Part Five: Onwards
(Governor Hope's mansion, High District of Paseo)
There was the sound of a loud thunderclap, followed by a wave of pressure suddenly erupting from the Governor's office, toppling chairs and sending desks and paperwork scattering across the reception area. The wave carried with it pieces of the ANDROcops, sundered from their frames by the sheer force of the Explosion Collabo.
One of the robots was entirely annihilated, the second smashed upon the ground, muttering "Why was I programmed to feel pain?" The third robot had its laser rifle, along with both of its arms, ripped away, while the group's leader was lying on the ground, bracing its own rifle on its severed legs.
Tairon took advantage of the opportunity, and fired at the lead robot. The blue lance of energy tore through its head, and the machine slumped to the ground with a whine of circuits and motors. Pivoting on his feet, Tairon squeezed out another shot, burning through the robot without arms. It sank to its artificial knees, screaming, before finally shutting down.
"Well, then," Tairon said, putting his rifle away. "That takes care of your robot problem, Hope. You're welcome, by the way."
"Why, Lord LaShiec? I'm leaking oil rapidly... will I dream?"
Peeking out from behind his slightly-burned desk, Governor Hope looked at the mutilated robots, asking, "Oh... err, could you shut that one up, actually? It's starting to get really uncanny-valley with those screams."
With a sigh, Tairon approached the robot. Now completely out of its mind, it turned towards the warrior, its optics unfocusing. "D... Dave?" it asked, confused. "Is that you? Will I dream, Dave?"
"Be careful, Tairon," Lutz whispered. "It might be one last trick."
"Err... uhh... my... I don't quite know?"
Sighing mechanically, the wounded robot slurred, "I see... I have a song... would you like me... to sing... it for... you...?"
Finally having enough of the ANDROcop's strange musings, Tairon lifted his foot, then swiftly brought his heel down on the robot's head, caving it in with a loud crunch. Withdrawing his foot from the crushed head, Tairon asked, "So, uh, Hope... what was that all about?"
"Probably corrupted data- their logic circuits get quite confused when damaged-"
"I meant the robots! Hope, just how much tax money were you holding LaShiec out on?!" Tairon demanded.
Sweatdropping, the governor replied, "Well, that two million it mentioned... that... wasn't entirely accurate. It's..." He sighed. "It's six million Meseta."
"Six million?" Lutz asked. "And LaShiec only asked for two?"
"Well, the vast majority of those taxes went back into helping Motavia flourish- getting a decent hospital built in Oputa, some farmland readied, desalination plants built and maintained- keeping this rock survivable costs a great deal of money, you understand. I think LaShiec realized he was never going to see most of what he had due, and decided to just hedge his losses."
Raising an eyebrow, Myau asked Hope, "So, where'd the other two million go?"
"First Bank of Algo, Camineet Branch," the governor replied, smiling. "Hide it in plain sight from LaShiec, and use it to discretely fund the movement against him."
"So, that's why most of us were able to get some decent food," Tairon realized. "Along with some necessities... you were sending us money!"
"Me and half a dozen other interests on Palma," Hope told him. "A lot of people want LaShiec dead, you know."
There was an uncomfortable silence for a brief minute, then Myau leapt on what was left of the governor's desk. "Well, sorry to interrupt the nice little reunion, but we've gotta get going," he said. "We've got business with Lutz's old master!"
"Tajima, right?" Hope asked. Seeing Lutz nod, he continued, "Well then, I wish you three well. Hopefully you'll be able to defeat LaShiec and rescue Alisa."
"That we will," Tairon said. "We'll be seeing you!"
Once the three left his office, Hope approached the double doors, peeking out. "Athena, is everyone all right?" he asked.
"We're fine, thank you, Sir," the blue-haired secretary replied. "Maintenance is on their way up."
"Good, good. Athena, have them salvage what they could from these robots, please."
"Certainly, Sir, but..." Athena looked at the remains of the ANDROcops. "We have enough spare parts for your own robot guards."
"I know that. They're not for the guards." He held up his radio, charred black. "My radio broke."
Once outside, the group of three walked towards Paseo's city gate, where their Land Rover was eagerly waiting for them. Once they had inspected the vehicle's tracks for any sign of damage, Tairon and Lutz thanked the spaceport valets, then boarded the rover. Myau bounded up the entry ramp, sticking close to Tairon as he asked, "They didn't take it for a joyride, did they?"
"Not this time, I think," Tairon replied. "Either it really was waiting for us here, or they did a better job cleaning the sand out."
"Don't you remember what happened last time, Myau?" Lutz asked, sitting in one of the Land Rover's seats. "Alisa had to pull you off that poor valet's face."
"Hey, he deserved those scratches!"
Tairon sighed heavily as he started the Land Rover up. Immediately, he blasted its air conditioning full-force. "Well, at least the A/C still works," he grumbled. To his companions, he asked, "So, Lutz, did Tajima move around since our last visit?"
"No- he's always lived in that same cave, as far back as I can recall," Lutz replied. "East of the antlion pits."
"All right, then!" Tairon adjusted the Land Rover, then stepped on the gas pedal. "We'll be there in no time!"
"Zwaaaahahahaha!" Doctor Mad rubbed his hands together in glee, grinning like a hangman as he viewed his patient. Pieces of circuitry and armor were haphazardly glued and screwed into the trunk of his body, and a gas mask similar to the doctor's was nailed to his face. He groaned in agony as Doctor Mad continued, "Now, with the super secret combination of Laconia, my good friends at the local power tool company, and eleven secret herbs and spices, I'll just flip this switch... and make my creation LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!"
The doctor threw a massive switch mounted to the wall, sending arcs of electricity coursing through the patient. He screamed and cried out, convulsing in pain, the mad doctor laughing all the while. Finally, the doctor flipped the switch into its off position, then shouted, "Now, rise, my experimentation! RISE!"
With a groan, the patient started to rise from the gurney he was strapped to, the stench of charred flesh and blood pouring from his body. Seconds after he sat up, he grumbled, then fell backwards onto the gurney, sighing once.
Nervously, Doctor Mad pushed a button beneath the massive power switch. "LaShiec! I fouled it up again!" he shouted. "Patient ate it!"
"Again?" LaShiec's voice asked in irritation from an intercom speaker. "How many times was this, Doctor?"
"Hmm... this guy, the girl whose eyes melted, the first one who twisted his own head off because I didn't get the programming right... " He counted a pile of bodies shoved into one corner of the laboratory, then replied, "Six. I think. I stopped counting after the one guy who was all like 'Oh Gaaaaaaaaawd my brain' and just started punching himself to death, Kingie. I was too busy laughing my * off!"
"Doctor, I cannot, for the life of me, begin to imagine why my wife thinks you're a sick psychotic freak," LaShiec replied. "Will your work be done by the end of today, or are you just invoking Plan C to inflict as much needless pain and suffering as you can?"
"Ya know, Kingie, I cannot tell a lie, but I shall anyway!" Doctor Mad paused uneasily, then asked, ".....Yes?"
"Just get a stable prototype ready, Doctor," LaShiec ordered. "Call me when you're ready."
A loud buzzer sounded throughout the lab, and a black-haired man was shunted in. Two POLEZIs took the dead man off the gurney and threw the corpse into the pile with the others. As they strapped the new arrival into the gurney, Doctor Mad cracked his knuckles in anticipation.
"Now, then," he said to the patient, "I think I know where I went wrong last time! I gotta start with the brain!"
"What are you gonna do to me, you sick freak!?" the patient demanded.
"Oh, just a little thinkaroonie I came up with LaShiec." The doctor coughed beneath his gas mask, then continued, "We call it Plan C. C being for 'cyborg.' And by that, I mean I'm going to-"
"Do unspeakable acts to me, all in the name of 'science,'" the patient said.
"Naaaaah! More like turn you and your friends from Eppi into Laconia-plated, cybernetic, arm-cannon wired reprogrammed sins against God and country! Doesn't that sound just peachy-keen!? ^_^"
"Naaah, the dragons and the Winged Eyes are monsters! I'm the doctor, and you, good sir..." Once again, he picked up the pizza wheel. With his free hand, Doctor Mad shoved a ballgag into the patient's mouth. He sneezed, then continued, "You, sir, are getting formally drafted into LaShiec and Alisa's robot army!"
As they sat in their throne room, Alisa asked, "Just what is that idiot doing to the prisoners?"
"He keeps screwing up and getting them killed on the table, my dear," LaShiec told her. "Nothing you should worry your pretty mind about."
"A shame, Reipard... I would have loved to have seen that first prisoner tear his own head off." Alisa sighed wistfully, then looked down at the red-haired woman attending her. "Might have been your brother, your boyfriend... maybe your father, hmm?"
"My Queen, please try not to move your hand," the woman replied. "It's hard to manicure your nails if your hand moves."
"Who gives the orders around here? You, or me?"
"You, Your Majesty," the woman sighed.
With a cruel laugh, Alisa looked down at the woman and said, "That's right. Do a good enough job, and maybe you'll actually get paid for your services."
As she continued to give Alisa a manicure, the woman asked, "Payment, my Queen? I... I'm flattered..." Her dark blue eyes sparkled as she imagined the amount of Meseta she could get from the rulers of Algo.
"Of course. Some payment is due you, after all," LaShiec told her. "Tell her, Alisa, my dear."
"It gets one Meseta." She raised her nose, then continued, "And it'll pretend to be happy with even that, lest she wish to wind up with the rest of her friends from Eppi."
".....No, my Queen," the manicurist said, her voice and expression noticably softening.
"And then, there's the matter of taxes, too," LaShiec said. "Thirty percent to the royal treasury... why, Alisa, all that woman's going to get is seventy mill! That's not even enough to buy a pack of gum these days!"
"You're right, Reipard," Alisa said, her voice filled with mock concern. "I guess we shouldn't pay her at all, then?"
"Of course not- nobody can live on seventy mill, Alisa!"
There was a sudden, soft crack, then the woman stammered, "I... I apologize, my Queen! The file slipped, and-"
"You... you broke my nail!" Alisa shrieked. She pushed the woman away, then drew her sword. "Regicide!"
"It was an accident, my Queen! Please, believe me!"
"I have no reason not to disbelieve my wife," LaShiec told the poor woman. "This incident happened right after we told you that you would not be paid... it is more than a simple coincidence."
"It was just an accident, my King!" She was in tears, cowering before Alisa and LaShiec.
"It was a deliberate attempt," Alisa told her, raising the sword.
"And traitors to the crown... must die!" LaShiec grinned menacingly at the woman. She shrieked as Alisa thrust forward with the sword, sending its Laconia blade clean through the woman's chest. She gurgled and gasped as the sword tore through her back, then started gasping for breath as Alisa yanked the sword out of her body.
"....my... majesties..." she gurgled, blood pooling beneath her.
Alisa approached the woman, sheathing her sword. Looking down her nose at the dying woman, she raised her hand, then pressed it to the woman's chest, saying, "Heal."
Immediately, the wounds from the sword started to scab over, sealing shut in a matter of seconds. Still weak and in pain, the woman murmured, "Thank you, my queen."
"Reipard, my love?" Alisa asked. "I think we have a use for this traitor after all."
"Plan C, Alisa, my heart?"
The woman's eyes widened in shock and horror. Immediately, she started wishing she had been killed.
"Why, yes, my love. Sometimes, I swear, Reipard... you can read my mind!"
LaShiec snapped his fingers, and two robots strode into the throne room, picking the injured woman up. Alisa held her hand up to the girl, then smirked as she said, "This is how you do a real manicure, little girl. Heal." Before her eyes, Alisa's broken nail reformed itself, then polished itself dark red. To the POLEZIs, she then said, "Get it out of our sight."
"At once, Your Majesty."
The two robots then left, dragging the woman with them. Alisa put her glove back on, then smiled as LaShiec embraced her from behind. "Are you all right, my dear?" he asked.
"I'm fine, now that you're here, Reipard," Alisa cooed. She turned around, then embraced her husband, smiling as she felt his kisses upon her lips. "No more threats to our lives."
"None at all."
Alisa giggled as LaShiec played with her Hell Crown, then she sighed as she looked at where she stabbed the woman. "There's still one slight problem, my love," she told LaShiec.
"Anything that troubles you troubles me as well, Alisa. What's wrong?"
"That damn rebel got blood on my dress."
The Land Rover blazed through the vast Motavian desert, bounding over sand dunes and outcroppings of rock as it headed towards Tajima's cave. To its occupants, the scenery never changes -always another rock, cactus, or uninteresting salt flat in the distance.
"I'm bored!" Myau shouted, looking out one of the portholes. "When are we gonna get there!?"
"Same time as last time, Myau," Tairon replied. "About an hour or so."
"I apologize. Master Tajima always enjoyed living a bit... out of the way."
"Well, he could have at least gotten a summer house or something, Lutz!" Myau groaned. "A nice little place by Sophia or Paseo, you know?"
Lutz sweatdropped. "The cave is his summer house, Myau," he said. "And it is a very nice cave..."
"Oh, never mind."
Tairon steered the Land Rover around a large rock, then told Myau, "Don't worry, lil' buddy. We'll be there soon, and I'm sure Tajima's got more of those Motavian snappers you love so much."
"Get us to that cave, Ensign!" Myau said, his eyes sparkling with the thought of tasty fish. "Maximum war-"
There was a loud bang as the Land Rover suddenly shook violently. Tairon struggled to keep in control as Lutz and Myau bounced around violently.
After a minute, the shuddering and rolling stopped. Tairon asked, "You guys okay?"
"I'm fine," Myau replied.
"I as well. What happened, Tairon?"
Tairon rose from his seat. "Not a clue," he said. "Let me go check."
The boarding ramp was lowered, and Tairon stepped out. Looking into the distance, he saw a small black dot in the sand, followed by a series of impressions where the Land Rover had been bucked and rolled. The massive left front tire had rolled away, settling down a few hundred feet in front of the machine.
"Land mine," he told his companions. "Knocked the tire off. Let me go get it back."
Once he had taken a few steps away from the vehicle, Tairon took a look at its hull. He sighed with relief when he saw it was merely dented- the most severe damage was the lost tire. He turned back around-
-and found himself face-to-face with the muzzle of a needle gun. A blue-furred, birdlike humanoid stared at him, his beak curled into a smile.
"Aaah, Palma people," he said, advancing towards Tairon. "Do not move."
"You know, if this is a robbery, it's a rather poor one. My friends can easily stop you."
"Your friends?" the Motavian asked. "The Palma person and the Dezo cat over yonder?" He motioned with the pistol, and Tairon turned around. He groaned when he saw four more Motavians leading Lutz and Myau out of the Land Rover.
"....Yeah. Those would be them," he said, sweatdropping.
"Now then... to the mugging and salvaging, by jove," he heard the Motavian say. "Give all your shiny Meseta and food, and jovial as bivalve mollusk we Mota people shall be. Otherwise, we Mota people is getting to be upset and firing the deadly weapons, yes?"
End of Part Five
How will Lutz, Tairon, and Myau escape from the Motavian raiders? Will Tajima be able to help them? How will Doctor Mad's Plan C cyborgs affect the covert war against LaShiec?