"Ah, little dragoon, so lovely to see you again, how long ago was it that we talked. Oh, that's right, I was busy beating up your friends and killing that one whelp."
"Can it. I'm calling in the Duel." There was silence, when Repike finally answered.
"State the nature of the contest."
"Standard rules, with a catch. Catch one, the captive TIE Pilot, the woman with green hair, is released prior to the beginning of the contest." With a laugh, Repike nodded.
"She's yours, after I run my standard interrogation and tests. For the records, of course."
"Two, if I defeat you under the rules we've always used, you will cease any and all actions against the Earth." Repike put a hand to his chin and rubbed it a few times, calculating the deal.
"As you wish. This pile of dirt is worthless to me anyway. And now, my terms: We each have one partner in the contest. If I win, I will team with my partner, and vice versa."
"And if total victory is mine, you will willingly join my order, and cut any ties you have, and the Earth is mine." Gasper's eyes widened a little, responding to the ramifications of a negative outcome. Only a few seconds passed when the pilot shook his head in agreement.
"Agreed . No funny business."
"Have you ever known me to be 'funny'. I assume you have coordinates for our battlefield?" With a few clicks on the helms keyboard, Gasper pressed ENTER and transmitted the numbers to the warlord."
"Interesting dragoon, I'm very impressed with your decision. I will meet you there in two hours time, with the hostage, though her ship is mine."
"Fine by me. Though I'd be careful about that cloaking system. Removing it will take out the hanger and at least half that capital ship."
"Thank you for the-! What was that rumble." Away from the mic, Gasper could hear a voice talk about a detonation, turning the fighter launch bay into scrap. With a smile, he chuckled until Repike came on again.
"Told ya. Remote detonations really do suck, don't they General?"
"Yes, well, no matter. Two hours, at the appointed meeting place. Be ready to join me." The view of Repike left the screen, followed by a logo of Flash Corporations. Cutting the Stormrunner's transmission, he flipped the switch for the ship intercom.
"Critter, DK, and Lee, need ya up here pronto."
"So St. Mark Island has a refueling station?" DK said, pointing to the onscreen map of the Western Hemisphere. Gasper nodded as he leaned the steering stick to the right gently, nudging the ship southwest. Nanaki wagged his tail occasionally, flipping it back and forth, the flame giving off now heat, but constantly shifting the lighting of the cockpit.
"Yes, the LOF set it up about a year ago, put a few small vehicles, mainly watercraft and a few jetpacks. Some armaments too, but just enough to defend themselves against anything small." LorenLeah, the true alias of Sailor Parma replied. The young woman had seen her share of blood shed that day protecting London, the new site of NATO Headquarters. Though exhausted, her inner strength had kept her steady, though not steady enough to handle the events from early in the day, when she'd been forced to kill a large squadron of soldiers, and taken their lives. When Gasper had picked her up on the way to New York City, they'd talked for a few minutes; Gasper reassuring her mostly that what she did was the right thing. Now, she was more then determined to see that one of her good friends stayed safe.
"So what's the point?" Nanaki snarled, still tired from his recent power surge.
"Not much, other then I'm dropping off all passengers, save DK and you. Loren will take the others and head to Agrua-" He noticed a small grumble from the orange being. "What."
"You wouldn't mind telling DK and I what you volunteered us for?" Nanaki replied.
"How much do you know about me Nanaki?" Came the retort from the ship's captain.
"You're a capable warrior, an astounding pilot, and a designer of buildings and aircraft."
"And do you know where I picked up those skills?" Gasper said, turning away, looking towards the horizon where the ocean met the sky.
Nanaki shook his head, and was silent for a moment. "Frankly, it's never come up, even after you were recruited. I don't see how it matters much in our current situation though." Gasper looked to his old friend DK, and nodded.
"Nanaki, Repike was the man who trained me to become who I am. If it wasn't for him, I would not be here today." It took a moment for the senshi and the beast to swallow those words, but the beast only nodded.
"Zeal's been captured, and I'm saving her life, but I need your two guys' help. When I worked for him my only way to 'freedom', of sorts, was to dual with him. Hand to hand, no weapons."
DK piped in. "This time he's asked for a tag team match, right?"
"In a sense, yes, but not how we're thinking." Gasper replied. "He's meaning that in case one of his generals destroys my partner, he'll have the added help."
"So if you have one of us as your team mate, what's person three do?" Loren asked. Again the pilot looked out the viewports. "The third person is responsible for getting Zeal to this ship, and back to Isla Argua."
"Please tell me you remembered gunners."
"Merc and I'll go." Loren replied authoritatively. The three males looked at her, and nodded accordingly.
"DK, you can fly this thing I assume?" Nanaki questioned the brute.
"Easily, I helped Gasp put it together."
"Then I'm your partner in this little tournament. Fine, have you let Brian know yet?"
"No." A few eyes opened wider on his negative answer.
"And you don't think you should ask him if it's okay if you try and take on the mastermind behind all this?" Loren interjected as she looked from Nanaki to DK, then back at Gasper. "Gasper, this man controls many armed men, and all have been trained to kill people like us. You can't possibly ask us to do this, let you go and settle an old feud?" The dragoon turned on that note and slowly landed the ship as he spoke to her.
"It's exactly what we're gonna do. Highwind sent me a message about an hour ago that the Complex came under fire, and JWolf needs all the help he can get. If the base falls, we can kiss everyone there goodbye, as well as any chance of winning this skirmish. Lee, I need your help, because when Zeal is released, she might be half dead, and you're one of the few I trust to get her safely fixed up and all that."
"It's a stupid plan the dragoon has, but it's his plan." Nanaki added. The ship slowly descended onto the tarmac, and Gasper looked back at LorenLeah.
"I'm asking just once, help me, and might have a shot at killing this mad man, but Zeal is more important. I trust you to do this Lee, and I'm bettin' anything it's a trap anyway. With you two and DK, and Zeal to help if she's in any condition, you can make a clean escape."
Nanaki awkwardly raised a paw. "So how do we get back to the island?"
"Figures . You know how much I hate that."
Parry, jab, parry. The clash of steel had been going on for a while now, and JWolf was beginning to wonder if the duel would come to an end. Avoiding the first wayward cut, Wolf came in quickly but was instantly blocked as his opponents' sword came up again to take the blow. Pulling back a bit, the guerrilla took a quick breather, realizing he was little match. The masked man saw this, and lowered his guard.
"You fight with honor. It is amazing to fight one such as you."
"Can it." Wolf pulled up the broadsword and thrusted forward, almost catching the ninja like warrior off guard. Blocking, he broke away and came in with a low slash, which Wolf leapt over easily. Landing, he was in en guard position and started the interrogation. "So just who the hell are ya, punk."
"The Master of Water, Riptide, at your service."
"Let's keep the formalities, you pansy-assed bitch." JWolf launched forward, his anger driving his movements, a cut here, a slash there, more and more he pressed into his enemy. Bringing his katana into a horizontal guard, he readied for another thrust when he didn't see Wolf bring the heavier sword down on Riptide. The Water Master's blade was not enough to hold back the blow, and in an instant, Wolf sliced through the edge, shattering it. Retreating back, Riptide chuckled under his mask.
"You destroyed my sword! How?!" Wolf threw his arm straight out, extending his blade like an extra arm and let the tip graze the ninja's throat.
"I'm better, got any last words?"
"Just one." The warrior dropped a small capsule, releasing a smoky compound. Wolf leapt back as the shattered pieces of Riptide's sword reformed into its katana shape, before solidifying. Grabbing the hilt, Riptide brought it high into the air, and slashed diagonally at Wolf. With a yell, he made a few more slashes then held out his hand, palm facing towards his opponent.
"DELUGE!" Wolf felt the wind blow harder and the mist of the sea hitting his face. The sight of the large title wave though was enough to scare him.
I think this is it . Came the thoughts to his mind, when he felt an energy surge go through him. The wall of water was about to hit him full force when a sphere of energy surrounded him. Inside the crackling shield, he saw the water rush past, and readied his sword. The water dissipated, along with the shield and JWolf once again launched in on an attack against Riptide. Steel clashed again as the both men struggled for a victor to the battle.
In her head, it felt like an eternity. She was groggy at best as she felt the various pricks and pokes of needles and IV tubes enter and exit her.
Zeal had tried her best to free her ship from the tractor beams, but the engines had gone critical, relegating her status from active pilot to captive pilot. They'd treated her roughly, yanking her out of the cockpit, throwing her to the floor with a thud. The deck plates of the main capital ship had been hard and cold as a strong arm held her up. Boomerang Flash smiled as he gripped her by her neck, shuffling her from hand to hand like a rag doll. She kicked at his armored midsection in vain.
Squeezing tighter, Boomerang hissed in glee. "Please, your attempts to escape are really useless, just like your magic. Now be a good girl." Throwing her against the bulkhead of the ship, she slipped into unconsciousness. Now, her head hurt, her body hurt, and she was spread out on a surguens table when Repike entered.
"Ah once again we meet Ms. Prophet. As always, I must apologize for the unfortunate circumstances that lead up to them." Looking at the data pad with his captive's vital signs and statistics, Repike smiled and set it back down. Placing a hand on her thigh, he sighed and looked at the drugged woman.
"What what do you want ."
"What I want and what I do are two different things. Your little boyfriend is going to save your life, and this time, I will allow him to." She was too groggy to move, but her eyebrow slowly arched up slightly. "Oh that's right, you're nothing more then a victim if you stay with him. They've died every time, always in his hands. Why, I'm surprised he's found someone who's capable of almost taking care of themselves."
"I don't understand." Was again her reply.
"It's quite simple." Repike stood up and began pulling out the IV drip that was being administered. "Your lover is responsible for the death of many of his would be girlfriends. Frankly, they all just don't seem to realize he's their death warrant. Now then, since I've given you my whole exposition, it's time we leave. Guards, please escort her to my personal drop ship." Two men took the woman from her bed and left the room. From the shadows came Red Mist, smiling at the incident.
"The poor girl is so mixed up, it will very amusing how that story comes out."
"Yes, how I love misinformation. Prepare for my departure."
"How're we doing Minmers?" Brian asked over the comm, running a hand through his hair as he strode through the halls to the Operations Room. Pacing himself enough, he walked through right as the door opened, Minmei and Kaeru working away.
"As well as could be expected, even if the front door is taking a pounding."
"We built this place well, let's hope it holds up. Anymore dropships coming out of orbit?"
"Yeah, and from the looks of it we're going to have more company-" the building shuttered slightly, "-you know Brian, those are really getting annoying." Lowering to the ground, the singer picked up the various graphs and maps that had fallen to the floor.
"Kaeru! Bring up security cameras on the tarmac and grid 3-F." The trainee nodded as the larger viewscreen flickered to life. On it, the three could see JWolf and an unknown intruder fighting in the foreground, while the last two members of his guerrilla defense force were shooting it out with armored troopers bearing Repike's standard. Red lights flared up as Kaeru tapped in more commands into the radar station.
"Unknowns coming in on our location at seven o'clock. ETA is five minutes." Brian nodded his head and half walked-half ran towards the door.
"I'll be outside! Get everyone on the horn, tell them-"
"I got it!" Minmei said as the room shook again.
The two men sprinted towards each other then jumped into the air, and with what almost seemed like a collision, clashed swords. Landing in a roll, Riptide came up to find JWolf already running towards him again, sword high and in a guarded assault position. The berserker/gunslinger lunged forward and struck again with two blows before landing and turning, guarding his back as Riptide made a slashing movement. Blocking the charge, the man in blue swung his sword back and connected briefly with JWolf. Their forms held in that position for a moment, then the two retreated away from each other, the distance between them not three yards.
"Dammit." Wolf snarled under his breath, the pain in his sword arm increasing. Holding the sword on his injured side, he grabbed the wound and looked at the crimson fluid on his arm. "Nice cut, that's your last."
"I'll see more of your blood as the day runs its course." Came a response. The stare was icy as Riptide brought up his sword and charged again, but came up short as Wolf met him, slashing away with reckless abandon.
"Five minutes to showtime." Nanaki bared his fangs while pacing back and forth.
Gasper arched a brow and wondered aloud. "And you know this how?"
"You don't live this long without developing an internal clock like mine."
"I won't ask." The dragoon pulled up the small binoculars and scanned the sky, finding nothing. "Nervous?"
"No. You are though. You learn these things." Gasper looked down at his ally and sighed.
"Again, I won't ask." Nanaki continued his pacing when they both heard the small chirp from their communication devices. Pulling out the small business card-like device, Gasper spoke into it.
"Got anything Lee?"
"One ship on radar, same thing that was recorded on your scanners in the North Sea. It's coming in hot too, so be ready. Good luck."
DK looked at the two fighters and shook his head. "You two really are going through with this aren't you?"
"I'm only interested in two things, getting Zeal back safely, and making Repike suffer."
"I'd be a fool not to be in agreement with the dragoon here. I'll rend Boomerang's body into a bloody pulp." The hum of the enemy ship was their indication as the three prepared themselves for their respective duties.
It was a large red object, rivaling that of the Stormrunner in size. It landed with a hiss of repulsorlifts cutting off. Holding any emotions he had in check, Gasper watched three people descend on the cargo platform. Two in battle armor of an unknown type, and one in what looked liked shackles. Keeping their distance, the two groups appraised each other with curiosity and apprehension, till finally Gasper spoke.
"Is she safe?" Lifting her head, Zeal stared past her captors at her friends. Repike turned and smiled, grabbing the chain between the neck brace and the wrist cuffs. Pulling her forward, he held her in front of the two Flash.
"She's quite fine. Are you prepared to fight?"
"Hand her over, and we'll begin." He yelled over. "Get ready DK." Saying under his breath. Repike threw her forward, letting her stagger then walk over. DK readied himself and met her twenty feet from the group and helped her take off the shackles. Nanaki growled at the capture devices, then noticed something glowing in Repike's hand.
"RUN!" He yelled out to the two as the beast lunged forward to shield them. Gasper saw it as well, and immediately launched into the air, pulling out his baton. Clicking a button, the two ends of his spear slashed out, and he quickly clashed weapons with Repike. The battle axe that materialized in Repike's hands crackled with energy as the two fought a battle of wills. Pushing back, Gasper leapt back and summoned up a fireball, throwing it Repike's feet to blow up some dust. Repike came flying through the dust cloud and made heavy hacks from his axe. Blocking each one with some ease, Gasper brought his knee up while blocking a downward blow, but the Master of Flash dematerialized, reappearing behind the dragoon and slicing downward again. Raising the shaft of his spear, he blocked the cut and slid the spear back, catching the curve of the blade. With all the strength he could muster, he pulled the spear down, throwing Repike over him. He fell to the ground and sprang up, his axe thrown to the side. Gasper let the spear clatter to the ground as both began a battle of fists and kicks.
DK yanked Zeal's arm, haphazardly running towards the ships as the battle began. Closing the ramp, he secured Zeal in the back then went to the ship's helm and began the flight sequence. LorenLeah pulled up a scanner and set to work on any escort the Flash may have brought. Finding nothing she nodded to DK, who then lifted the ship from the ground on repulsors and glided off towards Isla Agrua.
"Keep a channel open incase they need help."
"Right." She replied. Flipping a few switches she got up and flicked a couple more. "I'm going back to do an medical scan on Zeal. Everything okay here?"
"We'll be fine."
Nanaki stalked his prey as Boomerang and him slowly circled each other. "Here kitty, kitty, kitty. " Came the taunt that threw the orange cat into a rage. Leaping into the air, he dodged an energy wave and rammed into the apprentice, throwing them both to the ground. He growled with fury as he ripped into Boomerang Flash's armored wrist, tearing it clean off, arm and all. Slashing and clawing, he continued to rip into the dying man when a sudden realization hit him.
"NO!" He leapt off the corpse and ran after Gasper and Repike.
"Take off DK!" He yelled as he blocked a punch from his rival but didn't anticipate the kidney shot. Gasper held the wound and suddenly went feral, growling in rage as he let lose a burst of energy from his form, and throwing it at Repike. Blasted twenty feet away from the dragoon, Repike slowly stood and gave off a small chuckle.
"Good Gasper, I'm impressed."
"Shut up!" He started running towards his former master when Nanaki tumbled into him, throwing them both to the side. Quickly, he jumped off Gasper and summoned a shield of magic for the two. Repike smiled as his body gave off a red glow, and then erupted into flames, engulfing the two warriors. The shields taking the blast, the two were safe as the explosion dissipated. Gasper looked over to where Repike had been standing, watching the pieces of his enemy fall to the ground with a metallic ring. Shaking his head, he nodded to the beast.
"Yeah. I knew it was too easy, and with that energy blast, you charged up a bomb." Nanaki disengaged the magic shield, and let Gasper lean on his back in trying to get up. "I picked up the sent when I was fighting Boomerang. I even battled those kinds of clones before." Noticing the small struggle, he continued. "You're getting weak."
"Gee, thanks. So what was this all about? He meant to kill us?"
"You could've survived that blast with that thick head of yours. Think! If you were going to destroy the Legion, would you want their best pilot and their best warrior-"
"Shit!" Pulling at his comlink, he opened a channel and screamed into it. "DK! We need evac!" Closing the channel, he slapped his forehead and grumbled.
"I shoulda seen it coming. They're going to, aren't they."
Nanaki started trotting towards the landing ship, and signaled an agreement. "Rather clever, kill us here, then take out everyone else at the base."
Wolf knew he was slowly losing the fight. While slowly making headway against Riptide's attacks, he'd been unable to match the speed and power of the onslaught of magic coming from the ninja. Keeping up with the Ninja's leaps upon the various structures on the island, they were on the roof overlooking the ocean that surrounded them. Not daring a glance towards his team or his friends, he found an opening and went for a diagonal slash from the upper left to the lower right of his opponent's chest. Riptide staggered back, and JWolf continued to press the advantage. With a quick lunge, he jabbed his sword and hit flesh. The metal broadsword scraped against the bone as Wolf continued to stab through, running through Riptide's shoulder. Pulling the sword out, the mercenary smiled and leapt back and waited for his opponent to recover.
"Your mistake!" came the furious cry from the ninja as blue energy surrounded his wounded form. His wound healed, and a shield formed over him. Wolf smiled, feeling confident now as Riptide slowly stood, and let the energy loose, knocking his enemy away. Wolf slid to a halt less then ten feet from the roof's edge. Struggling to stand he was hit again with another barrage of energy, this one stronger then the last. Riptide chuckled as he let out a third blast. Quietly walking forward, the ninja brought his sword forward, as if stalking his downed prey. Barely a foot from the edge, Wolf was beginning to realize this was too much.
"Where's your shield now? You should have known you stood no chance against me." Raising the katana high, he plunged down, but was violently pushed away from JWolf. Falling into a roll, the Water Master looked up and stared at the shadow hovering over the fallen adversary
"I got tired of watching. You okay Wolf?" The shadow said, looking behind him to the struggling soldier.
"Just fine." Groaning, he fell down one knee and gathered his wits.
"No! He is my kill! I forbid you to interfere." Riptide said, running forward, sword held high. Striking steel, he slashed again, parried each time by the stranger. Try as he might, he was now being outclassed. "I will kill both of you! I will prevail!"
"Stow it!" And JWolf finally got a good look at his savior.
"Show him what you've got Taran."
"That I will. En guard!" With that, the Soul Knight took up his sword and charged.
Author's Notes: I'm such a tease with this chapter. But hey, what can I say? Okay, I promise, next chapter, no teasing. Anyway, notes. If you can't tell, yes, I used the ever-classic "clones" bit. No other notes, other then the as always, this fiction is not meant to infringe. All respective ideas and copyrights are owned by their individual creators. No harm was intended in their use.
An End to the Beginning Part One
Gasper S. Keltner's Fanfiction