Voyages of the Cerberus 184: Paul’s Surgery

Turing Station welcomed the Cerberus crew aboard with no difficulties.

Paul, in spite of his protests, was taken to the Medical Bay in a wheelchair. Angela insisted that he couldn’t strain himself. Grace took Baron Wolfgang, who protested a little but seemed more secure about Paul being in good hands.

“You must dine with us,” Alexandria told Yuri.

“You know that I do not require food,” Yuri stated.

“That doesn’t matter,” Meiling said. “Food tastes better with good friends and we have some catching up to do. Besides, your ship will be here for a little while. So, we might as well take advantage of it to spend some quality time together.”

“I also have an invitation for you,” Siya interjected. “Please, come down to my laboratory. I’d love the chance to study your systems.” She glanced at Meiling and Alexandria. “I promise I won’t do anything that might damage her.”

“I will consider your request,” Yuri told Siya. “As for you two, I will construct a dessert and bring it with me. What time would you like me to be there?”

“18:00,” Alexandria told her.

“I look forward to trying your cooking,” Meiling added.

*****

“How long will the procedure take?” Ophelia asked.

“A couple hours,” Lucas said. “She’ll have to basically connect the eye to his brain so that he can control it and see through it as though it were a normal eye. He’ll be sedated for it so he won’t feel a thing.”

“But it isn’t a normal eye,” Lucy observed.

Lucas shook his head. “It’s actually better. This model has the ability to see X-rays & see in Infra-red. It’ll have perfect night vision and a hundred times zoom function. His left eye will be the bomb.”

“Is there any risk of rejection?” Ophelia asked.

Lucas shook his head. “Paul doesn’t have allergies to the integration drugs. As long as he remembers to take them until the regiment is over with, his body will accept the new eye with no problems.”

“And how long will our the good Doctor be confined to bed?” Lucy asked.

“Usually with those types of injuries we’d suggest a couple weeks of bed rest and another couple of taking it easy,” Lucas stated. “I know you’re probably in a hurry to get back to your missions, but please don’t push him.”

“Don’t worry,” Ophelia said. “Our crew comes before profits. If he needs the rest, we’ll stay here until he’s ready to go back to work. I’m sure our crew could use some R&R any way.”

*****

Femi took Leon to Turing’s experimental weapon testing site.

“This sniper scope is insane,” Leon said. “Can you actually shoot something from orbit with this?”

“If you accurately feed it all the details about the planet’s weather conditions & atmosphere,” Femi answered. “Although right now it only works with very specialised bullets that won’t break down easily in the atmosphere and they can’t be mass produced since they use a rare element. Even without that, it’s still a top of the line weapon if you have it on the ground.”

Leon tested the rifle’s weight. It was surprisingly light. “How long until I can see him?” he asked.

“Angela will call us when he’s done with surgery and awake,” Femi reassured him. “Are you really that worried?”

“A little anxious,” Leon answered. “I know that she’s a fantastic doctor, but that doesn’t make it easy.” He grabbed a random assault rifle from the rack. “What does this one do?”

*****

“Tell me something,” Kat said. “How’d an old soldier like you end up on a satellite filled with scientists trying to design the future?”

Jack studied her. “It’s not that complicated. I grew up on a frontier Alliance world called Phestus Beta. The authorities were more than a little corrupt and it became a nesting ground for scum. I went through the military Academy and joined, trying to fix the problem from within. But that was naive. They framed me and tried to hunt me down. I became a vigilante, striking at both the corrupt leaders of the force and at the criminals who ran everything. It didn’t matter who it was, once I had that proof of wrong doing I’d get them in my sights.”

“You were a vigilante,” Kat said. “That doesn’t explain how you got to Turing.”

“I’m getting to that,” Jack said. “Eventually, my activities got media attention and the depths of the corruption were brought to light. The Alliance had no choice but to send a fresh force. One that would deal with the problem.”

“I remember reading something about that,” Kat stated. “Please, go on.”

“After that, I left Pestus,” Jack said. “I was still a soldier, but without a battle to fight. I wandered for a while and ended up on Turing. I knew right away that their neutral status and advanced devices would make them a target. So, I agreed to come aboard to protect this place.” He looked over at her. “I imagine it’s like you with the Cerberus.”

Kat smiled. “That may very well be the case.”

*****

Paul opened his eyes.

“How are you feeling?” Angela asked.

“Dehydrated, but okay,” he answered.

“That’s a side effect of the integration drugs,” Angela said. She handed him a glass of water. “You’ll have to make sure you have ready access to fluids for a while. How’s the eye?”

“I can see with it,” Paul answered. “It feels almost like my normal eye.”

“That’s good,” Angela said. She held up her arm. “Try X-raying my hand. Don’t force it, just think of what you want to do.”

Paul looked at her hand. It shifted to bone. “I see it,” he said.

“Good. Now, turn it off,” she said.

The view shifted back to her regular hand.

“That will be very useful,” Paul said.

“So will the magnification function,” Angela stated. “Right now the eye’s matched to your other. But you can change the colour and give yourself heterochromia if you wish.”

“I think my usual grey will be fine,” Paul said.

“Of course,” Angela said. “Get some rest. I’ll let your friends know that you’re up.”

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The Last Draconian 69: Successor to the Crown

Previous Chapter

Lynai Elfblood

Callie was injured.

It’s amazing how much a simple thing like that can weigh on you when you love someone. Even if they aren’t severely injured. Even if you know for absolute certain that everything is going to be fine. That didn’t change the simple fact that she was injured and I’d sent her out there.

I looked at the swelling on the back of her head and the hole in her shoulder and I couldn’t stop the tears.

She reached her hand out and gently wiped them away with her fingers.

“Don’t worry, Lyn,” her voice was soothing. “I heal fast naturally. These injuries will be nothing once the clerics have gone over them and I’ve had some fresh blood.”

“Really?” I asked. I wanted to believe her, but the shoulder injury looked really bad.

“Really,” she assured me. “Don’t cry. I managed to slay the troll king and Michael got me out of there before I could get hurt too badly.”

I turned to the clerics. “Call me after you’ve treated her. I’ll arrange for the rest.”

I left their tent and went over to Michael.

“Did you see what went wrong?” I asked.

“I do not have your Lady’s stellar night vision,” he stated. “However, from what I could see, it appeared that she was spotted leaving the king’s tent and the guards responded quickly. They were chasing after her when she signalled me.”

I sighed. “I really shouldn’t have let her go alone.”

Michael scrutinized me. “Forgive me for saying so, but I do not believe a larger party would have performed better. Miss Perom was capable of striking a quick, deadly blow because she was alone. I was also capable of retrieving her safely because she was alone. A larger group would have been more easily spotted and significantly more difficult to extract. Permitting her to strike alone was the correct decision.”

I pat his shoulder. “Well, thanks for trying to make me feel better, anyway. It’s just… how would you feel if the person you loved got injured like that?”

He looked thoughtful for a moment. “I do not have anyone who induces the feelings within me that she induces within you. I have memories of people who have but there will always be a disconnect betwixt their emotional state within that moment and mine when I recall the events. As such, I can not give you a proper answer.”

It didn’t take long after that for the clerics to come find me. I returned to their tent. Callie’s wounds were neatly bandaged and she was looking healthier already.

“Give us some privacy, if you please,” I ordered. The clerics headed out. I opened the top of my tunic and approached Callie. “Don’t drink too much,” I said. “And don’t do the thing that lets you control me.”

“I wouldn’t dream of doing that to you,” Callie said. “But are you sure? Even if I take the minimal amount I need, you’ll be weak as a kitten for a couple days.”

“Then it’s a good thing I’m surrounded by capable people I can trust,” I said.

She held me gently. I felt her tongue against my neck first. It made me feel a little numb. That’s when she bit into me.

*****

Relna was a bustle of activity. The moment word of the king’s death started circulating, trolls began going into the streets and finding stones to bash together while they shouted to the heavens.

Larick observed the mourning ritual with quiet amusement. The king had met the lady of his destiny, but he hadn’t thought to ask what that destiny would entail. As Larick had known he wouldn’t.

The one royal heir had already been stripped of his title and sent into exile.

“Magi!” He turned. Those who remained of the great troll generals were approaching him. And they didn’t look happy. Selene had her bow readied. Joseph was holding his pike and needed only an instant to bring it into an attack position.

“How could you have allowed his royal majesty to go into danger like that?” Selene demanded.

“The future isn’t always certain or clear,” Larick answered. “Sometimes you see certain paths close. Sometimes you see many paths. As for this incident, I looked to the future for the greatest path of prosperity for Relna. And that path dictated that his highness go to the battle front and meet a Lady of Strecner.”

“You’re suggesting that our prosperity lies with the king’s death?” Joseph asked. His face was full of disbelief.

“That would appear to be the case,” Larick answered. A vine shot up from the ground at his feet to snatch Selene’s loosed arrow directly from the air. “That is very unwise,” Larick said. “When I fall, Relna will lose the war.” He turned to actually face the pair. “You may not believe that, but it is the truth. I have foreseen it. Should I perish, Het Wald will then emerge victorious.”

“Are you suggesting we forgive you?” Selene demanded.

“I do not need forgiveness,” Larick stated. “Right now, I am in command of this kingdom by his majesty’s final decree. And I know you well enough, Selene Nol, to know that you will not disobey a royal decree.”

She glared at him for a moment before lowering her bow.

“But the people won’t obey you,”Joseph pointed out. “Not an elf, not for long. There’s too much bitterness.”

“I know that full well,” Larick said. “Which is why I am going to pass the crown to the one person who will work hardest for the prosperity of this nation. To the most suited person to bring Relna into the new era.”

“And who might that be?” Joseph asked.

Larick studied the look of confusion on his face and looked into his eyes. He wanted to remember this. “You, Joseph,” he answered. “The crown will go to you.”

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Voyages of the Cerberus 183: Scars

Paul awoke in a haze. He recognised the sensation. He was under some heavy pain killers.

“Oh, you’re awake.” He looked over at Angela. She was closer than he’d thought. She had just been in his blind spot. “On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your pain?”

“Doesn’t really hurt,” he answered, his voice was hoarse. “I feel a bit of a throbbing sensation so… three.”

“Good, the pain killers are working then,” she said. She handed him a glass of water.

Paul took a drink. “Is everyone from the conference okay?” he asked.

“They’re all fine,” Angela said. “The rescue went off quite well and the terrorists are going off to stand trial. Although right now several worlds are all claiming the right to mete out their punishment. They’ll probably have representatives from all of them come together and come to a compromise with their sentence being carried out on a neutral world like Ca’urrg.”

Paul sat up. “Then it wasn’t for nothing. I’m glad.”

Angela teasingly flicked his forehead. “Sometimes, I think you’re too selfless, My Friend. Then again, that may just be a flaw of us doctors.”

They shared a laugh. “How bad is the damage?” Paul inquired.

“You suffered multiple fractures, broken ribs, a broken arm, a concussion, a destroyed eye and multiple other injuries,” Angela answered. “We treated your injuries and you will fully recover from most of them.”

“You say most,” Paul said. “What won’t I recover from?”

“I couldn’t save your left eye,” Angela answered. “With your permission, Turing will provide a top of the line robotic replacement for you. Other than that, you will have some scarring on your arm and face but we can minimise that, at least.”

“I will gladly take a replacement,” Paul said. “Thank you.”

“I thought you’d say that,” Angela said, patting his shoulder. “We’re actually on our way to Turing right now with your crew. Now, are you up for some visitors or would you like to rest some more first?”

Paul thought for a moment. “I rather think I’ve rested enough.”

Angela nodded. “Then I’ll send them in one at a time. Don’t strain yourself too much.”

*****

Leon was, naturally, the first visitor. He dropped to his knees by the bedside and  gently stroked Paul’s face. “I’m so sorry,” he cried. “It’s all my fault. I should have been in there with you. I should have protected you. I…”

“Shush,” Paul said, reaching out a finger with his good arm. “It’s not your fault, Sweetheart. No one could have predicted that the conference would be attacked. And even if you had been there, I don’t think there’s much you could have done besides bide your time. Besides, Angela says I’ll be just fine once they replace my eye.” He stroked Leon’s hair.

Leon moved his head forward and kissed his love.  Angela politely looked away. “Don’t get too frisky,” she cautioned. “You don’t have the strength for that yet.”

*****

Grace was the second visitor. She was carrying the Baron with her. The little dog scrambled out of her arms and into Paul’s bed, licking him frantically.

“There, there little buddy,” Paul said, petting him and trying to calm him down.

“He was worried about you. We all were,” Grace said. The little dog growled as she approached. “Guess he doesn’t want to be moved,” she chuckled. “Or he thinks I might hurt you if I get too close.”

“I suppose so,” Paul said. “I’ll be okay. I just need a replacement eye and rest.”

“There are some great replacement options out there,” Grace said. “You could have infra-red vision, a zoom in function, even night vision. It’ll be like you have super powers, but just in one eye.”

“Just so long as I don’t have to wear a garish costume and try to fight thugs,” Paul said.

“Oh please, you know you’d just wear a polo shirt and slacks,” Grace said. “And that’s if you could fight.”

The siblings had a decent chat before Grace left. Ultimately, she left Wolfgang behind since the little dog proved very resistant to leaving the injured Doctor’s side.

“Yo, what’ll we do if he gets mad and tries to bite us while we’re treating him?” Lucas asked.

“He’s a Chihuahua Terrier,” Angela said. “He can’t cause much damage even if he really wants to. Just let him be.”

*****

Farah was the nest to come in.

“Farah, you look upset,” Paul observed. “Is something bothering you?”

“I should be the one asking if you’re okay,” Farah said.

“I will make a full recovery,” Paul said. “So don’t worry about that. Is that what was bothering you?”

“Well, no,” Farah answered. “I just… I was there. I was right there watching him beat you to a pulp and I couldn’t do anything. I keep wondering, what if I had stepped in sooner? What if I hadn’t been so set on following the plan? What if…”

“Hush, Child,” Paul said. “You did the right thing. If you had tried to interfere, you’d have been shot by his men. And we would be in a far worse situation.” He sighed. “I understand, you feel a little guilty because I got hurt and you didn’t. But that’s the wrong way to think of it. The truth is, we both did what we had to to escape that situation. I know holding back wasn’t easy for you. But it was very prudent of you. So, don’t worry about it any more, okay?”

“Sorry,” Farah said, wiping her eyes. “Even though you’re the one who got hurt you have to comfort me.”

“You’re just putting too much on yourself,” Paul said. “You and Leon are alike in that respect. You both have a strong impulse to protect those close to you and you feel guilty whenever you can’t. Believe me, I’ve dealt with that aspect of his personality a lot. So, if you ever need to talk about it, I’m here for you.”

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The Last Draconian 68: Prophesied Lady of Strecner

Previous Chapter

Lynai Elfblood

Our first rotation of shifts went by without incident. We were on our second watch shift and it was very early dusk. Callie stayed close to me. She kept Gabriel and Tynan nearby so we could keep our eyes on them.

The pair seemed to be taking their duties seriously enough. They were chatting, but they were also dutifully keeping the vigil.

“Hey, the enemy seems to be up to something,” Tynan called out.

I looked over at where he was indicating. The trolls and mercenaries did seem to be moving around excitedly.

“Could it be a prelude to an attack?” I wondered.

“If it is, we will repel them,” Tynan stated, shouldering his axe.

“I will scout,” Michael said. He spread his wings and soared into the sky before I could protest.

“Hey, get back down here!” I called. But he either didn’t hear or ignored me.

“I had heard that his kind were xenophobic cowards who hid behind philosophies of pacifism and isolation,” Tynan muttered. “But that one, at least, seems to have courage.”

“The draconians were never cowards,” Callie said. She sounded strangely annoyed. “Nor were they xenophobic. They would gladly welcome anyone who came to them in peace. They just didn’t care for much besides learning and improving their little devices.”

Michael was getting closer to the trolls. He was high up, possibly too high for them to see. And he didn’t look to be within easy arrow range. So, he seemed to be playing things safely, at least. He seemingly got what he needed and swiftly returned.

He landed near us and his wings moved into a resting position along his back.

“What did you see?” I asked.

“There is a royal procession,” he answered. “It appears that their king has come to the front in person.”

“The king?” I asked. “But why would he take that risk?”

“It doesn’t matter why,” Tynan said. “It’s a golden opportunity.”

“We take the king’s head, we throw them into disarray,” Gabriel agreed.

“But if we try that then we’ll have to fight through their soldiers,” I said. “They’ll definitely see us coming.”

“Not necessarily,” Callie said, putting a gentle hand on my shoulder. “They’ll see us coming if we mobilise everyone and charge in. But sometimes the best tactic is a smaller, more precise strike.”

“I’m sensing that you have a plan,” I said. I put my hand on top of hers. It was warm, even though the night was a bit chilly.

She smiled. “I do. I’ll just need a little help to carry it out.” She looked over at Michael.

*****

Michael Ryufan

“I can’t believe we got our second win!” Aiko’s declaration was a happy one. “That was such a clutch match!”

The slang was unfamiliar, but I grasped the meaning. It had, indeed, been very close. Our opponents had seen our first match and were not nearly as reckless. It was certainly a positive. The more wary our opponents were, the better they fought, the more valuable the experience was.

Aiko turned to face me, walking backwards. “Hey, you want to celebrate?”

“You two can go alone,” Illyana said. “I’m feeling pretty tired.”

“As am I,” I stated. Truth be told, I had ample energy. I simply had no real desire to go out to a public place.

“Come on, Michael,” Aiko pleaded. “Let’s go somewhere, just the two of us. It’ll be fun.” Her smile seemed genuine enough.

“Perhaps next time,” I said. “This time, however, I will have to decline.”

Aiko’s vulpine ears drooped. She looked oddly downcast. “Oh, okay,” she muttered. “Guess we’ll just go back to the Inn.”

*****

Callie dropped gently down. The trolls keeping watch were trying to stay in discrete, hidden locations. But night had fallen and, to her, they stood out very prominently.

She scurried across the grounds, completely silently. She kept her eyes and ears open. Even if the trolls were at a marked disadvantage in terms of finding her, she knew she’d be in major trouble if they did.

The king’s tent was easily spotted. It was large and garishly decorated with a golden trim and adornments. It was also very well guarded with multiple guards at the entrance and several more patrolling around the sides and back. All of them had torches.

There was only one way through that was unguarded but getting up there… Callie looked around. There was a tree near the tent. If she could get to it without being seen… She grabbed the largest stone she could and tossed it in the opposite direction away from the tree.

The guards quickly turned their torches over to search for the source of the noise. She ran for the tree, scrambling up. Then she launched herself on top of the tent. She cut a hole in the top using her knife and looked in. The king appeared to be fast asleep.

She enlarged the hole and dropped inside. She crept up to the king’s bed side and promptly slit his exposed throat.

There was one problem. There wasn’t anything she could use to get back to the top of the tent. She moved over to the entrance and stood at the side. “Assassin!” she cried out, trying to make her voice sound deep and gravelly.

The entrance guards rushed in. She slid out behind them and hurried away. Unfortunately, some of the guards at the side saw her and gave pursuit. Stones fired out of slings at her. Crossbow bolts and arrows shot out. One bolt caught her in the right shoulder. A stone hit the back of her skull. Had it been day time, she would have lost consciousness.

She reached for her whistle and blew. The alert had been given and more guards were joining the chase. It wouldn’t be long until they caught her under normal circumstances. But she had an ace up her sleeve.

Michael swooped from the sky and scooped her up. His air magic not only gave him a boost in speed, but it made it very difficult for projectile weapons to fire straight at him.

“You should not have vowed that you would be completely uninjured,” Michael stated. “Lynai will be very upset.”

“Shut up and get me to a healer,” she muttered.

Next Chapter

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Voyages of the Cerberus 182: Leon’s Brutal Assault

Leon carefully strapped his hands into robotic gauntlets and took a few practice swings.

“Didn’t Paul ask you to get rid of those?” Kat asked.

“Yup,” Leon said. “Kept em as a reminder, or just in case some mother fucker really needs a major beating.” He punched the ground, leaving an indent in the hard earth. “Leave Gn’iol to me. You all just stay out of my way.”

“After what we’ve heard, I wouldn’t dream of stopping you,” Kat said.

*****

“About five minutes to go,” Meiling whispered.

“Then I’ll move into position,” Angela whispered.

She didn’t get too near to the back. Rather, she started a conversation with an elderly scientist about an arm’s length away from the guard.

“Doctor Taggart, are you holding up okay?” She asked.

“I’m not that old,” he said. “Although I’m past the point where I can show these brigands what for.”

“Well, I’m sure it will end soon,” Angela said. Giving the old Scot a meaningful look. “Although the ordeal has tired me. I may need to borrow your cane for just a moment.”

“You just say when,” he agreed.

*****

Paul struggled back up with his good arm after taking another hard hit. He was sweating, bleeding and had some severe injuries. But it was just a little longer, he reminded himself. Just a little.

“I’ll give you this, Doc,” Gn’iol’s voice was mocking. “You’ve got some tenacity. But isn’t it time that you surrender? You should know by now, you can’t win.”

“Per…. perhaps,” Paul stammered. “Th… then again. I may know something you don’t. Y’see pe… people like you have always come around. Y… you th… think that your str… strength gives you the right to wha… whatever you want. But the… there will always be oth… others who st… stand up to you. Al… alone, we may be ins… ins… not strong enough. But, whe… when we work as one, we w… won’t be beaten.” He raised his good hand and pointed at Gn’iol, his finger shook but his intent was clear. “I… I’ll make a predi… pred… iction. Bef… before this day is through. Yo… you’ll be beaten.”

Gn’iol burst out laughing. “Really now? I’ll be beaten?” He put his hand on Paul’s head. “I think the pain’s making you delirious.” He pulled Paul’s head roughly forward and directly into his waiting fist.

Everything happened at once then. “Freeze!” Meiling cried. The stunners went flying into the groups of terrorists.

In the back, Angela took Taggart’s cane and swiftly bludgeoned the guard in the face, followed by a hefty blow to the back of his head. “Thank you for the assist,” she said, handing it back.

“Think of it as my contribution,” he said.

Farah moved in between Paul and Gn’iol, catching the latter with a fierce right hook to the face. She knew that punching a pacifican like that was going to hurt her hand. She didn’t care at that point. He was staggered back. She kicked him in the knee.

Alexandria, Femi, and Yuri began mopping up the stunned terrorists.

Leon ran right for Gn’iol. Seeing Paul’s crumbled form bleeding on the ground only fuelled his anger. His powered fist slammed right into Gn’iol’s jaw, knocking multiple teeth loose.

Leon wasn’t about to grant the pacifican any type of respite. He kept punching without pausing or even aiming. He didn’t care where he hit so long as his armoured fists connected and connected hard. He didn’t even care when Gn’iol started hitting back. His own burning rage overwhelmed any pain or shock. Farah found herself knocked to the side, unable to effectively help or come between them in any way.

*****

“Femi,” Angela said. “We have to get Paul away from there. He could be hit in the crossfire.”

“Wait here, I’ll get him,” Femi said. She moved nimbly past the combatants. She gently lifted Paul’s still form and carried him back to Angela.

“These injuries are pretty bad,” Angela said. “Lucas, come along. We’re getting him to a safe place.”

“Right,” Lucas said. “I’ll just… drop off this little guy when we get there.”

The three of them hurried off. “How bad is it?” Femi asked.

“I think he’ll probably live,” Angela said. “But he could have permanent damage to that arm, eye or even to his brain judging by those injuries.”

“Not if we can help it!” Lucas declared.

Angela nodded. “We’ll do everything humanly possible.”

*****

Gn’iol was losing ground. Not only had he taken some heavy initial hits, but he was taking hits from heavy duty powered fists and without any kind of reprieve.

He punched as hard as he could, trying to buy himself some breathing room. He felt his fist connect but the attack didn’t even let up for an instant. He drifted into unconsciousness.

“Leon, that is enough,” Yuri stated. He wasn’t listening. He kept going. She sighed. “It seems that he must be stopped.”

“Must he?” Alexandria asked. “Surely Gn’iol’s pain is on his own head.”

“Perhaps,” Yuri said. “But Paul will be saddened if anyone, even a complete scum bag, dies because of him.”

She moved behind Leon, calculating the optimal way to stop his attack. She made her move, grabbing one of his fists in each of her hands with mechanical precision.

He looked back at her, a crazed look still in his eyes. They were swollen and blackened from being hit. He was breathing heavily.

“You have taken revenge for Paul,” Yuri informed him. “It is time for you to return to the ship so that you can see him when he is finished with surgery.”

“Paul’s surgery?” Leon spoke slowly, his breathing laboured. “What about?” He looked at Gn’iol, seemingly realising how badly he’d beaten the man for the first time.

“He will not be hurting anyone else for a very long time,” Yuri stated. “Even if he does fully recover.”

“Oh… good,” Leon said. “I have to get to Paul.” He would have fallen over if Yuri hadn’t caught him.

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The Last Draconian 67: Larick’s Snare

Previous Chapter

Illyana Fensen

The three of us returned to the Inn. Aiko didn’t really have anywhere specific to go. To hear her explain it, she went wherever the wind took her.

“You can share a room with me,” I said.

“Then I will bid you two a good night,” Michael stated. He went off to his own room.

“I’m a bit surprised you two aren’t sharing a room,” Aiko said.

“We’re just friends,” I said. “I have a fiancé… Kind of.”

“Kind of?” Aiko asked. “And what do you mean by that?”

“Her name is Sylvie Fortunio,” I said. “She came to the Academy for her warrior priestess training and we became friends. After she returned to the temple, we kept exchanging messages.” I sighed. “About a year ago, she went on her graduation pilgrimage and we met again. When… when it was almost over she said she was in love with me. I… I told her if she could say it again just as passionately in a year I’d marry her.”

“Was that your way of turning her down nicely?” Aiko asked.

“Well, no,” I said. “The truth is, I do feel the same way about her but… It’s hard to explain.”

“Are you not confident in yourself or something?” Aiko asked.

“It’s more that I don’t really understand what she likes about me,” I explained. “She’s so strong and lively. She knows so much about the world that I’ve never been able to experience. Why does she want me?”

Aiko’s finger flicked my forehead. “You can be a bit of a dummy, Yana. Love isn’t about comparing yourself to your prospective partner. It’s about seeing a person’s weaknesses, strengths and quirks and still loving them in spite of it all. Which, it sounds like she does.”

I rubbed my forehead. “I know she does. She’s waited so long. And she’s never complained. Even when I told her to wait longer. She just said that she was happy that I’d accepted her confession.”

“Well, invite me to the wedding,” Aiko said. “And I’ll invite you to mine when I marry that pretty boy.”

“Who?” I asked.

“Michael,” she answered. I could hear her tail swishing.

“Somehow, I don’t think you’ll manage that one,” I said. “But I’ll support you if you do.”

*****

Larick found himself in the hall of the troll king once more. He bowed, graciously.

“You had advice for me?” the king asked, beckoning him to rise.

“Your highness, I’ve seen a disturbing vision,” Larick said. “Your son plans your death. If something isn’t done, you will perish and he’ll succeed you, bringing misfortune to your kingdom.”

“You’re absolutely certain?” the king asked.

Larick nodded. “Take a party and search his room. You’ll find the evidence you need in his locked box.”

“All right,” the king bellowed. “Royal Guard, come with me. Larick, you’ll join us as well. If you’re lying, you pay.”

They went to the Prince’s room. Inside, they found exactly what Larick knew they would. Detailed plans for various ways to kill the king and ascend. The prince protested that the plans weren’t serious. He just used them to vent his frustrations when he was upset at his father.

He was taken away.

“My own son,” the king lamented. “What should I do? I have no other heir.”

“You must go to the battlefield at the edge of Het Wald,” Larick answered. “There you will encounter a noble lady of Strecner. She will be your destiny.”

“My destiny?” the king asked. “Huh, I like the sound of that! Very well. I’ll leave you in charge while I’m gone.”

“I will carry out what’s best for Relna in your absence,” Larick said. He allowed himself a smirk. All was according to plan.

*****

Michael Ryufan

The Elven commander’s plan was simple enough. Our unit’s first assignment was as a part of the construction team. Lynai also named three veteran soldiers as her sub-commanders.

After giving orders, she called Callie and me over.

“I want to make one thing clear,” she said, looking at each of us in turn. “I trust the two of you more than anyone else in this unit. But I can’t give either of you sub-commander positions. The rest of the troops would never accept it.”

“It does not matter to me,” I stated.

Callie sighed. “Do you really think I care about that? I know I’d be a terrible choice, even without the more practical considerations.”

“But you’re a great leader,” Lynai protested. “I know you could do it.”

“Could I? Yes,” Callie said. She put a finger to Lynai’s lips to deter further interruption. “Would I? No. Remember, I’m here for you and only for you. If I had to lead a sub unit, I couldn’t stick close to you. If something were to happen to you, I wouldn’t stick around to aid this army. I’d avenge you and leave.” She smiled at Lynai. “You need sub-commanders who will carry on.”

“Callie…” Lynai’s face was flushed. The two were steadily inching closer.

“If that is all I will go aid in the construction efforts,” I hurriedly excused myself. I had no desire to bear witness to their intimacy.

Next Chapter

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Voyages of the Cerberus 181: Can the Doc Hold Out?

“It should be me going into that fight,” Farah said.

“It’s fine,” Paul sighed. “Either way, it’s going according to plan.”

“Yes, but I’m a better fighter than you,” Farah said. “I don’t want to see you get the hell beaten out of you.”

“Lucas and I will fix him up after we’re rescued,” Angela said.

“Totally,” Lucas agreed.

“Okay,” Farah sighed. “Just fight defensively. You just have to hold out until Meiling is ready.”

“Get your ass over here, Tough guy!” Gn’iol demanded. “It’s time.”

Farah checked her surroundings while Paul complied. There were two guards at the door and one wandering around the back. The rest of the terrorists were on the left and right of Gn’iol, eager to watch the fight.

Farah handed Wolfgang to Lucas. She took his collar off. “Hold him tightly,” she said. “He’s going to try to jump out of your arms and protect Paul. And a little dog like him could get hurt very badly.”

“What about you?” Lucas asked.

“Should be obvious,” Farah said. “Once the enemies around them are stunned, I’ll go in there and get Gn’iol away from Paul. The guards at the door should be easily enough to deal with for anyone charging in. The one at the back is the problem.”

“I’ll take care of him,” Angela said. “Mei, we’re counting on you.”

“Don’t worry,” Meiling said. “I’ve got it.”

*****

“Better be ready, Doctor,” Gn’iol said.

“You enjoy inflicting pain,” Paul observed. “Have you considered that suppressing your baser instincts might be a good way to showcase your strength?”

Gn’iol immediately threw a punch. His fist stopped just short of Paul’s face. “I can if I try, Doctor. Don’t try my patience. I’ll even be nice enough to give you the first punch.”

“Hmmm,” where should I hit?” Paul asked, making a fist.

“Stop stalling or I’ll take it back,” Gn’iol warned. “You have ten seconds.”

Paul waited eight before taking a jab directly at Gn’iol’s neck. It was clumsy but the pacifican let it hit.

“Not bad,” he coughed. “You have some muscle on you.” He backhanded Paul across the face, sending him reeling. “But not nearly enough.”

Gn’iol went into a combination of hits. By his standards, it was a leisurely series of punches and kicks. But he was a warrior by nature. For Paul, blocking all of them was impossible and he took quite a few blows.

“That all your convictions are good for?” Gn’iol asked. “You’re quite pathetic. Can’t even throw a proper punch. Fight back!”

“We all fight in our own way,” Paul said.

He was hoping the statement would confuse Gn’iol into demanding an explanation, thereby giving him a chance to stall for time. Instead, it made the pacifican angry.

He grabbed Paul’s head and slammed it into his knee. He followed that up with a kick to the Doctor’s gut.

*****

“That sounded nasty,” Kat winced.

“I’m going to fucking kill that Bastard when we get in there,” Leon spoke coldly through gritted teeth.

“It is not helpful to become agitated,” Yuri cautioned. “It may very well affect your judgement considerably.”

Alexandria put a hand on Yuri’s shoulder. “He’s not going to listen. Right now, the only thing that’s going to calm him is saving his love.”

Femi checked her watch. Still around eight minutes until Meiling’s estimated finish time.

*****

Paul picked himself back up. His forehead had a bleeding abrasion. He was noticeably bruised in several places and he was breathing heavily.

“You should just lie down and give up,” Gn’iol said. “I’ll even spare one of your little friends for making it this far.”

“I’m not done yet,” Paul gasped.

“Oh, really?” Gniol asked. He grabbed Paul’s right arm with both hands and twisted it into an awkward angle. The Doctor cried out in pain. “How about now?”

Paul cradled his broken arm. “I’m… still in this.”

Gn’iol jabbed two fingers into Paul’s left eye, eliciting another scream. The pacifican licked his fingers clean of eye tissue. “Good. Breaking you is going to be a real joy, Doctor.”

Paul looked him over with his good eye. “You… can knock me out… You can hurt me… badly… You can even… torture me… But break me? That might be… too much.”

The pacifican grinned. “We’ll see about that, Doctor.”

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The Last Draconian 66: By the Fire Light

Previous Chapter

Illyana Fensen

We stopped to eat before returning to our rooms. Aiko was very optimistic about our chances in the next match.

“We kicked ass!” she declared. Her voice was filled with excitement. “That team attack was just fantastic! We work out a few more moves like that and we’ll be unbeatable.” I heard a thump. “Whatta you say, Violet?”

“Please do not act so familiarly with me,” Michael said. “And I would appreciate it if you used my proper name.”

“Don’t be like that,” Aiko said. “We’re friends, aren’t we? And Violet suits you so well as a nickname. Don’t you think so, Yana?”

“I wouldn’t know,” I answered. “But I wouldn’t call him that if he dislikes it. It’s not nice.”

“Oh right,” Aiko said. “Sorry, Yana. I said that without thinking.”

“Don’t worry about me,” I said. “I’m used to people talking about what they see. It’s only going to bother me if you’re condescending about it.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Aiko said. I felt her arm around me. “Then let’s keep doing our best, Partners!”

*****

Larick looked over his board. It was a simple, wooden design with small carvings to represent various figures.

“Let’s see,” he muttered. “Right now the Royal Daughter should be here. That’s the threat to one of the stars.” He placed the carving. “The Vengeance Avatar is… where? With the Princess. No, in Orontios. No, wait… Both? That can’t be right…” He split the difference and put the carving between the two spots. “And the threat to the third star is… here, in Orontios.” He eyed the second piece. “Interesting. This piece seems to tie the other two together and yet… they all face their own destiny.”

He grabbed a fourth piece. “And this, our all important usurper, will be here.” He placed the carving squarely in the troll lands. “I must send a message to his royal highness.” He said the words derisively, placing a finger on a fifth carving. “Should be simple enough to persuade him to leave the picture.” He gently knocked it over.

*****

Lynai Elfblood

The battle ended with the trolls breaking into a retreat, leaving a small force to guard them as they left. We quickly wiped them out. Now, we had to make a decision. To pursue them, return to our forest or set up a temporary camp right where we were.

As such, we captains met again. This time under the stars by the firelight. Luco approached me. “I won’t apologise for questioning you,” he said. “But, for what it’s worth, you’ve proven yourself as far as I’m concerned.”

“I appreciate that,” I said.

“Good for you,” Layla said, patting me on the shoulder. “I told you he’d warm up to you.”

Lang eyed each of us in turn.

“We have won a victory here today with only mild casualties,” he said. “And in doing so we have brought the fight to the trolls. For the moment, we will make camp here. Eventually, the trolls will strike back and when that happens do you know what we will do?”

“Fight, I assume,” one of the captains I didn’t know answered.

“That’s correct,” Lang said. “We will build up as much as we can in terms of fortifications. If we are attacked, we will resume the strategy of fighting with three units at a time. At least, until reinforcements arrive. Lynai, I understand you’ve picked up some mercenaries?”

“That’s right,” I stated. I was a little surprised that he knew, but it also wasn’t something I’d ever intended to hide.

“Can they be trusted?” he asked.

“Callie says that they can,” I said. “And we all know how good vampires are at reading people.”

“You’ll let them in your confidence at her say?” Luco asked. He sounded disappointed.

“I trust Callie a great deal,” I said. I allowed my annoyance at the way he’d said that show. “But even so, I have taken some precautions. I’ve assigned some pixies to keep an eye on them. Should Callie be mistaken, they’ll be dealt with very swiftly.”

“An acceptable compromise,” Lang said. “So long as you have it in hand, it’s fine.” He resumed looking around the room. “While working on the building project, we’ll have two units keep watch, two rest and two build in rotation. Should we be attacked, one building unit will join the watch for the initial fighting while the other joins those resting. I want each of you to choose some sub-commanders who have your full confidence. Just in the event of something going wrong. Unit twelve, you’re paired with unit three. Two will be with five. Seven with nine. The shift schedule will be finalised in the morning.” He dismissed us with that. We all knew what he meant. by something going wrong.

I returned to my unit’s area of the camp. Callie was waiting for me.

“Did it go well?” she asked.

I nodded. “It was about what I expected.” I gazed at her. Right there, under the stars, the glow of the camp fires enveloping her, she was beautiful.

“See something you like?” She asked, playfully.

“I… I think I do,” I admitted. “To tell the truth, I didn’t want to fall for you. I mean, we were only put together for political purposes in the first place. And if I fall for you now, then what was all my rebelling against father and my duties for?”

She walked, seemingly floating, towards me. She gently stroked my cheek. “If you have fallen for me, doesn’t that mean it’s because of your own experiences and feelings? Isn’t that better than being with me because you had to choose someone? And doesn’t that make the whole thing valuable?”

I stared into her eyes and smiled. That was exactly what I’d needed to hear.

“Lynai.” She said it in a way that asked for close attention. I obliged. “Would it be okay if I kissed you right now?”

“I… I think I would like that a lot,” I answered.

I did.

Next Chapter

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Voyages of the Cerberus 180: Paul Called Out

“Haven’t found the last of them, Senator?” Gn’iol asked.

“Please,” she pleaded. “I’m very close. I have a contact who…”

Gn’iol grabbed the hand held and slammed it into the ground. “You’re out of time, too bad.”

Without giving her a chance to protest further, he shot her. His men carried her body outside and tossed it.

“That was unnecessary,” Paul said. “And cruel.”

“I know,” Angela agreed. She put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry. We’ll be ready to go soon. Right, Meiling?”

“I’m getting close,” Meiling confirmed. “Soon we’ll have two ready.”

“Still doesn’t leave us a lot of room,” Farah said.

“We need a way to get them to group up,” Lucas said. “When they’re clustered together we can hit them all.”

“The question is how do we manage?” Angela asked. “I don’t think this group will crowd together for karaoke.”

“You could kiss Meiling,” Lucas said. “They might find that hot.”

“You could also kiss Paul,” Meiling said. “That might be more their thing.”

“Yeah, but he’s got a super jealous boyfriend, right?” Lucas asked. “I don’t wanna die.”

“If you two could stop joking,” Farah said “I have a suggestion that might work.”

“Go ahead,” Paul said.

“I could pick a fight with Gn’iol,” Farah said. “His people might leave a few on the doors, but they’ll gather to watch that I’m pretty sure.”

“It’ll be a dangerous position,” Paul said. “Gn’iol probably won’t be close enough to the others to get hit and Pacificans are very strong.”

“I know,” Farah said. “But I’m also the person here who stands the best chance. And you can always patch me up.”

“Hey, Doc!”

The group turned. Gn’iol was approaching quickly. He made a beeline right for Paul. Meiling slid the unfinished stunning device into her pocket.

“Yes?” Paul asked.

“Quick question, would you have had the guts to pull that trigger?” Gn’iol asked.

“Excuse me?” Paul didn’t hide his shock at the question.

“Oh, that bother you?” Gn’iol asked. He poked Paul’s chest. “You seemed so certain about having strength earlier I just figured you’d have the guts for that much.”

“I don’t see any strength in murdering someone in cold blood,” Paul said.

“That’s right,” Gn’iol said. “You said it was helping those who need it, didn’t you? How about we do a little experiment. Find out who has the right definition of strength.” His crew were starting to gather around the two, leering.

“This looks bad,” Angela whispered. “Very bad.”

Farah handed Wolfgang to Lucas. “Be careful with him,” she whispered, noting that the little dog was already growling at the big Pacifican and looked like he might try to lunge at him. “Excuse me…” she tried to intercede.

“Shut up!” Gn’iol shouted. “Any of you interrupt, I shoot you all right now.” He turned back to Paul. “Well, Doc?”

“And what is your experiment?” Paul asked, knowing he had no choice.

“Simple,” Gn’iol said. “You and I punch it out. No weapons. No help from others. I’ll fight for the sheer pleasure of it. You’ll fight for the lives of your little friends here.” He gestured at Meiling, Angela, Lucas & Farah.

“Do I have a choice?” Paul asked.

“Of course you do,” Gn’iol said. “You can refuse and I can shoot all of them without harming you.”

Paul sighed. “Very well. Give me twenty minutes to prepare.”

“Doctor, you have five,” Gn’iol said. “My people can spread the word, get some comfortable seats to watch me beat you to death.” He walked away, laughing.

“It looks like the plan’s just been altered,” Paul said. He looked at Meiling. “How long until it’s ready?”

“At least ten minutes of work,” Meiling answered. She’d already resumed her tinkering. “But we’ll also have to get into position to use them. It could be fifteen to twenty minutes. Can you last that long in a fight against him?”

“I’ll have to,” Paul said. “Besides, I have a distinct feeling he’ll toy with me first.”

*****

“Let me go!” Leon shouted.

“I won’t,” Alexandria said, she had him in a nelson hold. “You go off like a crazy person, the plan is ruined.”

“He’s going to beat my Paul!” Leon cried out.

Lucy calmly walked over, reached up and slapped Leon across the face. “If you go in there now, he’s going to kill your Paul!” Lucy said, her yellow eyes opened. “Calm down and think rationally. You think Alexandria doesn’t want to go down there with her Meling in danger? You think Grace doesn’t want to go down there with Farah in danger? What about Femi and her desire to save her wife? Everyone on this ship wants to go down there and start the rescue operation. But we have to bide our time and wait for the opportunity or we’ll fall into the same pitfall as the Alliance.”

Leon settled down. “Sorry,” he muttered.

“We’ll have to do a dual strike,” Kat said. “Most of the guards inside the auditorium should get stunned, but we’ll still need to mop them up. The guards outside are the big threat.”

“I’ll lead the strike on the outside,” Lucy said. “If we focus on guarding the auditorium’s entrance, we should be able to keep them away so we can rescue our people. I’ll take Kat and Jack with me.”

“Then I’ll lead the strike force going in to mop up the stunned auditorium soldiers,” Femi said. “Alex, Leon, Yuri, You’re with me.”

“We’ll touch down and get into a holding position outside now,” Ophelia said. “When you hear them say they’ve stunned the guards inside, make a break for the auditorium. Remember, take down the guards before the stun effect wears off.”

She looked out the viewing port. She didn’t say it, but she questioned whether or not Paul could really last long enough. If he failed, they might have to move prematurely and at great risk to all of them.

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The Last Draconian 65: Debut Battle

Previous Chapter

Michael Ryufan 

Our first match was beginning soon. I was very cognizant of the adrenaline rushing through my system. I also knew what I had to do. Namely, I had to safeguard Aiko.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would have prioritised Illyana’s safety. However, our opponents had made it very clear that they were not interested in harming her. Aiko and I were the ones who were truly in danger. Therefore, protecting her was the rational choice. Of course, it was entirely possible that she would meld into the shadows and I would not be able to keep track of her while having a heated fight.

The announcer resumed her duties. “Thank you for placing your wagers, Ladies & Gentlemen. Betting is now closed. Please return to your seats for this exciting match up. The triplets have vowed to hospitalise two members of the other team and they’re determined not to let that happen. Let’s see if they can stop it.”

A bell sounded to signal the start of the match. Aiko immediately melded into the shadows. I spread my wings and flew into the air. I stayed close to Illyana. The siblings approached us rapidly, staying in an offensive formation. The trio split up in order to challenge our team one on one. The one with a full beard went to the area where Aiko had disappeared. The one with the goatee came after me.

I took a calculated risk and hovered overhead, waiting to see what he would do. I was hopeful that I would be able to counter whatever stratagem he employed.

I did not have to wait long. He vaulted himself into the air. I swiftly calculated his trajectory and flew to the side. He was, however, not simply attempting to tackle me. He hurled a magic spell as he approached.

A massive ball of ice formed in the air and quickly shattered into hard, pointed icicles. It was a strong spell and could have easily caused serious harm to someone with less experience and lower response times. Unfortunately for him, I had spent my life training my skills.  I summoned a heavy wind around me to deflect them.

I did not wait for him to launch a second attack. I swooped down at him, landing a heavy right cross directly into the side of his face. He went sliding across the arena floor, but did not fall. He recovered handily and attempted to send an icy burst directly into me. I was able to evade the spell by returning to the air.

He eyed me cautiously. Very clearly attempting to calculate the best course of attack. He had underestimated my abilities and that concerned him.

I decided to maintain the pressure. I cast a cutting winds spell down at him. He formed an icy shield in front of himself in an attempt to block my spell.

I flew around and kicked into his back with both feet, slamming him into his own ice shield. I proceeded to lift him with my legs and toss him into the air. I flew up to meet him and punched him several times while he attempted to guard against my blows. His movements had become sluggish. I knew in that moment that he was nearly finished.

I could have allowed him to fall to the ground, but I was concerned that such an action would cause serious injury. I grabbed his arms and carried him down, sliding him into the arena’s floor at a safe level of force. His skull hit the wall with enough force to render him senseless, but not enough to cause severe cranial trauma.

I examined my surroundings. Illyana’s opponent was surrounded on all sides with a stone spell. He displayed signs of having been badly burnt by a fire spell. She did not appear to be injured.

Aiko had been chased from the shadows. Probably by a very strong dispel. Her opponent was hurling darts at her as she used her agility to keep out of harm’s way. She did not seem to be in any real danger. Rather, she seemed to be toying with him. Her tail was even wagging. She noticed me watching and quickly gestured above her.

I nodded. I took to the air and moved into position. She bounced off of the wall and reached out her arms. I caught her. She swung back and forth thrice, building momentum. Then she launched herself at her opponent. Her elbow caught him in the gut. He spit uncontrollably. Her fist moved up, catching him in the bottom of the chin. He went down.

Aiko looked at me and smiled. She stuck out her right fist with her thumb sticking up. I returned the gesture. Illyana walked over to join us, having finished her own opponent.

“The Pteropus Trio has won!” the announcer declared. “What an upset! It looks like we have some strong contenders, Folks. Or did our favourite triplets just go in too cockily? Hopefully we’ll see more of them soon and be able to figure out whether or not they’re the real deal.”

On our way out, we were approached by a balding dwarf with an ornately beaded beard wearing what looked like a new suit.

“Great fight you three,” he said, handing us a pouch. “Here’s your pay for tonight. Come back tomorrow. We’ll give you a match against one of our stronger teams.”

“You betcha,” Aiko answered, not waiting for Illyana or I to say anything. Not that it mattered. This was very much in line with our goal.

Next Chapter

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