The Story Thus Far Part 5

The Never Ending Quest - Episode 7009

"And attacking when we no longer have the Crystallics," Duke Dredrick nodded.

"Right!" Ajax smiled. "And, my friends and neighbors..we just BETTER do this quickly. Ghost vision predicts 100PERCENT chance of singularity - that's black holes folk - in the next 24 hours when you hear the beep!

"BEEEP!" Ajax nearly shouted. The ghostly Astra just rolled her eyes, annoyed with Ajax.

"Don't forget one last thing," the female ghost reminded the ghostly AI.

"Oh, thanks!" Ajax blinked, looking surprised that he'd even forget. He then turned all business, serious and deadly.

"Athentication code Blue cranberry 353 fugit," Ajax says, looking meaningfully at Probe.

"I have you clear, reading 5/5," Probe whispered, dazed.

An intelligence report from the Beyond?! Probe's mind jittered to himself.

"Probe, we have a fleet of Enemy ships gathering by this world's Halley's comet," the ghostly AI revealed. "The comet's tail is hiding it from observation, and other special elements present in that iceball's tail is spoofing Alliance sensors. They'll be attacking as soon as it becomes apparent that the counter to the Phage is well established. Expect it in 48 hours."

Probe looked a little sick at the number of ships, but then smiled when it becomes apparent that this will be a slaughter: the Enemy's slaughter. The Lizards would NOT expect a counter attack - if Captain Sterndeck was told of this revelation in time.

Probe made a quick call as the ghosts stayed around to answer ONE last question.

"Where is Zular the one that escaped from here?" Malachi D'Honaire asked. "Presently falling in love with himself, again.." the Astra ghost said vaguely (and with a touch of embarrassment), not being able to give a clearer answer. It bothered her to no ends to not be clearer. What was happening with Zular was that he presently hated his new form....but at the same time a small part of him was beginning to like what he was..... This isn't in the normal sense of the word, it's more like in the schizophrenic sense of the word. See, when one becomes wholly of another race on Terra, as Zular did on changing into a griffin....to attempt to deny the demands and needs of their new body....the instincts of their new body.....is to court permanent insanity.

"..Flying high again!.." Ajax sang from a ballad by a late Twentieth century singer named Ozzy Osborne as they (he and the Astra phantom) faded out.

Ajax and the ghostly Astra know that their last task on Terra is done. Now, they just have to wait for the Light..

The ghost of Astra had been carried along with her frozen body, but calmed by a religious ceremony that Inquirer had performed on her body before putting it in deep freeze. The ceremony was a burial, but something in the Church of Silicon Valley (AI and late 21rst century hacker religion), that calmed the spirit so it wouldn't be angered by medical examination of their dead bodies....She had calmly and quietly watched the happenings inside the vault (where the shuttlecraft with her body was stored), unable to leave due to the glyphes and sigils against magical and ghostly intrustion. She was still a ghost, for she owed Inquirer for at least saving her from unlife as a vampire. The ghost of Ajax was alien to Terra, and was thus able to bypass ALL known wards against ghostly intrusion, and thus was able to spy upon Zerm and his ghostly friends. The ghost of the machine was thus able to give the reports he gave, and was even able to go out, due to his machine/person nature (and the location of his suicide....in outer space) to spy upon the Enemy....

Reports given, they had found release....

Astra 4 and Fred 4 look more than a bit distraught at all this. So do several others, who know that the mages can either save Terra after using the Crystallics in battle against Zerm and his cronies, or use the Crystallics to alter themselves back to normal (and totally exhaust them making them easy meat for Zerm afterwards).

Black Astra leans back onto her pillow, putting herself out of the field of view of the magical mirror she'd been using. Black Astra smiles grimly, and nods to herself. She knows her duty. Her primary concern had been dying in childbirth and/or losing her children in childbirth. Ironically, through the magic of Science-not the mystic arts-she and her children were safe (she smiles as she looks over at the new ones in the incubators by her bedside). Though she still looks freakish in her present state, being left a tall ebon skinned woman was a small price to pay for saving Terra AND defeating Zerm (a name made infamous in her family.) It was enough, and her loves would make her whole.

Fred 4 is whispering to his silently crying wife.

"But better a demifox than dead and without you, love." Fred 4 whispers into Astra 4's fox ears. She nods, hugging Fred for support.

Sato has an idea.

Sato, looking at the demifoxes and Black Astra realizes the problem, and knows something.

"It could just kill two griffin with one spell bolt," Sato mutters to himself. That spell he'd developed so long ago, in those dire...frightening days of yore with the Altantian threat would do quiet nicely."

~Besides, from what his long time dear pupil had said about them made him WANT to help them in some manner...~ the elder wyrm thinks to himself as he broaches the subject with the gathered.

Sato was able to...con the other mages into performing the needed magic via Crsytallic, saying that a magical ceremony he had invented (but withheld from the Council....leaving it in reserve), that would allow him to take up the burden of the cost in vitality....leaving the others able to go out and fight Zerm AND save Terra from destruction. He said that with his Hoard, he would be able to BARELY survive it....but take it.

Well, that was only technically correct. See, the ceremony does what he said, but it goes on to destroy the Hoard of the dragon who pays the bill for magic. It was to be used to sacrifice one dragon, so many other dragons could recover from magical battle and fight on.

The Crystallics were used, and.....

Power flows from the Crystallic, and an amber glow surrounds those targeted with it.

First, the easiest task is accomplished. One Crystallic could have accomplished this easily enough. With six combined, it is not even a ghost of a breeze! Several sleeping incubator dwellers will find that there's less room in there for them than before they went to sleep. That is, until somebody gets around to taking them out to be hugged by a crying mother and father..

Several young demifox kits, born from the unfortunate union with several mundane foxes and Fred 4's group, are blissfully asleep. They are not aware of what is happening to them. Their form changes. Some change drastically while others change only a little. Several change from demifox kits into manimal fox kits. Others change into manimal bear cubs or manimal lion cubs. Still asleep, they are magically whisked away to their loving and caring new parents, happily waiting in the Manimal Nation. Their parents laugh and hug their awakening, and confused, children. There are names to be given, religious rights to be performed, and People to be thanked!

The elder kits of Fred 4's brood blur, shimmer, and morph back into the form that Demifox Synizn and their parents had worked so HARD on giving them! Seven healthy, and fine looking human infants snore away, oblivious at the screaming headache it caused the Crystallics to change them back!

It grows no easier for them as they punch through the interference some call "metaphysical" (so named since that is the only mortal word near enough to describe it). The Matrix shards had altered Fred and Astra 4's Matrix so much, weakened it and paradoxically STRENGTHENED it through a series of moves that only could be expressed with high grade physics (some of it only found on Terra). In that process, it generated a field of mystical "noise" that was impossible for one mere Crystallic to punch through. Six of them found it possible to break through safely to the Matrix within and alter it back to "normal", but hard! Doing it a grand total of NINE times was torture.

And their users weren't quite done YET!

Her Matrix has been twisted, torqued, and nearly shattered by the ham handed minstrations of a greedy man. Only the saving grace that destroying the woman would have destroyed part of itself prevented the Crystallic from killing Black Astra! Unlike regular user, the unorthodox users of a certain Crystallic (now suffering from a permanent 500 year memory loss) had also muddied Astra 5's Matrix beyond belief! Usually, under even the most inept magic user, the Crystallic found the ability to "clean up" after itself while working with its target. Muttering imprecations silently to themselves, the angry Crystallics make clear what has been blurred. They straighten what has been warped. They strengthen what has almost been stressed beyond itself. Most importantly, due to the skills of the users, the Crystallics find it possible to do the last task assigned it for this session!

Black Astra (a nickname she will gleefully carry throughout her life) is no longer ebony skinned. A lovely, slightly tanned face that is framed by a cloud of flame red hair, smites Fred 5's eyes!

"Astra." Fred 5 sobs in joy as he begins to step towards his wife. Then sheer horror of what he'd almost done roots him to the spot!

By Odin's eye, what in the name of Asgard am I DOING?! Fred shouts to himself, shaking in reaction.

There had been Hel to pay when his beloved had sneezed during a critical point in a spell by his Dr. Vincent to cure his freakish "scissors-hands" condition. To interrupt such a powerful magical ceremony would be sheer lunacy! Gods know what might have happened if he'd actually walked into the middle of this ceremony!

The Crystallics, finally done, now almost gleefully turn to the next task at hand. By the Rules, the user of a Crystallic must give up a bit of his vital strength, paid up in fatigue.

The bill for this session wasn't quite as big as that from the session to cleanse and heal Terra of her wounds inflicted by Enemy atomic devices. Not quite, but it was close. VERY close!

The Crystallics flash a dark blue in surprise as the mystical tendrils that would revitalize the Atlantian artifacts (and drain the users) is redirected by a previously unknown spell..into the awaiting form of one small..old and harmless looking man of Oriental origin.

Hundreds of miles away, deep within the bowels of Terra, a vast Hoard begins to glow a cherry red and brightens to an eye shearing light just before exploding! Treasures of mineralogical, artistic, and magical nature most of which has never graced the eyes of humanity (nor the eyes of the descendants of the nonhuman people who they were acquired from) are instantly destroyed. Not even atomic dust is left behind, for the atomic shells and subatomic particles cease to exist!

An inhuman cry of agony causes all eyes to turn to the bloody mass that had been Sato. Several of the viewers, battle hardened and jaded from the injuries seen from countless battle, feel intensely ill at the sight of the pile of quivering flesh before them.

Inanely enough, at the moment of the dire event, Probe had witnessed the event and was reminded of a late 20th century movie. It had been called: Scanners . Gruesomely enough, Sato is still alive, barely.

"Malic chick" whispers Sato weakly, calling Malachi by his pet name for her, eons ago when he took her aside for less than Council approved philosophy lessons. He again calls her, no longer quite sure just WHERE he's at, or when. His mind was wandering through the centuries of his long life.

He doesn't even remember that there are TWO beings who had that same nickname. Nor does it matter that two of the same looking women rush over (already feeling sickly at the realization that there was nothing that they could do for Sato-san the nearest thing that they had ever had to a loving father). His life force, what was left of it, was leaking out of him to their mage sight even as they approached him.

Sato couldn't even SEE them, for his face was a bloody mask, and his eye sockets empty of their orbs. Sato had no eyes to see with.

Not even the Crystallics could stem the flow of life bleeding from Sato. The mystical link between dragon and Hoard was gone and mangled beyond magical repair!

Only a matter of time.

"Little one, don't cry please?" Sato weakly begged in a small, whispery voice. "The other hatchlings making fun of your magnificent name? Did I ever tell you that it's the same name of a funny little man who's in the religious calling? That he's a prophet of some type? I think he's even writing them down, his prophecies, for some special religion that the humans seem so excited about..

"It's a Sign that you have a special destiny," Sato whispers, barely being able to be heard. "You're special, little one, born to do some great deed. Affect somebody's or several people's...life in a special way. "

"I remember, Sato-san" the Regent of Ethiopia says softly, clasping Sato's mangled hand gently. "Oh God...I remember." She was weeping as she said this.

"Good God in the Sky.." Malachi Dronocis whispers , unaware she spoke aloud, gently and lovingly stroking what was left of her mentor's cheek (in a effort to convey the feelings of care of love that she wanted Sato-san to feel to warm him as he faded). "Something in the ceremony went wrong.."

"Wrong?" Sato asks in a tiny, almost child-like voice. His mind was suddenly clear, and he knew who he was talking with, again. "No, I never had intended to survive beyond this. The ceremony worked as designed. It was...a measure of last...resort. One dragon would die, to revitalize dozens of weary dragons who'd spent themselves in magical battle so they could arise again for mage war...and." Sato lapses into silence for a second, only his hitching, ragged breathing hinting that he was still alive.

"I find I must make amends for...wrongs committed by me directly...or by sins on me by staying silent when I could have protested," Sato whispers. "Protested and stopped the Council's madness...by..

"Malachi...please...forgive me...for this," Sato gasps out. "I do what I knew needed to be done, and...it will finally end the torment of my memories of the past. Please...finish off the threat that began all this madness...and learn...where I failed.

"Please." Sato finishes, with his last breath.

Thus, Sato was...he was gone. Nothing was left but ash, for even his bloody shell finally went quickly back to the earth it had come from. He'd disintegrated with the last of his breath, leaving only dust..

The adventurers are silent and all try to comfort the Malachis as...they cry...

The dragonesses, still in human form, heave and cry, hearts aching. Gentle hands of lovers touch them, and soulmates reach out and enwrap souls. Words, soft and gentle, whisper into ears, and are only intelligible to the intended targets...women who have seen years, experienced much.

Soulmates reach out, and work their gentle magic upon breaking hearts.

Malachi Dronocis, Regent of Ethiopia, feels the love of her beloved and feels like the world perhaps isn't ending. She also feels the care and...as cliched as it sounds...love of her subjects, and nods. She will grieve later, when there is time enough. Her duty to her people, human and dragon, is calling.

Can she do anything but accept? In the face of those who care for her so?!

Of course she can't.

Malachi D'Honaire recovers a tad slower, but still amazingly quickly.

She also feels the magic of her one true love. The former human...the former Dragon Slayer...the one who had seen her soul and found her lovely. Dragon Fred loved her, and wanted her to know that he was there for her to support and love her. .

Slowly, she turned and through her mystical connections to her Circle (not a Dragon Circle, true, for many of the people who made it up weren't dragons)..felt the care and concern washing out from them. Care and concern for a friend and the leader of the Circle.

No, this new Circle was not like her old one, but it was just as good all the same!

She saw her duty. She saw what honor demanded, and rose to the task.

She saw the love and care from her love and her friends (who were nearly like brothers and sisters to her).

Could she turn away from them in this time of need? Of course not!

Dragon Fred and Sigin Dronocis beam in pride in the treasure they have found in their woman in their strength. And another period! They smile, seeing into the inner recesses of their soulmate's spirit, and hear them both say in unconscious duet.

"Sato...has made it possible to correct the last of the wrongs," they say. "Grief must wait. There are some lost relatives to rescue..and a monster called Zerm to slay!"

"Are you going to be...alright?" Duke Dredrick asks, wishing that there was a better way to express his worry than those lame words. He'd witnessed the dragoness change swiftly from grief, to calm determination, and was...stunned.

He was worried that, perhaps like a human woman (heck like ANY human) she might break down again, emotionally.

"For now, until the crisis is passed, yes." Malachi D'Honaire says, steel in her voice.

"I will grieve later, when it's safe," the Regent proclaims, tough as Alliance nails. "As of right now, my people...the entire world needs the aid I can provide.

"But what has been done in the past means I must stay behind with one Crystallic," the Regent says.

Pulling themselves together, the dragonesses go about helping make final preparations for the battle ahead.....

Meanwhile....

"It is just a matter of time," Zerm explains to his phantom friends. "It's what is called for, really. Frankly, I've done similar things before with others-hide in the last place they'd expect. When they least expect it, I come and finish the game! So will I when the 'heroes' finally get around to shutting down the slipgates. Their remaining Crystallics will be drained of their magic, turning those magical items into glass baubles."

With the Crystallics, his adversaries were worrisome. He, Zerm, might lose to that rabble! No, this was a waiting game....that would end within a day. That done, it was time to go about setting things more as his heart desired.

Zerm and his friends didn't want Terra to be exploited by neither the Golems nor the Lizards. Nor did these dark mages want to see Terra destroyed by the slipgates!

They didn't want Terra exploited by the Golems and/or Lizard for THAT was their job. No jumped upped upstarts from another plane of existence would stop Zerm and his ghostly friends from running things from the shadows....through the Black Market Cult!

This all runs through Turoc-Kith's and Zerm's mind just before their mechanically/magically incline friend speaks.

"Initially, I had thought that you should have taken refuge in a spell tower such as mine," ghostly Dr. Vincent chuckles mirthlessly. "With enough wards, who could break my sanctuary? I only let in those who I wish, and ONLY under tightly controlled conditions! And if they somehow manage to worm their way in by magically teleporting, they faced a gauntlet of traps and tricks. They were out to get me, but I was ready. I was sure secure in there, so prepared that I even was able to even capture all of the holders of the Crystallics. I had five of them in my hands, but..."

"You allowed yourself to be distracted by your treacherous brother," Turoc-Kith said in a soothing voice. It was obvious that in reality what had actually happened, but neither Zerm or Turoc would actually correct the eccentric (but decidedly brilliant) scientist/mage.

Their friend had gotten greedy in wanting a body that had been the ultimate in his dreams. The female golem had been a blend of Terran magic and the otherworldly science of the Golems. He had initially wanted to steal a human body, possess it, and make it his own so he could again enjoy the joys of life. It probably would have been the one young knight that he'd captured, but then again....our dead doctor was more than a bit unpredictable, even to his friends. He then noticed, after his brother had pointed it out, that the one female Golem was actually a golem in truth.

It was perfect! He would be able to assume his life again and carry out his dreams and ambitions AND be the embodiment of his beloved art: a fusion of magic and science. However, he had been ignorant of one important fact, and it had cost him dearly.

He should have possessed the MALE Golem, and then crafted a holding vessel from a gem later.

You CAN NOT possess a golem the way you'd possess a human body, nothing would happen beyond a searing headache from the attempting possessing entity. The entity within the holding vessel was too magically entrenched! Somehow, this Golem/golem had even managed to somehow HURT Vincent and drive him off! Not only that, Vincent's entire memory of what he'd learned from the people he'd read the minds of with his strange devices....was muddied beyond redemption. Finally, there was his tendency to......

"They blew up my lovely tower," Dr. Vincent, ghost, begins to cry. "They even stole my Bobo....those 10010101001010 F-00101011101!"

The ghostly Dr. Vincent now had a tendency to babble binary. Zerm and Kith had done what they could for the good doctor, and they had at least been able to cure him of his binary affliction enough so everything he said wasn't in ones and zeroes. As long as Dr. Vincent remained calm, he was fine....but for any battle with the would be "heroes" he'd be useless. The stress of battle would make him make a binary bungle of verbal spell components and.......

He still had a few more years to go before he was put to right. Zerm would see to it that he'd be help, though. Vincent was one of the few friends that he had, and as such....was something that the villain treasured dearly. People he trusted were few and far between. People he could trust and like....even rarer.

Turoc-Kith sighed and ushered Vincent into a laboratory in the back for yet another day of magical speech therapy. Today it was the ghostly necromancers turn.

Zerm sighed contentedly as he sat down upon his throne, and stroked one of his trophies raven black hair. The woman, an amazon warrior who'd killed one of his more inspired pupils, made a fine statement of his power. Often, in the 85 years that he'd had her, he'd toyed with the idea of releasing her from stasis long enough to play with her. Torturing and humiliating her might have proven interesting, ended with a final shifting of her form into some animal type.....a lioness perhaps?

Zerm never had, and for he had plans. Zerm had planned to use her as a bargaining chip in gaining some items he had come to notice within the borders of Aqualaria.. Perhaps, he could even use his dear and brave Helena as a means to gain the throne in Aqualaria. He could use her by enchanting her to be ever so pliant to his desires, and rule through her. It had worked within Malbacton (though people barely-interestingly enough-noticed anything different about the corrupt king), so if he ever got interested enough......he'd make his move on Aqualaria. Just how to do it with this anachronism was the challenge that Zerm played with from time to time.

The Crimson King would rule the world, when his fancy finally moved towards that goal....slowly. Piece by piece.

If nothing else, the fall of Atlantis had taught Zerm that recklessness would be disastrous. Recklessness, and lack of loyalty. He was slowly building something that he could trust, within the BMC. The BMC was still in it's first stages. He then looks at the unexpected visitors from the Otherworlds, and then frowns slightly.

While away playing the Crimson King in a particularly bloody, and slightly challenging, coupe within the BMC he had received these visitors. The three visitors had nothing to say, nor had they made his lair a shambles with their looking around. You see, they were in stasis just like their sister, and magical examinations and long distance scryings revealed matching Matrix origins from several Astra analogs. Whatever the case, dressed in little to nothing at all, they had made excellent statues to brighten his throne room.

If ONLY that damn lizard who'd somehow found his uncle's Crystallic-an item that Zerm had for centuries had dismissed as have been destroyed with Uncle Tesla's death-hadn't made a mess of things by cracking the dome!

It had been nice that first the "heroes" (with remotely cast spell) had stopped the flooding. It had even been better when the Golem's had sent their automations to build a vast dome made of a clear substance t hat was harder than any material that Zerm was familiar with. He'd be ever so annoyed to find his long time hide away bolt hole had been destroyed by sea water!

.Shouts of dismay bring Zerm back to the present! He rushes into the laboratory that his friends should be in....and finds nothing.

There was only one problem with the destruction of the ghosts' earthly remains, they got the timing of the whole thing.

Zerm had enough time to recover from the shock of his friends disappearance, figure out who was responsible, and get outside of his hideout....on his way to strike back at the adventurers by going to a nearby slipgate...and was only exiting his hideout when the adventurers appeared right....in front of him.

With a yell, he attacked, and in the first 15 seconds of battle, the oriental dragon mages died. They had been too slow at raising their magical shields.

As for those who had an edge over regular human fighters, such as Fred, Alicia, and the other manimals who had come along to play sniper with magical laced bullets....Probe knew that they were in trouble. The plan had been for the group to teleport in as a group (since they couldn't teleport to the planed hiding/sniping positions) and take potshots at Zerm to distract him....or kill him if his magic shields buckled.

Probe had made similar plans with his mundane, but deadly, plasma rifle, but with them clustered together like this.....his non-magic using friends were in trouble. So, he did the only thing he could and scared the bejeebers out of Zerm when....

"Hyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!" I scream as I switch my plasma rifle to it's most lethal, and most inaccurate, setting. My plasma bolts dance upon the magical shields that the Atlantian mage has up, joined by the magical might of countless spells I have no name for. The automatic fire from my rifle may not be able to slay the foul mage, but it sure has his attention!

I at least have the satisfaction before what happens next....happens. I have the satisfaction in seeing a trace of fear in the tall looking punk as I blaze away while hopping and dodging all over the place. Also, I have the satisfaction in seeing the others get away to cover.

"BARTASTH!" Zerm screams, and I suddenly find myself disconnected from my Avatar, and my base unit up in the arms of a large statue. I find that I can't re-establish contact with my now inert Avatar, nor can I even open up the bays to my shell. I look down from my unit's sensors at the man who's somehow piggybacked some type of combo teleportation/restraining spell upon my tachyon transmission. I'm not even sure that he is aware that I'm really looking down upon him, because he didn't even glance up.

Perhaps I should have asked the Regent to make one of those Circles of Protection around my base unit.

I see him turn his full attention back to the attacking adventurers, and then see him smile a cold....cruel smile.

Zerm:

I must admit, I've never quiet been attacked in such a manner by someone so quick!

If I had been without my mage shield, I surely would be dead.

I even felt a stab of an unfamiliar emotion that takes me a second to recall the name for. A second to recall exactly what it was. Fear.

This mad thing makes me feel fear after eons.

He dares!

He deserves a special fate for such, and I know the perfect way for saving him for my pleasure. I ignore the fleeing rats. Half ignore the spell castors arrayed against me, and call forth a spell that I had invented to strike out at fools who dare insult me from afar using a magic mirror and other telecommunication means. It is overkill, for the man is right in front of me but then again, it's quicker to cast than the other versions I have....

I bark out the command that will neutralize him, making him harmless.

I see his form fall to the ground like a puppet with it's strings severed.

I then turn back to the upstarts, and notice one lone figure aiming one of those new weapons I'd spied upon earlier through my scrying pool. The flame red hair and the female curves provide me with a hint who this is.

It would figure that the ancestor of Helena Thessamer should attempt a rescue.

The magical armor she has chosen to wear probably would have been a good choice if her opponent had been anyone else than it's creator. Hell, it would have been a good choice even against my uncle, Telsa!

HOWever, I know a few quirks within that set of mail.

  1. A twisted hand gesture by Zerm and a flash of red from the crimson glyphs upon her armor are the only clue given to Astra 2 why she'd slammed into the wall behind her!

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