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::::::::: FILE NAME: INCIDENT14.TXT :::::::::
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If this were a traditional story, I'd be riding a white horse and wearing
shining armor right now. The great evil was in front of me, my faithful companion
was beside me - it was a storybook setup.
I'm allergic to horses. I don't own a set of armor.
And my life is never "by the book."
End of Prologue
Location: The island in the sky
Time: 1:03 pm NST
Thunder crackled across the sky, startling me slightly.
A few raindrops fell, but the downpour that had been threatening all day failed
to come. I continued marching up the hill we were currently on, conscious of
the mountains looming above us. I glanced right to check Infernus' progress.
He plodded onwards, tireless as ever. Wings folded at his sides, he held his
longsword in a clawed hand. It was reassuring, seeing him there.
The ground beneath us gave way from grass to
sand and rock. We crested the hill and stopped abruptly -- the ground dropped
away to a cliff only a few meters away. I looked about, trying to figure out
a way around. The cliff curved away off to our left - a quick detour and we
would be back on course. A familiar voice from behind me interrupted my thoughts.
"You really don't give up, do you?" I turned
to see the man in gray standing behind us at the base of the hill. As usual,
I hadn't seen or heard him approach. He stood about my height, and was dressed
formally -- a dark gray suit and pants, a lighter gray necktie, and a neutral
gray medium-brimmed hat. Dark sunglasses seemed out of place with dim lighting,
but complimented his outfit well. His red Scorchio walked alongside him, similar
to Infernus but darker colored -- almost a rust color. Unlike before, they were
both armed -- the man in gray carried a curved, katana-like blade while the
Scorchio held a longsword made of some red metal I couldn't identify.
"I told you before," the man in gray continued,
walking towards us, "that sometimes you just have to run. Fighting the inevitable
isn't worth your life. I never thought you'd be such a slow learner. I guess
I overestimated you." He took off his hat, tossing it aside to reveal short,
golden blonde hair. Next, he threw off his formal coat, revealing a utilitarian
gray T-shirt underneath. Lastly, he threw off his sunglasses. Odd gray-green
eyes glared at me, changing color slightly as the lighting shifted. I had seen
those eyes before.
Every time I looked in the mirror.
I, Sabreur, stood sword in hand, mouth open
in shock. Another Sabreur stood facing me, deadly calm in his eyes.
"Now that's a new one," muttered Infernus from
beside me. I noticed his gaze focused on the other Scorchio and realized for
the first time that aside from the darker coloration, the other Scorchio was
a perfect match of Infernus.
"Like them?" Nightmare's voice
spoke from the mouth of my duplicate. "I have always enjoyed a bit of
irony. You would have been an ideal tool, but you had flaws. That pesky free
will of yours has been a serious annoyance. Besides, you're too slow for my
liking, and not nearly strong enough. Sometimes I wonder why I bothered with
you at all." A soft chuckle reached my ears. "But then, that's
why I built these two. All the usefulness of a human, but totally obedient.
No conscious thought, no feelings, no emotions to get in the way. All they are
is robots, really. Sabreur, Infernus, say hello to your replacements. Sabreur
2 and Dark Infernus."
My double and his Scorchio nodded as their names
"They are stronger than you, faster than
you, better in every way. I had originally used them as a way to speak to you.
To persuade you to give up, to run, to quit. You were intelligent, I was certain
it would work... but you disappointed me."
"Quick question," I said, my innate curiosity
getting the better of me, "how come this 'Dark Infernus' never spoke? He hasn't
said a word the entire time."
"They are incapable of thinking independently
of me, and I never took control of Dark Infernus. Besides, why should he speak?"
replied Nightmare's voice, sounding genuinely confused. "Neopets were
meant to serve and obey. Why should they need to act on their own?"
Infernus and I stifled a series of laughs. Sort
"YOU DARE MOCK ME!?" roared Nightmare
through Sabreur 2.
"Sorry, but you just make it too easy!" I snickered.
"You should have paid better attention. Neopets aren't really 'pets'." I looked
at Infernus. "They're more like really good friends."
"What they are is irrelevant. Strength
is what matters, as you are about to learn. Goodbye Sabreur," the voice
growled from Sabreur 2, although my duplicate showed no trace of feeling. "Sabreur
2! Dark Infernus!" Our doubles looked up. "Here are your final
orders. Complete them at all costs. Sabreur 2, you are to kill Sabreur. Dark
Infernus, kill Infernus. Begin now."
In an instant, we were embroiled in fierce melee.
I barely had time to register movement before Sabreur 2 was on me, his (its?)
curved blade arcing towards my neck. I barely got my own blade into a parry.
Even when I did, the force staggered me. The noise beside me indicated that
Infernus was also hard-pressed to defend against his double.
How can anyone be this fast!? I thought
frantically as Sabreur 2's katana flashed past my face in a near miss. Or
strong, I added as I parried his return stoke and was nearly blasted off
my feet. I was being rapidly being forced back towards the cliff edge. Aiming
low, I counterattacked with one of my favorite low-line slashes I had learned
in fencing. To my surprise, it nearly connected, ripping Sabreur 2's shirt.
Sabreur 2 backed away, putting more distance between him and me, despite the
fact that it wasn't tactically sound to back away after my attack was already
Realization struck me. My duplicate wasn't human
-- Nightmare had said as much. No free will. No originality. No initiative.
A smile crept over my face. Nightmare wanted a mindless automaton, and he had
gotten exactly what he'd wished for.
With my realization, Sabreur 2's insanely fast
attacks seemed to slow to a crawl. He was still far faster than me, but he had
a pattern. For a fencer like myself, patterns are pathetically easy to take
advantage of. Sabreur 2 slashed towards my neck - but I had already taken a
step back and was out of range. He followed up with a return stroke - I had
side-stepped and raised my blade in a parry. Sabreur 2's enormous strength smashed
into my blade, but I already knew the angle of his attack and the force was
harmlessly redirected away from me. I continued to rotate around Sabreur 2 until
his/its back was to the cliff. Sabreur 2 showed no indication of noticing. I
lunged, blade extended in a low-line attack. Predictable as clockwork, Sabreur
2 backed away, swinging his katana to block my attack.
"ACTIVATE SABER!" I roared.
I braced myself as a jet of flame erupted from
the Advanced Fire Saber and blasted into Sabreur 2. My double's eyes betrayed
no emotion as he was knocked backwards and over the cliff.
"Look out!" shouted Infernus from behind me.
I turned and ducked as a rust-red blur shot overhead. I watched as Dark Infernus
plunged past over the edge of the cliff. I rushed over and looked down.
Far below, Sabreur 2 hung from leather straps
on Dark Infernus' legs, hang gliding to the earth far below. They were both
obviously too damaged to continue fighting.
"Deactivate," I spoke, my saber immediately
quenching the raging flames around it. Infernus walked over, breathing heavily.
He was scratched in a few places, but was grinning.
"Way too predictable," he said, shaking his
head. "That was almost embarrassing."
"Glad you made it okay," I replied, digging
into my backpack. I passed him a healing potion from the first aid kit. He took
it gratefully and chugged it down, his various cuts disappearing without a trace
as he did so. Another flash of lightning illuminated the sky.
I looked at the mountains that loomed ominously
above us. The tug I felt was much stronger now -- Nightmare was close. Very
close. I checked my watch. Four hours remained until sunset. This was going
to be tight...
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