Wildside 2020: Come Together

Chapter Two: Conquered World
by R.W. Lander

The guardsman was nervous. Shaking in his boots. Figuratively, that is. He knew that if he moved an inch, his commanding officer would have him gunned down as an example. There would be no breaks in discipline today.

He couldn't even look around to see if he was the only one. He wasn't. The other twenty-four guards in the honor assembly, standing side by side in two rows, were just as nervous. They stared across the purple rug which separated them at each other, but even if their visors had been clear instead of black, their eyes wouldn't meet. None of them wanted to know how afraid the rest of them were.

The Prince was coming to Earth. His temper was legendary, as was his devotion to discipline. He wasn't pleased, and would be looking for an excuse to vent his rage. And if a guardsman didn't give him one, he'd vent it on those he was making the trip for.

He was coming to crush the rebels. Duke Amridar had failed. He was ruthless, and strong, but not enough. He didn't have the tactical skills to outfight the rebels. He didn't have the personal drive to destroy them. He'd never battled them one-on-one and felt pain at their hands. Not like the Prince.

A warning klaxon sounded, and the entire honor guard, although it seemed impossible to do so, stood at attention even more. Their commander, a man of nearly seven feet, walked between them, carefully avoiding the rug, and inspecting his troops through his black visor. He nodded here and there, straightened jackets, even checked a couple of rifles. His men knew him well enough to know that he was nervous as well. If he disappointed the Prince, his rank wouldn't protect him. Humans weren't safe around the Prince.

At the far side of the complex, some fifty feet away, massive steel doors began to grind slowly open. No one, except the commander, looked in that direction. The doors finally slid all the way open, revealing a perfect blue sky outside. Then the blue sky was blotted out by black.

The Prince's personal ship, no doubt with his Highness at the controls himself. It was menacing, looking more sinister than any inanimate object deserved too. It filled the entire seventy-foot wide hall with its wingspan, each wing bearing a sharp silver claw on the end. The body was large and sat underneath the wings, like some cylindrical bat hanging from a massive tree limb. The ship landed and slowly powered down, its roaring drive subsiding into a low hum.

For five minutes the hum continued, until every guardsman could feel it. Their nervousness was slowly becoming true fear. Each man feared that he would snap, do something to stop the humming, anything.

Then the hum stopped. It was replaced by a whirring sound as the door on the craft's nose lowered, touching the purple rug at the very end. From within, the troops heard clanking. One foot fell after the other, until eventually they saw two pairs of blue metallic boots, walking in perfect formation. Then more blue leg armor, then white knee joints, then blue up until the waist, where red bands of heavier armor were superimposed across the chest. White gauntlets carried their blasters with military precision. Their heads emerged, and the helmet was revealed. It was the red helmet with silver visor, the symbol of the Prince's elite bodyguard. Some of the few Earth-men he had deemed worthy to serve him, dressed in the finest battle armor the Kingdom had to offer.

The blaster each guard carried was a Quantum Rifle. The rifle was rumored to be able to destroy anything, given time. It was said that the soldiers who used them were required to train for a year before they were allowed to remove the safety, and another two months before they actually fired a burst of energy. Stories told that most of the training was indoctrination, making sure that a weapon of such power could not fall into the hands of the enemy. And, of course, their were stories of a female rebel who wielded one.

The guards had finished assimilating the honor guards, and were properly awed, when more clanging resounded across the hall, echoing off the stilted ceilings, until it sounded as if a hundred churches in Europe were ringing their bells. The Prince's guards knelt and held their rifles out in front of them. The guardsmen's commander did the same, and his guards followed suit. All bodies knelt, and all eyes focused on the opening of the ship, staring into the painfully-bright white light that emanated from the cockpit.

A massive shadow fell across the Prince's guards and the commander. An eight foot tall form stood silhouetted against the light. Then, slowly, it began to move, walking out onto the purple rug. The Prince stepped onto Earth once more. He turned his head slowly, looking left and right to observe the guardsmen. After a moment, he shook his black head and grunted his approval. He looked down at the commander and began to speak, in a low rumbling bass.

"Rise, commander, and tell me of our adversaries."

Before the commander could even stand, a shimmering mirror appeared between him and the Prince. From out of the mirror stepped a large humanoid with orange skin and red battle armor. In his hands, he held out a staff. His voice was rough, seemingly damaged, and his features were alien.

"Murderer and oppressor," he roared, "your kind will pay for the death and slavery you have caused! You shall pay for Dark Rose, and for Black Dragon! And for all the Earthmen who died fighting your foul armies on the day of your conquest! Your skin is black, but not as black as your heart! I will send you to where demons belong!"

The guardsman raised their weapons, but the commander screamed in a shrill voice, "Don't! You'll hit the Prince!"

The Prince's elite bodyguards didn't even move. They knew the consequences of firing their rifles unless specifically ordered. They'd watched their predecessors tortured to death after they saved the Prince's life without permission.

The Prince smiled at the new arrival. "You make pretty speeches, my ugly friend. I suppose I will remove your tongue first."

A sound, like fabric being shredded, filled the room. Another figure suddenly stood behind the man in red. It was a horrible looking creature, a humanoid cross between a wolf, a bat, and a nightmare. Its right hand flashed out and sharp bone claws appeared. It followed through on its stroke and ripped five gashes in the red man's back. He screamed as blood poured out of his wounds, splattering on the floor.

The Prince took this opportunity to grab the man's neck and tear his bloody tongue out of his mouth. He threw it to the floor and glared at the red man, lifting him off the ground and slowly squeezing his throat. Five spurts of blood appeared across the Prince's purple sash as the creature's claws plunged through the man's back and out of his chest. The red man writhed in pain and dropped his staff.

Grinning, the Prince took the man by the head and twisted, turning his head around three times before dropping him to the floor. His head stared up at the ceiling, even though his chest was on the ground. The Prince kicked the body to make sure and then looked at the wolf-creature.

The creature fell to its knees and spoke in a growling, bestial voice. "My lord and master, Azathoth, has a deal to offer."

"Speak," the Prince boomed.

"I can locate the resistance," he said simply, his smile revealing his fangs to the Prince.

The Prince returned the smile and began to lead the wolf out of the room. When he reached the door, he turned and called out to his elite guards.

"Defenders! An assassin was allowed to get close to me by these guardsman! Kill them all."

As they left the room, the Prince and the wolf heard the sound of Quantum rifles being fired and men screaming. Both of them smiled.

Four hours later, in an underground shelter, a large black gauntlet clicked the "On" switch and a jury-rigged monitor buzzed to life on the cement wall. The picture was grainy, and concrete showed through it in spots, but it was good enough.

A man with very short blond hair sat behind the news desk on the screen, wearing a neatly pressed suit with a tie that had the Kingdom's insignia on it. He looked up and smiled his plastic smile, then began speaking to the camera.

"Some kind of teleporter, now thought to be Looking Glass, a member of the rebellion, tried to assassinate the Prince today upon his arrival this afternoon. Fortunately, the Prince was able to fend off the attacker with the help of local Guardsmen and his elite bodyguards."

Another video replaced the man's image, showing a pitched battle between twenty-five guardsman, two bodyguards, the Prince, and Looking Glass. There was about two minutes of footage, the end of which showed Looking Glass pulling out a gun and killing all of the guardsman, only to be grabbed by the Prince and have his neck broken. The Prince then knelt down next to the body and apologized for being forced to take a life.

"As you can see," the man said as his image came back into view, "the rebels' teleporter killed a cadre of guardsmen before he was stopped. The rebels, as usual, had no comment, but speculation from unknown sources is that this was a sanctioned attack, and that more terrorist activities will follow. Knight Commander Robert Kaufman had a message for the rebels..."

The man's image faded again and was replaced by Robert Kaufman, standing against a plain white wall and wearing the uniform of the Guardsmen. His blond hair and chiseled features made him look like a recruiting poster, and his neatly pressed blue uniform with purple trim accented the image.

"I hope that this will finally convince the rebels to end their struggle. We do not wish to destroy them, we simply wish to send them along with the other metahumans to a safer place in the Kingdom. If any of the rebels are watching now...Dragon, Vincent, please listen. We are still willing to negotiate."

Kaufman's face disintegrated in a shower of glass and sparks as Dragon put his black gauntleted fist through the screen, putting a hole in the concrete underneath it.

"Willing to negotiate," he snorted. "That's what Rose believed."

Dragon looked over at the far wall of the rec room at where Rose's broken metal stick hung on a wooden plaque. It was all that had been left when the rebels had arrived on the scene. The plaque read, "For Rose and all the others who died in the name of justice."

The oak door to the room burst open as Vincent came rushing in, his glowing sword in hand. He looked at the broken monitor screen and turned to face Dragon, visibly angry.

"Dragon, what the hell are you doing?"

"Kaufman was just on, begging us to turn ourselves in for our own good. Looking Glass attacked the Prince and failed. He's dead."

Vincent's sword vanished and he slammed his fist into the door, knocking it off its top hinge. It swung open, loosely held on by the bottom hinge. Vincent looked at it in surprise, then looked at Dragon.

"You've been knocking things around in here for a while, haven't you?"

Dragon nodded, a little self-consciously. Vincent walked over and sat on one of the faded couches against the wall. He put his head in his hands.

"I should have known, Dragon. After what happened to Rose, I should have known he would go after the Prince. I should have stopped him."

"You can't be everywhere, Vincent," Dragon said, sitting down beside him. "Besides, you know we could never control Looking Glass. He's one of the reasons I gave up leadership of this group. I hate to say it, but without him, we may have a better chance of succeeding. It'll sure help on our stealth missions."

Vincent looked at Dragon and yelled, "How can you be so calm? He's dead, and the Prince killed him! He also framed him for mass murder to make us look bad!"

"I'm angry, Vincent. It's just that my anger won't help you. I was trying to help."

Vincent nodded and put his hand on Dragon's shoulder. The door swung open, creaking on the one hinge, and Kim, Dragon's wife, stepped in. She was dressed in a tattered Guardsman's uniform, with the insignia ripped off and replaced with a symbol of a miniature globe, with the words, "Free Earth" emblazoned across it in red lettering.

She carried her Quantum rifle in with her. She glanced over at the wall with the destroyed monitor and sighed.

"You overreacted, Dan. It took Centurion and Swift a week to jury-rig that monitor."

As if on cue, Centurion and Swift walked into the room, both dressed for combat. Jack followed him in, his ever-present trenchcoat open and his energy pistol in his hand. Argent came in last, but his energy rifle was slung over his shoulder. Swift was over at the monitor before any of them could blink. He was a blur of blue motion, and in ten seconds, he was back at the couch, sitting down.

"There'll be a few more spots, but fixing it is easier than setting it up. Of course, electronics isn't my specialty. It's Eddie's."

Swift nodded over at Centurion, who had powered down his armor and was now wearing simple black leathers. He gazed out over the room in his black shades. "Hey, my specialty is blowing things up. Ka-Boom!" He cackled hysterically, slapping Vincent on the back. Vincent pushed him off the back of the couch.

When he got up, Eddie had his switchblade in his hand. "Don't even try it, Eddie," Vincent said, without looking.

Eddie grinned and began flipping the blade into the air, catching it by the handle. "So, what are we going to do about Looking Glass? Let's hit some weapons plants again. I love doing that."

"No," Vincent said, "we hit our targets for strategic reasons. We start making reprisal raids and we become everything they say we are. We become terrorists."

"Who cares what they call us," Argent said in his British accent, "we want to end the war, don't we? Let's start making reprisals. If you're afraid to do it, let me and Centurion handle it."

"We are not terrorists," Kim repeated, staring at Argent. Argent raised both gloved hands in mock surrender and sat down on one of the other couches. He was quickly joined by Centurion. Kim sat down on the other side of Dragon and wearily put her arm around him. He gave her a little kiss on the cheek. Jack sat down in a folding chair between the two couches, and Swift stood behind him.

"Alright," Vincent said, "we do need to do something. We need to find out exactly what the Prince is up to."

Dragon pipe up. "How do you suggest we do that, VIncent? He's hardly going to send out greeting cards."

"Well, Dragon, if we had a monitor, we could watch that for news on the Prince. But since ours isn't functioning well right now..."

Everyone in the room tensed. These arguments were becoming more frequent, and more heated. Everyone wondered if this one was finally going to become violent.

It might have, but there wasn't time. There was a sound like soft bells playing and two people appeared in the center of the room. One of them, the man, was dressed in black and blue clothes, with a jacket and headgear that covered all of his face except the nose and mouth. His hair stuck out of the top of the headgear like a brown mop. The woman, standing seven and a half feet tall, was dressed in a white jumpsuit with a DNA symbol on the right breast. Her arms, legs, and face were bare, and her skin was a deep indigo. Her eyes were pupilless mirrors, and her shimmering silver hair hung just below her neckline. Neither of them moved, they just looked around at the circle of hostile faces surrounding them. Jack had his energy pistol trained on them, Kim had her Quantum rifle, Centurion had powered up his armor's wrist blasters, and Argent was aiming his stolen VIPER weapon. Dragon cracked his knuckles and the two looked over at him and Vincent. Vincent lowered his glowing sword to point it directly at the man's chest.

"Whoever you are," he said, "you picked a bad time."

"Vincent?" the man said, "I thought Samsara sent you to Prohibition-World!"

Centurion cackled and fired a burst of energy at the man's feet. "He's nuts, Vincent! Let's waste him!"

"Argent, restrain Centurion, will you?" Vincent said. He then looked at the man. "Now, who is Samsara?"

"What? He's your father!" the woman exclaimed.

"You have been sadly misinformed," Dragon said, "Vincent's father is definitely not Samsonite or whatever. And if you've been sent by Vincent's father, you'll be very sorry you're here."

"I don't understand," the woman said, "Vincent's father is the founder of Wildside."

"And this is supposed to endear him to us?" Dragon asked, incredulous. "Lady, you are really misinformed."

"Please," she said, "we're here to help you. We've come to help you get Dark Rose, Twilight, and Black Dragon."

"Afraid you're too late, sweetheart," Jack quipped, "seeing as they're dead."

"No," she shot back, "they're not. And we know where they're being held."

"Well, now, isn't that nice?" Argent muttered, aiming his weapon at the woman's head, "they've admitted to working for the Kingdom right there. Saves me the trouble of all that interrogation. Bye, sweetheart."

Argent pulled the trigger and a laser shot from his gun and hit the woman. She flinched, but it didn't seem to do that much damage to her. Dragon grabbed Argent's gun away from him and yelled, "What do you think you're doing? They know where Rose and my brother are!"

"Think about it, Dragon," Argent said calmly, "this has to be a trap. They could be leading us right into the Kingdom's hands. Claim that they know where Rose and the others are being held, and then lead us into a heavily secure area, at which point the Guardsmen move in and capture us all. Besides, who do we know that has teleportation technology except the Kingdom and Wildside?"

"Yes," the man said, "we're with Wildside! We're just from another dimension!"

All guns were trained on the two of them again. The man gulped and leaned to his companion. "Indigo, what did I say?"

"I don't know, Shockwave," she replied, "aren't you all members of Wildside?"

"No," Vincent answered, "that 'honor' belongs to my father's group."

"Your father?" Shockwave said, "who is he?"

"His real name is Alec Xavier. He calls himself Shivite. Actually, he's not really my father, that's just the easiest description. And shouldn't you know all of this if you're from another dimension?"

"We're also from another time," Shockwave explained, "we're members of the group called Wildside in the year 2020. And the earlier members, in the 1990s, were Vincent, Golden Dragon, and Dark Rose. Shivite was one of their enemies."

"I see, and my father in that time is...Samsona?"

"Samsara," Indigo corrected, "and what do you mean, father is the easiest description?"

"Vincent's a clone," Dragon said, "made from Shivite's DNA and force grown to adulthood. He's not an exact duplicate, in powers or morals."

"I guess there are a lot more differences here than just an alien invasion," Shockwave said to Indigo.

The group all leveled their weapons again, except for Vincent.

"If you were from the future, you wouldn't speak so calmly about the 'invasion,'" Argent growled.

"I told you, we're from an alternate dimension!" Shockwave yelled, "and we're here to stop our enemy, Azathoth, from destroying Wildside in all dimensions. Now who do we rescue? You, the true members of Wildside, or Shivite's group, who have the name Wildside in this dimension?"

"Samsara gave us the names and locations of Rose and the others for a reason, Shockwave," Indigo said, "these are the people we're here to help."

* * * * *

The Prince reclined in his granite throne. A half-naked human serving girl brought him a giant golden goblet filled with red wine. He greedily drank it down and handed her the goblet to refill. She left, trembling, to refill it. The creature, crouching next to the throne like a living gargoyle, watched her leave and licked his lips.

"You find her appealing?" the Prince asked.

"I would like to shred her pure skin and gnaw on her bones," he answered.

The Prince laughed, his laughter echoing off of the walls and sending servants throughout the complex into a panic. He looked down at the wolf.

"So it shall be done. When she returns, you may have her."

The girl entered with the Prince's goblet and screamed as the wolf spread its wings and landed on top of her, clawing her naked flesh. He was careful to avoid the vital organs, and she screamed, knowing that he would prolong the agony. He ripped out her left forearm and began to chew on it as she watched. Tears rolled down her cheeks and her voice left her, but her mouth remained open, and she stared in horror at the creature on top of her.

"Ah, what great sport these humans provide," the Prince said. His thoughts wandered back to the first time he had landed on the planet.

The Prince was sitting in the command seat of his Ptarik-class cruiser. He had spotted an inhabitable planet and decided to land and check on it. Kingdom records noted it as Earth.

As he entered the atmosphere, the Prince was approached by an F-16 fighter with UNTIL markings. The pilot's voice crackled over a loudspeaker, reaching his ears through his craft's sound systems.

"Attention, unidentified craft! You are violating sovereign air space. Please identify yourself to ground controllers or we will be forced to take action."

"Initiate auto-defense," the Prince said, and his computer complied, firing a missile at the F-16. It exploded, and there was no debris left from the explosion. The Prince continued flying for a few minutes and then decided to land. He saw a wide open space below, and set down there.

The Prince stepped from his craft and looked out around him. This world was softer than his own. The skies were blue, the air was clear, and the ground gave easily underneath his feet. He was surrounded by green stalks of some kind, each about five feet tall. He reached down and plucked a yellow ear of corn from one stalk and sniffed it. He began to chew on it and was surprised by how good it tasted.

A sonic boom heralded the arrival of a new craft. Overhead, a sleek plane was closing in on him. It had no obvious markings. The Prince's craft responded, firing a missile at it. The missile struck the ship and destroyed it, but five figures poured out of the explosion, surrounded by a glowing red energy field. At the forefront was Defender, decked out in his red, white, and blue armor, being held up by Quantum who was flying and powering up her energy blasts. Seeker, the team ninja, had his katana out and was floating inside the energy bubble next to Jaguar, who was in his beast-form. At the back floated their newest member, Elaine, a sorceress. It was her magic that kept them all aloft. A silver ball circled her head.

"Computer, when they land, fire again." The Prince went back to eating his corn.

The team landed on the ground. "We are the Champions. I am Defender, the leader."

Before Defender could say anything else, an energy beam struck out from the ship, exploding in the area of the group. Most of their defenses held up, but Seeker laid in the grass, unmoving. His bare chest was blackened.

"Seeker?" Quantum said tentatively. When there was no answer, fire burned in her eyes.

"Murderer!" she yelled, firing her energy blasts at the Prince. He went flying back in the cornfield, surprised. This Terran had hurt him!

Jaguar followed up, leaping at the Prince and slashing across his body. The Prince howled in pain as the claws bit into his rocky skin. He grabbed the beast-man and began to squeeze. Defender flew up to the two of them, and Solitaire focused her mind on the Prince, letting loose with a mental bolt of energy. The Prince grimaced and shook it off.

Quantum took to the air and circled around behind the two, but she was afraid to shoot for fear of hitting Jaguar. Jaguar, meanwhile, was cursing and yowling as he was crushed in the Prince's grip. After a few seconds, he stopped moving. The Prince threw him to the ground.

Quantum fired again, knocking the Prince down. He lay face down in the dirt, and Defender checked him.

"I can't tell if he's breathing, Elaine," Defender said, "why don't you use your magic to make sure he's OK?"

Elaine stepped up to him and prepared to cast a spell. The Prince reached out and grabbed her by the throat. "Do not speak a further word or do anything, or she dies," he said.

Quantum and Defender froze, both hovering in mid-air. The Prince beckoned with his free hand for them to land. They did so, staring with hatred at him.

"Target and fire, the black woman, maximum strength," the Prince said. The ship's energy cannon spun and fired, catching Quantum by surprise. The bolt penetrated her force field and she fell to the ground, black smoke sizzling off of her back. Defender took a step forward, but the Prince held Elaine up in front of him and he froze again.

"Now, come here." Defender came to within inches of the Prince. The Prince struck him in the face, knocking him unconscious. "Fool."

He threw Elaine to the ground, and she gasped for air. Then he picked up Defender and carried him inside the ship. Quantum weakly stood and fired a bolt at the ship, but it was no use. She didn't have enough strength. The ship lifted off and flew into space once more.

The Prince smiled, looking over at his elite bodyguards, who stood at either side of his throne. "The armor has served me well, don't you agree, James?"

One of the bodyguards turned to him and answered, "Yes, my Prince. Thank you for allowing me to serve you."

"Ah, you're so much more compliant now that my telepaths have properly trained you," the Prince said.

Meanwhile, the creature had finished its gory meal, and was gnawing on the bone, now picked clean of meat. He walked back up to the Prince's throne. The girl's ragged breathing could be heard, even though no part of her was untouched by the creature's claws, and most of her blood was pooled around her on the floor.

"My friend, I could use your services as an interrogator. If ever your master lets you go," the Prince said. The creature ignored him.

The Prince stood and began to walk out of the room, beckoning the creature to go before him. "Now, let us discuss how we will find and destroy the rebels."

On his way out, the Prince stepped on the girl's neck, slowly crushing it until her breathing stopped and her eyes glazed over. "Never let it be said that I am unmerciful to my subjects."

"That was in 1982," Dragon continued, Indigo and Shockwave listening intently, "and even though the Champions had lost their leader and Seeker had been killed, we all still thought of it as just another battle. They would recapture Defender from the alien and soundly thrash him, once they found him."

"So what happened?" Indigo asked, leaning forward. Jack answered her from the doorway, where he had just walked in.

"What happened was, the Champions couldn't find him. Defender had always been the brains of the operation. Jaguar and Quantum were just mindless power, and Elaine was a rookie. Nobody knew how to track Defender. They had to give him up for dead and add some new members. They got a few new members, including Vanguard, their new leader, and life went on. Elaine quit the hero business, probably because she had a thing for Defender."

"Then," Dragon continued, "In 1983, the Prince returned, with a fleet of ships. They came down and announced that they were going to 'civilize' our world. Peace, harmony, global unity, and the only price we had to pay was giving up our weapons. That included our metahumans."

"GENOCIDE was all for that," Jack interrupted, "they sent their Minutemen and their agents out to wipe out as many metahumans as they could. Actually, most of the original Guardsmen were ex-GENOCIDE."

"We fought," Dragon said, "but we never had a chance. I joined up with Shivite, his brother Redblade, a mutant named Ragtime, and a mentalist named Twilight. We fought as much as we could, but it wasn't enough. The battle turned against us in New York in 1990. The day of the eradication."

Jack and Dragon lowered their heads. Indigo and Shockwave looked at each other and than at their hosts. Shockwave coughed.

"Sorry," Dragon said, "We'd been fighting hard, and we were doing all right. The aliens controlled about half the planet, but the United States was still firmly under human influence. PRIMUS and VIPER had actually joined forces to fight off the aliens, and we had the most supers of anywhere in the world. UNTIL was fighting holding actions in Europe and Asia, but they'd given up on Africa and South America."

"Problem was, the aliens had come back prepared. They didn't want to destroy part of the planet they were conquering, so they held back. After seven years of struggle, they were tired of it. They were prepared to sacrifice one population center. So they arranged for us all to be in New York. They'd reprogrammed Mechanon and he was trying to destroy the entire planet with a Lithium Bomb. Of course, it was all a bluff, but we didn't know it. Almost every metahuman was there, trying to stop his plans."

"Twilight, Ragtime, Shivite, and I reached the Empire State Building and what we thought was the last bomb. When we fought our way to the top, we found Mechanon, wired up to the tower. Quantum was floating above the building, and her face was locked with pain. Somehow, he was holding her there."

"Elaine appeared then, and started teleporting us out with her magic, which had grown stronger during her years of isolation. We were surprised to see her, but she had gotten me, Shivite, and Redblade out before we could protest. She was about to go back for the others when the whole thing went up. All of New York just evaporated in a huge explosion."

"The aliens overloaded Quantum's powers. They used her to kill everyone in the city. When she was done, there was nothing but a huge glass circle where New York had been. I think it's lucky for her that she didn't survive it. No one should have to live with that on their conscience. It's bad enough knowing you didn't stop it."

"The worst part is, the aliens somehow harnessed the traces of her power and used them to create Quantum rifles, like the ones Kim uses. We found out that Defender was the model for the elite bodyguards' armor, and we still don't know what happened to him. They're using our friends against us."

"That was it for backbone," Jack said, "the governments gave in. PRIMUS was ordered to turn over all metahumans to the aliens. UNTIL received the same orders from the UN about three days later. GENOCIDE rose again and volunteered to help. We were rounded up, even if our powers were useless, and sent to the aliens."

"No one knows what happened to them," Kim said, walking in to the room past Jack and sitting down next to Dragon, "but we've assumed that they're all dead."

"That's the way it's been since 1991. Metahumans are hunted by the Guardsmen, most humans go about their business, not even minding that we're gone, and the Kingdom rules with an iron fist through Duke Amridar."

"The people didn't fight? They just gave up?" Indigo looked shocked.

"Think about it, dear," Kim replied, "suddenly, mutants weren't fighting it out in population centers anymore. Madmen like Doctor Destroyer weren't trying to conquer the world. Even street crime was down. Wars were eliminated with national boundaries. Food was rationed out plentifully and fairly. A lot of people didn't have much change in their routine, except that metahumans were gone. Most of them were glad for that."

"Since you mentioned it," Shockwave said, "what happened to Doctor Destroyer? I thought he was basically unkillable?"

"The aliens found his base," Dragon said, "and hit it with two neutron bombs. Not even Destroyer could have survived that. And just to make sure, they bombed 10 other bases they found that he had once used."

"How did they capture Dark Rose and the others?"

"A few days ago," Dragon said, "Kaufman got on the television. That's the Knight Commander of Northern American Guardsmen forces, formerly the Golden Avenger of PRIMUS. He pleaded with us to come forward and negotiate. He was so sincere that even I believed him. We voted, and decided to go for it. We sent Dark Rose, Elaine, who was now calling herself Twilight, and Black Dragon, my brother. We sent our two most powerful telepaths and our two most powerful martial artists. If it was a trap, we figured they could handle it. We were wrong. That night, we heard that three members of the resistance had been caught and neutralized. Kaufman raised quite a stink at the alien embassy the next day. I don't think he was in on it."

"That must be who we're here to save," Indigo said, "we know where they're being held. It's on an island off the coast of California."

Argent's voice came from the door. He walked in, followed by Centurion and Vincent. None of them looked very happy, and Vincent was glaring at Centurion's back.

"What do you know about their security?" Argent asked her.

"Um, nothing," she replied hesitantly.

"Very convenient," he answered, sitting down in a chair next to them and staring at them.

"Shut up, Argent," Vincent said, "If we have a chance of rescuing Rose and the others, we're going to take it. I'm going. Who's with me?"

Dragon and Kim stood without hesitation. Centurion did too, more as a sign of being ready to kick butt than any sense of loyalty. Jack shrugged and raised his hand. Swift, who was suddenly in the room, nodded his agreement. Everyone looked at Argent, who was now the only one sitting down.

"I guess I'm with you. But I don't like this," he said, "it smells like a trap."

Vincent touched the "Free Earth" symbol on his left breast and said, "Dave, prep the Slingshot, we're going to find Rose and the others."

"We found Rose?" came a voice from the pin.

"Maybe, Dave. Don't get your hopes up. Just prep the plane," Vincent answered. After the comm beeped again, Vincent said to Indigo and Shockwave, "Dave and Rose have kind of a thing going."

The rest of the team was on their way, and Vincent turned to follow. Indigo and Shockwave fell in beside him and Shockwave started to talk.

"In our world, Argent was a traitor. He turned on the team when it suited him."

Vincent nodded. "I'm watching him. He joined us pretty recently, and he defected from VIPER. They're rebels, like us, but I still don't like him."

They arrived at the hangar and saw the rest of the team getting into the Slingshot. The Slingshot was actually a heavy fighter, repainted silver and red and sporting the "Free Earth" insignia on both wings. It had two missile pods on each wing and two cannons in the nose. The nose was sprayed with slogans like, "Suck this, rock-face!" and "Never surrender. Just die." Dave Hunter was standing under the plane in his leather jacket and jeans, inspecting the missile pods.

Vincent winked at Indigo and Shockwave. "That was a gift from the Guardsmen."

The two of them nodded absently as they approached the plane. Dave turned and they gasped. His left eye had a patch over it, and he flipped Vincent a mock salute with his cybernetic right arm.

"Captain Hunter?" Shockwave asked, "What happened to your arm? And your eye? And where's your cane?"

"Cane? Well, whoever the hell you are, I was caught on board the original Slingshot when Shivite took my baby from us. I was trying to shoot him down, and I came damn close, too. But the Slingshot was never a match for my plane, even with me flying it. He shot it down. Centurion and Argent built this arm for me recently. They're working on an eye. But I sure don't need any cane."

Vincent gently pushed the two of them on-board the plane and then waited for Dave to board.

"How did you find her, Vincent?" Dave asked.

"Don't ask, Dave. Just trust me."

Dave shrugged and got on board. When he was strapped in, his voice came over the rear compartment.

"Attention, ladies and gentlemen, today we will be cruising at a random altitude below radar and flying at speeds not to exceed light. The stewardess will be around with drinks in a few minutes."

The plane lurched into motion and lifted off, flying down a long metallic hallway. As it gained speed, Kim said, "I hate to say it, but I miss the Vagabond. That was a much smoother ride. Plus, it had stealth."

"Yeah, honey," Dragon responded, "but this one has armor and weapons."

Suddenly, the view out of the port windows changed from steel walls to blue skies. The next sound they heard was a sonic boom as the speed pushed everyone back into their seats. Kim shuddered, and Dragon looked over at her with concern.

"You okay? Need an air-bag?"

She slugged his arm playfully. "No, I just had a chill. Felt like someone was watching me."

A ghostly figure exited the back of the plane and floated up into the air. His form slowly picked up speed until it was traveling extremely fast. It arrived in Miami and descended into a park, where it passed right through the ground. After a few seconds, it reached its destination. It descended and merged with a muscular man dressed in robes and holding a shotgun in his limp right arm. His arm went straight and he sat up, pulling shades out of his robe and putting them on.

The man looked up at Alec Xavier, who was standing over him. He was dressed in a black suit with a blood red tie, and his long black hair hung at his back. He had a red bandanna tied around his head. He looked calmly at the man in the robe.

"What did you find out, Canare?"

"They've left the base," he responded, "on a mission to find Dark Rose, Black Dragon, and Twilight. Two people teleported in and claimed to be from the future, and they're following their directions. Oh, and they seemed to know Vincent."

Shivite's eyebrows raised, and behind his bandanna, his third eye moved, focusing on Canare. "Interesting," he said, "they knew my son? And he's following them into battle? He's more of a fool than I thought. Still..."

After a few seconds of thought, he looked at Canare and said, "Gather Wildside. We'll leave to follow them. If this is a trap, we'll spring Centurion and Argent. I think they would make good recruits. And if it isn't...we can beat them once they're worn out. I still owe my 'son' some pain."

"You got it, boss!" Canare said. He walked out of the room and into the next, where Wildside was sitting. Prototype was tinkering with the helmet-piece of his armor, Redblade was tinkering with a dead mouse he had found in the corner, and Lazlo, Shivite's huge wolf hound, was sitting in the corner, intently watching the group.

"We're going to fight the rebels," Canare said gleefully. Prototype smiled and put on his helmet.

"But first, we've got to beat up some aliens." None of them seemed too upset. They all went and gathered at the Vagabond. Shivite was already at the controls, and he lifted them up and out. The plane broke from the water off the coast of Miami and immediately shimmered and disappeared. Everyone in the area heard a sonic boom moments later.

* * * * *

The Prince sat in his personal chambers, spread out on a massive bed. A beautiful human woman, nude except for a g-string, fed him grapes. She shook as she did this. The Prince had learned a great deal about the beast. His name was Psycho, and he was a servant of a powerful entity from another time line named Azathoth.

Psycho stared at the girl hungrily. "Why do you dress them like that?" He asked.

The Prince caressed the woman's cheek absently and replied, "Strangely enough, I find their form appealing. It reminds me of the soft women on my own planet. Sadly, none of them ever survive my lovemaking. Still, I keep trying."

The woman dropped a grape on the bed, visibly upset.

"Oh, that will be all then, my dear," the Prince said, "but I will require you later tonight. Say your goodbyes."

The woman broke down and cried, and two Guardsmen came in and took the woman out.

"Interesting that the humans allow that," Psycho said, looking after the girl as she left.

"They don't," the Prince replied, "but the women I employ are all criminals, and these humans tend to forget all about them. And these days, it's easy enough to make my own criminals. Now, about the rebels? You can find them?"

Psycho produced a black cube from inside a pouch at his belt. "This device allows me to know their location at will. They've both touched it, and it absorbed part of their essence. Right now, they are traveling West at high speed."

"West?" The Prince reached to the side of the bed and pressed a button on the wall. "Commander Kaufman," he said, "why would the rebels be going West? What targets of significance do we have in the Western Quadrant?"

The Prince sat up and pulled out a table from the wall. A miniature hologram of Kaufman appeared on the table and looked up at the Prince.

"Sir, they are either going to hit our Quantum Weapons Training Facility, Stronghold, or Research Island."

"Your tactical opinion?" The Prince asked.

Kaufman coughed and replied, "I think they'll try to free their comrades on Research Island, sir. My Prince, I hate to appear ungrateful for what you've done for us, but perhaps we should let them recover them and then attempt to negotiate again? After all, I gave my word that they would be negotiated with, not captured."

The Prince's black face turned red with anger. He screamed, "Do not question me, Knight Commander! You are relieved! Turn yourself in to one of the Lieutenant Commanders and tell them you are under arrest on suspicion of treason! But first, arrange for an extra squad of Quantum-armed guardsmen at the training facility and Stronghold!" The Prince brought his fist down and crushed the table.

"What about Research Island?" Psycho asked, when the Prince had calmed down.

The Prince whirled his head and glared in Psycho's direction. He spoke with exaggerated calm. "That, I will deal with personally. Get up, we're going to kill the rebels."

Psycho stood and followed the Prince out of the room. He was accustomed to such outbursts, and the Prince was the model of sanity compared to his master.

Kaufman switched off the hologram projector and then looked around the room. He had made sure it wasn't bugged a long time ago. No one knew of the Prince's orders. He walked out of the room and grabbed the nearest Lieutenant Commander.

"Armstrong," he said, "call Research Island and tell them to send all the GENOCIDE troops they have over to Stronghold. We think there is going to be a prison break by the rebels. And do it quickly. I'll take full responsibility."

Armstrong nodded and walked over to tactical to do it. Kaufman smiled grimly and marched to his quarters. He opened his footlocker and took out a cardboard box. Gingerly, he lifted the lid. Inside was a folded uniform, blue and gold. He held it up and stared hard at the stylized eagle on the chest.

"It's been too long," he whispered. "You made a mistake, Prince. You made a liar out of me. And you betrayed the ideals I thought I was fighting for. I'm ashamed it took me this long to see it, but I will make it right. I swear it."

Kaufman folded the uniform inside the box and carried it out underneath his arm. He got into a PRIMUS fighter plane and took off, setting a course for Research Island.

"Damn," he said, "Dragon was right and I was wrong. He'll love that."

"Hey, boss, we got a big ugly Minuteman approaching at high speeds," Dave's voice crackled into the passenger compartment.

Everyone looked out the side windows and saw a huge, 100-foot tall robot flying up towards them. It had its right arm raised toward the plane and was powering up. Far below them, they saw a dot which was Research Island.

"Anyone going out to deal with them?" Dave asked.

"Yeah, Dave. Centurion, you're with me, we're going out there." Dragon immediately snapped the orders, then looked apologetically at Vincent. "Sorry."

"It's okay, Dragon. You're assistant team leader. Do it."

Dragon reached down to a handle in the rear and slid a bomb bay open. He dropped out, and Centurion followed, yelling at the top of his lungs. Shockwave stood up and went to the back.

"I've fought these things before, Vincent."

Vincent nodded and Shockwave dropped out of the plane. His force field activated and he flew down towards the robot. Dragon looked up and waved him into formation with them.

His force field effect looks similar, thought Dragon, and it sounds familiar too. He was trying to place it when a cone of energy burst from the Minuteman's hand and engulfed Dragon and Shockwave. Centurion managed to drop below it and return fire with his concussive blasters, scoring a hit on the thing's chest.

Dragon shook his head and looked over at Shockwave. Shockwave's force field had dropped and he was falling towards the water below.

"Damn it!" He yelled, and he realized that he could never get the speed to catch up to him. "Centurion, catch him!"

"No way, boss! This is too much fun! Yee-hah!" Centurion fired again, hitting the Minuteman in the face and melting its features slightly. The robot didn't even slow down, and it was closing fast.

Dragon accelerated and straightened his body, flying like a human missile towards the robot's chest. His gauntlets glowed slightly and he gave a silent thanks to Kaufman for leaving them unguarded so long ago. Then he plowed into the robot.

There was a loud crack, and Dragon went through the robot's chest and out of his back. Sparks poured from the hole, but the robot still managed to swing its arm back and slam Dragon in the chest, sending him flying towards Shockwave.

Dragon regained consciousness in time to pull up from the water, but just barely. Shockwave was flying back towards the robot just above him, and he didn't look wet. Dragon breathed a sigh of relief and turned to fly at the robot again.

Meanwhile, Centurion was firing at the hole in the robot's chest, screaming various curses in English and Spanish. The robot rocked back and forth with each hit. Shockwave joined in, firing bursts of energy which vibrated the metal in the areas he struck.

The robot's chest exploded violently as Dragon got closer. Its eyes glowed red and it spoke in a calm voice.

"Vulnerabilities Accessed and Analyzed. Centurion, Magnetic Pulse, Unknown Mutant, Sonic Beams."

The robot let loose a beam of focused sound from his eyes, striking Shockwave full force. Shockwave screamed and dropped like a rock, once again heading for the ocean. This time, Dragon was in the right place to catch him, and he angled towards him.

As he accelerated, Dragon tapped his comm and yelled, "Dave! We could use some help here!"

Centurion's force field flickered as the robot struck him with a magnetic beam. His boot jets sputtered and went out, and he started to drop. From above him, Dragon heard the Minuteman say, "Target neutralized, Magnetic Power Source Off-Line."

The robot had its left arm aimed at Centurion, and a blue beam was coming out of it and surrounding him. The field dropped as it turned its head to look above it, obviously reacting to a threat from its sensors.

Dave pulled the Slingshot into a dive towards the robot's head and let loose four missiles. The missiles struck the right arm, left arm, head, and one of them plunged into the hole Dragon had made. The robot exploded, showering fragments everywhere.

Centurion came on line before he hit the water, and Dragon caught Shockwave, who was very unconscious. Dave flew down next to them and the three flew into the bomb bay. Kim slid it shut behind them.

Dragon put Shockwave down on the floor and put his head on his chest. Indigo walked over, looking concerned.

"Let me," she said, putting a hand on Dragon's shoulder, "I'm a doctor."

He stepped back and let her in. She checked his pulse and looked up, giving a thumbs up. "He'll be okay."

"Do you know who his father is?" Dragon asked.

She looked puzzled, but before Dragon could explain, Centurion clapped him on the back. "What a rush, huh, Dragon? Man, I didn't think we'd make it out of that one. We almost lost the future-boy!"

Dragon turned and grabbed the back of Centurion's head. Then he punched him in the stomach with his free hand and let him fall, coughing, to the floor. Centurion glared at Dragon and his blasters hummed to life.

"Uh, oh," Vincent said, "Dave, teleport the team to the island except myself and Dragon."

Everyone in the back of the plane disappeared except for Dragon, Indigo, Shockwave, and Vincent. Vincent looked at Dragon.

"Dragon, we can't afford that. He's a loose cannon, but we can't afford to do that."

"Sorry, Vincent. I lost my head, it's just...I think that's Ragtime's son."

"What? Ragtime doesn't have any kids!"

"Not in our time line, no. But there...who knows. He probably lived a long life."

Dragon grabbed an extra comm from the wall and handed it to Indigo. "Sorry, I know we don't have time for it right now. I just wanted to explain."

Vincent nodded. "Dave, beam us down."

The three of them dematerialized and then appeared next to the rest of the team. They were in a circle, firing outwards at the Guardsmen who were surrounding them.

Vincent yelled to Dragon, "I don't like this! It's not heavily guarded enough! Do you think it's a trap?"

Dragon yelled back, knocking two Guardsmen's helmeted heads together, "This isn't heavily guarded enough?"

Vincent looked out around them. He could see Dragon's point. There were four large metallic buildings about fifty feet away from them, and between them were waves of Guardsmen. But there weren't any Quantum rifles in sight, and there were no GENOCIDE troops. After the Minuteman greeted them, it seemed rather odd.

Vincent suddenly fell to the ground holding his head, and the group tightened around him. Kim yelled to Dragon, "Did something hit him? I didn't see it!"

"No, he just collapsed! Keep fighting!"

The team was doing well, but reinforcements were pouring from the other buildings. They were going to be overwhelmed. Vincent stood up and Dragon looked at him curiously. "We can't go back aboard the Slingshot. It's going to explode," Vincent said.

Dragon was about to ask him what he was talking about when a sonic boom filled the air. Everyone, including the troops, looked up and saw a plane with wings on the front and three sets of engines on the back. It bore the insignia of Wildside.

"The Vagabond," Vincent said, "great."

A beam effect, almost exactly the same as the one which Vincent's team had used, took place on the island. The energy dissipated, and in its place stood Wildside.

They didn't even take a second to assess the situation. Except for Prototype and Canare, who opened fire with their weapons, the team plunged into the guards, clawing and biting.

"A pleasure to kill by your side again, son!" Shivite yelled.

Shivite's team began to cut a path to the buildings, and the rebels followed. Dragon got in close to Vincent and said, "I don't like this."

"Neither do I," Vincent replied, "but they're willing to do what we're not. And they're going to get us to the others."

Dragon nodded and kept fighting. He gritted his teeth as he watched Shivite, Redblade, and Lazlo brutally killing Guardsmen. Prototype and Canare were blasting them and killing more often than not. Worse yet, Argent and Centurion had joined in, and weren't showing any restraint. Dragon knew it was necessary, but he hated it anyway.

With both teams combined, they finally made it to the first of the four buildings. Dragon took off and flew out of sight. A few seconds later, he came down like a meteor, clearly out of control. He hit the building's roof with a loud crash. Two Guardsmen with jetpacks followed him down, their blasters smoking. They gave each other a high five after he hit.

Kim aimed her Quantum rifle and burned one of them, watching him turn to ash. She turned the gun on the other, but he dodged and got out of the way, flying down to join the rest of the Guardsmen. "Dave, beam Dragon aboard and put him in a sleep tube!" she yelled into her comm.

Vincent called out to Centurion to grab Argent and get inside the building. Then he started firing his blasts from his sword into the air to give them cover. Swift ran in a circle around him, knocking away any Guardsmen who got close. Kim just blasted distant targets with her Quantum rifle. Indigo was bashing in Guardsmen with her fists, shrugging off the occasional hits she took.

Centurion and Argent reached the roof and flew into the building. They landed next to the sparkling form of Dragon just as he disappeared. They were in a brick prison cell which smelled of blood and urine. Three naked forms were in the room, as well as eight feet of obsidian. The Prince.

Rose was chained to the wall, her arms and legs twisted at odd angles. She was conscious, but only barely. Next to her hung Black Dragon, almost unrecognizable because of all the bruises and cuts he had on his body. Elaine was lying on the ground, her head twisted completely around with a ragged gash across her body.

The Prince stood over her, and he pulled up his purple briefs. "Alas, even metahuman women can't survive it."

He seemed to notice Centurion and Argent for the first time. He smiled. "Greetings, rebels. it's time for you to die."

"Couldn't agree more," Argent said, turning his gun on Centurion. He thought the command "magnetism" to his gun. Centurion had enough time to yell in surprise before Argent's beam struck him in the chest, sending him flying against the far wall, where he struck and then fell, lying very still.

Argent flipped out a badge and knelt before the Prince. "UNTIL undercover, my liege."

The Prince grinned and turned his attention to Rose.

Outside, the battle was not going well. Prototype had been destroyed by concentrated fire that overloaded his suit. There was nothing left of him but a smoking helmet. Shivite cursed and said, "Vagabond! Beam us out!"

"Sorry to run, rebels," he said, "but it seems clear that I won't be needed here. You'll get yourselves killed just fine without me."

With that, Shivite and his team glowed and disappeared. Kim fired a Quantum burst at him, but he was gone. She looked at Vincent.

"We can't stay," she said, "we'll be slaughtered."

"I know," Vincent said through gritted teeth, "Centurion, Argent, report! Did you find Dark Rose?"

There was no answer. "Dave, beam everyone out."

The team outside glowed and disappeared. Inside the compound, Centurion glowed as well and vanished. Argent pulled off his comm and watched it go. The Prince yelled out, "No! They can't escape!" and rushed out into the hallway.

Vincent's team appeared on board the plane and he looked over at Centurion, who was lying unconscious on the floor next to Argent's comm. He picked up the comm.

"What the hell?" The ship rocked and Dave's voice came over the intercom.

"Vincent, they just opened fire with main batteries!"

"Okay, Dave, cloak the ship and get us out of here. Damn it!" He struck the wall with his fist.

The Slingshot turned invisible and the Guardsmen below heard a sonic boom as it left.

Inside the base, Argent was inspecting Rose, the only one conscious in the room. "Pretty bad, Rose. I don't approve of this, I want you to know. I'll try to talk the Prince out of doing to you what he did to poor Elaine. But I'm doing what I have to do for the good of the world."

Rose spat at him. "You bastard! You're a self-serving murderer and a traitor! You don't do anything for the world!"

"Yes, I'm afraid I do. You see, when UNTIL was incorporated into the Guardsmen, I was working undercover for them in VIPER. I got moved into something called the Quicksilver Project, and that's how I got my powers. Then I called in the Guardsmen, wiped out that nest, and rejoined UNTIL. They decided I should work as a mole within metahuman organizations."

"When its all over, they'll kill you too. Help me get out of here."

"If they achieve world unity, I'm willing to die. And I can't help you out. I'll try to talk to the Prince about stopping the torture." He turned and walked out of the room. Rose cursed at him as he left.

Black Dragon whispered, "Do not waste breath on vermin like that, young one."

"I'm going to kill him," she said softly. Then she said it again, louder, and kept repeating it, like a mantra. Black Dragon watched, and he saw her glowing red, stronger every time she said it.

"Dark Rose, you are glowing," he said.

Rose looked down at herself and saw the red glow spreading from her body. Her bonds disintegrated and she dropped to the floor in a heap. She felt intense pain in her limbs as they corrected themselves, and then a wave of pain swept over her as her entire body seemed to rip apart. She screamed, but no noise came out.

Black Dragon watched until the glow was too painful for his eyes. He turned away, seeing nothing but a red afterimage. When the light subsided a little, he looked back. He felt the hypodermic in his cuffs slide into his wrist as he let his concentration slip and his vital signs revealed him to be conscious. He slipped back into unconsciousness.

About three minutes later, the glow died down enough to reveal Rose once more. She was even more beautiful than she had been, and all of her scars were gone. Long blond hair flowed down her back, and her eyes and body glowed red. She was dressed in a low-cut red bodysuit, exposing the only scar remaining; a tattoo of a rose on her left breast.

At that moment, Argent made the last mistake of his life. He walked back into the room. He saw Rose standing over Black Dragon, red energies pouring into him from her hands. Before Argent's eyes, Black Dragon's wounds began to close, and his eyes fluttered open.

Argent spun his rifle up and yelped in surprise as it flew from his hands, yanked away by some unseen force. It clattered against the far wall and Rose turned to him. Her eyes blazed red. She threw her hands out and a bolt of red energy struck Argent in the chest, sending him out into the hallway. He hit the wall with a thud and a loud crack, and then doubled over like a rag doll. There were cracks in the wall where he had hit. Rose fell to the ground, breathing heavily. Black Dragon reached a hand out and touched her.

"Be careful, young one. Your powers seem to be connected to your life force, much as mine are. Untrained, you could overextend yourself."

"We've got to get of here," Rose said, and she picked up Black Dragon, snapping his cuffs with a telekinetic burst. She lifted off, flying into the hallway and leaving a red trail behind her.

Rose felt a burning sensation in the pit of her stomach. It began to ache, and then she felt the same amount of pain she had felt when she had given birth to Cindy. She flinched, the memories of her murdered child bringing back fresh anger and pain. She focused all of her thoughts on Dave and Dragon, and flew towards the hole Dragon had made in the ceiling.

Dave felt a tugging at his mind. He could hear Rose calling him. He turned the plane around and headed back towards Research Island.

Vincent burst in to the cockpit, leaving the door open behind him. The rest of the team, including the recently awakened Shockwave, looked in. "What are you doing, Dave?" Vincent asked.

"We've got to go back," Dave said.

"It's Rose, isn't it, Dave?" Vincent said.

Dave nodded. Vincent put his hand on his shoulder and walked back to the others. A few seconds later, Dave yelled out, "I see her! At least, I think that's her!"

Vincent came back to the cockpit and looked out. Over the island, heading their way, was a woman glowing red. She was flying, with a naked man under her arms. About fifteen Guardsmen with jetpacks were firing on her. A few of them scored hits and she wavered in mid-flight.

Dave turned off the cloak and flew down towards the Guardsmen, putting the Slingshot between Rose and them. Then he opened fire with the nose cannons, burning holes in the Guardsmen.

"Dave, what the hell are you doing?" Vincent screamed, "Those are just soldiers following orders!"

Dave didn't answer, he just hit the automatic switch to open the bomb bay. Rose flew in and collapsed, laying Black Dragon next to her. Dave hit the cloak switch as the plane rocked with a direct hit from some sort of missile. The cloak didn't activate.

Shockwave faded and disappeared. Kim looked up in surprise and saw tears forming in Indigo's eyes. Indigo was moving towards Centurion's unconscious body. Vincent ran past her and grabbed the comm from her. He picked up Argent's as well, and was making his way to Rose and Black Dragon.

"It's not fair," Indigo said, "this shouldn't have to happen."

Indigo and Centurion also faded out.

Seconds later, the ground defenses of Research Island all aimed at the Slingshot and opened fire, pounding its shields. It was over in five seconds. The plane exploded, showering debris over the island.

Inside the control room, the Prince smiled at the monitors. "So much for the rebels, eh, Psycho?"

He looked back and saw that the creature had disappeared.

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