"The final concert of Sight Readers was a spectacle that music fans will not forget, culminating in the dramatic return of Casey Lynch, who gave an excellent final performance after her mysterious disappearance. Unfortunatly, it has been confirmed that this is the last time Casey would play for the band. Although the guitarist has been unavailable for comment, her band has confirmed that she will not be returning. For fans who missed the concert, the CD will be available next month, a tribute to the unforgettable career of the Goddess of Rock."
"WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!" Aven had a very significant yell.
They were back aboard the dropship, high above the Las Venturas skyline. They had to move fast, in order to avoid the crowds of fans trying to mob Casey. She was able to grab the suitcase Mindy had packed for her and duck aboard the ship, taking off with the fans close behind. The rocker couldn't help but chuckle at the theories that would abound with her reappearance and the alien ship. Right now though, she and Link had to face the wrath of the minor Elite.
Aven seem to shake with fury for a few moments, fighting the urge to snap the humans before him in two. His fists clenched hard, and his teeth gritted even harder. He didn't say anything for a moment or two, but radiated such an aura of anger that nobody spoke up.
Eventually he calmed down enough to continue. "We are on an assignment. Our superiors gave us orders to investigate this 'Dimentio' of yours in this city. They did NOT give you permission to chase your petty whims and errands! What was so important about that noise factory that you abandoned this assignment – and I, who was assingned to guard you - to go there?"
Casey was about to answer, but Aven stopped her. "No. I do not care. What you do with your life outside of the League is not important to me. It never will be. But you are in the League NOW, and you – BOTH of you – ALL of us have responsibilities! Responsibilities to our superiors, our duties, the world, the coalition! You two shirked those responsibilities and wasted our time!"
"Huh. I thought you figured this was a waste of time to begin with." Casey retorted.
Aven cringed. "Yes, but it was still orders. It was still an assignment. My superiors gave it to me, and unlike you, I respect my superiors enough to see through to their expectations!" Aven took another deep breath. "If you had done this after we had investigated this performer, I might not be so angry. But the fact remains. You two disregarded your duties on assignment, and I failed my own. This is a disgrace." He noted surprisingly sadly.
Casey would've retorted, but she quickly realized Aven had a point. Link understood as well, and didn't speak up either.
Aven still scowled. "Well? Nothing to say for yourself?"
"No. You're right." Casey admitted.
There was a silence for a minute. Aven wasn't sure how to react…this was the first time something he said had been taken seriously. He thought Casey was being sarcastic or mocking him, but the shamed look on her face told him his words had impacted her. He didn't respond for some time, but eventually took a deep breath and moved on.
"I suppose yelling at you further would simply waste more time. I know where this 'Dimentio' is. Let's get this done."
It was easy to pick out the theatre that Dimentio was performing at. The large neon sign with the word's 'DIMENTIO'S CROWD PLEASING SHOW' were the kicker, and judging by the way they were flashing, he was performing later tonight. This confused Casey. Why wouldn't he play now? The early evening was usually a good time for concerts and performances, and it didn't make sense that a performer would play at a time when most people had gone to sleep or were too drunk to notice.
Above the bright sign was a simplified statue of the performer himself. Dimentio dressed in a purple and yellow motley, complete with a three pointed jester hat and a two-tone smiling theatre mask. The statue consisted of geometric shapes resembling the jester outlined with bright lights, and two oddly detached black hands waving mechanically. This performer had become very popular lately, but to Casey he just looked…odd.
No matter. In a rather awkward silence, Aven piloted the dropship into the alley behind the theatre. On seeing that they were undetected, Aven left his pilot ship to check with the two humans readying themselves. Not speaking with them, Aven began to ready his standard sidearm, a plasma pistol.
Link wanted to get his old clothes back on, but Casey had told him he'd be less conspicuous in the street clothes she gave him than his green tunic and cap. Casey and Jimi rummaged through her suitcase to find a less-revealing outfit and some old ski masks for espionage when the Pikachu found something odd.
Jimi turned the metal object in his paws, staring at it in confusion. It was the size of a cell phone and looked like it was designed to be gripped in someone's hand. A tiny hole was on one side of it, looking like the tip of a remote control. Whatever it was, Casey certainly didn't own it, and she hadn't taken anything from the base when they left. A large button on the top was begging to be pressed, and Jimi obliged, the hole pointing at Aven.
The weapon in Aven's hand suddenly began to…cough, for lack of a better word. The plasma coil began to spark, and it seemed that the weapon was trying to fire but couldn't. Aven gasped in surprise and quickly threw the malfunctioning weapon out of the dropship. The elite shook his head in confusion. He just checked that weapon – why would it act like that?
Jimi glanced at the tiny gadget in his hand and couldn't repress a chuckle. Suddenly the tiny thing was yanked from his hands by Link, who had noticed the spectacle and figured things out. The boy glanced at the disruptor and put it in his pocket, reasoning that it might be useful later.
Aven shook his head and replaced his firearm with one that actually worked. He still thought that this was a waste of time, but orders were orders, and he wanted this over and done with. With that, he opened the door and motioned Casey, Link and Jimi (who now had their faces covered like burglars) out of the dropship.
The back of the theatre had a thick door and a security camera over it. The door had a thick lock that Aven was confident he could just slice through, but the camera had made him back off and have the other two hide around a corner. He still didn't take this mission seriously, but there was no point in taking unnessecary risks.
"We need to terminate that camera." Aven noted. He readied his weapon, but Casey beat him to the punch.
"Jimi, target practise." The Pikachu smirked and fired a thunderbolt at the metal camera. However, it didn't seem to do anything. The camera whirled around to where the zap had come from and just as the three operatives were ducking around a corner, several silent machine-gun bullets peppered the wall across from them.
The gunfire had caught all of them by surprise. Luckily, none of them were hit. What the hell? Why would a performer have this crazy security? It can't be cheap…what's he protecting? Casey mused to herself. A machine gun complete with a silencer. This guy didn't want intruders or attention back here.
Aven caught his breath and thought to himself. Clearly, that camera would tear them apart if they stepped into it's sight. Aven wondered if he could sneak up to the machine with his camoflauge, but then wondered if the camera wasn't heat-seeking and decided not to risk it. He did decide to try something else. Once the camera was no longer looking in their direction, he shot a plasma needle at the thing, hoping to destroy it.
But then it shot the needle down. Somehow it detected the projectile and was able to whirl around, take aim and blast the projectile down within a millisecond.
Aven cursed under his breath. What now?
Link smiled and dug into his pocket. This caused Aven to groan. "I doubt your arrows will be any more effective."
Link didn't take out his arrows, however. Instead, he took out the handheld disruptor that Jimi had found. Pointing the tiny hole at the camera-gun, Link pressed the button with his thumb. This caused Casey to scratch her head in confusion and Jimi to smirk.
"Try now." The youth remarked.
Aven blinked, but before he could question he heard the gun 'cough' just like the plasma pistol had moments ago. Still a little confused, Aven aimed another shot at the camera.
He missed, but the gun wasn't able to shoot the projectile down this time. It followed the needle like it's targeting system was still intact, but when it tried to shoot it down, the gun simply sputtered uselessly.
Aven smirked and tried one more time. This shot connected with the stand holding the camera onto the wall, and soon the useless, coughing turret was lying on the ground in a heap of slag and circuitry. The camera beeped once, then deactivated.
Aven holstered his weapon before turning to Link and the disruptor he was holding. "How did you know it would do that? And where did you find that?"
"A guess." Link shugged. "And this was in Casey's pack. Jimi was playing with it."
Casey blinked. "Really? It ain't mine. I never seen it before."
Aven groaned and bade the others to move. "No matter. Let's get this done."
"The order from Westcliff came in, Mr. Fairfax. The crates have all been moved to the vault for safekeeping. As per your request, I told the guards who asked about them that they were valuable documents that you wanted to verify. I would appreciate my payment be received shortly."
The vault was the most logical place to keep the Dark Prognosticus. It was the most secured area in Bowerstone Castle, with several cameras and turrets stationed around a thick iron door with a keypad and several different separate security measures. Snake had deactivated the security around the castle, but the vault operated on a different system.
Not that it bothered Lara unduly.
The first thing to get past was a maze of lasers. Lara wasn't sure if these were actual lasers or just beams of light that would trip the alarm. Either way, it wouldn't be a good idea to test them, so she had to be very careful. Arbiter and Rtas' bulk would trip them immediately, so she had to deactivate them before he could proceed.
Smiling and taking a deep breath, she jumped right in.
She was able to evade the lasers when she found solid ground, not tripping or hitting any of them. From where she stood, she worked out a plan to get to the switch on the other side of the field, clearly an emergency shutoff if the owner had to get something from his vault. They didn't count on any burglars being agile enough to evade the lasers and get to the switch.
Lara ducked, dodged, jumped and weaved through the beams of light, carefully but confidently avoiding setting them off or burning herself, whichever was the purpose. She made it look effortless as she seemed to dance around the lights, and Arbiter had to admit he was very impressed.
It took some time, but Lara was able to reach the switch. Unsurprisingly, the switch had a lock on it that would only respond to the owner's print signature. Figures Lara muttered as she procured another tool Gordon had made for her. A small glove with circuitry instead of fabric easily fitted over her hand and she carefully set it down on the switch.
It beeped, but after a few seconds the lock unlocked and Lara was able to pull the switch down. The lasers vanished and Arbiter was able to walk through with no problem. "Well done, Lara." He mused.
Lara smirked in response, and the two operatives moved forward.
They soon approached the large iron door that led to the vault proper. A mechanical but slightly female voice came on. "Security Override activated. The Security office has been alerted. State name and business. Vocal authorization from * Lucien Fairfax * is required to proceed."
Lara looked at Arbiter and shrugged. Rtas readied a rodlike device, causing it to hum with anticipation. The elite commander waited for the defense to make the first move.
"State name and business immediately, or guards and turrets will be deployed."
Being sure to time it just right, Rtas threw the metal rod at the ground. The device came alive, lighting up a cage-like apparatus at the end.
"INTRUDER ALERT! Deploying guards and turrets."
The turrets around the metal door started firing, but the bullets bounced off the dome of light Rtas' Bubble Shield had produced. The shots ricocheted around the room, making several holes in the walls and damaging several of the deactivated cameras. Lara smirked, but she realized the shield would not hold for too long.
Rtas and Arbiter looked at each other and nodded. They couldn't fire at the turrets from inside the shield, as the blasts would remain inside and likely kill them by bouncing off the bubble. Their personal shields could withstand a few hits while Lara couldn't.
Not wasting any time, the two Elites ran out of the shield and started firing at the turrets with their plasma weapons. Several bullets damaged their shields, but the plasma blasts decimated the security turrets, reducing them to puddles of slag. The hail of bullets stopped, and the shield vanished as well.
"ALERT! Security office has been notified. Please retain position until security personnel arrive. ALERT! Security office notified. Security office not responding. Now attempting to reach security person – "
A pistol bullet in the right place silenced the electronic speaker. Lara holstered her weapon and began to work on the vault door, bringing out several tools that Gordon had created/improved for her.
Now that the immediate danger was past, Arbiter decided to contact the rest of the operatives. When he tried the commlinks however, he got nothing but static. "What..." He tried again. Still nothing. He couldn't get a read on Snake or any of the other soldiers.
"What is it?"
"I can't reach the others. The signal is being jammed..." Arbiter growled. "Another security measure?"
"I would doubt that..." Rtas was starting to become concerned. "This is a problem..."
"Yes." Arbiter nodded, but before he could elaborate the vault door opened. Slowly but surely the large iron barrier moved out of the way.
Lara scratched her head. "Odd, that was easier than I ex-"
She was cut off by several monstrous snarls emanating from the inside of the vault and a horrific creature leaping out of the door, sharp teeth and claws at the ready.
"One time, I had to get this powerful sceptre back from a rich criminal thief. Negotiations didn't work, so I decided to pop by the mansion while he was out and retrieve the artefact. Naturally, with a sceptre this powerful and valuable, you'd think he put it in the vault. I go to all the trouble of dodging the cameras, knocking out the guards, deactivating the security and picking the lock, but what do I find? Nothing! Had to strongarm one of the guards for an explanation, and guess what? The bastard had put the sceptre in his umbrella cabinet! I walked right past the damn thing. Unbelievable."
Aven wasn't surprised that there wasn't much security in Dimentio's home beside the camera. Even if this performer had something remotely valuable, he wouldn't expect any burglars to get past that camera or the door. Aven's energy sword had made short work of the deadbolt lock, and now the three burglars and the electric mouse were skulking through the darkened corridors.
The minor elite still felt this was pointless, but they still had to investigate this performer. The fastest way to do that was to find his headquarters (which they were in right now) and look at his living quarters. Casey seemed confident that they could get to his office without any trouble, but Aven somehow doubted that it would be that easy.
Aven's suspicions were confirmed when they rounded a corner and came across a Tiger Therianth in a guard uniform. The burglars recoiled when he moved to his gun, but Jimi acted first. A powerful and fast Thunderbolt paralyzed the guard, and he fell to the floor twitching with electricity, the gun still holstered. Casey smiled at Jimi through her mask before the group walked further down the hallways.
Soon, they came across a wooden door with a gold star above a small plaque reading 'The Pleaser of Crowds, The master of dimensions, Dimentio'. Casey rolled her eyes at the long and pretentious title. Evidently, this Dimentio was very full of himself.
Another deadbolt lock was sheared with Aven's sword, and the burglars went into the performer's dressing room. Casey wasn't too surprised to see that the room was plastered with show posters and images of the Mardi Gras nut himself, not to mention a few mirrors to admire his visage.
Aven sighed and deactivated his camoflague. "How long will it take to 'investigate' this performer?"
"Not long…there ain't a lot of stuff here." Casey admitted.
That was actually an understatement, as Casey and Link quickly discovered. Aside from the showy posters and the mirrors, there were almost no items in the room. No dressing tables or cabinets, or even something to sit down on. No television, computer or even a phone to keep in touch with the outside world. No decorations aside from the posters, no windows, no bed or chair. No indication that the performer spent any long period of time in this room. The only other thing in the room was a bookshelf.
So, naturally the only thing to search was the bookshelf. When Link grazed the book covers with his finger, he found his finger was quickly smudged with dust. This was becoming more and more confusing. "Why have a dressing room built if he is never here?"
"Why does it matter? Perhaps he is simply away tonight." Aven answered.
"No…" Casey picked up a schedule that wasn't dusty and glanced at it quickly. "He has a show tonight. In fact…" Casey blinked to make sure she wasn't seeing things. "It's starting in about 10 minutes. Where the hell is he?"
"10 minutes? Then we should leave now." Aven was eager to go, but Link hesitated, having come across something…odd when glancing over the books. When he touched one of the spines, he felt a shiver inexplicably go down his own. Curious and a little frightened, he took the book out to investigate.
"What is it?" Aven asked, not too pleased at the further delay.
Link looked down at the book in his hands. The entire book was black as pitch, with a few shades of purple to break up the bleak appearance. There was no title, just an orb in the centre with a menacing aura. The entire thing made Link feel very uncomfortable.
Casey looked down at the book in her friend's hands. She could feel the aura as well, and it was very familiar. It took her a minute to figure out where she had experienced it before. "…Holy Shit." She gasped. She wasn't expecting this.
"WHAT?!" Aven was starting to lose his patience now. "What is so special about this book?"
"This is it." Casey breathed. "THIS is the Prognosticus. This is what we're looking for."
"What." Aven shook his head, trying to ignore the fact he was a little nervous himself. "That's…ridiculous. How can you tell?"
"I was there when they checked out the pages…" Casey grabbed the book from Link's hands and opened up to a random page. "Same aura. Same kinda symbols…and look." Casey pointed to several shreds of paper tucked in the book's pages. "Here's where those sheets were ripped out."
Aven was incredulous. "But…if this IS the target, what is at Bowerstone Castle?!"
"Considering the usual nature of politics, Eleanor's offer is…unusual, to say the least. A command post in a 'league', as she described. I am still uncertain about the exact nature of this assignment, but truthfully? This offer is a godsend compared to the politics I'd need to face otherwise. I am inclined to accept…I will see how Rtas feels. I imagine he will agree."
Balvarines were indigenous to Albion, and their notoriety as the most dangerous natural predator in the world was one of the reasons few people came to the kingdom. Real werewolves, they were truly apex predators, the deadliest of the deadly. They had the form of humans, but the claws, teeth, and fur of a wolf. Their speed was legendary, their agility seemingly supernatural, and their brutality unmatched.
And six of them had been hidden in the vault in Bowerstone Castle.
Lara caught herself wishing she had brought silver bullets nanoseconds before killing one of them with a regular one between the eyes. It was a lucky shot however, only possible because the creature was almost on top of her.
All three of them had been caught off guard, and were now stuggling for their life. The beasts seemed to absorb plasma blasts without slowing down or even flinching, and their claws were able to penetrate the elite's shields with frightening ease. They seemed to be able to tell if the three could get a good shot in, and leapt onto the ceiling to avoid the grenades. Furthermore, there were far too many of them to focus on in such close quarters, forcing Rtas and Arbiter to watch their screens and Lara to stay on her toes.
One of the smaller Balvarines managed to slash Rtas' side, but the elite swiftly countered with his energy sword, slicing the Balvarine in half. The other creatures roared and quickly moved to avoid the elite. Unfortunatly, they moved too fast to be killed by gunfire and grenades, although several good shots were able to wound them.
Pistol rounds did less to the monster's tough hides, and Arbiter quickly handed Lara a plasma rifle when the bullets for her gun ran out. Lara was able to kill one of more stubborn ones. Three down, three to go.
One of the surviving Balvarines was able to get behind Lara, and was ready to slice her head off when a bullet at the back of it's head stopped it permanently. Lara glanced around to see that Snake had gotten inside with no-one noticing. The grizzled operative smirked before flinging a grenade at the last two Balvarines. One of them was fast enough to dodge it, leaping across the room. The other wasn't quite quick enough and was slammed into the wall by the force. It hesitated long enough for Arbiter to blow it's head off with a plasma burst.
One to go, and it had gone berserk with the deaths of it's pack members. The creature roared with fury and slashed Lara's side, causing her to bleed profusely. Arbiter tried fired another rifle shot, but it barely grazed the speedy monster's side and the Balvarine whirled about to take a chunk of the Sangheili's flesh with it's teeth. Arbiter was able to throw it off, slamming it into a wall where it was promptly peppered with bullets and plasma blasts.
The creature snarled defiantly one more time before collapsing to the floor, finally dead. The three operatives all tried to catch their breaths, now that the fight was over.\
It took the group a moment to notice that Rtas was missing. Arbiter scanned the room, only to find two humans and six Balvarine corpses. No sign of the fellow elite, not even a corpse. He was just…gone. What had happened?
Arbiter tried to raise the other soldiers on his commlink, but instead of static, there was just silence. No-one was picking up.
"Snake, you were in charge of the security room. What happened?"
"All the screens went out, and the commlinks were down. I haven't been able to reach any of the soldiers. I didn't even see any when I went through here."
"What?! What happened to them?!"
"I don't know!" Snake snapped back.
Arbiter shook his head clear. Something had gone very, VERY wrong. Rtas and all the soldiers under his command…vanished? This seemed too convenient…this had to be enemy action.
"I don't get it. If someone was able to make people disappear like that, why wouldn't they go after the leaders."
"Simple." A mocking voice none of them recognized answered. Immediately, the three operatives were on their guards, raising their weaponry in preparation for an attack. The voice simply giggled in response. "It's a matter of pride. Why waste time fighting an army of faceless nobodies when my…associate can put them to better use."
Arbiter scanned the room again, but there was nothing. No sign of any living being in the vicinity. "Who are you?" The leader demanded.
"Aheheheh. A humble servant of a new coalition. One that, with a little help from a creature called Giygas, will make a VERY significant mark on the world. Aheh." Suddenly, in the centre of the room was a strange, flashy distortion high above the floor. The voice loudly announced it's presence.
"Master of dimensions and pleaser of crowds. I…am…Dimentio!"
The voice's owner was every bit a flashy as his entrance. A rather short man wearing a bizarre jester's outfit, Dimentio looked like a twisted court jester in his motley and coxcomb. His face was hidden behind a black-and-white stylised theatre mask, frozen in a crazed smile. Energy crackled around his gloves like miniature fireworks, waiting to explode.
Arbiter and Snake fired both their guns at him, but the jester disappeared and reappeared in a split second, causing the bullets to miss him. He laughed again.
"Now as for the Prognosticus…it isn't here. Never was. The Dark Prognosticus is hidden in safety, like a pile of money that tempts thieves from the inside of a vault. You won't get at it."
Arbiter snarled in response. "Where is Rtas? Where are the soldiers?"
"You remember Robotnik, don't you? Let's just say he's put the soldiers to good use."
Everyone's eyes widened as they realized what he was implying. Before any of them could speak or draw their weapons, Dimentio chimed in again.
"I hate to cut things short, but you took much longer than I expected and I'm due for a very important appointment in a minute. I'd love to stay and chat, but my colleague insisted on a contingency plan." He motioned to the open vault door, and Lara saw a very large explosive sealed behind Balvarine-proof glass. "Don't worry about collateral. You'll be pleased to know you three are the ONLY people in the castle. We got rid of those pesky guards as well." With a flick of the wrist, Dimentio produced a small black box with a red button on it.
"See you soon. Or…well, it depends entirely on how fast you can run." With a malevolent chuckle, Dimentio pressed the button and the device in the vault activated. "Ciao."
And with that, Dimentio was gone.
Arbiter was shocked by this development, but he didn't let the shock paralyze him. Grabbing the wounded Lara and hoisting her over his back, Arbiter gave the order. "RUN!"
The operatives bolted out of the room, the bomb in the vault ticking closer and closer to detonation. They couldn't run out the front door, or even any of the side entrances. They had to make their own exit.
Snake saw a weak wall up ahead, and chucked one of his grenades at the structure. The small explosion blasted at the wall just in front of them, blowing away the plaster and revealing wood behind it.
The bomb ticked closer and closer.
With a roar, Arbiter threw himself at the weakened patch. He smashed through the wood and what remained of the plaster, fragments of the building blowing around him like dust. A huge hole was opened up in the side of the castle.
Right outside the hole was a steep drop down a high cliff. Arbiter couldn't stop due to his momentum, especially with Lara on his back. The Elite was able to slow down enough so he didn't throw himself into thin air, and was able to catch the cliff face with his hooves as he slid down at a fast pace. Snake followed him, counting on his specialty boots to give him enough control of his descent.
Rocks and pebbles scattered out below them as the two operatives fell to the lake far below. Behind them, the bomb in the castle reached detonation.
The entire castle exploded – more explosive charges must've been hidden throughout the building – and the shockwave threw the operatives off the cliff face. They both plummeted into the water, landing forcefully but surviving the impact. Above them, chunks of stone and masonry fell from the castle's former perch, a few nearly crushing them as they hit the water. Summoning up the wind that had been knocked out of them, Arbiter, Snake and Lara swam and clung to fallen masonry as they made their way to relative safety.
How they got to the shore, they didn't know and they didn't care. All that mattered was that they were still alive and far enough away from the blast radius. Snake hurriedly bandaged Lara's wound, which was bleeding badly. Lara herself was growing pale due to blood loss and winced every time her cuts were touched, but she stayed conscious and kept herself from screaming.
Before he was able to compose himself and contact the team at the Master Chief, Arbiter looked at the destroyed building above them. The flames were rising into the night, pillars of smoke framing the total destruction of the castle. Nothing was standing anymore. Dimentio's bomb would've killed them had they been a second slower.
Dimentio. He had lured them into a trap, and now Rtas and almost all of their soldiers were gone. There was only the three of them, and the handful of operatives and soldiers remaining at Rapture. They had survived wars, Mercer, Robotnik's army, the Flood, and this CLOWN destroyed them?!
Arbiter took a deep breath to compose himself, and then let out a roar of purest rage, hatred and vengeance.
"Hon, do we HAVE to go to Dimentio's show tomorrow night? I know it's Jimmy's birthday and he wanted to see this clown, but…I was at the show with some buddies a few weeks ago, and that guy gives me the creeps. I'm sorry, he just does!"
Back in Las Venturas, Aven was still shaking his head as the three burglars wove their way through the corridors of Dimentio's stage show. Link had placed the book in his backpack, not very pleased in the least to have it so close to him. The mere thought of the book made him very uncomfortable.
"I still do not understand. WHY would the Prognosticus be here? Why would it not be in a more secure area?"
"Hide in plain sight, I guess. Nobody'd think of looking for it here." Casey answered before glancing about the corridors. "Um…you sure this is the way we came in?"
"Tell me we are not lost." Aven groaned even more sourly.
"No…" Casey gulped before a loud noise startled her. It took her a second to register the noise as the sound of an excited crowd, coming from a small window beside her.
The three glanced out. From this vantage point, they could see the audience that had come for Dimentio's show. The stands were packed with eager children and beleagured mothers, all looking forward to the show starting in a few minutes.
Aven directed their attention away from the crowds to a small red sign above another doorway. A simple, straightforward, flashing 'EXIT' sign. "There. Let us leave." He growled.
Sure enough, the door led right outside, although to an alleyway that the group didn't recognize. Still, it wouldn't be too much trouble to find the dropship and leave soon.
Aven began tapping his commlink, much to Casey's confusion. "Who are you calling? We're miles away from the base."
"There is a series of signal relays around the world." Aven didn't feel like explaining the technical details (mainly because he didn't understand it himself). "It takes some time, but I can reach our superiors across the world if necessary." Aven had to keep pressing the button on the side of his helmet in order to connect. "Come on…"
Eventually the link crackled to life, and the commlink buzzed with a rather loud static. The static slowly cleared, but the voice that responded wasn't Sofia's. Aven groaned. How did he get the wrong frequency? It took him a moment to recognize the voice as his REAL superior, Arbiter.
"What?" Arbiter's voice snarled through the buzz. Aven was a little surprised at the harshness of his voice – he had never heard the elite sound truly furious before.
"Erm…Hello sir. We have found…um…it appears to be the target…"
"WHAT?" Arbiter demanded sharply. "Where?!"
"Las Venturas." Casey quickly answered. "We're at – "
The three operatives were suddenly thrown in the air by the force of the theatre exploding. Right behind them, Dimentio's show went up in an unusually colored ball of fire, everything but the giant neon statue destroyed in a second.
Casey, Link, Aven and Jimi landed on the sidewalk behind the theatre, stunned but unhurt. They all turned around to look what had happened, and the sight was very horrifying.
The theatre, which they had seen packed with children a few minutes earlier, was reduced to a charred skeleton that was just starting to collapse onto itself. The strangely bright flames were dying down, but still eating at what remained of the building and it's former occupants. Casey put her hand to her mouth to stop herself from vomiting at the thought of the occupant's fates. Link simply stared at the charred building with horrified eyes, and Aven shook his head clear before yelling aloud. "WHAT – JUST – HAPPENED?!"
"Oh, so you weren't still inside. How inconvenient." The voice that chimed in was very, VERY irritated.
In the blink of an eye, the show's performer appeared, floating over the wreckage of his theatre. Aven had to blink to make sure that the multicoloured jester was actually there and not some trick of the fire. He just looked…strange, especially considering the situation.
Somehow, the theatre mask had changed expression, frowning with fury and annoyance at the three thieves below him. Dimentio shook with frustrated anger as he pointed to Link. "YOU have something of mine."
"Wait…YOU did this?!" Casey screamed loudly. "That place was fulla kids!"
Aven didn't wait for an answer, whipping out his retooled plasma rifle. Taking aim, he fired a supercharged needle at the floating maniac.
Dimentio dodged the bullet in midair, but this time he didn't disappear, he just moved to the left. Strangely, he had to catch his breath right after. "Huhh…I'm better than this. All that teleportation must have taken more out of me than I thought…"
"THIS one will hit." Aven promised himself as he fired again.
It did hit, but only in the jester's leg. The magician screamed in pain for a second before composing himself and making several sparks around his gloves. "Aheheh…this is unexpected, but…it can be handled. I'm going to need a little help this time…but soon you'll be squashed likes ants under a steamroller!"
Instead of throwing the energy at the three directly, Dimentio blasted the huge statue of himself with magical energy. For a nanosecond, nothing happened and Aven wondered why he wasted his energy on the still-standing statue, but then it started to move.
The huge neon sign broke free of it's foundation, walking heavily on thick steel boots. The way it waddled forward almost looked comical, except for the fact that it was well over 20 feet high and able to crush a car under it's boots. The hands that waved side-to-side to welcome paying customers suddenly detached and began floating freely around the neon statue, as it's lights continued blinking on and off regardless of the situation.
Dimentio quickly flew behind the statue as it approached the three operatives. "Magic's a wonderful thing, isn't it? It allowed me to get this theatre, it allowed me to separate the people from their money so I could help fund our collective project, it allowed me to take the soldiers to Robotnik, it allowed me to destroy Bowerstone Castle far more than any one bomb could, and it will allow me to take back the Prognosticus!"
Dimentio let out another psychotic laugh as the lethal statue lumbered it's way towards the group. Aven's first thought was to take the dropship and get a better advantage, but a well placed blast of Dimentio's magic destroyed the ship in a second.
"No running away now. IT'S SHOWTIME!!!"