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Michael slowed his breathing,
cracked his knuckles, his neck, and gripped the yoke of the Arachnos Flier. His
muscles tensed wanting to immediately blast the mutated arachnoids to burning
mounds of twisted flesh, but he held fire.
“Ooo, they’re grouping together,” Chris said fingering the video monitor that displayed what was going on beneath them.
The aircraft hovered silently, slowly circling the main tower webbed at the center of Grandville Isle. The early morning sun glinted off the vehicles black skin. The Arachnos Flier almost looked like an insect buzzing cautiously near a spider’s web. The arachnoids were attacking the main spire for some reason and the two Protectors were directing a squad of Rogue Isle Sentinels already deployed on the ground to put down the infestation. The human-sized eight-limbed creatures were a mystery to Michael, but they were considered pests. He assumed they had links to Arachnos because they looked like the shock troopers known as Crab Spider Slicers, and even a bit like Lord Recluse himself. Though no one ever saw his Lord’s true form hidden beneath his mask and armor. Obvious or not, Arachnos did not want them around and had left a standing order to eradicate them when found.
Christopher cast Michael a sideways glance and caught a devious smile spreading across his face. Michael laughed aloud and Christopher braced himself by grabbing the console for he knew what was to follow. The flier dived, plummeting almost a hundred feet, its main blasters blazing. The pulsed energy struck the platform on which the arachnoids were assembling. Michael pulled back on the stick and banked, tumbling the flier to the right just missing the platform. He corkscrewed to the left and barreled-rolled before dodging the side of a building and almost over steering into another. Michael throttled the engines to max and the aircraft groaned in response, but instantly responded nonetheless.
“Holy shit,” Chris gasped. “That was awesome!”
Both Protectors burst out laughing.
“If Veran saw that he’d ground you for sure,” Chris noted between laughs.
Michael shrugged, for he did not care. He hated patrol duty and wanted to get out there in the real defense of the Rogue Isles, in the role of covert operations. He had so many schemes to try the anxiety was making him giddy, although he was having one hell of a time flying the aircraft.
The communication console beeped and Chris stabbed the transmit button while Michael circled around to check on the Sentinels.
“Uh…” Michael searched for the words, “Sorry, Norm, I was testing… the… stabilizers. I had this thing in pieces earlier this morning.”
Chris released the transmit button, and Michael continued to laugh from all the excitement. The nighttime patrol had really been relaxing up to this point ever since the sour attitude Veran put them in. He struggled to recover his bearing by letting out the chortles that followed. Recalling the mission Arbiter Veran assigned to them suddenly put a damper on things and ruined his mood. Michael had intended to talk to Chris about what he thought about everything, but had not had the chance yet.
“Yes, very good,”
Michael zeroed in on
“Is there a problem?” Michael asked
“Aye Aye, captain,” Michael mocked, lifting the aircraft off the pad.
“What’s going on?” Chris asked from the co-pilots seat.
“Business to take care of on the
Michael opened up the throttle and
activated the cloaking circuit. All three of them had been in Faultline in
“Your going to see her again, aren’t
you?” Michael asked pointedly. He hated beating a around the bush with touchy
subjects. This rogue business Veran put in their heads bothered him. The
“I don’t see where anything I do is
Michael tried to read his emotions, but the blasted mystic helmets they were made to wear hid his demeanor.
Michael saw Christopher purse his lips and look out the right window of the flier acting nonchalantly.
“She has Aaron back now that he is alive,” Michael said.
“I believe you heard what I just
“Well, I thought our identities were to remain unknown?” Michael shot back, beginning to get perturbed with his mentor’s hypocritical moodiness.
“What did I say? Do I need to teach you further lessons? I have private matters to attend too.”
Ah, ha, Michael thought. Now it comes out, it’s not Arachnos related.
“Thauma is no longer your concern,” Michael said pushing the limits of civil conversation.
“Don’t worry about Thauma. You don’t know when to keep your mouth shut.”
Michael’s blood raced. Calming
techniques taught to him came to mind and he tried to abate the rising fury,
saving it for a time and place of his choosing. Remembering who taught it to
him made him only waver in that training.
it, Michael thought. If
It was almost twenty minutes later
did he feel like he was being watched. Michael was sure it was not from the
daggers he expected
Michael had trouble accepting what
appeared to be the truth, Arbiter Veran was right.
“What… in the middle of the ocean?”
Michael asked seeing
Michael watched the ghostly warm
footprints of the drake follow
“No sign of him,” Christopher said securing the hatch, “He must have caught a mediport signal. We are close enough.”
“Good riddance,” Michael said, “him and that drake.”
“Check the floor with your infrared vision.”
Christopher switched on his vision and confirmed the footprints. Before he could speak Arbiter Veran’s voice erupted over the radio.
“Protectors, I have an urgent mission for you.”
“Another one,” Michael mumbled under his breath. “How many times can we save Arachnos today?”
“Longbow has stopped a freighter from
entering the coastal waters of the
Christopher depressed the transmit button, “Ten-Four. Um… Send coordinates.”
Michael checked the waypoint on the 3-D map and realized they were only three miles from the ship.
“I am sending a flier of commandos and two patrol boats to assist in your investigation,” Arbiter Veran added. “Protector Claire will also be enroute.”
“Uh, Veran,” Michael stammered wincing in what was sure to be bad news. “We are near that location presently. Protector Norman caught a ride to the coast for business.”
The radio frequency was strangely quiet.
“That sum’a bitch,” Veran yelled. “Obviously he is rendezvousing with his splinter organization. Find out what their fate was aboard the ship and recover what they were delivering. Then, on the bounce, high tail it back here immediately. If not then apprehend Protector Norman and bring him in as well. It may already be too late. If he resists… terminate him. On the bounce!”
Reality came crashing down on
Michael. There it was plain as day, the order to bring his mentor in, even
though it made no sense. Terminate? Michael thought, like when did that stop