Thanatos and Apollo were now armor-less, so the knelt down to lower the target they presented. Tartarus stood behind Apollo, Alice ready to present the best target to fire at. Anemoi stood behind Thanatos, his old training doing it’s best to prepare him for this situation. Enyo and Epione has taken cover behind the frame either side of the side, holding weapons they were not trained to use. Cerberus, with his civilian prisoner, was in full cover by the weapons racks, giving his charge, and himself, a pep talk.
‘It’ll be OK, this is our first mission, so the captain wouldn’t throw us into something we’re so unprepared for. We’ll do our best, this training simulation or whatever will end, and we’ll go back to actual training that we never got in the first place. Oh god, we’re going to die, why were we sent here!? Oh no, I wet my- my pants are moist now, that’s just great. No! I’m a man, and this is what’s going to happen-’
As Cerberus waffled on, Minnie was started to understand Olympus Squad a little better. This was their first mission, which means they weren’t actually a squad yet. She needed to tell Jonathan before he murdered them. She kept her eyes on Cerberus, and her fingers slid into her left glove, which hid her communicator. She hit ‘transmit’, then smiled at Cerberus.
‘Agent Cerberus,’ she whispered, trying not to garner attention from the other members of his squad, ’If this is your first mission, then everything will be fine. You’re right, Captain Nevada would not send you to the front lines with no training. No one is that cruel. I am sure that nothing will happen to your squad who is preparing to breach the door to the command center.′
Cerberus nodded, wiping tears out of his eyes and sniffling.
‘You’re really nice, ma’am. I’m sorry we had to take you prisoner.’
‘It wouldn’t be the first time.’
The door opened and Cerberus heard the gunfire from his six squad members, then silence. He peeked over, and his eyes widened.
A man was standing in front of several people in green. He was wiry, with spiked blonde hair and a 21st century brown leather trench coat he probably thought made him look cool. His hand was held out, and every bullet that had been fired was stopped in mid-air.
‘Guys, it’s Neo!’
The bullets fell to the ground, clinking on the metal. The man smiled, waving the squad inside.
‘Doubtless that noise will have called every Klisk on the station. You should come inside, where it’s safe.’
As if on cue, the sounds of monsters tearing through the station came from the vents.
‘I’m in favor of not being killed,’ Epione said without hesitation.
‘Agreed!’ Cerberus said from his cover, pulling Minnie with him. Olympus went into the command center and closed the door after Minnie entered. Tartarus turned his useless gun on the man.
‘Come now, if that was going to do anything, it would have done it by now.’
Tartarus did not lower his gun.
‘Very well,’ the man said dramatically. ‘I am Jonathan Love, and this lovely woman next to me is Renee White.’
Renee was not like Jonathan at all. Dark skin, white hair, and not a gun in sight on her body. Instead, dozens of sheaths held tiny knives, and two long blades upon her back.
‘Space Samurai?’ Cerberus queried. When Renee growled at him, he zipped his mouth and threw away the key.
‘It’s an apt description, Renee,’ Jonathan said, beaming. ‘At any rate, I’ve been informed that you are here on your first mission. Congratulations... Olympus Squad, is it?’
Anemoi was not as confused as the others on his team. It made sense someone as powerful as this had information about his enemies.
‘What do you want?’ Anemoi asked simply.
‘An easy to answer question,’ Jonathan replied. ‘You see, Set Station’s purpose was two-fold. The development of secret projects for the Alliance of Three, and a data hub for all known information about the Realmic Concord. To put it simply, your mission and my mission.’
‘So you only need the information, not the projects?’
Jonathan nodded. This man in charge of Olympus had a good head on his shoulders. Shame he would have to die in the future.
‘Then allow me to propose a trade,’ Anemoi said, walking forward. Renee growled again, and four rifles were trained on Anemoi, but Jonathan held his hand up.
‘Interesting. Most Agency goons don’t make deals with the likes of me. Propose away.’
‘You only need the information. We only need the projects. Once we both have what we need, then the station’s infestation is the major problem for both of us. It seems to me that if you escaped in the chaos, Captain Nevada has no reason not to believe us.’
Jonathan tilted his head, considering the implications. He had hoped to abscond with Belle and pry open all the information she had, but Anemoi was right. As powerful as Jonathan was, the Klisk on the station posed a true threat to him. He could not waste time on a new squad as the beasts hammered on the doors.
‘Very well. I assume you have an expert on separating artificial intelligence data?’
Anemoi glanced at Enyo, who quickly shook her head. Cerberus pushed Minnie forward gently.
‘You can, right?’ he asked.
Minnie looked at Jonathan, who smiled at her.
‘I’m glad Miss Warsaw is alive. Do you think we could negotiate for her release?’
‘Depends,’ Apollo said, walking forward. ‘Have you got a prisoner?’
‘I do not. How unfortunate. However, if you do plan to take her with you, can you please treat her well? Miss Warsaw is a non-combatant.’
Tartarus rolled his eyes as Minnie walked up to the computer terminal in the center of the room. A larger image of Belle appeared as Minnie worked to separate the strands of data, but keep Belle intact.
‘We’re taking the personality, too,’ Anemoi added before Jonathan could. Jonathan chuckled to himself, and bowed his head in acceptance.
‘Alright,’ Minnie said after three minutes of tense silence. ‘I’ve separated the strands, but once I pull Belle out of the console, every system on the station will fail. All the back-ups have been destroyed by the Klisk. That means life support, too.’
‘All squads, this is Anemoi, fall back to rendezvous. I repeat, we have objective, and are on our way to rendezvous.’
Through Anemoi’s suit, they received a transmission from Agent Hephaestus’s team. Or, rather, pained screams of humans and squeals of monsters. Anemoi changed to Styx’s channel, and received the same broadcast. Then-
‘This is Agent Dionysus, I’m locked in quarters near the rendezvous. Styx, Artemis, they’re all dead. I don’t know what to do!’
‘This is Agent Anemoi. Hold there, activate your beacon. We’ll get you as we leave.’
Jonathan was surprised. Anemoi was going to save someone he didn’t have to. Never had an Agency squad been accused of selflessness.
‘There’s another option,’ Minnie said as she prepared to pull Belle’s drive. ‘Someone can stay here and manually keep the system active. But they won’t be leaving.’
Jonathan had no intention of leaving any of his men behind for Olympus, which meant one of Olympus Squad would have to do this, or risk the station with no systems active.
Anemoi was torn. Anyone he chose would be ordered to die, something he hated doing. Enyo was their best bet, but without her, they had no scientist. Tartarus could use Alice, but he was one of the best combatants on the squad.
‘I’ll do it,’ Cerberus said, walking up to Minnie. ‘Show me how.’
‘Cerberus, no,’ Anemoi said automatically.
‘Anemoi, this entire time, I’ve been nothing but baggage. In the way. At least this way, I can go out as someone useful, and give you more time to save Dionysus. Unless someone else wants to stay behind?’
Olympus Squad was silent. Cerberus smiled and turned his back on them, gaining instruction from Minnie.
Anemoi turned to the rest of his squad.
‘Alright, then. Once we have Belle, we make for Dionysus’s beacon, get her out, and use the rendezvous craft to leave. Agent Cerberus will remain behind and keep the station running for as long as possible. Any defences we could use, Belle?’
Belle nodded, providing this information to the terminal for Cerberus.
‘Cerberus, are you sure?’ Anemoi said quietly. ‘The captain won’t bring you back.’
Cerberus smirked and pointed at Jonathan.
‘Between Morpheus and these aliens, I think death suits me fine. I’m getting off easy.’
Jonathan and Anemoi stood by Minnie, holding their hands out. Minnie yanked the drives, gave them to their owners, and went over to Olympus, crestfallen. Cerberus took over the station with what he just learned, clumsily, but enough to keep it operational.
Thanatos was whispering to himself as he stared at Cerberus. The few words Anemoi made out were: ‘-watch this brave soul and uplift him to your arms in Heaven.’. Anemoi smiled. Cerberus was getting off easy compared to them.
The Realmic Concord was leaving through the opposite door, but before he left, Jonathan saluted casually with two fingers.
’Good luck, Olympus. ‘Till we meet again.’
Then he was gone, and Olympus heard gunfire and roars going after them.
‘Alright, to the beacon, Olympus. Dionysus, if you can hear me, we’re on our way.’
Thanatos opened the door, and waited. A Klisk bounded through, then felt the electro-blade impale it’s skull from behind. Tartarus and Apollo fired into the corridor, making small gains in footing, with Thanatos carving any that got too close. Anemoi stayed behind Epione, Minnie and Enyo, and looked at Cerberus one last time.
‘They’ll know what you did, Cerberus,’ Anemoi promised.
‘As if he cares,’ Cerberus replied with a grin.
The door closed behind Anemoi, and they move back through the station, fighting the Klisk. Anemoi remembered the comic books his son read, imagining that’s where he was. One of the heroes in a comic book, with his team, fighting a horde of aliens to save a damsel in distress. It helped, but didn’t take away from the reality of the situation.
The vent in the roof burst open and a Klisk landed on Enyo, clawing into her armor with fervour. Epione reacted quickly and kicked it in the face, making several of it’s teeth shatter as it rolled off. Before it could come back, Anemoi blasted a round into it’s head, then tossed his rifle to Epione and helped Enyo up.
‘I will slow you down,’ Enyo muttered.
Epione held the rifle like she thought she was supposed to, and fired at an approaching Klisk with a scream. It’s head exploded, brain matter burning through the metal.
‘Eddie taught you how to play paintball, just use that.’
Thanatos kicked back a Klisk through the doorway, and Tartarus ended it’s life with a bullet. Once the whole squad was in, the door locked behind them, then silence in the previous room. Cerberus had vented it.
‘I hope he manages to get off the station,’ Minnie found herself saying. ‘We’re making a lot of monsters angry.’
Anemoi mimicked Thanatos and punched the keypad on one of the doors. The doors opened, and a woman in the same armour as them fired a pistol shot that glanced Anemoi’s pauldron.
‘I’m so sorry, Anemoi!’ Dionysus said, appalled.
‘No time, we’re leaving. Now.’
Anemoi transferred Enyo to Dionysus, and retrieved his rifle from Epione as the squad moved. When the squad stopped, Anemoi was distressed.
‘Tartarus, what’s happening?’
‘Door won’t open, I think Cerberus is dead.’
‘Cerberus, this is Anemoi. Are you still alive?’
Back in the command center, Cerberus was indeed still alive, using a pistol to fight off any Klisk that figured out how to get in, and try to ease the passage of Olympus Squad. Or he was, before something bigger tore it’s way in and destroyed the console. This bigger Klisk had four muscled arms with razor claws upon each, and acidic saliva that bubbled from it’s mouth. Cerberus was not in any hurry to fight that, so he pulled out his pistol, and aimed at the monster’s head.
‘Boom!’ Cerberus proclaimed as the monster’s head exploded, covering Cerberus in acid. ‘Headshot.’
Back at the door, Minnie pushed her way forward and started typing on the keypad. The vents started buckling above them under the weight of the dozens of organisms. Minnie opened the door, and Thanatos charged ahead, slicing several Klisk in half and distracting the rest, giving Tartarus and Apollo easy targets to put down. It was started to get harder to breathe for everyone, a sign the life support had stopped. Anemoi lowered his helmet again and used his own tank, something Thanatos, Apollo and Minnie could not do.
The squad reached the last door, with more Klisk bearing down on them. Minnie was pushed to the door, where she hurriedly typed to get it open. Manual override was achieved, and the squad pushed into the hangar. Anemoi and Thanatos held the door closed together, then Tartarus and Dionysus joined them.
‘Who was supposed to be our pilot?’ Epione shouted at no one in particular.
Anemoi glanced over at the ship. Agent Aeolus was presumed dead, so that left him to fly the craft.
‘Apollo! Get over here and keep the door closed. Enyo, Epione, take a weapon and aim at the door. On my mark, let the doors open and back towards the ramp. I’ll get this thing online. Minnie, get on board. Prisoner you may be, but you’re the only one who knows this system.’
Everyone understood the orders. Now it was time to execute them.
Minnie and Anemoi hurried to the cockpit of the shuttle. Anemoi sat in the pilot’s chair, then pushed Belle’s data drive into the slot in the controls. The small, holographic woman appeared.
‘Belle, does this shuttle have any weapons?’
‘Yes. Four Alcine cannons.’
‘How many can you aim at the doors my squad is at?’
Belle aimed the cannons at the door as she answered. ‘Two.’
‘Belle, fire on Klisk signatures as they come through the door. Minnie, run me through the shuttle’s controls.’
Back at the door, a large, scything talon sliced through the door. Thanatos responded by shearing through it with his sword.
‘Alice!’ Tartarus grunted, using all his strength to keep the door closed. ‘Can you do anything?’
Alice examined the scene. If Alice were a person, time would have seemingly slowed. She studied the door, which was crumpling under the weight of Klisk forms smashing against it. Between Tartarus, Thanatos, Dionysus and Apollo, the door had twenty seconds left in it before the Klisk broke through. However, Dionysus and Apollo were adding little to it, so they could be removed with a negligible loss of time. This would allow more guns trained on the door. She analyzed the equipment of the squad-mates available, and found Dionysus had an adhesive grenade on her belt. Finally, Alice calculated the distance to the shuttle for the squad to travel. She theorized the best person to carry Enyo would be Thanatos, so Alice transferred her plan to Tartarus’s mind.
‘That’s all I can do, Tartarus. Good luck.’
‘Right, listen up!’ Tartarus commanded, ‘Dionysus, Apollo, back up and take aim. Thanatos, we’re going to open the door a little. Dionysus, throw your grenade inside. Once it goes off, we run to the shuttle. Thanatos, you carry Enyo, you’re the strongest, you’ll slow down the least.’
Dionysus let go of the door and grabbed her grenade. Apollo back off, and aimed at the door with Epione and Enyo. Tartarus and Thanatos let the door open slightly, earning more claws to gain a hold and pull the door open. Dionysus threw her grenade through the gap, then aimed with her pistol.
The grenade released a chemical cloud that hardened on contact with the air, trapping the Klisk for moments, but enough for the plan. Tartarus and Thanatos backed up. Tartarus raised his rifle.
‘Fall back. Now!’
Thanatos grabbed Enyo, lifted her up, and they both hobbled towards the shuttle. Everyone else backed up towards it with Tartarus. The door exploded outwards, and a swarm of Klisk flooded through to be met with bullets from the squad and energy blasts from the shuttle. Tartarus gritted his teeth, firing as fast as he could pull the trigger, targeting the Klisk that Alice determined to be the best target.
He didn’t get onto the shuttle until everyone else was aboard. He turned and sprinted up the ramp, then pressed the retract button as his squad covered him.
‘Anemoi! We’re aboard, let’s go!’
Anemoi nodded and used the knowledge he gained from Minnie to start the shuttle’s engines, searing the Klisk as he swung the ship around.
‘Belle, focus cannons on the bulkhead. We are not flying through that.’
Belle moved the cannons and fired bolts of energy at the metal, melting through it with extreme heat. It collapsed, pulling all the air out of the hangar, and the Klisk. Once the bulkhead’s damage was large enough, Anemoi punched ahead with the shuttle, losing a few fins, but keeping the ship relatively intact.
‘Epione, how’s the squad?’ Anemoi asked through comms.
’Enyo needs surgery, but I can keep her alive until we get to the My Lady Elizabeth.′
Anemoi nodded, then glanced at Minnie. The elf was staring at her lap in the co-pilot’s chair.
‘Thank you,’ Anemoi said quietly, ‘I’ll advocate for you when we get back.’
‘I have no plans to join the Alliance, so my choices are prison or death. But thank you.’
Anemoi looked at Belle. ’Take us to the My Lady Elizabeth, and alert me when we arrive. Minnie, come on.′
Anemoi and Minnie went back into the passenger area, where Enyo and Epione were taking up a large section of ground. Tartarus was staring out into space and talking to himself, or Alice. Thanatos and Apollo were checking the weapons they had for damage. Dionysus was huddled on a chair, shaking. Anemoi sat beside her.
‘I’m sorry we couldn’t save anyone else.’
Dionysus said nothing, but she was thankful for it. Now all the survivors could do was wait until they arrived at the My Lady Elizabeth.
Minnie had been carted off by guards the minute they landed, and the survivors of the mission were sent to Nevada’s office for debriefing, with the exception of Enyo, who was wheeled off to surgery.
Anemoi, Tartarus, Thanatos, Epione, Apollo and Dionysus sat across from a mahogany desk. On the other side of the desk, was a man dressed in a black dress uniform with medals adorning his chest. His left eye was blind, with a claw scar over it. Short, brown hair with his remaining iris brown. He was reading something, not related to Set Station. The silence in the room was tense. Epione’s leg shook, Tartarus drummed his fingers on his thigh, and Apollo stared at anything except the captain.
‘Agent Anemoi,’ Captain Nevada said quietly. ‘Begin debriefing.’
‘Yes, sir. We entered the facility in three groups, led by Agents Styx, Hephaestus, and myself. We fought through Klisk lines, including a Biomancer, until we met the prisoner.’
‘Yes, Minnie Warsaw. A Realmic Concord engineer. You took her prisoner, despite the hostile situation, and wasted resources on maintaining her survival.’
Epione’s eye twitched. The lack of respect for life made her leg shake harder.
‘Yes sir. We needed Minnie to remove the artificial intelligence known as Belle, as it happened. Enyo was unable to do so. Once we removed Belle, Cerberus remained behind to ensure we escaped.’
Epione stood up, shaking with anger.
‘He died to save us. It is not irrelevant!’
Captain Nevada rose slowly, towering over Epione. He pulled a pair of glasses out of his pocket, and placed them upon his nose, considering the woman in front of him.
‘Agent Epione,’ he began. ‘I was not speaking to you. I was speaking to Agent Anemoi.’
Though he spoke calmly, Anemoi sensed he was capable of far greater anger. However, he was also acutely aware he could do nothing to stop Epione.
‘I don’t care!’ Epione said through gritted teeth. ‘You wouldn’t have Belle if Cerberus hadn’t stayed behind, and if it wasn’t for that prisoner you want dead, we never would have gotten there in the first place! So, what does someone have to do before you acknowledge them!?’
Captain Nevada glared at Epione, a glare that even made Tartarus feel uneasy.
’Agent Epione, I am your superior. The reason you are alive. Don’t question, threaten or insult me again, and leave the briefing to Anemoi. If you say anything other than “Yes, sir”, I will slice off one of your digits. Do you understand!?′
In mere moments, Epione’s rage and confidence were shattered. She felt like a little girl that broke Mummy’s favorite vase. She sat down and stared at her feet.
‘Good girl,’ Captain Nevada said, turning his attention back to Anemoi. ‘Despite the outburst, a successful mission. Agent Anemoi, I have selected you to lead this squad for future missions, given your success. Choose between either Zeus, Hades or Hera.’
Anemoi blinked at how easily Nevada shrugged off Epione’s anger. But, he had a new choice to make.
‘I choose Zeus, sir.’