Lord Billyboy, leader and founder of the God's Elite Legion (GEL), strode through the gore of the battlefield, a tall shadow in the night's gloom. Thousands of Vearidons and a hundred local followers had given their lives trying to defend this world against his army...and they'd lost. He relished their suffering and despair. Even now he could sense it rising up like the stench from the broken corpses scattered about the valley. In the distance a storm was brewing. As each flash of lightning illuminated the sky, Egypt's great temple was momentarily visible in the distance. A stark silhouette towering over the barren horizon. A pair of figures waited in the center of the slaughter. One balkan and the other brit. He recognized them despite the darkness, Snake and Tom (2 of the more powerful GEL Lords). Once they had been bitter rivals but now they serve together in Billyboy's brotherhood. He approached them quickly, smiling. Snake, tall and so lean as to appear almost skeletal, smiled back.
“This is a great victory Lord Billyboy. It has been far too long since GEL had an academy on Egypt.”
“I sense you are eager to begin training the new apprentices here.” Billyboy replied. “I expected you will provide me with many more powerful and loyal adepts and masters in the coming years.”
“Provide you?” Snake asked pointedly. “Don't you mean provide us? Aren't we all apart of the brotherhood?”
His question was met with an easy laugh.
“Of course Snake. A mere slip of the tongue.”
“Snake refuses to celebrate in our triumph.” Tom noted. “He has been like this all night.”
Billyboy clasped a hand on the hefty balkan's shoulder. “This is a great victory for us.” He said. “Egypt is more than just another world. It is a symbol. The birthplace of GEL. This victory sends a message to the Vearidons and the other clans. Now they will truly know and fear the brotherhood.”
Snake shrugged free Billyboy's hand and turned away, with the flick of the tips of the long cape armor wrapped around his neck.
“Celebrate if you wish,” He called over his shoulder as he walked away. “but the real war has only just begun.”
"Look at her. She's more alive with you than without."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means I need her to be the way only you can get her."
"And what does she think?"
"I haven't bothered to ask."
"I...I won't do this. This is evil."
"Then she will die. And your underling will die. And your friends will die. And only after that, you will die, knowing you could have saved them all."
This can't keep happening.
I'll save them.
I'll save everyone.
m0rt awoke on the floor near the bar to what he quickly decided was hell—reeling from nightmares, nursing a hangover, and surrounded by noise and motion.
All around him, Vearidons bustled, frantically shouting and throwing papers, with phones ringing in every corner of the building.
"Hotel Terron, terminated!"
"Supply Lanes, gone!"
BRRING, BRRING! BRRING, BRRING!
He tried to get up, only to throw himself back down when a scion creature leapt over him and almost took his head along with it.
m0rt's mind, normally lithe, had to struggle to piece together the implications of the situation. And still, the people jumped and shouted.
"Royal Stadium, down!"
"Big Chill, down!"
Why are there so many phones? We don't even have two phones here—what—was that Klag?
"Watch it," he slurred, even as another person jumped over him.
BRRING, BRRING! BRRING, BRRING!
Something was wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.
There shouldn't be soldiers everywhere. Vearie had made it a point to banish all those who would not defect from Silver's leadership—right before he'd killed the Don himself. Yet now the bar was full of them, including some whom m0rt had never seen before.
Were they being attacked? No, he'd been jumped over and ignored dozens of times now. Then what was it? Robbery? Shelter? Were they hiding from something?
The phones. So many phones.
"We're getting calls from The Isles!"
BRRING, BRRING! BRRING, BRRINNG!
m0rt lay amid the madness, his hungover mind trying to convince him to ignore the intruders and go back to sleep. And he probably would have, too, were it not for a single, accursed shout.
"—LoC town area code!"
m0rt shot up—and immediately doubled over and hurled.
"Easy," said a voice from above him, and he looked up to find Lumi hovering nervously nearby.
"Lumi," he croaked. "Wasgoinon?"
"I don't know," she said, eyes wide. "One second Manslayer and I are talking raids; the next, we have businesses calling us left and right, cutting ties."
m0rt's heart pounded once, then froze. Mass termination. Everyone knew what that meant. The GEL Empire had begun their assault, and some generals must have heard the news from them and figured it out. All it took was one leak. And even that was a symptom.
"You don't think we'll actually be—?"
"No," Lumi said firmly. "No way. It's too soon."
But he could see that she was desperately trying to believe it herself.
"I'm...so-sorry...Lumi," m0rt gasped as he got up.
Her whole body rocked as she flew down to steady him, and then they were holding each other and she was sobbing in his arms.
All thoughts from the night before were long gone. This wasn't planning and philosophizing and careful thought. It wasn't romance or schoolyard games. This was the now, where the only guarantee was that the people they cared about would be hurt. Things that had been a priority only a few hours earlier now seemed silly, worse than meaningless.
"They won't hit you," Lumi whispered into his shoulder. "They can't. You haven't—"
"I've done enough," m0rt said. "And even if I get out fine, the others definitely won't."
His whole purpose, his reason for staying with the Vearidons, for not turning against Vearie from day one, was now in flames. m0rt had thought he could save them...had thought he had more time...
BRRING, BRRING! BRRING, BRRING!
Finally, they broke apart.
"Where is the rest of the team?" m0rt asked.
"They're meeting in the study," Lumi said. "I told them I'd wake you and bring you along."
"Thank you," he said. "Let's go."
"Raffle, I'm telling you there's no way to be sure!"
For the past five hours, the whole of Vearidon had sat and watched as interns brought in phone after phone with regional leaders on the line. They had watched their boss pace furiously as he argued with each of them, had heard him lose nearly every argument. Tensions were running high in the study, and hope was running low.
"Vearie, please," came the skittering, speakerphone-inflated voice of his latest conversant. "You know this is the end."
"You need us," Vearie growled. "You can't—"
"I can and I am," The voice hissed. "Out of courtesy to your status, I have allowed you to try to convince me, and you have failed. Do you have any last words?"
"You're making a huge mistake," Vearie said, but the fight was out of his voice.
"Yes, I heard the Red Slope left you too." And she hung up with a giggle.
"That BITCH!" Vearie shouted, throwing the phone across the room. "Send in the next one!"
A young, jittery mase rushed into the room with a phone hanging from his neck.
"Who is it this time?" Vearie demanded.
"It's Devastator," he squeaked. "He's leaving us...for the Empire!"
"For the Emp-!" the boss cried. "Let me talk to the wight!"
"He left a m-message, boss," the terrified mase stuttered. "And-and I hear he's setting up more accounts with...with..."
Vearie grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him, hard.
"With who?" he roared. "Who else is Devastator making accounts with?"
"D-Domakus" he said, and fainted.
Vearie snorted with disgust, then he threw the intern aside and stormed from his office through the crowd of onlooking Vearidons. Even as they moved to allow him passage, a few of the newer members tried to edge in for a look or a word, and were promptly decapitated for their trouble.
m0rt quickly followed, with Lumi and Purplehaze on his heels. He hadn't had a chance to speak to either of them, so terrified were they of incurring their boss's wrath.
Said boss was currently mounting the stage, and there was no question that every member in the packed bar was his audience. m0rt was shocked to see memebrs of all races congregating in their midst; word had apparently spread all around in the past five hours.
When the team's ruler stood before them, the entire crowd stilled and hushed. For a second, there was silence, and then—
"I am Vearie!" he roared.
"I am the meta!
"I am the law!
"Who stands before me and doubts this?
"Who stands before me and lies?
"No so called GEL Empire will befall me!
"I am invincible!
"I am the future!"
But m0rt knew from the start what Vearie was only now beginning to realize: they were not heroes for their status. They were villains. Bullies. Thugs. Nobody would miss them; nobody would shed a single tear. This was the lot they'd thrown in with. Now all that was left was to await their punishment.
As if to punctuate the thought, the phone that Vearie had thrown away now rang out into the silence. m0rt walked to it slowly and picked it up. The Caller-ID read "LoC Kronic."
His heart froze in his chest despite himself.
"This is Mortarion," he said with forced formality.
"I think you should turn on the radio," Kronic said, and hung up.
Feeling sick, m0rt spread his wings and flew lurchingly toward the stage. As though from underwater, he heard Vearie's voice faintly demanding to know what he was doing, but he did not answer.
He didn't say what program. That means...probably all of them.
Alighting on the stage, m0rt turned to DJ's control board and slid the appropriate switches. Almost instantly, the familiar tune began to play.
"Good evening Lords, Jesters, and Peasants. Zero Angel here, and if you're just tuning in, welcome to BZ 100.1."
Nobody moved; nobody said a word. Vearie stood not five feet from him, but even he was rooted to the spot. All eyes were on the two of them now, and all ears were on Zero Angel.
"GEL Empire has issued a press release," ZA said briskly. "It's being sent to me as I speak, so I'll be reading it live on air—it's coming in.
"It begins like this:
"We have some important news regarding the Rebels known as the Vearidons."
The silence inside BZPub was such that they could hear Vearie's every breath.
"Beginning February 8, 2016, in addition to the new regime being put in place, the Vearidons are to be hunted down and brought before the GEL Empire for their crimes concerning the freedom of the scion race. The following are to be banished."
There was a collective intake of breath, and then, expectant silence as all heads turned to face the reigning golden statue that stood outside their leader's study.
Xohm collapsed without a sound, clutching his stomach.
Muffin shrieked as he fell, and began to sob.
"And..." Zero Angel hesitated.
Lumi and Purplehaze landed beside m0rt then, and he knew. Not through any intellect or deduction. But still, he knew all the same.
Instantly, he felt a shooting pain in his head. His wings curled in on themselves and he keeled over, insensate. It was all he could do to focus on Lumi's voice as she cried, and to notice when she stopped as Zero Angel began to speak again.
"This next one is to be brought alive."
m0rt didn't know how he got to be standing up so quickly, but standing he was, leaning against Lumi and watching with the rest of the room as Xohm opened his eyes for the last time. In that moment, he gazed at him, and he saw...life. Understanding. Horror. Revulsion. Regret. Fear. Resignation. Contentment.
And nothingness once more.
Everyone knew once you were targeted by the Supreme GEL Empire there was no escape, no running, no hiding. At that moment it was over for those whose names have been called.
"And one more thing," Zero Angel's voice said, and m0rt's feverish mind still noticed the change in his tone.
"You may want to sit down for this one. Or stand up and do a little dance."
"Shit," Lumi whispered. "We have to go."
"For anyone currently inside BZPub, you may want to run."
And they all knew.
In future accounts, none of the witnesses could claim to have heard the words Vearie had been shouting. All most of them knew was that, one second, they were listening to Zero Angel, and the next, everyone was running frantically in every which direction and a terrible keening was in the air, like metal on metal.
m0rt felt arms grab him from both sides, then the ground vanished from beneath his legs.
"Hang on," Purplehaze whispered into his ear. "We've got you."
They ran through tangles of terrified crowds, with Lumi and Purplehaze shielding m0rt from the brunt of it. And still, that awful shriek continued to pierce the air. All of a sudden they had to halt in their tracks for a figure with a white robe and a scion emblem portraying from the chest appeared in front of them.
"S-Sly?” m0rt mumbled. “Is that you?”
Sly was present in the room ever since m0rt first arrived to deliever his scouting report to Vearie. However he kept to himself the majority of the time almost as if he was always in a state of meditation. Almost as if he knew this moment would come. He didn't seemed worried but remained calm as was his hallmark trait.
“It is clear that Vearie has lost his way. He can no longer lead us to Glory. I will be taking over from here. We must preserve the fate of the scion race.”
m0rt, still being held up by Lumi and Purplehaze, focused intently on Sly's calmness admist the danger that the words fell on deaf ears.
“We must go. Follow me.” Sly instructed.
To be continued...