turn upside down in her hands. It was awkward. However, this rifle was also the only one she had at the moment. Her original had been confiscated during her capture by the Reds in the Griffball Arena, and this one she had taken from one of the soldiers guarding her and Clair.
Amber scanned the area for more enemies, of which there were none, then lowered the rifle's eyepiece from her visor. "It's clear."
She stepped out into the roadway. The rest of Lime Squadron followed her, single file. Since Amber was the only sniper in the group (Rodney Hearts being back in the other universe), she had been leading the group and taking out far away enemies with her sniper rifle. They were journeying across the cityscape of the Red Fortress to find the teleporter that a Red prisoner they had taken in, named Guy Dudeperson, had said would take them to The Hand.
The group pressed forward, moving towards the gate that the two guards had been standing in front of. Everyone kept their heads on a swivel to look in both directions, trying to make sure that no one came onto the street and saw them. They all sprinted across the street to cover the open ground as quickly as possible. Ryan stopped and laughed as he saw the two dead Red guards, one lying face up with a hole in his visor, and the other lying right next to him, who was face down and had a hole in the back of his helmet. "Am I the only one who thinks that looks really stupid?" he asked.
Jess said: "The way that they're right next to each other, I think it looks kind of cute."
"Or like they tried to mount each other but failed!" Kenny laughed loudly.
Deciding that it was time to switch to a different conversation, Patton slapped is hand down on Guy's shoulder from behind. He wanted to surprise the Red, because usually people had a harder time lying when they were startled. "So, are we still going in the right direction, Red?" he asked sternly.
Guy jumped as Patton' gauntlet slapped down upon him. "Um…yes." He stopped to catch his breath, still recovering from the surprise. "We need to take this road, and then take a left, and that way for two blocks–"
"That would take us back north, towards the center of the city!" Patton objected. "Are you trying to lead us around in circles?"
Patton was holding Lucy so that it was within the Red's sight. Guy shook his head frantically. "No. It's just so that we can go around the monitoring station for this sector. Otherwise, we'd need to go right through the middle of a heavily guarded part of the fortress."
Patton looked over at Wren. "Is the Red telling the truth?" he asked her.
She looked at her tacpad, which was specially designed to give a tactical overlay of whatever region she was in. She tapped buttons on it for some moments before replying: "Yep, he's saying it like it is. The place we're going around is apparently the base of operations for the security deployment for this quarter of the city. The Red was actually very right in leading us to circumnavigate it."
Patton let go of Guy's shoulder. "Very well then, Red. Continue on."
Guy was about to take a step in the direction down the roadway when the ground suddenly began to shake. Then everything tuned to white. Everyone shielded their eyes. It was something up in the sky which was causing the glow. Looking up, everyone could now see a giant metal hand floating above the city, coming through a brilliant white sphere of light. The giant ball of light grew smaller as the Hand continued to exit from it. When the last of the Hand's wrist was beyond the light's circumference, the ball of light vanished completely.
"What the fuck is that doing here?" Kevin exclaimed.
The Hand continued to move across the city. It made a subtle rumble as it did so, which was probably caused by its fusion core and engines. Despite is size, the Hand moved across the city quite quickly. Having been in this dimension for only about fifteen seconds, it was now most of the way across the city. Suddenly another ball of light burst into existence, at the corner of the city that the Hand was heading to. The Hand's finger poked inside of it as the light became larger, and soon the entire Hand was inside. Then the second light vanished, as quickly as it had first appeared.
Patton, Hester, and Wren all pointed their weapons directly at Guy Dudeperson.
"You said that you were taking us to the teleporter leading to the Hand," said Hester.
"Yes," Guy squeaked.
"So then what the hell did we just see?" Patton asked.
"The Hand, coming through a slipspace portal," said Guy.
"Where were you really leading us?" Hester asked.
"Interestingly, the place where the Hand is now," Guy said nervously.
Everyone continued to stare at him.
"I didn't actually know where the Hand was when I started directing you guys!" Guy burst out suddenly, clearly breaking under pressure. "I'd heard it was going to destroy a continent on some planet called Xbox Live, or something like that. But I didn't know any specifics. So I started leading you to where I knew it would eventually be, the dimension where the Hand is stored."
Nome decided to test the Red's honesty by having him describe the place the Hand was kept, since he and most of Lime Squadron had already been there before, having been teleported there by Vincent during the Battle of Yellow Command. He stepped in front of the Red. "Describe this place," he ordered Guy.
"It-it's an island," Guy stammered fearfully. "It was derived from the island in this dimension that's underneath this city. The same island, basically, except in another dimension, and modified to allow the Hand's construction. A lot of the natural rock had to be replaced with more fortress, so that we could build the Hand at the tip of the island's peak. For some reason, the sun in that dimension is near the end if its life cycle, so all the light that comes down, even in the height of day, has this blood red color."
Nome paid close attention to the Red's visor as he spoke. As soon as the Red was done, Nome confirmed: "He speaks the truth. He really was leading us there."
"And still am, if you can all avoid killing me along the way," said Guy, looking around at all the weapons that Lime was pointing at his helmet.
"Hold on a second," Hester said suddenly. "Did you just say that the Hand had gotten back from attacking the planet XBOXL1V?"
"Um, yeah," said Guy. "Its space-time poking weapon isn't complete yet, so instead the Hand just used huge lasers to blow up stuff."
Everyone in Lime stared at the Red.
"What part of the planet?" Kevin asked.
Guy shrugged. "I dunno."
Patton clamped his gauntlets back down upon Guy's shoulder and shook him. "He asked you, where on the planet did the Hand attack?"
"I don't know!" Guy stammered. "I'm not privy to that information!"
Once again, guns were jammed into the poor Red's visor.
"I think I heard…Blue territory. Yes, that's right! Blue territory, near the Halothrii Wilderness, but far enough away from it that the conflict of the main war wouldn't notice the Hand's presence."
The guns were removed from Guy's visor. "Never mind," said Patton. "Blue territory. It's just the Blues who got massacred. No one else."
Everyone in Lime let out sighs of relief.
"Wait, how do we know he's not lying?" Kevin asked.
Hester replied bluntly: "When we get back, we check to see if the Wilderness is still there. If it isn't, the Red dies."
"Oh, you're from the Wilderness!" Guy exclaimed. "That explains why you wanted to know about the Hand's attack so badly." Then he sucked in a breath. "Wait a minute, what was that about you taking me to the Wilderness? I thought I was supposed to lead you to the Hand. Don't tell me that even after I do that, you're going to hang onto me!"
"You're our prisoner," said Patton. "Take the hint."
Guy shook his head and wiggled his fist at the sky. "Why did it have to be me!"
The group continued towards the teleporter. Guy seemed quite a bit more reluctant to lead them to it, understandably, but since his life was still in the balance, he had no choice but to follow Lime Squadron's demands. They wound their way through several more blocks of the Fortress. Finally, they came upon the building which Guy said housed the teleporter they were looking for. The building was crawling with Reds, but fortunately Lime had devised a plan by that point, to get everyone through without being suspected.
Guy stomped through the doors, strutting his chest proudly. Lime Squadron followed behind him, trying to seem as cowardly and meek in their posture as possible. Naturally, they attracted stares from all the Reds in the vicinity. "These are my prisoners!" Guy said strongly. He made sure to give nods to everyone he passed by, so as not to arouse any suspicion. For him, it was horribly ironic that he was having to play the captor, when really he was the captive. Everyone continued to eye the group as they passed by, though fortunately no one noticed that none of Guy's "captives" were wearing a neural jammer.
The group reached an elevator. The car happened to be on their current floor, so everyone just stepped on in. A lone Red was in the car already. He was forced to back all the way up to the far wall of the compartment to allow the entire group to enter. "Hey, look at all of these guys I captured!" Guy laughed nervously.
The doors closed and the elevator began to move. The Red stared at Lime Squadron for a moment before deciding to observe the car's ceiling tiles obsessively, apparently trying to avoid attracting any attention. Elevator music had started to play, some kind of pop jazz mix. Fred Oofig started to dance to it a little bit, before Nome nudged him with his elbow to make him realize what he was doing.
After about thirty seconds, the elevator reached the floor that the lone Red had to get off on. The group had to shuffle miserably to find a way to let the poor guy off. Eventually the Red was able to squeeze through, however, and then Lime and their captive were alone in the car. "I can't believe this is working," Guy admitted.
A moment later the car arrived at the top floor of the building, which held the teleporter. The doors opened to reveal a hall. Two Red guards waited for them just outside the car. "Clearance is required beyond this point," the guard on the left said sternly.
Guy presented the guards with his ID card. They observed it before nodding to each other. "Yup, it checks out," said the guard on the right. "But um, what are these other guys doing here? They're from different armies, or I'm colorblind."
"They're my prisoners," Guy explained.
The two guards looked at each other again.
"Oh yeah, we so totally are," said Kenny while bobbing his head stupidly up and down.
The guards looked back and forth between the group and each other. The left guard looked at the right guard, and the right guard shrugged his shoulders. Finally the two of them settled on "Well, his clearance does check out." The two guards stepped aside to let the group pass.
They were about halfway through when suddenly the left guard grabbed onto Jess' arm. "Hey Guy, none of your 'prisoners' are wearing any neural jammer. You're all going to stay right here-"
Hester and Wren whipped out their magnums and headshotted both of the guards, performing their actions so synchronously that the shots sounded only like one very loud shot instead of two lesser ones. The guards fell to the floor.
Patton shrugged. "Well, the prisoner gig got us this far."
"Far enough," said Guy. "The teleporter is kept in the next room." Lime Squadron followed him to the end of the hall, which had a door. Guy held it open to let everyone else inside, before entering himself. A dimly lit square room awaited them. And sure enough, a teleporter sat at its center. "I need to explain something," Guy said slowly as everyone approached the teleporter. The group stopped, having formed a semicircular ring around the node.
"If it's important, then speak," said Hester.
"This teleporter won't take us directly to The Hand," Guy continued. "The road to The Hand will require us to take a trip through several teleporters, due to the complex network of worlds that the Red Army has managed to link to within this universe."
"Where does this teleporter take us, in that case?" Nome asked.
"It takes us to the forest at the center of the Swirling Abyss of Absentmindedness," Guy answered. "My army has recently set up a base there which contains the teleporter we need to get into."
"We've already been to that place!" Jess exclaimed.
"Red, remember what will happen to you if you lead us into a trap!" Patton shouted.
"I know, I know!" Guy said as he put up his hands defensively. "But this really is the only way, you guys have to believe me! Listen, there are these spatial anomalies centered around this one location. Swirling colored lights. Did you guys see those? And if the right electromagnetic frequency is applied to them, they can be used to open a teleportation system to the place where the Hand is kept. My Army actually uses it to transit to a variety of locations, but it can connect to the dimension you guys want to travel to."
Nome was nodding strongly. Everyone remembered the lights they had seen in the forest, which they had used as a portal to get back to their own universe. And on their way back, they had seen many other locations as well, thus lending credence to what Guy was telling them.
"I think we should do it," Patton said to Hester. "The Red's story matches what we experienced the first time we were in the universe."
"Is everyone else in agreement?" Hester asked the rest of the group. Upon seeing many nods, she then said: "Alright, let's do this."
Guy walked up to one of the room's consoles, hit a few keys, and the teleporter lit up with the same green light that Lime had seen before. Patton grabbed onto Guy and the two of them walked in together, for just in case Guy really was setting a trap, in which case he would be forced to enter it himself. Fortunately, the Red made no reaction upon stepping in. With that, the rest of Lime followed, returning to the Swirling Abyss of Absentmindedness and taking one more step upon their journey to stop a neurotic fusion coil from popping the fabric of the universe.