Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 32

Chris groaned as he opened his eyes now. His vision was blurry yet he could see an angry face staring down at him.

"Sergeant Dickerson," Lynne said sternly shaking her head.

"Yes?" He replied groggily as he sat up then and looked down to find that risqué magazine had been planted in one of his hands. "Corporal Church," he grumbled under his breath then chucked the magazine aside as he looked up at her. "He must have done that to try and make me look bad."

"A likely story," Lynne remarked. "So do you care to tell me what happened in here? Or better yet what you were doing asleep in the middle of the floor?"

Chris groaned as he tried to remember the details. "I don't remember everything, but I know that Corporal Church was working on some chemical. That's all."

"I see," Lynne narrowed her eyes. "Well then, were you at least able to find out anything else? That was our original plan, remember? You were supposed to spy on him and then report back to me as soon as you found out what he was up to."

"Well I was doing just that, until he knocked me out with something, "Chris explained. "I think it might have even been that chemical he was cooking. And whatever it was has even fogged my memory a bit too."

Lynne dropped her head and sighed. "He must've suspected something then, because if what you're telling me is true and he did knock you out, then what other reason would he have?"

"Beats me," Chris shrugged as Lynne offered him her hand to help him up. "Thank you, Commander," he nodded in kind while noticing something different about her demeanor. "You're looking a little stressed, is there something else?"

"There was a fight a while ago," she explained. "I walked inside the lobby to find Private Winston in the midst of a brutal assault."

"Oh Jesus!" Chris gasped. "And who pray tell was the poor unlucky soul?"

"Private Mathis," Lynne answered. "He's in critical condition as we speak. Private Winston nearly killed him."

"Good lord!" Chris replied in shock. "And where is Stan?"

"Locked up in the brig for the time being," Lynne sighed. "That is until we can figure out what to do with him. But after witnessing such a violent assault I'm beginning to fear that he may just be too big of a risk."

"You're not thinking about discharging him are you?" Chris asked while Justin quietly stood outside the door listening.

"We may not have any other choice," Lynne argued. "Like I told you, he almost killed one of his own comrades. And while that kind of bloodlust may be acceptable in the battlefield, it simply won't be tolerated within these fences, not if we hope to achieve unity, you understand?"

Justin frowned. This is not good at all. Shit.

"Yes," Chris sighed. "Believe me I understand your concern here. But did you even get Stan's side of the story? Or have you only listened to Eric's side? Because from what I personally know about Private Mathis is that he likes to antagonize others, especially Corporal Church."

Lynne furrowed her brow. "So what are you getting at here? Are you saying he's the one who started the fight?"

Chris nodded. "For as long as I've known Private Winston, I have never known him to be an instigator. He's always come across as a very passive guy. So I'm actually shocked to hear that he almost killed someone."

"Well unfortunately that's what we have to look at right now," Lynne stated. "Not only that but he didn't even listen to me at first when I ordered him to drop Private Mathis. He just stood there with this look on his face that I can't even describe, as if he enjoyed what he was doing. That alone worries me."

"So I see," Chris replied. "Well like I said I understand your concerns, but I think it would be wise if you'd just hear him out and listen to what he has to say. You speak highly of unity but I don't think you see that you're doing just the opposite right now."

"You're right," she sighed. "I suppose I'll give him a chance to explain his side of things, but until then I think some solitary confinement is what he needs. I want him to calm down before I even dare to approach him."

Chris shot her a look. "Are you that afraid of him, Commander?"

"Given his recent behavior I'm afraid I am," she answered. "I've never been a fan of that kind of unpredictability. Men like that are extremely dangerous and not to be trusted."

Justin shook his head and sighed as he walked away now. "If she doesn't let Stan out of there soon then we're really screwed. Even worse if she decides to discharge him. Things couldn't possibly get any worse right now."

But then as he headed outside he found William seated alone at the top of the steps with his head down sulking.

I spoke too soon, Justin thought.

"Hey," Justin suddenly announced himself as he headed over and plopped down next to him only to receive the silent treatment in return.

"I said hey" Justin repeated himself in an agitated tone prompting William to take one look at his swollen and bruised up face. "Don't give me the silent treatment, please," Justin groaned. "At least not now."

"Sorry but I'm just not in the best mood." William muttered as he looked away. "And you should probably do something about that swelling on your face."

Justin huffed. "It doesn't hurt that bad actually," he reached up and touched his right cheek causing him to wince. "Okay never mind it hurts like a bitch so I'll ice it when I get home? But right now we need to talk about Stan, cause I just overheard a conversation between the commander and Sergeant Dickerson, and she's thinking about discharging him, Will. We could lose him for good!"

"Maybe that's what he needs." William answered bitterly. "He deserves it for what he's done."

Justin frowned at him. "Maybe so but that doesn't change the fact that we still need him. So whether or not you're with me, I'm gonna try to get him out of there okay? And for your information he was only protecting me!"

William scoffed. "You mean right after you opened that big mouth of yours and said something stupid just to piss Eric Mathis off? Cause I know that's what happened, right?"

"Wrong!" Justin corrected him. "He started with me, just like he always does. Stan tried to stop him but he wouldn't listen. Hell I even tried to warn him too and then that's when he slugged me and pissed Stan off. Like I said he was just protecting me. And you know he'd do the same for you too. So why are you acting so bent out of shape over this anyway?"

"You really have to ask?" William shook his head in disbelief. "Did you not see how badly beaten Mathis was? I have no doubt in my mind that Stan has crippled that young man. He's done for, Church. He can no longer serve for the AMF. His life is over, and even as much as I despised him myself, he didn't deserve that. Nobody does!"

Justin furrowed his brow. "You mean nobody except your Tjatey ancestors who are planning to kill us all, right? That, you're okay with."

"Lower your voice," William snapped. "And there is a huge difference between them and Private Mathis, Church. They are the enemy."

"And what? That makes him a saint?" Justin scowled as William continued to brood. "As far as I know anyone who tries to cause harm to others is an enemy in my book," Justin snapped. "But I guess we're not reading the same one here are we?"

William huffed. "You know what I think? I think maybe you've been spending way too much time around that female to the point she's gotten to your head and caused you to lose sight of things."

"That female you're referring to is named Dendera," Justin spat back at him. "And for your information you are half Tjatey too, Will whether you like it or not."

"Go home, Church," William quipped just then. "Right now I don't want to see or talk to you. So just go."

Justin glared back at him as he quickly rose up to his feet and brushed off his pants. "Fine then, but I'm not going home, instead I'm gonna head to the Card Shack to have myself a drink," he growled. "In the meantime you can just sit out here and pout like a big baby, cause that's what you're acting like right now, Sterling. A big whiny baby. And quite frankly I'm sick of it."

William gritted his teeth as he turned away from him.

"I guess this also means I can also count you out of operation doomsday too huh?" Justin continued pestering him. "Fine then, you just sit here and do nothing but I'm not giving up," he suddenly pulled out one of the vials from his pocket and waved it at him. "These are ready to go by the way. And I know you don't want to hear it but if Stan hadn't attacked Mathis these wouldn't have made it. So we owe it to Stan. He did help us out whether he knows it or not. And we still need him, so I'm gonna have a drink and then figure out how I'm going to get him out of there. You can abandon him that's fine, but I'm not. He's our friend, Will."

"Ironic isn't it now?" William turned and looked up at him. "Wasn't I just saying the same thing a few nights ago? Back when you suspected he was stalking us and couldn't be trusted? Funny how that's changed all of a sudden isn't it?"

Justin grew quiet as he remembered exactly what he had said that night. "Yes but I was wrong," he admitted then. "But you know what else? You're wrong too, Will."

"That's enough out of you for one day," William muttered. "So why don't you just leave already?"

"I am," Justin glared right back. "But here take this," he then offered William the vial. "Take it," Justin demanded him. "Please?"

"Fine," William huffed as he snatched it from his hand then looked up at him. "But why?"

"In case things get bad while I'm gone," Justin answered. "There's a slight delay unfortunately, but it does work. So if someone attacks you or you see anything at all you just smash it on the ground and run like hell you hear?"

"And how do you know it works?" William asked sounding a little skeptical.

"Because I tested it on Sergeant Dickerson," Justin answered. "Which I might add probably wasn't the brightest idea because now he's going to kill me once he sees me, and probably hound me for answers too. So you see, Will, I'm in a bit of a pickle here."

"Well that's your own damn fault," William muttered as he set the vial down on the step beside him.

"I know it is," Justin admitted. "But at least I'm prepared to deal with it. And I will."

Meanwhile at the Card Shack Enrique was wiping down the counter top out of boredom whistling to himself when all of a sudden a large burly man in a fedora and blue pinstriped suit walked up to the bar and just stood there staring at him until Enrique looked up and spied the man's angry face when he suddenly growled. "Where's Maxwell Graham?"

Enrique's eyes widened and he froze in terror as he silently gestured upward with his index finger. "In his office," he gulped.

But at that moment, Maxwell was already on the phone with a carpenter to see about getting his floor finished when his office door suddenly flew open and the large robust figured barged inside snarling. "Graham!"

Maxwell quickly stuck his finger into his other ear as he apologized to the man on the other end of the line.

"I'm dearly sorry but it appears I'll have to get back to you at a later time," he sighed irritably as he hung up and turned around to face his unwanted visitor. "Who are you and what the hell are you doing in my office?" He demanded to know.

"Mr. Graham you don't remember me?" The man remarked coldly as he pulled out a revolver just then. "It's Ramone from the game, does that ringa bell now?"

"The one with the bad accent?" Maxwell raised a brow. "Oh but of course I do now. How could one possibly forget such a face and voice," he chuckled nervously as he carefully pulled out the top drawer of his desk and began rummaging around for his gun when he soon remembered it was gone. Damn it all to hell! He thought before looking back up and meeting Ramone's furious gaze. "So again why are you here?"

Ramone sneered as he pulled back the hammer. "Why I wanta my money of course! You and that loud mouthed dame of yours cost me the game, remember?"

Maxwell huffed and crossed his arms "She's not my dame, and I do remember. You played the game like a bloody damned fool that night, so is really my fault that you lost, or could it be yours, hmmm?"

"Don't get cocky with me, Graham," Ramone snarled as he pointed his gun at the phone on the desk. "Call Morane. Tell him I want my money and I wants it now or you're gonna eat lead!"

"Very well," Maxwell rolled his eyes as picked up the phone and dialed Morane.

"Hurry up!" Ramone barked. "My trigger finger is getting itchy here."

Maxwell heard several rings on the other end before Morane finally picked up.

"Graham I'm busy," Morane grumbled. "What the fuck do you want?"

"We have a situation here I'm afraid," Maxwell explained.

"What kind of a situation, Graham?" Morane sighed. "And you better make this quick!"

"Well apparently you owe this lovely man here some money," Maxwell replied with sarcasm.

Morane scoffed. "I don't owe anyone shit. What man is it? And don't tell me he's got you at fucking gun point too."

"Well, actually he does," Maxwell chuckled nervously tugging on the collar of his undershirt. "And the name you're looking for is Ramone I believe."

"Don't know him," Morane answered carelessly. "And what's wrong with you? Why don't you just whip out your own revolver and shoot the son of a bitch yourself?"

Maxwell clenched his jaw. "Because it was stolen by the police? Believe me I was going to do just that before it all came back to me!"

Morane sighed. "Then what use are you to me if you can't even handle your own problems?"

"I want my money, Graham!" Ramone barked again. "And I'm quickly losing my patience!"

"You hear that?" Maxwell asked Morane just then. "That's the sound of persistence. Now how do I bloody get out of this mess?"

There was pause of silence before Morane answered him. "Tell him to come down to City Hall immediately if he wants his money. And tell him to come alone or he ain't getting shit."

"Got it," Maxwell nodded and then turned to greet Ramone with a smirk. "By Jove you're in luck! He has agreed to pay you in full," Maxwell explained. "But he insists you come down to see him yourself, and that you come alone. Official business you see?"

"Right now?" Ramone replied quizzically as he lowered the weapon.

"Yes," Maxwell nodded. "Right now or the deal is off the table. He's a busy man you know?"

"Alright then. Tell him I'm on my way." Ramone holstered his gun and then hurried out the door.

Maxwell smirked again as he returned to his conversation with Morane. "He's on his way now, Sir."

"Good," Morane replied. "In that case you're gonna owe me big time for this one, Mr. Graham."

"Yes I know," Maxwell acknowledged. "Pleasure doing business with you."

"Oh fuck off!" Morane hissed as the line went dead leaving Maxwell practically speechless.

"Bollocks," Maxwell sighed bitterly then hung up the phone.

Back at the base, Lynne and Sergeant Dickerson were headed back towards the lobby when Naeem spotted them and quickly rushed over to offer his condolences over what happened earlier.

"I am very sorry for what happened to that young man, Commander," he feigned a look of sadness. "It was very unfortunate. Is he going to live?"

Lynne seemed a bit befuddled by his sudden reaction. "Thanks for your concern, Naeem, but unfortunately I do not know. But that's why I'm on my way to the infirmary right now."

"I only hope that he does," Naeem lied. "It would be such a tragic loss if he didn't."

"I agree," Lynne stared at him questioningly. "Any way, Naeem I do want to say thank you for all your hard work and dedication around here. It means a great deal to myself and the captain as it would my father if he were here, so thank you."

"Ah but of course," Naeem bowed his head feigning a smile. "It is but an honor to serve your people and help keep them safe."

"And you're doing a fine job," Lynne nodded before she and Chris walked away as Naeem watched them with hatred.

"But little do you know that we plan on doing so much more," he sneered as he looked down at the security key card in his hand he had just stolen out of her pocket. "And soon you'll all be begging for your lives, and we will not listen."

But outside the building William was still seated on the steps with his head down when he turned and glanced over at the vial lying beside him. He sighed bitterly as he picked it up and brought it to his face to have a better look at it when he heard Justin's voice again in his head.

"These are ready to go by the way. And I know you don't want to hear it but if Stan hadn't attacked Mathis these wouldn't have made it. So we owe it to Stan. He did help us out whether he knows it or not."

"I suppose," William grumbled to himself as hung his head and then proceeded to rise up to his feet while wondering if he should visit Stan.

"Hello Sterling!" Chris greeted him just then as he walked out of the building.

"Sergeant," William gave a salute as he quickly stuffed the vial into the pocket of his pants to hide it.

"Say, you wouldn't have happened to see Corporal Church around have you?" Chris asked.

William shook his head. "Nope haven't seen him today. Why do you ask?"

"Oh no reason," Chris replied nonchalantly. "Other than the fact I'm going to ring his scrawny little neck when I find him!" He shook his fist.

William chuckled with amusement. "Well if I see him I'll tell him you're looking for him."

"Thanks, Corporal," Chris smirked. "By the way I'm sorry to hear about Private Winston. Such a shame, really."

William's smile faded now. "Yeah I know."

"But who knows? Maybe he will get a second chance?" Chris shrugged while trying his best to sound optimistic.

"I don't know about that," William muttered. "It's not a good idea if he's going to pose a threat to anyone else here."

"True," Chris agreed. "But is he really such a threat?"

William shrugged. "I don't know. But do you think I could see him now?"

"Afraid not at this moment," Chris answered. "I was just with Commander Williams and she's checking in with Mathis and then she's going to pay Stan a visit herself. Until then she demands that no one else talk to him. Strict orders."

"Of course," William rolled his eyes. "But what if he refuses to talk to her, then what?"

"Well then that's going to leave him in a tough predicament," Chris explained. "So you best pray that he does."

William sighed. "I know. But I have to ask now, is Captain Grant aware of the situation yet?"

"Not to my knowledge," Chris answered stroking his chin. "But I'm sure someone will fill him in sooner than later."

"Thanks, that's all I needed to know," William acknowledged before walking away.

"You're welcome?" Chris blinked while scratching his head.

"Hello my old friend!" Justin announced to Enrique now as he walked up to the bar and took a seat. "I'll have that custom drink you made before. Ace of spades I think you called it? Yeah that's the one!"

"Mierda santa!" Enrique gasped. "Your face!"

Justin rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. So are you going to make me that drink or not?"

"Yes of course," Enrique nodded as he pulled a glass down from the rack and then began fetching all the different bottles he needed. "So uh, what happened to you anyway?"

"Oh some asshole hit me," Justin answered as he drummed his fingers on the counter. "But he got what he deserved. My friend did a pretty good job of roughing him up."

"I see," Enrique replied as he began removing the caps and corks from the bottles. "So is that what your friend does when he is not sending mysterious letters to Miss Thompson?" He narrowed his eyes at him.

"Huh?" Justin shot him a look. "Sorry but you've lost me, compañero."

"I'm no fool," Enrique smirked while he began pouring and mixing the drink. "I know your alien friend is the one, her secret admirer."

Justin scoffed ridiculously. "And how would know that? If it were true I mean."

"Because I overheard you guys that night," Enrique explained as he finished mixing the drink then pushed it over to him. "Sound carries you know?"

Justin was a bit slack jawed now. "Uh can't say anything to her," he begged. "Please don't. It would absolutely crush him. And things are bad enough right now, so please I beg of you, don't tell her who he is!"

"And let him continue to hurt her feelings?" Enrique raised a brow and shook his head. "I don't think so. She deserves to know."

"Yeah well it isn't your place to do it," Justin glared at him as he picked up his drink and took a sip. "It isn't mine either for that matter. I mean would you like it if someone did that to that you? Just up and told the person you're in love with and have been hiding from that you're the one? I don't think so, so don't do it to him. Let him tell her when he's ready to alright?"

Enrique turned and sighed as he began putting the bottles back on the shelf. "We're in the same boat then," he said. "We both care deeply about our friends and do not want to see them hurt. And by the way I can't stop staring at that bruise on your face. Are you going to do something about that or what?"

Justin gave a shrug as he took another sip of his drink. "Later. And yes before you ask, it hurts."

Meanwhile back at the base, Naeem had just gained entry into the armory with the key card and headed inside closing the door behind him. The light sensors clicked on and he began searching around desperately when he soon spotted a large distinct looking black trunk and rushed over and opened it up just to feast his eyes upon the ancient daggers which had been carefully wrapped in a canvas sheet. He immediately took one out and gazed admiringly at it while running one of his bony fingers along the serrated edge still stained with the blood of his old foes.

"Nefer." (Beautiful), he whispered softly before carefully placing it back into the sheet with the others. Then he cautiously peered over his shoulder to make sure no one was coming when he suddenly unzipped his jumpsuit and stuffed the knives inside.

While at that same moment, Stan was slowly pacing back and forth in the darkness of his cell as Morane attempted to summon him. Stan felt frustrated but there was nothing he could do he was trapped. But aside from being unable to follow Morane's orders he still couldn't forget the look William had given him as he was being restrained and taken away by the guards. It was a look that made him feel as though he had failed completely and it was something he refused to accept.

I cannot fail, Stan thought angrily. I am incapable of failure. I'm not human therefore I am perfect.

"Private Winston," Stan suddenly heard just then as he turned around and spotted Lynne standing outside his cell door peering at him through the small barred rectangular window. "We need to have a little talk."

Stan walked up to the door, the shadows of the bars stretched across his face. "Yes, Commander?"

Lynne looked down at the report in her hands as they began to tremble. "Private Winston, as you are aware of you are in a lot of trouble here," she sighed. "I have with me the medical report on Private Mathis and it isn't good."

"I see," Stan acknowledged. "Is that why you've come to see me?"

"Yes", she answered crossly. "Because I need you to know the damage you're responsible for."

"It must be quite bad then," Stan responded with indifference.

"Bad isn't the word I would use," she furrowed her brow as she looked down at the report and began to read aloud from it. "He's unconscious with multiple fractures in the skull, a broken nose, broken jaw, dislocated right shoulder, fractures in both arms, collapsed left lung, 6 broken ribs, one of them completely shattered, fractures and contusions of the spine and neck, do you need me to go on or have you heard enough, because there is a lot more here, Private Winston."

"No. I've heard enough," Stan answered in a cold tone as he turned his back on her and walked away from the door. "I suppose I won't be leaving here anytime soon, correct?"

She frowned as she leaned up against the door and crossed her arms. "You want to tell me your side of the story or not? I'm willing to listen, Private Winston, despite what you've done here."

"I was protecting Corporal Church," he answered.

"So then it was Private Mathis who started the conflict?" She asked.

"Yes," he answered. "And I did not attack until after he struck Corporal Church. I warned him beforehand but he refused to listen."

She clasped a hand over her face and sighed. "When conflict arises, you are to report it to your superior officer, Private. Not take matters into your own hands or else you're going to end up here each time until we've decided we've had enough."

"And then you'll kick me out?" Stan interrupted her.

"Yes," she narrowed her eyes. "Is that what you want, Private?"

"No," he replied.

"Then what do you want?" She asked. "Let's hear it."

Stan paused for a moment before answering back. "I want another chance to do right by you and Captain Grant."

She was silent now as she wondered what to do next. "I haven't made my decision just yet, and neither does Captain Grant know of this incident, but I will brief him soon on the issue and share my sentiments, then I guess we'll go from there."

"Then you're considering it?" Stan inquired.

"I don't know," she stressed. "Don't you realize you almost killed this young man, Private? And for no good reason either? Not only that but also your refusal to follow orders too. When you are asked to do something, Private Winston, you do it. No questions asked."

"I understand," he replied. "I also sense that you're afraid of me as well. Why?"

Lynne grew quiet as she clutched at her chest feeling the rapid beating of her heart. "A lot of people are afraid of you now," she answered.

"Is Corporal Sterling one of them?" He asked then.

"I believe so," Lynne sighed causing Stan to frown. "But anyway, Private, I apologize but I need to leave now," she started walking away. "I'll meet with the captain and then get back to you later tonight, alright?"

"As you wish," Stan replied stolidly as he resumed his pacing.

There is something very off about that man, Lynne thought as she was making her way out. I don't like it either. Sometimes it's almost as if he isn't even human at all.

In the meantime, Justin had just returned home but once he opened the door he spotted Dendera seated on his couch rummaging through a box of various parts and scraps.

"Hey!" He barked as he quickly slammed the door behind him. "What do you think you're doing? That's my stuff!"

She stopped and looked over her shoulder at him. "My apologies, Young Corporal," she said sheepishly. "But while I appreciate you letting me stay here, I must say I am very bored."

Justin rolled his eyes as he hurried over and grabbed the box from her.

"What happened to your face?" She gasped. Who did this to you?"

Justin groaned. "Yeah, sorry but I'm already tired of answering that question today." He dropped the box on the floor against the wall then headed into the kitchen. "And things are only getting worse, Dendera."

"I am sorry," she apologized as she watched him fetch an ice pack out of the freezer then head back over.

"Don't be," he sighed as he sat down next to her while holding the pack against his swollen cheek. "And if you must know, then yeah it was a fight. Someone hit me."

"And how dare they!" She exclaimed in outrage. "Were you able to defeat them?"

"No. I'm not a fighter," he admitted shamefully. "And I can't defend myself because I don't know how to fight."

"Do you want to learn then?" She asked. "It's not hard and I can teach you."

"No thanks," he sighed. "But I have bad news. I don't think William is with us anymore. And Stan is locked up now. So it might just be the two of us against the Elders, and that's not enough to beat them."

"But what about your smoke bombs, did you make them yet?"

"Yes," he answered as he pulled a handful of the vials out of his pocket and set them on the table. "But it's not going to be enough, Dendera. We need Will and Stan or we're screwed. I need to sneak into the brig somehow and let Stan out of there, but I'm gonna need your help to do it. Can you help me?"

She nodded. "Of course, Young Corporal. But can I ask why he is locked up?"

"Because he almost killed the one who hit me," he replied regretfully. "That's why Will isn't here with us now, because it's got him all upset too."

"I see," she noted. "Well how can we bring him back then?"

Justin lowered his head and sighed. "We can't, that's just it. He needs to come back on his own."

She frowned as she looked back at him. "We must have faith in him then, I believe he will not give up, but................ She lowered her head and looked down at her hands as she began to tear up. "I don't believe Onuris is alive anymore. I should know better by now that Naeem would never allow him to live."

Justin's eyes grew wide as he lowered the ice pack, and then looked at her. "That name," he mentioned. "Dendera, is Naeem one of the elders?"

She grew quiet now as she turned away from him.

"Dendera, is he?" Justin pressed again. "Please, you've got to tell me! He's one of the base's most trusted engineers; if he is then we can stop him! We can stop all of them!"

"Yes," she answered timidly. "He is one of them. He is their new leader."

"Oh my god," Justin gasped in disbelief while completely unaware that at that very same moment located in the bowels of the AMF's hangar Naeem was holding a little gathering and distributing the ancient daggers back to their rightful owners.

"Hepet, hepet!" (Embrace, embrace!)" He chanted as he raised his dagger high in the air with the others following along. "Hepet sy ek iew!" (Embrace who you are!")

"Mehi sen a'nekh!" (Forget their lives!) "Em iew rek! Rek en Senef! En esh a-mes-en! Meri a'nekh Tjatey!" (It is time! Time for blood! For we are reborn! Long live the Tjatey!)

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
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4 years 6 months ago #24939

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Replied by SIGHUP on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Quick sidebar.

I was watching The Man in The High Castle and a character named Nicole played by Bella Heathcote reminded me of the main character of Atlantech.

She can play that character in the Atlantech Live-Action.
--David Pena
SIGHUP - a fandom based site | RIP Carl Macek (1951-2010)
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4 years 5 months ago #24986

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

SIGHUP wrote: Quick sidebar.

I was watching The Man in The High Castle and a character named Nicole played by Bella Heathcote reminded me of the main character of Atlantech.

She can play that character in the Atlantech Live-Action.

You mean Victoria Thompson? :P

and yes I could definitely see Bella as her, why she even looks a little like the original actress Victoria's character is modeled after too

Anita Page

good choice, now find Maxwell <3

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
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4 years 5 months ago #24987

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

The update is coming, I've been working on it on and off, and it is very long, but its the final chapter of this volume and it wraps up a lot of stuff so it had to be.

Also dealing with a lot of crap, mainly health issues which deter my motivation but its never completely gone. I also have art I'm working on as well, two paintings I'm trying to finish before summer is over.

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
The following user(s) said Thank You: Alpha Bravo
4 years 3 days ago #26231

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Long overdue update. This final chapter was taking too long to finish so I decided to p break it up into two parts. So here is the first part while I finish up the second part.

Chapter 33 part 1

Lynne was on her way now to speak with Captain Grant about Stan, but as she made her way down the hall of the third floor, she was completely unaware of the hidden figure that was watching and waiting to strike.
She sighed deeply, lowering her gaze to the ground while lost in deep thought as she passed by a dark room when all of a sudden an arm shot out, grabbed her by the wrist, pulled her inside, and closed the door behind them.

“Let go of me!” Lynne snarled as she began hitting and kicking her mysterious assailant until he suddenly flipped on the light and she could hardly believe her eyes.
“Sterling?” She gasped wide-eyed and shocked as William turned around to face her while blocking the door with his body. “What the hell is this?” She exclaimed angrily shaking her fist in his face. “Is this some kind of game you’re playing? If so I don’t appreciate it in the least!”

“No,” he answered quietly as he lowered her hand. “I’m trying to stop you.”

“What?” She sounded completely baffled. “Stop me from what exactly?”

“Telling the captain about Stan,” William answered. “I don’t want him to know about what happened.”

“And why not?” She demanded to know. “And you had better have a good reason for it, because what you’re doing right now, Sterling, is a punishable offense!”

“I know it is,” he sighed. “But there’s something you have to understand. I took that risk because I don’t want to lose him all right? He’s my best friend and I know he didn’t mean what he did. That’s not who he is. I know it’s not!”

She shot him a crazed look. “Oh you do then? Well, would you happen to know that Private Mathis is currently unconscious because of him? And that he could’ve been killed? Well do you?”

“He didn’t mean for it to go this far,” William stressed. “Like I told you, he’s my best friend, so I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep him here. It’s where he belongs.”

“Heaven save us all,” Lynne remarked with a sigh while lowering her head. “I feel as though I don’t even know you anymore, Sterling.”

“Well the feeling is mutual,” he narrowed his eyes at her. “But this is the only thing I’m going to ask of you. So please? Will you do this one thing for me?”
She fell silent as she looked into those sad blue eyes of his while he plead, reminded of the day when she told him it was over between them. The bitterness over it all was still there but he hid it well and perhaps she did too.

“Please?” William plead once more, the desperation clear in his voice. “I swear I will never ask you for anything else again.”

Lynne sighed heavily feeling overwhelmed with guilt. “Very well, Sterling.” She finally answered with defeat. “You win. I won’t tell him.”

“Thank you,” he managed a half smile as he attempted to embrace her only to be stopped as she raised her hands up and shook her head at him.

“Don’t touch me,” she said crossly causing him to frown and back away. “And while I’m willing to grant this request of yours that doesn’t mean he’s free to go. He must be punished for what he’s done and so I require that he remain locked up until I say otherwise, is that understood?” She crossed her arms and glared at him as she waited for a response.

“Fine,” William accepted. “No point in arguing with you.”

“You’ve got that right,” she said coldly. “However there is something I would like in return.”

“And what would that be?” William asked even though he already knew the answer.

“Corporal Church,” she answered.

Yep. I knew it, William thought to himself while feigning a look of surprise.

“And you are to find him and bring him to me, because I know damn well that he’s up to no good,” she continued. “And I’m going to drag it out of him! Now do we have an agreement here or not?” She offered to shake his hand but William felt hesitant.

“Well?” She asked again giving him that same scorned look.

“Yes,” he finally answered looking her in the eye as he shook her hand. “We do.”


The meeting had just let out and now everyone was making their way towards the lobby when Artis suddenly came up behind Lynne and tapped her on the shoulder.

“What?” She stopped and turned around.

“Could I have a word with you?” Artis asked quietly with a hint of urgency in his voice.

“That depends, Mr. Frederic,” she narrowed her eyes at him as she crossed her arms. “Is this a serious matter here, or are you trying to ask me out to dinner again?”

“Serious,” he answered with a straight face when Abraham suddenly overheard them and peered over his shoulder out of curiosity.

“Alright, Artis,” she sighed. “I’ll bite, so what is it? And do try to make this quick. We’re running a scheduled flight test here very soon which requires my presence.”

“Understood,” Artis, acknowledged when all of a sudden Morane came barging right up to them.

“Out of my fucking way!” Morane barked as he cut right between them then headed towards the exit. “You good for nothing sorry shits! Oh and thanks for wasting my fucking time by the way!”
He spat glaring back at the others before throwing the doors open and barging out.

Lynne gritted her teeth and squeezed her fists tight as she watched him.

“Forget him,” Artis said to her noting her defensive posture “That man will never change. That’s what my father always told me but I hadn’t seen it for myself until today. What a vile piece of work he is.”

“Seeing is believing, isn’t it?” Lynne gave a condescending smile. “So before that monster interrupted us, what is it you were you going to say?”

Artis rubbed the back of his head in a nervous manner and sighed. “Well I was going to say that I’m a bit worried about a couple of my technicians, Dendera and Onuris. You see, I haven’t seen them in days and well, I’m beginning to fear something terrible must have happened to them.”

“Well I’m sorry to hear that,” Lynne replied. “But unfortunately I do not know their faces, yet I do recall seeing those names on Corporal Church’s original notes, so I take it they were the ones assisting him right?”

“Yes, Why?” Artis wondered as Lynne suddenly remembered the mysterious person she spotted running off with Justin the other day.
“Well, because it’s possible that one or both of them may also be assisting him with something on this base,” she explained. “And if that is true then it just might explain his suspicious behavior as of late.”
“Suspicious behavior?” Artis repeated quizzically. “What do you mean? What’s going on around here?”

“Wait a moment,” Lynne stopped him just then as she suddenly spotted something familiar lying on the floor only about a foot away from them.
“What is it?” Artis wondered while knelt down to collect the item, looking it over in her hands when she soon realized what it was.

“This is my key card,” she answered him with suspicion as she turned around and held it out so he could see for himself. “Now how in god’s name did it end up here?”

Meanwhile in the tower, the three female flight control officers were enjoying some freshly brewed coffee while having a nice little chat as they began preparations for the flight test.
Lucy took a sip from her coffee mug and sighed with boredom as she gazed out the window in front of Alley Sterling’s station that overlooked the runway.

“You know? Sometimes I wonder just what the view would look like in the daylight,” she looked over her shoulder at Grace who was propped up against her own chair sipping her mug. “Don’t you?”
“Dearie, I wonder what anything would look like in the daylight here,” Grace remarked. “But at least we do have lights.”

“Amen to that!” Mipsy added nodding her head. “Without light I imagine we’d all look awful wouldn’t we? Especially our hair.”

Lucy laughed. “Oh believe me there was a time where I wished I couldn’t see my hair!”

“Really, dearie?” Grace replied with intrigue. “And when was this?”

Lucy frowned. “Oh back when I was a little girl with long hair. Why I had those ridiculous sausage curls. I hated those!

Mipsy shuddered. “Oh me too, I had those as well! My mother even forced me to wear cute little ribbons and bows. Why, I looked like a living doll!”

Grace smirked as she placed a hand on her hip. “Most young girls did and still do. However, I am proud to say I wasn’t a victim. My hair has been short my whole life.”

“Lucky you!” Lucy remarked irritably sipping her coffee.

“Do you think Alley had those too?” Mipsy suddenly asked.

“Well if she did it would certainly explain a lot of things,” Lucy teased. “Especially that attitude of hers.”

“What attitude?” Alley suddenly walked in meeting the others with an icy stare as Lucy nonchalantly sipped her coffee while Mipsy and Grace exchanged looks.

“Nothing, dear,” Grace chuckled. “Us girls were merely having a conversation about hair.”

“Uh huh,” Alley shot her a look as she made her way over to her station then stopped and crossed her arms as she waited for Lucy to move out of the way.

“Sorry,” Lucy apologized sheepishly as she quickly headed back to her own station across the other side of the room.

“Well that was certainly something,” Grace commented quietly as she took a seat in her chair and turned on her monitor to check on the status of the jet that was still sitting in the underground hangar awaiting activation. “Well this bird is still sleeping,” Grace mentioned to the others. “And no word from our test pilot yet either.”

Mipsy smiled. “So this means we still have a little time for ourselves?”

“No, dear,” Grace shook her head. “This means we’ve got to sit here like the perfect little angels we are until the commander arrives.”

“Oh right,” Mipsy rolled her eyes. “I just hope she’s in a better mood today. She’s been so irritable lately and it’s all Corporal Church’s fault too!”

Lucy smirked. “When isn’t it that boy’s fault? I swear that kid is a glutton for punishment.”

“I’ll say,” Grace nodded. “But at least I can say he’s out of my hair. Although I do wonder what’s with all the funny looks Sergeant Dickerson has been giving me lately.”

“Isn’t he married though?” Lucy cocked her head to the side.

“Sure is, dearie,” Grace answered. “But a girl still has to wonder you know?”

“I can’t keep doing this,” William frowned as he walked in his front door just now carrying a large carton of soup, then brought it over to Justin who was seated on his sofa next to Dendera. “She’s got everyone on this base looking for you now. And on top of that she’s still expecting me to keep my end of the bargain and turn you in!”

“I know, I know,” Justin remarked as he pulled the lid off the soup and stared down at it in disgust. “Cabbage?” He shot William a disappointed look. “This was the best you could do?”

William huffed. “Well I’m sorry but it’s all they had in the mess hall. I mean what do you expect me to do? Raid the pantry? Cause it’s bad enough I have to hide you both in my room when my sister is home and let you sleep on my floor. So you’re welcome!” He crossed his arms and grumbled as he stormed over to the living chair and plopped down.

“Alright I get it,” Justin sighed as he set the carton of soup down on the coffee table. “You’re right and I know this hasn’t been easy for any of us, so thanks for not turning me in.”

William rolled his eyes. “Don’t mention it.”

“Honestly though, you could have,” Justin said. “But you didn’t, and why is that?”

“Because we’re friends, Church,” William answered. “Isn’t that all that matters?”

Justin smiled a little. “Yeah, sure. But at least now we know Naeem is our target, and I still can’t believe it. We trusted him and what does he do? He turns against us and plots to destroy us, and for what I ask? Because of some dumb religion he and his followers can’t let go of? It’s nuts I tell you, absolutely nuts!” Justin fumed as he pounded his fist on the table. “Well he’s not going to get away with it, I won’t let him!”

“Calm down, Church.” William sighed. “Or you’ll get us both caught.”

“Right, sorry,” Justin quickly apologized slumping his shoulders. “Didn’t mean to get carried away here. But since we’re on the subject, has anyone seen the guy at all?”

“No,” William replied. “He’s been MIA as well. I suppose it has something to do with that attack they’re planning.”

Justin blinked. “Well I sure hope I don’t get suspected of working with him since we’ve both been missing now.”

“You won’t.” William assured him. “I would never allow that to happen.”

“Thanks, Will,” Justin smiled. “I really do mean it. Thanks for everything you’ve done for me.”

“And me as well,” added Dendera.

William sighed as he turned away from both of them. “You do know that if we survive this, we’re going to be branded as traitors, right?”

“Yes, why?” Justin looked back at him.

“Well because I just want to know if it’s something you’re prepared for,” William answered as he stood up just then, headed over to the front door and peered out.

“So what’s happening out there?” Justin asked. “You see anything yet? Hear any screams?”

“No, William answered. “Nothing but dead silence.”

Justin frowned. “Well don’t worry about Stan, Will. We’re still going to get him out of there no matter what.”

“I know,” William sighed. “I just feel so sorry for him. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for him being trapped in that cell. It must be driving him crazy, I know it would for me.”

“He probably thinks we abandoned him at this point,” Justin added. “But uh, there is something I’ve been meaning to ask you about.” He suddenly pulled out a small black and white photo of what appeared to be William when he was younger with some mysterious girl at his side. “Who is the girl in this picture with you?” Justin asked holding the picture up for William to see.

“Where’d you find that?” William’s eyes burned with anger as he hurried over and quickly snatched it out of Justin’s hand.

“Uh, under your bed?” Justin answered with a shrug. “And no, just for the record I didn’t go snooping around under there if that’s what you’re thinking. I merely saw it and got curious. So who is she?”

“It’s no one,” William sighed irritably crushing the picture in his fist.

“It’s not the commander is it?” Justin asked next. “Cause it does kinda look like her if you ask me.”

“I said it’s no one!” William snapped defensively now leaving Justin stunned and speechless as he walked over to a nearby closet, opened it, and tossed the now crumpled photo inside. “Now please no more questions about it. It’s gone, so please just forget you ever saw it okay?”

“Yeah, okay, fine.” Justin agreed crossing his arms. “I never saw it.”

Meanwhile, Victoria was standing in front of her liquor cabinet staring blankly at the assortment of bottles inside when she suddenly remembered the promise she made to Enrique and smacked herself on the face while groaning in disgust. “Why me?” She hung her head in shame when her phone began to ring.

“God damn you, Maxwell!” She hissed as she stormed over and picked up.
“Miss Thompson speaking,” she answered crankily while expecting to hear Maxwell’s thick grating accent on the other line.

“Greetings there!” She heard a cheerful unfamiliar male voice instead. “I don’t mean to bother you, Miss Thompson, but I have news regarding your recent audition. First of all you probably don’t remember me—

“Are you Henry Stormwell, the producer?” She gasped in awe cutting him off.

“Why, yes it is I,” he responded humbly. “Now I know you were hoping for a leading role in my new film, but sorry to say I already found my leading lady!”

Just my luck, she thought now as she frowned. “So then, what’s left for me?”

“Well we’re in need of extras you see.”

“Extras?” She exclaimed in outrage. “Look here, Mister! I am the daughter of Doris Thompson! That’s right, thee Snow White, and that means I was born to be a leading lady and I want that role! Now you give it to me and you give it to me now!”

“Whoa now, you might want to calm down there, dear,” he replied nervously. “Yes I am fully aware of whom you are, but sadly the only thing you seemed to have inherited from your mother was her looks!”

Victoria gasped in shock.

“I saw your last film, Miss Thompson,” he continued. “And it was for a lack of better words, complete garbage. Now I can’t afford to soil my good na—

She slammed the phone down just then and stormed back over to her liquor cabinet again. “Soil your good name, hmm?” She hissed as she snatched up a bottle of wine and pulled the cork out with her teeth. “Well I hope you soil your pants!”

She began to pour herself a glass when she heard Enrique’s voice in her head once again. “Don’t do it, Miss Thompson. You’re only harming yourself! And I care deeply for you!”
“Oh Enrique,” she sighed as she put both the glass and bottle down. “You’re right, sweetie. I haven’t the slightest clue of what I’m doing anymore.” Then she headed over to her couch, plopped down on it, grabbed one of the pillows, and began hugging it tight as her eyes welled with tears.

“I’m running out of money fast and I’m struggling to find work. I don’t know how I’m ever going to survive.” She wiped her eyes with her hand and then leaned back.
“I guess my future belongs at the Card shack now,” she sighed bitterly when she spotted the letter from her secret admirer sitting on the table where she left it.

“Do I still have you?” She wondered now as she leaned forward and picked it up. “You did promise to reveal yourself to me, should you survive whatever it is you’re going through.” She unfolded the letter and skimmed down the very end. “Did you survive?”

In the meantime, Lynne was just about to see Artis off as they were making their way down the steps outside, when he suddenly stopped and brought up something he failed to mention before.

“Oh darn!” He snapped his fingers. “I forgot to tell you that today is also the grand opening of Atlantech’s arcade! I was going to ask if you’d like to come and check it out later. I mean after your flight test of course.”

“We’ll see, Artis,” Lynne answered when all of a sudden the ground beneath their feet began to quake a little as one of the jets started to rise up from the underground hangar planting itself on the runway with the test pilot already strapped inside.

“Well, that’s my cue,” Lynne turned and mentioned to Artis. “I’d better head up now before something goes wrong.”

“Well in that case I wish you luck!” Artis said with a smile offering to shake her hand.

“Thank you,” she gave a half smile as she went to reach for his hand, when all of a sudden the jet exploded, erupting into a large ball of fire right before their very eyes.

But neither of them had time to react as the force from the explosion knocked them off their feet, sending them tumbling down the rest of the steps while debris rained down pelting the ground around them.

“Did you hear that?” Justin quickly leapt off the couch in high alert.

“Even worse, I saw it!” William answered back peering out his door at the flaming wreckage he spied from the distance. “Get your smoke bombs ready, Church. Cause it looks like it’s happening now!”

“What the fuck was that?” Morane griped just then as he rolled down the window of his limousine and peered out just in time to see the large cloud of smoke rising up from the runway as tiny bits of debris suddenly rained down on the car causing him to panic.

“Get me the fuck out of here!” He screamed at his driver while pounding his fists on the back of the seat. “Go now you fucking moron!”

“Y-y-y-yes, S-s-s-sir!” The frail driver panicked as his foot slammed on the gas and began speeding away causing the debris to fly off the hood and scatter, littering the road behind them.

“What just happened?” Lucy cried out hysterically as she rushed over to Alley’s station and shoved her aside just in time to look down and spy the burning wreckage. “The pilot,” she gasped cupping a hand over her mouth. “He’s, he’s…..”

“Dead”, Alley finished her sentence when all of a sudden a large chunk of shrapnel came smashing through the window.

“Look out!” Lucy warned as she and Alley quickly dove out of the way as the piece landed with a hard thud and embedded itself right into the center of the floor.

“Oh my god!” Mipsy began shake and tremble as she backed herself up against the wall while staring down at what she identified as a piece of the jet’s canopy. “Are we, are we under attack? W-what’s happening down there?”

“I don’t know.” Grace answered worriedly. “But I need everyone to stay calm and keep away from the windows!” She headed for the phone. “I’ll see if I can reach anyone at all.”

By this time, Naeem and his followers were hiding behind the academy building as he peered around the corner and gaped in awe at the sight of the blazing inferno sitting on the runway.
Nefer, he thought with a twisted smile spread across his face when a female’s voice soon broke the silence.

“I will not harm him,” a female warrior with long green hair soon stepped forward and dropped her dagger at her feet. “He is my son!”

Naeem’s dark eyes narrowed and burned with rage as he found himself glaring back at the mother of William Sterling.

“You must release him, Letha,” Naeem argued. “Only through his death may we be free. He is not even pure of blood, and that is your own undoing! You have poisoned our bloodline!”

Letha lowered her head. “Then I am to blame, he is not. Therefore you should end me instead, but spare him.”

Naeem clenched his teeth as he struggled to hold himself back from killing her. “You went into hiding, refusing to even face your son, so why now do you care if he lives or dies?”

Letha closed her eyes as she bowed her head. “I had my reasons. But that does not mean I wish death on him or his sister. They are still my children, and though I have failed them as a mother, I still choose to spare their lives.”

“No you will not!” Naeem seethed with rage as he marched right up to her pointing his dagger at her throat as she met his gaze with a look of defiance. “You will kill them, Letha.” He growled ferociously. “Or I will, and I will do it slow so they will know the meaning of suffering before they die! And I will force you to watch, and when they are dead, I’ll do the same to you! Now pick up your weapon and join us! The prophecy must be fulfilled before his return! You understand?”

“Yes, my lord,” Letha responded impassively as she slowly knelt down and collected her blade.

“Good!” Naeem nodded at her and then turned to face the rest of his warriors. “The time has come now. We must attack!”

Lynne opened her eyes just then and noticed Artis lying across from her on his backside unresponsive as she began to lift herself up from the ground, grimacing in pain from all the bruises and cuts she could feel all over as she struggled to get up. “Artis,” she called over to him. “Are you alright?”

Upon hearing her voice Artis opened his eyes slowly and then proceeded to sit himself up.
“I feel like I’ve just had the wind knocked out of me,” he answered in a joking manner while realizing his glasses had fallen off. “Well it could be worse I suppose.”

“I see no humor in this at all,” Lynne replied sternly as she sat on her knees now observing the burning jet on the runway. “This was no accident,” she mentioned looking over at him. “I refuse to believe it was.”

Artis nodded. “Something sure doesn’t feel right at all does it?”

“It was another bomb.” Lynne sighed with bitterness when all of a sudden Chris Dickerson came rushing out of the building to help them both up. “Get inside both of you!” He ordered.

“Please tell me you know something I don’t?” Lynne asked looking at him for answers as she accepted his hand.

“Afraid not, Commander,” he replied apologetically. “I don’t know shit, but I’ve got a bad feeling in my gut, does that count?”

“But wait, I’ve got to find my glasses!” Artis exclaimed frantically as he searched the ground around him.
“There’s no time for that, Artis!” Lynne snapped at him. “We might be in serious danger here, so you might as well forget about them, we’ve got to get inside!”

Artis sighed as he began rushing up the steps behind them when all of sudden he heard a crunch sound and quickly glanced down to find his beloved glasses broken in pieces.
“At least I can still see somewhat,” he frowned.

“What’s happening?” One of the guards began to panic as he dared to approach the remains of the burning craft when Naeem suddenly appeared behind him, grabbed the back of his head then slit his throat with the dagger.

“I believe the answer is vengeance,” Naeem answered coldly watching as the guard dropped to his knees before him as he began to bleed out. “You’re witnessing the rebirth of the Tjatey.” Naeem continued as he knelt down beside the dying guard while flashing the dagger in front of his eyes in a taunting manner.

“But it seems only such a prophecy can be achieved through the death of your kind. You don’t see it but you are dying for a good cause,” Naeem grinned. “But you’re not dying soon enough for my liking,” he then took the dagger and stabbed the guard in the heart killing him instantly.
“Now that’s better.”

Stan heard some of the commotion coming from outside and began pacing back and forth in his cell, listening and wondering what was happening out there when Justin unexpectedly popped up in front of the door window to greet him. “Hey big guy, what ya in for?” He teased.

“Justin?” Stan appeared surprised as he walked up to the door. “What is going on around here? I thought I heard the sound of an explosion earlier, is William okay?”

“Yeah he’s fine.” Justin answered as he pulled out a paperclip, pulled it apart and began picking the lock. “And you heard right, Stan. We’re under attack out there.” Justin explained. “It’s the Tjatey, some of them have turned against us.”

“Hard to believe,” Stan replied.

“Or is it?” Justin remarked when all of a sudden, there was a loud click and the cell door popped open. “Well looks like you’re free to go, big guy.”

Stan walked out then stopped as he turned towards Justin wearing that same look of guilt he had when the guards had seized him from before. “Has he forgiven me?”

“I honestly don’t know.” Justin answered with a shrug. “But we really don’t have time for this talk right now, Stan. We have a duty to protect our people and that’s where we need to be,” he pressed. “And most of all we need you, so let’s get going!”

However, for the moment, things were looking very grim now as William was making his way down a hall doing a quick sweep of the first floor, when he suddenly came across the bodies of two of his dead comrades lying in pools of their own blood with their throats slashed.
“We didn’t get here fast enough.” William frowned fighting back his anger and tears when all of sudden the male Tjatey warrior responsible quietly emerged from the empty room behind him and attempted to stab him in the back when William noticed the warriors shadow on the wall in front of him and quickly jumped out of the way.

“I can’t believe you people!” William snarled now as he turned around to face him. “And after all we’ve done for you; this is how you repay us?”

The warrior sneered at him. “You’ve done nothing but imprison us here!”

“What?” William gasped in disbelief. “No we haven’t! “We’ve provided you with shelter, food, and jobs! What more did you want?”

“All lies!” The warrior hissed as he lunged at William again. “You’ve made slaves of us, forced us to live inside these fences!”

“So that’s what all this is about then, a bad case of cabin fever?” William exclaimed in outrage when he suddenly remembered the smoke bomb in his pocket and quickly made a grab for it.

“You’re a traitor to your own people!” The warrior seethed as he raised his bloody dagger up to William’s face. “But fear not for I will deliver your punishment in the name of our god and you will know his name as you lay dying!”

William furrowed his brow. “No I don’t think so!” He smashed the vial on the floor just like Justin had instructed him to, then took off running as a cloud of thick purple smoke began to fill the hall, choking and blinding the warrior as he tried to slash his way through only to collapse onto the ground next to the bodies of his victims while gasping for air.

“This is not the end!” The warrior cried out for William to hear as he continued coughing and gagging until it finally knocked him unconscious.

No, it isn’t the end. William thought now as he continued running, while hoping and praying the smoke bomb did its magic. I just hope Justin and Stan made it out okay, he huffed and panted as he started heading towards the lobby. I hope Lynne and the others are safe too.

“Wait!” Stan suddenly alerted Justin right as they were leaving the brig.

“What is it now?” Justin stopped and whirled around catching his breath. “Did you hear or see something?”

Stan shook his head. “We’re close to the infirmary.”

“You’re thinking of Private Mathis?” Justin blinked.

“If we’re under attack then he is vulnerable,” Stan answered. “It would be best if I got him out of there and to a safer place.”

Justin couldn’t help but agree with him now despite the negative feelings he still harbored towards the young soldier. He may have been an asshole but he didn’t deserve to die at the hands of the Tjatey.
“You’re right.” Justin gave a nod. “We should help him.”

“No, I should.” Stan corrected him. “After all, it is my fault he’s in there. I should do it alone.”

“What?” Justin’s eyes widened. “Alone? At a time like this are you crazy?”

“Yes.” Stan replied with a half smile.

“But why?” Justin argued. “It’s not safe to be alone on this base, we need to find Will and Dendera, and stick together!”

“I can handle myself,” Stan said impassively. “You must go find the others and stay with them. I won’t be far behind. You can trust me.” Stan shot him an earnest look.

Justin sighed and shook his head. “Alright fine.” He groaned as he turned to leave, then reached into his pocket for one of the smoke bombs and handed it over to Stan. “Take this and use it if someone tries to attack you. But make sure you make a run for it immediately after or else you’ll be taking a nap along with them.”

Stan eyed the vial in his hand with curiosity, then looked up and nodded. “I will, my amigo.”

Meanwhile, Lynne, Chris, Artis, and a few others were gathered around in the lobby when the elevator suddenly arrived and Abraham rushed out and hurried over to them all out of breath. “I was on my way to my office when I heard and felt the explosion,” he panted. “Anyone care to tell me what in hell’s going on?”

“We don’t know, Captain,” Lynne answered gravely. “It all happened so sudden we weren’t even given much time to react, let alone contact anyone.”

“I see,” Abraham noted just as William arrived at the scene completely out of breath as well.

“It’s the Tjatey!” He alerted the others. “They’re the ones behind this!”

“Y-you’re sure about this?” Lynne shot him a worried look.

“Yeah,” he nodded in response. “Corporal Church and I have known about this plan of theirs for about a week now.”

Lynne scowled at him then without warning, marched right up to him and slapped him across the face as hard as she could muster.

“I should have known!” She cried out in anger fighting back her tears as she struggled to look at him now. “Some of our people are dead now because of you, Sterling! You and Corporal Church!”

William fell silent as he looked back at her. Unable to find the words to tell her just how sorry he was because he knew there weren’t any, not in this case. And the hurt and confusion he saw on her face was almost too much to bear. He hadn’t been ready for this, not at all.

“Corporal Sterling, what is this meaning of this?” Abraham asked quizzically as he stepped forward. “Why have you kept this from us?”

“No time to explain,” William answered shamefully. “Right now our goal is to keep everyone safe from these savages. And Corporal Church has a plan.”

“And what plan is this?” Lynne interrupted meeting him with an icy stare. “Many of our people are already dead, and that blood is on your hands, do you hear me? That blood is on both your hands!”

William acknowledged her with a nod. “I do. But not all of us are dead yet which means there is still time to put a stop to this before more of us do fall. Like I said, Corporal Church has a plan; he made smoke bombs which contain ether.”

“So that’s what he was really up to in the lab!” Chris exclaimed angrily.

William sighed. “Look, I know you think of us as traitors right now for keeping this under wraps, but we had to. There was a reason behind it, and it’s not one I’d expect any of you to understand either. But we had a reason, okay? We were trying to save someone. And Justin’s plan is working! I know because I just used one of the smoke bombs myself. So trust me when I say we’re going to survive this. We have to!”

“Fine then,” Lynne huffed as she started heading for the elevator.

“Where are you going?” William demanded to know.

“I need to check in with the girls and see if they’re alright!” Lynne answered with a harsh tone refusing to look at him as she stepped inside as the doors began to close, when William suddenly stopped them with his hand and stepped inside with her before the car began taking them up.

“You’re not doing this alone,” he said only to have her turn her back on him. “It’s too dangerous to be wandering around by yourself.”

“Then you should have thought of that before you decided to keep secrets,” she snapped causing him to frown again. “You just worry about yourself and Corporal Church; you’re apparently good at that! And let me guess, Private Winston is probably also in the know, isn’t he? And that’s why you went out of your way to stop me from reporting him to Captain Grant?”

William was silent now.

“I knew it!” Lynne laughed mirthlessly. “Oh you three make quite the team don’t you?” She shook her head in disgust. “You make me sick!”

As he listened to her now William knew there was absolutely nothing he could do or say to make the situation better. For all he knew it was a lost battle and she had every right to tear him and Justin apart for what they had done. And yet she couldn’t even see the way he was breaking down inside now, wishing he could turn back time and change the outcome.

“You might as well pray we don’t survive this attack, Sterling,” she continued. “Otherwise you and Corporal Church are going to regret it, and I will see to it that you do!”

Meanwhile the lights inside the infirmary flickered on, and off as Stan walked inside and stopped to survey the area. Lying in the middle of the floor in front of him was the body of a young nurse lying on her back, her uniform soaked in blood from the apparent stab wound in her chest. Stan stared down at her for the moment, unmoved by her death as he walked right past her and searched around until he found the room Eric Mathis was currently occupying.

The door creaked a bit as he pushed it open and walked in only to see his former victim lying unconscious in bed with a mask over his face that was hooked up to some kind of machine that aided him with his breathing.

Stan approached his bedside while taking a moment to scan the vital signs he could see on the monitor. They were low but not low enough to kill him.

Stan eyed him with hatred. They stopped me from killing you before. He glared while wondering how he could finish the job when at that moment he realized he wasn’t alone. Then as he turned around a Tjatey warrior lunged at him, slashing the air with his bloodied dagger as Stan quickly moved aside.

“They let you out!” The warrior growled, taunting him, but unfortunately, he had underestimated the strength of his opponent as Stan suddenly swiped the blade from his clutches, and pointed it right at him as he backed him up against the wall, forcing him to admit defeat. Then the warrior started to plead, begging Stan to spare his life.

“I have made a mistake fighting on the wrong side!” He cried out while staring into the empty eyes of the silent giant, but Stan wasn’t about to show him any mercy when he suddenly slashed the warrior’s throat with his own blade.

“You’re a fool for asking me to spare you.” Stan smirked as the warrior’s dark blood spurted out of the wound, spraying Stan’s uniform and face as he leaned in close to his victim’s ear and whispered. “I’m not even human.”

There was a brief look of shock on the warrior’s pale grey face before he finally succumbed to death and fell against the wall. Stan looked down at him for a moment, as though in awe of what he had just done, then turned his attention back to poor helpless Eric as he made his way over. He grasped the dagger tight in his hand while taking time to remember the details of that dead nurse he saw before, noting the way she had been killed by the warrior.

“So, a stab to the heart huh?” Stan narrowed his eyes as he held the dagger up to his face, then without warning, suddenly plunged the blade right into Eric’s chest as hard as he could watching as those vital signs quickly sped up for a moment and then suddenly fell until the only thing visible on that monitor was a long flat line. Eric was dead. Stan released his grip on the blade, leaving it embedded in Eric’s chest as he turned and glanced over at the dead warrior slumped against the wall and then back at Eric’s now lifeless corpse.
“He got to you before I could stop him.” Stan grinned at the corpse. “That’s the story they’ll believe.”

To be continued........

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
Last edit: 3 years 7 months ago by LadyGrimes.
3 years 7 months ago #26431

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 33 part 2

Not long after, Justin found Dendera waiting for him at the end of the hall, then together they headed for the lobby where they found the others standing around as though they were waiting for some kind of miracle. Only Justin was a bit shocked to find that both Lynne and William were apparently missing and began to worry.

"Where's Sterling?" Justin asked Sergeant Dickerson as he walked up to him, just to be greeted with a fist in his face.

"You're lucky I don't knock your damn teeth out, kid!" Chris snarled. "And believe me I want nothing more than the pleasure after you used me for your little experiment and lied to all of us about what was really going on here!"

"It was my fault!" Dendera interrupted him as she appeared at Justin's side, with all eyes on her now, including Artis. "I made them promise not to tell."

Artis looked shocked and confused as he walked up to her. "But why?" He asked. "And where is Onuris?"

Dendera bowed her head, her face devoid of any emotion. "They have killed him. I'm sorry."

Artis couldn't believe what he was hearing now. "I understand," he sighed. But I have been so worried about you two, why didn't you tell me sooner?"

"Because she couldn't!" Justin answered. "They made her swear not to tell a soul, but she ended up telling me and Corporal Sterling anyway because she wanted us to stop it."

Chris shook his head as Abraham looked on in puzzlement. "And who is they exactly?" Chris demanded to know. "And you'd better tell us the truth, Church!"

"Yeah that's right!" Another soldier from the crowd chimed in. "We have a right to know. A bunch of our comrades are dead now, no thanks to you!"

Justin sighed remorsefully. "It's Naeem. He and several others have turned against us. And why? We don't know. Something to do with their old religion."

"And where is Naeem now?" Abraham furrowed his brow.

"We don't know, I'm sorry." Justin answered him. "Is that why Corporal Sterling and Commander Williams are missing? Are they looking for him?"

Abraham shook his head as he removed his cap. "They're checking for survivors upstairs as far as we know."

"And how long ago did they leave?" Justin asked while fearing the worst.

"About ten minutes ago at the most," Chris answered glaring back. "But before he left he mentioned you had some kind of plan to defeat these Tjatey traitors, is that correct?"

"Yes." Justin nodded. "And so far to my knowledge it's working. I've managed to knock out a few myself along the way, Dendera too. Also Stan should be arriving soon with Private Mathis."

Chris went slack-jawed. "But I thought Private Winston was locked in the brig? And why in god's name are you only knocking these savages out? Shouldn't we be killing them too?"

"I let Stan out." Justin explained. "And we need these savages alive so we can get to the bottom of this and find out why they've turned against us. It's important that we do so we can prevent something like this from ever happening again, don't you see?"

"No I don't." Chris replied with harshness. "All I or anyone else has seen is our men and women being slaughtered, and all because you and Corporal Sterling kept this a big secret. Even worse that you're keeping them alive. You want answers, Church? Well look no further than what's around you, cause you won't get any answers from them. They turned against us because that's who they are, plain and simple."

Justin sighed deep as he could feel his confidence sinking now. Chris's words rang true but still Justin wondered if there might be some shred of hope left.

"Girls, are you alright in there?" Lynne knocked on the door of the control room then waited for a response.

"Oh Commander thank heavens it's you!" She heard Lucy's frightened sounding voice coming from the other side. "We've been holed up in here waiting to hear back from anyone, but no one is answering their phones at all!"

Lynne uttered a sigh of relief.

"Do you want us to let you in?" Lucy asked then.

"No," Lynne replied. "I need you all to stay inside there until this is over. We're dealing with it the best we can right now."

"What?" Lucy responded frightfully. "Are we at war? What's happening out there? Why did that jet just explode like that?"

Lynne exhaled deep. "I know you're all very scared, but yes we are under attack by Tjatey forces that have turned against us. They are foot soldiers for all we know but they have taken out quite a few of us so far, so now we must remain vigilant if we hope to defeat them."

William sighed deeply as he walked away, passing by the door to the break room when it suddenly came open and a figure walked out. William gasped as he quickly turned around and froze in utter shock when he found that he was staring back at the face of his own mother.

Lynne immediately heard his reaction and peered over her shoulder to see Letha bowing before her son and placing her dagger at his feet.

"Are you surrendering?" William shot her a look of confusion. "Why were you even with them to begin with?"

"He wanted me to kill you and your sister," she answered as Lynne made her way over.

"Naeem?" William inquired.

Letha nodded in return. "He said that if I didn't end your lives then he would do it for me, and then end mine as well. So I promised I would but the truth is I can't." She shook her head and lowered it shamefully.

"What is this about, mother?" William spoke softly as he knelt down before her now. "Why has he turned against us?"

"For an old prophecy," she answered ashamed to look him in the face. "He believes that through your deaths it will be fulfilled, but he doesn't understand that death won't matter. He awaits our former leader. He wishes to rejoin him."

"Ammon?" William asked as Lynne stood by and listened. "But he's gone and they went so far as hoping I would take his place."

"No the one before him," Letha answered with seriousness as she looked up and stared into his eyes. "He is ruthless and will stop at nothing if he finds you."

"They won't say his name." Lynne mentioned just then as they both looked back at her. "I've been listening I'm sorry, she apologized. "But I know who you're talking about because Ammon was the one who warned us about his existence not long before he died from his illness. I only wish we knew more."

Letha turned and looked back up at William and took a hold of his hand. "I failed you and your sister as a mother," she explained. "But I won't fail you now." She picked up her dagger and placed it in his hand. "You must kill Naeem and any of his followers because they won't stop until you are dead my son."

William hung his head and sighed. "I never harbored ill feelings towards you. You did the best you could. I know Alley is different but I don't hate you mother, I never could."

Lynne frowned and turned away from them. She felt sorry for William but at the same time she was still very furious over his betrayal and she knew that any trust she ever had in him had been lost.

Letha gently planted a kiss on William's forehead. "It is forgiveness that will set us free not death."

William looked down at the dagger in his hand feeling almost afraid to use it, but he knew he had no other choice if he hoped to survive or keep the others alive.

"You're right." William nodded at his mother and then looked at Lynne. "I won't ask for your forgiveness now, but I want you to know that it killed me to keep this from all of you. It wasn't something we wanted to do because we knew the outcome."

Lynne shook her head at him and crossed her arms. "I may forgive you or I may not, and that is my choice to make."

"And I accept that," William replied before turning to leave. "But anyway I'm heading back down now, are you coming or not?"

"Yes." Lynne answered then started heading back to the elevator when she stopped and turned to Letha. "You stay up here where it is safe. Your son will be fine, I promise."

Letha bowed her head and thanked her in return. "I am sorry for all of this," she frowned at her.

"I know you are." Lynne replied. "And that's all that matters to me."

Justin found himself in panic mode now as he worried about William and Lynne when all of a sudden, there was a loud gasp and Justin peered over his shoulder in time to see Stan staggering into the lobby, his face and uniform covered with blood as he clutched at his side.

"He didn't make it." Stan managed to say as he met Justin's tearful eyes. "I couldn't protect him," he sighed regretfully. "I'm sorry."

Without saying a word, Justin rushed over and offered to help him. "Are you hurt bad?" Justin asked.

"Not too badly." Stan winced, feigning his pain. "But don't worry I took care of that warrior who killed him."

Chris applauded him. "Good on you, Private! Now if only the young corporal here would follow suit!"

Justin felt the sting of Chris's mockery and looked away.

Stan searched around the lobby for the moment, wondering where William was.

"Where is he?" Stan asked Justin who appeared reluctant to respond now.

"Justin, where is William?" Stan asked again with harshness, demanding his full attention now.

"We don't know." Justin replied quietly when at that moment, the elevator suddenly arrived and William and Lynne hurried out.

"We can't stay in here anymore." William announced. "It isn't safe. We're all sitting ducks in here if they swarm and outnumber us. We need to head outside where we can run if we need to. They'll only overwhelm us all in here because we're right where they want us!"

"He's right." Lynne agreed as she glanced over at Abraham. "We need to head outside now!"

Abraham gave a nod and then signaled for everyone to follow as Lynne and William headed out leading the way.

Once outside Justin caught up to William and noticed the dagger in his hand. "You killed one of them, Will?" He gasped.

"No." William replied as his eyes searched around for any sign of the enemy. "But I plan to."

Justin reached into his pocket and pulled out one of the smoke bombs, clutching it tight as he stared down at it, feeling like a failure now. Maybe it's best that we do kill them. But at least I tried to find another way. He sighed then looked up at William. "Where did you find that one?" He asked. "Did you take it from one of them when they were unconscious?"

"It was given to me by my mother." William answered. "She's still on our side."

Justin couldn't believe it. "You mean Naeem had the nerve to recruit your own mother and turn her against you?"

"Yes, Church." William replied curtly. "Because that's exactly who we're dealing with." Then silence befell him once he spotted the body of one of the guards lying nearby with his throat slashed and stab wound in his chest. "That's why we can't leave any of them alive." William furrowed his brow as his eyes began to tear up.

"Yeah I know." Justin acknowledged somberly and stuffed the smoke bomb back in his pocket. "They don't deserve to live, not after what they've done. To hell with answers, Will. We have to kill them or it will be the end of us all."

Meanwhile Naeem and the last five of his warriors arrived in the lobby just in time to find it completely empty now.

"They're gone! He growled fiercely clenching a fist. "We almost had them!"

"Does this mean we surrender?" Asked a warrior behind him.

"No!" Naeem seethed with rage when he unexpectedly whirled around and slashed the warrior's throat, sending him to the ground. "And how dare you speak of that word! Fen!" He cursed.

The other warriors looked on in fear now as their fallen comrade lay bleeding out before them.

"We still have time." Naeem turned around and glared at the others. "We must finish this! En Nekhtew! (For victory!)

"I'm sorry for all of this." Lynne sighed as she stood beside Abraham while keeping watch over him. "I can't believe they could be so selfish and put us all in harm's way. Especially you, Captain. I know this might come as a surprise, but I'm not ready to lose you just yet."

Abraham shook his head in response. "Oh stop it," he replied with harshness. "Maybe it was selfish of them but they had a reason, even if you or I don't agree with it."

Lynne felt outraged by his words. "You can't be serious?" She gasped. "Are you telling me you're perfectly fine with what they did? And you of all people too, Captain."

He raised a hand up and shook his head again. "I'm not saying I'm okay with it, I'm saying I understand their reasoning."

Lynne sighed with disgust then looked over in William's direction, noticing he seemed rather doleful as he stood near Stan, Justin, and a purple haired female warrior Lynne hadn't recalled seeing before.

"She's one of them!" Lynne suddenly exclaimed in anger, as all eyes were on her now as she stormed on over pointing a finger at Dendera, causing the frightened female to back away.

"Take your dagger and stab her, Corporal Sterling!" Lynne ordered. "Do it now!"

"No, no, no, no!" Justin intervened as he got between her and Dendera. "She's not one of them, she's with us!"

"What?" Lynne glared at him.

"He's right." William added, while hoping the soft tone of his voice might be enough to calm her down. "She's been on our side all along, so there's no need to panic."

Lynne wrinkled her brow. "I don't believe it! You would dare protect this savage?"

Justin narrowed his eyes at the sound of that word and found himself clenching his jaw.

"Oh back off!" William snapped as he shoved her back with one hand, nearly knocking her off her feet.

Lynne's eyes widened with shock now as she glared back at him. "How dare you touch me!" She hissed.

Then before either of them could speak another word, Dendera suddenly cried out. "Please stop this fighting!"

Lynne met Dendera's eyes with a harsh gaze.

"You should not be fighting each other." Dendera continued ignoring Lynne's icy stare. "The elders are counting on that. They want to drive you all apart, and don't you see? It's working!"

William lowered his head.

"If we're apart then we're vulnerable." Justin added looking at Dendera, then at Lynne.

Lynne sighed and closed her eyes for the moment, wishing that this were nothing but a bad dream that she would awake from soon.

"I'm sorry I shoved you." William said then, bringing her back as he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"Don't touch me," she responded bitterly as she opened her eyes again and pulled away. "Not ever."

William's face closed up with sadness, and then he looked over at Stan and then Justin who gave a slight shrug in response.

Everyone was silent now, as if in mourning. William turned his head and stared at the fire of the remnants still burning on the runway.

Justin watched it too. His face filled with sorrow, wishing they could have stopped it, all of it. Maybe we should have hunted after Naeem ourselves. But no, we just sat around waiting for this happen. And now our people are dead and their blood is on our hands.

William turned his attention back to the others now, observing their desolate faces, wondering what it would take to undo all the damage when he suddenly heard a familiar voice and directed his attention to the top of the steps.

"It's over for you now." Naeem announced glaring down at the human survivors as the last four warriors stood behind him awaiting orders. "It is time you accept your fate so our prophecy can be fulfilled! But will you go willingly or do you choose to fight?"

Justin glowered.

"We choose to fight!" Chris shouted all of sudden as he took a step forward. "This base is our home and we're not going to let you take it from us, not without a final stand, so it's best you and the rest of your mindless followers drop your blades and surrender now while you still can!"

Naeem looked back at him with utter fascination, surprised to see such defiance coming from a single man.

"He's right we're not going to let you win!" William suddenly added as he headed over and stood beside Chris. "If it's a final stand you want, then it's a final stand you'll get!"

Then at that moment, Naeem immediately recognized the dagger in William's hand. It belonged to Letha Sterling. Traitor, Naeem thought coldly clenching his teeth.

"We'll all die defending this base if that's what it takes!" Justin chimed in as he rushed to William's side with Stan following silently behind.

"I'll gladly give my life for the humans!" Dendera announced as she joined them. "I will avenge Onuris too!" She looked over at Artis and gave a reassuring nod.

Naeem bared his teeth at them as he gripped his dagger tightly, and then raised his other hand, signaling for his warriors to follow him down the steps.

"You had us all fooled, Naeem!" Lynne announced harshly as she took her place with the others. "We thought you were good, that you were one of us, but it seems you've proved us wrong!"

Just then, Abraham quickly hurried over to Artis and ordered him to leave.

"What? No, I can't!" Artis argued. "This is my fight too, Captain Grant."

Abraham shook his head. "If we should fall, the rest of humanity is going to need your help, Artis. They can't afford to lose you. You must survive this, understood?" Artis frowned and sighed.

"That was your father's final request before he passed. He asked that the AMF protect you at all costs. Now go and get yourself to safety!"

"Yes, Captain." Artis agreed somberly before sneaking off towards the gate.

"Well then you were fools to trust us!" Naeem smirked at Lynne as he and his warriors neared closer now, readying their daggers for a final attack. "But you humans are weak and that same weakness is what cost you your beloved planet to begin with."

"Well what you call weakness I call strength!" Chris fired back. "We humans didn't give up then and we're certainly not giving up now!"

Naeem narrowed his eyes at him. "I've heard enough out of you!" He seethed as he raised his dagger, giving his warriors the final signal. "Kill them!"

Now as Naeem's three warriors started rushing at the human survivors, the fourth warrior, a male with medium length navy blue hair suddenly dropped his dagger and fell to his knees. "I surrender!" He announced aloud for all to hear. "I never wanted any part of this!"

Upon hearing these words, Naeem glared over his shoulder at him. "Sebak you are a traitor!" He growled, when he was unexpectedly blindsided by Chris and knocked off his feet. He fell hard with a thud, landing on his side, nearly dropping his dagger when he looked up at Chris and scowled. "You're going to regret that!" Naeem warned as he shoved his long black hair away from his face, and then jumped back up to his feet staring Chris down. "You'll be the first to fall!"

Meanwhile another male warrior was chasing after Justin and slowly gaining on him, when Justin quickly made a sharp turn, skidding on the heels of his loafers, nearly causing the warrior to lose his footing.

"Not so fast!" The warrior snapped when he suddenly stopped and threw his dagger into the air like a spear, aiming for Justin's backside.

The young corporal ran as fast as his feet could carry him unaware of the dagger that was just about to pierce his flesh, when all of a sudden Stan appeared and shoved him out of the way, then caught the dagger in midair with his left hand.

Justin felt completely out of breath now, panting and clutching at his right side while in utter shock over what he had just witnessed.

Stan looked down at his hand and noticed the blade had managed to slice open a bit of his thick synthetic flesh along the palm as he removed it with his other hand. He studied his wound while observing some strange neon green colored fluid as it began oozing out. Oh no, he panicked inside, fearing that his cover was blown for good now; when at that moment the warrior who had thrown the dagger came charging at him full speed and crashing right into him.

The impact alone was enough to cause the warrior to stumble backwards and fall landing on his rump. He was stunned and confused as he looked up and saw Stan standing right over him with his own blade.

"The prophecy will not die with us!" The warrior informed him, knowing from the look in Stan's eyes it was all over for him. "That day will come and he will show no mercy!"

Nevertheless, his words didn't faze Stan in the least, and then without wasting any more time, Stan suddenly brought the blade down as hard as he could, sinking it deep into the warrior's chest, killing him instantly.

Déjà vu. Stan thought to himself while staring down at the alien corpse.

"You okay, Stan?" Justin asked worriedly as he slowly approached his mysterious friend.

"Fine." Stan winced as he pulled the sleeve down over his wound. "Here," he said then as he reached down and yanked the dagger out of the warrior's corpse with his other hand and gave it to Justin. "Protect yourself."

Justin accepted the blade even though he didn't feel the least bit convinced that Stan was fine. Something was wrong but he knew there wasn't time to ponder, especially once he turned his attention towards the runway where he spotted William in the middle of a knife duel with another warrior.

"Take it easy, big guy, alright?" Justin gave a light pat on Stan's back before taking off in William's direction.

Stan said nothing as he pulled back his sleeve, watching as the neon green fluid began dripping onto the ground below, forming a small puddle.

In the meantime, Dendera had managed to sneak over to Sebak who was still sitting on his knees feeling remorseful for what he'd done.

"Sebak." She whispered, prompting him to look her way.

"I'm sorry for Onuris." He replied solemnly averting her gaze. "I know he was your chosen mate."

Dendera frowned at him.

"Naeem was the one who killed him." Sebak explained, hoping to convince her of his innocence. "We had no choice but to join him or he would kill us too. He even killed my brother, Abasi. I do not wish to fight or kill anymore." He hung his head then slid his dagger over to her.

"End me now. The humans will never forgive me for what I've done. Please, Dendera." He looked up at her with tears in his eyes. "I'd rather die with my brother, as traitors."

Dendera sighed and then looked around to see the fighting taking place all around them with Naaem and Chris, a warrior and William, and another targeting Lynne and Abraham. It was something she never thought she would see again, and it saddened her.

"Will you?" Sebak asked again, awaiting her response.

She shook her head at him. "You have to earn their forgiveness. And you can."

His eyes widened as she kicked his dagger back over to him.

"Fight for them." She said. "If you are to die, then die a protector instead of a traitor."

Meanwhile, William's blade continued to collide with the warrior's as he pushed against it with all his strength, trying to knock his enemy down. The warrior eyed him with hatred and pushed back baring his teeth at him when a voice suddenly caught their attention.

"I'm here for ya, Will!" Justin announced himself with his own blade in hand.

Then it only took a second and with a swipe of his dagger, the warrior slashed William across his right shoulder, tearing open the fabric of his uniform, slicing through his flesh.

Justin gasped.

The cut wasn't too deep but it still bled and hurt very badly, but William wasn't about to give up the fight.

"So, you bleed like they do after all!" The warrior sneered at William as he observed the bright red blood on the edge of his blade. "But fear not for I will finish the job!"

Then without warning William suddenly pounced on the warrior, slamming his body hard against the asphalt, pinning him down as Justin quickly rushed over and snatched the blade from his clutches and tossed it aside.

Then William flipped him over onto his stomach, forcing him into a chokehold as he lifted him back up where he stood now facing Justin.

"Stab him!" William ordered while tightening his hold on the warrior. "Do it, Church!"

Justin hesitated in that moment. His eyes were wide and he felt nothing but anger inside towards this Tjatey warrior who had joined forces with Naeem and helped murder men and women he had known personally. Yet as he held the blade tight, his hand began to tremble and a look of utter horror swept across his face.

"Do it now, Church!" William ordered again, his tone of voice sounding more irate.

"I-I don't know if I can." Justin replied shakily.

"You have to!" William responded with urgency. "Now do it!"

Then without further delay, Justin forced himself to plunge the dagger into the warrior's chest, feeling his eyes tear up as he looked into the face of his enemy as though to say he were sorry.

Dark blood began seeping out of the stab wound as the warrior's body suddenly went limp in William's grasp. Justin dropped the blade and took a step back as William released the corpse, letting it fall to the ground.

"You had to do it." William said reassuringly as he looked over at Justin. "Please don't feel guilty about it. He was a killer and traitor. You did the right thing."

Justin gave a slow nod in response as he stared down at the corpse.

"Now come on." William said. "This isn't over yet, we've got to help the others."

"We have to get to the gate!" Lynne urged as she ran alongside of Abraham who was just barely keeping up with her now as an angry warrior with long auburn colored hair pursued after them.

"We have to get you to safety, Captain!" Lynne ordered.

"And why is my safety more important than yours?" Abraham argued in between breaths as he soon became dizzy and couldn't run anymore.

Captain?" Lynne began to panic as he suddenly stopped and propped himself up against the wall of the building, clutching at his chest.

"I can't run anymore." He wheezed. "I'm just not the man I used to be."

Then Lynne turned around just in time to see the warrior headed right for them. "We have to move now!" She barked. "Don't give up, you can't! You understand me?"

"I-I-I can't." He struggled to hold himself up now as his heart began to race.

"You have to!" Lynne exclaimed in outrage as she tugged on his arm. "I'm not losing you too!"

"Ah, so you make it easy for me eh?" The warrior stopped and taunted them, admiring the look of defeat on their faces. "So which of you do I end first?"

Lynne's eyes widened with horror as she attempted to act as Abraham's shield, only to be shoved out of the way by him as the warrior lunged at them and stabbed Abraham in the chest.

"Captain!" Lynne cried out frantically, watching as he slowly fell against the wall while grasping at the blade in attempt to prevent it from going any deeper.

Then before the warrior could push the blade any further, Sebak suddenly appeared right behind him and stabbed him in the back.

Lynne rushed to Abraham's side and knelt down beside him as he yanked the blade out his chest then placed his hand over the wound to try and stop the bleeding.

"We need to get you to the infirmary, Captain." Lynne said tearfully then looked up at Sebak. "Can you help me?"

Sebak nodded.

Lynne smiled gratefully and then glanced back down at Abraham's wound as more blood began seeping out. "We need to apply more pressure," she said as she pressed her hand against his. "I'm not losing you!" She began to cry hysterically.

William and Justin soon heard her cries, as did Chris but unfortunately once he looked in her direction, Naeem quickly seized the moment and drove his dagger right into Chris's gut.

"Your emotions make you weak," Naeem remarked cruelly as he stared into Chris's horrified eyes before pushing him off his blade.

Naeem shot Chris a fiendish smile as he lay there and began to bleed out. "At least you will die with dignity," Naeem taunted him. "But fear not, the others will be joining you soon."

"Oh you think so?" Naeem suddenly heard behind him as he quickly turned around only to be struck in the jaw by William's fist.

Naeem fell, dropping his blade in the process, as Dendera rushed in and snatched it away before he could grab it.

"So you can fight after all?" Naeem remarked glaring up at William as he wiped the blood from his mouth. "Most impressive. You would have made a fine warrior indeed, but you've chosen the wrong side obviously."

William narrowed his eyes at him while Justin quickly hurried over to help Chris.

"Hang in there, Sergeant," Justin said as his eyes began to water. "You're going to make it."

Chris shook his head at him and grimaced as he uncovered his stab wound beneath his hands.

Justin gasped as he looked down.

"Sorry, Corporal," Chris apologized weakly while fighting to stay awake.

"No you can't go!" Justin cried out as he looked up at William, who began to tear up as well.

"I guess the man of the universe says otherwise," Chris replied apologetically as he looked up at Justin and gave him a pat on the hand. "You put up a good fight, kid. And above all else, I forgive you."

"I'm so sorry," Justin began to cry as Chris suddenly slipped away.

"Sergeant?" Justin panicked as he started shaking Chris's body, hoping he'd wake back up. "Sergeant?" He cried again while staring down at Chris waiting for some kind of sign but there was nothing. He was truly gone.

Justin sobbed into his hands as William turned and glared at Naeem, feeling nothing but hatred for him now.

"At least he fought bravely," Naeem smirked as he looked back at William. "He did not die in vain."

"You killed him!" Justin suddenly screamed with rage as his head shot up and he jumped to his feet, snatching the dagger out of Dendera's hand.

"And so I have," Naeem responded impassively even now as Justin was standing over him with his own blade.

"Church," William suddenly spoke up. "You don't have to."

But before William could utter another word, Justin quickly plunged the dagger into Naeem's heart with full force, killing him immediately.

Justin huffed and clenched his teeth as he released his grip on the dagger, then rose back up where he stared down at the corpse of the former enemy as he bled out, his blood as black as his hair.

William was speechless.

"It's done," Justin snarled as he looked at William, then over at Dendera.

William gave a nod, then looked around and noticed someone else appeared to be missing. "Where's Stan?"

But at that same moment, Stan was hiding behind the back of one of the buildings tending to his wound, when he was suddenly taken by surprise by Mick Situp, one of Eric's former cronies that had gone into hiding with several others during the attack.

"Stan, is that you?" Mick asked as he stepped out from around the corner and cautiously approached him, while realizing something was not right when he noticed some strange visible static going on with the back of Stan's head as though it was some kind of holographic imagery.

"What the hell?" Mick's eyes went wide as Stan slowly turned around, while his human guise began to flicker on and off, revealing a shiny metallic looking faceplate underneath and large glowing green eyes.

"You're not human?" Mick gasped.

Then Stan quickly lunged forward, grabbed the young man by his head, then twisted his neck, killing him instantly, before dropping him like a piece of trash, then proceeding towards the gate to make his escape before anyone else discovered his true identity.

Meanwhile Lynne and Sebak had carried Abraham to the infirmary, where they were prepping him for a blood transfusion.

"It has to be me," Lynne looked at Sebak. "Tjatey blood isn't compatible."

Sebak gave a nod as Lynne began to roll up her sleeve.

Abraham was barely conscious but he could hear her voice as she spoke to him.

"You're going to make it," she said brushing her hand against his forehead. "Just hang in there, Captain."

In that moment he tried to speak but couldn't. He was aware of his surroundings despite the fact his vision was blurry and the faces before him were barely recognizable. But if one thing were certain, he knew that his body was fighting to stay alive.

"Stay with us, Captain," he heard Lynne's voice say again as his eyes suddenly became very heavy until the voice was barely audible now and everything soon faded to black.

In the meantime as Justin and William searched for Stan, Justin suddenly stopped and looked down once he happened upon a strange looking puddle of neon green colored fluid near his feet.

"What's this?" Justin wondered as he knelt down on one knee for a better look. "I've never seen anything like this before? What could it be?"

Then Justin reached into his pocket and pulled out one of his leftover smoke bombs, removed the cap, and dumped the liquid out.

"What is it?" William asked as he headed over while Justin took the empty vial and scooped up a sample of the mysterious fluid.

"I don't know," Justin replied as he capped the vial, and then held it up to his face, narrowing his eyes. "I don't even know where it came from."

"Well I can't find Stan anywhere," William sighed.

"He'll show," Justin replied reassuringly as he got back up and looked around them. "This place looks like a graveyard now."

And coincidentally, that's exactly what Victoria was thinking as well as she stood outside the gates of the base, gaping at the horrific site before her. Debris and the bodies of the dead; human and Tjatey alike were scattered all over, the aftermath of an apparent brutal war.

Tears filled her eyes now as she clasped her fingers around the bars tightly then spotted a stream of white smoke coming from the runway.

What happened here? She wondered. Did he make it?

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
Last edit: 3 years 7 months ago by LadyGrimes.
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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

While I work out the kinks for volume 2 and begin that first chapter, I'll be posting art and things I've finished. (Some of which have taken for effing ever) I also want to do some sort of mini comic based on the aftermath of ATED. But being that it takes longer to make a comic than it does to finish a chapter, I'm not going to work on that first.

If anything it's just going to act as a companion piece to the chapter. Right now I have some panels sketched out, so I will go back and determine which I will keep and which I will dispose of. The goal is to capture the raw emotion felt afterward, once I can achieve that this thing will progress on.

Anyways yap, yap, yappity yap. Okay, okay, getting to the arts.

Here's Brian looking very Brian-y

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
Last edit: 3 years 6 months ago by LadyGrimes.
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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Still working on that first chapter which might be a little long since there is a one month gap in between. So far liking how its coming along. I haven't decided on a title so I'm just calling it "Days of Darkness" for now.

Anyway I've finally completed a poster/cover piece for the first volume. And I went full 80s for this one.

Does it look Robotech-y enough? ;)

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
Last edit: 3 years 5 months ago by LadyGrimes.
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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Sorry it has taken me forever to update this shit. Been busy had a lot to do but now things are somewhat back to normal and so the updates must go on!
And I now proudly present to you.....

Atlantech: Days of Darkness

Chapter 1

It’s only been a month, but I can still remember the attack just like it were yesterday. I can hear the screams, I can see the blood. It’s all too much. So many of us died that day, and not just those we lost either. The rest of us died inside, including me Corporal Justin Church, or at least that’s who I was before Commander Williams gave me the unholy death stare and told me the AMF no longer needs me.

Yeah that’s right. I’ve been let go, discharged, kicked out. And on top of it all, I wasn’t even allowed to attend Sergeant Dickerson’s funeral. But then again I don’t think I could even stand being in the same room with his family, with the others. It just wouldn’t feel right. No it wouldn’t. After all it’s my fault he died that day. Mine and Will’s. I still remember his last words to me. He said he forgave me for everything, and now I wonder why? What was there to forgive? I was more than willing to take the blame but it just wasn’t in his nature to hold a grudge. Chris was just plain good hearted. A true hero in every sense of the word and I miss him terribly. We all do.

We almost lost Captain Grant that day too, but miraculously the blade missed his heart and didn’t puncture deep enough to cause any permanent damage, but he still lost a lot of blood and if it weren’t for a blood transfusion, he would’ve been a goner for sure. I haven’t even seen him since that day, but Will has kept me updated on his status, over the phone anyway. Will’s on probation and not allowed to leave the base at all. Yeah, the commander decided to make his life hell too. Can’t say I blame her either, after all we had it coming.

But life has only been hell for me because it meant I had to move back in with my father. Yeah I hate the bastard and all he does is drink, just like old times, and oh yeah whine about things that don’t even matter anymore. But rather than waste my time arguing with the man I just stay out of his way. I spend most if not all my time gambling. I’m addicted and it’s pretty much all I do now, but the best part? I don’t have to wear a disguise anymore! Yeah I can just come and go as I please until I either get thrown out or bored of the scenery and leave to find something better. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Do I miss the AMF? Sometimes. I miss Will and I miss Stan. I haven’t seen much of Stan lately either. He claimed he was badly injured and had to spend a few weeks recovering from his injuries. Apparently they were internal, or at least that’s what Will relayed to me. Will misses him too, but most of all he misses Victoria. He knows she’s probably wondering what happened to him, assuming he died since he hasn’t sent her a letter since that last time. That’s got to be hard on her I’m sure. But that’s the choice he made. He just feels so much guilt over what happened, he doesn’t even believe he’s worthy of her anymore. It’s sad. And to think he was just slowly starting to come around and become more confident. But that’s how the story goes.

Hell I feel empty myself. Like I’m just a shell of my former self just trying to get by. After all, I had to kill two Tjatey warriors that day. The first one was difficult and I had to force myself to do it, but when it came to Naeem, it was easier. I just felt so much anger inside; it was unlike anything I have ever felt before. I just wanted to kill him, to see him die and I did. In fact all of those other traitors are dead too, cause we soon realized we couldn’t allow any of them to live. And so we went back and found all the sleeping warriors that had been knocked out by my smoke bombs, and we stabbed them. Every single one.

And afterwards, Commander Williams also requested that all their weapons be confiscated and destroyed completely. So she had all their blades melted down, even the weapons of the Tjatey who refused to join Naeem’s war. Their loyalty didn’t matter anymore. Lynne doesn’t trust them now, end of story. Which I might add is probably for the best since we don’t want or need another uprising in the future. Hell we don’t even fully understand why this one happened to begin with. Not even those who remain loyal like Dendera or Sebak can give the answers.

Speaking of which, after the death of Onuris, Sebak ended up being a great replacement for him over at Atlantech. I hear Artis and him get along great and it didn’t take him long to learn the ropes either. Although I do know that Artis is still unhappy that I’m no longer a part of Atlantech’s development team. In fact I know he’s still trying to get the commander to allow me back, but so far no such luck. But Maybe I’m not meant for that kind of life and instead am meant for something much more. Makes me wonder you know?

Oh who am I kidding? Life just isn’t the same anymore. I can barely even sleep now. I’m just haunted by what happened and I know it’s the same for Will too. I just can’t get my head around it either. Why did this have to happen? And why did the Tjatey turn against us like that? And what was that strange liquid I found that night? You see? We have all these questions and no answers, that’s what. And all I want is for everything to go back to normal. I want it all to be the same again. But I know it can’t. No matter what, we’re never going to be the same.

Justin opened his eyes now staring mindlessly at the slot machine in front of him. He felt bored and dejected as he tried to ignore the chattering and clinking of wine glasses he heard coming from behind, along with the sounds of snickering and snobbish whispers, reminding him that he was a nuisance who didn’t belong in this part of the city.

Only it was something he had grown quite accustomed to these days, but rather than fight against it as he used to, he decided he would embrace it instead. After all, he knew he looked young for his age and unmistakably silly looking in his oversized green plaid coat, which happened to be the same coat he used to wear over his AMF uniform in order to hide and walk freely amongst the rest of the crowd.

But despite the fact he didn’t need to hide anymore he still chose to dress a little inconspicuous in order to keep a low profile, especially if he planned on making it out of that casino alive anyway.

After all, Justin was in Morane’s territory now and he knew this place like many others was probably crawling with his goons and the chances of one of them seeing his face and reporting it back to the man himself were extremely high.

In fact Justin had a feeling one of Morane’s goons were watching him this very moment as he reached up and pulled on the slot machine’s lever, then watched anxiously as the wheel inside began to spin around and around when suddenly three matching images popped up on screen and declared him a winner.

The other patrons behind him gasped in awe as Justin slyly looked over his shoulder at them and smirked.

“Not bad for a little chump like myself eh?” Justin remarked causing the majority of the bystanders to walk away, while a few stayed behind to observe this mysterious young winner as Justin kicked a bucket up against the machine right before it started spitting out coins, nearly filling the receptacle to the top.

“And that will do for today!” Justin announced to his small audience which he began to shoo off with his hand.

“So go on, scram! Justin huffed irritably as they all began to leave. “Go find somebody else to badger!”

However, one curious older man had chosen to stay behind in hopes of learning this young man’s secret and even walked over to congratulate him.

“It’s not every day a kid like you hits the big one.” The man in the pale gray, cheap looking business suit commented as he gave Justin a hard pat on the back as though he were a long time friend. “Now what are you gonna do with all that dough huh?” The man nudged. “You got a special girlfriend you gonna take for a night on the town?”

“Not really.” Justin shot him a look of annoyance while at the same time wondering if this man was one of Morane’s.

“Besides, I don’t even have a girlfriend,” Justin said as he knelt down and began scooping some of the coins into his hands then letting them rain back down on top of the pile. “And what part of scram didn’t you understand? You think I didn’t hear all that gossip about me and how I have no business being in a place like this? Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Justin quipped.

The man blinked in disbelief. “Well then what you gonna do with all that money, kid? You look a bit too young to be laundering it ya know what I mean?”

Justin rolled his eyes as he stood back up and straightened his coat. “What I choose to do with it is my business,” he snapped. “Now buzz off already will ya?” He shooed him away with his hand.

The man grumbled as he stormed off, leaving Justin by himself again.

“The nerve of some people.” Justin shook his head then knelt down again beside the machine, but not before taking a moment to make sure the coast was clear before he reached up and grabbed a hold of a transparent looking magnetic strip sticking out of the coin slot, then carefully pulled it out.

Justin smirked as he looked down at the strip, feeling proud of himself. And that’s how I did it you morons. He chuckled to himself as he stuffed it back into his coat pocket. But you people are nothing but a bunch of simpletons who’re too naive to catch on. In other words, I played you all like a fiddle.

Then as Justin looked down at his bucket of coins he realized he had a lot more than he had originally intended on.

Hmm. Wonder if I might have gone a little overboard this time? He scratched his chin then shook his head in disagreement. Nah. Although I do wonder if that one guy could be reporting me to Morane this very minute? He worried as he rose back to his feet and scanned around the room to see if anyone was watching him.

But it looked as though the other patrons were minding their own business now, so Justin picked up his heavy bucket and began making his way over to the coin counting machine to cash in his winnings.

“Well if it ain’t another one of Atlantech’s greatest inventions,” he remarked to himself as he set the bucket down then pressed the large button to activate the machine when all of a sudden he noticed something very curious on the wall next to him.

“What’s this?” Justin lifted a brow as he gaped at the wanted for murder poster which featured the police sketch of a strangely familiar looking face.

Creepy looking guy, Justin thought in that moment as he eyed it with curiosity. But why do I have this crazy feeling I know him from somewhere?

Just then the machine beeped aloud, snapping him back to reality and alerting him that it was ready to accept his deposit.

Perfect timing, Justin mumbled as he began dumping the coins down the pit of the machine, seeming to have forgotten all about that wanted poster as the coins clinked and clanged very loudly as they made contact with the metal walls inside. Unfortunately this caused a lot of racket which could be heard throughout the casino, annoying the other patrons nearby.

But at that moment Justin appeared too distracted by the glaring screen in front of his face as he quietly counted along with the machine, unaware of all the negative attention he was drawing to himself when the casino owner, a man who reminded him a lot of Maxwell Graham, soon made his way on over to scold him for disturbing the peace.

“Pardon me, but do you think you could possibly keep the noise down over here?” The owner narrowed his eyes at Justin, wondering what a kid his age was doing in his establishment in the first place. “You see, I’m trying to run a respectable business here, and well you’re kind of ruining the atmosphere.”

Respectable, Justin thought sarcastically as he turned around to face the man head on now.

“Well I am, very, very sorry!” Justin raised his voice, trying to speak clearly over the loud racket of the coins as he continued dumping them out. “In fact, as soon as I cash my winnings I will leave right away!”

The owner appeared very annoyed now and was even clenching his fist. “There’s no need to shout at me,” he snapped when out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of the total amount of Justin’s winnings on the screen which immediately raised suspicion.

“I must say your winnings are most impressive,” the owner commented while stroking his chin and squinting his eyes. “Perhaps a little too impressive?” He glared at Justin who was busy waiting on the machine to print the currency notes.

“Why how nice of you to notice.” Justin replied mocking the inflections of the casino owner’s British accent, triggering a dirty look from him as Justin picked up his empty bucket and set it down next to his feet.

“How dare you insult me?!” The owner exclaimed in outrage as his hand shot forward and nabbed Justin by the wrist right as he made a grab for the newly printed currency sticking out of the machine.

“Now I know you cheated!” He accused Justin as he tightened his grip. “And I demand to know how!”

“Come again?” Justin blinked with stupor as he tried tugging himself free.

“Don’t play dumb with me!” The owner hissed. “I know you cheated, as there is no possible way a kid your age could win that much, and from a single machine alone, so you best come clean and tell me exactly how you did it, and then I’m going to kick you out of here for good, you hear?”

“Okay fine, you got me,” Justin sighed as he yanked his arm out of the man’s grasp. “It’s a pretty complicated method, so it might take a few minutes to explain.”

“Balderdash!” The owner griped. “Just get on with it!”

“Okay, alright,” Justin huffed as he reached down and snatched up his bucket and looked down at it. “Well you see, I used this here bucket to cheat the system.” He raised it up to his face and looked down inside. “Because this isn’t just any ordinary bucket,” Justin explained. “In fact it possesses one remarkable ability when it comes to gambling.”

“You can’t be serious?” The casino owner scoffed. “But carry on. Do tell what remarkable capabilities such a contraption as that does possess.”

Justin then turned the bucket upside down in his hands and held it out as if to show the man something engraved on the bottom. “Can you see the marking?” Justin asked as he lifted it closer to the man’s face. “It’s right there smack dab in the middle, you can’t miss it.”

“Where?” The owner leaned in for a better look.

“There!” Justin shouted as he suddenly threw the bucket over the man’s face, snatched up his currency, stuffed them into his pocket, and then made a beeline for the revolving door.

“Ummph!” The owner uttered as he threw the bucket off of his head then called over his security guards to hunt down and detain the young thief. “After him! Quick! Before he gets away!”

But by the time the guards made it outside the building, Justin was nowhere to be seen.

“Drats,” one of the guards quipped shaking his fist. “We’re gonna get fired for sure now!”

Meanwhile as Justin continued making his escape out of Gambler’s Strip, he accidentally bumped into a lone flapper who immediately began beating him over the head with her silver sequined coin purse.

“Why don’t you watch where you’re going?” The woman chastised as she continually hit him. “You good for nothing clumsy ox!” She snarled at Justin as he pushed himself through the rest of the crowded sidewalk, making his way down a nearby alley where he stopped to catch his breath.

“Jesus, what a night,” he remarked tiredly as he rubbed his sore head. “Now I know why I only come here on specific nights,” he sighed as he slid down against the wall then pulled out the cash to revel in his success. “Well at least I got away, but I have a feeling my luck will be running out soon. Don’t know if I can keep this up forever.”

Then he suddenly remembered that wanted poster he’d seen on the wall and began wondering why that police sketch looked so oddly familiar. I must have seen that man before, he thought now. But where and when? That’s the question.....

But while Justin had appeared to forget all about the angry casino owner, the man hadn’t forgotten about him. In fact at that very moment the man was in his office grabbing for the phone and dialing quickly.

It rang a few times until someone on the other end finally picked up.

“Morane, this is Mr.Grissom calling. I’m afraid we’ve got a serious problem here.”

Elsewhere at the AMF’s base, William was sitting in his living area wearing a white t-shirt and dark blue sweat pants while reading a book about tragedy and loss when a feeling of sadness overcame him and he couldn’t read any longer.

He sighed deeply as he closed the book and tossed it onto the coffee table then leaned back against his couch and stared up at the ceiling. There was nothing to see but he felt desperate to escape the painful memories that have haunted him since, but not even the nothingness above could make him forget. Then as he crossed his arms against his chest he could feel his scar beneath his fingertips on the right shoulder where it was barely covered by the sleeve of his shirt.

It was the worst reminder of them all, because it was the one thing that reminded him the past was real and not a bad dream he could awake from. And now as he sat alone with nothing but these memories he began to feel as though he were reliving them all over again.

Why did this have to happen? He asked himself. Why did it have to be us? Why?

He frowned and closed his eyes as he began to doze off a bit when he suddenly heard Lynne’s bitter angry voice chewing him out, uttering the same words she’d said to him when he had arrived in the infirmary with Justin to check on Grant’s status.

“If he dies I will never forgive you! Do you understand me?” She threatened him tearfully.

William remembered the choked up feeling in his throat. He couldn’t speak but he felt her pain and quietly accepted.

And you!” Lynne pointed right at Justin. “I want you gone! You’re too much of a risk anymore and the AMF can’t afford it. So pack your belongings and leave at once!”

Her words had been harsh but William knew that this anger was only a manifestation of her own pain and guilt, and rather than dealing with it she decided to take it all out on him and Justin.

“And don’t even think about trying to stop me, Corporal Sterling!” She glared at William who gave Justin a sorry look. “You can’t save him this time!”

William lowered his shoulders and hung his head in submission. She had made up her mind so there wasn’t any use in trying to argue or tell her she was wrong because no matter what, it wouldn’t change her decision.

What about Stan? William had to ask next. “Are you discharging him too?”

Lynne glowered in response until Justin suddenly spoke up.

“Stan didn’t know about the attack until after I released him!” He explained. “You can’t kick him out, the man is a hero. He saved me and many others just to get badly injured. He left before me and Will could find him. For all we know he didn’t make it either.”

Lynne appeared stunned by Justin’s words but that look of blame was still evident in her eyes.

“He’s right,” William added in agreement looking at Justin. “Stan is a hero and he had no idea because Justin and I kept the secret from him too, but you never gave me a chance to tell you.”

Lynne clenched her teeth. “That’ll be enough out of both you. You’re dismissed!”

As Lynne turned her back on them Justin shot William a silent brokenhearted look then he turned around and exited the room.

William felt his sadness but also felt powerless to do anything about it when he suddenly wondered about his own fate in the AMF and had to find out.

“So then what about me?” William asked her. “Where do I stand in all this?”

“Probation.” Lynne answered coldly without even bothering to look at him. “I’ll fill you in on all the details later, when I feel like it.”

“Fine then,” William gave a careless shrug before finally walking out like a dog with its tail between its legs.

Then once he spotted Justin waiting in the hall for him, he didn’t know what to say.

“Don’t worry I heard it all,” Justin said. “I’m sorry, Will.”

William frowned and lowered his head. “So is this the last we’re going to see or hear of each other then?”

“No,” Justin shook his head as tears filled his eyes. “I promise I’ll keep in touch. You call me and I’ll call you, alright? And when you see Stan, tell him the same goes for him, wherever he lives.”

“I will,” William promised.

“Well I guess I better start packing,” Justin sighed sadly. “Gotta move back in with the alcoholic.”

Then William suddenly gave him a hug. “You take care of yourself you hear? I know this is going to be rough but you’re strong and I know you’ll make it.”

Justin smiled and hugged him back. “Thanks, Will. You really are the greatest friend I’ve ever had.”

“So are you,” William replied gratefully.

Then in that moment of remembrance, William wiped away the tears from his eyes and sat up again. He looked around the room, reminded of the simple days when he and Justin used to bicker or get caught up in the same old shenanigans. Life was better then and he missed it more than ever now that he was alone in his bungalow left to dwell on the past.

And even though it seemed Justin had received the worst punishment, he was at least free to go wherever in the city he wanted to. He could escape his father and gamble to his heart’s content. While on the other hand, William couldn’t even leave the base let alone his own residence, and so it appeared that Lynne had saved the harshest sentence for him after all. But it was something he should have expected after the way she’d warned him in the elevator that day.

It didn’t even matter after all that talk about forgiveness because it seemed that Lynne was never going to let things go now.

"Remember what I said to you that day in the elevator?” Lynne mentioned as she glared back at him. “I told you that if we survive this I was going to make sure you both regretted your decision. Well this is it, Corporal Sterling. I hold you both responsible for every single man and woman that died, including Sergeant Dickerson.”

William frowned in response, knowing there wasn’t a single thing he could say now to change things.

“They’re all gone because of your foolishness.” Lynne lashed out at him. “You chose to protect the Tjatey over your own people! And for what I ask?”

William sighed and lowered his gaze to the floor as he could no longer face her icy stare.

“I once said you were loyal,” she continued, feeling agitated over his refusal to look at her. “But I couldn’t have been more wrong. But then again I thought I knew you too.”

“Just stop it!” William suddenly snapped as he lifted his head back up and looked her in the eye.

“Excuse me?” Lynne clenched her teeth and furrowed her brow.

“I said enough!” William repeated himself in a harsh grating tone. “I’m sorry for everything that happened and I know Corporal Church and I fucked everything up, but I cannot listen to you any longer because it hurts too much! So please just let it go!”

Lynne scoffed at him but he could hear the tightness in her throat knowing it obviously hurt her too.

“You have a lot of nerve to talk about pain,” she snarled. “You want to talk about pain? Alright, then. Well how about the fact that Captain Grant is lying in a hospital bed right now in critical condition? And if he doesn’t heal properly I could lo—we could lose him. So how’s that for pain, Corporal Sterling?”

“I’m sorry,” he apologized.

“Not sorry enough,” she glared back causing him to grit his teeth.

“You wanna know something?” He suddenly growled raising his voice. “You like to act all high and mighty about this, as if you wouldn’t have done the same thing and I know you would have!”

“The hell I would!” She snapped back. “And how dare you raise your voice to me, Corporal!”

William furrowed his brow and continued. “If you had the choice to save Captain Grant’s life over everybody else here, you would’ve done so in a heartbeat and don’t tell me you wouldn’t! I made a promise to Dendera because I didn’t want her to lose the one person who meant everything to her. I knew there was a risk, Church and I both did, but we didn’t sit by and just let it happen. We prepared for it! And if we hadn’t done shit, then a lot more of our men and women would have died! Can’t you at least try to understand why we did what we did?”

Lynne was silent now, looking as though she were feeling regretful but he knew she wouldn’t admit to it, certainly not now.

“Look, I’m sorry you lost your father.” William sighed solemnly. “But blaming the rest of us isn’t going to bring him back, and neither is it going to save the captain’s life. You just need to accept that.”

She stared him down once again and for the moment he was prepared for another rant about how he was wrong and she was in the right when she suddenly just walked away.

Even now that argument was still fresh in William’s mind, but he knew back then someone had to say something and it had to be him. And all the while he felt bad about the way he talked to her he couldn’t help but notice that feeling of relief it had given him. He was tired of being blamed over and over again despite the fact he had already accepted the consequences and told her as much. But it didn’t seem to be enough and he was tired of feeling miserable.

And as far as he was concerned she had succeeded in making him feel like a complete failure and he wondered how the two of them ever had any kind of relationship at all. But then he remembered she used to be a much different person before she chose the AMF over him and became cold and distant.

It reminded him why he later found solace in seeing Victoria’s films and daydreamed about that perfect romance he could have with her instead. But of course in his last letter to the woman he made a promise that he wouldn’t hide from her anymore if he survived the attack on the base. But even though he did survive he wasn’t allowed outside the fences and so meeting her at all seemed to be out of the question. Still he had the option of writing another letter but already a month had passed and he knew by now she probably thought he was long dead which had him wondering if it was better that he stayed dead too.

I got my own people killed, he thought then. What would she think about that? Then again what reason could I possibly give for not bothering to write her after all this time? He frowned as he leaned forward with his left hand resting under his chin. I owe her something at least. His eyes drifted off to a single blank sheet of paper sitting on the coffee table. He stared mindlessly at it for a while before he finally decided it was a bad idea then continued to sit there in silence.

Once more he thought about his last fight with Lynne and wondered how she was doing since they hadn’t spoken in a few weeks. He assumed she was probably as upset as he was and that’s why she was keeping her distance, but little did he know that she’d been occupied with something else lately and it had occurred right after their fight when she walked away.

And while William assumed she probably went straight to her office to stew over everything, she had in fact left the base and walked right to the Card Shack to have her first drink. She remembered how numb and indifferent Abraham had reacted to conflict or bad news whenever he had been drinking and she wondered if perhaps it could do the same for her.

However, she did seem a bit disgusted with herself as she walked inside the building and headed for the bar where the young bartender happily greeted her.

“Hello there I’m Enrique.” The black haired green eyed bartender smiled. “What can I get you?”

Lynne didn’t even return the smile as she took a seat at the very end of the counter. “I’ll have whatever you recommend,” she replied tiredly. “I’ve never been here before, nor have I ever had a drink in my life, so what do you suggest?”

Enrique appeared a little taken aback by her response but felt glad to help nonetheless.

“Well it all depends on what you’re in the mood for.” He answered. “And it looks to me as though you had a pretty lousy day so I suppose I would suggest a couple shots of vodka to lift your spirits.”

“Thanks I suppose that will do,” she sighed as she slouched over the counter top, when she suddenly spotted a suave looking dark haired man in a dark gray business suit heading on over just to take a seat right next to her.

Lynne looked him over for a moment before the bartender interrupted her silence.

“Here’s your two shots of vodka.” Enrique announced as he set the two shot glasses down in front of her. “Careful though,” he added. “There is a bit of a burn at first.”

“Thank you.” Lynne accepted as she picked up the first shot glass and stared at it for a second before downing it quickly, feeling that burn Enrique had warned her about as it made its way down her throat.

She winced a bit, triggering a look of intrigue from that mysterious man next to her.

“Atta girl.” The man commended her with a nod of his head. “Let’s see you down the second shot too. I know a woman like you can handle it.” He chuckled.

Then without saying a word Lynne picked up the second shot glass and downed it as fast as she could, scrunching up her face immediately after.

“It takes some getting used to it for first timers.” The man commented taking her by surprise.

“And how do you know it’s my first time?” Lynne asked him.

The man smiled at her. “Your reaction, Miss. By the way the name’s Mortimer. What’s yours?”

“Lynne,” she answered a little nervously while wondering why a man like him was even bothering to talk to her. Can’t he see my uniform? Doesn’t he know where I’m from?

“So you’re in the military I see,” he mentioned then eying her uniform. “What’s your rank?”

“I’m a commanding officer,” she answered. “Does that intimidate you at all? It does for most men.”

He smiled softly and shook his head. “No it doesn’t. In fact I have to say I find a woman in uniform to be very attractive, and you are indeed, Miss Lynne.”

Lynne’s eyes widened with surprise and she blushed a bit. “Oh, well uh thank you I suppose.”

“Think nothing of it, dollface,” he replied. “So how’s about I buy you another drink eh? Do you accept?”

Lynne felt a little speechless but still couldn’t help this strange feeling of attraction she experienced as she gazed into this man’s dark eyes. He’s just like those charming men you see in the movies, she thought. But what could it be that he even sees in someone like me?

“Sure I accept,” she nodded in kind even though she wasn’t sure if she could handle any more of that vodka for now.

“Two more shots for the pretty lady here, Sir!” Mortimer called over to Enrique.

Lynne couldn’t help but blush again as the bartender set two more shot glasses in front of her.

“There you are.” Enrique said. “Let me know if there’s anything else I can get you. We also carry snack foods if you’re feeling a little peckish.”

Lynne couldn’t help but smile now. “Thank you kindly but this will do for now.”

“So why don’t you come here more often, Miss?” Mortimer suddenly asked, catching her off guard now.

“Usually too busy.” Lynne answered forcing herself to chug another shot. “Never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever set foot in a place like this.”

“So I see,” he noted. “Well perhaps you are here now, Lynne because of a little something I like to call fate.”

She suddenly froze inside, unsure of how to respond. Fate, she pondered for the moment, wondering if this mysterious man could be right.

“Fate does lead us in many directions,” she mentioned then. “Some good and some bad.”

“And what would you call this?” He asked. “Good or bad?”

“Good!” Lynne answered impulsively as she chugged the last shot then looked at him.

“That’s the right answer,” he smiled looking her over. “And I’m not very good at this kind of thing, but would you care to take a walk with me, Miss Lynne? That way we can clear the air and get to know one anothers a little better.” He offered her his hand. “By the way you can tell me whatever you want. I’m not here to judge.”

Lynne felt a little hesitant for the moment, despite the fact she knew her judgment was obviously clouded by alcohol and this man’s charming smile but she just couldn’t help herself.

“I accept,” she answered as she placed her hand into his. “Let’s take a walk.”

In the meantime after Stan had made his escape from the AMF base that night, he managed to walk all the way back to City Hall, leaking more fluid along the way, and struggling to maintain his disguise. He had already been discovered by one person so far, Private Mick Situp, whom he killed right away, but as he shambled along down a dark alley he soon happened upon something he wasn’t the least bit prepared for which turned out to be a wanted poster with a sketch of what he assumed was supposed to be a likeness of his face.

He glared at it for the moment, wondering just how many of these were plastered all over Atlantis City before he suddenly reached up and ripped it off the wall, crumpling and crushing it in his grasp before dropping it on the ground and continuing on his way.

I can’t allow them to catch me, Stan worried as he staggered on while the neon green fluid continued dripping from his left hand onto the pavement. I have already failed before and must not fail again. I have to protect my identity, that is my mission.

He flinched a bit as his human face flickered in the darkness of the alleyway when he came to a stop and looked down at his flesh wound. I’m running out of serum fast. He panicked. I have to make it back. I can’t afford to shut down now. Not here where I will be discovered.

But not long after Stan exited the alleyway, he finally made it back to Morane’s headquarters where he threw open the doors of the office and stumbled inside where he saw Morane seated at his desk, sipping a glass of wine.

“What the fuck, Stan?” Morane’s eyes widened with shock as he quickly put down his wine glass and rose up from his chair while the android shambled on over until it suddenly collapsed onto the floor.

“Stan?” Morane asked again sounding more concerned than angry once he rushed over and noticed the fluid leaking out on the carpet. “Answer me you shit!” Morane snarled as Stan struggled to lift himself back up.

“What the fuck happened to you?” Morane demanded to know.

“There was a war.” Stan answered weakly in a distorted voice.

“A war?” Morane repeated as he reached into his front pocket for a cigar when he soon remembered the explosion he witnessed from his limo earlier. “So that’s what all that shit was about huh? A war. And don’t tell me, it was the Tjatey wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” Stan replied.

Morane scoffed as he lit his cigar. “Oh Grant, what have you gotten yourself into this time? So tell me, were there any other survivors of this war?”

“Yes,” Stan answered, struggling to hold himself up. “But there were many casualties.”

Morane appeared more intrigued by the news than horrified. “I see,” he puffed on his cigar.

“And was Captain Grant one of these casualties, Stan?” He asked then.

“Yes,” Stan replied while holding himself up on Morane’s desk. “I saw a Tjatey warrior stab him in the chest, presumably in the heart as I was making my escape. I heard the cries of the others, a telling sign that he did not make it and must have bled to death.”

Morane couldn’t help but smirk now. “Well then, that’s just too bad now isn’t it? So what happened to you then? Were you attacked as well cause you look like shit, Stan.”

“I was attacked,” Stan replied. “But they weren’t strong enough to bring me down. In fact, killing them was just too easy.”

“Good to know,” Morane smirked. “But you’re leaking serum all over the place, and I couldn’t help but notice that your imagery is all fucked up, which brings me to the next question. Did anybody see you?”

“Just one,” Stan answered to the best of his knowledge. “But I ended him quickly.”

Morane nodded in approval. “Good.”

“But there is something else you must know,” Stan continued.

“And what would that be?” Morane narrowed his eyes.

“I’m wanted for murder now.” Stan replied.

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 2

The next morning as Lynne entered the airbase tower to check on the status of its repairs, the four women couldn’t help but notice how strange and different she was acting.

“Good morning, girls.” Lynne smiled at them as she made her way over to the view port window overlooking Alley’s station to find that a new sheet of glass in place of the old shattered one from the day of the attack.

“Morning, Commander.” Grace replied curiously, wondering what in the world it was that Lynne was so happy about.

“I do apologize that it’s taken so long to fix all this.” Lynne mentioned as she headed over to Grace and Lucy’s stations. “But I do appreciate your patience. I know it hasn’t been easy for any of us.”

“But what about the floor?” Mipsy chimed in as she pointed out the permanent mark in the center of the floor where part of the jet’s cockpit had embedded itself.

Lynne shot her an apologetic look. “I’m afraid there isn’t much more we can do.” She answered. “Not without tearing down the whole tower and I’d prefer not to do that.”

Mipsy sighed. “I understand.”

“Well just look on the bright side.” Lynne reassured. “At least we’re still here and I think it’s safe to say that this is only going to make us stronger. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Sure.” Mipsy nodded while Grace and Lucy exchanged looks.

“You seem a lot more cheerful and optimistic than usual, Commander.” Grace commented. “What’s the occasion?”

“Occasion? Lynne repeated feeling a little taken aback by her question. “Well uh, I kind of met someone you see.” She nervously looked away.

“Well that explains it.” Lucy remarked turning her attention back to her training session on screen.

“Really?” Grace raised her chin. “Who is it?”

Lynne blushed a bit as she toyed with her braid. “Oh just a really nice man who enjoys my company. That’s all.”

“You don’t say?” Grace replied looking a little suspicious. “And where in the galaxy did you meet this nice man? And don’t tell me y’all met in a bar.”

Lynne’s expression suddenly shifted as her pleasant smile quickly turned into a frown. “Yes as a matter of fact we did meet in a bar.”

“Oh dear me.” Lucy gasped then looked at Grace who shook her head disapprovingly.

“Is there something wrong girls?” Lynne asked sternly crossing her arms.

Grace and Lucy exchanged looks once more.

“No of course not.” Grace answered nonchalantly turning her focus back to the screen in front of her.

“Good.” Lynne nodded with her hands on her hips. “Now that that’s out of the way I’m going to head back to my office so you girls can resume your training for the day.” She started making her way towards the door when she stopped and looked back one last time. “But should you need anything, don’t hesitate to call me alright?”

“Affirmative.” Grace replied as Lynne made her exit.

But as soon as she was gone Lucy removed her headset. “She met this man in a bar?” She remarked with disgust shaking her head. “Oh this is not good, not good at all.”

“I know it isn’t.” Grace said looking back at her. “This is yet another bomb waiting to go off. And I don’t know about you dear, but I sure as heck don’t wanna be here when it does.”

“Me either.” Lucy agreed.

But while the girls were busy gossiping about Lynne, she was already thinking about how nosey they were acting as she made her way to the elevator. That’s the last time I share any personal details of my life, she thought bitterly to herself as she stepped inside.

She pressed the button for the third floor, staring straight ahead as the doors closed. Then as the car began heading down a sudden flood of memories swept over her, reminding her of the day she and William stood in that elevator together. The words she’d uttered to him echoed in her head now, and as she looked to her right it was almost as if she could see him standing in the exact same spot, bearing that same look of sadness and defeat.

“I’m sorry.” She whispered to his ghost when the elevator bell suddenly dinged and the doors flew open, revealing a familiar face standing before her now.

“Admiral Grant?” She gasped with her eyes wide and tearful as she gazed up at him.

“Well hello to you too.” He smiled back when she suddenly threw her arms around him hugging him as tight as she could.

“Easy, easy,” he winced as he hugged her back. “The stitches may be out for good but that scar still hurts you know?”

Lynne released him and took a step back, wiping away the tears from her eyes as she smiled. “It’s just so good to see you back. We’ve all missed you so much.”

Abraham chuckled a little. “Well I wish I could say I was glad to be back, but I guess it couldn’t hurt to admit that I’m thankful to have survived though. I got lucky.”

“Indeed you did.” Lynne nodded. “And now you’ve rightfully taken your place as admiral. My father would have been so proud.”

Abraham smiled humbly. “Well I’m sure he would have been a lot more proud of you.”

Her smile turned upside down and she bowed her head. “I don’t know about that, Admiral.”

“And why not?” He asked. “You’re the reason I’m still standing.”

Lynne sighed. “I know, but this attack never would have happened had I been more vigilant in the first place. I had a feeling in my gut that Corporal Sterling was keeping something from me and I ignored it. All because of my trust in him.”

She hung her head in shame and closed her eyes. “Had I been more like my father I could have stopped this all from happening.”

He frowned at her. “You sound so sure of yourself. But how do you know for certain that this whole thing could have been prevented? I mean if you ask me, it seems this whole uprising had been boiling beneath the surface for a long time. You need to forgive yourself.”

She opened her eyes again and looked up at him. “What?”

“You need to forgive yourself.” He repeated while placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. “What’s done is done. It happened and you can’t change that, so the only thing you can do now is learn from it and move forward.”

She sighed and nodded in agreement with him. “I know you’re right but what I don’t know is how to forgive myself. It just feels like after all this time I finally understand how my father felt on the day that jet exploded. He felt like a failure and that’s how I see myself now. I’m sorry Admiral. But if there’s any forgiveness to find, well it’s going to be a long journey getting there. I can’t trust my own people, let alone the Tjatey anymore.”

He shook his head at her. “You sound like you’re ready to just give up on it all. Are you?”

She lowered her head. “Sometimes it feels that way.” She replied lamentably. The faces of those men and women, they haunt me. And every time I see them framed on that memorial wall, I just feel like it’s my fault they’re there. I failed them, Admiral. Can’t you understand that? How can I face the others without fearing the same?”

“Fear is supposed to be your motivator,” he answered. “We know where we went wrong with the AMF, but we also know what to do in order to strengthen ourselves as well. There’s no going back, we can only move forward.”

She sighed. “You’re right. “And right now that’s the one thing I’m struggling with the most.”

He patted her gently on the shoulder as he headed for the elevator. “You’ll have to figure that out on your own. But you will.”

“I hope so.” She replied as she turned to see him off once he stepped inside.

“Well, give yourself time to think it over.” He called back when the elevator doors suddenly closed and she was left to think about what he’d just said.

“I will.” She said quietly, then turned around and continued on towards her office.

In the meantime at the Card Shack, Victoria arrived just to find the place practically empty as Enrique stood behind the counter wiping it down in an obsessive manner. She also noticed the floor was still barren and wondered if Maxwell would ever finish the job.

That lazy fool, she thought as she made her way over to the bar, right as Enrique looked up and saw her.

“Miss Thompson!” He said excitedly. “It’s good to see you.”

“You too, sweetie.” She gave a half smile.

“You look very stunning today.” Enrique commented, admiring the flashy golden speakeasy dress she was wearing.

“Thank you, sweetie.” She responded in kind as she took a seat at the counter. “Say, would you mind making me a drink?”

Before answering back Enrique looked around the room to make sure Maxwell wasn’t anywhere in sight, then nodded at her. “Sure thing, Miss Thompson. What are you in the mood for?”

“I think I’ll have some of that red vodka.” She answered, reminding him of the old stained carpet before Maxwell had it torn up.

“Uh sure thing, coming right up!” Enrique replied as he turned around and fetched the bottle and a glass while Victoria lit a cigarette and popped it in her holder.

Enrique knew he wasn’t much of a conservationist when it came to talking to women, but with Victoria he felt like he could tell her anything. It was a kind of closeness he didn’t have with anyone else and wondered if it was the same for her as well.

“So how are you doing these days?” He suddenly asked, expecting her to shy away from answering truthfully.

“Not so good.” She answered glumly then puffed on her cigarette. “It’s been rough.”

Enrique frowned as he poured her drink. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“I suppose,” she sighed deep, resting her chin on the palm of her other hand. “I’ve been struggling with finding gigs, that’s all. Ever since those rotten reviews about me, the studios don’t want to take any chances.”

“I’m sorry.” He apologized as he pushed the drink to her.

“Don’t be,” she said. “None of it was your doing, sweetie. It’s just the way things are now. Remember I told you the same thing happened with my mother?”

Enrique gave a nod. “I do.”

She sighed again, looking down at her drink. “Maybe it’s a family curse and I was next in line?”

He shook his head. “I don’t think that’s what it is. I think some jerks were out to ruin you and they succeeded.”

She slumped her shoulders. “You’re probably right about that. And ruin me they have. I can hardly afford my own apartment anymore. I’ve even resorted to selling my belongings, such as mother’s memorabilia and even the china set from her wedding.” Then she looked down at her dress. “I’ve sold some of my best dresses too. But this one I refuse to part with.”

“That’s awful.” Enrique commented. “Is there anything you can do to fix this?”

She gave a shrug as she picked up her drink and took a sip. “I need to find some way to make back the money I’ve lost,” she answered him. “I think I might have an idea too, but where to start?”

But before Enrique could ask her about her plans, Maxwell suddenly arrived on scene and immediately noticed Victoria with her drink. His eyes burned with anger.

“Enrique!” Maxwell snarled as he stormed over and snatched Victoria’s drink out of her hand. “What have I told you before?”

Enrique rolled his eyes and sighed. “No more free drinks for Miss Thompson.”

“How right you are!” Maxwell snapped in response as he headed over to the sink and dumped the glass out, causing Victoria to scowl.

“You jerk!” She said through clenched teeth. “You wasted that drink!”

“No, I’ve merely kept it from you!” Maxwell hurled back. “Just because you work for me doesn’t mean the drinks are free, Miss Thompson!”

She crossed her arms and huffed. “You try being broke all the time, Maxwell! See where it gets you!”

Maxwell scoffed. “Oh I know bloody well where it’s gotten me. You’re just not used to it yet. But give it time you’ll figure it out soon enough. But in the meantime.” He looked Enrique in the eye. “No more free drinks for anyone! Understood?”

Enrique nodded quickly.

“Good!” Maxwell remarked as he started walking away. “I’ll be in my office for now.”

After he left Enrique turned to Victoria and was just about to open his mouth and apologize to her when she suddenly got up and gave the stool a good hard angry kick, nearly knocking it over.

“You don’t even have to say a word.” She said irritably as she looked up at Enrique. “You were only being your kind and thoughtful self, the kind of person Maxwell loathes, so maybe you’d be better off quitting this horrid job after all. You deserve so much better than this.”

Enrique shot her a look of sadness. “But I like being around you.”

She shook her head at him. “I’m not worth this, sweetie. No one is. You’d be better off with a job where people respect you.”

Enrique sighed. “But I choose to stay here.”

She wrapped her arms around herself as she began sulking away. “Well I can’t stay here. All it does is remind me of him and all my failures.”

“Are you sure he didn’t make it?” Enrique asked, stopping her before she headed out the door.

She looked back at him sullenly. “That night I saw all that was left of the base. And when I saw all that blood I just knew he was gone. I felt it.” She lowered her head as tears began streaming down her face.

“He’s not the only one.” Enrique called over to her just as she pushed the doors open. “You’ll find love again someday!” But the next thing he knew she was gone and he wondered if she even heard the words he said.

In the meantime, and also not that far away, Brian was on the opposite side of the street, passing by the AMF base when he soon stopped for a cigarette. He took a moment to prop himself up against the worn brick wall behind him, then pulled a single cigarette out of the carton sitting in his jacket pocket. But as he was feeling around for the lighter in the other pocket, his fingers came across the old photo of him and his brother instead, prompting him to pull it out.

He stood in a state melancholy silence as the unlit cigarette hung from his mouth, looking down at the photo. Then took a moment to glance over at the military base across the street, remembering all the commotion he heard coming from there about a month ago.

I didn’t see it but I heard it, he thought now staring back. We all heard it.

He uttered a low sigh as he put the photo away again and pulled out his lighter. Whatever happened there happened because the AMF are a bunch of traitors. They should have known better.

Then he lit his cigarette, puffing on it a few times before continuing down the quiet street, attempting to get as far away from the base as possible now.

But by this time most of the downtown shops were closed, except for a lone obscure building wedged in between a small bakery and a Laundromat.

Brian stopped and stared at the building, his eyes immediately drawn to a peculiar looking neon eye symbol hanging in the window.

“Today must be your lucky day, child.” Brian heard a woman’s voice say from behind as he quickly turned around just to see some crazy looking dark haired lady in a gaudy Gypsy costume.

“Readings usually run about ten to fifteen.” She said to him. “But on this special night, readings are free.”

Brian met her with a crazy look as he puffed on his cigarette. “Sorry but I don’t believe in all that hocus pocus crap.”

The woman seemed a little insulted by his words. “Excuse me?” She exclaimed with her hands resting on her hips. “You dare to call my work crap?”

Brian narrowed his eyes at her in return. “I said I don’t believe in it. Reading palms, telling fortunes, it’s all a ruse. And sadly people are dumb enough to fall for it and pay money.”

“Well alright then.” The woman crossed her arms. “So then I’ll just have to pass on you now won’t I?”

“I’m afraid so.” Brian gave a careless shrug.

“Well I’m willing to take a pass for your sake,” the woman continued. “However I couldn’t help but notice the darkness that surrounds you.”

Brian scoffed. “Oh please.” He started to leave when the woman suddenly stopped him and looked him in the eye.

“Yes there is much darkness surrounding you indeed.” She explained. “So much that it cannot be ignored.”

Brian wasn’t sure what to think now. “What do you mean by darkness?” He asked.

“You are lost, poor child.” She replied taking him by the hand and turning it over to look at his palm.

“Lost how?” Brian remarked with disbelief, wondering if this crazy woman was going to let up any time soon.

“Well I’d prefer to speak to you about it in private.” The woman responded with caution. “After all this isn’t the kind of thing you want others to hear.”

Brian turned his head and noticed there was hardly anyone around at all and shot her a look of annoyance. “Now I know you’re full of it.” He yanked his hand away from her. “And while I appreciate you trying to humor me and all, I’m afraid I want nothing more to do with you.”

“Whatever you say, Brian.” She answered.

“Wait, what?” Brian’s jaw went slack. “How did you know my name?”

The woman shrugged. “Why does it matter? After all you’re not a believer of this sort of crap, remember?”

“Wait.” Brian suddenly stopped her. “What else is it you know about me?”

“Aha,” she remarked. “Now all of a sudden you’re interested. I knew I could change your mind.”

Brian frowned at her. “I just refuse to let you make a fool out of me, but if there is any truth to what you’re saying, then I have a right to know. So how did you find out my name?”

“The universe speaks to me.” She answered, triggering a look of ridiculousness from him. “By the way, the name is Madame La Rouge. Yes I am your stereotypical psychic but I am also much more than that.”

“So I see.” Brian shot her a blank stare. “So does this mean you’re going to invite me inside so you can gaze into your crystal ball?”

She simpered with amusement. “I do have a crystal ball but I don’t need that to see the darkness that follows you. I can see that with my own eyes. You harbor many secrets. Some of which you may not even be fully aware of.”

Then despite Brian’s skepticism, he soon found himself a bit more curious about this nonsense the woman spoke of and wondered if there was any truth to it at all. “Okay then. I’ll step inside for my free reading.”

“Excellent.” The woman nodded as she led the way and he followed.

Now as Brian stepped inside the small little building he couldn’t help but notice the strange relics hanging on the walls around them as he took a seat at the small round table, draped with a magenta colored table cloth. The ominous looking crystal ball sat atop of it and he gazed into it for a moment until the woman sat down and carefully removed it and set it aside.

“I’ll be honest, kid.” She spoke then. “I wasn’t standing out there just to offer free readings. I was actually standing out there because the universe spoke to me and it told me that darkness was coming, and that’s when I saw you.”

Brian’s eyes widened as he stared back at her. “I don’t know if I can believe any of this at all. It all sounds so insane.”

“Then take whatever I say with a grain of salt,” the woman replied. “I was told darkness was coming and I sensed it coming from you, therefore I offered you a free reading.”

Brian blinked. “Well that still doesn’t answer any of my questions.”

“Or maybe it does?” She countered. “But they aren’t the answers you wish to hear?”

Brian grew silent then.

“Something happened at the military base almost a month ago.” Brian said. “I didn’t see it happen but I felt it and later saw the story in the paper. Now does that make me psychic too?”

“Did you sense it before it happened or when it happened?” She asked.

He shrugged. “I suppose it was when it happened.”

“Well then there’s your answer.” She replied.

“Now back to this darkness you keep spewing about.” Brian said. “What does it all mean exactly?”

“Well, darkness is a force.” She explained. “And with it carries many things, sometimes emotions, sometimes loss, and sometimes…..

She suddenly raised a finger to her lips in a silent gesture. “Sometimes it carries a message, a warning of things to come.”

Brian felt a cold numbing feeling as it swept across him in that moment, chilling him to the bone.

“So can you tell exactly what kind of darkness it is that’s following me?” He asked with a hint of desperation in his voice.

“With you.” She leaned forwards again. “I sense a message.”

“A warning?” Brian asked a bit fearfully.

She nodded, which caused him to panic inside now.

“Well I think I’ve heard enough.” He got up from the chair and started towards the door when she called after him.

“If it is a warning, Brian. Take heed. Find out what it means. Because only you will be the one to see it.”

Brian swallowed hard as he walked out, letting the door slam behind him as the bells jingled wildly while he tried to get away from there as fast as he could.

Darkness, he thought making his way back down the street. I don’t believe in it, any of it. She’s just trying to scare me and it worked.

Later that evening, William had awoken from the sound of someone knocking on his door, and in a groggy state, stumbled over and opened it just to see his mother standing there.

“Mother?” William blinked with surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“May I come in, my son?” Letha asked politely.

“Sure.” William nodded as he held the door open. “Alley is out drinking again anyway, so she doesn’t have to know you were here.”

Letha frowned a bit. “I wish she didn’t hate me.”

“Don’t worry she hates everyone.” William remarked, attempting to make light of the situation. “So it’s not just you.”

Letha shook her head. “So much like her father. It is no wonder we didn’t stay together.”

“Is that also why you didn’t stay with my father too?” William wondered.

Letha appeared deeply saddened by his question. “No. Your father I loved with all my being but he didn’t love me.”

“Why not?” William asked.

“We were too different.” She replied as she walked over to his couch and sat down. “The Tjatey didn’t always know what it meant to love. All we knew was war and procreation. We have learned much more from the humans.”

“Naeem seemed to learn nothing.” William commented as he took a seat beside her.

She sighed as she reached over and took hold of his hand. “Because Naeem didn’t want to.”

“Is that all the war was about?” William asked. “Naeem and his followers not wanting to change?”

She nodded in response.

“Well they changed us.” He said bitterly as he looked at her. “And I don’t know if we’re ever going to be the same. We lost a lot of our people that day, mother. That isn’t something we can just gloss over you know?”

“I know.” She nodded. “But you also fought bravely and saved a lot of those lives too.”

William shook his head. “The damage is done, was done. Myself and Corporal Church are being ousted and punished for our bravery, mother. So please, don’t try and make me out to be some kind of hero because I’m not.” He lifted up the sleeve of his t-shirt and showed her his scar.

“The warrior who did this wanted to see if I bled like the humans, and I do. The humans have rejected me and so do my own kind for that matter.”

“But not all of them,” she reminded him. “There are those who do appreciate you, my son. And they are who you should treasure. Even as a warrior there were those who did not respect me.” She explained. “So I stayed with those who did and it made me a better warrior.”

William couldn’t help but feel crushed inside.

Chin up, my son.” She said patting him on the hand. “Isn’t that what is said to make others feel better?”

“Yes it is.” He replied quietly.

“Well then I have learned the right words,” she smiled as she stood up to leave.

“You’re going now?” William asked with a forlorn look on his face.

“Well I should leave before your sister comes back.” She answered. “I know things are hard enough now. I don’t want to make them worse.”

William sighed sadly. “Okay mother. I understand. But will you come back again?”

“Yes.” Letha answered him as she headed for the door. “Until then my son, think about the things I have told you.”

“I will.” He replied as he watched her leave, then got up and headed over to a window and looked out. I sure do miss my freedom, he sighed as he observed the rest of the base. And to think I felt like a prisoner before? I didn’t realize how good I had it. But that’s just how it is. We’re always realizing these things when we no longer have them.

Then all of a sudden, a single twinkling star caught his attention prompting him to look up at it. What is that? He wondered now. Are you another planet or just some ball of gas sitting in the galaxy like the rest of us?

His eyes remained fixated on it when he was suddenly reminded of something else. Victoria he thought then, wondering where she was and how she was doing. “You’re the only star in my sky.” He said quietly.

But little did he know that at that very same moment, Victoria was also observing the same star, right as she stood outside of the Card Shack wondering what the hell she was going to do for money.

“Are you a wishing star?” She asked it. “If so, then I know you can’t bring back my beloved, so I’ll just have to make another wish instead. She placed a hand over her heart. “What I wish then, is a chance to save my career.”

But soon the twinkling of the star died down and Victoria began to wonder if it had listened to her plea.

“Nuts, I’m going absolutely nuts.” She muttered with disgust and then began heading off to call for a cab when she heard the rustling sound of paper and looked down to find a day old newspaper that had been dropped on the ground.

“Ugh, so filthy!” She retched as she curiously picked it up and observed the front page when one of the articles suddenly caught her attention and she gasped. “So that’s it.” Her eyes widened. “This is how I save myself.”

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
3 years 1 week ago #26503

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