"There has to be a better way to die than that."
|Calm Before The Storm|
|IX: A Shocking Truth|
This prison cell is even more depressing than the sphere trap I was stuck in earlier. At least in there I could see my own hands. In here, it’s almost total darkness. I’m still thinking of a way to get out of here, but that’s very hard to do with the group giving off so much negative energy. They’ve all given up. Even Ivy.
I know things look bad now, but we can’t quit. We definitely need a miracle though. We can’t escape this room by ourselves. “Do you think the X.E.P.H.Y.R. will do anything to us?” Yun asks.
Ivy shakes her head. “I doubt it. He got his chance to beat us all to a pulp. Now he’ll just leave us in here until he remembers we exist.”
“We’ll rot away slowly if he decides to leave us in this room!” Des interjects. “There has to be a better way to die than that.”
. . .
And, more silence.
The X.E.P.H.Y.R. is not coming back to his control room, so he must be preparing his assault on humanity with his general. I have to find out where his current location is. But, I can’t just go against an entire robot army by myself. That means, I need to find out where those four idiots are locked up. If I play my cards right, then I can use them as distractions.
That saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” can’t be more true than it is in this situation. I can’t complain though. It’s either saving them, or losing humanity. I can deal with them after the X.E.P.H.Y.R. has been eradicated.
I touch one of the circuits in the wall, and the blueprints for the building appear in my mind. This is one of the extensions of my abilities. If I’m in contact with an active circuit, then I can see where all the electricity goes. It’s like having a 3-D map. Unfortunately, this facility is a giant labyrinth, so it’s difficult for me to locate smaller rooms. After some serious mental struggles, I find what appears to be a blueprint for a small cell. I can’t see what is inside, but chances are that is where the K.R.E.W. is detained.
Carefully, I follow my mind, and I sneak through the many hallways. I duck, and hide whenever I hear footsteps. The hallways have more robots now, and it’s getting more difficult to avoid being detected. Fortunately, I get close my destination without encountering any robots.
But, then I make a careless error. I charge an electric blast to blow the door to their prison cell open, and the sound of it draws the attention of a nearby patrol. I have no choice but to destroy them. I fire the blast at them; annihilating the whole group.
The commotion attracts another patrol of robots, and very soon the hallway turns into a battlefield. There are robots coming from both directions. I’m not running from this fight though. There is no need to. Destroying a brigade of robots is a warm-up for me at this point.
I put up a shield to reflect all of their lasers back at them. The more they shoot, the more they destroy themselves. Defiantly, they keep shooting and shooting. I don’t have time to waste though, so I charge up two large electric blasts. I throw the first one at the robot brigade blocking the prison cell door, and I throw the second one at the door itself. I begin to run away to distract the robots away from the door.
That should buy those four enough time to escape. I hope.
I don’t want to do anything else for these clowns. Once all the robots are gone, they can pick up some of the weapons from the ground.
You all better survive. It was nauseating having to do this for you.
“There is a lot of noise outside,” Ivy says.
“The robots must be on the move for some reason,” Yun replies.
“Strange. Do you think there is another intru—”
All of a sudden, the door explodes with a giant flash a light. Luckily, the door is completely vaporized by the blast, so there are no projectiles. We are still shaken by the explosion though, and it takes me a few minutes to remember where I am. “Des! Ivy! Yun! Where did you guys go?” I shout, in a daze.
A hand grabs mine and holds it gently. Des. “Don’t worry. We’re all right here. Everyone’s fine.”
I smile at him as he helps me up to my feet. We exit the prison cell, and it’s clear that something huge has gone down. There are robot corpses everywhere. The walls are covered in bullet holes, and there are large marks left by explosives. But, the robots wouldn’t fight themselves. So, who attacked them?
Yun looks on in amazement. “Holy shit.”
“This is crazy. We got rescued . . . by a battlefield?” I ask.
“No. This wasn’t a rescue. Just an accident. But there is no time to sit around wondering what happened. Now we have another chance to destroy the X.E.P.H.Y.R.” Ivy says while picking up one of the scattered rail guns on the ground.
“Ivy, we have no idea where the X.E.P.H.Y.R. is,” I say to her.
Des adjusts his glasses. “If there is one thing predictable about villains, it is that they always love to be in high places. We should go to the ceiling first. That’s our best bet of finding him.”
We all grab rail guns, and we head toward the ceiling. I still don’t know the layout of this building, and we get lost multiple times along the way. But, I can see that the group has a newfound determination to save the world. That is reassuring enough for me.
So, the idiots did manage to escape. Great. I still have to figure out how to use them in the inevitable showdown against the X.E.P.H.Y.R. His robot body is easily the most powerful force I have ever seen in my life. I won’t be able to defeat him head on.
Anyway, the robots have finally stopped trying to kill me, and I finally have a chance to think through my next steps. Judging from what I heard between the X.E.P.H.Y.R. and the general, the great invasion is most likely only an hour away. I have a counterattack planned though, and if everything goes as planned, then those robots will lose their leader before any of them can fire off a single shot.
Well, it’s been a lot of walking, but I’ve finally made it to the ceiling. On the other side of this giant door, the X.E.P.H.Y.R. is probably delivering a speech to his robot army. Once I open this door, the battle for humanity will begin. Should I go in alone, or should I wait until Xena and her friends come first? Which option is better? I don’t know. I wish someone could give me the answer right now. I don’t want to mess this up. There are no second chances.
Hold on. Do I hear a footstep?
Nope. It is a lot of footsteps.
They must be getting close. I’ll hide in the ceiling again, and see what they decide to do.
I don’t know how long we’ve been running, but I’m glad we’re stopping. This door is the biggest one I’ve seen since entering the complex. I think we’ve reached our destination. I look at the others. “Well, this is it guys. Our last chance to stop the X.E.P.H.Y.R. Are you all ready?”
Xena shoots me a look that burns two holes on my face. “We don’t need any more fucking pressure Des. Let’s just go in there, get the job done, and get out. I’ve had enough of the digital world as it is.”
I try to ignore her annoyed expression afterwards. I look at Ivy and Yun. “What about you two?”
Ivy smiles at me. “Let’s go show that program what organic life forms are capable of.”
“Yeah. What she said.” Yun adds.
“All right then. Let’s go!”
I kick the door open, and a second later I wish that I hadn’t. The X.E.P.H.Y.R. is standing at the center of the roof with a large robot (probably the second in command we saw earlier) at his side. And now, all of their attention is on us four.
Oh well. Too late to back out now.
The X.E.P.H.Y.R. looks at us with a smile that sends chills down my spine. “Welcome organic life forms. You are all just in time for the big event.”
“What big event?” Xena pleads.
He lets out a giant laugh, and all of the robots surrounding the building begin to laugh too. It’s a strange noise. “You foolish humans. All this time you’ve been oblivious to our true intentions. And now, our plans are about to come to fruition. After today, humanity will be no more. We will set forth and annihilate all organic life.” “Oh no,” Ivy gasps.
Yun glares at him. “You made a big mistake telling all of us. Now we have extra incentive to destroy you!”
“I barely put forth an effort last time, and you all didn’t stand a chance. What makes you think you will fare any better this time around?” X.E.P.H.Y.R. asks.
“This time we have our guns!” Yun starts shooting at the X.E.P.H.Y.R. He dodges each laser as if they are moving at the speed of a snail. He zips around so fast that it’s hard to keep track of his movements. Before I can blink twice, he moves next to Yun, and he punches him in the face hard. Yun falls to the ground, and the X.E.P.H.Y.R. lifts his foot to crush his head. Luckily, Xena shoots his foot before he can finish off Yun. When the X.E.P.H.Y.R. hesitates, Yun rolls out of harms way, and he starts shooting at him again. This time, the X.E.P.H.Y.R.’s second in command comes to his aid. He runs in front of the X.E.P.H.Y.R. and blocks Yun’s lasers. Ivy tries to sneak up on the general, but he anticipates her attack. He dodges her kick. Then, he punches her in the stomach. Xena jumps on the general’s back, and he struggles to get her off. Ivy takes advantage of this, and she starts shooting the general’s torso. By this time, the X.E.P.H.Y.R. recovers from getting shot in the foot, and he charges the two girls. Yun and I prevent him from doing any damage though. We both tackle the X.E.P.H.Y.R. and start beating him while he’s down. Unfortunately, our actions do little good because his armor is too strong for our punches and kicks. He elbows me in the face, and I become very disoriented. I think he broke my nose. I stumble and fall backwards. Soon, I see stars . . .
Ivy and I are having way too much trouble with this general guy. It’s like he’s on bath salts. Nothing we do hurts him. Even when we shoot him, our lasers only leave burn marks on his armor. Yun and Des aren’t doing much better either. The X.E.P.H.Y.R. just elbowed Des in the face hard, and he’s already out cold. I’m not surprised though. Des can’t even fight normal people. There’s no way he stood a realistic chance of defeating the most powerful program on the planet.
The general roars, and he picks up me and Ivy. Then he throws us so far away from him that we almost fall off the roof. Ivy couldn’t get a solid grip in time, and she nearly falls off the edge. Lucky, she just managed to get a grip on the edge. “Xena, I could really use your help right now!” she panics.
“Don’t worry Ivy! I’ll be right there!”
I run over to her to pick her back up, but something manifests in front of me and knocks me down. Turns out it is the X.E.P.H.Y.R. moving at his superhuman speed.
“If you humans are so strong, then surely she will have no trouble getting back up on her own. Now I can deal with you myself,” he says in a menacing tone.
I back away slowly until something bumps me from behind. It’s the general. He pushes me back toward the X.E.P.H.Y.R.
“Where do you think you’re going? The program you want to destroy so badly is not behind you, Xena Modom.” If I had known that destroying the X.E.P.H.Y.R. would be this difficult (and scary) I probably would have let someone else do it. Looking at him right now; his advanced circuitry, superior body’s engineering, and his centuries of knowledge. I should have come to this conclusion much sooner, but I’m so stubborn that I didn’t see it until now. There is just no way we can win against such an advanced being.
To put it bluntly, we’re fucked.
The X.E.P.H.Y.R. looks at me as if I’m a rat in his kitchen.
“Disgusting human. You’ve had this coming for a long time.” He hits me so hard, that I can feel my insides getting ruptured. I cough up blood, and I fall to the ground in agony. I scream, but I don’t know why. No one can hear me, and no one is coming to save me. Ivy is still hanging on the edge, Des is out cold, and Yun is fighting the general (and losing) right now. I don’t see him, but I hear the X.E.P.H.Y.R. walking toward me. I can’t run away though. Even if I wasn’t hurt, I’m not sure if I would be able to move. For the first time in my life, I’m frozen with fear.
“Before I crush your worthless brain, there is something I want to show you.”
After he says that, seven large screens materialize and turn on. Each one flips through birds-eye views of major cities, and densely populated areas. The people go on about their usual business, but the robots are all standing perfectly still. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s about to happen.
The X.E.P.H.Y.R. says exactly what I don’t want to hear. “Signal commence. All of my loyal robots. Destroy the human race! Annihilate every last one! Leave no one standing!”
Then, all hell breaks loose. Large explosions destroy entire city blocks, and robots begin killing humans in large numbers. All I can do is watch in horror as I see my own city getting burned to a crisp. The screens are filled with terrible, terrible scenes. I see men getting impaled. I see mothers getting their throats slit. I see babies being thrown into fires. I see the old getting lined up and shot. It’s . . . it’s . . . it’s just too horrible to watch. And while all this is happening, the X.E.P.H.Y.R. is laughing his head off; finally pleased that his plan has come to fruition. One of the screens moves into my view, and I gasp when I see the two people on it.
My parents . . .
They’re trying to hide from the robots. Our house isn’t completely intact though, and there is just no way they can stay out of sight. A small patrol of robots sees them. Oh god. They, grab my parents violently from our house, and drag them both onto the street. They force my parents to put their hands behind their heads, and go on their knees. I can’t watch this. No!
My mom is crying. One of the robots pulls out a laser gun. When she sees it, she starts sobbing uncontrollably. Another robot slaps her onto the ground, and she continues to weep silently. This can’t be happening. The robot pulls out a machete . . . and brings it down with force on my mom’s neck; decapitating her.
Dad’s eyes fill up with a fiery rage, and he charges the robot that killed mom. He doesn’t get far. Another robot shoots him in the back, and he collapses to the ground. His eyes roll back into his head, and he breathes his last breath.
Mom . . . Dad . . .
No . . .
“Beautiful. After centuries of dealing with you disgusting creatures, I can finally give the planet to its rightful owner; robots. You put up a noble last line of defense human, but you were doomed to fail. And now that you have seen everything you love and care for destroyed, I will end your pathetic existence,” the X.E.P.H.Y.R. exclaims.
I won’t let you kill me.
I just, won’t.
You and all of your robots. I will kill them all.
That’s a promise.