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PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, '08, 7:30 pm
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Part Ten- Heroes' Return

(Paseo Spaceport, Motavia)

Tairon, Myau, and Lutz each watched as two valets drove the battle-scarred landrover into the Luveno's garage, its engine chugging with some effort as it slowly ascended the ramp.

"I guess they were better shots than I thought," Tairon said, looking at the massive amount of bullet holes torn into the vehicle's skin. The engine sputtered for a second, prompting the warrior to add, "They must have hit the engine."

"With all that lead flying around?!" Myau asked. "What didn't they shoot is more like it! They shot my pot!"

"They tried to shoot us, too, Myau. I still have some reservations about Tairon's driving-"

"Like I'm trusting a pacifist to the wheel," Tairon interrupted, giving Lutz a pat on the back.

"-But I am glad to be away from the Archon's raiders. The sooner we return to Palma, the better," Lutz finished.

"I know- this planet sucks *!" Myau climbed up onto Tairon's shoulder, then told Lutz, "It's like the Great Light decided, 'Lo and behold, I hath wrought a wonderful planet of green fields and flowers, of thinkers and scholars, and I hath wrought a planet of snow and spiritualism, of wonders and frozen fish. I believe the one final thing my solar system needs is a hellish itchy butt crack of a planet.' And She waved Her hand, and poof! From the aether, Motavia."

The blue-haired Esper sweatdropped and repeated, "Butt crack?" as Tairon told Myau, "Hey, watch your mouth, Myau. We all know Algo's butt crack is Baya Mahlay."

"Or wherever LaShiec walks around," Myau added. "I wish these guys would hurry up and load the car so we can get going."

Just at that moment, the landrover's engine died with a series of sputters. The valets exited the vehicle and approaching the party, one of them saying, "Bad news. You're out of gas."

"Ah, crap," Tairon groaned. "Need help pushing it up the rest of the way?"

"That'd be great," the other valet answered, looking at the landrover. "You should probably gas it up before you get going, though, Sir."

Nodding, Tairon told the valets, "Might as well top off the hydrofoil and icedigger while we're talking about it. How much is it per gallon?"

"Fourteen Meseta and seventy-six mill, Sir," the second valet told him. "Lord LaShiec increased the gas tax last week, you understand."

"It's because of these damn tax increases that Motavia's floundering," the first valet said. "How can we stay profitable if that idiot keeps hiking taxes all over Algo?! Soon, we're not even going to keep the spaceport profitable, and what'll happen then, Tom?! Is he gonna bail us out, and stick it back on us with more of these taxes?!"

"Hold your tongue, Colin!" Tom turned towards his coworker, fury in his eyes, as he yelled, "Lord LaShiec is doing his best with the insurgency rising against him, and if he feels that taxing us will help provide more robot cops for security, then I'm willing to go along with his vision!"

Uncomfortably, the three heroes stepped back as Colin raged, "You're missing the damn point! Ever since LaShiec started warming Lord Ares's throne, it's been tax tax tax, fund fund fund, tax tax gouge, mill mill Meseta! The rate he's shaking us down, we're gonna start owing half our paychecks to that tyrant!"

"That's treason, Colin. I'm not calling for a guard only because you're marrying my sister next Four-month."

"Marietta doesn't exactly like LaShiec, either," Colin added. "And now that he has this gold-digger queen of his-"

Myau hissed suddenly, and Tairon had to grab him in order to keep the Musk Cat from rearranging Colin's face. Lutz explained to the two workers, "A rat crawled by. I apologize."

"No, we're both sorry," Tom told him. "We shouldn't be talking politics in front of our clientele."

"Not while you're still in need of some gas," Colin added. "Let's load up your car first."

With Tairon's help, the two workers soon loaded the landrover, securing it in the Luveno, then departed. Tairon leaned against the car and sighed, "I still don't get it."

"Get what?" Lutz asked.

"Even with all that's going on in Algo, there's still some people that buy into all the propaganda about LaShiec."

"Perhaps it's a part of them that doesn't want to believe he's such a tyrant," Lutz said. "He was, at one point, a benevolent ruler. Then-"

"Then he became the jerkass we all know who brainwashed Alisa!" Myau's fur bristled as he continued, "When that Colin goon comes back, I'm gonna bite him good!"

-=-=-

As her former companions prepared to leave Motavia, Alisa stood in the throne room of LaShiec's castle, her husband standing behind her, gently encouraging the young queen as she formed shards of frost in her gloved hands. With a sharp yell, she hurled them forward, skewering a helpless prisoner two POLEZIs had restrained. Twin burn marks, one more serious than the other, marred his body as the ice shards tore into him.

"Good, Alisa, very good," LaShiec told her. "You're quite a quick learner- I've never seen anybody master Gi Brose that quickly."

"As I've said, my teacher is the very best in Algo," Alisa murmured, sighing as LaShiec's lips found her neck. "How could I not be so... eager to learn?"

"And speaking of which, your next lesson." Motioning towards one of the POLEZIs, LaShiec said, "Give him some more pain killers."

"At once, Sire," the robot intoned. He withdrew a small injector from a concealed compartment and placed it against the prisoner's back. There was a quiet hiss, then the injector beeped, indicating that its medicine had been discharged.

"Very good. Alisa, dearest, you know my price."

Nodding and smiling, Alisa turned on her heels, bringing her lips to LaShiec's. After a few seconds, she pulled away, smiling at LaShiec. "Is that sufficient payment, Reipard?" she asked demurely.

"Oh, please," the prisoner begged. "For the love of God, just... just kill me now. Spare me the love story and the torture."

"Quiet, you!" Alisa demanded. "You are in no position to beg and demand your conditions, insurgent. You should consider yourself lucky to be my personal spell target!"

"I'd rather be in the gallows."

"And just for that little outburst," LaShiec said, "You'll never see the gallows. Now, Alisa... imagine the lightning striking the outcroppings of rock and sand in Motavia's Great Desert. The sound, the fury, the raw power."

Alisa's eyes closed. She remembered seeing lightning storms- often, far too closely- on her journey to find Lutz, the second time she had arrived on Motavia. The storms scared her initially, but she had gotten used to them eventually. As she dwelled on these thoughts, arcs of electricity started forming around her hands. They intensified as she remembered more of the storms' power.

"And now, Alisa... let loose the hammer of the gods," LaShiec said.

Alisa's eyes opened, blazing with anger as she focused on the prisoner. Pointing her fingers at him, she shouted, "Gi Tandle!" The black-tinged arcs surged from her hands, coursing through the prisoner as he screamed in agony. LaShiec thought for a brief moment he could see the man's skeleton through his skin as the spell worked its course.

"Very good, Alisa!" LaShiec said, beaming as he embraced his wife. "You are quite a powerful sorceress!"

"I shall be, once you're finished teaching me, my love," Alisa replied, watching as the guards healed the prisoner again. She gave LaShiec another kiss, then asked, "Does that pay for the honor of learning another spell, Reipard?"

"More than enough. Now, close your eyes, Alisa. Imagine a powerful wind storm, like back in Camineet or Parolit. Notice how everything gets pushed around?"

She remembered- trees whipped around in the sharp breeze, small fruits and objects were blown down streets, birds struggled to fly against massive headwinds- she had even heard reports some people had been toppled by the wind during the Hurricane of '41. Alisa sighed as she started focusing on the wind, scarcely noticing as a small tornado started to form around her.

"Now, imagine that gale force, concentrated against any who stand against us," LaShiec told her. "How it would batter, how it would rend and sunder as nature wreaks its toll..."

Again, Alisa glared with enmity at the prisoner. She brought her hands behind her, then lanced them forward, crying out, "Gi Hewn!" The tornado unwrapped from around Alisa as its component winds surged towards the prisoner, whipping around him. The tornado reformed, wrenching him from the guards' grasp with a sickening crunch- one of his arms had been pulled free of his body at the shoulder, and blood sprayed everywhere, carried by the wind. Once it died down, Alisa calmly approached the injured man.

"Do you repent for your heresy, boy?" she asked, looking down at him. "Swear your allegiance to your sovereign king and queen, and you shall be forgiven."

"I... I swear..." The prisoner looked up at Alisa. "My friends... will see you two... in Hell..."

"A pity." Alisa drew her Laconia sword, then hurled it through the prisoner's chest. He cried out, gurgled once, then sighed as life left him. Yanking the sword from the body, Alisa wiped it clean on his clothing, then sheathed it.

"Good show, my love," Reipard said, approaching her. "Guards, get him out of here- arm and all."

The guards nodded, dragging the still-warm corpse from the throne room. Once they had left, Alisa said, "Well, well, Reipard... all the Gi-level spells in one day. Not even that nimnal Tajima could teach like that."

"That's because you've always had that power, Alisa, my love," LaShiec replied, embracing Alisa. Stroking her hair gently, he whispered, "Lutz and the others deliberately held you back- they didn't want you getting all the glory."

"Fools."

"But you deserve glory, my Alisa- after all, you are the queen of Algo. Let's take a break for now," he urged, giving Alisa's auburn hair one last, delicate stroke, sending her ponytail bobbing slightly from side to side. "After that... one last spell."

"The most powerful one in my tiara, as you keep promising," Alisa replied, smiling at LaShiec. "I look forward to learning it."

"And I look forward to teaching it to you."

-=-=-

"Nine hundred twenty Meseta for gas," Tairon grumbled, slumping into the Luveno's co-pilot chair. "I can't believe it."

"Neither can I, but we did need to refuel the landrover," Lutz replied. "That's where most of the bill went, I believe."

"79.6% of it, Master Lutz," Hapsby said, swiveling to face the Esper. "The rest all went into the hydrofoil."

"Well, it's not like we can just pump it back out," Tairon added. "Hapsby, let's get back to Palma. We need to go back to Baya Mahlay."

"Immediately, Sir. Our destination is Camineet Spaceport on Palma?"

"Yeah."

The spaceship's engines screamed, it seemed to Lutz, with the fury of a god as the Luveno lifted off, leaving Paseo and Motavia behind.

"We are now spacebound," Hapsby told the group. "Estimated time to arrival in Camineet Spaceport is two hours."

"Hey, why can't we just... you know, teleport back to Palma?" Myau asked. "You're smart, Lutz- you can think up a spell."

"It's not that simple, Myau," Lutz replied. "One Esper- Odjn the White- attempted to create a Gi-level variant of the Ryuka spell to teleport between planets. 'All one must do,' he wrote in MA 5198, 'is imagine oneself on another planet.'"

"Soooo... what happened to Odjean the White?" Myau asked.

"He did exactly that- imagine himself to be on another planet. His fellow Espers at the time- Dva the Red, Chetyre the Black, and Tri' the Blue- all record that Odjn said two words before his body entered a series of spasms: 'Ragol cursed.'"

"Did he die?" Tairon asked.

"I'd imagine so- these records are from the middle part of Algo's Age of Myths, predating the Age of Legends by at least four thousand years. They did say that they could never sense his mental energy anywhere in Algo since that day."

"So basically, no magic to go to other planets," Tairon said. "Otherwise bad stuff happens, that's why Jean-Paul Nejilian invented spaceships."

"To be honest, Doctor Nejilian only improved on basic designs from Age of Legend-era notes. For example," Lutz started, "He used the published works of Cynthia An Kein as a starting point for his flux-drive engine..."

Myau slunk up to Tairon's legs, slashing him with his front claw. "See what you've done?!" he hissed. "Now you've got him talking about space travel!"

"I hope he's not going to be like this the entire trip," Tairon told Myau.

"No- YOU hope he's not like this the entire trip! I'm going to the cargo bay and catching some Zs!"

Helplessly, Tairon could only watch as Myau bounded out of the ship's control deck, leaving him and Hapsby with Lutz, who was still lecturing about early space travel experiments in Palma's history. Leaning over to the robot, he asked, "Hapsby, can you drown Lutz out so I don't have to hear this?"

"*bo wa beep* I am sorry, but the robot you are trying to reach is currently busy piloting a spaceship," Hapsby intoned. "Please try again upon atmospheric reentry."

"Greaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat."

-=-=-

LaShiec returned to the throne room of the Castle in the Sky, smiling as he embraced Alisa. "A short rest and meditation always pays off when it comes to the ars arcanum, Alisa," he explained. "It helps increase your mana flow."

Alisa nodded- ever since LaShiec had started teaching her magic, she noticed that she was also able to cast more spells before she needed to rest. "It certainly does, Reipard," she replied, kissing him. "Now, then, shall we continue where we left off?"

"But of course. Alisa, imagine-"

Just then, one of the guard robots burst into the throne room, followed closely by Katya and Doctor Mad. "I apologize, my lieges," the robot said, "But these two insisted they had an appointment."

"They do," LaShiec told it. "Please, leave us."

"At once."

Once the guard left, Doctor Mad stepped forward and said, "Kingie! Queenie! We've got a problem! Again!"

"Well, Doctor, I was about to give Katya her first duty, but if you have a problem," LaShiec chuckled. "By all means, let us hear it." Behind his back, he made a motion for Alisa to set her hand on her sword.

"You know that spaceship that blew up in Camineet Spaceport a couple days ago? It didn't!" the doctor said. "There was just enough tin foil on my radio antenna to hear Paseo Spaceport's control tower!"

"What?!" Both LaShiec and Alisa shouted at the same time. "How could this happen?!" the king of Algo demanded.

"Doctor Mad believes that they might have dumped their spare part stores in an effort to fool the I/A missiles," Katya explained. "Forensic accounts indicate there was no organic debris matching Palman or Musk Cat DNA in the wreckage."

"Righty-o, hotness! And from there, they probably fiddle-dee-dooed with their ident transponder and renamed their ship so we couldn't track them!" Doctor Mad crossed his arms. "My Doctor-Sense is telling me that they're gonna kick our asses when they get back here!"

"Doctor, the only people who are going to get their asses kicked are my former companions," Alisa replied. "Katya."

"At your service, my Queen," Katya replied.

"Go to Camineet Spaceport. Keep an eye on our 'friends,'" was the order. "See who they visit on their way back. I suspect it will be certain insurgents."

"At once." Katya spun on her heel, red hair billowing as she left the throne room.

"Doctor Mad, have your finest creations ready," LaShiec ordered the doctor. "Spread them through the City of Desolation."

"Can-do, Kingie! And just in case they get past your robots and mine, I've got a special surprise for those three!" Rubbing his hands together, Doctor Mad laughed and continued, "You can't see it because I'm wearing my gas mask, but I'm winking, because what I've got is so totally awesome~! Vwaaaa hahahahaaaaa!"

"Go now, Doctor! Prepare for our guests!"

The doctor nodded, then ran from the throne room, muttering to himself about how "It's gonna kick *!" Once they were alone again, LaShiec turned to Alisa. "My love," he said, "I think it would be most appropriate if you demonstrated your power upon those three once they get here."

"And I'll show them just how weak they are without me," Alisa replied.

"Now, then..." He adjusted the Hell Crown on Alisa's forehead, centering its central jewel. "Alisa, close your eyes. Remember all the times you've ever gotten angry..."

Images entered Alisa's mind- of Medusa, the Red Dragon, Keethrax the Gold, countless robots, Nero's death. All she could hear were angry voices, disapproving stares filling her mental gaze.

Through the voices, LaShiec continued, "Now, how about everyone else? Anger isn't just restricted to your heart- it's everywhere."

More images- this time, they were all images from history books Alisa had read in school- the Battle of Camineet at the very end of the Age of Legends, the Esper Wars, the Trans-Palma War, the Motavian invasion, even some wars she thought were from the Age of Myths.

"And even then- anger and hatred transcend time itself, Alisa, my love. It was the root of the first murder- prehistoric Palman man brutally beats his neighbor so he can sit a hair closer to the fire."

She saw it. And with each image, she saw that face- a face of hatred, demonic terror, contorted with rage.

It was the same face she had seen during her first trip to Governor Hope's mansion, so long ago.

LaShiec could see Alisa's body quivering, her teeth gritted, sapphire-hued eyelids twitching as she concentrated on all the emotions she was experiencing. The Hell Crown's central ruby was glowing bright red.

"And there is only one thing to do with all that anger, Alisa... all that hatred. Use it."

Just as suddenly as he spoke, Alisa stopped shaking. Her fists clenched, then unclenched uneasily. Alisa's eyes opened, and she smiled at LaShiec. There was a faint red shimmer in her eyes.

"That, Alisa... is the magic of the Hell Crown... Megid."

Smiling at LaShiec, Alisa threw herself into his arms, then kissed him. "Hail Dark Force," she whispered to him, as the Megid spell transferred itself from the Hell Crown into her mind.

End of Part Ten

With the Megid spell unsealed, will our heroes be able to triumph against LaShiec and save Alisa? Will their friends on Palma be safe from Katya's prying eyes? And what is Doctor Mad's latest surprise?
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