Part 2 - 9
Han looked at the city flashing with flares from firepower. The turrets were moving, flaming bolts at the city they were meant to protect. Everything… everything looked so desperate even before beginning.
“Would Rick kill him?” asked Meg. He was apparently looking at the same direction.
“I don’t think he’s that messed up,” Han answered blindly.
“Do they have a chance?”
“No. They gave their chance to us. I doubt any of the soldiers would survive,” blurted Han. He looked beyond the large waves of forest. “That’s why we need to make it count. This mission bears more burden than you think.”
“So where are we going? I mean… you said we’re killing Hunters but where? And how?” asked Albert. “Obviously we are very short in number. If what I heard is true… then we don’t stand a chance.”
All eyes pointed at Han. Then he pointed out to the open.
“We’re going to Eden.”
The soup couldn’t be bitterer. It wasn’t that Scarlet was a bad cook. The whole situation was just not fit for eating anything. But the others, I supposed, seemed very fine about it when I actually thought of throwing it away.
“You’re not eating well,” said Mia. As a matter of fact, the others were eating quite well.
“I just can’t believe you can eat things in a situation like this,” I muttered.
“So how far do we have to go?” asked Numen.
“If the data’s correct,” Scarlet replied as she flipped through the pages. “We’re only a few hours away.
“Can’t believe they moved that fast to invade the Dominion…” said Numen.
“It’s their realm, this place. Not much of a surprise,” I said blankly. “Once it was the dinosaurs, then primitive animals, then us; now it’s the Hunter’s turn to rule.”
“I wonder what was it like when the humans ruled this area – the land we’re eating right now,” Numen wondered. “Do you think it was disastrous as we all learned?”
“Well the textbooks described it as ‘unbreathable atmosphere’,” Mia shrugged.
Textbooks. It reminded me of school at the Ark. Though I could nearly count with one hand, the number of going to school, but school was quite shocking - strangers in a room; an adult teaching whatever she was taught to us; and everyone debating about something seemingly unimportant. Of course, I couldn’t fit in well, resulting in Michelle tutoring me. It was in the end, the most desirable outcome. I glanced at Scarlet. I first saw her at school. Perhaps the only one who had lent me a hand there. The others were busy yapping with themselves.
I flipped through the bundle of papers, found the page about the lair and the controller in command that was our target. The image of the lair was strange. The satellite image was from a nearly antique satellite so it wasn’t as clear, but it wasn’t the ordinary shape of a cone upside-down with a chimney-looking hole in the middle. This one… looked more like a dome; an oval shape with no ‘chimney’. The reason for that… obviously was related to the Controller.
“What are you studying at?” Scarlet came over as she finished her meal.
“He-“ I paused. “This.”
“You know… you don’t need to hide it anymore,” she said.
“About what? That I’m a –“
“No, not about that,” she pointed at the paper I was studying at. “About this. Everyone else knows it. And there’s no one that is privileged to say anything to you about it.
I studied the words that I have been examining the entire way here. Words – yes they were mere words that were negligible, but the photos were fact. The figure itself was not fully recognizable but it was more than enough to shock anyone. I continued to stare at the image lifelessly, until Scarlet removed it from my sight.
I gave a harsh sigh and leaned backward on a tree. The others were calmly finishing up their meal and cleaning up the utensils. Ten minutes? I figured it was enough for a quick break. I closed my eyes.
But an eerie cry disturbed the moment I closed them.
“Apparently, the data referred ‘few hours’ to the time left to the hive itself,” said Numen. He looked at his small scanner. “Even this crappy scanner shows dozens of Hunters right this way.”
“We’re zoned. It’s not going to be easy to move forward or backward,” said Mia as she glanced at the scanner. “Brace yourselves!”
“Scarlet you have the sky?” asked Kale.
“No, too risky,” I said. I handed her my rifle. “It’s so far the best rifle the humans have against Hunters. But don’t get too far off from us.”
“Right,” she said slightly shaking. Scarlet loaded the gun aimed towards the shadows in the forest. She opened fired. “They’re here!”
We’re all going to die before reaching the hive if we hold – charge forward. Steadily and quickly!” I shouted.
“Those two contradicts, man,” Numen grumbled.
“It’s pretty much a one-way ticket and you know it Numen. Let’s make it count,” I replied.
The stampede grew louder and louder. We already began firing our rifles and the moving creatures in the distance. Just by looking, there were nearly a hundred Hunters. Remember… remember why you’re here… why you’re living right now.
At last the trees were beginning to kill Han. He had no idea how long he would have to see them or how long the survivor would. Perhaps they should have landed on the southern parts of Earth. Scientists said Northern climates are much more stable – it was stable as shit. He wished to see the plains someday; the lonely mountains, the ocean and the desert. If only I survive and leave this shithole of a forest.
“Director, we’re here,” Meg whispered.
“Don’t call me director. I’ve been retired for five years,” muttered Han. Meg chuckled.
“You’ll always be our director. At least to the remaining Crusaders,” she said.
“Tell me when we all finish this alive. I’ll give you a big hug and kisses then,” Han said. She answered with a smirk.
“So what do we do now?” asked Albert. “If from this point on is the Eye Zone, how are we going to infiltrate without being spotted?”
“Alien technology like the Hunters’ are incomprehensible,” Han answered. He pulled out a small digital machine resembling an old radio transmitter. “But there’s always a way against human technology.” Han clicked the transmitter on and controlled the signals. The gadget buzzed for a while, and then it went silent.
“That’s our cue. We have less than five minutes. The gate is ten kilometers forward,” said Han as he tucked his transmitter in his pocket. He unsheathed his blade and readied to run. “Let’s see if you guys still have the skills.”
Night’s darkness shaded the Crusaders. They cloaked under the trees and twilight heading for the gate of Eden. Within a few minutes, the entire team was just in front of the gate. Blackness swallowed the town and only the barricades were visible from such distance.
“Wow… it’s really made of wood,” whispered Albert. He pointed at some of the metal parts around the main gate. “I guess they are renovating these days.”
“If Leon and his team were still there, they wouldn’t need that,” Han said. He signaled the others. “Alright… we need to be quick in this. We have no idea how the security works in Eden except the Eye. Get the ropes ready.”
The Crusaders installed small mortars with large spear. They fired and the spear pierced into the wooden barricades, letting the ropes over the wall. The crushing sound of wood sounded like a freight train engine. Han held everyone back for a moment. But nothing moved from the inside. No alarm, no shouting.
“Let’s go. The Eye should be on any time by now,” said the director. Everyone slithered forward hiding themselves as much as possible in the dark.
The Crusaders climbed the walls. When they were on top and over, they were surprised to see emptiness. Houses were blacked out. No human beings walked the streets. No armored personnel patrolled the walls. No Slayers were to be seen. The town more looked like a ghost town than Eden.
“This is disorienting…” murmured Meg from Han’s side. Han looked around, for some reason, daring not to move. It was his second visit to Eden. The first one nearly got himself to death before he stepped inside the gate if it weren’t for Scarlet – it was that secure. He continued to scan the perimeter. No light… no light… and…
“There,” whispered Han to the others. Dim light shimmered from the curtains of the highest building in Eden.
“What building is that?”
“It’s the main headquarters… the room light is coming from is…” Han squeezed his eyes to see closer and identify. The others looked at him. “Well – was – Leon’s resident.”
“I guess that’s where we going?” Albert asked. He paused. “Um… in fact, why are we here in the first place?”
“The Slayers. We need them,” said Han. Before anyone could say anything, he ordered. “Meg, take your team to the back. There will be a back door to the structure. Albert, secure the perimeter around the building. Try not to kill anyone. My group, follow me. We’re entering the building.”
Meg took off. Albert stared at Han for a while before he did like he disliked the idea. Han ignored him and led his company towards the building. There was no tactic. He wasn’t fan of stealth either. The whole plan infiltrating Eden was to remove the idiots in charge of the best fighters on Earth. Fight, Han thought, was not something to avoid. Kill Lucas. Kill the betrayed Slayers. That was the only goal to stop by Eden before rendezvousing with Leon.
Han was in front of the door. He opened it – it wasn’t even locked – and invaded the inside. He ordered the others to search the entire building from bottom to top. All the others reported nothing. Only vacancy in every room. Han was in front of the last room – the one with the lights on. He griped the hilt of his sword tightly. He kicked open the door and the wooden door snapped open, revealing the inside.
Nothing. No one.
Suddenly, the world lit up as if the sun stepped closer to the Earth itself. He sheltered his eyes from the blinding light from outside, surrounding the entire building.
“Meg report to me.”
“Trap. Surrounded.” The two words spat out of her like poison.
“What do we do?” it was Albert’s voice. “Fight?”
Han unsheathed his blade. He calmly took the elevator down to the first floor. He walked out of the building to see the source of the lights.
In front, he saw hundreds of Slayers all geared up. They had the old-version Raven suits and their swords were just the same as the Crusaders’. Everyone was pointing their guns and swords against the small group of Crusaders. In the middle were some very familiar faces.
“It’s been a long time Tyson,” Han said. He glanced at the girl next to him. “It’s good to see you too Ton.”
“What are you doing here Han?” Tyson asked. He scanned the Crusaders. “The Dominion doesn’t belong here.”
“And that is exactly why we’re here,” Han replied. He stared at the old man who was remaining silent. “Lucas, is it?”
“My name should be the least of your concerns, Director,” said Lucas. He raised his hands and everyone aimed their rifles at the Crusaders. “It’s your lives you have to worry about.”
“I’m certain no one wants bloodshed.”
“If there is to be bloodshed, Crusaders’ blood would be the only one to be shed, Director,” the old man said coldly.
“I cannot believe Leon let you in a position like that,” said Han with a cynical laugh. He eyed at Tyson and Tonilia. “And I can’t believe Eden and the Slayers were so pathetic. This place is defenseless without Leon and his original members.” The director signaled and immediately, five helicopters hovered around Eden’s airfield. The machine guns and missiles were readied. The nervous faces Slayers had tensed even more.
“Disarm. Confiscate their weapons. Don’t tie them up but make sure none of them tries anything stupid,” said Han. The Crusaders were quick in their actions. “Handcuff Lucas, Tonilia and Tyson and bring them to me. We need to talk because we haven’t got enough time.”
“PUSH FORWARD!” I shouted at the others. Scarlet was on the vanguard, killing the approaching Hunters from the front. The rest of us were covering her side and back to keep the march going. Probably a hundred Hunters have died in our hands but they did not seem to back up.
“Leon! This is endless! We need to do something about this or we’ll be overwhelmed eventually!” Mia cried. Her voice already hinted exhaustion. I looked around. All the Hunters were wearing their black. Their eerie screams when they charge and die just sounded like background music of the forest. The forest shook endlessly with the continuous stampede of Hunters. About two hours passed since the engagement – there was no sign of any kind of commanding unit, which meant…
“We need some kind of bait. To lure a commanding unit out,” I said. “Then we might be able to cool off for a while.”
“Bait is something we don’t have, let alone afford one!” Scarlet screamed.
“Then anything! Anything that can trigger mass attention!” I shouted back. The Hunter screams filled the air and nearly muffled out our voices. “The helicopter!”
“We’ve already came too far to go back!”
“Self-destruct! You can remotely control that!”
“You sure about this Leon?” Scarlet asked as she slid beside me. “It’s probably the only massive firepower we’ve got.”
Leon thought about the hive from the image and more importantly, the Controller of the hive.
“I don’t think it’ll come in use anyway. It’s already a one-way trip. We survive or die,” I said, a little too seriously, because Scarlet’s expression wasn’t quite good when I said it. “Of course, we’ll live through it. I promise – and we’ll accomplish the goal of why we’re really here.”
“I’m trusting you, Leon.” And there was a massive explosion boomed from where we came from. A vortex of fire soared above with unrecognizable debris of the helicopter flying in the air. The ‘attention’ it drew was so immediate that I thought it was magic.
A growling roar resembling a fierce beast stopped all the Hunters from attacking. They moved back, slithered back into the forest. The thickness of the woods was doing such a good job blocking the sun that the figures of the Hunters became very hard to distinguish as they moved to a distance.
I sensed the beast coming towards us. But there was something odd about the feeling – it felt more… dangerous. It wasn’t the Controller – it’ll be a foolish move even for Hunters to reveal their commander at the very first – but the aura was more than enough to match such beings.
The Hunter was a Commanding unit. But this was different.
“Leon… this –“ Numen ceased to speak in shock. I spun around to see where he was seeing.
I was shocked as Numen was.
The Hunter was too familiar. It was scarred everywhere and one of its arm was not in a good shape, nevertheless, recovered from a fatal wound. The purplish armor covered its body. But it did not fully hide the reddish light underneath – providing with the evidence of what it was the first time we met it.
And even without knowing all the hints, there was one crucial piece of information that differed from the other Hunters and that acted as an evidence to solidify my guess.
The devilish weapon in black – the unidentified pole that dismantled my other sword like cheese was something I did not forget.