Voyages of the Cerberus 124: Allison

“Welcome back aboard,” Ophelia said, her voice coming in clearly over the communicator.

“Thanks,” Kat replied. “Any word on Allison yet?”

“Paul and Lucy are operating on her,” Ophelia answered. “I haven’t gotten any updates since they arrived in Medical. Kat, meet me on the bridge. Leon and Farah, you’re free to do whatever you like, for the moment.”

“I’m on my way,” Kat said.

She hurried to the bridge, glancing at the door to medical as she went. Both Grace and Yuri were waiting outside.

“You wanted to see me?” Kat asked.

“That’s right,” Ophelia said. “I’d like you to start going over the files we got from the enemy ship. Look for anything that could be of use, anything altered, anything that tells us why we were targeted.”

“No problem,” Kat said. She worked in silence for a while. “Hey, Ophelia, do you think she’ll be okay?”

Ophelia paused before answering. “I honestly don’t know. I hope so. She may love joking around a bit too much, but she’s a valued member of the crew and a hell of a friend.” There was silence for a while as Kat continued her work and Ophelia piloted the Cerberus away. “You know,” Ophelia said. “Lucy didn’t want her on the crew at first. She thought she’d be an undisciplined troublemaker. But I liked her immediately. She had a ready smile, a charm to her. I convinced Lucy to give her a month. At the end of that, Lucy had to admit I’d chosen well. She may be a goof, but she’s also loyal, good-hearted and hard working, when she needs to be.”

“She certainly loves to tease me,” Kat stated. “At first, it took some getting used to. Especially when she set up that device to play an alert when I was a couple minutes into my bath. But I can’t say I mind it any more. She doesn’t go too far or mean any harm. I also can’t deny that the ship is livelier when she’s around. Maybe I should tell her that when she’s well enough.”

“She’ll never let you forget it,” Ophelia said. “But, it will mean a lot to her.”

*****

“I’m surprised to see you out here,” Leon said, looking at Grace. “I thought you didn’t like Allison.”

“I don’t dislike her,” Grace said. “Not even remotely. I mean, I let her drop by to play with Wolfie on an almost daily basis. It’s just fun to take the piss out of her on occasion and to scare her by hitting something close to her with  a wrench. She knows I wouldn’t seriously hurt her.”

“Allison has referred to you as her ‘friendly rival’ on more than one occasion,” Yuri stated. “She has speculated that if you had not been seeing Miss Jilani when I became a member of the crew you would have likely fought her for my affections. If only to spite her.”

“Oh please,” Grace said. “I don’t chase after women just to get to someone else. I’d have to really like you.”

“I was under the impression that you did really like me,” Yuri stated. “Has our friendship existed solely in my imagination?”

“No… I mean… like you romantically,” Grace said.

“I was cognizant of that fact,” Yuri stated. “I was attempting to make a joke.”

“Hard to tell with you,” Grace said. “Still, you’ve started making jokes. Allison’s really rubbed off on you.”

“She has become the most important person in any universe to me,” Yuri said. A good half hour passed in silence. “She will be repaired, will she not?”

“Paul will save her!” Leon declared, confidently. “If anyone can, he can. Besides, I’ve still got to get her back for all the jokes she’s pulled on me. Especially that one where she replaced my hand held with a broken one and made me think all my data was fried.”

Grace laughed. “I remember that. You thought the love ballad you’d spent months writing for my brother was lost forever. And then she did a dramatic reading of it over the intercom.”

“I do not recall that,” Yuri said.

“That was before you’d joined,” Grace said. “It was shortly before we recruited Farah.”

“She never really pulled pranks on me,” Farah said. “She’s just teased me a bit. I wonder, does she not like me?”

“She is concerned that you will be sensitive,” Yuri said. “She has expressed a desire to preserve her friendship with you and avoid hurting you emotionally.”

“I’m not that frail,” Farah said. “I can take a joke!”

“You should pull a joke on her when she’s better,” Grace suggested. “I guarantee, she’ll get you back.”

“Ooh, good idea,” Farah said. “I just need to think of something good.”

“I’ll help,” Grace offered. “We’ll make it a team effort. Assuming that Yuri doesn’t warn her.”

“Allison enjoys pranks,” Yuri said. “Whether she is having them pulled on her or she is pulling them on someone else. I will not ruin her enjoyment.”

They waited outside of medical, talking off and on. The hours went by. Finally, Paul’s voice came over the communication system. He sounded tired.

“Ophelia,” he said.

“Paul,” Ophelia’s voice answered. “What’s the word? How…”

“Allison Aiza,” Paul’s voice interrupted. “Time of death, 02:47. I’m so sorry.”

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The Grand Pilgrimage 67: The Pilgrimage Resumes

“Don’t look so down,” Gail said. “You wanted to make a Titan vulnerable long enough for one of the Gods to swoop in and bring them down. And that’s what we did.”

Inés was silent. True, they’d managed to leave Crius vulnerable long enough for Athena to come in and deal with him, but at what cost?

Of those who had gone to battle, the majority weren’t returning. In a sense, Inés was lucky. Her group had mostly survived. All save Matthew, of course.

She glanced at Lynde. Was Hades’ daughter, her cousin, mad at her for the plan? Could she even defend herself if Lynde was mad at her?

Lynde looked directly at her. “t’s not your fault, Inés,” she said. “We all agreed to the plan. Matthew included. we knew it would be dangerous. We just didn’t know how much of a difference there would be between us and a titan.”

“I knew,” Gail said. “But no one listened when I suggested we pull back.”

“Here’s where we part,” Lynde said. “I’m returning to what’s left of my team.” She turned away. “Oh, and Inés. Be wary of that woman.” Inés knew even without the name who she was talking about. “She’ll surely come after you and you’re rejection won’t mean anything to her. I can’t do anything to help. I did make that vow to her. Unless she comes after me or Lina, I can’t interfere with anything she does.”

Inés kept walking with Gail.

“An ominous message,” Gail stated. “You know, I think she really would fight alongside you if her promise didn’t prevent her.”

“Lynde is a good person,” Inés said. “She’s probably worried about what my sister will do.”

“She’s the stupidly heroic type,” Gail corrected. “I suspect you two are alike in that regard. Always sticking your noses into matters that don’t even concern you just because ‘it’s the right thing to do.'” Gail sighed. “Your types don’t tend to survive long. Sooner or later, you get into something too difficult and fall.”

“Possibly,” Inés said. “But don’t you think it’s better to make a difference for as long as you can than it is to just stand idly by while dreadful things happen?”

“I think,” Gail said. “That it’s best to find and hold on to your own happiness and leave the affairs of strangers and acquaintances to them.” Gail looked over her shoulder at Inés. “Just so you know, you’re an acquaintance. Your sister may not frighten me, but I also have no reason to fight her. It’s not worth the effort.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Inés said.

*****

 

 

They returned to the barracks to find Sylvie wrapping Serena’s arm while Lilac watched.

“What happened?” Inés demanded.

“Echidna’s children attacked,” Sylvie answered. “Or what was left of them, any way. We managed to drive them off, but Serena  fell off of Dusk during the battle and landed on her arm.”

“Broken?” Inés asked, kneeling down to look.

“Sprained,” Sylvie answered. “We weren’t up that high when it happened. Did Matthew go back with Lynde or did he not make it?”

“Died,” Inés sighed. “Lynde tried to carry him to safety, but they were too slow with him weighing her down. So, he sacrificed himself so that she could get away.”

“I see,” Sylvie said.

*****

The next morning, Athena herself arrived at their barracks. She looked over to them.

“The battle is over,” she announced. “The titans are once more confined to Tartarus. those of you who survived will be sent back from whence you came.”

“Finally!” Lilac declared.

“I can transport myself,” Gail stated, vanishing.

Athena turned to her priestesses. “I’m delighted to see that my mortal followers have made it this far.” She put a hand on Serena’s injured arm. A pulse of light passed from Athena’s hands into the arm.

Serena practically tore the wrapping off. “It doesn’t hurt.”

Athena nodded. “I’ll personally send you three and your noble pegasi to Drahaven so that you might complete your task. However, it will not be simple.” She turned to Inés. “You know that she’s going to go after you?”

Inés nodded. “She’s made that clear.”

“What you may not know,”  Athena continued. “Is that I can’t directly interfere. In all of Olympus, only your father has the right and he won’t. I fear you stand little chance alone.”

“I’ll help!” Serena volunteered.

“As long as we’re on a pilgrimage together we do need to look out for one another,” Sylvie agreed.

“We’ll fight together and make you proud,” Inés said. “Even if you can’t help us.”

“Don’t be silly,” Athena said. “I said I couldn’t directly interfere. I do, however, have some tricks up my sleeve. Wait at the coast after scaling the mountain barrier when you leave Drahaven. Face her there.” Athena waved her arm and the three priestesses found themselves in a strange void with their pegasi, surrounded by mist.

Athena’s voice followed them. “Remember, wait at the coast. That’s where they will come.”

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Voyages of the Cerberus 123: No Mercy

“Is she going to be okay?” Farah asked. Her comlink was directly connected to Leon’s.

“Paul will save  her,” Leon said. “He can do anything.”

“Maybe we should make a strategic retreat,” Farah suggested. “Get some time to recover.”

“Not an option,” Leon said. “Even if they would let us go, they hurt our friend. Now they die.”

*****

Lucy met Paul in the docking bay. Paul had a hover stretcher at the ready.

“When she gets here, help me get her on the stretcher. I’ll get her sedated and we’ll take her to Medical,” Paul said.

“Got it,” Lucy agreed. “I shall be the ideal nurse.”

The Wyvern came in with the Nebula in tow. The Nebula’s cockpit was torn open. Paul and Lucy scrambled to extricate Allison from the warped insides of the Nebula.

They carefully moved her on top of the stretcher and strapped her securely onto it. Lucy looked at the blood while Paul was administering the sedative. “Will she make it?”

“If I have anything to say about it she will,” Paul said. “We’re going to have to perform emergency surgery. Let’s hurry.”

*****

“Target the ship to the left,” Ophelia ordered. “Try to concentrate fire on their engines.”

“Acknowledged,” Yuri stated.

“Ophelia, I’m heading back out,” Kat reported.

“Wait with Farah and Leon for the moment,” Ophelia said. “Once the ship we’re targeting tries  top pull back, you three should move in for the kill.”

“Understood,” Kat said. “We’ll bring it down for Allison.”

The Cerberus moved. Some enemy fire managed to chip away at the Cerberus’ shields, but Ophelia evaded the bulk of the enemy fire.

Yuri gave no sign of being distracted by her lover’s condition. Her shots were precise, calculated. It didn’t take long for the second ship to move between its companion and the Cerberus.

“Leon, Farah, Let’s go!” Kat ordered.

“They put Allison in hospital, we annihilate them,” Leon stated.

“It’s more  important that we take them out to prevent them interfering with the Cerberus,” Farah said. “I mean, if they manage to do enough damage to knock out main power…”

“Don’t even think it,” Kat said.

The three ships moved towards the large ship.

“Concentrate fire on their engines!” Kat ordered. “Now!”

The three ships moved past,  firing a volley of torpedoes and lasers. The enemy ship was rocked by small explosions. The fighters turned and moved back, evading fire from the crippled enemy ship. They released another volley.

On the Cerberus, Yuri fired on the second ship. “Ophelia, please gain twenty metres of altitude in a hurry.”

“All right,” Ophelia said. “I’m trusting you to have a reason for this.”

The Cerberus rose. Yuri fired. The burst went over the ship they were facing and hit the damaged ship’s engines directly.

“The first enemy ship has been destroyed,” Yuri reported.

“I see that,” Ophelia said. “Let’s take out the next one. I’ll have the fighters strike from the back. We’ll catch them in a pincer movement.”

The remaining enemy ship found itself under fire from two fronts, taking heavy damage. The Cerberus was quickly hailed.

“First officer… now acting captain speaking. We are prepared to surrender.” an androgynous voice said. The signal wasn’t completely clear.

“I  believe their communications were damaged,” Yuri reported.

“A logical assumption,” Ophelia said. “If they start charging their weapons, destroy them.” She nodded at Yuri to patch her through. “Odd, coming from Alliance special forces,” Ophelia said. “I thought you didn’t surrender.”

“How?” the voice returned. “The akumillian, of course. No choice. We need to report back. We’ll grant you all the credits we’re carrying.”

“Not enough,” Ophelia said. “I want all the data on your computers transferred here.”

“Impossible!”

“If you’d rather be destroyed, my people and I can oblige,” Ophelia said.

It took nearly a minute for the response to come. “Fine, transferring credits and data.”

“The transfer is coming through,” Yuri reported. She activated the communications. “Enemy vessel, you will drop your shields at this juncture.”

“Yuri, what are you doing?” Ophelia asked.

The enemy ship dropped their shields. Yuri destroyed them with a quick burst of fire.

“I will accept disciplinary action, Captain,” Yuri said. “I could not, however, permit them to leave alive after the damage they caused to Allison.”

“We got the full transfer?” Ophelia asked.

“Affirmative,” Yuri answered.

“Then you can go wait outside of Medical,” Ophelia said. “I’ll see to bringing the fighters back.”

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Crius Faces Godlings

Inés was put into a group with Lynde, Matthew & Gail. The four of them moved into position.

“We move in third,” Lynde said. “Gail, provide us covering magic. The rest of us will move in to distract him from Famina’s team. We go in, take some hits and get out. Understood?”

“You’ve got it, Lady Lyn,” Matthew said.

“I understood the plan,” Inés stated. “You don’t need to repeat it.”

“Just making absolutely sure we’re on the same page,” Lynde said.

“In that case I should make one thing clear,” Gail said. “I’m not risking my life any more than I have to. If one of you gets cornered by him, I’m not running in to rescue you.”

“I understand,” Lynde said. “I don’t intend to die, either.”

*****

Dusk and Demure flew up high, allowing their riders to survey the battle.

“Looks like there really aren’t many monsters left,” Serena said. “Thank the Gods. So, what’s our plan?”

“We strike as a team,” Sylvie answered. “We pick a target. Swoop down and hurriedly get back up in the air. There don’t seem to be any flying enemies left, so we should be pretty safe. We should also cause enough confusion to give the others some nice openings.”

“Got it,” Serena said.

“First up is the nemean lion right there. Let’s move!” Sylvie ordered.

*****

Camila and William’s team struck first. Crius hadn’t noticed them approaching and was taken momentarily off guard. By the time he’d moved to deal with them, they were already moving away. Famina’s group came next, striking from the side.

Crius tossed a spell at them as they retreated, killing two of the group just before Gail’s magic hit him from behind.

He turned. “Ants,” Inés heard him mutter. She, Matthew and Lynde struck him. Even hitting him with all her power, even with a staff made by Hephaestus, the titan didn’t flinch from the hit. But he did notice. The group moved into a retreat.

A massive fire spell moved towards Lynde, Matthew and Inés. Inés ducked and slid, using a water spell to push herself forward. Lynde scooped Matthew up and used her speed spell to try and get away but the spell was approaching them.

“You’re too slow with my weight,” Matthew said. “Get out of here!” He squirmed out of Lynde’s grip and took the brunt of the fire spell.

“Damn,” Lynde muttered.

“At least he didn’t get both of you,” Gail said. “That’s something.”

“He was my friend,” Lynde said. “Show some respect!”

“I am,” Gail stated. “After all, the reason you got away is because of him. If he had tried to save himself, you both would have died.”

“This is bad,” Inés said. “If he keeps getting off a shot before turning to the group attacking him, then it’s going to be difficult to keep alive. We need to start keeping our distance.”

“You’re right,” Lynde admitted. “Gail, contact the other groups. Tell them to start hitting him with magic. It’ll give us a better chance at dodging.”

“Frankly, I think we should retreat now,” Gail said. “But no one listens to me, so I’ll just follow your lead like a good team player.” She gestured and a shimmering globe appeared in front of her, allowing her to convey Lynde’s instructions to the other groups.

*****

The distraction continued. One group would strike with their spells, scramble to evade Crius’ retaliatory strike and the next group would attack. Not everyone managed to evade.

Secretly, Inés was hoping that Camila would be among those who fell. After what she’d  heard about her sister, and seen of her during their talk, she was convinced that Camila was going to be a problem. Assuming they both survived.

Unfortunately for Inés, Camila persevered. She always managed to stay one step ahead of Crius’ attacks. Even as every other member of her group fell and she ran to join a different one.

Lynde and Inés shared a look. Their numbers were dwindling. If one of the Gods didn’t arrive soon they’d be forced to flee, or die.

we  may be stuck now,” Gail said, reading their look. “If we try to retreat at this point, he’ll just blast us all from behind. I don’t know if I could even pull off a teleportation spell. Not unless he lets me.”

“Tell the others to retreat,” Lynde said. “I’ll distract him for as long as I can.”

“No!” Inés exclaimed. “It was my idea. I’ll distract him. you should use your speed magic to try and help the others run.”

She didn’t leave any room for argument. She ran out of cover and charged towards Crius, wondering how long she’d last. She noticed someone running alongside her. Lynde? She couldn’t turn to look. The titan turned towards them. His eyes grew wide in shock. Her companion sprinted ahead. That was when Inés noticed who it was. She stopped in her tracks.

Crius sent a burst of magic but it was easily deflected by the aegis. Before the titan could summon anything more potent, Athena’s blade ran him through.

She turned towards the half bloods.

“All of you, go back,” she said. “Now!”

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Voyages of the Cerberus 122: Fighter Down

“What’s the situation?” Ophelia asked. She and Lucy arrived on the Bridge where Kat, Leon and Yuri were on duty.

“We are being approached by two large ships,” Yuri answered. “They have deployed fighters, a dozen in total. Their weapons are fully armed.”

“No demands or communications,” Kat stated. “I tried hailing them, but they wouldn’t respond. No identifying markings of any kind.”

“So, we kill the pirate bastards,” Leon said.

“They will be within weapons range in two minutes, fifteen seconds,” Yuri stated.

“All right,” Ophelia said. “Kat, Leon, grab Farah and Allison and sortie. Lucy, take the weapons. I’ll do the flying. Yuri, keep monitoring and apprising us of any possible openings and of the situation out in space.” Ophelia slid into her chair and activated the intercom. “Paul, the fighters are preparing to launch. Be ready for the possibility of wounded. Grace, I want you to keep our shields and weapons working. If we take enough hits that you need help, call and we’ll send Yuri.”

*****

“Keep in close formation out there,” Kat said. “We’re outnumbered three to one. Our best shot is to work as a team and hit them too hard and fast for them to respond properly.”

“Outnumbered and with no one to rely on but each other,” Allison said. “Yeah, sounds like a typical Cerberus mission.”

“We’ll manage like we always do,” Leon said.

“Like always,” Farah echoed.

The Healer, Nebula, Wyvern & Simurgh launched. quickly taking formation and going to meet the opposing fighters.

*****

The fighter battle was more difficult than they’d anticipated. Allison managed to bring one down early on, but the remaining eleven quickly consolidated their forces. The Cerberus’ fighters were forced to pull away to avoid getting trapped in. The enemy fighters responded by splitting in two and trying to catch them in a pincer movement.

The Cerberus wasn’t faring much better. Every time Lucy got some hits off of one of the enemy ships, the second made its move, covering  its comrade while its shields got repaired and forcing the Cerberus away.

“These guys are good, for a bunch of pirates,” Ophelia muttered.

“I’m not sure they are pirates,” Lucy stated. “Their movements are too coordinated. Plus, there’s nothing for a pirate to gain by destroying us. They’d try and cripple us to claim everything of value, including the Cerberus. These guys are shooting to kill. Sharply turn left.”

“I saw it,” Ophelia said. “So, who do you think they are?”

“The ship designs seem to be Alliance,” Lucy stated. “Possibly Special Forces.”

“What motives would the Alliance have to try and destroy us?” Yuri inquired.

Lucy shook her head. “Revenge for the experimental weapon we destroyed, possibly. Possibly a surgical strike against an akumillian ship with a crew of former Alliance operative. Possibly part of a larger campaign striking akumillian ships indiscriminately. I’ll figure it out if their records survive this.”

“Nice to see you’re confident in our chances,” Ophelia said.

“I know this crew. And their plan won’t work if we can bring the fighters against them,” Lucy said. “Act like you’re strategically withdrawing to get them to follow you… here.” She sent the coordinates to Ophelia. “If I’m right, they’ll guess what you’re trying to do and be hesitant to follow. That’ll be our opening.”

“What is the contingency plan in the event that they call your bluff?” Yuri asked.

“I’ll think of something,” Lucy answered.

*****

“Not to alarm anyone,” Allison said. “But they’re coming really close to catching us.”

“We need to stand and fight!” Leon declared.

“We need a plan,” Kat corrected.

“You got one, Oh Fearless Squad Leader?” Allison asked.

“Not yet,” Kat admitted. “For now, keep firing and retreating. If we can take a few more of them out of the fight, we may turn it around.”

*****

“They are hesitating,” Yuri reported.

“Good, they know my reputation,” Lucy said. “Sweetheart, buzz past the fighters, very quickly and then turn about and return to catch these guys pursuing us.”

“Just don’t miss,” Ophelia said. “Here we go!”

The Cerberus moved at close to top speed, strafing by one of the clusters of enemy fighters. Lucy opened fire as they moved, decimating their ranks. The Cerberus moved back to face the larger threats.

The Cerberus fighters wasted no time. They moved into the decimated enemy half, finishing them off.

“Five to go,” Kat said. “Let’s light them up!”

*****

“Is it prudent to allow Allison and the others to engage the larger ships?” Yuri asked. “Will they not be vulnerable?”

“Possibly,” Lucy said. “But we’ll mitigate the risk by having them go after a weakened one. Once they’re done, we’ll unload on one of these guys. When its partner moves to get in our way, they’ll strike at the weakened one.”

“They’d also have to be s good of shots as Lucy to easily hit a small fighter,” Ophelia said. “Not bloody likely.”

“Captain!” Yuri’s voice was raised. “One of our fighters has been hit. It is… the Nebula.”

“Ophelia,” Kat’s voice came in. “I’m towing the Nebula back. I think Allison’s hurt.”

“Paul!”

“I’m on my way to the bay,” Paul’s voice said.

“Yuri, take over on weapons,” Lucy ordered. “Lay some strong covering fire. We’ll need to be still for a short period while we receive the Nebula. I’ll go down and assist Paul.”

“I understand,” Yuri stated. She grabbed Lucy’s arm and looked her directly in the eyes. “Allison will be repaired?”

“We’ll do everything we can for her,” Lucy answered.

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The Grand Pilgrimage 65: To Target a Literal Titan

Inés travelled with Gail, Lynde, Matthew and several others to the site of the battle betwixt Gods and Titans.

They weren’t prepared.

The sights that greeted them were beyond what they imagined. Thunderbolts, flames and all manner of magics flew across the field. Some Gods were engaged in hand to hand combat with Titans. Their weapons crashed against each other with a force that reverberated across the sky. The half bloods could feel it hurling like a great wind against them.

“We’re lucky,” Gail stated. “If we’d arrived early on in the battle, the force might well have been strong enough to knock us right off of Olympus.” She looked at Inés. “Do you still think we should try to make a difference? We could still head back.”

“We don’t need to get into the thick of it,” Inés said. “We just need to hold back one of them long enough for the Gods to take them out.”

“That’s my beloved Sister!” Camila exclaimed. Inés hurriedly moved away to avoid her embrace.

“I believe we can do some good,” Lynde said. “We just need to work together and find the right target.”

“I think I see him,” Famina said, gesturing at a pale, lean Titan with a great white beard. “What say you, Little Brother?”

“Still older than you,” William protested.

“But so much smaller,” Famina stated.

William sighed. “Well, he’s on his own, hurling spells. If we can sneak up on him, we stand a good chance of being an adequate distraction. But we should be prepared. Do you know which Titan he is?”

“Can’t say I do,” Famina said. “I haven’t exactly met a bunch of Titans. Not even during my time spent with you and father.”

“Me neither,” William said. “This is a quandary.”

“We’ll just have to go without knowing,” Inés said.

“Bad idea,” Gail argued. “Knowing who he is lets us know what he’s apt to do.”

“You’re such a baby,” Camila interjected. she examined the Titan. “Crius. I remember from my own time in Tartarus.”

“Oh, I know him!” Famina exclaimed. “Titan of the stars.”

“then magic is probably his strong suit,” William said. “We’ll move in swiftly, but quietly. Hope he’s too distracted fighting the Gods to notice us until we’re close enough to do damage.”

“Once we’re close, we’ll split into teams and surround him,” Lynde stated. “We’ll use hit and run tactics to keep him off balance. One team will strike and withdraw. While they’re withdrawing, the next team will move in. We just need to keep him off balance long enough for one of the Gods to move in.”

“I’ll team with my adorable sister,” Camila volunteered.

“No!” Lynde said. “You two will be on separate teams.”

Camila moved close to Lynde, getting in her face. “Have you so swiftly forgotten our deal? I taught you my spell. Now that I’m free, you aren’t allowed to get in my way.”

Lynde met her gaze. “First off,” she said. “You aren’t free until this is over. Secondly, I’m not ‘getting in your way.’ In order for this plan to work, we need to move in sync without distractions. And your massive sister complex is going to be a distraction. Both for you, and for Inés. I will not have your selfishness compromise all of our safety.” She took a step closer to Camila. “You and Inés will be on separate teams. Understood?”

Camila and Lynde glared at one another for a moment. “Fine,” Camila conceded. “But you can’t keep us apart forever. Remember, after this is over you can’t interfere. No matter what.”

*****

Sylvie noticed Serena looking up at the sky, her arms behind her back.

“Don’t look at the sun,” Sylvie cautioned. “Especially not from up here.”

“I won’t,” Serena said. “It is funny, though. The clouds are so different up here. Some float by right next to you. Others are so close you can reach up and put your hand through them. I guess I just never imagined I’d be this far off of the ground.”

“Is it going to be difficult for you to go back?” Sylvie asked.

“Just the opposite,” Serena said. “I look forward to going back. Having my feet planted on solid ground instead of this weird cloud. Finishing the pilgrimage with you and Inés so that I can get back to my training. Although, I am a little conflicted on that. When we get done, I don’t imagine I’ll get to spend nearly as much time with her.”

“I thought You were fine with her having other girls too,” Sylvie said.

“I am,” Serena said. “It’s part of what makes her her. Besides, she’s fine with me having other girls too. I… I’m just a little afraid that she’ll forget me. You know?”

Sylvie sighed. “Don’t worry. Inn all the time I’ve known her, no matter how lecherous she’s been, I’ve never known her to forget  about one of her girlfriends.”

Serena smiled. “Really?”

“Really,” Sylvie said.

“Emergency!” They were interrupted by a pixie flying in. “Echidna’s remaining children are attacking Lynde’s group. The remaining two need help!”

“We’ll be there,”Sylvie said. She helped Serena up. “We’ll take Demure and Dusk. Leave Lilac here, just in case they have a few stragglers that are going to try sneaking through other areas.”

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Voyages of the Cerberus 121: Morale Officer At Work

“Feeling better, Kat?” Lucy asked.

“I am,” Kat said. “Just got a helluva headache and I can’t really remember what happened.”

“I’ve compiled a report based on everyone’s testimony,” Lucy said. “You can peruse it whenever you like.”

“Short version,” Ophelia said. “Some kind of creature was controlling the plants and managed to put the akumillians under its sway. Paul managed to kill it.”

“I’m surprised,” Kat stated. “He’s not exactly a fighter.”

“He seems to be pretty upset over it,” Ophelia said. “Leon’s trying to cheer him up.”

“There are two things you can keep in mind from this whole thing,” Lucy said. “First off, never get drunk. Ever.”

“I don’t drink much or often,” Kat said. “Not my fault the spores had that effect.” She scratched her head. “What’s the other thing?”

“Keep your relationship with my Ophelia friendly, but not too friendly,” Lucy said.

“Huh?” Kat asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” Ophelia said. “You just said something a bit… foolish while you were being affected by the spores.”

*****

Farah and Grace sat in Grace’s quarters. Hyper was in Farah’s lap. The Baron was in Grace’s. They sat close, occasionally stroking the small animals.

“I don’t know,” Farah said. “It just feels like I missed everything this mission, you know?While the others were out taking care of things I was just…”

“Wasting your time with me,” Grace interrupted. “Is that what you think? That I’m a waste of time?”

“Not at all,” Farah explained. “I just wish I’d been able to help.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Grace said. “According to Yuri, they didn’t really do anything when they were there with the entity. My brother took care of things. Probably the only time that’ll ever happen outside of actual medical issues. No offence, but I don’t think your being there would have changed anything.”

“You’re probably right,” Farah said. “I don’t know. It just feels like I haven’t done much in missions lately.”

“You were invaluable during the whole Gauriel Prime thing,” Grace said. “Trust me, no one here questions your usefulness.” She put an arm around Farah and gently brought her closer. “Or your intoxicating beauty.”

“Grace,” Farah whispered.

They embraced, their lips coming together. Hyper and the Baron moved away from the two of them. They were interrupted by a knock at the door. The Baron ran over and started pacing in front of it.

“Damn it!” Grace muttered. “Just when things were getting good.” She moved to the door. “Piss off!”

“Let me borrow the Baron!” Leon’s voice returned.

“Why?” Grace asked.

“Because Paul likes dogs and I think he’ll cheer up if he has some time with little Wolfie,” Leon said.

Grace whistled. the Baron scrambled over to her. She picked him up and opened the door. She carefully handed him to Leon. “Take good care of him and bring him back in six hours.”

“Agreed,” Leon said. He stroked Wolfgang’s fur. “Come on, Little Guy. Let’s go see Paul.”

Grace closed the door and locked it. “Sorry about that.” She said. “Now we’ve gotta try and recapture the moment.”

*****

Leon took Wolfie to the quarters he and Paul shared. The little dog sat in his arms with a smug look.

“There he is,” Leon whispered, pointing the little dog at the sofa where Paul was lying down. “Go get him.”

He set the Baron down. Wolfgang sniffed around the room for a moment before running to the sofa. He jumped up onto it, crawled onto Paul’s stomach, moved to his face and began licking.

“Wolfie?” Paul asked. “What are you doing here?” He pet the dog’s head. Wolfgang sat up on his hind legs, exposing his belly. Paul obliged by rubbing it.

“You look happy doing that,” Leon said.

“Is that why you brought him here?” Paul asked.

“Well, you did look down,” Leon said. “Killing that thing really bothered you, didn’t it?”

“It does bother me,” Paul admitted. “But it was the only real choice I had to save you guys. Don’t worry, I’ll be able to live with it.”

“I know you will,” Leon said. “But if you need to cry for it… or to talk to someone about your feelings, I’m here for you. It’s the least I can do for the man I love.”

“Thanks, Fuzzy,” Paul said. “I love you too.”

*****

the Cerberus crew continued on their course for several days while Lucy and Ophelia went over potential jobs.

“I think I’ve got it,” Ophelia said. “A bounty from Omicron Zeta.”

“It’ll be dangerous,” Lucy said. “But doable.”

“I’m not sure how dangerous it’ll actually be,” Ophelia stated. “Some low life who embezzled a bunch of credits.”

“Enough to hire protection?” Lucy asked.

“Probably,” Ophelia answered. “But how good will their back up be?”

“Depends on how seasoned of a criminal they are,” Lucy said.

“Do you want to keep looking?” Ophelia asked.

“Well, let me see the listing,” Lucy said. “It probably is safer than our last job.”

The Cerberus’ intercom activated. “Ophelia, Lucy come to the Bridge.” Kat’s voice pleaded. “We’re being attacked!”

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The Grand Pilgrimage 64: Council of Half Bloods

Serena had her head in Inés’ lap. Sylvie was helping Lilac train. Matthew was fiddling with some cards and Gail was sitting, her mind elsewhere. It had been the two days and they were waiting to hear from Lynde.

Lynde arrived on foot. She was travelling with a young looking dwarf. He barely had a beard.

“Lady Lyn,” Matthew greeted. “Dorcas.”

“Mattie boy,” Dorcas greeted.

“I’ve sent the basics of your idea to the other groups,” Lynde said, looking pointedly at Inés. We’ve all agreed to send two representatives to discuss whether or not we should do it and how we should go about it if we do. You’ll have to be one of them for your group, of course. Your group will also have to decide on your second.”

“Guess it can’t be helped,” Inés said. “Sorry, Serena. We’ll resume when I get back. She walked over to Sylvie and pat her shoulder. You ready to go, Pal?”

“Me?” Sylvie asked. She looked around. “Are you all okay with that? I mean, I’m not a half God or anything.”

“Well, you are the Boss,” Matthew said.

“It does make the most sense,” Serena agreed.

“Just go already,” Gail muttered.

“All right,” Sylvie said. “Take us to the meeting place.”

*****

The spot chosen for the meeting was part of the centre barracks. There were ten others inside already. the four of them were the last to arrive. Inés was a little concerned to note that Camila was among the group.

“All right,” Lynde said. “We’ve all had time to mull over Inés’ idea to take the fight to the titans. What are everyone’s thoughts?”

A red-haired elf stood up. “My group is concerned about the possibility of Echidna’s remaining children banding together,” she said. “They could well flank us.”

“Fortune favours the bold, Dear Lyev,” Camila said.

“Then, are you in favour of just rushing in?” Lyev asked.

“Of course,” Camila said. “It’s my dear little sister’s plan, after all.” She winked at Inés.

“I do agree that we can’t leave our posts undefended,” Lynde said. “That’s why I would suggest a small strike force. Each group sends their strongest members. We leave the others behind just in case.”

A man with dark green hair stood. “Suppose we do as you suggest. Will the weaker members of our group be able to stave off an attack by themselves?”

A gnome with light pink hair and spectacles scrambled on top of the table. “Weaker or not, they are still children of the Gods,” he said. “Given the diminished nature of the opposing forces, they should be able to hold out.”

“You’ve heard William,” Camila said. “And he’s a son of Apollo. So, there’s no reason not to go ahead.”

“Wait just a moment!” The green haired man spoke. “Aren’t we forgetting about the group with two regular mortals? Will they be okay?”

“Not to mention the bigger question of whether or not those of us who move against a titan will be okay,” Lyev added. She glanced at William. “No offence, Little Brother.”

“I’m older than you,” William muttered.

“I wouldn’t worry about Sylvie and Serena,” Inés said. “I’ve fought by their sides for a while and they’re both totally capable.”

“I fought with them as well, for a little bit,” Lynde stated. “I’ll vouch for their competence. You don’t need to worry, Patrick. As for Lyev’s concern, I believe that our main purpose during the battle will be to distract a single titan long enough for one of the Gods to deal with them. For that, we’ll need a good plan and teamwork more than we will sheer numbers.”

A dwarven woman stood  to speak. “Now that concerns me,” she said. “Do you really think we can coordinate a bunch of half bloods like that?”

“It’s possible,” William interjected. “Lynde’s team is proof of that much. Does your team not work well together, Famina?”

“My team works fine,” Famina stated. “But we’re talkin a much larger group. Not only that, but a group of the strongest of the strong. Will it really be that easy?”

the group began arguing the point. Finally, Sylvie stepped forward. “Excuse me,” she said. “But I have something to say.” She glanced around to make sure they were paying attention. “Miss Famina, you’re concerned that you won’t be able to coordinate. However, I feel that being stronger will make that easier. True, under normal circumstances you might not need to coordinate. But a part of being strong is recognising when you can win on your own versus when you can’t. Let me ask, do any of you think you can beat a titan on your own?” There was silence in response to the question. “That’s what I thought. Now, how many of you think you can manage to hinder one if you work together?”

“Obviously we can,” Camila stated.

“I think so too,” Lynde agreed.

“The probability is in our favour,” William said.

There was a chorus of agreement from around the table.

“And that’s why you’ll all work together,” Sylvie stated. Because, if nothing else, you all know it’s the only way.”

Famina looked deep in thought for a moment. “Lass, you may be right.” She said. “I withdraw the objection.”

“Are there any further objections to the plan?” Lynde asked.

*****

“That went well,” Lynde said.

Inés nudged Sylvie. “You always were a persuasive speaker. Makes me wonder how you can freeze up so badly where Illyana is concerned.”

“Shut it,” Sylvie said.

“Dorcas and I will take our leave here,” Lynde said. “I’ll prepare the troops who will come with me for the mission.”

“See you tomorrow,” Inés said. She and Sylvie waved goodbye.

“You’ll be careful going against the titan, won’t you?” Sylvie asked.

“Don’t worry about me,” Inés said. “I can be careful when I have to be. Besides, I’ll have Matthew and Gail with me. Just look after Serena for me, okay?”

“I will,” Sylvie said. “If Echidna’s children do attack, I promise to keep her from harm.”

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Voyages of the Cerberus 120: Nolillin Eight’s Mission Complete

“Dude, stop pacing,” Allison said. “We don’t exactly have a lot of space in here.”

Leon ignored her.

“Leon,” Ophelia said, grabbing his shoulder. “I know you’re anxious. I know you’re worried about Paul, but you need to keep calm. Your best chance at helping him is to keep your cool. Okay?”

Leon halted and took a deep breath. “Yes… Captain.”

Yuri released her hold on the door. “Someone is approaching.”

The group moved to look. An akumillian was hurrying towards the cell.

“Think it’s time for them to do… whatever?” Allison asked.

Ophelia shook her head. “She’s not moving like the ones before. They were slow, controlled. She’s moving with purpose… earnestness. I wonder if that thing couldn’t control her.”

“Like, if she had the same surgery as Lucy?” Leon asked.

Ophelia nodded.

The woman hurried over and opened the door.

“You must be Ophelia and Leon,” she said. “I wasn’t told to expect others, but that’s fine. You’re free.”

“Told?” Ophelia asked. “Who told you?”

“The Doctor,” she answered. “He asked me to find you.”

“Where is he?” Leon demanded.

“Main chamber,” she said. “Treating the wounded.”

“Wounded? Just what happened?” Ophelia wondered.

“Only way to find out is check,” Allison said. “Yuri, you weren’t hurt while trying to open the door, were you?”

“My systems are fully functional,” Yuri answered. “We were released before they were badly strained.”

“Good,” Allison said. “I’m glad.”

*****

When they arrived in the main chamber they found the gelatinous mass scattered across  the ground. Pieces of the entity were strewn about and the ground near its previous suspension place was charred.

Paul was knelt down next to an akumillian, carefully pulling fragments of rock and metal from his arm.

“Paul,” Leon whispered. “He’s okay.”

“Paul, what happened?” Ophelia asked.

“I overloaded some blasters,” Paul answered. “The blast killed the entity, but the nearby akumillians were injured in the process.”

“Nice,” Allison said.

“Nothing nice about taking a life,” Paul chided. “Being unable to reach a peaceful settlement is a tragedy.”

“Sorry, sorry,” Allison said.

“I can understand why you would take that position,” Yuri stated. “I am, however, unable to summon any pity for the creature. It forced the akumillians to comply with its orders. Had it been able to, it would have forced us to comply with its orders. Terminating its life functions was a necessary action.”

“Things that are rational can still be regrettable,” Paul said.

Things went quiet for a time. Leon thought about what he should be saying or doing to make his despondent lover feel better. His focus was shattered  when Ophelia spoke. “Paul, are you bleeding?”

Leon looked Paul over. That’s when he noticed that Paul’s back was bandaged and blood was starting to soak through.

“How did…” Leon began. “What… We need to get you to the ship!”

“no need to fuss, Fuzzy, I’m fine,” Paul said. “At least, I’m well enough to treat these people. Some shrapnel scratched me. It’s nothing serious.”

“Maybe not,” Ophelia said. “But Lucy’s looking at it when we return to the Cerberus.”

“Agreed,” Paul said. “Once I’m done with my work here.

*****

Ophelia returned to the ship with Allison and Yuri, leaving Leon to keep an eye on Paul as he worked.

“Is it prudent to leave the two of them alone?” Yuri inquired.

“Shouldn’t be a problem,” Ophelia said. “The entity is dead. There was no sign of another one. Or anything else dangerous, for that matter.”

“So, all that remains is to write up the report and collect our reward,” Allison said.

“It is  curious,” Yuri stated. “If the entity was anomalous among the flora and fauna of this world, how did it develop? If it came from elsewhere, how did it arrive? Where did it come from? Why did it leave?”

Ophelia shrugged. “No way to know for sure. Unless the colonists find some evidence.”

Kat ran up to them in the corridor.

“Cap’n, is good to see you,” she said. “Th… there’s no one here but ghosths. Ghoshts an me.”

Allison nudged Yuri.

“Kat, go back to sleep,” Ophelia coaxed. “Aren’t you tired?”

“Not tired,” Kat stated. “I… I am rilly awake. Hey, lemme tell ya sometin.” She beckoned to Ophelia and leaned close. When she spoke, her voice was just as loud as it had been. “I wanna fly the Ceroboros.”

“You want to fly my ship?” Ophelia asked.

“Comon, it’ll be good clean fun,” Kat stated. “I’ll sit in your lap an I… I will be best pilot. Jusht don’t tell Lucy cause she’d be soo mad.”

“This is absolute gold,” Allison whispered.

“Welcome back Ophelia, Allison, Yuri,” Lucy greeted, stepping out into the corridor. “Kat, come here for a moment.”

Kat looked at Ophelia and put a finger to her lips. “Shoosh.” she said. She stumbled over to Lucy.

“Come with me, now!” Lucy ordered, her words commanding. “You are going back to sleep.”

“Yesh’m,” Kat agreed.

“I am totally teasing her about that later,” Allison said.

“Don’t,” Ophelia said. “She can’t help it. ” She sighed. “I’m going to write up the report. Apprise Lucy of Paul’s injuries and then you can consider yourselves free.”

“Aye aye, Ma’am,” Allison said.

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The Grand Pilgrimage 63: Decisive Battle Against Echidna’s Spawn

“Okay, we’ve got the message out for reinforcements,” Inés said. “So, how do we stop them from tunnelling right beneath us and going after the Gods directly?”

“Simple,” Gail said. “We blow the cloud open.”

“Can you do that and transition into helping the rest of us without it being a problem?” Sylvie asked.

“Of course I can!” Gail declared, the annoyance showing in her voice. “It’s not as difficult as holding a solid shield in place while someone fills it with water.”

“Maybe some of us should blast it open and you and Inés can repeat that little trick,” Matthew suggested.

Gail shook her head. “It’s too soon. I can’t maintain that kind of shield for that long two days in a row.”

“I don’t think I could pull off the tsunami spell either,” Inés admitted. “At least, not a sustained one like that.”

“Unfortunate,” Matthew said.

“But that’s the situation regardless,” Sylvie said. “Gail, wait until they’ve reached this point” she kicked the powdery surface. “And then split this thing open. The rest of us will be standing by to charge when they’re exposed and confused.”

“We should be able to put a dent in them before they can pull themselves together,” Matthew said. “I just hope Lady Lyn comes to our aid before things go south.”

“How are you this calm?” Lilac demanded. “These damn things killed Jenna and Wilfred. How can you talk so casually about fighting them again?”

“Stay calm, Lilac,” Sylvie spoke softly.”I know you’re scared. We all are. But we should get reinforcements quickly this time and it would be disastrous if they got past us. So, we have to fight and we  have to hold them at bay.”

“That’s right,” Inés said. “We’re the only ones who can.”

“I’m about to blast these arseholes to the surface,” Gail said. “Better wrap up the motivational speeches.”

The five of them quickly took positions. Sylvie tried her best to reassure Lilac. Gail put her hand to the ground and the surface of the clouds split open, revealing Echidna’s children. Sylvie hurled a burst of lightning magic. Inés and Matthew followed up, leaping inside and taking the battle to them. Serena and Sylvie were next. Lilac reluctantly followed.

Matthew knelt, kicking a chimeras legs and quickly transitioning into thrusts of his daggers. He examined the thin looking cloud beneath them.

“You guys  hold them off for a moment,” He said. “I have an idea.”

Without explanation he hurried to the surface and ran to Gail who was preparing spells to blast the beasts.

“This cloud, can you blast it out from under them?” Matthew asked.

“It’s not a bad idea,” Gail said. “But it won’t work.  These things may float thanks to the Gods, but a divine cloud isn’t easy to just break. They can tunnel under the surface like its dirt and I can blast it open in the same way. but the bottom is a different matter. If there were three of me and we had a fortnight to direct our power on it, we might be able to put a large hole in it. But we don’t have that kind of time and I’m only one.”

“Damn,” Matthew muttered. “I thought that might work. Well, nothing for it but to get back in the fray.”

The two of them hurried into the cavern that Gail had opened up. Matthew dropped near Lilac and brought down a Nemean Lion that was creeping up behind her. Gail hurled spells, decimating their ranks.

As Sylvie had predicted, the reinforcements arrived quickly. Lynde and nine others, certainly from different groups.

The tide turned quickly against Echidna’s children as magic and divine weaponry were brought to bear against them. After a period of fierce fighting, they were dispatched.

“I can’t believe you saved my life again,” Serena said. “Thank you so much!”

“It’s not that big a deal,” Inés said. “You’re my lover and a comrade. It’s my duty and pleasure to protect you.” She winked.

“Remind you of old times, Lady Lyn?” Matthew asked.

“Not particularly,” Lynde answered.

“What do you think the odds are of them striking again?” Sylvie asked.

“It’s hard to say,” Lynde answered.

“No it isn’t,” Gail chimed in. “They’ve been beaten back twice and suffered extreme casualties. They’ll pull back and leave the Titans to their fates. All we have to do from here is sit back and wait for the battle to end.”

“That’ll be nice,” Lilac stated.

“Hmmm,” Inés murmured.

“What are you thinking?” Sylvie asked.

“I didn’t say anything,” Inés said.

“No, but I know you well enough to know when you’ve got a crazy idea in your head,” Sylvie said.

“Those are my favourite kinds,” Matthew laughed.

“Come on, out with it,” Sylvie said.

“Well, since you asked nicely,” Inés said. “I was just thinking. Echidna’s children were trying to get past us to interfere with the war of the Gods, right?”

“That’s right,” Lynde said. “And now they can’t.”

“No, they can’t,” Inés agreed.

“Oh no,” Gail muttered. “You can’t be serious right now.”

“What?” Lilac asked.

“That’s a terrible idea and you should definitely not do it,” Sylvie stated.

“What?” Lilac asked. “What’s she thinking?”

“Inés, are you really sure about this?” Serena asked.

“Seriously, what am I missing?” Lilac asked.

“Inés wants to go battle some Titans,” Matthew answered.

“Not Titans,” Inés corrected him. “But I think the lot of us could probably weaken a single Titan enough to help the Gods.”

“It could help turn the tide,” Lynde said. “And it would be a problem for us if the Titans were to win.”

“They certainly wouldn’t let us live,” Inés said.

“We’ll call the seven groups together,” Lynde stated. “Decide how to proceed.”

“How quickly is this going to happen?” Sylvie asked.

“Two days,” Lynde answered. “That’ll give us time to recover and it will give everyone time to think about the idea. Assuming the Gods don’t win before then.”

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