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“Did you have to blow it up?” Aaron asked rhetorically moving through the thickening green brushwood of Croatoa.
The actual name of this part of the
“People could have been injured,” Thauma added dodging yet another low branch. The deep path they followed narrowed and widened erratically. She beginning to shiver damp chill in the air that came being beep into forest, although she could feel the touch of eldritch in the mist.
“It was on the roof,”
“Is that even possible?” Aaron asked, “For a Protector to not follow orders?”
“Do not fool yourself in thinking Protectors are mindless automatons like Crey’s Protectors or even common soldiers. We are given wide encompassing powers to protect Arachnos, and with that the Rogues Isles. We are given this right by demonstrating absolute loyalty. We willfully sacrifice ourselves to the servitude of Arachnos for the promotion of a greater technological society. Protectors are not the villains you think we are. I am just the hero to my populace as you are to yours.”
“You sound like a propaganda poster,” Aaron shot back. “Does the future include killing and terrorizing when you feel like it?”
“We suffer no restrictions in the execution of truth and justice. The ends always justify the means.”
“Who are we meeting again?” Thauma asked try to diffuse conversation. She was afraid where this conversation was headed.
“Ockham,” he responded turning to face her.
“Ah,” she replied trying to remember the drake’s schedule. She thought he was scheduled to assist Portal Corporation this week with Dr. Night.
“How’s that- ” Aaron started to say before Thauma turned and kissed him deeply on the lips. The two were momentarily lost in each other.
“Please shut up,” she commanded opening her eyes and placing a finger on his lips.
Aaron found he had nothing further to say.
For the next half an hour Aaron and
Thauma traded small talk.
“So,” Aaron addressed Aaron, “this is the long way then? Would have been easier if you hadn’t attacked the University.”
They emerged from the overgrown path
into a large clearing. Each paused in surreal awe. A large scraggly stone throne was positioned near
the center of a clearing with four lit torches surrounding it. It was as if
someone took pieces of
Thauma smiled at seeing her old
friend, Occam. She had spent some amount of time with him after Aaron’s death
“Occam…” she said her voice trailing
off. Approaching her friend, she noticed the physical differences. Thauma
Both Aaron and Thauma had encountered Occam’s clone, when the real drake confronted the reborn Saurian god a few years ago . The god had mocked Occam taking the moniker, Ockham. The Dark Lord then named his apostles with the prefix. Ockham’s Ninja, Ockham’s Hound, and Ockham’s Thunder were all prior minions. This also paralleled names students of Occam took to honor their mentor. Among the first were Occam’s Blade and Occam’s Mind. Today, an entire super group could be so formed with the numbers Occam counseled.
“No,” Norman flatly correctly, “I said Ockham.”
Thauma shook her head and bit her lower
lip. This was getting confusing, but chaos and confusion had been the Dark
Lord’s intention. Technically, she did misunderstand, but that was splitting
hairs. It was possible
Ock opened his eyes and arose. The Will of the Wisps and Sprites continued their swarming growing in numbers, but expanded their orbit to contain the whole group.
“Greetings, Dame Thauma,” Ock said bringing his hands together and bowing at the waste.
Thauma paused. There was a stillness and tranquility emanating from Claw. What she felt was surprising and unexpected. After their deadly encounter, Occam had turned the rogue drake from the Dark Lord, whom he had circumcised from Crey. Ockham’s Claw then returned to the Rogue Isles to fight the evil that grew there. Occam said he was the only hero on the Rogue Isles, and would lay the seeds that would eventually free the Isles forever. She and Aaron had never seen him since. Now with this sense of serenity she was taken off guard.
Ock recognized his presence was a surprise to the duo bowed and greeted Sir Aaron in turn.
Aaron just nodded his head. Returning from the afterlife gave him a different perspective on life. One, which for the time being, was more easy-going.
“I never had the opportunity to apologies for my actions all those years ago. I am truly sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Thauma answered. Everything was okay, now. Looking into Occam’s eyes was like staring into the sun, blazing with a passion for freedom, life, and hope. Ockham’s Claw, the clone of Occam, had a similar penetrating stare. His was more like looking into a mirror that reflected your soul. It was not accusatory in a nature, but a forgiving and understanding stare.
“It’s ok…” Aaron paused wondering what to call the drake.
“Ock,” the half-dragon finished. He locked eyes with Thauma.
“Uh… yeah,” she stammered. She felt like crying, strangely feeling guilty of holding a grudge against him. She easily was able to suppress the tears, but it irritated her that she felt that way without apparent reason.
“Enough with the reunion,”
“Your patience shall be rewarded,” answered Ock.
“Brother,” Ock responded.
“Don’t brother me.”
“What do you require of us?” Thauma asked.
“How much did
“Very little,” she replied.
“That sounds like him,” Ock said smiling relaxing Thauma who felt she was speaking with a long lost friend.
“Are we actually going to do this here?” Aaron asked walking up to stand by his love. “This place isn’t actually the safe.”
“Yes, I am going to perform the ceremony here, and yes it isn’t safe. I have asked for assistance and others will arrive soon. My friends...” Ock gestured toward the orbiting Fae creatures, which now seemed to be racing along the perimeter of the clearing. “They will be helping us as well.’”
“And why here?” Aaron said crossing
his arms. He was not convinced that this was the right location. Hell, he was
not convinced of anything. He fully put his faith in Thauma. That was
“Croatoa is swallowing this place into the Spirit World,” Thauma volunteered keeping her eyes locked on Ock. She then looked into the brown eyes of her love. “It can be used as a nexus to other places. Occam taught me that.”
“You are not sending her anywhere without me,” Aaron demanded.
“Be at ease, PhoenixHawk,” Ock assured holding his hand up. “She is not traveling anywhere but inward.”
“Huh,” Aaron grunted and even Thauma found the response lacking.
“Thauma and Norman will be traveling into his psyche, his soul if you will.”
“Whoa, she isn’t traveling into his mind,” Aaron was serious. He did not want the villain’s corrupt thoughts exposed to the women he loved. “No telling whaat might happen.”
“It will be okay,” Ock assured gesturing. “They will be safe. The true challenge lay out here. Once the denizens of Croatoa learn of our intrusion, there will be real battles to fight. The Red Caps, Tuatha Dannon, and Fir Bolgs have a long-standing feud with dragons. No doubt, they will relish a chance to take vengeance from past deeds.
“Well, no then. I don’t approve,” Aaron said raising his voice.
“Aaron its okay,” Thauma said taking Aaron by the arm gently. “I… I am actually okay with this.”
“But I am not,” Aaron responded breaking her grip. If I didn’t accompany you here, Ock would be defending you by himself. Let me at least summon the Onami Strike Force, so we may mount an adequate defense.”
“That’s not going to happen, dead
“Like kidnapping Azuria and
attacking a Longbow operative!” Aaron pointed out.
“Actually,” Ock said hoping to diffuse the obvious tension between the two genetic brothers, “I have summoned Occam’s Wall.”
Aaron’s brow furrowed, “Who?”
“He is a newer Onami member from after you were killed,” Thauma explained. “In fact, he’s been with the group quite a while.”
“Wall is an Elemental and should arrive at any moment. However, I think his current assignment is holding him up. He has been entrusted to Occam, but is unable to differentiate between him and I. Very fortuitous for us.”
Thauma realized Aaron was going to have a harder time transitioning back into the living. It was definitely frustrating watching him struggle with all the changes.
“Very well,” Aaron grunted
dismissing the topic with a wave of his hand. He had no choice, but to place
everything on Thauma’s judgment. It was not that he did not trust her,
unraveling all the changes was wearisome.
Aaron waved a flippant hand at
Take a match to wood soaking in
gasoline and the resulting detonation would have been a mere spark to
“Go for it,” Aaron said standing defiantly. “You don’t exist in my world anyway. I don’t care you’re the big bad boys of Arachnos injected you with my DNA. You’re nothing to me.”
Thauma jumped in front of Aaron, “I am here to help you. Obviously, you don’t want it. We’re leaving.”
“Be glad you’re hiding behind her,”
Aaron sneered and grabbed Thauma by her arm in an attempt to push her aside. Already the energy was enough to cause an azure glow to emanate from his hands.
“Stop it!” Thauma yelled. “Both of you! I am so sick of this shit.” She glared at Aaron who backed down. “Norman do you want my help or not.”
With the air temporarily cleared
from thick egos, Ock went on to explain the ceremony they were about to
undertake. Both Thauma and Norman would sit lotus position facing each other.
Ock would began the chanting and weave the magic required for the journey. The
travelers would then grasps hands so neither would get lost. The journey into
ones soul and back through genetic memories would be greatly disorienting.
“One last, thing
Aaron kept his mouth shut watching his true love sit across from someone he did not like. They grasped in an embrace and he just watched unmoving standing to the side of them. Ock began his chants, and slowly danced a circle around the two travelers. Aaron noticed the Will of the Wisps and Sprites suddenly accelerated in their orbital path around the clearing.
The balls of energetic life, creature of Fae, suddenly rocketed passed the group in a straight line missing them by inches. They seemed to form a wall of protection.
“Hold,” Arbiter Leery said entering the clearing from other direction only fifty feet away or so.
The Wisps and Sprites shivered in what Aaron thought was anger, or fear. Hell, they were balls of light what did he know?
Ock stopped the ceremony and walked up to the wall of light and it parted like a curtain. He waved his hand and the creatures slowly returned to their previous nonchalant orbit.
Leery held his Arachnos shotgun at his waist; behind him, two drones hovered scanning the area. He had dispatched all of the spiderlings and arachnobots, to encircle the clearing. He was not sure what to expect here and hated going in blind.
The unmasked Protector recognizing the voice quickly walked over to Ock. “Arbiter Leery?”
“Protector,” Leery responded walking over to the drakes. The two drones followed him staying perfectly five feet back.
“What is going on?”
“Really… against our explicit orders not to?”
Aaron helped the disoriented Thauma approach Ock.
Michael tried to approach the group stoically, but he was extremely exhausted. More tired then any other time he could remember. His solution to fix the Flier was that he himself acted as the power source. Drawing all the electrical energy he could generate he transferred it direct into the undamaged conduit. The drain on him was like something he never felt before. If only he could take a nap.
“I have to do this,”
“What if you can’t remember?” Leery asked. “Some things are not worth remembering.”
“Is there something I should know,”
“No,” he said flatly. “You would not believe me and only follow through with the procedure anyway.”
“Even against the will of Lord Recluse?”
“Are you going rogue?” Michael said bending over resting his hands on his thighs. He could not believe how tired he was.
“But you are disobeying direct orders,” Leery pointed out.
“All Protectors know what they were
“Some of those dead,” Leery pointed out.
“Maybe you didn’t survive?” Leery revealed.
Leery pondered that response. Feeling the awkward silence of enemies staring across from each other he decided. “We should have expected this kind of response from the Destined One.”
That response made Leery smile devilishly. He did not know what caused such a retort from a man he knew for years as the most loyal of the loyal. “Very well, my friend, go with the blessings of Arachnos. We cannot afford to lose you or your loyalty.”
Michael, Thauma, and Aaron quietly exchanged pleasantries thin-lipped.
“Are you happy with your choice Michael?” Aaron asked while Ock restarted the ceremony
Leery walked over to the former mates, “Protector Michael has demonstrated superior dedication and achievement to Arachnos.”
“Is that so?” Aaron said surprised
by the response. It seemed he could have been talking to any
“Yes,” Leery continued, “As a matter of fact, I plan on awarding him an achievement medal for selfless actions in carrying out his duty,”
Aaron nodded and Michael bowed slightly to his commander his smile leaking from underneath the mystic helmet.
“Is there anything further I can do to assist you and Nor- er, Thauma,” Leery said to Aaron smiling.
Aaron looked around, not believing what he was about to say. “Sure, we need to secure the perimeter.”
“Done,” Leery said sending commands to all of his drones in the area. “Then lets mount a terrific defense. Protector Michael, feel free to remove your helmet in the presence of your friends.”
Michael did, but would have anyways.The ceremony continued…