Chapter 36 - Headache
A swirl of lights later, One found himself standing in an immense launch bay on the Yaevin Space Station.
The Yaevin Space Station was one of the last remaining remnants of the ancient Glyche civilization. It was a self-sustaining station that maintained a standard orbit around Vinta. Although abandoned, the station was still used as a relay station for Vintan communications.
One looked around the launch bay in disbelief. It had been surprising to learn that the station had a launch bay that could handle a Dreadnaught, but it was more than that; it wasn't just capable of launching a dreadnaught; it looked as though it had been designed for just that purpose. Even the pod clamps were a perfect fit. There were slight differences, of course; it was a Glyche station, after all. Still, the similarity to the launch bays of the Star Ocean space station orbiting Earth was uncanny.
One would've liked to check it out further; unfortunately, he had more pressing matters to attend to. He ran to the console beside the pod bay and activated the station's scanning systems. It took only a few moments to pinpoint the Breath of Fire.
"Still near the camp." One muttered to himself, "Perfect. I don't have to worry about collateral damage."
After setting the landing coordinates, he queried the computer as to how long it would take for the Final Fantasy to reach the planet.
"Ten minutes?!" He exclaimed as the countdown appeared on the screen, "Cyber-cripes … I'm gonna have to stall for time."
The thought of having to face the bestial machine on foot was not comforting. "Still," he reasoned as he summoned his combat gear, "I made a promise. What good am I if I can't fend off a giant flying dragon-shaped robot capable of shooting out dozens of man-sized draconic drones, melting solid rock, and crushing me like a mosquito with its gigantic claws?"
One thought about what he just said as he connected Headache and his tek-boots to his combat harness. Shaking his head, he headed for the CPD, muttering, "Keep the happy thoughts coming."
A swift walk through the open doorway brought him to brightly-lit forest. The fire from the dragon had spread to the nearby forest, filling the air with a thick smoke. One squinted at the night sky for signs of the dragon, but it was too hard to see with the fire and smoke spreading into the upper branches of the trees.
Hearing a chorus of clicks behind him, One turned around to see no less than ten soldiers pointing energy rifles at him.
Mikaen hurried forward, shouting, "Don't shoot! He's a friend!"
Sergeant Jures glanced at Mikaen a moment before nodding. "At ease, everyone."
As the soldiers relaxed, One waved at Mikaen with a Headache unit-encased hand. "Sorry it took me so long, but I had a personal issue to take care of." He looked at the soldiers, adding, "I see you made some friends."
"Is that all you brought?" Mikaen asked incredulously.
One snorted as he slid the combat unit's visor over his eyes. "Whaddya mean 'is that all'? These UBTs were specially modified by Crash specifically for the construction of dreadnaughts. I've even added a few neat modifications of my own."
"And you expect to take that thing down on foot?" asked Jures.
One frowned at the Galden sergeant's tone. "Yeah, I'm gonna walk out there and ask it to bend over so I can kick it in its sizeable backside."
Rolling his eyes, he turned to Mikaen, saying, "The big gun's gonna take about ten minutes to get here. All we gotta do is hold it off until them. Speaking of which, where's the Breath of Fire?"
With a swipe of a claw, the dragon tore several nearby trees from the ground, leaving Mikaen, One, and the Galden troop exposed.
Undaunted, One raised his arms. With two loud clicks, twin barrels extended from the side of each UBT.
One let loose a barrage of three-inch thick rivets. Most of his shots either missed or bounced off the dragon's tough scales, but a few well placed rivets punched through the heavy armor. The dragon might have been mechanical in nature, but the shots, while doing no apparent damage, made it react in pain. With a shriek, it rose back into the sky.
"Psh. Lightweight!" One said, pretending to crack the knuckles of his metal hands, "No problem."
Three large egg-shaped objects hit the ground nearby.
"Cyber-cripes." One muttered, quickly falling into a defensive stance.
Mikaen promptly followed suite, and not a moment too soon; the eggs began to twist and flip themselves into different shapes, one of which Mikaen recognized immediately as the same kind of drones as he and Tirinia had faced.
The other drones had no wings; instead, their arms ended with large spinning blades.
The ground drones leapt forward moments after their arms had finished changing, the whine of their spinning blades filling the air and raising the hairs on everyone's neck.
One sidestepped the nearest drone and gave it a good smack with Headache. Before it could turn around, he tore its head off with a vicious twist.
The drone turned around, seemingly unperturbed by the loss of its head.
"Right." One muttered, tossing the drone's head aside.
As it leapt forward again, he ducked beneath the blades and hit it in the chest, opening fire with the rivet driver. The heavy bolts tore through the drone's power core with little difficulty.
As the drone collapsed, Mikaen sent the other land drone flying with a blast of electricity. It didn't stop it outright, but it did slow it down long enough for Mikaen to pierce its core with Truth.
Mikaen and One glanced at their handiwork a moment. "Not bad."
They both jumped as a barrage of energy fire blasted the flying drone into scrap metal, mere feet away from Mikaen and One.
Turning to Jures, One asked irritably, "What the hell took you so long?"
"Sorry, first time fighting mechanical dragons that shoot out attack-bots." said Sergeant Jures, grinning. "Besides, you guys seemed to have everything well in hand."
"Not for long." Mikaen muttered
More drones were landing all over the place; flying drones, spinning blade drones, and a few spidery-looking drones that moved across the ground at great speed.
Fortunately, the drones weren't the only ones growing in number; more Galden soldiers had joined up with Jures's group, drawn by the energy fire as they took out the drones. Slowly but surely, they were pushing the robots back.
After zapping another drone with a blast of lightning, Mikaen suddenly went pale.
"One!" He said, grabbing both of the Dreamer's metal-encased arms, making him miss the flying drone he had been aiming at, "Tirinia!"
"She'll be safe. The dragon's still here, ain't it?" The dragon roared overhead as though to confirm its presence.
"She's already suspicious! I can feel it!"
"Now how do you know … right, you're bonded with Tirinia." One gave himself a smack in the head with a metal-encased hand. It looked painful. "Ow! That's great, One; give yourself a concussion. Perfect thing to have in the middle of a fight."
"You have to tell her to stay away!" Mikaen insisted.
"Why? She's more than capable of handling herself." One looked at Mikaen's pleading face. Sighing, he said, "Fine, but she's probably not going to listen to me."
He glanced at the indicator on the back of his right Headache unit. Only four minutes until the Final Fantasy reached the upper atmosphere.
"Four minutes, Mikaen. I'll be back."
The fiery battlefield swam in his vision. Moments later, One was surrounded by leaves and relative, non-flaming darkness.
One looked around to see Tirinia staring at him. What was of more immediate note, however, was the fact that he was about to fall off the tree branch on which he had appeared.
"Daah!" He knelt down and grabbed the branch firmly to keep his balance.
Tirinia approached with a grace that One would have envied had he not been otherwise occupied. She asked, "What are you doing here? Is something wrong? Something's wrong, isn't it?"
One intended to reply but the branch he was standing on abruptly gave way. Down he fell, fighting to keep the branches from slapping him in the face.
Finally, he managed to catch a low branch. He started to clamber up when he heard the sounds of shouting.
Some distance below, Tyrn was standing face to face with one of the idestan that had been captured. Rydiana was tugging on Tyrn's arm, a fearful expression on her face as she tried to convince him to back down
Teria pushed her way through the group, demanding, "What's in Nocturnes is wrong with you people? We aren't even close Muonsol yet!"
Tyrn pointed a finger at the idestan. "This elf wants to desert your friends!"
"Really?" asked Teria, a dangerous tone in her voice as she looked at the accused.
Flushing, the idestan replied, "The longer we wait here, the more danger we are in of being discovered. Besides, Mikaen's probably dead or captured already, and as for that weird Galden-"
Teria punched the idestan hard enough to knock him to the ground.
The idestan stared up at her in shock for a few moments before stammering, "Have you lost your mind?"
"Let's get one thing straight, elf. I haven't known Mikaen for long, but if my sister likes him then he's a friend of mine and I never leave my friends behind. As for that other guy …" Her eyes narrowed into thin slits. "Well, I'm not letting anything bad happen to him either. If you want to go back to Muonsol, then go there yourself."
Teria looked around the clearing at the rest of the group. "That goes for the rest of you too. Well?"
A tense silence filled the clearing.
Coughing, Maxim put his hands on his younger brother's shoulders, saying, "Perhaps some of us should head to Muonsol, and let the Cygros know what's up. He can probably help if your friend has been captured."
"You volunteering, Max?"
"Actually," Maxim said, rubbing the back of his head, "I wanted to help out."
Teria snorted. "Fine. Jeronem, Kajex, you lead the others back."
Jeronem's ears stood up straight. "Hey! Mikaen's like my brother! If he's in trouble, I'm gonna go help him!"
"Hold it just a second!" Kajex called out over everyone supportive shouting, "We don't even know that there's something wrong!"
At precisely that moment, One lost his grip on the tree branch and came crashing through the lower branches of the tree. As proof that the universe has a sense of humor, he landed on Teria, unintentionally pinning her to the ground.
For a long moment, they stared at each other, both completely at a loss for words.
Shoving One off her, she shot a glare at Kajex. "That proof enough for you, Kajex?"
"Are you okay?" One asked worriedly as he helped her up. After all, he wasn't exactly a small fellow, not to mention the thirty pounds of extra equipment he was wearing.
"Relax, One." She dropped her stern expression for a moment and flashed him a crooked smile. "It's not like that's the first time you've been on top of me."
Everyone stared. Shae started giggling most inappropriately.
One's face felt like it was on fire, probably because she may well have been right. Fortunately, he was saved having to come up with a response when Tirinia landed on the ground, barely even making a thud.
She strode over to One and lifted him by the collar of his shirt, demanding, "Where's Mikaen! You promised you'd take care of him!"
"Whoa, easy Tyr!" Teria quickly separated her sister and the Dreamer, "Let the guy breath a little."
"I have too much excitement in my life." Shaking his head, One assured Tirinia, "Mikaen's fine. He's getting close to his Gineros, though, and he's not in a good place to suddenly sprout wings. He sent me to-"
"To tell me not to come." Tirinia interrupted.
One could tell from the look on her face that she was not happy with Mikaen's attempt to be gallant. "Yeah, he did. However, I'm thinking you should."
Tirinia looked at him strangely. "But you said-"
"The guy's in love with you, Tyr; we guys do some pretty stupid stuff when we're in love." One couldn't help but look at Teria for a moment.
Seeing her staring back, he quickly turned back to Tirinia, saying, "You can torment him about it all you want over the course of your very long life together. For now, I need you to pull his silly ass out of the fire so I can take care of the rest, okay?"
Tirinia smiled a little and nodded. Turning to the others, she said, "Everyone who wants to help, follow me!"
As Tirinia, followed by Jeronem, Maxim, and a handful of idestan headed off, presumably toward the camp, Teria approached One.
"You really haven't changed a bit, have you?" she asked, a wry smile on her face.
"Of course I've changed." He said, a little bothered by her tone, "I'm a Dreamer now."
Still smirking, she brushed by him, her tail rubbing against his leg as she passed. "Whatever you say, One."