Chronicles of a Caped Crusader: Days Yet to Pass: Part Eight
It had been more than a full day since Buzz Johnson had absconded with Morphica, and Elise was nursing a headache. It was mostly caused by Bluejay. Her younger brother just would not shut up about having been right not to trust Buzz to be alone with Morphica.
As far as she could tell, they had not gone to the Space Station. Morphica's voice in the one communication they'd exchanged since then seemed genuine, and while the personnel she had spoken to on the Station had simply refused to divulge any information on Buzz's whereabouts, the tone of their rebuffs made her believe that they didn't know where he was either.
She just couldn't come to grips with what must be going on. Why hadn't he gone back to the Space Station? Taking Morphica was perfectly understandable; even Elise wasn't above trying to get the upper-hand by backstabbing the other arms of the Resistance. But, why take her and not go back to the Space Station?
Perhaps he had taken Morphica to the Lost Desert to see what had happened there. She hated to call and ask. There was a chance that she would be relayed to Anita. Anita was the Lost Desert's equivalent to Bluejay. This would complicate things as her sisters weren't speaking to their Darigani branch siblings since Elise had advised Darigan against aiding Qasala a few years ago.
The cause had been hopeless, and Elise had recommended they offer aid in helping evacuate the city rather than spend resources on holding a city that could not last. Everyone had agreed, and Qasala had fallen. It was the only logical course of action, but it had still incensed those in the Desert, particularly her sisters.
She reached for the communicator; she already had a headache, so she might as well do it now and get it over with. No point in waiting and feeling better only to get another earful from an incensed sibling. Before she could even reach it, the door flew open. A guard stood there, panting from exertion.
“We've got bogeys on the horizon. Too many to count. They're heading this way,” he panted out. “Galgarroth summons your presence to the war room.”
Elise was up and past him before he even finished his final sentence. She ran through the halls and reached the war room faster than she thought was possible. All the top military leaders were in there with Lord Darigan. They were staring down at an orb that showed surveillance feeds from around the Citadel.
Elise's heart dropped at what she saw. Iniqutious' forces were coming in from all sides. The force was huge. She hadn't seen a force like that since Mystery Island, and they had been conquered in forty-eight hours. The Citadel was a fraction of the size of the island. Even without exact data, she knew there was no chance that they could repel the force that was coming for them.
“It's the Corporal's ship,” Jeran said with a sigh that seemed to come from somewhere very deep inside him. “This is the end of us. There were no scouts; this didn't happen by accident. Someone sold us out.”
“Buzz!” Elise screamed. “Curse that two-faced Lupe. He must have taken Morphica and this information as his bargaining chips. I knew he had been becoming less interested in the cause for some time now, but I never thought he would sell us out. Curse him.”
Darigan waved his hand over the orb, turning it off. “We have two minutes to decide what to do. What seems to be the best course of action here?”
“Retreat. We abandon the Citadel,” Jeran said, his voice barely loud enough to hear even in the dead stillness of the room.
Darigan nodded, looking resigned. “Take half your men and try to slow them down. The other half should lead the evacuation. Have all of our data collected and then destroyed. We must try not to leave anything that could be of use to them behind.”
Galgarroth waved a hand at several of the men in the room. They left wordlessly, already knowing what each of them had to do. He then turned to Elise and said, “I want you to secure the machine that was used to bring Morphica here, along with all the scientists and their data. I don't know if any of it can ever be useful to us again, but I most certainly don't want it falling into Iniquitous' hands. If it comes to the worst, destroy the machine and data. Better all is lost than capture.”
“Will do, sir,” Elise said, saluting.
“You take the shuttle off with it. Don't trust it to anyone else,” he said. “I'm ordering you to leave the first moment you can. Do not delay.”
Elise mentally quavered at the idea of being one of the first to leave; she had never left before all the civilians had been evacuated before. Still, an order was an order, and she understood the importance of what Galgarroth was saying. She nodded and left the room.
She hurried to the lab where the machine was. She found the lab full of the scientists; they were hard at work packing up everything. Guards lined the hall outside, ready to escort them to a waiting shuttle when they were done packing. The machine was already loaded into a secure crate and on a dolly.
“How secure is that crate?” Elise asked.
“It could take at least three blasts from a gunship before it was breached,” one of the scientists said. “The code is eight digits long, so it won't be easy to crack, either.”
“It will also be difficult to quickly open it to destroy the machine ourselves if we need to,” Elise said. “Can we transfer it into anything a little less secure?”
“There is no time for that,” another said. “We'd have to send someone down into the storage rooms in the basement, near the generators, to get a different case.”
Elise nodded grimly. “We just have to get out of here quickly, then. How much longer do you--?”
Her words were cut off by muted explosions beneath their feet. The entire Citadel shook; anything not secured fell from the tables and shelves, and everyone grabbed for something to hold onto. The vibrations stopped after thirty seconds, but there was now a noticeable shift in the gravity around them.
“They took out our engines. The Citadel is now in free-fall,” one of the scientists moaned. “They went straight for the engines; they got right through our shields.”
“Take everything you currently have and move,” Elise ordered. “It's clear they don't want anything but our complete annihilation. The ocean will take care of disposing of the rest of this for us.”
She led the way out of the room and through the winding halls to an outdoor landing pad. She stepped out first and looked around. Overhead, the battle was raging as the Darigani fought Iniquitous' mechanized monsters. She could see shuttles taking off, trying to get through the wave of enemies. She watched one shuttle be overwhelmed by the machines and begin to plummet from the sky.
She ordered the guards to come out and train their weapons or magic on the sky. They were to shoot down anything that tried to come down at them while the scientists made their way to the ship on the pad and load everything in. She took position among them and gave the signal to go.
The scientists had just exited the doorway, arms filled with papers and cases, two of them pushing the crate which held the machine, when the shuttle exploded. They were all knocked back by the shockwave from the explosion, many going tumbling away and papers scattering away across the bay. Nearly everyone was on the ground and scrambling to figure out what had just happened to them.
Elise looked to where the shuttle was and saw a ship decloaking above it. It had been a trap. Someone had known which landing pad was closest to the lab, and had waited there for them. The ship opened its bay doors and soldiers dropped out.
It took a moment, but she recognized the ship. It was her mother's. She grit her teeth as she realized that Kristy was at the head of the squad that had exited the ship.
“Take that case and anything else they have. Do what you wish with them, capture them, let them flee, I don't care. The case, the data, and the Cybunny, that's all we're after. Don't let her get away,” Kristy was shouting, giving orders to her squad.
Elise looked around at the chaos. The scientists were dropping their research and running back into the tower. The guards were exchanging fire with the enemy soldiers. They were going down fast, their armor and weapons far outmatched by the enemy forces. She reached for her own blaster and found it was gone. She had dropped it when she had been knocked down by the shockwave from the explosion of the shuttle. She tried to get to her feet, but felt a stab of pain that dropped her back to the ground. There was a sharp piece of shrapnel sticking out of her leg, preventing her from putting any weight on that leg.
She turned to look to where the case that held the machine was, wondering if she could crawl to it and open it to the destroy the machine before the enemy reached it. It was already too late for that; two soldiers were lifting it up at that very moment; they were preparing to carry it back to their own ship.
“Stop them!” she shouted, pointing at the soldiers.
Two more enemy soldiers made it to the case. They raised blast shields and held them out in front of themselves, putting themselves between the soldiers carrying the case and her soldiers' assault.
It was useless, Elise realized. She put her head down against the ground, giving up. The Citadel could only be minutes from collision with the ocean below, and she didn't have enough soldiers left standing to reclaim the case so they could destroy the machine within. It would take a miracle, or an amazing coincidence for them to stop this now. She heard the crunching of boots on the debris covered ground next to her.
“It's never easy to lose, is it, Bunny-mine?”
“Don't you call me that. I'm not yours. You're not my mother. I don't know who you are, but you are not my mother. The Kristy I knew would never have done this,” Elise snarled.
A hand was placed on her head, petting her hair in a way meant to be comforting, but only made her feel sick. “Oh, Elise, how well you always thought you knew me. In some ways, you did. But, there are things you just can't understand about a person, no matter how hard you try. It's time to give this up and come home.”
Elise didn't answer. She just gritted her teeth as she felt hands wrapping around her arms and pulling her up. She was lifted off her feet and carried towards the enemy ship. Ahead of her, she could already see that they had loaded the machine and the few cases of data they had taken from the lab in. She didn't bother looking back at the destruction behind her. The less she had burned into her memory of this moment, the less fuel her nightmares would have.
As she was cuffed and strapped into a seat, she closed her eyes and prayed her brother would make it to safety before the Citadel reached the water. The doors closed and she felt the ship begin to ascend.
“Take us back out of range of their fighters. We'll monitor the battle from there,” she heard Kristy command as the doors between the cargo-bay and the cockpit hissed shut.
To be continued…