Chapter Seven: To begin the JourneyEdit
"Excuse me, General?" James asked, running up behind the man as the lot of them barreled down the hallway.
"Not much time right now, boy. What is it?"
"Well, if you're going to evacuate the area, what do you plan to do about Sarah Hanson?"
"She was one of the scientists involved in Project Churchill."
The General narrowed his eyes for a moment. "She's in the local hospital, isn't she?"
"Don't worry about it right now, boy. I'll take the high road and assume you know her personally. When we get airborne I'll order a chopper transport from the hospital to the San Fran facility. We've got med units there and we might need her help, if Sandhu's idea is going to work."
James agreed and continued his run.
Amazing. Simply amazing. This had been his third shell since leaving the female one. His THIRD shell, and he was feeling great. Even though the other two shells had been shot up and killed before he could drain all of the life force out. But now the soldiers had wised up. They were only shooting to cripple, and as annoying as it was, it was also exhilarating.
This shell would outlive its usefulness very soon. Perhaps another several seconds. He looked around, already making his choice on the next one. A large man nearby.
He knew where he needed to go. The airstrip. Little did the foolish General know, in taking the military shells, he also gained the equipment they wore.
Including the radios.
Smirking as the legs were shot up from underneath him, he hit the ground, and stayed.
It wouldn't be long before one of the others made physical contact with him, and he could move to the next shell.
As the last bits of life were drained from his current shell, he felt himself move into the next.
He stood up and looked at the others.
"He's dead," he said. "Call up the General. Let him know all's clear."
As the other team members spoke into their radios, the nameless one walked forward. He could blend in, prevent further resistance, and make his way to the airfield and have them before they could take off.
Yes, that would work.
"Golf One, this is Sierra Five," the General's radio squawked. "Quebec Two and Romeo Six are down. Quebec Four reports the intruder down. Call off the operation?"
The General furrowed his brow for a moment. He was about to answer when he felt a small hand at his side.
"It's a trick," Terra informed him.
The General figured as much. But who was running the trick? Sierra Five or one of the others?
"Okay," he replied. "You go on ahead, I'll set up a decoy."
As the others ran forward, he walked over to the first soldier he could find.
"Sir!" The soldier saluted.
"At ease," he replied, without even saluting. "I want you to act as a go-between for all the teams EXCEPT for Quebec through Romeo, understood? I want you to go around and tell each team to maintain radio silence, but keep their assigned positions."
"Yes sir!" the soldier ran off.
Sighing, the General brought the radio to his face. He hated to have to do this to the teams, but they were soldiers. And as far as things were considered at the moment, it was war they were in.
"Sierra Five," he called back. "Good work, team. All teams belay my last order and convene in the mess. Sierra Five, all the teams with you are to commence clean-up of the bodies and any damage."
If it was Sierra Five who had been the next host, then he would find out soon. If not, Sierra Five would inform him soon.
Not good. He frowned inwardly, not allowing it to reach the exterior of his shell. If he went onward and ignored the orders given to him by the General, the others would realize what was happening. It would slow his pursuit, and allow them to escape.
No. If this was going to work, he'd have to follow orders. For now. He's have time. After all, the orders have been belayed.
Reaching down to pull one of the bodies over to the side, a thought surfaced.
As he finished pulling the body over to one side, he stood up and looked towards the large white humanoid craft.
They were still preparing it.
A sneer grew on his face as he realized what was happening. They had attempted to trick him.
He used the memories of the people he had consumed since arriving on that world and dug up the most appropriate curse he could think of.
"Here are the weapons," the soldier pointed to the ground. "You're lucky we hadn't put them through the locker yet, or else it would taken a few more minutes."
Cloud nodded and reached down to grab his sword. "Thanks," he said, and ran off towards the jet.
Zelgadis grabbed his sword and followed him. He had no idea exactly what a jet was, but he knew he had to move.
"Golf One, this is Sierra Five! The intruder is NOT down, repeat the intruder is NOT down!" The radio squawked.
"Sierra Five, hold him back as long as you can. We are nearly en route to San Francisco. After we've taken off, retreat. I want everyone on this base as FAR away from that thing as possible," the radio replied.
"Ten Four, sir."
The soldiers around them seemed to tense up. It had been too good to be true.
"Get moving," the soldier said as the rest of the newcomers came through.
Fei and Elly parted from the rest of the group. They needed to get to the Xenogears quickly. That would be the first place that... Thing, whatever it was, would be able to hit. Therefore the need to get there was the most urgent.
"Hop on," a soldier in a golf cart said as he pulled up. "You need to get there quick."
"You know, Fei," Elly mentioned as she grabbed her rod from the rapidly shrinking pile of archaic weaponry. "We're taking an awful lot on word alone."
Fei nodded. "I know, but do you see any choice? We've got to get home, right?"
Elly just nodded and jumped on to the back of the golf cart. Fei followed in suit, landing in the passenger side seat without skipping a beat. The soldier barely had the time to blink in surprise before Fei spoke.
The General barreled down the hallway as fast as his legs would take him. He wasn't sure how long it would take to get the craft in the air, but the jet would take at least a minute. He wasn't even sure they'd be safe inside. The damned thing could shoot at them in mid-take off and hit the engine.
Still, it was a risk they'd have to take.
God, the pentagon would have his ass for this.
"Oscar team, has the jet been prepped?" he called in to his radio.
"Yes, sir. The pilot is en route from the mess. ETA forty-five seconds."
"The others will be there before me. My ETA is about two minutes. Sierra Five, what's the status?"
"We've shot the damned thing a hundred times, sir. It keeps coming. We've managed to knock the weapon away from it, though!"
"How long can you keep it up?"
"Another minute, tops!"
"Make it a minute thirty. After that point, run like hell."
"What the hell is THAT?" Lina asked, pointing at the large cylindrical craft.
"It's an airplane," Ranma said as he sprinted by. "Just get in, it's probably a helluva lot faster than you once in the air!"
"I'd have to agree with that," Sabin said as he jumped by.
Lina sneered and just followed them. She knew the danger that the thing represented.
Within moments, most of the people had piled into the plane.
The Xenogears had been in the process of being loaded off of the truck via a large portable crane.
In fact, the platform it had been standing on was still connected to the crane. Hovering about twenty feet in the air, the four strong wires on each corner were blocking any possible escape the Xenogears could make without breaking through.
"We'll lower it to the ground, then you can get--" The soldier began.
"No time," Fei interrupted. He bound off of the golf cart and jumped up to the platform, a nearly inhuman feat. He reached down to the side, knowing Elly wouldn't be able to make the whole jump.
However, she still managed to jump better than fifteen feet, grabbing Fei's hand.
The soldier sat in the golf cart and stared in disbelief.
A moment later, they had loaded themselves into the gear and started it up. With a quick sweeping motion, the wires were cut and the gear crashed to the ground, creating a dust cloud.
The soldier merely stared in utter disbelief.
"That's nifty," he said. Then turned the cart around to start running before hell arrived.
"Fuel level?" Fei asked.
Elly tapped the console. "95%, looks like the jump from that city took out a bit."
"Five percent fuel loss. It's survivable. What we've got to worry about is just how far this San Francisco is."
"I think it may have been the city we were in before, Fei."
Fei looked over towards the sound of the gunfire. They wouldn't be able to hold him off for long. In fact, soon, they themselves would be running.
Finally, he noticed the soldiers stop firing and run.
"I think that's our cue, Fei. Let's get going."
"That's impossible," Fei muttered. The man must have taken hundreds of bullets. Even Fei himself, with his physical endurance and protective wear, could only take maybe five or six, maximum, before falling over dead.
But then, if what the others said was true, the body that was now sprinting towards them, was already dead. It was the being inside that was not.
"Fei, TAKE OFF!" Elly screamed as the man came closer.
Without wasting another second, Fei pulled back on the controls, turning the Xenogears around and walking a few steps away.
Still, a few elongated steps from the Xenogears was nothing compared to the sprinting of the... thing.
"Hit the skies, Fei," Elly yelled.
Fei did just that, with the flip of a switch, he took aerial control, and pulled back on the throttle.
Faster. If he could latch on to the machine, he could make his way to San Francisco, the place the others were headed, just as fast as they could.
Otherwise, he would have to deal with the long road southward, and prepare for any traps they could have set up.
But then, if the facility was as advanced as his hosts memories say, then he could use it to his own whim. To infest worlds not billions of years apart, but mere minutes.
Smirking in anticipation, he made the jump as the machine began to take off.
The smirk was wiped from his face as he reached the machine. He had made contact, however, not in the way he had hoped. He latched on to the rear ankle, just as the jet turbines had roared into action, burning the upper half of his host body and sending him falling to the ground.
Sneering, he stood up. That was a futile attempt. Looking over towards the airstrip and seeing the bulky form of the General sprinting from the rear entrance, he smiled again, not allowing the pain to bother him as much as before. His host had a remarkable threshold for pain.
He stood up again, and continued his sprint.
"Is everyone aboard?"
"What about the intruder? What's his Twenty?"
"He's in the rear, sir! About two hundred yards your six and closing!"
The General allowed his heart to jump. He began to push his body as fast as it would go, and risked a quick glance behind him.
It WAS chasing him.
In fact, it was closing faster than he ever could have imagined.
"DAMMIT!" he yelled, then yelled back into the radio.
"Forget about it! I won't make it! TAKE OFF!"
"Take off, NOW!"
Akane couldn't believe her ears. "We can't just leave him!"
"Open the hatch," Tifa said, narrowing her eyes at one of the soldiers.
"Can't do that, ma'am. Orders."
"SCREW your orders! We have to get him!" Akane said, approaching the man menacingly.
The soldier raised his M-16 in defense, but the blow came from another direction as Ranma pushed him off his feet and nearly ripped the hatch open.
The General was still running. He could make it.
"General!" he yelled. "Keep running!"
Already the jet had begun to move.
Damn. There had to be some way... He looked over to the others.
Zelgadis walked to the hatch.
He got his bearings on the terrain, and raised his hands.
The General was running as fast as he could. Faster, even, than he thought he COULD run.
A moment later, he realized something... He WAS running faster than he thought he could run. So fast, in fact, that his feet were leaving the ground.
He looked towards the open hatch on the side of the moving plane, and noticed the rock-kid was standing there, his arms shot out. As he stopped his legs from moving, and found himself shooting through the hatch to the jet, he decided to change his point of view on the existence of magic.
The nameless one paused. His own abilities while in a shell were only as good as the abilities of the shell itself. Though the shell he was in was in peak physical condition, it still wasn't fast enough.
He watched, the hate fueling his emotions, as the jet taxied on to the runway and took off. Suddenly, he looked over towards one of the soldiers fleeing towards the Apache's.
He smiled. This shell was damaged. Time for a new one. And while he was at it, he could procure a faster form of transportation.
"Well, that was interesting," the General said as he picked himself up from the floor.
"Are you all right?" Tifa asked, offering a hand.
"I'm fine, my dear... I just... Well, I hadn't expected that."
Zelgadis merely smiled. "I find a lot of people around this place don't expect it."
"Now, can we talk about getting the hell away from that thing and getting HOME?" Lina asked impatiently.
"All in due time," the General replied. "Right now I've got to arrange an evacuation."
"Hey," James said, approaching Cloud. "This... entity. Can you tell me more about it?"
Cloud took a seat and lay his sword by his side. "What do you want to know?"
James sat down beside him and leaned in. "Well, you've told me a lot, but what I want to know is... like, how does it communicate?"
Cloud sighed. "As far as I know, it... absorbs thoughts and memories as it takes its host organisms... I think that's how it knows the different languages."
James smiled. "But how does it go from body to body? What did it exist as before it took a body? Is it a collective of microscopic parasites? A--"
"Listen, I can't answer these questions," Cloud interrupted. "All I know is this thing is dangerous, and better off dead."
James furrowed his brow.
"Better off dead?" he asked. "Look, I respect the fact that you're from another world, because that proves without a doubt that there is life elsewhere in the universe. But the 'kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out' routine is NOT the way to go about this. Have you tried to communicate with it? How do you know it doesn't listen to reason?"
Cloud turned towards James and gave him a fierce look. "You try to communicate with a being that is eating up one innocent life one second, and the next is trying to suck up YOURS. You think this thing could listen to reason? The thing FOLLOWED us to the base. He's not stopping to pick up leftovers in town, he WANTS US. Reason with it? Hell, we can barely keep away from it!"
"You're so damn sure the thing is out to get you--"
"Excuse me, Mr. Lofield," Doctor Sandhu said, breaking in to the conversation. "The being *IS* out to get us. The incident at the base, where he killed several guards, should prove that. It's not out to feed. It's out for revenge. It is sentient, and capable of holding grudges. This entity, as remarkable as it is, would wipe out our entire race without a second thought. You wish to communicate with it? Go right ahead, but then I'm sure Doctor Hanson would dearly miss you."
James furrowed his brow, and turned towards the window. Out, across the clouds, he could see the Xenogears floating on the air.
It was apparently having no trouble keeping up with the jet.
"GOD, they're slow. Why don't we just hit the ground and walk? We'd save fuel."
"Because, Fei," Elly smiled. "Then WE'D be going too slow."
"Shouldn't matter," Fei sighed. He pushed a few buttons on the console.
"Hey," he spoke. "You guys wanna pick up the speed?"
"What the hell?" came the confused reply. "Hey, whoever this is... This is a military frequency, get off now or--"
"You're too slow," Fei replied.
There was a pause.
"Is this the white craft?"
Fei sighed. "Yes, this is the 'white craft'. Do you really have to call it that? I mean, this 'white craft' does have a name."
"Look, it'd be better to maintain radio silence for now," the pilot replied. Fei heard a distinct click on the other end.
"How rude," he said, and shook his fist at the pilots in the nearby jet.
Apparently, one of the pilots had seen it, and stuck up his middle digit in reply.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Evacuate? Leonard, have you lost it?" the voice of the minister of defense shot back over the satellite phone.
"Sir, I wouldn't even consider it unless I thought it was a matter of importance. And it is. I'm talking DefCon One here, sir."
There was a pause over the line. "I'm going to give you thirty seconds to explain. And you had BETTER convince me."
"Sir, if you don't evacuate the area, we're looking at a sever case of possible genocide."
"Wait... POSSIBLE? So you aren't sure?"
"Well, sir. The entity seems to be holding a grudge of sorts against the group that came from Project: Churchill."
"Look, Leonard. National security or not, I just can't order an evacuation of the entire bay area without giving an explanation to the public. You want me to tell them there's a killer ghost that *MIGHT* eat them for lunch? They'll laugh it off and head off to bed like it was April Fools."
"Sir, you haven't seen what the entity is capable of, I--"
"Screw the 'entity', Leonard. I'm not pulling an evac, and that's final. If your men can't handle a single intruder, then maybe I have to question your--"
"Sir, shut up and LISTEN. This thing has already killed three, perhaps more of my men. It will track us down to San Francisco and KILL anything that pisses it off."
There was a lengthy pause. "Fine," the secretary replied. "I'll talk to the president about it and see what I can do. But Leonard, if you EVER talk to me like that again, I'll have you court martialed, understood?"
Leonard let out a sigh of relief. "Yes sir."
"Now, how long until this... thing gets there?"
"Hard to say sir. Anywhere from an hour to several."
"An *HOUR*? Leonard, you HAVE gone mad. You expect a full evac of the Bay Area in an HOUR? Hell, San Francisco by itself would take up to a week to completely evac!"
"Sir, I understand that, but--"
"The most we could hope to do in that time is organize the National Guard, and clear a path for this thing. But I doubt it would take it."
"It may, sir. I have it on good authority that it's... looking for revenge. It's holding a grudge against several people aboard, and may try to merely pursue them."
There was a sigh on the other end. "Dammit, Leonard. I wish you could have taken care of this. When are you supposed to get your third star, anyway?"
"Hopefully if I live through this one, sir."
"Yeah, we'll see. I'll be in touch."
"What's that?" the copilot asked, poking at the small green blip on the radar screen.
The pilot yawned and looked down at it. "Chopper. Most likely an Apache, judging from its speed."
"It's catching up with us."
"So, it's probably an escort. It don't matter."
The Copilot picked up the radio. "Charlie Golf Delight, this is Hotel Echo Seven-Six-One. Have you arranged an escort for Sierra Bravo?"
There was a moments pause.
"Charlie Golf De--"
"Roger Hotel Echo Seven-Six-One. We are receiving loud and clear. Standby."
The Copilot sighed. "Standby my ass, they--"
"That is a negative Seven-Six-One, with have misplaced one Apache. Likely it's our intruder. You are advised to pick up speed and make your way to Sierra Bravo."
"Pick up speed? What if this thing shoots at us?!"
"Apache's are en route, Seven-Six-One. Hold tight for now."
The copilot shook his head. "Outrun a thing with built-in air-to-air missiles? That thing'll have us for lunch before the others get off the ground."
"I supposed now you'll need our help?" Another voice called over the radio. The copilot looked out the window towards the white craft.
He picked up the radio. "What can you do?"
"Just watch," came the reply.
He knew what to expect. He knew exactly what to expect. Which meant his only chance was to launch the first shot, before the white craft could stop him.
Then he could exact his revenge upon the white craft that had shot him down. Which it would, he was sure of it.
He tapped a few buttons on the console before him and armed the two anti-aircraft missiles on either side of his chopper.
He crossed his fingers, an entirely human gesture he had picked up during his short stay, and hoped for the best as he pushed the button.
"Uhhh, Frank?" the copilot asked as the console started to beep.
The pilot took a closer look at the blinking lights on the console before him and gasped. "He... he's launched TWO!"
"What the HELL?!"
"...Would you two relax?" the radio shot at them. "We can take care of this."
Frank just made another gesture towards the craft, even though he was positive they couldn't see it, and then started on evasive maneuvers.
"Hey--- whatthehellisgoingon?!" Lina cried as she stumbled head over heels when the jet went into a steep nosedive.
There were similar shouts from around the fuselage as similar things happened to several of the people onboard.
"Maybe we should have told them to wear seatbelts?" Doctor Sandhu asked.
James merely shrugged. "They shoulda realized it themselves."
A few people soon found that their stomachs weren't as resilient as they would have thought as the jet rolled to the left, and then began to climb once again.
"Don't they WARN anybody about that?!" Ranma yelled. "Jerks!"
"Fei, what are you going to do?" Elly asked. "We don't have ANY projectile weapons!"
"The Ether machine," Fei replied, focusing his energies.
Elly gasped. "But... Can the Xenogears take that?"
Fei shrugged. "I don't know."
"Let me focus, Elly."
Elly remained silent as Fei flipped a covered switch on the control console before him. He then gripped the controls, and closed his eyes.
The missiles were making their way past the white craft. It was already turning out better than he could have imagined. In mere seconds, it would hit the jet and do away with many of his newly gained adversaries.
And then seconds later, he would have to prepare for pain. Lots of it.
In the period of two seconds, The Nameless One realized three things. First, the white craft was making no effort to stop him. Second, there seemed to be a strange darkness radiating from it. Third--
His missiles were slowing down considerably.
Not merely slowing, they were being pulled backwards, into a rift that surrounded the white craft, but did not affect it.
Slowly, he began to grit his teeth. A moment later, he found himself manning the controls and opening fire upon the craft.
But it did nothing, save waste ammunition.
It was then that he noticed it. A simple tug at first, but it became stronger by the second. The rift was acting as a vacuum, and was pulling not only the two air-to-air missiles, but his own chopper as well.
He watched with seething hatred as the missiles disappeared into the rift, and his own craft pulled closer to it. He wasn't sure what awaited him inside the rift, but wasn't sure he would have liked to find out. He manned the controls once again and pulled away from the rift as hard as he could.
"Missiles gone?" Fei asked.
Elly nodded. "Yeah, they've been eaten up. This guy's trying to get away, though."
Fei cracked a smile. "Feel like pissing him off?"
Elly smirked as she reached over to the Ether Machine switch, and flicked it.
The Nameless One had been trying to pull away, but had not expected the rift to drop so quickly. Control was quickly lost, and so was altitude.
Although several miles from Cedar Grove, there were several structures below. Most notably, a fair sized lake at the edge of some kind of camp. He had little control of the craft, but he would have preferred to keep his shell in the least amount of pain possible.
He undid the seatbelt he had put on and cilmbed to the edge of the chopper. When it was a mere twenty feet from the surface, he took the plunge.
Water rushed all about him, and he accessed the memories of his shell to swim to the surface, and began to tread water. Swells several feet high pushed and pulled him away from where the Apache had impacted. He was in the middle of the lake, but still very much alive-- in shell, anyway. The swim to the shore would not take long, and once there, he could find another shell to use.
"Rogue Apache has hit the ground, ladies and gentlemen," the copilot spoke over the PA that ran throughout the fuselage. "Give some thanks for our friends in the white craft."
"Well, that was fun," Ranma said, rubbing his head. He may have been one of the best martial artists alive, but even he couldn't have bee prepared for such a steep dive. After all, it WAS his first time in an airplane.
"Two thumbs up," Sabin smiled from nearby. Unlike Ranma, he had ENJOYED the ride.
Akane and Tifa were already back up on their feet and looking out the window.
"He crashed in a lake," Tifa said. "I don't think it's the same one we were at."
Akane looked over to Ranma, who was still dressed in a police uniform and sighed. "I think we should try and figure out what to do."
Terra nodded. "First, I think we should warn Rowan," she said.
"He was that cop, right?" Ranma said, snapping his fingers.
Terra nodded. "He doesn't know that The Nameless One is heading back his way."
"I don't like this," Lina said, staring out the window. "We're TOO high. Even on Raywing, we don't come up THIS high."
Indeed, their altitude was currently at five thousand feet, and still rising.
"Which lake was it, anyway?" James asked, looking out the window.
Tifa pointed at a small speck of blue on the ground, which was becoming increasingly further away by the second.
James looked at the lake, and then got his bearings on everything around it.
"Oh my," he said.
"What is it?" Akane asked.
"I don't suppose you have nudist colonies where you come from, do you?"
"What do you suppose happened?" Julia asked, bouncing around on shore.
"I think it was a helicopter," Steven replied. "There's a base up north."
"Hey, I think there's someone in the water! He's swimming this way!" another woman called, from the shore.
A moment later, someone emerged from the water, and looked around in confusion.
The Nameless One had now discovered one of the most interesting parts of humanity. The nudist colony.
"Figures you would have to be weirdos," he said as he walked past. "I don't have time to find clothes."
"Doctor Hanson?" the man called from the doorway.
Sarah looked over from her hospital bed and saw the man dressed in full military garb and tried to sit up. "What is it?"
"There has been a complication with Project: Churchill."
"Thank you, Connie Chung. Tell me something I don't know."
"A further complication. It worked, Doctor Hanson. Too well."
Sarah raised an intrigued eyebrow. "Oh?"
"I've been ordered to escort you to the San Francisco facility ASAP, Doctor. Are you able to walk?"
"Well... yes, but--"
"Gather your things, Doctor. It's time to meet with the end result of your experiment."
"A *WHAT*?" Gillian Moore asked. "A *WHAT*?!"
"Evacuation. Just came in from the president. State of martial law has been declared, National guard is already into the streets. Apparently, they're pulling this off all the way up to Cedar Grove," her boss, president of Klassen Media, informed her.
"You're kidding," she said, jaw slack. "Who have you got covering it?"
Gillian smiled. This had to be one of the biggest stories ever. But where--
"Martial law, right? People started to loot yet?"
"No. I expect when Clinton goes out over the air about it, they will though."
"So... What's the reason?"
"Now THAT they didn't explain too well. It involved mass death, though. Perhaps some sort of attack."
"An attack? From where?"
"Didn't specify. Maybe the Prez will explain."
"When's the broadcast?"
Mr. Edward Klassen checked his watch. "'Bout ten minutes. I'd get down to street level. Don't bother with the guard, they ain't sayin' shit. But drag your press pass down to that base at the edge of the city. Maybe you'll get lucky. Try asking questions."
Jill pulled her press pass from a nearby drawer and smiled. "Thanks, Ed," she said.
Ed just nodded and waved her away, then turned around to look out the window.
"Well," he said as Jill left the room. "Guess I'd better get a move on."