“Wha - who are you all?!” whimpered Jack in fear.
“Oh us?” Victoria laughed sinisterly, a strange accent in her voice. “Well, I am of the Storm Objective, and well, Nathan is of the Angel Empire.”
“Wait, the Storm objective?” Maizie gasped, remembering something. “I should have thought of that- but aren’t you all a technology company? What’s that… airship in front of us?!”
“True, we are a technology company. But, I’m afraid I can’t tell you more. I have direct orders to take you and your team as prisoners! Oh, and I’m Captain Victoria Kurst, captain of that airship.”
“Wait, where?!” Jack whimpered.
“We are taking you to our ship, Providence. It’s just over there,” Lloyd said, pausing to clear his throat. “In there, we won’t put you in dungeons or anything, it’ll feel like home, though you do need to do something in return. Well, that, and your leader will.”
“Is this a joke?!” Maizie snapped at Lloyd. “Then why would you even capture us in the first place?! I thought we were friends!”
“I assure you, this is no joke. We would never harm people,” Victoria continued. “Besides, we have great food on board, as much as you like. And Maizie, we are friends.”
“Yeah, yeah, great food indeed...” Maizie shrugged sarcastically.
And just at that moment, the flying vehicle landed onto a platform. The group got out of the car.
Soon, a crazy-looking old man in a lab coat met them. He wore a monocle and was bald. He seemed especially crazy, as he was also carrying a stack of papers as he walked.
“My name is Dr. Eric Waterdam, though everyone aboard calls me the mad scientist. Stereotypical eh? I mean, do I even look mad to you? I’m not even a scientist! Just a humble doctor,” he joked. Jack and Maizie just stared at him and so he continued. “Yeah, that was a terrible joke. Anyways, I’ll be showing you to your quarters. They’ve not been used for a while, but are quite cosy to live in.”
“Uh… agreed?” Maizie said.
The doctor walked them inside, while the others conversed with other soldiers.
To Jack and Maizie, this was the most bizarre situation they had ever been in. Soft colored halls were filled with people playing games, and having fun. Terminals line the walls, which also had large screens with mysterious reports.
Drones that carried trays of food went everywhere, even to the three, where the doctor told them to take whatever they wanted.
The carpet was a soft red color, patterned by infinity signs.
The three went up to an elevator, where Doctor Waterdam made them enter. He pushed a button, level twenty-five. It arrived, and they continued.
As the doctor walked them to their rooms, they decided to take the chance to ask questions. More drones carried food, which the DAE agents enjoyed.
“Why are we being treated like kings, that’s sort of strange isn’t it?” Mazie asked.
“Well you see, we don’t like to kill, or be evil. We aren’t evil, in fact. We aim to make the world a better place.”
“Saying that doesn’t make sense when we were just captured here,” Jack said, rolling his eyes.
“Well, as a famous person had said, a bit of disaster is necessary for peace.”
That didn’t make much sense to the two agents. Not that anything made sense nowadays. They were still shocked at the fact that they were on an airship.
“I don’t think anyone ever said that...” Jack replied bemusedly.
“Well, I say it.”
“And who are the we, you referred to?” questioned Maizie.
“Ah yes, we are the Storm Objective. An objective to make the world a better place!” he said. “Or the Aello Objective, whichever one sounds better to you.”
“And uh,” Jack said, “what do we do here?”
“Oh, no idea. I hear the Council is using you as bargaining chips. Oh, and we will make use of your… specialties! Dinner is at seven pm, you can go to the restaurants,” Dr. Waterdam handed the two maps and silver keys. They had arrived at two adjoining rooms, “or have it delivered to your rooms. Breakfast is at nine, lunch is at 1:30 pm. And well, these two rooms are just for you. You may contact me by pressing the green button in your respective rooms. Bikes are available at the farms.”
“You’ll see,” Waterdam smiled as he began to leave them. “Everything is free, even the food!”
“We’re basically in a posh prison!” proclaimed Maizie.
“Well, I guess we should check out our rooms?” muttered Jack.
Unsurprisingly, the rooms were amazing. Each room contained an elegant queen sized bed, sofas, an expensive fur rug, beautiful tables, a big TV, and a bathroom. Within said bathroom, was a bathtub, a shower, cabinets full of numerous shampoos and soaps.
“Damn!” Jack thought out loud. “This sure is better than most five star hotels!”
After checking out their joining rooms, which joined at the bathroom, they decided they were hungry. After all, escaping death and being… captured (they weren’t so sure about if they were really prisoners) made them realize how hungry they were.
“The ship is so big, it’s as if it were a city!” Maizie exclaimed.
“Look! There’s even a McDonald’s here!” Jack said, licking his lips.
“What should we eat though?” Maizie pondered. “There’s just too many choices...ugh...”
“Why not pizza?” suggested Jack.
“Ooh, shopping- We can buy clothes and stuff. Oh wait, it’s all free!”
“We could get a company T-shirt...”
“That’d be great! If only the rest of the… team was here...”
Nearing the dining subdistrict, they two agreed on barbeque sauce pizza topped with beef, olives and pepperoni. It seemed to be quite popular according to their food district map.
The main dining hall was quite crowded, and the duo noticed some famous faces, who were thought to be dead, but were instead working with the Storm Objective.
Jack and Maizie pulled up at a table, which was surprisingly squeaky clean for being in a food court. This was attributed to the many drones and machines making sure everything was in perfect shape.
“Hello humans,” a robot said, approaching the table, “what would you like to eat?”
Maizie ordered the pizzas they had selected.
“Thank you mister robot,” Jack joked.
“You’re welcome,” the robot replied. “Would you like some ice cream?”
“Sure,” Maizie said.
The box-like robot opened up and delivered ice cream for the duo.“Our ice cream is made from pure fruit, as we do not have many cows here,” the robot said.
“Oh yeah, I recall there being a farm section on the map,” Jack remembered.
As the duo ate the amazingly made pizza, which was indeed as glorious and tasteful as the advertisements had mentioned, Victoria happened to come by, eating from a fruit cup.
“Hello,” she greeted, “how’s our floating city?”
“Uh… fine?” Jack offered. “We still don’t know anything, but the service and stuff here is pretty good. I thought we’d be in a, well, dungeon, and this is more like being treated like kings.”
“Exactly, why are we here?” Maizie added. “And what was that… that liquid creature back at the site. Or the alien-skeletons, and the portal!”
“We… have no idea,” Victoria confessed. “But we do have an artifact recovered from the ruins.”
“But why are we here?”
“Let’s just say, you’re a bargaining trip. I suggest you explore our wonderful ship. We’ll be going to the floating city of Aeolia soon. We were going to bring you to Atlantis, but-”
“Wait, Atlantis is real?!” Jack gasped. “Though, I’m not that surprised.”
“Ah, Atlantis- built by surfer vampires in the Pacific ocean. There are alot of things you two will find both amazing and perplexing. Anyways, the Storm Objective is to destroy money and release our robots into civilization, letting everyone be free and happy- world peace.”
“What about… Angel?” Maizie pointed out. “Nathan said something about Angel right?”
“Political parties- Storm does the Storm Objective, and Nathan’s party, Angel, does their own. They do more on technology, but they want to release more to the world than Storm would like. Too much technology may cause wars.”
Victoria excused herself, saying she needed to meet with some people.
Jack and Maizie finished eating the delightful pizza, and decided to explore the flying city. Checking their map, the gardens had a sense of intrigue, and they decided to explore the farmlands and gardens.
The duo walked through winding halls, but it was soon clear the city was too large to traverse by foot.
“Wait, the bikes!” Maizie remembered, now checking her map. “We can get a bike for free to ride through the city.”
Jack agreed, and the two went to the nearest bike station, where they were given bikes. It was then they realized that they should have thought of that earlier, as lots of people were using bikes. According to the map, the entire airship was the size of a medium sized city.
As they biked, rays of sunshine shone through a specific glass window, that bounced off mirrors and pillars, arcing colors and rainbows too beautiful to be described in words.
Jack and Maizie even paused to marvel at the many patterns and art created by the light. Every twenty minutes, the lights changed, and new art was created.
But at last, they arrived at the farm.
The farm was automated and run entirely by robots. The robots tended various foods and animals, such as carrots, peas, apples, cows, chickens, turkeys, and more. Occasionally a worker would help direct the robots by tapping on tablets, spraying a solution of nutrients and nanobots, and more.
“Greetings, would you like a tour of our farm?” a pixelated smiley faced robot with a box-like body asked, holding up a tablet. The tablet had two choices, ‘Yes’, and ‘No’. It sounded alive, though it was just an inanimate robot.
“Well, yes,” Jack said clicking on yes.
Next, a drone appeared and said, “Welcome to Storm Farms. Everything you see here is grown by robots.”
“Cool,” mumbled Maizie. “I wonder how long it took to make all this...”
“Humans release nanobots, which help sort out weeds, debris, and any other unhealthy obstacle from our plants. In less than an hour, 100,000 of our smart bio-nanobots are able to replicate themselves and cleans the farms from weeds.”
The group passed a box of fruit that had a sign on it which read: “Take one, or two, or three…”
Jack, being as hungry as ever, grabbed a strawberry in his mouth, while Maizie tasted a grapefruit. “These fruits are just...the best I’ve ever tasted!” she proclaimed.
“But it isn’t just a farm, it is also a ranch,” the robot then paused. As if on cue, a cow mooed. “Farm animals such as cows and pigs are raised for milk, eggs and meat. This is very useful, though we tend to use more vegetarian type products. We have been trying to negotiate a deal with the DAE, to get portal technology. This would be used to easily power our fleet of airships, and portal-summon animals.”
“Huh… that makes a lot more sense,” Maizie realized. “That’s probably what they meant by using us as bargaining chips. They want time portal technology.”
“Incorrect- we have limited portal technology. We have some, but not as extensive or amazing as the ones the DAE have. Sadly, our portal technology may only be used when stationary. Mining expeditions are launched into the portals, where we find metals and the like. These are smelted down and processed in the Management sector. Visitors are not allowed to enter this sector, but can watch them work from the sky tunnel,” the robot explained.
“A Sky Tunnel?” Jack said in confusion.
“The Sky Tunnel in a tunnel of glass going around the ship. People use the Sky Tunnel to get around quickly, using maze-like glass hallways instead of biking through the districts.”
“We must check it out soon!” Maizie said. “It’ll be so much faster!”
Far away in the airship, Captain Victoria Kurst strolled to her personal conference room. With her, came Lloyd R’Vaeren, Nathan Chang, and Lynnette Ferguson.
“Well, fellow Captains, it is time for our conference,” Victoria addressed.
The others nodded, entered the room, and took their seats around a circular table. However, there were five seats, and one was not filled.
Victoria pushed a button on a remote, and in the last seat, a hologram appeared, full in color, and looked solid.
An old woman appeared, who looked quite frail, but with years of experience in her eyes.
“Ah, Katherine von Schieden,” Victoria addressed, greeting the hologram.
“Off to business, then,” Katherine decided. “We are the Council of Five, the elected leaders of the Storm and Angel alliance - the Storm of Angels.”
“Quite a cheesy nickname-”
“Lloyd, shush,” Lynn warned.
“Please state your name and position for the records,” Katherine ordered.
Victoria went first, saying, “I am Victoria Kurst, Captain of the airship Providence, second in place of the Council.”
Next, was Nathan. “I am Nathan Chang, Captain of research airship Chosen. I am third in place of the Council.”
“I am Lloyd R’Vaeren, master chef and-” Lynn gave him a demonic stare, “and I am… fourth of the Council, and Captain of the airship Phantasm.”
“I am Lynnette Ferguson,” Lynn began, while still giving Lloyd a look of warning, “fifth of the Council, and well, Advisor to the airship Rose.”
“And I,” Katherine began, the oldest and most experienced of the Council, “am Katherine von Schieden, the president of the Council. I Captain the airship Rose.”
“Well, then let us begin!” cheered Lloyd, leading to another stare from Lynn.
“Lloyd is right, our situation is an interesting one,” Katherine addressed. “Prime Director Caiden Corvette and his board of governors aren’t sure of our… negotiation plan.”
“I myself object to the plan,” Nathan argued. “We are abducting Jack and Maizie, people who are quite innocent in our ways.”
“But,” Lynn began, “even if the DAE fails to give us what we want- time portal technology, we will return the two back anyways. It isn’t our way to abduct people randomly.”
“And with the 2020 Council elections, our position and power is threatened by the Prime Director and his board,” Katherine warned. “But remember, Governor Earl Quinnely of Angelbound-Aeolia is on our side, which is where the hostages will be placed for negotiations.”
“We are heading there as we speak,” Victoria mentioned.
“Very well, I’ll be notifying DAE director Milo Krassant as soon as you have reached Aeolia.”
“I think they will agree to the trade,” Lloyd spoke up. “According to our knowledge, the rest of their ‘Dinosaur Control Unit’ has been caught by their opponent on an island. We can… do a fair trade.”
“I agree,” Katherine said. “Now, if there isn’t anything else, this meeting will be adjourned.”
Everyone agreed, and they left the room, off to their numerous duties.
Meanwhile, a certain someone talked to a bounty on the subject of assasination. It was inside an inconspicuous darkened room, where the employer was hidden in shadow, who also transfigured the voice.
“Well, well, Edmond Lai, under arrest for arson, kidnapping, and murder,” said the employer, stepping into a ray of sunshine. The employer wore the outfit of a plague doctor, grim and dark, like the ages gone by. “You’re also a wanted man in many countries, all over the world! From the US, Brazil, Spain, to India!”
The other, the bounty hunter nodded. He wore a Storm hunter suit, akin to those of stealth teams that would appear in the future.
“400,000 dollars, currency of your choice.”
“Pesos please. Who’s the target?”
“The Council of Five, and perhaps, Jack Mayflower, and Maizie Cloude. Their leader is Katherine von Schieden, and you know who the rest are. Nathan Chang- an annoying old-young guy who has a pet snake. Lynn, I believe a young British woman who has a pet ferren and- I forget the details. The suit should have detection technologies implemented into it so you know the details of who’s who. Do the killing on Aeolia. It should help my cause.”
“Then the contract is settled,” was the reply.
“Remember, don’t kill me.”
The employer removed his mask, revealing his identity.
The hunter nodded and walked out of the room into the bright and bustling city of the Providence.
The bounty hunter walked to the armoury, where a trio of guards stopped him. Then, with perfect movements, the hunter slashed with a knife unexpectedly, causing one of three guards to fall. Next, he plunged the knife into the other guard’s chest, defeating her. Finally, with exquisite skill, he punches the third guard before he could be able to react, steals his gun, and fires. Taking a key from one of the dead guards, he opens the armoury, and takes his pick of weapons. After he did that, he shoved the bodies into a closet.
The floating city of Aeolia was magnificent.
Shining fountains sprayed, while people dressed old-fashionedly, yet in a modern sense, due to the seemingly infinite robots and drones that danced and fluttered about.
In the center of the floating island, was Aeolia Central Command, where the governor lived.
The floating island of Aeolia was a ‘state’ of the hidden cities, much like the states of the USA. Each had it’s own governing, though they obeyed the laws of their political parties. Of course, nobody knew how it was constructed, besides that it was literally a floating island the size of a small country, or state.
Even the already-large Wyvern Base could not compete in pure magnificence to Aeolia.
Above the entire state, was a holographic rainbow that towered over the central city, which had skyscrapers and buildings advanced and modern. Flying cars and vehicles were normal, as well as free food, shelter, and water.
Nobody died by the weather or vacuum due to a small force field generated by futuristic technology. Though, the city was cold, and it snowed often.
In the deep belly of the island, were ancient mechanics and machines that kept it floating, as well as a plethora of underground communities and shops.
But the crown jewel of Aeolia was not the entertainment nor the mechanics, but the knowledge contained in Aeolia.
For Aeolia contained the lost Library of Alexandria.
The library was connected to the best medical facilities on the planet, where the library and Aeolian medicine greatly helped one another.
And so, the seemingly large flying city of Providence docked onto a ‘harbor’ of sorts. Even the city-sized airship was dwarfed by Aeolia.
“We have now arrived in Aeolia!” chimed an announcer, speaking to all aboard the airship.
And so the Council, Jack and Maizie found themselves waiting in a line, escorted by armed guards. They, even though they had VIP access, decided the normal customs and check-in route would be the safest way to enter Aoelia.
Maizie and Jack could barely contain themselves, and were asking infinite questions to the Council, who did their best to answer.
At last, Jack and Maizie were taken to a flying vehicle that was named an A-VK, which was basically a flying car. The other four had to meet Katherine von Schieden, and they had left to take a different flying car.
On another part of the island, Milo Krasssant arrived, guarded by two bodyguards.
Milo was not happy at all. He wasn’t mad either. He was simply annoyed- why couldn’t they just have done an online call.
Milo had been on Aeolia many times before, during a great war named the ‘Valerio War’. He now had to be disguised, for he was quite a hero. Specifically, he had managed a peace treaty between the Angel-Storm Alliance and had led a fleet of planes against their opponent, a group of Angel Radicals.
He always thought the ‘Hidden Cities’- which were what the alliance called themselves, always took too much time on formalities and political struggles.
And so hours later, he found himself in the great political hall, where he took a seat. The room was like a courtroom, and the Council of Five were present, sitting where the jury would.
Caiden Corvette, a devilish young man, and his board of Alliance governors sat where the prosecutors would. Milo sat where a witness would have sat.
At last, Jack and Maizie appeared, in the center, where witnesses gave statements.
“Milo?!” Maizie shouted. “You’re here.”
“Yes,” Milo addressed, “for the negotiations.”
“So, we really are a bargaining chip,” Jack groaned. “How about the others? Any word?”
“No info about the others, but...”
“You’ll see, maybe.”
Suddenly, a large gavel banged against a pad, silencing all who talked. Jack, Maizie, and Milo snapped to attention.
“Ahem, I am Caiden Corvette, Prime Director of the Hidden Cities. The case today is the negotiations for portal technology. Our pleads will be from… the Council of Five, and-”
“We don’t need this!” Milo interjected. “Cut the formalities!”
“No, it is law!”
“He’s right, Prime Director,” Katherine said. “This is a most important matter- both to us, and them.”
“Very well,” the devil Caiden Corvette grumbled. “Council, state.”
“We want a deal,” Victoria stated. “We understand that you require help against your enemies. We will use our soldiers to help you, in exchange for technology. We understand that your enemies have a higher understanding of the tech we need- we’ll take those as well, and share it.”
“Oh, well, agreed,” Milo decided, seeing that it was a fair deal.
“Well, see, formalities are irrelevant!” bubbled Lloyd. “Well, let’s get right on it! I’ll prepare the military and-”
And that’s when the explosion happened.
From the center of the room, a shockwave generated, tossing everyone in chaos and danger. Chairs were obliterated, tables crushed. The pillars holding up the room began to crack, integrity damaged.
From the shadows, soldiers appeared, holding guns.
Leading the soldiers was the bounty hunter.
“Fire!” he ordered.
Bullets fired, dancing around the room. Everyone dove for cover, but not everyone survived.
A member of the Board of Governors was shot, killing her instantly. Another died, caught in a small explosion.
The bounty hunter aimed his weapon at Victoria.
“Not today!” Lloyd growled, leaping at the lead bounty hunter.
Instead, the bounty hunter fired at Lloyd, killing him instantly.
Just at that moment, Victoria’s body went limp, and her eyes awakened, a new person behind them.
Milo hid behind a broken table, occasionally firing with his non-lethal TSC pistol. Jack and Maizie did the same elsewhere.
Nathan unholstered his own customized pistol. He fired, and a dozen needles sprayed across the team of bounty hunters.
The soldiers spasmed and died, their face turning a sickly purple as they did so.
Lynn did the same with a similar weapon, one that fired small spiky balls that when activated, exploded.
But every time a soldier went down, two more popped up, entering from the numerous holes in the building. Our heroes’ weapons were quickly running out of ammo, and they knew it.
“We need to leave, now!” Lloyd-Victoria ordered.
“No way out!” Milo returned.
“I’ll make a way out!” Lynn growled.
Lynn fired her exploding gun at the already weak pillars. The explosion shattered the foundation, and the roof began to quake, bits and pieces beginning to fall.
“Now!” Milo yelled. “Run!”
No need for the words, everyone ran.
The bounty hunters ran as well, but Lynn had fired at the pillar nearest to them. The roof caved in, crushing the soldiers.
Meanwhile, the heroes escaped through a small opening Nathan had made, fleeing the scene. On the other end, they appeared in the city-sector of Aeolia.
Confused citizens watched, then ran, hearing gunfire.
“Damn it!” Lynn snapped. “What happened?!”
“Someone didn’t want this to happen,” Milo theorized. “Who did we lose?”
“Lloyd, I believe,” Jack said. “I saw him get shot.”
“No,” began Lloyd-Victoria, “I’m alive, though I’ll need a new body. I- well, Victoria wouldn’t want us to be merged.”
“Wait, you’re Lloyd now?!” Milo exclaimed, puzzled.
“Lloyd,” Nathan began, “has complete control of his Memetic parasite. That’s basically all speech- yes, language is a life-form. We don’t know how or why, but it allows him to merge with other people. His parasite sort of travels and mixes with the other, creating a whole new person. We’ve only known of two other people with this… control.”
“So… Lloyd and Victoria are combined?” Milo questioned.
“Yes, nice to meet you,” Lloyd-Victoria greeted. “My name is Victoria Krell.”
The group walked to a public park, where the soldiers wouldn’t dare attack.
“Now, who wouldn’t want the negotiations to succeed,” wondered Jack.
“Caiden!” realized Nathan. “I know he’s behind this. He never approved of our Council decisions. Now, we need to get off Aeolia. We all need to leave before they find us!”
“And… you will help me?” Milo reminded.
“We’ll get on that right away,” Victoria Krell assured. “But first, I need to re-merge with another.”
In the distance, Aeolian security fought with the soldiers.