“This planet moves extraordinarily slow through time, remember!?” Krestean responded, shouting over the weakening roar of the engines. Halfway down the ramp she paused her descent, turning around to shout back into the ship. “Just strap it in real tight! I know it’s not really made to sit on your back, but that’s the best way to move it around.” She continued down to the ground and trotted up to Drak. “What happened to your wings?!”
“He did,” Drakian lifted his front leg and pointed at the two fighting abilno’s.
“I assume you mean Raphael?” Krestean asked as she watched the two beings fight. The angel would continuously attempt to block Charles’ movements with large walls of gray energy, simultaneously trying to slice off the tentacles of his opponent. On the other side of the fight, Charles did not attack, focusing on dodging everything thrown at him.
“The gray one, yes. But that is not Raphael.”
“Right. It’s one of his clones, isn’t it?”
“Indeed. And one with a very chaotic energy pattern. His existence is unnatural, and it may be the cause for his uncontrollable actions,” He turned his head towards Krestean. “That, and the fact that proportionally speaking, his few centuries of age are nothing compared to the rest of our kin.”
“So what did he do?” Krestean laid the hammer on its head, it’s handle pointing to the sky. She reached out to what should’ve been Drakian’s wing, carefully moving her claws along the fragile-looking threads. Together, they formed a growing web that slowly shaped itself to be the membrane of the wing.
“Cut them off,” the dragon shrugged the hand off of his wing and approached the hammer. “They are not important, they will grow back. What is important is that it is not safe for you or Monsele to be here.”
“We’ll help! You’re clearly struggling against Raph… ‘s clone-” Krestean started to speak before getting interrupted.
“How? By throwing the hammer at him and hoping it will do something?” Drakian picked up the tool, rotating it in his grip. “Did Bast even have time to explain what we have learned of this so far? Or was she ‘Here, have this, it may be useful’?”
“The latter,” Krestean responded guiltily. “But during the flight here I had some time to-” she paused, noticing the Dragon was toying with the head of the artifact. “What… are you doing?”
“Just trying to pry open the-” not letting him finish, Krestean hastily grabbed the handle, taking the tool out of the dragon’s grasp. “… panel… Why did you do that?”
“You don’t need to force it open!” As proof of her words, she put her talon into one of the engravings near the top of the hammer, and slid it along its length. A faint light emanated from inside before the front face opened up, revealing a screen underneath, which quickly displayed various symbols in a quick progression. “See?”
“That is fascinating… It would not open for us…”
“Maybe it just doesn’t like you,” Krestean said jokingly, to which the symbols across the hammer lit up with a yellow light, blinking twice. “Wait, you’re serious?” Krestean asked, giving the hammer a surprised glance while it blinked twice again.
“Did you just…” before he could form the rest of the sentence, a large splash interrupted them. In the ever-growing pond at the center of the crater, Charles was using his four remaining tentacles to push himself out of the murky water, while the angel crushed a sword replica in his grasp.
Lovely how you two are having a chat, but I don’t have the energy to block this guy, Charles spoke telepathically to the beings on the flat dirt platform. Mind lending a hand or two?
We are thinking of a plan, we will join you once we devise a way to stop this maniac.
“Don’t you guys have all the same or similar energy capacity?”
“Indeed. But the sword he is holding acts as a battery.”
“Do you have a battery too?” Krestean asked the hammer, to which it responded with two blinks, changing its display to an array of green dots, with four amber ones in the corner.
“This lacks a scale, but if those four on the left are keeping me trapped, then this is a lot of energy… I wonder where it comes from…” As if in response, the screen flickered, changing into silhouettes of an amber dragon and a purple bird. “Oh…”
“The energy count doesn’t matter, I don’t know how to make use of it anyway. We will only need a small portion of it to lock him down,” Krestean pointed at the flying angel, who was now busy trying to defend himself from the aggressive attacks from Charles.
“He will cut through the chain, just like he cut through my wings.”
“We don’t need to keep him still for long, just need to hold him down for a short moment until Monsele can grab him.”
Drakian watched as Monsele descended from the ship with a metal pack on her back, and a large claw in her hand. “I see…” He analyzed Krestean’s plan. “That could-” his sentence was interrupted by an out-of-control sword hitting him in the head. After the flat side made contact, the weapon bounced away, spinning mid-air. There was still a small tentacle holding on to its grip, and the rotating motion threw it off as the gray abilno appeared beside it, grabbing the weapon.
“Another fake,” he groaned as the sword vanished into a lime mist. “Stupid squid. Stupid illusions,” he mumbled to himself, completely disregarding the beings around him. “You know I’m going to get the correct one sooner or-” he paused, noticing the nycomb in front of him. “Why hello there…” He looked at the spaceship behind Monsele, then back at her. “The ship was different last time, but you’re one of the pests alright. Nycombs, was it? Did you know your kind was the first I properly hunted? First intelligent one, at least.” the angel stopped talking as he noticed two odd pools of flaming magma slowly grow to both of his sides.
“Are you sure you know what you are doing?” Drakian asked Krestean, who was holding the brightly shining hammer.
“Not in the slightest. Hammer does all the work,” she explained as she watched a barrage of symbols appear on the screen, moving up and left to make space for more. Meanwhile, the pools expanded and chains emerged from within. They snaked their way up, in an almost biological way, the metallic blades no longer carrying the dead weight of the chains behind them, but rather acting as heads of an odd creature. One that moved thanks to an invisible force.
“What in the world-” was all the Type 0 managed to say before the blades swiftly pierced his sides, diving into each other’s source pools. “A good attempt,” his voice sounded with a crackling static to it. “But a futile one.” He lifted the sword and swung it into the chains. Instead of cutting into it, the weapon slid down the side of the chain’s link, producing a handful of sparks and no dents.
“Monsele…” Krestean started, trying to hurry the nycomb to do her thing while the gray abilno was trying to comprehend why his weapons didn’t work. Monsele nodded in response, turning on the claw. Meanwhile, the chains tensed up, pulling Raphael’s clone closer to the ground, dragging him along the mix of stone and dirt, down towards the bottom of the crater.
“I thought of you as a friend, yet here you are, siding with my enemies,” the clarity of his voice oscillated as he slid down, pulled into the pool of murky water at the bottom.
“What are you doing?!” Monsele asked Krestean, lowering the claw.
“I’m not doing anything! It’s the hammer.” She looked down at the display. It quickly flashed to show an image. It showed a large circle, with a chunk of it missing near the top. From the edge of the formed indent, two different colored lines came out, going straight towards the center of the circle. To the right of that, two more lines stood parallel to each other, colors matching with the ones on the left, displaying the difference between lengths.
“I believe it is trying to tell you that the bottom of the crater is closer to the Heart than we are,” Drakian chimed in after glancing at the drawing over Krestean’s shoulder. “And one would assume it is not possible for the hammer to control it.”
The hammer blinked twice in response, while Krestean sighed in annoyance. “I figured. Let’s just go to the bottom and-” she was interrupted by the sounds of splashing, as a sword covered in lime energy was lifted from the water by a gray cloud.
“You sneaky little devil,” the angel spoke as his gaseous form solidified. “You thought you’d hide it where I can’t see it… I bet all the ones you’re holding are fakes.” Charles turned the swords left in his three tentacles into small lime chunks, rapidly sending them towards the gray being to retrieve the weapon. “Uh uh uuuh,” a gray shield formed around the Type 0, to which all the green pieces stuck to. “It’s mine again now, as it was meant to be.”
The barrier unfolded, collapsing in on itself as it trapped all the lime rubble inside, like a fishing net capturing a school of fish. Raphael’s clone placed the lime-covered sword underneath the gray sphere, and swung the cyan-glowing blade overhead towards the energy construct. Upon contact, there was a blinding flash of light. The energies annihilated each other without a sound, leaving only two metallic swords in gray hands.
“I appreciate the help,” he spoke up, pointing with the freshly recovered sword at the pond below him. All the water instantly turned into steam, revealing the lifeless chains at the center of the crater.
“So I guess the hammer didn’t work?” Monsele asked Krestean as she watched the whole process unfold.
“It worked just… not quite the way I had hoped,” she watched as the gray Type 0 boiled all the water out of the crater. “That’s one less thing to worry about, at least. Hammer, can you try to grab him again? Try going for the hands this-” she paused, noticing the hammer blinked its lights a single time. “Why not?”
“Because he can shift his form and the blades will pass right through,” Drakian answered, to which the hammer blinked twice in agreement. “That is how I got out, I suspect that is how he got out just now as well.”
“What do you propose then?”
“We are capable of seeing all around us, however it is hard to focus on too many directions and frequencies at once. I and Charles should be enough to distract him from you two. Keep the chains close to him and strike quickly if he stops to taunt us.”
“Are you sure you want to? You don’t look all that well.”
“I am fine, but it is best that-” he paused, sliding off to the side as a spear made of frozen air sped through the space he had just vacated. “Do not come any closer than you need to,” he quickly warned, jumping down from the platform and levitating along the side of the crater, away from the immortals, but no closer to the angel in the center.
“Shall we continue where we left off?” The angel spun the swords, keeping one pointed at Drakian, and the other at Charles. “I only wanted the dragon, but I’ll take a two-for-one special,” the air around the group grew cold, forming large clouds of smoke as the gray being froze the area around the other two abilno’s.
“If you are such a hunter, why stop the air in place to contain us?” A voice came from the still beings. “Are you incapable of achieving victory without trapping us?”
“No no no, the swords are tools. Tools with which I achieve my goal,” he lowered his stance to think, the frozen air vibrating slightly. “They are simply means to an end.”
“But a hunter creates their traps. While you just so happened to be fortunate enough to find the artifacts.”
“That’s how you want to defeat us? Luck?”
“There is no luck in operating the swords,” he lifted the weapons, lighting up and dimming down various symbols. “They take precision and skill to use.”
“Do they? Because the swords are just archtools—same as the one those immortals just used to trap you, albeit temporarily. How hard can it be if a being of flesh is able to use it?”
The angel stopped the motion of his wings. Even though he was still facing the other abilno’s, Krestean could feel he was watching her and took a step back, unsure what Drakian was trying to achieve. “You were able to control her?” He asked, lowering the swords as they dimmed down. “That’s…” seeing the gray being lose focus, Charles quickly turned into a cloud, sinking into the ground. “That’s… a distraction!” the clone exclaimed, just in time to swing one of his swords into a lime tentacle that was trying to grab the other one. “You think I’d believe a mere mortal could handle this sort of power?!” He exclaimed as the sword swiftly cut through the incoming tentacle.
“No, no I did not,” Drakian spoke as he walked out of the cloud of evaporating air, followed by a trail of smoke. Together with the dragon, a pair of amber swords flew at his opponent. The angel effortlessly cut them in half, after which they regenerated their blades and assaulted again. Drakian steered his weapons into the flat sides of the blades, avoiding attempting to parry their sharp edges. “But she is no mere mortal.”
“Mortal, immortal; same difference,” the angel said as he viciously cut the constantly attacking swords. In front of him, the amber dragon grew in size, smoke seeping through the holes in the web that made up his wings. “They’re an annoying biomass, that’s all.” He continued, unaware that behind him a slithering chain slowly raised its sharp head.
“That ‘biomass’ is a conscious being,” Drakian spoke, calling his swords back to him. They flew straight into his body, as if there were no hard layer of solid energy of which his form consisted. “And, most importantly, she is my immortal,” he turned his head towards Krestean and nodded slightly. She touched the hammer, and the metal blade head jumped into the angel’s back, forcing him into the ground.
Before he could do anything, the cloud of smoke around Drakian disappeared, revealing Monsele who ran up to the restrained abilno. “What do you think you’re-” instead of letting him finish the sentence, Monsele connected the claw to his right wrist, making the rest of the gray beings’ words turn into energetic static. The claw glowed with a gray light. On the nycombs back, the metallic cylinder came to life. Various indicator lights turning on and off as the holding cell did its job.
With an intensified energetic static, Raphael’s clone swung his free sword into the pipe connecting the claw. The blade cut into the metal shielding, getting stuck a fraction of the way through. The hand holding it dissolved. The tool fell to the ground. A bright gray light enveloped the entire claw, followed by silence.
“What did you do?” Charles asked, materializing himself next to Monsele.
“Trapped him in a place without space or time,” Krestean answered, coming towards the group. “I saw him swing, he didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“I’m fine,” Monsele spoke with a pounding heart, looking at the claw in her hand. “How is this not broken?” She asked, examining the dented pipe.
“I expected that if he had the sword, he’d try to swing it into the pipe. So I reinforced it a little bit, following the hammer’s structure.”
Monsele blinked at her friend in confused amusement. “I think I see why you’re worried about her,” she whispered to the lime being next to her.
In the meantime, Krestean slid one of her claws across the metal piping. It split open, letting her take off a thin, seamless layer that covered the front portion of its insides. “Oh, this is not pretty,” she murmured as she looked at the melted mesh of cables and conduits present where the sword cut in. “Better get this thing off,” she trotted up to the nycomb’s side and flipped safety locks where the claw connected to the cylinder. The pipe slid out of the prison effortlessly, proceeding to vanish into amber sparks. “Sorry, were you saying something?”
“No, nothing,” Monsele answered with a forced smile. “But since you’re here, mind getting this thing off of me? It got considerably heavier all of the sudden.”
“Oh yes, of course.” Krestean unstrapped the belts that held the device on the nycombs back. She brought it down gently, but not without effort, placing it on the uneven ground.
“So… is this it?” She eyed the contraption without confidence. “Will this hold him or is it a temporary solution?”
“It has no reason to fail, he only damaged the input tube.”
“Then… we board the ship and return to the Market?”
“We’ll have to rebuild it first…”
“He cannot go anywhere,” Drakian spoke up as he approached the pair. “He is still locked to the planet, both by the hammer and the splitter,” he picked up the prison, looking at its structure. “And I do not think this will hold against the artifacts’ strength.”
“We can’t just leave it here!” Monsele gave a worried glance at the still-rising pool of water. “Maybe leave it with As-… tava? Charles, what was the-” she paused, noticing the lime being was gone. “Where did Charles go?”
“Right here,” Charles appeared next to the group, causing the immortals to jump. “Took the swords to our safe place.”
“Don’t scare us like that!” Krestean scolded the abilno before heading over to the contraption left on the ground. She picked it up, handing it over to him “Can you take the prison to Threa, and store it wherever you store all the archtools? Can’t think of a better place, and it will not have issues with either of the locks present… At least not after arriving there. But will you be able to teleport with it there? I guess Drakian will know that.” She looked around, noticing the dragon was now missing. “Where did he go?”
“Earth,” he replied as his form solidified where he stood before. “Sorry it took so long, hopefully ten minutes of convincing Bast to follow me here will prove useful.”
“Was only five seconds here.”
The group watched as Bast stumbled her way towards the group. Her white dress contrasted with the black fur of her head, its sharp eyes slowly focussing on the surroundings. “Have I told you how much I hate this?”
“Many times. But you are here now, so please do not complain and just do what we need from you. You can rest as much as you want here before going back.”
“Gladly. Now where’s that thing that needs protecting?”
“Here,” Krestean took back the prison from Charles, instantly picking up on what Drakian’s plan was. “But you should probably lock the chamber in the very center, to limit potential damage.”
“You must tell me more than that,” Bast kneeled down by the cylinder, lifting it up so it would float between the two of them. “Wouldn’t want to accidentally break the inner mechanisms of… whatever this is.”
“Ah, yes. I can dismantle it for you,” Krestean spoke hesitantly as she disassembled the metallic cover, showing the tangled mesh of wires, processors, and coils within. “Didn’t really expect to be dissecting it when it’s operational… But I can manage, just give me a moment.”
She carefully pulled parts of the machinery away from one another, having them hover nearby, still attached by a mesh of cables. Slowly, she uncovered a miniscule, segmented cylinder in the center. It glowed with a mix of light blue, white, and gray lights; slowly rotating around its axis.
“I don’t want to interrupt them,” Monsele whispered, inching her way towards Charles. “But couldn’t you just do whatever happened to that white dragon?”
“No, that only works on her. It’s calibrated that way.”
Monsele looked at him confused, but decided to not ask questions. “So now we… wait?”
“Yep.” Charles looked at the nycomb. “Something wrong with that?”
“No, it’s just that Drakian reminded me how much slower time here flows. A mere hour here is days on the outside! The others will get worried surely, maybe even think the worst happened… But, at the same time, I don’t want to leave.”
“It’s fine, your kind needs you, and you can bring them some amazing news, right?” The being paused, consumed by thought. “You can take Krestean’s ship. I’m sure she won’t mind.” Charles observed as the tariek diligently dismantled the device she carefully constructed beforehand. “I wouldn’t bother her right now. I’ll tell her when she’s done.”
Monsele nodded. “Will you come visit? Even though the case is finished, we’d appreciate the company. And could probably use some help with clearing the name of abilno’s.”
“I’ll be sure to do so. Hiamora’s probably there somewhere, since she didn’t go back to base.”
“Then I won’t be saying any goodbye’s,” she smiled, waved, and headed for the ship.
I am surprised she is not jumping for joy. Does catching the monster that brought genocide to your species not an exciting feat?
Maybe she’s got too much excitement in her, and it’ll hit her when she calms down a bit. The two abilno’s watched as the ship rose from the ground and accelerated into orbit. I’m surprised your link hasn’t heard the roar of the engines.
I am muting the sounds in her surroundings. The crater is so silent neither she nor Bast noticed a difference.
I see. Charles looked around the crater. This wasn’t the work of the swords, was it?
No, it was not. Archike taught me this technique. Surprisingly lightweight for how devastating it is.
Lightweight? Have you seen how you looked after this thing hit?
I looked like I wanted to. It was a good opportunity to lower the clone’s guard. Why do you think my wings are healing so quickly?
Charles examined the almost complete membrane of Drakian’s new wings, as thin as they were. That would do it. He said, looking at his own missing appendages. Think you can teach me the technique?
You would need to ask Archike, and who knows where he is now.
He’s around. Was on this planet not long ago, actually.
Was he really? Drakian watched the two immortals mingle in the advanced electronics. I wonder what for.
Don’t ask me. He can tell you himself when you find him… Eventually.
The two beings watched as Krestean put the prison back together, its center lights now accompanied by a coating of purple. Drakian made a motion with his head to indicate the two should come closer.
“Are you ready?” Charles asked, seeing the contraption coming back together.
“I’ve put the seal in place, but I’m not sure if it’ll work as intended,” Bast responded. “Whoever’s inside may get out right after you rotate.”
“Not a problem. Without his toys he is not much more than a kid, and not a very knowledgeable one at that.” Drakian extended his claws, waiting for Krestean to finish and hand him the cylinder. “Seeing Krestean communicate with the hammer makes me think he was not even using the swords properly, despite his claims.”
“Krestean did what?” Bast asked when a sudden dizziness forced her to sit down. When she looked up, Charles and the prison were both gone, and Krestean was picking up the artifact she left on the ground.
“Let’s get you out of this crater before it floods us,” Krestean helped Bast stand up, just now noticing the missing spaceship. “Drak, where did Monsele go?”
“She went to make sure her fellow nycombs do not think of her as deceased,” seeing Bast’s weak stance, he added “Bast, you can stop the shield, I am sure Charles has it under control.”
“Oh, I already did,” she responded with a forced smile. “I just haven’t been out of energy for millennia, forgot how it feels.” She stretched her arms out. “Shall we go?”
“Yes,” Drakian nodded, raising himself off of the ground. “This will be the fastest,” he explained, picking up both immortals and heading for the edge of the crater. “Would have had to do it to clear the slope near the edges anyway.”